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.


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.


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.



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?

GW2: Dipping a Toe into Arah Explorable

Oh. Wow.

It’s 12 hours later and I’m still caught betwixt a mix of exhilaration and utter trauma.

I now much better understand Syl’s post about her experience pugging the Arah explorable dungeon paths. I gotta give mad respect for her jumping in and doing it, because I’m honestly not sure I will ever dare to join a PUG for this dungeon, now that I’ve seen what it’s like.

Mine was run in a guild group, which I suspect is what the difficulty of the dungeon is scaled to challenge. Two of us had not ever done it before, two had attempted and failed prior to this, and the last who had done it successfully was being awesome, leading us around and spelling everything out for us.

We were tackling path 3, which I hear is the -easiest- of the routes. *tries not to faint*


Story-wise, I’d have to say the premise is pretty intriguing from a GW1 player’s perspective. Each path appears to make reference to and trickle a small drip feed of information about the ancient races who fought off the dragons the last go around. That is, in no particular order, the Mursaat, Seers, Jotun and the Forgotten (whom we hear about in path 3) and the dwarves and a Tome of Rubicon reference make a sneak entrance at the introduction.

A guild group let the two of us newbies watch the cutscenes. I would seriously not DARE to even try that in a pug.

Our group composition was a good mix, two guardians, two mesmers (one of each was new, and the other pair had at least an attempt or two under their belts) and an elementalist (the only one who had a clue what we were in for.)

We got through the first few packs of ‘trash mobs’ decently well, with the sort of bouncy resiliency feeling you get when group builds are synergizing relatively well (kinda hard to describe, hope it comes across.) We don’t control people’s builds or require anything out of them, so it wasn’t perfect invincible super-synergy, but it felt decently resilient.

But DEAR GOD, did some of the mobs hit hard. A lot harder than anything I’ve ever felt. (I am a bit of a connoisseur on this as I tend to run tanky guardians that pull a majority of the aggro. Getting good enough to survive it though, is another matter.) The Risen Wizards and Risen Illusionists were apparently the major culprits involved in the damage spree, and though we targeted and focused them, I was feeling a decent amount of pressure trying to stay alive in the meantime.

I would love to go back in and study their attacks a little more some day. I’m sure there’s ways to mitigate more of the damage, be it through better reads of their animations and dodging, or countering whatever they’re specifically doing, but as a first timer experience, I was just sorta going in there and facing the brunt of it, then scrambling to heal up.

The first set of bosses weren’t -too- bad. The buildup as the experienced guy was explaining the mechanics was a bit more nerve-wracking. We settled on sending a guardian and the elementalist to deal with the Hunter where he was, while the three of us pulled the Crusher to where we were and the dancing at range began. Health bars were going down methodically (the bosses’, that is) and of course, this silly asura guardian was edging closer and closer into medium range (so I naturally get more daring and try to push limits, sue me) and WHOMP, ate a one-shot hammer shockwave from a miscalculation of the direction the guy was facing. Well, shit. And I still had aggro while downed, so a split second later, I was quite dead.

Fortunately, the other two had lots and lots of mesmer clones and were able to keep the Crusher very well occupied. Got slowly picked up (with plenty of time to resolve to myself not to be a fucking hero again and stay at goddamn max range), the other two finished off the Hunter and came over, and we worked over the rest of the Crusher’s hp. Had a little bit of relieved vindication when a few others also caught in the shockwave and had to be picked up (that’s the nice thing about a guild group, everyone feels human and there’s room for people to err, whereas I foresee a great deal of potential obnoxiousness oozing out of a pug for being ‘fail.’)

Lemme tell you it’s not quite easy to see what the hell the Crusher is doing when he’s covered with blue and yellow flames most of the damn time. 😛 (We can’t stop the pyromania either, says the guardians!)

Then came the running past trash.

The endless running through a very confusing layout through shitloads of angry red names, some of which read Risen Illusionist and Risen Wizard, and me being a fucking slowass guardian with probably the highest ping of the group and the highest armor/toughness.

This was not pretty. I think I have PTSD after the experience. I completely get what Syl said now regarding this…  She said:

Yet, my first few Arah PuG runs almost made me give up completely on my set goal (and humanity). They were spent group-rushing through large packs of trash, frantically spamming cooldowns and hoping to keep up with the others because no idea where I’m going. More often than not, they were spent being one-shot by said trash which either wiped the entire party or “the unlucky one” (as I like to call him by now), then re-attempting the same leeroy act, corpse-running over and over until somehow the entire party makes it through alive.

Yes, I was the “unlucky one.”

The elementalist leader was showing us the way, so we were all following him, and stuff would aggro initially on him as he entered their proximity, everyone would dash through the gauntlet while aggro fell right off him onto me trailing behind (slowing me down in combat even further) while having to dodge/run through the big ugly red circles that had popped up on the initial attack on the group.

This did not work. Quite a number of times. To the tune of 8 silver repairs or so. I’d gotten out of Knight/Berserker’s after the first two deaths, and swapped into the tankiest shit I had, Soldier/Clerics with runes of the soldier for condition removal on shouts, and it was still pretty ugly.

Mind you, this was a guild group, so I wasn’t being left alone here. The elementalist was kindly running with me and trying to lead me through, which was good because I HAD NO FUCKING IDEA WHERE ANYTHING WAS and was liable to run headlong into something horrible while trying to get away from the horror behind me.

After the next set or two of deaths, the -entire- group waypointed back to help with veils and speed (something I bet Syl will guarantee a pug would never do) and I made a big point of staying in the middle of the pack and running for my life. Which saved me and got me to the end, but the other guardian caught the brunt of it and died.


Obviously I lacked any confidence whatsoever to go back and attempt it again, so I ended up standing around as part of the sad, asocial show. (Though internally it was more like, dear god, I don’t even dare move from this rock now. If I go back, I’ll just end up being THAT GUY again…)

With one mesmer going back to help him, and both of them probably having a better clue of where everything was, they eventually got through as a pair faster than I did. But wow, I am still more than a little traumatized and cannot imagine leeroying that gauntlet alone over and over in a pug. It really makes me wonder if killing the lot would be faster.

The subsequent Mage Crusher boss went a lot more smoothly than the trash mob gauntlet. We may or may not have been glitching by getting onto the boss in melee and coordinating to not move a single muscle (touching WASD was verboten)  in order not to trigger any of the necro marks that popped up around us. I dunno. But I thought it was interesting regardless in that it was challenging a group of five to not do something that is otherwise natural in GW2 (squirming about and dodging a lot) and required discussion beforehand and coordination as a team to stack and not move.

I suspect the ranged fight would not have been too annoying either, though with more accidental downs from Risen Hand knockdowns and stumbling into AoE and folks having to run to get each other up. (Pretty much like how most other big boss fights from range go, see Molten Facility stuff.)

And then there was Giganticus Lupicus.

So that’s what one of them looks like…

The typed explanation of his phases was ridiculously elaborate. To the point of my brain threatening to fry while taking it all in for the first time. (You may be able to tell that I’m not really a WoW raider. I found RIFT’s dungeon mechanics rather elaborately challenging also.)

Anyhow, the message that went through was:

Phase 1 – All stack together, attack him from range. Prioritize killing grubs. Locusts not so important.

We did that, and subsequently got pwned from an ever-growing stack of buzzing locusts that everyone was doing their best to ignore in their quest to range Lupicus and kill grubs. As usual, I found myself absorbing most of the damage, which steadily alarmed me to the point of thinking “I’m running out of heals and cooldowns here and this is not working…”

Eventually I fell over, and watched the damage stack up on the other guardian, who also eventually fell over, and then everyone else went down like bowling pins.


New Revised Group Plan for Phase 1 – All stack together, 1-2 melee the locusts/grubs, the rest attack from range.

I believe the two guardians gratefully went back to melee at this point. This went flawlessly. With me getting my hammer on, the protection symbol was pulsing, damage was getting healed up by shouts and stuff, everything was getting hit and worn down by AoE, and whatever the rest were doing, it was working well as the locusts got cleared quickly and grubs died fast, mebbe only one or two got away.

Phase 1 complete, enter Phase 2.

To be honest, it was mostly a blur. A great big blur of everybody scatter, and don’t die, and don’t step in OMG SO MANY RED CIRCLES ahhh dodge dodge heal ohgodohgod run dodge, shit someone’s downed, have I got aggro, no I don’t have aggro I can go rez him, FUCK so many red circles runaway runaway, well he’s dead now, run back to rez a bit more, how am I still autoattacking Lupicus, ooh, he’s shadowstepping to me, dodge dodge abandon rez, kite away and let someone else finish the rez, GAAH he just shadowstepped to them and one more guy is downed, but now he’s gone over there and I can dash over and get the downed guy up and we can get the dead guy up together, oh good, we three are up because the other two are now downed, and NOW I HAVE AGGRO oh shit ohshit kite away don’t die don’t die healheal oh god, give them time to rez up, YES THEY MADE IT, good because NOW I’M DOWN ow ow ow…

Somehow in the midst of this utter chaos, everyone eventually stayed upright at one point and we shifted his hp sufficiently to move him into Phase 3.

Where his aggro intelligence apparently defaulted back to the standard GW2 one of loving Mr High Toughness.

Miss a tanking experience from other games? Well, you can get it RIGHT HERE in phase 3 of Giganticus Lupicus.

My first hint that he had gone into phase 3 was when I noticed the big boy had gotten fixated onto me, and all kinds of damaging stuff was challenging my dodging and healing quite severely, and some guy in Mumble was clinically discussing what his poison death cage looked like as I backed away and fell down in an animation familiar to me via Ring of Warding and he ended with, “Oh there, Shudd’s in it now.”


Luckily Stand Your Ground was up, so I chucked on stability and got out of dodge before my hp fell any further and struggled to heal up.

Then he death caged me AGAIN while Stand Your Ground wasn’t yet up, and that was a frenzy of trying to dodge/heal/stay alive while in the stupid circle.

I had a pretty good front row seat to all the spell effects Lupicus was throwing in phase 3 and pretty much was forced to learn how to avoid them really quick and get my skill usage timing spot on. I believe I went down once, but someone got me up very quickly (and may have gone down doing so) but with his aggro fixated on me, the fight basically turned into me kiting Lupicus in a big giant circle near the Arena walls while everyone else stood near the center and ranged and lol’ed.

In retrospect after reading the wiki guide, I may have stayed a few seconds longer in his life drain AoE than I should have by backing away and continuing to scepter him, instead of turning and running. Anyhow, that portion of the fight was oddly satisfying, if rather challenging playing keep alive.

Y’see, that tanky mindset that never really goes away just loves to hog all the aggro, even up to the point of biting off more than one can chew. (But how else can one learn where one’s limits are, right? Looking for group willing to put up with suicidal tank.)

Down he went, which progressed four of us further than we had ever gotten before.

The last bit was pretty much cleanup. There was so much adrenaline pumping after that fight that a few of us ran headlong into the Wraithlord’s dias triggering the event (guilty!) even as the one experienced guy was going “wait, I need to explain the mechanics…”

Oops. But you said earlier that it was MUCH easier than Lupicus. Anyhow, we managed the explanation pretty quickly and got sorted out over voice that two tanky guys were going to kite wraiths out of the circles and the other three would chill in them. After that, it was mostly tank-and-spank. Which was a relief after the wild excitement prior to this, and we all collected 60 shiny Arah tokens. Some of us for the first time ever.

Time spent wasn’t too bad, bearing in mind all the newbieness to Arah-ness. We started at 6.52pm server time. Reached Lupicus at 7.43pm. Were out of the dungeon by 8.32pm.

It really feels like the dungeon is made to challenge a well coordinated guild group. The difficulty level is quite eye-opening (bear in mind I don’t run high level fractals nor do I run other dungeons on a regular basis.) But it does feel ultimately doable, and it makes me tempted to attempt the other paths too. Though I’m not sure when I’d ever have the opportunity.

Arah would be pleasant for folks who can regularly get together at a set time and crank away at it, I feel. PUGs seem like it would be very hit or miss with how challenging the difficulty is and how liable one would be to get veterans who may splooge obnoxious elitism all over the place.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t mind another Lupicus fight. With a good group (read: understanding and well-coordinated/synergized.)

Though I have no idea how I’m going to get there through the trash.

That's exactly how I feel after finishing. "Twitchy."
That’s exactly how I feel after finishing path 3, facing trash mobs and Lupicus. “Twitchy.” (Oh, and are all female Sylvari slightly unhinged?)

GW2: Last Thoughts on the Molten Facility

Six days.

That’s apparently the period of time it takes to progress from fun discovery and exploration to a grim and bitter execution of efficiency.

Maybe I’ve had a run of bad groups, but everyone still running the facility seems mostly tired, lazy or focused on getting as speedily to the end as possible now. In the wake of this kind of pressure, I’ve also lost the drive to say anything and just wordlessly run along with everyone else.

Most alarmingly, it’s taken a while for someone to even respond to the question “which boss first?” – which always bodes well when the group can’t settle on a target.

And more and more, everyone’s running into the corner at the first weapons test, and stacking inside berserker for the last bit.

(Even more telling is when half the people cowering in the corner fail to even attack the core at the last phase – suggesting that they either don’t understand the point is to destroy the core or are too lazy to move and letting someone else do the work, and no one bothers to arrange stripping stacks off the other boss because it’s faster to just burn one down and screw the ‘fail’ party members who get pwned by the empowered boss, they were just useful as additional distraction targets.)

That -really- leaves me feeling drained.

Fortunately, no one minds if I stay out for the first section – it’s my business if I die (and guardians are hard to burn up or knock about) but I feel obliged to go with the group if the majority is going to stack, as not doing so delays them and you know how speedrunners are about that tiny minute wasted.

More and more, now that I know it’s actually possible to attempt the facility by myself, that option sticks in the back of my mind telling me that it’ll be more peaceful and more challenging and more fun. Just longer.

In fact, I gave it a go again last night and got up to the supercooled rooms with zero deaths and 40 minutes on the clock. (Then the gunner/brawler got me for my first death, and I decided that continuing on at 2am was probably not going to be wise.)

It was Champion Trolls this time around, by the way, and keeping two stun breaks on the bar as one kites them around is my suggestion for if they catch you or you accidentally stumble into one of their falling rocks.

I have a feeling I’m going to drastically cut down the number of facility groups I join to about 1-3 a day, and just silently crank it out with the rest for the last few lottery ticket chances, and either venture in myself or go wandering around the PvE world farming stuff or peek in on WvW to see how Arrow Cart Wars are getting on. (The constant disconnections on the red map are just making it plain unfun at the moment though.)

As usual, RNG has not been kind, and I will probably never own a miniature firestorm unless I buy one from the TP at an exorbitant price. (That seems to defeat much of the point of running around with one though, so I may not bother after all.)

I did however pick up the berserker tonic recipe as it’s dropped to an affordable 1g 70 silver or thereabouts, so I’ll be able to work towards having a souvenir of the event some day, regardless of RNG cruelty.

The biggest reward for me seems to be the satisfaction of improving enough to solo it at least once, having gotten much better at the concept of circle strafing and moving while meleeing, and the optimum range to kite and dps with the scepter.

Back to being mostly a lone wolf again for a while, I think. People overload. Do some quiet materials farming, then move back to the other aspects of the game that I enjoy more.

Speedrunning dungeons with every last glitch and exploit to get to the end ASAP is just not my cup of tea.