Time for some positive reflections, since I’ve been busy grumpy hermit grumbling since raids hit GW2:
One of the things I’ve noticed is that some people find the concept of raids aspirational.
Even though they may never set foot in one or successfully down a raid boss, the fact that they exist gives them something to strive for, some heroes (raiders in famous guilds) to look up to and cheer on, and motivation to continually improve and get better.
(I don’t know that I’ll personally go that far, you’d have to be a -very- glass half full kind of person to be that sunnily optimistic. I’m naturally a bit more glass half-empty skewed, and tend to worry about those who meet an unclimbable wall and meet frustration and learned helplessness instead.
I like the idea of scaffolding learning – this Reddit suggestion to have bronze, silver and gold rewards for each boss rather than a binary you-got-it-or-you-didn’t enrage timer appeals a lot to me.)
Even if “aspiration” is something that doesn’t work for me personally (maybe it’s more of a social motivation), what I’ve been finding enjoyable is increased opportunity / motivation to learn and apply all sorts of game things that I didn’t know before, to continue to build up a database of knowledge about how the game world works.
I guess this is a very Bartle Explorer thing.
After my fun little rant about pigeonholing, I sat around brooding like an angry pigeon for the space of one night, thinking, thinking, thinking, plotting almost, about my next steps forward.
I was very stressed out over two things:
1) My condi guardian would probably not be accepted in the more closeminded raid groups, and possibly for good reason.
I was quite well aware that I had a habit of dropping like a rock when the vault guardian sneezed or looked at me funny. You know closeminded groups, it’s probably not going to bode well if you look like the weakest link over and over. I was still completely puzzled as to the -source- of the bloody damage that was eating like acid into my super-low health reservoir and how I could avoid it.
And I definitely haven’t mastered the skill rotation to keep burning uptime consistent yet. I’ve seen burning stacks as high as 9-14k a tick, depending if things go well and I catch a lot of might stacks, I tended to run around the 4-5k mark, and dropped to as low as 2-3k burning a tick when things went badly and I end up having to focus on not-dying rather than attacking. You know closeminded groups again, right? If they see that they’re killing slower with a condi guardian as opposed to say… a condi engi? It’ll be kthxbai, LF condi engi for raid!
2) My warrior was essentially 95% PS warrior, but in my usual perfectionistic way, I was afraid to advertise as a PS warrior because the common player perception of a PS warrior is something that can generate 25 might stacks on their own. Somehow, try as I might, I was usually only consistently reaching 15 stacks in PUG fractals.
What was going on exactly?
I took on question 2 first, as the solution to some players wanting cookie-cutter, is, of course, to give them a cookie-cutter option that they would be happy with.
I have been resisting switching the Superior Runes of the Pack on my armor for a very long time, because I knew I would dearly miss the essentially perma-swiftness that comes from just honking the warhorn once. (13 seconds of swiftness with Pack runes, warhorn cooldown with Quick Breathing trait is 12 seconds, only lag or animation delay will make it not quite perma, so just use Balanced Stance or a Banner 3 for more swiftness and voila. Quick, happy feet. An unswiftnessed charr is a very slow-seeming charr.)
Were Strength runes really going to make THAT much of a damn difference? (They are so freaking expensive…)
Some time earlier I had just done a very informal test in the Heart of the Mists beating on some golems with both Pack and Strength, and had to admit that, yes, the increased might boon duration made for might stacks that stuck around longer and so maybe it might be the crucial factor for 25 might stacks output by solo PS warrior.
So I bit the bullet, yanked 70 gold out of an even more dwindling bank, and bought 6 Strength runes, wincing as I overwrote the Pack runes (nevermind, I consoled myself, they don’t cost that much, you can get another set of armor to put them on or maybe some day Anet will solve The Rune-Switching Problem), but hey, go me, no one can accuse me of not being cookie-cutter now that I can ping gear with Strength runes and look all meta-compliant, right?
Then I decided the best place to test my awesome meta-ness out would be a quick fractals, now that it’s so bite-sized convenient, and lookie, someone advertising for 2! Bloomhunger! Super-quick and a really big target to build might on!
The PUG team did the wisps in a single go, swam down the tunnel and charged straight at Bloomhunger! I flung down my banners and proudly launched myself at the silly old Oakheart determined to might stack like the Energizer Bunny!
Words cannot describe the utter chagrin I felt when I looked at my buff bar and saw only oh… 15-18 stacks of might max.
BUT I PAID GOOD MONEY FOR THESE RUNES.
Regardless of my fail might-stacking, Bloomhunger died, I grabbed the fractal chest, then slunk away beaten with my tail between my legs to reconsider the problem.
After reading and reading the Metabattle page over and over, comparing and contrasting the by now fairly minute differences in build: Same gear, same runes, nearly the same traits (I just take warhorn because I cannot trust PUGs to condi clear for me, I don’t have sexy dungeon group mates to rely on, and look, it’s even stated as a permissible variant in the Metabattle Bible, okay? It can blast might and everything.)
I don’t have Night Sigils because I’m not that crazy a night time dungeon runner, I tend to use Air, Fire or Bloodlust instead…
Yes, I’m not using expensive food in most casual PUGs, I’ll save it for raids and really important occasions…
What exactly was generating might besides swinging my greatsword over and over? Oh, and this Fried Golden Dumpling food that gives might on crit, for slacker PUGs (ie. 85% of the ones I get into) that don’t pre-stack might, but surely the PS warrior sans dumplings isn’t just a might boon maintainer for a might-stacking ele….
…and oh. Oh. OH. What is this tooltip I see? On the mace that I usually don’t use…
Well, fuck. THERE’s your problem.
The bloody thing runs a mere two gold and can be crafted to boot.
The good news was that I wasn’t going to have to overwite an expensive sigil to incorporate this.
The bad news was that I was going to have to chop a lot of soft wood, and then spend a fortune in hoarded crafting supplies to make my warrior an Ascended weapon that I’d forgotten he didn’t have yet, a Zojja’s Axe.
So I did that, crafted that, tested it, and what do you know, 25 stacks of might. Obviously, it’s better and faster when you can hit multiple enemies at once, and if your group mates deign to give you some might, as I observed while testing in the Urban Battlegrounds fractals, so that locked in another piece of the puzzle.
Some day I’m going to have to test out a Sigil of Strength with mere Pack runes in the Heart of the Mists and possibly cry myself to sleep that night.
But now, I can safely say that I have a total fully absolutely meta-compliant cookie-cutter PS warrior for those picky picky raids, inspect away if you wish, and more importantly, I actually -understand- how the whole damn build links together and synergizes.
The other thing I was brooding about that night was just how far down the rabbit hole I was willing to go for raids.
You know me, I have this crazy cognitive dissonance thing going on.
I want to be effective. I want to be optimal (or at least, viable.) I want to achieve actual successful kills in a reasonable period of time, not be banging my head against the first boss a year from now with a group that keeps screwing up. I want the -rewards- at the end. I want the shiny prestige.
In return, I’m open to getting brutal direct feedback and told what I’m screwing up and what I should do more of instead. To spend all the monies and switch build and traits to what works. To dress all cookie-cutter and do my best to perform for a drill sergeant if need be.
On the other hand, I have to admit that a lot of this is work. As in, not intrinsically enjoyable to my nature. As in, I have a tendency to obsess and stress out over stuff that probably no one else notices but I think that they do and that they are judging me harshly and coldly and will probably boot my ass. Oh, the awful rejection! (And worse if it’s going to be based on erroneous player perception, rather than objective evidence.)
If I am honest, the most fun times that I have while raiding is when it is explicitly a raid designated for training and learning, when I know that no one has the expectation that everyone must be performing to 110% of their ability 100% of the time.
I can relax my obsessional tendencies a lot more when I know I am not the weakest link in that raid group, and focus on my personal learning – what else can I be doing better, what can I practice and get better, what can I tweak and get better – while someone else is making the raid-wiping mistakes and working on learning those things.
Furthermore, I can be experimental and test little theories knowing that the raid outcome isn’t going to be affected one way or another, because the group as a whole still has some ways to go before they master the mechanics.
Better yet if it is a raid group made up of guilded, friendly faces because I’m more assured that they won’t judge, and then I can get in my quota of social hanging out with people that way too.
Except one itty bitty lil problem. I kinda want to win and get my shinies. Not next year. More like sometime this month.
Except I don’t want to do crazy stupid hardcore things like try to raid at all odd hours of the day and for 8-17 hours a stretch. (Alas, college days over.)
I haven’t quite come to one satisfactory solution, but I think I will be exploring a number of options and keeping them open in the days ahead.
I want to get into at least one weekly scheduled raid group with relatively consistent people so that I have kind of a long term insurance plan for raids.
Timezone matching is going to be an issue, I don’t have the luxury of a vast spread of NA guilds to choose from, and they have to be the kind of people that won’t make me want to report them all for verbal harassment after an hour in their company, aka preferably the more mature or mellow type, which can be somewhat short in supply on this side of the world.
Furthermore, a consistent group may very well mean consistent failure. Not that I would actually mind in the moment, especially if the company’s good and everyone’s learning (and I usually can always find -something- to learn) but my skritt brain still wants its shinies.
So the other thing that I have been thinking is to look for opportunities to basically mercenary myself out to fill in gaps in other peoples’ raids. They’re maybe short one healer, or one tank, or need some condi or dps or might-stackers or whatever.
The super-duper long term plan would be to get comfortable with alts that can fill any of those on demand, but for now, I can either offer a cookie-cutter PS warrior or still somewhat new to people’s expectations condi guardian to let ’em pick and choose.
This ties back into the idea of training raids and learning from those because I’m not going to be a very popular mercenary if I’m not any -good- at raiding.
Fourth raid attempt was essentially a sort of friends-and-family style guild affair. I had expectations set somewhat accordingly, and was in fact, pleasantly surprised by a number of things.
One, the bulk of the group was a lot more serious than I would have guessed. Some (well, ok, one) had spent more gold than I’ve personally ever seen in one place on an Ascended set. There was less teleporting around than I’ve seen in other raids because practically everyone could dodge the aoe relatively consistently. (Either that or they’re NA people and the other raids I’ve been with are OCE folks!)
The overall group experience level was lower, and as expected, only brought down the boss to 66% health and into the split guardians a few times, mostly because folks were still getting the hang of the mechanics, I feel. (But hey, give ’em a couple weeks or month more and who knows?)
Two, I got the chance to test out both my alts on the Vale Guardian and work out more of the kinks.
The PS warrior, as expected, was pretty darned good. I’m definitely going to start offering this one up more while mercenary-ing. The higher health pool means less catastrophic failures from a slipup, and I even survived the Distributed Magic group wipe mechanic a couple of times when the circle team missed standing in a circle – albeit at 1000 hp left, and liable to wipe in the next blast cos everyone else is already downed or dead. Everybody likes 25 stacks of might and banners, it does seriously respectable dps (I suspect I contributed quite heavily to shoving it into the next phase, because I was busy practising the “find the back of the boss and stick to it like glue” tactic while others had to contend with the circle mechanics.)
The group however found themselves somewhat light on condi once they were in phase 2 and the split guardians, so I grabbed the chance to volunteer the still-rather-unexpected option of condi guardian.
A little selfishly, I suppose, since my ulterior motive was to get better at playing it, but eh, the whole group was definitely still in the learning phase and not exactly likely to reach even 50% of the boss’ health yet.
The rotation for condi guardian is definitely a little more complex than a PS warrior (duh) and I’m quite certain I was mangling it a good half of the time. So dps output likely lower than PS warrior, especially since we were now sans 25 might stacks, but on the bright side, I can actually do things to the red guardian instead of stand around looking stupid and be a might buffbot.
The issue I kept running into, while the others were still mastering the circle mechanic and getting into trouble with the Seekers, was that the condi guardian’s health is still alarmingly low, plus, now that I had time to study the combat log and think while trying to execute my rotation, the damn guardian periodically pulses a damaging Magic Aura for 1000 hp or so.
High hp monstrosities that come with a healing signet tend not to notice this and shrug it right off. Maybe I’m not a great guardian but this rapidly diminishing health bar tends to distract me from actually executing dps rotations.
Worse if a Seeker got into my personal space (I was doing a semi-decent job of avoiding them… except an occasional wild knockback out of the green circle had a tendency to soccer ball the Seeker right into me, leading to an insta-down before I even knew what hit me.)
This did not bode well for viability of condi guardian if they had no -survivability-, it’s not as if demanding a healer to babysit my health would make it terribly popular…
…and then it hit me. Duh. If the healer can’t come to me, exactly why can’t dps go to the healer?
(I hear all the holy trinity MMO players slapping their foreheads right now. Mea culpa, look, I’ve only been playing a no-healer personal-heals-only MMO for 3 years now, you get set into certain patterns.)
Granted, I haven’t even looked at what skills druids have, but I’m almost sure they can pulse heals to 5 people near them somehow.
So I started paying a little more attention to positioning myself near the druid when I needed to catch some heals, which worked out about 75% of the time, but still would not solve the overall dps problem of needing to be in melee or close range to do more damage, rather than plinking away from afar while moving to hug the healer.
In between one raid wipe and another, I started looking at my self-heal skills and wondering if one would work better than the others.
I’d tried Shelter, which is optimal for applying more burning while blocking, and you’d think it’ll be great because apparently the blue aoe teleports can be blocked… and then you can go right on dps’ing in melee… but I risked that once and I think my ping was such that by the time I saw the aoe and hit Shelter, I got zapped by the teleport before the block could set in. (Either that or I was a little late on the block, but I didn’t feel like risking it again when I could just dodge the AoE.)
Anyway, I didn’t seem to be healing up sufficiently with Shelter, so I’d gone with my usual fallback of Signet of Resolve, which is an awfully strong heal that can pretty much push me back to full health from near dying. Except that I now had to deal with a 40 second cooldown because a condi guard can’t take the Perfect Inscriptions trait to reduce the recharge time when you want Amplified Wrath for the 15% more burning damage.
40 seconds is a long long time when you only have 11.5k hp.
Especially when there are sources of damage flying in from everywhere. It’s as if they took that suggestion of pulsing small amounts of damage to stress zerker builds out and encourage at least one healer or more…. except they also slap on an enrage timer, so… I dunno. Catch-22, much?
Then my eye fell on Litany of Wrath.
I’d pretty much never used it. Exactly how much healing was it capable of? No idea. The only way to find out was to try it.
The next time my health bar fell to 5k hp, I hit that, and in under 3 seconds, I was at full health again. (Granted, I was busy smiting and orb of wrathing the hell out of the Vale Guardian, while burning it with condition damage at the same time.)
It has a 30 second cooldown.
It is, in fact, -just- enough to keep my health relatively stable (ping-ponging between 5k and 11k) as long as silly things don’t happen (like a taking a frontal cleave 5k punch from the guardian, basking in a Seeker’s aura that can crit for 4-5k, getting zapped by Distributed Magic for 9k) , in which case, seek out your neighborhood healer or just wait for the rez from downed.
It’s not exactly sleepwalk easy, but it was quite an interesting challenge to both keep an eye on one’s health like that, evade Seekers, and still keep up as much dps as possible on the Vale Guardian.
And hallelujah, you no longer need to be babysat by a healer and can more or less take care of yourself, barring emergencies. Add one more notch toward potential viability.
Some time later, it also occurred to me that the popularity of the condi engineer might also be because the meta build comes with healing turret as a matter of course. Folks doing the distributed magic circle tend to need group healing once the lightning strike is over, and some ability to knockback Seekers never goes awry.
The /ranger/ has a healing spring that can heal allies, and they should have the ability to knockback Seekers too, don’t they?
The /guardian/ has a shield that can knockback Seekers, if they deigned to use it, and hrm… what’s this other healing skill that I almost never look at? It used to be called Healing Breeze, but apparently it got updated with very few people noticing (me neither) as “Receive the Light!”
Looks like I have something new up my sleeve to try if I ever get assigned as a condi guard to circle duty.
So despite overall group progress of fourth raid attempt being not as forward as some others, there was a considerable amount of personal learning progress and some potential revelations to boot.
Would it have happened without raids?
Not terribly likely, barring a Liadri-style challenge.
So -that’s- something positive I can say about raids.