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State of the Game—September 17, 2007

An Eye on Eye of the North
The early impact of GW:EN on Guild Battles

By Harold J. Chow

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.


For the first time, Guild Wars introduces new skills without new professions. The ten non-elite skills per profession introduced in Eye of the North have had decidedly less impact on the GvG metagame than the dramatic upheavals of Factions and Nightfall. But this doesn't mean the new skills show no promise. Some guilds have already begun incorporating GW:EN skills into existing builds, while others seem primed to make an impact in the near future.


Backline

Cure Hex
Cure Hex
Cure HexCure Hex
Monk - Healing Prayers - Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Recharge: 12
Spell. Remove one Hex from target ally. If a Hex was removed, that ally is healed for 30..120 Health.

Although Monks have many interesting new tools, equipping any of these on an already crowded Skill Bar means something useful has to go. Cure Hex seems like a natural fit on Light of Deliverance Monk bars, where the healing power of the skill might compensate for losing the utility of Holy Veil. Aura of Stability has already found its way onto some Heroes' Ascent Monk bars, but many HA teams have three Monks, while GvG teams tend to use just two Monks. So, as most Protection Monks already have more viable skills than they can use, Aura of Stability may have trouble finding a niche in Guild Battles.

Castigation Signet shows promise as non-elite Energy management. With just eight ranks in Smiting Prayers, a good micromanager can net six Energy every fifteen seconds while damaging an attacker. Best of all, a Mo/A can bring this signet for Energy management without giving up an elite slot or escape skills.

Smoke Powder Defense
Smoke Powder Defense
Smoke Powder DefenseSmoke Powder Defense
Assassin - Shadow Arts - Stance
Energy: 5
Activation: 0
Duration: 8
Recharge: 20
Stance. For 8 seconds, the next time you are struck, you take half damage and all adjacent foes are Blinded for 2..6 seconds.

Other Monk/Assassins have experimented with Smoke Powder Defense as an alternative to Dark Escape or Return. This new instant-activation Stance Blinds all adjacent attackers, but still can't compare to Shadow Step and Cripple of Return for raw kiting ability. Smoke Powder Defense also doesn’t help against Avatar of Melandru Dervishes. However, these Dervishes tend to use Warrior as their secondary profession for Wild Blow, so they can remove Dark Escape anyway, leaving the Monk defenseless without the benefit of Blinding non-Melandru melee attackers.


Frontline

Knee Cutter
Knee Cutter
Knee CutterKnee Cutter
Warrior - Swordsmanship - Attack
Adrenaline: 5
Activation: 0
Recharge: 1
Attack. If this attack hits a Crippled foe, you gain 2..7 Energy and 1..3 strikes of adrenaline.

Warriors and Dervishes use fairly standard Skill Bars these days, so few guilds have worked any new skills into their builds. Knee Cutter may find a niche in Crippling Slash Warrior builds, particularly when trying to power Energy-based skills such as "Shields Up!" or one of the Conjure Enchantments. Disarm, another new skill, would compete for space on the same bar and allow the Warrior to serve in a linebacking role.

Pulverizing Smash looks like it could help a hammer bar, but Hammer Warriors would either have to swap out an attack speed buff like Flail for Frenzy or settle for a slower damage spike, since activating Flail also takes adrenaline. It could, however, combo well with Bull's Strike.

Assassins have a few more attack options open as well. Shadow Fang might tempt some Assassins, but without any snaring capability, they will have difficulty executing an attack combination before the Hex ends and Shadow Steps them away from the target. Its long recharge also means that Assassins must rely on other Hexes or stop using attacks that require Hexes, like Black Lotus Strike.


Midline

Power Lock
Power Lock
Power LockPower Lock
Mesmer - Domination Magic - Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 0.25
Recharge: 12
Spell. If target foe is casting a Spell, that Spell is interrupted and disabled for an additional 1..16 seconds.

Casters beware, for GW:EN has bestowed even more disruption capability on Mesmers. Power Lock complements Diversion on a Mantra of Recovery build. Diversion allows a Mesmer to dictate how often a player activates key skills, or downright locks up the skills of those who don't play around it. Power Lock gives Mesmers a non-elite way to shut down a skill when that opponent does play around Diversion. Likewise, the new Signet of Distraction is a good fit on a Signet of Judgment Mesmer, as even a modest investment in Domination Magic allows Mesmers to disable skills for lengthy periods of time while Mantra of Inscriptions speeds up the recharge.

Shell Shock
Shell Shock
Shell ShockShell Shock
Elementalist - Air Magic - Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Recharge: 10
Spell. Target foe takes 10..40 damage and has Cracked Armor for 5..20 seconds.

Given the way Elementalists currently construct their Skill Bars, the new GW:EN skills may have difficulty finding a niche. However, Shell Shock, which provides a relatively easy way to add Cracked Armor on a spike, has already found its way into Blinding Surge builds as a replacement for the costlier, but deadlier, Lightning Orb. Others have begun experimenting with a Glyph of Immolation chain on Water Elementalist runners, using the new Fire Magic skill to get Blindness from Steam, which then enables Slippery Ground. However, they can get virtually the same effect from Blurred Vision, which takes only one skill slot and requires no conditional circumstances. Plus, Water snares have more utility than a conditional knockdown.

Ghostly Weapon
Ghostly Weapon
Ghostly WeaponGhostly Weapon
Ritualist - Communing Magic - Weapon Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 0.25
Duration: 5..20
Recharge: 1
Weapon Spell. For 5..20 seconds, target ally's next attack cannot be blocked.

Ritualists received Agony, a new toy for their Spirit builds in Heroes' Ascent, but they will likely turn to Weapon spells when it comes to incorporating new skills in GvG. Ghostly Weapon looks promising; a Mo/Rt Smiter in particular needs only a minimal investment in Communing for his team to bypass Defensive Anthem or Shield of Deflection.

Defile Defenses
Defile Defenses
Defile DefensesDefile Defenses
Necromancer - Curses - Hex Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Duration: 5..20
Recharge: 5
Hex Spell. For 5..20 seconds, the next time target foe blocks, that foe takes 30..120 damage.

Necromancers received some interesting new skills, but their use hinges on finding space on the team for a Necromancer. Defile Defenses raised some eyebrows when previewed on the official Guild Wars Wiki and should give Hex builds a boost. It has a quick enough recharge and cheap enough cost to act as an efficient cover Hex while packing quite a punch if it triggers. Putrid Bile gives Death Magic Necromancers a way to inflict Health degeneration without using Disease. Masochism should help Orders Necros in Heroes' Ascent and could facilitate new Necromancer utility builds in GvG.

Spear of Redemption
Spear of Redemption
Spear of RedemptionSpear of Redemption
paragon/Spear Mastery - Attack
Adrenaline: 3
Activation: 0
Recharge: 0
Attack. If this attack hits a foe suffering from a Condition, you lose one Condition.

Paragons, when used in GvG, don't vary much from build to build. However, Spear of Redemption may squeeze its way onto some Skill Bars as a way to self-remove Blindness. In dual Paragon builds, Anthem of Weariness seems like a logical replacement for Anthem of Flame on one Paragon.


Flagging and Ganking

For Rangers who like to gank NPCs, Sloth Hunter's Shot shows some promise, because experienced players can take advantage of the AI to trigger the bonus damage. Better yet, they can use it to finish off a retreating foe. Poison Tip Signet gives primary and secondary Rangers more options to Poison targets for a reasonable duration without investing in Wilderness Survival.

Signet of Mystic Speed
Signet of Mystic Speed
Signet of Mystic SpeedSignet of Mystic Speed
dervish/Wind Prayers - Signet
Activation: 0
Duration: 5..20
Recharge: 15
Signet. For 5..20 seconds, you move 15% faster for each Enchantment on you (maximum 33%% faster).

However, the most important skills to come out of GW:EN for flagging and splits may come from a profession not typically mentioned for either role. The new Dervish skills Signet of Mystic Speed and Signet of Pious Restraint give a low Energy way to turn a caster build into a runner build. Put these two skills on a Zealous Benediction Monk and you have a flag runner that doubles as a strong base defender. These Monks can maintain Holy Veil and/or the new Purifying Veil or cast Guardian and Reversal of Fortune to get a 30% speed boost. Or, by combining Reversal of Fortune or Guardian with Signet of Pious Restraint to make it recharge faster, this Monk can mete out Cripple more often than foes can remove it with Mending Touch.

Although some GW:EN skills may improve and diversify builds, and other may even create new archetypes, so far none appear absolutely critical to high-level play. More importantly to the metagame, these skills don't seem overpowered. So, while they may provide build designers with interesting new options, they shouldn’t upset the balance of the game.


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