On The Edge of Irrelevance: Guild Wars 2’s PvP Nosedive

I am going to toot my own horn, but it’s a really sad tune I’ll be playing. I was right, but I really didn’t want to be right about this.

We Saw This Coming

One of the main complaints from the PvP community about the choice of Conquest as sPvP in Guild Wars 2 is the Capture Point rule set. This doesn’t mean that capture point games aren’t common or unpopular, but that they rarely become the accepted test of skill in PvP type games.

And once you neutralize or capture, then there is no benefit to hanging around. There is likely a contested area or node that needs you more at the time. It is possible that you could design your team to have sets of two players who feature a highly supportive and defensive player with someone of decent damage output to take a node and sit on it. The problem then becomes that the battle is a war of attrition. Prolonged battles and over-balance are two of the major reasons the Guild Wars PvP scene died off after being so healthy for years. If your ruleset and map dictates prolonging fights to preserve nodes then it shrinks the type of builds and strategies to use.

In larger head-to-head battles you have more room for builds to specialize into different roles and for players to coordinate their playstyle with the playstyle of their teammates. What this means is that you could have a six on six head-to-head battle with different team makeups on each side, as opposed to a standardized Cap Point team.

In Capture Point, if you try to stick together as a single swarm, then you’ll likely lose. You can’t force large battles in Conquest. If most of your team is at one spot then you give up the other two nodes. Running, delaying and interfering matter most. What the PvP community wants are those team vs team situations where the battle is all out, and it’s a matter of supporting and controlling both sides. Players want to be sized up against the whole of the other side. They don’t want to succeed at their node running, just to realize they’re losing because of something that is happening on the other side of the map for which they have no input on or access to. Players also want the extra strategy of team builds.

What ArenaNet risks by going fully in with just Conquest is alienating the playerbase that would make the sPvP attractive. You can’t be bigtime without the respect of the community because you won’t draw the community to care and be competitive about your game. You will get, and forgive the elitism here, the second and third tier players to fill in the gap of talent. In other sports, there are minor leagues and spinoff leagues. There has been basketball leagues that use trampolines and favor dunking because it has a high entertainment value. These minor leagues don’t ever rise above the level of sideshow because nobody truly respects them. They don’t draw the top talent and thus don’t draw the big attendance. I feel this is the same for E-sports. ArenaNet can’t go out there and try to push E-sports while being PowerDunk Ball.

–  The E-Sports Charade

I wrote those blocks of text over a year ago on May 24th, 2012. It was a warning about the future of PvP in the game if they stuck with Conquest. I think the PvP community will find those “warnings” extremely relevant right now, especially the final paragraph.

The Tournament Finals Swansong

At the one year anniversary bash, ArenaNet held their tournament final between the top European team and the top North American team. If I could describe the feel of everything about this in two words, it would be “awkward” and “depressing”.

The Anniversary Bash stream was above 5k viewers during the early parts of the event. People watched the opening address and the Q&A. The final part of the event was the match between Car Crash and Sync for the PVP championship. At this point, the twitch fell below 5k viewers, and then loss more viewers as the match went on.

However, it was already awkward before that. The devs kept trying to pump up the match, but the live audience issued a muttering of applause, seemingly clueless about the two teams, or just not interested in the event itself. When it came to Q&A time, a lone player from Crystal Desert asked why there wasn’t more modes for PvP in the game, and where the beloved modes from Guild Wars 1 were to be found in the game. In response, the Dev Panel looked at each other, somewhat clueless and scared. There was not a single spvp dev on the panel. The closest person to this was Devon Carter, who handles WvWvW. After the group sat quiet a second, Colin Johannson jumped on the “grenade” of a question, and effectively dodged it with a rambling bit of PR.

Meanwhile, the entire twitch stream was filled with people spamming “GvG” in the chat for the entirety of the event. The entire thing felt like a trainwreck for PvP rather than the showcase ArenaNet intended it to be.

The Victory Funeral

Following the championship, players took to the forums and expressed their issues with the handling of the PvP question, and how generally uninteresting the match was itself.

Players complaining on forums is nothing new. However, long time sPvP player, and large contributor to the cause Xeph announced his retirement from the game the following day. He said his reasons were numerous, but you could sort of tell the Anniversary Bash and its recent news was a tipping point.

The post was deleted, but the damage was done.

It’s Not the Incentives

Xeph felt the PvP lacked incentives to attract players, but that’s never really been a big part of highly successful PvP. Most of the reward comes from winning and the winning actually meaning something. Ultimately, there must be some pride in the accomplishment of winning. Guild Wars 2 lacks that feeling. It lacks is because Conquest mode is Powerdunk Ball. it’s not what people care about, and ArenaNet never listened.

And now their planned high moment is a depressing final death cry.

Can it be saved? Sure. It’s not like ArenaNet is facing any real competition in the MMO PvP space. However, they need to focus on what people care about in MMO PvP. Don’t be a MOBA. Don’t spread small skirmishes across a map. People are getting that already, and there’s a whole other audience being ignored. That audience wants tactical, skilfull, and gear balanced team fights. It doesn’t have to be deathmatch. You can establish a goal to fight over, but that goal must involve two teams fighting together.  People watch MMO PvP for the group play, Remember that.

Prevails

A strange thing happened upon the way to Guild Wars 2’s one year anniversary: it became very successful. According to some research,Guild Wars 2 is the fastest selling MMO based in the Western part of the world. Taking a gander at NCSoft’s quarterly reports, and making an idiot’s guess at the numbers, it seems the game is making ANet about 9-10 million a month.

Also, ArenaNet has moved towards a 2-week update schedule for their patches and Living World system.

But perhaps you thought all MMOs failed. Perhaps you heard that the game was dead. Perhaps you are wondering how this happened. So, let’s take a look at why Guild Wars 2 prevailed where other MMOs failed.

Oh boy, a numbered list of reasons!

    1. Those other MMOs did not fail. This is important to understand. Those other MMOs switched business models, and that’s important to this list, but let’s not continue the chant of “fail”. Many of the subscription MMOs that went towards Free-to-play or Buy-to-play models did so because they could make more money from those models. And guess what? They did. Check out Zenofdesign blog for a look into SWTOR’s tranisition. It’s a good read.
    2. ArenaNet budgeted correctly. Those that have played Guild Wars 2 know the game doesn’t have grand, impressive cinematics. ArenaNet has changed their story presentation in a way to better accommodate the speed of development, but they never spent as much on cinematics as their competitors did.And despite the hype at launch, there wasn’t a lot of advertising for the game. It carried out its message through social media and word-of-mouth, both exceptionally cheap forms of PR. There was a launch commercial made, but it was awful and quickly and quietly done away with. These sort of decisions reduced the game’s development cost.
    3. ArenaNet and NCSoft created a fair Cash Shop.  The MMO community sometimes finds itself stuck in the world of fools and idiots. “F2P is P2W.” You can still people say this phrase even though many former sub MMOs have gone F2P with little change in the user’s experience. However, it was important for Guild Wars 2 to clearly stand in opposition of this viewpoint. To get around this issue, the GemShop was created. Most of the items in the cash shop are cosmetic items that sell o power advantage. Other items are boosters, and account services. Account services have long been a pay-for feature in MMOs, so that’s nothing new. Boosters are also random drops as rewards from chests, dailies, and can be attained easily through food buffs.The game does have a jackpot mechanic in its Black Lion Chests, but there’s never any source of power advantage within the chests. Not losing money on these items is a matter of self-control.Most importantly, the gold to gem conversion allows any gem shop item to be bought with gold, and many have taken advantage of this.
    4. They released a quality game and supported it. Recently, Wildstar and TESO have announced that they will be releasing as sub-based MMOs. Carbine Studio’s Gaffney, I believe, said of releasing an MMO that the pricing model isn’t as important as the quality of the game. Well, not exactly Gaffney. Unfortunately, there’s been some decent to good MMOs released that have struggled to maintain because they were over-budgeted and had to live via subs while there was already a fat, behemoth of an MMO swallowing everyone’s subscription commitment and time, leaving little for the competition to scoop up.The truth is that quality is a pre-requisite for MMO success, but not the determining factor of an MMO’s success. It is something that has to exist at launch, but beyond that an MMO must find a way to get player’s time, and to keep player’s engaged. It’s those last two parts that involve the business model, but also involves updates and support. ArenaNet has found a way to make money with their game without fighting for subs and then support the game with a plethora of updates that feature a variety of types of content. So far, it’s working very well for them.

In Closing, yada yada, and banana turnbuckle.

Guild Wars 2 is different. It was different enough to succeed with its original play while others struggled with their own plan. It could be claimed that Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft are exceptions to the rule about MMOs. However, I feel there is almost awlays reasons why a thing is so. Does WoW decline in players because it’s too casual? No, it was most successful at its most casual. It’s declining because its an old game facing more competition. It’s declining because F2P and B2P models have shown to offer more competitive environments in the East and those models are just now starting to take hold in the west.

So how do future MMOs not crash and burn? My firs tip: dot listen to the MMO community too much. I’ll get into that in a future blog post though.

Dragon Ballin

The recent. Dragon Bash update to Guild Wars 2 added a temporary PVP mode called Dragon Ball Arena. This Arena mode draws a lot of inspiration from Quake Arena style play, with an increase to player movement and a map filled with power-ups.

In Dragon Ball, your regular skills are replaced with a new bar of skills that you must unlock via the power-ups found on the map. The map itself has multiple layers and features jump pads that boost you up in the air and across the map. Dodge rolling into these pads will give you extra distance.

For the offensive side of the game, you start with only one skill, a basic fireball attack that does damage to other players. Succeeding at Dragon Ball relies on knowing the map, and getting the right power-ups. 

Your first aim in Dragon Ball should be to power-up your basic attack. The map consists of roughly four levels. At the very bottom level you will find health power-ups and the damage booster power-up that spawns at a certain point in the game. The second level features two tunnels on each side of the map that lead to a jump pad up to the third level. Behind these jump pads is where you will find the power-up for your basic attack. Getting here should be your top priority at the start of a match.

The second power-up you’ll want is the AoE attack that spawns on the third level of the map to the left and right of your spawn point. Due to this location, I normally start out each match hitting this power-up first and then dropping down to the second level to get the basic attack booster. To do this at the start of the match, make your way up from the starting area until you get to the first launcher pad. Instead of running straight towards the pad, move to your left or right towards the AoE power-up. If done right, this should launch you directly towards the power-up, and then you can quickly drop from the level to the entrance to the second level, run up the tunnel and gather your basic attack power-up.

This starting route represents one of the better movement loops in Dragon Ball. Inside the entrance to the second level tunnels is the spawn point for the 5 skill, a stomp and reflect that is probably the third best power-up in the game. You can run this loop over and over, alternating the tunnel you take on the second level to protect the #5 skill spawn. If you are taking damage, there are small health power-ups in the tunnel and larger health regens just below the spawn point and at the bottom level. You are the easiest to hit at the bottom level of the map, so be careful and quick. You can run around the bottom collecting the health regens, then pop back up to the second level and begin your loop again. 

Once you have the reflect skill, you can take advantage of choke points on the map. These include the hole and jump pad between the second and third level, the split before the two tunnel paths, and the ends of each bridges at the top level.

Of course, the best advice I can offer is to run with your teammates on the map as there is safety in numbers. However, the matchmaking and team swapping often leads to unbalanced teams and fights. In order to survive these situations, I have found leaning on this power-up loop path is my best tool for survival.

Rata Sum 101: Geometric Splendor for Bookahs

Let’s Measure the Area

Wandering the Asuran capital city you will notice the repeated shapes and patterns of the city. You’re walking on hexagons, you’re chilling on an updside-down pyramid, or you’re staring down a pentagon shaped hallway. Everywhere you look, a triangle looms and angles align. So, I decided to do some screenshotting of the city with an emphasis on the geometric.

The skyline of Rata Sum lives under the oppression of triangles. Every corner of the main floor of the city presents you with a view of these pyramid-framed horizons.

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Triangles also appear in places not so overbearing with their architecture.

Here, two towers align along a pathway up one of the sea-floor buildings. The lines of the towers and the angle of the stairs create suggested triangles.

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Inside the city, hallways are triangles lined up within triangles.

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And below the sea, two masts on the Asuran sailboats meet to create another suggested triangular shape.

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Shapes within shapes are a big theme of the city. The dam meets the water as the meeting of two tetragons, and through the rectangular hexagon opening on a shipping boat, you can see the cubic grandeur of the city above.

 

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One of my favorite examples of the use of geometric shapes in the city is the view from the sides of Rata Sum. Just beyond the crafting stations are these hexagonal openings. Looking out from the sides, you see the pyramid edges of the rest of the city. The lovely bit is that the plateaus to your right and left are the same shape you are standing in, only now it’s cut in half. An oblong hexagon sliced in half to create two quadrilateral kites and then each kite jutting out an angle from the hexagonal opening.

 

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Of course this does-anyone-care-but-me discussion would not be complete without looking at the floor patterns. During this fictional photography adventure, I’d often raise my camera directly overhead to see the geometric shapes as flat floor patterns.

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Such as this. The above may be my favorite shot out of all of these screens. Who wants to play with building blocks?

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The Stormbluff Isle Exodus

Recently, ArenaNet implemented their Guesting feature to the game and ended free world transfers at the same time.Considering that it was a promised launch feature, the arrival of Guesting was welcome. The ending of free transfers was also something that the WvWvW community had been asking for so as to stop the bandwagon nature of players trying to join a top WvWvW server, and also a barrier towards the practice of guilds sending a player to a competing server to spy on map chat and player movement. 

The problem for some servers was the timing of this move by ArenaNet. There had been a lot of server switching by major guilds and a mercenary mindset had set into the community at large. This was the ideally wrong time for these changes to finally come for a server like Stormbluff Isle. 

Stormbluff Isle was a little different from the other top tier WvWvW servers in that it was mostly a large pug with a couple of large guilds, but no greater alliance like the other servers had established. We depended more on individual smarts and paying attention to what others were doing, along with a public teamspeak server for the various WvWvW players to join and hear what was going on with the other players. Since we had no alliance with central leadership, we had to find ways to succeed within our assemblage of pugs.

Surprisingly, it all worked out pretty well. SBI had been a tier 1 or tier 2 server for long than any other server up until the announcement that these changes were coming. We had developed a rivalry with Jade Quarry server due to the both of us always being in the top tiers and continually fighting each other. This even goes back to the initial launch month and the one day match-ups.We would be the #1 server for awhile, drop to #2 when another server recruited more players or established a new strategy, and then fight back to the top spot.

But all of this also created a lot of burnout for various players. Initial word of this burnout came months ago from some of the WvWvW guilds. Players were tiring of the same maps and the same exact matchups. They also were investing money into towers and keeps just to see their holdings evaporate over night. There was no second level to the WvWvW game. You logged in and faced a similar situation and similar goal nearly every day. If you wanted stats on your gear other than toughness and vitality then you had to go do PVE. WvWvW rewards were minor and lacked variety. The game needed a way to organize players beyond Commanders and their massive zerg. The WvWvW game needed updates.

The biggest blow for Stormbluff Isle is when War Machine left not only our server, but ran off to avoid the top tier grind and mentality for a smaller server. War Machine was an old established guild of the Guild Wars franchise. They were a top guild in the first game’s PVP and their presence on Stormbluff Isle brought along some of those same top PVP guilds. Not all of those guilds had an interest in WvWvW, but War Machine was large enough to field an important force in WvWvW. They also established the face and personality of the server with their tactics and persistence. They also worked very well with our pug nature and even soloists like myself came to know the differences and tendencies of their Commanders in spite of the Korean/English language barriers.

There were multiple things pushing War Machine towards leaving, many of which are part of the greater list of concerns that the other guilds have had, but it was mainly a sour reaction with another top tier server that made them decide to pack up and leave. They had become tired of all the exploits used in top tier to sneak into keeps and towers, and how abusing issues with the game had become the standard. So one night they decided to abuse them all themselves, publicly admit it, call out ArenaNet for the lack of fixes, and then announce their impending departure from the server and the top tier.

I’m not interested in lambasting War Machine for their behavior or anything like that. I understand frustration. Whether they should have done it in another way or not, as I said, I’m not all that interested in that discussion. I think the main point is that a guild that had been tied to the Guild Wars PVP scene for so many years would essentially bail out for their own sanity.

Following the move by War Machine, there was some discussion of what Stormbluff Isle would do, but the following difficulties in fielding enough players to replace them began the sentiment of decline for the server. By the time the arrival of Guesting and Paid Transfers was to be near, the WvWvW menality of Stormbluff Isle had depleted to a frustrated yawn. Many of the other WvWvW guilds didn’t have interest in doing what WM did and rebuilding in lower tiers. Most, wanting the pride of being top tier, decided to move to other top tier servers. Some followed War Machine to Kaineng. By the final week of free transfers, Stormbluff Isle’s WvWvW population was nearly non-existent. A panic had hit the other guilds and everyone began to act like dropping a couple of tiers was the end of WvWvW. The responses were somewhat understandable, but also very short-sighted. 

Every problem that Stormbluff Isle had was synonmous with the way top tier play was going. The burnout not only hurt the WvWvW guilds but the strays and pugs like myself who do more than just WvWvW. When the PVE game gets more updates and you also play PVE, its easier to spend time in PVE than fighting the top tier grind in WvWvW every day. Perhaps more than some of the WvWvW guilds wanted to admit, the little people who filled coverage gaps and made distract squads were vanishing before the WvWvW guilds, and the WvWvW game success had depended upon these people more than some may think. When those people began to dry up, the burden of success fell even harder on the WvWvW-only players and this lead to more burnout and frustration. 

The problem with leaving for greener pastures is that every top tier server in the same situation as SBI was. If I had to put money on the next burnout, It would be on Jade Quarry. The situation won’t be resolved by players. It’s an issue of updates and advancement of the game that must come from ArenaNet. The panic stricken exodus of Stormbluff Isle is just a sad tale of a good community growing bitter over one part of the game.

As for SBI now, it still has some good players, but we struggle to fill up maps with enough people to win our current match up. I didn’t leave because I had two guilds on this server already and I didn’t really want to leave a server full of nice people. It’s just unfortunate that the server has been a bit tainted by what happened.

What I’ve been up to: Jan. 2013

I figured I should make a post detailing what I’ve been up to within the world of Guild Wars 2 now that the game has been out for five months. I may continue making these posts as a record of what a player does at endgame in a game that some may think has no traditional endgame.

My main character has been level 80 for a long time by now and not only has a full exotic set of gear, but now has a second set of exotic armors for the purpose of survival and magic find. I have also been collecting exotic swords with different stats. I have one sword with more condition damage, one sword that has berserker stats, and a third sword with the power, precision and magic find set of stats. Even though I can only get full use out of two swords at a time, I spent the karma and got an Asuran tier 3 Peacemaker sword for the skin and then transmuted exotic stats onto it. I did this mostly for the look, but then put stats onto it for the benefit of a magic find set that won’t hamper my dungeon groups with lower quality stats. I also occasionally use the set in WvWvW to improve my loot there, but mostly for the increased Vitality and Toughness on that second gear set.

My primary alt is the engineer that I’ve talked about on this blog. I’ve pretty much carried over my beta playstyle and tweaked it here and there to be a support Engineer. This alt recently hit level 70 and I wouldn’t surprise myself if I ended up hitting 80 before the week is over. Of course, Super Bowl Sunday may get in the way of that. (Go Niners.)

As for what I’ve been up to, I’ve actually gone back to exploring the world of Tyria after spending the previous months busy in Dungeon runs and WvWvW. You remember that bit about coming back to a zone and finding something new? Surprisingly, It’s true. As much as that claim would be easy to dismiss at first, my alt playing has lead me deeper into the world of Tyria. As it turns out, most often what I find to be new was something old that I never ran into before. One example would be a group of children who play a trivia game inside a cave in Queensdale. Apparently, this has been there since launch. I just never poked my head in there at the right time.

There’s also way more jumping puzzles in the game than I would have guessed. Partially due to my exploration itch this month and partially to be blamed on the monthly achievement, I’ve probably run into about 20 or so jumping puzzles and mini-dungeons this month that I had never seen before.My two favorite discoveries are the Forsaken Halls in Dredgehaunt Cliffs and The Hidden Garden in Mount Maelstrom.

There is one thing tying these two places together even though one is categorized as a mini-dungeon and the other a jumping puzzle. Both the Halls and the Garden require a prerequisite Dynamic Event to be finished before gaining access to them. In the case of the Forgotten Halls, my discovery of the place was months ago when gallivanting about with my guild of real life friends. I saw this huge Dwarven door and curiously poked around it. However, it was closed shut and there was just a brief reference to a npc in some outpost I had not been to before. We moved on, never to return.

But then I did return and this time sought out the NPC. The NPC wanted some items and I had one of the items and as it turned out a group of players just as curious as me had the other item. It was mere chance that we met the NPC around the same time, but soon enough the Charr with the key to the Dwarven door was stomping out of the north and headed towards our mystery spot. When the Dynamic Event finished, he casted a spell to open the door and a new Event started inside. I won’t give away what lies inside Forsaken Halls, but think Mines of Moria sort of stuff.

The Hidden Garden requires a player to find one of the elemental mini-bosses in Mount Maelstrom that guard a portal to the area. Defeating the mini-boss event will open the portal for a brief amount of time and allow players to gain access to The Hidden Garden. The area of the Garden is actually that big blotch of hidden area beyond the eastern side of the Inquest structures in Mount Maelstrom. There is no way in other than through the elemental portals. Once inside, you’ll be required to not beat one, but four separate jumping puzzles in the Garden in order to attain the elemental items at their ends and open the big treasure chest in the middle of the Garden. It’s a beautiful area with immense verticality. Be wary if you get virtual vertigo.

Mount Maelstrom is also home to Conundrum Cubed which may be the most mind-tweaking jumping puzzle I’ve ran into. The area is hidden away behind a shadowy crack in the mountains in the northwest of the zone. Upon entering, you will see an Asuran experiment gone awry. Cubes float and stack in Stargate-esque diagonals and odd angles all over the place. The area looks sort of like a game of Jenga that reached its toppling point and had the ensuing deconstruction frozen in time. It’s quite confusing as a platforming level. Not only does it seem there is no path laid out before you, it doesn’t seem there is a place where you should start. I only found a way up via trial and error of different starting spots. Not only do the cubes lack standard flat platforms to land upon, the floating cubes often have timed spike traps on them, making platforming extra deadly. In addition, traversing the puzzle requires using portals that zap you and block your way. It’s a jumping puzzle that doesn’t make sense until you complete it. There is no straight line and at times, it felt like I wasn’t headed anywhere nearer to my goal when I actually was. I probably died seven or ten times from large falls.

I’m rather determined, so very few of the 20+ secret areas of mini-dungeons and jumping puzzles did I give up on. I did take one extremely brief attempt at Griffonrook Run and decided it was to be left for another day.

As it turned out, this post has mostly been about jumping puzzles and mini-dungeons, but my exploration time has been about more than that. I just find the JPs to be the easiest parts to put into words. The little bits of story and local life that Dynamic Events showcase are better played and paid attention to than described via another person’s experience. There’s also many impressive areas of the game that exist just to exist. Often, these areas have vistas to take in their beauty. The world design of Tyria qualifies for that grand title of  pretty damn cool.

WubWub Pink Power: WvWvW Mesmer Guide Part 2

Hide and Sneaky

Not everything in WvWvW needs to be a part of the “zerg”. An important part to taking another server’s keep or tower is denying supply lines to that area, choking off their ability to build defenses and repair damage. For this purpose, you may find yourself in a small squad of four or five players on a mission to interrupt reinforcements and supply.

Good Friends To Have

While I recommend playing with your friends regardless of their class, I do understand some people might be looking to assemble a specialized squad. If you’re a Mesmer then what classes might you be looking to bring?

The two-headed gank monster of WvWvW is the Mesmer and Thief. The main reasons for this being burst, deception, stealth and get-away speed. In regard to speed, the Mesmer itself is not as fast as either an Elementalist or Thief, but they can use portal to bypass this disadvantage of theirs. Portal can also help you and your squad escape a bad situation.

The Thief and Mesmer can trade-off stealths to increase their survival time, but need to focus targets together. The Thief’s burst is some of the highest in the game, but glass cannons don’t tend to live long. The Mesmer can survive longer, but takes much longer to kill a single target. If focused and adaptive, the Mesmer/Thief duo can cause havoc even while outnumbered. I have torn through 2-1 and 3-1 odds with some of the better thiefs on Stormbluff Isle.

When I assemble a friendly squad, I do not worry too much about classes, but I have found the Engineer, Elementalist and Guardian to be great assets to go along with skirmishing style of the Mesmer. These classes bring area heals and instant rezzes, but also great control and buffs.

Hit N Run

Hit and run is the typical small squad playstyle. Your primary targets will be supply yaks and snagging lone stragglers between points. I would say it’s not always a good idea to attack strays if it would give away your position. An example of this is if your group is doing a run of continuous supply camp capping in a borderland. The commanders on the other servers will be watching what’s getting hit and if they see crossed swords and people calling out your position between targets, chances are you’ll run into a larger force sent to wipe your squad out.

This makes learning the layout of the map important to a gank squad. There are often more than one way to enter a camp and taking the quietest route is often best. Your movement is also important to the rest of your server-mates and their movements are important to you.

Was that a DUH statement? Yes, a bit, but it can alter which route you take into an objective. If you know the larger group of allies will be running towards your position then you can plan for that by leading straggling into the larger group or leading foes away from the group. If the large group is coming in the bckdoor to a supply camp then you can trap any fleeing defenders by going in the front door. For these reasons, it’s always good to take a quick look at map talk and ally movement on the map before heading off to your next target.

We Dine On Yak Tonight

Supply Yaks are an important target that even a solo player can take down. As a Mesmer, it’s best to bring a build that has burst and snares to slow the Yak down. Generally, I like to solo Yaks when they are directly beyond the reach of supply camp guards or along an otherwise empty area between supply drops.

For Yak Slapping, I tend to always equip Portal for one of my utilities, along with Mass Invis as my elite. The key to these hits are stealth and escape, so taking these sort of hit-n-run skills is vital. You can often find a safe, hidden spot near a Yak’s route to drop your Portal Entre before going into hit the yak. Any large rocks that hide you from the road or areas hidden below cliffs are great Portal retreat areas. If you find yourself suddenly joined by three or four enemy players you can drop a Portal to quickly escape, wait a second to heal and then Portal back to finish off the Yak. Since the enemy players won’t see the other Portal you went to from their position on the road, the misdirection will allow you to hop back into battle with a second or two to spare before they recognize where you are.

Skirmishing Stragglers

Fighting stragglers solo or with a pair involves the Encounter Rules shown in the previous guide. What I would add to this is that doing this solo or in a pair needs a lot more attention directed towards counting and recounting your number of foes. Just as its easy for you to sneak into battle via teleports or stealth, it’s easy for your foes to jump on you while you’re engaged in what was previously an even numbers fight. As you get better at WvWvW, you will die less and less often from losing open duels and more from not paying attention to your odds.

As a Solo Player…

As a solo player in WvWvW, I like to flow in and out of zerg combat and into small squads or solo mischief. (This was a lot easier to do with the Phantasm build before the engage time on Phantasms was reset to molasses-slow in the last fix.) When and where I make these hops depends on the battle and map, but also the strengths of your server. If you’ve been trying to siege a Keep for your server and been getting nowhere, it may help your allies more to split off and pick off yaks and player reinforcements.