GW2: Winning The Battle or The War

Today, on WvW reset, for 5-7+ hours, I think everybody won.

On the fields of the Fort Aspenwood Borderlands, the combined guilds and militia of Kaineng, Fort Aspenwood, and Tarnished Coast fought a ridiculously epic series of battles.

Kaineng was the green team, [RISE] and [CO] the apparent major anchor guilds there.

Fort Aspenwood the blue team, [RET] the major unignorable factor in play, bolstered by a framerate stopping horde of other mixed guilds and militia as one would expect on a server’s home borderlands.

Tarnished Coast the red team, with [DIS] and [CYN] as the initial designated guilds assigned to that borderland, plus other mixed guilds and militia, and a special guest appearance later at the end of the NA night, which we will get to in good time.

It’s actually amazing how much Fort Aspenwood feels like Tarnished Coast’s opposite number.

FA’s server culture seems to have been stacked with competitive WvW-PvP focused types. I think as a natural consequence of that, FA has more players with specialized builds for WvW, dedicated sportsman-like to playing and practising together. Tactically, they have the advantage.

It gets pretty obvious when our zerg runs into a guild like [RET], unless severely outnumbering or other factors like siege or terrain are in play. Sadly, the facts of the matter are that it is amazingly hard to counter a specialized force in toughness gear, running a concerted mass of hammer warriors which daze and a bunch of seemingly well-rehearsed back line of mesmers which splash feedback, time warp and whatever the hell tosses up stacks of confusion, veil and portal bomb as needed, necromancers and elementalists who pretty much paint the entire battlefield with AoE wells and fire – without a specialized force of your own.

That, however, as our guild leader was mentioning conversationally over voicechat, was not really what Tarnished Coast was about. Sure, it might be stymying and frustrating to keep running into them and wiping, and sure we would probably have a better chance if we laid down rules and started specifying specific builds and stuff we wanted people to run in WvW – but ultimately, TC values fun and freedom of individual choice alongside success or victory. To do otherwise would be draconian. I love this guild for that. It was one of the reasons why I decided to join them, no 100% representation required, no undue pressure – just contribute when and where you can. (And personal interjection here, really, if our players wanted to do that, they would likely have already joined a T1 server and a specialized WvW guild to boot to be massively hardcore about it, no?)

On the other hand, on a personal note, running headlong and splatting into a godawful mess of barely visible particle effects makes me want to learn how to play better. The thing about facing tough opponents or watching a much better organized force go at it is that they can inspire you to try and improve one’s own level of play. I greatly appreciate that there is no downward force to change my main’s build – I’m just not ready for that yet without easy dual-specs or save/load specs in place, and without actually feeling out options on another character. But that’s the idea behind my new guardian (which I have decided to go ahead and plevel to 75 after all) to see if there’s anything else that can be done to improve my level of contribution to such fights.

That, I think, is what TC is about. Slowly, steadily, improving the level of all players on their community, at a pace that they are comfortable with. And I have a huge respect for the leaders of that community for all the incredibly hard work towards that goal and not losing their patience or chasing short term gains.

TC holds its own through masterful strategy. It really knocks my socks off sometimes, how TC does its best with what they have (even if it’s not much.) I’m really happy to be on a server that keeps its eye on the PPT and how best to work towards whatever overall objective was decided. (Team Fortress or Natural Selection comparison again here, I used to be one of those players who fought for the team objective, nevermind how sucky my kill/death ratio looked, versus other players whose goal seemed to be solely maxing out their individual scores on the leaderboard and feeling good about that.)

We’re fortunate to have some fantastic generals in this community. And I use that word, rather than commanders, to highlight the strategic minds at work, and how they strive to win the hearts and minds of the people – the morale fight, the diplomacy fight is just as important to them as the actual battlefield combat.

An example from today’s battle, for those of my readers not as involved with how WvW can work in GW2:

The home server normally has a good advantage on their home borderlands – they have the garrison keep and militia naturally flock there as well as Eternal Battlegrounds. [RET] being [RET], with the rest of their militia following them, could actually gain the upper hand if Kaineng and Tarnished Coast decided to keep dickering around in the bottom half of that map.

Instead, the plan on the TC side at least was to go defensive and bunker down for a bit, before looking for opportunities. And oh, do I love how TC defends stuff. The main force grabbed the bay keep, grabbed our natural tower (redbriar) and supply camp. Said supply camp was sieged up to the gills and a defensive force left there to upgrade and run yaks into the keep, the bay keep was sieged up, the briar tower was sieged up.

At the same time, smaller disruption groups were scouting, reporting enemy movements, taking out enemy dolyaks, and hitting supply camps.

Something might have happened on the Kaineng/Fort Aspenwood side to distract both servers (a pitched battle on their parts perhaps? Unknown to me) because it turned out that we were able to capture both the south camp (champion’s demenses or whatever its name is) and the northwest camp (godslore/arah’s?) for decent amounts of time.

Said south camp was bunkered down with siege as well and a defensive team left there to hold it and keep the supply lines flowing. At the same time, our commander decided it was time to go hit Woodhaven, and a force also went up to the northmost supply camp to do nasty things to Fort Aspenwood’s supply.

Similar stuff must have been happening on the Kaineng side because FA was getting pressured and squeezed into their garrison with very little supply. Textbook strategy. Restless PUGs wanted to go hit other stuff, but I think we managed to hold back the main forces for the most part in order not to overextend oneselves.

Our hold of the supply camps was tested by both FA and Kaineng, and it seems they were fought off very successfully for the most part by a very responsive militia and our defensive teams emplaced there. That dedication brought us the second waypoint to pop up across the maps (second only to EB’s Overlook) at bay keep – something that would be key to successful defence of it later.

Our zerg meanwhile was forcing reactions from FA by poking at Woodhaven and Dawn’s Eyrie – usually getting wiped as [RET] scrambled and responded. We kept losing battles, no doubt. And I’m sure [RET] made plenty of money off our loot bags that dropped, so they won too. 🙂 But the overall objective, keeping FA back on the defensive and having to react constantly on their home territory, was achieved, buying time for other holdings’ upgrades to settle in. The hope too was that FA might have to pull players back from other maps in order to keep hold of their garrison, leaving our guys there with better overall chances.

Before long, Kaineng made their move on FA’s garrison, and TC was not far behind in banging away at other gates, repeatedly through the night. Mad props goes to the amount of FA players crammed into their garrison, holding out epically against numerous attempts.

Battle of South Camp

One notable moment in the night was the Kaineng-Tarnished Coast pitched battle across south camp.

Kaineng had previously made feeler approaches towards our briar tower, producing an immediate response in our zerg who rushed back to defend it, complete with well timed cow onto the bridge just as they were about to cross. As it exploded in a big green poison cloud on them, Kaineng immediately reversed direction and changed their minds.

However, they did have less supply than us overall since we held an upgraded south camp for the greater part of the night. As supply needs for garrison started becoming overwhelming on both sides as the battle dragged on, it ended up in a massive pitched battle across south camp with reinforcements streaming in from both sides with an equally near spawnpoint.

TC eventually won that bout, which probably eventually forced the [RISE] commander to gather up his forces in a huge mass and steamroll with speed into both our south and southwest camps overwhelming our defenders. As unpleasant as that was, we hoped the supply got put to good use on FA’s garrison in the end. (And we did make a retaliatory strike into Kaineng’s southeast camp to force a response from them as well.)

Battle of Garrison

My word, it’s probably best told from the point of view of the FA defenders. All I remember were strikes on Dawn Eyrie’s, cutting off reinforcements to garrison in the process, running through already-made holes in the walls to get up their outer keep walls, water gate attacks and one memorable moment when we got in and tried to hold out at the very top floor of their lord room. (Lemme tell you, trying to jump up there with about 1-2 FPS is NOT EASY for someone as coordination challenged as me. I fell off repeatedly and probably the only reason I survived was that everyone else was also lagged, and probably didn’t see me from the culling that must have been going on.)

I suspect there was also another TC zerg rushing in from the southwest gate of garrison at various times as we had a number of other less-known commanders trying to rally militia into taking garrison earlier on in the night.

I have to stop for a moment and give kudos to our super cool-as-ice commander Laona Ravenheart whose calm voice on our voicecomms and super strategic mind kept turning potential problems and frustrations into opportunities. It would have been easy to get frustrated at our failed attempts (but then, we were barely 20 and there must have been a good 60 FA sardined into garrison, no doubt because there was nowhere else for them to go while under constant heavy attack and trying to repair their gates and walls which must have looked like swiss cheese by the end of the night.) He was also, I think, running a headache by the end of the night, staying up till 3am.

We also had a very strange visitor to our bay keep who kept draining our supplies by singlehandedly building a shitload of golems, and not responding to any tells or stopping in any way, running what seemed like a set path for a bot. He also kept starting useless upgrades like merchants at the keep. He was eventually watched, warned and reported by our defense teams. Again, it would have been easy to lose one’s cool and start yelling, but our guys kept the golems ticked, laughed at the weirdness and said, welp, at least we didn’t have to pay for any of these, and made the best of a bad situation.

Looking gift golems in the mouth. Well, they look pretty.
Looking gift golems in the mouth. Well, they look pretty, once arranged around the lord room.

We made a hilariously laughable attempt to storm garrison with six golems, just for fun, on paper gates that weren’t reinforced and were probably not fully repaired anyway. We knew we would lose all of them as we just didn’t have the numbers to overwhelm the FA defenders inside. But hey, they were free.

But a golem parade comes close.
But a golem parade comes close.

Battle of Bay

Eventually, as the night started winding down and people started logging off, likely on all sides, FA managed to get out of their garrison as the pressure let up.

Sure enough, we knew they would come for us.

Supply camps were hit and changed to various multi-colors of blue, green and red as people started jostling for PPT and fueling up on supply.

We fell back defensively. Briar was hit by Kaineng and lost. The outer camps were lost and southwest camp lost and sporadically regained back as people respawned.

Last stand time.

We were down to about 10 people on the map by this point, the outmanned buff popping up. About 20-30 FA came knocking on bay’s fortunately reinforced gates, giving us time to attempt siege setups (but our supplies were drained, thanks to said bot, we had barely 150 odd left in there) and one superior arrow cart on its own was not going to hold the angry mob off.

Our lord room was fortunately sieged up and ticked faithfully through the night, but if FA got in there, it was going to be bad regardless.

Guild diplomacy saved us.

Our guild leader contacted [PiNK] who had done very well on the Kaineng Borderlands, holding hills and bay for some time and pushing Fort Aspenwood completely out of that map, though Kaineng might have started getting the upper hand there as the night wore down (I dunno precisely what was happening there, I just say this based on the amount of green creeping over the map ever so slowly.)

[PiNK] very graciously and kindly responded, rushing to the bay defence, some 20-30 odd of them, just as FA was on the verge of breaking in through those reinforced gates. 1 minute on waypoint timer.

We bunkered down in the lord room, all 6-8 odd of us or so, barely enough to get on all the siege we had emplaced and still have people holding off the incoming zerg from rushing the siege operators.

Massive fucking battle ensued, framerates churning, our siege getting rushed even as we cut down FA with them, the timer ticked and [PiNK] popped in to join the fight.

PiNK riding in to the rescue
PiNK riding in to the rescue

About that time, 7 hours past WvW reset, my client finally gave up the ghost and crashed with an ‘unrecoverable graphics error.’ Guess it finally exceeded 32-bit WinXP’s memory limit. (God, I need a new computer.) A couple minutes went by as I restarted the game and logged back in, naturally quite dead at spawn, but confident that FA would have been wiped.

They made one more attempt, with our siege quite completely totaled by now, and again [PiNK] popped in to save the day and wipe them, thanks to that beautiful waypoint.

That was the time our exhausted guild mostly logged off, as some other people trickled in. TC may or may not hold the keep over Oceanic/SEA time as that’s a notable and known gap in our coverage, but well, that’s WvW for you.

All in all, for that time period, a massive team effort by everyone on Tarnished Coast, working in coordination across the maps. And I am proud to have been a small part of it.

TSW: Bogging Down in Blue Mountain?

Not really, but I couldn’t resist the pun. I’ve been having the time of my life in this zone.

(Some spoilers are going to follow, so you know what to do. Hell, stop reading TSW posts if you don’t want to be spoiled, because there’s no way to talk about this stuff without describing it.)

In no particular order:

Visited a half-built casino pyramid thing, and discovered it was full of red-con monsters that is probably either a lair or meant for group killing.  Hung around the scaffolding being very careful not to aggro anything, and watched a Templar try his lone luck on them. Didn’t work. If I ever get around to meeting people in this game, it might be fun to try them together some day.

Found two world bosses and a rare, the latter I killed, the former I gave a wide wide berth.

Little tip: All of them showed up as a yellow crown with a star. LOOK at their health bar before you try taking them on.

The average mob in Blue Mountain has anywhere from 5000-7000 hp, going up to 10k for the elite, champion-y, but still soloable types.

Mr Tide Lurker has 387,481 hp. I didn’t want to find out how much damage he could do. Not today, at any rate.
This gruesome undead bear drags itself around like a snail trailing green ooze. At 309,985 hp, I’m not going to be the one putting the Decomposed Kodiak out of its misery. Not alone, anyway.
8484hp? Only? Lemme at ’em! Bastard of the Brine turned out to be a rare with an associated achievement, not just a named, which was nifty.

Encountered a mob named Sallowskin, iirc, that was a really good fight and challenge. He kept spewing these gobs of green poison. The first time I fought him with my usual melee tactics, didn’t see any white outlines and kept getting caught by the poison effect as I dodged out, and melted so fast I couldn’t believe it. The second time I dodged and kited a bit more, but was still having some trouble, because I was doing it by the rocks and water. It’s hard to see the poison radius in water, and the final killer was me accidentally dropping into deep water (no skills!) while he offed me. Bastard.

Finally, I came back, looked carefully at my surroundings and said to myself, why the hell am I fighting him where I am? Cleared the beach area of two zombies for a proper kiting venue and pulled him onto ground and kept a big distance from him. From range, it was suddenly crystal clear that his big ability was an AoE poison patch centered on himself, not targeted at me as I had feared. Kited with Anima Shot and Fire in the Hole. Took longer, but was in dramatically less danger. Suddenly, he was ridiculousy easy. Revenge was sweet.

The main adventure of the day was dying 5-6 times in the Moon Bog, while stubbornly returning with various build and strategies until I figured out how to kill every damn thing in there. Which was exceedingly satisfactory.

I could have just skirted the edges of the Bog and killed the easy mobs only. Or come back later overgeared. But the real point I was after was to understand the place and learn the challenge of it as I was.

The bog at night. Pretty dark. Might match Wurm Online, even. And me with no mining helmet, somehow all I ended up keeping from that faction quest was a dumb flare gun that doesn’t work anywhere.

It turns out that mastering the Moon Bog is all about positioning. (For me, at any rate. Your mileage may vary. You may be a lot more pro than me.)

First things first, the bog is full of pools of filth, leaving only thin strips of safe land and a couple valuable islands. Stepping in the filth applies a DoT to the final tune of 300hp and probably a debuff to rub salt in the wound. Staying in the filth allows the effect to stack. Not fun.

The weakest type of mob in there are the Infected Contaminators, Violent Infected, and other such mostly melee zombie variants.

Standard tactics work for these guys. Just pull, they run to you, you kill them. The only special trick they have is that they’re Filth-infected, so after death, step back from them, rather than rush up to gleefully check your loot. Else they explode the filth debuff on you, which is annoyingly inconvenient and delays your health regen a bit longer.

The Shades are more annoying. The first thing they attempt to do is Pull you to where they are, which is in the pools of filth with said debuff , and it’s a right pain to struggle out while getting attacked. They may also try to move out of melee range, though it is quite possible to slowly whittle them down with Anima Shot/Fire in the Hole. But that’s no fun, we want to chop them up with sharp edges!

Eventually, I ended up using City of Heroes tank-pulling tricks on them (it’s probably the same in other MMOs, mob AI is somewhat predictable.) Turns out they only drag once, they Pull at the very moment they get aggroed. So we use the line of sight (LOS) counter-pull.

1. Snipe

2. Hide Behind Tree

3. Swim, Shade, Swim!

4. Profit

One thing I’d say for The Secret World’s mob AI, it’s pretty immersive-real. They do try to adjust now and then, but two can keep playing the LOS game, and they want to shoot you as much as you want them to step onto dry land.

Jump-shooting and landing out of LOS also works in this game, just like in City of Heroes. Me happy.

There’s an Ender Thing that walks around in the swamp on a circular patrol route. Looks a bit like a mutated nightmare of a stitchglass weaver from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, makes a sound on dying that is reminiscent of Minecraft’s Endermen.

Its hp is nothing special. It throws a couple attacks, also not too big a deal, one is a targeted-on-you filth AoE and another is a cone attack of some sort, I think, dodging should be instinct by now. The main challenge is to keep the area that you’re going to be attacking the Ender Thing clear of all the other weaker mobs, so that they don’t also aggro while you’re busy kiting and dodging from it. Then wait for it to patrol back around to you. Hope nothing respawns in the meantime.

Mud Golems. Now, these guys, I was having some trouble with. And one of them was in the way of a side quest, which made me doubly interested in figuring out how to solo them.

They’ve 10k hp, throw up a big hard-to-dodge-out-of mud slick that hinders/slows you (centered around themselves, though, this is key), and once hindered, they get to slap you around silly and impair you seemingly every five seconds or so.

After some experimentation and death, I eventually figured that kiting was the way to go with these guys. Difficult as it is, in the bog. Prepare by clearing the weaker surroundings mobs to prevent excess aggro later. Make sure one has enough space to run around because there’s going to be lots of circular mud slicks on the ground later.

I ended up swapping out my blade elite Spiral that does impairment, and putting in the AR grenade Slow the Advance which Hinders, very helpful to keep these guys slow. I also threw out my regular AoE Fire at Will (who the hell wants to AoE stuff in here?) to put in the CC break/immune for 7 seconds utility skill, which is helpful to clear stacks if accidentally slowed or inadverdently stepped into bog filth and DoT’ed.

Then shoot and pull golem, Hinder as often as possible, and basically run around circle strafing it until it splashes its mud slick, and pull it to another clear spot on land and rinse and repeat.

Executed well, it can die with nary a scratch to yourself. Okay, so there were a lot of half health battle struggles before I got the combination just right, but sometimes these games surprise me in just how well their RNG seem to read your mind. This very first successful kill dropped a blue Resilient tank bracer. Subsequent attempts didn’t yield much beyond whites and the odd green.

But I leave happy, and unafraid of the Moon Bog.

Unlike Ms Mortal Hypochondriac here.

What can I say? Too bad you don’t live in Paragon City where all the civilians never die. Not being a superhero in the Secret World is tough.

The other bit of excitement was dying, oh, I dunno, 15 or so times to the Jilted Bride in a side quest that is related to the Moon Bog. I’d previously encountered her in another side quest, where she basically chases you all the way to the manor, and she wasn’t at all a problem then. The only mention of her is in a Secret World forums post that suggests she’d been nerfed since beta… perhaps the developers missed a pass on this incarnation.

This particular incarnation was posing quite a problem, mainly thanks to the “Abandonment” DoT affliction she liked to throw up. It takes about 1-2 seconds for her to cast, so the interrupt window is very very short, and it subsequently slows you, impairs and deactivates all your skills, then slowly ticks down 250-300 magical damage per tick, to the tune of a good chunk of my 3300hp. One Abandonment from her leaves me at 1700ish. Not good at all. And she really liked to use it, with nearly as much frequency as an Ak’ab likes to Dash. She also leech heals or heals over time or something, which usually isn’t too much of an issue because I just unload more damage, but quite impossible when you’re melting at an alarming rate.

Now her, I’d suggest that she’s a touch… OP. I cheerfully contributed to the data metrics that will hopefully highlight abnormal death frequencies in a particular area, while I tried various means of defeating her.

I have a hunch that perhaps healing or barrier skills might help to mitigate the affliction, but as I confessed before, I’m not a very good healer – I didn’t feel like practising a whole set of new skills just for her, and a brief glance of the inner ring skills didn’t show anything that dispels affliction or DoTs (though I might be blind and have missed something.)

Instead, I tried consumable heals, consumable barriers and even went as far as to throw on all the tank gear I had, in the hope that the extra hp reservoir and the magic protection on a couple talismans might help to mitigate it.

Not really, though the 4800hp reservoir was helping the most, but my damage was promptly sucking as she kept healing it back up.

I tried to use LOS whenever the Abandonment spellcast came up, worked once, then didn’t work so well as the irritating spectre got stuck halfway in a wall that left her perfectly able to hurt me, but me unable to target her. Grrr.

Tried running down the stairs and leaping out of the second story window to break aggro for a bit – hilariously, this let me heal up for about 2000hp before she navigated her way out of the house and came for me in the garden. Unfortunately, the moment she got within range, she flung Abandonment, with foreseen tragic results.

I eventually ended up swapping out my assault rifle to use the recommended pistols to stack 10x corrupted debuff on her (which reduces the efficiency of her healing), and wearing tank gear to the tune of 4300hp or so, and got lucky in impairing and interrupting her first Abandonment, and managed to unload sufficient damage to kill her then. (I cannot remember if I used a consumable heal/barrier, I may have been cleaned out by this point.)

Ding dong, the witch is dead! *pants*

Her, I do not wish to repeat.

I’ve no illusions that I can manage a consistent kill on her. Not until I get a lot more AP and SP and gear. (I could have left her for later, but I was just feeling like being stubborn and testing beyond the limits of my current build.)