Another Guild Wars 2 beta weekend has successfully wrapped up, not unlike an early Christmas present from ArenaNet. There were a lot of fixes, changes, and improvements across the board, and the game just keeps getting better through each iterative pass.
In the last episode of Grenth’s Grog, I did some analysis of conceptually playing the necromancer focused on Blood Magic. As noted, it was also one of my goals for BWE2 to see if such a build could be viable in different gameplay situations, so heading into the event that’s exactly what I did.
But I didn’t just stop there; I also spent a lot of time refining my take on a true minion master build which I still consider to be superior to the trends we’re currently seeing with the necro in structured PvP (or sPvP as the kids like to call it these days).
Preface: Guild Wars 2 and E3 2012
This weekend ended up being somewhat bittersweet for me. I missed the entirety of Friday due to traveling back to my secret underground laboratory from E3. I had spent all of last week wearing my managing editor guise, covering nearly 20 appointments with the majority of them being hands-on.
I made it a personal goal during the event to see if there were any signs of Guild Wars 2 to be found. Considering that ArenaNet hasn’t made an E3 appearance in six years, I knew it would be a challenge. Towards the end of the third day of the event I did manage to find at least a token presence for the game at the show.
As you can see above, the Brady Games booth was proudly displaying a large promo for its upcoming Guild Wars 2 guide. Chances are, the existence of the pending product is old news to hardcore fans, but it’s the first I came across this kind of direct confirmation that such a thing even exists.
The main takeaway here:
While I don’t really bother reading printed game guides from Brady or Prima, I do tend to purchase them for key MMOs when available. So it looks like I’ll have to account for yet another GW2 related purchase this year that I wasn’t expecting.
If push comes to shove, would you be more likely to purchase a printed (or downloadable) game guide for GW2, or save your cash to pick up shiny new things for your account via the Black Lion Trading Company? Collectibles are cool, but so are extra character slots, so it’s something to ponder at any rate.
Also worth pondering: The icon for the Black Lion Trading Company is, in fact, a white lion.
After spending 3 solid days in presentation rooms, playing over a dozen in-development games, and writing up a storm as part of our exclusive E3 2012 content run on Ten Ton Hammer, needless to say my gamer brain had turned to mush by the time I could finally log into GW2 this weekend. As a result, I spent most of Saturday in drool cup mode just kind of running around with no real focus or purpose to what I was doing.
In fact – and people will no doubt scoff at me for this - the zombified state I was in from sensory overload and travel put me in the perfect mindset to spend most of Saturday in World v. World. I have a lot to say about the different functions of players in WvW, but for now just note that no matter how organized your world may be, the majority of players will always amount to mindless cattle who are expected to follow the orders of those who feel they deserve to function as the main tacticians for hundreds of players at a time.
A Necromancer’s BWE2 Post-Mortem Part One
More of my overly opinionated take on WvW will likely hit the ‘Hub at some point in the future. For now though, I wanted to begin my necro post-mortem for BWE2 with some initial thoughts on necro builds in structured PvP.
I spent the latter half of Sunday running PvP matches, primarily on my necro. Two main things stood out for me this time around, perhaps more so than in any of the previous events I’ve participated in:
1. Players across the board appear to be far more organized at this point. While I would occasionally come across someone who was attempting to basically solo in a competitive group game format, on the whole I was seeing a lot more teamwork than I imaged would be present at this point. Apparently players have been doing their homework between events, and it has me incredibly excited to see how things progress on the sPvP side of things post-launch.
2. Hot join matches are fun, but can also be a little frustrating.
On the fun side, you’re still able to get in quickly, kick some ass, and possibly even make some new friends depending on how much your teammates are bothering to communicate during the match.
The only real point of frustration is that team sizes were never consistent. While a few I played were full 8v8, within a match or two enough people would drop out until it was 2v2, and I kept getting placed in smaller matches like that straight out of the gates.
While I dig that I never had to wait for matches once I hit the shiny Play Now button, I’m hoping that eventually there is a better minimum for team sizes before a new server / match is formed. Unless you’re purposefully interested in it, 2v2 or even 3v3 tends to be a pretty useless match size for the current maps, although I could see some potential for interesting tournaments based on those team sizes. But in that case you’d be going in with a character built specifically for that team size, where as hot join is such a mixed bag that it almost necessitates more of a generic approach to builds.
Speaking of builds…
Since team sizes kept dwindling after around 4 or 5 matches, that was the pace at which I would hop back into the Mists and work out new builds to experiment with. I tried a lot of different necro build concepts, but at the end of the day I made an important discovery that I find somewhat fascinating.
Necros, for the most part, are ignoring minion master builds.
The reason I find this fascinating is because MM is one of the core builds I’ve been focusing on for a long time now, and is perhaps one of the two best support builds you can run with. However, the current trend is for people to do the whole Energizer Bunny thing with necros. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, especially if your role in sPvP is a combination of harassment and pure defensive staying power to hold captured points.
Let’s face it: necromancers are not offensive powerhouses in GW2. But in my experience a well-played MM is one of the most satisfying and uniquely offensive build types the profession has to offer. If not for the hard counter of the mesmer’s damned moa elite as an instant “I win” button against MM necros, it would be the closest thing I could consider to be a perfect build for necros in general.
First off, outside of death shroud / survivalist / defensive build concepts, MM builds have the best traits to support that style of play. There is almost a perfect synergy between minions and staff skills; a synergy that’s only currently rivaled by pure corruptions builds. Staff is just fun in sPvP anyway – given how heavily melee centric things currently are, it’s the perfect weapon to kite and otherwise harass warriors and rangers who try to get up in your face too much.
Necro pro tip for warriors: bring a bow as one of your weapon sets instead of going pure melee. Otherwise, a well-played staff / MM necro can harass and kite you all day long.
Stability is a possible concern for pure MM builds, but you can still benefit from the much higher sustained DPS and occasional burst damage via the flesh golem. Lich Form is cooler than Cool Whip and plague can cause mass panic amongst unsuspecting defenders, but at the end of the day the golem simply does more damage than any of the necro’s weapon skills even without the active burst ability factored in. As such, I still consider it optimal for the time being.
Oh, and it can also tank the NPC bosses in Niflhel better than most players do currently, neatly allowing necros to solo them while the rest of your team scampers off to cap points on that particular map.
I could wax poetic about MM necros all day, but for now at least wanted to touch on some initial thoughts following the second BWE. I’ll continue to drill down into the profession on NecroBator, but in the meantime be sure to share your thoughts on MM necros in your friendly neighborhood comments section below.
Sardu has been writing about MMORPGs professionally for four years including his current role as managing editor of TenTonHammer.com. He is the founder, developer, and site lead for GW2Hub, as well as a fansite dedicated to the necromancer profession, NecroBator.com.