GW2: Shaping History With Your Vote

So, all the latest excitement both in-game in Lion’s Arch and in the Guild Wars 2 Reddit is the discussion about whether one is in #TeamGnashblade or #TeamKiel for the upcoming update of Cutthroat Politics.

Before we get partisan here, I’d just want to point out that this is an exciting development in player involvement with the Living Story. It harkens back to when one was given the choice to vote for Dwayna or Grenth in Guild Wars 1 in order to get a shiny hat, but a lot deeper.

Players get to both control the story and the direction of the game with their vote.

Players are making lasting history.

Whatever way we choose, we are giving up something in order to get something else. Choices and consequences. Meaningful decisions in gameplay.

Now for the analysis:

The hardcore in the Guild Wars 2 Reddit and the GW1 old guard appear to be all over Evon Gnashblade. The Fall of Abaddon as a fractal is a very tempting lure because it’s a link to both old GW1 lore (one of the major strengths of GW2 is being able to tie back into a long established history) and all bets are likely that it’s going to be gorgeous to have a look at Old Orr and the City of Arah before the Fall. There’s Gods and shit. How epic would that be?

As for Black Lion Keys, well, they’re a side benefit, but no one really gives a toss.

The fear of #TeamGnashblade is that Ellen Kiel may promise the ‘casuals’ and the not-interested-in-lore (the unspoken feeling is that it may in fact be a majority over those who prowl Reddit) decreased waypoint costs for a month.

How freaking tempting is that? Gold is always hard to come by and waypoint costs are a sneaky goldsink that affects everyone playing the game.

Finding out more about the Thaumanova Reactor explosion seems less appealing a fractals choice than the former as familiarity breeds contempt and a lot of people see the fire elemental in the reactor remains every day. Though again, some of the fear is that the new GW2 crowd who doesn’t appreciate the past may vote for it out of familiarity with the name. Others argue that we know a lot less about the reactor explosion, and that it may be an important crux point of recent GW2 lore, what with all the dealing with the fallout and chaotic portals and magic going awry that has been established in various zones in the game.

I just want to point out something that may be overlooked in all this fractals-focused excitement.

Let us not forget that this is part of the active and ongoing Living Story storyline.

We’re familiar with Ellen Kiel. She’s been established as a key ‘good guy’ type of character – a Lionguard who has worked with us since Southsun. She seems to have fairly good relations with Magnus and she now owns a frigging’ Aetherblade airship.

On the other hand, she is just a grunt out of nowhere and may not have the political acumen to last a day on the Captain’s Council. Then again, she managed to balance the pressing demands of the Consortium and still cater to refugee needs and be a good person on Southsun. She appears to be keen to work for fairness and balance, a reasonable deal between Lion’s Arch and the Zephyr Sanctum.

Evon Gnashblade seemingly comes out of nowhere, cast in the light of the greedy profiteering merchant owner of the Black Lion Trading Company and looks a little typecast as the ‘bad guy.’ Then again, most Charr look like bad guys, and you can’t really hold genetics against them, eh?

He’s an established citizen of Lion’s Arch and claims to be looking after the interests of Lion’s Arch first and foremost. He may end up doing a cutthroat deal with the Zephyr Sanctum to put LA (and/or himself and BLTC) first. He has no doubt plenty of backstabbing political experience to survive well on the Captain’s Council. And if he’s in charge of the Black Lion Trading Company and the Consortium are its competitors, that’s probably okay, right?

What are the things being left unsaid?

The most pressing question is why the hell Evon Gnashblade? Why him, just popping out of nowhere? Is he just a new unheralded NPC?

Except…

In the Molten Alliance denouement, the only thing known of the figure behind the alliance of dredge and Flame Legion charr, is that he or she came from a city and was a persuasive talker.  The dredge prisoner curses out a ““Lying, silver-tongued, snake-nosed trickster.”

At the end of the Aetherblade Retreat dungeon, Mai Trin says that someone else was also behind this, and that “Scarlet is going to have my noggin for screwing up.”

LOOK AT THE COLOR OF THE CLOTHING EVON WEARS.

You don't fool me. (Then again, maybe I'm Scarlet and trying to throw you all off the scent!)
You don’t fool me.

Thank you, I rest my case.

I’ll be voting for Ellen Kiel.

And if the worst happens, well, there’s a cool fractal as a consolation prize.

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GW2: An Aetherblade Retrospective

So, here we are, six days later.

A good time for a retrospective analysis of the Aetherblade Retreat dungeon perhaps.

I’m surprisingly not as sick of the Aetherblade Retreat yet as I got of the Molten Facility by this stage.

I think the main buzzkill for me was that groups had evolved to a pure cheese strategy for MF (stacking inside berserker – the corner glitch for the trap room was merely annoying in that it bespoke a “lazy” way out mentality) and that the experience had devolved to that of being purely “on farm.” Rinse, repeat, brain off, gobble shiny at the end.

One simply cannot turn brain off in the Aetherblade Retreat.

There are cheesier methods to handle some of the pain, yes.

I admit I freely utilize the corner during the adds/cannon thumper sequence in the AR whereas I simply refused to hide in the lazy corner for the MF because it took me too far away from golf banishing the protector, I prefered the strategy I evolved on my own rather than following the “understood” one blindly, which was less efficient.

What is the difference? Aren’t they both corners?

I dunno. Somehow, to me, the corner pull is something that is an established and accepted dungeon running strategy since MMOs began. It’s not “lazy.” It’s not brainless. It’s simply a clever means of not running like an idiot into the full barrage of ranged mobs, and repositioning them to a situation of your advantage. It takes a small amount of group coordination to accomplish (people must wait out of sight, one person must pull, properly.)

You’re still killing them, it’s not bypassing the objective. And it can be screwed up if not done correctly. Some fellow stands in full view – pull gone, chaos begins. Some fellow moves out of position and “cleverly” attracts a cannon blast that overlaps onto the other guys gathered in one place – mass death to the unwary. Fer instance, I once had to roll out of one of those (I’m not unwary, ha!) and warbanner the rest of the group back to life.

And frankly, when I saw how that barrel absorbed the cannon blast, I admired the first person to have discovered that spot. Projectile – scenery obstruction – part of the game, no?

Then there’s Frizz and the golems. Even when you understand the mechanics perfectly, execution is also a challenge. I expect to wipe at least a few times in that chamber, mostly because I am not some arcade god of jumping, and sometimes because running the place when sleepy is an exercise in asking to be zapped by lasers. The situational awareness required in that room is fairly daunting.

On a good day, I can keep track of it all, stay one or two steps ahead of the golems’ pulling and spinning, anticipate the incoming low laser, execute jumps on and off the crates flawlessly and just barely, remember to eventually attack the golems when I can.

On an average day, I bang into and fall off the crates when intending to jump them, get yanked around once or twice by the golems, and get occasionally zapped in the butt by a laser,  sometimes saved only by a high health pool and the stun breaker I now remember to switch in and carry (balanced stance) instead of the standard improve dps For Great Justice.

And there are attempts when Murphy’s Law catches up with me and not only do I smash into the crates when trying to jump, I headbutt them desperately like a fly against the window, then two seconds later get dazed by the incoming laser, electrocuted to an inch of health remaining by the other one following close behind, frantically flail away gaining just enough distance to take a breath and pray for regen to kick in, get yanked through a laser before that thought even completes, get beat up by two golems, then to add insult to injury, my brutalized body is flung by a golem spin into the central column where Frizz is demanding for his stains to be eradicated, and my downed state is then zapped by even more lasers before vengeance is off cooldown (not that I’m traited for it, but it’s the last spit in your face satisfaction, y’know?)

In a way, the Mai Trin and Horrik fight is a degree easier in that the things to be kept track of can be split up between different team members. The aggro holder really just has to kite and stay alive, maybe worry about bleed stacks and only if they’re really good, they might worry about the teleporting shadowstep and nullifying it with an aegis or whatever.

The middle team members can get away with a lot. Honestly, they can get carried by just poorly autoattacking and leaving the competent players handling Mai Trin’s movement, though this slows the entire party down by quite a bit. Better players help to move themselves (and Horrik’s AoE) closer to the aggro holder, apply heals and support and condition removal, dodge her shadowstep when they get targeted and rez if stuff goes wrong.

The furthest team member (which often changes dynamically in a team that doesn’t pre-set this role) has it somewhat harder. He or she has to NOT die to the shadowstep (something that is often failed by a squishy someone who didn’t realize that backing off to heal or put distance between themselves just invited this role on themselves) along with the jobs of the middle party members.

I’m actually somewhat fond of the two solutions that have evolved to take care of the barrage phase. The coordinated group solution is really elegant. Everyone on the same page, group synergies providing swiftness, healing, protection, orbiting the place as a united clump. When it goes well, it is absolutely thrilling, because you know these types of groups do not happen often. When it goes wrong, it is often quite annoying, because one or two guys are inadvertently screwing the team over. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

I’m glad the  “fuck you all, this is a PUG, I don’t trust you, let’s spread out” solution also works. Because people do PUG, and it would be asking too much to have everyone manage to accomplish the other strategy. In truth, there is also a level of group coordination, because the further people spread out (in their corners and the center) and STAY STILL, the easier it gets for everyone. But it puts a bit more personal responsibility on each player to take their little steps in time and dodge when appropriate.

(In a zero coordination PUG, this phase leads to a wipe or only two survivors or less, because one or two people persist in hurtling around like a headless chicken changing up the cannon patterns with so much randomness that one requires a fair amount of luck and good reflexes to survive.)

Now let’s get back to the capacity of one or two clueless players to screw over the team.

If your aggro holder in the golem stage is absolutely clueless, your golems can remain stuck in the shield buff for ever and ever, leading to literally mass confusion and pulls everywhere, golems wandering through the center column at will, and it becomes the world’s greatest marathon challenge to survive until the guy dies and hope the next one in the lineup can manage the golems better. And with each death, the team dps goes down, so it’s a tougher solo or duo, even if it can be done slowly if the last few players are good.

Ditto the Mai Trin fight, where if the one weak link is the aggro holder or the one who consistently eats the shadowstep and falls down, the battle can stretch on into an endless dance of either managing to miss all aoes on the ground or constant rezzing.

How about the trash mobs, where if you just have one maniac who charges into the entire spawn that contains two or more vet Aetherblade Strikers, the whole collection aggros and goes STRAIGHT for the guy with the highest toughness (which may not be the original maniac?)

Philosopically, I don’t like this. It reminds me of what Tobold calls a type C raid encounter. It’s difficult because it challenges your weakest link player.

Granted, in GW2, it can never be a fully type C encounter because 1) you can convert this to a type A encounter if you get strong players in key positions (like someone who can tank) ie. beg, hope, pray, ask for, or play your own anchor guardian, 2) pave over a lot of individual player mistakes with strong group synergy support builds and 3) there is the downed state in play and anyone can rez (which allows for more room for heroic comebacks and for strong players to both show off how good they are and spend a good amount of time rezzing weaker ones.)

But it still kinda is.  And has the potential to be type C in a random group. Which, of course, has social consequences.

Depending on how well behaved or patient some players are, this may be as mild as a question to a non-level 80 if they have a level 80 they can bring to this dungeon, and a shrug if they don’t. (Though when I tried this once, I somehow managed to “enrage” a player into logging his level 80 guardian instead of going on his level 36 lowbie, who promptly and wordlessly plowed us through one of the faster smoother AR runs I’ve experienced, as if he was trying to prove something to me – why, thanks? I guess I should ask that more often. After all, I’ve already spent 1-2 hours on two separate runs helping/carrying a level 33 and a level 45 through – successfully, mind you, just took a while longer.)

And of course, the immature and the badly behaved love their relentless and unforgiving kicks of anyone they feel is unworthy of themselves. (The classic request I saw was the one who said – “know what you are doing, if you die, /kick.” Um, no thanks. That sets the bar a little too high for me, knowing as I do how easily one player can screw up another in here. I wonder if he ever got anyone for that group.)

Even the average fall prey to picking and choosing, if you scan the GW2LFG site and note the amount of requests for EXPERIENCED or EXPERT AR runners. Only 80s. (And guardians. And heavies.)

One of my best memories of the Molten Facility dungeon was how I managed to get into a few roleplaying groups who sat around wisecracking through the whole experience. It felt like a story. An epic movie.

No such thing in the Aetherblade Retreat. It’s been pure business. To be frank, I can barely recall a single line of dialogue. Asura guy in the middle. Mai Trin tries to fly away in an airship, we catch her (and blow up another airship if we’re good.) That’s all the narrative I paid attention to.

I was far too busy worrying about a) not dying, b) the mechanics of each fight and c) communicating these mechanics to the rest of the team before they got me and us killed by doing something “wrong.”

I talk SO much during this dungeon. Especially when given the excuse to by someone who says they’re new. (I try not to say anything in groups who claim they are experienced, but then I wince inside when I see messy messy things happen when I know there’s a better way to pull it off.) Possibly because I’m a bit of a control freak. Tank nature coming out in me.

  1. The first two spawns, anything goes.
  2. Laser section, whatever.
  3. Thumpers, please get in the corner, it’s the smoothest way I’ve seen it pulled off.
  4. Golem fight – wear my keyboard out explaining the mechanics and hoping the key message to kite in a circle goes through (shield buff way annoying.)
  5. En mass spawn, not a big deal.
  6. Bridge grenadiers – watch out for conditions from the grenades and/or reflect them.
  7. First nasty Aetherblade Striker spawn – persuade everyone while fighting grenadiers to hang out on the middle island, take a right turn to the corner to turn off the panel, pull out the spawn to the island, it’s possible to separate strikers from taskmasters. (This sometimes does not happen. People fall over dead and bounce back up again as a result.)
  8. Two spawns of Inquest, anything goes.
  9. Second nasty Aetherblade Striker spawn – attempt to hold people back as they fight the second spawn of Inquest to hang back where they are, pull out again to separate the group of three Strikers which fucking hurt.
  10. Explain jumping and door bit if necessary.
  11. Escort Kiel and try to make sure everyone on each side knows how to meet up to take out the last en masse spawn.
  12. Final fight of long fucking explanation yet again. (Or ask about barrage strategy in an “experienced” group and watch possible chaos happen when it turns out, no, people really didn’t agree on the same strat, after all.)

Story? What story?

It’s been step up and teach relentlessly or “lead.” Or wordlessly observe the quality of the group without my input (some are fine, some are bad.)

Now, you may ask, is this a good thing?

I honestly don’t know. I’ll admit, there is a certain naches feeling from seeing a group you guided through the dungeon complete it successful and with as minimal pain as possible. I also admit to being lazy and wishing everyone automatically knew my strategy so that the group will just perform perfectly in sync without me having to type and talk so much.

I admit to having some good experiences with a dungeon of this difficulty level, from the learning and puzzling out of a satisfactory solution strategy, to recognizing and meeting up with familiar names (who actually respond favorably seeing my name show up – ok, it was just one guy, I’m not that popular, but I see other names I recognize and trust to be competent enough to do the dungeon with.)

I’m a strange person who likes the experience of random PUGs (in retrospect only, sometimes) and to come back with weird ass stories like the weekend morning of mine when I’d expected to be teaming up with NA nighttime players and ended up in two successive groups of possibly Chinese/Taiwanese players. Who, credit to them, could understand what I said in English. And no credit to me, who stared back stunned and uncomprehending at the chat text full of Chinese characters and eventually asked for a broken English translation. (So much for 12 years of education that vainly tried to instill some Mandarin into someone who never used the language at home.)

On the bright side, I did understand some of the simpler phrases, and rather marveled at how succinct their MMO language style was. From three guildies vainly trying to tell their fourth dysfunctional colleague to quit faffing about attracting cannon fire onto the four of us stacked into the corner, “别站那” (Bié zhàn nà or Don’t stand there.) How they typed it while under fire and everyone was dying, I don’t know.

And after we accomplished getting them Personal Space, which was an exercise in me explaining in English wondering if anyone understood the whole complicated sequence, and them trying to ask when the appropriate time to log out was (don’t ask me what it was in Chinese characters, I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY SAID, the guy eventually boiled it down to “now switch?” and I either said, “not yet” or “yes, now,”) there was the appraisal at the end where everyone checked if they received the achievement and the choruses of “有” and “有了” (Yǒu and Yǒule, “Have”) made me so darned happy.

It was actually culturally interesting to see how “ruthless” they could be. Three of them were about to kick out a random ranger from the group when I snapped at them not to be biased and to just go – we had been waiting quite a while for our group to form. Thank goodness I was on a warrior. I suppose I eventually earned some level of trust/respect by showing them the path and getting them Personal Space. Then their fourth dysfunctional guildie joined while we were attempting a second run to get FTL for them- and where the three of them faithfully trotted to the corner, now convinced the strat was good, hence the desperate explanation to the weird one – and after a few multiple wipes at the golems – the instance holder ragequit, kicking us all out of the instance. (I left in a hurry after that, having reached the limit of my linguistic capabilities while running a challenging dungeon. Do note, dysfunctional guy was an elementalist, ranger made it through successfully, everyone else the same. Players, not classes.)

On the other hand, as Ravious points out, fewer people are running this dungeon than the Molten Facility. He and I may disagree on the details as to why, and to be frank, if you look at GW2LFG, there are still requests for AR at all hours of the day… But anecdotally, there’s been less people standing around at the Tarnished Coast entrance, and there never ever were as many as gathered for Molten Facility, both my guild rosters (big casual ones skewed towards WvW) show an observably lower number of people attempting this over MF, and most tellingly, monocle and potent recipe prices are trending upward. Monocle supply has dropped, potent recipes quantities seem about constant.

That suggests we do not have an increasing number of people running the dungeon or the same numbers of people running the dungeon with increased speedrunning frequency as I think the Molten Facility did develop to. People do AR once or twice or just long enough to finish getting their achievements, then stop, exhausted. Even the keener ones like me are both finding it harder to form groups for it, and to knock out many in a day, and the quality of pickup groups is hard to predict, which means more hesitance is involved running this dungeon. TP investors may be moving in to scoop up the remaining supply now that only a week more is left, driving the price up some.

Ravious thinks the AR rewards are not sufficient incentive to tempt people away from the lucrative CoF1.

Hell, I see people choosing to do fractals while the limited time dungeon is open. Are you telling me fractal rewards are even niftier than AR’s rewards?

I think the rewards are just an excuse. If AR was easy, do you seriously think people would not have it on farm mode, hoping for a jackpot to sell on the TP? Look at how popular the Southsun Settler Instigators were, for a mere -chance- at a yellow. You get a -guaranteed- yellow (and a gold piece) finishing AR.

That is, assuming you finish it.

AR is hard. Challenging. Not brainless. Exclusive.

It’s what people want, they say.

Funny that they aren’t in it, then.

After I did my guild missions today, I joined a couple of them on a round-the-world trip to about 3-4 world bosses. They were packed. Overflow was popping for some of them.

It all kind of reminds me of the constant frequent hardcore requests for FFA PvP sandboxes. Immersion! High difficulty! Freedom to choose to be good or evil! We will wait for communities to form like how Ultima Online did with white hats and black hats and it will be awesome!

Give us a cool challenging dungeon! High difficulty, not faceroll easy! Allow good players to show off their skills! It will help build community by “encouraging” players to group up to accomplish their goals!

And the reality is that when the design fails to constrict or limit or guide players in the direction of mutual cooperation and inclusivity, and instead pushes toward the other end of the spectrum, many choose to be exclusive assholes.

Granted, there are some who are helpful. GW2 at least set the right notes for it. But I keenly remember how wonderful CoH’s community used to be, until concerns of loot steadily overtook the existing culture. Design stealthily influences player mentality.

For every person who reaches out to the community for help to conquer a difficult dungeon and forms bonds that way, I wonder how many more simply give up and opt out.

How many are we leaving out? How many are we losing?

For myself, I am personally quite satisfied to have “solved” this dungeon. In that I’ve learned a strategy by picking up tips here and there and evolving my own spin on things that can generally push most groups through with not -too- much pain.

I’m not sure that I can say outright that I -like- this dungeon. I can do it. I find both boss fights challenging but doable after understanding the mechanics and practising. I like to a limited extent the uncertainty of the pickup groups I get into and observing the interactions and how different players drive their classes and characters. I like the one gold reward at the end and the yellow, while eyeing with a distant wary hope the highly unlikely possibility that something better will pop. I find it interesting that AR highlights that the concept of aggro-holding and tankiness still exists and the control/support/damage trinity can and should be important.

I don’t like how exhausting the golem fight can become, especially with the pulls that throw in a tide too much randomness for comfort. I don’t like how how the lasers and cannon barrage sequence shows up player weaknesses and encourages selfish player behavior (eg. sorry, can’t rez you just yet, you need to stay dead and watch how much better we are at this game than you.) I don’t like how the difficulty of the dungeon encourages people to be exclusive and pick and choose from their personal superstitions of success (levels, classes, builds, etc.)

As mentioned, I’m not much one for repetitive dungeon grinding, I’m already feeling somewhat bored and tired contemplating excessive repeats of AR and will probably just amuse myself joining a group or two when I feel like it, experienced or unexperienced as I feel like either a fast run (that might possibly turn disastrous) or a teaching run (that might possibly turn disastrous.)

Was creating the dungeon worth it for players like me, who may enjoy the process of learning and discovery through it, then discard it once done? Was it worth making for the people whom through AR, may have realized and learnt how much more sophisticated their class or teamplay in GW2 can be? Was it worth creating it for the really hardcore players who may have sleepwalked their way through it with their stellar builds and then say, they want even more of the same, preferably even harder?

And was it worth pissing off the casual majority who may be frustrated to be told by the game (and possibly other players)  in fairly brutal fashion that they’re not quite “this tall” to enter the ride, see the story, complete the event achievements?

Not to mention the soloists, whose cause I always support, but I’m definitely not up for trying to solo AR. It may be technically possible, but I don’t think it’s worth the pain to even try.

I have no easy answers for this.

I think the Aetherblade dungeon has its good points. I would have much preferred it come not as part of a limited time event and have it just -there- as permanent content like fractals, sort of like the Underworld or Fissure of Woe in GW1, for folks to slowly learn it at their leisure and not be pressured by the prospect they might “miss” it.

But I’m also convinced that its difficulty level makes it too exclusive, leaving out too many players who are also a part of the GW2 community.

GW2: Aetherblade Retreat Strategies

I take it you’ve read Dulfy’s guide for a basic overview.

We’re going to be talking team roles here for smoother, less agonizing runs.

Just to clarify here, this is not the ultimate strategy guide, follow or else kind of thing. I believe in multiple strategies working well and GW2 supports that. If you play with various guilds and preset dungeon groups, one will tend to find that these closed groups evolve their own set of strategies that work perfectly well. This is just to help those who are close to beating their head in after failing multiple PUGs and wondering if there is -any- rhyme or reason to this dungeon.

There is.

I mean, you could just run in all willy nilly and hope that everyone magically synergizes and all will be well. But judging by the amount of failure cases and party members bailing mid fight and GW2LFG posts that read “at such-and-such boss, need 1 or 2 or 3 more,” here’s what I’ve observed so far:

There’s basically “It” and “Not-It.”

That is, the person whom the mobs are focusing on is “it.” This person usually has the highest toughness of the group. You are the de facto tank. No matter what your class is. Stop screaming and learn how to play it well.

The other people who are “not-it,” that does not mean you can relax and leave “it” to scream and die. If “it” dies, another one will become “it.” And so on until all of you are dead. Your role is a damage-support hybrid.

I speak of support in a very broad sense. Broader than even the typical GW2 use. I don’t care if your version of support is killing the mobs very very fast in all berserker gear, but if you choose to do that, you better do it very well. Better yet is if you can slot some group condition removal or blinds/dazes/interrupts/controls or reflects at certain points in the dungeon, and/or ways to buff up the party and debuff the mobs with conditions, along with doing damage.

All of you will need to move well. Or at least, competently enough.

Aetherblade Trash Mobs

Generally not too big an issue. Taskmasters confuse, so if your group loves to put stuff on auto-attack, it’s a good mob to prioritize killing first, if you’re not just going to AoE ’em all down in tons of cleaves and blasts. Projectile reflection and absorption appear to help mitigate some of the damage from the ranged Aetherblade mobs too.

The pain happens in the spawns with Aetherblade Strikers in them. Their lightning channel is not a projectile. It WILL kill your tank unaided. Especially if two are on him/her, with everything else. Support support support. Offtank it or get a pet to, daze/stun them, blind the eff out of them, pull them, interrupt them, focus fire, whatever. It’s especially fun with a taskmaster in the mix as well, call targets if possible. Prioritize both of these, one after the other.

The Practice Room With Thumpers and Cannon Fire

If your team is awesome, you could really just charge into it all and sidestep the cannon aoe. It may be good practice for some people.

My random team here kindly demonstrates two possible ways to chokepoint the mobs and avoid the majority of cannon fire. I’m sure there’s more.

Just hanging in the corner and/or running under the bridge/staircase also works to LOS stuff, but cannon fire may hit.

cornersandchokepoints

Please learn the art of the corner pull if you do not know how. This means everyone gets out of sight, preferably in the same spot behind a corner, so that ranged mobs will walk towards you.

The tank, or just a ranged guy, range attacks the mobs and then trots back around the corner with everyone. The mobs will cheerfully follow and you can then pile on with melee and AoE. Just keep an eye open for cannon fire in case some person gets out of position accidentally. Corners and GW2 camera angles can lead to blind spots.

Mid Boss – Champion Frizz and Golems and Lasers, Oh My

Some groups may prefer to clean up all the adds before working on Frizz. Others may simply start off the lasers by lowering Frizz’s health to the requisite amount. Apparently the adds die from the lasers after a while. I’m not 100% sure on that last, but certainly after a while, they seem to die in all my groups – whether it’s from teammates killing them or not, dunno. Doesn’t really matter, imo.

Phase 1 – Low Lasers

Yes, you can jump on the crates and stay there and range.

All except IT, that is.

If the aggro-holding person remains rooted on a crate, what will happen is every time the laser spins around, the golem will get a shield buff and block attacks.

Yes, you can just autoattack your way through it and wait for the buff to fall and damage it intermittently between laser spins. It’ll work, but it’ll be annoying.

Ideally, de facto tank should be running in an anti-clockwise fashion, following the laser spin and kiting the golems away from the laser. Your role is not so much as to do damage, but to a) not die, b) try and dodge or stability, or just stay far away enough through potential pulls which may screw up your nice pattern.

This leaves the golems free of the shield buff, leading to faster dead golem. All the rest should be a) not dying, b) attacking unshielded golem.

Having been caught umpteen times in a laser just as it starts up, I decided to begin screenshotting start locations. I believe this is roughly where the low laser starts. Keep an eye out for the black beam/fence thing in the center, that's where the laser shoots from.
Having been caught umpteen times in a laser just as it starts up, I decided to begin screenshotting start locations. I believe this is roughly where the low laser starts. It could be random, not sure as yet. Anyhow, keep an eye out for the black beam/fence thing in the center, that’s where the laser shoots from. The entrance of the lab is roughly on the right side of this image.

Phase 2 – Laser Wall

Same idea here, except all the not-its cannot just camp out on a crate.

Run around the room. Don’t die to the laser wall. Shoot or melee golems. Don’t get in the way of their spin attack or their pull. Help “it” stay alive. Watch confusion and dat autoattacking.

I believe this is roughly the location of the laser wall start. Note how the appearance of the center column changes, it may be a good cue to look out for in the future. I normally never see that because I'm too fixated staring at the laz0r making sure I'm not running into it. Also note how the laser extends across the whole room in a straight line and rotates.
I believe this is roughly the location of the laser wall start. Note how the appearance of the center column changes, it may be a good cue to look out for in the future. I normally never see that because I’m too fixated staring at the laz0r making sure I’m not running into it.
Also note how the laser extends across the whole room in a straight line and rotates as one line, not clock hands.

Phase 3 – ALL OF TEH LAZ0RS

I want to point out something rather obvious that I personally never saw while I was running/screaming/dying as the tank. The lasers go in a straight line across the room.

That means you only have to keep an eye out for essentially two lasers and that sneaky low beam laser, well, if you see one side, you can roughly extrapolate where the other side is and how soon it is creeping up behind you. It is not two evil low laser beams acting like clock hands that sweep at random speeds out to get you and have to be madly jump-crated (which was my first impression of it.)

That also means that you can then evaluate whether you want to stay on the crate and let the low laser sweep by you, or hop off immediately on the safer side (the side where the low laser will move past), or if you have to jump to the risky side (the side a low laser will be approaching) and make a mad dash to a further away crate – the latter option in cases where say, the laser wall is about to squeeze you in if you jump to the safe side.

Ok? Same deal. Tank guy should be kiting the golems away from the lasers as best as possible. Should, anyhow. Focusing on not-dying is, frankly, I think the best thing to do in this phase. Try and get the laser pattern down, jump on crates and off them appropriately, keep as near the front as the laser beams will allow.

Everybody else. Also focus on not fucking dying (easier said than done, I know) and watching out for the shield buff to drop to unleash your attacks on the golem. When you are confused, do not attack yourself to death. Just look away from the damn golems and look at the lasers and stay alive.

The pull is a nuisance that gets in the way and will screw things up here and there. Stability helps, but you know, it will never be 100% uptime. Bad luck happens.

If “it” dies, role swap time! New “it” gets to be the tank and kiter! On and on until there were none. (Either way, no golems or no more players.)

Of course, if you are full of awesome, you might even be able to solo the golems.  But then, you wouldn’t be needing to read guides like this.

Final Boss – Horrik and Mai Trin

This is really a fight about aggro control and positioning.

Mai Trin bleeds if you stay in her melee range. That means, if your teammates plan on getting close, and even in the case where you don’t but want to prevent accidents, bring lots of group condition removal. My suggested help out time is when bleed stacks hit 10-12.

Tank person who is it. Your job is to be kiting Mai Trin. Possibly at range. At preferably just a little further away than her melee range. You want to be kiting her over the electrical blue AoEs that will pop up when Horrik shoots his stuff.

Not-its. You generally want to get as close to Mai Trin as possible as well, be it range or melee, so that if and when Horrik shoots his AoE and it happens to be a blue one, it’s easier for tank person to kite it over. As her shield stacks fall off to 6 or lower, she starts taking damage and it is possible if very very slow to lower her hp down, regardless of whether more shields pop off or no. If you want it faster, then you have to take more risks to getting the blue aoe to overlap on her.

Once conditions start landing on her, one can cripple or chill to slow down her movement over the blue aoe as well, or if you’re really sophisticated, you can play with taking off her 5 stacks of defiant and then dazing her over the aoe and so on.

One interesting spin-off role that a good “not-it” can play, that I’ve been evolving, is a way to control the damage done by Mai Trin’s shadowstepping. You are THE FURTHEST PERSON. Please make sure you can dodge and observe her animations. If you can block consistently (or leave mesmer clones to absorb the attack or whatever), even better.

See, what usually happens is that the “worst” or most nervous and/or squishiest or lowbie character in the group gets all twitchy and starts edging further and further away from the mess. Before you know it, BOOM, she shadowsteps into that person and eats him or her for lunch. Then now everyone has to drop everything and waste time rezzing, and when you rez, you risk becoming the furthest person and ZAP, another teleport happens and… well, it gets MESSY.

My theory is, what if we prearrange a good or at least, sturdy player to be that furthest person? Note, this cannot be it, or the tank. A not-it gets to step up.

Your job is to arrange yourself so that you are the furthest person at all times. You primarily watch out for her animations (which can be hard with all the particle effects flying) and do your best to dodge (forwards, seems best) when you see her do the characteristic finger point which means she’s going to come to you. If you manage to time it right, and the projectile hits during your dodge invincibility frame, you seem to actually block it and she doesn’t teleport at all. If it’s not timed right, well, at least you’re out of the way and won’t get too bled up when she comes over. Have condition removals for her bleed and cripple in event of accidents. She will then promptly go right back to IT. (Secondarily, you can do damage as well, of course.) If you have blocks on demand, this makes your life even easier.

Me experimenting with the idea in a PUG after our level 45 elementalist consistedly died to the point of being naked. I started out in axe/horn, not the greatest for actually doing any damage, but I was testing out the idea first. I later went closer and into rifle range as I got the hang of it. Also, the GWAMM tanking this was an engineer. There was another warrior and a guardian in the party.
Me experimenting with the idea in a PUG after our level 45 elementalist consistedly died to the point of being naked. I started out in axe/horn, not the greatest for actually doing any damage, but I was testing it out first and wanted condition removals. I later went closer and into rifle range as I got the hang of it.
Also, the GWAMM tanking this was an engineer. There was another warrior and a guardian in the party. Players, not classes.

As for the Cannon AoE phase, there’s two methods. If you are really sure that your entire group has nearly equal ping to yours and will be applying group swiftness and group healing, and can stay all nicely neatly balled up together, you can run around the perimeter together staying ahead of the AoE. It looks really really awesome if done correctly. What usually ends up happening, just as in WvW zergs, is that you don’t get a nice neat little ball, you get a train or a snake. Someone falls behind. This someone is promptly PWNED by all the aoes that have carpetbombed the place. Depending on your group, this may end up as multiple someones.

I have actually found it much safer in PUGs, where people could be from all over the world using computers of differing quality and framerates and certainly not on voicechat and used to stacking and moving as a ball together, to do the spread out and move as little as possible method.

What usually happens is a person in each corner and one in the center, more or less. Just move the distance necessary to a clear spot away from the aoes, and stay still until the next aoe is about to hit your position. Save your dodges for when there is no way out that you can just move to. Survival rate is usually 3 or higher, which is sufficient to rez safely during the next Mai Trin and Horrik phase.

It goes without saying that one should NOT BE REZZING while the place is being napalmed. Survive first, only save people if you think you see an opportunity and are awesome. If you die doing it, then well, leave them for later next time.

Rezzing strategy: Tank/It, you do your kiting thang. Other people rez. Other people must also be KEENLY aware of Mai Trin’s finger-pointing so that one can dodge or block if you become the furthest person while rezzing.

Really, all this does is waste shitloads of time. Don’t fucking die. And if you are not awesome, don’t fucking bring your squishy lowbie into this dungeon.

Please note that in all of this, I have not expressed ANY CLASS-ISM whatsoever. Stop fucking begging for guardians and warriors or heavies. Some of them may not be IT-specced. I have seen some awesome necromancers and engineers also kite and control Mai Trin perfectly well. I’m sure other professions can do it too, I bet a mesmer could as well, just haven’t seen it in play yet – except you know all the rest tend to love sitting in berserker gear.

All it requires are players to recognize the de facto role that their party needs and be flexible.

GW2: AR Groups from Dual Perspectives

Play an AH hammer guardian in a variant of Strife’s anchor build for too long, and you end up getting a very one sided view of dungeons.

You are always “the tank.” Mobs glue onto you. 6 pieces of Knight’s gear and melee proximity is all it usually takes.

(Failing which, I throw on my WvW soldier/clerics with soldier runes, which are nearly always guaranteed to exceed nearly anyone else’s toughness rating, at the expense of losing significant amounts of damage – I only consistently lost it once on an Arah 4 run where some guy had decided to wear Sentinel armor. And didn’t have great reaction times on kiting sparks. Now that was “fun.”)

Usually, I don’t mind. I’ve tanked before in other MMOs. And you know the saying, if you want something done right…

It just can get VERY wearying in a GW2 group if you don’t have sufficient support. And you grow bitter because you end up convinced that you are carrying a bunch of selfish damage builds by sheer herculean dint of protection-laying, self-healing, reflection, blocking effort until you go down, and bounce back up again because someone revived you, to do it all over again and go down again and up, and on and on.

If you do have sufficient support on the other hand, it is usually a cakewalk. Go in, buffed up to the gills, everyone AOEs and cleaves, voila, stuff falls over dead, everyone’s still sturdily standing after.

The problem with tanking is that it’s also hard to have sufficient leisure time to study any fight mechanics from an outside observer’s perspective, because you’re too busy trying not to fucking die.

Alt time.

I tried bringing in my spirit weapon guardian in berserker armor.

Well, the damage is a little higher by traiting in the new 50% damage spirit weapon trait, but I was rather miffed I had to give up the vigor on crit trait to do it (need all the endurance one can if one is squishy, y’know?)

The main problem I ran into is that everyone expects a guardian to tank, and if you sit around chilling your heels, they wait around for you too because they’re just as much wusses as you.

If one was lucky enough to run beside someone else who took responsibility for the aggro, it seemed to work decently well. Sword teleport into strikers and sic a hammer on them to keep them interrupted and the lightning channel disrupted. Spirit sword did aoe damage, spirit shield absorbs projectiles and weakens the group, etc.

The other issue was that you give up a shitton of survivability sitting around in berserker gear. The cannon phase was not great. One accidental misstep = death and disaster. And in a PUG, all it takes is one guy running around like a headless chicken to screw up your careful stepping pattern and screw you over.

I died consistently and just couldn’t shake off the feeling that this was making me look like a clueless noob in everyone else’s eyes. I also felt too much at the mercy of how the entire party was built. Random group is random. Berserker, imo, is really for more coordinated groups.

Money spending on alt time.

I’d built up to 36 gold in the last few days, and promptly spent 24 of it decking out my WvW warrior in a new dungeon/gear build.

There seemed to be very little consensus on appropriate warrior dungeon builds, especially since the traitlines just got shaken up recently, so I ended up designing it based on my objectives.

Evil Plan: Dump aggro. Stay alive.

Nagging Angel on Shoulder Reminder: Offer group support for the poor schmutz who ends up tanking.

There were a number of multiple goals behind this. As I said, I wanted to observe other people in the tank position to see what they did – learn their tricks and observe where they stood, etc. There was the vague hope that I would eventually luck into a party with a competent tank and maybe pick up the Personal Space achievement.

And I figure if I want to learn other dungeons eventually, it’s good to walk in as primarily dps over a tank position, where you know, everyone expects you to magically know what to do.

(Side benefit, pug groups where the guy who becomes “it” doesn’t know how to handle it become hilarious. You either watch them get better at their class, or we all wipe together over and over until mass ragequits happen.)

How did I achieve this?

Zero toughness. I didn’t want to go full berserker for reasons of personal survivability worry. So strange combination incoming – Valkyrie/Magi.

You see, I decided I was going to go axe/horn and rifle. I’d previously leveled with axe/axe and rifle and was the most familiar with those weapons. (Reserving the greatsword for my second warrior.)

Horn does fantastic condition removal when traited for it (converts to boon, even), and AR is full of highly annoying conditions for the whole group. Rifle is useful for single target damage on fights which require one to be ranged.

I also decided to play with banners, so I went a full 30 into Tactics with Inspiring Banners, Quick Breathing and Inspiring Battle Standard. Turns out if you run two banners like this, you can pulse and build up to around 30 seconds of regeneration on everyone. Quite crazy, really.

I am suddenly super melee buffbot, an interesting variant on the City of Heroes Defender which was ranged buff/debuff. On a sturdy group, the added power and precision banners should make stuff die extra quick. On less study groups, I can also switch to the healing power, toughness and vitality banners in the hope it helps them some. Running For Great Justice adds on extra fury and might for all.

Layering on healing signet helps me pulse regen heal and I have a hefty vitality hp reservoir to stay alive with. I suppose I could also add on another layer of regen with mango pies, but haven’t felt the need for it yet.

Alas, crafting the Valkyrie armor cost a 12 gold bomb (better than buying it off the TP for 18 gold, I suppose), and ruby orbs are slotted in all 12 locations to push oneself more toward the damage “expected” of warriors. Crit chance is not great, at 30%, but remember, fury pushes it up to 50%, and crit damage bonus is 80%. Won’t match a pure berserker, but imo, respectable enough.

What really blew up the bank was deciding to splurge and buy the three most expensive superior sigils to put on my berserker weapons for some 15 gold. The axe has a sigil of fire, and the horn has a bloodlust sigil. 250 power if I get to build up stacks pushes attack and damage higher. I’m not convinced the sigil of fire is that awesome as yet, but I’m keeping an eye on it. Worse come to the worse, there’s the black lion salvaging kit because the weapons ended up cheaply bought via WvW. The rifle sports a sigil of energy to help endurance for dodges since I have the fast hands trait as a side benefit of going 20 in Discpline anyhow.

It’s been a useful experiment in terms of group observation ability.

Everybody else pretty much becomes “it” as most are likely to have a shred of toughness somewhere.

If they don’t, then they are obviously running some variant of berserker and are very damage-focused, so it becomes the equivalent of an 8 blaster team in CoH. Nuke it all (preferably from ranged) or die trying.

I’ve been able to see necromancers step up and tank and kite. Even an engineer or two. In one hilarious group, the mesmer clones and ranger pets and Ellen Kiel were holding most of the aggro – though disaster hit when the one ranger with the pet holding the aggro didn’t know how to appropriately handle the golems before everybody died.

I learned a whole lot from those groups which I couldn’t see before while being the center of attention though.

And we will be discussing those strategies in the next post.

GW2: …Join Them (First Thoughts on The Aetherblade Retreat Dungeon)

I give up.

I will bow to the pressure of the cruel design and tell you right now that I cannot be inclusive in the Aetherblade Retreat.

It you are not level 80, you can join (if you’re the only one. Or two. Maybe.) I won’t stop you, but if you’re dying every now and then, I will not stop to rez you. It will just get me killed.

If I get into a group of three or more low levels (as I did on my very first broadcast LFG,) I will quit your team without a word. Good luck recruiting some other guy to be your level 80 patsy.

If you cannot dodge or move around with at least middling competency, you are a detriment to the party. You can still come, because I try not to be a jerk, but be aware that it is nigh impossible to rez at certain sequences in both boss fights. You will have to lie there dead and weighing down the team until we can get to you – which is extra time spent not damaging anything, and increases the likelihood that one of the survivors will slip up and die and the whole team fail as a result.

If your build is specced to have not much group support whatsoever, I will get a little grumpy with you inside. How will I know this? The collective damage I take when in a spawn with the Aetherblade Strikers. That lightning channeled attack is hellish. I am a knight/berserker guardian, I can’t help but soak up a good amount of collective aggro – and I only have so many heals and blocks and dodges and one invulnerable.

Your responsibility, if you don’t want to soak that attention or help to split it up (say with a friendly ranger pet or clone), is to either damage the mobs fast enough that they die before I fall over, or interrupt them when they do that lightning thing – daze them, pull them or whatever, or offer me enough support that I can stay upright through that.

Speaking of rangers and their pets, from my first successful unbugged run... An Anet ranger person's personal opinion. Feedback for the dungeon team, guys!
Speaking of rangers and their pets, from my first successful unbugged run… An Anet ranger person’s personal opinion. Feedback for the dungeon team, guys! (He was great controlling one of the Striker’s lightning damage with his pet too, btw. Saved the team from quite a bit of pain there.)

In some groups, I only drop to half health from the Strikers, in some groups, shit dies so fast I don’t even have to fire renewed focus. In others, I routinely go down before the mobs die – the only gratifying thing is to see how fast people scramble to pick me up, possibly because they don’t want to be the ones soaking that – and I know there will be tough times ahead.

Groups like that make me want to play some other profession or build and see how other people are handling that kind of focused aggro. I may have to figure out a decent warrior damage/support build and gear for dungeons instead.

The good news is that I’ve earned what appears to be 6 gold in a day with four successful runs – with no exotics dropping, just yellow rares and the bags of gold at the end. (Because I have the crappiest luck ever. Some other guy in one of my groups got Magmatron off a random trash mob. 6 gold right there, easy.) So I may be able to get dungeon appropriate gear for my warrior faster than I thought.

I’ve also had two runs where Kiel bugged out. (One of which I was very thankful for because it was a disaster pug – entered when they were stuck at mid boss, thinking to be benevolent and work on my laser dodging practice, had to duo the golems down and one guy quit right after because he had earned his achievement by virtue of dying right before the laser walls came up or something similar – Kiel bugging was a graceful way to bow out before final boss pain.)

And one run full of new people who, credit to them, didn’t give up at the first sign of difficulty, but were doomed to eventually fail as the mesmer claimed they were on a lagging laptop and habitually died at the start of every cannon aoe phase, the other guardian followed right after and the elementalist was iffy. It ended up being a long ass revival attempt between me and the thief after every cannon phase, and eventually ended up with one of us slipping up and going down, followed by the other shortly after.

(I don’t know if we could have duo’ed her down, but to me, it seemed pointless to try and “carry” the majority of the team through like that. Succeed or fail together, y’know? If three or more carry one or two, that’s possibly fine. One or two carrying the rest just makes me grumpy as all get out.)

One good thing about this dungeon is that with the possibility of earning a gold at the end, I am a lot calmer about the prospect of an occasional failed run or multiple wipes.

How much can repairs cost? The worst party cost me 6+ silver before we called it – because other people died a lot more, some of it not their fault because a bug kept spawning them back in the boss room after a failed attempt.

I even tried to gung ho “solo” the final boss fight after the rest left and only figured out that doing it alone was going to be… if not impossible (because nothing ever is), pretty damn difficult because of her propensity to keep pointing and doing the teleport attack on you as the only target, and it only took 5-6 deaths to figure that out, to the tune of maybe 10 silver repairs or so.

One successful run will make back that combined loss with additional profit.

As I said, it helps to be absolutely uninvested and uninterested in the monocle, so there is no overriding obsession to try and do it as quickly and as many times as possible. Something I’m very thankful for this time around. For those who are, well, good luck…

One of the earlier learning attempts. You only have time for typing or hidden interface screenshots when yer dead.
One of the earlier learning attempts. You only have time for typing long sentences or hidden interface screenshots when yer dead.

Some of the achievements are going to be a bit of a challenge. I’m having some worry regarding the laser achievement, though others find it easy enough. I can’t help but wonder how many of those professing it to be easy:

a) have great ping

b) are not the ones attracting the majority of the golem’s aggro, thus slowing them down and running the risk of geting pulled right into a laser

c) are of a profession and specced to do good damage at range

I’m personally finding the low lasers undodgeable. Every time I attempt to dodge through them, I get stunned then hit by the lasers. So I have to jump the crates. And jumping up the crates with two golems on your hiney doing their best to pull you, well, it’s not great chances that you won’t get yanked off then zapped by a laser.

I can generally heal through the low laser damage, but the achievement may be a problem unless I swap characters or figure out some way to drop that crazy toughness induced aggro. All three sets of armor that my asura owns all have toughness on them, dammit. I may simply have to arrange one with the guild where I simply don’t hit a darned thing and just focus on jumping up the crates and running, perhaps. 🙂

The AoE avoidance one, well, that may be a mite tricky as melee. I’m surprisingly calmer about that one though – the repeated death not-great PUG let me experiment with a sceptre/focus and staff combination on some of the later runs and kiting Mai Trin seemed a lot easier that way. I’m going to be testing that out a lot more.

Even if dps drops (and I’m not sure it does, considering how much time I actually get to hit her with a hammer before she squirms off or does so much bleed or damage or a Horrik AoE lands that one has to back off regardless), it might eventually be possible to earn it at least once. AoE avoidance is all about practice, anyway. And one just has to do it once for the achievement.

As for Unfriendly Skies, mwahahahahaha, already got it. My second guild run was utterly gruesome, in a very good way. Two warriors, a mesmer, an engineer and me. The damage output was mind blowing. Fury was nearly always on, and the engineer threw up so much might stacks, that even my mighty blow hammer was hitting for 4k crits. If anything, I was probably the weakest link. I just did my best to hold attention, apply protection, use shouts for condition removal and stability, wall of reflect stuff, and self heal like crazy long enough for the others to unleash hell.

So I can confirm that if you do manage to kill the final bosses within 15 minutes, what will happen is that a Dynamic Event will pop up with about 1:45 minutes on the timer telling you to go get the Aetherblade Cannon that Horrik drops, and you’ll have sufficient time to run across the bridge and interact with the cannon spot on the airship. A little cutscene sequence will appear showing the cannon firing.

cannon1

cannon2

cannon3
Sorry for the not great graphical quality screenshots, but regular readers know how badly my computer sucks. I lower everything to minimal in group situations to avoid being THAT GUY who keeps crashing out.

The interesting thing is,  one of the warriors from that crazy good run had previously had a horrible and unsuccessful pug experience before. So, this dungeon is a bit of a crapshoot. If your group happens to have fantastic group synergy, and can dodge at least decently well (I’m not -that- elitist) it’s a wild ride. If one or two of your team members are below average, it’s going to make things a lot harder.

I don’t know what to say about that. I think eventually selection pressure is going to weed out all those who can’t hack it. Or find it too tough or exhausting or uninteresting to keep learning/practising/improving, having spent most of their time on the ground or dying repeatedly.

I do not know how far the elitism is going to go, and whether it’ll eventually rise to the point where -I- can’t hack it any longer either and start getting kicked out of groups for being fail. (Or having people mysteriously vanish without a word from my groups.)

In the meantime, I guess I’ll keep trying to earn that one gold every dungeon complete until the elitist speedrun fellows take over. Six days last time, wasn’t it?