GW2: Winning The Battle or The War

Today, on WvW reset, for 5-7+ hours, I think everybody won.

On the fields of the Fort Aspenwood Borderlands, the combined guilds and militia of Kaineng, Fort Aspenwood, and Tarnished Coast fought a ridiculously epic series of battles.

Kaineng was the green team, [RISE] and [CO] the apparent major anchor guilds there.

Fort Aspenwood the blue team, [RET] the major unignorable factor in play, bolstered by a framerate stopping horde of other mixed guilds and militia as one would expect on a server’s home borderlands.

Tarnished Coast the red team, with [DIS] and [CYN] as the initial designated guilds assigned to that borderland, plus other mixed guilds and militia, and a special guest appearance later at the end of the NA night, which we will get to in good time.

It’s actually amazing how much Fort Aspenwood feels like Tarnished Coast’s opposite number.

FA’s server culture seems to have been stacked with competitive WvW-PvP focused types. I think as a natural consequence of that, FA has more players with specialized builds for WvW, dedicated sportsman-like to playing and practising together. Tactically, they have the advantage.

It gets pretty obvious when our zerg runs into a guild like [RET], unless severely outnumbering or other factors like siege or terrain are in play. Sadly, the facts of the matter are that it is amazingly hard to counter a specialized force in toughness gear, running a concerted mass of hammer warriors which daze and a bunch of seemingly well-rehearsed back line of mesmers which splash feedback, time warp and whatever the hell tosses up stacks of confusion, veil and portal bomb as needed, necromancers and elementalists who pretty much paint the entire battlefield with AoE wells and fire – without a specialized force of your own.

That, however, as our guild leader was mentioning conversationally over voicechat, was not really what Tarnished Coast was about. Sure, it might be stymying and frustrating to keep running into them and wiping, and sure we would probably have a better chance if we laid down rules and started specifying specific builds and stuff we wanted people to run in WvW – but ultimately, TC values fun and freedom of individual choice alongside success or victory. To do otherwise would be draconian. I love this guild for that. It was one of the reasons why I decided to join them, no 100% representation required, no undue pressure – just contribute when and where you can. (And personal interjection here, really, if our players wanted to do that, they would likely have already joined a T1 server and a specialized WvW guild to boot to be massively hardcore about it, no?)

On the other hand, on a personal note, running headlong and splatting into a godawful mess of barely visible particle effects makes me want to learn how to play better. The thing about facing tough opponents or watching a much better organized force go at it is that they can inspire you to try and improve one’s own level of play. I greatly appreciate that there is no downward force to change my main’s build – I’m just not ready for that yet without easy dual-specs or save/load specs in place, and without actually feeling out options on another character. But that’s the idea behind my new guardian (which I have decided to go ahead and plevel to 75 after all) to see if there’s anything else that can be done to improve my level of contribution to such fights.

That, I think, is what TC is about. Slowly, steadily, improving the level of all players on their community, at a pace that they are comfortable with. And I have a huge respect for the leaders of that community for all the incredibly hard work towards that goal and not losing their patience or chasing short term gains.

TC holds its own through masterful strategy. It really knocks my socks off sometimes, how TC does its best with what they have (even if it’s not much.) I’m really happy to be on a server that keeps its eye on the PPT and how best to work towards whatever overall objective was decided. (Team Fortress or Natural Selection comparison again here, I used to be one of those players who fought for the team objective, nevermind how sucky my kill/death ratio looked, versus other players whose goal seemed to be solely maxing out their individual scores on the leaderboard and feeling good about that.)

We’re fortunate to have some fantastic generals in this community. And I use that word, rather than commanders, to highlight the strategic minds at work, and how they strive to win the hearts and minds of the people – the morale fight, the diplomacy fight is just as important to them as the actual battlefield combat.

An example from today’s battle, for those of my readers not as involved with how WvW can work in GW2:

The home server normally has a good advantage on their home borderlands – they have the garrison keep and militia naturally flock there as well as Eternal Battlegrounds. [RET] being [RET], with the rest of their militia following them, could actually gain the upper hand if Kaineng and Tarnished Coast decided to keep dickering around in the bottom half of that map.

Instead, the plan on the TC side at least was to go defensive and bunker down for a bit, before looking for opportunities. And oh, do I love how TC defends stuff. The main force grabbed the bay keep, grabbed our natural tower (redbriar) and supply camp. Said supply camp was sieged up to the gills and a defensive force left there to upgrade and run yaks into the keep, the bay keep was sieged up, the briar tower was sieged up.

At the same time, smaller disruption groups were scouting, reporting enemy movements, taking out enemy dolyaks, and hitting supply camps.

Something might have happened on the Kaineng/Fort Aspenwood side to distract both servers (a pitched battle on their parts perhaps? Unknown to me) because it turned out that we were able to capture both the south camp (champion’s demenses or whatever its name is) and the northwest camp (godslore/arah’s?) for decent amounts of time.

Said south camp was bunkered down with siege as well and a defensive team left there to hold it and keep the supply lines flowing. At the same time, our commander decided it was time to go hit Woodhaven, and a force also went up to the northmost supply camp to do nasty things to Fort Aspenwood’s supply.

Similar stuff must have been happening on the Kaineng side because FA was getting pressured and squeezed into their garrison with very little supply. Textbook strategy. Restless PUGs wanted to go hit other stuff, but I think we managed to hold back the main forces for the most part in order not to overextend oneselves.

Our hold of the supply camps was tested by both FA and Kaineng, and it seems they were fought off very successfully for the most part by a very responsive militia and our defensive teams emplaced there. That dedication brought us the second waypoint to pop up across the maps (second only to EB’s Overlook) at bay keep – something that would be key to successful defence of it later.

Our zerg meanwhile was forcing reactions from FA by poking at Woodhaven and Dawn’s Eyrie – usually getting wiped as [RET] scrambled and responded. We kept losing battles, no doubt. And I’m sure [RET] made plenty of money off our loot bags that dropped, so they won too. 🙂 But the overall objective, keeping FA back on the defensive and having to react constantly on their home territory, was achieved, buying time for other holdings’ upgrades to settle in. The hope too was that FA might have to pull players back from other maps in order to keep hold of their garrison, leaving our guys there with better overall chances.

Before long, Kaineng made their move on FA’s garrison, and TC was not far behind in banging away at other gates, repeatedly through the night. Mad props goes to the amount of FA players crammed into their garrison, holding out epically against numerous attempts.

Battle of South Camp

One notable moment in the night was the Kaineng-Tarnished Coast pitched battle across south camp.

Kaineng had previously made feeler approaches towards our briar tower, producing an immediate response in our zerg who rushed back to defend it, complete with well timed cow onto the bridge just as they were about to cross. As it exploded in a big green poison cloud on them, Kaineng immediately reversed direction and changed their minds.

However, they did have less supply than us overall since we held an upgraded south camp for the greater part of the night. As supply needs for garrison started becoming overwhelming on both sides as the battle dragged on, it ended up in a massive pitched battle across south camp with reinforcements streaming in from both sides with an equally near spawnpoint.

TC eventually won that bout, which probably eventually forced the [RISE] commander to gather up his forces in a huge mass and steamroll with speed into both our south and southwest camps overwhelming our defenders. As unpleasant as that was, we hoped the supply got put to good use on FA’s garrison in the end. (And we did make a retaliatory strike into Kaineng’s southeast camp to force a response from them as well.)

Battle of Garrison

My word, it’s probably best told from the point of view of the FA defenders. All I remember were strikes on Dawn Eyrie’s, cutting off reinforcements to garrison in the process, running through already-made holes in the walls to get up their outer keep walls, water gate attacks and one memorable moment when we got in and tried to hold out at the very top floor of their lord room. (Lemme tell you, trying to jump up there with about 1-2 FPS is NOT EASY for someone as coordination challenged as me. I fell off repeatedly and probably the only reason I survived was that everyone else was also lagged, and probably didn’t see me from the culling that must have been going on.)

I suspect there was also another TC zerg rushing in from the southwest gate of garrison at various times as we had a number of other less-known commanders trying to rally militia into taking garrison earlier on in the night.

I have to stop for a moment and give kudos to our super cool-as-ice commander Laona Ravenheart whose calm voice on our voicecomms and super strategic mind kept turning potential problems and frustrations into opportunities. It would have been easy to get frustrated at our failed attempts (but then, we were barely 20 and there must have been a good 60 FA sardined into garrison, no doubt because there was nowhere else for them to go while under constant heavy attack and trying to repair their gates and walls which must have looked like swiss cheese by the end of the night.) He was also, I think, running a headache by the end of the night, staying up till 3am.

We also had a very strange visitor to our bay keep who kept draining our supplies by singlehandedly building a shitload of golems, and not responding to any tells or stopping in any way, running what seemed like a set path for a bot. He also kept starting useless upgrades like merchants at the keep. He was eventually watched, warned and reported by our defense teams. Again, it would have been easy to lose one’s cool and start yelling, but our guys kept the golems ticked, laughed at the weirdness and said, welp, at least we didn’t have to pay for any of these, and made the best of a bad situation.

Looking gift golems in the mouth. Well, they look pretty.
Looking gift golems in the mouth. Well, they look pretty, once arranged around the lord room.

We made a hilariously laughable attempt to storm garrison with six golems, just for fun, on paper gates that weren’t reinforced and were probably not fully repaired anyway. We knew we would lose all of them as we just didn’t have the numbers to overwhelm the FA defenders inside. But hey, they were free.

But a golem parade comes close.
But a golem parade comes close.

Battle of Bay

Eventually, as the night started winding down and people started logging off, likely on all sides, FA managed to get out of their garrison as the pressure let up.

Sure enough, we knew they would come for us.

Supply camps were hit and changed to various multi-colors of blue, green and red as people started jostling for PPT and fueling up on supply.

We fell back defensively. Briar was hit by Kaineng and lost. The outer camps were lost and southwest camp lost and sporadically regained back as people respawned.

Last stand time.

We were down to about 10 people on the map by this point, the outmanned buff popping up. About 20-30 FA came knocking on bay’s fortunately reinforced gates, giving us time to attempt siege setups (but our supplies were drained, thanks to said bot, we had barely 150 odd left in there) and one superior arrow cart on its own was not going to hold the angry mob off.

Our lord room was fortunately sieged up and ticked faithfully through the night, but if FA got in there, it was going to be bad regardless.

Guild diplomacy saved us.

Our guild leader contacted [PiNK] who had done very well on the Kaineng Borderlands, holding hills and bay for some time and pushing Fort Aspenwood completely out of that map, though Kaineng might have started getting the upper hand there as the night wore down (I dunno precisely what was happening there, I just say this based on the amount of green creeping over the map ever so slowly.)

[PiNK] very graciously and kindly responded, rushing to the bay defence, some 20-30 odd of them, just as FA was on the verge of breaking in through those reinforced gates. 1 minute on waypoint timer.

We bunkered down in the lord room, all 6-8 odd of us or so, barely enough to get on all the siege we had emplaced and still have people holding off the incoming zerg from rushing the siege operators.

Massive fucking battle ensued, framerates churning, our siege getting rushed even as we cut down FA with them, the timer ticked and [PiNK] popped in to join the fight.

PiNK riding in to the rescue
PiNK riding in to the rescue

About that time, 7 hours past WvW reset, my client finally gave up the ghost and crashed with an ‘unrecoverable graphics error.’ Guess it finally exceeded 32-bit WinXP’s memory limit. (God, I need a new computer.) A couple minutes went by as I restarted the game and logged back in, naturally quite dead at spawn, but confident that FA would have been wiped.

They made one more attempt, with our siege quite completely totaled by now, and again [PiNK] popped in to save the day and wipe them, thanks to that beautiful waypoint.

That was the time our exhausted guild mostly logged off, as some other people trickled in. TC may or may not hold the keep over Oceanic/SEA time as that’s a notable and known gap in our coverage, but well, that’s WvW for you.

All in all, for that time period, a massive team effort by everyone on Tarnished Coast, working in coordination across the maps. And I am proud to have been a small part of it.

GW2: The Slippery Slope of Leveling Impatience

Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

(Let’s just get that out of the way first. It was solely my own decision and my own damn fault to do this.)

Despite very careful attempts at saving world content for future alts (I haven’t done full world completion for that specific reason,) I find myself getting bored wandering the open world and doing PvE content on alts past the teen levels.

It’s more than a little strange on my part because I’m capable of circling a small area on my level 80 and killing every single yellow or red mob in the zone for an hour or two, humming merrily to myself. And then perhaps diverting off and getting into whatever trouble catches my eye.

Still, I fear a combination of factors shoved me across the boredom point.

1) Even downleveled, a level 80 in exotic gear hits a lot harder and withstands more than a lowbie.

It’s very obvious when I’m playing the exact same class again. It just feels a lot more tedious to carve one’s way through mobs when one knows it could be done faster and more efficiently… if only one could wear better gear with higher stats…

2) The open world is generally more devoid of leveling players, leading to monotonous heart to heart grinds.

The first time around, it was all new. It was exciting to keep wandering around the next corner and uncover the map and find out what’s here. Other players moving in and out of your field of view made things interesting and broke up the monotony. More players meant more events constantly triggered and stumbled across, not just stuck waiting for one lonely individual to find and start it.

It’s also a little grating when your lowbie has difficulties with an event you’re convinced your level 80 could solo, even downleveled. In my specific case, that’s group events and champion mobs, and those end up being left alone as untouched content instead after having gotten steamrolled a couple of times.

I admit to even being somewhat frustrated at the lack of tenacity of the newer leveling players. Perhaps it’s natural that beta and game launch would harbor the highest numbers of ‘hardcore’ players who stick with things, throw themselves at giant mobs repeatedly until they figure out how to defeat it, and so on.

I complained before about my last experience with the Font of Rhand, where I witnessed a whole bunch of vanishing players failing to figure out its puzzle.

Then just the other day I answered a call to arms to take down the champion Ketsurak in the Gendarran Fields. There were two other players, a downleveled warrior and a on-level ranger, I think. I was on my on-level guardian.

Now Ketsurak is a champion risen Abomination with all the annoyances that implies. He hits hard with his club if he connects, the club knockbacks and interrupts, he frenzies for more damage, and hell yeah, does he charge. He can charge so far into the back of his cave or out into the swamp that he might leash (like others in Orr.) And he has regeneration.

First try, we got smacked around pretty quickly. Second attempt was a lot more promising, with all three of us kiting, we brought him down to half health and I was starting to get the hang of his attack patterns. Then the ranger got run over. I had aggro, so I immediately kited Ketsurak a little away from the other two and was dancing in circles around him. The warrior made a move towards the ranger, but for whatever reason decided not to rez and rushed the champion, where upon he got smacked down, and left me with no choice but to attempt a rez with Ketsurak on my hiney – not the wisest of plans. Squish went my lil Asura beside the downed warrior.

Third time’s the charm, right? Except no one else showed up, having presumably given up after being smacked around twice. Come on.

Not one to back down from a fight, I engaged him solo, and dodge-tanked him for five to ten minutes for my own satisfaction to prove it was possible. Alas, a dinky scepter and an on-level guardian does no significant damage whatsover to a champion with regeneration, though I did eventually make a 5%, then 10% dink in its health bar when I started throwing radiation (a poison) field and kiting him around in it. That was a little too slow for me to continue, so I ambled off wishing one other person had stumbled along – that would have been all the damage necessary.

3) One ends up wishing one had all the skills previously at one’s command.

At one point I wanted to use the skill sanctuary. Whoops. Need 6 skill points to unlock it. Oh crud, that’s a lot of running about the open world to do. Or… need more levels, dammit.

4) One keeps looking forward to the end point, to the original purpose of leveling an alt.

Now if your purpose was to experience the world of Tyria from fresh eyes on a new character at one’s own leisure, then this might be less of a problem.

In this specific case though, I keep dreaming of experimenting with new exotic gear stats and new traits and testing it out in groups and in WvW. That was the whole point of leveling an identical class, because I’ve just gotten too comfortable with the place my 80 is in and don’t want to switch it around to potentially less optimal while looking for better or different playstyles.

At level 29, my patience finally wore down to a thin thread.

I’d patiently gone through Metrica Province with a fine completion comb, exploring all the things. But it was very quiet and lonely.

I’d gone through Brisban Wildlands with a bit less dedication to completion, leaving stuff in the corners untouched and mainly doing the personal story as the primary entertainment, slooowly doing hearts in between the missions.

I wandered through Gendarran Fields – a place with which I was -very- familiar, having gone through it previously twice – with no particular plan beyond filling hearts and gathering.

I wound up staring at the Fields of Ruin, which promised to be just as deserted as Metrica Province beyond one or two RPers in Ebonhawke, and couldn’t take it any longer.

It gets a bit ironic because I’m not terribly familiar with that entire map yet, but I just have no patience at the moment to explore every nook and cranny and talk to the NPCs there. My attention is currently taken up with the WvW scoreboard and getting involved with the war effort.

I didn’t remember having this much trouble leveling with my main before, so I thought very carefully about what was different between then and now.

Besides possibly wandering around new corners more and garnering some exploration xp, it boiled down to two things – crafting and WvW.

Crafting

I had been organically crafting up armorsmith on my main, with a side of artificing, and it must have bolstered me without noticing. Since my spare guardian was not part of the original five with whom I had spread out two professions, there was no initial plan to level any professions on him.

That turned out to be a mistake.

Which makes sense, when you remember that each crafting profession up to 400 actually nets you enough xp for 10 levels.

Except frankly, you only want to make shit that uses up 15 fangs or 15 claws once ever. Those things are expensive.

So after a moment’s consideration, I decided the safest two professions that I might have repeated use for, would be cooking, then jewelry.

Falling down the slippery slope of efficiency, my hunch got checked out on GW2crafts, which is the most sophisticated “crafting guide” I’ve seen in a while – not just a simple soon-to-be-potentially obsolete couple words of text detailing do-this-then-that, but listing estimated costs and suggesting stuff to buy off the trading post and what to craft or discover, taking into account current pricing on the TP.

Sure enough those two seemed the cheapest to level up, at only 2-3 gold max, something more conceivably affordable than the 8-10 gold of the other professions.

I tried faithfully following the suggested guide but noticed that the random critical crafting success chance of one’s home server was potentially throwing off the number of suggested things to make. Being a cheapskate packrat, I also didn’t bother buying anything off the TP and tried to utilize whatever I had banked in my collectibles instead. Except I plainly hadn’t made it to several hearts and was missing things like coconuts and peaches.

So I improvised here and there, which stuffed up the continuity somewhat as the guide had been assuming I had a stockpile of previously cooked food with which to layer another ingredient on. Oops.

Ah well, I was running out of inventory space anyway.

And had made it to level 31.

Which, to be honest, isn’t the BEST level to go WvWing in. That little green arrow makes you a tasty target, and you are undeniably just squishier than you would be at level 80 in exotics. But I was BORED. Out of my skull.

So I did the next best thing and trawled the TP looking for the absolute best equipment of that level range. Which turned out to be very cheap (1-3 silver a piece) green masterwork loot drops that already came attached with fairly decent stats on their runes, decked myself out in armor, jewelry and weapons, noting with some pleasure that all four stats wound up being fairly balanced in the end. (I went for power/precision on the armor and toughness/vitality on the jewelry.)

Since I had a bunch of spare food, I picked up some sharpening stones to use as well. (Lowbie needs every last scrap of stats available, eh?)

WvW

Then I hurled myself into the Borderlands trusting the upleveling to… more or less, make me, I dunno what’s the right word – viable? survivable? presentable? not instantly squish?

I gotta be honest, just comparing my staff damage, I appear to do about half that of my level 80 in exotics and he’s not even traited to specialize in that. If you’re looking to kill anybody in WvW, I wouldn’t do it on a lowbie.

Fortunately, WvW encompasses a lot more ground than straight-up killing. I wouldn’t be interested in it otherwise.

Following along in a zerg, one can still provide swiftness boosts with nearly the same effectiveness as a level 80. And I was discovering creative things to do with combo fields and blast finishers and warding lines/rings and helpful immobilizes while getting the hang of the hammer I want my new guardian to carry as his main melee weapon. And one can still carry supply, build stuff, tick siege, man siege, rez people, finish people, report enemy movements and run dolyaks.

With some amusement, I also note that by sheer fortune of guardians being very tanky and defensive, I can even soak some attacks by looking like a good target (GREEN ARROW, SQUISHY,  RRAARRR, wtf invulnerable, healed, ran off back into the zerg, “……”)

Doesn’t work in cases of the whole place being carpet bombed with AoEs or being completely outnumbered or caught alone, of course, but there was still opportunity for fun.

Before I knew it, I was level 38.

One just has to focus on other things than xp bar watching in WvW, which makes the leveling significantly easier. And there’s all the event completions ticking along at fast rates as stuff gets taken.

A brief break out in the PvE world to catch up with the personal story, and I hit the level 40 mark, which seemed a good time to re-upgrade all my gear to yellow rares now. And back into WvW we went.

Danger, Will Robinson…

At level 46, with WvW cranking down, I sat in Lion’s Arch feeling the siren’s call of temptation. I had two crafting boosters sitting in my bank from black lion chests opened with free black lion keys that either dropped, came from personal story or map completion. It was the end of the week with WvW crafting critical successes as high as they would possibly go.

I chugged one and finished leveling cooking to 400. I wasn’t terribly organized about it, so it took the whole hour of the booster, flipping back and forth between a website and the game.

All of a sudden, level 55.

Now I’m sitting here contemplating the other crafting profession and wondering just how far down the dark side I want to go with this.

I probably won’t take the other crafting booster. If I do, then I’ll end up looking at the store and thinking 150 gems for yet another booster might very well be a bargain for the next alt. Just 3 gold in exchange, after all!

If I level up jewelcrafting now, I should be able to hit level 65.

Which isn’t 80.

How long before I start looking at the next cheapest profession, artificer, and think – about 3 gold, I can afford that? (Which would bring me to level 75, pretty damned close.)

The only thing stopping me is that I don’t want to have to switch back for 40 silver – I already picked the two professions I wanted to be using on this character. If I’d thought it through in advance, I would have leveled artificer first, and then dumped it and taken up the next profession.

(Of course, a little voice in my head whispers, you haven’t finished leveling jewelcrafting yet. You’re barely at 100 in that. You could drop that, take up artificer and finish that, then switch back more cheaply to jewels and finish THAT.)

What a clever way to make sure crafting materials are always in demand.

And if I ever do this once, I don’t know if I can stop myself from doing it again for the next alt.

And the next.

And the one after that.

Decisions, decisions.