The Mystical Mesmer’s latest tales about miserable failure and continuous improvement makes me grin wryly and nod.
While I have chosen to wuss out this time on the Winter Wonderland jumping puzzle (hate the exploding presents – that stage is too competitive for me. Apparently the first to jump triggers the explosions. I am never the first to jump since my latency is usually higher than anyone in NA, so I end up waiting and waiting, and folks just pile in behind me and I never get to jump. If I just go YOLO, and jump, chances are likely I’m going to fall behind and fall through the gaps anyway), lately, I’ve found myself suddenly addicted to Unranked PvP.
T’was a curious conjunction of events that led to this.
First, there’s the new PvP dailies.
I’m usually game to get the easiest one or two, in a single match or two. That broke the initial barrier of venturing into the Heart of the Mists.
Secondly, there’s the utterly disgusting low chance of popping anything good with the Wintersday presents, coupled with guaranteed rewards in the PvP Wintersday track.
RNG and me do not get along. I -still- haven’t popped more than one carapace boots. When a precursor dropped for me last year, it was naturally the cheapest and most unwanted one, Venom.
All my Wintersday stuff this year has been bought. 15 gold for a Magnanimous Bell versus 500 ugly sweaters? Here, take the gold. I get 3-5 gold off the TP daily anyway. Collection starter items? After opening some 100 presents, I still hadn’t got one of them yet. Whatever. TP. Less than a silver.
The only bonus was that I’d apparently gotten all the Endless tonic recipes memorized last year. So I just paid 25 gold or so to Miyani (such goldsink this season!) and crafted stuff to turn into a dancing gift-wrapped box.
As for the Rime-Rimmed Aquabreather… what, rely on RNG to give me one? That’s never gonna happen.
I’d pretty much given up on it when a chance Reddit thread pointed out that the Ultimate Wintersday Gift in the Wintersday PvP track contained a guaranteed aquabreather.
(Also drool-worthy are permanent finishers as a choice. DAYUM. Those are worth GEMS.)
That was a pretty powerful motivator to seriously consider progressing on the PvP track this Wintersday, especially since the new Unranked arena provides a middle ground between meaningless deathmatching in hotjoin and the super competitive leaderboard climbers in Ranked.
So I broke out my usual ‘safe’ PvP character, my ‘bleed everything, not pro enough to be a terrormancer’ condi necro – whose build I shared with Missy Mojo some time ago and queued for a couple of matches.
Almost immediately, I realized I was in some serious trouble.
It may be that with the number of matches I had on my necromancer belt (290+), the matchmaking was bootstrapping me up to face a higher class of player. Fights on point were hard as hell. The scores for most matches were in the 475 – 500 sort of range, both ways, win or lose… except for the ones that had a premade team wiping the floor with us.
Yet since I was solo queuing, there was no guarantee of receiving any help if I ended up facing a 1 vs 2 on point – my necro can’t run, it can only just stay there, last for a while, and then die horribly.
Worse of all, I had my eye on the grind. I wanted the PvP Wintersday reward track to go up! Winning gives 1500 rank points! Losing only 500! Aaaargh!
I was stressing out a bit too much and taking things way too seriously, since this was my ‘serious’ PvP character, the one I use when I “want” to win. Some of us are prone to obsession in very unhealthy ways, and I knew this was a danger sign. My usual solution is just to play a few matches each day and not worry about it, but but… that is counter-productive to actually getting a rime-rimmed breather! How to resolve this?!
The solution came in the form of a PvP daily the very next day.
Win a match as a Ranger, they said.
You know, I said to myself, I have always been intending to learn how to play another class in PvP.
This would be a great opportunity to stop being lazy, look up Metabattle and copy a PvP build on your lowbie ranger and learn how to play it.
My lowbie ranger, by the way, is merely level 39 or so, a good chunk of that being a level 20 scroll of experience. I have pretty much never ventured beyond Brisban Wildlands with him in PvE. I barely knew how all his weapons operate. Still can’t tell you without reading the tooltips what a good chunk of them do, as opposed to say, knowing by heart guardian or necro skills and able to play them on sheer muscle memory.
Knowing full well my lack of ranger ability, my expectations of success didn’t so much lower as become nonexistent.
This turned out to be remarkably FREEING.
Y’see, there were two ‘meta’ builds available on Metabattle.
Like a masochist, I avoided the obvious easy one – ie. Power Ranger. I’ve seen that one in action. They stay back, snipe a lot and are terribly annoying, but aren’t terribly helpful on control point capture unless they really know the map and have mastered positioning well. I figured I could experiment with it another time.
The other was Condition Survival. Gee, that sounds a bit like my necro. Stack bleeds, be bunker-y, seemed like familiar ground to go with.
So I faithfully copied the meta build, barely understanding what eveything did, slowly reading each skill and trait as I slotted it in.
OK, I said, for my first few matches, I am not even trying to win, I am just going to figure out how it all works and gels together.
(As for why I didn’t do it in hotjoin, don’t make me laugh. The amount of side switching and stacking means you never get 1 vs 1 or 2 vs 2 matchups that really stress test your build – all you normally get is zerg or be zerged. Also, I was keen on seeing if the matchmaking was intelligent enough to detect that I was on a class that I’d never used in PvP before and match me with closer inexperienced equivalents.)
A few matches were actually won, but I suspect I had very little to do with those beyond the odd assist or two.
The bulk of it were losses as I ran around, noobing it up, seriously stress testing the survival abilities of the build while trying to figure out how to actually hurt anyone with it.
Survival was actually good, but I was fairly dismayed to only hit 6-10 bleeds on average on most people. I just couldn’t seem to get behind them enough, and their natural reaction is, of course, to face their opponent.
It must be my inexperience, I kept thinking, I just need to figure out the rotation and get better at execution. The only way to do it is practice. So keep pounding that Next Matchup button and keep going! Each loss is still 2% on the reward progression track!
And I had a more immediate improvement goal to keep my mind occupied and off the fact that most of the matches were losses. The goal: Get better at playing ranger. Actually progress to ‘passable’ and maybe even win a 1 vs 1 matchup.
(I was also supremely curious to see if the matchmaking would adjust, and see “oh, this fail ranger has lost like 8 matches in a row, let’s match him with equally horrific players…”)
It turns out that a losing streak makes it very hard to judge the quality of later matches, as the level of overall cooperation from players on your team seems to drop as well. (Makes a certain amount of sense that soloists who can’t seem to figure out map mechanics or the fact that control points are important for score would be in a lower bracket.)
What ended up deciding which team would win seemed to merely be luck of the draw, as in, which side had more randomly sorted players who understood teamwork slightly better than the other team.
Eventually, the streak of losses got to me and I actually paused to think, rather than just hitting the ‘Unranked’ button and leaping right into the next match.
I was aware that I wasn’t playing at a similar level as I could have on my usual necro. I just wasn’t winning 1 vs 1s consistently enough. Hell, I just didn’t seem to be doing any significant damage in any fight. 5-6 bleeds is nothing.
I knew from prior fights with the necro that I’d encountered a lot more dangerous condition rangers who could stack 18+ bleeds with seeming ease, tossing them on even as you cleared them.
Maybe I’m just not getting the movement and rotations of condi survival correct, I thought. Maybe I should check if there are high-level PvP pros whose movements I can try to emulate more. So I googled for “condition survival ranger.”
Turns out it wasn’t a terribly popular build and I couldn’t really find videos of anyone using it at a very high level (might be just my google fail)… but I did find one video which suggested some condi survival variants that weren’t at all traited like the one I found on Metabattle.
Maybe, just maybe, I should stop assuming that I am too much of a noob with ranger to tweak a build and actually take some time to -read- my other traits and try to craft a build (or at least tweak the meta variant more to my liking) like what I did for my necro?
Problem 1: I am simply not getting enough bleeds onto my opponents.
The video I found suggested two solutions. Sharpening Stone the utility skill, as well as Keen Edges – a trait in the Power line that fires off a Sharpening Stone when someone hits 75% threshold… You know what, I don’t have enough bleeds… I’ll take both.
What to give up? At my low level of play, I wasn’t facing enough condi pressure to really worry about having my pet take all my condis… besides I rather not have my pet dead all the time. I’m already running a trait that clears 2 condis with each Survival skill used. So I just pressed the “subtract” button twice and added 2 to the Power line to pick up Keen Edges.
As for the utility skill, I just didn’t think I was using Signet of Stone appropriately at my level of play. Being invulnerable to damage is nice, for both me and my pet, but if I’m getting focused to the point that I need to pop it, it’s like a 4 vs 1 fight because all my other teammates have already died. Not very useful ultimately. So what the hell, less toughness, more pewpew. Bleeds, anyway.
Problem 2: I just can’t seem to figure out how to operate this stupid dagger offhand.
Pressing 5 may or may not land some miserable amount of bleeds on a player. I couldn’t ever seem to get close enough to land dagger 4 properly. Not that a bit of poison seemed to be doing that much either.
Well, Metabattle also suggested a torch offhand variant. Maybe I’ll try that. Seems to be some burning, and a fire field. Fire fields are always good, I could maybe shoot through it for more burning or something…
Problem 3: I am just not getting any mileage whatsoever out of this stupid spider. I lose track of it more than half the time, it never seems to immobilize when I want it to, or be in range when I need it to be.
The wolf was ok. It acted like how I expect a ranger pet to act, running into melee range, getting into people’s faces, and I actually managed to set off its fear once or twice.
So… eff the spider. New pet.
I really have no clue here… but you know what? I need more bleeds! And I’ve seen my guild leader (who mains a ranger) use birds before! They do decent slashy slashy damage, I think!
So I looked through the whole stable of pets and found a hawk with lacerating slash for even moar bleeds.
And because I really wanted a theme going here and wasn’t getting much mileage out of the Sigil of Doom’s poison anyway, I put a Sigil of Earth (60% chance of bleeding on crit) and a Sigil of Geomancy (apply bleed to anyone near you on weapon swap) on BOTH weapons.
If I sit on a weapon and autoattack, I want it to apply bleeds.
If I swap a weapon, you got it, it’s gonna bleed anyone near me – maybe I’ll -actually- get it to land on someone now that I don’t have to remember which weapon to which weapon switch applied the bleed. (Dat’s too high level for me.)
The difference, when I got back to queuing for matches, may not have been night and day, but it was certainly more like dawn with clear skies versus a depressing foggy London evening.
Suddenly, I was stacking anywhere from 10-18+ bleeds.
Apparently, people panic when they suddenly get too much bleeding on them and turn away from you, causing even more bleeds to stack.
The amount of bleeding I was putting out was giving me a LOT more confidence to dive in and take on 1 vs 1s (or even 1 vs 2s), allowing my 900 range shortbow and axe to connect more consistently, and even get into near melee range to land guess what, even more bleeds, and here, have some cover condis like chill and cripple to boot.
I got braver and launched more Entangle elites, and discovered that torch was in fact a dream weapon. The fire field appeared to do a decent amount of damage to already wounded inviduals. Not only did it make thieves more reluctant to close in and melee when a circle of fire erupts under their feet, I could basically recreate a City of Heroes fire tank farming scenario where they would immobilize a bunch of mobs and then place a bonfire on them.
This created a catch-22 situation where my opponent first had to deal with the distraction of getting a ton of bleeds, then suddenly halted in their tracks with a Binding Roots entangle (which they’d either have to break, or react fast enough with an appropriate condi clear or movement skill) and while they were still trying to execute that, here’s a bonfire merrily ticking away under their stationary self to worry about too.
Not many get out of this without falling over downed.
Also, I could just dump a fire field on demand onto a thief’s shadow refuge, where previously I’d lose target and look around helpless, or drop a fire field on a downed person to keep them down while messing around with a second player.
The bird, meanwhile, seemed to be a decent enough distraction that got in people’s faces and chased them around, so that was good too.
I started winning a decent number of 1 vs 1s – which in my book, is a good enough basic yardstick to measure a build against and not find it wanting.
This then means that if I wander over to a point where a 1 vs 1 is already taking place, I can expect to actually apply enough pressure to quickly down the opponent, instead of getting bogged down forever in a useless 2 vs 1 fight in which we lose pretty much every second that person keeps two people occupied playing with him and not killing him.
Again, queuing for matches became interesting, regardless of the final result.
As I kept playing, I started developing a bit of a theory of sPvP matches. Imo, some games are just lost games, where the other team is patently more organized and better than your team.
If you get out-rotated from the beginning, where someone just barges into your home point and successfully prevents a fast capture of that point, while his team caps their home unmolested, and the teamfight at mid is being held off equally, or worse, actually LOST by your team, you pretty much know that your team cannot match theirs in a teamfight.
(There was one highly memorable and embarrassing match where I actually managed to lose a 1 vs 1 on home against an ele, while watching our invader to their home lose his fight to the home defender, and then got to watch the 3 in the middle wipe within split seconds of each other. Result: 5 people respawning, 3 control points in the other team’s favor. WELL. So much for that match.)
For whatever reason, I totally don’t mind it when I’m on my ranger.
It’s like the ranger has been designated in my mind as my ‘play for fun’ PvP character. Maybe it’s just that I don’t have high expectations on a ranger I have zero PvE experience with. Maybe it’s just that he’s a roly poly asura and you can never be serious while an asura cavorts around on your screen.
I just chalk it up as, ok, forget the match result, time to wander off to a point that doesn’t have anyone and hope I draw 1 or 2 opponents to practice my 1 vs 1 or 1 vs 2 skills on. These give me little mini-successes, even if the match is a total wash in terms of score.
If I do end up drawing 3 or 4, then urm, practice like hell my juking and dodging and evading and running around obstacles and rolling off from heights and changing the Z axis as much as possible before I die horribly. Who knows, maybe it’ll actually help my team get some score elsewhere. (If the team really sucks, then usually not.)
But in general, I’m feeling the tide shift back to a more balanced 50/50 win-loss ratio, and that suggests I’ve actually managed to get the build to a point where it’s no longer a detriment to the team.
All that match repetition while learning the ranger has also caused me to look upon sPvP as something akin to a TF2 match or any other FPS match, where you just play and restart, play and restart, some you win, some you lose.
The Unranked category is a real godsend for me as I can treat matches this way without worrying that my carefree, casual attitude is fucking up someone’s leaderboard ranking.
The amount of toxicity that I’ve seen is also pretty low.
Haven’t had any whispers directed at me yet (though I’d pretty much just block and ignore, since I staunchly say a total of zero words in PvP all the time. Typing equals can’t fight, y’know?)
Generally, the only thing I’ve seen is a couple people passively-aggressively venting about a miserable team over map or teamchat. (Since they are no doubt part of the problem, I can’t really take their complaints seriously. 😛 Just bad losers being bad losers.
Meanwhile, I’ll be over here, looking to score just -one- kill so that I at least look semi-dangerous, or a decent enough challenge.)