1) FROM CONCEPT TO CREATION So maybe you want to hop into the arena, smeared in all of the gory downstate of your enemies. Perhaps you’re a soldier waging eternal war in WvW. Or you could be another hero chosen to face off against all of the many threats that Tyria faces. Whatever the case, you start by having a plan. Ask yourself( and answer) the following questions:
- What weapons/utilities do I like the most? Your build is not going to last if you don’t enjoy using it. It never hurts to try to mix in your favorite abilities into your build as long as they don’t stray too far from your theme.
- What will the goal of this build be? How will I achieve it? Do not fall into the trap of “making a build for all formats,” if you’re looking to make a powerful and effective build. There are SOME builds that can work decently for PvE,PvP, AND WvW but they are few and far between. In any event “decent” should not be your goal. The build should be good at something, even if that ‘something’ is just providing tons of fun for you.
- What is my role in a group fight? Often people make a build and then don’t know what to do with it. The build is strongish, has decent defense, and some nice utility, but no actual goal besides trying to be a jack-of-all-trades. Sometimes a build is super glassy, so obviously meant to do damage, but still feels lackluster. A good build and a strong purpose do not always go together. Sometimes a build is a good dueling build, but one can’t find a place for it in a teamfight. Sometimes an excellent team support build is still held back by sluggish mobility and lack of 1v1 potential. Figure out where your build will fit in by accepting both its strengths AND its weaknesses.
- How will I defend myself when under attack? Lets get one thing clear: you NEED a stunbreak. Sometimes condition removal is not necessary, but being able to break a heavy CC effect is mandatory for any good build. If you’re trading defensive stats for damage ( “Glasscannon” ) then you will need a form of mobility. Invest in obtaining the Vigor boon, look for any evades, invulnerabilities, or teleports you can find. You do not want to invest so much into defense that you cannot do damage otherwise you will be easy to ignore and maneuver around.
- What weaknesses will I have? Everything is a tradeoff. If you spec for damage you’ll likely lack defense. If you spec to be balanced then you’ll excel at nothing. Identifying the weakness of your build is key to learning how to protect yourself and remain effective. You want to avoid the trap of speccing too deep into extremes; building for durability and defense to be a tank may be ideal but too much defense with no offense gives you no pressure. A tank isn’t a tank without the ability to hold an enemy’s attention.
- How much time will I give myself to learn this build? Do not expect to learn a new build within a day. Learning a build requires creating rotations, learning new reflexes and having an intimate understanding of how the traits/gear work together. This does not happen in a day, especially when we’ve already become used to another build. The average time it takes to really understand and excel with a build, depending on difficult, tends to be from three days to about a week or so if it is far from our normal playstyle. Don’t be quick to dismiss a build as good or bad until you’ve really given yourself time to learn it. Sometimes a build that seems unlikely to work and feels bad at first can turn out to be extremely effective.
When making a build, these are some of the most important questions to determine whether or not it will be successful. There is no such thing as a perfect build, and there will always be a sort of trade-off (yes, even if you grab a Celestial Amulet) in order to spec the way you want. The most important aspect of a build is always going to be how much you enjoy it. GW2 is first and foremost a game you play to have fun on. It is not a job, not an obligation, and your class/build should be a representation of you rather than what everyone around you says you should be. This sort of “independence” isn’t as simple as it seems, however…
2) THE META AND YOU
“Hey guys! I run a full signet condi warrior for dungeons! I love ho- /kick “Clerics Mantra Mesmer looking f- /kick “Hey guys.. Guess what? Bearb- /kick
The “Meta” is what the community has discovered to be the best build for the job at hand. For Mesmer, the Meta in PVP is shatter, while in PvE it revolves around Mantras and Phantasms, while in WvW roaming Condition/Stealth Prismatic Understanding is most dominant. Now if you’re anything like me, you’ll put your hands on your hips and turn your head and say “Hmph. Meta-shmeta! I’d rather use my own creativity over copying someone else’s cookie-cutter build.” and you’re not wrong for thinking that, but you have to keep in mind that this philosophy is only limiting you as a player!
The meta is neither a dictator to slavishly follow nor a taboo to avoid, it is a point of reference that every player should learn from.
Meta builds are considered the best for a very good reason, and this isn’t something to pridefully avoid. You should look at a meta build and ask yourself: * What trait interactions make the build so strong? * If I were to play this build, what tweaks would I make to suit my style? * How do I defeat this build with my build?
Use websites like metabattle.com to get a feel for what builds work best for your profession, it always helps to play these builds even for a little while to understand what the majority of people are playing, the rotations for their specs, and strategies to defeat them. Once you find a meta build, start to slowly tweak it and pull it apart, add your own individual flavor to it and see what works and what doesn’t
3) CONNECTING THE DOTS – SYNERGY The difference between a good and bad build often comes down to how well the traits work with each other. Once you answer the questions above, you want to focus all of those answers into one coherent theme. Shatter Mesmer is a perfect example of this, able to use shatters for both offense and defense when traited properly. Taking Mesmer as an example again let’s look at what makes the meta shatter build work:
- 4/4/0/0/6 Berserker Amulet ; Sword – Torch / Greatsword ; Blink, Decoy, Portal
- Domination: Mental Torment, Shattered Concentration
- Dueling: Deceptive Evasion
- Illusions: Compounding Power, Illusionary Invigoration, Illusionary Persona
The shatter build is a glass cannon build that quickly jumps in and out of a fight with heavy bursts. Its main goal is to quickly and effectively tear down most opponents and offers team support via portalling allies from point to point. – Domination offers more shatter damage from Mental Torment, and causes each clone that shatters to strip a boon from the target. – Dueling allow for a consistent and reliable way to produce the clones needed to shatter via Deceptive Evasion creating a clone on dodge. Without this trait, the entire build would be unviable. – Illusions boost shatter rate by lowering cooldowns, and causes the Mesmer itself to count towards a shatter allowing for cloneless shattering for more flexibility in addition to more damage/defense.
All of these traits go together to achieve a goal: Shatter hard and shatter often. The utilities Blink and Decoy provide enough defenses via teleport and stealth along with defensive shatters that allow for a fully offensive amulet; Berserker.
4) VIABILITY & COMPETITIVE PLAY (Using Mesmer as an example, again, but c’mon.. it’s ME!)
“What is that? Whatever the hell you’re running isn’t viable.”
Many Mesmer players are a creative bunch, and there are loads of traits and utilities that are a lot of fun or highly interesting to use but don’t fit into the meta for one reason or another, and thus get labeled as unviable. As a result, builds that take these traits often too-quickly fall to the wayside.
Lets get something straight: Meta builds are meta for a reason, and that reason is usually because of all the competition, they’re the best at what they do. Shatter is the best in PvP, PU is the best at WvW roaming, Mantra/Phant is the best in PvE. But this does not mean that anything that isn’t one of these specific builds is bad.. quite the opposite.
I often feel that people get too caught up in terms and labels. “Viable” gets misused too frequently, good builds will be labeled “bad” if they are not the the absolute best, and creativity gets stunted as a result. These labels often don’t take one major factor into account:player skill.
Many of us have had instances where we’ve been happily playing our custom-made build and kicking all of the butts until we’re suddenly told that what our trait combo, amulet/gear sucks, even though they’ve worked fine for our purposes. This can often be helpful, and one should always keep an open mind for new information on how to improve but -IMO- one should never simply blindly compromise their ideas.
This is especially important in PvP, where meta builds reign in abundance. You’ll often hear that what you’re running isn’t viable if it is not shatter, ESPECIALLY if it is condition-based, but what is often overlooked is that there are actually a LOT of different good builds that can work very well all the way up until you reach the highest levels. But ask yourself: Are you playing PvP to compete against top tier teams and go to tournaments? If so, then you’re likely already playing shatter or have found a team that you can build around. These people are the few, but for the majority it really matters way less on what build you’re running as much as how well you’re running it.
6/6/0/2/0 can work. 0/4/6/4/0 can work. 4/4/6 condi can work and so can plenty of other combinations as long as the player behind the build is competent enough to make it work.
There’s the argument that if you could make these builds work, then you could make shatter work even better, and this is true to an extent, but again .. if you’re not playing for serious competition, then why shoehorn yourself into a build you don’t actually feel like running?
TL:DR- Don’t be afraid to explore! Your build isn’t as important as the skill of the player behind it, and experiencing different styles of play only serves to improve.