State of the Game—September 4, 2006
Guild Wars Factions Championship Wrap-Up
By Harold J. Chow
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.
Congratulations to War Machine [WM], the winners of the Guild Wars Factions World Championship! (And congratulations to fellow writer Michael Thompson for correctly picking War Machine to win it all.) War Machine saved several surprises for Leipzig, as did Idiot Savants [iQ], who shocked naysayers by pulling out some unexpected techniques on its way to the finals. With the different builds and strategies employed by the six guilds in the Championship and the widespread influence of Observer Mode on GvG, expect to face some new challenges in guild battles during the next ladder season.
Common Individual Builds
As expected, teams typically featured a two-Monk backline, using some combination of Divine Boon Protection Monks ("Boon Prots") and Blessed Light Monks. Unlike the pre-built template, Blessed Light Monks tended to run with an Assassin secondary for the damage reduction, the increased speed of Dark Escape, and the emergency teleport of Return. While this setup aids Monk mobility and self-preservation, iQ figured out that these Monks eventually run out of Energy when forced to counter an opponent's heavy sustained damage-dealing at Victory or Death. The Boon Prot still provides some of the best healing power in the game, but it has a number of weaknesses of which top teams tend to take advantage.
Many teams also ran Crippling Shot Rangers in their builds. With the ability to snare and Poison, as well as backup a flag runner, this powerful ally fits well in many "balanced" builds. Axe Warriors with Eviscerate also appeared in high numbers, but they varied quite a bit in their choice of secondary professions. Variants featured Axe Warriors with Plague Touch and others with Shock.
Just about every balanced build featured an Elementalist/Monk "blindbot" that, beyond the value of Ether Prodigy and Blinding Flash, provided utility with high-cost Monk skills or Water Magic snares and the offensive power of Deep Freeze or Lightning Orb. Because balanced builds rely on Warriors for damage, hindering them becomes a top priority for blindbots. Blinded Warriors have ninety-percent less offensive output, which means Monks on the receiving end can heal less and conserve Energy. Likewise, every team that relied on Warriors brought some method of quickly removing Blindness and other Conditions or equipped its Warriors with Plague Touch.
Common Team Builds
The competing guilds did, in fact, play balanced builds with very few exceptions. Esoteric Warriors [EW] tried to catch Treacherous Empire [Te] off guard with a Feast of Corruption spike build in game three. Idiot Savants [iQ] tried to overwhelm War Machine [WM] with a triple Smiting Monk build. Aside from these two anomalies, these top guilds shared many similarities when creating builds for matches.
Ranger - Marksmanship - Attack
Attack. If Debilitating Shot hits, your target loses 1..10 Energy.
Several guilds added Debilitating Shot to their Rangers' arsenals. The sudden loss of ten Energy can pressure many teams when it catches casters off guard and prevents them from casting at a crucial moment. Combined with Oath Shot, the rate of Energy loss can devastate a Monk or drain a Warrior or Assassin, thus reducing the frequency of Energy-powered melee attacks.
Traps have certainly made a comeback in top-level play, with iQ making the most high-profile use. Not only do Traps unleash area damage, they also provide a source of Blindness and Cripple to slow Warriors and opposing flag runners. Several teams carried either a dedicated trapping Ranger or, in the case of WM, added Barbed Trap to a more standard Ranger's Skill Bar. Remember casters, watch for trappers and wand those Rangers while in between spells—you might interrupt a Trap.
Success favored the innovative. Within many of the balanced builds that were used, a change or two in a skill choice or character build away from more standard balanced builds provided the key to victory.
Mesmer - Inspiration Magic - Spell
Spell. Remove an Enchantment from target foe and gain 3..15 Energy. For 20 seconds, Inspired Enchantment is replaced with the Enchantment removed from target foe.
A few Mesmers and Monks opted to carry Inspired Enchantment to serve as both Energy management and Enchantment removal. With some Boon Prots tending to bring Mantra of Recall, a Monk with Inspired Enchantment can remove that Enchantment and use it for her own Energy boost. Moreover, when opposing teams run high-pressure builds with Disease, they typically use Tainted Flesh to retain immunity from Disease. One WM Mesmer inspired Tainted Flesh from an opponent and used it 55 times during that game to protect his own team!
Elementalist - Fire Magic - Spell
Spell. Create a Meteor Shower at target foe's location. For 9 seconds, foes adjacent to that location are struck for 7..112 fire damage and knocked down every 3 seconds. This Spell causes Exhaustion.
Knowing opposing NPCs would eventually group up around the flag stand at Victory or Death, iQ brought the ultimate area-of-effect offensive spell: Meteor Shower. Combined with Glyph of Sacrifice, which also goes well with Resurrection Chant, Meteor Shower could instantly knock down and slaughter bunched-up enemies. Although occasional guilds may try this tactic during the next season, its main value lies in surprise and novelty. Certainly people will watch for this in future tournament play.
Recall Flag Runner
WM took advantage of the Burning Isle Guild Hall in its first game against Te by equipping its flag runner with Recall. By enchanting the outermost Archer NPC with Recall, WM's runner could run the flag out to the stand, then cancel Recall to return immediately to base for another flag. While this trick can work in most guild halls, it provides a distinct advantage on Burning Isle as the runner only needs to traverse the lava pits one way instead of roundtrip. Look for more teams to either use this tactic or immediately eliminate this Archer.
Life-Bonding Ganking Duo
WM deployed an Assassin and Illusion Mesmer duo to infiltrate Te's base in Game Two. Each character maintained Life Bond on the other, thereby allowing them to trudge past the Flame Cursed Sentinels of Burning Isle one at a time without dying. Despite a flawed execution during that game, the combination of skills used on these two characters allow for a good amount of resiliency and NPC-killing power.
Warrior - Hammer Mastery - Attack
Attack. If this attack hits an attacking foe, that foe is knocked down.
In his tournament report, Joshua Lovejoy mentioned the iQ Hammer Warrior who sported five different knock-down skills. Between Devastating Hammer, Counter Blow, Hammer Bash, Shock, and Bull's Strike, this character can inflict an enormous amount of disruption on an opposing team. With the advent of the Linebacker and the prevalence of the "Bunny Thumper" hammer Ranger/Warrior, look for more teams to find room on their Skill Bars for Ward of Stability.
Some teams preferred to split while others wanted an eight-on-eight battle. Split build execution ranged from an even four-four split of The Last Pride [EvIL] to the Recall-powered instant split of Irresistible Blokes [iB]. Teams that avoided splitting, or at least that did not like their opponents to split, chose guild halls such as Isle of Jade and Burning Isle to hinder mobility. iQ went so far to prevent EvIL's split from wreaking havoc as to "turtle" around the Guild Lord for almost thirty minutes instead of allowing EvIL to send in Assassins unchecked.
Perhaps fearing a similar strategy, WM chose Warrior's Isle for the final game of the tournament. Between the ability of the catapult to decimate NPCs at Victory or Death and the high number of unguarded NPCs outside the Guild Lord's chamber, guild halls such as Warrior's Isle disfavor the turtle tactic because the defensive team stands to lose all of its NPCs without eliminating any opposing NPCs. Also of note, WM chose to bring two Mesmers with two Enchantment-removal spells each (the third Mesmer did not carry Enchantment removal). With iQ running a "triple smite" build meant to overwhelm an opponent's backline with three high-pressure melee characters supported by three Air of Enchantment Smiting Monks, the Mesmers could easily mitigate damage by removing Zealot's Fire from the Smiters. Although WM's Monk/Assassin backline would have had problems sustaining healing over an extended period against such a high-powered offense, WM's Mesmers turned an otherwise admirable and surprising strategy into a weak and ineffectual one.
Knowing Thy Enemy—the Key to Victory
While tactics and builds can remain relatively unchanged, the ability to adapt quickly and handle what the next opponent will most likely use will continue to dictate a guild's chances of success in future seasons. WM's well-deserved victory resulted from the flexibility to sculpt builds and tactics in a short enough timeframe to handle all of iQ's strategies. Applying this concept to a ladder season, preparing your guild to handle the most prevalent builds and strategies of the metagame will factor strongly into your success.
Harold J. Chow is a freelance Guild Wars reporter. His in-game name is Guild Informant.