The Trinity Five Years Ago, and Now

Rowan Blaze over at I Have Touched the Sky had a quick blog post up today, and linked an old post he wrote about “The Unholy Trinity.”

It was written more than five years ago, in a time when WoW was king and neither GW2 or SWTOR was even out yet. (Let alone TSW or FFXIV or Rift.)

I find it an interesting look back at how the holy trinity was commonly perceived then, tank/dps/heals, fixed roles, taunting, etc.

Harbinger Zero apparently even managed to suggest an alternative trinity of offense, control and support, which *ahem* sounds suspiciously close to GW2’s later proposal of damage/support/control.

Today, looking back at our current existing MMOs, beyond alternative trinities (or quadruples or multiplicities), we see overall more of a relaxation on how fixed or difficult it is to swap roles or specs, and the provision of possibilities for individual players to “feel heroic” by temporarily swapping role/functions to off-tank, off-heal, crowd control, battle rez, what-have-you…

…Perhaps as a genre, MMOs have progressed a little further than we realize. (Even if it’s slower than some of us like.)

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GW2: Vale Guardian and the Trinity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings me to the other hand of Vale Guardian:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and then failed to ever get up again.

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

They just silently stopped coming.

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

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

And this state of affairs makes me feel sad.

It’s the sheer divisiveness of raids.

Some people relish the challenge and thrive in it.

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

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

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

They wind up over here.

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

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

So.

Vale Guardian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*sigh*

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

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

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

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

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

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

VG3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VG5

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

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

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

The Vale Guardian then reforms for round 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It stops this attack when its break bar is broken.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I put full blame on the holy trinity.

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

GW2: Sabetha

Sabetha, on the other hand, terrifies me.

sabetha1

Yep, this lone unassuming figure hides a fight of intense mental overload.

This encounter tears right through any pretense of contribution and reaches through the screen to challenge every single member of the ten person raid group. Every. Single. One.

The primary way it does this is to create a huge number of things to keep track of at once, in practically every corner of the screen, not to mention your skill bar at the bottom, and oh, the actual fast-paced action happening right this very instant in your center focus.

When you walk in new, it is massively overwhelming.

Even when you’re not new, it can still be pretty durned overwhelming.

It is up to each individual raid group to choose how and if they’re going to distribute specific areas of focus to different members, preferably in such a way that the person can cope with the number of things to manage on their plate.

Difficulty shoots through the roof if the raid pretty much just asks every member to keep track of it all.

sabetha2

We deviate immediately from the holy trinity, as there is no tank for Sabetha.

It’s not her autoattacks you have to worry about. She never moves from the center of her platform, so there’s no mob positioning to bother with either.

One healer is brought along to cover mistakes, and everybody else is buff-dps or even-more-dps.

sabetha3

The first thing you have to worry about: her Timed Bomb attacks.

A red “Timed Bomb” message pings up in your chat box, white “Timed Bomb” words slowly scroll across your screen as a big orange circle appears, with a quickly expanding darker orange circle inside. And yeah, there’s that graphical icon thing over your head too.

Once both circles meet, it explodes.

sabetha4

It doesn’t deal that much damage to the target, but -wrecks- anyone else within.

So instead of everyone running away from this and losing dps, the target is expected to move the hell away from the group.

Someone discovered that she throws this on the person with the closest proximity to her. (Presumably to spoil everyone-stack-and-melee-mindlessly tactics.)

The tactic that has evolved is to ask a fairly sturdy person who is already meleeing anyway to stay in the closest proximity (aka usually stacked right on top of her), while everyone else stands at max melee range.

In other words, the PS warrior (berserker) that is likely to be coming along anyway as a might-stacking banner bot.

That’s *groan* usually going to be me, since I lack the mental capacity and finger adroitness to play more complex classes like elementalists or engineers, and gravitated to “Hi, I r warrior, I headbutt things and thump things with a great big sword” gameplay.

The amount of reaction time you get, with oceanic/SEA ping? Not terribly much.

You need to be anticipating it, and once you see the orange circle, you go, pronto. You can’t quite rely on helpful white words appearing in the center of your screen, it’ll be too late.

Instead, your best prompt is take your eyes off the action and sneak a peek at the chatbox to see if the red words are there, and the little hissing noise it makes (like one of those cartoon bomb fuses.)

Then you best be gone.

(You do still want to check because there are also plenty of other orange circles appearing from other attacks, and you’d be mucking up your job if you ran off on the wrong cue.)

Did we mention that the warrior skill rotation makes heavy intense use of the channeled Hundred Blades skill, which you -normally- want to let complete uninterrupted as the last strike does extra damage?

Moving interrupts this, and normally I’m trying to train myself to let it complete properly and not jitter around nervously (because my guardian main doesn’t have that issue, and any other dps class that uses the seaweed salad consumable -should- keep moving in order to get the 10% extra damage boost.)

But if you see the Timed Bomb, you gotta stop and go and give up that Hundred Blades. Easier said than done if you’ve tunnel visioned onto your skill rotation, or conversely gotten distracted keeping track of one of the many other things going on.

The only piece of good news is that greatsword 3 Whirlwind Attack is a pretty fast way of getting out and quickly moving from point A to point B.

Point B preferably being an area with no other players in it.

I’m still not picture-perfect at this, and tend to end up giving the one player away from the group a heart attack 50% of the time by spinning near them, while both of us screech to a halt and try to break off in opposite directions to avoid a collision.

What’s that one player doing?

sabetha5

Well, they are worrying about what Sabetha does to the person at the -furthest- proximity from her.

Every seven seconds or so, she’s tossing these flaming fire fields in their direction. Standing in them burns. Duh. As in, applies nasty stacks of burning which add up and really hurt. The standard “Don’t stand in the fire, guys” that I presume (without any experience whatsoever) is part and parcel of many raids.

So they’re kiting these things away from the main group in a circle and doing damage at range to Sabetha too. Different groups assign different classes to this function – I’ve seen it done by a druid healer, as well as a condi necro. Presumably any ranged attacker whose player knows what they’re doing and won’t die works.

The rest of the raid isn’t given a free pass once these two mechanics are dealt with.

Every 30 seconds, in a pattern best laid out in Dulfy’s Sabetha guide, a cannon spawns on a higher platform that has to be dealt with, or else it will start firing a whole bunch of orange circles in a cone-shaped spread on that part of the platform.

sabetha7

Not only do standing in these orange circles hurt, once the incoming cannon shots land (so the standard GW2 ‘avoid orange circles’ concept applies), but they actually deal damage to the platform itself, as measured by another bar.

sabetha8

Once the platform health reaches zero, it collapses and the raid wipes.

So it is both a sort of soft timer (you can’t run around forever, the platform will wear away eventually) and an encouragement for raid groups to deal as efficiently with the cannon mechanic as desired. (There is a sort of hard mode achievement for leaving one cannon alive and managing to kill Sabetha too.)

How do you deal with the cannons?

Through a teamwork mechanic. Bandit sapper adds spawn every now and then, targeting somebody to throw a bomb to. Said person receives a green circle around them, and their special action key lights up with an icon.

Apparently they like to spawn in the direction opposite the target cannon and throw it to the person closest to them.

In some raid groups, you might find the person already kiting the fire fields will also take on some of the responsibility of being near the sapper and catching the bomb, but frankly, once a fight is in progress, it can be a bit of a random crapshoot. That person may not always be available or in position, and basically -anyone- might happen to be closest to a sapper and catch the bomb.

So -everybody- is expected to know what the hell to do with it, if they get it.

Basically, you run up close enough to the appropriate launchpad, and toss it with your special action key onto the person whose job it is to deal with the cannons in that direction.

Who should be also positioning themselves there at the same time. (They can’t be there too long beforehand, as it’s again dps loss, and they might also catch a fire field of instant death from being the furthest from Sabetha.)

sabetha9

The green circle moves from you to them, the bomb flies over to them, and triggers the launch pad and they bounce up… and then glide over and land on the cannon platform to deal with said cannon.

sabetha10The view from the west cannon platform, sans cannon and sans Sabetha, in a cleared instance.

Then they get to glide back to join the fight, catching an updraft for a boost or to delay their landing if needed.

Why do they need to delay their landing?

Well, every so often, depending on how much health Sabetha is down to, THIS happens.

sabetha10

She screams “Burn, Burn!” as your warning cue, and an arrow will appear, targeting a player (or a pet, for extra unpredictability.)

sabetha11

Shortly after, a big wall of insta-kill flame sweeps around the arena a full 360 degrees in an anti-clockwise direction.

It’s basically a vertical plane of death. Players can’t glide over it, can’t dodge through it, can’t stand inside Sabetha, it hits ’em all.

Odd unlucky things have been known to happen with this arrow. Just today, it failed to appear on my screen, so I had no visual cue to react to and I just insta-died because I was busy standing inside Sabetha worrying about time bombs.

(I suppose a better player might have known when the time bombs were coming and when Sabetha was likely to output a flamewall, but I’m very much -not- well-versed with this lady.)

We’ve had the flame wall target a pair of people mid-bomb throw (much ouch – theoretically controllable if we were all super-pro players who knew when and how to hold back dps while this was ongoing, but in practice, more of a “welp, that was unlucky, wipe and restart.”)

And we’ve even had a glitch now and again with an invisible flamewall in once place, while showing up someplace else visually, thus disintegrating the unlucky individual or two who had no idea it was there. “Wipe and restart, yet again.”

It generally works ok, about 95% of the time, and fulfills the function of forcing all players to either react quickly and step to the left of the arrow, then shift just a little to the right as it finishes its sweep, and/or run around in a circle a few steps ahead of the impending wall of doom.

What it does rather successfully do is confound many players’ sense of direction after they’ve been spinning around in a circle, especially if they’re new, and/or keeping track of many other things at once.

Remember, actually knowing cardinal directions is important because if said player gets the bomb, they have to go to the correct cannon launchpad to throw it.

How exactly does each player figure out cardinal directions, and how quickly can they do this?

This is one of the major challenges of the Sabetha encounter, not so much a tank-dps-heals holy trinity encounter.

The player could use the minimap… but that involves taking one’s eyes off the fight and possibly getting smited by an AoE they didn’t see, and making sure their minimap  was fixed and doesn’t rotate as they turn.

After a considerable amount of confusion my first time at Sabetha, I tried to figure out if there was a more original Guild Wars 2 solution of using the visual environment itself as a cue, so my player focus didn’t have to be staring at the UI and distracted from the fight.

Partial success.

Most directions look the same on first glance, all gloomy and bandit tree fort.

sab-north

North is the easiest to recognize, as it has a bright red banner hanging as a visual cue.

sab-east

This is east. No particularly distinguishable landmarks, beyond the entrance to the platform on the left (northeast).

sab-south

This is south. My personal cue is the little greenish glimmer of the Ley Line Rift on the metal walkway. (On looking at it again now, it also has an entirely missing right pillar/netting thing.)

sab-west

And this is west. I guess, it, erm… has more tree leaves…

Turns out, I can barely remember or distinguish such teensy little details in the split seconds needed to find the correct platform and toss the bomb, especially when the whole world is lighting on fire and there’s orange circles everywhere.

Raid groups try to minimize the processing time on most members’ parts by asking the raid to stack on a person and pre-face the cannon direction that is upcoming.

Cannons go by a known S, W, N, E, then a S, N, W, E pattern and repeat. (Purposefully confusing pattern must be purposeful. Frankly, I lose track most of the time and rely on the designated raid caller to announce it.)

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Post-patch, raid groups have one more trick up their sleeves, having been given raid markers.

In our particular raid, a designated lieutenant marks out the current platform to be throwing to, and shifts it about as the pattern changes. This, I think, does help processing time for some people, loading most of the mental work to that one lieutenant.

I can easily see other raid groups using colors instead of cardinal directions, and going, “ok, throw to blue now!” or “throw to purple!”

Still, the lieutenant has to know how to orientate him or herself, and I was really relieved when I found a method that did work somewhat well for me, even without markers.

Basically, know where north is at all times. Look for the red banner. Kinda keep it in view most of the time, keep it in mind if one has to shift about.

Maybe it’s just how my brain works, but I realized that once I knew where north was, the other directions could then be easily derived from north. I am ever so slightly better at passing the bomb now, even if I do have a tendency to tunnel vision on swinging my sword and forget that bombs exist.

Different raid groups also designate different amounts of people to deal with cannons. You’d think four would make sense, one for each launch pad. But that relies on four people not screwing up.

Hearsay has it that some raids use one of those grey exploits where one player can deal with three cannons by clambering on tree branches and gliding and some such, presumably at the cost of said player not doing dps on Sabetha.

The raid group I killed Sabetha with initially tried four, which worked iffily, and has dropped to two people alternating cannons, who are very practiced at that role/function. Everyone still has to be on their toes to throw the bomb to them, though.

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Assuming the raid group has managed to cope with those main mechanics and drop Sabetha to the next magic health level, she switches out and brings her first flunky in, Kernan.

This bandit (apparently it’s a she? I have no idea, it’s not like I can actually see much mid-fight) does a thief-like pistol attack, a spreading cone that starts narrow and ends wide.

It’s a very GW2 solution to this problem. Ideally, you dodge through her and to her back, avoiding the whole frontal cleave. Less ideally, you sidestep or side-dodge away.

Of course, this tends to fuck up your sense of direction more.

Now that I’ve had a few more Sabetha fights under my belt, I’ve had the time to observe her animations and anticipate a little more her attack. She’ll lift her two pistols up and point them in the direction of the person she decided to target. So if she’s pointing at you, now’s the time to vamoose and not wait for the orange cones to appear!

In a fashion similar to Gorseval, the fight ramps up slightly with Heavy Bomb objects that spawn on the platform. They don’t hurt players, but take off chunks of the platform bar as they explode. So, yet another player is usually designated to “Kick” them off by hitting the F use key on them. Again, more of a unique GW2 thing.

Get past Kernan, and Sabetha reappears for round 2, rinse and repeat the whole shebang with Heavy Bombs in play (and Timed Bombs, and cannons, and fire fields and so on.)

(Oh yes, she reappears and does a flame wall WHILE Kernan is still alive with a sliver of hp left. So now your group has to deal with the flunky’s special mechanic and be trying to off them, while spinning around in a circle.)

Knuckles is the next flunky and we’re back to breakbar management again.

Fail to break the bar and he’ll launch the whole raid near him up into the air, and possibly off the platform.

Pre-arranged coordination of sufficient ccs is best as his bar comes up two or three times in relatively quick succession. “X goes first, followed by Y, and the rest of the group” or something similar.

Importance of control? Pretty decent. Enough to make it a contender.

Finish with Knuckles, dealing with Sabetha’s flamewall while Knuckles is still up, and the fight continues, now with -two- Timed Bombs. So at least two players have to be on the lookout and move them away from the group.

Karde is the final flunky and she has a flamethrower cone attack, dealt with in similar vein to the first flunky.

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She also spawns those turrets of bullet hell.

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Just like in Gorseval, one or two people are tasked with object clearing duty.

All out madness is released once Karde is down to a small amount of health remaining, Sabetha returns with her flame wall, Karde is still running riot with her flamethrower and turrets, and rocks fall from the sky.

No, really. Little orange circles spawn all over the platform, heralding bits of falling debris that will smash through your health bar if you’re still in the circle when they crash down on your head.

There’s fire everywhere from flamethrowers, flamewall, flame turrets, and -yes-, the cannons are still going and have to be dealt with, Karde has to die to cease -some- of this madness, and let’s not lose sight of the original goal, to off Sabetha before she enrages.

Oh yeah, don’t die.

That’s important too.

I get exhausted just describing it. 🙂

Proponents of the holy trinity might say, “Well, this is what you get when you don’t have clear cut tank/dps/heals roles.”

Truth is, for the most part, I think the Sabetha fight would be fun in a GW2 action-y way without the mental overload from the cardinal direction cannons.

Most of the mechanics used in the Sabetha fight are very GW2 specific ones – reading animations, movement, dodging, break bar, F’ing objects, avoiding orange circles, and test that sort of reflexes/action-based combat.

It adds up to a very different style of fight from the more predictable holy trinity style combat.

Layer attempting to keep track of the cannons on top, and that’s about the limit that my overtaxed brain can deal with.

I suppose, over time, with raiding being a team sport and all, that if one is able to trust that each raid group member can handle their own unique parts, my brain might be able to relax enough to stop worrying about keeping track of cannon directions and to just look for the raid marker, knowing that someone already handled that part of the equation.

Right now, my brain still likes to be in “Grok all of Sabetha” mode, and it’s really too much for one person to handle.

I suspect this reason is why different people just randomly up and die every now and then, early on in the phases, causing our raid leader to call for a wipe and reset. Again and again.

(I’m guilty of some of those. Sometimes it’s tunnel vision causing slow reaction. A few times it’s just wonky glitches or rubberbanding.)

Fortunately for my sense of self-esteem, all of the members of my current raid group are prone to human error, and have all taken turns slipping up. This does wonders for my innate insecurity and need to seem/feel competent in group content.

Unfortunately, this does add a certain level of frustration to a Sabetha fight, because one early death (which can be quite prone to happening in a group of ten people) means wiping and restarting over and over. A lot of the mechanics are insta-kill, so there’s no recourse for last minute rescue from one’s teammates, and who slipped up is super-obvious.

(This can be, of course, pretty dangerous a scenario for toxicity in the wrong group.)

In my usual explorer fashion though, I’ve found that a massive weight has slipped off my shoulders the instant I scored that first Sabetha kill.

That’s it. I’ve seen the content. There’s no more novelty taunting me.

I’m essentially done. Everything else is a bonus.

(Still need one more Sab kill where no one dies to get the Eternal title. Maybe some chievos. Continue to join raids to socialize, help others, tickle the achiever by accumulating kills slowly, but the pressure and stress has evaporated.)