Posted in January 2013

Roadmaps and Rapid Rounds

Meanwhile, in games which aren’t Guild Wars 2, Planetside 2 is going pretty well. Getting the K/D out of the way right now, I seem to be consistently coming in at 0.3 or so, which is similar enough to my six years of on and off Planetside 1 play. Sometimes I finish a night with over 1.0! It doesn’t matter though, because the main reason I loved Planetside 1 was the sheer spectacle of the ongoing massive fighting, which very much exists in the sequel.

The differences between the first and second games are many and varied, but the essential spirit of the game seems intact. The art and engine are both huge improvements on the first game, delivering a very modern feel to basic gameplay, on a par with current console shooters in a way that Planetside 1 never really managed against Counterstrike and its contemporaries.

The class-based model is interesting and new in the sequel, letting everyone have access to all the basic tools from the word go, but avoiding the late-stage pitfalls of PS1’s cert system, which five years in had produced an elite tier of do-everything super-soldiers against which a newbie would have real problems competing. Skilful long-term play and/or enthusiastic cash shop participation certainly helps refine existing classes to be better at their jobs, but you do now have to stick to one job at a time, which seems better. This is balanced by the option to swap class instantly any time you respawn or use an equipment terminal. (Worth noting that the entire thing is truly F2P, no box cost involved. If that enrages you, you should probably not play!)

I’m mostly Engineering. They get a decent enough stock gun, have access to deployable mines, turrets, etc and can also earn side XP repairing tanks and wall turrets if they’re not that great as shooting things, like me!

Vehicle-wise, PS2 is impressive enough. A smaller selection of vehicles made it to the sequel, but they are all a lot more modular now, capable of a few roles each. The large armour columns and air swarms still live on. I mostly use the Sunderer these days, a 12-man APC capable of being deployed as a spawn point, resupply depot and all sorts else. I’m finding the planes a bit tricky; the sequel uses a somewhat different flight model which is hard to come at new, and I was never that great in the planes in the first game anyway. More practice there I think, as although I continue to hate Air Cavalry, the Liberator 2.0 and Galaxy 2.0 are both iconic classics and look useful and fun.

Outside of the game, things look quite progressive too. SOE, or at least John Smedley, clearly love the Planetside franchise and seem to be working very hard in the post-launch phase of it all. They’ve put out a Roadmap which initially made me quite cross, mostly because I came at it tangentially and only saw this thread for May, via Arkenor.

May – Taunts

In which the ill-conceived idea of user-customisable death-screen taunts (plus custom background!) are given an extensive short shrift by most of the players of the game. I’ll leave the ‘What could possibly be wrong with that?’ as an exercise to you, dear reader.

I bitched in a tremendously emo fasion on the podcast a bit, but afterwards, calmed down a bit and went to read some of the rest of the Roadmap, which is actually full of a lot of good ideas and exciting future features. A good summary can be found here:

The Ps2: Examining the Roadmap

It’s a crazy topsy-turvy world of misrule when The (Yes, THAT Mitanni) has become my number one go-to site for Planetside 2 news, guides and tips, but they have some very decent coverage over there, with it’s own section and everything. I wonder what that means for Dust 514?

Anyway, it’s a good start for me; I’m enjoying the basic game-play and also looking forward to new things in an MMO again. Quite a few of us in a similar boat, so I went ahead and set up the Nicholas Courtney Tribute outfit; “Five Rounds Rapid” which is also open to people who aren’t Dr Who fans too! If you enjoy our writings here and wordnoises on the podcast, and want to get involved, do get in touch: I’m ‘VanHemlock’ on the Miller [EU] server, and we’re all Vanu Sovereignty, which you will have to be too. It’s quite unreasonable about cross-faction guilds, I’ve found! We play UK evenings, have VERY low standards of ability and coordination, and Mumble is a plus, if only to listen in. I’m get very lazy about typing stuff these days!

Look out for lots of bitching about how OP Light Assault is to come!


I, Mesmer: Shattering

Guild Wars 1 has Attributes, alterable point scores in four or five disciplines for each class, which govern how powerful the skills of that discipline are, and also which carry some innate passive effects as well. For the Memser, these would be Fast Casting, Domination, Inspiration and Illusion. One of these would be the Primary Attribute (Fast Casting for the Mesmer), and unique to that class. It was this, and the armour piece stats, which would make a Mesmer/Ranger subtly different to a Ranger/Mesmer, who would get Expertise instead.

Guild Wars 2 has gone with a more conventional Talent Tree style of customisation, often using the same names, but something of the spirit of the Primary Attribute lives on in the Profession Mechanic. This is different for each class and usually involves the F1-F4 keys, and the UI area just above the Weapon Slots. For the Mesmer, this is Shattering.

The Mesmer Class Mechanic revolves around the creation and destruction of Illusions. Many Mesmer skills create Clones and Phantasms as part of their function. The skill bar keeps track of how many of these are in play, using the round purple pips above the Weapon Slots. A Mesmer can only maintain three Illusions, summoning a fourth will cause the first to vanish. While active, these Illusions will go about their own summoned tasks, attacking the target mostly. When the target is dead, all Illusions will vanish, so a fresh set will need to replace them on a new target, unlike the pets of other classes, which stay with you for the next fight.

In important note on nomenclature; Illusion is a term which includes both Clones and Phantasms, and is what the Shatter Pips track. A Clone is a weak Illusion, but often quick and easy to create. They do negligible damage and have poor HP/Armour, but will be able to cause conditions, depending on the skill used to summon them. To you, all Clones look exactly like you, including nametag. A Phantasm is a much stronger Illusion, capable of real damage and with decent HP/Armour. Phantasms appear as ghostly purple versions of yourself, with their own distinctive names; ‘Illusionary Berserker’, ‘Illusionary Warden’, etc. Their summoning skills are often slower to cast and longer to recharge.

This is important for Shattering, as on the whole, Clones are disposable, easily replaced, and ideal for Shatter fodder, whereas Phantasms typically have a defined useful purpose and are generally best kept alive as long as possible so they can get on with it. Shattering destroys them, obviously.


When a Shatter order is issued (F1, F2, F3, F4), all active Illusions will stop what they’re doing and immediately run toward their target. When they come into contact with it, they will… Shatter, turning into a collapsing pile of purple triangular shards, which collapse on the floor. Quite harrowing considering they all look like you! Note that depending what type they were, they are unlikely to all hit the target simultaneously; ranged Illusions take longer to get there than melee ones, creating a staggered triple-hit attack chain of sorts. There is no way to selectively Shatter specific Illusions; pressing the button is an all-or-nothing action, killing all currently active Illusions when you do it.

What happens next depends on the F-key pressed:

Mind WrackF1 – Mind Wrack: This is the most straight forward and in my case, most often used. The Shattering Illusions will blow up and cause decent damage to nearby foes; a point-blank AoE effect. The damage goes up with more Illusions Shattered. Good for spiking particular targets and executing death blows, but it is important to weigh up the damage potential of leaving Phantasms alive to get on with their work. Also consider the time it will take to replace the lost Illusions, especially if using Ether Feast as your heal. The short cooldown on this skill lends itself to a Clone-heavy bar where cycling Mind Wracks is the key tactic.

Useful traits here are Mental Torment (+Shatter Damage) and Precise Wrack (+Crit Chance). For a Shatter-based build, these will be essential.


Cry of FrustrationF2 – Cry of Frustration: This does minor damage, but applies 3s Confusion to the target. I tend to not use this much, because I can generate Confusion quite readily with use of Combo: Field Ethereal (Feedback, Null Field, Time Warp) and Combo Finisher: Physical Projectile (GS: Mirror Blade) sufficiently often to not need this as well. At 30s cool down, this starts to move out of convenient reusability. Other ways to cause Confusion include Sceptre: Confusing Images.

Useful trait: Confusing Cry (+Retaliation to allies) but it seems a bit of a waste of a talent slot for just this.


DiversionF3 – Diversion: Something of a panic button at 45s, this causes Daze on the target, and no damage. Each Illusion causes 1s of Daze, but they do not stack, suggesting a mix of ranged and melee Illusions for best overlap. Daze interrupts the target and prevents skill use for the duration, which frankly is not a very long time at all. This skill is further diminished by the Unshakable/Defiant crowd control immunity that Champions and Legendary PvE enemies usually have – Daze is included in that and won’t work in boss fights. Typically anything weak enough to be susceptible is also weak enough to just murder with the Greatsword. Works on players though.

Useful Traits: Imbued Diversion (+AoE targets), but again, an excessive spend of Talents for just this one skill.


DistortionF4 – Distortion: Very much a panic button at a full minute of cooldown, this grants you one second of the Distortion effect per Shattered Illusion. This buff makes you automatically Evade attacks while active; Invulnerability, in effect. I should probably use this one more, but the short 3s duration is not often a window large enough to get completely clear of the threat. Works well to augment Sword/Sword melee or Sceptre/Sword defensive builds, but watch out for the cooldown timer, and consider if the Illusions are already protecting you, by holding aggro which once Shattered, will generally transfer to you!

Useful Traits: Masterful Reflection (+Reflection) bounces damage back ala Feedback. Also Blurred Inscriptions grants the 1s Distortion buff when using Signets – nothing to do with Shattering, but a useful alternative to get at the same quite powerful buff.

Generally Useful Traits for Shattering:

  • Rending Shatter (+Vulnerability on Shatters)
  • Shattered Concentration (-Boon on Shatters)
  • Vigorous Revelation (+Vigor on Shatters)
  • Shattered Conditions (-Condition on Shatters)
  • Restorative Illusions (+Heal on Shatters)
  • Illusionary Retribution (+Confusion on Shatters)
  • Shattered Strength (+Might on Shatters)
  • Illusionary Invigoration (Recharge Shatter skills at 50% health)
  • Illusionary Persona (You count as a extra pip for Shatter skills)

Note that Traits which cause things to happen when an Illusion is ‘killed‘ will not trigger when they are Shattered. Lots of ways to build for a Shatter-Heavy play-style there and it really does benefit from dedication if you’re going to be doing it a lot.

Also consider pip replacement. Many Traits produce Clones on particular actions, but my top pick is Deceptive Evasion (+Clone on Dodge); every time you tumble out of the way, which you will be doing a LOT, it makes a new Clone where you were. Every weapon set will give you access to one Clone and one Phantasm. This can then be bulked out with Utility skills; Mirror Images and Decoy in particular. Wield a Sceptre for its auto-attack and add Deceptive Evasion to that and you should have enough Clones in play at all times to power a full Mind Wrack (F1) every time it lights up. Bulk out the remaining Talent Tree with some of the above Traits to make that Wrack really hurt.

It does seem a genuine opportunity to work at a Comedy Mesmer Build, but it is still only one of a small number of ways to play, and usually I go another route, relying on the persistence and power of Phantasms to get the job done instead.


So there we go; you now know at least as much as I do about being a Guild Wars 2 Mesmer, which nowadays seems mostly to be a kind of chaos-based “Fifth Elementalist” rather than the subtle master of interruption, interference and turning an enemy’s strengths against them that I knew and loved from the first game.

Go forth! Mesmerise! If anyone needs me, I expect I’ll be back in GW1, doing it all old-school instead.


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How To Murder Time 2.08

This week Jon finally watched Dredd and discovers MMOs, while Tim is really into a first person shooter and bringing mystery objects into the podcast for show and tell.


I, Mesmer: Spear and Trident

New and different in Guild Wars 2 is Underwater Combat. All characters start life with a miraculous Aqua Breather item in the appropriate slot which makes all inhabitants of Tyria amphibious! Its actually a bit of a stat-holding placebo designed to trick the nervous fish-people of Tyria into using their previously untested gills – try going deep and then unsloting the breather; nothing happens! All a bit creepy! Many of the zones contain large expanses of deep water, often with important hearts, vistas and events going on in them, and of course fighting.

The texture of underwater combat is quite different to the usual land-based shenanigans, and requires a slightly different, three-dimensional mindset which many players can find tricky. Without the ground as a familiar distance and perspective cue it can be tricky to judge ranges, particularly with point-blank melee-based underwater weapons, and of course, enemies can come at you from all directions, not just the horizontal.

While beneath the waves, the Mesmer gets access to the Trident and Spear, but not the Harpoon Gun. Since you have two swappable underwater weapon slots, there is no actual choice to make here; equip one of each in the appropriate boxes. The two weapons serve quite different purposes and offer two different skill bars.


The Trident is the Ranged Weapon of the pair and mostly concerns itself with debuffs and limited crowd control.

Siren's CallThe auto attack slot #1 is Sirens Call, which shoots purple musical notes at the target doing okay-ish damage at full (1200) range. It’s a bounce type projectile similar to GS: Mirror Blade and Staff: Winds of Chaos; the projectile will try to bounce off allies, buffing them as it does so. Traits and shorter distance help with more bounces. Fairly mediocre, but as an auto-attack, quite hands off, and positioning is very easy here.

IneptitudeSlot #2 is Ineptitude, which is very straight forward; push button, cause blindness. When blinded, the enemy will miss with their next attack. It also does a decent hit of damage, so fairly useful.

Spinning RevengeSpinning Revenge, #3, summons a Clone onto the target and buffs nearby allies with Retaliation, a decent if short-lived damage reflection buff. As a Clone, it is perfectly suitable for shattering as needed. The ability is a Whirl Finisher, but in my experience, creating Combo: Fields underwater is a lot trickier and more rarely accomplished than on land, so don’t worry too much about creating zorbs or causing Confusions.

Illusionary Whaler#4 is Illusionary Whaler, a surprisingly weak Phantasm who starts firing a harpoon-gun (which we ourselves are unable to use!) at the target. The damage dealt is really very low for a Phantasm, but it does stack up Bleeding as well. Unlike most Phantasms, you can probably quite happily shatter this one, and will likely cause more damage doing so than letting it live out is short ineffectual life. Of far greater disappointment is the fact that the Phantasm looks like the Mesmer, and not Cthulhu, as the icon would have us believe! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

Illusion of DrowningThe best Trident skill is #5, Illusion of Drowning. A sort of underwater Root, it summons a purple anchor and chain which will not only stop the enemy moving, but will also drag them down to the seabed. It causes respectable damage and has a usefully short cooldown; against big bad Veteran and Champion fishes, it’ll light up several times during the fight. Very powerful, and similar effects exist in other class underwater bars, allowing a rotation of sinkage to be maintained with minimal coordination. Keeping the very large Megalodons locked down with these skills makes the fight a lot more controlled and easier to manage position-wise.


The Spear is a largely Melee Weapon and is more focused around damage and mobility.

Evasive StrikeJabStabSlot #1 is a straight-forward attack-chain; Stab, Jab, Evasive Strike. The last hit makes you evade, showing the typical Mesmer melee survival method at work, but the basic damage is the thing here. The chain produces a satisfyingly high base DPS, which is only improved upon by the other slot skills. Feels pretty gutsy too. The tricky part of Spear is the near point-blank range of the attacks – you really do need to be right next to the enemies, and facing the right direction; not always as easy as it sounds in dense clouds of bubbles, piranhas, magma blobs, and floating turrets.

FeignFeigned SurgeSlot 2 is the real winner for me; Feigned Surge. This makes you hold the spear out in front of you and then surge forward at high speed for a short distance, severely damaging anything in your path. Then hitting the flip-skill, Feign, will teleport you back to the start location, and create a Clone where you were, which immediately joins the fight. Feigning is not mandatory and sometimes, letting the flip-skill expire is the smart move, leaving you in place at the end of the dash. Note that this is ‘forward’ not ‘toward the target’, so it is quite possible to entirely miss the enemy if you are not lined up correctly to begin with. Using the #1 attack chain for a round or two first will usually ensure correct alignment.

Illusionary MarinerIllusionary Mariner in #3 is our Phantasm here. It summons a spear-wielding you which goes to town on the target with a highly damaging flurry of stabs while evading the target itself. Very powerful and a much better choice than the iWhaler. Aim to keep one in play as often as possible and avoid shattering it if you can.

SlipstreamSlot #4 is Slipstream. This creates a linear effect in front of you. Allies passing through it get a sudden speed burst, much like Focus: Temporal Curtain. Unlike the Curtain, this is not a buff effect to your own speed, but instead it just propels you forward quite quickly. It also pushes enemies away. I find it very tricky to use well because underwater, it becomes a line rather than a wall, making it quite tricky to hit correctly. It also brings you to a momentary full stop when the burst ends, before allowing you to swim onward, making it awkward to use as a travel aid.

VortexLastly is #5, Vortex. This creates a large and highly spectacular purple whirlpool in front of you, which sucks all nearby enemies into the middle of it. It does a bit of damage and is a Combo Field: Ethereal too. This works very well with the point-blank nature of the basic #1 attack chain, and also neatly concentrates lots of enemies for a merciless dash with #2. Thumbs up all round!


Underwater combat isn’t my favourite thing, it has to be said, but I definitely get on better with the Spear than the Trident. The Trident has its uses though; large underwater events where the melee front line is too confusing already, but also for smaller fights where I swap to Trident just for the anchor, before getting back to the spearwork.

A quick look at Shattering next, then we’re done and I’ll probably start posting about Other Games again!

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I, Mesmer: Elite Slot

The cornerstone of any exotic quirky Comedy Mesmer Build in Guild Wars 1 was always the Elite Skill. You’d only be allowed one of these in a bar at a time, and they had to be captured off monster Bosses out in the wide world, using the Signet of Capture. This was an element of game play that struck a particular affinity with me. I loved it and over about five long years I eventually ended up completing the Legendary Skill Hunter title, gained by capturing every Elite Skill in all three Guild Wars Campaigns, about 140 of them in total. Go me!

An Elite Skill was typically a powerful thing, opening up entirely unexpected play styles, or in other cases offering a much more powerful version of a normal skill you used a lot anyway. Builds on wikis were typically named for the Elite Skill in use. They were powerful and significant. How has that translated into the newer game?


Guild Wars 2 does have Elite skills, but only a handful of them, all of which are obtained by simply saving up 30 or so skill points apiece and buying them from the skill window. With only a single class and no option to switch, this leaves the player with very few options for slot #10. The Mesmer can choose from the following three options:

Mass InvisibilityMass Invisibility: This skill creates a bubble of generous radius which grants Stealth to 10 allies within it, for five seconds. Five seconds is really not a very long time at all in almost any situation, and it ends prematurely if you deal damage to anything. While stealthed, you cannot be targeted for direct damage, but will still take damage from the many AoEs that the game throws at you, including melee swings if you’re close enough. It can be traited for an extra second of duration, but aside from some very precise applications in WvWvW or sPvP, I’ve yet to find a satisfying use for this, apart from briefly startling people at banks and auction houses. It is not even a Combo Field, unlike most Mesmer domes. It also comes with an entirely prohibitive recharge timer of 90s, making it something I almost never use. It is not even theoretically possible to maintain this permanently if you have 18 Mesmers working with clockwork efficiency on voice comms, because it only works on 10 allies, including yourself.

Moa MorphMoa Morph: This skill turns the target into a Moa Bird for 10s. As a Moa, the target is given a new skill bar with various Claw, Kick, Peck type skills most of which do sub-standard damage and effects, which is good. It does work in PvP against players, which is surprising for both target and Mesmer. It works on monsters too and can be useful for a 10s respite from particularly nasty Veteran attacks. One problem with this skill is its single target nature; if you’re facing only one enemy, you will be better off going crazy with the Weapon Skills than mucking about with this. An AoE version would be much more useful. The other problem with it is the truly geological cooldown of 180s – nearly three whole minutes of the enemy Not Being A Comedy Bird, and you Not Casting A More Useful Elite. The skill seems high comedic and only really useful for very limited single target humiliation in PvP. After which they’ll come for you and murder you. Underwater, it turns the target into a Tuna instead, with a similarly goofy skillbar I imagine.

Time WarpTime Warp: This skill creates a large bubble which grants the Quickness buff to any allies within. Quickness is a very rare buff which doubles skill activation speed and halves cooldown timers and is incredibly useful for all concerned, allowing you and those around you to spam skills like crazy for ten seconds of focussed ultraviolence. It is also a Combo Field: Ethereal which is a nice bonus, dishing out lots of double speed Confusion into the bargain. The cooldown timer isn’t great at 210s, but bearable. I use this elite almost exclusively, especially in WvDoor siege attempts and against unexpected Veterans and Champions in normal PvE. Best kept as a force multiplier in specific tricky fights than spamming it whenever it is lit up, but it really does win fights when used well. It appears not to have an upper limit of recipients, so drop it on the densest clump of friendly players or teammates for maximum effect.


And that’s it. How far we have fallen, from 34 Mesmer Elite Skills in GW1, to a mere 3 in GW2. To bulk out the post a bit, let’s look at the Human Racial Elites, which is what I am one of as well.


Avatar of MelandruAvatar of Melandru: This elite turns you into a miniature version of one of those quadruped tree-monsters you see about the place for 20 seconds. This form has inherent Stability vs knockdowns, punts and the like and gets its own funky skillbar, mostly centred on healing and curing debuffs. It’s an interesting change of pace I guess, but being only accessible for 20s in every three minutes, opportunities to practice the thing are few and far between. It isn’t up to the job of main healing in any normal sense and I always find most of the 20s duration is taken up with me frantically wondering where my Illusionary Berserker has gone and why didn’t I take Time Warp, stupid! Novelty skill, unsuited to real gameplay.

Hounds of BalthazarHounds of Balthazar: This Elite summons two flaming attack dogs each with 6k health and 2k armour which leap at the target and start mauling. They aren’t intrinsically bad, adding extra dps and interference on the target and even set fire to the things they bite. As with all Elites, the main problem is that cooldown; 240s in this case, although the dogs last a quite reasonable 30s before vanishing, if not killed first. A not entirely useless choice for a Human Elite slot, if your own class offers nothing worthwhile.

Reaper of GrenthReaper of Grenth: This Elite turns you into a manifestation of the Human death-god. More of a buff than true transformation, you keep your normal skillbar and gain a black tatterey shroud effect on you. Nearby enemies gain Chilled and Poison conditions reapplied over the 15s duration. A modest skill with modest effects, it should probably be in Utility, rather than Elite and should really have a cooldown much shorter than its current 180s. More underpowered than actually useless, there are almost always more useful Elites to take instead. Unusually, this may be useful in Mesmer Comedy Skill building, providing two Conditions not normally found in the Mesmer repertoire, useful for the Illusionary Warlock (Mesmer: Staff) to build extra damage on, but the near point blank range of it and the very long cooldown make for difficult consistency of application.

Naturally, there are several other Racial Elites; Golem Summoning for Asuras, Animal Spirit stuff for Norns, Artillery Strikes and Warband skills for Charr, Tree Roots and Plant Dogs for Sylvaris, etc, but I’ve never used any so have little idea how good they are. I sincerely hope your mileage varies to mine!


My advice for the New Age Mesmer is simple. Time Warp. I am not often of the opinion that any one play style is more valid than any other in MMOs, but I firmly believe that if you are a Mesmer that is not using Time Warp at all times, you are playing Guild Wars 2 wrong. All other Elite skills are a waste of slot and time. Perhaps one day, the great buff and nerf cycle will change this, who knows?


In general, Elite Skill v2.0 is a very lacklustre gameplay element indeed. These skills, which are meant to be at the pinnacle of character progression and the foundation of entire play styles, are typically either pointlessly weak, prohibitively slow to recharge, or both. This makes slot #10 something that you can happily ignore in most cases. Other classes may vary, but I doubt by much.

Energy SurgeFor comparison, consider my Most Used Elite for day-to-day work in Guild Wars 1; Energy Surge. This has a cooldown of 15 seconds, a cost of 5 energy and a cast time of 2s. It drains energy from the target, and then uses that energy to cause a small-AoE damaging blast. Admittedly not the subtlest of Elites available, but the point is that the timings involved mean that I use it all the time, and two or three times per individual fight. Its frequency makes it highly relevant to my gameplay, as opposed to the infrequent ‘panic button’ status that Guild Wars 2 seems to give its so-called Elite skills. A shame.

In my experience, to get the job done in Guild Wars 2, I find myself mashing Slots #1-5 over and over, and sometimes throwing in #7-9 just for variety. Flailing about with a Greatsword and frantically tumbling all over the place is fun enough, I guess, but there seems very little that is Elite about the Elite Skills of GW2, and almost nothing in slot #10 that interacts meaningfully with any other slot. There also seems very little opportunity for old-style build-craft either.

In short, there are no Comedy Mesmer Builds in Guild Wars 2, just the Right Way and a dispiritingly small selection of Wrong Ways.


Spear and Trident to come, mostly for completeness at this stage…

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How To Murder Time 2.07

This week Jon got eaten by a crocodile and continues to get annoyed by iPhone games while Tim has worrying thoughts about MMOs. We also say bad things about one of the darlings of the Indie PC scene, but you’ll have to listen to find out which one.

Warning: this show contains iced tea.


How To Murder Time 2.06

In this episode of How To Murder Time Tim goes mad at the Christmas events in the MMOs he’s been playing and Jon goes in search of the ideal iPhone game without actually wanting to play that kind of game.

I, Mesmer: Utility Slots

For me, a good Comedy Mesmer Build has always been about searching through a vast list of obscure skills, finding hidden gems and utilising them in unexpected or unusual ways. The first game was a treasure trove in this regard, with around 180 skills to choose from in the Mesmer list alone, and double that when dual-classing.

The sequel is more limited, offering the modern Mesmer twenty Utility Skills to be used in the three Utility Slots you eventually unlock access to. With seven of the ten skill slots fixed in purpose, perhaps the Utility Slots hold a glimmer of the old meta-skill of build-craft, being the one place where a quirky mix of skills can be allowed to interact in unusual ways. Can a comedy build exist in only three skills?

Rather than bang on about all twenty in detail, let’s look at the types of skill available here.


There are four Mantras available (Five, if you include the Healing one), which can suggest a Mantra based Comedy build. A Mantra is a spell which you cast ahead of time, which can then be instantly discharged several times before needing to be cast again. There are traits to improve the number of charges, but Mantras rely very much on preparation and micromanagement. This might seem ideal for sudden spike damage assaults, but the Mantras available are so varied in purpose, it’s hard to pull them together into a focussed spammable attack sequence. I tend not to use them much.


There are four signets available, which are conceptually magic rings with infinite charges. These typically have a minor always-on passive effect and a major useable effect. These are mostly to do with Boon and Condition manipulation and can be useful in concert with other skills. They usually have very lengthy cooldowns though. The passive nature of them works well for hands-off playstyles, or where the Mesmer has their hands full getting the most out of the weapon slots. I usually find more useful things to take than these.

Clones and Phantasms

There are four Illusions available and these really are useful. Most weapon sets will generate two Illusions during the normal rotation, so any Mesmer looking to keep the maximum three Shatter pips should take at least one of these skills too, especially with Ether Feast in the heal slot. Remember the difference between a Clone and Phantasm; a Clone exists purely for interference and shatter fodder, while a Phantasm has real health and does real damage, making it a useful and capable combatant, but they are also slower to summon in a hurry. I make extensive use of Phantasmal Defender.


There are four Glamours available. These are large AoE field effects which help allies and harm enemies. They are almost always Combo Field type spells, so very important in Combo work providing starter opportunities for Finishers, either by you, your Phantasms or other players. This makes them very useful in any kind of group or zerg work, and I usually take two of them along in my standard build. They’re also satisfying spectacular to watch, which never hurts!


The last four skills are Manipulations, a sort of hodgepodge catchall for stuff that doesn’t fit elsewhere. These tend to be one shot abilities which mess with single target enemies, or do unusual things to yourself or allies. I use one or two of these sometimes, but on the whole don’t see a lot of use in this category.


Mesmers of various races will also have access to a few racial skills for the Utility slot. These skills are not tied to profession, so any class can take them, not just Mesmers. Shaln’t explore those here, but in my Human experiences, Prayer to Kormir and Prayer to Lyssa are both of limited use in Boon/Condition work, have long cooldowns and don’t seem worth a whole slot which could be more productively used with something from the Mesmer list instead. Your own racial milage may vary however. I hear that Charr get rocket launchers!


It’s a short list on the whole and one with quite a lot of red herrings in. While some of these might be useful as part of a clever chain, many of them just don’t seem that useful at all. So rather than detail them all, here at my top picks instead!


FeedbackFeedback: This creates a purple shimmering bubble around the target which reflects projectiles. This typically means that the enemy will then go on to shoot themselves in the face with their own bolt/arrow/whatever, for full damage, crits, etc. If this projectile happens also to be a Combo Finisher: Physical Projectile, they will actually combo themselves, causing Confusion, which is very funny. Obviously this is best used against Things That Shoot You, (Young Karkas on Southsun Cove will literally do themselves in for 80% of their own health bar in one shot if this is timed right), it can also be useful to fire it at melee monsters purely to set up a dependable Combo Field: Ethereal for others to finish, or to fling Mirror Blade into. Useful in WvW against Smuggy McSmuggington, Ranger Sniper Extraordinaire, hooting on his walltop rampart, but many more savvy WvWists know about this distinctive-looking field nowadays and will simply move away or stop firing. Not all of them though! Works underwater, for some reason probably to do with spheres vs cylinders.

Null FieldNull Field: A largeish placeable AoE template which will create a purple crystalline ring which removes Boons from enemies and Conditions from allies. A decent all-rounder with a variety of uses, I use this as primary Condition Removal for me and friends, but it’s is also worth throwing these into hectic frontline melee to unbuff enemies into the bargain. It lasts long enough to clear several conditions, has a decent cooldown and is also another way to set up Ethereal Combos for self and friends. Does not work underwater, for some reason probably to do with cylinders vs spheres.

Phantasmal DefenderPhantasmal Defender: I’ve gone with this one for my third Illusion skill. It creates a Phantasm holding a shield, but no weapon, who then soaks up half of any incoming damage – very useful given how glass cannon I usually am, and a Light Armor user to boot. It apparently has 5300 health at Lv80, and interestingly, the damage split buff is party-wide, meaning that the Phantasm soaks half of all party damage, not just the casting Mesmer. This does mean it’ll burn out that much quicker though, so be alert. Avoid shattering unless absolutely necessary! The damage soak comes in the form of a buff, so the actual placement and position of the Phantasm is irrelevant. Very useful for survivability, particularly on Power/Precision heavy builds, I always use this!


Those are my day-to-day must-haves. One or two others deserve honourable mention, to be swapped in when needed.


Portal ExuentPortal EntrePortal Entre: Always a crowd pleaser, when cast this makes a shimmering pool of purple magic at your feet. For the next 20s it will sit there until the flip skill is cast, Portal Exuent. This then creates a matching pool at your feet in your new location. Standing on one and pressing F teleports you to the other. Travel is two way and repeatable, for you and any other player, until the pair vanish, 10s after the exit portal is placed. Timing this takes a bit of practice. Unlike Blink (below), travel is not restricted to contiguous surfaces and the pair can cross gaps, jumps, walls and doors. All sorts of fun can be had with these and some examples include; helping more vertically challenged friends shortcut jumpy puzzles and vistas, helping allied troops teleport through keep walls, helping the prepared Mesmer make sudden escapes when chased, and so on. The only real restriction is that the Mesmer must still be able to get to the exit portal location to place it; i.e. you still need to do the jumpy puzzle properly to help other people cheat at them! The portal pair is limited in range to 2500 units of separation (About twice maximum spell range) and only 20 people can use the pair. I honestly don’t know if WvW enemies can use your portals – I suspect not, but I’ve never seen a PvE monster use one! The portals work underwater, but it can be a bugger to find the ‘F’ spot when swimming – it’s quite small on land as it is!

BlinkBlink: A somewhat less impressive personal teleport, this instantly moves you to the location of the placed template. It’s more of a movement buff than proper teleport, as the target destination cannot be anywhere you’d need to jump to get; i.e. it won’t cross ledges, gaps, go through walls, etc. Even so, it will scoot you instantly past traps, red rings on the floor and similar, just as long as they are all along the same surface. Limited usefulness, but less faffing about than Portals. It leaves nothing behind that anyone else could use. Does not work underwater.

DecoyDecoy: Creates a Clone where you currently are, and then stealths you for 3s, allowing you to slink off out of the way a bit. Useful as a panic button, it’s underwater availability means I use this on my standard Underwater Bar, in place of Null Field. Helpful more as survivability than Illusion generation – use Mirror Images instead if you need pips fast and often. General purpose usefulness – those jellyfish have no idea where to turn!


In general, the Utility Slots seem a token nod to the previous game at best. Very little in there is hugely gamechanging and overall focus seems very much on spamming Weapon Skill slots instead. These are very literally Utility Slots; skills which muck about with Conditions and Boons for the most part, with a few interesting ‘others’ thrown in. And as a base for constructing quirky builds and combos, they seem bland and dissapointing. Perhaps the Elite Slot, which in GW1 formed the cornerstone of many a crazy skillbar, can also provide in GW2?

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