State of the Game—November 26, 2007
Balanced Builds in Heroes' Ascent Today
By Alex Marsyla
Special note: Each State of the Game 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.
When it comes to Heroes' Ascent many people use the term "gimmick" when defining most team-builds because they compare the builds to GvG. The problem with that comparison, however, is that Heroes' Ascent and Guild Battles have different objectives. The objective in every Guild Battle is to kill the enemy Guild Lord (or give each player on the opposing team 60% Death Penalty). The objectives in Heroes' Ascent, though, change with each map. The criteria for determining whether a build is balanced or "gimmicky" are essentially different for Heroes' Ascent than for Guild Battles. Also, gimmick builds in Heroes' Ascent are often used to farm fame in the first map or two, while balanced builds are used to progress all the way to the Hall of Heroes.
One way to determine if a build is balanced or gimmicky is to examine how well it can adapt tactics to achieve the objectives and challenges on each map. Can the build split well and be mobile enough for the Antechamber's control points? Does it provide options for relic runners when playing in Unholy Temples? Is there enough offensive power to win in Annihilation maps like the Underworld? Questions like these are an effective way to determine the balance of a build.
As an example of a balanced Heroes' Ascent build, I present what has been commonly called "Legoway." This build has a single melee character (typically a Warrior), two Defensive Anthem Paragons, a fire Elementalist (usually carrying Savannah Heat), a Shatterstone water Elementalist, a Psychic Distraction Mesmer, and two Monks. Although Legoway might be considered one of many "flavor-of-the-month" builds, it has the necessary tools to adapt to the various maps and their different objectives.
When it comes to Annihilation maps like the Underworld, this build has plenty of offense to overpower opponents despite its single Warrior. Kills can be had through a full spike with the Warrior, both Paragons, and both Elementalists. Coordination between the water Elementalist's snares and the fire Elementalist's AoE spells often puts enough pressure on opposing healers to allow the Warrior and Paragons to get kills through mini-spikes and general physical pressure.
For Relic Run maps like Unholy Temples, the build has two capable runners. Typically, the fire Elementalist carries Flame Djinn's Haste, and one Paragon brings "Make Haste!". The fire Elementalist can run relics without help, but the Paragon will use "Make Haste!" on the other Paragon, providing an irremovable speed boost for a second relic runner. While the fire Elementalist and Paragons run relics, the water Elementalist and Warrior focus on slowing down opposing relic runners with knockdowns, body-blocking, and snares. Depending on how the match is going, the Mesmer will either move with the relic runners to interrupt enemy snares, or stay with the Warrior and water Elementalist to remove protective and speed-buffing Enchantments from the enemy runners. Typically the team splits the Monks to give both the relic running team and relic stalling team a healer.
For King of the Hill matches on maps like the Courtyard, Legoway has other tools for taking control of the central altar and then holding it. With Defensive Anthems on both of the build's Paragons, the team can hold out against heavy physical offense. The snares and AoE fire spells provided by the Elementalists can apply heavy pressure when teams clump up around the central altar. The Warrior often chooses Paragon for a secondary profession to carry Song of Concentration, which is useful when attempting to capture the central altar with the Ghostly Hero. To prevent capture by other teams, the Mesmer uses Psychic Distraction to interrupt the Ghostly Hero's Claim Resource.
When evaluating what makes a build balanced for Heroes' Ascent, you must also compare it with other builds teams are playing. Flavor-of-the-month builds are popular in HA because they make pick-up groups easier to form. Therefore, to be effective, balanced builds must be adaptable when facing flavor-of-the-month builds. When Legoway was most popular, it had many answers to other frequently played builds. Against Spiritway, the two Defensive Anthems provided a strong defense against that build's heavy physical offense, and to deal with the various spirits employed by Spiritway, the Legoway Mesmer would carry Unnatural Signet to quickly remove spirits from the battlefield. These tools were placed in the build because of knowledge about what made other prominent builds work.
So, if a balanced build is one that can change its tactics to adapt to various maps, a gimmick build is one that cannot do that. With that in mind, a build that uses two or three midline characters and makes a large investment in Hex spells isn't necessarily a gimmick build. Similarly, having characters with many different professions doesn't make a build balanced. The key is what options a build has to win. A build like Ranger spike that can only win by spiking opponents down over and over is a gimmick. When a build can only do one thing well, it cannot be described as balanced because there is no balance in it.
Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect build. Legoway has flaws that other balanced builds can exploit to overwhelm it. In particular, teams facing Legoway can exploit the two-Monk backline. To do this, teams shut down the Defensive Anthem chain and strain the Monks with physical pressure. Balanced teams with strong AoE damage can also exploit the Legoway's backline. For instance, a fairly common balanced build running two Savannah Heat fire Elementalists can spread AoE fire spells out among enough players to overwhelm the Monks.
Most other balanced builds in Heroes' Ascent operate under the same principles as Legoway. Another common balanced build replaces the two Paragons in the Legoway build with a third Monk and a second Savannah Heat fire Elementalist. This build uses snares AoE like Deep Freeze and Frozen Burst to hold multiple opponents in the AoE fire. This build, like many other Heroes' Ascent balanced builds, is still very similar to Legoway.
While both Guild Battles and Heroes' Ascent are 8v8 PvP formats, their largely different objectives have created largely different metagames. Each format has its own style of balanced build. To truly understand why a build in Heroes' Ascent can be called balanced, you first need adequate knowledge of the match-types and opponents.
The Legoway Build:
Defensive Anthem [Elite]
paragon/Leadership - Chant
Chant. For 4..10 seconds, each party member within earshot has a 50% chance to block incoming attacks. This Chant ends if that party member hits with an attack Skill.
Eviscerate, Executioner's Strike, Disrupting Chop, Bull's Strike, Frenzy, Enraging Charge, Song of Concentration, Resurrection Signet
- Axe Mastery: 12+1+1
- Strength: 12+1
Defensive Anthem, Spear of Lightning, Vicious Attack, "Fall Back!", Aura of Stability, "Go for the Eyes!", "Make Haste!", Signet of Return
- Spear Mastery: 10+1+2
- Leadership: 10+1
- Command: 9+1
- Protection Prayers: 7
Defensive Anthem, Spear of Lightning, Vicious Attack, Aggressive Refrain, Anthem of Flame, "Watch Yourself!", "Shield's Up!", Resurrection Signet
- Spear Mastery: 10+1+2
- Leadership: 11+1
- Tactics: 10
Savannah Heat, Searing Heat, Teinai's Heat, Glyph of Lesser Energy, Rodgort's Invocation, Flame Djinn's Haste, Fire Attunement, Resurrection Signet
- Fire Magic: 12+1+1
- Energy Storage: 12+1
Shatterstone, Freezing Gust, Frozen Burst, Blurred Vision, Deep Freeze, Glyph of Lesser Energy, Water Attunement, Death Pact Signet
- Water Magic: 12+1+1
- Energy Storage: 12+1
Psychic Distraction, Gale, Diversion, Unnatural Signet, Channeling, Shatter Enchantment, Mirror of Disenchantment, Resurrection Signet
- Domination Magic: 12+1+1
- Fast Casting: 9+1
- Inspiration Magic: 8+1
- Air Magic: 5
Word of Healing, Draw Conditions, Infuse Health, Patient Spirit, Healing Seed, Dwayna's Kiss, Remove Hex, Channeling
- Healing Prayers: 12+1+1
- Divine Favor: 10+1
- Inspiration Magic: 8
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.
Restore Condition, Reversal of Fortune, Spirit Bond, Aura of Stability, Shield of Absorption, Guardian, Holy Veil, Channeling
- Protection Prayers: 12+1+1
- Divine Favor: 10+1
- Inspiration Magic: 8
Alex is a college student in his third year studying Computer Information Systems. He's been into online gaming for most of his life and has been playing Guild Wars since its release.