GW2: Vale Guardian and the Trinity

If Gorseval is sorta kinda fun, and Sabetha is scary, Vale Guardian is the one I have the most mixed feelings about.

On the one hand, it’s the first boss of the first raid wing, probably the most numbers of people have learnt/encountered/experienced the fight mechanics, folks have managed to down it fairly fast with an assortment of fairly flexible raid compositions, certain pro groups are selling it for a mere 80g (meaning they feel they can carry at least 1-2 complete deadweights on their team through VG)…

…thus it’s logically probably the easiest thing to PUG and objectively the best chance I have of a consistent flow of a mere ONE Legendary Insight a week, in lieu of any other better alternatives (like a solo one? *coughs*)

If only for that reason, I have to feel somewhat positive about its existence.

In the last two weeks, the raid group I’ve been running with has, more or less, started to gel and down VG in the very first try (or a couple tries at most.)

On a personal level, I’ve been somewhat pleased to note that I’m still asked to bring my burnzerker to the party (even post-nerf), possibly because VG’s timer is slightly more generous, it still produces an acceptable level of condi, and evidently there is a preference for a sturdier consistent coverage of green circles by players who rarely miss them (hoorah for situational awareness and sword 2 leap mobility) or go down in them (hoorah for warrior sturdiness and crowd control options) over top meta dps of the month. (Tough choice maybe, but if your raid member doesn’t have that class raid ready, what can you do, right?)

That special snowflake feeling? Where you feel what you did in a specific role, or as a player had a significant effect? That holy trinity tanks or healers seem to like so much?

Yep, I feel it here. And I didn’t even have to tank or heal.

(It is, however, an interesting point to note that the moment the raid leader decided our team was competent enough to offer a ‘free carry’ to one or two other less experienced guild members, all-out carnage descended upon our VG attempts and we were back to square one – mistake, wipe, restart, try again, for hours.

Did said less experienced members distract the others somehow? Was it simply insufficient dps or those members  not carrying unspoken skills and traits that were actually critical and brought along/covered by more experienced players? Who knows.)

Which brings me to the other hand of Vale Guardian:

VG2Likely the only way my guardian main is seeing the inside of Spirit Vale without a tank or hammer dps build. Walking into a cleared instance on my own.

To me, it feels like VG is where idealist dreams die.

Every time I set foot on those stones, I cannot help but remember the immense cockblocked frustration of two to three solid months of watching OTHER people manage to do VG, while I sat around not exactly challenged per se by the fight mechanics, but by the corresponding social requirements of finding a reliable and competent raid group of nine other people whose schedules managed to coincide with mine.

To me, Heart of Thorns zone timers don’t even rank on the frustration scale in comparison.

(This has still not been settled to 100% satisfaction. It probably never will be. For now, it’s looking good, but who knows how long it’ll last?

Cos I’m old enough to remember that everything has an end, that even my first and best social organization of MUD/MMO life where we ran around like kings in the best raid loot possible, eventually died from attrition and disinterest as players got distracted by newer, shinier games.

Even while I’m thanking my lucky stars that the planets have managed to align for a little while and gotten me into a raid group competent enough to clear three bosses and not get super-uptight about mistakes, I’m thinking ahead to “what’s going to happen to me if/when it ends?” Back to being frustrated and grumpy again, most likely.)

I can’t help but remember the failed attempts of other groups and assorted collections of people who have given it a go.

Oceanic TTS appears to have canceled their weekly training raids for the time being.

I’m not sure if their progression raids have had any success (having never gotten into one, thanks, left-out-on-the-playground feeling) but either they’ve gotten their kills and gotten it on farm, only spending a short amount of time running it weekly, and decided they don’t need to recruit further slot fillers…

…or the leaders have lost interest in organizing further attempts for the moment and decided to go back to a more open ‘classic raids’ style where a whole load of people can join in to do Teq and Triple Trouble. Because duh, huge open world raids are where GW2 stands out. (And I have had to miss attending many these past few months, just for Spirit Vale. Thanks, no-alternative loot.)

Since the Oceanic timezone is not exactly as populous as NA, and I can see the same 100-200+ names appearing in various guilds and turning up for Teq/TT, I also sorta kinda remember those that have shown up once or twice for attempts at VG…

…died a bit, made some mistakes, generally looked less experienced, fell off the raid wagon…

…and then failed to ever get up again.

They said nothing. The raid (beyond one memorable loudmouthed boor in a random group) said nothing.

They just silently stopped coming.

Not blaming or saying that it’s bad, mind you. They could have decided, after giving it a try, that they had many other things in life more worth prioritizing than the effort required to meet other peoples’ schedules and learn/work towards all the little ‘required’ nuances for a successful kill.

Or they could have felt bad and had their self-esteem damaged somewhat and decided to quit (the raid or the game, who knows) because they didn’t feel they were up to the challenge (and never wanted so much damn challenge in the game that attracted them originally, thank you.)

And this state of affairs makes me feel sad.

It’s the sheer divisiveness of raids.

Some people relish the challenge and thrive in it.

Some, like me, grit their teeth, buckle down and stubbornly endure the pain because reasons.

Both of us cross the line and end up over there.

Still others (and I think there are very many, and the majority tends to win) choose not to even bother making the attempt, because reasons.

They wind up over here.

Both sides look at each other across a chasm of not-really-understanding each other, not-willing-to-play-with each other.

To have this happen in -GW2-, the previous home of the ‘everyone is welcome and an extra helping hand’ community, makes me really really sad.

So.

Vale Guardian.

It’s mostly holy-trinity-esque, with a heavy helping of control and buffs, a sprinkling of GW2-specific mechanics, and the extra requirement that a few more people than the tank and healer know what the hell they’re doing.

You need a tank that knows the ideal mob positioning pattern for Vale Guardian.

As mentioned previously, the ‘tank’ shorthand in GW2 simply means someone with higher toughness than the others. Not necessarily ludicrously higher toughness. No silly taunting needed. It’s mostly about control of mob positioning using your body, doing damage, and oh, not dying, of course.

You need a healer that can actually heal. As in, knows how to time their skills to best effect when people are going to take large amounts of damage, not just spam 1 and hope the trickle heals suffice.

Preferably a healer that also knows about control, as they are often assigned to a position where having knockbacks come in handy.

(One of the best healers I’ve seen though managed to upkeep a regeneration boon, rather than just stick to reactive healing. It’s often overlooked, but I suspect that buff is stronger than it first appears. Having the protection boon, of course, also helps to reduce the amount of reactive healing required.

I’m sure there are many nuances of healing I’m failing to appreciate, since I don’t really care for that function, but given the varied performances observed from different healers, presumably with different builds and know-how, I’m sure it’s there.)

From firsthand experience, I can definitely attest to the carnage that happens when a healer isn’t even averagely competent.

I took a most unusual, shocking amount of damage on one of the sturdiest classes. It was most noticeable. It also tended to cause the raid to wipe as people went down, failing a raid mechanic.

That failed healer also attracted the attention of said loudmouthed boor, who spent a decent amount of time calling the person out.

I have to admit that after some ten repeated tries of dying myself and watching others die, because I’d run out of controls and knew very well that another healer could have supplemented the  extra control needed, I too felt the need to speak out and suggest the most diplomatic solution that I could think of – which was to do a roles swap with another player, shifting the poorer player into the position that could be covered by others, and gain a competent healer.

Just like that, the raid stopped dying and the boss died on the next go.

I haven’t seen that player back for raids since.

*sigh*

I feel bad, but what can you do when the format of raids insists on a certain baseline of competence?

(Especially since they decided to balance it using expert theorycrafting guilds, and provide no variable difficulty level options.)

The common line of thinking then is that everybody else can be focused on damage.

Except if you do just that, the raid mysteriously tends to fail for one indiscernible reason or another. Someone takes too much damage and dies. VG hits the enrage timer and folks can’t keep upright any longer under the increased damage onslaught. Something. It just goes wrong.

What I suspect these groups are missing, is sufficient attention to  raid composition and making sure enough dps players are armed with a side helping of control (in lieu of maximum dps uber alles selfish builds.)

Ideally, a side helping of dps-buffer-types that provide sufficient (read: maximum) offensive buffs to the damage dealing group is taken along too.

VG3

The fight starts by the tank walking in, auto-aggroing the Vale Guardian via proximity and letting it approach (since it only has melee attacks, it will close in) a pillar.

No one is supposed to start attacking yet, as that saves a couple of extra seconds for groups that struggle with sufficient dps to get past the enrage timer.

The tank usually then holds the mob stationary, so that everybody can use more of their higher-damage channels or skills that hit a certain location.

Since VG periodically produces blue circles in melee range that teleport anyone standing in them, the tank must also master the timing of using invulnerabity frames (usually from dodges) to hold in place. This is both skill and latency dependent – I suspect given the same level of skill, OCE raid tanks see more accidental teleports than NA ones.

After enough tries at VG to learn its patterns, one will also note that VG swerves in direction (the arrow indicating facing swings 180 degrees away from the tank) just before it spawns the blue circles. That’s a good cue for all of us poor 250-300ms ping folks to use.

VG4Random PUG raid. Only screenshot of green circles I can find right now.

The Vale Guardian will also produces green circles on a timer (usually alternating with blue ones.) This requires a minimum of 4 people to be inside them, to take some damage once the lightning flash hits (as indicated when the inner green circle shrinks to nothingness.)

Else the whole raid eats a Distributed Magic attack for heaps and heaps of damage, creating what amounts to a raid wipe – either too many people go down, or a whole bunch of people die.

I have gone through an uncountable number of raid attempts that fail this mechanic.

It’s the first thing I check in the combat log when I suddenly and inexplicably die, and usually there’s been a Distributed Magic strike.

Either people miss seeing the green circle, or just aren’t expecting it and thus run to it too late, or, and this is a biggy, they’re too squishy and they go down just before the lightning strike hits. (Downed people don’t count.)

Bad memories tend to cause me to wince every time I see elementalists, thieves or mesmers assigned to the circle running group. (I’m sure there are good players of those classes that can manage the circles and know what they’re doing, but eh, on average… *wince*)

Complicating the affair is the tendency of Red Seeker orbs to like to approach either the group attacking the Vale Guardian (thus pressuring the tank’s ability to survive) or the green circle group.

These things pulse a fairly enormous amount of damage if in melee range of them (as indicated by the red circle around them.) They’re considerably resistant to damage and effectively cannot be killed to clear them, thus forcing crowd control back to the forefront.

The ranged green circle team -needs- knockbacks, or in a pinch, knockdowns or immobilizes. (The latter two are more proactive controls, requiring a little more anticipatory skill, used on seekers that aren’t already in the danger zone but will be.)

Usually at least two people have to have some control equipped, as most effective knockbacks are on a ~40 second cooldown and you can see green circles come up twice within that time.

The more the merrier, if there’s less communication/coordination and people blow their controls on the same seeker, or if more seekers converge, necessitating emergency cc.

A stunning amount of ordinary players never figure this out, even as they helplessly stand in the green circles and soak all the damage of an enroaching red seeker orb. They just never realize that they can swap some utility skills around or have a control weapon on swap or -something-.

I have no idea what’s going through their minds. They’re taking damage, it must be the healer’s fault for not keeping them upright? Or they’re just overwhelmed and panicking, who knows.

Google “[class] skills GW2” and do a search on the wiki for “knock” and “immobilize.” I’m sure most classes have -something-.

Once the green circle group gets the hang of it, that’s about half the battle won.

Groups use the time taken to force Vale Guardian into a split to evaluate if there’s sufficient dps for a successful run.

Hitting the 6.00 min mark is probably the baseline, 6.30 is good, 6.45 or  higher is great; 5.30-5.45 is worrying and probably won’t make it, any less and you may as well not waste your time and go figure out what’s wrong with everybody’s builds.

Once brought down to said magic health number, Vale Guardian runs off into the center of the arena and three smaller guardians spawn, one at each pillar, red, green and blue.

Red guardian requires condition damage in order to take down, so most raid groups will usually have three condi builds for this specific role. Two may work in a pinch but it’s a slight time delay.

Blue guardian produces the green circle (which now require a minimum of three people to stand in it, or the whole raid takes Distributed Magic yet again) and also has a boon that makes it invulnerable to damage.

Boon stripping, that rarely seen mechanic in GW2, comes into play here. Mesmers are usually used for this purpose, as their sword autoattack does it automatically. There are, of course, other classes that have this ability (even if the player doesn’t realize it) and I personally stick a Sigil of Nullification onto my PS warrior’s weapon swap mace for emergencies (say, the mesmer dies.)

Green guardian is the most ordinary, taking normal damage and merely producing the blue teleport circles to be avoided.

The intended method appears to be a normal split of 3 people per guardian, with one extra backup wherever, as each player is marked with a colored icon over their heads at the beginning of the split phase, depending on which sector they are standing in. Each colored guardian produces an aura which damages anyone with the wrong color.

VG5

In the usual fashion of players, to see how many intended mechanics they can overcome with clever synergy (aka no updraft Gorsevals), some raid groups will also pull green guardian over to the blue one. This requires a really strong healer to keep everyone upright through the overlapping damage auras.

It’s ostensibly time saved as both mobs can be cleaved at once, and presumably confuses new people less as they don’t have to locate the correct directions to anywhere specific, but imo, either way works fine.

Once their health bar is reduced to 0, each guardian also has a break bar to be broken before they die. Again, it’s a sneaky way to encourage all players to bring sufficient cc.

The Vale Guardian then reforms for round 2.

This time, one sector of the three-part arena will light up and cause damage to anyone standing within it. This makes getting teleported by blue circles potentially dangerous, not to mention a dps loss.

Afterwards, there is another identical split, and round 3 involves two parts of the arena lighting up, with only one safe sector.

This right here is another quarter of the battle, a competent tank that knows how to use their body to mob position and kite appropriately. Keeping the Vale Guardian moving tends to mean a drop in dps as everybody chases, so there’s a balance between shifting the guardian away from oncoming Seekers and into the next sector, as well as keeping him stationary as much as possible.

It’s mostly boiled down to a particular pattern I find it hard to describe offhand, having zero tanking experience at VG and only watching it, but in the words of someone I screenshotted, “circle breakbar circle move – circle circle move – circle breakbar circle move -”

The idea, I believe, is to shift VG as much as possible into the new sector as it clears up (sometimes the tank will run into a still lit up section ahead to position the boss over the sector line, while still allowing melee dps to hit in safety from the presently clear sector.)

This is because VG produces green circles in the sector it currently is in. If the boss doesn’t cross over fast enough, a green circle spawns in a lit up section, which can be fairly challenging for a green circle group to cover. (In this case, they should delay walking in as long as possible and only be there for the lightning strike, and pray that they’re innately sturdy, have good self-heals and healer is on the ball. Which may or may not happen.)

Hence there is a sort of interlinked dependence between a good tank and the green circle group (the healer, often positioned in the green circle team, may also have to top off the tank every now and then.)

Cluttering up the issue and making sure the melee dps group can’t get away scot-free with no responsibility, is the Vale Guardian’s break bar.

The Vale Guardian has a breakbar attack where it stops in its tracks (ignoring the tank’s efforts to move it), raises its arm and produces an AoE shower of red circles that deal damage.

Left unchecked, this is often fatal to the green circle group, which have to be in a limited area and still avoid the red circles, whereupon someone may accidentally step in one and go down, or conversely panic and dodge away and out of both red circle and green circle… which then subsequently causes a raid wipe through Distributed Magic.

Should everyone somehow miraculously survive this chaos, the very fact that the guardian is no longer moving means the tank can’t position it to the next sector in time, the floor lights up doing damage to everyone in it, the AoE shower is still damaging all and sundry, and the green circle will appear in a lit sector, which should seal the deal.

It stops this attack when its break bar is broken.

In other words, the second ‘health’ bar has to go down super duper uber quickly spike damage fast.

The ranged team is usually focused on green circles, which may randomly turn up further away, and may not be able to manage the break bar simultaneously. Especially if they’re already using their knockbacks to control the seekers.

It’s the melee team, that are already on VG, that has to primarily cover the controls here. You’d be surprised how many try to sneak in as a low-responsibility melee dps and fail to manage this little extra expanding of their role/function.

I’ve seen Vale Guardian attempts go from failure to success the instant a PS warrior is told point blank that they should have Headbutt, a mace or two ready on weapon swap, Wild Blow if necessary, and/or revenants told they should put a staff on weapon swap and use staff 5 to take out the break bar.

All that was missing was a little extra focus on control to help to the group, at the expense of a little bit of personal dps.

It is amazing how many damage-dealers walk in and fight VG umpteen times, wiping constantly, without realizing this. “Someone else died. It’s not me. I’m okay. My job is damage. I don’t have to change anything.”

I put full blame on the holy trinity.

It’s hard to think outside the box when your box is a narrow worldview of tank/dps/heals.

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3 thoughts on “GW2: Vale Guardian and the Trinity

  1. bhagpuss says:

    Your opening comments on where these raids are going to be in a few months are where, I think, ANet have really painted themselves into a corner with this version of raiding. The kind of MMOs from which they have taken their model have one huge structural difference: vertical progression.

    In almost any other MMO casual players can and do expect to be able to see and experience raid content further down the line, when level cap increases and and the associated gear inflation have blunted or even removed the difficulty. By pitching these raids right on the bleeding edge of what is possible using the best available gear, which is supposedly ALWAYS going to be the best available, they have left themselves no obvious wriggle room for the future, short of an all-out nerf or the introduction of tiered difficulty settings.

    They may end up doing one of those things but I suspect it’s more likely that, assuming they do continue to add more raids, the older ones will just be allowed to gather dust. With, apparently, far fewer players now running dungeons, another set of underused instanced content is going to be problematic.

    I think they have made a mess of this. The same mess they must have seen other MMOs make before them. For WoW, which has a set-up far more suited to this kind of raiding in the first place, Blizzard ended up making several passes at fixing the problems they’d created for themselves, finally ending up with LFR and Flexiraid systems that effectively nullified the original “point” of raiding – exclusivity. Whether we will see a similar solution in GW2 I doubt. As I say I would be more inclined to expect that in a year or two from now we’ll all be pretending these raids never happened – much like Scarlet’s destruction of LA.

  2. Sylow says:

    “No silly taunting needed.”

    Yet some classes by now have a taunt. There is no denying of that. And while i am not in a raid but just play in the open world, together with my girl, the taunt of my Warrior / Berserker feels very much like an high-agro DPS ability of an older trinity game. (More like Anarchy Online, less like World of Warcraft. )

    You also describe a normal dedicated full healer, the mechanics are slightly different to the pure “whack the mole” healing of some healing classes, but actually still no more complicated than shield-healing of some other games, where damage prevention by applying shields to players on time is crucial.

    And on the rest, the flaws and blaming the trinity: this is only if your trinity players are lazy and think in very small boxes. Even in WoW you had all of what you described, people have to pay attention not to stand in stuff. Even WoW has mechanics of “damage is shared” and people clump up to absorb it. Even WoW has fights where the healer and DPS have to slow down and dispose of adds before they do something bad.

    Of course, WoW also is the prime example of: when something is too hard, just wait. You will get buffs, the content will be nerfed, after a while it will be trivial, no matter how bad you are. But that’s completely disconnected from the trinity.

    So all in all, better luck with your next article. All you wrote in all the articles up to now just convinced me that GW2 is very much heading into the way of the holy trinity, using all mechanics we saw in those games for a long time.

    At the same time i have to agree with what Bhagpuss wrote as comment on another one of your articles: GW2 basically already before had it’s kind of raids, which actually were done very differently and without the influence of the trinity.

    But all of them were done earlier, the changes in HoT for me all point towards the trinity, just with some flashy particle effects to cover it up, like they always use them when they created something flawed.

    And yes, I also agree on the notion that they installed a raid without understanding where they actually came from: games with strong vertical progression. They got themselves into a mess, and I don’t see how they could get themselves out of that again without pissing some of the hardcore playerbase off.

    Lucky me that I play this game in a relaxed and casual way and don’t really care for raiding. Would I be interested in this kind of content in GW2, I’d probably have left this game behind by now.

    • Jeromai says:

      If there’s one thing most GW2 players can agree on, it’s that Anet has dug themselves into a mess and whichever way they take to get out of it, it’s going to piss -somebody- off.

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