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Control in Guild Wars 2

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August 22, 2012 - 5:16am -- Xerin
Control in Guild Wars 2

Control is the core component to Guild Wars 2 combat. Making the enemy go where you want them to go and do what you want them to do is the only way to successfully engage in a sortie and come back alive. In other MMOGs, control (or kiting) involves a wizard running around, flailing their arms screaming as vicious orcs chase them, waiting to bash their skulls in, and failure to get that distance condemns our arm flailing hero or heroine to a corpse walk. In GW2, it’s a bit different.

Kiting vs. Control vs. Tanking

The first thing to understand is that the holy trinity (tanks, healers, and damage dealers) does not exist in GW2. Instead, each profession is reliant on itself for healing, damage mitigation, and to contribute to damage output. For instance, an elementalist can switch to Earth attunement for damage mitigation, while the guardian can switch to a shield and sword to block incoming damage. Likewise, both can switch to heavy damage or heavy support, and most of these roles are built into every build to begin with.

GW2 doesn’t believe in static combat; so much so that any profession can be downed by any monster if they do not properly utilize their abilities. There is no “auto attack and AFK” in GW2. Even the guardian, which gets constant regeneration, can’t out regen constant incoming damage, especially from two or more enemies. You have to control the enemy, either by gaining distance and/or mitigating damage in order to successfully complete a round of combat.

GW2 Controlling Large Crowds


​Many abilities that snare, prevent movement, stun, etc. are AoE based, making controlling large groups of enemies an effective battle strategy.

There isn’t much of a difference between squishy and hearty professions, either. The difference is that a hearty profession will mitigate the damage while a squishy profession will avoid it. Both processes work towards the same end goal; it’s just two different types of playstyles. Squishy doesn’t correlate to profession either, necromancers can be built up to be very “hearty” and they are a scholar profession.

Damage mitigation comes from blocking and using skills to shield, not passive “blocking”, while avoidance doesn’t come from passive “dodging” but dodging yourself, placing wards, AoEs, snares, and other movement controlling and limiting affects to control where the enemy is at. There is also no taunting; instead aggro is determined by who is closest to the enemy.

Controlling Movement

There are several ways to control movement in GW2. The biggest ones are Chilled, Cripple, and Immobilize. Cripple is a 50% movement speed condition, Chilled is a 66% movement speed reduction, and Immobilize prevents movement and dodging. Applying any of these conditions on the enemy will make them move slower than the base character speed, effectively giving you distance.

Unsteady Ground

​Unsteady Ground, while not in the best location above, is a great example of a snare that can be activated while moving and affect multiple foes.

Wards, a guardian exclusive, can control where enemies move to by placing barriers on the ground. This works in PvE by funneling enemies away lower health players and towards players who can deal with the aggression and in PvP by preventing enemies from walking through choke points or forcing them to either wait or take a more dangerous route (closer to siege weapons for instance).

Area of effect skills can control enemies in PvP and PvE. In PvE, enemies will avoid any area of effect skill while in PvP, players will naturally want to avoid walking into passive damage. So placing any area of effect skill can make enemies move to avoid it.

There are also several control abilities, like Fear, Push, Launch, Pull, Knockdown, and Stun. Fear causes enemies to flee away from you, giving you distance and preventing damage. Push and Launch can force an enemy away, while Pull can draw either you or the enemy toward each other, dragging you closer to them or dragging them closer to danger (and interrupting them). Stun causes an enemy to be locked down for a short duration and Knockdown is effectively the same thing.

Controlling Damage

Damage mitigation is important and thankfully there is a large swath of ways to handle incoming damage. There is no dedicated healers in GW2 and there are no effective targeted heals, making dedicated support builds act more in a debuff/buff capacity than a healing capacity. So controlling damage is important and the responsibility of everyone in a group. There is a large swath of abilities that lower incoming damage and another swath of abilities that mitigate it.


GW2 Warrior Blocking

This earlier screenshot is a reality in GW2, many enemy attacks can be blocked or shielded by using the skill at the right time - there are also tutorials scattered throughout the world that help you practice activating shields at the right time.

A vast array of conditions like Blind and Weakness reduce incoming damage while conditions like Retaliation, Reflect, and Confusion can make players decide if they want to hit you and take damage or skip out. Then there is the abilities that block incoming damage, like Counter Blow that blocks the next incoming attack.

The best way to control damage, of course, is to keep moving. Projectiles can be blocked by line of sight or location, AoEs can be avoided by moving out of them, and a lot of abilities require you to be standing in a specific area for them to connect. Moving is the best way to avoid damage.

Examples of Control

A lot of guides preach playstyles and mechanics, but don’t give real world examples. In helping an associate locate skill points, we came to one that involved a legion of skale along with three fiery phoenixes. After they quickly defeated him (a lowbie for the area), they all came after me. If I stood still with my elementalist and tried to “tank” them, I would die. No matter what profession I would be, this would remain true.

To claim victory for the event, I had to circle strafe and keep the enemy snared (using Frozen Ground​ and ​Unsteady Ground​), healing myself, and controlling their movement by laying down AoE’s (enemies do not like walking into AoE’s), and using dodge at critical moments to avoid damage and regain distance. Again, had I stood there, I would have been done in, even being 10 levels over the content (thanks to the dynamic level adjustment mechanic). True, this isn’t every battle (and involved me soloing a more group oriented event), but it’s a great example of how GW2 lets you do what you want as long as you’re willing to understand its mechanics.

So, ultimately, GW2 isn’t a “set it and forget it” MMO. You have to be interactive in combat, or face being downed. It’s something that may catch some players, as they walk up to an enemy and fully expect to stand still and tank the enemy. It also doesn’t punish players by forcing them to work every fight - nor do players have to bring abilities that aren't fun, many of the control abilities are built into most weapons and come default. The system is very fluid and makes each combat session fun and exciting.

What do you think about GW2’s approach to combat? Would you rather bash your head into an enemy over and over to level up or do you like the more interactive combat system? Let us know in the comments section below. 


whoresbane's picture
Submitted by whoresbane on

Im very happy that guild wars 2 will have a interactive combat system in place. No trinity means that noobs will have no one to blame. Everyone has to take care so not to die. My main will probably be a guardian. I cant wait to come up with a good crowd control build for pve dungeons.

"The individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists."

trenshod's picture
Submitted by trenshod on

" one to blame."

Granted there is self healing and a means of defending yourself but by no means did I read that your not reliant upon others for success. There is still jiggle wiggle room for nubs to QQ that someone isn't doing something. If that were the case why party up for anything to include dungeons and world bosses.

Xerin's picture
Submitted by Xerin on

It's much easier to support one another, because a lot of abilities that benefit yourself are AoE and share to nearby allies. So even a super selfish player who only thinks of themselves will help those around them, just because the abilities are designed to help yourself and others, instead of only yourself.

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

with the trinity format the blame game goes as follows...

DPS pulls mobs when no one is rdy, tank dies, healer dies, dps die

Tank blames dps for pulling and/or healer for not healing enough

Dps blame healer for not healing enough or at all

Healer quits party and guild.

DPS never get blamed for sucking unless someone keeps a dps meter running and has some sort of benchmark of comparing the amount of dmg the tank is mitigating vs the amount of healing being done vs the amount of dps each player is actually putting out. The one I am familiar with is DPS are never wrong. Tanks are sometimes squishy. The healer usually sucks.

Hopefully this game avoids that dynamic



sylvinstar's picture
Submitted by sylvinstar on

Last stress test in WvW I noticed a lot of people laying down more AE's and I happily shot through them and leaped on them with Jump Shot.  Players are getting better group play even in WvW chaos.  As soon as I see a friendly circle or bubble go up I'm shooting through it.


I love rifle on Engineer for WvW.  There is so much control with that one weapon.  It is awesome for kiting.  Elixer S is great for escaping control effects as well.  When not in a keep battle I keep elixer S and B up for travel and just in case I get jumped and controlled.

serulin's picture
Submitted by serulin on

This guides all fine and dandy for melee bosses, but what about  ranged bosses and elite+ bosses who are basically immune to CC?

Ranged bosses who have you locked on target will pretty much hit you no matter what after you have exhausted your evades/blocks/skills to avoid its attacks. 

SJForrest's picture
Submitted by SJForrest on

Fix pictures, plz!

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