Guild Wars




State of the Game—October 29, 2007

Remember when?

By Sean Ferguson

With frequent updates and skill balances exploding into the fluxing metagame, Guild Wars players have marched through numerous game permutations, some drastically different than others. Veteran players will most likely recall these tales from earlier days, but do you remember when...

1. Lightning spike actually used Elementalists with lightning skills?

Chain Lightning
Chain Lightning
Chain LightningChain Lightning
Elementalist - Air Magic - Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 3
Recharge: 10
Spell. Target foe and up to two other foes near your target are struck for 10..85 lightning damage. This Spell has 25% armor penetration and causes Exhaustion.

The first dominant lightning spike build consisted of several Air Elementalists with Chain Lightning. They'd queue up the skill and stun enemies into submission by dropping two or three players with the first volley. Over time, their popularity faded and Mesmers, with their fast-casting ability, took up the lightning spike role, firing off skills like machine guns. But Mesmers relied on elite skills from the Elementalist line, and a set of skill balances made it too hard for anyone other than a primary Elementalist to use those skills. Eventually Ritualists moved to the forefront of lightning spike. They had their own skills for spiking, so they didn't have to depend on a secondary profession. And, unlike Elementalists, Ritualists had the advantage of varied defensive and healing skills.

2. Spirit spamming was merely a couple of Rangers and about a gazillion Spirits?

An early game update annihilated Spirit spamming (to an extreme extent) as a play style. Previously, a Ranger or two could control a huge section of the map, both with Spirit global effects and positional blocking. It was no stretch to have 20-plus Spirits clustered into one tiny area, totally walling it off and creating excessive frame rate lag at the same time. Many players considered this an unfun part of the game, and the game update addressed their concerns.

3. Victory or Death (VoD) didn't happen until 45 minutes?

Instead of GvG lasting up to 45 minutes or more, a clear winner now usually emerges by 25 minutes. Besides the VoD time, many other GvG changes have occurred: Arcanists were replaced by Bodyguards, the guild lords move at VoD, and there is now a message when your base comes under attack. These changes to VoD have resulted in a faster-paced, more dynamic and adrenaline-filled game. While it's harder to take down the opponent's guild lord through cheap, underhanded ganks, the final outcome tends to happen a lot faster.

4. There was no Balthazar faction?

Unlocks for PvP skills used to happen exclusively through playing PvE. Eventually, this system became too unwieldy, and PvP rewards were introduced as a way to get unlocks. Also, in 2006, PvP editions of different campaigns went on sale with all skills unlocked for competitive play.

5. Rift Guardians guarded the Tomb of the Primeval Kings?

"Tombs," now named "Heroes' Ascent," is a tournament style of game play with teams of eight progressing toward the Hall of Heroes. But before a team can even fight other live teams, it has to defeat a group of NPCs. These NPCs used to be Rift Guardians that were spread out across a wide area. Now, Unworthy Dead form a sort of AI bot team, similar to a group of players, to more accurately measure the quality of a team attempting to join the tournament. If your team can't defeat the Unworthy, you probably won't do well against other players...

6. You could get winning streaks of more than ten matches in Random Arenas?

After winning ten matches in Randoms, a team now goes to Team Arenas. Lengthy winning streaks in Team Arenas are still possible, but in Randoms no team can go more than ten. This helps ensure a more balanced environment, keeping the strong teams around for only a limited time.

7. War Machine and the Last Pride drove the metagame?

Two Korean guilds with huge influence on the metagame, these players employed aggressive split tactics, unpredictable builds, and solid individual play to rise to the top of the ladder. The Last Pride showed people how to split when Hex builds became prevalent after the nerf of Remove Hex. They both participated in World Championships, but real life commitments such as mandatory military service broke these teams apart. War Machine is still around, but without most of its original members.

8. These builds—Spirit Spam, Ether Renewal, IWAY, Obsidian Flame, Air Spike, ViM Trappers, Minion Factories, Ranger Spike, Blood Spike, FoC spike, Bunny Thumpers—were the flavor of the month?

"I Will Avenge You!"
"I Will Avenge You!"
Warrior - Strength - Shout
Energy: 5
Activation: 0
Duration: 10
Recharge: 45
Shout. For each dead ally, you gain 10 seconds of +3..7 Health regeneration and your attack speed increases by 25%.

Each of these experienced numerous different iterations and surges of popularity. Skill nerfs, game mechanic balances, new professions, and evolving counters all contributed to excising these builds from the metagame. Many of them still exist, though in altered form. IWAY, for example, survives mainly as a concept, or style of play, where the offense is front-loaded and defense consists of aggressive play and weak self-healing.

9. Frenzy was considered a bad skill?

Warrior - No Attribute - Stance
Energy: 5
Activation: 0
Duration: 8
Recharge: 4
Stance. For 8 seconds, you attack 33% faster but take double damage.

Yeah. Everybody thought so. It makes you attack faster, but you take twice as much damage when you use it! Who wanted that? An early guild known as "Kor" that formed during Alpha and open Beta testing set a lot of trends. Among those was repeated use of adrenaline spike, and a key component of their spike was Frenzy. Kor was among the first to use Frenzy and then swap out of it with another stance. Earth-shaking concept at the time, though now everyone takes it for granted.

10. Divine Boon was the way to heal, and make no mistake about it?

For what seemed like forever, Boon Monks were the bread and butter of teams from Random Arenas to PvE missions to high level GvG matches. To fuel their high Energy costs, they relied on skills from other professions, such as the Necromancer's Offering of Blood. Some of them even carried Vampiric Gaze to help with spikes. A series of changes to the costs of using such skills and the Energy returned from others ultimately resulted in the demise of the Boon Monk as a popular build.

11. Fire Elementalists were useless?

Rodgort's Invocation
Rodgort's Invocation
Rodgort's InvocationRodgort's Invocation
Elementalist - Fire Magic - Spell
Energy: 25
Activation: 2
Recharge: 5
Spell. Target foe and all nearby foes are struck for 15..120 fire damage and set on fire for 1..3 seconds.

For a long time, the PvP fire mage was neglected, cold, and alone. But after a series of new skills and some buffs to traditional skills, the fire mage descended back upon PvP like a wrathful meteor from the sky, bringing with it widespread destruction and ensuring itself a favored place among many teams. Previously, fire mages lived mainly in PvE, where players held aggro and nuked mobs with massive fire damage.

Sean Ferguson is an ArenaNet staff writer. He produces the State of the Game, Match Reports, and the Guild of the Week series. In addition, he authored the PvP Primer series, acts as an onsite reporter for events such as PAX, and also writes and edits other articles, website material, and in-game content.