Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Guardian WvW Build (w/ Guide)

What is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to WvW solo roam as a Guardian! Well, that might be a slight misquote, but it is the gist of this guide. Solo roaming in WvW is fun, pure and simple.

I decided to create this guide because one of the most frequent set of questions I see on this forum is, “How do I play WvW (more specifically, roam/solo) as a Guardian,” and one of the most frequent issues I see is, “Guardians are no good at WvW!” Well I may not be an expert or even the best player, but roaming solo in WvW is my favorite thing to do in GW2 and I happen to find my Guardian to be very effective at it (or at least better than other classes I play, including an 80 Warrior.) Please remember this entire guide is written within the framework of WvW solo roaming; I’m not here to talk about sieges, zerging, or group play.

TL;DR/Bottom line up front for this guide: In order for the game to be balanced, each profession must have both strengths and weaknesses. In order to achieve success, capitalize on your profession’s strength, while avoiding the weaknesses!

Points I will cover in this guide:

*General playstyle philosophy designed to make you an effective roaming Guardian, and avoiding frustration brought on by weaknesses of the profession

*Argue against some commonly stated “truths” about Guardian play that will actually make you a less effective player

*A build for WvW solo roaming based on the strengths of the profession along with SPECIFIC instructions for playing it to maximize your potential, along with comparisons to common similar builds

*How to reliably find 1v1/small scale fights in WvW

I. General WvW Solo Playstyle/Philosophy/Strength and Weaknesses/Don’t Follow Bad Advice!

I will caveat this section specifically by saying upfront everything contained within is my opinion. To follow along with the opinion train of thought, I will state the strengths and weakness of the Guardian profession as far as WvW goes, and I will be concentrating on this list for the rest of the guide:
Strengths:

*Reliable burst damage (yes, really — covered below)
*Combat mobility
*Built in survival abilities tuned for small group/solo play
Weaknesses:
*Ranged weapons
*Lack of escape abilities
*Slow travel

Solo roaming in WvW is a dangerous business for any class, and you will die. Probably a lot. This is, however, what makes it so fun and rewarding — with danger and unpredictable gameplay comes great fun and reward. The sooner you accept the fact that you will die some, the sooner you can get away from concentrating on the major weakness of the Guardian, which is lack of escape abilities, and instead concentrate on the innumerable strengths of the profession. Even the professions with the best escape abilities will be hard pressed to escape sticky situations while roaming solo. If the fight has gone so poorly that you’re reduced to RUNNING, then you’ve already LOST! And to get all Sun Tzu on you, I believe that building any character around escape abilities is to have already set yourself up for defeat before the fight begins. Solo play in PvP/WvW is kill or be killed!
So to boil solo WvW play down to its most basic essence, you must follow the mindset of killing before you are killed. To do this, you must be primarily be a high damage dealer, while having just enough defense mechanisms to survive the fight. Only bring weapons and skills that are useful in 100% of FIGHTS. Only bring weapons and skills that are useful in 100% of FIGHTS. Yes, I repeated that because it’s so important when building for solo WvW play. The naysayers who want you to believe that Guardians can’t do this will say, “But Guardians are a support class! They can’t be built for damage!” Wrong, wrong, wroooong, and I will get into this in the Build section of the guide. For now, however, I want to argue against commonly stated “truths” for Guardian WvW play that will make you a worse player:

“Always bring a staff for mobility, and have Wall of Reflection on your bar for defense” I see this advice so frequently on this forum I believe it should be the unofficial motto, and it really bothers me. Well I’m here to tell you that Wall of Reflection should only be used in siege situations, and staff should only (maybe?) be used in large groups and that is it. Never outside of those specific situations, and even then only use staff if you run an Altruistic Healing build. Why?

People generally bring staff for its Symbol of Swiftness (Staff 2.) The swiftness boon isn’t the kind of “mobility” you want for PvP, it’s a quality of life boon for quick travel which is unnecessary.

Mobility in PvP is having freedom of movement in a fight, which Staff doesn’t provide. But staff has other useful abilities too, you say? Empower (Staff 4) might as well be called “Suicide” for solo play. Rooting yourself for a large self heal (especially with an Altruistic Healing build) along with 12 Might sounds good in concept, but in practice you will NEVER be able to heal through your opponent damaging you in solo play as you sit there rooted, and then you end up using your Might with staff’s mediocre auto attack. A net loss every time. Line of Warding (Staff 5) can be great in certain circumstances, but remember that we want weapons and skills that are useful 100% of the time when fighting, not only in certain circumstances. This weapon is used for quick travel, which is already a weakness of the Guardian; take a weapon that concentrates on our strengths instead.

And now we come to Wall of Reflection. A great skill, but only great for sieges. It’s certainly funny to hop down from the battlements and drop your Reflect in front of an attacking force, but the idea that people roam with this skill is mind boggling. It’s only useful against ranged classes, and only useful then if someone is bad enough to sit still and shoot it. We’re only bringing weapons and skills that are useful in 100% of fights.

II. WvW Solo Roaming Build

This build isn’t groundbreaking, and I’m sure plenty of people run it. It’s a variation of the standard Meditation Burst Build, but with some important tweaks for ending a fight quickly.
Bunker builds are fine, but there’s a reason we call targets in dungeons, and that is because the most effective way to mitigate damage is to quickly eliminate the damage source. This build is designed for just that, and I will go into detail about exactly how to play with it in 1v1 and 1vX fights.

 (Build at bottom)

Weapons: Sword with Sigil of Force/Focus with Sigil of Bloodlust + Greatsword with Sigil of Hydromancy (all Knight’s stats)
Armor/Accessories: Knight’s Armor with Valkyrie Accessories
Runes: 6x Beryl Orbs. This is something many people will disagree with, but I find it ideal with this build. 120 Power, 84 Vitality, and 12% Critical Damage. Ignoring the steep price of Runes of Divinity, I dont think the overall stat gain is worth losing 60 Power and 24 Vitality when compared to Beryl Orbs. Other rune sets are viable, but you can’t go wrong with Beryl Orbs (they also cost about 6s.)

Traits:

10 Zeal with Fiery Wrath (II)
30 Radiance with Signet Mastery (II), Powerful Blades (X), Right-hand Strength (XI)
30 Valor with Meditation Mastery (I), Purity (V), Monk’s Focus (XII)

With Knight’s Armor and Weapons, Valkyrie Accessories, and Beryl Orbs you will have about 50% Crit chance with Sword/Focus and 35% Crit chance with Greatsword, along with 74% Crit damage. Health will be 14.8K, and a good amount of toughness.

I’ve played many Guardian builds, including Crithammer/Shout/Spirit Weapons/etc., but I’ve found Meditation builds to be ideal for WvW roaming. I began playing with a traditional Sword/Focus + Scepter/Shield meditation burst build, which I enjoyed, but I felt it was missing something. The burst damage from Judge’s Intervention combined with Zealot’s Defense (Sword 3) was OK, but I wanted more, especially when opponents dodged out of Zealot’s Defense. If this happened I was reduced to auto attacking with sword. When I ran into an opponent who kited me, I was reduced to using the Scepter, which once again was OK, but left something to be desired in the type of open space fights frequent in WvW. I wanted to end fights quickly with better burst, so I switched to Greatsword. But Greatsword’s highest damaging skill (Whirling Wrath, #2) is widely known for being hard to use. It works best on a stationary target, so most Guardians use it in conjunction with Pull (Greatsword 5), but this is unreliable because Pull sometimes just doesn’t work well. So after some fiddling in sPvP, I settled on Sword/Focus and Greatsword with Hydromancy Sigil, which is as close to a perfect synergy of weapons and sigils as I’ve found.

It is also important to explain the mechanics of Sigils. Any on-crit/on-swap sigil shares its cooldown with all other sigils, so if a specific on-crit/on-swap sigil is very important to a build, such as Hydromancy for this one, don’t take any other on-crit/on-swap sigils. That is why the Sword/Focus set has a passive sigil and an on-kill sigil — I want to ensure that Hydromany always activates when I need it to.

The build pumps out RELIABLE, quickly repeatable burst damage on par with Warrior’s Hundred blade attack, and doesn’t leave you being a “one trick pony” like a Hundred Blade Warrior is. It concentrates on the profession’s strengths while not trying to compensate for the weaknesses. Every skill and weapon is useful in 100% of fights; there is nothing situational included.
And since I’m a nice guy I’ve written out exactly how to play the build below:

1. Choose your target. Fighting a 1v1, your opener is largely irrelevant, but if fighting against a group, your primary goal should be to quickly eliminate a source of damage (that is, make an easy kill.) My preferred opening target is a Warrior. They are predictable and don’t have many mechanisms to escape your opening burst damage. When they’re down they’re easy to impale thanks to Stand Your Ground or Shield of Wrath (Focus 5). If a Warrior isn’t available, I will choose up-leveled targets (sorry lowbies), or frequently a Ranger. Guardians are a risky opening target; a poorly played enemy Guardian is easy prey to burst damage, but if they are good they can avoid the burst and you’ve just lost your initiative and may have to find another target to focus. Guardians are another easy Impale, though, which makes them tempting. Avoid Thieves and Mesmers because even if they go down in your initial burst, they are more difficult to Impale. Choose predictable targets. The longer a fight against multiple opponents last, the less chance you have of victory no matter what sort of build you use.

2. Initiate your burst rotation. Make sure you’re within 1200 range and then activate Zealot’s Defense (Sword 3), and then IMMEDIATELY activate Judge’s Intervention. This will ensure you are attacking with Zealot’s Defense the instant you teleport on top of your opponent, giving them less time to react. Activate Virture of Justice as soon as possible as well, so you will have applied over 8s of burning which increases all damage by 10% thanks to the Fiery Wrath trait. As soon as Zealot’s Defense completes, activate Flashing Blade (Sword 2) and then IMMEDIATELY switch to Greatsword and activate Whirling Wrath (Greatsword 2.) This tactic ensures that Hydromancy goes off on swap because you’ve teleported directly on top of your opponent, and because you’re directly on top of a now slowed enemy, you hit with all Whirling Wrath projectiles. So in about 5 seconds, you’ve done damage on par with Hundred Blades, lit your target on fire for nearly 9s which increases damage by 10% thanks to traits, blinded your target, chilled your target for 3s, AND it’s easy to accomplish with low cooldowns — there’s no silly Bull’s Rush/Frenzy combo like what our other melee brethren are reduced to using.

At this point in the process, thanks to many hours of highly scientific laboratory work, I have determined that fights go one of three ways:

25% of the time your target is dead, especially if squishy, in a 1v1, or up-leveled. Activate Stand Your Ground and impale them. Congratulations.
50% of the time you’ve dealt enough damage that they’ve used their heal/dodges/cooldowns and the fight is as good as won anyway if 1v1. Continue on with the process below.
25% of the time they’ve avoid your burst by activating damage mitigation, or some other mechanic. Continue with the process below.

3. Continue fighting with Greatsword after the initial burst. When you’re close to being able to switch back to Sword/Focus, activate Leap of Faith (Greatsword 3) and then immediately activate Binding Blade (Greatsword 5). The leap helps ensure Binding Blade lands, as it is notoriously hard to use. Do not immediately active Greatsword 5 again, just let the DOT tick. Your next goal will be to land another Zealot’s Defense (Sword 3). This won’t happen if you panic, so just keep putting pressure on your target with Greatsword auto attacks. When you estimate that Zealot’s Defense is off cooldown (15 seconds), activate Pull (Greatsword 5) and then immediately switch to sword and hit them with Zealot’s Defense (Sword 3.) Thanks to the knockdown at the end of Greatsword’s Pull and the 600 range of Zealot’s Defense you will most likely land the attack.

This is where experience comes in, especially in 1vX fights. 99% of the time this is the phase of the fight where you utilize your Focus skills, Virtues, and Renewed Focus. Utilize Smite Condition as needed, or just spam whenever it’s off cooldown for a 2k heal. By activating your Focus skills and Aegis/Renewed Focus at the right time you can generally negate most damage being done to you by the opponent you aren’t focusing on. You will have most likely finished off your first opponent, so now you need to switch targets and begin setting up for another Whirling Wrath. Your Zealot’s Defense is most likely on cooldown so you will put pressure on your opponent with Sword’s auto attack until weapon swap is off cooldown, and then use the Flashing Blade/Hydromancy Freeze/Whirling Wrath combo once again.

So the combat style of this build can be summed up in three points:

*Judge’s Intervention to Zealot’s Defense
*Flashing Blade, to Hydromancy chill, to Whirling Wrath
*Use Binding Blade to land Zealot’s Defense, NOT Whirling Wrath

Why is this build preferable to other Guardian builds for solo play? As stated at the beginning of the guide, the best way to mitigate damage is to eliminate it. Using the burst rotation in this build, you will most likely be able to quickly down/eliminate one opponent in a fight. The Guardian has enough intrinsic defensive abilities such as Aegis/Blinds that you will be able to shrug off damage from opponents you aren’t focusing on when fighting against a group. The build also focuses on the strengths of the class, which is melee pressure and combat mobility. Between Flashing Blade, Hydromancy’s chill, Leap of Faith, Binding Blade, and Judge’s Intervention you have more gap closers than you can shake a stick at. All these gap closers eliminates the “need” for a ranged weapon on swap, which is a widely recognized weakness of the Guardian profession. A well played bunker Guardian can do great things, but I don’t want to be on the receiving end of a battle of attrition with no ways to quickly finish an opponent — the outcome is generally not good when solo.

As a final postscript to this build, if the lack of swiftness bothers you that much you can target distant monsters and activate Flashing Blade/Judge’s Intervention/Leap of Faith to get around more quickly, and in style! Also, I dont wish to focus on weaknesses of the class but if a zerg is approaching or you’re otherwise in a tight spot, the above combination is a nearly instant 2400 distance teleport and is quite useful for getting away even with your complete lack of swiftness.

III. How to Find Opponents
People also complain that it’s hard to find opponents outside of the zerg. What I like to do is set up a “spiderweb” that alerts me to when enemies are ripe for the killing. I go into enemy Borderlands, preferably ones in which my server doesn’t own anything, and head to the NE portion of the map. I capture the Sentry directly outside the east gate of the enemy base, and then move on to the centaur camp in the far NE. There’s a dynamic event chain here that involves killing 30 centaurs and then a Veteran. Move in and quickly kill a few centaurs and then move on; that way when someone else comes and completes the event, you will get the reward no matter where you are on the map. This is an alarm for you saying that someone else is there now, and will most likely be fighting the Veteran for a few minutes. That gives you enough time to move back to the camp and kill your human enemy after they’re finished with the Veteran. From there I go on a Dolyak killing circuit, carefully watching for the Sentry I’ve captured to come under attack, or for the centaur event to complete. This process works well for alerting you to enemy whereabouts without having to see them, and generally avoiding large enemy groups.


-Astolfo Rabicano, Guardian on Darkhaven

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