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State of the Game—December 4, 2006

Your Divided Attention Please!
Split Strategies in Guild Battles

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.


In Guild Battles, different teams take different paths to victory, but all ultimately lead to killing the Guild Lord. When two guilds meet on the battlefield, one side will have the advantage in an eight-on-eight situation whether due to talent, build, experience, or a number of other reasons. Successfully executing a split gives a team the power to create favorable mismatches, confuse opponents, and eliminate NPCs. Likewise, understanding an opponent's split strategy allows a team to generate its own advantages.


Identifying a Split

Almost every team features a split of some sort. The most common involves sending one person to run a flag from the base to the flag stand. While not everyone may identify the flag runner as a split, keep in mind that having one opponent all alone opens up opportunities. Sending the right personnel to eliminate that runner not only creates a temporary eight-on-seven situation, but also forces the other team to find someone else to run a flag and prevent the impending morale boost.

Emerging Skills in the Winterfest Season


"You're All Alone!"
"You're All Alone!" [Elite]
Warrior - No Attribute - Shout
Energy: 5
Activation: 0
Duration: 7
Recharge: 10
Shout. If target foe isn't near an ally, that foe suffers from Cripple and Weakness for 7 seconds.

As guilds incorporate the new skills introduced in Guild Wars Nightfall and familiar skills reinvigorated by the ever-evolving metagame, players must come up with ways to deal with them. As Christian Brellisford predicted, the Warrior Shout "You're All Alone!" has found company with many split builds. One Warrior/Assassin equipped with "You're All Alone!" and Signet of Malice can inflict Cripple and Weakness on flag runners while thwarting enemy attempts to Cripple or Blind them. Additionally, spells that cure only one Condition remove Weakness first, leaving the target Crippled. The Crippled Condition also allows the Warrior to cover a split squad's escape.

Mending Touch
Mending Touch
Mending TouchMending Touch
Monk - Protection Prayers - Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 0.75
Recharge: 6
Spell. Touched ally loses two Conditions and is healed for 15..60 Health for each Condition removed in this way.

To counter this threat, many flag runners now fit Mending Touch on their Skill Bars to remove both Conditions right away. Warrior/Monks have also discovered the power of this skill to allow them to continue fighting without having to ask their backline to remove Conditions.

Of course, any number of people may attempt to split off and create similar mismatches. Against a spike team, dividing into smaller groups forces the spikers to choose whether to split and chase both groups (thus reducing their spike ability), or to stay together to chase down one group, thereby freeing the other split squad to kill NPCs.

Another common split strategy uses a one- or two-person "gank team" to eliminate NPCs at the enemy base while the rest of the team fights at the flag stand. This infiltration allows the team to create a numerical advantage for Victory or Death ("VoD") while giving the team the ability to protect its own base while still challenging control of the flag stand. Such a split may also include a designated flag runner separate from the gank team.

Towards the end of a match, some teams attempt to rush into the enemy base for an all-out assault on the Guild Lord. A common split to counter this situation sends all defensive characters (typically two Monks) back to keep the Guild Lord alive while the offense invades the opponent's base to take down the enemy Guild Lord. That opponent must then send back its Monks and expose its offense or risk a quick loss from unmitigated damage on its own Guild Lord.

More Emerging Skills in the Winterfest Season

Divert Hexes
Divert Hexes
Divert HexesDivert Hexes [Elite]
Monk - Protection Prayers - Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 1
Recharge: 5
Spell. Remove up to 1..3 Hex[pl:"Hexes"] from target ally. For each Hex removed in this way, that ally loses one Condition and gains 15..75 Health.
Zealous Benediction
Zealous Benediction
Zealous BenedictionZealous Benediction [Elite]
Monk - Protection Prayers - Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 0.75
Recharge: 4
Spell. Heal target ally for 30..180 Health. If target was below 50% Health, you gain 7 Energy.

Monks have added to their repertoires as well. Some Monk duos now feature one Zealous Benediction Monk and one Divert Hexes Monk. Coupling the powerful heals of Zealous Benediction with the hex-removing power of Divert Hexes allows this pair to keep their team alive in a variety of situations. Against teams without hexes, however, Divert Hexes becomes much less useful than its Factions cousin, Blessed Light. To compensate, Divert Hexes Monks often run Infuse Health, but without skills to boost self-sufficiency, these Monks can often become a liability on a split. Other teams opt to run Purge Signet in lieu of Divert Hexes, but players who run that skill should remember to bring a low-Energy weapon swap.

Dismiss Condition
Dismiss Condition
Dismiss ConditionDismiss Condition
Monk - Protection Prayers - Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 0.75
Recharge: 3
Spell. Remove one Condition from target ally. If that ally is under the effects of an Enchantment, that ally is healed for 15..75 Health.

For condition removal, Dismiss Condition has replaced Mend Condition on many Monk Skill Bars due to its ability to self-target if needed. In teams running party-wide Enchantments such as Aegis, Dismiss Condition still provides a decent heal regardless of whether it removes a Condition.

Aegis itself has become quite popular on primary Monks using an Elementalist secondary for Glyph of Lesser Energy, which now grants an Energy discount for two spells instead of one.

Shield of Absorption
Shield of Absorption
Shield of Absorption Shield of Absorption
Monk - Protection Prayers - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Duration: 3..7
Recharge: 10
Enchantment Spell. For 3..7 seconds, damage received by target ally is reduced by 5 each time that ally is hit while under the effects of this Enchantment.

Shield of Absorption has become an automatic inclusion on many Monk skill bars. This skill's description initially caused quite a bit of confusion and kept people from using it. Shield of Absorption reduces damage per hit by an additional five damage for each hit while under the effect of this Enchantment, which can quickly reduce all further damage to zero for its duration.


Executing a Split

To execute effective splits, players must learn to communicate with each other. Each split squad needs information from the other squad(s) on matters such as enemy movement and team status. Many splits end badly because one split squad did not warn the other split squad that the enemy had moved to collapse on their position. Adam Sunstrom's article from November 20, 2006 provides a slew of helpful tips to improve team communication.

Players wishing to execute a split—or defend against one—should familiarize themselves with the various maps. Talking to the Guild Hall Ambassador at the Great Temple of Balthazar allows exploration of each Guild Hall map. Maps like the Burning Isle do not favor splits. Teams wishing to split should plan contingency strategies, such as sending a Ranger with Apply Poison to clear the back path on Burning Isle, because opponents who choose to play on such maps likely have an offense that can overwhelm enemy Monks in eight-on-eight situations. In addition, splits do not get far on certain maps without the help of the Guild Thief NPC, so guilds thinking of running a split build should determine which squad will travel with the Guild Thief, and how to keep her alive.

The timing of splits can vary depending on the team build as well. Splitting right away provides early gank opportunities while splitting later provides the chance to assess the enemy's strategy first and then split accordingly. In the Autumn Season finals, Team Quitter [QQ] went into the final game intending to split off its Assassin gank squad right away while Idiot Savants [iQ] wanted to camp the flag stand and hold out for Victory or Death. By splitting right away, QQ could eliminate NPCs to try to create an advantage for VoD. However, iQ could see QQ's split and answered accordingly by dispatching a single Elementalist with Blinding Flash to foil the split and leave iQ with a seven-on-six advantage at the flag stand.


Countering a Split

Countering a split requires good preparation before combat. Knowing beforehand whether your team's build can split itself or whether it needs to stay together can save your team from trying to decide what to do in the middle of a battle. A team with a spike build that relies on most of its players to stay together needs to consider whether it can plow through the opponent's defensive squad or whether it needs to retreat to deal with a squad infiltrating its base. Spike teams usually send back a flag runner along with a Monk so as not to sacrifice too much damage. However, this type of split for a team with a typical two-Monk backline may leave the main group overly exposed if the opponent's offensive squad collapses back on the flag stand.

Instead of an active response, some teams fall back on their base entirely and employ a "turtle" strategy. By staying inside the base, the turtling team can protect its NPCs while enjoying the added firepower they provide, and avoid player deaths. This tactic forces split teams into facing the opponent eight-on-eight if they want to create a significant NPC advantage. However, split teams theoretically are at a disadvantage in eight-on-eight, so the turtling team can simply march out of its base with the NPCs at Victory or Death and regain the upper hand.

Even More Emerging Skills in the Winterfest Season

Shadow Prison
Shadow Prison
Shadow PrisonShadow Prison [Elite]
Assassin - Deadly Arts - Hex Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 0.25
Duration: 1..10
Recharge: 20
Hex Spell. Shadow Step to target foe. For 1..10 seconds, that foe moves 66% slower.
Spiritual Pain
Spiritual Pain
Spiritual PainSpiritual Pain
Mesmer - Domination Magic - Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 1
Recharge: 30
Spell. Target foe takes 15..75 damage. If that foe is near a Spirit, all other nearby foes take 15..75 damage, and this Skill recharges instantly if it hits a Spirit.

Many offenses have incorporated some new ways to spike down enemy targets. Assassins and Warrior/Assassins use Shadow Prison to snare and close in on their targets to deliver a payload of charged-up attacks, typically unloaded faster using Burst of Aggression. Mesmers carry more damage now in the form of Wastrel's Demise and Spiritual Pain. Fortunately, the Paragon Shout "Incoming!" can mitigate quite a bit of spike damage. Unfortunately, spike teams also run this Shout to protect themselves. In fact, several spike teams now feature one or two Mesmers with Spiritual Pain (with one as a Paragon secondary for "Incoming!"), a Shadow Prison Axe Warrior, a Shadow Prison Assassin with Burst of Aggression, and a defensive Paragon or two with spear attacks to use on a spike.

As counters to these tactics emerge, expect to see even greater variety in team builds. Guilds should prepare split strategies in the event that they cannot handle some of these new builds in a head-on confrontation. And thus the wheel of the metagame goes round and round, with counters and counter-counters evolving every day.

Teams built to split tend to swap personnel around until they create favorable match-ups against opposing split squads. Thus, knowing what each player on the team can and cannot handle becomes critical. For example, a Blinding Surge Elementalist can pressure a Warrior while cowing his ability to inflict damage, but an opposing Mesmer can put an end to that plan unless the Elementalist has proper support. Split teams must also devise ways to break an opposing turtle strategy. Despite the limitations of working inside the enemy base, a good split team can break a turtle by dividing the attention of the opponent's healers and coordinating spikes of their own. The split team can afford a death or two because the turtling team has conceded the flag stand, but must resurrect quickly and avoid unnecessary deaths and overexposure so the turtling team has no opportunity to break out.


"Victory or Death!"

If your team cannot handle the opponent in an eight-on-eight situation, how does that change at Victory or Death? Not only do players have 25% reduced Health and do 25% more damage, but also the NPCs gather together at the flag stand. A team that employed good split tactics can find itself at an advantage if the other team has lost a number of NPCs. The damage the NPCs do individually may not seem like much, but when they gather together and combine with the offensive might of your team, they can easily decimate the enemy.


Harold J. Chow is a freelance Guild Wars reporter. His in-game name is Guild Informant.