The 2/3 Theory

It’s been a long time since we first started hearing about professions, going on two years now. A lot has changed between then and now, but one thing that hasn’t is the concept of Guild Wars 2’s version of the trinity- control, support, and damage. They have been consistent for the past two years in stating that their goal is for any party composition to be viable because every profession can operate in each of these three roles, frequently changing on the fly between them via either profession mechanics (kits and attunements) or weapon swapping. No class is relegated to any one role, and in theory all are able to fill all three. Brace yourself for a wall of text few have seen the likes of.

The two-thirds theory

To some extent, this idea of every profession filling every role is quite true. Some professions seem to be able to fluidly switch between any of these roles, sometimes accomplishing all three at once. However, now that we have a much clearer picture of the professions, I feel fairly strongly that each profession has two main focuses out of the three while being able to perform the third as more of an off-role. Honestly, that makes perfect sense to me from a design point of view; you do want your classes to feel different and it is very hard to do that if everyone is as good as everyone else at doing all the same things. Further, even the support and control roles do good damage; no role is entirely devoid of damage like tanks and healers are in the classic trinity.

Before going into the analysis of the professions and their relative strengths with regard to each role, I’m going to take a minute to explain my criteria. Obviously damage is the easiest role to talk about; it’s damage! When I say that a professions specializes in damage I mean that their damage numbers are higher and typically come at the expense of alternate effects. While control and support abilities deal damage, they are generally lower damage compared to a “damage” skill because their bonus effects are strong. I define control as essentially things than hinder the enemy team. These effects are typically conditions or positional effects/hindrances. Some conditions provide no damage on their own (knock down, cripple, immobilize, freeze, stun, daze, etc.) while others do deal damage (bleeding, burning, and poisoned). Although they deal damage, I still consider those last three to be forms of control for the main reason that they can affect they way people act and split their focus as they try to out-live or strip them. Finally, I define support as mostly the other side of the control coin. Support skills buff and heal allies or provide tactical positioning advantages to allies. By and large I will be looking at the skills that are tied to the weapons each profession can wield to determine their major focuses; after all, if all of your weapon sets share some themes, half (or 2/3) of your active skills are going to be of those roles by themselves. Utility skills can either augment one’s strengths or give breadth, but the bread and butter of any profession is its weapon skills. Given these parameters, this is how I see each role being primarily filled:

  • Control– Necromancer, Engineer, Ranger, Thief, Guardian, Mesmer, Warrior
  • Support– Elementalist, Engineer, Guardian, Warrior
  • Damage– Necromancer, Elementalist, Ranger, Thief, Warrior, Mesmer

Breakdown of Professions:

Necromancer: Control and Damage

Every single necromancer weapon choice is coupled with multiple conditions. Let me repeat that: Every. Single. Weapon. Set. Has. Conditions. As far as I can see, the Necromancer is the only profession for which this is the case. Outside of the weapon skills, most of the utility skills also inflict various conditions or damage. Beyond that, the Necro has several skills that deal more damage based on the number of conditions that the foes are suffering. Between degeneration, regular damage skills, life stealing, condition and boon stripping, the Necromancer seems to be pretty clearly in the Damage and Control department. The main forms of support that the Necro has come from Well of Blood (healing skill slot, an AoE healing area) and condition stripping. Although these skills are pretty powerful, the problem comes from their reliance on strip-able conditions which can be almost entirely absent depending on the enemy team’s make-up. In my book that pretty much relegates Necromancers to only tertiary support.

Control via conditions:

Cripple- 3: Necrotic Grasp (crit), Reaper’s Touch, Grasping Dead

Immobilize- 1: Dark Pact

Chill- 3: Chiblains, Spinal Shivers, Frozen Grasp

Weaken- 3: Unholy Feast, Enfeebling Blood, Wail of Doom

Bleed- 5: Reaper’s Mark, Grasping Dead, Rending Claws, Dark Pact, Blood is Power, Barbed Signet

Poison- 6: Chiblains, Curse, Unholy Feast, Efeebling Blood, Wail of Doom, Poison Cloud

Vulnerability- 2: Reaper’s Mark, Spinal Shivers

Daze- 1: Wail of Doom

Blind- 3: Unholy Feast, Well of Darkness, Dark Path (Death Shroud)

Fear- 3: Doom (Death Shroud), Fear (Downed), Horror (Lich Form)

One of the greatest strengths of the Necromancer comes in its ability to inflict a huge variety of conditions rapidly and simultaneously. While many professions use conditions, most of them only use one or two at a time which makes them extremely susceptible to being stripped. As you can see though, the Necromancer frequently applies 2-3 conditions at a time and can follow up with 2-3 more. While there are some abilities that remove multiple conditions, they are pretty rare and will mostly be losing the battle against a Necro’s constant assault. Necromancers are also among the most durable professions between having one of the highest health pools, various sources of self healing and vamping, and Death Shroud as yet another survival mechanism. I feel that Necromancers will always be a helpful addition to a party unless for some reason conditions are made completely worthless. Likely their role will typically be focused on bogging down multiple opponents. With their high health, Death Shroud and plethora of conditions they seem as though they will be great pressure and stalling characters.

Elementalist: Damage and Support

There are way too many skills to go through for the Elementalist to list them all out. However, having gone through them all on the wiki, my impression is that they are focused more on damage and support. Unlike most professions who only have access to 10 skills at a time (2 weapon sets), the Elementalist always has access to 20 skills. As such, it has some of the most overall versatility regardless of what weapon set is equipped because their attunements act as their role-switchers instead of their weapons.

Looking at the fire attunement, we see only one thing: damage. Damage, damage, and more damage. Not only that, but a great deal of it is AoE. There isn’t much to say here; no matter what you have equipped, you will always have a full skill bar for nuking. Lightning attunement does offer some forms of control with blinds and stuns but they are only on some of the weapons. Given that Elementalists cannot switch weapons in combat, it is very possible that they will not choose the few weapons that off these forms of CC. Many of the other lightning skills are simply damage skills, much like fire.

Water attunement is where the Elementalist really shines in terms of support. Not only does the Elementalist always passively heal nearby allies while in the water attunement, many of their skills also heal or provide the protection and regeneration boons. There are a few water skills that inflict conditions but given the healing abilities attached to the attunement I view them as more likely to be used to support allies in trouble rather than to catch and kill enemies.

The earth attunement functions as the most self-preservation oriented. Earth attunement passively grants resistance to magic and many of its skills involve defensive actions. While there are various conditions that control (such as knock down) attached to the earth attunement, many of them are point blank. Given the Elementalist’s lack of both health and armor, these skills will more likely be used to ward off enemies that get to your team’s backline rather than be used offensively. Further, several skills can reflect projectiles or make the Elementalist invincible. Although those are both self-buffs, Guild Wars 2 allows true projectile blocking (i.e. if you get in the way you can take the hit for an ally that was targeted). This gameplay dynamic will allow skilled Elementalists to support their weakened allies by physically blocking and redirecting attacks meant to harm them.

The Elementalist comes the very closest to being able to have all three roles at the same time. Some of this is obviously subject to change as balance works itself out, but at the moment the Elementalist seems like it will always be a welcome addition to any group for its ability to be anything at any time. The largest consideration for them is what balance they want to strike between range and speed. Due to their inability to swap weapons in combat, an Elementalist, unlike any other profession, is unable to change their combat range on the fly. If you want to be as far away and safe as possible, you will always be stuck with slower skills. If you want to have fast activating and mobility skills, you will always be running the risk of being too close or being unable to fight at long range.

Engineer: Support and Control

Ringing in with the fewest weapons to choose from, the Engineer is strictly a ranged profession. Naturally this lends itself well to both the support and control focuses. The Engineer is also unable to swap between weapon sets in combat which means that every combination of weapons needs to be able to fill a variety of needs. Both pistols and rifles have controlling conditions (blind and immobilize), so you can guarantee that an Engineer will always be able to hinder you regardless of their weapon set. Their off-hand selections (pistol and shield) provide further support and control in the way of barriers and more immobilization. Given this on-demand CC and support it is easy to understand why their direct damage would take a bit of a hit; you’d never be able to touch them otherwise!

What really sets the Engineer apart however is their utility, and healing skills. Similar to the attunements for Elementalists, Engineers can activate many of these skills to change out the skills on the left side of their bar. Grenade kits provide an array of AoE status effects (and of course damage), the Elixer kit is a mix of control via conditions and support via boons, many of which are combined together. Take for example the Elixer Spray that poisons enemies and removes conditions from allies. Several of the skills in this kit act in this manner, making it a very powerful utility kit. The flamethrower kit boasts a mix of damage and positional modifiers like pushing and pulling enemies around.

Even if the Engineer eschews their kits for the iconic turrets they have several supportive and controlling options. The  Thumper Turret has obvious control tendencies by continuously knocking everyone around rather than dealing massive damage as does the Net Turret with it’s immobilization and the Healing Turret provides the regeneration boon to allies in the area. While it is possible to choose only damaging kits and turrets, the point seems rather moot given that you won’t have time to use all of your damage abilities before they are off of cooldown; why not opt for one of the other roles so prevalent in their options? I’m not saying the damage options are bad, I am simply pointing out that you’ll probably only use one or the other, not all of them at once.

Where does that leave the Engineer in a team? Most likely the Engineer will serve as either the buddy or the defender. Adding in shut-downs and support to any damage-focused character will make their job much easier and have a multiplicative effect. Not only will you both be doing damage, you will also both be taking less incoming damage thereby allowing you to fight longer or more efficiently. Your CC becomes effectively twice as powerful with an ally as alone because there is no addition cost but you get twice the benefit by improving both you and your ally’s fight. Alternatively, Team ArenaNet have said several times that they like to use Engineers as “Sandbaggers”. The Sandbaggers are mobile roadblocks who serve the purpose of tying down multiple foes alone long enough for their team to secure a numbers advantage elsewhere. Think of it this way: if it takes longer for 2 people to kill an Engineer than some other professions, then 2 enemies are in a worse position attacking the Engineer than your two allies are attacking someone else on their team, thus you have a net gain in effectiveness. Alternatively, it means that you have a free person to go to a capture point that the other team cannot cover because they are effectively fighting at a disadvantage. Overall, while I think that Engineers will work well with many team compositions, I can’t see having more than perhaps 2 at a time in any given team, and most likely not more than one. This isn’t to say that they are bad but I think that more than that would be a bit too much overlap without enough payoff, but that isn’t a bad thing in my personal opinion.

Ranger: Damage and Control

While some aspects have changed between GW1 and GW2, by and large the Ranger still has many of the same signature attacks. Interrupts have been removed from the game as a specific skill type, so those favoring that style will not find much of that in the Ranger this time around, but they do still have some of the highest mobility and single target ranged damage and condition application of many of the professions in GW2. In many ways the Ranger is something of a duelist, much more so than many other professions. Many of their weapon skills revolve around moving the Ranger in and out of combat and locking down specific foes with a mixture of cripples and immobilizes. The short bow and the sword/greatsword skills excel at this particularly well, offering distance closers and knockbacks, as well as conditional bonuses based on the relative orientation of the Ranger to their target (for example dazing from the front, stunning from behind). Oh, and of course we can’t forget that their pet can resurrect their owner when the Ranger is downed.

None of the Ranger’s weapon skills directly aid allies. Several provide controlling conditions and provide boons to the Ranger and his or her pet, but unlike the Engineer and Elementalist there are no boons or healing abilities tied to their weapons. Even when looking at the utility and healing skills only one or two can benefit a Ranger’s allies directly. As such it’s hard to imagine a purely support role for the Ranger unless you are counting something like solo-capping points and avoiding combat. That’s more “goal-oriented support” than “team support” though. What you will find however is that they can apply a myriad of poisons, bleeds, and cripples as well as a variety of ways to shed conditions on themselves.

In team compositions they have a few niches that can be exploited, not to mention the fact that they are just generally very effective at ranged and melee combat. Some unique aspects are their mobility both through skill-based-movement as well as various ways to apply the swiftness boon to themselves and the ability to hide out stealthed for an ambush. Thus far we have only seen the Ranger, Thief, and the Mesmer have the ability to stealth. While their one skill (Camouflage) only works out of combat (unlike the Mesmer and Thief variants), it still gives a very powerful tactical tool. Much like the Spy in Team Fortress 2, simply knowing that a Ranger is around but you have no idea where is both psychologically stressful but also strategically important. Do you waste time trying to find the invisible guy that isn’t hurting you or capping, or do you just leave him be? Is there a stealthed character here to make this fight become a 2v1 or even a 3v1, or is this random guy actually alone out here? Did that guy that ran around the corner stealth and stand still, or did he just get away and make me waste time looking for him while he actually is off fighting somewhere else or even capping a point? On the flipside, as a stealthed Ranger should you wait until someone leaves or reveal yourself and fight them? How long is acceptable to be lying in wait before you are just wasting time? Considering the nature of distributed capture points, the run-and-gun skirmishing style of the Ranger can be extremely rewarding. After all, the main objective is to move around and get points, what better than a highly mobile difficult to pin-down and kill profession to do so. I can easily see several Rangers on one team to do coordinated ganks and then turn around and split capture.

Thief: Damage and Control

Overall, I see the Thief occupying mostly the same role as the Ranger. Like the Ranger, the Thief is something of a skirmisher or duelist, focusing on striking tactically then retreating to safety. However, the Thief brings a few things to the table that make it much more effective at engaging and escaping, and overall I feel that the Thief will operate at close-to-medium range where the Ranger mostly operates at medium-to-long range. First and foremost, where the Ranger uses rolls and jumps to create or close distances, the Thief has shadow steps. Not only are they instant and thereby much faster, they also mean that you can’t be shut down while you are in the process or doing them. You won’t have issues like rolling through traps or getting stunned mid roll; you will simply appear next to (or away from) your target. Yet another advantage is that they can shadow step without worrying about vertical distances, in fact they can even use that to their advantage. Having watched various PvP videos I noticed that the clock tower in particular was a very often-used place to teleport from top-to-bottom.

Further, Thieves are far more specialized in stealth than Rangers. They have a myriad of ways to get into stealth, though to my knowledge they are for much shorter durations. Beyond that, their first skill on every weapon has a special, more powerful version that becomes active while they are in stealth. As hard as it may be to keep track of a Ranger, it will be truly impossible to always keep an eye on a skilled Thief.

Perusing the skills list of the Thief, every weapon has at least one or two conditions it can inflict. Weakness, vulnerability, blinds, dazes, cripples and immobilizes show up throughout their weapon sets. What really reinforces the control and damage roles is how the Thief’s initiative factors into the equation. Normally a profession can only use their condition skills when they are recharged; you can’t just use your immobilizing attack twice in a row, you would need two different immobilizes to do so. A Thief on the other hand can simply use one skill multiple times as the situation warrants, assuming that they have the initiative to do so. Combining the ability to repeatedly use either the most damaging or most beneficial condition causing skills allows the Thief to live in the moment and be whatever is most needed.

I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot, but I’m sensing that Thieves will end up fulfilling similar goals to Rangers in groups. In PvP they will be great at split-capturing points. Their shadow steps will allow them to rapidly transition between points, especially those with elevation like the clock tower. Their stealth abilities will help them in ambushes to gank individual enemies that are out on their own. Unfortunately, they have some of the lowest health in the game on only have medium armor, so between those two factors I can’t imaging having more than say 1 or 2 on a team composition, otherwise an AoE caster might be able to wipe out too much of your team too quickly.

Guardian: Support and Control

Standing steadfast with the Engineer, the Guardian is the other profession that I feel exemplifies the support and control archetypes. Every weapon set has at least one or more ways to either strip conditions or grant boons (or both), and most have forms of control mixed in via conditions like blind, knock down/back, and immobilize. The staff alone has 3 support skills: Symbol of Protection, Line of Warding, and Martyr. Between those three you grant the protection boon, remove (all?) conditions from nearby allies, and can physically prevent enemies from moving closer to you and your allies with a wall. Similarly the hammer has another warding line that enemies can’t cross and an ally condition stripper, essentially acting as the melee counterpart for the staff.

Unlike several other professions,  the unique class mechanic of Guardians (Virtues) ties directly into the role archetypes. While Stealing, Toolbelts, Pets, and Death Shroud all make their respective professions more versatile or give them some unique flavor and attacks, they don’t really augment any role in particular. Virtues on the other hand can be both used passively for the Guardian or given to the entire party. Having a built-in mechanic to add boons, conditions and blocking is a pretty big deal. It means that no matter what the Guardian is doing, they always have the option of supporting their allies with Virtues. Aegis in particular can have a big impact if timed perfectly. For example, in League of Legends, Banshee’s Veil is considered to be one of the most effective items because of its ability to absorb one spell every 45 seconds. Aegis does the same thing except that it affects your entire party and can block anything.

Looking at the utility skills, we see the same story as the weapons. They have a variety of ways to strip conditions, sometimes even all conditions, from their allies. They have a wide selection of boons such as protection, regeneration, and swiftness that they can grant to the party. They even have a wall that reflects enemy projectiles; combined with a hammer/staff a Guardian can completely shut off an avenue of attack to enemies while leaving it open to allies.

Interestingly, the Guardian has some of the lower hit point totals in the game but is coupled with the highest armor type. Paired with their boons and virtues, they will likely be very good at shrugging off conditions and small attacks but much more susceptible to stronger hits. Their abilities to lock down an area rival the Engineer’s and they appear to have even more support built-in to boot. I see their role in team compositions as moving hazards. Enemies trying to engage a Guardian will find themselves at a general disadvantage and unable to function as effectively as normal, and if the Guardian’s allies arrive they will be even more difficult to fight than before because they will be healing, resisting damage and moving quickly. The walls can be used not only to keep enemies away but also to keep them from getting away. If someone decides to retreat down the stairs in the clock tower, a Guardian can erect a line of warding that prevents that escape route and locks the enemy into a bad position. Because of the way that boons stack in duration but not effect, having more than one or two Guardians also seems ill-advised to most team compositions. Any more than two and you will effectively be gaining almost no advantage because the skills that grant boons will likely have recharged fast enough that more coverage is unnecessary. Similarly, conditions removals take care of an entire stack, so being having overlapping condition removal is a bit overkill.

I will say this. As a Necromancer enthusiast, I do worry a bit about how the Guardian will affect the PvP meta. As previously mentioned, the Necromancer has a huge emphasis on conditions. Even though it is possible to build without really using them, it really restricts you to only use a narrow band of skills. The Guardian, even more than the Necromancer, has a ton of ways to not only shed conditions from itself but also to strip them from allies, and most of them only have ~15 second cooldowns. In general I don’t feel that there are any “Hard Counters” in GW2, the Guardian comes the closest I have seen to hard countering the Necro. It’s going to be a pain to balance if the threat of a Guardian’s condition stripping is great enough to push Necros away from one of their main schticks out of fear of being useless.

Warrior: Damage and Control (and Support…)

Okay, so I broke the premise of this post by putting all three here for the Warrior. Looking only at the weapon skills I would certainly classify the Warrior as Damage and Control which is becoming quite the pattern with non-magical characters now. Warrior weapon skills are filled with damage, more damage, and lots of damage. Each weapon has one skill that provides some condition, usually bleeding, crippling, stunning or knockdowns. Hammers and Maces are both stun and knockdown specialized weapons, each boasting several such attacks. As such it’s pretty much impossible to not consider the Warrior a control professions; anything that completely prevents an opponent from acting is the very definition of control.

Similar to the Guardian, the Warrior’s unique mechanic (Adrenaline Bursts) goes directly into dealing more damage. It’s a mechanic all about having big huge attacks rather than simply having versatility like other mechanics. Hit some guys with your axes? Hit them harder! Shoot some guys with your rifle? Shoot them harder. You get the idea.

All that said, the utility skills for the Warrior really broaden it out a lot in terms of role. Interestingly almost none of their utility skills are for damage (directly anyway), instead they are largely control and support-based. Warriors have a broad selection of shouts and banners, both of which give AoE buffs to the entire party. Using shouts the Warrior can remove conditions from allies, cause fear and weakness to enemies, and grant the fury, might, and swiftness boons to allies. In many ways their shouts operate as the inverse of Guardians, upping the party’s damage output rather than their defensive traits. The banners operate similarly except that they grant continual buffs around the static object (the banner), and that banner can be picked up and re-placed wherever it is needed. Even better, both banners and shouts don’t have casting times, so they can be used while the Warrior is beating down its enemies.

On the controlling side, in addition to inflicting fear and weakness, Warriors can take several more knockdown skills as utilities. Kick, Stomp, Throw Bolas and Bull’s Charge provide knockups, knockbacks, immobilizes, and knock downs. If you’re keeping count, that fills up more slots than a Warrior even has open. When combined with a Hammer you can have a total of 6 knockdowns, stuns and immobilizes. That is an enormous amount of time to lock down one or more opponents at once.

Coupling all three roles into one as well as the highest hit points and armor values makes the Warrior a truly formidable force on the field. How is that balanced you might ask? Well, primarily because to get all three of those roles at once you will have to compromise your effectiveness with one or more of them, and because to maximize control you need to be in melee. Although every weapon is viable and the Warrior can have 2 ranged weapons, you will be losing out on a lot of control and support if you are staying at long-distance. That’s not to say that those aren’t viable weapons, it’s just that your melee friends likely won’t benefit from your shouts and banners and point blank knockdowns if you are at a distance. If you are trying to combine all three in melee you can be shut down or isolated much easier. Not only does almost every other profession fight extremely well at range, the ones that fight more in melee also have much better escape mechanisms. Ranges and Thieves in particular have a huge selection of skills to get out of bad places; Warriors have to just take it and slowly move away. Again, that’s why they have the health and armor.

The picture is pretty bright for Warriors’ place in team comps. High health, high durability and a plethora of stuns and several ways to give swiftness make for a powerful mix. Although they don’t have a ton in the way of AoE damage (aside from bows), the ability to chain stun someone is almost immeasurably good. Having played the PvP with a group of Warriors, when we were coordinated it was really scary. All those stuns and knockdowns effectively turned 3v3 fights into 3v2 or 3v1 as several enemies were continuously unable to do anything in return. The big disadvantage of course was getting sandbagged by an Engineer or Guardian, but I can easily see 3 Warriors on one team just rampaging around; after all it is hard to stop 3 at once, and once one of them stuns you the others can pile in.

Mesmer: Control and Damage (in that order)

Alright, I’m going to be honest, we can’t really know that the Mesmer won’t have a support focus. Given my current assignments, there is more room in the support category than the others if you are going for symmetry. Regardless of general symmetry though, I think that a combination of their class mechanic (shatters/illusions) and their history in GW1 tells most of the tale. This is the one I’m least sure about because we haven’t seen a thing about them other than their initial reveal awhile ago.

Historically speaking, Mesmers were first and foremost about control. Hexes that slowed down casting, cover hexes, interrupts, hexes that damaged you for acting or not acting, energy denial… all of these are forms of control. A good Mesmer in GW1 could alter the flow of battle by distracting and screwing over one or more people on the other team. They could do damage in a sense, but largely that came as a direct result of the control they exerted. If the enemy simply did nothing, most of the time the Mesmer wasn’t dealing that much damage, but that was alright because it forced ultimate control over the enemy if they were also doing nothing. Although most of these mechanisms have disappeared, many of their basic premises have resurfaced in the form of stuns, dazes, confusion and phantasms.

Moving onto the present, what we do know is that of all the professions, the unique mechanic of Mesmers is by far the most control-oriented. You can’t deny that on-demand AoE stuns and confusion are strong forms of control. By having 1-3 illusions active, any Mesmer can drop a big carpet bombing stun or apply 1-3 stacks of confusion to several enemies at once. We don’t really know what the damage is like on Mind Wrack, but we do know that the phantasms are almost completely damage oriented. Some of them exert control by proxy such as Backfire, a phantasm that deals damage whenever a nearby enemy uses any skill. Others just do lots of damage (like the two gunner-phantasms we see in the skill video). Confusion is by its nature a dual control/damage condition, and I imagine it will do at least moderate damage since it can be avoided for its duration or until stripped, and only the Mesmer and Necromancer so far are known to cause it.

So where do Mesmers fit into teams and how many are likely to be in one? Honestly, I don’t see there being too many Mesmers per team. In fact, I have a hard time imagining more than one per team. Exerting control over an area is fantastic, and obviously having two or more do so would be great, but I worry that having too many illusions would be too easy to counter with just one AoE damager. They are also one of the squishiest professions, lacking health, armor, and easy escape mechanisms.

So what’s the point? Why is this blog post so damn long??

First off, if you’re still reading this, thanks for hanging in there. This has taken an age and a half to write and is clearly somewhat long-winded. Some of you may be quick to point out that the devs talk about how they love playing these spiffy off-role builds, like the infamous “Support Thief” of late. Honestly, I think part of the problem is with semantics and part of it is with a need to try and showcase versatility. “Support” is a word that has a very common meaning, that is to aid or assist. So yeah, sure, Izzy has a build that “supports” his team by giving them all poisoned weapons. But is that really “Support” in terms of the trinity? I mean, firstly I’m sure he is doing more than just giving everyone poison on their attacks. If he isn’t, it surely won’t be as good as, you know, actually attacking. If he is doing other things, then he must be using the Thief’s other skills, and those are most certainly damage and control oriented. Another argument is that you can “support” via using conditions and positioning to aid allies. Again, this is actually control, you are screwing your opponents. Of course you can use control to help an ally; everything you do helps allies. Killing enemies quickly helps allies!

The other issue is with so-called image or marketing. I don’t think they want to say that some professions are better at certain roles than others. I understand why; doing so will beg the question of which is “best” or worse, which is more “necessary”. I’m in fact not saying that one is better or worse, or that any profession is mandatory by any stretch. I don’t think there is a profession that is better than all others at a given role, they just do things differently. That brings us to the entire point of this article. It’s really all about one question: how do you fit into a team, or alternatively, what am I good at?

The answer I’m trying to arrive at is that any team is most likely going to try and incorporate all three roles into their composition in some form or another. That’s not a bad thing, variety and versatility help keep a team from being hard countered. While they have stated that they want to get away from “GLF Monk!”, I think the most likely scenario is that most groups for organised (especially PvP) content will be looking to make sure at least one or two members can fill any one role at any given time. Guardians will not need to be relegated to support, rather a group will try to take at least one Guardian, Elementalist, Warrior, or Engineer so that someone can cover the support role at least some of the time. There is a certain symmetry to each profession specializing in 2 roles; most professions can use two weapon sets, and most weapon sets specialize on one role, thus any given character can generally specialize in one or two roles at a time. How much more convenient is that when the profession is already more focused on those roles?

Another way to approach this theory is to use it as a tool to find out the approximate strengths and weaknesses of a given team composition. If every profession is equally good at all three roles in all the same ways, PvP becomes very bland because you can’t develop very strong strategies that can’t be easily copied by any other team. So if we assume that I am roughly correct in these classifications, let’s take a look at some team comps that Arena Net has reportedly used. If you haven’t read this article on Team ANet’s PvP builds, take a break from this and read it now. Not only is it very well-written and informative, I’ll also be discussing it in relation to what’s been written here. It is important to know the strengths and weaknesses of every profession and how they can complement one another. A strategy that is unbalanced towards one or two of the roles isn’t unworkable, you simply need to understand that you have to go about your tactics differently.

Build 1– Solo Ranger, Forward Necromancer, Center Guardian, Center Warrior, Back Warrior.

As described, the Guardian and one of the Warriors formed something of a home base at the center point. Between the Guardian’s ability to dig in and sandbag and center and the Warrior’s build focused on damage and control (via sword and hammer), those two can hold the point against almost any number of enemies long enough for either backup to arrive or their team to capture other points. The Ranger mans the trebuchet, using its dueling strengths to fend off any attackers. The Necromancer and other Warrior capture and defend points, fighting as necessary. Breaking down the team’s role support, they have something like 2 supports, (Guardian and the Warriors are both taking minor support), 4 Damage (both Warriors, Necro and Ranger), and 3 Control (2 hammer Warriors and the Guardian). All in all, it’s a rather well-balanced team. Their strengths come from fighting as a team, and they confessed that their greatest weakness was in their reliance on the middle point. In all honesty, this is fairly comforting for the idea of weird team compositions. Even a well balanced team has some weaknesses that other team comps can exploit; a more mobile team might have a less even distribution of roles but be able to capitalize on the relatively static nature of this defense-heavy team.

Build 2– Sandbag Engineer, 2 Split Thieves, Forward and Trebuchet Necromancers (1 Support, 4 damage, 2 control)

As you might expect from this distribution of roles, this team is in it for short fights that rely on speed and mobility. Having the only support hold one point while the damagers roam together is a great utilization of this team’s strengths. Unlike the more balanced compositions, this team is more susceptible to enemy control because most of their roles are tied up in damage which is exactly what control attempts to counter. This team has almost no ability to survive in uneven matches (in the opponents’ favor). As I said before, the Thief is mobile and deadly, but if you get too many of them your team can become very susceptible to CC and AoE damage spikes.

Knowing is half the battle, or so they say. If I am correct in my analysis, ideally this will help you along the way when you see both your own and your enemies’ team compositions. Knowing that your team is short on any role or strong in another can help you plan out effective tactics that utilize your strengths and minimize your weakness. Seeing the holes in the other team can lead to a strategy to win, and knowing what they will attempt to do (to use their own strengths) can help you and your team avoid catastrophe. Thanks for sticking it out and reading this, I hope everyone has a happy holiday!

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3 Responses to The 2/3 Theory

  1. ShaunNox says:

    You succeeded in doing what I failed to do when I wrote http://conjurephantasm.com/2011/05/24/damage-control-support/

    Good article!

  2. ArcherAvatar says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article, and consider it time well spent. Your assesment and analysis of the classes seems very sound based on the information we have to date, and the manner with which you discuss them was interesting and entertaining imo.

    My only “editorial” comment would be on the mesmer, where you question their combat mobility. With respect to “escape mechanisms” I’m pretty certain they are only rivaled by the thief’s. Just in the skill videos alone there were several “teleport” style skills used, and I suspect we were only shown a small percentage of the total number of such abilities they will have at their disposal.

    As you pointed out, low health AND low armor practically mandates a certain amount of mobility, and in the case of the mesmer their’s will be in the form of instaneous teleports (which fits with the “now you see me, now you don’t” confusion sowing style of the class.)

  3. […] blog entry. So if you’re bored and want something to read, I’ll link to it again here: The 2/3 Theory by “Greibach’s Normal Form”. LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); […]

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