Following the first beta weekend event, I noted that players took to the social play that Guild Wars 2 inspires much quicker than I had anticipated. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t expect people to play socially at all, but the industry itself has conditioned us for solo play over the past 8 years to the point where I was beginning to give up hope that we may never see another truly social MMOG for another decade.
MMO shooters, or games that focus wholly on competitive play, don’t really count here. But even in those games you still see a high percentage of players who take the lone gunman approach rather than focusing on team play. I attribute this to the horrid implementation of leaderboards that call out individual players for their achievement, rather than the successes of full teams as a unit.
That was one thing I always loved about the GvG rankings in GW1; you were ranked as a guild rather than it being a list of how well xX Jimmy Jo Jim Bob Xx performed in the last season. Tracking individual achievement is absolutely important, but leaderboards need to factor in promoting group play, or the idea that you’re winning or losing as a team much better in most games.
Getting back to BWE1 then, the other trend I noticed in all of the social play happening is that it wasn’t really equal across game types. Dynamic Events, by their nature, inspire social play without having to be truly social in the process. The same really applies to most open world content in Guild Wars 2.
But since most players were still getting a feel for the combat system and professions, you rarely saw much, if any, organized team play happening in structured PvP, with WvW falling somewhere in between the two extreme ends of the spectrum.
The Winds of Change
While I didn’t find that too terribly surprising at the time, I was absolutely surprised at how radically that has shifted for BWE2, especially when it comes to structured PvP. The addition of basic tournament play helped promote this naturally, but even in most hot-join matches I played I encountered a major upswing in players being conscious of being part of a team, and working together to complete objectives.
Mind you, about 50% of the time in hot-join it boiled down to zerg tactics, where an entire team would take advantage of group swiftness to zip across the map and destroy unsuspecting defenders. In other words, you weren’t seeing a lot of splits outside of tournament play, but rather the brute force approach based on the notion that there is strength in numbers.
Still, it was refreshing to see structured taking shape as more of a team event, rather than a disparate group of individuals scampering around attempting to solo objectives the way they would generic quest content in other MMOGs. To go a step further, we’re also beginning to see more players conscious of the fact that each profession has a number of utility skills and traits that are wholly focused on interesting group interactions.
This hasn’t fully crossed the threshold towards becoming the norm quite yet, but I suspect that heading into BWE3 – and certainly by launch – competitive players will be factoring these things into their builds to a much higher degree than we’ve seen previously.
Building for Team Play
Necromancers have a number of excellent support skills and traits, and could very well be one of the best professions to lend revive support in the game currently. Other professions have some excellent revive potential as well, but the necro is also naturally more resilient than most others, and can account for absorbing incoming damage during revives depending on how their build is structured.
Rather than babble out long descriptions of different group support tricks necros have up their sleeves, below I’ve compiled two lists; one each for skills and traits. The items in either list are wholly focused on benefitting the team in a very direct sense.
Necromancer Team Support Skills
- Mark of Blood (staff) - Inscribe a mark that inflicts Bleeding on foes and grants Regeneration to allies when triggered by a foe.
- Plague Signet (utility) - Passive: Transfers conditions on nearby allies to yourself.
- Putrid Mark (staff) - Inscribe a mark that transfers conditions from allies to foes when triggered by a foe.
- Reaper's Touch (focus) - Send out a scythe that bounces between foes and allies. Causes Vulnerability to foes and Swiftness on allies.
- Signet of Undeath (utility) - Active: Revive up to three downed allies in the target area.
- Well of Blood (heal) - Conjure a Well of Blood to heal nearby allies.
- Well of Power (utility) - Transform conditions on allies into boons every two seconds.
As you can see, there isn't a massive number of skills that directly benefit allies, but each one is worth working into your build for different reasons. Now let's take a look at the current traits that directly support or benefit allies in some way...
Necromancer Team Support Traits
- Mark of Evasion (adept / major) – Leave a Mark of Blood when you dodge
- Ritual of Life (adept / major) – Create a Well of Blood when you revive an ally
- Transfusion (adept / major) – Life Transfer heals nearby allies
- Deathly Invigoration (master / major) – Heal in an area when you leave Death Shroud
- Mark of Revival (adept / major) – Create a Reaper’s Mark when reviving someone
Again, a short list, and one that helps illustrate how Blood is really at the heart of providing direct team support as a necro. This makes Blood a much more interesting trait line across the board, because it can really go one of two ways. First, you can focus more on life steals which are a big help if you decide to get into some dungeon tanking, but you can also swing fully in the opposite direction and play it as a group support line.
While many of the items listed here are absolutely going to see situational usage, I would still encourage my fellow necros out there to take some time to really think about how you might work them into your builds. If you think about it, most of the skills and traits listed have the potential to shine in every game type offered in Guild Wars 2.
In other words, things like area heals or revives are going to be beneficial whether you’re ungrouped and running dynamic events, crawling through dungeons with a few close friends, assaulting key structures in WvW, or on the bleeding edge of competitive play in structured PvP.
Before I descend back into my secret underground laboratory to continue work on our awesome new update for GW2Hub, I’ll leave you with two questions.
The first you should be asking yourself: How can I work team-based components into my builds rather than being wholly focused on my own DPS or ability to dominate as a lone gunman in team play?
The second question I would encourage you to answer below in the comments: Based on your BWE experiences so far, how important do you feel team support skills and traits will be to the metagame once it’s established in the live game?
Bear in mind that I haven’t even touched on combo fields and finishers… yet. Look for a full rundown of that whole nutty system in a future edition of Grenth’s Grog, coming soon to a GW2Hub near you!