Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Guild Wars Nightfall: Progress Update Three

So, mostly been PvPing it up with the snowball arena. And sundry Wintersday activities. As a result, I haven't done much PvE-wise. Doing the various Wintersday quests, though, got my character and my trail of henchmen to level 17. And I'm well past the 100k XP mark and cruising into max levels. That might sound impressive but this is Guild Wars, the game is only getting started when you hit lv20. A more accurate measure of my progress is how close I am to UAX (Which, thanks to the snowball arena, I basically am with all the runes and items. All that's left are a few things which I'll never, ever use on a PvP character like Sundering mods. And having said that, you just know that the next metagame shift is going to be including Sundering somehow.) and there I have only 22 of the roughly 100 skill points I'll need to unlock just the new Dervish and Paragon stuff (There's 75 for each, 8 of which you earn for free in the beginning of the game.). Each other profession needs a further 15 skill points for their new skills as well. To say nothing of unlocking the areas where they can be obtained. None of my other characters have more than a point or two, of course (Still, unless they've nerfed some farming spots/builds then getting points for them will only take a bit of time. The big problem is money, all of those skills cost not only a point but 1k in gold, too, and my bank account's looking pretty worn at the moment, too.). So there's still a long, long road to travel before I'm done.

The big XP gainer was the PvE version of the snowball arena – little missions where you fight alone with the snowball skillset and the whole 500 health, no equipment matters deal. The Grenth version pitted you against roughly twenty-five lv15 enemies (Plus more if you try the bonus) and with my arena honed skills it was a breeze – the hardest part was keeping from getting too bored waiting for monsters to spawn. Since these are solo missions, at the low levels I was at (lv11 or 12) the XP per kill was amazing and running it a few times got me to lv15. My Heroes didn't level up with me, though. Finishing off the Wintersday quests (Which have since disappeared) got me the rest of the way. And, apparently, when the Heroes are at a lower level their XP gain is ramped up because by the end of it they'd caught up with me as well.

On the Sunspear (Or, as I like to call it, “Killin' Stuff”) track, I hit the 6th rank which means I can now wear the title Sunspear Commander – I'll stick with the pro skillz I'm sporting currently, though. More Hero skill points, too, but I haven't exactly found a use for them yet although, eventually, I imagine they'll be like faction where I can use them for a quick unlock if I don't have the time to grind something out. But, in case you're wondering, rank 6 on the kill track is 1000 points even. Meaning, yes, I've slaughtered more than one thousand critters with the right bounty just in the newbie lands alone. It's really not that hard as I pick up any bounties I can and just pave through the relevant critters while I've been questing. I earned about 500 at least just running around the place for the Wintersday stuff.

Now, the main benefit to hitting the last few levels is, of course, the attribute points. Not only do levels past 16 get a whole fifteen points per level to spend, my Heroes also had their last fifteen bonus attributes kick in some point along the way. That means we're all caught up and only 45 points from hitting the attribute cap. This means that our main stats can be maxed out with ease and our secondary stats at decent levels – those last few points are really what goes into the dump stat (Most of my characters are on the three attribute plan – characters like Mesmers or Necros can run with a lot more – but with healers and fighters getting a few stats really high is for the best.)

For my own build I haven't tweaked much. The main difference has been that I'm now getting into areas where the team limit is eight rather than four – so it's me and my three Heroes and four henchies. And that means I have a lot more flexibility with my characters. Dunk, for example, has become a protter because the henchie Monk is a healer. Those extra enchantments flying around really supercharge my Mysticism – each one gives me 3 energy whenever they drop and things like Reversa of Fortune can get spammed on and off really quickly. The net effect is that energy management is about the furthest thing from my mind at the moment. There are a few times I run dry but with my natural regen and the constant influx of energy from my primary attribute it's very quickly not a problem.

However, I'm starting to get at the point with enemies, though, where degen isn't as devestatingly effective. Because pips are effectively capped at plus or minus ten, you can only do up to 20 points of damage a second that way. And when you have about 100 health that's insane but when you have the 200 or 300 that creatures have now then taking ten or twenty seconds to kill something is way too long. It's still good, mind you, but it's no longer killing things on its own. So, since putting up a lot of AoE degen has been my strategy I have a feeling it's about to change. It's still, as far as I can tell, the best thing to do with the skills I have available now but once I get to an area with new skills, I'm going to be looking to switch. And my armor's still at only 40AL since I haven't found a place to upgrade beyond that since. I, personally, like to get an upgrade every five levels or so. It's a holdover from when equipment was level restricted but I'm starting to feel more vulnerable than I should be (Even though Dervisher armor is always going to leave them pretty weak.) and I'd like to craft up a new set – preferably max stats. At lv20 I'll worry about crafting a set with a magic bonus I like and getting a full set of headgear for slotting superiors into (I don't like using them in PvE, normally, especially with the level of protection I'll have but, again, I eventually have an eye on taking this character into PvP and investing in a series of hats to switch isn't a big cost, relatively speaking.).

Anyhow, for my group I have a pretty simple guideline. I like four offensive characters – one of whom is heavy on interrupts -, one subversive character, one protective character, and two healing characters. The offensive players kill things, of course, and the healers keep me from getting killed. The subversive character is a Necro or a Mesmer or something that can throw up a lot of hexes and conditions that make things difficult for the enemy while being able to interrupt or remove enchantments. They support the offense, in other words, making their lives easier. The protective character's job is the same except they support the defense. They're either a warder or a ritualist or something that's going to mitigate damage and keep my healers safe. Obviously, these lines get mixed and blurred but, for PvE, that's the kind of party I like to have. It's not always optimal but, in general, it's balanced enough to take on most things.

Currently, I'm trying to figure out which of the available henchies work best. Obviously, if I could I'd run with Heroes because not only can I customize them, they'll have a huge amount of skills to be customized with. But I understand there's some sort of limit on how many can be included in a party. I only have three Heroes at the moment so it's not a big deal but it's going to get annoying, I'm sure. Anyhow, since I only have the three Heroes they're automatically included in the party. With me that's two Dervishers, a Warrior (who's got the interrupts), and a Monk. That leaves me four spots to fill. A second Monk is a given so I pick up the Healer henchie, Khim – she's a heal bot although not as nice a one as I could make if I could tinker under her hood but alongside Dunk she gives me a heal/prot backline (Definitely my favorite way to do things. The protter stops the damage and the healer picks up anything that sneaks through, in theory.). The only Mes or Necro available is Odurra, the Illusion Henchman so she's a given, too. She's not as nasty on the hexing or removal as I'd like but she's useful enough. Now, I've already got two Dervishers but, well, it's Nightfall and I like to play with new toys so I generally also pick up Gehraz the Holy (read: Dervish) henchman. Alongside me, Mel, and Carson, that's a nasty frontline with some real AoE potential. We generally chew through things although I've also tried Timera, the Brawler or Warrior henchie, too (There's also a Ranger henchie but I'm very comfortable thriving on melee damage in case you couldn't tell.). The last spot is the one I'm least sure about. There's Sogolon, the Motivation (read: Paragon) henchmen and I'd like to use him but, frankly, I don't like much about what he does. The other choice is the Earth warder, Herta and that's what I usually go with although I don't really like the results very much. As soon as I can get an Elementalist henchmen, I think I can do better. There were Enchanted Snowmen henchies available during Wintersday, they sometimes got put in the last spot, too.

So, my party usually looks like this:

  • Oreon Rex (me, D/P)
  • Meloni (D/Mo)
  • Koss (W/Mo)
  • Dunkoro (Mo/Me)
  • Khim (Mo, Healer henchman)
  • Odurra (Me, Illusion henchman)
  • Gehraz (D, Holy henchman)
  • Herta (E, Earth Henchmen)

And here's what the characters I can control look like:

Oreon Rex (lv17)

Mysticism – 9
Scythe Mastery – 12+1
Earth Prayers – 4

  1. Rending Sweep
  2. Pious Assault
  3. Twin Moon Sweep
  4. Heart of Holy Flames
  5. Signet of Return
  6. Zealous Renewal
  7. Mystic Vigor
  8. Vital Boon

Not much different from last time, of course. The main difference is taking out Aura of Thorns and replacing it with Vital Boon. As I said, degen's becoming an outmoded strategy and the Bleeding from Aura of Thorns (I know it has a cripple, too, but that's not of much use in PvE. Although some critters seem to kite like mad these days and it could actually be of benefit it doesn't work very well when you have to wave your arms for a second to put it up - that's time they have to run out of range, after all. Putting up the AoE Bleeding was the reason I liked it.) and Carson's already dishing it out on his own. Packs of mobs just aren't surviving long enough for me to really worry about it, anyway. Vital Boon recharges faster so I can use the enchantment as fuel a lot more easily. It also adds some survivability in case I get into a tough scrape. Since I treat PvE as something like a bowling alley I have this tendency to pull a lot of things. Especially when I'm in a low-level area and just trying to run around. So, even though against a normal situation my team rolls over things, fighting off ten or twenty critters can get hairy and that's where the healing from Vital Boon can come in handy.


Mysticism – 9
Scythe Mastery – 12
Earth Prayers – 4

  1. Rending Sweep
  2. Twin Moon Sweep
  3. Mystic Sweep
  4. Rending Touch
  5. Rebirth
  6. Heart of Holy Flames
  7. Mystic Vigor
  8. Vital Boon

Like my main character, I've gone with more survivability with Melly Mel. She's got this annoying tendency to die incredibly fast. Matched only by the party's Mesmer (Who, like most Mes henchies seems to have absolutely no self-healing whatsoever.) who's got frequent flier miles thanks to all her trips to the pearly gates, I'm sure. Without her around, though, Mel is the fastest to die. Otherwise, she's pretty much the same as before. Her attributes are higher and I've decided to focus on making her scythe more deadly instead of upping her Mysticism because (Just as with Oreon - who's attributes she mirrors.) there's little point at the moment in getting it to that next sweet spot. Not compared to cranking out more damage. Since she already does a bit more damage thanks to some weird bug, I've kept her enchantment hating sideline because it could come in handy from time to time. With two Rending Sweeps and a Rending Touch in the build, though, enemies will have a hard time keeping their precious enchantments up.


Swordsmanship – 11
Tactics – 11
Dead Points – 1

  1. Sever Artery
  2. Gash
  3. Standing Slash
  4. Final Thrust
  5. Rebirth
  6. Auspicious Parry {E}
  7. Riposte
  8. Distracting Blow

Unlike others, he's at an 11/11 attribute setup rather than a 12/9/4. He actually benefits from the higher Tactics more than another point towards his swords, I think. Dropped Watch Yourself because although it was starting to get to actually useful attribute levels it wasn't helping as much as something else, I felt. What, though, continues to elude me. I settled for more offense and have been trying out different attacks. At the moment I have Standing Slash since Carson almost always has Auspicious Parry up. That gives him another big hit before he delivers a Final. Other choices were Jizhenju Strike and Seeking Blade since I'm starting to hit enemies that throw up block/evade. But, again, not much tinkering going on here yet.

The big changes come with Dunk whom I've switched from Healing to Protection, as I mentioned.


Divine Favor – 4
Protection Prayers – 12
Inspiration Magic – 9

  1. Guardian
  2. Reversal of Fortune
  3. Protective Spirit
  4. Life Sheath {E}
  5. Rebirth
  6. Mend Ailment
  7. Inspired Hex
  8. Power Drain

9 Inpiration just happens to be the breakpoint where Inspired/Revealed Hex returns 3 energy instead of 2 – so I could have more Divine Favor but I like have that 150% increase to Dunk's energy management. We're getting to the point where Mantra of Recall is actually a decent return on the investment rather than just a way of shunting energy into the future. So, maybe it's time to see if Dunk can handle being a boonprot but, for the moment, I'm happy with him as an active protter. What I'm unhappy about is the fact that I can't find a decent elite for him. There's plenty of options but, for the most part, they stink. The prot elites either recharge too long or cost too much energy – even though Dunk's got good non-elite energy management he can still burn through it in a hurry. Air of Enchantment could be very nice but he doesn't use it the way I'd like him to (Basically, to put it on me and Mel. That way we can enchant ourselves for free. It's not much of a concern because we don't have any real problems with throwing up our enchantments but it could be nice. But, nope, it tends to go up on whoever he's healing and I want him to use it more aggressively.) - but the main concern is I don't want my Dervishers to be chewing up enchantments with such high opportunity costs. And if I flipped the attributes around, Boon Signet could be nice. A quick 50 point heal that nets what should be an easy 4 energy per cast that's used up to every 5 seconds. So, I go with Life Sheath which is quick, cheap, and protects a good amount of damage from any source. It's important enough to make a difference yet with a seven second recharge I don't care about burning through it with Pious or something.

The key to Monking, for me, is speed. Being able to respond to things as they happen. With AI there's no need to worry about reflexes so spells that cast quick and arrive just in the nick of time can work very well. That means lots of things that can be spammed over and over again. This presupposes, of course, that you have the energy to actually do things with but once you have decent healing then getting good energy management would be the next step.

Anyhow, with Wintersday done, the next step is to advance to the next mission. And I'll let you know how that goes, if I can.

No comments: