Sabetha, on the other hand, terrifies me.
Yep, this lone unassuming figure hides a fight of intense mental overload.
This encounter tears right through any pretense of contribution and reaches through the screen to challenge every single member of the ten person raid group. Every. Single. One.
The primary way it does this is to create a huge number of things to keep track of at once, in practically every corner of the screen, not to mention your skill bar at the bottom, and oh, the actual fast-paced action happening right this very instant in your center focus.
When you walk in new, it is massively overwhelming.
Even when you’re not new, it can still be pretty durned overwhelming.
It is up to each individual raid group to choose how and if they’re going to distribute specific areas of focus to different members, preferably in such a way that the person can cope with the number of things to manage on their plate.
Difficulty shoots through the roof if the raid pretty much just asks every member to keep track of it all.
We deviate immediately from the holy trinity, as there is no tank for Sabetha.
It’s not her autoattacks you have to worry about. She never moves from the center of her platform, so there’s no mob positioning to bother with either.
One healer is brought along to cover mistakes, and everybody else is buff-dps or even-more-dps.
The first thing you have to worry about: her Timed Bomb attacks.
A red “Timed Bomb” message pings up in your chat box, white “Timed Bomb” words slowly scroll across your screen as a big orange circle appears, with a quickly expanding darker orange circle inside. And yeah, there’s that graphical icon thing over your head too.
Once both circles meet, it explodes.
It doesn’t deal that much damage to the target, but -wrecks- anyone else within.
So instead of everyone running away from this and losing dps, the target is expected to move the hell away from the group.
Someone discovered that she throws this on the person with the closest proximity to her. (Presumably to spoil everyone-stack-and-melee-mindlessly tactics.)
The tactic that has evolved is to ask a fairly sturdy person who is already meleeing anyway to stay in the closest proximity (aka usually stacked right on top of her), while everyone else stands at max melee range.
In other words, the PS warrior (berserker) that is likely to be coming along anyway as a might-stacking banner bot.
That’s *groan* usually going to be me, since I lack the mental capacity and finger adroitness to play more complex classes like elementalists or engineers, and gravitated to “Hi, I r warrior, I headbutt things and thump things with a great big sword” gameplay.
The amount of reaction time you get, with oceanic/SEA ping? Not terribly much.
You need to be anticipating it, and once you see the orange circle, you go, pronto. You can’t quite rely on helpful white words appearing in the center of your screen, it’ll be too late.
Instead, your best prompt is take your eyes off the action and sneak a peek at the chatbox to see if the red words are there, and the little hissing noise it makes (like one of those cartoon bomb fuses.)
Then you best be gone.
(You do still want to check because there are also plenty of other orange circles appearing from other attacks, and you’d be mucking up your job if you ran off on the wrong cue.)
Did we mention that the warrior skill rotation makes heavy intense use of the channeled Hundred Blades skill, which you -normally- want to let complete uninterrupted as the last strike does extra damage?
Moving interrupts this, and normally I’m trying to train myself to let it complete properly and not jitter around nervously (because my guardian main doesn’t have that issue, and any other dps class that uses the seaweed salad consumable -should- keep moving in order to get the 10% extra damage boost.)
But if you see the Timed Bomb, you gotta stop and go and give up that Hundred Blades. Easier said than done if you’ve tunnel visioned onto your skill rotation, or conversely gotten distracted keeping track of one of the many other things going on.
The only piece of good news is that greatsword 3 Whirlwind Attack is a pretty fast way of getting out and quickly moving from point A to point B.
Point B preferably being an area with no other players in it.
I’m still not picture-perfect at this, and tend to end up giving the one player away from the group a heart attack 50% of the time by spinning near them, while both of us screech to a halt and try to break off in opposite directions to avoid a collision.
What’s that one player doing?
Well, they are worrying about what Sabetha does to the person at the -furthest- proximity from her.
Every seven seconds or so, she’s tossing these flaming fire fields in their direction. Standing in them burns. Duh. As in, applies nasty stacks of burning which add up and really hurt. The standard “Don’t stand in the fire, guys” that I presume (without any experience whatsoever) is part and parcel of many raids.
So they’re kiting these things away from the main group in a circle and doing damage at range to Sabetha too. Different groups assign different classes to this function – I’ve seen it done by a druid healer, as well as a condi necro. Presumably any ranged attacker whose player knows what they’re doing and won’t die works.
The rest of the raid isn’t given a free pass once these two mechanics are dealt with.
Every 30 seconds, in a pattern best laid out in Dulfy’s Sabetha guide, a cannon spawns on a higher platform that has to be dealt with, or else it will start firing a whole bunch of orange circles in a cone-shaped spread on that part of the platform.
Not only do standing in these orange circles hurt, once the incoming cannon shots land (so the standard GW2 ‘avoid orange circles’ concept applies), but they actually deal damage to the platform itself, as measured by another bar.
Once the platform health reaches zero, it collapses and the raid wipes.
So it is both a sort of soft timer (you can’t run around forever, the platform will wear away eventually) and an encouragement for raid groups to deal as efficiently with the cannon mechanic as desired. (There is a sort of hard mode achievement for leaving one cannon alive and managing to kill Sabetha too.)
How do you deal with the cannons?
Through a teamwork mechanic. Bandit sapper adds spawn every now and then, targeting somebody to throw a bomb to. Said person receives a green circle around them, and their special action key lights up with an icon.
Apparently they like to spawn in the direction opposite the target cannon and throw it to the person closest to them.
In some raid groups, you might find the person already kiting the fire fields will also take on some of the responsibility of being near the sapper and catching the bomb, but frankly, once a fight is in progress, it can be a bit of a random crapshoot. That person may not always be available or in position, and basically -anyone- might happen to be closest to a sapper and catch the bomb.
So -everybody- is expected to know what the hell to do with it, if they get it.
Basically, you run up close enough to the appropriate launchpad, and toss it with your special action key onto the person whose job it is to deal with the cannons in that direction.
Who should be also positioning themselves there at the same time. (They can’t be there too long beforehand, as it’s again dps loss, and they might also catch a fire field of instant death from being the furthest from Sabetha.)
The green circle moves from you to them, the bomb flies over to them, and triggers the launch pad and they bounce up… and then glide over and land on the cannon platform to deal with said cannon.
The view from the west cannon platform, sans cannon and sans Sabetha, in a cleared instance.
Then they get to glide back to join the fight, catching an updraft for a boost or to delay their landing if needed.
Why do they need to delay their landing?
Well, every so often, depending on how much health Sabetha is down to, THIS happens.
She screams “Burn, Burn!” as your warning cue, and an arrow will appear, targeting a player (or a pet, for extra unpredictability.)
Shortly after, a big wall of insta-kill flame sweeps around the arena a full 360 degrees in an anti-clockwise direction.
It’s basically a vertical plane of death. Players can’t glide over it, can’t dodge through it, can’t stand inside Sabetha, it hits ’em all.
Odd unlucky things have been known to happen with this arrow. Just today, it failed to appear on my screen, so I had no visual cue to react to and I just insta-died because I was busy standing inside Sabetha worrying about time bombs.
(I suppose a better player might have known when the time bombs were coming and when Sabetha was likely to output a flamewall, but I’m very much -not- well-versed with this lady.)
We’ve had the flame wall target a pair of people mid-bomb throw (much ouch – theoretically controllable if we were all super-pro players who knew when and how to hold back dps while this was ongoing, but in practice, more of a “welp, that was unlucky, wipe and restart.”)
And we’ve even had a glitch now and again with an invisible flamewall in once place, while showing up someplace else visually, thus disintegrating the unlucky individual or two who had no idea it was there. “Wipe and restart, yet again.”
It generally works ok, about 95% of the time, and fulfills the function of forcing all players to either react quickly and step to the left of the arrow, then shift just a little to the right as it finishes its sweep, and/or run around in a circle a few steps ahead of the impending wall of doom.
What it does rather successfully do is confound many players’ sense of direction after they’ve been spinning around in a circle, especially if they’re new, and/or keeping track of many other things at once.
Remember, actually knowing cardinal directions is important because if said player gets the bomb, they have to go to the correct cannon launchpad to throw it.
How exactly does each player figure out cardinal directions, and how quickly can they do this?
This is one of the major challenges of the Sabetha encounter, not so much a tank-dps-heals holy trinity encounter.
The player could use the minimap… but that involves taking one’s eyes off the fight and possibly getting smited by an AoE they didn’t see, and making sure their minimap was fixed and doesn’t rotate as they turn.
After a considerable amount of confusion my first time at Sabetha, I tried to figure out if there was a more original Guild Wars 2 solution of using the visual environment itself as a cue, so my player focus didn’t have to be staring at the UI and distracted from the fight.
Most directions look the same on first glance, all gloomy and bandit tree fort.
North is the easiest to recognize, as it has a bright red banner hanging as a visual cue.
This is east. No particularly distinguishable landmarks, beyond the entrance to the platform on the left (northeast).
This is south. My personal cue is the little greenish glimmer of the Ley Line Rift on the metal walkway. (On looking at it again now, it also has an entirely missing right pillar/netting thing.)
And this is west. I guess, it, erm… has more tree leaves…
Turns out, I can barely remember or distinguish such teensy little details in the split seconds needed to find the correct platform and toss the bomb, especially when the whole world is lighting on fire and there’s orange circles everywhere.
Raid groups try to minimize the processing time on most members’ parts by asking the raid to stack on a person and pre-face the cannon direction that is upcoming.
Cannons go by a known S, W, N, E, then a S, N, W, E pattern and repeat. (Purposefully confusing pattern must be purposeful. Frankly, I lose track most of the time and rely on the designated raid caller to announce it.)
Post-patch, raid groups have one more trick up their sleeves, having been given raid markers.
In our particular raid, a designated lieutenant marks out the current platform to be throwing to, and shifts it about as the pattern changes. This, I think, does help processing time for some people, loading most of the mental work to that one lieutenant.
I can easily see other raid groups using colors instead of cardinal directions, and going, “ok, throw to blue now!” or “throw to purple!”
Still, the lieutenant has to know how to orientate him or herself, and I was really relieved when I found a method that did work somewhat well for me, even without markers.
Basically, know where north is at all times. Look for the red banner. Kinda keep it in view most of the time, keep it in mind if one has to shift about.
Maybe it’s just how my brain works, but I realized that once I knew where north was, the other directions could then be easily derived from north. I am ever so slightly better at passing the bomb now, even if I do have a tendency to tunnel vision on swinging my sword and forget that bombs exist.
Different raid groups also designate different amounts of people to deal with cannons. You’d think four would make sense, one for each launch pad. But that relies on four people not screwing up.
Hearsay has it that some raids use one of those grey exploits where one player can deal with three cannons by clambering on tree branches and gliding and some such, presumably at the cost of said player not doing dps on Sabetha.
The raid group I killed Sabetha with initially tried four, which worked iffily, and has dropped to two people alternating cannons, who are very practiced at that role/function. Everyone still has to be on their toes to throw the bomb to them, though.
Assuming the raid group has managed to cope with those main mechanics and drop Sabetha to the next magic health level, she switches out and brings her first flunky in, Kernan.
This bandit (apparently it’s a she? I have no idea, it’s not like I can actually see much mid-fight) does a thief-like pistol attack, a spreading cone that starts narrow and ends wide.
It’s a very GW2 solution to this problem. Ideally, you dodge through her and to her back, avoiding the whole frontal cleave. Less ideally, you sidestep or side-dodge away.
Of course, this tends to fuck up your sense of direction more.
Now that I’ve had a few more Sabetha fights under my belt, I’ve had the time to observe her animations and anticipate a little more her attack. She’ll lift her two pistols up and point them in the direction of the person she decided to target. So if she’s pointing at you, now’s the time to vamoose and not wait for the orange cones to appear!
In a fashion similar to Gorseval, the fight ramps up slightly with Heavy Bomb objects that spawn on the platform. They don’t hurt players, but take off chunks of the platform bar as they explode. So, yet another player is usually designated to “Kick” them off by hitting the F use key on them. Again, more of a unique GW2 thing.
Get past Kernan, and Sabetha reappears for round 2, rinse and repeat the whole shebang with Heavy Bombs in play (and Timed Bombs, and cannons, and fire fields and so on.)
(Oh yes, she reappears and does a flame wall WHILE Kernan is still alive with a sliver of hp left. So now your group has to deal with the flunky’s special mechanic and be trying to off them, while spinning around in a circle.)
Knuckles is the next flunky and we’re back to breakbar management again.
Fail to break the bar and he’ll launch the whole raid near him up into the air, and possibly off the platform.
Pre-arranged coordination of sufficient ccs is best as his bar comes up two or three times in relatively quick succession. “X goes first, followed by Y, and the rest of the group” or something similar.
Importance of control? Pretty decent. Enough to make it a contender.
Finish with Knuckles, dealing with Sabetha’s flamewall while Knuckles is still up, and the fight continues, now with -two- Timed Bombs. So at least two players have to be on the lookout and move them away from the group.
Karde is the final flunky and she has a flamethrower cone attack, dealt with in similar vein to the first flunky.
She also spawns those turrets of bullet hell.
Just like in Gorseval, one or two people are tasked with object clearing duty.
All out madness is released once Karde is down to a small amount of health remaining, Sabetha returns with her flame wall, Karde is still running riot with her flamethrower and turrets, and rocks fall from the sky.
No, really. Little orange circles spawn all over the platform, heralding bits of falling debris that will smash through your health bar if you’re still in the circle when they crash down on your head.
There’s fire everywhere from flamethrowers, flamewall, flame turrets, and -yes-, the cannons are still going and have to be dealt with, Karde has to die to cease -some- of this madness, and let’s not lose sight of the original goal, to off Sabetha before she enrages.
Oh yeah, don’t die.
That’s important too.
I get exhausted just describing it. 🙂
Proponents of the holy trinity might say, “Well, this is what you get when you don’t have clear cut tank/dps/heals roles.”
Truth is, for the most part, I think the Sabetha fight would be fun in a GW2 action-y way without the mental overload from the cardinal direction cannons.
Most of the mechanics used in the Sabetha fight are very GW2 specific ones – reading animations, movement, dodging, break bar, F’ing objects, avoiding orange circles, and test that sort of reflexes/action-based combat.
It adds up to a very different style of fight from the more predictable holy trinity style combat.
Layer attempting to keep track of the cannons on top, and that’s about the limit that my overtaxed brain can deal with.
I suppose, over time, with raiding being a team sport and all, that if one is able to trust that each raid group member can handle their own unique parts, my brain might be able to relax enough to stop worrying about keeping track of cannon directions and to just look for the raid marker, knowing that someone already handled that part of the equation.
Right now, my brain still likes to be in “Grok all of Sabetha” mode, and it’s really too much for one person to handle.
I suspect this reason is why different people just randomly up and die every now and then, early on in the phases, causing our raid leader to call for a wipe and reset. Again and again.
(I’m guilty of some of those. Sometimes it’s tunnel vision causing slow reaction. A few times it’s just wonky glitches or rubberbanding.)
Fortunately for my sense of self-esteem, all of the members of my current raid group are prone to human error, and have all taken turns slipping up. This does wonders for my innate insecurity and need to seem/feel competent in group content.
Unfortunately, this does add a certain level of frustration to a Sabetha fight, because one early death (which can be quite prone to happening in a group of ten people) means wiping and restarting over and over. A lot of the mechanics are insta-kill, so there’s no recourse for last minute rescue from one’s teammates, and who slipped up is super-obvious.
(This can be, of course, pretty dangerous a scenario for toxicity in the wrong group.)
In my usual explorer fashion though, I’ve found that a massive weight has slipped off my shoulders the instant I scored that first Sabetha kill.
That’s it. I’ve seen the content. There’s no more novelty taunting me.
I’m essentially done. Everything else is a bonus.
(Still need one more Sab kill where no one dies to get the Eternal title. Maybe some chievos. Continue to join raids to socialize, help others, tickle the achiever by accumulating kills slowly, but the pressure and stress has evaporated.)