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State of the Game—January 15, 2007

Shaking Things Up

By Adam Sunstrom

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.


Remember how you felt the first time you rode a bike and could finally turn without falling? That kind of satisfaction comes from a sense of accomplishment. Not simply learning, but applying what you've learned and seeing the results of that hard work. This article is about finding your way back to that feeling when you're stuck in a rut—when nothing seems to work any more.


Study Your Weaknesses

The obvious first step is to look at the mistakes you are making and to correct them. Observer mode is the ideal tool for this. If possible, have a friend watch with you, because he may well notice bad habits you don't realize you've acquired.

Pay close attention to your movements. Are you overextending? If so, why? Are you getting the most out of the available cover and keeping an eye on line of sight? You should never stand idle. If you were idle because you didn't have a target, did you make your target caller aware of that?

Watch a game featuring a top-rated guild and focus on someone playing the same role you normally play. Look for things like positioning in relation to other parts of the team, body blocking, and canceling skills as a feint when targeted by an interrupter. If you watch closely enough, there's almost always something to learn.

If you feel like Observer mode is too much effort, try filling in for a team you haven't played with before. Ideally it should be as skilled a team as you can find, but you can learn things from playing with teams below your level as well. Even random pick-up groups from Heroes' Ascent can provide lessons, or at least make you thankful for the coordination of your regular team. Listen to their communication and study their movements. Take notes about things they do better than your own team.


Shake Up Your Character

Another effective way of gaining a new perspective is to learn a profession you don't normally play. Better yet, change to a class that is in direct opposition to your primary profession. If you're a Monk, try learning Warrior. If your role is Warrior, try learning a defensive support class like Elementalist or Paragon. If you need help learning the nuts and bolts of that class, begin with a basic build in the Random Arenas, and familiarize yourself with how it works.

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.

By playing a class in opposition to your own, you can look for the conditions you need to meet to achieve what your old class is designed to prevent. So, if you are a Monk learning to play Warrior, take note of how spikes affect you. Which Enchantments and Conditions are most difficult to spike through? What Monk mistakes can you capitalize on? What type of Monk is easiest to kill? Why? For example, a Monk with Zealous Benediction can resist pressure damage for a long time. Rather than pressuring such a Monk, try spiking it instead.


Once you know the answers to these questions, you can take advantage of the knowledge when you switch back to playing Monk. You'll have a feel for how often a Warrior can spike, what it looks like when he is about to start, and what it takes to disrupt him. Consider a Shadow Prison teleporting Warrior that Shadow Steps in for a spike. By playing a Warrior, you get a better sense of how long it takes to recharge skills and the amount of Energy and adrenaline needed to sustain the spike. These are all valuable pieces of information you can take with you.


Switching Up Your Game

Another way of switching it up is to try another game type. Guild Wars offers many ways to play, and there are lessons to be learned from each experience. Hero Battles provide a good opportunity to practice build making and test out new character builds, even if the mechanics of a 4v4 fight are different from 8v8 combat. With the upcoming tournament support, HvH is likely to become very popular for strong competition as well.

Vow of Strength
Vow of Strength
Vow of StrengthVow of Strength [Elite]
dervish/Earth Prayers - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 0.25
Duration: 20
Recharge: 10
Enchantment Spell. For 20 seconds, you cannot use attack Skills and your attacks deal 5..50% more damage.

If you're sick of paying attention to details and just want to reload, Random Arena is the best place to go. When that happens, I like to run a highly conceptual or goofy build. For example, you could play a Dervish/Assassin with Vow of Strength and Shadowy Burden. Even if it's not as effective as a Warrior, there's a lot of enjoyment to be gained from getting 200 damage critical hits, and then reading the chat afterwards. If that's not your cup of tea, try running a high-risk, high-reward build that's fun whether you win or lose the game, such as an Assassin with a powerful damage combo. Random Arena is a place for that type of fun. And, while it's not the hardcore competition of GvG, you can still learn tons about the game from playing RA.


How About a Nice Game of Dodgeball?

Lightning Orb
Lightning Orb
Lightning OrbLightning Orb
Elementalist - Air Magic - Spell
Energy: 15
Activation: 2
Recharge: 5
Spell. Send out a lightning Orb that strikes target foe for 10..100 lightning damage if it hits. This Spell has 25% armor penetration.

If all of that fails to re-invigorate you, there's always dodgeball. For those who don't know, dodgeball is the inspiration for the seasonal Dragon Arena, and can be reproduced any time you want. Just create a Mesmer/Elementalist with all superior runes, and no Health or armor bonuses. Max your Air Magic, and equip Lightning Orb. Get a friend or three to do the same, and start a scrimmage. The orb kills you in one hit, so you must dodge it in order to stay alive.

Dodgeball skill template: AlFAyQ5AAAAAAAAAAA
Dodgeball equipment template: RmVYosJTLlNhCpsJNAlNxqosJA

Yet another good use for scrimmages is for specific training. For example, if your role is Assassin, have a teammate bring a common flag runner build and scrimmage against one another. This teaches you a lot about that specific match-up, and makes for a great opportunity to try new character builds.


You and your UI

In addition to making direct play-style changes, you can always try to remedy other sources of frustration. Guild Wars gives you a lot of freedom to tweak and customize your experience. One thing that is often overlooked is user interface (UI) and control customization. For example, I mapped skill slots 7 and 8 to the Q and E keys, because they are much easier to reach, and blew up my compass so it's easier to see team movements in GvG.

Generous Was Tsungrai
Generous Was Tsungrai
Generous Was TsungraiGenerous Was Tsungrai
Ritualist - Restoration Magic - Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Duration: 15..60
Recharge: 15
Spell. Sacrifice 10% Health. Hold Tsungrai's ashes for up to 15..60 seconds and gain +50..140 maximum Health. When you drop his ashes, you gain 100..280 Health.

These kinds of tweaks may seem like a no-brainer, but they can make a huge difference to your enjoyment of the game. So, play around with the UI often, and think about how you can improve your game by making it easier to control your character. For example, if you find that you often run a Ritualist with Generous Was Tsungrai, you might want to map an easily-reached key to the drop item command.


The Tools of the Game

Guild Wars offers a lot of different tools you can use to improve your skills while having a good time. In the end, the game is what you make of it. Players who get burned out or bored experience greater satisfaction when they go outside their area of expertise, whether it be GvG, Heroes' Ascent, or PvE.


Adam Sunstrom has been playing Guild Wars since February 2004 when he joined the Alpha test, and has been interested in the competitive aspects of the game from the beginning. In the early Beta Weekend Events, he led his team, The Fianna, with success.