State of the Game—September 10, 2007
The Secondary Profession
How important is it?
By Nicolas Carpenter
Special note: Each State of the Game 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.
Guild Wars characters are based on one simple but ingenious system—each character may use one primary profession and one secondary profession. Although it may seem like players use skills mainly from their primary professions, the secondary profession can actually have an enormous impact on the success and usefulness of a character, especially within PvP play.
Even though putting together a Skill Bar with only Ranger skills isn't too difficult, Rangers often use a secondary profession. Ranger/Mesmers, for example, were dominant before Distortion was updated. Rangers packed Distortion so they could run flags or split. Distortion was a perfect skill for Rangers because the excellent Energy management provided by Expertise meant they could afford to pay for Distortion's Energy loss.
Monk - Protection Prayers - Spell
Spell. Touched ally loses two Conditions and is healed for 15..60 Health for each Condition removed in this way.
Nowadays, most Rangers in GvG run as a Ranger/Monk. This is due, in large part, to the skill Mending Touch. With its 5 Energy, three-quarter second cast time, and 6 second recharge time, Rangers using this skill can almost certainly counteract the effects of any Blinding Surge Elementalist or other Condition hate they might run into.
To a lesser extent, Rangers also use Purge Signet. Purge removes all Hexes and Conditions on a target, and it easily fits onto a Ranger's Skill Bar. Purge Signet is much more common when the metagame goes heavy into Hexes. These two skills affect Ranger usage immensely; without them, we would see much less splitting and more Hexes or more Hex removal on non-Monk characters.
When looking at other professions that rely on a secondary, the Monk comes immediately to mind. The Monk is a protecting, healing, and cleansing machine. Nobody does this job better. The big problem that all Monks face, however, is an adequate supply of Energy. Monks generally stay pretty busy healing and protecting, but when the Energy runs low, their ability to perform these tasks suffers. To manage their Energy, Monks use two popular methods:
Assassin - Shadow Arts - Spell
Spell. All adjacent foes are Crippled for 3..8 seconds. Teleport to target other ally's location.
Damage Negation: One method is to negate damage so the Monk doesn't have to follow up with extra prots or heals. An example of this is the Monk/Assassin, popularized by the Last Pride [EvIL]. The Mo/A commonly has two Assassin skills: Return and Dark Escape. These two skills cost 5 Energy each but still save a Monk tremendous amounts of Energy. Using Return to Shadow Step to a distant ally Cripples an attacking Warrior, giving the Monk time to recover. Dark Escape reduces all damage by 50%, which is useful in general, but it becomes even more important when a Monk gets knocked down and can't cast any spells. This skill also gives a 25% speed boost, transforming an ordinary Monk into a superb kiter.
Damage negation skills like these allow Monks to spend less Energy on self-survival, freeing up more Energy to protect both themselves and their teammates. Although the Monk/Assassin has declined in popularity, Monk/Warriors now fill a similar role with skills such as Shield Bash, Defensive Stance, or Soldier's Defense.
Cost Reduction: The other form of Energy management often used by Monks involves reducing the costs of their spells, and this ability comes almost exclusively from the Elementalist secondary. After the buff to Glyph of Lesser Energy, a Monk can spend 10 Energy casting both an Aegis and a Protective Spirit. Normally that combo would cost 25 Energy, but the 5 Energy Glyph, 5 Energy Aegis, and 0 Energy Protective Spirit makes Monks exhale a sigh of relief every 30 seconds as they actively save Energy while negating damage. A note to some Monks, though: Glyph of Lesser Energy is not for spamming Reversal of Fortune!
The Axe Warrior
The Axe Warrior in GvG has long been the killing machine we all know and love. It uses Warrior skills to take full advantage of the high critical hit damage and attack speed of the axe. Many Axe Warriors, however, often supplement their attacks with the same secondary profession: the Elementalist. This might seem an odd choice to some, since Warriors tend to enjoy bashing and hacking at things, not spending time casting spells. With the Elementalist skill Shock, however, Warriors can do exactly that.
Elementalist - Air Magic - Skill
Skill. Target touched foe is knocked down and struck for 10..60 lightning damage. This skill has 25% armor penetration and causes Exhaustion.
Shock comes from the Air Magic line and is an old friend of the Axe Warrior. With a 5 Energy cost and a three-quarter second cast time, Shock knocks down a target for 2 seconds (3 with Stonefist Insignia). This gives an Axe Warrior time to kill a foe with Eviscerate, Executioner's Strike, and Agonizing Chop before that foe can stand up and run away. Shock also doubles as a way to interrupt slower skills, since knock down interrupts actions.
The various Conjure spells from the Elementalist line, are also still popular. Conjure Warriors fit seamlessly into builds with a "buffer" character using Strength and Honor. These two skills stack with each other, causing spikes to hit a lot harder and increasing the overall pressure the frontline can apply. Plus, Conjure lasts long enough (72 seconds with an Enchanting weapon swap) that a Warrior can hack and slash away, stopping only infrequently to recast it.
Another recent evolution is the Warrior/Ritualist for the sole purpose of packing Death Pact Signet. This hard rez takes a mere 2 seconds to activate and can revive a fallen player with more Energy than a Resurrection Signet.
The Flag Runner
Shield of Regeneration
Shield of Regeneration [Elite]
Monk - Protection Prayers - Enchantment Spell
Enchantment Spell. For 5..13 seconds, target ally gains +3..10 Health regeneration and 40 armor.
Flag runners are well-known for having assorted skills from different professions and attributes. The current favorite is the Elementalist/Monk with Water Hex snares, a speed boost, Hex/Condition removal, and healing for both the player and the NPCs. The E/Mo runner uses Mending Touch, just like the Ranger, to remove harmful Conditions like Deep Wound and Cripple. For healing, these runners generally choose Shield of Regeneration from the Monk's Protection Prayers. For a while, Aegis was also an obvious choice to take, since it fit onto the E/Mo bar easily. But after the latest change to this spell, many of these runners started equipping Guardian instead (a viable alternative since it received a buff). This gives the Elementalist three Monk skills that are arguably essential in the current meta.
There are no flag runner builds currently used that do not in some way rely upon a secondary profession. Monk runners need a speed boost from a different profession. Rangers use Mending Touch. Elementalists use all types of Monk skills. Some suggest that a Mesmer runner could run with only Mesmer skills, but at the time of this article's writing, it is not being done and, unfortunately, I don’t see it breaking into GvG any time soon.
Over-Reliance on a Secondary?
Many people argue that a character build shouldn't rely on a secondary profession to be efficient. I would argue that to a certain extent, that is exactly how it should be. By using skills from other professions, Guild Wars makes it unusually easy for characters to become hybrids in an RPG system. This paradigm has spawned thousands of builds in a game that still sees new ideas and creations all the time.
Personally, I love the concept of the secondary profession, with all of its benefits. It provides so many options to players that almost anything is possible with enough creativity, ingenuity, and experimentation. Certainly the future holds even more innovations, and I cannot wait to experience them.
Nicolas Carpenter has played Guild Wars since the early Beta Weekend Events. He is a freelance reporter for Guild Wars and enjoys many aspects of PvP.