State of the Game—December 27, 2006
Basic Build Design
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.
This article is a collection of basic tips for designing a build to be run in a Guild vs. Guild setting. Many, but not all, of the points I make also apply to other forms of PvP.
Because the creative process is usually very disorganized, I won't try to explain it here. It can start with a flash of insight about a skill combo, an accidental discovery when changing an existing build, or something else entirely. Whatever the origin of your idea, the concepts in this article should be helpful when fleshing it out.
Searing Flames [Elite]
Elementalist - Fire Magic - Spell
Spell. Target foe and all nearby foes are struck with Searing Flames. Foes already on fire when this Skill is cast are struck for 10..100 fire damage. Foes not already on fire begin Burning for 1..5 seconds.
Rampage as One
Rampage as One [Elite]
Ranger - Beast Mastery - Skill
Skill. For 3..15 seconds, both you and your animal companion attack 33% faster and run 25%% faster.
To better understand this article, the term "metagame" deserves some explanation. In general terms, the metagame spreads from the top of the GvG ladder downward, encompassing common trends of the game, the mental approach of the PvP culture, tactics currently being used, and the types of skills popular at the moment. When a competitive player uses the term, he or she usually means: "What is currently prevalent in most GvG matches." For example, right after the release of Nightfall, the metagame was Fire AoE damage combined with Rampage as One Ranger/Warrior thumpers. When faced with more options and new skills than they could handle, players will naturally find the most powerful damage-combination possible and use it before others can figure out how to counter it effectively.
As I see it, there are three build-making approaches, and all of them require you to be familiar with the current metagame to some degree:
- Run a meta-build. This option is mainly for teams who need to improve their play skill or need a couple of quick wins, because it leaves you more likely to be countered when new developments are made. If you are an inexperienced team, find a well-rounded build that doesn't often require advanced splitting tactics. Even if you copy a top team's build, approach it with a critical eye and see if you can make any small improvements after a couple of games. If you take this approach to choosing your builds, you will likely be mocked as an unoriginal copycat. Don't let it bother you, because there are times when this is the best approach for an up-and-coming guild.
- Counter the metagame. This is the most common route to take for competitive build makers. The build maker looks at what most teams are running, and tries to think of ways to exploit the weaknesses they see. If there are a ton of melee characters in the metagame, bring Ward Against Melee and Monk/Assassins with self defense skills. If nobody is running Energy-boosting skills, try lots of Energy denial.
- Create something completely new, disregarding the current conventions. This approach is very hit-and-miss, and usually ends up somewhere quite different from where it started. When successful, this approach brings about the biggest changes in the metagame. However, the more mature the metagame gets, the less attractive this option becomes, as the chance grows that others have already tried your idea. This is the standard approach after a disruption in the metagame, such as the release of a new expansion.
How do you want to win?
Throwing a couple of damage characters and some healing together just isn't enough; you must have a clear idea of what you're trying to accomplish, beyond just killing the enemy team and Guild Lord. Once you know how you want to win, you can tailor your character builds and combinations to that purpose.
Three basic types of builds exist currently in Guild Wars GvG:
VoD – Focuses on winning after the 20-minute mark when Victory or Death comes into play. These builds typically feature a strong split group, good defense, and area of effect damage for the final battle at the flag stand.
Spike – Kills enemy players before their Monks can react. Builds of this type usually have a lot of casters with the same profession, producing a powerful, streamlined, and easily coordinated spike. If you make a build like this, you must have a good backup plan for when the enemy splits up and attacks you on multiple fronts.
Pressure – Deals more damage than the enemy Monks can handle over an extended period of time. There are many ways of achieving this, but common tactics are Diversion, Energy denial, and two or more Warriors or melee characters.
Following are a few provisions that have proven necessary in almost any successful and flexible build. If you choose not to bring one of these, make sure it's for a good reason.
Song of Restoration
Song of Restoration [Elite]
paragon/Motovation - Chant
Chant. For 10 seconds, the next time each party member within earshot uses a Skill, that party member gains 30..90 Health.
- "Rez Sigs" – Short for Resurrection Signets, these are extremely important to have in GvG combat, preferably one on every player except Monks, flag runners, and some support or utility characters.
- "Hard Rez" – Meaning anything that is not a Resurrection Signet. This term comes from a resurrection skill that is "hard" to complete because of long casting times. Resurrection Signets are harder to interrupt because they have a shorter activation time and are not spells. However, the team must have a rechargeable way to resurrect players when the enemy controls the flag stand and no moral boosts are forthcoming to recharge used Rez Sigs.
- Party-wide heal – When faced with an overload Hex or Condition build, it is often easier to heal through the Health degeneration than to remove the degen source. Popular skills for this purpose are Heal Party, Song of Restoration, and Light of Deliverance.
- Flag runner – The character who runs flags must have a good speed-boost for himself, and must be able to survive a single enemy attacker. This is often achieved by using snares, knockdowns, or Blindness skills. It's also popular to bring a party-wide healing skill on this character, because he will spend a lot of time outside the range of enemy interrupters.
- Protection – Usually, fielding two Monks isn't enough to keep your team alive. Rather than run three Monks and sacrifice a lot of damage, most teams put damage reduction skills on midline characters. Popular choices are Wards, Blindness skills, Aegis, "Watch Yourself!", and Paragon Shouts.
Some of these will seem like tactical questions, and they are...to a degree. However, if you find that your team doesn't have a good answer to any of these questions, you should change your build before you give your enemy the chance to exploit that weakness.
- Which characters go back to defend if the enemies split with one or two players? Normally the flag runner is at least one of them, as that character spends more time around the base than any other.
- Which characters go back to defend if the enemies split 4/4?
- If you have to split, who goes where? If you run into a build you cannot beat in eight vs. eight engagements, what's your Plan B for splitting? Often, sending the flag runner and a Warrior with a Healing Signet is a workable solution.
- Can the split teams handle themselves if this happens?
- What protection do your Monks have besides healing? Do they need any Energy boosts?
- How will your build beat an overload build? What will be your tactical approach to that?
- How will your build beat a spike build? What will be your tactical approach to that?
Naturally, mistakes and misunderstandings happen, but you must assume that both your team and your enemies will play well when asking yourself these questions. If your answer to a specific tactic relies on the enemy being stupid, you will eventually run into a smart team that kills you with that tactic.
How to Improve a Build
If you test a build and it seems lacking, you must first decide whether the problem lies in the central idea of the build or in the specifics. If you try to run a build focusing on spiking with five damage-dealers at once in a metagame of split tactics, the problem is in the essence of the build. You are already pre-countered when you enter the arena, because you need all five players in one place to get kills. When this is the case, run another build.
If you find the problem lies in the specifics of the build, ask each player how they think it can be improved and what issues they had with their builds, before deciding what you want to change. The players' feedback will give you a good basis for your decision, and you may even find that a player was confused about his role, or that he accidentally brought the wrong skill.
I hope you've found this article helpful to some degree. Though little of it will be new to competitive and experienced build makers, going through these steps can save the inexperienced a lot of time in revising a build.
I'll leave you with one final tip: Don't over-diversify. The game has hundreds of skills, and it's easy to think of a reason to bring all kinds of things. What you must ask yourself is whether it fits the purpose of your build. A common mistake is attempting to bring characters that are good in and of themselves, but that don't mesh with what you're trying to accomplish. For example, Water Magic snares have excellent utility, but if the build has no other Hexes at all, sometimes these snares go to waste in large battles. If the team build has a lot of Conditions, it may be better to bring something that causes Crippling instead. By the same token, if you have a lot of Hexes in your build but very little Conditions, you may opt for the Hex Blurred Vision or Shadow of Fear as your melee counter instead of a skill that causes Blindness. With Blindness as the only Condition, it is sometimes too easily removed.
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 former clan, The Fianna, with success. He is currently a member of Black Widow [Wi] and always keeps his teeth impeccably clean.