GW2: Candidate Trials Redux – Berserk Guardian Edition

As mentioned in a prior post, I’d been having a good time with T2 “on farm” with the warrior, who is a hybrid mix of axe berserker and banner/horn support.

A couple days ago, I decided to use some of the “free” 400 gems from the achievement chest to buy a doubled support buff and dump in my support tokens. (One at a freaking time, which led to a hasty rebinding of my mouse wheel – thank you Razer profile management – to left click. Lots of left click.)

407 more clicks to go...
407 more clicks to go…

After I finished, I noted there was still 15 minutes left on the buff and decided to log off the character to save the time for the next round of support token dumping. Er, voting. Whatever.

Except that I had outsmarted myself in my miserliness since I had used the buff on my farming warrior.

Sheesh.

Well, it was way past time to upgrade spikey charr again.

I open world PvE with him a lot, in magic find gear even, and while playing with spirit weapons is fun during the actual combat portion, I couldn’t help but notice that I ended up swapping in Retreat! and Save Yourselves! in between battles simply to get from place to place at a decent clip.

Trying to fit in all the spirit weapon traits also meant I was giving up a decent amount of sword-related and survival/might buff traits too.

Plus, my original fiery dragon sword was reskinned from the cheapest exotic sword I could afford at the time of my first 80 (a mystic forged Rusttooth – yeah, power, vitality, condition damage. Hem.) The focus had equally scatter shot stats and cheap sigils.

And I may have been more than a little drunk when I put four major sigils of divinity on my berserker armor as an experimental stopgap for more expensive superior sigils of divinity. In the cold hard light of relooking at a past decision and numerically adding stuff up, I was getting +20 to all stats, which is a mere blip to performance, most likely, barely noticeable.

Definitely way past time to upgrade.

Ruby orbs went on all six slots of the berserker armor. Berserker trinkets. Used badges of honor to buy new berserker weapons – sword/focus, scepter/shield.

The biggest expenditure, as usual, was the superior sigil of fire and superior sigil of bloodlust on the sword and focus respectively. I’ve gotten fond of the fire sigil after enjoying it on the warrior, but I believe it is possible to do without. It just makes farming mass numbers of mobs a little easier. The bloodlust sigil should be a priority to anyone wanting to solo this with high damage though. 250 power makes quite a difference.

I went cheaper on the ranged weapon, superior sigil of air on the scepter and superior sigil of accuracy for the shield to increase overall crit chance.

New traits:

zerkguardian

Zeal 10: II – Fiery Wrath

Radiance 30: VI – Blind Exposure, X – Powerful Blades, XI – Right Hand Strength

Honor 20: II – Superior Aria, VIII – Empowering Might

Virtues 10: I – Unscathed Contender

Now, I do not claim that this is a good build for WvW, dungeons, or indeed anything group at all. With some 13k hp, you’ll probably fall over whenever something big sneezes that you failed to notice.

What this does do, is output a surprisingly good amount of damage when soloing, while having a decent amount of active defence tools for surviving long enough to burst stuff down. Spamming F1 is bread and butter. It sets stuff on fire (see all the increased damage done to stuff on fire and affected by conditions), makes them vulnerable and blinds them. You have two more blinds in sword 2 and focus 4 to be timed well. Focus 5 is an emergency 3 hit block.

Standard slot skills are Signet of Resolve for a condition clear and a big burst emergency heal. Hold the Line and Save Yourselves to keep layering protection and regeneration, F3 Virtue of Courage may also help protection-wise. Retreat for placing on aegis (see unscathed contender) and for swiftness when traveling, moving, kiting. In cases of major emergency, fire off F2 and F3 and renewed focus then fire virtues once more, but you’re probably in trouble by that point.

This performs on par with my warrior in T2 – which is admittedly not as berserk as pure berserker warriors – but really, 60 odd kills is fine for farming.

Over-achieving...
Over-achieving…

I switch Retreat for Smite Condition, which helps to deal a bit more damage and deal with the very minor conditions the Aetherblades apply at Tier 2 of the candidate trials. To address the speed issue, I use Bowl of Sage and Asparagus Salad, which has a 50% chance to give swiftness on kill and supposedly more damage when moving. If you’re feeling richer than me, you could use the seaweed salad version, but I think it’s overkill.

You could also use plenty of other food, like stuff that gives more power or might on kill, or lifesteal on crit, but I like being swift and maneuverable for this horde mode affair.

The recommendation is also to use Potent or Powerful Potions of Outlaw Slaying for a little extra oomph. (I’m not 100% positive that the Aetherblade faction classifies as bandits or outlaws, but it can’t hurt.)

T2 tactics are pretty much kill everything that appears as fast as possible. Punch F1 whenever, let sword autoattack for 2k+ damage each swing, only use sword 3 for a burst/projectile absorb when you know stuff will stand still. You have the option of chasing down plunderers with a swiftness-boosted sword, or quickly switching to scepter and immobilize/smite and autoattack, which will also pound it for 2k-ish damage a hit and kill it relatively fast.

Things to watch out for:

Aetherblade Strikers – can deal a lot of damage with their lightning channel, has a shield that will daze you if you hit it while the shield is up

What not to do. Ideally, wait for icon to flash off first.
What not to do. Ideally, wait for icon to flash off first.

You do not want to be dazed. It cuts your dps. Wait for the shield to drop, then attack. Hit something else while you’re waiting. But do not forget them or they’ll give you a bad time as the spawn keeps adding up. Prioritize them about the same as plunderers, to be dropped very quickly.

Aetherblade Thumpers – mace wielders, with a highly annoying protective shield that acts like a renewed focus invulnerable.

Getting a taste of one's own medicine. Grrr.
Getting a taste of one’s own medicine. Grrr.

Same thing. Attacking them when their shield is up is a waste of dps that can be spent downing a grenadier in the same few swings. They also seem to be a touch sturdier than the other mobs. They are melee, so they can be kited and ignored till the field is clear of more important targets.

Aetherblade Thugs – highly annoying immobilize from range, hammer knockdown in melee

circlethugs

These guys will screw you up by setting you up as an unmoving target for other mobs to beat on, and tangle you up when trying to get at a plunderer. Smite condition (or focus 4 or flashing blade teleport if desperate) to deal with the immobilize. Circle strafing in melee (ie. run around it in a tight circle while still in range to hit it with your sword) will generally put you out of range of their very slow to windup hammer knockdown attack, while still taking them down.

Red mortar circle – DODGE. RUN AWAY. DON’T STAY IN THERE. ROCKETS INCOMING. In berserk gear especially, you do not want to tank a single mortar shell.

redcirclebad

You can supposedly reflect the mortars as they are projectiles, but I’ve found it easier to just get out of the circle and either continue hitting the mobs around the vicinity, or ambling over to pound the grenadier’s head in. Taking out the operator should shut off the mortar unless something bugs.

Swashbucklers bleed and grenadiers have grenades that chill and apply vulnerability and such depending on the tier. They die fairly easily so you want to be targeting them with extreme prejudice to keep the spawn sizes manageable anyway.

How about T4 though?

The new post-patch T4 was stumping me for a bit, but the two day break from anything achievement-obsessed seems to have done wonders for my gameplay.

I would first of all watch Liefbread’s video of a solo T4 with a berserker thief.

When you are done gnashing your teeth with jealousy over two-hit plunderer kills, a 1200 range pull to yank plunderers further away from aggro zones, and an on-call long duration stealth to break aggro if accidents happen, you can rejoin me in pondering how to get a guardian T4 capable.

The goal, if you will notice in the video, is to kill the plunderers very quickly and very near to their spawn points so that the other veteran mobs react as little as possible. If you kill them fast enough so that their treasure-tossing animation doesn’t complete, the treasure counter does not go down. Break aggro the moment the vets do take notice of you.

The good news is that with the above berserk build, a scepter guardian can take down plunderers solo pretty quickly also, just maybe 1-3 seconds longer than the thief does. (You may want to do a T2 to build 25 stacks of bloodlust first too.)

The bad news is that a guardian has no pull except binding blade (and it’s only 600 range and it’s AoE, yanking a vet with a plunderer would become fairly ugly in short order.)

This means your window of opportunity for killing plunderers is quite a bit smaller, and you risk aggroing stuff a lot more easily than the thief.

While lamenting the lack of anything trap-related (like I saw a ranger and a necro do with their traps/marks) and scrutinizing my skills, this little beauty suddenly came into focus for me. Shrapnel Mine. It can be laid on in advance, it cripples and even does a bit of bleed to help out.

Sure enough, using this got me past post-patch T4.

This is almost as far forward as you want to get. (Maybe a bit more to the right and forward to hit the right plunderer when needed.)
This is almost as far forward as you want to get. (Maybe a bit more to the right and forward to hit the right plunderer when needed.) You will get aggro from anything in the middle, run to the back, behind the rock, to break this.

The idea of the trap is that it trains you to anticipate each plunderer spawn. 5 will spawn from the left side first. The first plunderer on the right side shows up at around 5 minutes 30 seconds. As each plunderer spawns, they trigger the trap and that’s your cue to immobilize them, then smash down smite and autoattack them to death. Don’t bother with shield skills or anything, just let scepter machine gun them down before they can finish their animation.

Later, once you start missing the plunderer spawn because it gets so hectic, the mine can also be used to slow down the laden plunderer’s approach to its spawn point – just make sure you get the correct spawn point. A bit of memory work here, they will return to the same point they spawned from.

You may have to let the right-most plunderer go a couple of times. It’s easier to intercept both the left and middle plunderers without aggroing all and sundry.

This is about the range you want to be for the rightmost plunderer. You will aggro anything in the middle, so break aggro whenever possible to let vets wander to the end first.
This is about the range you want to be for the rightmost plunderer. You will aggro anything in the middle, so break aggro whenever possible to let vets wander to the end first.

To get the right plunderer when things are not so chaotic, approach from the middle and only go close enough to immob the plunderer on the spawn point, just a little before the exact place where it will start treasure tossing. This minimizes the aggro risk.

When you aggro, and you will, kill the plunderer if you can in a few seconds without dying, let it go if you can’t, then drop everything and run behind the rock and a bit further if you need to.

Break aggro behind rock. Retreat further back to the south tip of the land if they chase. If you didn't hit them by accident, they shouldn't.
Break aggro behind rock. Retreat further back to the south tip of the land if they chase. If you didn’t hit them by accident, they shouldn’t.

This is when I usually fire Save Yourselves for extra swiftness to break aggro and some protection/regeneration to survive. Since we’re not aiming to actually kill much of anything in T4, switching Smite Condition for Contemplation of Purity may also help to convert the thick layer of conditions that arrive once you attract aggro and keep you alive long enough to run away.

Oh, come on, you scream. Does this mean that only Charr guardians get to manage this?

The real issue, I note, is preventing those sneaky plunderers from dashing off into the big morass of veterans where you dare not attack them, and also preventing them from reaching the point where they throw the treasure for long enough to do damage to them.

One scepter immobilize only goes so far. But I suddenly noticed that a guardian DOES have a second utility immobilize in Signet of Wrath – no weapons need be switched, you want the constant range autoattack damage as your bread-and-butter plunderer killer. It has a slight activation time to get used to, but it’s a handy 3s of immobilize that comes in handy when you’ve already used scepter 3 and when things are hectic with 2 or 3 plunderers in play.

With some patience and practice juggling plunderer spawns and killing them fast enough that they can’t toss their treasure, you too, can manage T4 post-patch.

The double immobilize version.
The double immobilize version.

How about T3?

Well, T3 is sort of a mix of T2 and T4.

You can generally start like T2 and kill stuff in the center. With the amount of damage you output, you can take down a Veteran Grenadier in fairly short order. Things get dicey once the mortar starts firing and the lone Veteran shows up. That Veteran with a gun is a major bane of my existence. It confuses. I hate confuse. Don’t we all? Do anything, including try to remove a condition, and you get hit for ugly amounts of damage.

vetcharging

It is safest to address this one from long range. It actually has a long telegraphed animation where it will pause and charge up its gun. Then it fires a projectile that does the confusing. You could maybe experiment with reflects or projectile absorbs. Or you could try to dodge – count off 2-3 seconds then dodge. I haven’t got the timing quite down pat, but it -is- dodgable and prevents the annoying confuse.

vetdodge

The problem tends to be that it always shows up at the same time as the mortars and a bunch of other spawns so a lot of things are wrestling for your attention and stuff can go wrong in fairly short order. Once you start to lose control of all the spawns, it’s time to break aggro and do like T4 for the remaining time.

I still fail this one with some regularity, mostly because taking risks to defeat more mobs means that plunderers get to sneak by unnoticed and nasty stuff shoots you in the back. But it’s doable.

Zero Aetherblade weapons and counting, by the way.

GW2: These Goals Are Not My Own – How to Have Fun Again

Readers may have detected a touch of ennui and frustration in my last post.

A little thinking helped to narrow down the cause.

It is a basic case of: These goals are not my own.

The past week has been spent in very “reactive” mode. See new update, respond to new update. See achievement to be gotten, rush to get check box completion. See enemy zerg report, rush to defend against enemy zerg.

That is not to say that new content is not welcome, or achievements are no good. It is a question of degrees.

A two-week update period gives me very little time for anything else. The first week is spent !00% focused on the new content and achievements, leaving the second week as emergency back up and farm/grind of content I like that will be disappearing. I’ve maintained a three week schedule would be less hectic (see comments) and failing which, I would be fine with the four week Flame and Frost style stuff too (but I know this sentiment is not shared by a good many Reddit and GW2 forum frequenters.)

As for achievements, they have their place and purpose. Achievements can provide direction and guidance. Achievements can focus player attention and crowds in the places where ArenaNet feels would be more fun with more active players.

But let me ask you, taking a recent specific example, why 2,500 points in Southsun Survival? Why not 1,000?

A thousand points would still serve the same purpose of having players hang around playing the minigame. “Proper” play generally yields 30-50, with a 50 point bonus if you win. “Point” play yields 50-100. That’s anywhere from 10-20+ games played still.

The Aspect Arena achievements felt more attainable. 2,500 points just feels grindy as all get out. It ends up making what is intrinsically fun a chore and an obligation.

Obligations lead to burnout.

An interesting quote from the researcher mentioned in the article above is “It may be that, in the absence of an emotional bond with the organization, commitment based on obligation is experienced as a kind of indebtedness — a loss of autonomy that is emotionally draining over time.”

The phrase I’d like to key in on, in our particular context, is loss of autonomy.

These goals are not -my- own.

I feel obliged to do them because I have chosen the higher level goal of being a completionist with seasonal achievements (for which, one might say there is also some external reward prompting with the new Achievement Reward system) but it does not mean that I’m actually enjoying the in-between steps if they get too insane.

It reminds me of WoW raiders complaints about feeling obliged to do a ton of dailies just to keep up with what is expected of them in a raid. They like to raid. They don’t exactly like to do 48 repetitive things in order to just merely qualify. Again, this is a matter of degree. 10 things? No problem. 20 things may be pushing it. 48? Hahaha. How much free time do you devs think we players have anyway?

It is the same with WvW. For me, I hasten to add. (There are plenty of Tarnished Coasters super-duper hardcore about WvW or just feeling a lot more like WvWing than I do at the moment, and they’re keeping the fight going. The benefits of playing on a full server.)

My tendency tends to be, log on, check guild and friend list, see a bulk of them in WvW and go, “Gee, I guess I should join them. I’m sure it’s aggravating for them to see other people online and not WvWing when the whole place evidently needs as much help as it could get. They probably could use more support and hands on deck.” Before you know it, the feeling of social obligation has overtaken my whole night and 4-5 hours are spent reacting to a commander’s orders/movement and engaged in generally outnumbered defence.

Some days I -want- to fight. I’m itching for a scrap, log into Mumble, find a commander I like to follow, and willingly blend into the zerg and have a great time. But regular schedules get to me and I have guildies and commanders that spend every single night (and possibly some mornings too) in WvW. That wears me down after a while. I just don’t have the personality for that sort of orderly routine.

The cure for this, is both simple in theory and hard to execute.

Start addressing your own goals.

Having been Skinner-Box conditioned to follow achievements as quests, when I posed myself this question, I sat around stumped for quite a while.

What -did- I want to do in GW2?

Ever so slowly, like drawing blood from a rock, came tentative answers from a hitherto ignored portion of me.

  • How about, go explore bits of the open world again, find cool stuff, and level a class you haven’t played yet.
  • Collect all the ranger pets!
  • Maybe tweak your charrdian’s build again, give up spirit weapons and see just how much damage you can put out as a berserk army of one.
  • You wanted an asura thief, and maybe a charr thief at some point.
  • Hell, make that one of every class for asura and charr eventually. Cos they’re just too awesome.
  • There’s an experience scroll to level 20 that is unused in your bank. And an empty character slot that was intended for Black Lion Key farming.
  • Your guild bank is sitting on a pile of unconsumed celestial crafting recipes. Because they’re level 80 and your weaponsmith/jeweller is not yet 80.
  • You need gold, like always.
  • You had the urge once to watch a few PvP videos and learn how to sPvP properly, and read up on builds and such. Oh, there’s a PvP monthly you might also try to finish for points…
  • Just how long can you sit at 199/200 fractals done in your achievement summary and not do anything about it anyway?
  • Speaking of which, you always wanted to learn the other paths of dungeons you haven’t done and work on obtaining the Dungeon Master title.
  • Your human storyline is not yet done. It’s the last one. Your human mesmer is rotting somewhere.
  • Your elementalist needs attention. It feels complex, yes, but I bet it is capable of doing some crazy things once mastered.
  • Perhaps peek back in on GW1 someday and see if more progress can be made on the HoM.

And on and on. All stuff I’ve been sitting on because other more urgent things were prioritized first.

Burnout recovery self-time.

I addressed the immersion problem first of all, trying to reconnect back to the GW2 -world-, rather than obsess about the game, meta or otherwise.

Graphics settings back up to crash-a-holic, prepared to memory error per zone.

Went invisible so as not to bother with anyone or anything in my friends or guild lists and switched into personal bank guild.

Logged on runty asura ranger. Went out into the world.

Metrica Province, by the way, is a really excellent place for losing oneself (as long as you tune out the fire elemental calls.) So are most of the Maguuma jungle zone areas. They’re just not traversed very often by many players.

Maybe they don't find the swamp pretty. I think it has its moments. And the yellow fireflies are good xp.
Maybe they don’t find the swamp pretty. I think it has its moments. And the yellow fireflies, like most untouched mobs, are good xp.

Found a giant asura champion that I had never seen before.

The only good asura is a small one.
The only good asura is a small one.

Kited him in circles in an epic battle of level 12 ranger dodging and healing spring-ing, with plenty of inquest respawns getting in the way. Pulled out a blue Mighty Chain Leggings from the Inquest Chest at the end of the herculean fight. I think I need a T-shirt that says, “I can’t wait for the next update and better champion loot.”

Talked to nearly every NPC I could see. There are some crazy asura conversations in Rata Sum. Metrica and Brisban also have some classics too.

Hidden message to someone, perhaps?
Hidden message to someone, perhaps?
Boredom loves company. Also overheard daring each other to stick a finger in a socket.
Boredom loves company. Also overheard daring each other to stick a finger in a socket.
This chap has interior redecoration on the brain.
This chap has interior redecoration on the brain. It’s just a tent!

Somewhere in between, I discovered a Wintersday gift box in my ranger’s inventory. I could have sworn it wasn’t there before when I first started. Maybe a back log in the full inventory queue or something. Opening it yielded 250 mystical cogs, a toymaker’s bag and a bunch of skins. Talk about a belated gift. I’d missed this freebie before, but hadn’t been sweating it due to being fast enough to loot the chest to begin with.

This naturally called for buying some stuffing and glue off the TP (it’s amazing how inflation makes one barely blink an eye at spending 1 gold for a stack of stuffing and 2 gold for a stack of glue months later) and crafting the toy golem. Which makes all the minis I would want from that. (I still think the princess doll is fugly and don’t want it.)

Seeing the current price of stuffing and glue also led to another modest attempt at the endless plush griffon tonic. Five tries later, I was three more gold poorer, endless tonic-less, a mystic forge daily done, and with some spare normal griffon tonics to hand.

A plushie a day makes the blues go away.
A plushie a day makes the blues go away.

It is amazing how one immediately cheers up running around as a cute stuffed animal.

(Southsun, by the way, is nice and peaceful and deserted once more. It’s another of my favorite hangout locales with a TP, bank and merchant nearby, as long as one ignores the settlement of crazed karka just next to you. Just missing a guild bank. Maybe I should look into the price of those guild transport thingmajigs.)

Out of sheer mischievous fun, I made the run south past scary reef drakes and annoying reef riders to the Consortium resort and did the easy jumping puzzle as a plushie griffon.

I believe I can fly!
I believe I can fly!

No one found me before the tonic wore off, but I had a blast just camping out and being cute regardless.

I really wanted someone to come upon this sight. Next time, I shall bring more tonics to wait it out.
I really wanted someone to come upon this sight. I shall bring more tonics next time.

I also did other stuff from that long list of mine (keyword: mine) but I’ll save that for another post.

If you’re feeling the burn, go and do what’s fun for you until you feel better.