GW2/NBI: Dungeon Soloing Is A Lot Like Writing

Wurms, wurms, they're everywhere....

Dear Reader,

You will not believe how many times I have pressed backspace or delete on this post.

I have a half dozen false starts and zeroth drafts of things I could say, and things I might want to say, while maybe these other things that I did type to myself should be left for my personal viewing.

I tried coming at the topic from a million and one angles, all of them maybe sort of potentially viable, yet somehow not yielding up a complete post.

Not yet. Not quite.

In the end, I just went back to my blog and forced myself to hit the “Add New Post” button and told myself I am just going type the first (but hopefully not the last) post on this topic directly into the post editor.

(If you could call continually pressing backspace to erase a turn of phrase and retyping a new one “directly,” that is.)

So, prior warning, this post is going to be rough around the edges. Not slick. Not smooth-sailing and superbly easy to read. Rough. Blocked. Start-and-stop and probably just as much struggle to read as it was to write.

The act of writing this post has been amazingly similar to my attempts to learn how to solo dungeons (or a dungeon – let’s keep our goals modest here.)

False starts, lots of deaths, intense frustration at certain ‘stuck’ points, a lot of thinking and trying and maybe some success and an equal or greater amount of failure and surrender (for now.)

You know, it’s not something that is often publicized.

Writers hide the struggle against the blank page, generally proffering only the finished product for an amazed public to ooh and aah over – unless you talk in-depth with writers on their craft or read books specifically on the art and craft of writing to begin to understand how the whole process works.

(And bear in mind, that process is different for different writers, of course. Some plan every last scene, some type by the seat of their pants, and so on. Whatever yields a ‘readable’ product at the end – I can’t even say ‘finished’ because it never is finished, for some writers.)

Looking into the art and craft of the GW2 dungeon solo reminds me a lot about the above.

Solo dungeon runners proudly show off their final product, a beautifully cut-and-edited video of their best and most impressive speedruns. Who can blame them? Watching flawless victory is a lot more entertaining for an audience than sitting through the many hours it must have taken them in real time to perfect their technique to the point where they can record their final product. The point, after all, is to show that the mountain can be conquered, not the many many falls it took to get to the peak.

The ordinary layperson tends to fail to grasp this concept.

They see the finished product and they think, “All right, I want to write the Great American Novel! In a month! Cos Nanowrimo is a thing!” Or they expect flawless nuggets of verbal gold the moment that they begin writing. Or they demand that their favorite authors churn out books like a factory for them.

Basically, they expect perfection in a multitude of unrealistic ways, and it’s a bit of a letdown (understatement of the year) when they don’t quite get what they expected.

Confusing the whole damn affair further are the bystander comments, some of which may very well be true for them (“yeah, I finished my novel during Nanowrimo! It’s awesome! I’m getting it published next month!”, “I just sit down and start typing every day and I got 50,000 words! Actually, 100k! Cos you know, I’m naturally a member of the wall-of-text club!”) or just internet exaggeration, who knows… but may very well not be true for you in specific.

So here we have a big morass of maybe helpful and well-meaning advice, some of which may or may not work for you, mixed with a quarter-pound of just plain look-at-me-my-prowess-is-better-than-you trolling and a lot of ill-formed personal expectations about how long it might or might not take, how successful or not it’s going to be, and somehow, from there, you try to sift through and eke out some information, some strategies on things you might possibly try, and then the bottom line is… you’re just going to have to sit your butt in the chair and try it out for yourself and see what works or doesn’t work for you.

Yeah.

Writing is a lot like that.

Dungeon soloing is a lot like that.

The stuff you read on Reddit asking about dungeon solos tends to come from innocent yet ambitious individuals who think it would be cool to be all super-elite and solo things like Arah and oh yes, make lots of $$$$ in the process, because selling Arah paths is a thing. How can they start learning how to do that?

(I’m sure writers have smashed many a forehead – theirs or the askers’ – against a hard surface when yonder innocent yet ambitious individual lets out that they think that writing a book would be a great way to earn royalties, make money and become super-famous and awesome like their favorite celebrity writer, and what would be the fastest and most efficient way to do so?

Of course, confusing the issue is that there do exist exceedingly prolific writers who write by a set formula and churn out bestsellers or the next bodice-ripper with a regularity you could set your watch or calendar by, and novices of their particular subset of craft can and do successfully join them in their $$$$ accumulation.)

Of course, not every individual asking on Reddit is exactly like that. Some of them do recognize there is a serious learning process involved and are merely trying to get any helpful advice they can from individuals or experts that have already walked the paths they’re hoping to travel on. Anything to make that very challenging learning process a little easier or a little more structured or just a bit more scaffolded, like out of the many dungeon paths there are, instead of blindly throwing oneself at all of them, are there any that are more doable or slightly easier to learn than the rest, and so on…

…except the answer may apply to the individual that suggested that X is easy, but not to the person receiving the answer… (maybe due to the class being used, maybe just due to individual player differences, whatever)

…well, they recognize that too, but they just want some guidance or a direction they can try, regardless. Which also makes perfect logical sense.

So you have people trying to be helpful, and people earnestly receiving that helpful advice, and then they go ahead and try it and…

…well, I don’t know if there’s a gruesome car wreck or if there’s great success, because again, this totally boils down to the individual yet again.

Which leads me to the interesting problem of trying to decide how exactly I should blog about my attempts at dungeon soloing…

Trust me, there are a lot more car wrecks at this present moment.

There’s no way I’m writing an ‘expert guide to dungeon soloing,’ as much as some people might like, because a) I’m definitely not expert status at this point in time, and b) I guess I lean slightly more to the exploratory school of thought that kind of cringes at the thought of people rote following a preset solved-by-someone-else tactic without real understanding.

To me, that seems to contravene one philosophy behind trying to solo a dungeon, which is to test yourself and your understanding of your class and the game mechanics and how best you might arrange things so that you can get through a particular encounter.

(Obviously, other people may have different philosophies in play. Some may enjoy purely the execution / reaction aspect of the exercise, and see no problems with imitation being the best form of flattery. Some may simply want to give themselves the best chances of success by being as optimal as a number-cruncher has calculated for their class. Some don’t give a damn about any glitches or exploits because lol, it’s up to the devs to fix the bugs in their game, if we can break it, we’ll use it, that’s what players do, we’ll do it fast and easy and painless.)

To be frank, I’m still trying to figure out where I stand on the various spectrums of these philosophies, which leads to a great degree of confusion in planning.

My life would be a lot simpler if I prioritized fast, efficient, painless like some other players. Ape everything – class, gear, traits, movement and positioning strategies – and just practice understanding fight mechanics + reaction time, everything else has been solved for me.

I think the problem is that I’m curious about too many damn things at once.

I want to know how it feels on the builds that I already have. I want to know how it feels on the ‘optimal’ builds. I want to adapt and customise new builds to solve various encounters.

I kind of want to figure out how to adapt various strategies for a different class (because look, every class has ranged and melee attacks and lots of blocks and evades and there’s always dodging) or to figure out other viable strategies (a warrior might dps and evade but maybe my guardian can reflect), yet I don’t have an issue with imitating a strategy that works either, especially if my attempts at new solutions aren’t working out that well.

Then there’s my damn morality about glitches and exploits. They make me cringe, in more ways than one. I don’t like the easy way out. I don’t like breaking the game or an encounter just to do something painlessly. And I sure as hell don’t want to get banned for an exploit.

It makes me bloody frustrated to go look up a video about how someone else has solved this problem and oh, the answer they’ve taken is to glitch something. Argh. Of course, they glitch it because the alternative is utter painful hell, and I find that out the hard way, and then I wind up stuck and dead-ended and frustrated.

Yet I’m sure that I’m not an extreme on the glitch morality scale, because I don’t have issues with things like skipping encounters by running or stealthing past, or using corners to block line-of-sight and pulling and leashing or constantly readjusting and making use of AI pathing to reduce damage taken. Those seem to be normal things that most everyone does in dungeons.

And frankly, I don’t have personal moral issues with using height and ranged attacks to get past an encounter (done it before in other MMOs, the system is supposed to declare the mob invulnerable or let it regen back tons of hp if that’s not kosher, standing on a rock or tree to shoot things feels like a natural human thing to do, the very point is that I’m trying to be hard to reach here, mobs could be given a ranged attack or some kind of cc to get us off the perch, it feels good and intended to outsmart a melee mob) but since Anet appears to feel that abusing the Z axis ventures into exploit territory, I avoid using that as a valid solution in GW2.

Kite around the mulberry bush, it is. No standing on the mulberry bush. Pft.

And I’ve followed the mulberry bush entirely off the point because I’m no wiser about how I should blog about my turtle-slow learning process.

I thinking that I may not want to show pictures and strategies and a breakdown of each encounter, because doh, that leads to blind imitation, right? (Or some bastard leaving me a note in the comments about how I’m doing it ALL WRONG and you should DO IT THIS WAY INSTEAD cos GLITCHING IS FASTER.)

And yet, I have a piss-poor memory and if I don’t make a record for myself about how far I’ve gotten through with each dungeon, and the strategies I figured out for how to get through it, I’m liable to forget what the hell I did and have an utterly miserable time the next time I try to make progress or practice.

And yet, maybe leaving some kind of record of the process is valuable for those that want to come after, in the same exploratory spirit, since what works for me may not exactly work for them, right?

And maybe it would be helpful to get comments and suggestions on areas where I am stuck, or having trouble. (Yet well-meaning comments can sometimes be helpful and sometimes infuriating – like trying to get someone to comment on or edit your writing. Maybe they have a valuable point. Maybe they should just go stuff it instead.)

And yet it would be kind of exceedingly stupid to publish a thorough solution that an ArenaNet dev can look through, decide they don’t like something about it, and proceed to get it fixed in the next patch, causing mass consternation (no small amount of it from myself either since that would invalidate a hard thought out strategy.)

I think “conflicted” and “confused” are good words to describe my present state of mind, yes.

Dunno, no real answers. Can’t decide.

If anyone is curious, at this present point in my experience, I would recommend AC story as a good starting point to learn dungeon soloing.

After all, it’s the only one I’ve managed to get through, start-to-finish.

Did have some deaths while learning, but they seem to be easily avoidable deaths with practice. My guardian main gets through it pretty easily. I tested it on an older guardian alt for fun, and that character also managed to get through it while in knight’s gear and berserker trinkets.

The upscaling makes it fairly forgiving to somewhat wacky, not quite optimized builds, with zero food or consumables.

Tried it on a sinister necro for fun, and wow, it hurt a lot more. It’s probably my lack of familiarity with the class and precise dungeon mechanics (which tend to get masked on guardians since they’re so block-filled and heal-y) but it was also eye-opening to try and figure out how to solve it from another perspective.

No, Eir, -I- need help. Your job is just to be a meatshield.
No, Eir, -I- need help. Your job is just to be a meatshield.

(Got super-duper frustrated when the Lovers bugged out on the necro. They became immune to conditions. Vs a NECRO. In SINISTER gear. It was fucking awful and repeated massacres for a long while. Nearly wanted to quit and decided to just give it a few more shots, switching over to zerker and a stabby dagger. Had to essentially waypoint kamikaze to get past the bug.)

Rate of return, beyond satisfaction in completing a dungeon by yourself, is not very high though.

No real NBI prompt for this post. Just this one thing: Give yourself permission to write a sucky post and get it done. All just part of the process.

And yeah, this advice may or may not work for you.

Only one way you’re going to find out.

Just Plain (or Playin’) Mercenary Now

It figures. I go all gung-ho and farm Mordrem body parts for two days, because my compulsion to complete was reaching OCD standards… I bang my head against the Dodgy Crowd and Wicked Rodeo achievements more than a dozen times solo, before finally surrendering and looking for extra help in a group…

…and the big plan was to then title the next blog post “Mercenaries of the Silverwastes” and write some commentary on that.

Then Anet pulls the rug out from all of us with the announcement that Living Story will pause for Wintersday break and only resume on Jan 13.

Oh.

Hrm.

That feels like a bit of a letdown. Kinda deflated, really.

I think the biggest problem I have is that the story continuity kinda goes nowhere with this sort of pacing. One needs to have a sort of mini-arc come to a more-or-less satisfactory conclusion, before declaring a break.

One doesn’t just ramp up and build up mystery and suspense, plonk a big cliffhanger of a door in the way and say, well, wait 2, no, it’s 5 weeks now to find out what’s next!

Especially not if you’ve built up the expectation that the story will be explained in two weeks, and then suddenly extend it to five.

Did one really have to wait a week to announce that kind of thing, especially if it’s already scheduled? Just putting the Jan 13 date out there the moment Seeds of Truth launched, to say that it would continue then, would probably have mitigated expectations a little better.

Also, people wouldn’t have looked at the ridiculous amount of artificial Mordrem bodypart grind (two bladder pieces, wtf?) and freaked out.

Honestly, beyond getting strung along with a story that goes nowhere, I don’t have a big issue with the concept of a break for Wintersday.

It’s Christmas season, many people get busy irl, work takes a holiday in many companies, and personally I could use SNOW AND ICE for a while, instead of SAND AND ROCK.

It’s been…what, six weeks of the Silverwastes? There’s a limit to how novel the zone can feel, and as much as I’d really like to see what’s behind the west wall of vines that are ever extending outward (especially with the Shadow of the Dragon-sounding roar that echoes every now and then when you hang out between the Amber and Blue forts), it might do us all some good to have a break from the zone and go elsewhere for a change, before coming back refreshed.

(One will,  however, be a bit pissed story-wise, if we come back to find Camp Resolve strangled by vines. No, seriously, there’s this big giant vine creeping up on the camp here. For weeks. Cos plants grow slow, I guess.

If we can light signal fires to artillery barrage the forts, I humbly suggest that we turn the front part of this vine into a bonfire to signal the big guns to light it up further…)

Oh well.

If anything, it mostly comes as a bit of a relief.

Steam was offering Van Helsing II at 66% off the other day, and while I didn’t pick it up yet (I figure 66% ought to happen again during the Christmas sale, and I’m always hoping for 75%), it did remind me that I’ve always been intending to try out Van Helsing I, which has been sitting in my “to-be-played” list for an eternity now.

So I cranked it up and discovered that action RPGs seem to be a rather good accompaniment to an MMO habit. Quick to start, lots of mobs to fight, interesting skills and build pondering, plenty of loot drops/reward factor, and the ability to just log out and pause everything/put all progress on hold until the next time you feel like playing it.

(Between Path of Exile, Marvel Heroes and now Van Helsing, I’m racking up quite the collection, here.)

Van Helsing is entertaining in the sense that it feels a bit like a cross between a regular RPG and an action RPG. There’s a bit more of a story going on, with quests you pick up from NPCs, and sidequests. Stuff is supernatural-themed and you seem to be a bit of a mercenary hunter with one main plot you’re investigating, but along the way, you do a lot of other things and help various people – standard RPG schtick, really.

You have a nice interaction/banter occuring with your ghost “companion”, which sort of acts like a more elaborate Torchlight pet (she’ll be deadly insulted if you call her a pet, though), that will pick up items and gold for you, and go to the shops to sell stuff, plus a whole lot more besides.

There’s a bit more of a stop-and-start feel to the skills than something like Path of Exile or Diablo (the older versions anyway, I -assume- 3 is similar),  but not as awkward feeling as Marvel Heroes.

The challenge factor is a lot more appealing than Marvel Heroes, in the sense that one actually feels threatened by the mobs and can die to them, unless you do a lot of fancy footwork to kite stuff, or use healing potions and prep accordingly.

So at least I’ll have more time to play that in the 5 weeks that Living Story is more or less on hold.

Wintersday this year is in Divinity’s Reach, so I guess that’s something new and novel, to see the grand city dressed up in Winter finery.

I finally got Wynne’s Locket:

Picked up the Do Not Tread achievement after a lot of practice with Caithe and her skills and finally avoiding getting trampled or charged by acting like a total wuss and single-pulling centaurs out to the edges of the battle to murder, while letting Faolain tank the rest of them. (Stealthing in to rez her again if/when she goes down. Gotta match her for being a manipulative bastard, y’know?)

Was brought near to the point of tears and surrender with the other two achievements, and finally decided to join a group for the Wicked Rodeo achievement, if only to see how different it was when other people got to have their own skills.

It wasn’t a bad time, actually, though we wiped twice. Each go at it sort of showed us a bit more strategy on how we might actually progress with it.

Eventually, we settled on killing the elementals near the sides of the walls, leaving the nasty sand pools there, while avoiding most of the wind walls around the arena.

At the same time, I was playing Caithe, and decided to switch my gear around to 4 parts of Soldiers and 2 parts of Clerics, which made me a lot tankier than my usual Zerker stuff. (Died the first time to too many windwalls, died the second time to stumbling backward into two sandpools and getting conditioned to death with all my movement abilities on cooldown – which was stupid, but look, was avoiding windwalls, okay?)

I could pretty much just sit there and take one of Togron’s normal rock shard attacks without flinching, fer instance.

This also had the added bonus of turning me into a magnet for the elementals, so I could just tap them and bring them to the rest of the party gathering by the walls. They quickly made short work of them while I just spammed 1, afraid to do anything else and then move out of position with the rest of Caithe’s very movement-oriented skills.

The rest of the group was also more mobile and long-ranged, so they then pounded on Togron to bring his hp down while I just sat around at far range attracting his rock shards again, and preventing him from his close-range attack of creating sand pools.

That went really super smoothly, to the point one of the other party members asked if that felt like there were less waves that round. No, we just killed the elementals and worked his hp down really fast. -Really- fast. Cos no one died.

That experience gave me enough encouragement to try for Dodgy Crowd again, on normal, solo. Being really careful with Caithe and putting the eles near the walls before killing them, so as not to make nasty sand pool obstacles for myself.

After a few more times banging away at it, I got it, which makes me happy to feel like I accomplished something.

With that strategy, I might just give Wicked Rodeo a go again solo. Some other time, though.

I did get curious enough to join another group for Wicked Rodeo, this time playing myself, not Caithe. And yes, you can indeed reflect or absorb the windwalls. I got tons of mileage out of Shield of Absorption, and a lesser amount out of Wall of Reflection (problem with reflection is the windwalls will bounce away, so you better be standing in the right place.)

That group was a little less coordinated or organized. I kept mum on the strategy my original group had pulled off, cos I wanted to see what this one would come up with first. It ended up with most of us dead and one person finally managing to stretch it out and solo the last part of it, after repeated tries wiping. Still a viable enough solution, as far as it goes.

And I’m really just quite relieved that I’m done with the stupid Mordrem bodypart grind for now.

I ended up being one of those self-focused leechers for a bit, getting some hits in on a mob and then booking it to another. That’s just how the system is set up, right? It doesn’t actually matter if the bosses die or not, you still get the body parts. I don’t -want- the greater nightmare key reward, it gives glove boxes, which I don’t need right now. I just want -more- body part bags to open so that I might actually get a damned spleen or the second half of a bladder.

So one stops playing the Silverwastes properly, instead taxi’ing like mercenaries for hire into the next Silverwastes instance above 50% completion. One taps the events, does the bare minimum of defence, and runs around looking for lost bandit chests instead.

(Look, RNG and me don’t get along, all right? I’ve opened about 300 of them so far – 159 of them on a dedicated chest farm run – and only got one boots box out of it. On the 300th or so box.

The only good thing I can say is that I’m making quite a decent killing on materials that come out of the champion bags.)

Once the breach happens, hop into the first most-likely-to-die boss that you need (that’s usually Troll or Thrasher), tap it, bail when it feels like you’ve got enough damage in, and run, do-not-pass-Go, to the next boss you need (Husk or Terragriffs) and stay around to kill that (readying up an extractor to click the moment the first one dies.)

That’s at least two parts, and maybe even three, if you get the timings just right.

They might fix it eventually, but hey, not for 5 weeks, apparently. *coughs*

The good news is, I don’t need to do that anymore. I can now stay around like a good person and focus on killing one mob, so that other people who still need the parts can run from place to place.

The bad news is, I’m probably still going to pick an easy mob to kill first and go to the harder ones later.

That, and the fact I’ll beeline for any chest first over actually doing a Silverwastes event now.

GW2: Speak of That Devil Spider…

yessss

Yesssss…

I believe this was promised a little while ago (aka yesterday.)

Figures, it takes a little public rant about it to finally get it done.

My previous thoughts on tactics had been fine, it was mostly just all in the execution.

Essentially, after getting repeatedly pwned in the cave, I pulled the spider out to use the handy dandy protruding corner of rock.

diespiderdie

This blocks a fair amount of its normal pounce attacks and its web pull, though it -will- chase you around the corner, so you always have to keep moving to the other side and back again.

Its egg spit will go right -through- the corner, just like your own cleave attacks, so there’s no rest and relaxation (or exploitation) going on here.

When it lifts its abdomen, block or dodge the egg spit (or be not in the path of its frontal cone) to prevent an uncontrollable swarm of spiders + veteran spiders from showing up.

It will also use an immobilize, which pulses at least twice and can be quite a pain to condition clear if you press the buttons too fast, and tends to egg spit right after that, while you’re all tangled up in the immobilize trying to clear it and unable to dodge.

What really helped me was thinking BLOCK first over dodge.

By prioritizing focus 5, retreat, and F3 virtue aegis, there were a little less accidents of the “oh god, dodge, wait I didn’t dodge, I’m stuck, and now it just hit me with a really painful egg spit, how to heal now, panic!” variety.

There were still times when all blocks hadn’t recharged and it was a matter of life and death dodge timing, but less strenuous compared to before, and signet of respite heal was able to keep up with the occasional inescapable accidental egging.

To get rid of the immobilize, condition clears were prioritized – smite condition and purging flames, and maybe focus 4 if it could hit.

A lot more condition clears really couldn’t hurt, but my attempt at excessively retraiting to pure of voice didn’t help the first time, and I went back to my old selfish zerker build and managed it, so welp, whatever worked.

Now all I have to do is keep trying to repeat the same feat every time I visit for rich platinum veins…

That -might- be a little trickier.

Well, -some- day, I’ll not be afraid of the itsy bitsy undead spider any more.

GW2: Entertaining Oneself… The Champion Risen Archmage

championrisenarchmage

Grrr… This guy…

Looks small, packs a punch.

It struck me that the one part I was enjoying out of Wildstar’s dungeons – besides trying to get interrupts off successfully fast enough to save the group from a dismal wipe – was the amount of movement and reflexive dodging needed and the sensation of practicing and getting better at one’s timing, plus needing to understand and analyze exactly what each mob attack was doing because it was so punishing to ignore it.

By chance, while doing my dailies in GW2, I walked by the perpetually up Champion Risen Archmage in the Cursed Shores (assuming no champion train running, that is) and decided to give him a go.

Wow.

I ended up spending an hour there, by choice, and respawned about fifteen times from the nearby waypoint, having recreated a very similar feeling to your run of the mill PUG in Stormtalon’s Lair, with the added bonus of not having to wait 15+ minutes to even begin to attempt it, or having any ‘weak link’ scapegoat excuses that someone else was to blame.

This champion has it all, on demand.

A very quick firing small lightning bolt AoE… which hurts.

A bigger lightning storm AoE circle… which hurts like hell…

A lightning projectile that also freaking hurts…

And seemingly one or two other minor attacks that I haven’t really bothered to read yet, besides knowing one of them sorta corrupts the ground and applies two conditions.

He will test your dodging skills and mastery of timing intently, and punish like crazy if you screw up.

Which I did, often.

I am neither a condition thief with the benefit of toughness and lots of dodges, nor a zerk warrior utilizing an area where there were no respawning mobs and able to unleash heaps of damage in close range while still having a big health reservoir, good health regen, an evade and a block (ie. the two successful solo videos out there,) so I may have been trying this on voluntary hard and not-very-strategic mode.

What I ended up trying was just to plink away at range with my one-hand crit scepter and try to dodge every damn tell it had, staggering reflects, blocks and signet healing to recover from the many many accidents.

(In retrospect, maybe I should have tried shelter too.)

I was keenly aware that my timing wasn’t as picture perfect as it could have been, in theory.

Soon, the standard torch I ran around with in casual open world PvE was swapped in favor of the focus and the three blocks it provided.

I ended up staring at my traits and swapping the unused Powerful Blades (after attempting melee and blinds with it, I ate a couple of its projectiles and AoEs at such close range and decided against practising that at the time) for Signet Mastery, which boosted my signet heal recharge.

I started thinking I was running out of endurance way too quickly because I was so clumsy at this, and ate a 40% endurance regen food and put on an undead slaying potion, for kicks…

Biggest progress I made was around 50% of its health bar solo so far, but not for lack of trying, and I’m still dead certain I’m not staggering stuff properly (I tend to panic and start spamming when things go wrong.)

Most amusingly though, was that this attracted one or two Orr farmers when the archmage’s health started dropping, who seemed to be game enough to give a duo or trio a go.

It was somewhat gratifying to see that I was managing to survive long enough for them to take uninterrupted potshots at the champion, up until the point where I rolled a bit too far away and lost aggro from proximity, at which point they started being the focus of attention. And tended to drop after 2-3 AoEs they failed to dodge in time.

However, one ranger was fairly helpful and we actually successfully killed it in our impromptu duo attempt, as his pet actually took aggro some of the time and he managed to roll out of the AoE around 50% of the time.

Having that attention diverted from me gave me some breathing room and for my skills to recharge, ready to take over when the ranger inevitably went down. Since running to rez him would only mean unfriendly skies lightning aoe on both of us, I just ended up solo dodging it from the opposite side of the downed ranger and let him rez up again via his pet. Between that trading off of aggro and the additional damage from him, we managed a successful archmage duo.

Some day though… pulling off a solo would be fun.

And there’s also other classes and builds to try if my casual weak sauce one just isn’t up to the task.

Guess I know what else I can do when I get bored and want to get gud at dodging.

At a couple silver per waypoint (if you really screw up and don’t just flee to reset the fight) and no repair costs, it’s a lot cheaper in money and time spent than wiping repeatedly in Wildstar.

GW2: Wading in the Cesspool of Hotjoin sPvP

Death is temporary, dolyaks are forever...

The other day, I queued up for my first ever solo queue sPvP match.

I ended that game with a stunning realization that I (almost, kinda, as of this moment anyway) preferred hotjoins.

Oh, the game wasn’t that bad. It was actually 5 vs 5 players, not 5 vs 4. It ended up 450-500, not in my team’s favor.

I tried a necro vs necro duel on a side point, which was damnably evenly matched, until I somehow no-idea-how managed to down him, whereupon I struggled with the finishing stage between having some 1000 hp left with his flesh golem still after me – not daring to even get close or within LOS, trying to wait out my heal’s recharge – and made an error in judgement, which resulted me falling over while he was at 1/5 downed hp remaining and both of us out of sight range of the other – except his danged flesh golem was still up and mine wasn’t, so he got to revive and I didn’t.

Then I tried it again, except a teammate came to his rescue while mine were nowhere in sight, so fleeing was the better part of valor.

And ended up just team vs team duking it out in the center trying to off the opposing team faster than me or mine got offed.

But what I ended up taking home from that experience, besides the fact that solo queue wasn’t the devil after all and that I might do it again when I’m in the right mood and frame of mind with plenty of time to kill, is that it was SLOW.

Before you even get to the match, you have to queue up and wait.

I waited for three minutes out in the Heart of the Mists, steadily going out of my mind with boredom, threw up my hands and got into a hotjoin game which was pretty exciting for 4+ minutes when my queue popped and I was faced with the prospect of giving up a nice and easy ~540 rank points for a 1000 or bust (300) gamble, with the odds against me (since I’m sure I lack the experience to contribute as much as a veteran sPvPer.)

Then the match itself seems to be a more measured strategy chess match, where players actually stay on points and defend them with bunker builds, and 5 vs 5 tends to yield slower paced skirmishes of 1-3 players a side only. Between that and having more competent players on average taking the game format seriously, the match drags on much longer than a hotjoin would.

And suddenly, the prospective reward of 1000 rank points for a win doesn’t look as attractive in comparison to the time spent to -maybe- get it.

Of course, this boils down to what exactly your goal is in sPvP.

If you’re a warrior – a competitive sort that’s looking for an evenly matched “good fight” where you can test your individual skills and build against a controlled number of opponents (1-3 preferably, where you have a realistic chance of winning if you’re good to very good), solo or team queues are probably your ideal cup of tea.

Many PvPers, I suspect, fall into this category, hence the heralding of the game format as the pinnacle to strive toward and hotjoin derided as a cesspool of filth.

If you’re a soldier – the sort who prefers working in unison to achieve a goal and doesn’t mind taking directions and supporting the team, you’d probably prefer team queue or be out in WvW already, assuming your server hasn’t fallen in population to the point of WvW league failure.

(Quite a number of PvPers have both warriors and soldiers in ’em, so don’t take it as a dichotomy, more of a description of preferences.)

I’ve seven team tournaments on my non-PvPer belt, six of which were won. How?

I walked in as a guild team. Some of my guildies are more serious PvPers, but when they do a guild PvP event, they inclusively take in any old rabble, including me.

I’m not competitive, I’m not much of a PvPer, but I do try to use a meta build (could be outdated, who knows) due to my interest in performing at least decently if not 100% optimally, and I do have something of a soldier mindset, which lets me appreciate aspects of WvW.

The guild tells me to stick with so-and-so and follow him around. I do so. We go to a point. We sit on it.

I do my best to support, control, and help my teammate(s), and let them do the all the  communication stuff of sending a more competent roamer to one point or another to adjust the odds of battle. I only leave the point when they tell me or in a pinch, when it looks like no one else can respond in time. I try my best not to die, and since I’ve only brought a guardian and necro to sPvP, I’m conveniently rarely the primary target and when I am, well, both classes are designed to be annoyingly tanky and my innate tank nature loves being a frickin’ nuisance that way.

There was one memorable match where the guild’s team were down to 4 and had apparently just lost a match to a premade team when they went in with an extra pug that wasn’t on voice comms. Then they asked around on guildchat if anyone wanted in, and I decided what the heck, I need the experience, right?

And sidled my way in, warning them that I was pretty much a noob to team PvP. I had no mic either, and always just listen.

We ended up facing the exact same premade team. The prematch chat was very civil, praising the pug guardian as ‘very annoying.’ Then they asked about why the delay for the queue. “Oh, we brought a guildie in,” was the offhanded reply.

Good lord, the pressure, right?

The match was so lopsided it wasn’t even in question at any time. In our favor.

We sent three (me included) to the center point, two to our home point and just sat there. Repelling all comers.

1-3 would come by to the center, our leader would call a target, and they’d just fall over dead eventually. It was probably one of those coincidences of well synergized builds again that managed to counter the opposing team’s, but I don’t know what their reaction was in their own team’s communication channels when the final scoreboard came up and they saw that the only factor that was different between the previous match was a less than rank 20 necromancer.

(Who just happened to be in the same guild and on the same voice chat as the other four. Communication and coordination over skill, I guess.

Or you can blame the OP dhuumfire meta build, though I hear it’s already nerfed and fallen out of favor? I’m too lazy to change what works decently, though.)

I love my guild.

I’m way too much of a wuss to try team queue without a team I trust, that’s for sure.

You see, I’m not competitive.

Leaderboards and ranking do not interest me.

I’m not actually fired up by the prospect of an evenly matched 1 on 1 fight except as a technical exercise to just see if I can do it (or more likely, fail miserably in the process and try to figure out what the other guy was using and doing.)

All I really wanted in PvP was to get a dolyak /rank to play with. Because the more dolyaks the merrier, y’know?

Oh, and the extra 4 AP from the PvP daily doesn’t hurt.

(And I suppose, when the new PvP rewards and incentive scheme comes up with the feature patch, that would be something interesting to strive toward too.)

So my personal goal was rank. Enough to bootstrap me to 20. With as little time spent in the Heart of the Mists as possible, so that I can spend the rest on more compelling stuff.

Along the way, if I get a bit more PvP experience, that’s a bonus that comes with the territory of playing a minigame and learning as you go.

Lately, I’ve figured out that hotjoins are a decent enough vehicle for those non-ambitious goals.

The “Play Now” button dropkicks me right into an ongoing game. I can leave at any time I want. The 8 vs 8 format is exciting in a casual team deathmatch style, with action flying around fast and nonstop furious, getting the adrenaline going with less “serious business” pressure weighing on one’s shoulder. Dying and respawning are painless and penalty-less.

(Ironically, it’s like Natural Selection 1’s Combat mode versus the RTS strategic mode, except there I really enjoyed the strategic side of it more. Population-wise, far more gravitated to mano-a-alien combat mode though.)

Yes, there is shameless stacking going on in hotjoins.

I paid my noob dues by losing a bunch of matches, wondering how the hell I kept ending up on a side with less players, whose collective PvP experience probably equated to one player on the winning team, getting relentlessly ganked by meta builds while sporting a non meta one, massively teamed up on, and whose only redeeming experience was learning how to harden the fuck up and attempt to survive as long as possible (tank mode, yeah!) against impossible odds.

Then I finally figured out the UI.

And got my own meta build.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, and all that.

You know, with the new rank rewards, I don’t mind the stacking at all because it’s totally possible to game the system to get rank points (which, we have established, is one’s primary individual objective for playing hotjoins – the fun little cesspool of anything goes.)

First things first, identify the winning team. This comes with experience, and making a good guess when first entering a game. Or just memorize the higher scoring, higher rank, high-kill-achieving players in your first game (which will probably be on the other side.)

Then spam the fuck out of the “join their side” button.

Assuming you aren’t a total hopeless case who will pull down the team merely by being on their side, contribute to the cause by capping and scoring kills. Preferably by creating “teamwork” mini-scenarios where one ignorant person from the other team runs straight into a group of you playing together and meets the expected fate at the hands of 1 vs X.

Very soon, likely before hitting 200-300 points into the match, first one then another on the losing team will quickly give up and flee out of the game, seeking greener grass elsewhere.

Then the “dreaded” auto-balance button pops up on the side.

Many dread it. I revel in it.

I volunteer the fuck out of it. It’s an extra 25 rank. You guarantee yourself the winning rank reward of 500, no matter what happens (assuming your internet doesn’t die unexpectedly.)

Sure, the next part of the match turns into a stream of *your name* deaths littering the side of the game’s UI, but you know, the deaths are meaningless if your ego is not involved in it.

And it’s the absolute best of both worlds in one game.

First you get the steamroll experience of doing horrible horrible things to players who aren’t playing very well, and identifying their mistakes so that you improve by watching what -not- to do. It’s a primitive ego boost when you realize that you and your build have at least had miniscule improvement to the point where you aren’t -that guy- at  least some of the time anymore. You get to play alongside better players and a team that actually tends to cooperate with each other.

Then when you get switched, and you probably will, since everyone else was hoping they weren’t “it,” you get to test yourself against all the -good- players who have conveniently self-selected themselves out for you.

If 3 or more jump you and tangle you up in cc, obviously, you’re going down. Seriously, there’s no dishonor in it. It’s like you’re roaming alone in WvW and this 40 man zerg rounds the corner and over you. Nothing to be done about it. *shrug*

If it’s 2-3 players, it becomes a game of “see how long I can outlast and outwit.” Necros are built to be annoying, I hear. They’re supposed to waste your time. They can’t escape very well, but they can make you regret spending the time getting entangled up with trying to kill them. Hopefully a teammate or two or three come over eventually. If not, well, see above. Still a fun minigame of survival.

If it’s 1 vs 1, then well, things become interesting. It’s those duels that the PvP warrior types yearn for. Me, not so much, but as mini-practice within a larger game, why not? Sometimes, I even win. Which is pretty awesome when it does happen. If not, it’s a more-entertaining-and-firsthand-than-a-video experience of how a pro takes down an amateur. Chalk it up to the learning process.

It’s a hotjoin, you can choose to play it straight and sit on a cap and wait for people to come. (I like to lurk underwater in Raid of the Capricorn and bleed people to death until they get smart and bring more than one person.) If the game is really hopeless, then throw score to the wind and play for the fights. Your new team is already frickin’ losing anyway, with or without you. Run to the mess of players duking it out in the middle somewhere and see how many sneak attacks you can get in and maybe even turn the tide.

Absolutely rarely, the tide can even sometimes turn and your new team ends up winning (usually because the points shift a bit, some guy on the initially winning team decide to flee and leaves the team one man down, some other new fella joins the game and picks the team you’re on as the fan favorite to stack,) which then becomes a funny exercise in come-uppance, and is even a bit of an ego-booster. (Did -I- do that?! No wai.)

If not, expected team wins, but you get the reward anyway because you were a member of that team in the beginning. (And you even helped more people get the rank reward because you generously made way for more people to stack onto it. Let it not be said that GW2 isn’t a cooperative game!)

Hell, you have mathematically made it impossible for yourself to lose because you’re getting 500 rank points no matter which team wins.

Red versus blue? Doesn’t matter.

You are OMNI-TEAM. You are PAN-TEAM. You encompass multitudes. (Gogo minion or clone zerg.)

You get the full experience, meeting ALL skills levels from 0-50+, bumping into a spectrum of meta to weird builds, at a super-quick non-time-wasting pace.

It’s like ultra-rapid-fire LoL or something.

A hideous perversion of what the spirit of the game is probably supposed to be, but entertaining in its own right.

And 3-4 hotjoin games of this nature is surprisingly palatable for someone who just wants to get their dailies done and get in a couple hundred rank points per day.