It’s funny, but I feel like I have so many game-related things to do – games to play, games to grind in, games I haven’t played for a long time but would like to revisit, game videos to watch, beta games to beta – that I keep resenting the feeling of obligation to get a daily post out.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from a week of doing this, it’s that I much prefer a 2-3 day posting schedule so that I have some in-between time to reflect a bit more, chew on things and ponder, before I can build up enough excitement/motivation/intriguing revelation that I want to share in a blog post.
Do you find it difficult to play a role outside of your typical class choices? This can be in an MMO, MOBA, single player RPG or any other game that uses class as a distinction for gameplay.
The short answer is, it depends.
I have a distinct class/role preference that I normally gravitate to first, in any game, especially when I’m just trying it out for the first time and want to play something within my comfort zone.
Specifically melee damage, sturdy/tanky, with preferably a side helping of support and/or control.
A Brief Word on Role Definitions
The holy trinity of Tank/DPS/Heals is too ‘binary’ for me, in the sense that I dislike the co-dependency of the ‘pure’ holy trinity roles. I would definitely lean more towards the tank + DPS side of the spectrum, but just saying that loses the usefulness of drilling down into specifics.
I’m fonder of using the more modern damage/support/control/(utility) role definitions, or a more City of Heroes style definition of tank(aggro control)/tank(absorb alpha strike)/damage(ranged or melee)/defending(support+heals)/control/debuffs to break things down into broader functions.
On Wading into Combat and Being Supportive
I gravitated to tanks quite early on, but if you asked me what I really enjoyed about tanking, it’s the following:
Being big and sturdy and leading the charge into combat
The sense of being able to control the battle from within the thick of things, to position enemies where you want them, to drag them to a corner or wherever (aggro control being a part of this)
Being able to thump things with a big badass weapon
Inspiring and supporting teammates from within the fray
Being able to take an immense amount of punishment and remain standing, outlasting the opponent and ending victorious
What I hated (and still do) about tanks:
The sense of being codependent on a healer to keep you upright, just being a big but squishy health bar reservoir to be kept topped off or blam, everybody dies
The feeling of obligation to know a dungeon well, in order to bring your little lost sheep (aka the rest of your party, who seem exceedingly content to be handheld through the experience instead of being equal partners) through safely, and to set a ‘good’ pace, for unfamiliar people whom you have no idea whether they like or hate your speed or lack thereof, and may be silently judging you
So generally, you’ll find me playing non-holy trinity games where everything comes with a side helping of damage so that you’re not helplessly waiting around for another person to ‘complete’ you, and looking for tough, high hp melee fighters that can apply control and/or offer defensive or offensive support.
On Spreading Out and Being Flexible
I enjoy variety and novelty and learning new things, and am a chronic altholic, so it is quite natural and easy for me to diversify roles. I just pick something that has most of the things I like, plus one or two switchups in role/function.
Ok, let’s do melee dps, but be squishy and stealthy instead!
Or let’s do ranged damage, but be relatively sturdy and have a lot of support/control/buffing functions up our sleeve!
Or let’s be tanky, but in a ranged fashion, summoning lots of minions to do your tanking/damage for you and control/supporting from the back!
Strangely enough in FPSes, I enjoy the sniper role a great deal, but rarely get to play it in a successful manner due to my ping and general lack of superb twitch aim.
So I have no real qualms about roles that involve sitting at the back and throwing vast amounts of damage and sniping or nuking things either.
One hit kills, be it from melee or range? Yes, please.
I enjoy the tactical and strategic aspect of waiting for the perfect moment and the payoff of the “BLAM, let the bodies hit the floor.”
Any roles that involve a great deal of fire-throwing? Absolutely, I have a little closet pyromaniac in me.
(I figured this out when I was playing fire tanks in City of Heroes where you get to burst into flame, /fire powers where you get to thump things with FIRE, fire blasters which throw great balls of fire and sheets of flame around, and fire/fire dominators which control things with the power of flame and smoke, summoning itty bitty demon imps made out of fire, and yes, deal damage by blowing things up with fire.)
The Role I Just Can’t Bring Myself to Play
There’s just one, the antithesis of my playstyle preferences, that I just cannot tolerate for long.
And that’s the -ranged- squishy pure support healer that is reliant on adopting groups and other players as their pets to tank and do damage.
Ranged is slightly discomfiting, but I can deal.
Squishy makes me feel useless if I keep dying.
What? I do damage like I’m waving a tissue paper around? Why am I even bothering to fight things then?
Whack-a-mole on health bars is not my idea of fun “combat,” since it’s more staring at the UI and less actively affecting the world…
… and are you serious, I have to rely on other people being competent and not braindead in order to make any headway? I can’t solo? Can I have some NPC bots to heal instead please? I think they’re likely to target faster and do more damage…
I wouldn’t mind damage/healing at long range, though it’s a role I’m not likely to play often or favor first. At least you get to do -something- in between healing, and watch/affect the flow of battle from afar with good timing.
In a similar fashion, a sturdy tank that hits like a wet noodle and only focuses on aggro generation and control and is heavily dependent on a third party keeping them upright with a constant stream of heals is also equally boring to me.
I could probably play it, in the sense that the role functions are familiar and fairly second-nature. But I’d definitely begrudge it after some time.
Fortunately, there are a lot more games out there that have broken away from the holy trinity and realized that players can deal with multiple roles, applying the appropriate skill at the appropriate time, making combat both more interesting and complex, and also allowing for -anyone- to be the hero and come in and save the day with good gameplay (be it throwing a heal or revive, tossing a crowd control or doing damage at the time when that function is most called for.)
This post was brought to you by the letters B for Belghast and Blaugust, I for Izlain and “I keep forgetting to add this last line until I edit the post” and the number 7.
In retrospect, it amuses me that I have so many screenshots of herding in City of Heroes.
I suspect the whole concept was fairly amazing to a ex-MUD player who was used to running (or “raiding” in today’s MMO parlance) a single big, bad and powerful mob with a group of 5-8 players.
In City of Heroes, the whole thing was inverted.
There were a LOT more enemies, but they were mostly minions, mooks of very little consequence attempting to swarm an impervious superhero.
Herding was a heady and powerful drug for a tank (if deadly boring to everyone else waiting for the one player to do their thing.)
Since I tended to fall on the exceedingly bored and frustrated side of the spectrum every time I played a non-tank in a group, I usually adopted the “run from spawn to spawn” routine in my groups and saved my power-tripping for solo expeditions.
Solo herding was also a good way for me to practice the then new-to-me concepts of using line of sight, corner-pulling, and experimenting with whatever scenery caught my eye to see if clever usage thereof would fool mob AI into doing what I wanted them to do.
To this day, I still greatly enjoy the control aspects of a tank, much more so than the typical I-need-to-trust-a-healer-to-keep-me-upright sort of tanking in more standard MMOs.
Yep, I even did it outdoors.
The blindly running swarm in a line is somehow so satisfying.
I did that, it declares to the world. These mobs are in my power.
Of course, it helped that City of Heroes made some characters so overpowered that they could get swung at by 15 mobs and not see a dent in their health bar.
As long as you did -some- damage then, the outcome was a forgone conclusion.
NBI Writing Prompt: Are there any unexpected combat tactics that evolved in your MMO?
We’re going to be talking team roles here for smoother, less agonizing runs.
Just to clarify here, this is not the ultimate strategy guide, follow or else kind of thing. I believe in multiple strategies working well and GW2 supports that. If you play with various guilds and preset dungeon groups, one will tend to find that these closed groups evolve their own set of strategies that work perfectly well. This is just to help those who are close to beating their head in after failing multiple PUGs and wondering if there is -any- rhyme or reason to this dungeon.
I mean, you could just run in all willy nilly and hope that everyone magically synergizes and all will be well. But judging by the amount of failure cases and party members bailing mid fight and GW2LFG posts that read “at such-and-such boss, need 1 or 2 or 3 more,” here’s what I’ve observed so far:
There’s basically “It” and “Not-It.”
That is, the person whom the mobs are focusing on is “it.” This person usually has the highest toughness of the group. You are the de facto tank. No matter what your class is. Stop screaming and learn how to play it well.
The other people who are “not-it,” that does not mean you can relax and leave “it” to scream and die. If “it” dies, another one will become “it.” And so on until all of you are dead. Your role is a damage-support hybrid.
I speak of support in a very broad sense. Broader than even the typical GW2 use. I don’t care if your version of support is killing the mobs very very fast in all berserker gear, but if you choose to do that, you better do it very well. Better yet is if you can slot some group condition removal or blinds/dazes/interrupts/controls or reflects at certain points in the dungeon, and/or ways to buff up the party and debuff the mobs with conditions, along with doing damage.
All of you will need to move well. Or at least, competently enough.
Aetherblade Trash Mobs
Generally not too big an issue. Taskmasters confuse, so if your group loves to put stuff on auto-attack, it’s a good mob to prioritize killing first, if you’re not just going to AoE ’em all down in tons of cleaves and blasts. Projectile reflection and absorption appear to help mitigate some of the damage from the ranged Aetherblade mobs too.
The pain happens in the spawns with Aetherblade Strikers in them. Their lightning channel is not a projectile. It WILL kill your tank unaided. Especially if two are on him/her, with everything else. Support support support. Offtank it or get a pet to, daze/stun them, blind the eff out of them, pull them, interrupt them, focus fire, whatever. It’s especially fun with a taskmaster in the mix as well, call targets if possible. Prioritize both of these, one after the other.
The Practice Room With Thumpers and Cannon Fire
If your team is awesome, you could really just charge into it all and sidestep the cannon aoe. It may be good practice for some people.
My random team here kindly demonstrates two possible ways to chokepoint the mobs and avoid the majority of cannon fire. I’m sure there’s more.
Just hanging in the corner and/or running under the bridge/staircase also works to LOS stuff, but cannon fire may hit.
Please learn the art of the corner pull if you do not know how. This means everyone gets out of sight, preferably in the same spot behind a corner, so that ranged mobs will walk towards you.
The tank, or just a ranged guy, range attacks the mobs and then trots back around the corner with everyone. The mobs will cheerfully follow and you can then pile on with melee and AoE. Just keep an eye open for cannon fire in case some person gets out of position accidentally. Corners and GW2 camera angles can lead to blind spots.
Mid Boss – Champion Frizz and Golems and Lasers, Oh My
Some groups may prefer to clean up all the adds before working on Frizz. Others may simply start off the lasers by lowering Frizz’s health to the requisite amount. Apparently the adds die from the lasers after a while. I’m not 100% sure on that last, but certainly after a while, they seem to die in all my groups – whether it’s from teammates killing them or not, dunno. Doesn’t really matter, imo.
Phase 1 – Low Lasers
Yes, you can jump on the crates and stay there and range.
All except IT, that is.
If the aggro-holding person remains rooted on a crate, what will happen is every time the laser spins around, the golem will get a shield buff and block attacks.
Yes, you can just autoattack your way through it and wait for the buff to fall and damage it intermittently between laser spins. It’ll work, but it’ll be annoying.
Ideally, de facto tank should be running in an anti-clockwise fashion, following the laser spin and kiting the golems away from the laser. Your role is not so much as to do damage, but to a) not die, b) try and dodge or stability, or just stay far away enough through potential pulls which may screw up your nice pattern.
This leaves the golems free of the shield buff, leading to faster dead golem. All the rest should be a) not dying, b) attacking unshielded golem.
Phase 2 – Laser Wall
Same idea here, except all the not-its cannot just camp out on a crate.
Run around the room. Don’t die to the laser wall. Shoot or melee golems. Don’t get in the way of their spin attack or their pull. Help “it” stay alive. Watch confusion and dat autoattacking.
Phase 3 – ALL OF TEH LAZ0RS
I want to point out something rather obvious that I personally never saw while I was running/screaming/dying as the tank. The lasers go in a straight line across the room.
That means you only have to keep an eye out for essentially two lasers and that sneaky low beam laser, well, if you see one side, you can roughly extrapolate where the other side is and how soon it is creeping up behind you. It is not two evil low laser beams acting like clock hands that sweep at random speeds out to get you and have to be madly jump-crated (which was my first impression of it.)
That also means that you can then evaluate whether you want to stay on the crate and let the low laser sweep by you, or hop off immediately on the safer side (the side where the low laser will move past), or if you have to jump to the risky side (the side a low laser will be approaching) and make a mad dash to a further away crate – the latter option in cases where say, the laser wall is about to squeeze you in if you jump to the safe side.
Ok? Same deal. Tank guy should be kiting the golems away from the lasers as best as possible. Should, anyhow. Focusing on not-dying is, frankly, I think the best thing to do in this phase. Try and get the laser pattern down, jump on crates and off them appropriately, keep as near the front as the laser beams will allow.
Everybody else. Also focus on not fucking dying (easier said than done, I know) and watching out for the shield buff to drop to unleash your attacks on the golem. When you are confused, do not attack yourself to death. Just look away from the damn golems and look at the lasers and stay alive.
The pull is a nuisance that gets in the way and will screw things up here and there. Stability helps, but you know, it will never be 100% uptime. Bad luck happens.
If “it” dies, role swap time! New “it” gets to be the tank and kiter! On and on until there were none. (Either way, no golems or no more players.)
Of course, if you are full of awesome, you might even be able to solo the golems. But then, you wouldn’t be needing to read guides like this.
Final Boss – Horrik and Mai Trin
This is really a fight about aggro control and positioning.
Mai Trin bleeds if you stay in her melee range. That means, if your teammates plan on getting close, and even in the case where you don’t but want to prevent accidents, bring lots of group condition removal. My suggested help out time is when bleed stacks hit 10-12.
Tank person who is it. Your job is to be kiting Mai Trin. Possibly at range. At preferably just a little further away than her melee range. You want to be kiting her over the electrical blue AoEs that will pop up when Horrik shoots his stuff.
Not-its. You generally want to get as close to Mai Trin as possible as well, be it range or melee, so that if and when Horrik shoots his AoE and it happens to be a blue one, it’s easier for tank person to kite it over. As her shield stacks fall off to 6 or lower, she starts taking damage and it is possible if very very slow to lower her hp down, regardless of whether more shields pop off or no. If you want it faster, then you have to take more risks to getting the blue aoe to overlap on her.
Once conditions start landing on her, one can cripple or chill to slow down her movement over the blue aoe as well, or if you’re really sophisticated, you can play with taking off her 5 stacks of defiant and then dazing her over the aoe and so on.
One interesting spin-off role that a good “not-it” can play, that I’ve been evolving, is a way to control the damage done by Mai Trin’s shadowstepping. You are THE FURTHEST PERSON. Please make sure you can dodge and observe her animations. If you can block consistently (or leave mesmer clones to absorb the attack or whatever), even better.
See, what usually happens is that the “worst” or most nervous and/or squishiest or lowbie character in the group gets all twitchy and starts edging further and further away from the mess. Before you know it, BOOM, she shadowsteps into that person and eats him or her for lunch. Then now everyone has to drop everything and waste time rezzing, and when you rez, you risk becoming the furthest person and ZAP, another teleport happens and… well, it gets MESSY.
My theory is, what if we prearrange a good or at least, sturdy player to be that furthest person? Note, this cannot be it, or the tank. A not-it gets to step up.
Your job is to arrange yourself so that you are the furthest person at all times. You primarily watch out for her animations (which can be hard with all the particle effects flying) and do your best to dodge (forwards, seems best) when you see her do the characteristic finger point which means she’s going to come to you. If you manage to time it right, and the projectile hits during your dodge invincibility frame, you seem to actually block it and she doesn’t teleport at all. If it’s not timed right, well, at least you’re out of the way and won’t get too bled up when she comes over. Have condition removals for her bleed and cripple in event of accidents. She will then promptly go right back to IT. (Secondarily, you can do damage as well, of course.) If you have blocks on demand, this makes your life even easier.
As for the Cannon AoE phase, there’s two methods. If you are really sure that your entire group has nearly equal ping to yours and will be applying group swiftness and group healing, and can stay all nicely neatly balled up together, you can run around the perimeter together staying ahead of the AoE. It looks really really awesome if done correctly. What usually ends up happening, just as in WvW zergs, is that you don’t get a nice neat little ball, you get a train or a snake. Someone falls behind. This someone is promptly PWNED by all the aoes that have carpetbombed the place. Depending on your group, this may end up as multiple someones.
I have actually found it much safer in PUGs, where people could be from all over the world using computers of differing quality and framerates and certainly not on voicechat and used to stacking and moving as a ball together, to do the spread out and move as little as possible method.
What usually happens is a person in each corner and one in the center, more or less. Just move the distance necessary to a clear spot away from the aoes, and stay still until the next aoe is about to hit your position. Save your dodges for when there is no way out that you can just move to. Survival rate is usually 3 or higher, which is sufficient to rez safely during the next Mai Trin and Horrik phase.
It goes without saying that one should NOT BE REZZING while the place is being napalmed. Survive first, only save people if you think you see an opportunity and are awesome. If you die doing it, then well, leave them for later next time.
Rezzing strategy: Tank/It, you do your kiting thang. Other people rez. Other people must also be KEENLY aware of Mai Trin’s finger-pointing so that one can dodge or block if you become the furthest person while rezzing.
Really, all this does is waste shitloads of time. Don’t fucking die. And if you are not awesome, don’t fucking bring your squishy lowbie into this dungeon.
Please note that in all of this, I have not expressed ANY CLASS-ISM whatsoever. Stop fucking begging for guardians and warriors or heavies. Some of them may not be IT-specced. I have seen some awesome necromancers and engineers also kite and control Mai Trin perfectly well. I’m sure other professions can do it too, I bet a mesmer could as well, just haven’t seen it in play yet – except you know all the rest tend to love sitting in berserker gear.
All it requires are players to recognize the de facto role that their party needs and be flexible.
You are always “the tank.” Mobs glue onto you. 6 pieces of Knight’s gear and melee proximity is all it usually takes.
(Failing which, I throw on my WvW soldier/clerics with soldier runes, which are nearly always guaranteed to exceed nearly anyone else’s toughness rating, at the expense of losing significant amounts of damage – I only consistently lost it once on an Arah 4 run where some guy had decided to wear Sentinel armor. And didn’t have great reaction times on kiting sparks. Now that was “fun.”)
Usually, I don’t mind. I’ve tanked before in other MMOs. And you know the saying, if you want something done right…
It just can get VERY wearying in a GW2 group if you don’t have sufficient support. And you grow bitter because you end up convinced that you are carrying a bunch of selfish damage builds by sheer herculean dint of protection-laying, self-healing, reflection, blocking effort until you go down, and bounce back up again because someone revived you, to do it all over again and go down again and up, and on and on.
If you do have sufficient support on the other hand, it is usually a cakewalk. Go in, buffed up to the gills, everyone AOEs and cleaves, voila, stuff falls over dead, everyone’s still sturdily standing after.
The problem with tanking is that it’s also hard to have sufficient leisure time to study any fight mechanics from an outside observer’s perspective, because you’re too busy trying not to fucking die.
I tried bringing in my spirit weapon guardian in berserker armor.
Well, the damage is a little higher by traiting in the new 50% damage spirit weapon trait, but I was rather miffed I had to give up the vigor on crit trait to do it (need all the endurance one can if one is squishy, y’know?)
The main problem I ran into is that everyone expects a guardian to tank, and if you sit around chilling your heels, they wait around for you too because they’re just as much wusses as you.
If one was lucky enough to run beside someone else who took responsibility for the aggro, it seemed to work decently well. Sword teleport into strikers and sic a hammer on them to keep them interrupted and the lightning channel disrupted. Spirit sword did aoe damage, spirit shield absorbs projectiles and weakens the group, etc.
The other issue was that you give up a shitton of survivability sitting around in berserker gear. The cannon phase was not great. One accidental misstep = death and disaster. And in a PUG, all it takes is one guy running around like a headless chicken to screw up your careful stepping pattern and screw you over.
I died consistently and just couldn’t shake off the feeling that this was making me look like a clueless noob in everyone else’s eyes. I also felt too much at the mercy of how the entire party was built. Random group is random. Berserker, imo, is really for more coordinated groups.
Money spending on alt time.
I’d built up to 36 gold in the last few days, and promptly spent 24 of it decking out my WvW warrior in a new dungeon/gear build.
There seemed to be very little consensus on appropriate warrior dungeon builds, especially since the traitlines just got shaken up recently, so I ended up designing it based on my objectives.
Evil Plan: Dump aggro. Stay alive.
Nagging Angel on Shoulder Reminder: Offer group support for the poor schmutz who ends up tanking.
There were a number of multiple goals behind this. As I said, I wanted to observe other people in the tank position to see what they did – learn their tricks and observe where they stood, etc. There was the vague hope that I would eventually luck into a party with a competent tank and maybe pick up the Personal Space achievement.
And I figure if I want to learn other dungeons eventually, it’s good to walk in as primarily dps over a tank position, where you know, everyone expects you to magically know what to do.
(Side benefit, pug groups where the guy who becomes “it” doesn’t know how to handle it become hilarious. You either watch them get better at their class, or we all wipe together over and over until mass ragequits happen.)
How did I achieve this?
Zero toughness. I didn’t want to go full berserker for reasons of personal survivability worry. So strange combination incoming – Valkyrie/Magi.
You see, I decided I was going to go axe/horn and rifle. I’d previously leveled with axe/axe and rifle and was the most familiar with those weapons. (Reserving the greatsword for my second warrior.)
Horn does fantastic condition removal when traited for it (converts to boon, even), and AR is full of highly annoying conditions for the whole group. Rifle is useful for single target damage on fights which require one to be ranged.
I also decided to play with banners, so I went a full 30 into Tactics with Inspiring Banners, Quick Breathing and Inspiring Battle Standard. Turns out if you run two banners like this, you can pulse and build up to around 30 seconds of regeneration on everyone. Quite crazy, really.
I am suddenly super melee buffbot, an interesting variant on the City of Heroes Defender which was ranged buff/debuff. On a sturdy group, the added power and precision banners should make stuff die extra quick. On less study groups, I can also switch to the healing power, toughness and vitality banners in the hope it helps them some. Running For Great Justice adds on extra fury and might for all.
Layering on healing signet helps me pulse regen heal and I have a hefty vitality hp reservoir to stay alive with. I suppose I could also add on another layer of regen with mango pies, but haven’t felt the need for it yet.
Alas, crafting the Valkyrie armor cost a 12 gold bomb (better than buying it off the TP for 18 gold, I suppose), and ruby orbs are slotted in all 12 locations to push oneself more toward the damage “expected” of warriors. Crit chance is not great, at 30%, but remember, fury pushes it up to 50%, and crit damage bonus is 80%. Won’t match a pure berserker, but imo, respectable enough.
What really blew up the bank was deciding to splurge and buy the three most expensive superior sigils to put on my berserker weapons for some 15 gold. The axe has a sigil of fire, and the horn has a bloodlust sigil. 250 power if I get to build up stacks pushes attack and damage higher. I’m not convinced the sigil of fire is that awesome as yet, but I’m keeping an eye on it. Worse come to the worse, there’s the black lion salvaging kit because the weapons ended up cheaply bought via WvW. The rifle sports a sigil of energy to help endurance for dodges since I have the fast hands trait as a side benefit of going 20 in Discpline anyhow.
It’s been a useful experiment in terms of group observation ability.
Everybody else pretty much becomes “it” as most are likely to have a shred of toughness somewhere.
If they don’t, then they are obviously running some variant of berserker and are very damage-focused, so it becomes the equivalent of an 8 blaster team in CoH. Nuke it all (preferably from ranged) or die trying.
I’ve been able to see necromancers step up and tank and kite. Even an engineer or two. In one hilarious group, the mesmer clones and ranger pets and Ellen Kiel were holding most of the aggro – though disaster hit when the one ranger with the pet holding the aggro didn’t know how to appropriately handle the golems before everybody died.
I learned a whole lot from those groups which I couldn’t see before while being the center of attention though.
And we will be discussing those strategies in the next post.