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State of the Game— March 19, 2007

In Hindsight

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.


The metagame, merciless in its constant evolution, has smashed many popular skills and ubiquitous character builds into the ground while elevating others to center stage. Intended mostly for nostalgic amusement, this article documents the rise and fall of some of this popularity. But who knows, maybe someone will think of a new way to use one of these relics, dust it off, and bring it back into the limelight.


Reflecting Upon Character Builds

Quick Shot
Quick Shot
Quick ShotQuick Shot [Elite]
Ranger - No Attribute - Attack
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Recharge: 1
Attack. Shoot an arrow that moves twice as fast.
DPS Ranger – Using Quick Shot coupled with Kindle Arrows, and sometimes Conjure Flame, the DPS Ranger was a very popular early build. It drew power from a bug with Quick Shot that allowed players to fire more arrows than intended. When the bug was fixed in November of 2005, the build lost momentum.
 
Dual Shot
Dual Shot
Dual ShotDual Shot
Ranger - No Attribute - Attack
Energy: 10
Activation: 0
Recharge: 10
Attack. Shoot two arrows simultaneously at target foe. These arrows deal 25% less damage.
Ranger Spiker – The next evolution was the Ranger spike. It sported a full team of Rangers packing Dual Shot, Savage Shot, and Punishing Shot, augmented by a Necromancer spamming Order of Pain and Order of the Vampire. At one point, it dominated the metagame. Eventually, it took a hit when the two Necromancer Enchantments were changed so they no longer stacked with each other. Ranger spike continued to fade away as players learned to use Aegis, split tactics, and line of sight.
 
Ether Prodigy
Ether Prodigy
Ether ProdigyEther Prodigy [Elite]
Elementalist - Energy Storage - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Duration: 5..20
Recharge: 5
Enchantment Spell. Lose all Enchantments. For 5..20 seconds, you gain +6 Energy regeneration. When Ether Prodigy ends, you lose 3 Health for each point of Energy you have. This Spell causes Exhaustion.
Prodigy Runner – For most of Guild Wars history, Elementalist/Monks with Ether Prodigy were the flag runners of choice. The build propped up teams from afar with Heal Party, Aegis, and Extinguish, and even left enough Energy for Blinding Flash or Lightning Orb in close quarters. Back then, Windborne Speed was the only viable speed boost that gave a constant +33% run speed, making it an obvious choice. These days, runners come in more flavors, because there are more options for speed boosts. The current favorite is Storm Djinn's Haste, which any caster can keep up, even at a low Air Magic spec. Another factor leeching at the Prodigy Runner was the semi-recent buff to Glyph of Lesser Energy, which reduced the need for elite Energy management and made room for elite skills like Blinding Surge.
 
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.
Boon Monk – First introduced competitively in one of the final Beta events, the Boon Monk became perhaps the single most popular character build in all of GW PvP history. From that Beta event until the summer of 2006, you couldn't go anywhere without stepping on a Boon Monk. The character went through several iterations in its life span. When my team first ran it, we used one Healing-specced and one Prot-specced Boon Monk, and we made the Healing spec one our premade character for Prophecies. Others soon figured out that running two Protection Boon Monks was a superior strategy, and the Boon Prot metagame was born. In the beginning, most people relied on Offering of Blood to fuel the massive Energy consumption, but when its Health sacrifice doubled in March of 2006, people soon turned to Monk/Mesmers with Mantra of Recall or Energy Drain instead. After nerfs to Divine Boon, Energy Drain, and Mantra of Recall in late 2006, and the release of Nightfall, Boon Monks finally started to fall off the map, while attractive Monk skills like Divert Hexes, Zealous Benediction, and Light of Deliverance took over.
 
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.)
Gale Warrior – The ability to knock down at range made Warrior/Elementalists the undisputed kings of movement control. Gale saw a plethora of uses—spike the called target to prevent kiting, knock down one Monk and spike the other, snare a runner, or even interrupt a rez sig. When Gale got a 10 Energy cost, up from 5, the Warrior hordes discovered Shock and Bull's Strike. One could say Shadow Prison served a similar purpose for a while, being used both for spiking and movement control, but with its recent Energy cost increase, it seems a lot less common on Warriors than before.
 
Elemental Attunement
Elemental Attunement
Elemental AttunementElemental Attunement [Elite]
Elementalist - Energy Storage - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 2
Duration: 30..55
Recharge: 45
Enchantment Spell. For 30..55 seconds, you are attuned to Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. You gain 50% of the base Energy cost of the skill each time you use magic associated with any of these elements.
Air Mesmer – Air Mesmers were the machine guns of Guild Wars. With Fast Casting and armor-penetrating Air Magic, this trick build produced a flurry of quick, repeatable spikes. Builds revolving around Air Mesmers were a mainstay of Heroes' Ascent/Tombs as well as GvG, and made several appearances in GvG tournaments. The character depended on Elemental Attunement to manage Energy. The build survived one nerf (a shorter duration to Elemental Attunement in April 2006) but it couldn't survive the follow-up July nerf—binding Elemental Attunement to Energy Storage. Nowadays, the most popular Air spike builds use Invoke Lightning and Elementalist primaries instead.
 
Air of Enchantment
Air of Enchantment
Air of EnchantmentAir of Enchantment [Elite]
Monk - Protection Prayers - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 0.25
Duration: 4..10
Recharge: 8
Enchantment Spell. For 4..10 seconds, Enchantments cast on target other ally cost 5 less Energy (minimum 1 Energy).
Air of Enchantment Smiter – After the release of Factions, Air of Enchantment smiters were some of the most popular characters around. Able to inflict steady area of effect damage and heal at the same time, they flooded GvG and HA. It took strong nerfs to both Zealot's Fire and Air of Enchantment to bring them down, and unfortunately, in this case down meant out. Smiters haven't been popular since, though there was a brief spat of Master of Magic E/Mo smiters working with Dervishes.
 

Looking Back at Skills

Blood is Power
Blood is Power
Blood is PowerBlood is Power [Elite]
Necromancer - Blood Magic - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 0.25
Duration: 10
Recharge: 0
Enchantment Spell. Sacrifice 33% maximum Health. For 10 seconds, target other ally gains +3..6 Energy regeneration.
For those of you who played Guild Wars in the Beta events before release, BiP probably still has a special place in your heart. Though the trends changed violently back then, BiP probably had the most constant presence of all elite skills. As the game evolved, players moved on to more personal and less risky sources of Energy boosts, such as Power Drain and Glyph of Lesser Energy. I think it's a shame, because BiP made for some exciting, skirt-the-edge-of-disaster play.
 
Ether Renewal
Ether Renewal
Ether RenewalEther Renewal [Elite]
Elementalist - Energy Storage - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 1
Duration: 7
Recharge: 30
Enchantment Spell. For 7 seconds, each time you cast a Spell, you gain 1..3 Energy and 5..20 Health for each Enchantment on you.
One of the first really dominant skills to be nerfed, Ether Renewal was a source of virtually limitless Energy after the release of the game. Though its sister skill Ether Prodigy received a nerf in the same batch of updates, Renewal never really made a comeback. As consecutive chapters were released, Enchantment removal became easier to access and Elementalist elites got better, so it's doubtful we'll see the Orb-spammers of old again.
 
Expel Hexes
Expel Hexes
Expel HexesExpel Hexes [Elite]
Mesmer - No Attribute - Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Recharge: 8
Spell. Remove up to 2 Hexes from target ally.
From the release of Factions until the release of Nightfall, Expel Hexes was the preferred way of dealing with Hex-stacking builds. Teams typically equipped it on a non-Monk to free up the Monks' elite skill slots. With Nightfall came Divert Hexes, which allows for Hex removal, Condition removal, and healing all in one shot. This made Monks feel drunk with power, and it effectively pushed Expel right out of the metagame.
 
Grenth's Balance
Grenth's Balance
Grenth's BalanceGrenth's Balance [Elite]
Necromancer - No Attribute - Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 0.25
Recharge: 10
Spell. If target foe has more Health than you, you gain half the difference (up to your maximum Health), and that foe loses an equal amount.
For a long time, ganking was the metagame. For those who weren't around back then, an explanation might be necessary. Nowadays, when PvPers talk about ganking in Guild Wars, they typically mean going straight for the enemy Guild Lord after Victory or Death. They must wait for Victory or Death because of the Amulet of Protection, which keeps the Guild Lord from taking too much damage within a short period of time. As the game goes on, the Amulet gradually loses effectiveness. Gank builds were directly responsible for the Amulet, because a group of players equipped with Grenth's Balance and a few high damage skills would push straight to the Guild Lord at the start of the game and kill him outright. Since it was changed in July 2005 so that it cannot do more damage than it heals, Grenth's Balance has been relegated to the Random Arenas.
 

And My Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this short blast from the past. In any competitive game, it is natural for most players to copy successful ideas, but the next time you feel like complaining about how homogeneous the current metagame is, think back and be happy that at least it isn't Ranger spike.


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. He killed his sensei in a duel, and he never said why.