GW2: Vale Guardian and the Trinity

VG1

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.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward

I thought I was getting better.

Two days ago, I took this screenshot feeling relatively good about everything in general, wanting to share a burgeoning optimism that maybe quarterly class balance updates would be decent for overall game functioning.

newdervish

After all, I had around three months to giggle about getting into Viper’s gear before the crowd demand sent Black Diamond prices soaring sky-high, and then play a Burnzerker – a build that I would probably not have ever gotten around to on my own, but really tickled the pyromaniac-loving part of me that loves any class that throws around fire, fire and MORE FIRE.

The Burnzerker nerf was expected, and I was pleasantly mollified to see that it wasn’t knee-jerk cut down into absolute uselessness, but more or less on par with most other normal condition classes/builds. (Minus the present bug where two burnzerker fields are ineffective, thus don’t bring more than one, until it gets fixed, eventually.)

Of course, we still have two annoying player subsets to contend with – those who won’t accept anything but the current most OP builds – that crown has gone to a certain specific necromancer/reaper build using minions and epidemic apparently (not sure, I haven’t looked into it yet); and those who are blatantly ignorant and jump to conclusions based on hearsay without any actual attempts at measurement or objectivity.

The latter are a pet peeve, as arguing with an idiot tends to wind up with descending to their level and them beating you with experience at being a stubborn ignoramus.

So I usually don’t try, beyond a calm factual statement or two, and then let the facts speak for themselves. (Brought a burnzerker to VG, red either still died before blue and green, or exactly on time – so either blue/green group is incompetent and/or the condi output is acceptable. Not OP anymore, but acceptable.)

Another funny side story about those who think they know everything: I was on my way to my last Lunar New Year firecracker for the daily.

As my charr bullrushed past one or two people standing around, random bystander guy spoke up and said, “You have to glide to this firecracker. FYI.”

I have no idea if he was addressing me (since I did bump the pillar/pedestal on my way to said firecracker) or if he was talking to the other player standing nearby, but eh, what if that player didn’t own Heart of Thorns? Was he SOL?

Without missing a beat (since I was really truly on my usual route to the firecracker anyway), I ran right past, jumped up the side of the glass dome, ran along the roof and then promptly fell down through a gap in the roof onto the pedestal where the firecracker was.

Sans glider.

Random bystander quickly shut up and decided that now would be a good time to walk/run away.

I might be revealing my deeply flawed human nature here, but I couldn’t stop chortling to myself for some time after that.

But I digress.

The screenshot above is my new *cough*dervish*cough*

Okay, it’s really just the thief Elite spec Daredevil with a staff skin.

But it captures the scythe wielding part of the GW1 dervish decently well, even if the avatar changing utility skills have more or less wound up with the revenant.

Again, without the meta in dramatic upheaval every three months, I find that it would be quite unlikely that I would have gotten around to this build.

Mostly, I was looking for a secondary replacement class for the burnzerker, so that if a particular raid already had way too many might stacking PS warriors or revenants, I could at least offer a current ‘common knowledge’ ‘OP’ class/build. (When in Rome and all that, you know, why fight it?)

It also took out what was probably a month’s worth of materials hoarding and savings by the time I finished decking him out with the appropriate runes/sigils, Ascended weapons, trinkets, and about three pieces of Ascended armor.

As personally painful as it was to dip into the treasure hoard, I have to admit that a certain amount of forced spending and need for materials is good for stimulating the economy. Also, it acts like another kind of hardcore tax beyond expensive food/wrench consumables.

I was excited enough by the feel of playing and learning a new build/playstyle to go out and kill a bunch of core Tyria stuff, adding up toward core Tyria mastery, as well as start formulating specific HoT plans for improvement/progress.

One goal was the Ascended Bo, which I found cheapest to just go ahead with the collection. That made me partake in one round of Auric Basin and one round of Dragon Stand in order to get the last bits of stuff I needed.

I idly also laid in plans to score some HoT mastery points, since way too many repeated raid failures had already capped me in xp for the HoT mastery tracks. I just need about 12 more mastery points I haven’t gotten around to earning.

Unfortunately, the last two days have put me into a bit of a foul mood yet again.

I idly made a reply comment in a Reddit thread rant that described how many problems the player was facing while trying to enjoy/play through a HoT meta event.

At the time, it was just a bit of a speculative thought I had, an idle remark on the many levels of abstraction that the guy’s story had become about, that his narrative had become more “struggling with the game, as game” rather than an immersed narrative about the world as obstacle.

I was sort of thinking of the same issue that Warhammer had, with their all encompassing Tome of Knowledge, and PvE leveling that wound up staring at the quest UI going “OK, I need X more organs from Y mobs” and mostly out-of-world game-meta related thinking that made the obvious focus manipulating game mechanics and rules, rather than actually enjoying the world as presented.

It blew up on me rather surprisingly, garnering some 200+ upvotes.

It made me think about how many people are out there, feeling a bit like me, feeling a bit like some of the old guard like that_shaman and other familiar Reddit names expressing a certain malaise or discontent.

And then I read new guard comments in the GW2 reddit, who LOVE raids and think they’re awesome, except that they’re also constantly whining that dungeons have been gutted, fractals have devolved into Swamp of the Mists (apparently, I haven’t bothered to set foot in there for some time) and that they’ve already cleared the raid wing on reset day and have nothing else to do and are now bored and going off to play another game, while waiting for more stuff to do.

And here I am, -struggling- to find enough groups every goddamn week to even get a guaranteed vale guardian kill, having to push aside my dinner time so that I might even get into a raid group that might or might not kill VG…

… and I just get angry. And bitter.

(To add salt to the wound, apparently TTS training raids are now off the calendar, diminishing yet another avenue for raid groups, and it’s back to waiting for an invite into the next experiment, a specific TTS raid guild, to see if that works any better. Strung along, yet again.)

And then I read a post like Azuriel’s, wherein he Gets/Doesn’t Get GW2.

All I want to do is bang my forehead against a flat surface really really hard.

No offense taken from Azuriel’s honest reactions, by the way, I think he’s a great representative of the subset who give GW2 a shot, just can’t find any impetus to level up further and then start posting on Reddit asking, “is that all there is? how do I level fast? map completion is boring, how do I like this game? unosweiter.”

But I can’t help but scream, in a rather enraged fashion, that Heart of Thorns threw in all the fucking endgame for people like this – who need a reason to keep leveling (masteries), who want a PvE endgame to look forward to (raids / collection grind)…

… and apparently they’re not even making it to level 80!

They can’t get past the open exploration aspect of leveling, so they quit before hitting 80.

Meanwhile, those that liked the open exploration aspect, now face the bait-and-switch achievement endgame, just like -every other fucking MMO- out there.

WHO THE FUCK IS ANET CATERING TO ANY MORE?

They try to reach the hardcore raiders, and the hardcore raiders are throwing it back in their faces by locusting the content and diminishing it to triviality.

In the process, they’re infuriating the casuals and those in the middle.

The PvPers are twitching ever since the PvP league ended and they’re forced to mix with the hoi polloi in unranked.

Meanwhile, they’re scrambling to apply CPR to the most neglected portion, WvW, because that’s a post-expansion priority now.

Everyone else is just going to have to wait their turn.

#grumpy

Furthermore, I hear news from Trion’s end that they’re revamping payment models and my second-favorite “MMO-like” Trove is going to start charging real money for classes, no two ways around this.

This makes me grumpier.

Mind you, since I started early, I’ve already reaped most of the benefits and unlocked every class but the Gunslinger (which still reputedly needs help to be brought back up to par) so it’s not exactly going to impact me considerably except moving forward, if I ever desire a new class introduced.

But I just don’t know if I can bring myself to play games that don’t feel fair, payment model or level playing field-wise.

So Trove may be a write off too.

Maybe it’s time to relook at Path of Exile or Minecraft again…

GW2: Point of No Return and the Vinewrath: Thoughts from a Jaded Vet

I wish I knew what to say about Point of No Return. (Yes, there will be spoilers beyond this point.)

Bhagpuss and the Mystical Mesmer have covered the episode a lot more aptly than I can, so I’ll point you over to their coverage of the episode.

Truth is, my main reaction is less about stunning revelation, but more of an “about time, can we get to something good now, please?

Maybe I read too much Reddit, but I’ve been operating under the assumption/knowledge that sylvari were originally destined to be minions of Mordremoth for a long time now.

How much clearer did it need to be, especially with the holographic records of Scarlet nee Ceara taking a mindtwisting turn for the worse after “What Scarlet Saw” – a thorn root of Mordremoth winding up the Pale Tree attempting either to reclaim its champion or kill her for being wayward – and going completely batshit crazy attempting to reject both masters (and likely falling under the sway of Mordremoth the loonier she got, being that one of the Elder Dragon’s spheres is that of the Mind.)

Having already accepted the premise long ago, I found myself mostly more thrilled at seeing echoes of Guild Wars 1 back in my Living Story, walking in the footsteps of my ancient ancestors reliving the Ascension trials, fighting off one’s doppelganger, etc.

squee

(How a charr has an Elonian human ancestor, I’m not sure, but let’s just handwave it like the Hall of Monuments, eh? I inherited dat fiery dragon sword dead to rights and no one had better dispute that!)

The rest of the story was pretty ho-hum, just moving the plot along, nothing much to see here… Oh, I guess there was one tragedy.

muchsad

Victim of a dolyak hit-and-run.

Seriously, please check where your minis show up. Doesn’t this undergo testing? Maybe “emotional impact” is not one of the criteria on the checklist.

I have to give kudos for relatively bug-free this patch, anyway.

The fights themselves are decent.

I note with an amused smile that they again try to place stress on other concepts besides DPS all the things as quickly as possible.

For example, it is possible to kite or control mobs out of the circle representing the Throne of Pellentia, and if you do it early, you won’t get waves and waves of ever-so-annoying ghost mobs plus siege wurms, and instead merely need to play run-around-the-mulberry-bush-er-pillar with an Arcanist Echo.

This assumes, of course, that one is sturdy enough to deal with getting sniped at by a mob, plus able to control one’s rabid tendency to autoattack anything red.

(A total failure to organize in a pickup group, I might add, which I joined for the 8 minutes time achievement. The group sported two rangers and a mesmer, who were exceedingly on-the-ball with knockback skills, shoving all mobs out in under a couple seconds… who then absolutely failed to maintain this state of affairs by promptly killing them with autoattacks, causing new mobs to spawn in the circle. *sighs*)

bringit

The Shadow of the Dragon fight was moderately fun, with the added concept of ‘teaching how to recognize and coordinate with skills from allies’ along with the standard pattern recognition of mechanics.

If the GW2 forums are anything to go by, it seems the devs still have quite a lot of work ahead of them in training a certain subset of the population how to cope with fights like this.

I suspect most of them that are frustrated have simply missed a crucial concept that would aid in solving the fight.

  • Have a problem with smothering shadows? Solution: Pick up the divine fire by walking into it, and then land any bit of damage on the shadow. Shadow explodes, divine fire buff expires, need new divine fire buff to light flame.
  • Have a problem with getting interrupted by the dragon while lighting the flame? Solution: Look out for Braham’s sanctuary, which will apply stability, and light that spot. It will not protect against the upward rising dragon’s mouth, which will still launch upwards through stability, but it’ll stop getting interrupted by the dragon’s groping paw.
  • Have a problem with the plants? The plants are triggered by the tripvine in between them. Either go around them, or run through them in the direct center. Sometimes, it is easier to clean up the arena by just running through all four pairs of plants and making them explode, then one has more room to work with.
  • Have a problem with the shadowy tendrils? Beyond targeting the same vine as Marjory’s minions, which will help nom on them, ranged attacks are a lot less frustrating to land over trying to position melee attacks while trying to avoid vine knockback plus rocks. (Not that it can’t be done, I got my warrior through it with pure melee, cos lazy to swap weapons, but it’s a lot less annoying, imo.)

It happens. I remember misjudging the size of the explosion in one Living Story fight, which produced great perplexity in how exactly one was supposed to kite the exceedingly-slow moving mob to each prepped node in the time limit for the achievement… and some whining within partychat with friends… wherein it turned out that all one really had to do was AoE all the prepped nodes and voila, mob ded through massive explodey.

Bah. Sometimes you just overthink things, and sometimes the cues for the mechanics aren’t as clear as would be ideal. Happens.

Just as apparently nearly everyone was mistaken in propagating the “No AoE” notion at the Copper Husk, something I personally didn’t subscribe to either. I always thought that kiting the offshoots and poison away and exploding them away from the husk made a lot more sense, but required way too much organization and effort to achieve, so my personal solution was pretty much always to avoid the hell that was Copper and let the players there bicker and squabble and fail or succeed as they pleased. The difference between partial and total success just wasn’t worth getting upset over.

Getting back to the Shadow of the Dragon, I liked the inclusion of the challenge mote at the end, which made trying for achievements a lot less painful by only having to go through the lengthy dialogues once.

I got a decent amount of replay value with the achievements, especially since it took me a while to realize that diving straight for the divine fire in second phase often meant diving headlong into the path of the exploding rock column.

Took me a couple tries and a fair measure of repeating “patience” “patience” “LOOK around carefully and check the situation before you leap” to myself before I finally avoided all the rocks successfully.

The plant thing was also somewhat fun, because it changed up my priorities. ‘Spode all the plants first. Every time. Shadow going for a divine fire wall? Sorry, I’ll eat the setback, gotta make all the plants go boom first.

And finally, I guess the big unveil were the two cutscenes at the end of this Living Story.

For the purposes of building hype for their big PAX South announcement, I guess they succeeded. I’m mostly antsy for the announcement because the cutscenes mostly don’t indicate anything beyond “Pact tries to attack Mordremoth. Pact fails miserably. Something’s definitely up with the Sylvari. Soon(TM).”

Ok. Great. Future stuff.

That’s all very well, but what do I do -now-?

couldbeme

Grind, apparently.

Kill more Mordrem like my hero Rytlock with a fiery sword.

Like a good little player, I am obediently working on the Luminescent collection for lack of anything better to do – and also, because I really want that “Light in the Darkness” title for vanity’s sake, which is always a good motivator.

Thankfully, I hoarded a decent amount of each Mordrem part bag in the prior weeks (around 5-7 of each) and opening them got me most of the eyes and kidneys required.

Camping at the last two that I needed over the weekend -eventually- got me the parts I needed, though I managed to build 3 whole Thrasher bladders before getting an eye (yeesh.)

All I’m missing now is one more carapace chest box, one more headgear box that I could either buy or run another character through the Living Story, and one more Ascended thingummy that will need to be bought.

Mostly the chest box.

vinewrath

The Vinewrath has been a decent enough world boss, set at a level that most players appear to be able to manage (with the few below average exceptions getting pasted on the ground each fight.)

There are only a few crucial mechanics for people to remember, which makes it easier to communicate as well:

1. The Beekeeper / troll creates bees. Running into the center of the rings and out, will call aggro of some bees onto you. Lead these to the honeycomb to build it up.

Take cover behind the honeycomb when the troll runs in front of the Vinewrath.

Most people will already have positioned themselves there, which is all very well, but does sometimes attract troll adds to the area as well. Best to kill the troll adds if possible, so that insect swarms don’t stack and cause runaway damage.

If no one built the honeycomb, then well, it’s your fault for blindly autoattacking away and assuming someone else will do it!

2. The thrasher is fought like a normal thrasher, with plenty of reflects for its spinning-poison projectiles running along the floor phase. Keep distance if reflects are not up, so as to give yourself the best distance to strafe left and right to avoid the poison projectiles.

Pustules pop up and explode after some time if not killed. Destroying the pustule before that releases some spore clouds which give friendly player buffs (turning them pink.) The thrasher can also pick up this buff, so watch out.

When the thrasher runs in front of the Vinewrath, run towards it as well and take cover in the white cone in front of it. Feel free to keep attacking the thrasher in the meantime.

If you die in this fight, it’s absolutely your fault for not getting into the white cone yourself.

3. Dark Wing the terragriff, generally has standard terragriff-y attacks with some extra leap/pounce things. There are flowers that also spawn and need to be attacked/destroyed in order for them to open.

When Dark Wing runs in front of the Vinewrath, hop onto an opened flower for safety.

To be really sophisticated, make sure your opened flower is near the front so that you can keep attacking Dark Wing with ranged attacks. If you lack an opened flower nearby, it’s totally your fault for failing to ensure that one is opened before blindly autoattacking the terragriff!

The NPC escort of the carriers put a considerable amount of stress on control and support abilities as well.

Stealthing the carrier constantly can eventually put it out of combat, allowing it to regenerate up to full health.

There is also the standard water field elementalist and blasting to heal up the carrier as well.

I’ve been getting a considerable amount of mileage out of Healing Breeze (yes, it’s a guardian heal!) that can top up the carrier’s health ever so slightly, and Tome of Courage – the spamming of which can top up a decent amount of health, and if you’re in the right position to land a full heal with number 5, it can pump up a good half or more of the total carrier’s health bar.

In full zerker, too! I briefly considered switching to celestial or clerics, but decided that the healing was already sufficient in zerker, given the weak healing coefficients, and the inconvenience of switching gear to fight/kill things after supporting later.

PSA: If you’re doing nothing for the carrier, do not stand on it and suck up heals/support meant for it.

Nothing pisses off someone trying to save the carrier as dumb ass players in perfectly good condition being prioritized for ally support skills merely because the skills prioritize nearby players first.

The good news is that most of the time, the dumb ass players are either too scared of the oncoming Mordrem and are thus plinking from really really far away, or totally distracted by the clump of Mordrem elsewhere and have failed to notice the carrier trundling off away from them.

This provides gaps of opportunity for an enterprising guardian to be the only one near the carrier and sufficient time to charge up Tome of Courage 5 so that it’ll go off as the carrier is walking by.

There is generally enough time to swap back to a more functional heal for the boss fight, even if one’s elite is on cooldown.

As for control, it’s a knockback / interrupt / fearing players’ dream as there is plenty of opportunity to shunt oncoming Mordrem into the walls and away from a carrier’s plodding path.

(There is also plenty of opportunity for observers to groan at poor control skills… like knocking back a chasing Mordrem further ahead and into the path of the carrier that is desperately trying to get away from it.)

Generally and thankfully though, the fight is fairly resilient to the vagaries of a PUG matchup. If a lane fails (I’ve no idea how, frankly, but it does – presumably folks failed to distribute themselves equally), another lane can take over the champion that it was supposed to face and progress the fight from there.

Given the locked-in tunings, it’s actually quite easy to distribute oneselves fairly equally. Those at the amber troll boss before should go south and face the beekeeper, allowing for one more troll part with an extra extractor.

Those at blue and platinum’s thrasher should go mid and face the Vinewrath’s thrasher, for a chance at an extra thrasher part.

And those at indigo and gold/silver terragriffs should go face the Dark Wing for an extra terragriff part, with the husk people splitting themselves up among the three lanes.

(All these well laid plans go right out the window if a lane fails, of course, but meh, I guess people will learn in time. More often than not, the previous fort bosses are succeeding, so it’s just a matter of time before folks become comfortable with this fight too, I suspect.)

I can feel myself dropping quite easily into fairly jaded veteran mode already – so aggravating to see dead people lying around scaling up mobs, I always waypoint and run back and often get back faster than the dead people that are still chilling on the ground – so to combat the temptation to be snide out loud, I mostly just shrug, tell myself people will learn eventually (or not, preferably without me there) and look out for organized instances to join, and gamble with PUG instances  when I feel like gambling.

Fortunately, one more chest box has already dropped for me, so I just need to stick it out for one more lucky run. I figure there should be enough organized instances for long enough for that to happen. *crosses fingers and prays to RNGesus*

I did, however, encounter a nice newbie during today’s Vinewrath.

I got a whisper out of the blue from someone who just asked me, “So what are we supposed to do in this fight, what are we doing here?” during a Vinewrath lane defence.

I glanced through all my friends and follower lists, and nope, did not know this person before this. He was at least clever enough to send a random tell to someone to ask, even if he was too nervous to openly ask over say or map chat.

In 4 tells, I summarized the fight for him. Paraphrased: “For now, we’re defending the carrier to the vine wall.”

“If all goes well, we will face the Dark Wing terragriff. Fight like a normal terragriff, it charges and all that.”

“When it runs to the front of the Vinewrath, hop onto an open flower.”

“Flowers will spawn before that, and need to be opened by destroying them before that.”

Guess what. He didn’t die.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him make it to a flower for the first go. Fail to make it to a flower for the second time, taking a hit that took off 7/8s of his hp. Then the terragriff died.

Hooray. I trust learning has taken place.

tequsual

In the meantime, I’ll just be over here, puttering about, doing my usual things, grinding for one more box (I was right about dem boot boxes by the way, got 6 by now, good thing I didn’t fall for the temptation of buying them!), contemplating maybe gearing some alts in sinister and testing new builds, and waiting for the PAX South announcement.

Please, oh please, let there be news of a way to save/load builds… I’ll trade a good many things for that.