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A Necromancer's BWE2 Post-Mortem Part One

June 11, 2012 - 5:56pm -- Sardu
Grenth's Grog on GW2Hub

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.

GW2 Official Strategy Guide

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.

Secondary takeaway:

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.

Tertiary takeaway:

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.

sylvinstar
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I've avoided playing a MM spec for a couple reasons.  MM was the first build I played in GW1 and I wanted to try out some of the different builds centered on debuffs, wells, and blood.  The Moa counter was the other reason.

The problem is, as you have noted, the death line and MM go together better than any other build type..it's almost like you are at a disadvantage not using it, unless you are building something very niche.

I also noted the uptick in competitiveness in sPvP this weekend.  Pick up groups are going to just be farmer bait at this point.  Unless I get in a sPvP guild I won't be doing any pick-ups in it from now on if I can help it.  Staff/Scepter/Warhorn was fun in WvW but not so much in sPvP due to needing a team that works with that build in mind.  Staff, Axe/Dagger was fun for PvE, but I mostly ran Staff Scepter/Warhorn as a general build for running around in WvW and PvE.

WvW was a lot of fun, and I got to know the maps even better.  It is frustrating when you see what could be done if people were organized...Reddit dominated our server, but we were able to keep them from taking everything in our home world.  There were pitched battles in valleys that could have been won quickly with a couple siege weapons placed on ridges, but people just zerg around and so you have to place your siege, and then run back and forth by yourself a bunch to get it set up.  Based on what I saw in chat and results on the field, I think I already have seen the use of server spies, but I'll just put that down as being paranoid *shrug*.

I won't bore people with a lot of what I saw, but there were some 'A Ha!' moments in WvW for me that were worth remembering.  For instance, there is a particular tower that can have two cannons turned back toward the inside of a main gate, which makes for a nice welcoming salvo when invaders burst the main gate.

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The AI for the pets this BWE was dreadful, so I tried out some other builds.

 

Seriously, its like the minions get worse with each update.

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It is interesting actually, as the only MM Necromancer I saw all weekend was Colin Johanson who hopped on and joined me for some Tournament sPvP.  In comparison to previous phases where every Necromancer I saw was using MM, they seem to have vanished.  I find that really suprising as they can be a real pain.

What I will add though is that the Necromancers I did encounter, all seem to be gravitating towards immovable object builds that do nothing but soak up damage and little else.  In point capture game modes this obviously has its uses, but it's very limited. 

They were incredibly annoying to fight against on my Mesmer.

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The only minion I felt was comparable to the other skills I could slot in its place was the flesh golem.  As an example of what I'm referring to; Shadow Fiend can perform a "blind" which is an extremely useful tool to have at your disposal, and can literally save someone (usually yourself) from a downed state, but the Well of Darkness takes this to a much greater level, and makes point defense a very viable option for any style of necro with just that single utility skill taken.

Unfortunately, at this point the only pets/minions I find at all reliable are the engineer's turrets... all others (spirit weapons, phantasms/clones, ranger pets, necro minions, elementals, etc et al) are hit or miss affairs at best, and completely useless at worst.

Due to the unfortunate design decision to make Wells unusable underwater, I've been forced to take a minion from time to time when swimming, but on land there are far too many MUCH BETTER options to select from, and in PvP the other options are vastly superior for any kind of actual tactical/strategic play.

More players are tending towards improving the already impressive resiliency of the class for the simple reason that they are choosing to emphasize a strength, although personally I prefer to also be able to do enough damage to take down most opponents without undue difficulty.  Both are possible with necro.

For the time being at least, the build/playstyle that suited me the best was definitely augmenting and taking advantage of the profession's superior class mechanic in the Death Shroud.  I've been chewing up "glass cannon" burst damage builds of other professions with great regularity, and their burst damage only really works if they can completely overcome you quickly... with a properly built and played necro, that option is simply off the table.

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You bring up some great points with things like using Well of Darkness for a blind rather than Shadow Fiend. That kind of decision really boils down to a lot of different factors like where you put your traits, or the overall purpose of the build.

If you're traited for wells, then Darkness is clearly the superior choice in just about every way. For my MM build, however, I was remaining conscious of things like additional Toughness per minion, minion life steals, and recharge times on the blind. Likewise, while you could trait to make wells ground targeted, if you're pushing full MM the Fiend gives you a more 'mobile' blind than wells will. Even when ground targeted, smart players will know not to stand in things necros plop on the ground, whereas you can't really move out of the area of the fiend's skill unless you somehow time your dodge perfectly to avoid it.

So it's really a tradeoff you have to make depending on the overarching purpose of the build, how it best supports your team in a given situation, and personal preference.

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"Don't stand in the red circles" is basic knowledge that almost every player has already got going into a fight - you're quite right about that... however, the circumference of a Well of Blood almost exactly matches that of a capture point in sPvP... depending on how bad they want that point neutralized or captured, I've frequently seen many players get so tunnel-visioned on that objective that if they are not immediately taking damage from a "red circle" then they ignore it's presence... heh... blind in more ways than one eh?

You're also absolutely correct about the range and mobility of the Shadowfiend's blind, and if/when ANet gets their pet AI working a bit better you also gain the benefit of additional damage with the minions regardless of how you spec.

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I had to work (again -.-) this BWE but the little time I did get in, I also tried some ranger gameplay and was positively surprised how better their weapon skills are compared to necromancer. There is such a huge difference in synergy if you compare certain of the necro's weaponsets to for example the Longbow it's mind boggling. I hope they do attend to this.

As for MM, it still suffers from their biggest flaw for sPvP and that is terrible minion AI.

I'm still optimistic they will fix that; but currently it makes the spec really obnoxious to play. I also think the talk about this topic on forums drove a lot of people away from MM. And frankly it was as bad, if not worse this BWE. I remain optimistic though that ANet is working on that.

That said, the momentum of necromancer really shifted; most likely due to footage seen in the previous BWE. The new FotM spec of course being heavy Soul Reaping. And the other popular spec was conditionmancer. It seems that the 2 popular specs of last BWE (Crit axe and MM) were a minority this round.

Akilles (not verified)
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I don't find that suprising Necros leaving their MM builds:

- When we have a more popular profession than ours, having an Elite that entirely ruins your build. You can argue "Oh but not every Mesmer equips Moa Morph" of course not, but still being more popular, you have an high chance being a Necro, to meet with a Mesmer with it.

- The Blood Fiend, being a MM you are going to bring it, right? Wrong move. Someone sneezes near him and it's dead, that's how it is and feels at the moment. Not even Flesh of the Master does much for him. I played an DS/SR Necro and I found during the weekend a single MM and what was my first move? Of course kill the poor BF (that sound bad) and so long Necro.

- That comes to the third reason, it's easy to counter, just kill his damn heal.

- The minion AI, slightly improved (yes I tried it) still isn't enough. Minions just don't go pursuing enemies half the map anymore, maybe just a quarter now, leaving the Necro helpless?

- Bone Fiend second best minion after the Golem, Shadow has a blind, Bone Minions the re-use makes them viable and finally we got Flesh Wurm with a bugged Necrotic Traversal, a simple stone in the way and no teleport for you.

Is this a real pain build? Yes it is, for the Necro playing it for sure.

By the way Nyth you know the Axe damage was reduce to half damage since last BWE to this weekend?

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