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 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 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 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 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 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 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.
For 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…