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State of the Game—October 15, 2007

Splits: Chapter Four
Frozen Nomads and Dead Jade

By Alex 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.


As the previous articles on split tactics discussed, the purpose of splits is to divide an opponent's focus among two or more key areas on the map, such as each team's base, the flagstand, or any point where a team can control movement during a match. By splitting, a team’s caller intends to create a favorable mismatch at one of the map's key areas and then exploit that mismatch.

The guild halls examined in this final chapter all have quick routes between each team's base. Typically, these routes are far removed from the flagstand, making splitting the only tactical option for maintaining control over them. These paths become key areas as well because control of them poses an immediate threat to the opposing base.


Frozen Isle

Bull's Strike
Bull's Strike
Bull's StrikeBull's Strike
Warrior - Strength - Attack
Energy: 5
Activation: 0
Duration: 2
Recharge: 10
Attack. If this attack hits a moving foe, you strike for +5..30 damage, and your target is knocked down.

Frozen Isle is a spread out guild hall featuring a lower path between bases to the east, bridges leading from each base towards a central Gate House, and a path to the flagstand around the west side of the map. A large field of ice runs through the center of the map between the Gate House and the flagstand. Stopping on the ice gives players the environmental status effect Icy Ground, which causes 70% slower movement speed. Typically, Warriors use Bull's Strike to knock down a foe on the ice, making that foe stop moving, and snaring them with Icy Ground. Team's seeking to control a split group's movement often attempt to push that group onto the ice and use Icy Ground to hinder mobility.

Players inside the Gate House have control over the upper and lower gates to both bases via levers on each side of the Gate House. A team in control of the Gate House poses an immediate, serious threat to the opposing Guild Lord and NPCs. Because of this, battles on Frozen Isle often end up centered here. Teams with weaker split potential often open a match on Frozen Isle by sending seven players across the ice to the Gate House, and a flag runner to the flagstand. With this arrangement, the flag runner hangs back to avoid a full enemy team at the flagstand and to defend the flagstand path against gankers.

Defending against a dedicated split team (such as Recall) on this map is often a simple matter of leaving the flag runner and possibly one other character back for defense while the rest of the team drives straight across the Gate House to attack the enemy base, ignoring the flagstand. Many split teams rely on thinning out their opponents by snaring them en route to recapture the flagstand. By giving up the stand and making a frontal assault, a balanced team tries to deprive a split build of its tactical advantage. However, should the frontal assault stall, the attacking split team may have enough momentum to overwhelm the light defense back at the home base. In frontal assault situations without flagstand control, it is essential to take out NPCs quickly and spike players at the right times.


Isle of Jade

Before the alterations to the Isle of Jade, this guild hall was a haven for teams running gimmick builds like Hex pressure. After the changes, balanced builds and dedicated splits became more of the standard here. To promote more varied movement than the original design allowed, the pit of Spiked Coral next to the flagstand now has a clear path between teleporters leading into each base. Now, each team can quickly send a gank squad into the opposing base.

This pathway is also a main point of focus during VoD. To protect against a desperation gank, teams frequently position themselves in between the two teleporters on this path. This spot is relatively close to the flagstand, so a team does not make a large positional sacrifice to ward off a gank attempt by waiting here.

Another change to the map that promotes stronger split play on the Isle of Jade is the stairway added next to the teleporter inside each base. This stairway allows players to move from the side of either base to the front. This small change allows a split squad to vary their attack inside the opponent's base and quickly collapse back to the flagstand when needed.

Opening tactics on the Isle of Jade vary widely because initial splits are fairly easy to notice on this map, so the teams can quite quickly respond. However, a dedicated split build may immediately use the teleporters to enter the opposing base with a full team. From there they can split up, using the new stairway, to more effectively eliminate outer NPCs.


Isle of the Dead

Aura of Displacement
Aura of Displacement
Aura of DisplacementAura of Displacement [Elite]
Assassin - No Attribute - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 0.25
Duration: upkeep
Recharge: 20
Enchantment Spell. When you cast Aura of Displacement, Shadow Step to target foe. When you stop maintaining Aura of Displacement you return to your original location.

Featuring a large pool of tar around the flagstand and upper level bridges with a direct route between each team's base, the Isle of the Dead provides for a variety of interesting split options. The map itself is fairly small, so Assassins can make good use of Shadow Stepping skills to split off and collapse back to their main team quickly. For example, from the upper bridges an Assassin using Aura of Displacement can Shadow Step to an opposing flag runner en route to the flagstand, dispatch the runner, and cancel Aura of Displacement to Shadow Step back to the bridges in a matter of seconds.

Another feature advantageous to split play is the large pool of tar surrounding the flagstand. Players moving through the tar suffer a 30% reduction in movement speed. A fast gank team can use this natural snare to their advantage and eliminate a large portion of enemy NPCs while their opponents are mired in the tar.

As the upper path between each base allows for dynamic splits and collapses, teams often try to close off this route by moving across as a whole while their flag runner splits to the flagstand. Considering the confined nature of the upper bridges, this tactic is especially popular with teams carrying plenty of area-of-effect damage in their build.


Nomad's Isle

Nomad's Isle is a common map to see guilds splitting on. The teleporters here can move a gank squad from one base to the other in almost no time. In addition, the pit of quicksand in front of the flagstand and between each base slows players by 15%, so Nomad's Isle offers advantages similar to those on Isle of the Dead. Teams that can couple effective snaring at the flagstand with a fast gank squad can clean out an opposing base of NPCs.

In addition, the teleporters and the pit of quicksand make it difficult for an enemy to effectively collapse on a split squad. The quick movement afforded by the teleporters can put a gank team out of reach of an enemy collapse with ease under these conditions.

It is common practice at the beginning of a match on Nomad's Isle for teams to leave one character, usually the flag runner, back to watch the teleporter in their base for any quick gank attempts. With this character in place, the rest of the team can respond quickly to protect their NPCs.


Teleporters

Proper usage of teleporters is important on both Nomad's Isle and the Isle of Jade. Many players die on the teleporter pad when they teleport into a group because they cannot teleport back. On a guild hall with two-way teleporters, players must completely clear off the pad before they can reenter it and teleport to safety. Experienced players know this and will attempt to snare opponents on the teleporter pad, preventing them from clearing off before it’s too late.


In Summary

This wraps up the series on commonly used split tactics for each map. Besides the popular tactics discussed here, there are numerous other ways to divide a team and many iterations of the split build. Even so-called "balanced teams" are fully capable of splitting and may choose to divide their forces if they run into a group they just can't handle. No matter what map your team plays on, making good use of NPCs, position, environmental effects, and unique map features will often mean the difference between winning and losing.


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.