State of the Game— June 4, 2007
The Elemental Metagame
By Nicolas Carpenter
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.
Throughout the history of GvG, the Elementalist has played a key role in almost any build. Some teams bring Elementalists for the AoE fire damage, while others use Elementalists for damage negation. Elementalists have also always been extremely useful for running flags. For an interesting read on the situation of Elementalists before Nightfall, check out Adam's analysis and predictions and see how close he got.
The Prophecies Elementalist
Elementalists two years ago relied on just a few elite skills in GvG, as both flag stand players and as runners. Ether Prodigy was by far the popular choice, because it was the only viable elite (unless using a secondary profession).
The common runner Skill Bar consisted of:
Elementalist - Air Magic - Enchantment Spell
Enchantment Spell. For 5..11 seconds, target ally moves 33% faster.
This Elementalist flag runner could easily solo any archer or footman, had a decent speed boost, and was extremely helpful with its limitless Heal Party spammability due to the Energy flow of Ether Prodigy. It was the most popular runner until Guild Wars Factions came out and a plethora of skill combinations became available to runners.
Flag stand Elementalists were usually warders with Earth Magic, though some were Air Magic for Blinding Flash and spiking targets with Lightning Orb.
A common Earth Elementalist flag stand build consisted of:
Elementalist - Earth Magic - Spell
Spell. Deal 22..112 damage to target foe. This Spell ignores armor but causes Exhaustion.
Ward Against Melee
Ward Against Foes
Glyph of Energy
The Earth warder at the stand kept up defensive wards and an Aegis to impede attacking Warriors. Also, Ward Against Foes bogged down enemy flag runners to get needed morale boosts.
Fire and Water Elementalists did not enjoy much play time in GvG before Guild Wars Factions and Guild Wars Nightfall. Fire Elementalists simply did not have many viable options. High damage skills like Meteor Shower and Firestorm could be kited out of easily, leaving only skills like Rodgort's Invocation and Fireball. These did the same or less damage than flag stand Earth or Air builds, but at the cost of reduced defense. Water Elementalists also had no viable elite to use, and the metagame at the time preferred high damage characters over the damage negation Water Elementalists specialized in.
Fast Forward Two Years
The Elementalist is currently seeing much more use than in its Prophecies days. Most teams utilize a Water runner, while others like a Monk runner. Almost every team has some form of Water Elementalist in their build. The metagame has shifted from favoring extremely high damage pressure teams to defensive builds. Teams have found that Water snares are an excellent way of stopping Warriors and Dervishes in their tracks, and grinding runners down to a halt. Blurred Vision is thrown around at every opportunity, heedless of Energy cost. The high pressure [KGYU] and [Fish] builds sent almost every guild turtling back to the lord within the first five minutes of the match. Teams needed a way to slow enemy offense down, and Water Hexes were the key.
Fire Elementalists were finally given an altar of glory as well. Two Fire skills introduced in Guild Wars Nightfall, Savannah Heat and Searing Flames, made the Fire Elementalist a force to be reckoned with, if not downright terrified of. Many teams run two Fire Elementalists, each carrying the same elite. Searing Flames is a skill that usually requires at least two copies in a build because it depends on Burning to do any damage. It's also not uncommon to see a Burning Arrow Ranger paired with a Searing Flames Elementalist to take care of the Burning prerequisite. Savannah Heat, in contrast, works with just one Elementalist at the flag stand and can generate massive amounts of pressure by itself.
Here's a standard Savannah Heat Elementalist build:
Savannah Heat [Elite]
Elementalist - Fire Magic - Spell
Spell. You create Savannah Heat at target foe's location. For 5 seconds, all nearby foes take 5..20 damage each second and an additional 5..20 damage for each second this Spell has been in effect.
Flame Djinn's Haste
This bar unleashes intense AoE pressure at the flag stand, and can descend in spikes or eliminate low-Health targets with Fireball and Liquid Flame. Gale can trap targets in the Heat skills, or stall runners and snare Monks. Flame Djinn's Haste has powerful point-blank damage, and also turns this Elementalist into a backup flag runner.
Elementalists have always had the highest ranged damage skills in the game, so let's not forget their usefulness in a full spike build. Over the last two years, teams have run many different types of spikes from Fire, Earth, and Air. Other than brief flirtations with Vapor Blade and Shatterstone, Water hasn't yet seen its spike phase because it doesn't have the quick cast and high damage skills needed for a spike.
When it comes to Earth, the massive armor-ignoring damage of Obsidian Flame is the no-brainer choice for spiking. Obsidian Flame can spike down hard targets like Warriors (and Rangers, which otherwise have high armor versus elements). Earth also has an amazing array of defensive skills. An Earth spike build commonly has at least one of each of the non-elite wards. Ward Against Melee, Foes, Elements, and Ward of Stability add much needed defense to the soft target Elementalists. Earth also has many Enchantment spells that serve to make the Elementalist like a Warrior tank. Armor of Earth adds up to 62 Armor to an Elementalist, at the cost of only 12% slower movement at 16 Earth Magic. Stoneflesh Aura reduces all damage by up to 33, and players can keep it constantly active, like Armor of Earth. Stone Striker functions well with Elementalists who choose to wear full armor vs. Earth inscriptions. These three skills make Earth Elementalists almost invincible, especially in synergy with wards.
The Fire Elementalist has seen its share of the Searing Flames spikes in the last few seasons. Mainly labeled as a "gimmick" build, this build has five to six Fire Elementalists, each with Searing Flames as an elite. This skill does 119 fire damage at 16 Fire Magic, is a one-second cast, and has a two second cooldown. Five to six Elementalists spamming this skill at once do overwhelming damage. The first spike delivers up to 595 damage to a single target, and the follow-up spike three seconds later can do a staggering 714 damage. This is without taking into account that this skill is AoE, and will obliterate any teammates standing near the intended target. The weakness of this build is that it does not have the defense of an Earth spike, and the Elementalists fall fast if they fail to demolish the opposing team.
Common Uses of Elementalists Now
In this current metagame, the Elementalist is usually an Air or Water caster.
The Air Elementalist
Storm Djinn's Haste
Storm Djinn's Haste
Elementalist - Air Magic - Enchantment Spell
Enchantment Spell. For 10..25 seconds, you move 33% faster. Each second that you are moving, you lose 1 Energy.
Air is popular because it can repeatedly Blind targets with ease. At 14 Air Magic, Blinding Flash Blinds for ten seconds and has a four second recharge. The elite skill Blinding Surge Blinds a target for ten seconds, does 47 damage, and has 25% armor penetration. It also has the added bonus that if the intended target is under an Enchantment, then adjacent foes also become Blinded. With its ten Energy cast and four second recharge, this skill effectively shuts down any Ranger, Warrior, or Paragon. The only target it has a tough time with is the Dervish, since most teams have taken to running Melandru Dervishes to counter exactly this Blinding Surge Elementalist.
Aside from Blinding, the Air Elementalist participates in spikes with Lightning Orb, and follows up with Blinding Surge or Lightning Strike. The Air Elementalist also makes a candidate for flag runner. This is because the Air Elementalist now has a flag running skill that is much better than Windborne Speed. Storm Djinn's Haste stays active for 24 seconds before needing to be recast, with a 33% faster speed boost. This turns an Elementalist into a flag-running machine. Give this Elementalist the added benefit of 60+ Energy, high damage, a Blinding skill, and Gale and you've got a fast and versatile runner.
However, these blind-bots have recently declined in popularity with the rise of Mending Touch on physical characters. Someday, we might see them vanish altogether, and people will stop bringing Mending Touch, and the blind-bots will sneak back in...
The Water Elementalist
Water Magic has finally come into its own in the current metagame. Dervishes and Warriors can completely wreak havoc on your team with the amount of pressure and damage they can both apply. Buffs to skills like Crippling Slash have transformed the Warrior into a DPS machine again. It's not nearly as common to see Axe Warriors anymore because of the Melandru's Dervish with Wearying Strike. This skill turned the Dervish into a pseudo Eviscerate Warrior, except it can spam Deep Wound every six seconds, potentially on multiple targets. Because of this and other evolutions in the metagame, teams turned to defense. The answer was a widespread plea to the Water Elementalist.
Better than any other profession, the Water Elementalist can completely shut down a team of offensive characters. The Water Elementalist does this with Hex snares and Blurred Vision. With smart usage, a player can maximize the AoE of Water Magic and hit more than one character. Blurred Vision makes a target miss 50% of the time, lasts for 19 seconds at 14 Water Magic, and is AoE. Deep Freeze and Ice Spikes are both effective AoE Hex snares that both do decent damage, enough to bolster a mixed spike. Deep Freeze has the bonus of snaring for longer periods than Ice Spikes, but at the sacrifice of a longer cast time and 25 Energy cost. With Nightfall also came the skill Icy Shackles, the best snare in the game. Icy Shackles has a unconditional 66% slower snare, increased to 90% slower if the target is Enchanted. Icy Shackles lasts for ten seconds at 14 Water, and has a 12 second recharge with a one-second cast. This skill alone can stop runners dead in their tracks, or can snare a Monk when the opposing team tries to fall back or make a push.
The Water Elementalist has become the most common runner, because it can so effectively shutdown a team when it is at the flag stand.
Here is the most common Water Elementalist runner build:
Icy Shackles [Elite]
Elementalist - Water Magic - Hex Spell
Hex Spell. For 4..10 seconds, target foe's movement speed is reduced by 66%. While under the effects of an Enchantment, that foe's movement is reduced by 90%%.
Armor of Mist
Weapon of Warding
Glyph of Lesser Energy
This bar shows up on Observer Mode at any time of the day or night. It's just that good. Icy Shackles is an elite snare; Freezing Gust is also a useful snare with respectable pressure damage (mainly because of the fast recharge, though the Energy cost prohibits prolonged spamming). Deep Freeze snares multiple targets, while Blurred Vision shuts down melee extremely well. The combo of the two Ritualist skills, Weapon of Warding and Wielder's Boon, make this character almost invincible against two to three targets, especially if the Elementalist has backed into friendly NPCs. Armor of Mist received a small buff a short while back, and has since seen much more usage with its speed boost and the added armor it gives.
The Future of the Elementalist
This game is in perpetual flux as players develop new builds to counter existing ones. Some aspects, however, remain constant. The Elementalist has been around since the beginning, and won't be leaving any time soon. No other single character offers so much utility value from the diverse options of high Energy and damage mitigation. It's an exciting time for Elementalists; and who knows where they'll go next!
Nicolas Carpenter has played Guild Wars since the early Beta Weekend Events. He is a freelance reporter for Guild Wars and enjoys many aspects of PvP.