GW2: Dry Top Analysis – The View From T4

Night time in Dry Top (taken within a peaceful instance, of course.)

Phew. It’s been a week of self-imposed OCD effort, but I think I can finally relax and play at a less obsessive pace now.

You see, for the first three days, the thing that caught my attention primarily was the story. The instances, which I happily played solo, and then replayed again for the ‘hardmode’ achievements.

(Used more in the context of GW1’s hardmode, as an extra optional challenge using the same assets, rather than them truly being hard – though the jumping puzzle ones in the second instance, Fallen Hopes, did have me ripping my hair out for an hour.

The bloody thing was aptly named. My hopes were dashed against the rocks repeatedly… like my body.

I was worried for a bit that the 2h achievement buff would run out, and ended up resorting to Dulfy and finding out that one could ‘cheat’ and stack time on the air crystals – which made it a little more doable than trying to trial-and-error jump step by step without crystal or guide help.)

Then I turned my attention to exploring Dry Top, its events, the Favor of the Zephyrites mechanic and its rewards.

My first response at seeing how much everything cost in geodes was stress, frustration and a sense of mounting helplessness.

Just HOW was I supposed to get 110 or 130 geodes for just -one- account bound cooking recipe, when the events I was doing seemed to give only 2-3 geodes per completion?

And that price assumes I can somehow find my way to a map instance where the merchants are Tier 4 at some point or another before interest dies out and the place loses the critical mass needed to ever push the map to T4.

Otherwise, the solo option is to slowly and steadily grind out geodes over hours and hours of Dry Top farming and then pay an additional gold penalty through the nose (I don’t run dungeons very frequently, I’m about 10-15 gold poorer daily than those that do) just to get ONE recipe.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that a solo alternative exists. It’s -doable- even if we’re talking about a long term effort on the scale of earning 25-35 laurels for a single piece of Ascended jewellery.

I just didn’t want to do it that way.

Too slow, not immediately gratifying enough, and I freely admit to a completionist impulse that will try to ‘complete’ anything that I think is vaguely within my reach.

And I liked the options being offered.

I have a bevy of alts all at 400 or 500 crafting just so that I have the option to craft whatever I want without being forced to rely on other people or the trading post. I like collecting cooking recipes. I like the option of being able to look up GW2 food in the wiki, scanning to see what stats would suit me in a particular situation and cooking it up on the spot if needed.

I’m not like most players, who settle on one build, one or two consumables and thus find it more convenient to just buy the relevant stuff from the TP without bothering about crafting ever. If I run into a situation like the Queen’s Gauntlet, I want my dodge food and I’ll cook it, rather than pay the temporarily inflated prices from the sudden demand. If I suddenly need lifesteal food, or increased damage while moving food, or whatever weird demands the Living Story throws at us, I’ll cook the small portions I need.

Toughness, Healing, Vitality gear is a bit more interesting. When I see those stats, I immediately think of ‘bunker’ and possibly aggro holding, though I’ve yet to personally test whether it’s possible to hold aggro with it given the lack of damage a pure THV user would face. I think ‘very tanky.’

At the moment, I surely wouldn’t replace my zerker gear for it, because no situations I encounter call for such stats yet.

But personally, and this is just a personal opinion based on a hunch rather than anything founded in evidence or data, I think many players are blinded by the current zerker meta and do not see the potential of the healing power stat. Which admittedly scales badly on a number of skills, but less badly on others – which can be quite significant when all taken together, a rolling selfless daring guardian with high healing power can do a very surprising amount of healing, fer instance, plus additional oomph if he pops his book.

At any time, Arenanet can shift the meta if they want to, by adjusting a few numbers here and there, maybe improving the scaling of healing power even further, or whatever.

It’s not useful -now.- But later?

Anet is known to read the pulse of their community very well, even if they don’t immediately respond and the changes in-game are very gradual, like a big oil tanker trying to turn. People complained about zergs, and now we have slowly and steadily attempts at zerg-breaking and spreading out players while trying to encourage them to self-organize into smaller non-zerg groups, with varying degrees of success. I don’t believe they enjoy the present ‘damage uber alles’ unity over their damage/control/support trinity that was originally posited, though I doubt they’ll react so fast and heavily handedly to force things back into a super boring holy trinity of tank + dps + maybe heals either.

But I would not be surprised to find optional achievements coming down the road that relies on someone having the option to become very tanky and healery, for example, (no one can complain if the stuff is permanent and can be replayed at any time when they have the right stats for it) though I certainly hope that a more convenient build saving and gear wardrobe solution comes in first – I’m running out of invisible bag slots trying to maintain 3-4 sets of stats for each character.

Because of this belief, I want Nomad stats. Just like I collected Zealot stats. It’s a long term investment, and I might be wrong, but I’ll go for it anyway, to have the option one day if need arises. I’ve always liked being tanky anyway.

I probably won’t and can’t bother with Ventari’s, because Ascended is so much more expensive, and seems to have a certain demanded niche for WvW commanders and select WvW builds, whom are all willing to pay a lot higher premiums than I can, but we’ll see.

Role-wise, I prefer PPH a lot more anyway, do damage AND heal/support, over TPP, do damage AND tank, or THV, tank AND heal/support.

There’s also always the option of mix-and-matching, but so far, I haven’t bothered to think that deeply and theorycraft to that level yet. Zerking works in the open world and in dungeons so far, we will stick close to the meta… until the meta changes. As all metas eventually do. (Which many forget.)

Long story short: I want to buy everything that the Zephyrite merchants offer.

That’s an INSANE amount of geodes!

Thing is, now that I know that’s my goal, I’m willing to see what other viable options I have to get there.

If it means grouping and playing in an organized fashion for more rewards, I can do that, since it’s not the -only- thing I’m being forced to do in order to get any geodes at all, it’s me being drawn by greed and convenience to put up temporarily with little annoyances I might not like otherwise.

The big question was: How am I going to find said organized group?

I tried my ol’ stopgap, lurking in the TTS teamspeak, but was somewhat disappointed to see a lot more interest for repeated Teq and Wurm runs (now that the timers have become more flexible) than a 24/7 organized Dry Top.

That’s all very well, TTS was meant to take on big world bosses after all, not be a collective place to do every single organized group activity possible, so it’s the leaders’ prerogatives to lead and schedule what they want. I can join them as and when I have an interest in running those world bosses.

With that, I found myself back at the level of an ordinary non-networked solo player, feeling somewhat helpless and at a loss to affect the world around them.

The good news, such that it is, is that I’ve been noticing something interesting going on with the megaserver selection in the Dry Top map.

I don’t know if it’s due to just an increased player interest leading to more players visiting, thus letting the megaserver sort players like how it’s -supposed- to work, but I kept encountering A LOT more familiar Tarnished Coast guild names. Hell, I kept seeing a few of my -own- guild members running around, something that almost never happens otherwise. (Perhaps because I’m nearly always in that map, and when they visit, they get shunted into the same map that I’m camping out in.)

So since there actually seemed to be a bit more of a server community in existence, I tried a bit of communication, if not leadership. I kept posting non-obvious information to the map, from the Reddit Dry Top T4 timers thread, to alert the map to the existence of events going on at specific times and hoping that people would respond somewhat. (I don’t blue dorito, sorry, I just can’t deal with that level of cat-herding aggravation.)

Which worked up to a very limited point. People seemed to stir themselves slightly as they saw the Favor level climbing tiers, and that effort managed to push the map to a more or less respectable 3, though it certainly was never as organized as a ‘proper’ T4 map and thus T4 was always out of reach from the get go.

That seemed to depress people after one attempt and people more or less stopped trying.

See, the bad news about the megaserver and Dry Top in particular is that people come to the map for different purposes. Many are just casually chasing their story missions, a few more are after very specific achievements or buried chest hunting, leaving insufficient people interested and committed enough to pushing the Favor mechanic up to a high tier.

Nor is what you’re supposed to do very obvious. Where are people supposed to go? When? What’s in it for them if they get to T4? Are these recipes all there is?

Plus a conflict of interests. Maybe I’m not interested in any of those recipes on offer at the vendor, and just want a fancy spectacles or scarf instead, and would rather spend my sandstorm time hunting for buried chests?

So the first obstacle, if you’re interested in a T4 Dry Top, is to get yourself onto a map where 80-90% of the people have the same objective in mind. Achieving a T4 Dry Top.

We’re down to exclusion by effort again. A lot of non-obsessive casuals will not even think or bother or realize that such a possibility exists, nor will they have means or times to get there.

Pre-megaserver, I suspect certain server communities were successful because people who were interested -knew- that there were certain crowded servers that they could specifically guest to, if they were interested in completing something. With a few simple button clicks, there they were, in the correct map (or at least trying to bang their heads against and taxi in, if it was full) full of people committed to achieving the same thing. Over time, as people exited and others entered, one would keep stacking the map with people committed to achieving that one goal.

Post-megaserver, we -still- have to do the same thing, but with more effort. Left all alone, bereft of no network interested in doing a T4 Dry Top, it’s very easy to just throw your hands in the air and give it up as unobtainable. Subtract one more player who might have been interested once.

Me, I was a little more desperate. I tried guesting. Maybe Blackgate would have more power-leveler-y achiever minded people. Yep, the Dry Top tier here was one higher than in my home map, but still not T4. Maybe Sea of Sorrows, since I was playing at Oceanic times? Nope, no go.

I would have loved to try to hop over to Jade Quarry or Yak’s Bend or -somewhere- else beyond that, but I was out of guest passes for the day. Dammit.

So it was down to camping the LFG tool.

Which is a really sad case of refreshing over and over, hoping to see a kind person offer a taxi to a T4 Dry Top, or conversely posting that you’re looking for one and hoping someone will pull you in.

The good news is that since this seems to be the -only- means of getting a T4 Dry Top for a lot of people, a small amount do seem to be willing to reciprocate and set up a taxi chain, especially when the map starts running dry as people leave and they’re desperate to get more new blood in to refresh the map.

From there, you start building a network all over again, if only a light ‘spy network’ of friending names you keep seeing turn up at the same times – so that you can see when they’re in Dry Top and roughly estimate if there’s a T4 Dry Top going.

Is this painful? Yeah. More than a little. It’s a lot easier to just log into a Teamspeak and see a bunch of names in a channel labeled with the appropriate activity and then ask for a taxi into the map. It might be a lot more ideal if the map ips and instances were more transparent, and people could just queue once to join maps with others that shared a particular organized group interest/objective, rather than break your mouse button trying to taxi into a map.

Of course, the only drawback to simplifying stuff like this is that by making it so complicated, only the truly obsessive and dedicated are willing to jump through all the hoops and self-select themselves into the same map. That generally leads to a slightly more intelligent level of play than the average map and a better than average chance of success. I don’t know if we’d end up inflicting failure on ourselves by letting more not-very-committed players easily join up, hoping to ‘leech’ as some might term it, by giving below-average amounts of effort.

Dunno. I guess it’s up to Anet to figure out and players to adapt.

Though I do hope we never adapt to the point of outright exclusivity based on gear or stats or class, or easily kicking people who don’t meet whatever particular requirements some other random player had in mind.

I’ll settle for the sneakier exclusivity based on effort. Want in? Make the effort to find the way in. That at least suggests the player has a decent amount of resourcefulness and smarts, and is committed to completing the same goal at the same time.

So… what happens when you do get in?

A cycle of events is performed at each quarter hour.

First up at :00, 15 and :30, tendril, race and moa.

The tendril event is the sneaky less-obvious event, which does scale up and become harder if more people congregate to it, so the design imposes some player self-interest in keeping in quiet and unannounced. Usually, I get there to see either I’m alone or upwards to 7-8 other players, which is still more or less manageable if everyone’s on the same page.

That is, to kill all the smaller roots before the big main veteran root.

This yields the bonus. If the main root is killed before that, it will bury itself and replace an existing smaller root. Surprise surprise, you get to kill it all over again, and this time, no more bonus.

The “bonus” by the by, is an interesting mechanic. It’s the ol’ partial reward thing again, reinforcing full rewards if you play the way Arenanet hopes you’ll figure out how to play, and giving you a consolation prize if you don’t – except put in a much more palatable form of “you get a bonus” if you manage this.

The concept being tested here is the ability to target select, dodge red circles, as well as listen/communicate to others.

Almost always, there will be one or two people who will try to go for the mob with the big orange swords over its head. Almost always, I have to quickly type out ‘kill the small ones first for the bonus’ and amazingly, almost always, they actually respond by target switching and killing the adds. (Amazing, I know. Such is the quality of players who have chosen to come to a T4 map. It’s not that they’re dumb, they just weren’t informed or aware of the mechanics yet.)

The trick, of course, is that the big root will throw a whole bunch of heavy damage poison projectiles at you if you stay at range (which you often are, when killing the small ones.) So now you have to stay mobile while killing – which imposes a bit more of a dps pause for melee users unless they can kite well in movement, and balances the playing field for ranged users outputting more sustained damage.

And you can also demonstrate knowledge and mastery of projectile absorption by using skills to soak the projectiles – though projectile reflects are more iffy as the veteran root can easily kill itself with two good reflected bursts of its own attacks.

The most obvious event in Dry Top.
The most obvious event in Dry Top, and correspondingly most crowded and played.

The race to get zephyrite crystals before the Inquest do is the more obvious event, sitting right next to a waypoint and a more well-traveled area next to “town.”

This is interesting because it places a decent amount of stress on crowd control.

Yes, if you zerg the event and try to burst down all the Inquest before they get anywhere, that is also a form of crowd control. But if a champion or elite Inquest happens to pick up a crystal, grabbing a boulder or using a skill for a knockdown to force them to drop the crystal is a lot easier than trying to work through all their hp before they run off.

And a brief immobilize can also sometimes help to hold one for long enough to be bursted down.

Being able to throw crystals also leads to the possibility of setting up a pass-the-parcel chain for them, but that never happens in practice. It’s already pretty good if people realize that they can aim their crystal properly and throw it right into the basket. (Hint: set up fast cast ground targeting and hold down skill 2 while moving your mouse and position it properly ON the basket.)

Concept test: Being able to use ground targeting to aim at a precise spot. You can see all the people choosing to run to the basket and press F failing this.

Finally, everyone trundles over to the moa.

The strategy has evolved so that everyone can get at least two event completions in these five minutes, though a really fast and savvy player can tag all three. (If enough smart people are at the race though, they’ll finish before the tendril people can get there.)

The moa, as some have praised enthusiastically, is a very very obvious concept test of hard cc.

See that orange bar on the UI? That's when you interrupt.
See that orange bar on the UI? That’s when you interrupt.

If there isn’t at least a few players in your group that have the ability to do a stun, daze, knockdown, knockback or pull consistently, and are able to pay enough attention to the UI to see the bar that announces when the moa is going to run off and respond in time…

…well, the moa is going to do a roadrunner on you – you can imagine it going “BEEP BEEP” in a taunting fashion as it runs off and heals to full health.

The zerg solution, of course, is to bring as many players to it as possible, in the hopes that at least a -few- players will have the right class and skills up to perform this.

This one frustrates me a little more, mostly because I’m a bit more helpless when I run as my sword/focus scepter/torch zerk guardian. I generally have to rely on someone else to perform the mechanic well. I suppose I -could- switch to greatsword and see if the pull works, but I’m just not really built for interrupts. I do, however, quickly swap out “Stand Your Ground” for “Signet of Power” which has a knockdown and can be fired off in an emergency. It’s a long cooldown and can’t consistently fire every phase it runs, but there has been twice or thrice now that my slow interrupt is the only one that is fired and saved the event that way.

An offhand pistol thief with skill 4 works wonders though, along with other more cc heavy classes that actually know how to use their cc.

At :05, :20 and :35, it’s Serene, Froggy, South Mine and Queen.

Everybody nearly always skips Serene, for obvious reasons. Slow ass escort, up in a really inaccessible place with bad jumping puzzle memories. It’s soloable or small groupable, if a lone person finds themselves up there and feels like helping, but probably not.

From the moa, it’s easiest to branch off to Nochtli, the froggy in question.

Some self-sacrificing individuals do head over to the south mine, apparently, to free the zephyrites and so on. Maybe. I don’t know. I generally don’t follow that route.


Zerging down Nochtli makes the event very easy.

Concept-wise though, Nochtli is a fun test for solo or a small group.

It has a lot of quick direction changing cone atttacks that will knockback, so circling around to the back of your opponent is tested.

It has a period of invulnerability plus small orange circles to not stand in.

That period often telegraphs the next phase which most people have trouble with – the big orange circle where Nochtli jumps up into the air and comes down, knocking everybody off.

In theory, the intended way to do this is to time jumps carefully. That’s what the big red orange arrow pointing up is supposed to indicate. I freely confess I totally DID NOT get that message until I saw someone else attempting to time jumps.

Anyway, timing jumps is a latency bugaboo. I suppose it’s something for fun I might try when Dry Top empties out more and see if I can get the timing down, but I simply DO NOT trust jumping.

There are, of course, other options. The guardian option is to enjoy stability. Lots of it. Stand your ground and Hallowed ground, timed just as the red circle phase starts, will get you through the first two such incidents with no problems. The third is a little trickier if nothing’s recharged yet, though stand your ground might have, and there’s always coordinating with another guardian (which was how I got the achievement first time around, three of us happened to be there, and two of us were guardians.)

Blinding powder on thieves is also supremely effective, I hear, as it just pulses blind constantly and will cause all its jumps to miss -everybody- rather than only saving a select five using stability.

As a zerg, everybody just fires off all this stuff at once to stack blinds and stablity and combined damage plus a time warp bonus turns the hylek into froggy mincemeat.

Not that we’re arguing, we need the bonus favor for the zone mechanic.

From Nochtli, folks head to the colocal queen nearby.

Yeah, I play zerg events with crappy graphics. So happy the Living Story Season 2 isn't -all- zerg only.
Yeah, I play zerg events with crappy graphics. So happy the Living Story Season 2 isn’t -all- zerg only.

If someone grabs the old colocal tooth quickly, before too many players get within range, this apparently affects the hp scaling somewhat and makes it easier to burn down. Or so someone said once. Given how freaky wurm scaling was, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some bugs like this happening under the hood still.

Regardless of how much health the colocal queen happens to have on any one go, it’s a zerg it down till dies affair, with generally a bunch of people going down with every pounce and charge/rush. Unless, and this is just a suspicion, there’s someone tanky in melee that happens to pull aggro and manages to hold it in place and survive the pouncing.

There have been a few times where the colocal queen sat in place for a ton of people to burn down without harm, and while it isn’t obvious, I suspect there was a Soldier or Knight or Cleric armored guardian or warrior soaking up damage sitting in place right along next to it. Just a hunch though.

I do know if I happen to draw aggro – and for some unknown reason, I can draw a phenomenal amount of aggro when scepter/torching on my zerk guardian (is the dps THAT high?), I end up in a mad dodging scramble up and down ledges, testing my dodging sideways ability to its absolute limits, losing a chunk of health every time I screw up, and eventually dropping after I screw up and/or run out of endurance. Sometimes people rez me, sometimes I just waypoint and come back. Such is zerker life.

(The day they make a fight less close to a convenient waypoint though… that’s going to be more of a pain. I forsee a lot of whining and complaining before any adaptation stats-wise.)

Once the colocal queen is down, many folks will rush off to the south mine to see if they can get a tag in on that event if it’s still going. Often it tends to fail if no one else has been working on it in the meantime.

At :10 and :25, it’s the north mine and basket events.

Me, I’m usually on my way from colocal queen to the basket, because it’s best to be in place before the time hits, as one technician grabbing supplies from a basket and running off into a portal means the end of the bonus.

This is a very strange event, because of the scaling. If more people show up, this event gets a lot harder. It’s in everyone’s interest that as few people show up as possible, which usually means only the most savvy show up and leaves everyone else dead ignorant that this event even exists.

Soloed or duo’ed, this is quite easy. Technicians are just normal mobs, there is only one basket to concentrate on, burn down the technicans, burn down other nearby mobs, and the Inquest morale bar will drop very quickly and finish up, with the bonus.

As five or more show up, two more baskets will float down on parachutes, one near to the original basket and one on the top rock shelf. (There is a ramp up that the technicians will run up.)

I've taken to camping here because almost no one else does. I've seen one person up here before when I was down there once. And once, another person joined me. Countable on one hand.
I’ve taken to camping here because almost no one else does. I’ve seen one person up here before when I was down there once. And once, another person joined me. Countable on one hand.

From observation, it is super-easy for players to miss a technician grabbing a crystal from one of these other baskets and losing the bonus that way.

I’ve personally taken to camping up on the rock shelf and singlehandedly stopping technicians from reaching the top basket, and sniping down below at the original basket to help – which sometimes works, but I can’t do -anything- about the last basket, and sometimes still have to watch helplessly as a technician out of my range scampers off with players below missing it.

Looking down to snipe the original basket spawn. Turn around every now and then to make sure a technician isn't on the way up.
Looking down to snipe the original basket spawn. Turn around every now and then to make sure a technician isn’t on the way up.

Concept-wise: This is a cc and target prioritization test.

I use a scepter. I can immobilize a technician before they even reach a basket and it’ll die or be very close to dying by the time it gets there. If someone has a knockback or pull, they can yank the technician off the basket. Prioritizing technicians and killing them off yields a bonus. Killing the closest red Inquest thing may work on the bar, but lose the bonus as the sneaky little technician gits run off into their portals.

The north mine is a very interesting event.

Folks tend to zerg it, mostly because the alternative nightmare is a zerg at the baskets, and that doesn’t sound very fun at all.

Also, as a zerg, there is more damage that can be focused on killing the appearing ambushing Inquest quickly, plus the off chance that an elementalist capable of using water fields actually exists within the horde.

You see, and it took me a while to realize this, the Zephyrites you need to escort out are crippled. Anything with a condition on it, will not regenerate by itself when out of combat. Effectively, these guys will not heal up unless -players- heal them up.

Since healing power and healing skills are so derided, almost no one in the zerg is capable of healing, except a WvW elementalist that can use water fields and people who blast in them. Or the odd guardian who actually realizes this and switches to things like the book heal – though we’re still talking fairly pathetic heal numbers while in zerk gear.

This usually results in a lot of players running around like headless chickens, trying to kill Inquest faster than they can damage the Zephyrites, accidentally leading Inquest into doing area of attacks while a Zephyrite is cowering nearby, running by soaking up 5-player limit heals meant for the Zephyrites, and a lot of dead Zephyrite bodies, failed bonuses and failed events.

Unless, of course, the zerg is big enough to do a lot of lethal damage to any Inquest mobs that show their faces and happens to contain a few maniacal water field healers. MORE PEOPLE TO NORTH MINE PLZ.

Concept tested: Protection and careful NPC escort, healing actually being useful. Cheerfully being failed at least 50% of the time.

Despite that though, it’s possible to hit T4 as long as the whole cycle is repeated and there are more successes with bonuses than the odd failure here and there, and will almost always hit T3.

This post is getting way too long, so I’ll leave off discussing the special stuff that comes out during the sandstorm. Mostly they’re reward events, zerg and burn with a few simple mechanics, meant for collecting 8 or 10 geodes per event for reaching T3 or T4.

I did think it was rather interesting to see the pre-sandstorm events sneakily test various control and support concepts that are not very stressed in ordinary everyday PvE.

I think this is only the beginning, and the tip of an as-yet unexplored iceberg.

GW2: Candidate Trials Redux – Berserk Guardian Edition

As mentioned in a prior post, I’d been having a good time with T2 “on farm” with the warrior, who is a hybrid mix of axe berserker and banner/horn support.

A couple days ago, I decided to use some of the “free” 400 gems from the achievement chest to buy a doubled support buff and dump in my support tokens. (One at a freaking time, which led to a hasty rebinding of my mouse wheel – thank you Razer profile management – to left click. Lots of left click.)

407 more clicks to go...
407 more clicks to go…

After I finished, I noted there was still 15 minutes left on the buff and decided to log off the character to save the time for the next round of support token dumping. Er, voting. Whatever.

Except that I had outsmarted myself in my miserliness since I had used the buff on my farming warrior.


Well, it was way past time to upgrade spikey charr again.

I open world PvE with him a lot, in magic find gear even, and while playing with spirit weapons is fun during the actual combat portion, I couldn’t help but notice that I ended up swapping in Retreat! and Save Yourselves! in between battles simply to get from place to place at a decent clip.

Trying to fit in all the spirit weapon traits also meant I was giving up a decent amount of sword-related and survival/might buff traits too.

Plus, my original fiery dragon sword was reskinned from the cheapest exotic sword I could afford at the time of my first 80 (a mystic forged Rusttooth – yeah, power, vitality, condition damage. Hem.) The focus had equally scatter shot stats and cheap sigils.

And I may have been more than a little drunk when I put four major sigils of divinity on my berserker armor as an experimental stopgap for more expensive superior sigils of divinity. In the cold hard light of relooking at a past decision and numerically adding stuff up, I was getting +20 to all stats, which is a mere blip to performance, most likely, barely noticeable.

Definitely way past time to upgrade.

Ruby orbs went on all six slots of the berserker armor. Berserker trinkets. Used badges of honor to buy new berserker weapons – sword/focus, scepter/shield.

The biggest expenditure, as usual, was the superior sigil of fire and superior sigil of bloodlust on the sword and focus respectively. I’ve gotten fond of the fire sigil after enjoying it on the warrior, but I believe it is possible to do without. It just makes farming mass numbers of mobs a little easier. The bloodlust sigil should be a priority to anyone wanting to solo this with high damage though. 250 power makes quite a difference.

I went cheaper on the ranged weapon, superior sigil of air on the scepter and superior sigil of accuracy for the shield to increase overall crit chance.

New traits:


Zeal 10: II – Fiery Wrath

Radiance 30: VI – Blind Exposure, X – Powerful Blades, XI – Right Hand Strength

Honor 20: II – Superior Aria, VIII – Empowering Might

Virtues 10: I – Unscathed Contender

Now, I do not claim that this is a good build for WvW, dungeons, or indeed anything group at all. With some 13k hp, you’ll probably fall over whenever something big sneezes that you failed to notice.

What this does do, is output a surprisingly good amount of damage when soloing, while having a decent amount of active defence tools for surviving long enough to burst stuff down. Spamming F1 is bread and butter. It sets stuff on fire (see all the increased damage done to stuff on fire and affected by conditions), makes them vulnerable and blinds them. You have two more blinds in sword 2 and focus 4 to be timed well. Focus 5 is an emergency 3 hit block.

Standard slot skills are Signet of Resolve for a condition clear and a big burst emergency heal. Hold the Line and Save Yourselves to keep layering protection and regeneration, F3 Virtue of Courage may also help protection-wise. Retreat for placing on aegis (see unscathed contender) and for swiftness when traveling, moving, kiting. In cases of major emergency, fire off F2 and F3 and renewed focus then fire virtues once more, but you’re probably in trouble by that point.

This performs on par with my warrior in T2 – which is admittedly not as berserk as pure berserker warriors – but really, 60 odd kills is fine for farming.


I switch Retreat for Smite Condition, which helps to deal a bit more damage and deal with the very minor conditions the Aetherblades apply at Tier 2 of the candidate trials. To address the speed issue, I use Bowl of Sage and Asparagus Salad, which has a 50% chance to give swiftness on kill and supposedly more damage when moving. If you’re feeling richer than me, you could use the seaweed salad version, but I think it’s overkill.

You could also use plenty of other food, like stuff that gives more power or might on kill, or lifesteal on crit, but I like being swift and maneuverable for this horde mode affair.

The recommendation is also to use Potent or Powerful Potions of Outlaw Slaying for a little extra oomph. (I’m not 100% positive that the Aetherblade faction classifies as bandits or outlaws, but it can’t hurt.)

T2 tactics are pretty much kill everything that appears as fast as possible. Punch F1 whenever, let sword autoattack for 2k+ damage each swing, only use sword 3 for a burst/projectile absorb when you know stuff will stand still. You have the option of chasing down plunderers with a swiftness-boosted sword, or quickly switching to scepter and immobilize/smite and autoattack, which will also pound it for 2k-ish damage a hit and kill it relatively fast.

Things to watch out for:

Aetherblade Strikers – can deal a lot of damage with their lightning channel, has a shield that will daze you if you hit it while the shield is up

What not to do. Ideally, wait for icon to flash off first.
What not to do. Ideally, wait for icon to flash off first.

You do not want to be dazed. It cuts your dps. Wait for the shield to drop, then attack. Hit something else while you’re waiting. But do not forget them or they’ll give you a bad time as the spawn keeps adding up. Prioritize them about the same as plunderers, to be dropped very quickly.

Aetherblade Thumpers – mace wielders, with a highly annoying protective shield that acts like a renewed focus invulnerable.

Getting a taste of one's own medicine. Grrr.
Getting a taste of one’s own medicine. Grrr.

Same thing. Attacking them when their shield is up is a waste of dps that can be spent downing a grenadier in the same few swings. They also seem to be a touch sturdier than the other mobs. They are melee, so they can be kited and ignored till the field is clear of more important targets.

Aetherblade Thugs – highly annoying immobilize from range, hammer knockdown in melee


These guys will screw you up by setting you up as an unmoving target for other mobs to beat on, and tangle you up when trying to get at a plunderer. Smite condition (or focus 4 or flashing blade teleport if desperate) to deal with the immobilize. Circle strafing in melee (ie. run around it in a tight circle while still in range to hit it with your sword) will generally put you out of range of their very slow to windup hammer knockdown attack, while still taking them down.

Red mortar circle – DODGE. RUN AWAY. DON’T STAY IN THERE. ROCKETS INCOMING. In berserk gear especially, you do not want to tank a single mortar shell.


You can supposedly reflect the mortars as they are projectiles, but I’ve found it easier to just get out of the circle and either continue hitting the mobs around the vicinity, or ambling over to pound the grenadier’s head in. Taking out the operator should shut off the mortar unless something bugs.

Swashbucklers bleed and grenadiers have grenades that chill and apply vulnerability and such depending on the tier. They die fairly easily so you want to be targeting them with extreme prejudice to keep the spawn sizes manageable anyway.

How about T4 though?

The new post-patch T4 was stumping me for a bit, but the two day break from anything achievement-obsessed seems to have done wonders for my gameplay.

I would first of all watch Liefbread’s video of a solo T4 with a berserker thief.

When you are done gnashing your teeth with jealousy over two-hit plunderer kills, a 1200 range pull to yank plunderers further away from aggro zones, and an on-call long duration stealth to break aggro if accidents happen, you can rejoin me in pondering how to get a guardian T4 capable.

The goal, if you will notice in the video, is to kill the plunderers very quickly and very near to their spawn points so that the other veteran mobs react as little as possible. If you kill them fast enough so that their treasure-tossing animation doesn’t complete, the treasure counter does not go down. Break aggro the moment the vets do take notice of you.

The good news is that with the above berserk build, a scepter guardian can take down plunderers solo pretty quickly also, just maybe 1-3 seconds longer than the thief does. (You may want to do a T2 to build 25 stacks of bloodlust first too.)

The bad news is that a guardian has no pull except binding blade (and it’s only 600 range and it’s AoE, yanking a vet with a plunderer would become fairly ugly in short order.)

This means your window of opportunity for killing plunderers is quite a bit smaller, and you risk aggroing stuff a lot more easily than the thief.

While lamenting the lack of anything trap-related (like I saw a ranger and a necro do with their traps/marks) and scrutinizing my skills, this little beauty suddenly came into focus for me. Shrapnel Mine. It can be laid on in advance, it cripples and even does a bit of bleed to help out.

Sure enough, using this got me past post-patch T4.

This is almost as far forward as you want to get. (Maybe a bit more to the right and forward to hit the right plunderer when needed.)
This is almost as far forward as you want to get. (Maybe a bit more to the right and forward to hit the right plunderer when needed.) You will get aggro from anything in the middle, run to the back, behind the rock, to break this.

The idea of the trap is that it trains you to anticipate each plunderer spawn. 5 will spawn from the left side first. The first plunderer on the right side shows up at around 5 minutes 30 seconds. As each plunderer spawns, they trigger the trap and that’s your cue to immobilize them, then smash down smite and autoattack them to death. Don’t bother with shield skills or anything, just let scepter machine gun them down before they can finish their animation.

Later, once you start missing the plunderer spawn because it gets so hectic, the mine can also be used to slow down the laden plunderer’s approach to its spawn point – just make sure you get the correct spawn point. A bit of memory work here, they will return to the same point they spawned from.

You may have to let the right-most plunderer go a couple of times. It’s easier to intercept both the left and middle plunderers without aggroing all and sundry.

This is about the range you want to be for the rightmost plunderer. You will aggro anything in the middle, so break aggro whenever possible to let vets wander to the end first.
This is about the range you want to be for the rightmost plunderer. You will aggro anything in the middle, so break aggro whenever possible to let vets wander to the end first.

To get the right plunderer when things are not so chaotic, approach from the middle and only go close enough to immob the plunderer on the spawn point, just a little before the exact place where it will start treasure tossing. This minimizes the aggro risk.

When you aggro, and you will, kill the plunderer if you can in a few seconds without dying, let it go if you can’t, then drop everything and run behind the rock and a bit further if you need to.

Break aggro behind rock. Retreat further back to the south tip of the land if they chase. If you didn't hit them by accident, they shouldn't.
Break aggro behind rock. Retreat further back to the south tip of the land if they chase. If you didn’t hit them by accident, they shouldn’t.

This is when I usually fire Save Yourselves for extra swiftness to break aggro and some protection/regeneration to survive. Since we’re not aiming to actually kill much of anything in T4, switching Smite Condition for Contemplation of Purity may also help to convert the thick layer of conditions that arrive once you attract aggro and keep you alive long enough to run away.

Oh, come on, you scream. Does this mean that only Charr guardians get to manage this?

The real issue, I note, is preventing those sneaky plunderers from dashing off into the big morass of veterans where you dare not attack them, and also preventing them from reaching the point where they throw the treasure for long enough to do damage to them.

One scepter immobilize only goes so far. But I suddenly noticed that a guardian DOES have a second utility immobilize in Signet of Wrath – no weapons need be switched, you want the constant range autoattack damage as your bread-and-butter plunderer killer. It has a slight activation time to get used to, but it’s a handy 3s of immobilize that comes in handy when you’ve already used scepter 3 and when things are hectic with 2 or 3 plunderers in play.

With some patience and practice juggling plunderer spawns and killing them fast enough that they can’t toss their treasure, you too, can manage T4 post-patch.

The double immobilize version.
The double immobilize version.

How about T3?

Well, T3 is sort of a mix of T2 and T4.

You can generally start like T2 and kill stuff in the center. With the amount of damage you output, you can take down a Veteran Grenadier in fairly short order. Things get dicey once the mortar starts firing and the lone Veteran shows up. That Veteran with a gun is a major bane of my existence. It confuses. I hate confuse. Don’t we all? Do anything, including try to remove a condition, and you get hit for ugly amounts of damage.


It is safest to address this one from long range. It actually has a long telegraphed animation where it will pause and charge up its gun. Then it fires a projectile that does the confusing. You could maybe experiment with reflects or projectile absorbs. Or you could try to dodge – count off 2-3 seconds then dodge. I haven’t got the timing quite down pat, but it -is- dodgable and prevents the annoying confuse.


The problem tends to be that it always shows up at the same time as the mortars and a bunch of other spawns so a lot of things are wrestling for your attention and stuff can go wrong in fairly short order. Once you start to lose control of all the spawns, it’s time to break aggro and do like T4 for the remaining time.

I still fail this one with some regularity, mostly because taking risks to defeat more mobs means that plunderers get to sneak by unnoticed and nasty stuff shoots you in the back. But it’s doable.

Zero Aetherblade weapons and counting, by the way.