Guild Wars 2 Structured PvP Basics Guide
Guild Wars 2 Structured PvP Basics Guide by maldrame
I won’t lie: the first time you PvP it feels like a great big mess. The upgrade to level 80 opens up a truckload of choices and the combat will drown you in particle effects. You’re going to feel confused, lost, and very often disoriented. That’s all perfectly normal. It took everyone some time to get used to it. And I promise: it does get a whole lot better.
This guide is to help you more quickly overcome the first-time confusion. To help you reach the point where you can look at combat and say to yourself, “Yeah, that all makes sense.” I won’t tell you which weapons to use, what talents to choose, or the strategy to win games. Instead, this guide explains the fundamentals. Issues like: how animation-based combat functions, what to know about buffs and debuffs, and how the map mechanics work. For those players who have already experienced a great deal of PvE content, some of this will sound very basic. I apologize for that, but this guide is largely written for those players who have skipped the level grind to get into the PvP action right away.
This is a lengthy guide. You may not want to read all of it at once, and I don’t blame you. I do encourage new players to read section 1, especially the part about Animation Based Combat, as that seems to cause the most confusion when players start. After that, go by the index. You can search for a section by its header (1-A, or 2-C, and so forth) to quickly pinpoint the topic location. Find the topic you need help with and read on.
I wish you all the best of luck.
PS: Did I make a mistake, misinform, or get it altogether wrong? Tell me about it. I will update as necessary.
Preface. The Three Golden Rules of PvP.
1. Combat Fundamentals
1-A: Before You PvP
1-B: An Animation Based Combat System
1-C: Skill Targeting and Avoidance
1-D: Movement and Positioning
1-E: Your First Custom Build
2. Advanced Battle Tactics
2-B: The Downed State
2-C: Dealing Damage and Healing
3. Boons, Conditions, Controls and Other Effects
3-B: Status Stacking Rules
3-C: Boons and Positive Status Effects
3-D: Conditions and Negative Status Effects
4. Map Fundamentals
4-A: The Basics
4-B: The Scoreboard and Glory
4-C: The Control Points
4-D: Unique Map Mechanics
0: The Three Golden Rules of PvP:
Rule #1: Keep your health in mind and take regular breaks away from the game. Go on a walk, eat some fruits or veggies, talk to a friend, check in on your kids/pets/significant other. The game will be here when you get back. Your body will thank you.
Rule #2: You will die, and you will lose matches. You will do a lot of both. Don’t stress out when it happens. Our ultimate goal is to have fun, and we want you to have fun too. If you aren’t having fun, see rule #1.
Rule #3: Be nice to other players. It is our responsibility to build a community worth joining. Insults and rage-tantrums bring it down for everyone. If you cannot muster the energy to stay positive, see rule #1.
1: Combat Fundamentals
1-A: Before You PvP
Before you can enter the Mists (the PvP Lobby) the game will force you through a quick tutorial where you resurrect some NPCs, Stomp some NPCs, and capture a point or two. You’ll only need to do this once for your account. But be warned, you are not yet prepared to PvP. Each character you take to the Mists will receive a template set of armor, weapons, skills, and talent build to start out with. You’re fully welcome to PvP with this template, but at the very least you should take a gander at what it all means.
First and foremost, know your stats. Find out which stats you’re stacked on, and which stats you’re weak on. Find out if your template leans towards defense or offense (it will probably have a balance of both). If offense, do you have a high critical chance, Power, or a lot of condition damage? If defense, do you mitigate with high Toughness and armor, or do you have a large health pool? These differences won’t change a lot about your moment to moment combat style, but they’re critical to know before you enter battle.
Second, look over your weapon and utility skills. Test them out a bit, too. On the north-center of the Mists, just west of the lake, you can find a bunch of NPCs designed to mimic actual players. I highly suggest going there to get a feel for any skills you do not yet know, not to mention combat at level 80 on a whole. This will save you a lot of button searching and chaos when you get into the real PvP.
After that, you have completed the minimum requirements to do some real PvP. Happy brawling, and have Fun!
1-B: An Animation Based Combat System.
New players quickly discover that the combat in GW2 feels substantially different from what they expect, especially if they’re accustomed to an older MMO. It controls a little weird, it moves weird, the timing is weird, and the combat flow definitely feels weird. It doesn’t take very long to adapt to the feel of combat, but even once you adapt to the flow, your expectations will sometimes lead you astray. You can blame this all on Arenanet’s choice to use animation based combat mechanics. Thankfully, it’s a wonderful system once you get to know it.
“Animation based combat” means the combat functions exactly how it looks. This gives the game a feel much closer to a hack-n-slash action game (see: God of War, Devil May Cry, or Prince of Persia) and less like your standard MMO. Almost all skills in GW2 have unique animations (and for this you’ll learn to love the developers). In order for the skill to produce its effect, your character must finish the skill’s animation. If you swing a sword, you have to follow through the whole swing before you deal damage and begin the next action; if you back flip, you have to land again before you attack; if you loose an arrow, you have to reload; if you float up in the air to call down meteors… you get the idea. Animation is the reason your instant-cast heal has a 1-2 second delay: the animation first needs to play out, then you get the heal, then you can cast the next skill.
Those of you transitioning over from WoW or other MMOs are probably used to combat based solely on cool down lockout, where as long as the cool downs have finished (global cool down included) you can cast the next skill regardless of your character’s position or animation. This is not the case for Guild Wars 2. Here, each set of skills will have an inherent tempo to learn based on their animation timers. You can figure out the delays and patterns fairly quickly just by paying close attention to your avatar as they cast spells. Watch for that moment when the action fully occurs: the sword swung or the arrow loosed.
You can interrupt nearly any skill by interrupting the animation. In order to play the animation skills have a slight delay between the button press and final effect. That’s your interrupt window. Once interrupted, skills will gain a nominal cool down, 2-5 seconds, often without triggering the full cool down timer. Channeled spells, however, will always trigger the full timer when interrupted.
Be careful, you can also interrupt yourself. Skill animations seem to have a priority ranking system. Low priority animations such as channeled spells can be interrupted by anything at all, even just movement. High priority skills, like the Warrior’s Kick, can only be interrupted by a weapons swap. Dodging will interrupt most skills that are not inherently mobile. There’s no clear-cut evidence as to which skills take precedence and why (not yet, at least). First hand experience is currently the best way to learn. Take your character out of battle and use your skills in different sequence combinations to find out which take precedence.
Then again not all skills like to interrupt each other. Some will queue up and wait for the first skill to finish. Some skills can be cast while other animations play out unhindered (Shouts, for example, work this way). And some skills have such short animations that they become nigh impossible to interrupt at all. You can tell these ones because, unlike most other skills, they will not display the orange progress bar when pressed.
1-C: Skill Targeting and Avoidance
This section gets a bit dry and long-winded, but it does set up some necessary information for when we later talk about Movement and Positioning, so try to stick with me.
Skills acquire targets in one of two ways: Direct target or Area-affect.
Direct skills automatically seek a specific target (player or npc) and when cast in range will always hit the target. Evasion abilities, anti-projectile abilities, and hiding behind pillars, walls, or other environmental objects are the only way to prevent direct damage. Skill slot #1, the auto-attack skill, will use a Direct skill for all standard weapons. A select few other skills (mostly single-target projectiles) also use Direct targeting, but it is most commonly found in auto attacks.
Area-affect skills affect specific positions, and will not automatically seek out targets. The best known examples of this system are circular, ground-targeted spells. Abilities with red cross-hairs below their icon will change your cursor into a green, ground-targeted circle (or bar). Wherever you place this circle is the area the skill will target. Area skills will miss if Evaded or when obstructed by an environmental object. But even easier, players can simply run out of the affected target area to avoid damage.
Most abilities in the game will use some form of Area targeting. Technically, this even includes Direct target skills: you are allowed to cast a Direct target spell when you do not have a hostile target selected. In this case the skill will behave like an Area target. You will still cast the spell, and if aimed properly (yes, you can aim your skills FPS style, though I do not suggest it) you will still hit and damage opponents.
Many skills that you might expect to use Direct targeting actually use Area target. For instance, if you wield melee weapons you can cast skills even if your target is behind you or out of range; the skill will hit nothing and go on cool down. No preventative warnings exist for “Not in Range”, or “Not Facing Target”. Another example: some ranged skills may have you target a hostile player, but will actually target the player’s position when you cast; the spell will affect exactly that position, even if the player has moved out of the affected area.
Curious about what targeting system your skills use? Just watch the projectile animation. If the missile (or laser) bee-lines to your target’s chest, 99% of the time it’s a Direct target spell. If the missile moves slower, crawls along the ground, hovers for a second, or does any other sort of inexact behavior, 99% of the time it’s an Area target.
1-D: Movement and Positioning
If you have not yet, go give the Skill Targeting section (1-B) a quick look. It will help you understand why I place so much emphasis on Movement and Positioning.
Movement is paramount to survival. On the defensive, simply moving around in a fight will save you a whole lot of pain and trouble. Lots of Area skills will miss moving targets entirely without the help of an immobilize or slow. Area skills with a countdown timer or that leave a persistent damage field will display a red circle on the ground where the effect will take place. Constant movement can keep you out of these effects. (Important side note! Basic movement will almost never actually Evade attacks, it just gets you out of range of those with an area check. But keep in mind, projectiles with a long travel time, like an arrow shot at long distance, have an area check even though they’re a Direct target. Near the maximum distance, with proper anticipation, they too can be strafed.)
While on the offensive you need to stay aware of your opponent’s movement. Most Area skills will have a short delay between the cast and effect. You’ll need to lead your opponent so that they run into the skill as it occurs. If you target exactly on top of players they’ll often escape the area before your spell hits. Pairing Area damage skills with Control debuffs will become a large part of effective play. This also makes mobility impairing effects highly valued, as they allow your damage dealers to maximize their output.
After movement, your position matters most. The best way to control a battle is to control the best position. Standing in the open makes your character vulnerable to attack. Giving up advantageous positions makes it dangerous to attack your opponent. Use the surrounding environment to your advantage. Try to deal damage to one opponent while blocking another opponent’s line of sight with a wall or pillar. Or shoot down at a melee class from atop a wall, since they can’t just run up the wall to attack you. Simple use of the environment can provide a significant advantage in battle.
Many combat hot spots, such as Capture Points, do not have any immediately available environmental doodads for you to utilize. Fortunately, player skills can create effects similar to environmental obstruction. Many utility skills will put up fields that block opponents and their attacks, but the spell has to lie between you to work. Movement wards will stop players from passing through a certain area; projectile wards can stop opponents’ missiles in midair. Some skills even allow the players themselves to become the barrier, so that your teammates can intercept and block attacks which are sent your way. If you aren’t careful, you can lose the entire benefit by standing outside the effect range. Likewise, when used against you, it’s important to reposition yourself so that your opponents cannot use their own barriers as effectively.
Proper positioning also keeps you safe from abilities that push you around. GW2 has a full repertoire of knock backs and pulls. If you stand at the edge of a drop off, players will be happy to launch you off. They won’t always need to be right behind you, or even on your same level, either. Knock backs and pulls work vertically, too. Keep this in mind when you’re standing somewhere precarious.
Finally, position matters because of Combo mechanics. But Combos get their own section. You can skip down to 2-D if you want to read about them right now.
1-E: Your First Custom Build
When you feel comfortable with the starter template, it’s time to move on to a custom build. It is important at this moment that you absolutely do NOT start off with a talent build you found on the internet. Why not? Two reasons:
First, a build is much more than just a collection of stats and damage bonuses. Many builds create a specific tempo of play that may not match your style. Some are geared towards twitchy, high energy, constantly active players, while others best suit the stable, collected player. Try not to confuse this with ideas like high damage or tanky; you can find twitchy tanks, and low-key damage dealers. When you play a build counter to it’s required tempo, it wastes a lot of the latent benefits.
Second, you learn far less about your profession when you jump into a build someone else made. By experimenting with builds on your own, you can learn a lot more about what stats feel best, what weapons suit you, and what utility skills you prefer. Take this time to test out the extremes: make a fully defensive and fully offensive build. You may never stick with such an extreme build, and that’s fine, but it can really help you understand your profession’s effective boundaries. After all, you can only deal or survive so much damage. Going in to battle with an expectation that lies outside of your plausible damage range is a recipe for trouble.
As a disclaimer, although I don’t suggest you start out with an internet template build, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach out to the internet for help at all. A lot of knowledgeable and helpful players exist out there on forums, on Reddit, and even standing around in the Mists. Talk to them. Ask questions, investigate their personal experience. Share advice and test out new ideas. We are amateur sports players here, budding enthusiasts, and each of us has learned a little trick which we can use to coach another player. Facilitating this discussion will not only help you learn, it will help create a community.
Experimenting is also a great way to learn something about your opponents. Having trouble against Thieves? Make a Thief. Test out their skills in the Mists a bit so you know how they look and feel and what they do. Play some PvP as a Thief, too. After all, the best way to learn your opponents weakness is to go out and experience those weaknesses yourself. And who knows, while you figure out all the rest, maybe you’ll find a new profession to love.
Remember, it costs nothing to experiment with new a new build. Even to experiment with an entirely new character. Take this opportunity to try out whatever you want, whenever you want. After all that, after you’ve experienced a wide range of stats, weapons, skills, and maybe even professions, then you should look in to build templates on the internet.
2: Advanced Battle Tactics
The Dodge mechanic is pretty simple to understand: during the dodge roll, damage or effects which would normally hit your character are Evaded instead. This applies to almost everything. Arguably, it makes dodge the best defensive ability in the game. But only if you don’t waste it.
Let me quickly make one thing clear: if you dodge a lot, but waste it avoiding the unimportant skills, you will still survive better than someone who rarely dodges and saves their endurance for one critical moment. Each battle will have a lot of critical moments to dodge, and very few will hinge on one big skill. So get used to dodging a lot early on. You can refine the timing later.
The talent builds which allow you to dodge and dodge and dodge until your little heart bursts with joy are few and far between. It takes a handful of talents, all centered around dodge and endurance buffs, to allow a Thief to dodge every 3-5 seconds; and that’s the most extreme dodge-build in the game. For the rest of us, baseline endurance recharges 50% (one dodge) every 10 seconds. That means 20 seconds for a full endurance bar refill. Keep that in mind when you choose to dodge.
Despite what you may think, you will not get to the next point more quickly when you dodge roll. The forward dodge roll is almost exactly the same speed as running outside of combat. Lots of players fall into the trap where Dodge feels faster than running. They expend all their endurance on the travel and show up to fights with an empty bar. This will put you in a very vulnerable situation, since now you need to spend defensive utility spells (if you have them) in order to save yourself from burst or control effects. Save your endurance for when you get into battle. If you absolutely must speed up your travel time, find a swiftness buff or equip a weapon that includes gap-closing skill.
While on offense, pay attention to when your opponent uses dodge. Opening with your best skills before your opponent has dodged allows them to Evade most of your damage. Instead, open with a small burst or debuff to spook your opponent. Flashy spells do the trick nicely. Lay into your better spells after they dodge. If you play melee, often rushing up to an opponent or using a charge skill will worry them enough that they dodge out of instinct. That’s a great way to set up your opportunity.
Area affect skills have complicated interactions with dodge. Whether or not dodge will work at all largely depends on how the Area spell functions. Spells that produce a single impact (bombs and explosions) can be evaded with a dodge. Spells that produce a persistent field (poison gas or a lava fountain) will avoid damage as you roll into them, but will continue to deal damage once the dodge roll ends. Spells that use a perimeter trigger (like Elementalist’s Static Field) cannot be dodged. Traps, which only trigger when a player enters the affected area, will trigger and consume the trap but deal no damage if you dodge roll onto them. Finally, movement wards, any field which prevents players from moving past, are impervious to dodge.
Knowing when best to dodge is a complicated business. To make this decision you will need to know which skills are worth dodging, and that requires you to know the animations themselves. That just takes a lot of time and experience, so I can’t give much advice except, Keep Playing. Oh, and, Don’t Panic.
2-B: The Downed State
The Downed State works like this: when your health bar goes to zero you won’t immediately die. Instead, you go into the Downed State. You now have another health bar which slowly bleeds down, and a couple new skills. Once the downed health bar hits zero, you’re right and truly dead. Your allies can resurrect you, either by kneeling down to bandage you up or by finishing off a nearby enemy player or NPC. If you’ve downed an opponent, you can finish them off with your regular damage or by using a coup de grace finisher (which players call the Stomp) only available against downed players. The Stomp will immediately kill a downed player, assuming you can finish out the animation.
Once downed, you have two options: fend off death, or welcome it. Since almost every class has a downed-state skill which interrupts the Stomp animation, you can try to fend off your opponents and prolong your downed state in the hope that your opponent dies first (unlikely) or that an ally will notice you went down and come by to revive you. Your other option is to lay back, accept your fate, and let yourself get stomped. Not a very glamorous choice, but it can put you back into combat a few seconds faster, which is sometimes more helpful. The decision to delay or accept death should largely rely on how many allies are nearby. Don’t expect a resurrection without any teammates in the immediate vicinity. But if you do have some buddies around, it is certainly worth the effort to stay alive for resurrection.
If your teammate goes down, prioritize a rescue and get them back on their feet. Strength in numbers is your best chance of winning. Unfortunately, a rescue also presents significant danger: the loss of movement. Resurrection requires you to kneel down and take whatever hits your opponent throws at you. No moving, no dodging. You’ll have to gauge whether or not you can resurrect your friend without going down yourself. I encourage you to try, because a resurrection can turn the whole fight in your favor. Just try not to sacrifice the whole skirmish in the process. (Important side note! You can resurrect fully dead players. Don’t do it. It takes more time than the respawn timer.)
Stomping feels great. In fact, it feels so good that many players rush in to get the Stomp when it’s actually a bad idea. That’s right, sometimes you should not Stomp a downed player. Gauge the situation first. Just like resurrection, you cannot move during the Stomp animation. This opens you up to a whole lot of incoming damage. That doesn’t matter too much when 1v1. But when in a group, especially if you’re outnumbered, you might be better off to avoid the Stomp. Instead, concentrate on the players who are still up and active. Quickly poke the downed player with a basic attack every few seconds to prevent self-resurrection, but otherwise ignore them. Often times the downed player will bleed to death on their own.
Similarly, it only takes one player to stomp. In many larger scale battles, whole groups of players will swarm a single downed opponent to get the Stomp. Don’t do this. At the maximum, only two players should stomp. The rest of you should stay focused on any ongoing battle. If the battle is over, start heading for the next Capture Point instead of joining the Stomp crowd. (Important side note! You can cancel the Stomp simply by walking away. The animation is structured so that it can be interrupted at any time. Don’t force yourself to finish the entire animation needlessly.)
Because of Resurrection and Stomping, skills which interrupt and effects which defend against interrupts are high priority in PvP builds. You cannot easily prevent an opponent from Stomping your friend or reviving theirs without equipping an interrupt spell. Likewise, effects which protect you from interruption will guarantee your own ability to resurrect and stomp. (See sections 3-C and 3-D).
2-C: Dealing Damage and Healing
You do not have an Auto-attack. Not in the conventional sense. You do have a weapon skill #1 that does everything you want an auto-attack to do: it constantly re-casts, has no cool down, directly targets your opponent, and deals damage without consuming resources. We still call it an auto-attack. But it is a skill, and as such it follows all the same rules that your other skills do.
Your weapon skill #1 does not act as the damage filler beneath your other, more important skills. It is a primary source of damage. For defensively oriented weapon sets, auto-attack is the primary source of damage. This means pushing all other buttons at every opportunity may not deal the most damage. In many cases, this will actually reduce your overall damage output because you haven’t allowed your weapon skill #1 to get used.
Your button 2, 3, 4, and 5 weapon skills are all situational abilities. Even the ones that only deal damage. They require certain scenarios to maximize effectiveness. A channeled melee skill that roots your character in place, for example, will only do full damage if your opponent stands in front of you without moving for the duration. A high damage Area attack won’t deal any damage if your target steps outside the area. A Direct targeted skills can get dodged.
Before using a cool down, consider if the damage or affect has a good chance to land. Players who deal the most damage are the ones who waste the least on poor opportunities. Given that your auto-attack is generally your most reliable and least wasteful source of damage, lean on that as much as possible and save your other skills for the right opportunity. On the other hand, truly perfect opportunities rarely happen. If you can get most of the damage to land, say 80% success (which means 20% of the damage is wasted), that’s a happy minimum.
Efficient healing is pretty simple: heal early, heal often. Since most healing spells have only a 20 to 30 second cool down, you can expect to heal at least twice in a standard fight, and much more often in a group battle or series of fights. Healing early is a great habit. Many players wait until they have only 20-25 percent of their health before healing; don’t do that. The earlier you heal, the earlier that the cool down finishes to let you heal again.
The Combo system is simple to understand and easy to utilize, but difficult to master. Mastery requires memorizing all the effects which Combos can produce. Thankfully, you won’t need to memorize much just to make a Combo work. I won’t detail each and every combo– you can check out the wiki if you want to see that list– instead lets focus on the fundamental mechanics of Combos and some of their rules.
A Combo requires two parts: the Field and the Finisher.
Fields are Area target skills which leave a lasting effect. Gas clouds, fire walls, watery springs, icy patches, and so forth and so on. Each field has an associated element, and each element produces a different Combo effect. You can identify a field by the border around the effect. If you see a raised gold ring with floating puzzle pieces and hearts, that’s a combo field. All other effects will have a simple, flat white border.
Finishers activate the Combo effect in a field. Different types of Finishers can produce different results. For instance, if you shoot an arrow (projectile finisher) through a wall of fire (field), the arrow catches on fire and deals Burn damage. If you lay a bomb (blast finisher) on a wall of fire, the explosion will give yourself and teammates a stack of Might.
Sounds pretty logical, right? Good. Here are some rules you should know:
Not every skill creates a Field or Finisher. And not every Finisher activates 100% of the time. The skill tool tip will tell you whether or not the skill is part of the Combo system, and how often it triggers.
You can only trigger one Field at a time. A Lava Fountain on top of a Water Spring on top of a Poison Cloud will not add 3 different combos to a single finisher. Only the oldest Field will activate.
Positioning is, once again, very important. Fields will not forgive sloppy aiming or positioning. Make sure you set the Field directly between yourself and the opponent, or directly underneath yourself. Skills that require you to stand on a Field will only Combo if you activate the skill while on a the Field. Activating the Finisher then sliding onto the Field does not count.
Don’t go too far out of your way to make a Combo. It takes a keen eye to notice the available Fields, and an experienced player to know each Field element by sight. If you think you can make a combo happen, I encourage you to give it a shot. Should you succeed, a small bronze heart will appear to tell you the type of Combo created. But if not, don’t fret. Although Combos are advantageous, it takes a lot of communication and set up to make them so critical that it changes the sway of battle.
3: Boons, Conditions, Controls, and Other Effects
Boons and Conditions. Buffs and Debuffs. Positive and Negative status effects. Call them whatever you like. The textbook definition of every effect would take a long and arduous time to explain, so I plan to avoid all that detail. You can look up each particular status effects on the wiki if you need to know. Instead, this section will point out a few of the most important status effects, as well as clarify the differences between seemingly identical effects.
Status effects actually file into four separate categories. Boons and Conditions are two. There are also Control effects, which cause a loss of control over your character. Many Controls can also forcibly move your character’s position; pushing or pulling you across the field. If underwater, control effects can force you to sink or float. The fourth category is simply called Other Effects. These effects are often specific to one class and occur rarely. It is important to note categorical distinction since some skills will only target or produce an effect from one category.
I loosely use the term “effect” to mean, “the presence of a status effect.” Because of this I will clearly point out whether I am talking about a Boon, Condition, Control, or Effect. To avoid confusion: henceforth, if I am referring to the Other Effects category, I will capitalize the title. If I use the lower case effects, refer to the loose definition.
3-B: Status Stacking Rules
First, you need to know how status effect stacking functions. Stacking happens when you apply an effect to a player already under that effect. For instance, giving a Might buff to someone who already has Might. Stacking can happen in one of two ways (never both): an increase in Intensity, or Duration.
Increasing intensity will strengthen the effect without increasing the length of the effect. Take Might, for example (35 power and condition damage). If you simultaneously grant 1 stack of Might for 10 seconds, and 1 stack of might for 5 seconds, the outcome is 2 stacks (70) for 5 seconds, followed by 1 stack for 5 seconds. The timer on each application is tracked individually, regardless of when the application occurs, and all stacks will combine their total effect for the duration.
Increasing duration will increase the length without making the effect stronger. Most effects that increase duration have a static value. Fury, for example (20% critical strike chance) will always provide a 20% increase, regardless of the caster, their talents, or their stats. Poison, Burn, and Regeneration are the exception, as their values can vary. In this case, the game will prioritize the highest value of all applications for the duration of the effect.
3-C: Boons and Positive Status Effects
Boons, the positive status effects, are pretty simple to understand. Most of them have static, duration stacking values. None of them produce effects so similar that they functionally overlap. Thus I’m only going to focus on four specific positives: Stealth, Stability, Stun Breakers, and Quickness. These four are especially important either because they follow peculiar rules in GW2, or just because you should really know how they work as soon as possible.
Stealth is not an ability, not strictly “that thing only Thieves do”; Stealth is a status effect. Multiple professions can cast Stealth, many skills apply Stealth to teammates, and certain Combos can apply Stealth to anyone. It’s important to note that Stealth is not a Boon, but one of the Other Effects. That means you won’t gain Stealth from any ability which applies random Boons. Nonetheless, it is a tactically advantageous, and very powerful, effect.
Stability might be the single most important Boon in the game. It protects you from all Control category effects, as well as Fear. You cannot get knocked down, pulled closer, launched back, stunned, feared, or dazed, among other forms of control. This has three critical applications. First, Stability can very easily save your life by keeping you in control of your character. Second, it allows you to resurrect or stomp downed players with impunity. Third, it keeps you from losing ground on control points whenever someone with a knock back shows up. Stability buffs are rare and short lived. It takes timing and experience to get the most out of the effect. But when used properly, this buff can entirely turn the tide of a fight. (Important side note! Stability does not guard against Immobilize, even though Immobilize tends to feel like a Control.)
Stun Breakers are not actually a status effect, but an ability effect. They occur instantly and have no duration. We’re going to file them under status effects anyway. The name belies the true power of the ability. A Stun Breaker not only remove Stun, it removes all forms of Control category debuffs. So if you’re launched up, you’ll land on your feet instead of your back. If you’re knocked down, a Stun Breaker will put you back on your feet. Although Stability is a stronger effect overall, Stun Breakers are more plentiful, and much less prone to waste. (Important side note! A Stun Breaker will only alleviate the loss of control. It will not take you back to a ledge if you were knocked off.)
To understand how Quickness works, you have to understand how GW2’s Animation Based Combat functions (see section 1-B). Quickness accelerates the actual combat animations by 100%. Your character will perform all actions in half their normal time. That means double the damage output while under the effect. With the right talent build and weapon, this buff can decimate an opponent in seconds. In fact, Quickness is so powerful that it includes a severe debuff upon application (50% more damage taken, cannot be healed, or total loss of endurance). The only class which can cast Quickness without a debuff is the Mesmer, and then the buff is constrained to a small area; the area lingers for 10 seconds, but the effect falls off if the player leaves. Be very cautious around players with Quickness.
3-D: Conditions and Negative Status Effects
Conditions are a bit more complicated than boons since many of their effects have a functional overlap. The Damage over Time spells (called DoTs) for example, all seem to do the same thing. Same with the multiple slows. And sometimes it’s just difficult to gauge the usefulness of a Condition.
Bleed, Burn, and Poison are the DoTs. It’s pretty obvious that Poison is something different: it includes a reduction to healing received. But Bleed and Burn simply deal damage over time, so what’s the difference?
First, Bleed will generally produce a lower damage effect for a longer duration, while Burn deals high damage in a short time. This difference makes Bleed a more sustainable damage output, whereas Burn acts more like burst damage. Second, Bleed stacks by intensity, whereas Burn stacks in duration. Applying more Bleed effects will increase the damage for a while, but you won’t likely see any output spikes. Since Burn already works like a damage spike, adding onto the duration will increase the overall burst severity. Finally, professions have nearly universal access to Bleed application, whereas most (but not all) Burn spells are owned by Elementalists.
Confusion works very similar to a DoT, except that it doesn’t function over time. Instead, the damage triggers when a player uses any skill. Seems simple to avoid Confusion damage, right? Just avoid using skills for a few seconds. Well, remember that your character does not actually have an auto-attack (see section 2-C), they have a skill which acts similarly to an auto-attack. This means every time someone uses their basic attack skill, they receive confusion damage. It can stack up a lot more quickly than you expect.
Although Cripple and Chill provide a similar effect, Chill is obviously more powerful. This is largely because of access restriction. A total of 28 weapon skills can apply Cripple, whereas only 8 apply Chill. The cool down timer speed reduction makes Chill even more of a commodity, but it only applies to skills that are already on cool down when the effect is applied. Cool downs used after Chill gets applied are not affected.
Immobilize straddles the border between Condition and Control. While Immobilized you cannot move, not even to pivot in place. Technically, you can still use skills, although skills with movement components won’t send you anywhere. It’s about as close to a Control effect as you can get without stepping over the boundary. Because Immobilize is not categorized as a Control, Stability and Stun Breakers will not clear the effect.
Weakness is more effective than it gets credit for. The reduced Endurance regeneration alone is powerful. On top of that, causing glancing blows can cripple power-heavy builds. It’s important to note that glancing blows will only occur from up-front damage. This means things like Condition damage, Retaliation, and Traps are completely unaffected. It also doesn’t work on Critical strikes, so builds with high critical chance will largely avoid the effect. All these restrictions may make Weakness sound useless, but don’t let it fool you, the debuff makes a big difference.
Control effects, which (except for Fear) comprise a status effect category all to their own, revoke a player’s control over their character for a short duration. This can happen multiple ways, the weakest being Daze (which interrupts current actions and revokes the ability to use skills, but allows the player to move), upgrading to Stun, and finally graduating into a full array of effects that push, pull, launch, and knock players down.
All PvPers should include at least one form of Control in their skill set. Opportunities to halt enemy resurrection and save downed teammates from a Stomp appear in nearly every skirmish. In order to interrupt a player, you need to have access to a Control effect. When no players are downed, Controls are a great way to land crucial Area attacks. Finally, Control effects can cause players to feel disoriented with their surroundings. Real life disorientation is one of the most effective ways to addle a player into submission. Never neglect effects which cannot appear on a spreadsheet.
4: Map Fundamentals
4-A: The Basics
Rapid fire info dump! The first team to 500 points wins. Each game has a 15 minute timer, just in case both teams are too good. Player kills are worth 5 points. Your team will gain more points for every Capture Point they control. Each captured point gains 1 score point per 2 seconds. Team control of the capture points is displayed at the top center of your screen. If one of the icons has swords through it, the point is being contested. The Capture point progress bar is displayed on the top right of your screen. You have to accept the respawn every bloody time you die. Your armor gets dyed Red or Blue depending on which team you join; you can turn this off for one or both teams in the options menu. If you join with friends, you are not guaranteed a spot on the same team (unless you’re in the Tournament mode). The map changes every time a game finishes. The teams will not change every time a game finishes. Each map has a unique mechanic. You do not need to use said mechanic to win the map, but it often helps.
4-B: The Scoreboard and Glory
Before we get into how the Scoreboard functions, it’s important that you understand how much the scores on the Scoreboard matter: they matter very little. Used as a metric for effort, skill, or decision making the Scoreboard is, at best, largely inaccurate. It lacks tracking for certain strategic and tactical choices that are useful, if not crucial, to winning games Some of the most helpful actions will earn no points at all, while some actions that earn points don’t necessarily win games.
This doesn’t mean you need to disregard the Scoreboard entirely. Most of the statistics tracked involve viable contributions to the battle, and your personal score is connected to the Glory you earn for playing. But when you look at the scoreboard, remember that the score doesn’t count for everything. Some of those players with the lowest scores are playing just as hard as you are; they just aren’t recognized for it.
Each map tracks seven basic statistics which count toward your personal score on the Match’s Scoreboard. This includes battle scores such as Kills, Revives, and Skirmishes (which are kills made when not near a Capture Point), and map objectives like Capture Point Assaults, Neutralizes, Captures, and Defenses. With the exception of Kills (worth 5 points), each of these stats give you 10 points per accomplishment.
Certain maps have unique objectives which will give you extra points when completed (see section 4-D for the full list). If the unique objective involves killing an NPC you gain 25 points per NPC kill, but only if killing that NPC adds points to your team’s overall score. While on Khylo with the Trebuchet, you gain 15 points for Destroying a Trebuchet or repairing a broken Trebuchet. A target hit with the Trebuchet is worth 3 points.
Glory is the currency with which you can buy new PvP gear. At the end of each match, you gain Glory equal to your personal score on the Scoreboard. On top of that you may earn some additional Glory for various rewards. Winning the map is worth 18 Glory. Each of the scoring statistics which you ranked highest on in your team gives you another 5 glory.
4-C: Capture Points
Each map has 3 capture points (sometimes called Nodes). Regardless of the other ways to earn points, these are your primary source of point gain. Capturing a node is simple: stand within the boundary for long enough and you claim the point. If the other team already controls the point, you’ll have to wait for the point to neutralize (so neither team owns it) before you can capture it for your own team.
It takes 14 seconds to capture a node from a neutralized state. But it only takes 5 seconds take a point from Captured to Neutralized. While you’re in combat, keeping hold of the point is more difficult than you may think. A single knock back can take you off the point for four or five seconds. If you manage to stray out of the boundary, a single immobilize will usually keep you out long enough to do the same. This is one of the reasons why Stability is so powerful (see section 3-C).
It is worth your while to neutralize a node, even if you cannot fully capture it. You’ve already deprived the other team of a handful of points, and even though that doesn’t seem like much it can make a significant difference in the long run. Don’t stick around if a defensive zerg shows up to take back the point. Better for you to run and live than die on a node you have no chance of claiming. Besides, if you Neutralize one node and their team sends four people over to take it back? That’s four less opponents for the rest of your team to worry about, and that is sometimes more helpful than being left alone to claim the node uncontested.
It only takes one player to capture a point. In fact, that’s the maximum capture speed. Sitting two, or three, or ten players all on a point will capture it exactly as fast as a single player. Which means all the other players are wasting their time, and should be headed somewhere else. Be proactive about this: don’t stay on the point if you already have a teammate there. Then again, don’t let everyone run off and leave the point neutral, either.
Likewise, it only takes one player to defend a point. Even if the odds are stacked 10 to 1, the capture bar will not move if at least one player from both teams stands within the capture boundary. And this includes downed players. This makes difficult-to-kill defenders a valuable asset. One well played defender can stay alive against three or more attackers, so sometimes it’s easier to Control a defender than to kill them.
Whether you mean to acquire or defend a point, it is vital that you stand within the boundary as you fight. Many point boundaries are quite small, and none of them include environmental obstacles to hide behind. That means capturing is a dangerous job. You have restricted movement and positioning ability, and no protection. It’s also fairly futile to attempt unless you can manage to get any guardians out of the space. The best way to guarantee an easy neutralize is to equip some Control abilities or an immobilize. Run in and knock your opponent out of the boundary. Or, if they’re foolish enough to leave on their own, use your immobilize to keep them out. After that, stick around if you can win the fight. If not, head somewhere else.
4-D: Unique Map Mechanics
In the Battle of Kyhlo, each team has access to a Trebuchet (often called the Treb). The Treb, which is manned and manually aimed by a player, launches a flaming stone that explodes upon impact. Enemies caught in the blast take six to nine thousand damage and are knocked back. A well aimed Treb can clinch the battle at any Capture Point. On the downside, aiming is fairly difficult, and should you cause enough trouble the enemy team can come over and tear the Treb apart. A destroyed Treb will stay down until you team finds a repair kit and carries it back.
In the Forest of Niflhel, two NPC mini-bosses hang out on either side of the middle capture point. Named Svanir and the Cheiftan, these NPCs are worth 25 score points per kill, and provide your team with a buff of 50 to all stats for thirty seconds. Quite the hearty bonus. Unfortunately, only the finishing blow counts, so a damage oriented opponent can sneak in and snake the kill bonus even if you have your whole team on the NPC. Once dead, the mobs will respawn in roughly four minutes, so it’s wise to keep an eye out for when they return. Since both NPCs are fairly difficult to solo, it’s recommended that you double or, optimally, triple team for the kill.
In Legacy of the Foefire, each team has an NPC Lord inside their base guarded by four NPC guards. Unlike Niflhel, these bosses are far more difficult, only spawn once, and certainly require a team of players to kill. On the bright side, they’re worth 150 score points. In casual PvP, you’ll find that most players tend to ignore the keep Lords. But if you hear the announcer warn “Your base is under attack!” it means the enemy team has begun to break through the doors to your keep and soon plans to attack the lord.
Raid on the Capricorn has two unique mechanics. On one end of the map you can find a cannon placed atop a large parapet. The cannon can fire almost anywhere on the map for six to nine thousand damage. Unlike Kyhlo’s Trebuchet, the blast does not knock players down. Also unlike the Treb, the Cannon has a limited amount of ammo. After five shots you’ll need to grab a cannon ball from the nearby pirate ship and bring it back to the Cannon. One ball refills all five shots.
The second mechanic is Sharks. Across the map from the Cannon lies the underwater Capture Point called the Ruins. Although the water throughout the map is rife with sharks, they prefer to ally with whoever controls the ruins. This makes taking the Ruins a big deal, since it’s much harder to steal a point when the defender has an army of great whites behind them. If the point is neutral, the sharks ally with no one. Be careful when you enter the map, since each spawn point drops you into the water, and a Shark already waits for you.
That’s it. Thanks for reading! Once again, if I mistakenly provided the wrong information, or if a patch has changed something about what I’ve said, tell me in the comments. I’ll update the guide as soon as possible.