State of the Game—October 1, 2007
Splits: Chapter Two
Corrupted, Imperial, Uncharted, and Druid's Isles
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.
Into the Great Wide Open
This second article in a series on split-team tactics addresses offensive and defensive tactics related to Corrupted, Imperial, Uncharted, and Druid's Isles.
Teams often decide to run a build dedicated to splitting because it can force poor match-ups with opposing teams who may not be, for whatever reason, as well equipped to split. A 6/2 or 5/3 offensive split can pose a mismatch against opposing base defenders, the flag stand team, or sometimes both. When this occurs, one of the split teams can overwhelm its counterpart, and force the opposition into reactive play.
As mentioned in chapter one, the recent changes to VoD make gaining an NPC advantage especially important, and this has elevated the potential of dedicated split builds even more so than in the past. Guilds that want to run a dedicated split often choose one of these four isles (as well as Frozen and, to a lesser extent, Nomad's Isle). This installment will examine common offensive split tactics on these maps as well as ways to defend against them.
These maps have two primary strategic points of interest: the flag stand and the Guild Lord. When teams split, they are trying to draw the opposition away from one of these two points to achieve some objective. Typically this is capturing/holding the flag stand, or killing NPCs. In addition, split teams seek to capitalize on mismatches and kill opposing players to rack up death penalty (DP).
To accomplish these objectives, splits use hit-and-run tactics, inflicting as much damage as possible without dying. Often split teams are composed of one or two Assassins (or characters with Assassin secondaries) for skills such as Recall or Aura of Displacement, although Crippling Shot or Burning Arrow Rangers are also popular because of their versatility.
Druid's Isle is an old school split map. Typically, dedicated splits send a gank team with the vine seed to repair the enemy bridge at the start of the match and begin to work on NPCs. Meanwhile, the flag stand team stalls the opposition at the stand, perhaps slowly falling back to buy time for their infiltration squad to kill NPCs. To deal with the split, the opposing team often has to fall back through their main entrance because the other main team is between them and the vine bridge.
When this occurs, the infiltration squad will back out using the vine bridge, only to push in again when they can, in essence see-sawing the opposing team back and forth between the base and the flag stand to whittle away at NPCs and pose a constant threat to the runner (this see-saw tactic is employed by most split teams on most maps).
If the opposing team focuses too much on base defense, they risk giving up morale boosts. And when they retreat into their base to deal with the split, the main team can snare any stragglers to buy the gank team time to retreat, as well as adding DP to the opposing team. The circular nature of the paths on Druid's Isle make it common for both teams to run around nearly all match as they try to capture the flag stand and kill or defend NPCs. Being successful as a split or against a split requires good communication and coordinated movement. Having snares is critical for derailing split tactics on this map.
Of special note on Druid's Isle is the potential for a VoD body block gank. At VoD both vine bridges are automatically activated (even if they weren’t earlier). Once most NPCs have cleared out of the base, a team can rush over the vine bridge, sending their damage-dealers ahead to the Guild Lord while their Monks, and perhaps the runner, block the defending team from going over the bridge.
All it takes is two players standing side-by-side to body block the bridge, and two Monks can normally buy enough time for the rest of the team to kill off the Guild Lord. In order to properly defend against this maneuver, teams either need to have the path to their vine bridge blocked as well, or they need to position themselves so they can get a healer back to the base in time via the main entrance.
The introduction of Corrupted Isle originally led several high-rated teams to run dedicated 5/3 splits. Soon many lower rated teams followed suit. The back doors to the bases on this map are very close together, so once the three NPC guards at the back door are eliminated the split team has quick and easy access.
In addition, the flag stand sits at the end of a long ramp with only one entrance. Tactically this makes it easier for a split team to wreak havoc with Traps, Wards, AoE snares, and AoE damage, buying time for the infiltration team to work inside the enemy base. Dedicated splits are so common on this map that attacking teams often send their main team out the back door to preempt split attempts.
The removal of guild thieves and closed base gates from Imperial Isle has really changed the dynamic of this guild hall. Previously it was a very common map used by spike-oriented teams. Now its wide open nature and teleporters make it split friendly as well.
Because the flag respawns well outside the base, dedicated split teams often send their infiltration team off to kill the opposing runner first before proceeding into the enemy base. This adds some immediate DP and forces the opponents to choose between capturing the stand and defending their base as they wait for the flagrunner to resurrect.
If base infiltrators are chased, they can head towards one of the teleporters and usually elude their pursuers. Teams designed to fight 8v8 with a heavy reliance on AoE often have to snare splitting teams in one of the few chokepoints on this isle (either the raised hallways or just outside the Guild Lord area) to effectively use their build.
Unlike Imperial Isle, Uncharted Isle still has closed gates and a guild thief. Even so, this large, wide-open map is often favored by dedicated split teams because it offers some element of surprise over the other three. The route from back door to back door is long and a considerable distance from the flag stand area where teams typically engage at the start of a match.
Thus, an infiltration team can make it all the way to the back door of the base without being seen on the Compass, and be well into killing interior NPCs before a team notices and sends back a defender. Of course, more experienced teams know this and leave a defender in the base. Even so, teams can still get caught off guard.
The flag stand on this map sits high atop a hill with two long ramps leading up to it, and there is a shortcut from the main battlefield to the path that leads to the back doors. The shortcut is critical both for splitting teams and teams defending against splits.
When a split team is fighting 8v8 in the main battlefield, it can quickly break off split players and slow down pursuit long enough to get several NPC kills. Similarly, a team facing a split can engage the main team in the middle of the battlefield, and then collapse through the shortcut on any players infiltrating their base. The ramps are prime areas for AoE damage and snares, and provide solid walls for body blocking opposing runners against.
Billiard is a Senior Moderator at GuildWarsGuru.com and a former, long-time guild leader of Xen of Onslaught [XoO], one of the largest and most active PvP guilds in the world. Billiard can be reached in game as Billiard The Bold, or by private message at the [XoO] website.