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State of the Game—August 28, 2006

GvG Defense—Playing your Part

By Michael Thompson

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.


In GvG matches, a successful defense usually entails more than two Boon Prots and good healing, or a multitude of Ritualist Spirits. Every profession can boost the team's defensive capabilities, although the precise interactions of skills and tactics may not be immediately apparent. Often a team will rely heavily on its offensive and utility characters providing essential support for the team. This article goes beyond Monk healing tactics and Ritualist Spirit-laying to examine what the other professions can offer to team defense.


Warrior

Many players see Warriors as offensive characters, and rightly so. They dish out incredibly high DPS (damage pre second), but they can also offer non-damage support. Healing Signet is useful on any Warrior's Skill Bar. It is a powerful self-heal that reduces pressure on allied Monks and eliminates the immediate need for a Monk when a solo Warrior enters the enemy base.


"Shields Up!"
"Shields Up!"
Warrior - Tactics - Shout
Energy: 10
Activation: 0
Duration: 5..11
Recharge: 30
Shout. For 5..11 seconds, you and all party members within earshot gain 24 armor against piercing damage and 50% chance to block incoming projectile attacks.

Warriors also have Shouts, which encourage party members who are within earshot, such as "Shields Up!"–an effective counter to Ranger Spike and useful versus any Assassins that do piercing damage. These Shouts are one of the main reasons players choose Warrior as a secondary profession.

Warriors excel at body-blocking enemy players. As the Master of Blocking on the Isle of the Nameless will tell you, the best way to beat a body-block is to kill the blockers and trample over them. Warriors, however, do not go down so easily, due to their high armor level. This makes them the preferred character for the job.

Body-blocking at the flag stand can produce the turning point for many a match. Preventing the enemy flag runner from capturing the flag stand for a full two minutes earns a 10% morale boost, a massive defensive bonus to any team because of the higher maximum Health and Energy. For example, against a spike team, more Health makes it easier for Monks to save an ally's life, and makes the spikers work harder to procure a kill.


Assassin

Assassins in the current metagame are used more as solo characters, harassing the enemy base and killing NPCs. Such covert action supports the overall team because later entry to the enemy base is much easier if the team can focus on killing players rather than NPCs. The ability to be self-sufficient also allows Assassins to defend their own base from other solo infiltrators. When with the main party, Assassins use skills like Caltrops to snare onrushing enemy players threatening the backline.

Shadow Stepping, by far the Assassin's most useful defensive ability, allows players to escape from danger instantly and sees effective use by both Assassin primaries and secondaries. Aura of Displacement has quickly become a favored skill for Shadow Stepping.


Ranger

With durable survival skills and more armor than Assassins, Rangers have the self-sufficiency to undertake solo tasks, whether it be running a flag or assaulting the enemy base. Troll Unguent is an effective self-heal because, once applied, the enemy cannot remove it. Ranger Stances, such as Whirling Defense, enable the player to block melee and projectile damage. Self-sufficient characters like this augment team defense because they are harder to kill and require less healing support than others.

When with the rest of the team, Rangers use Spirits such as Fertile Season to nullify spike teams and save NPCs. Other Ranger Spirits have defensive applications as well. Nature's Renewal, for example, slows Hex-heavy builds, and Symbiosis often works well with Enchantment-heavy builds.

Ranger Traps punish enemy players who push into the backline by inflicting Conditions like Cripple and Blindness. These work best on maps such as the Burning Isle where limited space ensures a high probability that someone will set them off.

Crippling Shot
Crippling Shot
Crippling ShotCrippling Shot [Elite]
Ranger - Marksmanship - Attack
Energy: 10
Activation: 0
Recharge: 1
Attack. If Crippling Shot hits, your target becomes Crippled for 1..8 seconds. This attack cannot be blocked.

The skill Crippling Shot boasts a quick recharge, allowing a single Ranger to Cripple multiple players—crucial when faced with a Warrior-heavy team. Finally, Rangers are renowned for shutting down the enemy's offense with a deluge of interrupts. From a defensive standpoint, interrupting a spell is a lot safer than having to heal the damage done once the spell has been cast.


Necromancer

Faintheartedness
Faintheartedness
FaintheartednessFaintheartedness
Necromancer - Curses - Hex Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 1
Duration: 3..24
Recharge: 8
Hex Spell. For the next 3..24 seconds, target foe attacks 50% slower, and that foe suffers -1..3 Health degeneration.

Thanks to skills like Blood Is Power and Blood Ritual (which give allies extra Energy regeneration), Necromancers have always made vital support characters. But Necromancers also weaken enemy players with their many Hexes, particularly in the Curses attribute line. Defensive Necromancer Hexing ranges from preventing Warrior damage to denying spellcasters Energy. Necromancers make use of skills such as Faintheartedness on Warriors and Malaise on casters.

When Necromancers find corpses on the battlefield, they have several options. But for defense, they can generate wells from bodies which heal team members.

Soul Reaping, the Necromancer's primary attribute, fuels high-Energy cost skills, although it can be unreliable because it depends on a steady flow of deaths. Builds which use pets and Spirits tend to make the best use of this attribute. Often, a support Necromancer will take advantage of this Energy battery and cast high-Energy Monk skills.


Mesmer

The diversity of a Mesmer's defensive capabilities makes for a well-rounded profession. Like the Necromancer, Mesmers routinely Hex opponents to shut them down. Spirit of Failure cunningly manipulates attackers, causing them to miss while giving the caster Energy; Backfire stalls wary spellcasters or kills less cautious ones.

Besides Hexing, Mesmers are excellent interrupters and their Energy denial skills commonly shut down offensive spellcasters. Additionally, Blackout is a unique Mesmer counter to enemy Warriors, as it drains their adrenaline.

Their range of Energy management skills makes it easier for Mesmers to use high-Energy monk skills like Aegis. When used as a secondary profession, skills like Distortion defend against attacker-heavy teams while a selection of mantras grants extra armor against a variety of damage. Besides Monks, Mesmers are the only characters that have Hex removal available, which can double as Energy management.


Elementalist

Ether Prodigy
Ether Prodigy
Ether ProdigyEther Prodigy [Elite]
Elementalist - Energy Storage - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Duration: 5..20
Recharge: 5
Enchantment Spell. Lose all Enchantments. For 5..20 seconds, you gain +6 Energy regeneration. When Ether Prodigy ends, you lose 3 Health for each point of Energy you have. This Spell causes Exhaustion.

The high Energy pool linked to the Elementalist's primary attribute, Energy Storage, allows repeated use of many high-Energy Monk skills that affect the whole party. These include Heal Party, Aegis, and Extinguish. While other professions do make use of these spells, the Energy that Elementalists gain from the skill Ether Prodigy often means that they can cast these more frequently than any other character.

When it comes to Elementalist skills, there is a versatile arsenal to augment the team's defense. Water snares like Ice Spikes and Deep Freeze will slow down enemy Warriors and Gale will knock them over. Ward Against Foes is another excellent skill that prevents attackers from getting in range of soft targets. If attackers do get in range, Ward Against Melee gives defenders a chance to evade melee attacks. Blinding Flash and Blurred Vision are also effective against both ranged and melee attackers.

Ward Of Stability helps Ritualists complete Binding Rituals without threat of knock down. Many teams commonly use knock downs as their interrupts, so this ward effectively combats metagame builds with Hammer Rangers and Shock Warriors.


Monks and Ritualists

Currently, these two professions are the backbone of most balanced builds' defense, but the intricate nature of successfully Monking and laying Spirits is not the focus of this article. Suffice it to say that these characters can't do the whole job on their own. When facing Hex-heavy teams, for example, the Hex removal of other teammates certainly takes pressure off the Monks.

Many of the Monk's skills target a single ally and are often not efficient against builds that overload the entire team with Health degeneration or Conditions. This is where an Elementalist with a high Energy pool can tip the balance, casting Heal Party repeatedly and enabling the Monks to concentrate on preventing damage from single sources.

Monks and Ritualists are not the most well-protected characters however, due to their poor armor. Thus, staying out of range of the enemy is the preferred option. But while kiting is effective against Warriors, this prevents the player from casting. The best technique is to use snares and body-blocking to prevent attackers from reaching the backline. Rangers with Crippling skills and Elementalists with snares and knock downs are good choices to slow attackers while Warriors physically block enemy blitzes.

Save Yourself and Save a Monk

Remember, even characters with no defensive skills on their Skill Bar can assist with defense by body-blocking or killing enemy NPCs. However, it is rare to see a character with no defensive capability whatsoever. The metagame demands flexibility from each person on the team and does not reward rigid builds. When you're on an offensive character, remember your Monks. They need love too. Help them out, when you can, with any defensive skills you have, or by running away from damage and healing yourself. If you keep yourself alive or shut down part of the enemy's offense, you might just buy your Monks the time they need to keep your team going for the win.


Michael Thompson is a twenty-three-year-old gamer who originally hails from South Africa and is now living in the UK. A proud member of The Amazon Basin guild, Michael enjoys both the PvE and PvP aspects of Guild Wars. His favorite classes are the Warrior and Necromancer, and he admits to being "pretty rubbish at playing a Monk." Michael's in-game name is Mickey of the Basin.