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Melee vs Ranged in Structured PvP

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June 15, 2012 - 1:40pm -- Sardu
The Last Whiskey Bar


Welcome to the second episode of The Last Whiskey Bar. In it, Sardu and Xerin square off in a bar brawl to the death in GuildWars2Hub’s take on the traditional point / counterpoint format.

This week we decided to tackle another major topic focused on structured PvP in Guild Wars 2: Which is the dominant factor when it comes to structured PvP: melee or ranged combat?

Xerin argues for ranged, while Sardu sides with melee for this round. Who will emerge victorious this week? Read on and then be sure to cast your vote in the comments!

Xerin says "Ranged Rules"

"You would think that professions such as the Thief or Warrior would tear up professions such as Mesmer or Elementalist when they actually get close to them but it couldn’t be further from the truth."

The eternal debate of melee versus ranged has to be one of my favourite topics and the fact we’ve restricted it to structured PvP makes it even more interesting.  How did I fare in the last debate by the way? Did I win? I must go back and count up the “GO XERIN!” votes I received.

I definitely fall on the side of ranged.  I’ve always been ranged in every MMOG I’ve ever played.  I’ve always found that inherently they have the advantage over melee based on the simple fact that, well, they can attack you from afar.

In all seriousness, it’s taken years for developers of MMOGs to realise that melee professions need tools to mitigate damage and close gaps to counter the abundance of ranged skills.  In contrast, ranged professions have seemingly always had skills to competently keep melee professions at bay, allowing them to be kited all day long.

What’s interesting here is that in Guild Wars 2 their PvP maps lend themselves, in many places, towards a melee playstyle.  Chokepoints, small gaps and narrow alleyways are in abundance in Khylo while Niflhel, on the physical capture points, leaves very little room to manevour.  In parts Niflhel does redeem itself for those of us who do play ranged, such as between the two spawn locations or at the base of the keep.

But even in the tightest of spaces I feel ranged still excels in Guild Wars 2 structured PvP because ranged players naturally create the space needed to deal damage, but also avoid it.  With melee, they have to always be up close and personal.  This leaves two major problems 1) They receive damage all the way to the target 2) They receive damage from all other sources, all the way to the target.

GW2 Battle of Kyhlo Loading Screen

The abundance of ground targeted skills, AOE effects and cone based attacks make arriving at a target, without having taken significant damage, almost impossible. In contrast, a ranged player can avoid all of it from the safety of distance and still fight back.

Let’s simplify it a little. In a circumstance where a melee and ranged player both have 2 damage avoidance skills and 1 gap closer/creator and both start an equal distance apart, who would win? I think many would always state ranged simply because the melee player would instantly be forced to use a gap closer or damage avoidance skill just to reach the opponent, putting the melee player at an instant disadvantage in terms of skills used.

You would think that professions such as the Thief or Warrior would tear up professions such as Mesmer or Elementalist when they actually get close to them but it couldn’t be further from the truth.  The abundance of stuns afforded to such professions always tips the scale in their favour and on an even playing field, I always win more than I lose.

Even in both structured maps in Guild Wars 2, ranged always comes out on top, it’s simply a too versatile playstyle not to.

- Xerin

Sardu says "Melee Me"

"Capturing and holding points necessitates being physically present within a defined space; one that notably keeps players within melee range to do so."

More often than not, melee classes or playstyles tend to be the underdog when it comes to MMO PvP. This scales upwards in direct proportion to the size of the playing field combined with the number of active participants. In many games, PvP quickly devolves into little more than a ranged pissing contest, or provides little opportunity for melee to truly shine due to base design decisions made by the developers.

In Guild Wars 2, World v. World is unquestionably a game type that caters to ranged play. As such, all professions have at least some ranged capabilities, such as the warrior’s use of the longbow rather than being a strictly melee combatant.

In contrast, structured PvP is absolutely the domain of melee-centric professions and builds. And when I say that, I’m not talking about sPvP being little more than a playground for the thief, warrior, and guardian. Just as ranged builds shine in WvW, melee builds, or builds focused on melee weapons at any rate – regardless of profession – are the staple of structured PvP.

This is a core part of the design of the current maps. Capturing and holding points necessitates being physically present within a defined space; one that notably keeps players within melee range to do so. While ranged attackers may have a slight advantage in a few key map locations, those participants must still eventually occupy a roughly melee-radius circle to capture the point or hold it for their team.

GW2 Forest of Niflhel Loading Screen

GW2 notably differs from nearly all other MMOs for two reasons when it comes to melee being the dominant factor here.

1. All professions have the ability to use melee builds, or switch to them in combat. For example, the necromancer – a traditionally pure ranged archetype – can be played very much as a melee profession if you choose to.

2. All professions have movement abilities that bring you quickly within melee range of your target, with some that can pull enemies within melee range (as is the case with the necro's Spectral Grasp).

The latter point is significant here, because it means melee builds are much harder to kite in sPvP, and players have the tools to keep combat directly focused on capture points. The implementation of this, by design, lends itself to the notion that sPvP is absolutely a melee-centric arena, just as WvW caters to ranged play.

As new maps are added, there could potentially be a corresponding paradigm shift, but so long as physical presence in a defined space remains the capture mechanic, structured PvP will be a melee-centric game type.

- Sardu

We’ve had our say, now we’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter. Do you think the argument for ranged presented by Xerin is most valid, or do you feel that Sardu’s argument for melee is the clear victor for this round?

Let us know who you feel should be declared the winner in the second round of The Last Whiskey Bar in the comments!


Cronck's picture
Submitted by Cronck on

I think that an issue needing to get fixed in the game is that although the Engineer has a utility skill that gives some melee abilities a primary weapon of say Hammer/Mace (Engineers would use hammers to fix things and it can pare up with the shield nice) needs to be added for a melee option with the ability to weapon swap.

other wise i think the game is balanced nicely between the 2 forms of attack.

When life gives you lemons, shoot them back at life at high velocity.

RedExergy's picture
Submitted by RedExergy on

To be brutally honest, I feel this to be a bit of a moot point, as all classes can do both ranged and melee, and most have the option to switch midcombat to the other playstyle.

I do think that both of you forgot to mention the use of dodge, a double gab closer on a 5 sec cooldown that makes kiting a hell of a lot easier.

DrunknGod's picture
Submitted by DrunknGod on

OK presuming 130 range equates to "melee" and everything beyond 130 is "ranged" I think it's hard to argue melee is in anyway favored by any means.  When you look at traditional melee weapons still being tied to ranged abilities I think by design melee is at a disadvantage.

Xerin also brings up the thing I always look at when it comes to this argument.  Ranged can do dmg from 0-1200 while melee (by definition) does dmg from 0-130.  One of the major strikes against melee in GW2 specifically is that melee abilities are still going to fire, putting that ability on CD, even if the target is out of range of 130.  Ranged abilities have an immense advantage over this as they're not held, even remotely, to the same level of range limit.  A simple dodge could put your target out of melee range where for a ranged class it's still PEW PEW.

Winner: ​Xerin

kre5o's picture
Submitted by kre5o (not verified) on

@DrunknGod as I recall the devs said that melee deals more damage and that is intentionally. So I think melee wins. If you know how to play it will always win over ranged.

DrunknGod's picture
Submitted by DrunknGod on

I think you're missing the point of the argument.  Yes melee "should" do more dmg because it's confined to 0-130.  By design if you're within melee range of a melee ability you should feel the pain.  However, in a 0-130 scenario as a ranged played I only need to stay at 131 range for instance for melee dmg to have a null effect on me.  If GW2 had a /stick command I'd have a completely different view of this.  A ranged player will do less dmg but hit a melee more because this game encourages lots of movement.  There are very few abilities that require you to stand still in this game.  This is a Caster's paradise since they can now do most of their attacks on-the-fly after so many games where their casting usually has them limited to stopping and remaining in a static position with long cast timers giving melee a chance to close the gap and smash them in da'face.

As far as melee always winning if they know how to play???  I think that's a little short-sighted.  If a game is balanced then two players of equal skill; 1 melee and 1 ranged, should kill each other at the same time.

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

"As far as melee always winning if they know how to play???  I think that's a little short-sighted.  If a game is balanced then two players of equal skill; 1 melee and 1 ranged, should kill each other at the same time."

Don't agree on that. If they are both same skill but they are low, ranged wins. If they are both (same) high skill melee wins. Not saying that is an auto win if you play melee, far from that. I would say out of 10 matches about 6 melee wins. We are debating here about slight advantages that are only visible at top skill players. Unless you are one, this debate in pointless

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

There are so much more important things to argue about in the community than whether melee or ranged is more viable in PvP, a debate that is essentially pointless.  The game is much more than melee or ranged, its about your profession, weapon, utilities, skill, and traits.  And who wins in a PvP setting depends on so many more factors than just melee or ranged.  It's how you build and your level of skill that matters, not melee or ranged.

Debate tiers, debate dyes account/character bound, debate who has the best smile on the ANet dev team, anything is better than this "debate".

Rin Aki's picture
Submitted by Rin Aki on

I think you both have valid points, but I'd just like to add my own. As a predominantly melee focused player ( I do play ranged as well, I just prefer melee), I often find in games, that range has the advantage. However, in GW2 I find it has a good balance. That is to say, if two equally matched players fought (1 ranged 1 melee) the outcome would not be obvious. I feel it would be a close match. Providing each player has built with the opposite's build in mind.

A ranged player will bring gap creators and mobility control skills. A melee player will bring gap closers and mobility control skills. So each player has an equal chance of keeping at or in range. Now you could argue that the melee player has to use his gap closer first, in order to get in range, therefore giving the ranged player an advantage. Which is correct. But the way GW2 combats this is by making defensive skills have longer cooldowns or cost more resources. So for example; a warrior can use savage leap (an offensive skill) at an engineer and the engineer can use overcharged shot (a skill with a defensive component) to blast the warrior back. But the warrior's leap will recharge faster than the engineers knockback. So eventually the fight will even out, with the engineer dominating the fight at range to start with, but the warrior catching up in melee range later.

So in my opinion, the fight should be fairly even. But at the end of the day, it comes down to player skill and build choices. In GW2, I don't think there is a clear winner anymore. Not between equally match players at least.

As to who wins the argument, that is a tough choice. You both had very good points. However, if your argument did not pin so heavily on map design Sardu, I would have chosen you. But because was focused more on the strengths of ranged combat, his argument was slightly more convincing to me. Even if I didn't fully agree with him ;). Sorry Sardu :(.


Order of the Ono & Semper Dius

oneeyered's picture
Submitted by oneeyered on

While I have yet to play (finally pre-ordered other day after BWE2 was over) I have always been a melee player by choice. This option has always been the harder road to follow and master. However, from my understanding of all the game information no class is bottlenecked into a specific role? For example, an Elementalist could very well dual wield or sword/board effectively as easily as a warrior could go bow/2hand?

This is actually the first time I may roll ranged as a main simply because I am growing tired of spending the last 15 yrs being funneled into a specific role that sits at the bottom of the barrel. Not one MMO for me except for DAOC (holy trinity as well) has produced a melee class that everyone feared in RvR/PvP. Every game since then has been a futile attempt to close the gap except for some builds in RIFT but that could have all changed as well as I have not played it in quite some time.

The fact has remained however that very few people that have played melee classes have been able to master them enough to be viable consistently in a PvP type situation. I am hoping due to the no trinity based system melee will be as viable as ranged. Otherwise, another game will depress me beyond belief and it will be nothing short of a constant fireworks show.

As far as who wins this debate I think you both present some great theories but as a stout melee class player, I sadly have to side with until someone other than the ranged player killing me proves me otherwise.

Its a simple world for complicated people



Galen's picture
Submitted by Galen on

I think some people are missing the main point of this debate.  The debate isn't which is better, melee or ranged, the debate is which is better in PVP.

while  melee vs ranged is, in general, a matter of personal style, I find the question before us a bit more interesting.  I have not yet tried any pvp, either strucutred or world, so my points are only based on what I have heard in general.

This must essential depend on what exactly is the goals of the PvP you are playing.  If your goal is to kill your opponent faster than they can kill you, then I would tend to think Ranged would have the upper hand, being you are able to inflict damage from farther away than someone who can only attack via melee.

On the other hand, if you goal is to capture and keep certain spots, then I would say that melee has the upper hand, since in order to gain the spot, you are limited in your range of motion and cannot keep very far away no matter what you do and the higher output of melee damage would trump the use of ranged damage when done at close range.

Of course, once you have gained a spot, to try to keep, ranged does have its uses in trying to do damage to a target as they close, thus I would have to say the best option would be to equip both.

With the exception of the elementalist and Engineer, this is very possible to do since you can weaponswap.


This leaves me with 2 real questions on this matter. 

First of all, for an Ele or an Eng, which should they choose?  Not having played much of the Eng, I can only state my opinion on the elementalist.  To that degree, I would have to say that, again, it depends on what you expect of the elementalist.  The standard convention is, since the Ele is such a lightweight in the armor division, Ranged is far better, but the interesting thing is, with the elementalist, there are ways to quickly close and reopen the gap between you and the opponent.  Add in the utility skills to offer some spells for ranged damage while recouping, and I think perhaps an Ele could do quite well with Melee.

My second question would be that I think an important consideration is the characters build.  Even an Ele could manage ranged and melee swaps well depending on their build.  So, if you arm for Melee and build for ranged, or arm for ranged and build for Melee, does that perhaps give you a stronger build total for pvp?




p/s  Just a thought about what Xerin said above about the debates here.  You might try seeing if there is a reader/poster here that disagrees, and can create a strong argument for, a position the both of you hold.

Instead of just having Xerin vs Sardu, why not offer up a subject at the end of a Whiskey Bar that you both agree upon and then ask for us to submit to you our own opinions if we dissagree...such as above you mention that both Xerin and Sardu agree on being for the new Trait could over either an open invitation, or an invitation to someone specific, to see if they can offer a valid and interesting counterpoint.  I am sure there are at least one two on here who would be happy to offer a counterpoint to the trait system being good.



Galen's picture
Submitted by Galen on

Yes, I know I just put of the last post on this, but I have real quick additional thought, though it bears no relevencey to the current discussion.

How to make a Hold Point that works for ranged combat?  How about a circle of say 5 melee points arrayed in a circular patter, the central, melee specific, area being kept blank.  Whoever holds 3 or more of them, holds the point.





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

Well, I'll be honest. I ran with a build last time around, which was both Melee and Ranged. I used a crit chance and damage focused rifle warrior and with a sword and shield.

Oddly enough, and this sounds like a paradox. But when I saw a ranged player, I swapped to my sword and board, I had a cripple, that traited to also immobilize, a stun and the burst skill immobilized. Plus, using Throw Bolas and the leap skill, meant I could harass, close gaps and generally annoy and destroy ranged players.

Conversely, when encountering melee players, I loved to pop balanced stance, as they usually use up all their CCs and gap closers early on, and relied on kiting them, using throw bolas and the immobilize from the rifle, as well as the rifle butt.

In general however though, I felt that both can work out, and I think the only situation where you only really lose out, is when you rely on one too much. Like, when a Necromancer tried to kite me, and abuse range when he saw my sword and shield, I swapped to the rifle and made HIM run off. 

Though, I do feel for our engineer buddies, the tool kit is not a weapon. Its a utility skill, and it is not viable at all, by design, to ever compete with a melee ability. My rifle butt does the same as the pry bar, and for me, it creates range and helps me, for them, it just allows your target to escape. I would ideally give them a mace/hammer with plenty of mobility. 

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

I didnt even think this was still even debatable in PVP it was not so hard at all to attack ranged players vice versa >_>

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

i completely disagree with the idea that a melee character can't deal damage from a distance. melee weapons and utility skills can close gaps, sometimes instantly, and you can always start off with your ranged weapon while moving towards your enemy and this actually gives you a larger pool of weapon skills for that fight.

for example, use a rifle while moving towards your enemy. this will take longer than bull's charge or savage leap, but in the mean time you're inflicting weakness, cripple, and building adrenaline. by the time you get close enough, you can use your melee weapon(s) for more conditions, throw your axe/sword for a ranged cripple, leap/stun/immobilise and generally do far more damage because that's what melee weapons do.