Friday, October 24, 2008

Guild Wars: CB Glee Me!

It's back, it's live, Halloween has returned as the Costume Brawl has returned for another round. I'm not sure why I'm typing this out as I could be playing right now. Maybe because I promised myself that I could get back to the fun if only I tok care of some other obligations first.

I've just gotten back from a brief, exploratory session to check out the possibilities available. And where I mostly got my rusty ass kicked up and down the field. Well, actually, I don't think I did too badly. One 20-18 loss and a seemingly endless streak of wins I had to bow out of before too long. I took a death during that loss but only because I was testing my luck repeatedly pushing up to cap a point. Got caught, ate an attack through my Stride and that was that.

As far as I can tell, the details of the Costume Brawl are exactly the same as last year. Buff to set attributes and health. Shrines to cap – I've heard there was a new map but in the ten or so games that I played I haven't seen it yet. Weapons can't raise your health or your stats but they can do pretty much everything else.

But, it seems that not only is Halloween here, Christmas has arrived early as well. I've gotten my oft-repeated wish and the character builds have not just been tweaked but completely revamped. My beloved Ranger bar from last year, for example, is gone and replaced by one with Melandru's Shot. Some changes are minor, like the Monk switching up a few skills on your basic Signet Smiter's bar. While some are drastic, like the Warrior shifting from a CripSlash sword to a Shock-less axe. Some facts remain constant, though, like the Paragon being a sucking vortex of suck that sucks. It's not a good build, I'm saying. But I don't care because at least I get to play that Shatterstone/Steam Ele that's been making the rounds. It looks like an earlier winner when it comes to improved builds.

Here, then, are those builds and a few of my thoughts on them:


  • Axe Mastery - 14
  • Strength {P} - 13
  1. Eviscerate {E}
  2. Executioner's Strike
  3. Disrupting Chop
  4. Bull's Strike
  5. Rush
  6. Tiger Stance
  7. Lion's Comfort
  8. Shield Bash
This is what a Shock Axe bar looks like without Shock Axe. I actually prefer last year's CripSlash because that packed in a lot more movement control - something that's essential in a point capture format like the Costume Brawl. This has the de rigeur Bull's Strike and you can't go wrong with Rush but there's nothing to stop an opponent who can really kite. I'd rather have Frenzy than Tiger Stance but, you know, this is a newbie-friendly format and Frenzy takes some getting used to, so I can't really complain. I'm more concerned about dropping HealSig in favor of Lion's Comfort. I like my healing on demand, not dependent on my adrenaline. But, hey, Evis and Executioner's and D-Chop, and it feels like old times again.

  • Expertise {P} - 11
  • Marksmanship - 12
  • Wilderness Survival - 12
  1. Melandru's Shot {E}
  2. Savage Shot
  3. Distracting Shot
  4. Sloth Hunter's Shot
  5. Troll Unguent
  6. Apply Poison
  7. Natural Stride
  8. Antidote Signet
I think I'll miss last year's BA Ranger. Not because this bar lacks Burning Arrow - Melandru's Shot is an attractive alternative (Nice damage and a decent recharge although a bit less certain when it comes to delivering that all important Cripple than Pin Down. Also, it seems to me to be more of a pro skill than something well suited to the rank newbs.) and the addition of Sloth Hunter's over Pin Down means better damage. But I had a lot of fun with that bar so I'll shed a nostalgic tear. Still, this has the interrupts and speed boost it needs to once again dominate, so I'm sure I'll get used to it again.

  • Divine Favor {P} - 9
  • Healing Prayers - 11
  • Smiting Prayers - 14
  1. Reversal of Damage
  2. Smite Hex
  3. Smite Condition
  4. Healing Breeze
  5. Vigorous Spirit
  6. Bane Signet
  7. Signet of Judgement {E}
  8. Castigation Signet
Roughly the same although a little more straight-forward than last year's bar. More damage, less annoying healing. I'm especially glad to see the back of Divine Intervention. Vigorous Spirit, its apparent replacement, is underrated, being nice and cheap but it's not going to keep anyone alive for long. Still, while you might pack a bit of a punch, it's a weak one and this remains a defensive character. It also remains one of the main sources of hex removal in the format and that alone makes it invaluable (Condition removal is fairly common but as far as I can tell it's this and...well, Smite Hex is the ball game when it comes to getting rid of hexes). But I think it's a good bar since packing a Monk on your team won't result in an instant win. It's a nice bonus but so is having a lot of the other characters, too.

  • Soul Reaping {P} - 14
  • Curses - 13
  1. Faintheartedness
  2. Parasitic Bond
  3. Signet of Lost Souls
  4. Rip Enchantment
  5. Insidious Parasite
  6. Foul Feast
  7. Plague Signet {E}
  8. Suffering's not last year's bar, a Reaper's Mark kick. Might actually be interesting with the combination of Foul Feast and Plague Signet (Plague Signet!?!?) and without a lot around to zap hexes, they spread around a lot of pain. But, still, I think the same problems as the Necro did last year. These are unavoidable since there's nothing to deal with them in their class. But there's no snares here, no speed boosts, and no way to completely shut down an attacker, either. That leaves the Necro as a slow moving, sitting duck who might work well in a co-ordinated team but isn't going to be much good by themselves.

  • Domination Magic - 14
  • Fast Casting {P} - 9
  • Inspiration Magic - 11
  1. Overload
  2. Wastrel's Worry
  3. Cry of Frustration
  4. Power Spike
  5. Energy Burn
  6. Ether Feast
  7. Lyssa's Aura {E}
  8. Empathy
Looks to me like an improvement over last year's Surge/Burn bar although I don't really play a good Mesmer so what do I know? The idea seems to be interrupt happy with some nasty hexes in a format that lacks a way to easily remove them.

  • Energy Storage {P} - 11
  • Fire Magic - 9
  • Water Magic - 14
  1. Glyph of Immolation
  2. Shatterstone {E}
  3. Steam
  4. Freezing Gust
  5. Glowing Ice
  6. Glyph of Restoration
  7. Ice Spikes
  8. Water Attunement
A water build that kicks out decent damage. I'm so there. My only concern is that they've dropped Aura of Restoration for the Glyph thereof. Since I imagine you want to keep ImmoGlyph up as much as you can, that's probably not a good trade. I'd rather risk the strips in exchange for that constant healing. Still, the pew pew and some decent snare in a format that's suddenly lacking in them should make for some fun times.

  • Dagger Mastery - 14
  • Deadly Arts - 4
  • Shadow Arts - 11
  • Critical Strikes {P} - 9
  1. Hidden Caltrops {E}
  2. Death's Charge
  3. Iron Palm
  4. Falling Lotus Strike
  5. Twisting Fangs
  6. Black Spider Strike
  7. Blades of Steel
  8. Heart of Shadow
Looks nasty enough. Definitely a change from last years Aura of Displacement build. Looks like they want you to go Caltrops into Charge into Palm and so on, running your fingers across the keyboard, but I think it might be better to go a different way - Follow the Charge with a Spider then a Fang then Palm to knock down for the energy boosting Lotus into a finishing Blades - if the energy works out, of course. I hate Sins so I can't really tell. Still, there's little condition removal and precious less hex removal in this format and this bar packs a powerful snare... Tempting. Sins are probably going to be a huge pain.

  • Communing Magic - 9
  • Channeling Magic - 13
  • Restoration Magic - 12
  1. Caretaker's Charge {E}
  2. Nightmare Weapon
  3. Wielder's Boon
  4. Weapon of Warding
  5. Essence Strike
  6. Protective Was Kaolai
  7. Ancestors' Rage
  8. Bloodsong
A Caretaker build. I've heard about these but have never had the opportunity to use one so I really can't say. I looks interesting. And, at least, an improvement on last year's model with its defensive Spirit. A bit of healing, a bit of offense, sounds like a real Rit bar to me. The odd thing here, though, are those points in Communing. This bar, as far as I can tell, doesn't have any Communing skills. Those points would be better off in Spawning so you could get more out of those spirits and weapon buffs, if you ask me.

  • Spear Mastery - 14
  • Command - 9
  • Leadership {P} - 11
  1. Cruel Spear {E}
  2. Spear of Lightning
  3. Disrupting Throw
  4. Anthem of Flame
  5. Remedy Signet
  6. Fall Back
  7. Never Surrender
  8. Go for the Eyes
There are always some constants. Like Paragons sucking massively when it comes to small team formats. They're like anti-Rangers – someone you don't want to be on the split. This is basically the same as last year's Cruel Spear bar, it's just dropped Anthem of Weariness and Leader's Comfort for Disrupting Throw and Never Surrender. I'm not sure that's a good thing but it couldn't be any worse.

  • Scythe Mastery - 14
  • Mysticism {P} - 9
  • Earth Prayers - 6
  • Wind Prayers - 10
  1. Wounding Strike {E}
  2. Chilling Victory
  3. Crippling Sweep
  4. Signet of Mystic Speed
  5. Attacker's Insight
  6. Watchful Intervention
  7. Vital Boon
  8. Heart of Fury
No Avatar. That's interesting. Not having walking trees around makes a lot of sense but since most of the other builds have lost their snares it probably won't matter all that much. It's also lost Rending Touch which might be more of a loss – although there aren't that many key enchantments around, being able to strip them off was a definite plus.

All in all, some nice changes. There are some big misses and, as always, choices that make you scratch your head (Lion's Comfort? Points in Communing? Plague Signet?!?) but, overall, I'm impressed with the effort that's gone into these. I figured, at best, we get some attribute tweaks and maybe the odd skill swap to deal with those that have been patched in the past year. But this is a full on reworking so that things are up with the current meta but also a tweak to how the format will play. The new characters, the new archetypes on display should make for a different experience than last year. All while still keeping the same frantic and inexperienced friendly style of play. Some significant work, more than just a slapdash effort, went into these builds and I'd like to applaud that while I can. For the moment, though, I don't want anything more than a few more hours with which to play and I'll have to look if I can't steal some more.

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