This week we return with another look at what we’ve been doing. We even mention a boardgame this week! We really should play more of those…
This week we return with another look at what we’ve been doing. We even mention a boardgame this week! We really should play more of those…
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:
F1 – 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.
F2 – 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.
F3 – 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.
F4 – 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:
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.
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.
The 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.
Slot #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 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.
#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!
The 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.
Slot #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.
Slot 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 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.
Slot #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.
Lastly 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!
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…
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?
Moving along the Mesmer skill bar today, with a look at Slot #6, the Heal Slot.
In Guild Wars One, this wasn’t something I generally worried about, partly because although every class did get a self-heal of some description, Mesmers got just that; exactly one healing skill; Ether Feast. It wasn’t something we really concerned ourselves with, being very much a crowd control and DPS based profession. Mostly though, it was something that we left to the ever-present entourage to take care of; either the traditional Healing Prayers Dunkoro or a more quirky Restoration hybrid Ritualist/Necromancer or three.
In these modern times, where soloing means literally that, just you on your tod instead of meaning you +7 AI henchmen/heroes, things are much different. In a conscious design decision aimed at mixing things up and aggressively dismantling what little trinity even existed in GW1, the Monk, Ritualist and Paragon, the three classes which stood any chance of significantly healing a party, all no longer exist. The new Guardian class does share a few similarities to Monk, but doesn’t seem anything like a traditional group healer class either.
This all means that it’s every man for themselves, healwise, and not only are you given special heal skills for the job, but you are required to take one of them. So what options does the Mesmer get in the heal slot?
Any discussion of healing skills must concern itself with efficiency and a few back of an envelope calculations of negative DPS. A good heal is one that offers a high rate of HP replacement during combat. Over longer periods, out of combat, natural HP regen is usually more than adequate. Also to bear in mind are any odd conditional circumstances that come with the heal of choice.
Ether Feast 2.0 is a good solid heal. Working out at about -265 dps, (Damage / (Activation + Cooldown)) if you hit it every time it lights up. It has a decent recharge, decent activation, no quirky mechanics necessary to get the heal, and will do extra if you have active illusion pips, which most Memsers will do in the heat of battle. At the full three pips, it goes up to -365 dps, so be sure to keep the Clones and Phantasms coming and try to work the timing of Shatters around this skill’s cooldown for best effect.
Mantra of Recovery is a bit more problematic. It is a Mantra skill so the first usage stores the heal indefinitely for when you need it. Then you hit the flip-skill, Power Return, two more times (three with traiting) for instant low-powered heals. These heals are quite a bit less powerful than Ether Feast but there are two charges of them, they’re uninterruptible and can be used when knockdown, etc. Total for the entire cycle is -368 dps, (-551 dps with the tripplecast Mantra trait), which seems respectable, but the problems come with the micromanagement of it all, and mashing the button only to discover you’ve had your two shots is always a fraught experience, as the initial charge up takes 4.25 long seconds during a hectic scrum. If you’re good at preparation, this might be a useful way to go, recharging it when breaks appear in the fighting.
Option three is Mirror, which does a paltry -240 dps, but also reflects incoming projectiles. It only does this for one second, so timing is critical here. I guess you’d have to weigh up whether the incoming projectile was going to cause you an additional 128 damage in that second to be effective. At any rate, it’s a lot of fiddly mucking about for a very substandard option. Remember, the moments you need healing the most are often the moments when there is a LOT else going on too, so a good heal should be a one-click fire-and-forget thing ideally.
And that’s it, if you’re a Charr, Norn or Asura. Hardly exhaustive, and not much of a choice either. I recommend Ether Feast as the most reliable and powerful of the three; as a Mesmer, Illusions are usually present in enough quantity to power it fully and it’s activation is quick and reliable, delivering decent healing even without pips.
If you are Human, as most right-thinking Guild Wars 2ists are, there is an extra option; Prayer to Dwayna. This is a straight heal with no funny business; push button, receive hit points. The down side is a very lengthy cooldown, lower its rating to -210 dps over the full cycle, and also making it very unlikely that it’s lit up when you need it most. Also, for some reason, Dwayna can’t hear you if you are underwater, further reducing its flexibility. Clearly a heal slot option for roleplayers only!
If you are Sylvari, you could also go with Healing Seed. I’m not, so have never used one, but it would appear to do something like -91 dps? It does so by minor healing and the Regeneration buff, lasting 30s on nearby allied, so the maths is a bit awkward. Unlike the other Mesmer heals, this one helps allies too making it a useful addition to everyone else’s regular heals, but probably not a replacement. Also, the enormously lengthy 45s cooldown also means it’s unlikely to be ready when you need it most. Healing Seeds like south-facing chalky soil with good drainage, so will not work underwater. As with all regeneration style healing, watch out for spike damage, which almost all of GW2’s damage tends to be.
To be honest, healing is useful, but being a stupidly over-specced DPS glass canon, I tend to get by with frantic kiting and dodging as often as I can! The heal slot skill I use the most though, is definitely Ether Feast. When you need hit points, you invariably need them fast!
On a more general note, the lack of options here is a bit disappointing. Guild Wars One had somewhere in the region of 100 healing skills, many of which worked for the entire party, taken from Ritualist Restoration, Paragon Motivation and of course Monk Healing Prayers, along with whatever self-heals the other classes got. So many options, and because of the dual classing, I could happily stack the skill bar with Resto Rit secondary skill and become a group healer without breaking my stride, even as a Mesmer. No alts required. And if everyone in your little gang hated being a healer, then it was eminently viable to just get an uncomplaining and constantly attentive Mhenlo or Dunkoro to do it. In GW2, pretty much everyone gets to chose from only three single-class skills, most of which are strictly self-heals. I get that the Trinity Is Old Fashioned, and that the easiest way for an MMO to declare itself Edgy and Modern is to abandon it in favour of everyone being their own godly Solo Tank-Mage, but the ferocity with which Arenanet seem to have rejected their own groundbreaking philosophies, is worrying and a shame.
Not giving up the ghost just yet though. More thoughts to come, with Mesmer Elite Skills!
Cracking on with the hunt for quirky and exotic Mesmer skills, with the remaining two offhand slot items.
After 250 years, and a lot of technological progress which only the Asura and Charr seem capable of making, guns are a big thing in the modern-day boutiques of Tyria. It’s all a bit Fable II to be honest, and flintlocks abound. Most classes get to tool themselves up these days with pistols, rifles and spearguns. The Mesmer, in a typical fashion doesn’t really shoot people with their Pistol, instead opting to just wave it around and use it to cast spells with, which at least saves on ammo. It is quite a stylish option though; paired with a main hand Sword it all looks very highwayman buccaneer chic! But what does it actually do?
It is an off-hand only item when used by the Mesmer, so let’s jump straight to #4, Phantasmal Duelist. This is the obligatory Phantasm, this time creating a duel-pistol wielding handsome devil that stands at the back and goes all John Woo on the chosen target. In a flamboyantly noisy display it will unload both guns, firing off eight shots every seven seconds or so for a highly respectable DPS. It doesn’t do a lot else, although the shots have a chance of being a Projectile Finisher for Combos. Mind you, it doesn’t really need do anything else, being a respectably solid Summon-and-Forget Illusion choice for basic damage work. As with most Phantasms, avoid shattering it, where possible.
#5 is Magic Bullet, an extremely improbable trick-shot which can change targets during flight and moderately damages and debuffs the things it hits. It works a lot like the Staff: Winds of Chaos and Greatsword: Mirror Blade by bouncing from target to target, applying different Conditions to each. Like Mirror Blade, it also Projectile Finishes combos. Note the somewhat shorter range though, 900 vs a usual 1200 for such skills.
I don’t often use the Pistol but when I do, it seems to be a decent middle-of-the-road option, offering basic damage and debuffs, with a useful Phantasm thrown in. The problem comes with range; paired with a Sword, you end up with a mix of melee and ranged skills which work somewhat at odds with each other. Paired with a Sceptre it works better, (everything works at a 900 range), but you lack punch in a particular role – neither of them is a particularly focused on damage, debuffs or survivability.
The last option for the Mesmer weapon slots is the Torch. An odd choice, but very handy for mobbing the local mad professor’s castle on stormy nights, this is literally a flaming stick. It offers a very quirky pair of skills which I still don’t quite know what to make of. Torches can only be carried in the off-hand, presumably to leave the main hand free for a pitchfork.
#4 is a joke, or at the very least an entire skill slot given over to an Easter Egg Shoutout. Called The Prestige, this skill does a number of things. First, it blinds nearby enemies. Then it makes you invisible for 3s. Then you reappear in a fiery explosion, burning nearby foes. If this sounds at all familiar, that’s because you’ve played Borderlands, and this is more or less exactly what the Lilith the Sirien’s “Phasewalking” class skill does. It’s quite baffling really, for Mesmer AND player. I’ve tried it out a fair bit, desperately wanting to like it, but I’ve found that it really does sound a lot cooler than it is. As with all Mesmer Stealth skills, the duration is not nearly long enough to get anything useful done and while the Conditions are nice and the damage reasonably high, placement is a problem; to get the most use out of this skill, you need to be in exactly the right places, for disappearance and reappearance. While invisible, you can’t be targeted, but you will still take AoE damage and most fights typically have a fair amount of that, and also a lot of bodies in the way of where you’re trying to get to. Unlike Lilith, you don’t pop in and out of view accompanied by an apocalyptic fireball of doom and sadistic peals of laughter, only a mild and annoying scorching. Also Lilith gets a speed-buff while invisible, WHICH WOULD BE NICE! Good position and timing can make powerful use of the Combo Finisher: Blast of this skill, causing Multi-Zorb-Bonus-Round, but again timing is against you here. All in all, I find this one quite fidley to use, and there are better Mesmer options for Stealth, Conditions or Damage. Useful for losing aggro in mad minute, but in general highly gimmicky.
#5 is better, but still not hugely impressive. Phantasmal Mage summons a curiously attractive Phantasm which dishes out reasonably high damage and Confusion to enemies, and Retaliation to allies with a bounce effect as seen elsewhere. Phantasms are always welcome and this one puts out a reasonable DPS, but again, there are better Phantasms available, including Pistol #4, above, making it hard to justify Torch use for this skill alone.
I just don’t get on with the Torch, which truly does fit in Mesmer Comedy Build territory. Possibly one to come back to for a humorous quirky exhibition build, I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for day-to-day levelling PvE – it’s awkward and doesn’t seem to offer an appropriate payout. Given the choice between Pistol or Torch, I’d go Pistol every time, but probably take Focus over both.
(If you want to see a Torch made awesome, give it to a Guardian. Their #5 makes them breathe plumes of blue fire in a spectacular breath attack, and their #4 makes them set themselves on holy fire which damages everything nearby, and which can also be thrown! So. Jealous.)
More to come: Heal Slot, Elite Slot and the Utility Skills!
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!
For the more relaxed and traditional kind of arcane spellcasting Mesmer of the old school, the Staff is a solid choice. Nothing bellows “WIZZZARD!” quite like a big long stick with a knob on the end and Staff is available as a two-handed weapon option for the Mesmer class. Initially unimpressive compared to the high-octane, hanging-on-for-dear-life of the Greatsword or the sheer Errol Flynn of dual wield rapiers, in the hands of the Mesmer, the Staff is a surprisingly subtle and effective set of weapon skills.
Our Staff auto-attack #1 is Winds of Chaos. This fires a rather sluggish and unintimidating blob of purple sparkles which lazily drifts toward the target at not much more than running pace. It hits for a fairly low amount of damage, applies a randomly chosen Condition and then bounces to the closest other enemy or friend, debuffing or buffing them as appropriate. As with Greatsword: Mirror Blade, a further bounce can be added with traiting. Of note is the bolt, which seems to have a fixed duration of flight, meaning that the closer you are to a single lone target, the more time it has to get in extra bounces, as it needs to travel less distance to do so. Try standing at various distances from a destroyable item; barrel, weapon rack etc, while firing to see this in effect. The closer you are the better for this skill, which is a bit odd. Also, shorter travel time means that conditions can be stacked up and refreshed on the target more easily. The damage is disappointing, but the liberal condition application is the most useful thing here.
Slot #2, Phase Retreat, is a useful utility skill. When used, it will teleport you about 300 units backwards, away from your current target. This has zero cast time, so can be done while knocked down, etc. When you teleport, it will leave behind a Clone who also uses #1 Winds of Chaos as their autoattack skill. As a Clone, it does almost no damage with this attack, but does do the conditions, suddenly making two of you stacking up Burn, Bleed and Vulnerability on the target. The skill has one of the fastest cooldowns in Mesmerdom, making it eminently spammable, adding further Winds of Change volleying Clones to the fray and further removing you from melee troubles. To cap it all, it is also a Combo Finsher: Leap – if you use it inside an Ethereal Field, you’ll get a bonus burst of Chaos Armor for free! A handy all-purpose skill, but watch what is behind you before hitting the button; you can easily reverse yourself into new monsters, and in rare cases, I’ve had this teleport me outside the world geometry, requring a relog! Harrowing!
As seems to be the general case for Mesmer, the Phantasm seems to be the real key in this hotbar; #3 Phantasmal Warlock summons a Phantasm with a scepter that stands at the back and uses its own special and unique ability on the target. This nameless ability does respectable base damage, but for each unique condition on the enemy (a possible max of 11), the damage is increased by 10%. Pushing beyond four or five conditions starts to cause very high DPS indeed. This makes the iWarlock the lynchpin of any Staff build; everything else you do should cause one or more conditions to be applied to the enemy. A decent amount of these can be caused by simply auto-attacking with #1, and making sure to generate and replace #2 Clones frequently. There are many other ways for a Mesmer to add more conditions as well, and Utility slots should try to complement this. Then, just make sure to have the iWarlock up as consistently as possible to reap the most benefit. As with most Phantasms, avoid shattering it where possible – it’s more use alive.
#4 Chaos Armor is a rare Mesmer defensive self-buff. It creates an aesthetically pleasing purple dome around you for five seconds (which I tend to call ‘The Zorb’). It doesn’t do anything to directly protect you, but if hit will randomly buff you or debuff whatever hit you. Interestingly, the list of Conditions caused is different from the list dished out by #1 Winds of Chaos, helping to stack more unique conditions beyond a total of three for the #3 iWarlock to feast on. I often hum the Super Mario Star Theme when using this skill, and I suggest you do the same. Trust me, it helps!
(Note: This Chaos Armor is basically the same thing as the one given out by successful Ethereal-to-Leap and Ethereal-to-Blast Combo pairs, so clever use of Combo Field: Ethereal type Utility skills with #4 Phase Retreat can give you several chained ‘goes’ at the Zorb, rather than just having to wait for this one skill to cooldown. I like to bring my friends zorbing too, so get Warriors to Blast Finish into them where possible for a fantastic Jean Michel Jarre style lightshow!)
Slot #5 is Chaos Storm, a highly spectacular Mesmer party-piece which uses a large AoE template and sets off a whacking great purple lightning dome on use. The dome lasts 10s and randomly buffs/debuffs occupants and moderately damages and briefly dazes enemies inside. It isn’t very devastating when used in isolation, looking a lot more scarey than it actually is, but can be very potent when used with other skills. The condition lists it picks from is different again to the #4 Chaos Armor and #1 Winds of Chaos lists, meaning that all three used in concert on the same target can cause nine or more +10% Damage boosts for the #3 iWarlock to melt faces with. The Storm is also a Combo Field: Ethereal of prodigious size, allowing large groups to open up with a satisfyingly huge number of Finishers, if they know it’s coming. Being the size it is, it is also very good at tagging during big PvE events or the densely packed kinds of open-air festival one so often sees being held outside a frontline Keep Door in WvWvW. If you’ve only got time to throw one skill over the parapet before having your little crime-fighting mask burned off, make it this one for maximum aggressor shock and awe. Downsides are a lengthy cooldown and the characteristically random nature of the effects, making planning a bit tricky.
(Note: With traiting, you can opt to have one of these go off whenever you take falling damage. It’ll also halve the damage taken. It goes without saying that this looks extremely cool indeed. Be sure to be wearing shades and a trenchcoat and/or catsuit as appropriate, and to perform a flawless three-point landing for maximum effect, as kindly demonstrated by Scarlett Johansson, here.)
The Staff is a pretty viable main weapon, and a much more subtle and intricate thing than the Greatsword. It’s greatest problem is that at first Wind of Chaos glance, it just looks and sounds a bit damp. Staves are for the long game, so be sure to stack for +Condition Damage if specialising in it, rather than +Precision, as the whole approach is practically akin to Necromancy, and good for killing things without them noticing they’re dying. It offers good survivability, healthy Illusion generation and a slow but steady and sometimes eye-widening damage potency. Most of all, the Staff’s continual rolling Condition-work very much reminds me of the bread and butter of traditional Guild Wars One Mesmer work, and is probably the closest available thing to the play-style of the first game.
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.