GW2: On Thieves and the Edge of the Mists

Today's EOTM lesson is on supply!

I don’t know if anyone’s noticed yet, but I have a tendency to go quiet when I’m avidly playing WvW.

One simply runs out of new topics to talk about, or runs into the fear of revealing too much about one’s own server’s habits and patterns – that can be then capitalized on by another server.

And there’s a limited amount of general things to say about mass battles and player versus player that hasn’t already been covered -everywhere-, including in real life.

Do a blow by blow battle report?

Today, we captured X’s garrison. The other day in some other timezone, they captured ours. Swap in bay/hills/towers, etc. for garrison. Today, we wiped their zerg. Two hours later, they wiped us. The next clash, we wiped them back.

It’s a yawnfest to write, let alone read.

It’s only -not- a yawnfest when you’re actually there in the thick of things, reacting to the immediacy of it and figuring out the best place to place yourself and your damage.

Which is what keeps players coming back, I suppose.

Talking about larger scale strategy and map politics brings us dangerously close to revealing server thinking, so it’s hard to know what to cover, and to be frank, each commander and player can have a different read on the situation (some more accurate than others) and you can never control all the players on a map anyway, so it’s always “sounds great in theory, may go all Murphy’s Law in practice.”

The basics, of course, is not to push on two servers at once to make ’em both mad and coming after you.

Common mistake, fer instance, often performed by less strategic commanders in the Borderlands is to try to push the home server, fail miserably, and then pick the easier sidelong option instead, moving east or west. This makes the other invading server mad, and before you know it, there’s a rollicking fight down in the south ruins while the home server looks on, cackles and gets their yaks in.

The ideal is to have both invading servers push up into the home server and 2 vs 1 them into submission, or failing which, at least hold on to the third that is yours.

Unless, of course, the intention is to -not- play as expected and have the fight in the other server’s territory because that server is more of a longer term threat, or because some havoc group has made life so difficult that the commander gets fed up and leads the zerg into a punishment strike in the hope that the other team’s commander gets the message. (Sometimes they do, and sometimes, they’re as thick as a brick or just looking for a fight.)

On and on, play and counter-play, etc.

Whatever, I’m not a commander, so I’m not privy to everything that goes on behind-the-scenes: scouting information, intra-map communication, etc. But if you’re in the right tier, there’s a lot of it. And it elevates WvW to something a little more heady than a PvD karma train.

Speaking of PvD karma trains, the self-set goal of completing ALL of the shiny temporary achievements effectively shoved me into the Edge of the Mists, since there are two EOTM specific achievements that can only be gotten there.

My innate distaste of its design still stands.

Edge of the Mists is very asymmetric, I feel. One side builds up an unstoppable zerg, and everyone else logs out and into another EOTM overflow, hoping to find a friendly zerg on their side. Or one side has lots of roamers, a coordinated guild group or gank squads, and the same thing happens. Or two zergs form self-interested karma trains, doing its best to avoid each other while the last side tends to be nonexistent.

I enjoy WvW for its strategic PPT aspects and coordinated zerg fighting, and both are best found on the “real” WvW maps, rather than a map in which there’s even LESS incentive to defend anything.

Edge of the Mists shoves me into mixing with players that are generally of lower tiers, and generally speaking, lower tiers have a MUCH looser grasp on WvW tactics because they are not accustomed to strongly defended objectives where a coordinated map blob could waypoint in and run you over if you take several tens of seconds too long.

This means fights become uninteresting zerg vs zerg fights of the long range variety, and the few souls who -try- to coordinate a push end up demonstrating the futility of their strategy by running alone into the enemy zerg because no one else has enough confidence and trust in each other to do the same.

Until you run into a coordinated guild group vacationing in the Edge of the Mists, and then they get to play wrecking ball with the pugs, laughing all the way to the bank.

However, I have learned to tolerate it.

I’ve perhaps even come to terms with it, adapting around it and recognizing that it may have a part to play, after all.

It was during one of those everpresent offensive karma trains, trundling around doing its best to avoid the enemy zerg and capturing objective after objective (thank you, moar reactors and special objectives plz!) that this revelation came to me.

Edge of the Mists is EZ Introductory Mode.

That is its function.

Hey, WvWers, look, you’re PvEing! These mobs even have a little mechanic to learn from time to time. (eg. Troll regenerates with defiant stance – can be dazed and preventing from firing the skill with good timing, or if you’re alone, controlling your dps. Zergs can never do so, of course, so I amuse myself trying to daze appropriately. Or separate the earth elementals if you’re invading Overgrowth’s keep to damage them effectively, etc.)

Hey, PvErs, look, you’re WvWing! You run into enemy red name players from time to time, and they will probably kill you! But death is okay! You can die a few times and go back to karma training and earning phat lootz, and it’s still a happy experience! The zerg will keep you safe! (Most of the time.) But see, PvP isn’t so bad, it’s not personal, other people die too.

You might even learn a few things that are relevant to WvW, such as catapults not doing as much damage to doors, commanders having a /supplyinfo command that you don’t have, and not to drop extra siege if the commander didn’t ask for it!

Rarely, you might even bump into the odd commander or person who loves to drop siege and make a nice defence of the place, and you might even learn about the effectiveness of arrow carts and such that way. (We will not cover trebs or mortars. That is usually beyond basic EOTM strategy. But catapults may occasionally make a showing against a wall, or some smartass might be doing something to a bridge.)

Some guy learns about the non-effectiveness of catapults, while I marvel at how barely anyone looks away from the gate.
Some guy learns about the non-effectiveness of catapults, while I marvel at how barely anyone looks away from the gate. (One has gotten rear ended by a blob way too many times to learn that lesson. Alert thieves are great survivors.)

For the experts, Edge of the Mists is a vacation spot. A place to unwind after the pressures of “serious business” WvW.

I have, unfortunately, not really gotten many opportunities to glom onto a coordinated guild group doing silly stuff in EOTM, thanks to a lack of mic and WvW network connections to get a party invite into the right overflows, but I listen in from time to time, and damn, do they sound like they are having fun. Loot showering them from all sides. Sudden laughing panic as their map unfamiliarity sometimes gets them into highly awkward positions facing the prospect of sudden drops and sharp stops. Even more loot. The occasional admission that this “PvE thing” might have something going for it from time to time.

For the novices who encounter the experts, the fun is perhaps more one-sided, but again there is an important purpose. Nothing opens up one’s eyes than losing, and losing badly.

One is suddenly made aware of more possibilities. That someone is out there accomplishing stuff at a level that you are currently not at.

Not everybody will immediately do a 180 because of this. But for the rare soul with the will and desire to do so, it may engender a drive to improve oneself and seek out those avenues by which they can do so.

For the average Joes, of which I consider myself one, Edge of the Mists has a dual purpose. It is a slightly more sophisticated champion farm and a training ground.

Want to turn your brain off? Don’t feel like improving today? Want to mingle with the unwashed lower tier masses and get some of that karma train action that is nigh impossible to get in Tier 1 (and maybe Tier 2?) Follow the blue dorito, choo choo along autoattacking with 1 from range, watch the xp/karma/badges/wxp fly in.

You see, I have learned that I can follow -any- quality of commander on a thief without feeling sour or angry at his or her lack of tactical sense.

I used to play a guardian. First in, and committed till death or victory. You try running away on a non-roaming zerg spec guardian. It doesn’t work. You keep the group strong, you are dependent on the group staying strong and not letting you down.

You are also dependent on the commander not being a derp and doing stupid stuff like running head-on into too much enemy fire without whittling down the enemy first or catching them off-guard or placing siege or otherwise giving you a chance of victory (because your job is stick with him like glue and step where he steps. If your driver is good, he takes you to the correct places. If he’s bad, well…)

Every time the group wipes, I get more and more bitter.

The neverending learning process of playing a thief has been a big wake up call.

When you play a (relative) squishy in WvW, you have dual responsibilities of staying (relatively) close to the commander to aim damage his way AND not dying.

(As a thief, one can also take this up another level by search and destroying important-to-the-zerg enemy squishies. I’m still working on this part, wrapping my head around staying at range, surviving via positioning, and contributing blasts and damage has been challenging enough.)

As a thief, the major difference that I feel is that all my deaths are MY fault.

-I- screwed up and made a mistake. I stepped where I shouldn’t have. I got caught by an immobilize and failed to react to it appropriately in time. I stood in the path of an angry melee train and failed to see it coming or react fast enough. I stuck around way too long and got greedy when I should have booked it instead.

Thieves are excellent at booking it.

If half the zerg has disintegrated, the commander has gone down and there’s three or four enemy players for every player still left standing, it’s time to GTFO.

The enemy zerg goes after the most obvious most easy targets fleeing for the horizon, whereas the thief that just shadow refuged is not the first thing on the angry mob’s mind. Then it’s time to stroll off in a nonobvious direction, preferably not in front of all those melee cleaves. (Which is sometimes easier said than done if they’re facing your exit, or turned your way for whatever reason, but at least you had the best chance of escape being unseen and all that.)

Every time I die (and I do die now and then because I am still a horrible thief-in-training), it’s been an opportunity to check back on the combat log, see precisely what the hell got me, and analyze what I shouldn’t have done and what I -might- have done to accomplish my goal next time.

I freely confess that I am a terribad thief. Killing people is not the first thing on my mind. Usually GTFOing is. My survival instinct is just ridiculous or something. Tank nature too stronk. It took a few deaths to realize that I was squishy now, and then I’ve overcompensated ever since.

I’m still learning the appropriate combo chains that good thieves seem to pull off effortlessly and score an instant down with them. Part of it is probably latency, but part of it, I suspect, is simple muscle memory and twitch that I’ve not internalized yet. I can play my guardian main blindfolded (2 to blind, F1 blind/might/vuln, autoattack or 3 to hit & reflect, 4 if I need a blind again or autoattack, keep 5 and F3 as standby emergency blocks, etc.)

I can’t yet do the same with a thief.

To me, acceptance and recognition of the fact that one is bad is the first step towards improvement. One is bad when one cannot pull off what other players have demonstrably been able to do. It’s useless to put blinders on and think, “Oh, I’m still okay. Nothing’s wrong.”

Step one: Get a good build.

When you’re inexperienced with the class, this usually means following what the more experienced have done first, and adapting to suit your purposes later.

Finding good thief builds have been rather perplexing sometimes, since everyone and their mother seems to have an opinion that theirs is the best or most functional. It took a while of comparing similarities and putting aside interesting stuff to try later (tried condi thief, couldn’t quite get one’s head around it. Sword builds seemed interesting, but since killing people 1 on 1 or 1 vs X wasn’t my first priority, I put that aside to learn later too.)

I settled for the dirt standard dagger/pistol thief variant with a mix of PVT and zerker to do a trial run on, plus shortbow for zerging because I -like- running with and around zergs, dammit.

Step two: Learn how to use it.

This at first constituted of just taking it out for spins and trying to get familiar with all the skills, but I was quite aware that I wasn’t really getting the hang of the initiative points system the thief uses.

It finally hit me that I needed more outside help when I overheard someone also mention on voice that they couldn’t get the hang of their thief and triple leaping over blinding powder for stealth.

This bowled me over. Three times?! Are you serious? I thought I was already doing it right by performing the combo once to go into stealth and then position for backstab.

I didn’t even know if I had the latency to do it three times.

I had to log in and find out.

(Turns out I can, if I get lucky/fast enough. Albeit, this was done -without- the complication of having red names around throwing me into a tizzy. But I resolved from now on to make dual leaps through blinding powder whenever possible to lock it into muscle memory.)

Next on the agenda is to find time to watch thief videos on Youtube. Yishis is apparently recommended as a good one. (I skimmed one of his videos for three minutes and the speed of his thief and analysis was already blowing my mind.)

Step three: PRACTICE till your fingers bleed.

It’s made the WvW league more interesting for me again, I can tell you.

I’m a noob and learning all over again. (This bodes well when I decide to bring an elementalist or mesmer into play some day. Changing classes appears to keep the game very fresh.)

I think I’m getting the hang of staying alive. Mostly.

I’ve started to branch away from just shortbow’ing all the things and switch to melee mode to jump on things other than yaks. (Though I suspect the elementalists I’ve picked just find me a nuisance rather than a threat. Still, it’s probably -slightly- distracting.)

Still working on picking the right opportunities and the right targets – having issues with keeping track of where they go sometimes (and still know where both melee trains are) and deciding if I would be better served blasting fields or hounding a target of opportunity.

And in case you thought I’d forgotten: here’s where Edge of the Mists comes in handy from time to time.

It’s easier to run into less experienced players and less experienced zergs to practice being horrible on, rather than always getting destroyed or forced to run away from some -very- practiced T1 roamers in comms with each other and ready to wolfpack all over you.

I have a hunch that the same probably applies to commanding too.

Edge of the Mists can serve as an introductory mode for newbie commanders. The karma train pretty much drives itself, except they’ll appreciate siege drops and a dorito that picks the next target for them.

If things go wrong, no one’s going to get all huffy about PPT or how some other commander could have done it better.

Yeah, you probably won’t be able to practice coordinated zerg fighting with an EOTM militia, but that’s the only downside.

(You could, however, bring your new-to-coordinated-zerg-fighting GUILD into EOTM and probably get some great morale boosts and practice on easy targets that way.)

Still, I think I’m going to be relieved when I finally get all those damn reactors done.

9 thoughts on “GW2: On Thieves and the Edge of the Mists

  1. EotM has been a godsend for getting the achievements done for me. My server was a free server to transfer to and our population has skyrockedted. Queues are getting a bit better, but there is always a sizeable one for EBG. But I feel SO much better being a complete achievement hunter in EotM as there, I pretty much only see karma trains (though we will wipe the opposing zerg when and if we can.) I think it’s great that it keeps the achievement hunters in a separate area from people who want to seriously WvW for the most part. But also… use a birthday booster in there and you rank up so fast. 😛 I also find it a sorta relaxing and fun grind, if one were to want to do a grind and get decent rewards.. all in some pretty scenery as well. 🙂


  2. Thieves are super fun! If you can get a good group of like 3-4 buddies with high mobility classes, it’s so fun to roam and pick small-scale fights. Probably doesn’t happen as much in higher pop servers (I’m in CD, so tons of small fights around!).

    Before I quit using my thief (I play Engi/Ranger mainly now in WvW) I used to rock S/D. Sword 2 allows for such awesome juke-age. It’s a great tool to commit, but still allowing you to disengage.



    1. Amusingly, the guild I play with on reset nights has shrunk to the size of a havoc squad and our current commanders are dealing with it via the appropriate strategy of being mobile and picking small-scale fights.

      Thiefing with them has super enjoyable. I get swiftness from everybody else, amuse myself catching people with the stealth shortbow immob and basilisk venom for others, while working out how to operate the rest of the thief. 😛

      Basically, it’s the same in high pop servers except on a different scale. Havoc is groups of 10-20. 🙂 A zerg is on the small side at 30-40 and is more likely to be a map blob.

      There are still buddy gank squads around too. Blackgate has flocks of 2-4 thieves that hit in unison and they can be quite a nuisance until the zerg crosses their path and runs them over.

      I really need to play with the sword soon too. I tried to come to help of a WvW mate caught by a pair of said gank squad and didn’t quite get there in time. Shortly after, while I was mid keypress in GTFO mode, one of the pair caught me with a sword/pistol whip combo and I was down before I knew wtf hit me.

      Nothing like getting slapped around to decide one needs to know how the hell he did that.


  3. There is some build diversity with thieves, spec’ing as a supporting player takes you away from the glass cannon build that’s good for what you’re describing.

    Dagger/pistol: the “missed three heartseekersrs” black powder things is a useful build of stealth outside of combat, run yourself into a wall or corner, black powder, then bounce 2-3 heartseekers off the wall. Many seconds of stealth on demand with only the initiative as a cost, even if you aren’t traited for it, you can chain in with utilities and get 20+ seconds of continuous stealth (very useful in PVE lands for communing with skill points swarming with mobs, or doing a gathering run in Orr/Southsun Cove).

    Untraited, condition clearing for a thief is a nightmare, since most active condition clears are condition X,Y,Z but not A,B, or C (very situational).

    Get some runes of speed, signet of shadows is great for the shadow step/shadow return (with condition clear), but you can’t play with a full utility bar, and right now, you are playing with the class, get those utilites on deck.

    The great stealth monster thieves time their heartseeker/back stabs to coincide with stealth timing out, which means no revealed debuff, and going back into stealth immediately if needed. Some players rage against the stealth mechanic, but with that play style it’s all about controlling the information available to the opponent.

    Thieves are squishy and require constant active avoidance of damage and conditions, and that’s the thrill of playing them.

    Your connection latency may be a problem for really enjoying the class.


    1. Yeah, I ran into some condition applying confusion mesmers early on in my noob thief career. Those were not terribly fun, and I mostly just ran away, much to their annoyance, hopefully.

      I’ve been toying with the idea of buying Lyssa runes but they’re darned pricey and I’m a tad broke from gold to gem conversion lately.

      I just swapped in Eagle runes from Thief runes a few days ago and am trying to feel out if there are any differences in effectiveness so far.

      I used to run with shadowstep, blinding powder and shadow refuge for utility (why, yes, I abuse stealth, it is good for a wuss who doesn’t want to fight anything but yaks) but kept running into “why I r so slow” problems.

      Again, it just hit me like yesterday that I could actually swap signet of shadows in for blinding powder when I know I’m traveling and only swap it back when I get into a situation where I want the safety of more stealth and on-demand stealth that affects allies.

      (I was also eyeing Traveler runes as an option for the run speed thing, but wasn’t too keen on the stats or the cost. So far, the swapping thing isn’t too annoying.)

      With thieves, I suspect I’m just missing a lot of “obvious” things along the lines of other people not realizing they can use underwater utility skills…

      Such as being able to time a backstab to produce no revealed debuff. That’s great info, thanks. 🙂 Got to try and practice that too, now that I know such a thing is possible.

      I suspect latency will always be a bit of a bugbear, but I have no goals to be on top of some competitive leaderboard. I just need to learn how to operate the class to a passable level and not be scurred of a 1 vs 1. 😛

      Or at least get better at identifying 1 vs 1s that I might be able to win instead of assuming I’ll lose against everything that ain’t upleveled.


  4. For group roaming, with Sword main hand you’ll find yourself missing finishers for combo fields. But you get that awesome auto attack cleave and shadow step (with immobilization) and shadow return (with general condition clear).

    Dagger main hand, you have a leap finisher in the heart seeker.

    Dagger/Dagger you have that leap finisher, a whirl finisher on #3, and a projectile finisher in dancing dagger.


  5. Sooooo much of all WvW (and PvP in general) is muscle memory. I have all the classes at 80 and while I was leveling any of them up I could perform adequately by my own standards i.e very poorly by any objective criteria but up to what I consider to be the limits of my own natural abilities.

    As I moved from each class to the next, however, my performance dropped like a stone. If I’d been leveling my Engineer for a week, doing loads of WvW, and then gave him the night off and went back to my Mesmer it would be a disaster. It’s not just the endless wasted fractions of seconds spent trying to remember which ability does what or which icon represents what ability, it’s the hitting the wrong button before you’ve even thought about it because that’s where that thing happens on the other character.

    It’s surprising just how much playing an MMO is not like riding a bike. You really can’t just jump on a character and take it out for a spin unless you’re prepared to fall off quite a few times before you get your balance back. I guess this is the perpetual burden of the altaholic.

    Currently I play my Ranger on one account and my Ele on the other and can just about keep the two at a level I’m happy with. It’s very interesting to hear you talk about focusing the Eles in the backline. That’s what I expected to happen and when I went from my full support hard-to-kill build to my full Zerker glass cannon I expected to die a lot because of it.

    Hasn’t happened. Playing the Ele is a complete pleasure. She dies no more often than any other character – less in fact. If she stands at the back and rains fire she gets ignored 90% of the time. I don’t think she has ever been specifically targeted and taken out. Even if she goes right into the middle of the zerg she can stay up more often than not and the damage she can do from close range is ridiculous.

    In your example of the disintegrating zerg with the dead commander, I’d rather be the defiant nutjob standing over the bodies of the fallen flinging fireballs until the inevitable end than the self-preserving trickster who lives to fight another day, because when it comes down to it that day is no further than a waypoint away and I might just get another kill before I have to take it.

    Which isn’t to sniff at the pleasures of a well-made escape. I do like those too, but generally I only indulge when caught traveling alone, not when a major fracas goes horribly wrong, or when I can do something really annoying like duck through the door of a tower, run up the stairs and carry on blasting from on high.


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