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State of the Game—March 10, 2008

Midline Shutdown
Part Two: Rangers

By Mark Yu

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.


The previous article covered the role of Mesmers in shutdown. While they typically excel in shutdown at the flag stand, most teams also couple them with a Ranger to greatly increase their versatility. This article briefly discusses how Rangers can become a significant presence in the midline with their shutdown capabilities, as well as how they add tactical flexibility to the team.


Objectives

Rangers' roles are similar to those of Mesmers, but often broader in scale. As a Ranger, you typically have responsibilities to disrupt, pressure, and skirmish.

Disruption: using the skills on your bar to interrupt key opposing skills at appropriate times.

Pressure: applied through spamming conditions, as well as controlling position and movement.

Skirmish: providing solid split capabilities, both offensively and defensively.


The Skills

The discussion in this article uses the currently most popular Ranger template in the metagame: the "Cripshot." The typical Cripshot bar is Apply Poison, Crippling Shot, Distracting Shot, Savage Shot, Troll Unguent, Mending Touch, Natural Stride, and Resurrection Signet. While this group of skills can be broken down and thought of as a couple skills for applying conditions, two for interrupts, and three for self survival, it is important to remember that these skills have multiple uses. For example, players use Savage Shot as both an interrupt and a way to quickly apply conditions. The same goes for Mending Touch; while players tend to use it for self-removal of Blindness or Cripple, it can also be used for cheap, stack condition removal to clean Daze from Monks or Deep Wounds from a split partner.


Disruption

With the Cripshot template described above, disruption is accomplished through effective use of Distracting Shot and Savage Shot. Interrupts are strong skills in any profession, but they're even stronger on Rangers because the skills are spammable. At the flag stand (or with the main team), interrupts should be used as often as possible. When playing offensively, it is important to shut down defensive skills such as Blinding Surge, Aegis, Ward Against Melee, Defensive Anthem, Heal Party, and Song of Restoration. When playing defensively, your primary concerns should be interrupting skills like Diversion, Signet of Humility, Dervish Forms, and spike skills such as Enchanter's Conundrum or Shatterstone.

Water hexes are important to shut down regardless of whether you are playing offensively or defensively. One effective way to judge when to use Distracting Shot or Savage Shot is to consider the recharge time of the target skills. For example, a Savage Shot on Aegis usually works because the skill has a relatively long recharge. However, Distracting Shot adds disables interrupted skills, so use it for quick-recharging skills like Heal Party or Blinding Surge. Successfully done, this opens a window of time for your team to make significant progress. Even so, a Distracting Shot on a Monk elite (typically Word of Healing or Restore Conditions) is an extremely effective play that can force team wipes.

It is important to remember that a great deal of interrupting is dependent upon ping and reflexes. A Ranger should be able to interrupt a one-second cast time skill from at least half an aggro range away at < 100ms ping, although most high end Rangers can accomplish this at 200ms ping and up. However, interrupting is not completely based upon these variables. Because Ranger interrupts are spammable, they have the luxury of using more predictive interrupts. For example, you can't always interrupt three-quarter-second cast time skills by reflex. In these cases, try to recognize patterns your opponent uses to predict the next skill. So, if you see an Elementalist spamming Blinding Surge, you can use the in-game timer to count down four seconds (the spell recharge of Blinding Surge), and then toss a Distracting Shot on that target. At high efficiency (and with a bit of luck), the number of skills a Ranger interrupts can be very impressive.


Pressure

While interrupts are a form of pressure, the more general way to pressure an opponent is with party-wide Health degeneration through condition spam. This build uses Apply Poison and Savage Shot for the task. With Apply Poison active, switch targets while auto attacking to maximize the amount of Poison you can spread. Maintaining -4 Health degeneration on the entire opposing party ends up as 64 damage-per-second (DPS), but that is usually unattainable. Depending on the skills of the other team, you may get about four to six people Poisoned at a time. Poison spam can also help you gauge how much pressure your team is applying. If you notice your Poison sticking longer on greater numbers of foes, that's usually a sign the other team is heavily pressured or close to breaking. This indicates your team can push harder and has great chance of wiping the enemy team.


Skirmishing

The third objective, skirmishing, is difficult to explain in writing because it depends heavily on the experience and intelligence of the Ranger. However, there are some basics that can provide a foundation you can build upon. Skirmishes can involve anything from pushing on enemy flaggers, defending your base, or ganking the opposing base. In almost all of these cases, a Ranger's survival skills come directly into play. Natural Stride, Mending Touch, Troll Unguent, and Crippling Shot are heavily used in skirmishes.

While pushing flaggers, Natural Stride allows you to catch up and launch a Crippling Shot to slow down the enemy's flagger. If successful, you can drive the opposing team out of position and force them to chain run flags to prevent you from gaining a morale boost. However, it's more likely your opponent will react and you'll find yourself dealing with a split.

The most typical splits involve a flagger with support abilities, a Warrior, and a Ranger. In a basic 3v3 situation involving a mirror split (identical split builds), experience becomes the significant factor. Use Troll Unguent before entering a battle, cast Mending Touch to remove Deep Wounds from yourself and allies, and put up Natural Stride when using Apply Poison and Crippling Shot to help avoid interrupts from opposing Rangers. These are the basics tactics every Ranger should be aware of and employ.

Yet, your ability to outthink your opponent is even more important. Minor plays like forcing an opposing Ranger to waste interrupts by canceling your Crippling Shot or Troll Unguent, or knowing when to snare opponents and take conditions off your allies, can make a huge difference in the outcome of a skirmish. While defeating the opposing split is the most desirable outcome, knowing when to retreat is even more important. A dead Ranger won't do anything, but one that barely makes it out alive can quickly return to harass.


Just Getting Started

Like the Mesmer article, this State of the Game is not an exhaustive resource for how to play a Ranger in GvG. Yet, it should provide players with an idea of what they're doing correctly and what they still need to practice. Staying with the main team can be an effective way to learn how to play a Ranger if you're new to the profession. However, effective split techniques and the ability to use predictive interrupts can only be mastered with intelligence and, most importantly, experience. The next article will discuss the importance of communication in the midline, and how roles are divided between Rangers and Mesmers.


Mark Yu is a core member of Delta Formation [DF] and has been playing Guild Wars competitively since early 2006. He is currently a senior in college studying biology and enjoys bubble tea. He can be reached in game as Y U E, or by private message through the [QQ] website.