GW2: I Hate Dying, So I Got Better (Or How I Learned to Love the Zerg in WvW)

Always follow your commanders, until they lead you off cliffs...

I’m allergic to dying.

Well, in my games anyway, I don’t like being defeated and being laid flat out on the floor face-down.

This is possibly why I’m partial to tanks, their sturdiness and overall unkillability. I’m happy to protect others with my survivability, but by god, when push comes to shove and people start falling over, I want to be one of the last few standing. It’s led to a couple of truly heroic moments of saving the day too.

It’s also a potential weakness. A side helping of powergaming perfectionism, mixed in with high self-expectations that I am a virtual hero and am not meant to lose.

Somehow, I see dying as a personal failure. I did something wrong. I am inferior in my gameplay. I am so embarrassed at my poor performance. It is the end of the world.

PvPers and WvWers tend to scorn this as a PvE mentality.

In every 1 vs 1 PvP match, there’s one winner and one loser. 50/50 odds that you may be the one on the ground. For them, it mostly seems to be just a simple way of keeping score. +1 point to them, +1 point to me, whatever, keep trying to get better until you skew the points in a slightly >50% win/loss ratio fashion.

WvW people will point out that there are perfectly good situations in which one may very well die.

I’m completely on board with the team-based objective parts. Contesting circles to delay an objective capture so that your team racing over can ruin the other side’s day? Abso-fucking-lutely. I’ll do it without hesitation, rolling around like a manic asura, and cackle most evilly when they chase me for the crucial tens of seconds and then join my comatose body on the ground when the cavalry rides in. Still a win.

Contest circles when no one is coming to save the day? Well… maybe. It’s still a good habit to develop for overall server culture, helping PPT and score minutely, and on the off-chance that enough reinforcements may arrive. It still demonstrates defiance to the opposing team. I can more or less buy it, though I may not run as fast to the circle.

I’m perfectly all right with the occasional can’t-do-anything-about-it situations when you’re ambling along in WvW, round a corner and an unanticipated zerg 300-3000% the size of your group just rolls right over you like a minor speedbump.

Gee. Did anyone get the number of that truck? No? Oh well. Report in mapchat the last headed direction and estimated size of whatever the hell that was. Respawn and dust yourself off.

But when I read about people being confused in zerg fights and dying repeatedly and not enjoying themselves, I cry a little inside.

I know who you are.

You are the disorganized militia that organized guild groups run over.

The 40-50 individuals who happen to be somewhat going in the same direction and who get split in half by our outnumbered group of 20-30 and then steadily whittled down because every individual is making one of those “fight or flight” decisions for themselves and whose group morale is really easy to break and send fleeing for their lives.

I’ve been there.

When I started playing WvW, I was a loner who would most often be found in our territory, grimly speed-boosting yaks with an OCD determination (ask Eri!), watching with a certain envy the guild groups and commander tags swirling around on the frontlines but reluctant to approach for fear of not being welcome.

In Isle of Janthir’s particular server culture, near the beginning of the game, guilds tended to be more clannish and stick themselves to themselves, PUG militia were not terribly welcome and I was too nervous to be thick-skinned about things.

Fights I had actually had a chance of winning tended to be 1 + yak (+ preferably guard) vs inexperienced thief.

Woe betide me if the thief actually knew what they were doing, or had a friend. Or two. *sobs*

Let’s not even speak of the guild groups (we call them havoc squads now) that would now and then rush in to decimate the supply camp and either murder me or force an ‘abandon yak’ situation.

Then as more people started being able to afford commander tags (rather than just the hardcore guild leaders who were fed money by their guild members,) doritos gradually became more open to the idea of any and all militia following them around.

Safety in numbers and all that, y’know? When in doubt and not a tactical genius, bring more people.

The usual not-very-well-led zerg is identifiable from certain characteristics. They are spread out, each member acting more as a sort of skirmisher, prefering to stay at the longest range possible and plink away, with self-preservation as a key priority.

If two such zergs meet, what usually results is a stalemate. Each side stares at each other across a no man’s land, exchanging the longest range attacks they have, to very little effect. They could be there for hours if nothing interrupts them.

You can also find a similar bogged-down situation near keep gates, when no one has remembered to bring any siege, but are still trying to autoattack fortified gates to death regardless.

Trust me, been there. I couldn’t describe it otherwise.

I was in a casual guild on the Isle of Janthir (who carried their lack of tactical sense as a reputation that lasted long after I left the guild and the server – facing them on the side of TC was a bit of a laugh, we were a lot more wary of another far more effective guild) and I still am in a semi-casual semi-hardcore guild that has its moments of genius… good and bad.

Such zergs offer safety when encountering small collections of individuals, but are -very- often rolled by organized guilds – that can be either bigger (if they’ve drawn in militia to them as well) or even numbers or mind-bogglingly, smaller in size.

I can’t help it. I HATE DYING.

My mind immediately begins working overtime trying to figure out why this was happening – what do they have that we don’t? Is it all just a matter of specialized builds and practice and being on voice chat together? Is it just that they outnumber us and so they win?

I had the fortune of being in the right place at the right time to bridge the understanding gap.

One of the marvels of TC is how guilds in general are very open to working with each other and the militia.

Perhaps in more recent times, there’s been more closing of the ranks as people get tired of saying the same thing over and over again and just want to play and have fun, but there was a point where we had a large number of PUGmanders (said in the fondest sense of the word) very open to pulling in and training militia (before I think the 24/7 pressures started to burn them out.)

One of the best of them was, and still is, Jadon. (He of the lemmings over a cliff fame.)

At one point in time, he ran a series of trainings on the basics of zerg versus zerg combat for our server. He recorded it on his Twitchtv stream.

It’s been 8 months, the video is public and I suspect everyone hardcore already knows this stuff by now, so I feel it’s okay to share the link to all at this point.

If you’re ever confused about WvW and what’s happening during zerging and why you may be dying to groups that are more organized than you, I hope that you can spare the time to at least glance through the video, which is admittedly a little long and uncut.

It covers the basics of combo fields used in zerg fighting, and skills that are good for each class to bring in WvW.

The idea is really group synergy. By moving in a tight group near each other, everyone catches the benefit of buffs and heals being thrown around. Skills are chosen to benefit the group, not just oneself. Skills are chosen to more or less attack the other zerg as a group.

Tactics have gotten a touch more sophisticated since that point. Since survival is a factor in zerg clashes, gear is chosen for sturdiness. Soldiers or PTV gear is often recommended. Classes and builds that benefit from healing power are well-advised to investigate gear with that stat as an option.

Catching the other zerg with one’s AoE attacks becomes important – so control like elementalist’s static fields and hammer warriors that stun are often used.  Variants range from having a few skirmishing berserkers (thieves, elementalists, etc.) dart in and out of the zerg to take out prime targets of opportunity and necromancers and other classes that paint on conditions are pretty popular these days too.

More tactical commanders make use of terrain and ancient art of war strategies to phenomenal effect. Chokepoints remain the same meat grinders in a game as they do in real life. Feinting a charge, faking a retreat and reversing, all are tactics used in an attempt to trick the other party into committing to a fight, spending all their attacks (skills on cooldown) and only then beginning your own attack.

Militia are hopelessly easy to catch out with these tricks.

Unwary, unknowingly, they die.

The organized group does this because attrition is the beginning of the end. If we kill 3 with one pass, and all of us remain upright, the opposing team is down by three people. Another pass, another three people go down.

It doesn’t have to be a lot each time. But these weaker links help to rally any downed on our side AND have an insidious effect on morale on the other side.

A self-interested individual looking on sees downed arrows on his team, and a swirling red mass of uncountable names (no one said everyone was great at estimating numbers on each side properly, red names always look more scary and numerous) that move in a lot more organized unison in a killing wedge, and starts to think the better of remaining around.

He books it.

Other people on his team sees green dots moving away from the fight. Good lord, they don’t want to be the last ones hanging around here either.

Before you know it, it turns into a rout.

A little while later, the opposing side starts to recognize the guild tags coming toward them and morale is affected to the point that they start running even before an engagement begins.

Do I have a guaranteed solution for those caught on the losing side?

Alas, not really. In certain timezones, I’ve been there.

If leadership is lacking, I find there’s little point trying to throw oneself headfirst into a blender (unless you are with a group and are trying to train to get better together) and that it’s oftentimes more effective to cease head-on hostilities and initiate guerrilla warfare.

Nothing pisses off a zerg as much as a small group of people not really worth fighting that they can’t even catch.

Siege, supply traps, being in several places at once and forcing the zerg to choose one location to be in only are small ways to have minor victories when a big undefeated zerg is running roughshod all over your map.

Of course, the best defence is to build an even better zerg.

That can only happen if enough self-interested individuals buy into the idea and find a commander they want to follow though.

On the commander end, being open to militia who want to learn and being open to training the new, confused individuals who may eventually appreciate more levels of depth in WvW may be one way of developing enough effective zerglings in the long term.

On the individual end, it may all seem like a bit too much like work for something you just want to play casually. It’s a game, right?

Well, lemme appeal to your self-interested PvE sense of self-preservation. (I got one myself, it works great for me.)

Fix your build and your gear.

Take note of competent zerg commanders and do your best to be a valued member of their team. (Or at least, not someone they want to run away from.)

YOU DIE LESS.

YOU KILL MORE.

I, personally, have more fun when I’m the one standing on the corpses of my enemies and seeing them flee before me (or rather, the commander I’m supporting.)

Your mileage may vary.

Really, I benefit a lot more keeping all this to myself and having the vast majority clueless and disorganized when the zerg I’m in smashes right through them (WvW monthly done in one fight), but I just feel so dismayed that the majority of bloggers seem to have never tasted this thrill, except where a guild group just happens to be going in their same direction.

I wish and hope you’d all keep giving it a chance and not immediately write off WvW due to a few bad experiences.

May you one day find openminded guilds you can run with and commanders that lead you to glory:

Glorious victories and glorious “OMG so many of them RUN RUN Everyone for themselves, see you suckers, meet up at waypoint later” laughing retreats.

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3 thoughts on “GW2: I Hate Dying, So I Got Better (Or How I Learned to Love the Zerg in WvW)

  1. […] honest opinion for teamspeak? In WvW, not needed. Not needed by what Why I Game terms a commander leading Militia on SFR. Hearing someone swear doesn’t help me understand […]

  2. bhagpuss says:

    We have some really great PUGmanders on Yak’s Bend, people with both the charisma to gather a militia around them and the tactical skill to utilize it effectively. I can think of four or five right away and I don’t play Prime Time. We have guilds that run open “New To WvW” training sessions. Even our more serious-face Commanders tend to give explanations and outline strategy rather than just bark commands.

    As a ranger wielding Long and Short Bows I die far less than I used to, simply because I am long past the stage of either panicking or freezing when something bad happens. I’m still piss-poor at one-on-one combat, but I can strafe and dodge-roll in and around a zerg for a good long time. I know that if get enough AEs off and tag enough people, even when I’m downed there’s a good chance I’ll rally on someone’s death before it’s too late.

    I’m not in Teamspeak and I can’t see any need to be at this time. All I need to do is look at the map. I can see where the Commanders are, I know the styles and approaches of many of them and can predict fairly well what their strategy and tactics will be. On YB we still use Map/Team Chat for all kinds of intel and general information, but even if that went completely silent I reckon things would still be manageable.

    So much of it comes down to practice and habit, though. If I swap from either my Ranger or my staff Ele, the character I play WvW with on my second account, to any of my other level 80s I die far, far more often even though I run with the same commanders. When there’s a huge fight going on, having to look at your tool-tips to remember what your skills and traits do is not a great plan.

    I have huge fun in WvW – too much fun actually; it’s genuinely starting to get in the way of me doing other things because it’s so addictive. I don’t personally feel any need to join or run with a guild or get on TS – the whole thing is just a fun machine most days. All you need to do is turn up.

    As for dying, the one and only thing that annoys me when I die is the time wasted running across the map to get back to the action. Avoiding that wasted time and frustration is a huge motivator to stay alive.

  3. […] Wars 2′s WvW mass combat – or zerging, if you prefer. The most recent one, entitled I Hate Dying So I Got Better talks about the experience of being in disorganised zergs and how they get routed and slaughtered […]

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