The SAD Project – Day 7 – All Aboard the WvW Bandwagon

This Sunday, I dug my secondary guardian – the mothballed one intended for WvW – out of cold storage and forced myself to clean up his inventory.

oldinventory

An inventory that looked like this, and a task I was forever avoiding.

From left to right, ignoring the shared inventory slots:

Too many shapechanging tonics I’ll never use; a bunch of useless food; some giant pearls from the time the WvW battlegrounds still had quaggans in it that I’ll never throw away; a bunch of salvage items worth money that I was choosing to hoard in the unsalvaged form; old as fuck Queen’s Gauntlet tickets; a collection of three sets of exotic armors (soldiers, clerics and zealot stats) all of them now technically quite obsolete in this day and age of ascended and HoT stats; three minis from the Hall of Monuments that I never got around to throwing away when account bound minis became a thing; a set of exotic clerics trinkets that never really served a purpose beyond making me exceedingly tanky in WvW while hitting like a wet noodle; a soulbound exotic spinal blades backpack that I never converted to ascended because 15 deldrimor/elonian/silk whatsits are expensive while cheerfully and obliviously running around with a yellow rare backpack; 5 medical kit items from some NPC the intended purpose of which remains an obscure mystery to me; 75 really oldschool fireworks which I -think- a WvW commander got us to fire off once upon a time; a bunch of unopened PvP champion box loot from when I was using this guardian to PvP a little; a mordrem bodyparts extractor that I was highly unlikely to use in the Silverwastes again since the time of zerg killing underground bosses is over and bodypart collection is a pain anyway; the world’s largest collection of leftover Frostbitten gathering tools that I don’t really use while opening boxes looking for sickles; more oddball food; a now obsolete +5 simple infusion; two exotic weapons of highly questionable stat choice; 39 kite fortunes from when the Zephyrites still existed as a settlement not a refugee camp and had a festival;  and the ever ubiquitious tomes of knowledge, empyreal fragments and dragonite ore that just find their way onto every character.

Long story short, I salvaged nearly everything.

(And threw away useless unsalvageable things.)

slightlycleanedinventory

Choosing to salvage the assorted sets of exotic armor is a milestone for me.

I think it signifies the acceptance that I have now moved my internal baseline to ascended stats only.

Also, because I was intending to use the immensely useful -functionality- of an armor set that you can only get via PvE raiding in an entirely different game mode where stat swapping functionality is a lot more helpful. Thank you, Anet designer logic. (I gotta get that sarcastic snipe in -somewhere-.)

statswapping

The new frontline guardian meta is Celestial, apparently. So it was a matter of stealing the legendary armor set back from the revenant alt I wasn’t going to use any time soon, and doing the above.

If frontline guardian didn’t work out as a role choice, I was going to give roaming PvPesque burst guardian a shot, and for that Marauder is apparently desired. STAT SWAP AHOY.

Finding the ascended trinkets was slightly more taxing.

I had a celestial ring that dropped off fractals once upon a time that I had hoarded. While it was possible to buy more celestial ring/accessories from the typical route – pristine fractal relics and guild commendations – I decided I was collecting too many oddball drops from raiding and used GW2efficiency to search across my characters and bank for any suitable unused trinkets.

I found myself lacking an amulet. Again, while there were multiple options to pick from, my eventual decision was to go with a Blood Ruby Pendant from the first Living Story 3 map Bloodstone Fen. Why? STAT-SWAPPING it is possible, at the cost of 100 unbound magic for a capacitator.

That functionality is too invaluable to be left only to legendary tier armor, dammit. I think they found a nice compromise with paying a cost to do so for ascended tier stuff, while purple legendary things remain free to swap at any time.

Same deal with Ascended weapons. I decided I wanted a greatsword over a hammer, because hammer animations are a little slow for me AND because I had Saladborg sitting around unused. (Ahem, I mean the reforged Caladbolg Orchida ascended greatsword that can morph itself into dagger, scepter, sword or shield as well. Morphing at the cost of 1000 unbound magic, which allows for a change of stats then.)

The one thing I -didn’t- want, is the giant “hi-target-me-now-I’m-a-dirty-PvEr-who-has-stat-swap-functionality-you-don’t-have-because-Anet-is-a-poopoohead” legendary armor wing animation appearing every time you go into combat.

winganimation

You know, the one that looks like this, that would highlight even an asura that is intending to be sneaky.

I actually considered, very deeply, footing out 700 gems (aka 10 dollar, give or take 100 gems) for an outfit to cover up the whole set of armor.

An outfit, to me, makes logical sense in WvW when you’re trying to be somewhat generic and lost in a crowd, while still looking nice.

Then I thought, you know, it’s still against my philosophy to pay real money for anything in the GW2 gemstore until that functional inequality between raiders and non-raiders somehow goes away.

(Since there are no plans whatsoever for another legendary armor set in another game mode, I am revising my qualified statement even further down the slippery slope and settling for having alternative sets of ascended tier armor that -can- stat swap somehow, even if in a limited fashion, and for a cost, similar to Caladbolg or Blood Ruby trinkets.)

So I tried something different, spending, in my usual miserly fashion, ONE transmutation charge to swap the chest armor cosmetically to another skin.

transmutearmor

As luck would have it, I guessed correctly, the giant wing animation is indeed tied to the chestplate for legendary heavy armor, and punching the shout “Retreat!” every so often no longer painted a ginormous target over my head.

Several hours of inventory shuffle later, the renewed WvW guardian was ready for me to put through its paces.

I jumped into WvW, only to find that Tarnished Coast is… in political speak.. in a “resting and recovery phase” after an apparently tumultous high drama period of transferring guilds, getting shit on by stacked T1 servers, more transferring guilds, and god knows what else.

Oh, there were people around in WvW. There was siege all over. There was generally a tag every map. but all names I didn’t recognize. (Understandable, I have been away from WvW a long long long time. A fellow PvE raider was amazed I only had 445 rank and was still a bronze WvWer. Welp, I WvWed when it wasn’t fashionable and was already on the downswing when those rank rewards came out.)

I squadjoined a random commander and my heart immediately sank. No Teamspeak usage. He was leading a rabble of a militia, trying to command them in text, because the TC militia apparently ain’t accustomed to being voice commanded anymore. Our first encounter with another zerg was also the last, because the poor guy ran in and no one followed, choosing to scatter instead. Textbook example of low morale peasantry. My celestial guardian, built to support a nonexistent frontline (you can’t have a frontline with no backline either) got pulled down and torn apart.

It was so bad, I actually logged off and started doing research on WvW mos millenium rankings. Tarnished Coast has apparently dropped to T3 and the state of organization kinda reflects that.

For the first time in 3+ years, post-Isle of Janthir exodus, I started seriously considering a server transfer.

But to where?

Bandwagoning Blackgate is all very for potential future skirmish rewards. In theory, it is so stacked, surely there must be population during Oceanic/SEA times. SEA folks are by and large pragmatic bastards who want to win by any means necessary, so logically speaking, I’m sure most of the self-styled hardcore population have wound up there eventualy.

Yak’s Bend is Bhagpuss’ server, and while it once had a reputation for being akin to TC and far more obsessive about siege, I’d vaguely heard it had an influx of fight guilds that had good and bad effects. Good, in that the militia learned more about zerg fighting, and bad in that fight guilds usually bring their share of political high drama as they sweep in and out of servers, with loyalty only to themselves. Also, I’ve never heard much about Yak’s Bend in the Oceanic/SEA timezones, so it is conceivable I might transfer and get zero satisfactory gameplay during my normal game times.

Besides, the above two servers are Full to the brim. Not only would I have to demeaningly pay ArenaNet more than twenty dollars when I don’t really want to pay them a cent, I would have to sit and watch for available transfer times like a hawk.

Jade Quarry was severely tempting. I’m really out of touch with all things WvW, but the rumor mill has it that it has a severely heavy Asian timezone presence. Granted, following zerg fights in half-Mandarin is not exactly my first preference. And it’s really hard to tell how healthy or enjoyable a server is going to be until you’re actually in it and experiencing it though.

Ultimately, the voice of reason inside me spoke up to say, “Wait and see.”

My first check-in with TC WvW was during the EU timezone on a weekend, so I think I can quite confidently say that it desperately needs some commanders to fuse together the militia in that timezone.

My next check-in was during the NA timezone. My Sunday mornings, their Saturday nights. What better time to get a feel for the pulse of Tarnished Coast? If weekend NA timezone was dead, it would be confirmation to run like hell away from the smoldering corpse.

charrunisbestrun

I’m pleased to say that the NA timezone made me hesitate and reconsider the server transfer all over again.

The militia was a bit all over the map when I first logged in to check it out, but at the start of the next Skirmish changeover, a team chat announcement went out that such-and-such commander was beginning his WvW raid and to squadjoin up.

Joining the squad brought up an automatic message to log into a Teamspeak, and getting into Teamspeak and asking to be verified got me a temporary verification as a non-world member to get into the proper channel.

The only problem, of course, is that this was a Gate of Madness commander. (TC got glommed together with Kaineng and Gate of Madness, apparently.)

My already shaky morale made me reconsider taking the WvW guardian, and I brought the hastily refurbished power PS warrior instead. There was surprisingly very little to change, given that zerker ascended was the recommended stats (with just some trait and skill changes to make yourself a little more tanky.)

I was also determined to have some fun abusing the hell out of my new Predator rifle.

See, my theory goes, the smaller the world population is, the less blobby fights are, the more skirmisher damage PvP-ish builds become important. Also, rifles let you reach out and touch at least a single person when you can’t run into a blob and melee.

WvW commanders would prefer a melee frontline that runs in and damages stuff in an AoE fashion, so I’d bring my greatsword along. (Movement skills are good.) But then to please myself and have me consider WvWing again, I want to kill stuff and do damage.

If I can’t do it as an AoE bomb group, then I’ll settle for peeling the enemy zerg one at a time if possible. The correct downed person(s) at a time can sometimes make or break a fight, and generate a morale surge in your own group to see downed people after a pass, after all.

I found out, I am a simple charr at heart. I just want to shoot shit and see 4 digit numbers appear, preferably the rare 5 digit monstrosity (even if it’s just hundred blading a keep lord.)

The Gate of Madness commander took us on a decent enough run of towers and keeps (man, I need to get back into WvW if only to refill my karma hoard.)

We had our share of running into a small group and winning (I don’t know how to call 20 people a zerg. A zerg to me is 40-50 strong. Hoorah T1-T2.) Whirlwind and arc dividing is pretty satisfactory when things go well. We had our share of overextending into a much larger group and wiping (ugh, but meh, that’s the only way commanders will gain battle experience.)

As the night went on, one or two drunk people in the channel started to make the whole place more ear-searingly annoying, and I decided that the end of the 2h skirmish would be a good time to cut and run, so I did.

Part of the reason for cutting and running is that an old well known TC commander had tagged up and started running his own squad. Stay or leave decisions really depend on analyzing the -TC- core, and how healthy the TC teamspeak was, not checking out Gate of Madness.

Good ol’ Jadon is well loved by the TC militia for a number of reasons: his unfailing politeness and civility, his positivity, his tactical sense and his knack for attracting a decent core of WvW combatants that can support a militia zerg and help it win battles, or at least have a good ol’ time holding out a losing battle with chokepoints and resistance, not an all out rout.

Much like Twitch streaming, a charismatic WvW commander knows how to have a good time with his following, who are looking for entertainment.

If Jadon can’t pull out the TC militia, then TC is doomed.

Well, it’s not. Not today, anyhow.

The zerg ran about 40-50 strong, there were a number of entertaining fights where I got to test and utilize the ranged part of the hybridized build because meleeing into the fray in zerker stats would be certain death, there were satisfactory moments of greatswording people in the face (especially those trying to rez another – sorry, buddy, you may be in Nomad’s for all I know, but crouching stationary in front of a zerker hundred blades is still gonna hurt somewhat.)

Yeah, NA WvW isn’t too bad, and presumably more PvE people will be drawn back like flies to honey once the new patch drops.

It makes me reconsider, because let’s face it, I am not a hardcore WvWer. If I go to T1, it’s going to be zerg vs zerg nonstop, with presumably skillful roamers and havoc groups in the 5-10s making life miserable for solo people wandering around. The bonus would be having a commander zerg to join in most hours of the day – assuming they aren’t all elitist closed guild groups.

But isn’t all I really need a nice scheduled time every week – likely on a Saturday or Sunday morning – to fit into an NA timezone squad and trundle around for an hour or two? More than two days would be pushing it, given that I already PvE raid on two days. WvWing for all hours of every day is for people with far more free time than I.

If we’re looking for something sustainable in the long term, -that- sounds sustainable. Not expecting commanders to be available at all hours (hello, burnout), not expecting to stay online for 4-6 hours daily trying to hold keeps for an eternity.

The last part of the equation is the Oceanic/SEA timezone.

I’m really not sure what I want out of this timezone. On one hand, I’d like to be in a server populated enough to have at least -one tag- running across the whole of the four maps in the Oceanic/SEA timezone, organized enough to do zerg on zerg fights.

At the moment, my checking out suggests that we have a lot of population (maybe inherited from Kaineng too) and very little organization. Everybody still actively WvWing in this timezone appears to have shifted over to more roaming solo skirmisher builds.

This, of course, is hilarious for any commander trying to gather people and run them like a zerg. Either they die horribly and/or you see all the soloists break apart like archer skirmishers in Total War and either pick apart the opposing army to death due to eventually outnumbering them, or rout horribly when an organized zerg or higher number skirmishing force runs into them.

On the other hand, there’s something to be said for having a window of opportunity for a more loose scattered fighting style. One could test out roaming/PvPesque builds, for example. There’s opportunity for a scrappy 3-5 people to wander around, take camps, sneak attack towers. (Try -that- on a T1 server.)

I would rather miss the ability to just zone into the Desert Borderlands of the day (aka no one in their right minds likes this place) to get some WvW dailies done and solo take camps and shrines without interference.

Of course, the ability to do so is dependent on the other servers -not- having any semblance of an organized force in that timezone. If there is, then the only way to get anything done is to counter with another organized force… which leads me back to thinking about Jade Quarry again.

Except it might be a unicorn I’m chasing and maybe there’s no big organized force in JQ or anywhere else other than BG in the timezones I’m after.

All us adult Asians have this thing called work (and going home late, because a 42 hour work week is perceived as the baseline, aka underachieving) tiring us out. Plus overwhelming pragmatism leads us to more profitable activities in GW2 (aka -not- WvWing) or far more competitive games like LoL or Overwatch or Dota 2 if seeking competition, after all.

Weekday organized WvW, let alone one open to militia tagging along, may simply be unsustainable in this timezone.

Dunno. I suppose “wait and see” is the option I’m going to go with for now.

Maybe the Skirmish rewards will suck and WvW will empty out again.

Maybe the rewards will be so overwhelming that the PvE hordes will come back in droves and change the active population, while the guild groups hop from server to server farming bags.

Hard to tell. Best not to be hasty, I guess. Best of all, I need spend no money whatsoever. The track record can still hold, until the expansion launches.

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GW2: I Hate Dying, So I Got Better (Or How I Learned to Love the Zerg in WvW)

Always follow your commanders, until they lead you off cliffs...

I’m allergic to dying.

Well, in my games anyway, I don’t like being defeated and being laid flat out on the floor face-down.

This is possibly why I’m partial to tanks, their sturdiness and overall unkillability. I’m happy to protect others with my survivability, but by god, when push comes to shove and people start falling over, I want to be one of the last few standing. It’s led to a couple of truly heroic moments of saving the day too.

It’s also a potential weakness. A side helping of powergaming perfectionism, mixed in with high self-expectations that I am a virtual hero and am not meant to lose.

Somehow, I see dying as a personal failure. I did something wrong. I am inferior in my gameplay. I am so embarrassed at my poor performance. It is the end of the world.

PvPers and WvWers tend to scorn this as a PvE mentality.

In every 1 vs 1 PvP match, there’s one winner and one loser. 50/50 odds that you may be the one on the ground. For them, it mostly seems to be just a simple way of keeping score. +1 point to them, +1 point to me, whatever, keep trying to get better until you skew the points in a slightly >50% win/loss ratio fashion.

WvW people will point out that there are perfectly good situations in which one may very well die.

I’m completely on board with the team-based objective parts. Contesting circles to delay an objective capture so that your team racing over can ruin the other side’s day? Abso-fucking-lutely. I’ll do it without hesitation, rolling around like a manic asura, and cackle most evilly when they chase me for the crucial tens of seconds and then join my comatose body on the ground when the cavalry rides in. Still a win.

Contest circles when no one is coming to save the day? Well… maybe. It’s still a good habit to develop for overall server culture, helping PPT and score minutely, and on the off-chance that enough reinforcements may arrive. It still demonstrates defiance to the opposing team. I can more or less buy it, though I may not run as fast to the circle.

I’m perfectly all right with the occasional can’t-do-anything-about-it situations when you’re ambling along in WvW, round a corner and an unanticipated zerg 300-3000% the size of your group just rolls right over you like a minor speedbump.

Gee. Did anyone get the number of that truck? No? Oh well. Report in mapchat the last headed direction and estimated size of whatever the hell that was. Respawn and dust yourself off.

But when I read about people being confused in zerg fights and dying repeatedly and not enjoying themselves, I cry a little inside.

I know who you are.

You are the disorganized militia that organized guild groups run over.

The 40-50 individuals who happen to be somewhat going in the same direction and who get split in half by our outnumbered group of 20-30 and then steadily whittled down because every individual is making one of those “fight or flight” decisions for themselves and whose group morale is really easy to break and send fleeing for their lives.

I’ve been there.

When I started playing WvW, I was a loner who would most often be found in our territory, grimly speed-boosting yaks with an OCD determination (ask Eri!), watching with a certain envy the guild groups and commander tags swirling around on the frontlines but reluctant to approach for fear of not being welcome.

In Isle of Janthir’s particular server culture, near the beginning of the game, guilds tended to be more clannish and stick themselves to themselves, PUG militia were not terribly welcome and I was too nervous to be thick-skinned about things.

Fights I had actually had a chance of winning tended to be 1 + yak (+ preferably guard) vs inexperienced thief.

Woe betide me if the thief actually knew what they were doing, or had a friend. Or two. *sobs*

Let’s not even speak of the guild groups (we call them havoc squads now) that would now and then rush in to decimate the supply camp and either murder me or force an ‘abandon yak’ situation.

Then as more people started being able to afford commander tags (rather than just the hardcore guild leaders who were fed money by their guild members,) doritos gradually became more open to the idea of any and all militia following them around.

Safety in numbers and all that, y’know? When in doubt and not a tactical genius, bring more people.

The usual not-very-well-led zerg is identifiable from certain characteristics. They are spread out, each member acting more as a sort of skirmisher, prefering to stay at the longest range possible and plink away, with self-preservation as a key priority.

If two such zergs meet, what usually results is a stalemate. Each side stares at each other across a no man’s land, exchanging the longest range attacks they have, to very little effect. They could be there for hours if nothing interrupts them.

You can also find a similar bogged-down situation near keep gates, when no one has remembered to bring any siege, but are still trying to autoattack fortified gates to death regardless.

Trust me, been there. I couldn’t describe it otherwise.

I was in a casual guild on the Isle of Janthir (who carried their lack of tactical sense as a reputation that lasted long after I left the guild and the server – facing them on the side of TC was a bit of a laugh, we were a lot more wary of another far more effective guild) and I still am in a semi-casual semi-hardcore guild that has its moments of genius… good and bad.

Such zergs offer safety when encountering small collections of individuals, but are -very- often rolled by organized guilds – that can be either bigger (if they’ve drawn in militia to them as well) or even numbers or mind-bogglingly, smaller in size.

I can’t help it. I HATE DYING.

My mind immediately begins working overtime trying to figure out why this was happening – what do they have that we don’t? Is it all just a matter of specialized builds and practice and being on voice chat together? Is it just that they outnumber us and so they win?

I had the fortune of being in the right place at the right time to bridge the understanding gap.

One of the marvels of TC is how guilds in general are very open to working with each other and the militia.

Perhaps in more recent times, there’s been more closing of the ranks as people get tired of saying the same thing over and over again and just want to play and have fun, but there was a point where we had a large number of PUGmanders (said in the fondest sense of the word) very open to pulling in and training militia (before I think the 24/7 pressures started to burn them out.)

One of the best of them was, and still is, Jadon. (He of the lemmings over a cliff fame.)

At one point in time, he ran a series of trainings on the basics of zerg versus zerg combat for our server. He recorded it on his Twitchtv stream.

It’s been 8 months, the video is public and I suspect everyone hardcore already knows this stuff by now, so I feel it’s okay to share the link to all at this point.

If you’re ever confused about WvW and what’s happening during zerging and why you may be dying to groups that are more organized than you, I hope that you can spare the time to at least glance through the video, which is admittedly a little long and uncut.

It covers the basics of combo fields used in zerg fighting, and skills that are good for each class to bring in WvW.

The idea is really group synergy. By moving in a tight group near each other, everyone catches the benefit of buffs and heals being thrown around. Skills are chosen to benefit the group, not just oneself. Skills are chosen to more or less attack the other zerg as a group.

Tactics have gotten a touch more sophisticated since that point. Since survival is a factor in zerg clashes, gear is chosen for sturdiness. Soldiers or PTV gear is often recommended. Classes and builds that benefit from healing power are well-advised to investigate gear with that stat as an option.

Catching the other zerg with one’s AoE attacks becomes important – so control like elementalist’s static fields and hammer warriors that stun are often used.  Variants range from having a few skirmishing berserkers (thieves, elementalists, etc.) dart in and out of the zerg to take out prime targets of opportunity and necromancers and other classes that paint on conditions are pretty popular these days too.

More tactical commanders make use of terrain and ancient art of war strategies to phenomenal effect. Chokepoints remain the same meat grinders in a game as they do in real life. Feinting a charge, faking a retreat and reversing, all are tactics used in an attempt to trick the other party into committing to a fight, spending all their attacks (skills on cooldown) and only then beginning your own attack.

Militia are hopelessly easy to catch out with these tricks.

Unwary, unknowingly, they die.

The organized group does this because attrition is the beginning of the end. If we kill 3 with one pass, and all of us remain upright, the opposing team is down by three people. Another pass, another three people go down.

It doesn’t have to be a lot each time. But these weaker links help to rally any downed on our side AND have an insidious effect on morale on the other side.

A self-interested individual looking on sees downed arrows on his team, and a swirling red mass of uncountable names (no one said everyone was great at estimating numbers on each side properly, red names always look more scary and numerous) that move in a lot more organized unison in a killing wedge, and starts to think the better of remaining around.

He books it.

Other people on his team sees green dots moving away from the fight. Good lord, they don’t want to be the last ones hanging around here either.

Before you know it, it turns into a rout.

A little while later, the opposing side starts to recognize the guild tags coming toward them and morale is affected to the point that they start running even before an engagement begins.

Do I have a guaranteed solution for those caught on the losing side?

Alas, not really. In certain timezones, I’ve been there.

If leadership is lacking, I find there’s little point trying to throw oneself headfirst into a blender (unless you are with a group and are trying to train to get better together) and that it’s oftentimes more effective to cease head-on hostilities and initiate guerrilla warfare.

Nothing pisses off a zerg as much as a small group of people not really worth fighting that they can’t even catch.

Siege, supply traps, being in several places at once and forcing the zerg to choose one location to be in only are small ways to have minor victories when a big undefeated zerg is running roughshod all over your map.

Of course, the best defence is to build an even better zerg.

That can only happen if enough self-interested individuals buy into the idea and find a commander they want to follow though.

On the commander end, being open to militia who want to learn and being open to training the new, confused individuals who may eventually appreciate more levels of depth in WvW may be one way of developing enough effective zerglings in the long term.

On the individual end, it may all seem like a bit too much like work for something you just want to play casually. It’s a game, right?

Well, lemme appeal to your self-interested PvE sense of self-preservation. (I got one myself, it works great for me.)

Fix your build and your gear.

Take note of competent zerg commanders and do your best to be a valued member of their team. (Or at least, not someone they want to run away from.)

YOU DIE LESS.

YOU KILL MORE.

I, personally, have more fun when I’m the one standing on the corpses of my enemies and seeing them flee before me (or rather, the commander I’m supporting.)

Your mileage may vary.

Really, I benefit a lot more keeping all this to myself and having the vast majority clueless and disorganized when the zerg I’m in smashes right through them (WvW monthly done in one fight), but I just feel so dismayed that the majority of bloggers seem to have never tasted this thrill, except where a guild group just happens to be going in their same direction.

I wish and hope you’d all keep giving it a chance and not immediately write off WvW due to a few bad experiences.

May you one day find openminded guilds you can run with and commanders that lead you to glory:

Glorious victories and glorious “OMG so many of them RUN RUN Everyone for themselves, see you suckers, meet up at waypoint later” laughing retreats.

GW2: Echoes of Historical Warfare in WvW

The whole structure of WvW doesn’t exactly lend itself to tests of PvP prowess.  And why should it? There’s an entirely separate part of the game given over just to that after all.

Bhagpuss

I’ll have to disagree to the lack of PvP prowess. There is a lot more going on there than most think in a coordinated group, more so than sPvP, I believe.

Imagine organising 20-30 instead of five through complex manoeuvres; each turn is called, every feint, when and where to bomb.

J3w3l / Eri

Everyone’s been talking about WvW lately. The leagues and season achievements seem to have revitalized some interest in the game format and plenty of discussion as to the pros and cons.

(Where in my usual understating sense, “some interest” = massive game-wide lag and fairly substantial queues during primetime on certain servers.)

I’m less interested in rehashing the same old ground that others have covered, but Bhagpuss’ latest post raises an interesting side issue: WvW isn’t quite the same as sPvP.

To Bhagpuss, he feels there’s more PvE involved.

To Eri, she goes so far as to claim that WvW is -more- sophisticated than sPvP.

To me, I’d rather not raise the ire of the PvPers. I’ll just claim that it’s -different-.

Small-scale PvP is where each individual player can be a Greek hero – Hercules, Achilles, Odysseus, all seeking glory in war.

They can be a Spartan or a samurai or a ninja, a stand-alone warrior who can hold his own against slightly more superior numbers (2 or 3) and defeat them. They can work with their team for a time to accomplish a task, then break apart to do their thing as an army of one.

You can get a little of this kind of thing in WvW if you play with a more roaming playstyle and spec, being a scout or a commando across potentially hostile lands, The situations you’ll face in WvW will involve a lot more unpredictability in the numbers you face, while sPvP offers a more numerically balanced playfield.

But what you can’t get elsewhere, except in WvW, is large-scale warfare recreated on a miniature scale to fit into a playable game type.

If there’s one favorite thing that hooks me and makes me stay for hours in there, it’s when I spy a good (aka tactically adept) commander in VOIP and glom onto his zerg.

And I don’t mean zerg in the fashion that many lower tier servers run (or not-so-good commanders on my server too) – a loose collection of individuals running around together in a big warband that just happen to be going in the same direction and firing at the first thing that moves while karma training, relying only on numeric superiority and safety in numbers.

I mean a zerg-busting zerg. A coordinated group, be it guilded or militia or a mix, organized, with high morale and WvW builds, listening and following a commander on voice.

In zergs like those, you get to see echoes of warfare across the centuries from ancient to medieval to Napoleonic times.

The zerg is infantry, archers and cavalry, acting as each in different situations.

The one thing that never fails to get my pulse going and adrenaline rocketing is the charge. I play a frontline guardian, and in the surge of the wedge through an enemy zerg, I hear the thundering hooves of heavy cavalry. The goal is similar: break the enemy infantry with a resounding charge through their ranks.

Now and then, there are the rare situations, just as in history, when the opposing side’s morale is stronger and their militia better trained in the art of war. The loose collection of individuals move apart just enough to avoid the charge, then unload onto the dumbfounded and not-very-well-built zerg full of casual PvE builds  (note to self: following bad commanders is unwise) who stand there and take casualties, just as infantry have weathered a cavalry charge into their ranks and then proceeded to viciously slash stirrups and saddle and unseat horsemen before they can escape the mass.

But more often, when trained heavy cavalry charge at less trained individuals, they break. You can tell the opposing group is made up of leaderless PUGs when they fall back and scatter to the four winds, or they get run over.

Far more interesting and much rarer in history but more commonplace in WvW are the tactics that arise for cavalry-on-cavalry fighting.

In real life, where collision detection exists, such incidents are costly affairs in the lives of both men and horses and thus always striven to be avoided whenever possible.

In WvW, zerg collision is what some guilds live for.

The maneuvering is spectacular.

Pre-fight, the commander is not just running around in circles because he is a meanie-poo head and wants to see his followers chase after him constantly.

For one, he’s keeping his men (and women) tightly packed together and on their toes. They cannot be picked off individually (those dang thieves), and have to remain alert.

For another, it’s intimidation. A formation moving in unison as a single mass is a scary sight to someone who knows that his side isn’t as organized. A scared individual has a higher chance of being shaken and breaking after one or two charges.

Medieval European knights attacked in several different ways, implementing shock tactics if possible, but always in formations of several knights, not individually. For defense and mêlée a formation of horsemen was as tight as possible next to each other in a line. This prevented their enemy from charging, and also from surrounding them individually. With their heavy and armoured chargers knights trampled through the enemy infantry. The most devastating charging method was to ride in a looser formation fast into attack. This attack was often protected by simultaneous or shortly preceding ranged attacks of archers or crossbowmen.

— From Wikipedia on “Cavalry Tactics”

Then there’s searching for the right time to charge. Both zergs maneuver and try to get the drop on each other, utilizing terrain to best effect. If you can catch the enemy with their backs to a cliff, or draw them into a chokepoint, you have the advantage. If you can get them to fire off their first volleys onto somewhere you’re not, they have to reload while you can unleash upon them.

And of course, you never try to run in front of an enemy. You charge them in the flank, or from behind or from on top. Head-on collisions are not desirable, but could happen, same as in real life.

Those archers or crossbowmen? Ranged dps’ers. “Bomb them here!” “Marks!”

Sometimes the charge doesn’t even happen, in favor of the zerg becoming a squadron of archers firing a hail of arrows across the gap, daring the enemy to charge across a killing field.

They often don’t.

Usually the horse skirmishers advanced in front of their parent squadron or regiment, fired and moved about a bit to reduce their target ability. They were able to prevent the enemy’s troops from hiding behind trees and broken ground, looked for ambushes, or simply observed the enemy’s movements or intent. It was also quite good way to test enemy resolve at a specific point and gather information about his position as well.

They fired upon the enemy trying to take a better position or forced the enemy to move slower or even halt and form squares. Occasionally an odd charge would take place to drive the enemy horse skirmishers away. Sometimes these skirmish combats escalated and involved more troops.

Cavalry Tactics in the Napoleanic Wars.

Recognize the description of havoc groups? Our skirmishers in WvW? They scout, they screen, they have more mobility than the main zerg.

Sometimes an enterprising commander will use a disorganized PUG mass to screen their zerg and absorb fire.

Sometimes two or three commanders leading their own organized zergs act together in sync, acting as skirmisher or charger and pincer the opposing side.

Ambushes are set up. Zergs hide and try to surprise the other. Traps are set, sometimes with siege. (We could write a whole other post about castle/siege warfare, but that’s for another time.)

Once collision occurs, there can be even more maneuvering.

If the enemy doesn’t go down on first hit and be cleared, then it becomes a contest of commanders, and unit morale, cohesion and training. Zergs strive to keep together while breaking the other apart into smaller groups and lone individuals to be set upon and thus whittle the other zerg away via attrition.

How well your commander reads the other team’s movements and moves in turn is important.

How well his followers can -follow- him is also just as crucial. How tightly they keep together, how sturdy their builds are, how good their morale and training is that they keep their heads and don’t break and run at the first whiff of trouble, all contribute to the eventual result,

Each clash is a whole new battle.

It can get crazy addictive.

With more layers of sophistication to be understood the more you play.

WvW zerg “PvP” is a lot more about teamwork than individual prowess (though it still does have an effect.)

It’s more about how each player’s skill at playing their character well affects the whole to form something greater than the sum of its parts.

Builds are made to synergize, to provide group support and group control and group damage.

If anything, I find that after tasting the levels that WvW can rise to, anything less sophisticated is not so fun nor enjoyable and that I’d rather roam by my lonesome or occupy myself with PvE than play in a less organized zerg, doomed to run headlong into disaster and repeat the mistakes that history has already taught us to avoid.