Thursday, May 24, 2012

How to Make a Good Build 101: Example #1

Okay, so I promised to show you an example build from start to finish, so I guess I might want to start writing it. Judging from the page views, you all seem to really enjoy reading this column. So prop up your feet, find a nice comfy couch, and relax because this could become a very long read.   Every decision matters, and often times those decisions can become a little convoluted.

Design Philosophy going in:  I chose my personal favorite profession, the thief, and I wanted to maximize my shortbow damage while still maintaining some semblance of survivability.  The Shortbow is a very proficient weapon in WvW, but I wanted it to become my weapon of choice in competitive PvP.  Not only did I want this, but I also desired to fight and win 1v1s that I encountered.

 The thief and shortbow is an unusual pairing, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the class.  The Shortbow at first glance is a very aoe (area of effect) based weapon that does very little damage to a single target on its own.  However, this weapon makes up for what it lacks in power through two things.  Most importantly, the mobility of a shortbow wielding thief is unmatched by any other profession.  With a spammable backwards-disengage-cripple and a move that acts similarly to a shadowstep, this weapon set has an enormous amount of escapes.   The second most important feature is how I make up for the innate lack of damage of the shortbow, through what Is now being called “shotgunning”.  This is a technique that I have talked about before on this blog, but may be unfamiliar to newer readers.  It involves using the skill “Cluster Bomb”.  Typically, you can detonate the cluster bomb in mid-air for a spray like, AOE effect.  However, when Cluster bomb is used in melee range of a target followed by a rapidly by a detonation, this entire spray hits one target.  Each ‘shotgun’ can do a large amount of damage plus 3 stacks of bleeds.  For thieves reading this, think damage of a low-health Heartseeker + the bleeds of Leaping Death Blossom. The downsides of ‘shotgunning’ are two-fold: you will need a stationary (or possibly chilled) target to be able to pull this technique off.  It also can be extremely dangerous to do this on melee professions, because this skill requires you to be within melee range.  It’s a high risk, high reward type of build and I love it.

Weapons:  Shortbow, the secondary set really doesn’t matter. For the sake of having another weapon set and sigil combination I have Pistol/Pistol for the interrupt of Head Shot.  For many thieves, swapping weapons is less important than other professions.  We have no cooldowns on our weapon skills, and thus the need to switch weapons because of cooldowns no longer applies.  We rely entirely on initiative mechanic, where each skill used costs us initiative. 

Utilities:  I need a large amount of immobilizations/hard stuns for this build to work,, which lead me to choosing Devourer’s Venom, Signet of Shadows, and a Basilisk Venom as my elite.  Two of these can be activated to give me an immobilization, Basilisk can give me a hard stun, and when Signet of Shadows is not being used it can provide me additional mobility (10% movement speed).  I felt at this point, that with a thief’s relatively low health pool and armor class, I needed a big escape button.  Specifically warriors like to do a bull’s charge combo followed by their adrenaline-filled burst move that can take out 70-80% of your hp pool extremely rapidly. However, I wasn’t ultimately sold by any of the available utilities and decided to take a look at traits before I made my final choice.  Remember, it’s okay to move ahead on a section before you are finished the previous one, as long as you fill in most of the gaps you will be alright. Also, for a heal skill I really still like Hide in Shadows.  Why?  Well, it’s actually very simple, the stealth provided can allow you to escape/confuse multiple enemies, and the stealth move of the shortbow is yet another immobilization that can be used both offensively or defensively.

Traits:  Traits were particularly challenging for a shortbow user. Many of the traits available just don’t apply to the shortbow very easily. Initially, I thought about pouring all of my points into the more offensive trees.  After all, the basic damage of the shortbow is very low, and I thought that the offensive aspects of my build needed the most work.  As I tried to make build after build, I realized something.  The rest of the traits made me rely too much on conditions or they just weren't that great for my build, so I had to move on.  In fact, I only ended up putting initially only 10 points in Deadly Arts.  The major Residual Venoms, was just too good to pass up.  It allowed my basilisk venom and Devourer’s Venom effects to extend to an additional strike.  This allowed me a larger window to burst several ‘shotguns’ providing me with a higher cap on my burst potential.

I moved on to the 3 more defensive trees, with some initial discomfort.   The shortbow is already naturally defensive, thus I didn’t want to add too much more defensive options because I simply don’t need them.  At this point, I needed to work on my burst and really make my ‘shotgun’ something of a powerhouse.  I went into Trickery, a tree that would increase my initiative cap to 15 (effectively extending my burst potential), as well as going up to the 25 point trait Lead attacks.  Lead attacks really makes up for the lack of offense in the entire tree because it provides 2% increased damage for each initiative point.  With a full 15 initiative, that would thus mean a 30% increase in damage, a substantial boost to my offensive capabilities. I also chose Thrill of the Crime to continue helping aiding steal, and could use this as a potential lead in right before my burst.  With Kleptomaniac, Thrill of the Crime, and Serpent’s Touch (from the minor trait in Deadly Arts), my steal would net me 3 initiative, give me and all allies Fury, Swiftness, and Might, as well as poison the enemy.  These three traits would act perfectly as an opener to my first shotgun barrage.  This trait line also reduces my steal cooldown and provides more condition damage, which would specifically help the 9-12 stacks of bleeds on my target after an immobilization-shotgun combo.

At this point, I had 30 points left, which I put mostly into the Acrobatics Tree. The two minors in the tree extended my capability to dodge as well as providing a speed boost from each dodge.  I would be able to run circles around my enemies with this build.  Or more accurately, immobilize, steal, shotgun 3-4 times, dodge back and continue auto-attacking while easily kiting the opponent. The target would now be significantly hurt, would need to heal in the face of the condition poison (a condition that reduces healing by 33%) and would be desperate to get back in the fight through a burst combo, elite, or run away.  All of which I could counter. For one of my majors in this tree I chose Hard to Catch to grant me the haste that provides additional measures against control effects, specifically the commonly used Bull’s Charge by warriors. This trait would trigger and break me out of stuns or reduce my down time by half for knockdowns, etc. as well as facilitating a rapid counterattack.  I also chose Quick Recovery to help my initiative regeneration specifically for times when spending all my initiative on a burst attack.  Both Quick Recovery and Initial Strikes from the Trickery tree synergize with Lead Attacks to continually supplying me with additional initiative and increasing my overall damage output. 

At this point I had 15 points and a utility left.  I could either trait further into the offensive tree of Deadly Arts or choose Shadow Arts or even add 5 points into Acrobatics for the 10% damage boost.  All of these options had their perks, and I think it came down to my own personal preference.  I ultimately made the hard choice of selecting for condition-based traits on top of my existing build.  If I was going to complete my build and be satisfied, I wanted to synergize everything and thus decided to place all remaining points in Deadly Arts. I was able to look at all available options, and place them all together in perfect harmony with my existing build.  My final utility became Spider Venom that when activated poisons my target over the next several attacks.  I then quickly decided to add Lotus Poison that weakens my target whenever I poison them, Quick Venoms that reduces my Venom Recharge by 20%, and Exposed Weakness which is believed to be a 10% increase in damage on your target when they have a condition. I was initially resistant to conditions, but I realized the combined effect of them was almost too good to pass up.

While the build has some very nice potential, no build in this game is without a weakness.

Strengths: 1)High Burst Potential. 2)  Continued supply of Poison, Weakness, and 4 available immobilizations/stuns ensure that the target will have a decently hard time recovering if I initiate the fight.
 3) High amounts of mobility through dodges, weapon set skills, and swiftness.

Weaknesses: 1)  The build may struggle with a target that can easily remove conditions. 2) Hard to Catch may protect against the initial burst combos of glass cannons, however it is on a 90 second cooldown.  This means I’m particularly vulnerable to any sort of CC during this very large time window, and I do not have the toughness nor vitality to mitigate that damage yet.

At this point the post is already dangerously too long, and if I continue no one will read it.  I’ll add my Amulet, Rune, Signet, Jewel selection and commentary in a post that will be out later this week.  I’m a person who likes to try to cover all of my bases, so my selection on the rest of my “gear” will focus on clearing up these weaknesses.

Final Build can be found here.


  1. Brilliant!
    This article demonstrates a terrific understanding of the shortbow weapon and the trait lines, as well as fully embracing the first two Laws of GW2 combat:
    Enhance your mobility while taking away theirs
    If you're not moving, you're dying.

    Perhaps consider going with sword/pistol instead of the pistol/pistol weapon swap for the simple reason that it reinforces the strengths of the build better. The #2 skill with sword/pistol will provide yet another mobility closer AND disengage, and the #3 skill will add yet another stun to the build.

    I am really looking forward to future articles along these lines where you'll be able to discuss some of the equipment options, and how they mix with the weapons and traits in an overall build design.
    Truly an auspicious beginning. Well done sir.

  2. Sword/pistol would indeed work extremely well into the build. Thanks so much for the complements, I'm glad you enjoyed the article.