Some more Mesmer 2.0 musings here!
The last main-hand weapon option for the Mesmer is also the first; you’ll start life holding a Sceptre. It is spelled “sceptre”, by the way. I should know because I come from a country which still has an active monarch, and she uses one every day in her day job. This does mean that HRH Elizabeth II is technically a Guardian, Elementalist, Mesmer, or Necromancer. I’d be more certain if I could remember what off-hand item she uses on state occasions. A handbag is probably a focus? I’m pretty sure she can only wear Light Armour though, so she’s probably not Guardian!
Anyway! The Mesmer Sceptre is quite a mixed bag, and is further mixed by the choice of accompanying off-hand. While the other weapons seem to have more clearly defined purposes, the Sceptre is somewhat more vague, making it quite multi-purpose.
#1 Ether Bolt/Ether Blast/Ether Clone is a three-skill attack chain, which shoots quite pacey purple bolts at the target which don’t do anything special, just damage. Each third bolt will also create a Clone, who will start shooting Ether Bolts too. This clone does not cause further clones to appear and being a clone means their Ether Bolt will do next to no damage, but being able to create clones from an auto-attack is unique among Mesmer weapons. 900 range isn’t as good as Staff or Greatsword, and the damage isn’t massive, but the cumulative activation times of the chain means you can replace Illusion pips at a rate of one every two seconds without doing anything more than pressing ‘1’ once. Augmenting this rate with Utility and Offhand Illusion generating skills makes the Sceptre the best main-hand choice for Shatter-heavy play styles, creating waves of disposable explosions-in-waiting. This can be further enhanced with a large variety of Shatter related traits. With this weapon the cooldown of the Shatter skills (F1-F4) themselves becomes the limiter.
#2 is Illusionary Counter, a defensive block. This functions identically to the Offhand Sword #4 slot skill, Illusionary Riposte; for 2s the Mesmer will block the next incoming attack and create a clone when doing so. During that 2s, the flip-skill Counterpsell can be used, ending the block and shooting a bolt that does minor damage. This one blinds instead of dazes. Interestingly, this is a main-hand skill, while the Riposte is an offhand skill, meaning that you have both by doubling up, using a Sceptre/Sword pair, perhaps one of the most effective defensive pairings available.
Confusing Images is #3 and is a kind of mini-laser version of the Greatsword #1, Spatial Surge. It holds a sustained purple laser beam on the target lasting five seconds. During this time it will do a significant amount of damage and apply five doses of Confusion on the target, which will damage the target further if they use a skill. Confusion is the bread and butter of Mesmerwork, but usually you have to muck about with Combos to regularly apply it. This skill lets you just cause it without fuss. The cool down could be shorter, but a useful part of basic DPS all the same. Bear in mind that many monsters, particularly of Champion and Legendary grade, have a special Unshakable buff to protect them from ‘crowd control’ skills, of which happily, Confusion is not one, making this kind of thing invaluable in boss fights. Mesmers always were good at Bosses.
That covers the four Mesmer weapons, but to bulk up a short article, let’s look at the Focus offhand! Foci come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but are all basically just a magical whatnot you hold on to, to make bigger mojo.
#4 is Temporal Curtain, and my main reason for using Foci. It places a purple shimmery linear curtain wall template on the ground which serves two purposes:
1) Speed boosting. It is the only Mesmer run-buff (apart from the randomly dispensed effects), and when allies run through it, they get Swiftness; +33% speed for 10s. Handy all round, but even better, enemies running through it are Crippled; -50% speed for 5s. This naturally lends itself to escaping pursuit, particularly as it can be cast on the run, although dropping the template in the right spot can take a little practice. It’s also useful for just getting about a little quicker, although the cooldown means it can’t be kept going continuously. I use mine to hurry Dolyaks along in WvWvW!
2) Yanking. Using the flip-skill, Into the Void, it becomes one of the few rare skills that can Pull. Used correctly, the Mesmer can collapse the Curtain, sucking nearby enemies towards and through it with some force. This takes quite a bit of practice to get right, particularly as the Curtain only lasts 5s, but can be hysterical fun, especially during WvWvW keep assaults. Place the curtain on the outer facing side of the wall, near the very top, just beneath where Smuggy McSmuggington, Ranger-Sniper Extraordinaire, is hamfistedly beating the Barrage button over and over while hooting lots (I hear Rangers only get one skill?) and then hit the flip-skill. Quirky battlements allowing, Smuggy (and if you’re lucky, several of his mates) will suddenly come sailing over the top of the wall, to land unexpectedly in the middle of your own team’s angry frontline. This will almost always be followed by a highly panicked limp toward their glowey keep entrance rectangle, which they won’t very often make. For best results, try to anticipate the direction of pull and aim them away from their keep door. Petty, but fun, although do watch out; to pull this off well, you’ll need to get fairly close to the wall base yourself to plant the Curtain – have it queued up as you make your run and get the hell out before detonating it to minimise exposure. For extra lolz, have a Mesmer buddy with Illusionary Wave waiting at the base of the wall to bat the freshly pitched Ranger out of the park! The yank is less spectacular used against PvE monsters, as they are immune to being knocked off things (It won’t pull Veteran Archers from WvWvW keep walls, merely knock them down), and also the collapse pulls monsters from both sides of the Curtain through it, often leaving you with just different monsters on your side of the Curtain. Too unpredictable for general-purpose positional crowd control – use Greatsword Illusionary Wave instead. Note that the pull is toward the centre point of the Curtain, not in a direction perpendicular to the Curtain, as you might think.
After that, #5 is a bit of a letdown for me, although many Mesmers do swear by it. Phantasmal Warden creates a Phantasm which does a lot of whirling with axes and makes a projectile absorbing bubble. The problem is that the bubble is centred on the Phantasm and not you or your allies, and the Phantasm seems to have a habit of appearing in less than useful positions and then just standing there. To be protected by it, this means that either you or the thing shooting you need to be inside the iWarden’s bubble. The above #4 yanking can help with this, or you can just leg it to the right spot. To be really useful, it needs traiting; Phantasmal Haste to reduce its ability cooldown and Warden’s Feedback to make the whirl bubble reflect projectiles instead of absorb them. Very tricky to use well, I tend to go with Feedback and Phantasmal Defender from Utility instead, but it is capable of massive damage and trivialising a lot of fights via immunity to projectiles.
The Sceptre is a good choice for defensive work, and also for flexible ranged utility. The Focus is a good workhorse in the utility category, and together the pair offers a lot of options for interference and manipulation, more subtle than the big brash two-hander options. In particular, I’ve found the Focus Temporal Curtain to be an indispensable secondary offhand skill that I’m rarely without.
More to come; Pistol and Torch!