State of the Game— March 12, 2007
Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat
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 a previous article, I discussed some basic concepts regarding split strategies and mentioned that some guilds split off a dedicated gank squad to eliminate NPCs in the opponent's base and create an advantage for VoD. This time, I will focus on details of the pre-VoD gank.
Gankers seek to take advantage of an unguarded base to reduce the number of NPCs the opponent will have at the flag stand at VoD and, if possible, to kill the Guild Lord before VoD. With twenty minutes between the start of the game and VoD, gank squads have plenty of opportunities to infiltrate and accomplish these goals.
Note, however, that while experienced players can sometimes take down the opposing Guild Lord on a gank attempt, less-experienced gankers tend to lose focus and charge in without taking out NPCs along the way, leading to the gank squad's untimely demise. However, the dynamic nature of the gank split often requires improvisation. For example, if both teams have invaded each other's bases, then the gank squad may need to ignore outer Archers and risk an early push to the inner chamber in a race to be the first to kill the Guild Lord.
Preparation and Build Considerations
Gank attempts start with the team build. If the build calls for sending an individual ganker or a gank squad, then the team may simply add self-healing and a speed boost to a player's Skill Bar. NPC Archers and Knights have self-healing as well, so any interrupts to stop Troll Unguent and Healing Signet can hasten their elimination. Teams often equip a ganker with some form of Health degeneration as well. This allows the player to apply the degeneration, interrupt the NPC's healing skill, and then switch to another target. Teams may also design their split characters to perform well in split-squad skirmishes, sometimes to the extent of explicitly countering popular defensive splits in the current metagame. Experienced teams also design their gankers to have synergy with the rest of the team when the game situation calls for fighting in an 8v8 situation.
Because of these considerations, the Burning Arrow Ranger has become quite popular for this type of split, both individually and as part of a gank squad.
|Burning Arrow Ranger (R/Mo)
||Skill Template: AyQxbuLGz7obfMqmZzv23kXFAA
Burning Arrow [Elite]
Ranger - Marksmanship - Attack
Attack. If this attack hits, you strike for +10..30 damage and cause Burning for 1..5 seconds.
Between Burning Arrow and Apply Poison, this character can eliminate NPCs quickly. It has interrupts like Distracting Shot which not only help kill NPCs, but also hinder enemy players in both skirmish and 8v8 situations. Natural Stride serves both to boost movement speed and provide defense, while Troll Unguent and Mending Touch allow self-healing and Condition removal. Some players swap out Resurrection Signet for Pin Down to snare enemy defenders and flag runners. While many guilds have found ways to counter this character, and future skill balances could affect it, the Burning Arrow Ranger serves as a good benchmark when considering the strength of other gank builds.
Weapon of Remedy
Weapon of Remedy [Elite]
Ritualist - Restoration Magic - Weapon Spell
Weapon Spell. For 8 seconds, the next time target ally takes damage from a foe, that ally steals up to 15..75 Health from that foe and loses 1 Condition.
Note that this character does not always split alone, despite the ability to do so. Teams will split appropriate personnel with such a character depending on what type of defenders the opponent sends back. One common gank squad build employs a Weapon of Remedy Rt/E with Water snares and, sometimes, either a Shadow Prison Assassin or a "You're All Alone!" Warrior to supplement the Ranger. Even well-prepared teams can have difficulty sending back appropriate counters without jeopardizing their position at the flag stand.
Assassin - No Attribute - Enchantment Spell
Enchantment Spell. While you maintain Recall, nothing happens. When Recall ends, you Shadow Step to the ally you targeted when you activated this skill.
This Ranger serves merely as a sample. Guilds use a variety of characters for ganking. Some recent gank squads eschew Rangers altogether in favor of two Assassins who maintain Recall on an Elementalist with good defensive skills to turn a one-person gank into an instant three-person gank, easily overwhelming a solo defender with a surprise attack.
Gankers should also get into the habit of checking the radar for enemy movement, and using voice chat to check what defenders, if any, the opponent has sent back, or if enemy players will resurrect at the base while they are inside.
Some teams split off a gank squad at the start of the game while others engage 8v8 before deciding to split. The decision of when to split depends on the team build, the Guild Hall map, and knowledge of the opponent's tactics, so this article focuses more on the "how" than the "when".
Before VoD, if the map has a Guild Thief NPC, the gank squad should bring her along. While some characters can clear out perimeter Archers without entering the base, using the Guild Thief to enter the base, typically through the side gate, allows a ganker to apply greater pressure to the other team, forcing them to send back defenders. On these maps, protecting the Guild Thief becomes vital to a ganker's success.
Careful positioning allows gankers to progress quickly to the Guild Lord's chamber. Not every Archer has line of sight or the range to attack gankers, particularly with proper use of walls for cover. Thus, gankers can avoid them and just remove problematic Archers along the way to the Guild Lord to clear an escape route.
Upon arriving at the Guild Lord's chamber on most Guild Hall maps, you should first lure out the Knight NPCs one at a time. Those with solid PvE experience already know how to "pull" these AI-controlled melee enemies—either by using a ranged weapon or by grazing them with your "aggro bubble". While some gank builds can handle simultaneous attacks by both Knights, bear in mind these NPCs deal a fair amount of damage and can take down an unsuspecting target.
After dispatching the Knights, those characters who cannot remove Crippled should probably eliminate the two Archers next to avoid Pin Down attacks. Otherwise, consider attacking the Bodyguard. Aside from the massive area damage it can deal, the Bodyguard heals the Guild Lord. However, the Bodyguard appears in the Party Window, so killing it alerts the enemy to the gank attempt if they ignored or missed the "Base Under Attack" message. Eliminating this NPC, however, leaves the Guild Lord vulnerable and forces the opponent to send back defenders or risk losing the match.
Note that certain maps like Burning Isle and Isle of the Dead allow a Ranger with a high-arcing Flatbow to attack the Bodyguard without disturbing the other NPCs around the Guild Lord. In addition, some characters can kill the Bodyguard on most maps without first killing some of the other NPCs. Because the Bodyguard plays such a key role both in Guild Lord defense and in flag stand control at VoD, gankers should gauge when to push in for it and when to dispatch the NPCs more methodically.
The Guild Lord's healing amulet loses effectiveness as the game wears on, so you need not attack the Guild Lord during early splits. Gankers often must retreat to the main team before finding another opportunity to infiltrate, at which point the Guild Lord becomes a much easier target.
Dealing with Defenders
Knowing when to retreat and when to engage the opponent's defensive split comes with experience. Sometimes, a gank squad manages to get to the opponent's Guild Lord and reduce his Health dramatically. If the enemy Monks cannot get back in time, either because they reacted too slowly or because the gankers' teammates have snared them, the gank squad might want to finish the Guild Lord. Sometimes, the opponent sends back an early defensive split, forcing gankers to decide whether they can finish killing an NPC or if they need to disengage. Experienced defenders will use their NPCs to get a numbers advantage on the gank squad, so snaring them before they can get to their NPCs allows for a more even skirmish.
With good preparation and planning, even a rudimentary gank attempt can have a strong effect on the outcome of a match. Good luck!
Harold J. Chow is a freelance Guild Wars reporter. His in-game name is Guild Informant.