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State of the Game—May 30, 2006

Basics of Designing a GvG build

By Jonathan Sharp

Special note: Each State of the Game article 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.


At its core, Guild Wars GvG is a struggle over a few main resources—Health, Energy, NPCs (archers, footmen, and bodyguards), flag control, and morale boosts. All GvG builds are designed to compete for these main resources, and to this end they utilize offensive, defensive, utility, and healing skills. Teams use offense to take away enemy Health, and defense to protect their own Health. Energy, NPCs, and utility skills aid friendly offensive and defensive measures through indirect means.

Most GvG builds include the five following components: offense, defense, utility, healing, and flag running.

Offense

When it's all said and done, GvG is primarily about killing your opponents before they kill you. This may sound simple, but it means that a strong offense is absolutely essential to a successful GvG build. Your GvG builds must have enough defense to protect any Monks, but if your team pours too much into defense and not enough into offense, you will probably lose the battle. A highly defensive build may be able to outlast enemy attacks for a time, but offense will usually prevail in the long run.

The offensive aspects of most GvG builds can be broken down into one of three types—Spike, Pressure, and Degeneration—and may include elements of all three.

Gale
Gale
GaleGale
Elementalist - Air Magic - Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 1
Duration: 3
Recharge: 5
Spell. Knock down target foe for 2 seconds. This Spell causes Exhaustion. (50% failure chance with Air Magic 4 or less.)

Spike
Spiking involves having one person, the "Caller," call a target over a voice chat system such as Ventrilo or Teamspeak and then count down "3, 2, 1, spike!" At that cue, all team members attack the same target with damage skills or with Monk interrupt skills. This is where utility comes in. During a spike, a Mesmer may cast Gale or Blackout on an enemy Monk, rendering that Monk unable to heal his teammates.

Pressure
Pressure builds can spread damage to multiple targets, which keeps enemy Monks under an obligation to heal multiple targets. Pressure can be combined with spiking as well as degeneration, and most builds benefit from mixing different types of offense. Pressure is usually found in the form of Warriors, or any class that can dish out a substantial amount of DPS (damage per second).

Images of Remorse
Images of Remorse
Images of RemorseImages of Remorse
Mesmer - Illusion Magic - Hex Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 2
Duration: 5..10
Recharge: 5
Hex Spell. For 5..10 seconds, target foe suffers -1..3 Health degeneration. If that foe was attacking, that foe takes 10..52 damage.

Degeneration
There are two major types of degeneration in Guild Wars—Hex degeneration and Condition degeneration. When using Hex degeneration, make sure that your team has Hexes with very low recast times. This will allow you to "spam" the Hexes so that as soon as they're removed you can cast them again. Some of the most popular Hexing character builds include Necromancers with Life Siphon, Parasitic Bond, and Faintheartedness, or Mesmers with Conjure Phantasm, Migraine, and the new Factions skill Images of Remorse.

Tainted Flesh
Tainted Flesh
Tainted Flesh Tainted Flesh [Elite]
Necromancer - Death Magic - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Duration: 20..44
Recharge: 0
Enchantment Spell. For 20..44 seconds, target ally is immune to disease, and anyone striking that ally in melee becomes Diseased for 3..15 seconds.

Condition spreading is powerful, because it creates chaos for your opponent. Skills like Martyr and Restore Condition help to control Conditions, but a good Condition build can still overpower these elite skills if they are not used correctly. The three most common character builds to use to spread Conditions include a Sword Warrior with Sever Artery and Gash, a Ranger with Apply Poison or Melandru's Arrows, or a Necromancer with Tainted Flesh or Rotting Flesh.


Defense

Warrior Defense
Warriors offer the most sustained DPS in Guild Wars, so make sure that your build can defend against them. Some of the most useful and popular skills to use against Warriors include Ward Against Melee, Ward Against Foes, Aegis, Blinding Flash, and Enervating Charge. Defensive Hexes such as Shadow of Fear, Faintheartedness, Blurred Vision, Ice Spikes, Deep Freeze, Spirit of Failure, and Price of Failure are also extremely useful.

Ranger Defense
Rangers don't offer as much pressure damage as Warriors, but they have spiking and degeneration capabilities. To counter this, try using Shields Up!, Aegis, Blinding Flash, and Gale. Hard interrupts (meaning any interrupt that can stop both spells and skills, as opposed to a soft interrupt, which can only interrupt spells) like Cry of Frustration also afford a good chance to defend against Rangers.

Ward of Stability
Ward of Stability
Ward of StabilityWard of Stability
Elementalist - Earth Magic - Ward Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 1
Duration: 10..25
Recharge: 30
Ward Spell. Create a Ward of Stability at your current location. For 10..25 seconds, non-Spirit allies cannot be knocked down.

Caster Defense
Casters can be used to spike just like Rangers. The most popular types of spiking builds include Necromancer Blood spikes and Elementalist spikes. Try countering these with Gale, Shock, Blackout, and Cry of Frustration. Keep in mind that most spike builds carry counters to these skills, such as using Ward of Stability to counter Gale and Shock, and Mantra of Resolve to counter Cry of Frustration. By combining interrupts, Blackout, Diversion, Infuse Health, and Protective Spirit, you should have a strong line of defense against a spike build if you play correctly.


Utility

Shatter Storm
Shatter Storm
Shatter StormShatter Storm [Elite]
Mesmer - No Attribute - Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 1
Recharge: 0
Spell. Target foe loses all Enchantments. For each Enchantment removed this way, Shatter Storm is disabled for an additional 7 seconds.

Enchantment Removal
There are many powerful Enchantments in Guild Wars, and dealing with them effectively is a key aspect of any build. Mesmers are essential for Enchantment removal, and most teams will carry Enchantment removal in the form of Drain Enchantment and Shatter Enchantment. A Guild Wars Factions skill that is starting to see some use in this area is the elite Mesmer skill Shatter Storm. When using spike builds, you'll want to ensure that your team removes Enchantments from the spiked target; in this situation, the Necromancer skills Rend Enchantments and Gaze of Contempt are ideal.

Hex Removal
Hex removal is usually found in the skill sets of Monks and Mesmers. Holy Veil and Inspired Hex are popular Hex removal skills for Monks, and Mesmers use the Monk skill Remove Hex due to its quick recast. This skill is usually a slow cast for a Monk (it takes two seconds to activate), but coupled with the Mesmer Fast Casting attribute, it is much easier to use. The Factions skill Expel Hexes controls Hexes extremely well and has found its way into many GvG builds.

Condition Removal
Martyr and Restore Condition are both excellent choices for countering Conditions, but both require elite slots. The key non-elite skills that counter Conditions are Extinguish, Plague Touch, Draw Conditions, and Mend Ailment. It's usually best to spread your Condition removal around so that multiple characters can assist in keeping Conditions under control.


Healing

Divine Boon
Divine Boon
Divine BoonDivine Boon
Monk - Divine Favor - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 0.25
Duration: upkeep
Recharge: 10
Enchantment Spell. While you maintain this Enchantment, whenever you cast a Monk Spell that targets an ally, that ally is healed for 15..60 Health, and you lose 2 Energy.

Most builds rely on two primary Monks for healing. Boon Protectors, the Protection Monks that rely on the Monk skill Divine Boon, are very powerful and are the Monk template of choice for most guilds. Once Monks are established within a build, skills such as Infuse Health, Heal Party, and Heal Other are spread out to other classes, most typically to Elementalist/Monks. Self heals can also be important, such as Troll Unguent for Rangers and Healing Signet for Warriors, as they take pressure off of the primary Monks and allow them to stay out of harm's way.


Flag Running

Flag running is absolutely crucial for any GvG build. By controlling morale boosts, teams are able to renew their Resurrection Signets, giving them a huge advantage. A morale boost occurs if either team is able to hold the flag stand for two consecutive minutes. When a team receives a morale boost, all of their skills are recharged, and they get a 10% boost to Health and Energy as well as the aforementioned Signet recharge. The most popular versions of flag running characters have speed buffs and self heals. A sample of an excellent runner might be an Elementalist/Monk with spells such as Windborne Speed, Heal Party, and Healing Breeze. Some builds do not have a dedicated flag runner and instead share the responsibilities among multiple characters in the team.


Jonathan Sharp has been playing competitive online strategy games since Warcraft 2 and StarCraft. In Guild Wars, he has been a member of two top-5 ladder teams: Club G and Negative Zero. He recently worked as a multiplayer game designer for Stainless Steel Studios in Boston and has a B.A. in Philosophy. Currently, he's pursuing two of his passions: game design and writing. Find him in-game as Chaplan Observant.