GW2: Light Up The Darkness

The more things change...

5 years (shy of 1 week) to the date, I defeated Liadri the Concealing Darkness for the first time.

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(Still the same mini, but I might have consumed a teensy bit of bloodstone dust in the interim…)

There are orange circles now in the arena; and the ceiling dome has gone.

The power creep is tangible – where I used to be in exotic berserker gear and called it a day, ascended zerker is now my standard baseline; the burst damage I can output as a raid-built dragonhunter who knows how to use food and utility now is likely 3 to 4 times higher than whatever I was using back then.

I’d like to think that my ability to analyze and solve for a GW2 combat situation has gotten a hair more refined. Am I too slow? Is it because I am always crippled? What condi cleanse do I have for that? Unsoweiter.

I actually know that I can count off and dodge for an invulnerability frame now (even if the execution still requires practice to refine), and can stand relatively unfazed in a sea of orange ready to dodge at the proper timing for my latency, so that the invulnerability kicks in as the shadow orbs shower down.

Even the stress of gearing for a specific encounter has been muted somewhat, by owning both a legendary light and heavy armor set, and not a few ascended pieces across 25 or so alts.

Not completely gone, because inventory management is still hell, but if I want to waste an hour or two to rummage around and/or spend a few currencies here and there, I can probably put together something if I’m desperate enough.

But between my usually played characters and classes, there’s probably something that will work already.

We cruised through the first three tiers in a day, killing two birds with one stone by taking the On Fire gambit and finishing both Gauntlet Contender (defeat 12 bosses) and Gauntlet Favorite (defeat 12 bosses with one gambit) achievements at the same time.

My hoarding habit came in handy, because I found nearly two stacks of really old Queen’s Gauntlet tickets in the bank – all 250 + 231 of them ready for the using. I threw the full stack into the newfangled shared inventory slot to make my life easier.

Oh, there were a few speedbumps here and there. I’d forget how a particular boss worked (thanks, Suriel!) and experiment a little here and Google for an old guide there.

I’d realize my dragonhunter wasn’t going to be the best for a particular achievement (kill one Subject 7 ooze without touching the other oozes? When I pretty much do AoE in all directions? Yea, not happening) and swap to another character. Something I also vaguely remember doing in the mists of time. Usually on the necro. Same old, same old, except more powerful.

Revisiting basic 3-orb Liadri took another day, mostly because I wanted to plan ahead a little, plotting out various build options after reviewing some old guides and videos.

It was surprisingly painless on the whole, maybe taking some 8 tickets or thereabouts to recall the old patterns of where to stand (thank goodness I blogged about it). It was a lot easier to deal with the shadowfall with the orange circles and overall calmer confidence in my capability to handle it (plus willingness to eat +dodge food.)

And once three orbs were thrown into Liadri’s face, dragonhunter spike damage with spear, trap, scepter and torch is almost unfair.

Turai Ossa took another couple of days. His fight patently favors the fast and mobile tanky/healing build types with preferably lots of blocks/evades/invulns as the goal is to avoid or withstand his ludicrously hard hitting stunning attacks in some way until he divests himself of first his shield, and then his sword… by flinging them at you in extremely painful fashion. After which, you must break his bar with crowd control and then proceed to damage and defeat him.

I own practically zero tanky/healing builds, nor am I terribly practiced with fast and mobile classes. A mirage is apparently near perfect to deal with him, and I don’t even know how to play base mesmer well, let alone chronomancers or mirages. *shudders*

There was a fair bit of build experimentation, courtesy of legendary armor and a bit of scheming. I gave it a shot with a tanky/healing block-laden guardian – except I’m not really practiced with that aspect of the class, and I rather did not realize at the beginning that Turai was supposed to be broken after he flings his shield and sword.

I tried a healing/barriering scourge, with not that much success as well – others succeeded by being very adept at necromancer mobility skills, but I was essentially flailing around with unfamiliar non-muscle-memory skill sequences.

Ultimately, what worked for me was going back to a familiar class – warrior. I put a bit of Soldier gear on, switched my traits based on watching a video of someone who did it with a warrior, and while watching said video, it -finally- clicked that I needed to break Turai before he was open to being damaged.

A few more trial-and-error attempts later, learning a bit more at each go, Turai was defeated (by a hair, I was kinda downed at the last, but we’ll take it. Fear the warrior Rock.) Kingslayer get.

And now we were back to that old bugaboo – 8 orb Liadri.

In 2013, my framerate was 12, on a good day. Maybe dropping to 6, if the Boss Blitz zerg went under me. I surrendered.

In 2014, my system apparently could manage 20+, but I wasn’t mentally ready for it then.

“Maybe next year,” I said, but next year never came. No festival in 2015. Or 2016. Or 2017.

It’s 2018, and the Queen’s Gauntlet is finally back.

My upgraded graphics card and system manages 50 FPS. (My ping has increased to 280ms -with- a VPN, but hey, you can’t win ’em all.)

It was time.

30+ tickets were thrown into the meat grinder, along with the first build I’d determined I’d give a go. A tanky necromancer with parasitic contagion and blood magic, with spectral grasp pull and spectral walk for speed, maybe some minions to distract Liadri, a shroud bar for extra health reservoir.

It wasn’t horrible. I’d get about 4-5 orbs in before things started to fall apart.

Picking up orbs felt really slow with my ping, while I was locked in combat courtesy of the minions and while the standard sigil of geomancy on my weapons kept trying to proc unnecessarily each pickup.

I just could not figure out how to use spectral grasp in a reliable fashion to pull 2-3 minions into the light – the whole reason for the pull to begin with. It’d pull one if I was lucky, leaving the rest nearby to contend with, while locked in a pickup animation. If unlucky, I might pull all three into me, with only one turning into a light orb and the other two inches away from blowing me up.

I ended up swapping it for the blinding well, which was somewhat helpful, in that I could put it down, blinding the visions as they popped and cleared the arena to make life easier. And somewhat not helpful, in that there were then less visions that could be used as light orbs.

The problem I encountered was that the necromancer was still somewhat slow, especially when crippled, with limited escapes besides two dodges.

In theory, I could clear the crippled condition; in practice, there were so many things on my mind, including not dying, trying to position self for visions to turn into light orbs, trying to pick up orbs without dying, trying to remember just how many damn orbs I’d thrown, trying to remember to renew conditions on everything in order for parasitic contagion to kick in and help prevent me from dying, while running around at half health and almost dying, that I’d run around with crippled and THEN die to some mistake or another.

All that chill and crippled on the visions were probably also not helping the speed at which they were approaching the light pools to be converted into light orbs.

Adding a little salt to the wound, my latency meant that the visions’ movement could get a little de-synced and unpredictable. They’d look to be a feet away, but then suddenly, you’d be downed and booted out of the arena. (In one memorable instance, I was watching a vision walk straight on at me into a light patch, except it managed to pop and kill me first before hitting the light patch. What the-? I don’t even…)

To make things laughable, nearer the end part of the 30-something spammed tickets, I was getting kicked out of the arena with “Event Success” and no achievement.

Apparently, as I started losing track of orb throwing and just trying my darnest to survive, the necromancer’s conditions while autoattacking were whittling down Liadri’s health faster than I could hurl 8 orbs safely at her. (With goodness knows how many missed opportunities I just had to walk away from, because I’d die if I tried to pick up that orb at that point in time.)

With another 100 more goes at it, I might have made it work, but it wasn’t quite working out as I’d hoped… so I went to plan B earlier than intended.

What I needed was something that would clear conditions fairly automatically, have more than two dodges, and keep the visions controlled enough to be harmless while I walked in and out to pick up the light orb with not the greatest latency.

Without any experience worth speaking of on a mesmer (ie. clones, mirage evades and pulls), that meant a daredevil.

P/D, apparently, was the way to go, said one 8 orb Liadri video.

Lovely.

Of course, it’s the ONE armor weight I don’t yet have legendary armor for. (It’s so fugly.)

The video I watched said berserker was fine. Another Reddit thread I read said they managed it in marauder. I wasn’t quite sure because I’m really pretty bad on a thief too – just a tide more experienced on it than a mesmer.

P/D, if you look at the pistol, also strikes me more as a condition damage weapon?

I rummaged around in GW2efficiency to look at my available medium armor sets on all my characters – no marauder unless I wanted to buy one wholesale with magnetite shards, plenty of berserker…. oh wait, what’s this? A Trailblazer set?

Toughness, Condition Damage, Expertise, Vitality.

I’d been using the set as part of a WvW roaming pistol thief experiment once upon an age, before repurposing the thief as a berserker deadeye for more lethality.

This seemed pretty good to try. Not much tankier a thief could get while still doing -some- damage. I could practice with this for safety and getting the hang of the build, and if I ended up running out of time to kill Liadri, then I’d switch in pieces of berserker or viper.

I started with the traits and skills as shown in the video, decided that I wasn’t really putting the precision signet to any real use after a few attempts, and swapped it to scorpion wire for a pull.

Man, P/D daredevil felt so good. Three dodges. One pull. Cloak-and-dagger on a vision to stealth for four seconds – juuust enough time to run in and snatch a light orb from under the visions’ noses, if I didn’t screw up. One teleport when alive, one teleport when downed. Vigor and decent amount of healing. Some thieves’ guild allies every now and then to keep Liadri tangled up while you busied yourself hurling light orbs at her.

The one problem? I was still losing track of just how many orbs I’d thrown.

3 orbs had an obvious counter and tell – there’s a buff for each and she starts moving at you after three. Each orb after that apparently adds a stack of vulnerability. So in theory, you want 5 vulnerability stacks, then you kill her.

In practice, goodness knows how many other skills add vulnerability, you’re detargeting her every now and then to deal with the cosmic rifts or stealthing off visions, and you’re still trying not to die from everything that could kill you in the arena. (Even if a daredevil has a lot of tools to manage this, it still needs managing.)

So it actually came as a surprise amidst all the dodging and throwing and stealthing and throwing and dodging some more, when I got chucked out of the arena and a 32,500 AP chest opened up in my face.

Eh? Wha? Huh?

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Oh.

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OHHHH.

It’s really rare in a game that I feel strongly about anything – even a Dhuum kill left me feeling mostly tired/relieved/”Ok, that’s done” rather than triumphant – but the abiding sense of satisfaction that washed over me is hard to put into words.

Five years.

I couldn’t do it then. Between my lack of tools and lack of requisite knowledge.

And now it’s done.

It feels… good.

Completionism sated. Achievement get.

Apparently, between all the pistol autoattacks layering conditions on her and the thieves I’d been chucking at Liadri, they took care of the killing portion and I’d managed to hurl 8 orbs without even realizing that I could be defeating her already.

That was pretty good yet unintentional timing on the AP chest though. It was an extra rewarding surprise.

Stress over, that albatross hanging around my neck is gone. A bit more cleanup on some leftover achievements, then maybe I’ll mess around with the other new champions for fun in the leftover festival time.

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Random Thought About Solo Play and “Aloneness”

Assuming no limitations or restrictions on time, schedules, desired rewards, whatever:

1) Would you prefer to play an MMO mostly solo on your own? Or would it feel more enjoyable with friends/company?

2) Are you comfortable eating out at a restaurant alone? Or would it feel somewhat weird or less enjoyable?

Just a completely random thought out of nowhere.

I’m wondering if there’s any correlation between the two activities, or no.

Blaugust Day 3: A Great Many Trove Firsts

It’s amazing how much you get done after writing things down.

Here’s what happened in Trove in two days:

  • Tried a Shadow Arena (Uber 2) for the first time, solo, and won (albeit with some fancy-footwork tactics)
  • Bought an Elysian Flask from the store using cubits (zero real money spent so far)
  • Leveled a Tomb Raiser class to lvl 10 and thoroughly enjoyed it
  • Gained Mastery Level 20 and got my first set of free neophyte wings
  • Leveled ringcrafting to 250
  • Obtained 3500 cubits (just 500 shy of a store-bought raptor mount, one more day should do it)
  • Fished approximately a hundred times
  • Decided I could spare 600 glim to buy the cheapest and lowliest (but functional) boat to tide me over while collecting more resources for the nicer models
  • Found a Treasure Isles merchant selling buddybot soultraps and bought a few
  • Found a Treasure Isles merchant selling cat soultraps and bought a few (popping a rare Prowling Shadow ally on the 5th try! And then popping another while buying a few more for the hell of it, trying to collect the common rarity allies.)

What’s left on the list is get a mount, gardening, fish a lot more, and then it’s time to find new grindy goals (of which, Trove has plenty, never fear.)

Apparently, as apology for a spate of crashes and extended maintenance downtime (every time this happens in some other game, I remember that ArenaNet’s back end team is fucking amazing for creating a game that almost never goes down and never has regular weekly maintenance,) Trove offered up a free class coin and a bunch of cubits to each player that logged on that weekend as an olive branch.

Works for me.

I leapt at the chance to purchase the newest and most expensive class, the Tomb Raiser, for the wonderful price of free.

I’d been eyeing it for its reputation as a really good soloing class.

It didn’t disappoint when I put it through its early paces.

Left mouse button was a basic magic attack, and right mouse button called up a dinky little bone minion that fought monsters for you.

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Its passive attracted little deep purple ‘souls’ that orbited the Tomb Raiser. Each was a charge for summoning one of those itty bitty bone minions. Souls are regained over time, or when something dies, creating a snowball effect of an increasing swarm of minions that tilts the battle towards victory.

I had visions of the City of Heroes’ mastermind all over again, and it’s done even better in Trove, as the minions can do a respectable amount of damage, along with ‘tank’ by holding aggro / body blocking.

tombraiserskills

Skill 1 converted the basic attack into an AoE effect, and gives you 90% damage resistance, allowing the Tomb Raiser to dive into his minion swarm and AoE burn enemies down while healing his minions with the same skill. Drawback: it ends when you run out of energy.

Skill 2 gathers up all your existing minions and makes them form up into one giant bone goliath, Devastator-like.

largeminion

I was already chuckling to see the three-headed monstrosity that I’d gathered from the three minions I had out, just about my height or the height of the boss. (Three souls, right?)

Then some chance spamming of itty bitty minions gave me 5 or 6 out at one time (killing stuff returns a soul charge back, yeah?) and I hit button 2 for the hell of it.

rarrrr

RAAAWRRRR.

Omg, I’d created a MONSTER.

And it was MINE.

It engaged the boss, towering over it and me, and cheerfully swiped the boss into oblivion with a few hits.

You may picture me in full-on maniacal laughter at this point as I thought “Best Mastermind/Summoner Class Ever! I am so leveling this for keeps!”

(And yes, you can create further itty bitty minions while this monstrosity is following you too. So much ❤ ❤ ❤ for the skeletal horde.)

Creates tanks, does damage, doesn’t have to get into melee if it doesn’t want to, I can see why the Tomb Raiser is considered a really good soloing class.

Deciding what to do with the free bonus cubits was a lot harder.

I eyed the store raptor for a long time, before deciding being a little faster mounted could wait, and picked up the Elysian Jug I’d also been eyeing. The default Elysian Flask heals 40% health and has 8 charges.  The store-bought Elysian Jug heals 100% health for the same number of charges.

This might be an arguable case of paying-for-power, except there are two ways to obtain it: credits, earned via a real money exchange, or cubits, earned via playing over time (doing dailies, leveling higher up in Masteries, etc.), so it becomes more a case of paying for convenience or to circumvent a time-limited grind.

The flask options are also pretty interesting in terms of lateral choices available. You can also pick up an Elysian Bandolier, which heals 20% health, but has 18 charges. Good for those that like to spam, and apparently for those that want to frequently trigger accompanying emblem flasks that also provide various buffs. There’s a Balanced Elysian Flask version that heals 40% but has more capacity, and the lazy man’s Death-Defying Vial that heals 30% health, with 10 charges, but does so automatically when low on health – good for those that tend to die with half their flasks unconsumed because they forgot or couldn’t use them in time, I guess.

In this case, I’m still too broke to think about buying Emblems, and all I really want at the moment is more effective health to prolong my characters’ survival.

A 100% health recharge flask does that very well, as long as you have nerves of steel and dare to drop to a sliver of hp remaining before quaffing.

I’d taken my highest level Knight (16, +2 from two pieces of Shadow gear) out to do his daily Star Bar and was ambling around comfortably in a Uber-Level 2 Adventure World. (He was within the level range to go to U3, but I found it a little slow going with the current gear he had, and dropped to U2 for something better paced.)

Then I saw it.

A Shadow Arena.

The second I’d seen in my Trove play so far.

Entering the first was a moot point, as I hadn’t earned enough Shadow Fragments to create a Shadow Key yet. But the second… well, I had enough for ONE key.

Did I dare? Test out if I could solo it? Something meant for 8 people? At Uber-Level 2? (I mean, oughta try soloing a U1 first, no?)

Oh, what the hell, I was more nervous about grouping with unknowns to enter an unknown place, than just wandering in myself into said unknown place to see what it was like and get my expectations set properly.

So I made the key, opened the portal and stepped in.

shadowarena

A hasty scan of a wiki revealed something about 5 waves of monsters, with one -big- bad being the 5th wave.

The first wave wasn’t so bad, a lot of small monsters, just back away a lot and kite and keep AoE cleaving with my knightly sword. Spam flasks and my elite heal when my health dropped.

Ditto the second and third.

It started becoming obvious somewhere around wave 3-4 that I was running out of full-heal flasks at too fast a rate.

Dammit, and I still had a giant boss monster to go on wave 5. Was I screwed?

With one flask left on Wave 4, I knew I had to come up with another strategy. Stat.

There was to be no climbing, every last surface was spiked, and I heartily doubted that this arena would let you place blocks. I couldn’t stop anyway, the mobs would catch up and knock my health bar into next week.

And just like that, I realized my only hope. I -couldn’t- stop. I had to kite. Big big circles so that the melee mobs couldn’t touch me.

Why?

To buy time.

Because I had a pretty damn high health regeneration rate, and every second that a mob wasn’t hitting me was pulsing my health bar back up to full.

Plus, my elite was cycling off cooldown, and this is an elite that heals you to full AND gives you 7 seconds of 75% resistance to duke it out with something.

That’s 7 seconds of dps that I can swipe away at the monsters, before legging it around the mulberry bush in the arena again.

Wave 4 down.

Wave 5 came up, still one flask left for emergencies, time to -really- make this strategy work.

There were a couple heart-stopping moments when I realized the big bad also shot out purple energy balls when one got too far from it (like you might when you’re kiting it in a giant circle), but desperation is the mother of invention and I did my best to triple jump every time I heard it make a strange coughing noise that seemed to herald a ranged attack, and pretty much every other time too since jumping would likely put me out of range of a chance attack.

It got close a few times and flung me into the spiked walls, taking off huge chunks of health, but knights have that really high regen and health pool, so it was a mad scramble to get up and run rings around him again.

Every time my elite came up, I’d dive back into the fray, get a few hits in while it knocked off almost all my health, sprung the elite, then got 10 or so hits in relatively safety, before breaking away before my resistance shield came down.

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Eventually, VICTORY.

Completing the little tutorial pop-up quest that had been hanging around for umpteen levels never felt so good. Completely achieved under my own power. Fragments earned painstakingly, boss solo’ed and killed.

It was pretty obvious though that more gear would improve performance on this front… like an actually useful ally, emblems, better stats and what not. (Sighs, such are the vagaries of vertical progression games.)

But it was still damned satisfying that good movement and tactics and the action combat allowed me to get away with something like this, slow going it might be.

The next day was work on the to-do list day.

Trove’s systems are really elegant in their simplicity, while still remaining interconnected.

Finishing the leveling of ringcrafting required 1100 shapestone ore.

I mostly did it super-casually, stopping to mine any purple ore cubes I saw, in between traveling from one lair or dungeon to another.

If I stumbled across a procedurally-generated mine/tunnel/cavern glistening with ores, I threw aside the “Destination: Lair” plan in favor of chasing after one shiny vein or another.

Now and then, one would organically end up mining together with some other players, speeding up the proccess, before just as organically (a la GW2) separating and going our own ways.

groupmining

Yet, it is possible to be even more optimal or organized for even greater benefit, if so motivated. See this Strip Miners Reddit thread, where whole groups of people apparently teleport to one location, throw a bunch of bombs for the quickest mining possible, and all reap the benefits. (Each bomb costs about 10 shapestone ore to make, so it’s a bit prohibitive to use when solo mining shapestone, imo.)

After crafting the rings, it is amusing to see that the rings turn up in boxes that you open to see what randomly generated stats turn up. This, of course, is a sneaky way of getting players used to the feeling of opening lockboxes, even if these particular lockboxes are entirely generated from in-game resources.

They sure are shiny when tossed on the floor like that though.

ringsgalore

Then I went fishing. Lots of fishing.

Realizing that I probably ought to collect the lowliest boat and ugly ragged sails anyway for the sake of completing the collection and earning mastery points (all those interconnected systems), I decided not to be cheap and spent the 600 glim to buy the really basic dinghy / raft thing.

Since I had it, I might as well go sailing around the Treasure Isles for a while, right?

Then I stumbled into the merchants. The first sold Buddybot soultraps, which were not the cat soultraps that I wanted, but eh, it was only 300 glim for an ally, and when you have a grand total of zero of them, any lockbox containing an ally is a win, right?

I bought a couple. Got a few cute bot allies, some that reduced damage taken, some that increased physical damage. Oh well, didn’t seem too bad. Better than Diggsy the mole, which only increases mining speed.

Some more sailing later, I found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The cat soultrap merchant.

catsoultrap

Eh, it wasn’t as if I had that much glim left to try my luck, but what the hell, I bought 5 and thought I might get a few common cat allies.

prowlingshadow

On the fifth lockbox, this popped out, nearly causing me to hyperventilate.

THE Prowling Shadow ally that was supposed to give really good lifesteal and be great for Knights and Dracolytes for effectively bolstering their health.

After spending only 1500 glim.

That seemed ridiculously fortunate for a ‘Rare’ drop.

Ironically, I decided to buy 10 more lockboxes because I wanted to see what other cats I might be able to add to my collection, and after being dismayed at some seven repeats, and oh, one uncommon skeletal cat, -another- Prowling Shadow dropped out.

“…..”

I tucked it into the bank for now, awaiting the day I get brave enough to figure out how to use the trading system / trading post and *ugh* manually trade. (Something I’ve always loathed and never did in Guild Wars 1, and only did once -super-nervously- in Path of Exile.)

Of course, I couldn’t resist taking a dive into Uber-3 after that, with a Prowling Shadow out, and could immediately feel a pretty solid difference in Knightly survival.

Soon, it’ll be time to collect enough resources to make an Uber-4 portal and then figure out just how much more I need to buff out my gear to handle that.

It presumably gets grindier and grindier from here on out, but I do have alt classes to amuse myself leveling with, and I’m not really racing with anybody regarding gear progression. As a secondary game, it’s more of a “let’s play every day for an hour or two, accumulate whatever progress is possible, and we’ll see what we can manage to achieve in 2-3 months from now.”

Assuming I don’t get distracted by something newer and shinier.

This post was brought to you by the letter B for Belghast and Blaugust, and the number 3.