GW2: A Really Long Treatise on Gorseval

A face only a mother could love...

It’s serendipitous that the topic of the holy trinity has come up in the blogosphere again.

I’ve been pondering over how to blog about GW2 raids without sounding like I’m a jilted grouch (because you’ve read too much of my cognitive dissonance between competing values already) or bragging elitist (by writing completion/accomplishment posts that interest no one – those that have already done it go “what took you so long, noob?” and those that haven’t get grouchier.)

Nor did I want to write raid guides (because there’s already coverage by others far more proficient than me, and who actually feel passionate about this type of content) or sound like I love this content so much that the devs are encouraged to spend more resources on creating more raids at the expense of everything else.

That would be a personal nightmare. I’m actually quite relieved to hear thirdhand from someone with a vested interests in raids (via presumably interactions with raid devs) that the management of Anet is terrified of having raids become the be-all and end-all of the game.

Kindly stay terrified. I suspect the game’s been hemorrhaging players post-expansion, between anecdotal responses via quitting GW2 blog posts and Reddit posts about how many guild members haven’t been logging in lately. WvW fix, then Living Story 3 soon, please.

Hell, revive dungeons, I think you’ve lost a lot of easy fun group content players with that, even if I don’t run in those circles much and don’t really give a damn either way, I’ve observed a number of my friendslist not logging on lately after interest in regular dungeoneering died.

Discussing the raids from a commentary standpoint though, and explaining in greater depth and nuance to a general audience how GW2’s combat system can deviate from a pure tank/heals/dps trinity and be equally or more compelling, I think I can do.

First things first, a disclaimer that I’m just telling things as it is, from my personal perspective and observation of my raid groups (mostly oceanic timezone, with one or two super-casual NA forays.)

Values, priorities and perspectives may differ from raid group to raid group, especially in different timezones or cross cultures, and at different skill levels.

More importantly, my telling it how it is does NOT imply that I personally agree with or like the design or the rules/boundaries/limitations set or any of the implicit behavior that it encourages. When in Rome, you do as the Romans do, especially when you want the Romans to succeed and reap the rewards with as little pain and inconvenience to oneself as possible.

Facts are facts. The boss died when we did this. The boss did not die (and we wiped) when we did that. Therefore we should do more of this, and less of that.

If “this” is not a desirable state of affairs, then developers have to act and adjust “this,” groups bitch a bit and then adapt to the current state of affairs and move on to the next best thing. That’s generally how it goes.

Since this is not a guide post, I’m going to start out of order and discuss my personal favorite mob of the trio.

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Gorseval.

Mind you, this is post-glider fix. I have never dared to attempt it before that, and I’m positive that consistent unpredictable glider failure (since my entire raid group is on the other side of the world) would have greatly colored my feelings about this fight.

As it happens, my only experience with Gorse is a fight where 9 out of 10 gliders work most of the time, with at most one or two unlucky people catching a spot of bad lag or not being skilful at glider control and thus falling out of the sky.

It turns out that I am the least grumpy when I feel a sense of autonomy about the fight, that it is within my/our skill and power and control to influence success.

A fight where -someone else- keeps dying or screwing up, forcing the whole group to voluntarily wipe because we know we can’t get past the enrage timer without said person, is a fight where I silently get grumpier and grumpier. (Keep this in mind when we get to my Sabetha post later on.)

I don’t blame, I know everyone’s human and makes mistakes. It’s just supremely frustrating emotionally to be doing everything right and then have to reset and restart because an oops happened by someone else. Success relying on ten people acting like machines of consistency doesn’t quite make sense or appeal to me. #justmethings

Anyway, fortunately, without the vagaries of glider inconsistencies, Gorseval is a fight that to me, feels the most like a traditional raid boss.

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For starters, he’s pretty big.

You get a small group of little people hacking away at a giant mountain of a monster feeling.

He also has a frontal cleave, so you get the traditional strategy where damage-dealers should be staying to his back or sides, while a tank faces him away and moves him about as needed.

This is where proponents of the holy trinity caper about and go “lol, see, you have tank/dps/heals, you now have a trinity in GW2, lololol.”

No one’s arguing that these functions – holding mob aggro, controling mob positioning, damage, damage mitigation, etc. – don’t exist in a non-holy trinity game. Non-holy trinity games offer considerably more flexibility and variation in roles though.

The GW2 tank is not necessarily a heavy armor wearer spamming taunt skills to gather sufficient threat to offset that generated by healers or dps.

Pretty much every class is capable of tanking, with the right build, and as long as they’re wearing gear that gives them a higher toughness than anyone else in the party. Control of mob aggro (specific to Spirit Vale’s Vale Guardian and Gorseval anyway) is a preset affair, where the whole raid group must play a part, opting to wear gear that has zero toughness, so as not to steal aggro from the agreed-upon tank.

Sneaking in with higher toughness is not possible as the boss will home in unerringly on said player, making it obvious to all that something is not right, and questions regarding the offending player’s toughness will be asked.

Fixing this becomes a joint give-and-take affair, either the player must remove or swap the gear with toughness, or the tank has to pile on more toughness to offset that. This ends up a minor social conundrum, due to possible difficulties in obtaining appropriate statted gear, depending on how casual either player is – different groups may opt to allow the offender to stay (if friends or known quantities) or replace them, some tanks may have more flexibility of gear swaps than others, and so on.

Once all the other players meet the established toughness baseline, the tank then puts on enough toughness gear he or she needs to survive (dependent on player skill, heals received, confidence, trial and error, etc.) and devotes the rest of their attention to surviving, proper mob positioning -and- damage, the more the merrier. Spamming taunt is non-essential (for this raid wing anyway.)

Of course, there can easily be a future set encounter where spamming controls like taunts and pulls are expected mechanics of the fight. The GW2 combat system allows for replication of the holy trinity, as well as breaking away from it, in other words. It’s that powerful. (So stop dissing it. Sheesh.)

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The boss is dragged to the side by a sacrificial volunteer, who then leaps off and respawns, so that the group can gather at one side to get ready before beginning.

Gorseval begins as you might expect, the tank approaches to aggro the mob.

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Gorseval will do an arm swipe (his frontal cleave attack), and then raise his arm for a stomp/smash attack that knocks back if it hits.

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This attack is avoidable using the GW2 mechanic of dodging and evading with an invulnerability frame. No tank can save a poor dps player from this, and heals are not strictly necessary as it does not do an extreme amount of damage.

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What it does do, is affect dps, as the player cannot attack for the seconds he or she is knocked down and recovering. Over time, a poorer player’s dps will drop in comparison to someone who can dodge consistently. As Gorseval utilizes some rather strict dps checks / has a tight enrage timer, this can affect group success if too many members’ dps is interrupted.

It can take a while to learn and get accustomed to the pattern, but over time, this attack is fairly predictable. Subconsciously or otherwise, you figure out that he will swipe, then smash at the beginning… then there’s a lull as he goes into his breakbar attack, and just as the tank begins pulling to the first updraft, Gorse will do his swipe, smash again.

But since his attacks can cycle a little non-consistently now and again, mostly, the cue you watch for is the one arm raise, then dodge.

This is in contrast to when he sort of half-raises both his arms, which heralds the start of his ground pounding breakbar attack.

In this attack, Gorseval teleports to the center of the arena and starts pounding around with both his arms. Black damaging goo will start spreading in a pattern.

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For the first times he does this, the center stays clear for several heartbeats before it fills up and begins covering the entire arena.  It is desirable to break it as fast as possible, or your raid takes damage from the goo, plus Gorseval heavily reflects damage during this phase (like a buffed retaliation), and it can add up to a wipe if left uncontrolled.

Here we enter the province of (arguably) control: the specifically “unique” breakbar management of GW2.

Depleting this second bar requires repeated hard cc in quick succession. The wiki lists a bunch of examples of such cc.

Revenant staff 5 and warrior headbutt is favored fairly often in my particular raid group for break bars. Gorseval, in particular, is vulnerable to engineer slick shoes, which apparently takes advantage of his larger hitbox to spread a larger oil slick effect, which in turn demolishes his break bar.

I suppose one could file this trick in the questionably grey spectrum between “skill” and “exploit.”

Like it or not, raid groups forever chasing the optimal will do it. Some to eke out the last bit of dps they need because they’re struggling. Some because they’re the natural spade explorer-of-systems types and will break these things by their very nature, or in their optimizing search for better, faster, harder.

Personally, I confess that it bothers me very little.

Across the lifespan of the game, we’ve seen little tricks like fiery greatsword rush into walls, pre-nerf ice bow on large hitboxes, linecasting, purposeful positioning to cleave double hitboxes on dragon “objects” and the triple trouble wurm, “faceblocking” husks at wurm (aka standing at a special spot while using an invulnerability skill, which prevents the creation of husks altogether, ie. a sort of extreme egg-reflecting), pre-using potent potions of elemental slaying so that they continue to last while inside the raid instance, burnzerker stacking of their Scorched Earth fire-field to overlap onto a boss’s hitbox so that burns ticked twice or thrice (RIP), swimming underwater to kill the mossman, standing on conveniently/badly placed tree branches to kill mossman, and the recent hilarity of the creative use of conveniently/badly placed adrenal mushrooms to recreate the GW1 minion master to bleedingly devastating effect… (hell, I want one before it’s fixed…)

Some tricks take a certain amount of skill to perform, some don’t; most involve a lot of out of the box / fourth wall breaking understanding of game mechanics to figure out such a thing is possible, and most produce rather OP results, which is why they’re used.

Generally, my thinking is, if what happens is not intended by the devs, and determined to be undesirable, they should and will get around to patching it out. If it’s deemed fine or too unimportant to fix, it’s left in and people keep using it, whatever it is.

Once fixed, people adapt and move on to the next best thing. On and on the cycle goes.

Anyhow, once Gorseval’s break bar is broken, by whichever means, a coordinated cc spike or one really good engineer player (mind you, not everyone can do it. It takes know how and practice,) he crashes to the ground and the group gets a few valuable seconds of dps in.

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It is also possible, in a no breakbar chak gerent fashion, to try a delayed breakbar strategy in order for more dps time. This does requires some strong healing to outheal the goop and retaliation damage though.

Healing in GW2 is currently the area where most groups have opted to stick closest to the holy trinity.

It’s not the combat system per se, there have been groups that have managed the Vale Guardian with tempest (elementalist) healers, a revenant healer in Ventari spec, a ten-man all-guardian kill where presumably at least one of the guardians was on heal coverage duty. Theorycrafting has suggested even thieves and necromancers with the right builds can output decent amounts of heals.

However, for a multitude of reasons, for now druid (ranger) healers seem the most popular.

Popular opinion holds that it’s the class most capable of producing a really high consistent output of directed (aka controllable and predictable) healing.

I also suspect that many ranger players, who probably went for the class because it offered the convenience of sitting back and plinking away at range at first glance, are closet healer players. They -like- the trinity healer playstyle. So given the option of fulfilling such a specialist role, many leapt at the chance. Contrast this to, say, thief classes whose players likely gravitated to the concept to do big damage and lots of it, and a willing specialist thief “healer” is much harder to come by, beyond bored already-on-farm groups open to experimentation.

The trinity healer concept is also easiest to grasp from an outsider standpoint, so the natural tendency for simplification becomes “We need a healer! Ok, who has a druid? Grab one from LFG if not.”

Strictly speaking, the pigeon-holing is not necessitated by the combat system. But players being players, they do gravitate to the option of least resistance and perceived most optimum.

I’m not 100% certain, but it seems that both the Vale Guardian and Gorseval produce auras that damage everybody for around 1000-1400 per pulse now and then. This steady trickle of damage encourages the use of at least one healer to offset it. They also help the tank stay upright, and top off the big damaging hits that players who are bad at dodging are likely to take (especially on squishy classes like elementalists or thieves.)

In a really pro group though, I’m not sure there’s a dedicated healer per se. I haven’t spent that much time analyzing this no updraft kill of Gorseval by the Snow Crows group, I just glanced through it for a couple minutes while constructing this post. From the druid’s POV, he’s dps’ing with a sword most of the time, and most of the members are making do with their self-heals and good positioning and dodging. Some members catch a protection boon now and then, and there seems to be a near constant source of regeneration being pulsed from someone, which I am not sure who exactly.

But you know why they take a druid? The druid also has one big advantage. It has buffs. Desirable boons. Frost spirit. Spotter. Grace of the land.

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An example of a buff bar that still leaves a little something to be desired.

(To be frank, I don’t yet know half of the icons on the second bar by heart. I know what warrior banners look like because I play warriors very often but the rest is fuzzy. We had some less experienced players as the mightbots on this particular run and somehow, through build, gear or playstyle, party members weren’t catching 25 stacks of might consistently.)

Here we leave the realm of pure holy trinity, and veer more toward the realm of City of Heroes, where proactive buffs were just as important as, and could even replace pure healers.

Where GW2 is concerned, offensive buffs are a must-have always-maintain affair. This stems from the raid designers balancing the raid based on supergroups that do care about maximizing all this support at all times. Without them, other raid groups tend to struggle to output sufficient dps to overcome the enrage timer.

So, 25 might stacks. Given to the primary dps’ers at a minimum. Fury to up critical chance. Quickness and alacrity to speed up attacks and reduce skill cooldowns. Specific class traits like Empower Allies from warriors and Spotter from rangers.

Defensive buffs like regeneration and protection are nice to haves. Protection, especially, preemptively cuts down the amount of group damage taken, relieving stress on the primary healer.

One thing I’ve noticed in my runs, anecdotally, groups who pay attention to appropriate group composition and distribution of boons end up heaps more successful than groups who do not.

A GW2 raid composition has a tendency to saves about 4-6 slots for buffers, 1 for healing. (Optimal raid compositions are still in experimental flux, but mostly for the purposes of min-maxing to fit in more dps, and hybridizing for even more dps, rather than making room for more pure tanks or healers.)

In my book, that makes buffing as important a function and probably -more- important than pure healing.

Might is the province of PS warriors-berserkers and revenant-heralds. Strictly speaking, these are not the only might generators out there. But again, there is a tendency toward cookie cutter simplicity, due to the ease of might generation with these two builds, and the relative simplicity of operating both of these classes.

Fury can be covered by a revenant, but lately, has been moving towards the province of the druid (since it is coming along anyway as a healer, so it may as well provide more buffs too.)

Quickness/Alacrity has mostly been the province of chronomancers. Since the patch that nerfed them somewhat, there have been hints that guardians may also have a slight inroad along this front, but the meta hasn’t really changed in that direction yet.

Guardians though have a place when protection is desired. Hammer guardian-dragonhunter dps has lately been talked up, and hammer guardians are one of the best at laying down a constant field of protection. Revenants too have the flexibility to output protection in lieu of guardians.

The raid group I’m in tends to utilize two PS warriors, one or two revenants, a druid and a chronomancer at a bare mininum before filling the rest of the slots with a tank, and extra classes as needed by the encounter (eg. condi classes for VG, good ranged dps for Gorseval, etc.)

All this can and is likely to change when the next raid wing launches. If, for example, an encounter regularly flips boons into conditions, the need for high condition cleanse and avoidance of boon production is likely to create demand for a whole different set of builds/classes. Necros might then be in really high demand for taking conditions from their allies and sending it back to the appropriate party, fer instance.

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Back to Gorseval. Once the break bar sequence is done, and he gets up and mobile again, the intended mechanic (if your group is not pro deeps) works like this.

The tank leads him over to one of the updrafts in the arena. There are four of them in the NW, NE, SW, SE cardinal directions (visible as the swirly things on the minimap.)

Simultaneously, a number of things have to happen. A wall needs to be broken to allow the raid to escape once Gorseval starts his World Eater attack. Loose spirits have to be killed or else Gorseval will consume them after his World Eater and be correspondingly buffed in power, increasing the damage he outputs.

Oh, and Gorseval still needs to be attacked constantly, or you’ll fail the upcoming dps check.

The overall strategy generally relies on some party members to pull (aka crowd control) souls toward Gorseval and the raid group, clumping them up, so that they can be aoe’d down or melee cleaved down at the same time while maintaining damage on Gorseval.

Melee cleaving should also be taking place on the wall, so that it comes down as well. In a pinch, if, say something goes wrong, folks get delayed by rezzing a downed person or whatever, it’s possible to focus everyone on the wall to get that down first too. On the fly target prioritization balance has to take place.

Condi necros have a decent niche here, as epidemic can spread conditions around to all the souls and be hitting Gorseval too. Their viper horror build which produces many itty bitty minions of bleeding goodness is currently making its rounds, courtesy of Reddit.

Generally, ranged AoE damage dealers are the popular pick. Staff elementalists are the current reigning champion, after burnzerkers fell off their perch of OPness.

Sometime around here, Gorseval does his swipe, then arm smash again, and then he starts his World Eater attack. A speading orange circle of doom indicates the time left until staying in the arena = instant death.

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As the updraft only lasts so long a time, a party member cannot panic and jump off first. He or she will drain the time on the updraft, leaving the rest of the raid to fall to their doom. Also, that’s lost dps time.

So the whole raid stays and dps methodically until the circles almost touch… whereupon everyone jumps off, takes flight with glider wings, gets uplifted by the updraft and then glides back down to Gorseval when his World Eater is done.

Pray no glider malfunctions occur.

If they do, that person insta-splats to the ground and the raid leader will often call for a voluntary wipe, because that one missing person is often crucial lost dps.

Ideally, the tank lands first, to one side of Gorseval, and everyone else lands on the other side. In practice, well, our group isn’t pro pro, so it’s more of a random cluster.

Around this time again, Gorse will do his swipe and arm smash yet again. One raid group I joined suggested it was best to stay aloft until he finishes this smash then land. Another raid group I joined was fine with just landing and starting the attack asap and dodging as appropriate. Each group’s mileage will differ. It’s mostly a tension between as much dps as possible and safety in not having people downed (dps loss when someone else – probably many someones – stop attacking to rez) or permanently dead (may as well wipe now.)

Then he segues back into his break bar ground-pounding sequence. Repeat previous solution.

Now comes the dps check. ~33% of his health bar must have fallen off throughout the entire sequence above, before he completes his next World Eater attack.

Basically, there are only so many updrafts to use, so you cannot use an updraft at this stage. He must be brought down to ~66% of his health bar and forcibly shoved into his next Charged Souls phase.

If sufficient damage is dealt, the message “Gorseval Beckons For Souls” appears, he goes invulnerable, and four Charged Souls appear at each NW, NE, SW and SE direction. These souls proceed to walk with a one-track mind, ignoring anything aggro or tank-related, towards Gorseval.

If one of them reaches Gorseval, he eats it, then does a World Eater attack that wipes the raid. The end.

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So. The other missing member from a tank-dps-heals trinity comes right back into play. Control. Specifically SOFT control. These guys ignore the hard cc that everyone is now used to throwing onto a break bar. They do not get knocked back, launched, pushed, pulled, stunned, dazed, the works.

You need cripples, chills, and most of all, immobilizes.

No neat tank, dps, healer lines here. It’s what your class and build has and can bring to the table. Depending on the raid group, strategies can range from splitting up the raid group equally to both slow and burn them down before they reach Gorseval, or assigning three individuals who know what they’re doing and have the required control to immobilize and slow the souls long enough while the rest of the raid zergs down one soul and then proceeds to deal with the rest in systematic fashion.

This is a point which can trip up newbies to the raid fairly often. As mentioned in a prior post, the first time I did Gorseval, I had some spectacular screwups of the “what am I supposed to do again?!” variety. Just today, I watched new members repeat the lil incident I had, in even more spectacular fail fashion (couldn’t even find the soul in the correct cardinal direction, then of course, spectacularly fail to slow it down, let alone hold it sufficiently.)

Importance of control? Very.

Once the four Charged Souls are dead, Gorseval becomes vulnerable again and the entire sequence repeats.

Arm swipe, arm smash, break bar. Drag to wall, arm swipe, arm smash, break wall, clear spirits. World Eater, jump and glide. Land, arm swipe, arm smash, break bar. DPS to the next magic health number.

Oh, but now you get the added complication of orbs of darkity-dark. (Okay, “Orbs of Spectral Darkness.”)

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These things pop up randomly all over like bad mushrooms and spread a growing aura of debuffing badness. If you wander into them, you catch stacks of this debuff. The more stacks on you, the more damage you take, the less damage you do. It’s all hits on overall dps.

To get rid of the debuff, an orb has to be killed, and then you walk over the yellow glowy mini-orb it leaves behind.

Usually, the ranged attacking elementalist(s) are given the additional role of cleaning up the area in the vicinity of the raid of said orbs. I dunno what you’d call this – there’s damage involved, and it’s also both a form of support and crowd control? It’s not tanking or healing, anyway.

So we rinse and repeat (with orbs) until that magic number we were talking about, which happens to be ~33% of the health bar.

Enter Charged Souls phase 2 (now with orbs.)

Once that’s done, the whole sequence repeats one more time (with orbs) and now, with an additional Ghostly Traps/Egg attack.

Gorseval arm swipes, arm smashes, and then he spits ghostly traps at every player. Orange circles appear under each player’s feet. Moving out of it / dodging out is critical.

Here we’re back to utilizing GW2’s unique movement/dodge mechanic again. No tank can save you. No healer can save you. Each player has to learn how to avoid it.

Fail to do so, and you’re entrapped in a ghostly egg which pulses damage on you. Similar to certain spider-egg attacks in open world GW2, others have to break you out by dealing damage to the egg (dps loss on Gorseval, remember!) and/or you should be spamming the new special action key in order to break free.

But really, try not to get caught in the first place…

(Our group isn’t 100% pro, as mentioned, so every so often, there are 1-4 eggs popping up while our raid leader grouses that everyone should really know better. Damned human frailty.)

Now if your raid’s composition and dps is really good, Gorseval should be dead by the end of this third sequence/updraft.

Maybe our group sucks, or because it’s mostly Oceanic and on the other side of the world, if Gorseval ain’t dead yet, there is a tiny amount of leeway to use the fourth updraft to buy a little more dps time.

It depends. Let us not forget that there is a hard enrage timer on Gorseval as well and it’s been ticking down too. Depending on the total amount of time left, the raid leader might decide to use the fourth updraft or just say, fuck it, dps the crap out of it and hope it dies (because there’s not enough time left to do the whole gliding shebang) or whatever.

Personal success rates have been iffy, but possible. As mentioned, when burnzerkers were a thing, there was apparently a great deal of cheesing the hell out of Gorseval. I only got in rather late on that, but did at least do one successful kill with some 3+ burnzerkers of mass destruction.

Post burnzerker readjustment, I did score at least one other successful kill PS warrior-ing (I fail to recall if it’s one or two kills, there was one extremely memorable clutch kill of Gorseval with one quarter of the raid dead and the remaining were downed as he went into enrage, and that has wiped out any memory of a “normal” kill.)

Why do I like Gorseval the most? (Insofar as I could be said to “like” a raid.)

Well, first of all, even though the phases sound really convoluted and elaborate on first reading, and I thought it would be really hard to absorb or learn in practice, Gorseval’s phases are very predictable and build on each other in an understandable, ramping up slightly pattern.

He’s big, thus his animations are easier to read, the encounter has more of that epic ‘raid’ feeling.

Group wipes are generally at predictable points and phases, so it feels easier to learn, you get a longer time to see full cycles of the same repeating pattern and absorb it, rather than randomly wipe and die because someone just screwed up right then. If you wipe at Gorseval, it’s usually a group failure to pass whatever checkpoint or milestone that was (or glider malfunction, but we won’t talk about that.)

If you manage phase 1, you can usually keep going past phase 1 until the group manages phase 2, and the same for phase 3. There’s very little backward progress because an individual just randomly screwed up in phase 1. The phases ramp up gradually, allowing for gradual learning, and never hit a point of insanity.

The dps check comes early – if your group can get past to the Charged Souls, the group theoretically has enough damage to kill him in time, as long as people don’t make too many mistakes. Success feels possible.

Second of all, the whole thing takes place pretty quickly in real time. He has a 7 minute timer. Full stop. (Do I personally think it’s a little too tight? Yeah. But it shows how compressed in time the phases are.)

It adds up to a very quick and actiony sequence that flows seamlessly from one into another, while not being super-complicated to the point of brain overload. Folks who like more strategically-paced combat might shudder at this, but I do personally like the quicker pace of action combat.

Lastly, I think the Gorseval fight showcases pretty much most of the aspects of the GW2 combat system. Yes, aggro exists. Yes, there is a tank, insofar as someone wearing a +4 infusion of toughness (not my group, a pro group) could be said to be tanking. The mob positioning is there. Sturdiness, not so much. Taunting and threat fighting over doing damage? Nope.

Yes, there can be a healer, again insofar as a druid in berserker gear and not doing that much healing per se (not my group again) could be said to be healing. Or if the group needs it to stay upright enough to deal sufficient group dps, there can be a greater focus towards healing power and a more specialist role.

Hell yes, you’re still going to have to read animations and dodge.

You’re still going to need buffs out the wazoo.

Oh, and you’d better understand all aspects of control, or you’ll be sorry.

And yeah, you need to do damage, but you’re probably already really really good at that, right?

Gee, I almost forgot, you need to be able to glide and have those masteries and what not. (By now, most HoT owners have them though.)

There’s a group split, there’s a group reforming, hell, there’s even zerging (that’s GW2 players for you. Circle strat for the win.)

It’s quite the showcase, really.

Is it maybe a bit too tightly tuned and unforgiving of groups who don’t max out every buff in existence, don’t have picture-perfect skill rotations and the ping to execute them and overly focused on maximizing dps, to the extent that it encourages dps meter-ing? Maaaybe.

But he is pretty fun to fight, -if- your raid composition was good to begin with, and man, a mini of him would look great underfoot.

Why Are We Even Arguing About The Holy Trinity?

I really didn’t want to jump on this bandwagon again, but I mostly felt the need to defend the often maligned GW2 combat system, often perceived as “zerg all the things, press 1” or “everyone is dps, stack and cleave.” This argument is often used by holy trinity proponents as an example of non-holy trinity failure and mostly demonstrates their lack of understanding of said system.

Folks, the above is a result of keeping difficulty levels easy and simple, because casuals don’t like it to be more complex than that, and pissing off the casual playerbase is a good way to have loads of unhappy customers.

Hell, -I- personally like to have many parts of my game simple, relaxing, easy fun where I can turn off my brain after a hard day’s work and go farm stuff by myself, or get rewards for hitting a loot pinata with a bunch of other people. Champion trains, Edge of the Mists player vs door trains, Silverwaste chest farms are popular for that very reason!

The GW2 combat system has always been foundationally capable of a lot more, and if people haven’t figured that out by now, they’re voluntarily playing at easier difficulty levels, or they just haven’t bothered to learn.

This will be a multi-part post. The first is a more general rant against the holy trinity (and I can get very acerbic in places, so don’t say I didn’t warn you if you do happen to be pro-holy trinity) and I’ll get to more specific GW2 “how raids work sans holy trinity” posts over the next few days/weekend.

Now on to the fun rant:

Seriously, why are we even talking about this any longer, in this day and age?

The holy trinity is dead. It never really existed to begin with, beyond a brief blip of fame with the super-simplified World of Warcraft.

Everquest players will tell you that crowd control was a vaunted and valuable function and role where certain classes were desired and sought after.

An old MUD player like myself will point out that many different MUDs experimented with a variety of combat roles/systems beyond the pure tank/dps/heals trinity. 

Some used standing in the frontline position as a way to ‘tank’ or dictate who got hit preferentially. The MUD I played mainly used who entered the room first and engaged with fighting the mob as the set tank, with one class able to ‘rescue’ in order to swap tanking positions.

Heals might be self-heals, besides being cast by another player. The MUD I played used a sort of Diablo-esque precursor system. Heal spells were pre-brewed into potions by the cleric class. The cleric couldn’t cast heal spells as fast as you could quaff said potions. So the cleric stayed at home and crafted, and you brought a more damage-focused character to kill things, armed with some 200-500 heal potions, depending on how much you could carry.

ARPGs today still use a variation of that, you can always self-heal with potions, even if they make room for specialist classes to also heal you up, while playing in a group.

See, there have always been a couple of functions that exist in most typical combat systems.

Damage, of course, is one. You can’t “kill” things without doing damage. 

Variations include melee or ranged damage (aka coupling damage with positioning); or instant direct damage vs damage over time (DoTs, aka coupling damage over time. GW1 added the concept of degeneration, basically a really -fast- damage over time status effect or condition or debuff); or how many things you hit at one time (single target or area of effect, often with many fun shapes beyond circles now, courtesy of Wildstar and GW2.)

Survivability or damage mitigation is another. Basically how high your health pool is, how much armor you have, if you can dodge or evade or otherwise negate hits in some fashion, etc. 

City of Heroes broke this down nicely for us into two major types – resistance, where you took only a percentage of damage dealt each time, or defence, where you had a percentage chance to completely not get hit at all. The first led to more predictably sturdy characters whose health bar whittled down slowly, the latter to characters that felt invulnerable, until they failed a roll invisibly and then got an almighty punch to the face that slapped down a large portion of health, surprising everybody.

Controling of mob aggro is yet another function, ie. who the mob chooses to hit. Your typical MMO does this with a threat generation system which takes into account damage dealt, healing output, and then tends to ruin it all by giving certain classes skills that merely add huge globs of threat to this invisible counter (well, invisible until someone runs an add-on.)

It’s a convention that doesn’t necessarily have to be this way though. The Guild Wars series is the best example of spinning this concept on its head. 

The first game used a PvP-like priority system, the mobs liked to pick on casters and healers and light armor wearers and lowest health players. Makes more sense than picking on the heavily armored tank calling its mother names, no?

In PvE, there was the added concept of proximity aggro, as marked by the danger zone circle on one’s minimap. I’ll frankly confess that prior to playing City of Heroes and absorbing more of these aggro concepts subconsciously, I’d get into serious serious trouble playing Guild Wars 1, unable to conceive of backing away and pulling mobs, and thus causing my aggro circle to overlap multiple groups of patroling mobs, which led to chaos and carnage among my party. 

Post-CoH, when I went back to playing GW1, everything felt surprisingly easier, because I was methodically pulling and clearing single groups at a time without even realising I was doing so.

GW2’s aggro system has always existed, but has been frankly, invisible to many many players and not general knowledge until raids came about and made it a necessity. From the start, the wiki spelled it out. Toughness, proximity, damage dealt are the biggest factors, and each mob is capable of varying behaviors based on these factors, even at different phases of their hp. 

Many mobs respect highest toughness as the primary factor, unless they’ve been set to prioritize lowest toughness instead (very rarely occurs, eg. might be what’s happening during Lupicus phase 2 when he chooses a shadowstep target.)

When toughness is equal, aka everyone is in berserker gear or 0 toughness gear, with no other traits that give toughness, they default to proximity and damage dealt. We blend the two because it’s hard to tell what takes precedence, melee damage tends to do a considerable amount of damage, backing off to drop aggro lowers both proximity and damage dealt over time, so yeah…

…except when the mob is again set to consider something different as a target, such as Mai Trin’s favorite attack that often fucks up the most scaredy cat ranged attacker of the group (aka the furthest away from her.)

Then there’s player positioning and mob positioning. Typically, the first is the onus of every player to be where they’re supposed to, in or out of harm’s way, able to hurt or aid as appropriate. The second is often the purview of the tank and off-tanks, to move mobs where they need to be.

Again, it doesn’t have to be so. Most crowd control roles would do well to understand appropriate mob positioning, be it through pulls, knockbacks, roots/immobilizes, or just via body-blocking (in games that support that) or line of sight pulls or kiting. GW2 ups the ante by asking that most/all players learn this in harder group content.

Plenty of games these days have brought control back to the forefront as a fourth comer to shatter the trinity. City of Heroes, Wildstar, GW2 have all experimented with variations on this count.

CoH used controllers as a tank substitute, negating the alpha strike from a pack of mobs and holding them in place to be beat on. No more waiting for that one special self-important egomaniac “tank” before the group can proceed to play.

Wildstar used the Interupt Armor concept as a mitigating defence against CoH’s binary controls. (When on, they were all powerful. When off, they did absolutely nothing, much to frustration of the classes that relied on it and had to fight mobs made invulnerable to controls. Control magnitude and purple triangles on mobs turning up or down to indicate periods of vulnerability were a half-baked way to address this, but never to much satisfaction, it was too random most of the time, the very antithesis of control.)

So Wildstar brought in Interrupt Armor stacks. Each control strips off one status effect buff that protected the mob from CC. The next CC takes effect. Now there was group contribution and the possibility of group coordinating a CC spike. I don’t play Wildstar, so I have no idea which part of the trinity took on the CC role as well, but if we’re lucky, maybe -all- of them.

GW2 decided that even this was too binary and random. Given the fast pace of the game, it would be quite frustrating to strip off stacks and then have a short control take effect over a long one, just because that short one happened to land when all the invulnerability was off.

So they went for a controlled pre-set effect to take place, when a “break bar” was sufficiently depleted by coordinated CC. Different controls could also be given more weight using this system, rather than all controls being equivalent with a more binary on/off system.

Bhagpuss argues that this then becomes just another health bar to take down.

In a way, yes, there is a resemblance, but I don’t think that resemblance is unhealthy. It’ an easier concept for most people to grasp, the idea of a second health bar that can only be damaged by a different set of skills. There is added complexity in having to balance both – take more skills to do damage to real health, or take more skills to damage the other bar, in order to prevent a wipe or to help add more overall combined group damage when said mob is controlled successfully.

There is one major difference though, that has this second “health bar” echo something out of GW1. It can and often regenerates very quickly. As quickly as GW1 health bars do, under the effect of heals and regeneration. The coordinated spike of burst damage is again brought into play, a very PvPish concept, as opposed to the more PvE-like whittling down of a very large health reservoir.

Interrupts, as a concept, are really about the optimal timing of controls, often within a short interval, while the other party is in the middle of a skill cast.

Enough about control variations, what about support?

There’s reactive support, heals being the prime example. Something happens, the player does something else in response to mitigate this.

Healing, like damage, also sports all of its variations. Funny AoE shapes, instant or DoTs, affects others, affects self, the works. (Self-healing, though, should be pointed out as a critical decision point that affects how reliant on others an individual player has to be. More on that later.)

There’s proactive support, the player does something before the bad stuff happens. (Or at least while it’s happening, which would overlap in the proactive to reactive spectrum.) This is the realm of offensive (damage boosting) and defensive buffs (shielding/protection), of damage reflecting / retaliation, and so on.

Support can be always-on, or short-lived. The first are usually of the fire and forget buff variety, mostly pre-cast and made long as a convenience so that the poor buffers don’t get RSI. The second is more challenging, and either requires good skill rotation to maintain permanence if possible, or appropriate timing for best effect (such as the guardian aegis in GW2, which can completely block and negate one big hit for the group.)

The last trick is that of summoning or pets or minions. The player gets to create mobs from nothing, that can then take on some or all of the above functions, from damage, sturdiness, taking mob aggro, controls, support or heals.

Truth is, across the huge spectrum of games these days, from MOBAs and FPSes, ARPGs to yes, MMOs, you’ll see this variation of functions and combat concepts, which range from 4-7 in number, very rarely the pure holy trinity.

The uniqueness comes when the different games start assigning different classes roles and functions that pick and choose from these 4-6 general concepts.

One class could have the sturdiness of a typical tank, but lack means of aggro control, and be more focused on damage, a superhero style bruiser/brute archetype.

MOBAs, especially, have gone down one extreme, where each special character played has its own unique schtick to keep in mind, along with a vague general role function. This makes game mastery an exercise in specific game knowledge, after one memorizes/learns 48, 72, 112, 123, characters…

(I presume that Marvel Heroes follows a similar-ish route, though probably with less depth than most MOBAs.)

Pro-holy trinity-ians have long lost this battle.

No, really, we should leave this poor dead horse where it is, and take up arms around the real crux of the matter.

It’s not about tank/heals/dps, it’s about how group-reliant they want other players to be. 

Dare I say it, it’s about how dependent on others they want for everyone in their game to be, about how self-important they can feel having a special unique snowflake of a role that is irreplaceable (at least until another identical class shows up. /duh.)

Sorry, folks, I can’t keep the scorn out of my writing for such a mindset.

It’s an argument in similar vein to, “I want other people to play with me, so please force them to, by offering them no choice whatsoever,” regardless of how introverted or disinterested the other person is with regards to playing in a group, or how their schedules look like.

It also makes no sense whatsoever.

As mentioned, even in a game with utterly pure unique roles, that healer is still replaceable by another healer, that tank for another tank.

There is no harm in allowing two (or more) classes to cover the same roles, to overlap in role function. If we don’t have X class, ok, someone can bring Y class (that they do have) and that part of the fight can be covered. 

Added flexibility reduces stand around and wait to play time.

There can still be group interdependence and synergy in a holy-trinityless game. 

City of Heroes generally needed an alpha strike taker in their groups (tank, controller types, plus the villainous brutes, dominators, masterminds, or even buffer/debuffers with enough cojones to self-survive through it), plus enough buff/debuffs made everyone a god of war. Plenty of room for damage-dealers, mob-positioners, supporters, the works. 

The whole was generally larger than the sum of its parts (at least, until Incarnate powers and loot came along.)

There’s even room for special roles for that special snowflake feeling. They just take on more game-specific, build-specific names. GW1 had the imbagon, aka the imbalanced crazy buffer paragon that armored everyone into invincibility, among plenty of other ‘required’ components of a specialized group.

GW2 will always require might-stackers, most often covered by the PS warrior, but now with added flexibility by having a revenant in Herald elite spec also able to perform a similar function. The chronomancer is a must-have in many raid parties for quickness and alacrity generation (guardian quickness is not yet part of the meta but there seem to be some suggestions that the wind might be blowing a little in that direction…)

There’s plenty of encounter-specific roles as well, and a shit load of group interdependence in raids that I can only address in another post.

The only real defence for the holy trinity, that I -might- acquiesce to, is this: Simplicity.

The “it’s too hard for me to understand anything more complex” “casuals want to just drop in and have mindless fun, and feel comforted and familiar with a system they’ve already learned” argument. 

Maybe even the “I want to get carried as a no-responsibility dps because I’m not good at / have no time to learn anything more about this game” argument.

Because, as I said earlier, I have nothing against mindless fun. I like it a lot. I like being lazy and relaxing most of the time, taking the easiest route and the path of least resistance. 

I also don’t like turning away those that aren’t good at the game. If there’s a way for stronger players to support or carry weaker players to success, then all the merrier. That’s a true social game, helping others, being helped in return, because we’re all good at some things and not good at all at other things. (But let’s face it, neither mindless fun, an easy to grasp system or being able to cover for others -requires- the holy trinity.)

Catering to the lowest common denominator is the road to popularity and $$$, contrary to what most of the self-proclaimed “hardcore” will say. An easy to grasp, approachable game that doesn’t frustrate or turn away the bulk of its players at first contact will have a larger population to support it. It so happens that WoW has trained this said bulk of players to be familiar with only one combat system playstyle, so well, if you’re copycatting,  or cloning WoW, holy trinity is probably your best bet.

The instant a defender of the holy trinity brings up the complexity of tanking or healing or getting skill rotations just right as a dps though, I start to scoff. “Then why not broaden your horizons further and learn more of the other specialist functions and of other games that let you play a hybrid class that can be equally good at two things at once? Isn’t that more hardcore, special snowflake heroic, complex and laudable? Why content yourself with doing one thing well, when you can do two, three, four things well?”

Bottom line, it goes back to “I don’t like or want to learn or play any other roles or combinations thereof. I just like this one and am not flexible or adaptable.”

So let’s just say it how it is. Holy trinity defenders are sticks-in-the-mud that want to feel special and want to force other people to roll around in the mud with them.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. A preference is a preference.

It’s just not going to be a game that suits -me.-

And you won’t catch me playing a game designed in such a way for long.

Banished – The Minecraft Edition

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The past week’s singleplayer poison of choice has been the Banished modpack for Minecraft.

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In it, you take on the role of -the- dark mage responsible for tainting the world of the Hubris modpack (also by the same mod creator) who has now been banished to an entirely subterranean jail dimension.

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Not the most auspicious of beginnings.

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This jail dimension is one of its core strengths and unique features, utilizing the Caveworld mod to create a sprawling nested network of tunnels, caves and scarily deep ravines that also have their own separate biomes, so forest caves, swamp caves, plains caves, mesa caves of hardened clay, etc.

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Grass blocks and vines provide a slightly more varied cave experience than the standard vanilla Minecraft cave.

There’s even a hell cave biome made up of netherbrick (which you will need, since there’s no crossing over to the Nether when you’re jailed in Caveworld.)

Lycanites Mobs is used in conjunction to populate this subterranean world with a host of fairly terrifying entities (especially when encountered for the first time.)

Grues lurk in the dark making horrendous noises. Phantoms walk right through most walls, and are fairly impervious to ranged projectiles, so your only inkling that one is coming by to murderize you is its hoarse whispering chant of “kill kill kill…”

Chupacabras are certainly not rare legends here. And I’ll confess, the griefing capacity of certain augmented creepers has prompted at least one world ragequit and entire new world restart, plus a reinstall from AromaBackup.

The first was a case of getting blown up before even getting a bed set up and losing the bed and iterim chest contents while spawning somewhere else. The second was having some precious machines blown up while sitting at home base reading through one of the many magic mod books trying to figure out what to do next.

The only reason I haven’t turned off mob griefing yet is laziness looking for it in the configs. I do heartily recommend doing that if you hate mob griefing though.

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The good news, if you’re more of a “play as intended” type, is that you can build interdiction torches from the ProjectE mod when you’re a little more progressed through the early game – these things will push away hostile mobs within a 5 block radius.

Apparently, the mobs won’t go through obsidian either, so there is the option of sheathing your entire base in obsidian too. (That’s something I might get around to, way way in the future though.)

Banished’s other selling point is the strong focus on magic-related mods and its initial set up that establishes you as a dark mage front and center.

There aren’t a wealth of mod options, you mostly get Ars Magica 2, Aura Cascade, Botania, Thaumcraft 4, and ProjectE, so these are what you’ll have to learn to progress. But damn, all of these are hefty -deep- mods that will take a while to go through.

It ostensibly uses HQM, so there are some guided goals that will point you in various directions.

Honestly though, I’ve seen better written guidance/learning quests in modpacks like Regrowth, so don’t expect the Banished HQM book to hold your hand every step of the way.

It’s more sparse when it comes to coverage of the magic mods. You’ll be leafing through the actual mod books/manuals more often, and there are gaps where you’ll have to figure out for yourself what to do or how to best get a certain item. (Locating mushrooms come to mind, as well as trying to figure out how to get a bucket of milk.)

The HQM book is strongest in its initial setup quest:

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You start off with nearly nothing, and must conjure your first materials out of nothing but sheer willpower and the dark energy you harvest from killing a whole bunch of monsters (plus the handy dandy player focus and HQM book that actually enables this, of course.)

The basic idea is that killing various types of monsters completes a HQM quest, that you then claim a reward that boosts your Dark Power reputation.

Other HQM quests will let you turn in said Dark Power reputation, to obtain necessary items like saplings, seeds, eggs and so on.

Furthermore, turning in Dark Power reputation also allows you to unlock some pre-made spells from Ars Magica 2.

This gets you set up as a mage pretty quickly, as you can get a spell to Dig and mine blocks without a pickaxe, a Rock Blast that packs a larger punch than a bow and arrow, a Grow spell that acts like free bonemeal, and can Conjure Water out of thin air.

What isn’t really spelled out for you though (pun fully intended) is that these initial basic premade spells are mostly Touch range spells, so you have to be up close for most of them to work. This can lead to some perplexed spamming of things like Conjure Water, wondering what’s going on, and then inadvertently drenching yourself when your cursor gets close enough to you to work.

Later, you get other spells that can work in a beam fashion, or in a 3×3 panel or 3x3x3 cube, or as projectiles. (Hint: Magelight 2 is awesome, essentially free spammable torches that are shot in a projectile fashion.)

It’s nice that your spellbook can essentially replace more standard Minecraft tool use for most things, which changes things up from the more typical Tinker’s Construct tool focus.

The Silent’s Gems mod give the option for really supercharged tools to augment this foundation of self-powered sufficiency, built out of gems mined from the earth, and enabling the creation of Enchantment Tokens that let you pick and choose the desired enchantment, rather than relying on the RNG of vanilla Minecraft enchantment.

Again, what’s not explained is that the Fluffy Puff from this Silent’s Gem mod can actually be planted and grown to provide a source of string/wool/feathers. You’d have to figure it out for yourself, or hey, stumble across something like this post to learn about it.

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Yours truly has gotten a little more established a base now, after a week of slow and careful play.

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This is the Aura Cascade corner, which is quite technical/machine oriented, even if it has a magical theme.

I’m still working out the hows of the mod, but the basic principle is that the red squares are pumps that can shoot Aura energy upward to the grey node squares. Aura flows downhill, so they will fall back down to the lowest point, and generate Power while doing so. Relevant Aura Cascade machines use that Power in order to perform various functions.

Such as coloring sheep woold various colors, as well as combining/crafting new items via Vortex Infusion (the cyan altar-like thing.)

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The Botania chamber has been expanding somewhat over time, while I try vainly to figure out how to get more in-depth with the mod yet again. (This is maybe my third encounter with Botania and still haven’t learnt/progressed much with it.)

I want to make a more or less semi-automatic tree planting machine for mana, but the required Botania flowers require all sorts of other materials, most of which send me up another path entirely while trying to figure out how I’m going to get those things. (eg. Snow, cake, milk, unsoweiter.)

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My little underground experimental pasture, with what turned out to be a pretty bad decision to put an isolated mob spawning chamber next to it.

I veered completely off the HQM book for these guys. As of right now, I still have no idea if the HQM book provides a way to obtain passive mobs.

The original plan was to just dig a huge underground grass patch and see if natural spawning would take place.

Then I got immensely impatient, and while reading one badly documented mod webpage/website after another, figured out that the Philosopher’s Stone from ProjectE can fire a projectile charge that transmutates mobs (and it seems to consume redstone to do this. Possibly other fuel too, but since I don’t want to lose anything inadvertdently, I’ve just been keeping redstone in inventory.)

Enter about an hour of wandering around caves, trying to find a mob, and then changing it into a sheep, then trying to lead the damn sheep up cave slopes and shove it through a very narrow tunnel into my underground pasture…

That ended up more than a bit of a wash.

Then I had the bright idea of putting two modpacks together in possibly unanticipated ways…

Apparently, zapping Lycanite Mobs (aka mobs ProjectE doesn’t really recognize or know how to deal with) with a Philosopher’s Stone changes them either to a sheep or a slime. 50/50 ain’t bad.

Apparently, one can summon Lycanite Mob minions with a Summoning Staff…

The question then popped up… can I zap my own minion (which you can set on passive) with a Philosopher’s Stone?

The answer was: YES, YOU CAN.

So I ended up in my underground pasture, summoning my own minion mobs and changing them into sheep or slime.

You can then zap the sheep to randomly change them into all the other passive mobs. (Passive mobs => passive mobs, apparently.)

There were some casualties through this process. I changed a sheep into a wolf, which then promptly went after the -other- sheep and cows that were in said pasture. (Argh.)

I needed blaze rods, which can be dropped by a Lycanite mob called Cinders.

A previous base-ending (and backup reviving) incident suggested that a big enough fire would spontaneously spawn Cinder mobs.

So I set up a temporary Cinder spawning area in my dark room mob spawner with a 3×3 netherrack patch set on fire.

This worked great in terms of spontaneously summoning 3 Cinders in an enclosed area.

Unfortunately, they managed to fire projectiles through the same gap that I was using to kill them… and light ME on fire… which then spread to the livestock that was busy humping me in the pasture I was standing in while trying to snipe the Cinders to death…

There was roast chicken and cooked pork chop for dinner that day.

Also, a lot of panicked Conjure Water flooding of both rooms in an effort to both drown the Cinders and put myself out, while suddenly angry sheep (that were mad at me for setting them on fire, but still alive from my efforts to flood the room and heal them with spells) nipped at my sides.

I managed to leash them to fence posts temporarily while dealing with the immediate concern of Cinders spraying fire everywhere, but they refused to forget that I had been the source of their misery and I had to euthanize them later and start the sheep summoning process all over again.

Yeah. My advice: don’t do it how I did it.

Memo to self: New pasture / livestock holding chambers away from the mob spawner and clear grass patch area for weird experiments.