The Price of Progress Part 1 : Pre vs. Post Beta Thief Class Discussion
Welcome vVv members, to the first regular Thursday blog that I will be putting out here on vVv, obviously called "The Price of Progress". As the title says, This particular blog is going to be a Pre Vs. Post beta shakedown of my original assertions compared to what I know now from playing a thief over the beta weekend, as well as the stress test last Monday. That being said I will also be covering everything from class discussion to breaking competitive news on the Guild Wars 2 and vVv front in this series of articles, not one specific topic. Let's jump into it.
The "Crip Walk" Build.
While being able to execute the correct moves, in the correct positions, at the correct times is a solid chunk of what makes a great player tick, the other 50%
of the equation is one that a lot of people do not put enough emphasis on. If you do not enter the battle with the correct tools you're doomed from the start, and
today that's what I intend on preventing.
Pre Beta Speculation: Now coming from an Aion/WoW background, I'm initially leaning towards a dagger/dagger heavy build, both for the attack speed of the dagger and damage from the Leaping Death Blossom which our build in particular will need due to our general focus on survivability and constant CC. But Anet had to throw a monkey wrench of a variable in for us and they added ranged weapons to the equation. So now the question we're going to have to answer : "What does more damage in the most effective way possible?"
Well originally i thought this was going to take some deliberation, but after watching a few beta videos I've seen the burst potential of d/d and s/d in upwards of 4-5k crits, and the pistol just cannot compare to the conditions and sheer burst that you can put out with two melee weapons. That being said, the pistols place is DEFINITELY in PvE. Your ability to shoot, move and kite mobs much slower than yourself is undeniable and it is definitely an advantage worth having, but the PvE discussion is one to be had at another time.
Post Beta Speculation: This particular explanation held its ground over the beta weekend and stress test, although I will add that every time I was in a capture point and in a stand off with neither me or my opponent moving, I would switch to my pistol to get a few free potshots in before they came at me. Other than that, I'll hold firm on the same position that D/D or S/D is the most optimal weapon choice, although I didn't have time to check out S/D during the stress test. For an in depth explanation of the impact of D/D vs P/P, check out the following:
As you all have probably discovered, GW2 PvP will not be based on APM like it was in say, Aion for example. It's 100% decision making. People who played exceptionally fast in Aion were rewarded for their insane reaction time with being able to out think their opponents on the fly. I.E. playing an Assassin and Ambushing into a Ripclaw Strike, dancing them until Remove Shock buffs wore off from the Ambush, and finishing a kill whilst kiting the other party in question. I don't know if that means anything to you because I have no idea if you played Aion, but the point is the GW2 playing field is very fair, and in order for a fight to go in your favor, you will not be able to rely on speed or gear, you will have to show up with the correct skills and book reading done before hand before you can hope to outplay your opponent. As far as ranged weapons go, they will probably never be tier 1 in competitive PvP on thieves for several reasons besides the lack of damage and CC, and I'll explain why.
When you're using a ranged weapon as a melee character, it's hinting at some underlying general deficiency in your ability to survive for long periods of time. Thieves do not have this problem. So we have to come back to the drawing board as to reasons why we want to MAKE them work, as at this point we are forcing the desire for ranged into our build. For now all we have left is the mobility that comes with using ranged weapons, and you say to me, "Well Talon, I think I enjoy being able to kite and shoot in an effective manner more than I enjoy being stationary and using daggers." To which i would reply, Do you not already solve the same issue when you're using a skill such as Leaping Death Blossom or Heartseeker Strike? I'll elaborate on this.
When using a pistol you lose an element of unpredictability, which in turn hampers your ability to survive. As you saw in my video, at a point when the opposing teams Thief walks up the stairs to try and contest the objective point that we were holding, I used Cloak and Dagger to switch off of my current target that I was attempting to keep under control (the Warrior), and used that quick stealth and boost of damage to inhibit the thieves ability to inflict any serious hurt on me or any of my teammates at the start of the fight, with a Heartseeker that crit for about 2.2k damage. Now that this initial blow has been dealt, the warrior doesn't know where I am, the thief cannot turn and hope to engage me in a fight that he knows he will lose, and I'm in a position to cut off any reinforcements that will be coming up to support their teammates. With a pistol, you do not have the ability to hot swap to a different target with the same amount of pressure in the middle of a fight like with Cloak and Dagger, I have no ability to firmly plant myself in between the opposing squad and a particular objective due to my inability to force pressure and evade attacks with the animations of Leaping Death Blossom, Heartseeker, and Cloak and Dagger, and I cannot force any sort of presence on the fight no matter how much damage I do because let's be honest, the pistols damage when compared to the 2-4k critical strikes of dagger/dagger is seemingly insignificant.
The real trick here is positioning yourself in a manner that allows you to use the skill you would like to use, and to land in a favorable spot in a particular engagement. You'll see several occasions where I'm able to use what would normally be deemed a useless skill in a given situation to my advantage, like Death Blossom. Getting the most out of the basic movement of your skills is incredibly crucial to learn and master, and it is something that ArenaNet has specifically said will add an all new element to GW2 PvP. It may not be a blatantly obvious advantage at first glance, but I assure you when I'm able to completely avoid direct conflict whilst still crippling and sending out AoE bleeds, coincidentally doing massive damage, without being touched? People will feel it in their knees. Movements like sprinting full blast, rolling left and gaining swiftness for 3 seconds, death blossom over 2 opponents and thus cutting hard right with the animation, evading towards the back left of their line without ever being in danger and effectively creating a sandwich out of an otherwise heads up engagement, are simply not possible with ranged weapons.
Always look to get more ahead. I never want to see anyone committing themselves to stagnant stationary combat because they think that was the game's limit for their class. Be ballsy, make big plays, and take chances. You certainly won't die with dual pistols, but you sure won't get any closer to winning.
Pre Beta Speculation: As you can see in the link above, my trait selection is as follows : Deadly Arts, 30. And all the rest at 10 a piece.
The reasoning behind the Deadly Arts at 30 is pretty simple. If you go through and read the bonuses achieved from every spec tree, there is no other tree that has as much of an up front obvious effect on the fight as DA. Power + a 30% boost to any condition you put on an opponent is too much of an advantage to ignore. That being said if you wanted to say go for an all out smash and slash type of build, DA 30 and Crit 30 with say, 10 in Trickery might be your best bet. However i believe putting some amount of emphasis on your survivability is key while still keeping a desired standard of damage, especially in scenarios that you will inevitably run into with zero team support. Something else to note, achieving "Grandmaster" in DA with a fully filled tree grants you extra damage when a target has a condition, poisons a target when you Steal to them, and applies a free weaken on the Steal jump as well due to the poison achieved from the first 10 points of our DA tree, which is what the core of our build is based around.
- 10 Points in Crit Strikes feeds us extra burst which our build is lacking overall
- 10 points in Shadow Arts gives us a free regen shield in the form of Shadow Refuge automatically when we hit 25% health, as well as giving us a third stealth utilizing our Steal to its full potential
- 10 Points in Acrobatics nets us 10% increased movement speed in our respective stealths, on top of a temporary movement speed boost upon evading.
- 10 Points in Trickery allows us to make our Steal a formidable weapon in battle causing it to net us 3 Initiative as well as dazing our target, on top of the poison, stealth, and weaken it already applies due to our previous traits.
As you can see spreading traits out is by no stretch of the imagination not worth doing or "weak" in any way. It allows us to balance out our builds general lack of damage with the sheer amount of CC we can generate in a short amount of time on several different targets. On that note, let's take a look at our skills chosen for this build.
Post Beta Speculation: I wound up keeping almost none of this original speculation in my final build and I'll explain why. While I was correct in my initial "cc and move" train of thought, I didn't really understand to what extent. Imagine the scene in The Dark Knight where the Joker sends his goons to kill batman when they're at Harvey's party or whatever it was. Thugs move in (Thieves Guild) and we work around them to deal as much damage as we can. You have to play like a passive-aggressive pansy, burst, cc, burst, cc, whenever you see them about to switch to go aggressive on you, don't let them. In order to reflect this play style, we need more evasion. A LOT more.
Knowing what we know now with the Thief's desperate need for speed, let's see how that reflects on our Trait Selection. This is definitely not exact as I didn't write down my traits from the beta, but it's close.
Revised Post Beta Trait Selection
20 in DA :
- Steal applying Poison
- Crits causing Vulnerability as a condition
- Weaken automatically applied on Poison with our Steal
- Dagger Damage increased by 5%
10 in CS :
- Crit chance increased by 5% when we're over 90% health
- 50% Crit Chance buff out of stealth <-- Huge
10 in SA :
- Automatic Blinding Powder thrown out when we hit 25% health
- Gain 2 Initiative on every stealth <-- Also huge
30 in ACR :
- Gain swiftness on evade <-- A big part of what makes us such a threat on capture points
- Move 10% faster in Stealth
- Dodging returns some endurance <-- That actually means 25% on evade which is just insane. This is what allows us to roll so many times consecutively.
- Dual skills return initiative <-- This will become the movement speed sword buff during the next beta for us.
- Increases damage by 10% when endurance is not full
- 2 extra initiative every 10 seconds <-- Amazing for constantly Cloak and Daggering
While Acrobatics proves incredibly useful for keeping an available stealth up at all times, it also gives us a solid 10% damage boost when our endrance is not at full, which should be all the time.
With this setup we can roll 3 times consecutively with a 3 second swiftness as an after effect, without hitting zero endurance. This makes our thief, when paired with skills like Shadow Refuge and Hide in Shadows, a slippery pickle to say the least when it comes to capturing points and getting away unscathed. I originally had all 30 points in Deadly Arts without the split into Critical Strikes, but after realizing that a small 10 point investment would result in an almost 100% chance to crit out of stealth and a free Blinding Powder when we hit 25% health, I caved and threw 10 points into the tree. Also as you can see in the Stress Test video i switched to Needle Trap from Caltrops for the damage on top of the cripple, which makes perfect sense considering the reduced AoE on Needle Trap has no impact on us when we're packing our handy dandy Signet. The only difference as I said before between the two outside of the damage, is needing to make sure you signet, then needle right next to your opponent as it is an instant cast with very low range. Along with that, working on your ability to cast it under pressure while on the run and using it effectively is a skill that will be necessary for success with a Thief come release.
My plans for the next beta with this setup will consist of swapping Combined Tactics for Martial agility in the slot of "Master" under the Acrobatics tree, for extra damage on the Sword/Dagger build. Using a sword gives us access to Infiltrator's Strike, a teleporting shadowstep effect that we can chose to undo in order to port us back to where we jumped from, which in my mind is the perfect bread and butter for our end goal of staying alive in 1v1s and applying appropriate pressure.
Executing the "CC and Move" mentality in our build
Pre Beta Speculation: As a note, while this build allows us to handle 1v1s without much trouble due to the amount of cc we're dishing out, our damage is probably going to be mediocre at best and as such it is probably a safe bet that this particular build will be an active support role as a thief. Now that we've taken care of our initial emphasis on behind the scenes traits and trees, it's time to discuss the rotations for proper execution of this build. The way we've organized the build thus far allows us to hold our own in 1v1 engagements and contribute to the support role of team fights if necessary, so lets organize our skills accordingly. Begin the theorycrafting.
- Rotation in a 1v1 : Steal --> Death Blossom (Our primary concern is immobilization as fast as possible) causing opponent to evade out wiping conditions --> Heartseeker --> Dancing dagger --> Double strike/DB spam until worn off --> Caltrops --> Double strike/DB spam until worn off --> Dancing Dagger --> Death Blossom/Dagger Storm accordingly to apply constant bleed/burst.
- The goal in a 1v1 is to apply as much pressure as possible without using any notable cooldowns until necessary. Play reactively not proactively in a 1v1 scenario.
- If you're ever in a situation where you're in a 1v1 scenario against an opponent and they don't have constant cripple/bleed on them you've got serious problems. Save your Cloak and Dagger for incoming 2v1s and switching in team fights along with your Hide in Shadows and Roll for Initiative.
- Never use your Dagger storm if your target is not crippled. Make sure to maximize its effect i.e after Heartseeking or Stealing into 2 people and immediately Cloak and Dagger out of danger.
- Do not be skittish with your damage rotations i.e 1,1,1 -> 3 -> 4 repeat due to your ability to skirt around the fight with your multiple stealth and healing cooldowns.
- Use your escapes preemptively. Do not wait until you're at half health and you have an ele and a warrior on top of you with loads of conditions pouring onto you to stealth, do it before the damage comes.
- If you see gaps in a line of defense, abuse them accordingly i.e Steal to opposing teams Guardian --> Cloak and dagger stealth to another outlying target --> 1,1,1 --> Dancing Dagger --> Heartseeker to switch back to guardian --> Dancing dagger.
- Look for over zealous dps on the opposing squad, but instead of punishing them for it, punish their supporting teammates who will have to put themselves in poor position in order to help out. Create 2v1 scenarios for yourself.
This is all speculation and speaking from previous MMO experience. All of this is subject to change at all times due to the development process being an ongoing one and I would love to hear opinions on preferable traits. For now I won't bother covering map movement and advantageous positions to find yourself in because that entirely depends on what type of role you plan on playing in a squad. Cheers.
Post Beta Speculation:
Obviously the parts about Daggerstorm no longer apply, but the conditions under which you should use DS and Thieves Guild are exactly the same. Don't freely use Thieves Guild without the Signet/Needle Trap, Signet/Dancing Dagger, or just Dancing Dagger if you absolutely have to. Remember, Thieves Guild applies blinding powder in two directions upon landing.
- New kill condition is waiting for them to pop an escape after applied pressure, roll at them, DB to bleed, Dancing Dagger to cripple, Signet, Needle Trap on top of them, Thieves Guild, HS/DB/HS/DB.
- Our change from Caltrops to Needle Trap is to emphasize our time for dumping a one time damage sink onto someone. Needle does about 1.2k damage in bleed and a 5 second cripple, which along with Thieves Guild is enough to get the job done.
- Gaps are easier to close to Heartseeker from a comfortable distance with Acrobatics.
- Instant roll into Cloak and Dagger to roll through a group of people or distract.
- Having the ability to bait people away from fights, Shadow Refuge, and then throw down the Signet/Needle/Guild combo on them is really devastating.
- Think of this particular build and play style like a Mesmer with burst.
- The rest applies. Go get a cookie.
- As a note, I was using Daggerstorm for the entirety of the Beta weekend with some success until i switched to Thieves Guild on a trial basis during the video shooting.
Now that you have your cookie let's wrap this up. New build, new skills, new tricks. This build gives you the ability to retain superior map movement, along with keeping an indefinite kill condition in your Signet/Needle/Thieves guild combo when you see a lack of escapes up on their end. Use it wisely. I hope you enjoyed this recap from then and now, and i most certainly
hope that I see you all during the next upen beta weekend where I will be trying out the Sword/Dagger version of this build, hopefully with much success. I tried to keep this article
as wall-of-text free as I could, and I hope you guys learned something, transitively enjoying it. I also hope I covered everything, but at this point I can't feel my butt and can't care. I'll give it a once over in the morning.
Until next time.
- vVv Rinzler