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State of the Game—August 7, 2006

An Introduction to Flag Stand Control

By Harold J. Chow

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.


Success in Guild Battles often comes down to maintaining a higher morale bonus than the opposing guild over the course of the game. Thus, superior flag stand control can mean the difference between victory or death.


The Flag Stand

Every guild hall has a flag stand located an equal distance from each team's initial flag position. To capture the stand, a player must click on the flag to pick it up, and then click on the flag stand to plant the flag. Once captured, the flag stand yields a 10% morale boost to the team that controls the stand for two consecutive minutes.

Resurrection Signet
Resurrection Signet
Resurrection SignetResurrection Signet
No Attribute - Signet
Activation: 3
Recharge: 0
Signet. Resurrect target party member. That party member is returned to life with 100% Health and 25%% Energy. This Signet only recharges when you gain a morale boost.

Morale boosts can change the tide of battle. Each boost not only increases a team's maximum Health and Energy by 10%, but also instantly recharges all skills—including a used Resurrection Signet. Thus, a timely morale boost can mean a quick recovery from an opposing Mesmer's Diversion or regaining the ability to resurrect fallen teammates. Because players in GvG who reach 60% death penalty do not revive automatically at the resurrection shrines, morale boosts can also save a team from playing shorthanded.

Diversion
Diversion
DiversionDiversion
Mesmer - Domination Magic - Hex Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 3
Duration: 6
Recharge: 12
Hex Spell. For 6 seconds, the next time target foe uses a skill, that skill takes an additional 10..56 seconds to recharge.

Note that while the Isle of Meditation Guild Hall also features an Obelisk Flag Stand, it does not provide morale boosts on that map. However, the team that controls the Obelisk Flag Stand can enjoy a significant advantage, particularly during Victory or Death, due to the obelisk damage. Keep in mind that the obelisk's ranged damage reaches the Tower's flag stand and beyond so a flag runner can get a lot of help from control of the Obelisk Flag Stand, especially when engaged in solo combat with an enemy flag runner.


The Flag Runner

Many guilds dedicate one player to running the flag to the flag stand. A flag runner pressures the opposing team into recapturing the flag stand. Because this player often works independently, a flag runner must know when to engage enemy flag runners one-on-one and when to avoid confrontation.

To illustrate, examine some popular flag running builds. Although exact builds will vary based on personal preferences, the overall analysis should provide an idea of what to consider when creating a flag running build.

Ranger/Mesmer: Expertise (15), Marksmanship (12), Wilderness Survival (9), Illusion Magic (3)

Crippling Shot
Apply Poision
Savage Shot
Distracting Shot
Troll Unguent
Storm Chaser
Dodge
Distortion

Crippling Shot Rangers make very effective runners. With the Apply Poison/Crippling Shot combination, this character can both snare and damage an opposing flag runner, making it more difficult for the opponent to recapture the flag stand. With two speed boosts and an additional defensive Stance, this character can overcome the slowing effect of holding the flag and survive enemy attacks long enough to run away. Troll Unguent allows this character to heal itself, while the two interrupts stop opposing Water Magic Hexes and a Warrior's Healing Signet. Should the flag stand become less of a concern, this character can eliminate NPCs with Poison.

Elementalist/Monk: Air Magic (14), Energy Storage (10), Healing Prayers (9), Water Magic (4)

Ether Prodigy
Lightning Orb
Lightning Strike
Blinding Flash
Ice Prison
Windborne Speed
Heal Party
Extinguish

Elementalist runners come in many varieties, but most use Ether Prodigy for Energy management. Between this elite skill and their inherently large Energy pool, these Elementalists can continually Blind opposing attackers, snare opposing runners, move faster, heal the party from long range, and assist with offense.

Both running builds provide teams with amazing flexibility. With speed boosts for themselves and snares for the opponent, both can dominate the running game. The respectable amount of damage and utility in each build also makes them useful when they can't run the flag, or just don't need to.

Note that neither build features a resurrection skill. While some guilds use a resurrection skill on their runners to moderate success, the runner spends so much time away from the team, or as the enemy's primary target, that resurrection opportunities rarely occur. Thus, many guilds find other ways to fill that eighth skill slot.

While both builds make effective runners, they have different strengths and weaknesses. Barring a timely interrupt, the Elementalist can Blind the Ranger, thereby nullifying the Ranger's bow attacks. The Elementalist can then snare the Ranger with a water Hex and speed away for another flag. Thus, a Ranger facing an Elementalist may want to keep the Elementalist at Longbow range, allowing the Ranger to stay out of spell-casting range, or avoid confrontation entirely. This shortcoming versus Elementalists does not make the Ranger a horrible choice for running, but it does require a different one-on-one approach than, say, against a Warrior. Knowing what your flag running build can and cannot handle may often mean the difference between capturing the flag stand and conceding that critical morale boost.


Playing for the Morale Boost

Guilds use a variety of methods to secure a morale boost. The effectiveness of each method depends on team build and game situation.

  1. Harass the flag runner. By slowing, knocking down, body-blocking, or killing the enemy flag runner, a team will more easily control the stand for a full two minutes. The opposing runner has only two minutes to go from the flag stand to the base and back, so significant delays in recapturing can yield a morale boost for the controlling team. If the flag runner dies and drops the flag, the controlling team will typically return it if it fell close to the flag stand. Otherwise, the opponent can simply grab the flag and capture the stand.
     
  2. Block the flag stand. While teams usually cannot body-block a flag stand entirely, they can create a virtual gauntlet for opposing runners to run through. A good team will often play for a morale boost by positioning its entire team on the opponent's side of the flag stand. With this placement, all of the team's damage-dealers can attack and body-block the opposing flag runner.
     
  3. Treat flag running as a team duty. At the very least, healers should remain aware of their own flag runner's position so they can protect and heal the runner as she heads through enemy fire to capture the flag stand. If the flag runner accumulates a death penalty, it becomes difficult to survive solo treks between the base and the flag stand.

    Many top guilds don't leave flag running solely to one flag runner. For example, an Elementalist runner with a relatively low armor rating can drop the flag before coming into enemy range and allow a Warrior, with a high armor rating, to take the flag the rest of the way to the stand. Such a maneuver not only discourages the enemy from attacking the new flag carrier, but also allows the runner to retrieve another flag quickly. Likewise, if a player dies and resurrects back at the resurrection shrine, that player can grab the flag on the way out of the base so that the runner does not have to run the whole way back.

  4. Shift the enemy focus away from the flag stand. An early split assault on an enemy guild hall can shift the opponent's focus to its Guild Lord. If it does not, the assault squad can harass the opposing runner when that player returns for another flag.
     
  5. Control the opponent's flag. When a team gets careless with its flag, it may find that its flag runner has dropped the flag in a hard-to-reach location, such as outside the opponent's base. By analyzing the current game situation, a team can decide whether leaving the enemy flag on the ground will help more than simply returning it. If the opponent cannot reach its flag, it cannot capture the flag stand.
     

Stay focused on the primary objective

Flag stand control only serves as a means to an end. Avoid obsessing over the flag stand. Otherwise, you may neglect defending your Guild Lord or miss an opportunity to kill the opponent's Guild Lord. While control of the flag stand greatly improves a guild's chances of winning, it is not a victory condition.


The potential impact of Guild Wars Nightfall on flag running

As seen during the Nightfall PvP Preview Event, both the Paragon and the Dervish—the two new professions in Guild Wars Nightfall—seem poised to alter flag running strategies. The Paragon features a number of speed boosts that can serve as the foundation for new running builds. In addition, the immunity to Conditions provided by the Dervish's Avatar of Melandru threatens the very core of the Crippling Shot Ranger as a running class. Only time will tell how large an impact these new professions will have on flag running upon Nightfall's release.


Harold J. Chow is one of our freelance Guild Wars reporters. His in-game name is Guild Informant.