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State of the Game— May 21, 2007

All Geared Up
Considerations for PvP Equipment

By Harold J. Chow

Special note: Each State of the Game article presents the opinions and insights of one game observer. These observations are personal in nature and do not reflect the opinions of ArenaNet. While ArenaNet does review each State of the Game article to assure that it offers content that is respectful of all players, we intend to allow our reporters the freedom to inject some personal opinion into descriptions of the current atmosphere of competitive play in Guild Wars, and to express views based on their experience and observation.


While Guild Wars PvP revolves around Skill Bars, equipment selection also influences the ultimate outcome. Unlike in other games, however, players may access weapon modifications with easily-acquired Balthazar faction. Although characters can't change armor during a PvP match, players have four weapon sets to swap between. Good micromanagers can double-click a weapon or offhand in their inventory to equip it during the match. So when players craft their gear, how do they best to tailor it to their character needs?


Optimized Hacking and Slashing

Melee characters take full advantage of all weapon slots. Most pack a zealous weapon to help rebuild Energy while attacking. Because Warriors typically have weaker armor against elemental damage than against physical damage, melee characters also carry at least one elemental weapon for squaring off against these resilient foes. Against other characters, physical weapons with either sundering or a vampiric mod increase the damage dealt over time. A sundering weapon partially nullifies armor while vampiric weapons steal life from the target with every hit. Moreover, the life-stealing of vampiric weapons removes the same amount of Health from the target with each hit, ignoring damage reduction and armor. Against otherwise heavily-protected targets, vampiric weapons can sometimes apply just enough pressure to overcome healing.

So how do players decide between sundering and vampiric? For the quicker attacks of daggers, swords, and axes, vampiric tends to give better DPS. However, sundering provides bonus armor penetration. While this bonus does not activate consistently, the extra damage can mean quite a bit to a Warrior trying to spike down a target with little support. In addition, the slower attack speeds of hammers and scythe make it more difficult for vampiric weapons of these types to return the loss from Health degeneration. In addition, their higher maximum damage means that simultaneously landing a critical hit and getting the armor penetration bonus from sundering deals significantly more damage than a mere +5 vampiric life steal. Fortunately, weapon slots allow players to bring multiple types of weapons and switch between them depending on the situation.

Return
Return
ReturnReturn
Assassin - Shadow Arts - Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 0.25
Recharge: 15
Spell. All adjacent foes are Crippled for 3..8 seconds. Teleport to target other ally's location.

Other weapon modifications have narrower uses, but still come in handy. Characters inflicting Conditions bring weapons to increase the duration. For example, spells like Return, which cause Crippled, benefit from Condition lengthening. In popular Monk/Assassin builds, the player often has a +5 Energy melee weapon with a Crippling modification. A couple of extra seconds can make a huge difference, especially if an opposing melee character has extended far from Monks and has no self-Condition removal. For a melee character who wants to activate adrenal skills early and often, a furious weapon helps reach those adrenal thresholds quickly, especially in conjunction with adrenal enhancing skills such as Enraging Charge. These characters also bring a wand, a bow, and a furious spear to build up adrenaline when they must stay out of melee range.


Focus on Wands

Gift of Health
Gift of Health
Gift of HealthGift of Health
Monk - Healing Prayers - Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 0.75
Recharge: 5
Spell. All of your other Healing Prayers skills are disabled for 10..5 seconds. Target other ally is healed for 15..150 Health.

Casters have their own considerations to make when selecting gear. Monks tend to use Enchantments that would benefit from the 20% duration increase from an Enchanting mod. Casters often bring spells that benefit from the quick cast or recharge of inscriptions such as "Aptitude Not Attitude" and "Forget Me Not." Setting up a weapon swap with a wand and focus that both provide a 20% chance at halving cast time and halving recharge time means that, on a Monk for example, Gift of Health can cast or recharge faster 36% of the time.

Casters can also benefit from setting up weapon sets at different Energy levels. A standard caster weapon setup might look like this:

Slot 1:
-5 Energy weapon and shield.

Slot 2:
+Energy weapon and appropriate focus item (which also gives +Energy).

Slot 3:
+15 Energy/-1 Energy degeneration focus (with a "Live for Today" inscription) and +5 Energy weapon.

Slot 4:
+15 Energy/-1 Energy degeneration weapon and +15/-1 focus.

Having a low-Energy slot keeps the caster's Energy "hidden" from denial skills such as "Fear Me!" and Energy Surge. Swapping to a higher Energy set gives access to higher Energy totals, thereby acting as an instantaneous Energy boost. Having the higher slots allows casters to sustain repeated casting at critical moments. For example, in a race to kill the opponent's Guild Lord before the other team can resurrect, an Elementalist can swap to the higher sets to keep casting because the loss of one or two pips of Energy regeneration at that point doesn't matter if the team wins the match. This practice has its risks, though; many teams have crumbled because of a Monk's over-reliance on high Energy sets. Mostly, Monks use their high-Energy set in emergencies and for quick retreats.

Avatar of Melandru
Avatar of Melandru
Avatar of MelandruAvatar of Melandru [Elite]
dervish/Mysticism - Form
Energy: 25
Activation: 2
Duration: 10..70
Recharge: 30
Form. For 10..70 seconds, you have +100 Health, you are unaffected by Conditions, and your attacks deal earth damage. This Skill is disabled for 120 seconds.

Note that melee characters relying on Energy skills also benefit from low- and high-Energy weapon sets. For example, a Dervish who has death penalty can swap to a high-Energy weapon set to get enough Energy to cast the costly 25-Energy Avatar of Melandru and then swap back to a scythe.


Shields Up

Players not using two-handed weapons (including casters) carry a complement of shields, while those using daggers, bows, hammers, and scythes bring shields for an emergency weapon set. Even with no points spent in the shield's attribute, a 16 armor shield still yields an effective 8 armor. Shields thus lift a soft 60-armor target up to almost the 70-armor level. Using the appropriate inscription to counter the specific type of damage inflicted (such as "The Riddle of Steel" against slashing damage) adds another 10 armor against those attacks. Because players can equip weapons and offhand items during PvP matches, they fill up their inventory with shields for different situations to reduce the damage of their opponents' attacks.

Also of note are flag runners who wear both a Rune of Restoration and a shield with "Swift as the Wind" to reduce Crippled duration. This allows quicker traversal of the lava pits in Burning Isle due to the combined reduction in the duration of Crippled inflicted by the lava on this map.


Health, Energy, or Armor

PvP players seem divided on the relative importance of extra Health, Energy, and armor. Extra armor helps mitigate damage more than a little extra Health, but this requires the player to know what kind of opponents and damage the team is most likely to face. Extra Health certainly helps against degeneration pressure, but the Health from Survivor Insignias and Runes of Vitae rarely make the same difference against spikes as extra armor. Builds with high Energy requirements on traditionally low-Energy characters such as Warriors and Assassins may necessitate the use of Radiant Insignias to increase the base Energy pool. However, a high-Energy weapon set could provide the same benefit as using Insignias, depending on the Energy skills the player needs to use.

Because extra armor tends to benefit players more with its damage reduction, certain profession-specific runes come into play under the right circumstances. The Centurion's Insignia almost always grants an armor boost because Paragons usually use and get affected by Shouts, Chants, and Echoes. The Ghost Forge Insignia comes in handy on Weapon Spell Ritualists for similar reasons.


To Arms!

Proper use of equipment certainly gives a competitive advantage when used correctly. Growing accustomed to swapping between weapon sets lets players choose the right damage and defense for each situation. While carefully chosen gear helps, skill level still has the greatest impact on success.


Harold J. Chow is a freelance Guild Wars reporter. His in-game name is Guild Informant.