Guild Wars 2 provides the highest “skill cap” PVP environment of any MMORPG I’ve ever played, even moreso for GW2 tournaments.
Let me frame that statement in a broader context. I’m not saying that GW2 PVP is the only game that requires skill. Too often you hear gamers claim that Game X requires no skills, whereas in every MMORPG I’ve ever played, skill is a differentiating factor between players, particularly of the same class and spec. That said, for a variety of reasons, the extent to which skill matters in determining outcomes varies. There are plenty of games where gear is a huge factor and/or where there are specs that enjoy superior mechanics relative to other specs and classes.
What Makes GW2 PVP So Skill-Based?
- No holy trinity. Without dedicated healers, all players are responsible for managing their own HP.
- True tradeoff decisions. I have yet to find a see a spec that can do-it-all, because by design GW2 forces the player to make tradeoff decisions between talents, utilities, and most especially gear components (runes, sigils, and amulet / jewel). By comparison, there are specs and classes in other games that offer good damage, good survivability, and good CC. E.g. in WoW Cataclysm, Death Knights and Frost Mages were strong in all three of those areas, which is why they were the two non-healing classes that were over-represented in my experience at 2k and above in the 2v2 and 3v3 brackets.
- Downed state management. The downed state is reviled by some players, but I have grown to increasingly appreciate the rich complexity that it adds to the game. Finishing and reviving players one of the most critical factors in sPvP and especially tournament play, because it provides opportunities for players to counter one another as they try to revive or finish targets.
- Movement and aiming truly matter. The game’s dodge mechanic, which is shared across classes, provides an evade to an opponent’s attack, but it requires recognizing what is worth evading and timing the dodge accordingly. Likewise, many of the most potent attack or CC abilities require that the caster aim and time their ability use, especially with an ability’s specific animation, distance to target, etc.
Key Implications for Individual Players
Simply put, there’s a huge learning curve for any new player, and even for veteran players trying a new class. Stepping into the Mists for the first time on a new class is daunting, because you have to sort out the following:
- Which weapons do I use in each set?
- Which traits (talents) do I take that complement my weapon choices?
- Which healing, utility, and elite skills do I slot to complement the capabilities of my spec or fill holes?
- What gear components (sigils for weapons, runes for armor, amulet, and jewel) synergize with the capabilities of my spec?
- How do I manage my profession mechanic (attunement “stance-dancing” for Elementalists, kits for Engineers, etc)?
- Given all that, what’s the order of ability execution for maximum effect, and in which situations?
- How do I play my particular build in solo and group situations?
Given all that and the game mechanics, the mistakes I have most commonly seen when players create builds are:
- Not understanding how the build holds up against direct damage, sustained incoming conditions, and incoming CC
- Pairing weapons that have different damage characteristics, e.g. for Warrior using mainhand axe (direct damge) and mainhand sword (condition damage)
- Not understanding what the build offers in a group context
For point #1, many players are not sufficiently spec’ing to remove multiple conditions, which may be part of the reason why condition-based specs are popular. Point #3 has much broader implications, especially in a tournament setting.
Key Implications for Tournament Players
Given the game design, GW2 tournaments are far more complex compared to team-based PVP systems in other MMORPGs.
First of all, there is no deathmatch map. I realize this is controversial choice and does not sit well with some players, but I think it was a wise choice. In a deathmatch system, there is no secondary mechanic to truly have to consider. You just need to kill your opponents. Therefore, your team can choose to turtle a match or try to outlast the opposing side, which doesn’t really create a dynamic experience. I’ve experienced my fair share of 30+ minute matches in WoW Arena, and only a fraction of the time involved meaningful action.
With GW2, the maps each have a secondary mechanic to manage (mini-bosses in Forest, trebuchet in Khylo, friendly NPC lord in Foefire, etc), and you accumulate points not just for killing opponents but for also capping and holding objectives. So you can’t really turtle a match. This creates far more consistently dynamic and engaging experiences, because there is a sense of urgency throughout the match.
As I wrote above, managing downed situations is critical in any PVP setting, but even moreso in tournaments, and you can even time your finish of an opponent to maximize their rez timer (rezzing is at 0:18, 0:38, and 0:58 of every minute).
Here are the most common mistakes I have seen from tournament players and teams, from the most straightforward mistakes to the most complex:
- Playing a spec that works in sPvP but doesn’t provide value in a tournament setting. Here are some common examples:
- Running a tanky build that outlasts opponents in sPvP (“hot join”) but that can’t bring something meaningful to the table over than survivability: DPS pressure, sustained CC, sustained support, area denial, combo field action, etc. I’ve seen this happen multiple times with guildees in our tournament runs (including me), from BWE2 til now. People rave about how great a tanky build works in sPvP, how they can handle sustained 1v2 or 1v3 situations (which IMO is more reflective of the incompetence of their opponents than anything else). When we step into a tournament match against a competent team, they’ll usually ignore the tanks as they are not threatening, kill the tank’s friendlies, then kill the tank
- Not having a sufficient amount of abilities to manage a downed state situation. By this I mean boons such as stability or quickness and/or having CC to disrupt the actions of opponents on a downed target. E.g. I’ve switched from Staff to Greatsword recently on my Mesmer for the GS 5 conal knockback.
- Playing a comp that isn’t functional. I don’t think you have to run particular class comps to win the majority of tournaments, but you do need a functional mix of roles for a team. E.g. we’ve struggled when we ran teams that lacked at least some support or sustained CC capability. For this reason when I’m on my Warrior, I’ve often played my “Captain Hammer” spec, because it provides sustained CC capability and it provides meaningful group healing.
- Lacking sufficient clarity in assignments and inability to make real-time adjustments. The way you approach a map in a tournament is significantly different from a PUG sPvP match. Everyone must be clear on at least their initial assignment, and players must communicate and coordinate meaningful events, e.g. I am about to be downed or I’m about to down target X, enemy Y is incoming to node A, etc.
- Not synergizing sufficiently across class mechanics. This offers a level of complexity beyond the previous three points. It requires that players intentionally build specs in such a way that they complement one another well, especially with respect to combo fields, one player locking down another so that they can land their Dragon’s Tooth, Hundred Blades, etc. And it requires practice and effective real-time execution to really make a difference. This is part of the reason why some people are running fixed, dedicated tournament teams. The time played together is crucial for maximizing effectiveness.
I’m still very much in the learning phase of tournaments, and I’ve been playing with various guild members and classes, so we’re learning together. I’m averaging less than a tournament a day due to RL, but I hope to engage in more tournaments soon :)
Let me know what you think!
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