Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tanking 102: Builds and Skills

At the request of Greg (my guild and alliance leader), I'm adding some more specific info on tanking. There are several key skills that can assist the playing of a tank, depending on whether or not you spec for Strength or Tactics, and whether you spec for energy or adrenaline use:
  • Strength/Adrenaline: Defy Pain (+hp, +AL, -DR), Lion's Comfort (self heal, +adren), "For Great Justice!" (double adren gain)
  • Strength/Energy: Warrior's Endurance (+energy), Flourish (+energy, skill rech), I Will Survive (+regen), Endure Pain (+hp), Dwarven Battle Stance (+IAS, interupt)
  • Tactics/Adrenaline: Auspicious Parry (100% block, +adren), "Watch Yourself" (+AL), Bonetti's Defense (75% block, +energy), Riposte (100% block, +dmg), To the Limit! (+adren), "For Great Justice!" (double adren gain)
  • Tactics/Energy: Gladiator's Defense (75% block, +dmg), Protector's Stance (75% block), Deadly Riposte (100% block, +dmg), Victory is Mine! (self heal), Bonetti's Defense (75% block, +energy)

Signets were not listed because they don't cost adrenaline or energy. Dolyak Signet and Healing Signet are the two most common signets you'll use as a Warrior. Keep in mind both have very serious draw-backs. Dolyak Signet makes you nigh-immoble, so make sure you won't need to move once you use it. If you feel you will need to reposition after casting it, bring along a shadow-step skill (Death's Charge works). Running Warrior's Endurance, Dolyak Signet, and Death's Charge will turn you into a teleporting infinite energy tank. Healing Signet causes -40 armor. For those who don't know how armor works, that means it doubles the damage you take while casting it. Makes sure you're running a block stance while casting it (and make sure that it won't end on skill activation).

Skill synergy is paramount too. Consider running a hammer tank, with Gladiator's Defense, Protector's Stance, and Renewing Smash. Now you can keep up near infinite block, and protect your team too (requires you to stand with the backline, so it's better as an off-tank, or when facing enemies without AoEs). Running Brawling Headbutt and Steelfang Slash in any adrenaline fueled build will give you a constant boost in adrenaline gain, and give you a solid interupt on nasty enemy skills. A Warrior/Paragon build that uses Spear of Fury along with Barbed Spear and Blazing Spear can jack up the teams DPS, while being able to spam "Save Yourselves!", with either a Strength or Tactics spec.

For tanks that run energy intensive builds, the use of a Zealous weapon is highly recommended, especially if you are using an IAS stance (keep in mind, you can only activate one stance at a time; you'll need to decide whether or not attacking faster is more important than blocking). Even though most IAS stances list an increase of 33%, that translates to 50% more attacks. Blunty, if two identical warriors, without attack skills, auto-attack the same target, the warrior under the effect of a 33% IAS stance will do 50% more damage. So, for terms of DPS, no skill is more important to a warrior than one that provides IAS.

I prefer to run Strength/Adrenaline builds. I'll run Flail, Enraging Charge, Lion's Comfort, Defy Pain, "For Great Justice!", "Save Yourselves!", plus two attack skills, either energy based, or the Brawling Headbutt/Steelfang Slash combo, to increase the rate at which I spam "SY!". In my opinion, Defy Pain is the best and most versatile warrior primary tanking skill. With a 20 second duration, it's easy to keep in up indefinitely durring combat. At 16 Strength, it gives +314 HP, +20 AL, and -11 DR. All from one skill. This puts the average tank at 120 AL vs physical, 100 AL vs Elemental. Math time:

NPC deals 100 physical damage with attack 1, and 100 elemental damage with attack 2 to Tank A, who is wearing max AL armor. Tank A takes 50 damage from attack 1, and 70.71 damage from attack 2. The same NPC then attacks Tank B, who is wearing the same armor, but is also running Defy Pain at 16 Strength. Attack 1 does 24.36 damage, while attack 2 does 39 damage.

Now, “SY!” is also, in my opinion, one of the best ways to protect your team:

An NPC boss hits your team with Searing Flames, at 20 Fire Magic, dealing 230 damage (130 base, x2 for boss damage, and we’ll pretend the whole team is on fire because you’re in lava). You monks, mesmers, ritualists, and elementalists all take it on the chin at the listed damage. You assassins and dervishes get hit for 193.41 damage. You paragons and fellow warriors take 162.63 damage, while the rangers laugh it off at 115 damage.

The boss hits you team again, but this time, you’ve cast “SY!”. The monks, elementalists, ritualists, and mesmers all giggle as they take 40.66 damage. The assassins and dervishes tell knock-knock jokes while they take 34.19. The paragons and warriors have an arm wrestling match while they take 28.75 damage, and the rangers shed a single silent tear for the boss as they take 20.33 damage.

The above assumes that no one wears a shield or has native damage reduction, and doesn’t use insignia that boost AL. “Save Yourselves!” is a warrior PvE skill gained from either the Luxons or the Kurzicks. It’s +100 AL for your team, for 4 to 6 seconds, at the cost of 8 adrenaline. It’s pure hotness.

I’ll add more tidbits as they present themselves.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dual Attunement Air Spike: Bringing the Thunder

I've tried to think of some catchy names to attach to this build. 'Da Hammah', 'Air Hammer', 'Thunder-Fucked', stuff like that. But frankly, names don't matter when it comes to how well something works.
I don't play casters, it's not my schtick. However, I rolled up a PvP Elementalist (codename: Cripslashin Kittens), and took it to Jade Quarry. I'd actually never played in JQ, but one of my guildies wouldn't shut up about it, so I decided to join him. Not having many Elementalist elites, I went and capped Elemental Attunement, and threw together a generic air spike build:

It works great. It fell out of meta with the increase of enchantment stripping (Rend/Rip Enchantment being high up on that list), however, in JQ, most necros are fond of running Weaken Knees builds, to target NPC carriers. So, for purposes of RA, AB, JQ, or AW, this build is perfectly viable. It hits for 160+ dmg consistently, and never runs out of energy, provided you maintain both attunements. But, I still didn't feel like the build was doing as much damage as I wanted, so I opted to go Ele/Me, and run Arcane Echo:
This was fun too. Echoing Lightning Hammer makes for some insane DPS. Either build is capable of taking out a carrier turtle in 6 seconds or so, making it a tad faster than Necro/Assassins running Weaken Knees and Shameful Fear. However, running an echo build in the middle of a frantic PvP scenario is annoying to say the least. As much as I liked it, I ended up echoing the wrong skills on more than one occasion. Regardless, I was looking for a bigger and more effective spike. So, I added Energy Blast, which worked well, especially since it's armor ignoring damage. The downside is that I regain no energy casting it, and it doesn't benefit from Glyph of Elemental Power.

But that doesn't matter. The build does a sickening amount of damage, and most of the spells don't require line of sight to use. This allows me to attack relatively unseen, a tactic I've been fond of ever since my days with an AR/Dev in CoH.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Non-Consensual PvP: Intro to World/Zone PvP

Non-consensual PvP can ruin a game for some people. While I'm an avid PvPer, and I support a players right to attack another without permission or provocation, I acknowledge how my actions can impact my opponent (or victim). My old roommate John refused to play games online for this very reason. Quite blunty, he told me that he didn't want to deal with other players that would try to force him into a PvP engagement. Despite my trying to convince him that there were easy ways to avoid such a fate, or to prevent it entirely, he merely responded that he shouldn't have to alter his behavior to avoid being targeted by "douches".

One of the most common arguments I heard against this type of PvP (or, simply against people attacking others without warning), was the analogy of dodgeball. You shouldn't be allowed to force someone to play dodgeball with you; it needs to be their choice. Honestly, I see merit in this argument. It's not fun to get killed. It's not fun to get killed by another player. It's even less fun getting your ass kicked by another player when you had no idea it was coming, or intention of fighting back. I am aware of these things, and I understand.

I'll still probably kill you.

And it's not cause I want to be a bully, or because I giggle to myself as I gank you. Firstly, there is usually a tactile reward for winning. Faction, renown, honor, gold. If an NPC asked you not to farm him, would you listen? To those who would listen, I applaud your compassion, but suggest you leave the warzone. Secondly, I don't know that you aren't a threat until one of two things happens:

1. You leave the area.
2. I leave the area.

Remember when I said it's not fun getting killed? PvPers don't like getting killed either, that's a big part of why we are so hard up to kill you first. Nothing is as harmless as a corpse.

However, a distinction arises here. World PvP=/=Zone PvP. They are similar but hardly the same. World PvP can, in some instances, mean that nowhere is safe. Danger of PvP can be around any corner, and everyone could be spoiling for a fight. In this situation, the "dodgeball" analogy holds water. The PvEer can't help to cross paths with the PvPer sometimes, and only one will walk away from that encounter (guess who).

But then there is Zone PvP. Imagine a place 100 times the size of Warsong Gulch, or Grenz Frontier. A place where there are plenty of places to hide, plenty of hidden treasures to earn, and a place where you are meant to fight other players. If you're here, you're meat. Period. In this place, the counter analogy is "Why are you on the court if you don't want to play?", and you'll get held to it. Cries of "Why does my gameplay experience have to suffer to benefit yours?" gets thrown back and forth between players on both sides.

My policy is to shoot first, ask questions later. But please believe, I will ask afterward, and I will listen to your answer. If I find you're not here to fight, I probably won't bother you again. But I will not let you pass untouched, on the premise or chance that PvP might not be your schickt. I will kill you. I will remind you of why this place is dangerous, why you need to be prepared, and why you need to tread lightly. I'm sorry if your gear is expensive to repair, I'm sorry if you respawn miles away from here, I'm sorry if I fuck up your quest.

You should have been more careful. PvP is srs bizness.

Guild Life

Well, it's been a crazy week.

I've been made an officer of my guild. Since it's full to capacity, I'm not required to recruit, but they expect officers to organize and help with events without being directed to do so. So far, I've raised interested in structured PvP, and have helped host a few 8v8 matches within the alliance. They've been fun, and I'm impressed with the overall skill level, despite their lack of experience.

Our home map is Burning Isle, which is a bitch to navigate, but it makes for some interesting matches. I'll probably suggest we host the next set of matches at a "friendlier" guild hall.

Hopefully, I'll be able to lead a GvG team to victory before the end of spring. I doubt it will take that long, but my schedule in real life makes it hard to coordinate events on a regular basis.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Guildmates, love 'em or hate 'em

Recently, I left my guild.

There was no conflict, there was no bitterness; I just needed a guild with active players. I was an officer in a guild founded and run by my sisters-in-law, whom I have nothing but good things to say about. Other than they're inactive as fuck (sorry guys).

However, joining a new guild is like finding a new job. The first rule is don't quit your current one till you find a new one. So, I went guild hunting. There are many ways to do this. Look on the forums for your respective MMO to see who's recruiting. Some MMOs, like WoW, have sites entirely dedicated to people looking for guilds. A more laid back approach is to seek out guilds in game, either by soliciting yourself (r5 Warrior Looking For Guild!) or looking for people who are actively recruiting (Wicked Tough Fighters [WTF] is now recruiting! PvP/PvE/AB/HM/Vanq/Kurz/1.5 mil fac, pst!).

I took the latter approach.

However, when I look for a guild, I have more questions for the recruiter than they do for me. How big is your guild? How big is your alliance? Do you PvP? What kind of PvP? Does your GvG team have spots open, or do you have multiple GvG teams? Do you run dungeons? Do you vanquish? Do you use voice chat? Do you have a website? How active are you? What's your officer to member ratio? (That last one is a biggie, imo)

So, after some searching, I found a Kurzick guild that was recruiting. After finding out there were almost no requirements to join, other than not being a tool, I hit the guy with my list of questions. Most were answered to my satisfaction, but I had one last demand: Lemme see your cape. Capes are make or break. I much prefer tabards ala WoW, but capes are neat in their own way. However, they can be gaudy and ostentatious, so as a result I end up being picky about them. The cape wasn't all that, but the recruiter struck me being a solid guy. So, I went ahead and joined up.

It's been a while since I logged on to an active Ventrillo server. And I can't remember why I missed it. People talking over each other, feedback, audio loops, and my mic shutting off every 15 minutes. But I still missed it.

Anyways, as complicated as joining a guild may or may not be, actually integrating into one is a different story. There are two types of guild mates; the ones that treat you like family simply because you're guildies, and the ones who treat like a stranger who isn't welcome in their house. All the people I met fell into the first category. Score.

Even better still, my new guild is the head of the alliance, meaning my guild leader is also alliance leader. Double Score. We ended up teaming right after I joined. He started out treating me like any other noob, which I didn't mind really. I provoked this by admitting I didn't have any good ranger builds for my NPC hero. As a result, he ended up explaining a lot of things I already knew, but in a way that I didn't care or feel like I was being talked down too.

Sarutobi is doing the Asuran quests in EotN, which from what I hear, are the most annoying of the three racial factions. My GL agreed with this sentiment, and showed me a different route to take to get to Gadd's Encampment, entirely avoiding the Shards of Orr. After we reached our destination, he stayed on to help with the quest, Finding Gadd. Is so doing, we ended up fighting a lot of dinosaurs. On the way to Gadd's Encampment, he gave me a rundown on the different dinosaurs:

GL: "Raptors are assassins, which makes them nasty, but manageable, don't get mobbed. Angorodons are necros with nasty degen and lifesteal, be careful. Tyrannuses are warriors, and hit hard as hell. Triceratops... Just don't fuck with them, they're bad news."

So, after completing most of the first quest, we come upon a trio of Ceratadons, milling around. I suggest we attack, and while the GL mulls over it, I blitz them. He runs in after me, and we end up almost wiping after killing two of the three (it was just us and six heroes). While we rez the fallen...:

GL: "Who's bright idea was it to attack?"
Me: "Yours."
GL: "Um, no?"
Me: "Uh, yeah? You were totally like 'I've seen Jurassic Park! These guys ain't shit! All they do is get sick and die! Let's take these bastiches!' and I was all like, 'Uh, ok' and them you died."

The GL ended up laughing his ass off, and tells me that I'll fit in just fine with his guild.

The good news didn't end there. The next day, I ended up scrimmaging with a guildie who shared my same affinity for FoW farming. After a few battles, I looked in the vent channel to find out five other had joined us in the Fow Farming (solo) channel, and realized that all five were in the same GH as us, deciding who as going to fight who with what build. I'm glad to see so many players chomping at the bit for PvP, and I'm really looking forward to helping in the organization of a GvG team or two.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Guild Wars PvP: the Z-Axis Advantage

When I hear people talk about Guild Wars, the first complaint I hear is how Guild Wars lacks Z-axis movement: you can't jump. The game is 3d, there are plenty of stairs, ramps, mountains, valleys, gulches, ditches to navigate, but you can't so much as vault a fence. You can jump in WoW, which is handy when exploiting NPC behaviors, or trying to out-maneuver another player in melee. You can jump, fly and teleport in CoH, which for the longest time contributed to fast paced PvP. But there's no jumping in GW.

That doesn't mean it can't be used to your advantage in PvP.

Not only does Guild Wars lack an accessible Z-axis, it completely fails to recognize it for purposes of spell and attack range. If an enemy is a relative 100 ft above you, but within the maximum range or you attack or spell horizontally, it can still be executed.

But what's really different is how this affects melee in PvP. If I stand under a bridge, and an opponent stands directly above me on said bridge, we can attack each other in melee.

How is this an advantage?

Imagine that you're under the bridge, and don't have time to get up there to stall enemy advance during an AB (they're travelling from the West Equipment Shrine to the Northwest Resurrection Shrine). A warrior can instead stand under the bridge and attack foes who are passing above (which gives warriors with Bull's Strike, Enraged Smash, or Crippling Slash a great chance to shut down an attack).

I've used this on many occasions to score kills on targets oblivious to my presence.

Also, remember that elevation increases range. Combine the two together, and this allows Rangers and Paragons on high elevation to not only exceed their horizontal range, but ignore any Z-axis impact on range (a great example is firing from the walls of a base on the Ancestral Lands or Kaanai Canyon maps).

Double Faction AB Weekend, results

I went ahead and condensed my weekend updates into one nice summary post.


Day One:

In my corner of the world, the AB weekend opened up strong with a total domination of the Luxons in Kaanai Canyon. Went on to win the next three matches by virtue of points, and lost the fourth in the same manner.

Kurzick 4, Luxon 1

However, I heard from others that the Kurzicks weren't doing so hot. But, if the battles are being held at Kaanai, that means we've been kicking enough ass to keep it there (of the five maps, Kaanai is the Luxon home map, meaning we've pushed them back as far as we can). The best part, this was at 3 AM EST, so plenty of people have come out of the woodwork to do battle this weekend. I'm so looking forward to this.

Day Two:

Logged in today to find the map had shifted to Etnaran Keys, which is considered "shallow luxon" territory. Fought the first match, won, and the map immediately shifted back to Kaanai Canyon ("deep luxon", as they call it). In the end, I only ended up winning 2 out of 5. Lack of coordination and bravery did the most damage to the kurzicks. Too many people won't attack unless someone else leads the charge, or they have a vast numbers advantage. I got very tired very fast with being the first one into battle, and the first one dead. There were many instances were even having a single ally would have won the skirmish.

Kurzick 6, Luxon 4

I ended up bringing out Reya, and it was worth it. Her range ended up being enough of a deterrent for most luxons that I kept a handful at bay at any given time, while liberally applying Burning Arrow+Poison Tip Signet. I only got to spend about an hour or so playing, as my employer called me up to inform me that I need to cover a four hour gap, leaving a mere 8 hours between the end of this shift and the beginning of my next one. Oh well, I'll be able to fight plenty tomorrow.

Day Three:

Sunday was horrible. The map had changed to Ancestral Lands (deep kurizck), and the wait times were obscene. After 20 minutes, finally got into an AB, which we won. After spending another 45 minutes in queue, decided that I'd rather shoot people, so I went and played some Counter Strike.

Kurzick 7, Luxon 4

All in all, this was a poor weekend, given how much I could have fought, versus how much I did. It didn't help that I was called into work on Saturday, my day off.


I ended up earning around 55k in Kurzick faction this weekend, which translated into 110k faction for purposes of title tracking and my guilds ranking. Earned about 15k in Balthazar faction, which was spent (or wasted, based on what the Z-Chest dropped for me) on Z-Keys. Not bad, given that I wouldn't have earned nearly that much on a normal weekend, but I could have earned two to three times that much faction had I played for more than two hours a day this weekend.

Oh well, at least I have tomorrow off.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Double Faction AB weekend.

You better believe my ass will be planted for many hours.

I'll keep a tally and post results of the battles to come this weekend. Might be fun to track to shift of power as it happens. I'll be limiting myself to Saru only, and will stick with my hammer. In the event that Minion Mancers come to play, I'll go W/P and get my spear on.

See you there.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Warrior PvP

Warriors in Guild Wars are unique compared to most MMOs, in that they are the main damage dealers for high level, organized PvP.

In City of Heroes, the maxim for a long time was "lolmelee" (which has changed as of late), and in WoW, a pair of hunters usually means instagib. However, in Guild Wars, a single Warrior can require the attention of half the team to manage. Simply being a warrior isn't enough, you need the right build and playstyle to rock it as a PvP tank. But, there are still a number of advantages that come inherently to a warrior.

  • Warriors have the best armor, and frequently use shields, so attacks against them to drastically less damage than they would against other professions. Because of this, a warrior tends to be targeted less, and will take less damage by virtue of simply being attacked less.

  • Most people who PvE with warriors feel that they don't do good damage, when in reality, that perception is caused by high armor NPCs. Caster armor caps out at 60 AL, meaning you attacks will do double the damage they would do against another warrior.

  • Warrior attack skills look weaker than Elementalist skills on paper, but actually do equal or greater damage in application. The damage from an attack skill is added to the damage dealt with the warriors weapon. If I hit you with a sword for 27, but then add +38 from Dragon Slash, that's 65 damage. Also, remember that warriors have inherent armor penetration when using attack skills, so it will do even more damage than the sum of base damage plus bonus damage. The main advantage of Elementalist spells can be found in their range, and the fact that many are area of effect.

Even with these advantages, a poorly built or played warrior will die and fail like anyone else, you'll just look stupider than others in so doing. A good warrior balances attack skills, utility, self preservation, and mobility. Take for example this warrior. The shock-axe warrior is one of the most iconic warrior builds to run, be it GvG, AB, HA, RA, TA or competitive missions. Variations of this build have been used for years, and it's rarely fallen out of favor in the PvP meta (and if it did, it never stayed out for long).

Depending on the environment, you can expect different levels of support. In GvG, HA, or TA, one can expect consistent and competent support from one or more monks. In this situation, a warrior can focus less on keeping himself alive, so long as he can trust his backline. However, in AB, RA, or competitive missions, one cannot usually control who your teammates are. In these situations, a warrior has to be able to keep themselves alive, and that means altering ones build. That can mean bringing along a self heal, including a block stance, or having a way to boost HP to counter a spike. A warrior that brings Lion's Comfort and Defy Pain, with a high Strength spec, will be very difficult to kill, especially 1v1. A warrior running Shield Bash can completely negate an enemy assassin's attack chain, saving himself from a nasty spike.

The most important part of being an effective warrior is target awareness. A battle can be won or lost based on who the warrior attacks, or doesn't attack. A well timed knock-lock can prevent the monk from saving an ally, prevent a rez, or snare a foe long enough for the team to attack en mass and kill it. A sword warrior running Crippling Slash can make a monks like hell by applying cripple, bleed, and deep wound to multiple targets, slowing an enemy teams advance or retreat. Sometimes, rather than going after casters and playing a game of monk stomp, you have to lineback and run interference against enemy warriors. It all depends on the situation, and the situation can change rapidly and often.