Continuing on with an attempt to find Mesmer Comedy Builds in Guild Wars 2!
My standard runabout build has developed over a month or two of trial and error and mostly uses the Greatsword in the Primary Weapon slot, For Massive Damage! The Secondary Weapons can be important too, and possibly a way of exploring a more in-depth complexity than initially seems present in the game.
At L7, the Weapon Swap button unlocks (Unless you’re an Engineer or Elementalist, who get some different mechanics instead) and from there, a press of the tilde key can instantly change half the skill bar, even during combat with a 10s cooldown. A useful and complementary Secondary Weapon set is clearly an important part of the build, effectively turning 10 available skill slots, into 15.
Being so gleefully destructive with the Greatsword, I tend to use the Secondary set more for utility than straight fighting and typically go with Sword and Focus.
In the main hand, the Sword is the Mesmer’s only proper melee option, designed for actually getting up close and wailing on the problem. The alternatives; Greatsword, Staff and Scepter, are all ranged weapons. In many ways the Sword type builds remind me of the old Illusionary Weapon builds of GW1, using trickery, speed and evasion to frantically stay alive in an otherwise untenable toe-to-toe position.
The auto-attack skill here, #1 Mind Slash/Mind Gash/Mind Stab, is a three-skill attack chain which constantly cycles through. Reasonably punchy, it also debuffs with Vulnerability and strips a Boon on the third hit. Interestingly, like most melee attacks in GW2, it appears to be a very short-range AoE cone attack, rather than single target direct damage, so is an ideal fallback if things are going a bit too melee for a more ranged Primary Weapon (GS, Staff). DPS is reasonable, but it offers no survivability itself so do not just stand there auto-attacking with this – use lots of other skills and dodging to stay alive. Mesmers typically aren’t suited to proper melee fighting for extended periods; even with quirky +Vitailty/+Toughness/+Healing Power builds it seems pretty difficult to build a proper Mesmer Tank, in any real sense.
#2 is Blurred Frenzy and is my top pick for Sword. It simultaneously does a very high amount of damage all targets in a point-blank frontal arc and also gives 2s of Distortion, an effect which causes auto-evasion, as if you’d just dodged, but without having to actually dodge. In effect it makes you invulnerable for two seconds. This skill alone makes the Sword a highly useful way to buy time in a melee gone wrong, swapping in from Greatsword or whatever. The damage is nice, but consider holding off spamming this, instead reserving its use as a survivability panic-button for big incoming melee wind-up attacks; hammer knockdowns, etc. Coupled with well-timed proper dodging, this makes melee a pretty viable option for a Mesmer, particularly when dual-wielding swords (see below.)
Slot #3 is Illusionary Leap, the obligatory Illusion generating skill. This one creates a Clone with a one-handed sword that will leap at the target and start Mind Stabbing. It’s a Clone rather than a Phantasm, so isn’t very tough, functioning more as a distraction than actual DPS or tankage. Its initial leap causes cripple, but only on the target, so Illusionary Berserker (Greatsword) is probably a better bet for that. The leap is a Combo Finisher: Leap, so if launched into a Combo Field: Ethereal, will create a Chaos Armor bubble on the clone. Apart from adding a useful pip to the F1-4 Shatter skills, the main point of this skill is its follow-on flip-side, Swap. Used within five seconds, this will swap your location with that of the Illusionary Leap clone, above. Typically this will be from range into a melee position with the earlier target. The clone arrives where you were and will then run back toward the target to help, while you can start slashing with wild abandon. Your arrival roots all adjacent targets for 2s and also counts as a Combo Finisher: Leap, so if you set up a dome before hitting the button, you’ll get Chaos Armor on arrival. Handy for closing with kiting or ranged enemies quickly. Note that because the clone needs to run from where you are to the target, the subsequent Swap is unlikely to be able to teleport you anywhere you couldn’t walk to anyway; i.e. WvW wall-tops, jumpey platforms, and so on. (I need to test this!)
All in all, not a bad choice for a Secondary Main-hand, particularly if using a Greatsword or Staff Primary, which are both ranged weapons. It offers moderate DPS, but a lot of useful point-blank survivability. I tend to use this mostly because you might as well hold something in the main hand if you want a utility off-hand item and I love the Focus. However, if you’re serious about panicky Mesmer Melee, the Sword should be dual-wielded. In the off-hand, the sword offers two further skills.
#4 is another potent melee defensive option, Illusionary Riposte. This makes you block the next incoming for two seconds, and creates another clone when you do. Also causes damage, but not a huge amount. While blocking, the skill flips to Counter Blade allowing you to pre-emptively end the block and instead shoot a bolt which does low damage, but dazes the target. The timing of this skill is quite tricky and will need a bit practice to use well, but the accomplished Mesmer swordsman will be able to use this, #2 above, and general dodging to keep alive in all but the most hectic of melee scrambles, despite wearing just a frock coat or ball gown. Again, more use as a panic-button for specific big incoming attacks, rather than spamming whenever it lights up.
#5 calls in a Phantasmal Swordsman to help out. Being a proper Phantasm, not a Clone, it’ll do real and considerable DPS and is substantial enough to take a few big hits. Avoid shattering it unless absolutely necessary – this one is more use alive. It sometimes evades but doesn’t do anything else too clever, being mostly a straight damage attacker. Like the Phantasmal Berserker, it leaps about a fair bit, so watch for secondary aggro. These leaps count as Combo Finisher: Leap, so throwing out a dome before starting will grant it Chaos Armor.
The Swords are clearly about melee; dishing out point blank damage, and surviving the retaliation. As Melee DPS, a Sword/Sword Mesmer is surprisingly effective and a lot of fun, but I’m still unconvinced about overall viability as a ‘Mesmer Tank’. If it’s possible at all, it’ll need a lot of stat building to augment it and make it work. Perhaps not an optimal weapon for maximum efficiency, it’s a fantastic change of pace from the usual “stand at the back and shoot purple magic” of the rest of Mesmering.