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State of the Game—September 27, 2007

Splits: Chapter One
Hunter's, Warrior's, and Wizard's Isle

By Alex J. Marsyla

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.


NPCs, Splits, and You

The current guild battle metagame favors teams capable of splitting well. With builds investing heavily in static defenses, splits are often necessary to produce kills and advantages in battle. At the same time, successful splits can often create an NPC advantage, which is more important due to changes to VoD. With a 200% damage buff against the Guild Lord, a large NPC swarm applies heavy pressure at the flag stand.

Shield of Regeneration
Shield of Regeneration
Shield of Regeneration Shield of Regeneration [Elite]
Monk - Protection Prayers - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 15
Activation: 0.25
Duration: 5..13
Recharge: 8
Enchantment Spell. For 5..13 seconds, target ally gains +3..10 Health regeneration and 40 armor.

NPCs are a highly valuable asset and are an irreplaceable resource (unlike Death Penalty, which can be reset). Before VoD, they protect the Guild Lord and define a buffer zone where teams can retreat and relieve some pressure. At VoD, an NPC advantage can easily sway a battle at the flag stand. A common split goal is to reduce the opposition's NPC swarm to build an advantage at the flag stand during VoD. To accomplish this against defenses like Shield of Regeneration flag runners, a gank squad may simultaneously attack multiple NPCs, thus stretching the abilities of a lone healer to maintain every NPC. Generally, a team will have to split multiple characters for defense if to preserve its outer NPCs against a gank team.

Besides NPC considerations, each map has its own split complications. For example, the "siege" maps—Warrior's Isle, Hunter's Isle, and Wizard's Isle—present a unique factor to splitting. The siege weapons on these maps are an element unlike anything presented by other guild halls. Controlling the catapult can dramatically shift the balance of a guild battle.


Catapults and Ganks

Of course, proper use of the catapult begins with the repair kit. It’s standard practice for flag runners to immediately collect the repair kit while a midline player either holds the flag or drops it behind the footmen. Teams must now make a choice about what to do with their repair kit. Many guilds opt to stash it near their Guild Lord for later use. A gutsier option is to send the flag runner around the back towards the catapult outside the opponent's base. Typically, the group at the flag stand falls back into their footmen, drawing the enemy forward, to give the flag runner room to safely complete the repair. The advantage to repairing the catapult early is that the other team has to play around it. Any opponent near a repaired catapult facing your base is now a threat. With the catapult, a single player can bottle up a flag runner, devastate marching NPCs at VoD, or keep a team contained in the base.

Protective Spirit
Protective Spirit
Protective SpiritProtective Spirit
Monk - Protection Prayers - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 0.25
Duration: 5..23
Recharge: 5
Enchantment Spell. For 5..23 seconds, target ally cannot lose more than 10% max Health due to damage from a single attack or Spell.

Due to the threat that a single player can pose with the catapult, the area around the catapults on siege maps is quite valuable. At VoD some ambitious teams use hard targets like Warriors and Paragons to block an opposing team's gate. With the help of Monk Enchantments like Protective Spirit, these hard targets hold the agro of an NPC swarm while another teammate uses the catapult to kill the NPCs. Tactics like these can quickly change the aspect of a guild battle and create a large advantage for the team that can execute them appropriately.

A similar technique is to perform a desperation gank on the Guild Lord by body blocking the base entrance and advancing healing and damage characters towards the opposing Guild Lord. At VoD a Warrior and a Ranger can make short work of a Guild Lord when supported by a healing flag runner. It isn't called a desperation gank for nothing, though; this last ditch tactic is risky because failure results in a full-team wipe. With particularly unfortunate timing, a full-team wipe leads to the other team turning around and wiping out your undefended Guild Lord while everyone is dead.


Thieving

Like a number of other guild halls, the siege maps require a guild thief for gankers to enter the opponents' base. Controlling the guild thief is a crucial tactic on siege maps, and thus the guild thief often becomes the focus for defending against aggressive splits on these maps. Many teams attempt to kill an opposing guild thief right away to avoid potential split threats. When a split does arrive, it’s common practice to leave the guild thief outside the base. Players do this because the guild thief doesn't do enough damage to outweigh the danger of getting it trapped inside the opposing base. Losing a guild thief in the siege maps, Uncharted Isle, or the Isle of Solitude is particularly easy because there are large spaces in each base free of NPCs where a guild thief could sit, unhurt, if its controller dies. Because a team essentially poses no threat to split without its guild thief, losing one in like this can be devastating.

Teams can work around the limits of a guild thief. Typically this means pushing opponents into their base in 8v8 engagements, thus forcing them to open the gate as they retreat. Another possibility is to use Necromancer's corpse exploiting spells like Consume Corpse and Necrotic Traversal, which can teleport a player to the corpse of an archer inside an enemy base. From there a player can let other gankers into the base or proceed to take other NPCs. This method is unused in the current GvG metagame where splits are commonly dominated by Warriors, Rangers, Assassins, and Elementalists. Typically it is simpler, and more flexible, to manage the guild thief than to create a specialized Skill Bar for a split character.

Shadow Meld
Shadow Meld
Shadow MeldShadow Meld [Elite]
Assassin - No Attribute - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 0.25
Duration: upkeep
Recharge: 20
Enchantment Spell. Shadow Step to target other ally. When you stop maintaining this Enchantment, you return to your original location.

However, Shadow Stepping is a popular mechanic for split characters. It has a distinct difference from the teleporting mechanic in Consume Corpse or Necrotic Traversal. A player can think of Shadow Stepping as moving forward at ridiculous speed. Shadow Stepping is confined to the area on a player's Compass. Plus, it is limited in that a player needs a clear path on the Compass to Shadow Step to a target. For example, on the siege maps with the gates closed, a character cannot Shadow Step into (or out of) an enemy base. Still, Shadow Stepping is used because it’s easier to fit on a Skill Bar than the teleporting skills. In other words, there are more Assassin skills better suited for a split character than Necromancer skills. Shadow Stepping also has different uses than teleporting. Shadow Steps are often used as self defense (e.g., Return used by Monks). Skills like Shadow Meld, Recall, or Aura of Displacement are used because they allow the user to quickly escape from a dangerous situation. Even though a skill like Aura of Displacement allows a character to instantly drop in on top of a potential target, more players use it to remove themselves from harm's way than to attack.


Tactical Control

The siege maps are actually quite straightforward. The layout typically restricts splitting to ganks and attempts to repair and control the area around the catapults. Obviously, controlling the catapult area is critical on the siege maps. One well timed siege or well-executed body block gank at the front door is often enough to change the flow of battles on these maps. A team should be well aware of the situation around both catapults on a siege map because neglecting them will surely lead to a loss.


Alex is a college student in his third year studying Computer Information Systems. He's been into online gaming for most of his life and has been playing Guild Wars since its release.