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!
Feedback: 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 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 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 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!
Blink: 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.
Decoy: 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?