You would think if you read the official Guild Wars 2 forums, that the Mesmer was unplayable in its current form. The last profession to be revealed and confirmed by Jon Peters as the roughest around the edges, there has to be a certain level of acceptance from the community that changes will be made and tweaks implemented in order for ArenaNet to get it to where they want it to be.
If you’ve read my article on the Engineer, you’ll know I’m not one to shy away from confronting a profession’s problems, nor am I one to shy away from suggesting changes (whether right or wrong). I intend to play both the Mesmer and Engineer on Guild Wars 2’s release, in the interests of the GW2Hub community, so it’s only fair that I share my thoughts on the three areas of concern I currently have with the profession.
As a concept, I love Shattering. Each of the individual effects offers a great deal of flexibility to the Mesmer in how they choose to dispose of their illusions or phantasms. What I find surprising however is how frequently I’ve read complaints about all four and yet I’ve found all have a distinct role if used correctly. That isn’t to say Shattering as a concept is perfect, but with only minor tweaks I consider it one of the most fun mechanics in the game.
The first suggestion I would make is having Diversion by default (and in line with Mind Wrack and Cry of Frustration) daze all nearby foes. As powerful as Daze is, sacrificing what could potentially be 3 illusions/phantasms for a single target effect often feels wasteful and it can be far more productive to simply use another of the Shatter skills. By combining Imbued Diversion so that Diversion affects everyone nearby and adds 1 second of Daze per Illusion/Phantasms Shattered, would make it much more worthwhile.
Where Mind Wrack is concerned, it’s difficult to know how intentional the changes to its damage were during the last Beta phase. With Traits that improve Mind Wrack having been chopped down horrifically, the Shatters base damage is now awful. Even with critical hits, I don’t recall ever seeing Mind Wrack deal any more than 650 damage. This may sound respectable, but when you consider it has a 15 second cooldown, comes at the cost of all your Illusions/Phantasms and is less damage than a single Blurred Frenzy, something is evidently wrong. With Illusions now dealing 0 damage (although mine dealt 9 damage!) Mind Wrack should be realigned to reflect this damage loss and should provide our strongest spike skill.
Cry of Frustration (CoF) tends to receive the most complaints and I often think it’s because Confusion as a condition is misunderstood but also underused. The prospect of a condition dealing damage to those who attack adds a wonderful layer of possibilities to the caster, requiring the victim to remain fully aware of what they’re doing in order to overcome it. What Cry of Frustration fails to do is offer enough stacks to make the Shatter worth while. Tied to condition damage, CoF can often be difficult to get the most out of, which often leaves its damage tragically low (I'll talk about Confusion a little more later).
Distortion is probably my favourite skill out of all the Shatters. A 3 second immunity is incredibly powerful and when used right, before or after Blurred Frenzy, can see you take no damage for a significant period of time. The 60 second recharge is a long time, but is reflective of the Shatters potency.
Were I to suggest changes to any of the Shatters it would be to provide more utility in their outcome effect, instead of the one effect they currently have (damage, confusion, daze or distortion) I will however go into greater depth of this in the following section.
There are two primary problems with the Clone/Illusion and Phantasm system. The first and one accentuated by the removal of Clones/Illusions dealing damage (if they are in fact no longer supposed to deal damage) is that they override Phantasms. This in many respects can be overcome with careful use of your skills but where some skills or traits automatically create a clon (such as Ether Clone, Illusionary Riposte or Deceptive Evasion) you have little chance of maintaining your Phantasms for long periods of time.
With lengthy cooldowns and now providing a bulk of damage for the Mesmer, its more important than ever that Phantasms remain on field or as long as you choose. To have an Illusionary Swordsman who was dealing 3,000 damage per swing (I’ve had mine dealing more) replaced by an clone dealing 0 damage, because you dodged or didn’t cancel your Scepter auto attack quick enough, is at times infuriating.
I don’t believe there is an easy solution to this issue, though there are certainly plenty of suggestions:
1. Have Clones/Illusions never override Phantasms. This is likely the easiest solution but one which would cause significant problems for the Mesmer in attempting to confuse their opponents, through the use of Illusions acting as distractions. As Phantasms have a transparent appearance, it would technically leave only 1 Illusion if you had two active Phantasms (a regular occurrence when weapon swapping). This would not only affect the Mesmers ability to hide but also hamper many existing traits.
2. Have 5 available Clones/Illusion/Phantasm slots, instead of 3. I have read this suggestion several times and although simple, it would have to be on the basis 2 of the 5 slots are reserved for Phantasms. I don’t particularly feel this is an elegant solution as it would only serve to add further potency to the Mesmer, creating an imbalance as they amassed too many illusions/phantasms that could all be shattered. Reducing Shattering damage to compensate could potentially alleviate this, but still leaves the issue of sheer numbers.
3. Have Phantasms as timed spells. It’s a solution I actually prefer, instead having them as independent spells you summon and which disappear after a certain amount of time. This would alleviate Clones/Illusions overriding Phantasms instantly and still allow you to shatter 3 Illusions. What I would like to see, if this was implemented, was to see Phantasms “charge” nearby Illusions when you use a Shatter skill, that could result in an additional effect.
For example, if I had 3 Illusions (demonstrated by 3 pink icons above my skill bar) and I summoned a Phantasm, my Shatter skills would gain an additional benefit. The 3 pink icons would also change to purple, to indicate a summoned Phantasm.
- Mind Wrack – Destroy all your clones, damaging nearby foes and knocking them down.
- Cry of Frustration - Destroy all your clones, confusing and causing weakness to nearby foes
- Diversion - Destroy all your clones, dazing and causing vulnerability to nearby foes
- Distortion - Destroy all your clones, gaining distortion and causing vulnerability to nearby foes
Based on the Mesmers lack of access to Boons, isn't there also the potential to see Phantasms provide you with a Boon when you Shatter your illusions?
- Mind Wrack – Destroy all your clones, damaging nearby foes and gaining Swiftness.
- Cry of Frustration - Destroys all your clones, confusing nearby foes and gaining Fury.
- Diversion - Destroy all your clones, dazing nearby foes and gaining Vigor.
- Distortion - Destroy all your clones, gaining Distortion and Retaliation for each one shattered.
The second primary complaint with Illusions and Phantasms is the fact they are so subject to AI path finding. When you trigger a Shatter, it is highly likely your Illusions will be killed on the way to their target from stray area of effect spells. Should your opponent jump from a ledge or gantry your Illusions and Phantasms cannot or often won’t follow them.
The main suggestion to rectify this is to have all llusions and Phantasms Blink to their target when you Shatter them. This would, in many respects, remove the navigational problems but poses a set of new ones based on range and balance.
- Would my Illusions only Blink to the target when in a certain range?
- Would my Illusions Blink to the target from any range?
- Would the damage of Shattering have to be adjusted based on such a guaranteed spike?
- Why shouldn’t players be able to avoid Shattering?
The fact that Illusions are so vulnerable and now deal zero damage makes me gravitate towards the Blink solution if for nothing more than to see 3 Illusions/Phantasms instantly vanish and appear next to my target in a cloud of broken butterflies. The only alternative would be to fix the AI path finding so that Illusions and Phantasms actually follow opponents over ledges, but it would still leave the prospect of them dying before they even reach their target. Perhaps granting Illusions and Phantasms protection and swiftness when you choose to Shatter them might overcome this obstacle.
Through stealth, illusions and the physical condition the Mesmer, at its heart, is designed to confuse. Yet why is it that the condition specifically implemented for the profession is so tragically underused? With only 4 skills and 1 shatter that induce it, it seems laborious to have to Trait what could become the backbone of the profession.
There is a part of me dislikes the fact that Confusion is considered a condition as it is easily stripped and is so reliant on you specializing in Condition Damage which for many Mesmers, simply isn't an option. Having Confusion become an other, in line with Stability, Stealth and Frenzy would instantly raise its potential.
What I would also like to see as a result of the change is the damage dealt to the victim increased, but also have at least 1 skill on every weapon set provide Confusion. The exception to this would be the Scepter which would have Confusion, in some form, on every skill. Unfortunately the Scepter now retains an odd set of skills due to its Confusion stacking being neutered a change I still cannot understand (but which I've asked Jon Peters about).
I think this minor change alone would compliment the existing Traits, but show a clear definition of what the skill is; an effect that makes you, as the victim, stop and think. If I was being really adventurous, I'd pray that it moves away entirely from being the Back Fire of Guild Wars 2 and instead become more like Clumsiness.
Despite some issues surrounding the profession, I think it would be sensationalist at this point to suggest (as many have and do) that the Mesmer is unplayable or that it cannot compete against other professions. Some of the changes that have crept in, specific to Illusion damage and the rebalancing of certain skills is hard to swallow. I think part of the problem lies in the fact that the Mesmer has a high skill ceiling and a steep learning curve. As a profession I played almost exclusively in Guild Wars 1 and the first profession I ever played in Guild Wars 2 (though they bear no correlation), I've sunk many hours into it and still feel I'm on scraping the surface of what the profession is capable of. To create a Mesmer and join a sPvP match will likely see many fail as they struggle to get to grips with the professions complexities.
There are some concerns regarding certain weapon sets specific to the scepter, torch and sword off-hand, as they all desperately need improvements so that people use something other than Staff + Sword/Pistol. But for the most part, the tweaks would only need to be minor.
Fundamentally and in line with Jon Peters comments made on the official forums, the Mesmer was the last profession to be revealed and is likely still in a state of significant change at all levels. With the third Beta weekend likely round the corner, I'm excited to see what changes are brought to the profession.