Dr. Guild Wars: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Making Builds


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Since Prophecies was released almost 6 years ago, skill builds have been a huge aspect of the Guild Wars experience.  You’re only allowed 8 skills at a time and one of the skill slots has the option to hold an elite skill.  There are over 1000 non-elite skills and almost 300 elite skills spread out over 10 professions.  Basically, what I’m getting at, is that players should have no problems creating builds that work for them and their party, no matter how silly or trivial they may seem.

But these days, after balances and nerfs and buffs, there are only so many builds a player will run depending on the mission, PvE or PvP.  This is called, The Meta. So, where have all the silly and fun builds run off to and why have people stopped running them?  Because Meta builds are more efficient?  Because, after all the nerfs to non-meta elite skills, it’s not worth the trouble?  Because copy-paste builds from PvX are so much easier to use?  If you answered “Yes!” to any of the three previous questions, then YOU ARE WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE GAME. Let’s explore why.

PvX and The Meta

Since the creation of the PvX Wiki, players have flocked to the site to share, rate, and comment on builds and the popularity of it grew fast, and it’s safe to say that’s worked out pretty well.  The good and great builds are at the top while trash builds that don’t work will fall between the cracks. Is that so bad?  Well, maybe.

You see, when the game was just starting out all those years ago, you could bring whatever build worked for you to get the job done and in PvP, everyone was still learning what countered what and there was no real “meta” build.  Fast forward to now and you have the current “meta” build being run in Heroes Ascent waiting for the next big update that’ll bring about a new “meta” while “speed clears” are all over the place for “elite” areas of the game.  So, again, is that so bad?  Well, for veteran players who have 5 accounts and stacks of ectos, not really.  For the economy, maybe, but no one cares about the in-game economy anymore, right?  Oh, right, back on point.

It can be argued oh-so many ways and everyone could morally be right, and not many people will get mad over it, but, what players should be mad over is when you’re setting up for a run (let’s use Fissure of Woe as an example and you’re a Necromancer) and you have your build setup as a variation of the traditional Spiteful Spirit build. You get into a group, ready to go, and you ping your bar.  The leader asks if you can run a different bar, which he pings(how nice of him/her), and you notice only two skills and the attribute values are a little different, but it’s practically the same, so you say that your build is fine, but, before you know it, you’re kicked from the group and left with a sad face and no group.  It could have been worse though, especially if it’s a completely different build all-together.  You might as well just leave the group yourself and save the leader the trouble of kicking you.  No one cares that you think the elite on your own bar is “fun” or “cool,” or that you spent a week testing it out.  If it can’t be found on PvX, it must suck.

Okay, maybe that was a bad example.  SS these days is pretty flexible with what utility skills you bring alongside it, but the point is, PvX has stifled fun and creative builds…for the most part.  Have you ever tried Yellow-Way?  Have you even heard of it?  Well, you might have.  It was on PvX for a while, but then it wasn’t, and now it’s on a user page or two.  Anyway, Yellow Way is an 8-man team of Warriors and Paragons using Warrior, Paragon, and Norn skills only to do whatever you can with it.  It’s great fun, even if it doesn’t work out half the time or takes twice as long to complete a mission, and it’s even more fun with friends.  So, fun builds are out there, just not on PvX.  I guess you’ll just have to make your own.

What does that mean for Guild Wars 2?

Well, you know you get 10 skills now instead of 8 for GW2, but the first five of those are decided by what weapon you bring and then one other slot is for a dedicated healing skill, but already you should be able to imagine that fun you can have from trying unique profession/weapon combinations, even without knowing what profession-based skills you’ll bring.  A perfect example of this is a Necromancer duel-wielding daggers (which was a blast trying at PAX last year, by the way) Here’s the thing; it worked out really well, more so than I was anticipating.  If I had to sum up the 30-minute demo experience in one word, it would be “FAWESOMIC” (Fantastic+Awesome)  So, maybe ArenaNet has taken away some skill choices, but now you can run with an Elementalist with a scepter in your main hand and a dagger for an offhand, which I (sadly) did not get to try, but none the less, how can that not sound like good, silly fun?  It might seem like you’ll have fewer choices for builds in Guild Wars 2, but really, there is a good amount of freedom between weapon and skill choices so don’t worry, and you’ll love making builds.

-Written by : TheLazyGeek

So, here’s a question for the readers, Have you ever just “went nuts” when making a build; Use an elite that’s under-powered and worked around it? How’d that work out for you?

About the author: The laziest gaming-geek you’ll meet (maybe) who spends [too much] time playing games and “geeking out” over how awesome ‘The Guardian Legend’ really is. He also writes at his own blog, TheLazyGeek.com and can be found on twitter.

Further reading:

This entry was posted in Build Wars, Guild Wars 1 and tagged by The Lazy Geek. Bookmark the permalink.

About The Lazy Geek

My name is Connor, and I am THE Lazy Geek, and have been since I was burst-ed from the chest of my mother, just like in Alien. I spend my day gaming and sometimes blogging about the things I am passionate about and enjoy very much. In between that, I find time to design websites, play games, partake in a number of other hobbies.
  • I run an Illusionary Weaponry / Pet build on my Mesmer and I’m not afraid to say so. My first IW build was allright for running around by myself, but when I took it into FoW it was obviously not being all that it could be. I wasn’t a drain on the group (we still completed the run) but I wasn’t having as much fun with it.

    So the group I’d been running with helped me put together a different IW build, this time with a pet! It’s a lot more fun to play and does more damage to boot. Neither are meta, in fact most people laugh at me when I tell them I’m running an IW bar, but who cares, I’m having fun!

    • I LOVE running IW on my mesmer! It’s a lot more versatile than one might suspect, especially with the update not too long ago that gave it an armor buff. You can use it with a /Warrior and an axe to use Cynclone Axe and Whilrwind Attack, or you can use it with an /Assassin with daggers, /Dervish with a scythe, or, like you, a /Ranger with Beast Mastery. I could go on about the possibilities revolving around just that one elite, it’s almost scary.

  • Nice article. I’m still kinda afraid that some people will ask in GW2, “Why do you have that weapon? Use x instead for this boss, noob!”. The cost of some items in the market will surely be greater than others depending largely on the skills they provide.

    • I think it’ll be that way for a while after release, but it’ll get better, hopefully quick. Prices, I think, will play SOME part of weapon selection, but over time that’ll diminish as the in-game economy settles in (and then fluxes because of all the exploits and botters(but hopefully not))

      Basically, time will heal all wounds.

  • Great article!

    I hope I’m not in the minority here, but I do use PvX quiet a bit. Although I use it as a template: figure out why this works so well, then swap out some skills for some that (IMO) work better.

    Good info though, I didn’t know about the “dedicated healing skill”.

    • I do a lot of the same. I often go to PvX to see what people are using that works on professions that I don’t play frequently and then adapt it to my own personal interests and the zones where I’m tackling critters. It has been a lot of fun to try different builds while vanquishing. Granted, I’ve gotten my butt kicked lots of times, but it makes the success so much sweeter.

  • Izari

    I go back and forth. For certain runs (Speed clears and particularly tough dungeons, and PvP) I’ll usually resort to a build given to me or from PvX wiki for the sake of efficiency. Depending on the situation I may alter a build slightly but rarely will I stray too far from the meta.

    When soloing or doing Co-ops, though, I like to get creative. Being stuck within a build gets dull, even if it “works”. I like to test out ideas, often inspired by a unique mechanic of a single skill, and try to work around it. That’s what keeps the game alive and interesting for me.

    Another build-game I like to play is to counter a popular PvX set. I play FA/JQ a lot so I’ll test the waters and see what people seem to be abusing and then make a build accordingly. IE RoJ monks (heavy interrupt mesmer build), N/A bombers (enchant removal, spell failure, slow), monks (energy drain, skill shutdown).

    I don’t mind PvX builds unless they are obnoxious / exploiting. It’s when people refuse to use creativity or refuse to see anything BUT PvX builds as good / functional where the problem lies.

    • Izari

      Also: I think the “build pinging” system while great in context turned out to be the worst thing to happen for builds and creativity in GW.

      When I run ZE as a SS, I don’t harass my teammates to ping their build. I simply ask : Do we have FS? Please don’t take QZ if you have it.” And that’s the extent of it.

      I guess it doesn’t matter as much now since most people run PvX and don’t care about keeping a good build secret to avoid getting nerfed.
      But it is annoying when people force you into a build for a run, especially if, as you said, yours only deviates slightly.

      Good article. 🙂

    • csquirrelrun

      I too play the “counter” game mainly because I mostly play my mesmer, and that’s what they’re their for. In fact I’m very proud of a build for JQ that can deal with RoJ smiters, N/A bombers, and cap shrines or unprotected turtles as well XD It’s one I simply put together over sometime and thinking: “so that guy has skill X and his build works this way, so I’m going to squeeze in skill Y to counter him.”

      More recently I’ve thrown the meta out of the window whilst our guild has been collecting materials for the Great Feast at Canthan new year. When you’re farming in groups of 3-5 players you suddenly have to play very differently to when you’re “min/maxing” with your 8-man, PvE skill abusing, setup. I definitely learned a lot by simply trying out different things. Had a very strong GW2 feel with regards to the mish-mash of professions and everyone being able to heal/damage/control.

  • I enjoyed this read lawl. Anyways, one of the annoying things about pvxwiki builds is the fact that the majority of people use them and only thing pretty much required is to have a forehead that can withhold itself as you press it down and roll it across the 8 keys… when in doing this the majority of the players which is a huge majority cannot see the screen so alot of attempts of even meta they fail…. it even goes as far as them looking down at the other keys that they have never read what a skill is.

    Just as the IW bar, I applaud you fine sir, and unfortunatly if anyone asks around in the game what IW is they more than likely will have no clue or start badgering about how only panic and PI works in PvE… I personally hate pvxwiki just because of the elitism it attempts to set off, like explained with people calling names and or excluding you because of a build not being on the site.

    And on another note… when I made my necro, only used 5 skills SS, MoP, and Barbs pretty much were only ones I used with occasional weaken armor, hexers vigor… had her a spear to throw to help with the aoe+barbs dmg… Got through Eotn, and Prophecies in a pretty fast pace!

    • draxynnic

      Panic… is an interesting one. You have to know what circumstances it works in and what circumstances it doesn’t. I wonder how many PvXers have worked that out?

      IW is certainly one that can be fun. Don’t necessarily need to combine it with any secondary profession stuff at all – it can be run purely based on illusion for the versatility of being able to throw hexes from a distance as well as fight in melee. I generally don’t pull it out that often, though.

      On the whole, though, I do tend to think that anyone who isn’t willing to experiment is missing a large part of the point. Certainly, every so often, I’ll look at a particular elite or set of skills and think “how can I make this work?” before putting something together and trying it out in a relatively low-threat situation. Sometimes this leads to something that I later find has become part of the meta. Sometimes it’s something that will probably never be meta, but which I find enjoyable nonetheless. And sometimes it just doesn’t work. That’s the risk with experimentation, but that’s why you don’t take experimental builds when people are relying on you until you’ve at least verified the basic principles are sound.

      I’ll admit there are also times I’ve browsed the PvX for inspiration, but I rarely take a build without thinking about what makes it work and what I might be able to tweak in order to better fit with my own preferences or the circumstances in which it’s used in. To be honest, if I was a party leader I’d prefer to see a player with a build that deviates from the PvX than one ripped straight from it, especially if they can explain the reasons for their deviations – it shows a they’ve actually thought about the build and do actually know how and why it works, while a build ripped straight from PvX could have been copypastad five minutes ago with no real understanding of how to use it.

  • Mebo

    Great article. Nice read 🙂

  • Guido

    As an average (?) GW player, I have to chime in. I suck at PvP, and I’m not that great with premade PvX builds. Why? Well, it comes from another game I used to play- chess. I used to memorize openings, only to find out that my memory is not unlimited, and when my opponent varied I was totally lost. The same thing can be said for PvX builds. Unless you know the reason, or how to use these builds; you can’t use them properly; or I use them terribly. [I did play in the DOA with thelazygeek, because he said, keep this up, and drop the damn thing, rinse and repeat]. I can load the latest greatest build, and ping it, get into any group; but I have no clue about UWSC, and T1, T2, or whatnot. I guess that is what guilds are for. Take noobs, like me, and teach them the way to utilize skills. Why do certain skills work well together. I get glimpses of this from guru, or discussions that occur on forums. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places. When a skill gets ‘nerfed’, I’m always asking myself why I never used that overpowered skill.
    In GW2, I’m sure us players will come up with some skill combo that is unusual that the testers have not thought about, or played. Trust me; I can so some really dumb things in game; fling an arrow here or there and pull not two, but 3 groups at a time. Enter battle with my best running skills…

  • I enjoyed the article. It made me think about some of the less effective/more fun builds I’ve run over the years. To this day I still play a Meleemancer. PvE skills help a lot with survivability and I have to remember to not try and tank, but the DPS is pretty good and life steal is pretty effective.

    And honestly, though they’re extremely effective, Sabway, Discordway, and all the other “-ways” that are helpful with vanquishing just get boring after a while.

  • Excellent article with some great responses down here. Last night I was in a group for Hard Mode to take down Glint, and the leader was going by the book – wiki all the way.

    I even pinged my bar and then he said, We need hex removal, and I pointed out that I already had Inspired Hex with zero recharge or cost. Then he pointed out that we need interrupts, and I said I’ve got 2 already.

    He proceeded to tell me to change 3 of my skills. Bring empathy, don’t bring Mistrust, and we got UA so I don’t need a spell resurrection.

    I asked if the wiki will let me itch my nose.

    I’ve been playing long enough to know how to put out damage and disruption. I don’t need a website to dictate builds – I press K and scroll through looking at effects and numbers.

    The team failed at the warrior/knockdown level. My next group succeeded with heroes and a bad monk, taking Glint down in seconds. And nobody asked anyone to change skills.

  • Vodna Lel

    I absolutely loved this article as one of the afore mentioned people getting kicked out of a party for their build because it was not on pvx wiki back when i first started my ele i had an idea for a water build and now 4 years after i started the char the only changes ive had for it is switching out a pvp skill for a pve one. to summarize the build i used the advantage of shatterstones 2 sec delay and redmg to work with vapor blade for a 300 dmg spike and tagged it along with shard storm to create a simple if efficient build to kill almost any thing i came across then add the rend enchantments skill i put in with my necro secondary and i was breezing through missions and yet i still would get kicked out of missions like elonas reach because i wasnt the generic searing flames spamming robot they wanted. Recently i went into RA and decided to bring a new build just for kicks and the looks i received were by far some of the most hilarious moments in a while( i was a ride the lightning scythe derv with air enchantment on my weapon for extra damage) just to close remember dont ever look on a build until you’ve seen it in use you dont know how usefull it may very well be.