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Beta Preview: Hands-On with the Ranger

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April 2, 2012 - 2:18am -- Sardu
GW2 Ranger Profession Preview

Over the years I’ve played just about every possible combination of primary and secondary professions in Guild Wars for varying lengths of time. However, some professions I took an immediate liking to during the beta weekend events leading up to the release of Prophecies, which were very similar to those that will soon be kicking off for pre-purchase customers for Guild Wars 2.

Back then, it was clear from the moment that I created my first necromancer that I’d be playing it as my primary on launch day and have continued to do so ever since. But over time, other original GW professions began growing on me, until eventually I discovered that my clear favorites were the necromancer, ranger, and ritualist. While the ritualist didn’t make the cut for Guild Wars 2’s initial launch, I still have hopes that it will be added as a new playable profession in an expansion focused on the reopening of travel to Cantha.

Thankfully, the ranger did make the cut, and much like the necromancer it has undergone some interesting transformations over the past 250 years of Tyrian history. The ranger is also a perfect example of how certain primary / secondary profession builds from Guild Wars have had a direct influence on the newfangled combat styles in GW2.

Just like my early, and admittedly silly experiments with playing a necro wielding a sword right around the launch of GW1, I also went a similar route when I first started experimenting with ranger builds. Ultimately I ended up playing oddball variants on Broadhead Arrow or Barrage builds, but something always struck me as feeling somehow right to be playing my ranger with sword in hand.

Needless to say, the moment I discovered that both a standard one-handed sword and the two-handed greatsword would be weapon options for the ranger in Guild Wars 2 I knew I’d want to spend some time during the beta to get a feel for the ranger’s combat style. That, plus I was also morbidly curious to see if the ranger’s pets have finally found some value.

For my initial preview of the ranger, I’ll be taking a look at both of these core aspects of the profession; combat styles and pets.

First Impressions of the Ranger’s Combat Style

One of the first things I discovered about playing a ranger is that combat will be completely different for you depending on the weapon sets you equip. While this holds true of all GW2 professions to varying degrees, I found this to be in an extreme with the ranger in particular.

Both the short- and longbow are reminiscent of the original GW ranger in that combat is a bit less flashy, and more about poking holes in your target from a safe distance. Of the two, I tended to prefer the longbow primarily for skills like Hunter’s Shot which inflicts vulnerability on your target and grants swiftness to your pet (helpful if you use a more melee oriented pet), or Barrage which not only reminds me of one of my old staples in GW1, but is great for crippling multiple targets in PvP.

Where I felt the ranger truly shines, however, is when you equip a sword in your main hand. Suddenly what might have simply been a ho-hum ranged attacker becomes an acrobatic whirlwind of pure fun. All three sword skills not only have some of the coolest combat animations in the game, but are interesting for other reasons as well. Here’s a quick breakdown to give you an idea of what I mean.

Slash – your first skill may look deceptively simple the first time you mouse over the tooltip, but it’s actually far more interesting and complex once you see it in action. Rather than a single skill that you use as a filler bunny when your other skills are recharging, Slash is in fact a rotation of 3 separate skills. The rotation goes something like this:

  • Slash: a direct damage attack
  • Kick: kicks your target right in the kisser, and inflicts a 2 second cripple
  • Pounce: you leap at your target, smack them with your sword, and grant your pet Might for 5 seconds

The animations for the chain are incredibly cool, and give you a better feel for a sword (melee) ranger being more of an evasive attacker than one that’s all about the heavy-handed head bashing like the Guardian.

Hornet Sting – your second sword skill is also pretty cool in that it is another combo skill. The default skill, hornet sting, stabs your target and sends you leaping backwards away from them. This is great for getting out of AoE quickly, and more efficiently than the standard dodge ability. However, once you use hornet sting, the second slot will temporarily be replaced with Monarch’s Leap which sends you leaping back at your target, inflicting a 3 second cripple in the process.

If you’re thinking sword rangers are all about cripples and not much else at this point, that leads us to the third sword skill…

Serpent’s Strike – this skill causes your character to do an evasive roll around your target, inflicting poison for 6 seconds in the process. Not only that, but it also ends with your character repositioned behind your target making you temporarily a bit harder to hit right away.

The combined effect of these three skills alone ended up being one of the most enjoyable single weapons in the game for me so far, across all available professions. Maybe not quite as awesome as necromancers mind you, but the ranger wielding a sword in their main-hand is still a close second.

For the off-hand, I kept gravitating towards using the warhorn. Hunter’s Call is another interesting skill, and one that would make Alfred Hitchcock proud. It basically summons down a swarm of hawks that attack your target for direct damage, so not necessarily as flashy in the condition or secondary effect department as its animation is.

With that in mind, the main reason I kept using a warhorn is Call of the Wild which grants Fury, Might and Swiftness for 15 seconds on a 35 second recharge. I found it to be one of the best off-hand skills in the ranger’s bag of tricks, and one that also augments the evasive, acrobatic combat style of using a sword for your main-hand.

GW2 Ranger Character Creation

Some Brief Notes on PvE vs. PvP

While I didn’t get to spend as much time with the ranger in PvP as I’d have liked, one thing I learned very quickly is that it was optimal to mix both a melee and a ranged weapon set, whereas in PvE I could stick with sword / greatsword most of the time and do just fine.

While the evasive style of sword skills can help in PvP quite a bit, you also have to factor in the high percentage of AoE attacks you’ll want to avoid. Going in prepared with a longbow kept me active in a fight without having to constantly dodge out of the dreaded red circles of doom. Point Blank Shot can also be incredibly useful to push melee attackers back and get out of situations where knockbacks and knockdowns start CCing you out of the fight for too long.

Another thing I learned very quickly in PvE is that you have to be careful about when and where you use Hornet’s Sting. More than once I leapt directly into an angry mob of enemies, and quickly found that Point Blank Shot could work better in some situations to avoid getting more adds than you can handle.

Ranger Pets – Finally More than Speed Bumps

Back in those formative days following the launch of Prophecies, the ranger in my guild’s core GvG team named his pet Speed Bump, since that’s about all it amounted to in most combat situations. However, some players found entertaining uses for the pets back then, such Ten Ton Hammer community manger Xerin who used to roll into GvG with his guild, Angry Businessman [aB], each equipped with a ranger pet to mess with the other team in interesting ways.

Getting back to the here and now, I was very happy to discover that ranger pets in Guild Wars 2 are much better, and amount to far more than speed bumps or GvG gimmicks. For starters, each pet will have a unique skill that it adds to your build along with some additional skills that are specific to certain types of pet.

The pets also nicely compliment your own playstyle quite nicely, and in some interesting ways. For example, since I ended up playing my ranger in PvE most commonly wielding a sword / warhorn and greatsword, I found the Juvenile Forest Spider I tamed while trekking around Queensdale made a better fit than the bear I started the game with. Not only did it attack from range to help balance my melee attacks, but it could also poison and web my targets making it much easier to do some of the sword ranger’s crazy acrobatics without much fuss.

Maybe it was just me, but one thing I did note is that there was a disproportionately large number of tamable pets in the lower level norn areas compared to the human maps of the same level range. In roughly the same amount of time it took me to find two new pets in the human zones, I easily found half-dozen in the norn areas.

Some of this can naturally be accounted for based on the topography of the region, and the fact that norn settlements disrupt natural wildlife to a far lesser degree than us obnoxious bookahs. And for what it’s worth, the two pets I tamed in the human zones ended up being pretty awesome so I couldn’t really complain.

The first, the juvenile forest spider mentioned above, was actually a fun challenge to obtain. I spotted a few of them atop a seemingly peaceful hillside, and immediately began heading in their direction. It wasn’t until I was much closer – perhaps too close – that I realized a massive veteran spider was only a jar of bees’ throw away. Needless to say, I gave my new spider friend quite a workout as the both of us fought for our lives until some friendly players in the area noted our plight, put their boar hunt on temporary hiatus, and lent a hand.

The second pet I tamed – and one I used for the rest of my time with the ranger – was a big pink pig that was roaming around in a human settlement.

To be honest I don’t really even know if the pet was the best pet to be using in the grand scheme of my overall build and playstyle, but at the time I honestly didn’t mind. Instead, I kept myself laughing at memories of the first time I discovered Oink in Guild Wars. In fact, for a long time that was one of my favorite missions in the game.


Some pet mechanics are a bit awkward to me, but I can understand why they have their current functionality. In particular, it felt a bit stumpy to have my pet bear – appropriately named Stumpy – be defeated in combat but still run around at my side until I stopped to revive him. While this is much better than having to track down the corpse of your pet to do so, it simply felt awkward to me anytime it would happen in PvE.

It also caused some minor issues in PvP on those rare occasions that I’d be attempting to revive another human player’s character, only to have Stumpy trump my F-key and get in my way repeatedly until revived. Melee pets do tend to take a lot of dirt naps, and seem like they could really use a bigger bowl of Wheaties (aka, more health) in PvP.  The thing that ended up helping the most in that situation was the ability to toggle your pet’s combat or passive mode, which you’ll end up doing a lot to pull your pet out of AoE attacks.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned above, the ranger in Guild Wars 2 is currently one of my favorite professions based on my time with it in the recent beta test. While I didn’t get the chance to futz around with every weapon set as much as I’d like, and spent far more time in PvE than in PvP, it left a positive enough impression overall that spending more time with the ranger is one of my goals for the next beta event.

For those of you interested, be on the lookout for some ranger videos that will be published early this week. In particular, we have a full rundown of the rangers weapon skills, as well as details for all of the currently available pets. That, and a whole lot more beta coverage will be coming to a GW2Hub near you throughout the week.


Molotova's picture
Submitted by Molotova (not verified) on

Thanks for the preview. The Ranger is the class I am hoping to make my first class in GW2. If nothing else taming as many juveniles as possible is an extra incentive to explore the world extensively with my first toon. I cannot wait for underwater combat with a pet shark!

The only thing I am worried about is the pet AI, if a big percentage of a Rangers effectiveness is a pet that is too stupid to do a basic thing like moving out of the AoE, he can end up as a source of frustration.

Sardu's picture
Submitted by Sardu on

I found the pets to be more of an interesting method of extending what you could do with your build than relying on them too heavily if that makes sense. They also work well with the way aggro works in PvE, so that part of the AI is pretty solid. Here's an example of what I mean...

Using some of the same build components I mentioned in the article, while using my longbow I would switch pets so that my bear (and later on, my pig) was my active pet. With the way aggro works, enemies are going to attack the closest target, so melee pets pair well with the bows. But swapping to my sword / warhorn set I'd also switch to my spider since it attacks from range. The spider has lower health, so by swapping roles (melee vs. ranged) with both pets and weapon sets, you can do a lot in combat that other professions aren't really able to.

That said, I do wish pet AI in general (including necro minions) functioned a bit better when it comes to avoiding AoEs, or at least making the attempt to move out of them. 

Yski's picture
Submitted by Yski on

Great minds think alike, ranger is one of my favorite classes as well - after necromancerscheeky

Every single forum I've used to spread anti guardian propaganda has subsequently died out on me. Coincidence? I think not!

Lucrece's picture
Submitted by Lucrece (not verified) on
Yay, Rangers! Thanks, Sardu ;) The bow animations are so boring, but I'll have to put up with the longbow ;(. Axes and shortbow seem to be the red-headed stepchildren in terms of performance. Also, I just think every pet should get in its bar an additional slot for its own heal on a cooldown. Relying on your own heal and opening you up to vulnerable moments because you had to keep the pet up with your own heal isn't very good design. Pet swapping is only a band-aid given you're still losing desired F2 utility attack. Ultimately, the pet will be less of a burden when it gets its own heal separate from yours and gains something like WoW's Avoidance where pets take either no or 75% less damage from AoE.

Protect's picture
Submitted by Protect on

While Ranger is my planed main, and the first character I will make, I am overly concerned about the pets.  Seems like the are more of a headache than anything as far as dungeons and PvP goes.  

I will just have to wait and see come beta/launch.

Nausky's picture
Submitted by Nausky on

Glad to hear that the greatsword/sword ranger is as fun as it looks. Here's hoping they continue to improve the pets. :]

sylvinstar's picture
Submitted by sylvinstar on

After watching a lot of youtube, I started to wonder about pet health..seemed like every video I saw, including PVE, the melee pets would go down quickly.  Having no experience in the game yet, I'd think I would try a ranged pet and a long bow (unlesss the melee pet has a cripple that is lacking in the ranged pet.  then just switch to acrobat style once people close.

sleepy misfit's picture
Submitted by sleepy misfit on

From one who so far outside only looking in - your description of what you did with ranger and various vids etc watched  of other beta players there  seems to be huge "crossover" / "shared" skills  of professions.Wonder how much race choice has effect on choice of profession and way it plays.

Nyth_'s picture
Submitted by Nyth_ on

My initial idea was to make a Necromancer main and then shortly after a thief, and then later on make a ranger. But lately my preference has shifted to making a ranger my second character.

Looking forward to some quality footage Sardu :)

jeffprime's picture
Submitted by jeffprime on

Rangers using swords? I feel like it's 1982 and I'm playing first edition AD&D. :)  While I'll probably go Thief first, I'll definitely give Ranger a try as well. I like the idea of pets complementing your abilities as opposed to just being a meat shield.

whoresbane's picture
Submitted by whoresbane on

I really enjoy playing hunter/ranger type classes in games. In gw1 i hated the ranger class. I hope and think it will be better here, although i do think the class will get a lot of patching. Im not gonna take ranger as my main anymore and i think that their pets are way to weak. I used to play wow as a beastmastery hunter and i like strong, powerfull pets even if that means giving up some of my own chars strength.

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