Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dismal Science: Into the Fray, Part II
Seriously, how can you want to do anything other than play a necromancer with art like that?


Alas, this is the much awaited second part of my dissertation on PvP during the second BWE. Previously, I discussed the specific build that I ended up finding success with over the course of the weekend and the stress test. But that, of course, leaves a greater question unanswered.

What does the big picture of Necromancer PvP look like?

I'll try to break it down as simply as I can.

Necromancers do not even approach an elementalist's consistent damage over time.
Necromancers do not have a warriors ability to rend players out of existence.
Necromancers do not have as many tricks up their sleeves as engineers.
Necromancers can not play mind games like a mesmer.
Necromancers do not have the versatility of a ranger.
Necromancers are not as unkillable as a guardian.
Necromancers are not as slippery as a thief.

Instead, necro's bring a very specific toolkit into the fight, which is either devastating or worthless depending on the player behind the keyboard.

Necromancers are the masters of crippling, controlling, and intimidating the other team. A mesmer can lay small conditions on an enemy over time, as can just about any other profession. But a quick glance through the necromancer's skills gets repetitive quickly.
"Causes bleeding", "causes poison", "causes blindness", "chills foes", "causes vulnerability." These phrases are present at least partially on any weapon that a necromancer equips. Instead of having massive amounts of secondary utility, the necromancer's survivability, damage, and control are all linked in one way or another to these conditions.

One on one, a necromancers is a monster to fight if you didn't bring ways to rapidly and consistently clear those conditions off of yourself. A scepter-necro is especially threatening, it's rather frightening how quickly they can stack bleeds on a target. Really, there is only one way to win a fight with a skilled necromancer, with certainty.

Blow him up before he has the chance to start stacking conditions.

Because as soon as those conditions start stacking up, the fight is essentially over.

How to kill a....

-Warrior. In order to decide how to tackle this fight, you need to think seriously about the rate that you generate life force and how much you have already when the fight starts. The logic behind this is simple, that warrior is likely going to have three adrenaline when he rushes you, and he's going to his you for massive numbers, right off the bat. Your goal is to either avoid or mitigate his bursts, as long as you do, this fight is easy. If you have a high rate of regeneration or a full LF bar when the fight starts, use death shroud right off the bat to eat his burst with your "extra" health bar. Then, continue to fight him until you can use your healing skill (which should be immediately, and by that, I mean IT SHOULD BE THE VERY FIRST MOMENT YOU CAN GET THE FULL HEAL OUT OF IT.) I cannot stress how important this is to a necromancer's playstyle. After using your heal, jump into death shroud for as long as you can to wait out your next healing burst, all the while stacking conditions on him and wearing him down. If your LF is low, or your generation isn't great, then you'll have to start from the "healing skill" step of the strategy, but it is nonetheless the same. Rinse, repeat, and bathe in the tears of warriors who cannot burst through death shroud. They're delicious.

-Elementalist. Apply 10 bleeds or so. Death shroud. Yay! Tears! Really, they are the best. Once elementalists start learning that they can't just stack power and precision, I think things might start to change. But until then, we can raise our hands and thank Grenth, for the tears of elementalists are many, and wonderful. They can be used to make a particularly fabulous tea.

-Thief. This is one of the situations where a far more aggressive strategy is going to pay off. A thief's defense is based on being "slippery", the best way to deal with this is to pound him into dust. Seriously, as soon as you see him, start stacking conditions and throwing your strongest moves at him. Try to corner him, force him into a straight fight. If you can do that, the fight will likely go your way.

-Engineer. This is about as close to a "hard counter" as you can find to a condition-necromancer. When an engineer picks up a stack of turrets and sets up shop, there isn't any way you can kill him without dying as well. But, Kaenes, there has to be a way to kill engineers, right? Well, when you figure out how to BLEED A TURRET; you should come let me know. I'm all ears. I can get enough conditions on him to guarantee his death, but not without taking so much damage that there really isn't any way to survive. This is made worse by the fact that, even after his death, his turrets will keep shooting at you. However, if the engineer isn't carrying a full load of turrets, treat him like a ranged thief and you'll be fine.

-Mesmer. These fellows are only marginally more durable than our elementalist friends from up above. However, when they do deeply into applying confusion and creating clones, they are evil. But, over the weekend, I discovered a single, simple trick, for always finding the right target amid the sea of false clones. Step one: stack conditions on the real mesmer before he starts creating clones. Step two: keep those conditions up at all times. Step three: when you need to find the mesmer, cycle through the clones until you see your conditions ticking away. I used this simple trick, of hunting the stacked conditions on the mesmer, to consistently beat their defense. Once you can muscle through their mind-games, this fight shouldn't be too tough. However, I think this class, of all the ones in the game currently, is the most underutilized by the player base. Three months after release, there are going to be some terrifying mesmers running around.

-Guardian. If he has condition clearing skills, be prepared for a long, merciless slog. While an engineer can be a "hard counter", a defensive guardian is a "philosophical counter." Either bring your A game and fight like there's no tomorrow, or neither of you will likely win the fight. If he's an offensive build, treat him like a warrior, just be prepared for your conditions to vanish periodically.

-Ranger. In reality, I haven't had any particular observations about how to best kill a Ranger. I didn't meet any rangers who really stood out in my mind over the course of the weekend. Depending on the weapon that they were wielding, I either treated them like a warrior, a thief, or an engineer, and that yielded reasonable success.


  1. Don't worry about vitality. You already have a ton of health when you boot your necromancer up. Toughness will give you far more mileage over the course of a fight. Think about it this way, vitality will mitigate large spikes in damage, while toughness will mitigate larger amounts over time. Do you expect your fights to be sudden, flashy blowouts or longer, attrition slogs? Yeah, that's what I thought. Go get the toughness gear.
  2. Don't immediately prioritize power or precision. Think about where your damage is coming from, and then play to your strength. The GW2 devs have consistently repeated the same line "PvP is offensive, not defensive." Which essentially means that your goal should be to maximize your strengths and force your opponent to react to what you're doing, rather than planning around what they might be doing. 
  3. Roll into every fight like you are th' hardes' fella who evah rolled up in 'is. You are Sylvester Stallone, and YOU ARE THE LAW. You are the Hulk, this game is Loki. Seriously. Walk in, and act like you are death-incarnate. Having that attitude will dramatically change how you respond to the changing situation around you, often for the better. This is especially so when you consider that PvP is offensive, played around maximizing your strengths. You're death. Act like it.
  4. Never forget the plan. Ever. The plan is important. If it's a good one, stick to it. If it's a bad one, get a better one.

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