GW2: Path of Fire Weekend Demo

pof13

Crystal Desert, ahoy!

pof1

Reddit is in love with the raptor mount’s animations – the sheer attention to detail is amazing.

Riding one of these feels very vehicle-like or ship-like, no quick side-strafing but more steering like a speedboat… that can leap long distances.

I created a warrior for the weekend demo.

This time around, Marauder stats were provided (similar to Berserker with less Power/Precision/Ferocity bang, but more Vitality), which I thought was a nice compromise for experienced players who can’t live without the damage potential they are used to, but had extra health pool for the new players.

I’m not sure what necromancers started out with, but both UltrViolet from Endgame Viable and Aywren reported some difficulty with the introductory instance that showed players arriving to the Crystal Desert and learning how to use mounts.

Part of it might be a problem with the preset traits and skills. The warrior started with a greatsword and rifle, which happens to suit my open world playstyle fine (direct damage, one melee and one range option) but I took one look at the traits and couldn’t quite make head or tail out of it.

I suspect they built it more defensively for new preview weekend players. “Kick” was on my skill bar, among other things. Ok, breakbar hint, I suppose, but I am totally not used to using the warrior physical skills. Especially after they changed it in the new patch and gave it an ammo mechanic in the hope of making it more popular/viable a choice, but new mechanic = something not even vets are familiar with using right now.

You can picture me poking at it quizzically with this sort of expression on my face.

lolwot

So I took some time at the start to flip things to the more standard PS berserker build I was used to, minus the banners for group support, plus Wild Blow utility and Head Butt elite skill for breakbar (I’ll take the hint).

Also, since experience versus Balthazar mobs in Siren’s Landing has taught me that Anet is very very fond of quick stacking burns as a theme on his faction (recipe for immediate “Ow!” and falling over downed), a condi cleanse might be super helpful. Shake It Off went on the utility skill bar.

Lastly, finishing off the open world utility trifecta besides a breakbar skill and a condi cleanse, a stun-break. Warriors have a number of options, I just like Balanced Stance because it gives swiftness for running around, stability if used pre-emptively, and breaks stun if used reactively.

With that, the story instance felt fine, though I did feel like I was hitting with… if not quite a wet noodle, at least a wooden sword. See, the downgrade was that the demo stats were all exotics – armor, weapons, trinkets – along with Marauder slightly diluting the max damage of Berserker stats possible.

On the bright side, I used no food, no utilities and completed it just fine on exotics, so it is doable – and I presume they tested with all exotic gear, if this is their preset demo gear.

The big issue, imo, is mostly that folks not used to GW2 combat are not used to two things:

  1. Moving while pressing skills, and knowing what the skills are so that they can be chained smoothly
  2. Reading the itty bitty tiny buff icons on the mob’s status bars and general mob combat animations and indicators that have become second nature to people who play GW2 more often

Running out of orange circles by being pre-emptively mobile and ready to sidestep is a trained reaction by now for most of us, while a new player probably doesn’t even -see- the orange circle against the beige sand of a desert setting, let alone react in time.

Reading animations is another thing. Mobs have been charging at us since Mordrem mobs in Dry Top and Silverwastes. You gain an instinctive “uh oh” hunch when a mob starts pausing and looking at you funny, gathering itself up… before you know it, you’ve thrown yourself with a sideways dodge out of the way of the oncoming charge.

This is a learned reaction. Painfully acquired over time from getting charged and knocked down and around every which way to kingdom come. Not to mention, getting shot to hell by the straight ground line of Mordrem snipers.

You go from not even knowing the mob is going to come at you, to recognizing that “ok, this mob type is probably coming at me,” to trying out different mobility solutions (running sideways will probably still get you caught, just hitting the dodge button leaves you still in the oncoming path), to realizing that the best solution is to dodge sideways, to -practising- the ability to dodge sideways (holding one key down while pressing another, are your keybinds in a comfortable place to do that?) until it becomes something you can do on demand, and even subconsciously.

(And if you are a little insane, like my particular raid group, you practice synchronized group dodging aka “dodge left” to control a particular mechanic for a certain raid boss in a predictable manner.)

Bottom line is, no one starts out ABLE to do anything automatically. It was practiced and developed over time. Frustration at the stages before “can more or less do it” is completely normal.

But anyway, after the story instance completes, you’re tossed out into the first open world map of the expansion.

Boy, were they really careful with its design.

The first thing you get is a fairly big settlement, not quite racial city-sized but definitely larger than a village or outpost.

You can run around it in relatively welcoming safety, like Lion’s Arch. It introduces the special mechanics of the map – races, bounties – and has some amenities like a bank and trading post.

What’s pretty special is that in a fashion somewhat remniscent of Warhammer Online, you can actually get “public quests” *ahem* “dynamic events” within the town confines.

You can run around and collect objects with your mount and contribute to event completion. A pack of rampaging choya (planty quaggan things, but -angrier-) can attempt to stampede into town. It gives the whole city a little more life – or at least, more action.

pof2

The real verisimilitude comes from the outside.

pof3

This -is- a big map, compared to the rest of the GW2 zones. (And mind you, one third to one quarter of it on the right side also appears to be locked off at the moment.)

Wide open is the watchword, and IT FEELS GOOD.

pof14

Explorer souls, rejoice.

The awe of gorgeous surroundings, the curious sensation of wondering what’s over the horizon in whichever direction yonder and just -choosing to go- there (without being hindered by sheer drops, puzzle updraft/mushrooms and Mordremoth’s clingy tendrils), and then finding something interesting to see – all that is back in the map on weekend preview.

I find myself sometimes just wanting to run on foot through the place, rather than mount up.

If you miss that sense of MMO as a WORLD, rather than as a meta map with a game objective on a timer, then I think you can get some sense of that back in Path of Fire, if the rest of the zones are similar to this one.

pof4

World map-wise, it looks pretty promising in potential. Given the coloration of the Elonian region, we might see bits of the Brand, the sulfur deserts of old with the junundu wurms, as well as grassy oases in the Crystal Desert proper.

Even in the first map on preview, it’s not -all- beige desert, there’s some other colors too, if you know where to look.

pof7

What I do like, that I haven’t really seen commented on:

There are some really faithful references back to Guild Wars 1, with added new combat mechanics twists.

Man, hydra farming was a thing in GW1 – which I was never very good at, but tried my hand at anyway.

And I remember they were Elementalists of much fiery rainy pain.

pof6

Hydra says “ahai.”

Now here’s something we haven’t seen before, mob skills that use a lot more verticality.

The meteors are a little mean when first encountering them (I got smashed by the first meteor before I could react, the first few times) but after a while, you realize they’re going to do that and keep moving so that you’re not there by the time it lands.

pof5

Their heads pop off. And they wiggle around like beheaded triple trouble wurms. That’s a little nuts. But a very nice effect.

Overall, it’s not just the mount animations that are worthy of praise in Path of Fire, it’s pretty much all the mob animations. Sand sharks dive in and out of the sand in a convincingly fluid manner, unsoweiter.

The fanged iboga, another GW1 throwback, with an arcing poison/hallucination style attack as befits its mesmer class.

pof11

New shapes are coming. A fire wall, in all its 3D glory.

pof12

New buffs on the mob’s buff bars to read too. It will be interesting to see if boon stealing will be more valuable a mechanic in Path of Fire.

Bounties are an interesting map activity. Basically, they are like Queen’s Gauntlet mobs. You can pick up a bounty to go and trigger them in the open world. Once “summoned,” they exist for the space of 9-10 minutes, and anyone walking by can join in the fight, dynamic event style.

They have more complex mechanics than the standard open world mobs. Apparently, they can spawn with different buff “affixes” so they may vary from bounty to bounty, and necessitate slightly different tactics to defeat.

They seem to be a good intermediate training/tutorial mechanism on GW2 combat.

For one thing, it’s not a cage fight like the Queen’s Gauntlet.  One can break off combat any time and run away far enough to get out of combat and switch skills/change traits to adapt to the encounter.

For another, multiple people can join in, help each other, teach each other, or at least in a worse case unfriendly scenario, -observe- how another person is soloing while in a downed state.

I followed a commander tag calling for help and fought a really angry giant choya on a flat mini-island in the ocean. The thing was rolling around like a rolling devil on steroids, smashing anyone that got in its way (ie. everyone -on- the floating platform of an island) and summoning up ley line energy things that spun around and did damage – essentially limiting even more of the already limited arena.

After getting downed a few times, I rolled off into the ocean to float and actually read all the mechanics on the mob’s bar. The ocean was a perfect safe zone. (It was a little tough to figure out the correct side to even jump back up into the fight.)

There were 3-4 other people there, all getting smashed to high heaven. Barely anyone was touching the break bar.

Which…seemed like the best strategy, actually, because it wasn’t going to stay still otherwise. And it was lethal once moving erratically.

So I gamely jumped back onto the platform, tried to land Wild Blow, Head Butt, and even Rifle Butt. There was one other person that also helped cc a bit. Together, we managed to knock out the break bar and stun it. Now it was a punching bag for a crucial few moments. Rinse and repeat. Bounty done.

There was another bounty out in the desert. I can’t recall what it was, but I do remember it had the Sniper affix.

What this produced was a slow-moving shiny ball that would select a random player and creep towards the player. It moves -just- a little faster than one can sidestep though. Once it hits the player, a target gets painted on the player and a ley line energy snipe of doom emerges from the bounty and does 95% of one’s health bar, if not more, and typically downs the player.

Cue an amusing sequence of everyone getting downed in turn and Benny Hill running away from the death ball.

I wanted to “solve” this mechanic, so I backed out of the combat leaving the two other players to alternate being downed and switched skills.

The first thing I thought of was to “block” the sniper hit.

I wasn’t on my guardian though, and warriors can usually only block reliably on demand with a shield… which I didn’t have on the demo character and wasn’t interested in wrangling with the gear explosion and stat selection of the demo box.

The other thing warriors have that essentially are more sophisticated “blocks” is a) endure pain (immune to all direct damage, but conditions go through) and b) defiant stance (heal for the amount of damage that hits you, within the limited three seconds or so that it is active).

So I put both of those on and went to test them out on the shiny ball of doom.

Allow shiny ball to hit me, trigger defiant stance. Boom, sniper shot heals me to full. Giggle maniacally.

Shiny ball comes looking for me again, and trigger endure pain. Boom, sniper shot does no damage. Perfect.

So now I just need to manage cooldowns so that one is always ready to go by the time the shiny ball comes to me… tricky… hmm, what about classes that don’t have the specialized skills of warriors, can they do anything? Well, anyone can dodge with an invulnerability frame… HMM…

The next time the shiny ball comes in, I cross my fingers for luck and dodge the moment it hits me. BAM, evaded, just as the sniper shot comes in.

Therrrre you go, that’s IT. That’s the solution. It’s a mini-training tutorial for dodging!

Suddenly, I am the only person staying alive consistently while the other three people also fighting the boss just keep going down when the shiny ball decides they look interesting.

I leave them to observe me for a while: a mixture of not wanting to attract the shiny ball of doom and get sniped to death while locked in a revive animation, and wondering if the other three can learn by observation and arrive at the solution.

Mind you, these were not completely new players. The lowest had a 56 mastery point level, the middle was somewhere around 143, and the last was a full 193 mastery like moi.

They downed, revived themselves, downed again.

I stayed alive, and sat at range pewpewing the bounty as a rifle warrior.

After the second time they downed in sequence, feeling a little bad that I wasn’t bothering to rez them while I was enjoying my sequence of reactive dodging or soaking the sniper shot, I tried a teaching moment.

“Dodge when the shiny ball reaches you” was all I needed to say.

The next time they revived themselves, I watched as the shiny ball hit them. And BAM, they dodged and stayed alive. Just like that. The bounty died.

These were not complete newbies. They -knew- how to dodge. What they lacked was the ability to read the mechanics and experiment with solution finding. Their first impulse was to run away from the ball, and they kept trying to do that, even when the ball caught up with them and kept downing them.

I don’t know if this problem solving propensity can be trained or encouraged, but certainly, these new mobs are a way to at least let some people inclined to strategizing have some fun, and then the best solutions will get passed around verbatim or via Dulfy guide until everyone just knows “the strategy” for the encounter.

It’s a nice intermediate step from normal open world mobs anyway, but less punishing than that in Heart of Thorns (you don’t just die and have to waypoint run from far away, running out of combat is possible and mostly the punishment is getting downed).

My only fear is that this might break in larger numbers and groups of players. If they can be zerged down like guild bounties, then it’s possible that some players will just go ahead and do that and learn close to absolutely nothing (but maybe some osmosis will still happen in the company of others.)

Still, the weekend preview map feels surprisingly empty. Either the maps are deliberately being kept at a very low population number per instance (haven’t had skill lag in here), or folks have seen what they came to see and don’t want to progress further in a demo, or exploration as an activity doesn’t actually interest the present GW2 population as a whole.

I really hope it’s not the last. There doesn’t seem to be violent opposition on Reddit to this, so hopefully, people like it. I’m personally quite happy to have more of this stuff. (Cantha is a word that comes to mind, just sayin’.)

pof9

Nightime in this zone is fantastic. What better to end on but screenshots of this?

pof8

pof10

Advertisements

The Parable of the Bad Pottery Teacher

I may have mentioned a while back that I’ve been dabbling with pottery lessons.

They started out great, staying that way throughout the six weeks of beginner handbuilding.

The teacher was appropriately attentive, both in demonstrating what to do with practiced hands and in taking a step back to allow the student to get the feel of the clay, while observing mistakes and offering tips and fixes to solve issues that came up.

Some time through the intermediate lessons, the teacher’s attitude inexplicably changed.

Perhaps it was me – maybe I unknowingly offered grievous insult to his honor with a humble jest that I -thought- demonstrated student modesty.

It was an offhand smiling remark to another student and him about how all the great bits of my piece were the mark of a master’s hand, after he had helped, and all the lopsided bits were mine.

Or perhaps it was him. Over the weeks of the lessons, he seemed perceptibly disinterested in teaching – complaining bitterly to older hands and partner potters that he had to rush to prepare for suddenly booked corporate events; that student works were piling up needing to either be kiln-fired or collected by beginner students who never returned after the first six weeks; bitching within earshot of existing students that the various newbies showed up with no or last minute notification or didn’t bother to attend lessons as they felt like it – and generally evincing distinct signs of burnout.

My last couple of intermediate lessons felt like an exercise in deliberate inattention.

He’d walk by to offer the odd word of advice to the one or two beginner students, then walk out the door and put himself incommunicado, leaving us to flounder on doing our own things.

Now and then, again in earshot of all the struggling students, he’d express his belief in his supremely hands-off teaching style to another obviously experienced artist potter who was just sharing the same venue.

“Give us time and space to make our own mistakes and screwups, and then figure out how to fix it for ourselves” seemed to be the general gist.

Inside, I was fuming with frustration.

No, really, I get the hands-off method.

I think it makes sense, judiciously applied, but:

a) the student has to feel that the teacher -cares- (the vibe I got was mostly laziness, judgmentalism and burnout)

and b) the student has to have some basic grounding in HOW to even begin looking for answers to fix the problems they’re having

With both missing, chances are fairly good that a sizeable subset of students will drown, for every one student who flounders on to reach shore, having figured it out for themselves.

Tossing people into the deep end of the pool after demonstrating a swim stroke once and waiting to see who comes out is -not- good teaching.

In my book, anyway. I expect a good teacher to be able to break things down for a student, encourage step-by-step practice and gradual progress, observe errors and offer guided advice on how to fix the problem and in general, scaffold the student’s learning.

After the end of my intermediate lessons, I took a short break and really questioned if I wanted to go on to the advanced lessons of wheel throwing with said less-than-good teacher, especially since he seemed to be doing everything in his power to dissuade me from even paying him for the next set of lessons.

Mostly, it was the sunk cost fallacy that did me in. The beginner and intermediate lessons were a prerequisite for the advanced ones. If I walked now, and sourced for another teacher, the effort, time and money sunk into the previous months would likely have to be written off, as I’d end up fulfilling said teacher’s cynical prophecies of a student that would never come back.

Also, it didn’t seem polite to end abruptly. Leaving after a beginning, middle, end sequence was another thing altogether. One could then seek out another teacher and say truthfully that one had completed a pottery course, but was now looking for further improvement and new perspectives from a brand new teacher.

So I went ahead and signed myself up for another six weeks of instructorial neglect.

Halfway through now, and it went about as much as expected. One demonstration and then left to one’s own floundering devices.

Maybe I frustrate him as much as he frustrates me. Maybe he just doesn’t know -how- to teach me.

I remember things slowly, especially when it comes to visual bodily demonstrations. Perhaps my mirror neurons are somewhat dysfunctional, I do not really learn viscerally. Dance, exercise, pottery, you name it, I cannot see once and automatically ape.

It has to be repeated multiple times. I have to preferably read it, in step-by-step fashion. I have to see pictures and photographs and rehearse placing my hands in the demonstrated positions. Theory must come before practice.

Instead, full of frustration, I’m often left googling up “pottery concept X” after the lesson that introduces the name of concept X and not much else beyond the realization that I’m making a right muckup of concept X because I don’t even know what I’m actually supposed to ideally do in the first place.

I learn more by eavesdropping. Imagine that.

Said teacher is having a extended cheerful conversation with another experienced potter, just chilling and hanging out and steadily ignoring me, and he pulls out his phone and shows her some Youtube video of an advanced technique from a potter of a different country. He does -not- show the video to me.

I make such a right muckup of concept X (centering, if anyone knows pottery) for hours and look so distressed and woebegone, that after the “bad” teacher has rushed out of the workshop to grab his lunch before his next batch of ungrateful students, that the other experienced potter comes over and offers me a completely free demonstration of the way she does it – and by the way, more emotional support in those five minutes than the last five weeks.

She then promptly screws it up with a perfectly overheard conversation to the teacher who just came back, expressing her own helplessness at trying to explain concept X to me, while he offers her a commiserating knowing smile and shrug.

I stifle an internal scream.

It isn’t until the lesson is over and I’m furiously googling again when I chance upon THE article that sings to me – The Clay Will Tell You How You Are.

Here is a woman who makes me feel better because she’s had an even worse time of it than me.

At least my piece of clay didn’t turn into a flying projectile, but just sat there as an insistently lopsided soppy wet yet hard and sandy lump that evoked the ever unproductive ritual question and answer from student to master:

“Is this centered?”

“Not centered.”

“Now?”

“Not centered.”

“How about now?”

“Not centered.”

I bite back on the words, “What the FUCK is centered then? How does it even look? What the FUCK am I aiming for here?” because I know I’ll get no words, just the guy’s hands coming down on my piece of clay doing magic stuff with me none the wiser.

I did learn one thing though.

When you have a bad teacher, the Internet is your best teacher.

After seeing the Youtube video being shown to the other potter, angels descended and sang Hallelujah in my head because my eyes were suddenly opened to the source of a DOZEN good teachers.

Ten Youtube video clips of “pottery centering” later, I had the foundation concepts and the scaffolding that I had not been privy to before this.

No one had told me that I was supposed to brace my hand against my leg, or that the wheel had to be at a decent speed, or that the idea was to push in one direction while easing up in the desired direction so that the clay had some place to go.

They knew how to do it, but they didn’t know how to teach it.

Those on Youtube did.

The following week, I magically produce a 98% acceptable centered piece of clay after a couple of false starts and self-experiments.

(No doubt I also just confirm in my teacher’s head that his style of teaching is perfect.)

Things go well until I run aground in the next progression step of “lifting the clay to make a tall cylinder.”

We engage in a failure cycle of call and response again until the end of the lesson.

This time though, I know what to do in order to progress my own learning next week.

cylindervid

So why I have spent 1400 words telling you guys about my pottery lessons on a -game- blog?

It strikes me that learning is learning, regardless of the subject.

It could be pottery, it could be Civilization 6, it could be Path of Exile, MMO raids, PvP or whatever.

We all want the ideal of the understanding good teacher that cares and knows how to break it down just right so that we can learn what we don’t even know, let alone don’t understand.

(Or maybe that’s just me. Maybe you have some other ideal of the perfect teacher that is just right for you. Goldilocks style, not too soft, not too hard.)

Chances are bloody good that we’re not going to get one.

We would be immensely lucky if we strike gold on the first attempt at sourcing a great teacher.

Chances are far more likely that we’re going to hit judgmental people; people too self-absorbed in their own lives to bother much about your learning; people far too ready to go for the expedient assumption of “unteachable, boot him/her out of here” much more often than a good teacher with a heart of gold. (The latter burn out real fast, I hear.)

They’re going to do shit things to your emotions.

But there’s always one person that -is- committed to your learning, and that knows -exactly- how you like to learn.

Yep. You.

Perhaps that’s the teacher to really have a heart-to-heart conversation with.

 

GW2: Things I’ve Been Learning, Even As I Steadily Go Broke

Time for some positive reflections, since I’ve been busy grumpy hermit grumbling since raids hit GW2:

One of the things I’ve noticed is that some people find the concept of raids aspirational.

Even though they may never set foot in one or successfully down a raid boss, the fact that they exist gives them something to strive for, some heroes (raiders in famous guilds) to look up to and cheer on, and motivation to continually improve and get better.

(I don’t know that I’ll personally go that far, you’d have to be a -very- glass half full kind of person to be that sunnily optimistic. I’m naturally a bit more glass half-empty skewed, and tend to worry about those who meet an unclimbable wall and meet frustration and learned helplessness instead.

I like the idea of scaffolding learning – this Reddit suggestion to have bronze, silver and gold rewards for each boss rather than a binary you-got-it-or-you-didn’t enrage timer appeals a lot to me.)

Even if “aspiration” is something that doesn’t work for me personally (maybe it’s more of a social motivation), what I’ve been finding enjoyable is increased opportunity / motivation to learn and apply all sorts of game things that I didn’t know before, to continue to build up a database of knowledge about how the game world works.

I guess this is a very Bartle Explorer thing.

After my fun little rant about pigeonholing, I sat around brooding like an angry pigeon for the space of one night, thinking, thinking, thinking, plotting almost, about my next steps forward.

I was very stressed out over two things:

1) My condi guardian would probably not be accepted in the more closeminded raid groups, and possibly for good reason.

I was quite well aware that I had a habit of dropping like a rock when the vault guardian sneezed or looked at me funny. You know closeminded groups, it’s probably not going to bode well if you look like the weakest link over and over. I was still completely puzzled as to the -source- of the bloody damage that was eating like acid into my super-low health reservoir and how I could avoid it.

And I definitely haven’t mastered the skill rotation to keep burning uptime consistent yet. I’ve seen burning stacks as high as 9-14k a tick, depending if things go well and I catch a lot of might stacks, I tended to run around the 4-5k mark, and dropped to as low as 2-3k burning a tick when things went badly and I end up having to focus on not-dying rather than attacking. You know closeminded groups again, right? If they see that they’re killing slower with a condi guardian as opposed to say… a condi engi? It’ll be kthxbai, LF condi engi for raid!

2) My warrior was essentially 95% PS warrior, but in my usual perfectionistic way, I was afraid to advertise as a PS warrior because the common player perception of a PS warrior is something that can generate 25 might stacks on their own. Somehow, try as I might, I was usually only consistently reaching 15 stacks in PUG fractals.

What was going on exactly?

I took on question 2 first, as the solution to some players wanting cookie-cutter, is, of course, to give them a cookie-cutter option that they would be happy with.

I have been resisting switching the Superior Runes of the Pack on my armor for a very long time, because I knew I would dearly miss the essentially perma-swiftness that comes from just honking the warhorn once. (13 seconds of swiftness with Pack runes, warhorn cooldown with Quick Breathing trait is 12 seconds, only lag or animation delay will make it not quite perma, so just use Balanced Stance or a Banner 3 for more swiftness and voila. Quick, happy feet. An unswiftnessed charr is a very slow-seeming charr.)

Were Strength runes really going to make THAT much of a damn difference? (They are so freaking expensive…)

Some time earlier I had just done a very informal test in the Heart of the Mists beating on some golems with both Pack and Strength, and had to admit that, yes, the increased might boon duration made for might stacks that stuck around longer and so maybe it might be the crucial factor for 25 might stacks output by solo PS warrior.

So I bit the bullet, yanked 70 gold out of an even more dwindling bank, and bought 6 Strength runes, wincing as I overwrote the Pack runes (nevermind, I consoled myself, they don’t cost that much, you can get another set of armor to put them on or maybe some day Anet will solve The Rune-Switching Problem), but hey, go me, no one can accuse me of not being cookie-cutter now that I can ping gear with Strength runes and look all meta-compliant, right?

Then I decided the best place to test my awesome meta-ness out would be a quick fractals, now that it’s so bite-sized convenient, and lookie, someone advertising for 2! Bloomhunger! Super-quick and a really big target to build might on!

The PUG team did the wisps in a single go, swam down the tunnel and charged straight at Bloomhunger! I flung down my banners and proudly launched myself at the silly old Oakheart determined to might stack like the Energizer Bunny!

Words cannot describe the utter chagrin I felt when I looked at my buff bar and saw only oh… 15-18 stacks of might max.

…?

…?!

BUT I PAID GOOD MONEY FOR THESE RUNES.

Regardless of my fail might-stacking, Bloomhunger died, I grabbed the fractal chest, then slunk away beaten with my tail between my legs to reconsider the problem.

After reading and reading the Metabattle page over and over, comparing and contrasting the by now fairly minute differences in build: Same gear, same runes, nearly the same traits (I just take warhorn because I cannot trust PUGs to condi clear for me, I don’t have sexy dungeon group mates to rely on, and look, it’s even stated as a permissible variant in the Metabattle Bible, okay? It can blast might and everything.)

I don’t have Night Sigils because I’m not that crazy a night time dungeon runner, I tend to use Air, Fire or Bloodlust instead…

Yes, I’m not using expensive food in most casual PUGs, I’ll save it for raids and really important occasions…

What exactly was generating might besides swinging my greatsword over and over? Oh, and this Fried Golden Dumpling food that gives might on crit, for slacker PUGs (ie. 85% of the ones I get into) that don’t pre-stack might, but surely the PS warrior sans dumplings isn’t just a might boon maintainer for a might-stacking ele….

…and oh. Oh. OH. What is this tooltip I see? On the mace that I usually don’t use…

supsigilstrength

Well, fuck. THERE’s your problem.

The bloody thing runs a mere two gold and can be crafted to boot.

The good news was that I wasn’t going to have to overwite an expensive sigil to incorporate this.

The bad news was that I was going to have to chop a lot of soft wood, and then spend a fortune in hoarded crafting supplies to make my warrior an Ascended weapon that I’d forgotten he didn’t have yet, a Zojja’s Axe.

So I did that, crafted that, tested it, and what do you know, 25 stacks of might. Obviously, it’s better and faster when you can hit multiple enemies at once, and if your group mates deign to give you some might, as I observed while testing in the Urban Battlegrounds fractals, so that locked in another piece of the puzzle.

Some day I’m going to have to test out a Sigil of Strength with mere Pack runes in the Heart of the Mists and possibly cry myself to sleep that night.

But now, I can safely say that I have a total fully absolutely meta-compliant cookie-cutter PS warrior for those picky picky raids, inspect away if you wish, and more importantly, I actually -understand- how the whole damn build links together and synergizes.

The other thing I was brooding about that night was just how far down the rabbit hole I was willing to go for raids.

You know me, I have this crazy cognitive dissonance thing going on.

I want to be effective. I want to be optimal (or at least, viable.) I want to achieve actual successful kills in a reasonable period of time, not be banging my head against the first boss a year from now with a group that keeps screwing up. I want the -rewards- at the end. I want the shiny prestige.

In return, I’m open to getting brutal direct feedback and told what I’m screwing up and what I should do more of instead. To spend all the monies and switch build and traits to what works. To dress all cookie-cutter and do my best to perform for a drill sergeant if need be.

On the other hand, I have to admit that a lot of this is work. As in, not intrinsically enjoyable to my nature. As in, I have a tendency to obsess and stress out over stuff that probably no one else notices but I think that they do and that they are judging me harshly and coldly and will probably boot my ass. Oh, the awful rejection! (And worse if it’s going to be based on erroneous player perception, rather than objective evidence.)

If I am honest, the most fun times that I have while raiding is when it is explicitly a raid designated for training and learning, when I know that no one has the expectation that everyone must be performing to 110% of their ability 100% of the time.

I can relax my obsessional tendencies a lot more when I know I am not the weakest link in that raid group, and focus on my personal learning – what else can I be doing better, what can I practice and get better, what can I tweak and get better – while someone else is making the raid-wiping mistakes and working on learning those things.

Furthermore, I can be experimental and test little theories knowing that the raid outcome isn’t going to be affected one way or another, because the group as a whole still has some ways to go before they master the mechanics.

Better yet if it is a raid group made up of guilded, friendly faces because I’m more assured that they won’t judge, and then I can get in my quota of social hanging out with people that way too.

Except one itty bitty lil problem. I kinda want to win and get my shinies. Not next year. More like sometime this month.

Except I don’t want to do crazy stupid hardcore things like try to raid at all odd hours of the day and for 8-17 hours a stretch. (Alas, college days over.)

*wry grin*

I haven’t quite come to one satisfactory solution, but I think I will be exploring a number of options and keeping them open in the days ahead.

I want to get into at least one weekly scheduled raid group with relatively consistent people so that I have kind of a long term insurance plan for raids.

Timezone matching is going to be an issue, I don’t have the luxury of a vast spread of NA guilds to choose from, and they have to be the kind of people that won’t make me want to report them all for verbal harassment after an hour in their company, aka preferably the more mature or mellow type, which can be somewhat short in supply on this side of the world.

Furthermore, a consistent group may very well mean consistent failure. Not that I would actually mind in the moment, especially if the company’s good and everyone’s learning (and I usually can always find -something- to learn) but my skritt brain still wants its shinies.

So the other thing that I have been thinking is to look for opportunities to basically mercenary myself out to fill in gaps in other peoples’ raids. They’re maybe short one healer, or one tank, or need some condi or dps or might-stackers or whatever.

The super-duper long term plan would be to get comfortable with alts that can fill any of those on demand, but for now, I can either offer a cookie-cutter PS warrior or still somewhat new to people’s expectations condi guardian to let ’em pick and choose.

This ties back into the idea of training raids and learning from those because I’m not going to be a very popular mercenary if I’m not any -good- at raiding.

Fourth raid attempt was essentially a sort of friends-and-family style guild affair. I had expectations set somewhat accordingly, and was in fact, pleasantly surprised by a number of things.

One, the bulk of the group was a lot more serious than I would have guessed. Some (well, ok, one) had spent more gold than I’ve personally ever seen in one place on an Ascended set. There was less teleporting around than I’ve seen in other raids because practically everyone could dodge the aoe relatively consistently. (Either that or they’re NA people and the other raids I’ve been with are OCE folks!)

The overall group experience level was lower, and as expected, only brought down the boss to 66% health and into the split guardians a few times, mostly because folks were still getting the hang of the mechanics, I feel. (But hey, give ’em a couple weeks or month more and who knows?)

Two, I got the chance to test out both my alts on the Vale Guardian and work out more of the kinks.

The PS warrior, as expected, was pretty darned good. I’m definitely going to start offering this one up more while mercenary-ing. The higher health pool means less catastrophic failures from a slipup, and I even survived the Distributed Magic group wipe mechanic a couple of times when the circle team missed standing in a circle – albeit at 1000 hp left, and liable to wipe in the next blast cos everyone else is already downed or dead. Everybody likes 25 stacks of might and banners, it does seriously respectable dps (I suspect I contributed quite heavily to shoving it into the next phase, because I was busy practising the “find the back of the boss and stick to it like glue” tactic while others had to contend with the circle mechanics.)

The group however found themselves somewhat light on condi once they were in phase 2 and the split guardians, so I grabbed the chance to volunteer the still-rather-unexpected option of condi guardian.

A little selfishly, I suppose, since my ulterior motive was to get better at playing it, but eh, the whole group was definitely still in the learning phase and not exactly likely to reach even 50% of the boss’ health yet.

The rotation for condi guardian is definitely a little more complex than a PS warrior (duh) and I’m quite certain I was mangling it a good half of the time. So dps output likely lower than PS warrior, especially since we were now sans 25 might stacks, but on the bright side, I can actually do things to the red guardian instead of stand around looking stupid and be a might buffbot.

The issue I kept running into, while the others were still mastering the circle mechanic and getting into trouble with the Seekers, was that the condi guardian’s health is still alarmingly low, plus, now that I had time to study the combat log and think while trying to execute my rotation, the damn guardian periodically pulses a damaging Magic Aura for 1000 hp or so.

High hp monstrosities that come with a healing signet tend not to notice this and shrug it right off. Maybe I’m not a great guardian but this rapidly diminishing health bar tends to distract me from actually executing dps rotations.

Worse if a Seeker got into my personal space (I was doing a semi-decent job of avoiding them… except an occasional wild knockback out of the green circle had a tendency to soccer ball the Seeker right into me, leading to an insta-down before I even knew what hit me.)

This did not bode well for viability of condi guardian if they had no -survivability-, it’s not as if demanding a healer to babysit my health would make it terribly popular…

…and then it hit me. Duh. If the healer can’t come to me, exactly why can’t dps go to the healer?

(I hear all the holy trinity MMO players slapping their foreheads right now. Mea culpa, look, I’ve only been playing a no-healer personal-heals-only MMO for 3 years now, you get set into certain patterns.)

Granted, I haven’t even looked at what skills druids have, but I’m almost sure they can pulse heals to 5 people near them somehow.

So I started paying a little more attention to positioning myself near the druid when I needed to catch some heals, which worked out about 75% of the time, but still would not solve the overall dps problem of needing to be in melee or close range to do more damage, rather than plinking away from afar while moving to hug the healer.

In between one raid wipe and another, I started looking at my self-heal skills and wondering if one would work better than the others.

I’d tried Shelter, which is optimal for applying more burning while blocking, and you’d think it’ll be great because apparently the blue aoe teleports can be blocked… and then you can go right on dps’ing in melee… but I risked that once and I think my ping was such that by the time I saw the aoe and hit Shelter, I got zapped by the teleport before the block could set in. (Either that or I was a little late on the block, but I didn’t feel like risking it again when I could just dodge the AoE.)

Anyway, I didn’t seem to be healing up sufficiently with Shelter, so I’d gone with my usual fallback of Signet of Resolve, which is an awfully strong heal that can pretty much push me back to full health from near dying. Except that I now had to deal with a 40 second cooldown because a condi guard can’t take the Perfect Inscriptions trait to reduce the recharge time when you want Amplified Wrath for the 15% more burning damage.

40 seconds is a long long time when you only have 11.5k hp.

Especially when there are sources of damage flying in from everywhere. It’s as if they took that suggestion of pulsing small amounts of damage to stress zerker builds out and encourage at least one healer or more…. except they also slap on an enrage timer, so… I dunno. Catch-22, much?

Then my eye fell on Litany of Wrath.

I’d pretty much never used it. Exactly how much healing was it capable of? No idea. The only way to find out was to try it.

The next time my health bar fell to 5k hp, I hit that, and in under 3 seconds, I was at full health again. (Granted, I was busy smiting and orb of wrathing the hell out of the Vale Guardian, while burning it with condition damage at the same time.) 

It has a 30 second cooldown.

It is, in fact, -just- enough to keep my health relatively stable (ping-ponging between 5k and 11k) as long as silly things don’t happen (like a taking a frontal cleave 5k punch from the guardian, basking in a Seeker’s aura that can crit for 4-5k, getting zapped by Distributed Magic for 9k) , in which case, seek out your neighborhood healer or just wait for the rez from downed.

It’s not exactly sleepwalk easy, but it was quite an interesting challenge to both keep an eye on one’s health like that, evade Seekers, and still keep up as much dps as possible on the Vale Guardian.

And hallelujah, you no longer need to be babysat by a healer and can more or less take care of yourself, barring emergencies. Add one more notch toward potential viability.

Some time later, it also occurred to me that the popularity of the condi engineer might also be because the meta build comes with healing turret as a matter of course. Folks doing the distributed magic circle tend to need group healing once the lightning strike is over, and some ability to knockback Seekers never goes awry.

The /ranger/ has a healing spring that can heal allies, and they should have the ability to knockback Seekers too, don’t they?

The /guardian/ has a shield that can knockback Seekers, if they deigned to use it, and hrm… what’s this other healing skill that I almost never look at? It used to be called Healing Breeze, but apparently it got updated with very few people noticing (me neither) as “Receive the Light!”

“…”

Hmm.

Looks like I have something new up my sleeve to try if I ever get assigned as a condi guard to circle duty.

So despite overall group progress of fourth raid attempt being not as forward as some others, there was a considerable amount of personal learning progress and some potential revelations to boot.

Would it have happened without raids?

Not terribly likely, barring a Liadri-style challenge.

So -that’s- something positive I can say about raids.