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State of the Game— April 9, 2007

Breaking the Enemy

By Christian Brellisford

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.


Flag stand battles are some of the most engaging and exciting fights in Guild vs. Guild combat. Often, teams go back and forth between deaths to alternating flag stand captures without either team completely caving in to the pressure. Sometimes it takes upwards of 15 minutes of fighting before one team finally disintegrates; other times it happens in the first few bloody moments of the fight.

Breaking the enemy means pressuring until the opposition can no longer handle a full fight at the flag stand and must retreat or rethink strategies. There are many ways to break an opponent, from countering a skill to capitalizing on a positioning mistake to a catching a lucky morale boost. The Celestial Tournament generated some examples of this process I will discuss below.


Recognizing the Broken Team

As we've said in the past, positioning is a critical aspect in Guild Wars GvG combat. Establishing basic battle lines and having characters in rudimentary positions (Monks in the back, Warriors in the front) can help win games. But true positioning advantage goes beyond such static arrangements; teams need the fluidity to push forward together and retreat cohesively. Developing awareness of when to push and when to fall back helps your team stay coordinated and be successful.

Recognizing when to be aggressive or defensive has a lot to do with intuition and 'feel' for the battle, but your team can study common situations to bolster such intuitive insights. If you are fighting 8 versus 8 at the flag stand and kill an enemy Warrior, then you need to quickly figure out how you scored that kill and why the enemy Monks failed. Did you merely get a lucky Frenzy kill? Was that Warrior overextended beyond his Monks? Or was the Warrior actually in Monk range, but your Mesmer executed perfect shutdown, rendering the Monk useless? The answer may help you replicate this kill later.

This happened in round one between [iQ] and [OUT] in the Celestial Tournament. In Game 2, [OUT] exerted heavy pressure with Splinter Weapon and nonstop physical damage. They landed a quick kill early in the match, but [iQ] recovered easily enough. The team tried to repeat the process but didn't get anywhere. With a change in strategy, they went for an Assassin while pressuring one of the Monks. This went more favorably and, sensing that [iQ]'s Monks were stretched for Energy, [OUT] pressed hard. Before long, iQ had to retreat into the base.

This kind of battle awareness can save you from being overly aggressive or overly passive. [OUT] killed that Assassin because the Monks were low on Energy. But it didn't stop there; [OUT] recognized the situation and pushed at an opportune time. This is not always the case; sometimes a death happens because a non-Monk player made the mistake. If you get overly aggressive in that case, your pressure might go to waste because the enemy heals through it. Even worse, you could find yourself out of position or at a disadvantage.

Not only do you need to know when a team is broken, you need to know when they are ABOUT to break. This can be a much harder task in battle.

For example, if you have a Hex-degen pressure build and you notice that every target seems to have low Health then you might want to watch for a retreat. If the enemy suffers a key death, like a Monk, you can quickly capitalize on it and procure more kills. Find their second or third Monk and pounce on it; if the enemy team tries to retreat, get snare skills ready (like Deep Freeze or Pin Down) and snag any fleeing characters.

[eF] used this tactic to gain a massive advantage over [EW] in Game 1 of the Celestial Tournament finals. They brought Disease on their Necromancer but didn't unleash it until [EW] began to retreat after suffering kills near the flag stand. [eF] then poured on the pressure by casting Rotting Flesh to start hurting the entire [EW] team as they fled. This was a devastating blow to [EW], forcing a full retreat and regroup.

If you score the right kills at the right time in a pressure build, the enemy can crack very quickly. Top teams watch carefully for this. Sometimes it helps to see the pressure by opening your Score Chart and checking the Party Health tab. If the enemy graph is falling, your pressure is succeeding and you should keep it up! But if things look relatively even, be careful of teams that drop back, as they may possibly be feigning weakness. This could be a set up for a spike, or repositioning for surprise tactics.


Repositioning for Advantage

If it seems like a stalemate, and none of your pressure is working as you would like, then perhaps it's time to try something new. To crush stalemates, teams sometimes slowly pull back to the front of their base; this can be a planned retreat to draw base NPCs into the fight. The extra damage can be just enough to tip the balance and result in an advantage.

[EW] demonstrated the efficacy of this tactic in Game 1 of the Celestial Tournament Finals. Feeling the pressure from [eF]'s Hexes and Poison Ranger, [EW] feigned weakness with a slow retreat to the bridge. [eF] lunged at what they thought was an advantage, sending their Dervish to the front lines. [EW] then came back with a focused spike to kill the Dervish.

Don't let the enemy fool you; just because a team is backing up doesn't mean they're broken or even hurting. They could just be trying something new, and you need to be prepared for that.

Lastly, there's always the threat of a split. Sometimes it pays to get adventurous or inventive with your own response to the split. If a team has a strong melee split squad, it might make sense to send that Necromancer with anti-melee Hexes on the rear guard. Even though he doesn't have much of a self-heal, he can probably deal enough damage to make enemy think again about sending that particular split.


Knowledge is Power

As we've seen, a lot of inventive actions occur within a guild battle. Just having a tuned set of skills, a good team build, and a battle plan doesn't always mean the battle will go exactly as planned. After all, no plan ever survives contact with the enemy. You could find that your knockdown Hammer Warrior is exactly what you needed to pulverize a team into submission, or maybe your Mesmer flawlessly shuts down a Monk and you can get quick kills on overextended melee characters.

Recognizing the difference between a broken team and a team that made a mistake is vitally important to winning in Guild Wars. Top teams constantly watch for this and for other advantageous situations. Making the right move at the right time can be the difference between a win and the enemy coming from behind to beat you!


Christian Brellisford is a college student currently studying video game design in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in hopes of pursuing a career in the field. A gamer since an early age, Christian has been involved with Guild Wars since the E3 for Everyone Event in 2004, and currently leads the Spirits of War guild.