State of the Game—January 3, 2008
By Mark Yu
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.
In GvG matches, games are most often won through teamwork. While coordination spanning all eight members of a team is important, high-end play actually places greater emphasis on compartmentalization. A typical balanced build of two Warriors, Ranger, Mesmer, Elementalist, two Monks, and a flagger can be divided into smaller teams. These teams commonly work in pairs, such as Monk pairs, Warrior pairs, midline pairs, and so on. Each pair needs excellent synergy to coordinate maneuvers and play at the maximum effective level. And, if the players themselves lack synchronization, they may have difficulty playing with one another. There may be discomfort, silence, or too much clutter over voice chat.
This discussion focuses on the offensive unit. This is typically composed of a pair of Warriors, so we will use the two-Warrior frontline as the standard template for explanations. For GvG battles, Warriors usually provide most of the offense because they are the most efficient killing power in the game. However, without proper synergy between two Warriors, much of this efficiency can get lost.
Play Style and Experience
The foundation for how effectively two Warriors work together is based on the level of experience each Warrior possesses. Warriors who do not share a similar level of experience may find it difficult to know what to expect from each other. Experience must be built up over time, but there are other factors affecting frontline synergy that can be improved more easily. First off, take a look at the background of the players. Two Warriors with similar play styles and backgrounds will tend to work better as a team. Thus, a Warrior experienced in spike guilds might have a difficult time playing with one more familiar with pressure, because spike and pressure tactics are different.
To produce spikes, adrenaline must be held until the end of a spike countdown to generate maximum damage during the short interval of the spike. Also, spikes typically require both Warriors to unload adrenaline on the same targets, preventing either Warrior from using necessary attack skills until both players are ready. To follow through with the spike, Enchantments must be called out and stripped to allow the Warriors to continue damaging targets that have received protective Enchantments.
In pressure play, Warriors unload their adrenaline and attack skills almost as soon as the adrenaline builds up fully. This method aims to create the highest possible damage per second to force Monks to constantly throw around protection skills. Target switching is also much more important in pressure play because Warriors are not trying to time kills in one moment, but instead through a series of small spikes from adrenaline unloads that eventually burn out Monks. Thus, playing with another Warrior who has a type of play style that clashes with your own may cause a lot of problems in maximizing your offense.
Having two Warriors with similar play styles is important; however it does not overshadow the significance of communication. No matter how good your Warriors are, they are not psychic. While Warriors may not need to dictate everything they are doing or attempting to accomplish, a silent frontline essentially guarantees your offense will not operate at peak efficiency.
Top guilds have several ways to organize communication. The lead caller is the most prevalent method of coordinating spike teams. In this scheme, one Warrior calls almost all the tactics and performs a great deal of micromanagement of the rest of the team. The other Warrior has a much more minor role in strategic calls, and usually remains silent unless communicating interrupts or Hex and Condition removal. Even so, the secondary Warrior still has to make important calls as needed.
For example, it may escape the lead Warrior's notice that a Ranger is trying to gank the base. It is important to keep in mind that your own frontline needs to keep track of the enemy's midline and backline positioning, while your backline needs to keep track of the positioning of the enemy offense.
When playing pressure, some teams have lead callers while others don't. In those that don't use a caller, both Warriors are expected to communicate tactics and make other important calls. It typically isn't necessary for one Warrior to have the "final say" as long as both share similar views on strategy. Any points of argument should be concluded rapidly and decisively during a match. Though pressure Warriors don't normally rely on a spike, they should know when a clean spike is necessary if progress isn't being made.
The frontline usually needs to coordinate mostly with the midline to shut down skills, however there are a few key pieces of information Warriors should communicate to each other to improve their effectiveness. For example, if a Warrior is attacking a target that is constantly getting healed, he can call out that the enemy Monks are not protting so the other Warrior can begin pounding on that target. In addition, calling targets that have strayed outside Wards allows both Warriors to collapse on those exposed foes.
The most significant piece of information the frontline can communicate to each other, though, is knockdowns. In GvG, one of the most effective ways to produce kills is by knocking down targets. When a target is on the ground, Warriors have three seconds where damage cannot be mitigated without support. These targets also cannot kite or cast spells. When a Monk gets knocked down, a window of opportunity opens for generating large amounts of pressure in a short time. The monk cannot heal himself or any other targets. However, knockdowns are only effective with good coordination and calling. If nobody knows the Monk is disabled, then nobody can exploit the circumstance.
Warrior - Strength - Attack
Attack. If this attack hits a moving foe, you strike for +5..30 damage, and your target is knocked down.
Elementalist - Air Magic - Skill
Skill. Target touched foe is knocked down and struck for 10..60 lightning damage. This skill has 25% armor penetration and causes Exhaustion.
Two well-coordinated Warriors can capitalize on this situation in several ways. In one scenario, a Warrior knocks down a Monk while the other calls for all available damage on either the other Monk or a different target. In another case, a Monk is kept knocked down by constantly chaining skills. One Warrior calls the use of Bull's Strike and its resulting success or failure, and then the other Warrior would call the next knockdown coming from Shock or his or her own Bull's Strike. This type of "knock lock" coordination is often observed in high-end play, and can successfully cause team wipes if played properly.
This brief discussion of the offensive unit hopefully will shed some light on why certain frontline teams seem to perform better than others, or why some Warriors are easier to work with than others. Remember, it's important for all members of the offense to be on the same page when coordinating tactics, and proper communication is the key to maximizing the offensive effectiveness. GvG battles are team oriented games, so even the best frontline team cannot produce consistent kills without proper midline and backline support. Coordinating your offense and making sure your players have experience working with each other are two large steps towards achieving victory.
Mark Yu is a core member of Delta Formation [DF] and has been playing Guild Wars competitively since early 2006. He is currently a senior in college studying biology and enjoys bubble tea. He can be reached in game as Y U E F E I, or by private message through the [QQ] website.