Musings of an Arm-Chair Mesmer – Part I: Weapon Themes
Previously, I wrote up an initial synthesis of what was known about the mesmer profession then. With the closed beta weekend, a lot of new information has emerged giving the community a much deeper inside look into the workings of the illusionist. Another round of synthesis is necessary.
Now before we start, I just wanted to say that this article is not meant to be an all authoritative source of truth. It is merely an article written out of passion for the profession, meant to start a discussion among the many arm-chair mesmers (for this is all we can be at this time) out there in the community. With that in mind, let us dig deep into the details and just focus on the different land-based weapon sets!
As with other professions, each weapon wielded by the mesmer contains a certain theme. Recognizing these themes can help putting together a build that will ultimately match a player’s preferred play-style.
UPDATE (2012-03-02): As was correctly pointed out, I should mention that everything mentioned in this article is still in flux. Numbers are very likely to change before release. So please take all this only as a snapshot of the state of the CBT!
1. The Scepter (Main-Hand)
To start the discussion, let’s look at the scepter first. The three skills that come with the scepter are the Ether Bolt chain skill, Illusionary Counter, and Confusing Images. Ether Bolt deals a bit of damage and causes confusion, but it also chains into Ether Blast, which causes more confusion, and Ether Clone, which summons a new clone repeatedly casting Ether Bolt. Illusionary Counter blocks an attack. Upon successful blocking, the skill creates a clone that also casts Ether Bolt. Lastly, the third skill, Confusing Images, deals damage and blinds that foe. I love how this skill emulates the GW1 Clumsiness or Ineptitude skill! At any rate, with two skills causing massively stacking Confusion (Ether Bolt skill chain and Illusionary Counter), and one causing blindness (Confusing Images), the theme of this weapon is clearly mid-range shut-down. Confusion – I think – is worth discussing in a bit more detail because it is a very subtle and devious condition. Thinking of parallels to the old mesmer profession, I can’t help but think of the Empathy or Backfire hex which would cause a certain constant amount of damage to a foe each time he would attack you. I say that Confusion is much more devious than Empathy because this condition now stacks in intensity. What this potentially means is that an unknowing foe with Confusion may initially brush-off the damage, but with two skills that can continuously dish out Confusion all the time, the unknowing opponent may find him or herself biting the dust very quickly without even knowing what hit him or her. In time, opposing players will likely be much more aware of the conditions on them. However, even in this case, the question becomes whether it is worth it to attack in the next few seconds, whether a condition removal spell should be used, whether to call for condition removal help or whether to run. All these questions can help slow down an opponent, effectively shutting him or her down. This is exactly the kind of situation a mesmer wants to create for his or her opponent!
2. The Sword (Main-Hand)
With the introduction of the sword, I am sure that Arenanet has fulfilled the dreams that many GW1 mesmer fans wished they could have had because in GW1 mesmers only had access to the Illusionary Weaponry skill which would cast an illusionary sword that would only last a limited amount of time. Unlike scepters, swords appear to be more about being up-close and personal. But if you think that the mesmer can just brute it out like a warrior or a guardian, you’d be wrong. The sword mesmer requires a lot more finesse to play. A closer look reveals that there is actually only one spell that explicitly deals damage which is the Mind Slash chain. Leap and Illusionary Leap actually just create rather fragile clones of yourself that help a little with attack. Since clones can be destroyed in one or two hits these forms of illusions do not represent ideal ways to dish out damage. How then is the mesmer supposed to deal damage? It turns out that both Leap and Illusionary Leap have a cool-down time of only 12 seconds. Since clones are not meant to last long anyway, shattering them for damage seems like a reasonable choice. In addition, the second effect of Leap and Illusionary Leap causes a foe to be crippled for 3 seconds. Because both skills can cripple a foe, the sword mesmer can essentially keep a foe crippled for 50% of the time which can be detrimental to a melee type character, or someone trying to get away. Depending on the situation, other shatter skills can then be considered as well. Leap in particular is a great skill because it can also aid in getting away. A picture of a dancing, dodging sword-wielding mesmer starts to emerge who constantly appears to leap in trying to deal damage to a foe. And if this unlucky foe would deal melee damage, he may have a hard time reaching the real mesmer.
Of course, these main-hand weapons only represent 3/5 of a full weapon bar. So let’s look at the off-hand weapons the mesmer has access to in order to determine how these off-hand weapons round-out each weapon build in a modular way.
3. Off-Hand Weapons
First up, we have the off-hand sword which gives the mesmer more utility. Riposte gives the mesmer a blocking skill and creates one more clone every 15 seconds. While Illusionary Swordsman creates a more durable illusion every 15 seconds. These are very short cool-down times for off-hand weapons.
Combined with a main-hand sword, the mesmer can now summon 3 melee-clones and 1 melee-illusion every 5-7 seconds! Having an illusion available at that high frequency also means that the option to use shatter skills is available every 5-7 seconds – provided that they recharge quickly enough. What’s more important is that because all illusions are going to be in the proximity of the targeted foe, shatter skills will trigger immediately without delay. Why is this important? Instant shatter skills also allow for instant interruptions via diversion-stuns or reflections via …the Reflection shatter skill! Combined with Riposte, the sword-wielding mesmer – while not tough because of scholar-class armor does have surprising defensive potential.
Combined with a scepter, the mesmer would have access to 3 quickly recharging skills that make a foe swing at air while taking damage or gaining more confusion. This build makes for a formidable defensively oriented shut-down mesmer.
The focus adds two skills: Temporal Curtain and Illusionary Warden. These two skills give any main-hand weapon more utility with increased mobility (a la Stolen Speed from GW1 but for movement not casting time) for any main-hand-weapon. Since the mesmer is a rather squishy character, getting away in a pinch is very important, and Temporal Curtain gives the mesmer exactly that: speed buffs while slowing foes. I have not seen too much game-play with Illusionary Warden but game-devs have stated that strategically placing the Illusionary Warden can help reflect damage back to foes which is akin to a backfire that is actually located in the world.
Next is the torch which adds The Prestige and an Illusionary Mage giving the mesmer more utility. Imagine for example, what would happen as a sword-mesmer when you constantly dodge in and out of melee range while there is a mage making a foe more and more confused. Or with a scepter as the main-hand weapon, there are now three skills constantly dealing out confusion! The Prestige is another one of those skills that’s nice to have when in a pinch, but the added burning damage is great because it allows this skill to be used in an offensive way as well. A nice combination is to use The Prestige in conjunction with summoning a clone and then appearing behind the targeted foe in a flash of fire! I am very curious to see whether there will be even more uses for this skill after the game has released.
Last but not least, the pistol adds an Illusionary Duelist and Trick Shot. This weapon is probably the most offensively oriented off-hand weapon less focused on shut-down because the Illusionary Duelist’s Unload skill can inflict quite a lot of damage but doesn’t add Confusion or interrupt the foe. The Duelist can be used to shoot through areal initiators producing interesting combination effects that will need to be discovered. Then there is Trick Shot. Trick Shot can be used to hit three targets. Although one foe is blinded, another dazed, and the third stunned, the skill is not meant for long-term shut-down because the shut-down is rather short compared to the cool-down time which is 25 seconds. It’s still a very relevant skill because, I can see a use against PvP builds that are focused on spiking (especially at melee range). This skill can, if used properly, single-handedly cripple those spike attempts. Very cool!
So now that we have discussed all the main and off-hand weapons, let’s focus on the two-handed weapons. The mesmer can wield two types: a greatsword and a staff like any other caster-type character.
4. The Greatsword (Two-Handed)
The greatsword is quite interesting and counter-intuitive to play. When I first saw the greatsword (and many involved in the CBT event too I guess), I had to think of running in and swinging it at the foe which would have been somehow really cool. Ironically, the greatsword works best at great distance. In fact, non of the greatsword skills are meant to deal damage at melee range. In a way, a better description for the mesmer’s greatsword would have been big bazooka which I think fits because it is the more offensively oriented two-handed weapon. Anyway, when we look at Spatial Surge and Feigned Escape, we can see that we get two skills that deal damage at a distance. The way I imagine this mesmer to be played is by strategically placing clones on the map and quickly trying to get away from them while continuously casting Spatial Surge or switching to another weapon set to keep the targeted foe busy. In either case, force the opponent to choose between fighting you or that clone far in the distance. These can be tough choices to make again and one of the many reasons why I like playing the mesmer who puts other people in these situations. Of course, the greatsword mesmer has access to three more skills which are Mind Stab, Phantasmal Berserker and Illusionary Wave. Mind Stab can be a great way to interrupt a foe at a distance by dazing him and potentially also stunning him if the proper traits are setup. I just love Illusionary Wave because the skill is so versatile. It works beautifully with the first two skills in keeping the foe away. But it can also be used to interrupt a few opponents by pushing and throwing them back. So the greatsword mesmer has access to 2 skills that cause some form of interruption. Finally, with Phantasmal Berserker we keep with the theme of having an illusion on each weapon.
5. The Staff (Two-Handed)
Last but not least, we have the two-handed staff which is clearly focused on buffing allies and debuffing foes. Chaos Strike, Duplicate, Winds of Chaos, and Chaos Storm all are focused on stacking more and more conditions on a foe while the Illusionary Warlock synergistically deals more damage to foes with more conditions. Of note here is that in general mesmers appear to be poor in setting up areal initiators. Chaos Storm is one of the few notable exceptions to the general trend. It is for instance known that rangers shooting Rapid Fire arrows through a Chaos Storm also applies Confusion to foes who are hit. Alternatively, a mesmer can also setup the Chaos Storm in such a way that an Illusionary Duelist can shoot through it. So it will be very exciting to discover all these interactions! It certainly appears to be the most interactive weapon. If you expect to encounter group fights or if you enjoy buffing your allies, you should definitely consider bringing a staff.
With these basic building blocks, it is now possible to custom build a mesmer that fits your play-style by choosing two different weapon sets. What is your cup of tea? What weapon sets will your mesmer wield? I hope that this blog post will spur some deep thoughts and discussion on how to play a mesmer with different combinations of weapon-sets. If you want to learn more about the mesmer, check out the Mesmer Resource Page (MRP) here at GWOnline. It’s community-based and constantly evolving as more information surfaces.