With Halloween right around the corner, now might be a good time to take a pit stop and assess where we are in terms of Guild Wars 2’s professions. I must stress, this entire post is based purely on my own anecdotal evidence however, I am keen to hear about your views on each or profession (or your profession) of choice and where you feel improvements need to be made or whether a big old beating with the nerf bat would be more appropriate.
The bubble throwing, immovable object that is the Guardian is the talk of the town at the moment, for all the wrong reasons. Bunker builds are taking over tournament PvP and the Guardian is one of the main offenders. What I find frustrating in this scenario is the fact that the Guardian was bunkering all the way throughout the Beta to the point where most, if not all players, couldn’t actually do anything against them. Even more frustrating was the fact that this play style was defended so heavily by the Guild Wars 2 community. I remember all and sundry simply stating “They deal so little damage, you can just ignore them!”. Er, no. You can’t just ignore them as it becomes a war of attrition. If you cannot physically harm someone, but they can still harm you, you will eventually die and contrary to myth, bunker guardians still hurt. They hurt more than enough to kill you, even if it does take a few seconds longer.
On Wednesday I played in a tournament match where my thief wasn’t physically capable of taking down a guardian I encountered. You might think “noob!” or “change your build!” but I was in fact built to strip boons and generally deal a huge amount of damage (though not quite in the realms of glass cannon). Unfortunately, I eventually had to run simply because I couldn’t harm him. What was more worrying was the fact that when joined by others, three of us still couldn’t take him down.
I don’t believe this necessarily says anything about our skill as a group (I’ve won hundreds of tournament matches) but more an issue with defensive traits, boons and cool down reduction skills that serve to support this play style. Fundamentally, no profession should be able to reach these limits of defence as all it does do is steer teams too heavily into turtling that cripples the intended, fluid nature of Capture Point matches.
Hundred Blades has reared its ugly head yet again and continues to dominate the airwaves. Nerf, nerf, nerf they cry! I’m not sure how I feel about a skill that has become synonymous with the warrior. On one hand, it undoubtedly deals a huge amount of damage (if spec’d right) on the other, it can be easily avoided if you actually pay attention. Most warriors who deal huge amounts of damage with Hundred Blades are incredibly fragile (akin to a glass cannon thief) and so can be killed easily. What this does mean however is that if you don’t have a stun removal or your endurance is empty, you can be killed almost instantly. I know I’ve been on the receiving end of Hundred Blades many times and caught with my stun removal on cooldown and no endurance, I’ve died within a single second (baring in mind I’ve 25,000 health). Whether this is balanced or not is an impossible argument based on the fact that there are ways to avoid or mitigate the damage entirely, but when caught in it should any skill be able to kill you instantly? Haste is often the major cause of concern here (coupled with Immobilise) making Hundred Blades last less than 2 seconds, rather than a little over 3. Although I don’t have a solution, I do expect it to be adjusted in the coming patches, just as Pistol Whip has been tamed (a little).
Engineers are seemingly still unpopular and I’ve absolutely no idea why. I would go as far as to say they are currently the strongest profession in the game that is tragically underappreciated. I played tournament matches yesterday with my Engineer and demolished everyone and anyone in sight. Although I run a condition heavy build, the damage is incredible and your survivability even better when traited; you can heal twice, use elixir S twice, remove conditions and gain permanent swiftness, vigor and a ton of protection. Despite all this, I never hear any vocal complaints about the Engineers potency in tournament PvP and yet it is a profession I’d always want by my side. Are Engineers perfect? Not quite, like most professions they’ve a bugs list as long as their arm, however I do consider them in a “good place” at the moment.
Will pets ever be fixed? 99% of the time it feels like you are battling an untamed elephant who is insisting on going left, rather than right. Skills are still unresponsive, their attack speed and the ability to hit moving targets dubious and generally they are more than a hindrance than an ally. How I long for the ranger pet to be removed. On top of that, I’d have to say that Rangers are probably one of the weakest professions at the moment. Although the Short Bow received some love, Spirits are still pretty awful, their reliance on Signet of Stone too prevalent (all the other signets are terrible) and in comparison to other professions their ability to actually mitigate damage or avoid it all together is pretty terrible. That isn’t to say I haven’t met some great rangers in my time, because I have, but for the most part they pale in comparison to the other medium armored professions.
The Thief seems to be the flavour of the month at the moment which is strange because the profession has always been a pain in the backside. Although it still feels one dimensional, Backstab is clearly the twin sister of Hundred Blades. Is it fun hitting other players for over 15,000 damage in a single rotation? Yes. Is it fun being on the receiving of 15,000 damage? No. I have a thief (as well as a mesmer and engineer) and while I love the initiative mechanic, it is a little simplistic at times. My issue with backstab however is that like hundred blades, it’s pretty difficult to do anything about it unless you’ve all your skills available to use in your defence. A good glass cannon thief will obliterate almost any profession but can also die in seconds. I see this as a fair trade off, even if being backstabbed instantly infuriates.
My biggest issue with the thief at the moment is the fact that ArenaNet have almost encouraged the Backstab build by the signets and traits they’ve implemented; what else did they expect? Bringing other skills up to the mark, as well as other weapon sets might make the problem so much more bearable. I’ve only ever seen double dagger, or sword/dagger thieves in tournaments and the reason for that is all other weapon combinations are poor. Making these changes might also encourage other thieves to take a second weapon set besides the shortbow, as it appears 99.99% of thief players can’t live without it.
Oh how the mighty have fallen. I can’t remember the last time I saw a good elementalist in a tournament match. It must have been some time back in beta when everyone was running huge power/precision builds, bombing players with Dragons Tooth. Now all I see, similarly to guardians, is bunker elementalists who insist on not dying. I don’t blame them in some respects as the elementalist, based on my play of it, has a limited number of viable builds. I always used to spec in Arcana and Earth Magic because the trait lines were just so great and I saw no reason to look elsewhere, regardless of everyone else’s enjoyment. What disappoints me outside of the limited build choices, is the potential behind double dagger and yet they are so lack lustre. Thankfully ArenaNet have revealed that they are due some tender loving care, though there is no time frame for when that might arrive.
My biggest concern for the Elementalist at the moment is there downed state and what a sorry state it is. A downed Elementalist might as well go AFK and make themselves a cup of tea, because Grasping Earth still remains awful and Vapor Form might as well paint a target on your head saying “Follow Me!”. Grasping Earth should knock players down surrounding the elementalist and Vapor Form should send out 4 forms with one of those forms being the player. At least then in the confusion you might have a chance of surviving.
I remember throughout Beta everyone complaining that the mesmer was weak, underpowered and a buggy mess. On the bug front, they’ve made some good fixes and the fact Phantasms aren’t overridden by Illusions is a great change. What makes me smile now however is people have actually gotten to grips with the mesmers abilities and potency and are finally reaping rewards. Having played the mesmer for well over 400 hours there isn’t much I don’t know about it and while there are still some things that annoy, its in really great shape. There are however two things that I feel make it lurch towards the dreaded “Overpowered!” terriority. The first is Phantasm swapping and the fact that I can summon an Illusionary Swordsman and then swap to greatsword to summon Illusionary Berserker in a couple of seconds. With a high crit build, it isn’t uncommon for me to cause 10,000 damage within that time frame.
The fact I can then shatter them or hit my foe with a leap/blurred frenzy combo makes it all the more potent. Factoring in that Phantasms are fire and forget skills that require no aiming or thought leaves me a little uncomfortable at times at how powerful weapon swapping is to the mesmer. The second issue I have is portal because this single skill is making mesmers a crutch for all tournament teams and is having a devastating impact on the point capture meta game. Instant trebuchet repairs and instant traversal across the map (made even worse with two mesmers) makes the game almost impossible for those teams who haven’t brought a mesmer. While you can argue “kill the mesmer!” it really isn’t an easy task when most mesmer’s utilise the staff and cloak skills to full effect. I would go as far as to say it’s like catching a fly with chopsticks.
Still on the subject of portals, why don’t they have a 5 player limit? Portalling groups of 50+ people around World versus World make the profession the crutch of effective groups. I can’t help but think if all other skills have a 5 player effect limit, why don’t the mesmers?
I expect Sardu to wade in here at some point but having played alongside various incredibly talented necromancers, they can be absolutely formidable. However, this only seems to extend to condition focused necromancers who utilise the staff and whom leave minions and daggers at the door. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a necromancer use an axe, double daggers or minions in tournament PvP, which highlights what a poor state they are in. The necromancer bug thread is very slowly shrinking (in fact I think it got bigger after one of the patches) but I think the biggest priority for them alongside fixing these bugs is to actually encourage build variety. It seems a real shame that minions aren’t used more often at a tournament level while double daggers seems forever relegated to the PvE stands. Lastly, it would be nice to see the necromancers elites receive some attention as all of them are absolutely awful.