This post is to summarize my view on the current WvW Metagame, as well as provide small constructive feedback about both current status of classes and small ideas. Usually I go by The Blue Rangerr, and am an admin at Metabattle.com for their WvW section. I will be aiming to keep all feedback at a realistic level, and maintain current class identities with any proposed changes, and encourage everyone to do the same. This marks the second of these posts, and with continued good feedback I will continue to summarise the metagame for each major balance update.
The aim of this post is to start some discussion and constructive feedback about the state of the Q1 2018 WvW Metagame. For the purpose of this discussion, I'll be sticking strictly to zerg v zerg builds, but please feel free to add in anything you find relevant to the roaming scene. I will be going on a class-by-class basis, looking at the roles, builds and strengths of each class and how they contribute to group gameplay. Feedback will be divided in to 'practical' (small changes that are realistic and will provide benefit to a fun game style) and 'Idealistic' (changes that are unlikely and large scale, but could diversify the game and create new fun ways to play).
Rather than commenting directly on 'pirate ship' or anything else, I will focus on the gameplay of each class and their strengths in the game mode. Ranged compositions remain extremely powerful for down generation from safe distances, but small numbers are still easily dominated by a comp with a strong close range core of scourges and firebrands. Melee groups suffer from both boon corruptions that prevent pushing and from an inability to tank the damage that has risen from 2 expansion's worth of power creep. Whilst damage has skyrocketed, defensive ability is not enough to keep up in the WvW setting, where even a full Minstrel heavy class can be destroyed in a split second to focused damage or errors in positioning. Once upon a time small errors could be forgiven, but now WvW is a high danger game mode for every class.
Guardian remains the king of the WvW meta, a must have in any comp ranging from smallmans to giant zergs. This lies mainly in its unique ability to provide considerable AoE stability, and with the Firebrand Elite Specialization the significant healing and condition cleansing it brings. The current metagame relies upon the firebrand to fill a support role through both boon support and healing, as well as providing vital crowd control. Without the support provided by the Firebrands, or once by the core Guardians, many classes would struggle to operate at all in WvW zerg gameplay. I remain firm in the belief that a metagame revolving around Guardian gameplay is a fun and stable place for the game mode- the only legitimate way to change this would be to add more stability options to other classes, as nerfing the Guardian extremely would see close quarters gameplay flounder.
In the current metagame, the Frontline Firebrand has shifted to an almost entirely Minstrel based build to support its unique boon support and healing. This further distinguishes its unique roles, with the damage dealing being left to other classes or Guardians built specifically for DPS. This means the Celestial Firebrand, whilst still seeing use, is on the decline when compared with its full support counterpart, as taking a single Firebrand in Minstrels can fill support role with only a single party slot. The Burn Dragonhunter, Burn Firebrand and Burn Core Guardian are all viable slots for damage, being used in numerous groups thanks to a substantial AoE pressure. Power builds such as Longbow DH, kitten Aegis Firebrand and Radiance Firebrand are growing in prevalence, but remain sub-optimal compared to other DPS classes available.
My main feedback for Guardian would be to keep its support abilities in tact, especially for the Firebrand, as it enables other classes to have fun and participate in the game mode. The nerfs Firebrand saw recently hit hardest in smallscale gameplay, but have leaked in to zerg v zerg battles as well. The healing reductions of the F2 Resolve Tome are not significant- a Minstrel Firebrand was already overhealing when using this tome- but hits to Mantras took their tole. The only realistic way to remove Guardian from the metagame is to bring another class up to the same level of Stability AoE uptime.
Necromancer, like the Guardian, has always been at the core of the WvW Metagame. This is because of immense AoE pressure as well as the ability to deal high damage, corrupt and control boons whilst maintain a moderate level of personal survivability. The Scourge Elite Specialisation is so powerful it defines the current metagame, thanks in no small part to its high AoE ground pressure, easy access to boon corrupts and variety of viable builds. The boon corrupts alone place scourge as a must have in any group. Boon counterplay is vital to generating downs, as boons are the primary method of sustain in the WvW metagame. Add to this the high damage output, and Scourge becomes not just a strong option but a must take option.
In the current metagame, Scourge also brings easily accessible Barrier and condition cleanse, as well as the unique ability to move downstate allies quickly on a low cooldown whilst reviving them. These 'Blood Scourges' have created a modern gameplay pattern revolving around the knowledge that enemy downs will most assuredly be moved in the North American servers, and is picking up traction in the EU. The power to control downstates has always been a vital part of any WvW metagame, whether it has been mass-cleave on downstates, blink stomps, stealthing downs, Mercy Rune revivals or now Transfusions. Giving this ability to the single best boon corrupter and AoE pressure class has created a vacuum for other specialisations. The idea of boon counterplay is vital to a fun WvW metagame, but currently Scourge is encouraged to fire off as many abilities as fast as possible, rather than focus on corruption or on targeting enemies.
The current state of Scourge sees them doing as much Power damage as Condition, if not more, thanks to the strength of Celestial Scourge. High power scaling on Desert Shroud, as well as the access to Wells, means that Power Scourges are a strong option for DPS. Condition based Scourge has taken a few hits, notably to the Curses trait 'Path of Corruption' and the condition changes that limited their burst ability. Despite this, condition based Scourge builds are still extremely powerful due to the nature of boon corruptions and the easy access the class has to a variety of damaging conditions, as well as a single trait 'Dhuumfire' that activates on all Shade skills. Support Scourge remains niche, without enough barrier or healing to be a competitive heal slot, but thanks to Transfusion can still have a place in any composition just for the safety of knowing a tanky, healing scourge will always be alive to move and revive your downed allies.
Elementalist has moved from damage, to support, back to damage over the course of the game's lifespan. Whilst retaining extremely powerful healing abilities and a unique access to multiple large AoE water fields, the massive damage output from the Staff weapon set is simply too high to ignore. Currently, Weaver is the highest potential damage class in the game, thanks a variety of AoE skills- many of which are ground targetted- and extremely high stat boosts from traitlines. Tempest has access to a variety of auras and the ability to heal through aura sharing, as well as the Water traitline's ability to focus on raw healing, cleansing, cooldowns or utility. All that Elementalist lacks is the ability to deal damage at melee range, due mostly due to an innate squishiness that requires too many stat investments in defense to allow for enough damage to be competitive.
In the current metagame, Weaver is taken as a DPS role with some access to CC and water fields, being extremely powerful in any ranged composition that tries to push as little as possible. Weaver is a true 'class cannon' in that it is extremely vulnerable and easy to burst down, punishing even slight mistakes in positioning or use of cooldowns. Tempest is one of the most viable healers, but sees little gameplay. This is mostly thanks to Firebrands providing similar healing output, but also much needed boon support. Since tanky boon and sustain comps are currently weak against Scourge and Revenant, it is hard to justify a spot for a Tempest when you could put in another damage dealer.
My feedback for Elementalist revolves mostly on giving viable ways to sustain in the frontline without giving up all of the damage dealing potential. Retaliation butchers the class at all ranges, but add to that the pressure of melee and the class simply cannot function for extended periods of time.
Since its inception, Revenant has been a class that helped define each WvW meta it was involved in. First as a frontline support class with Dwarf elite, then as a power Hammer backline class, then as a condi boon removal melee pusher, and now back again to a power Hammer backline build. The strength of the class for group settings lies in both boon support and raw, easy to access AoE damage. Only using 1 skill, Coalescence of Ruin, a revenant can easily out damage almost every class. Renegade brings a unique support element in the easy Alacrity it can provide, further improving a group's ability to deal damage, and also brings easy to access might stacks. As a class that can self sustain its own boons with pulsing Facets, Herald is the single best class to play alone in a zerg, where you can cover boons for yourself easily and deal high damage without a group around you.
In the current metagame, range is the king for Revenant, able to obliterate a group from a distance with minimal danger to themselves. The Herald healing skill along with an abundance of evades makes the class extremely difficult to focus even for builds with 0 defensive stats allocated. Brutality is a strong trait for removing stability, but should not be enough to stop a group before they make it to you alone. Slowly, the Condition Damage Revenant is making a rise in small man combat thanks almost entirely to Opportune Extraction, which now targets Stability as the first boon to the stolen. A guaranteed Stability removal, coupled with high condition damage, means this is one of the best ways to annihilate a group attempting to melee against you. Ventari Revenant, using either Herald or Renegade, is also extremely powerful and is one of the best healers when it comes to healing multiple parties at once, with a small target area. This requires a lot of micro managing of the tablet, and good positioning to ensure you are not cleaved out whilst going for heals on allies.
My thoughts for Revenant are mixed- I do not want to see power backline butchered, but CoR is simply too powerful and too high burst damage to be ignored. For a skill that cannot be reflected and is almost impossible to see, the damage dealing potential is extreme. Condition based builds are fantastic and a great way to play the game, but Opportune Extraction should certainly not target Stability first, just as it should not have targeted Resistance in the past. Ventari simply needs some better functionality and gameplay to be excellent, as all the tools are in the kit to make an excellent healer.
Thief is viable, but never optimal in a zerging situations. It is strong enough as a melee damage dealer with its Staff Daredevil build, but unfortunately any CC or condition burst utterly destroys this class instantly. The ranged Chokebow and Deadbow builds relying on Choking Gas are strong, but not strong enough to compete with any other DPS class. And since Thief cannot win in raw damage, it has no chance of getting a place in a zerg since it also brings no boon corrupts, meaningful CC or unique utility that other classes cannot also provide. Backline killing builds are excellent, but against a Scourge where the Shades are also going off around the caster it is extremely dangers, and power based Revenants can turn around and butcher the Thief if they are paying attention.
In the current metagame thief has no place, and would need significantly more stability or damage to be viable in the current zerg v zerg meta.
My thoughts for thief are trifold. It needs some form of personal Stability to counter the heavy boonrip meta it is playing against, access to another condition on the Shortbow, and the ability to get through reflect spams with its Rifle.
Mesmer got a massive shake up to the class with the Feb 6 Patch, and this has opened up some doors to builds that were previously only meme-worthy. Support Chronomancer remains as strong as ever for the unique utility it brings along with the boon support available. Power Mesmer as a DPS option because slightly more viable with the class rework, but has a long way to go before it can become any sort of Meta class. One of the biggest problems was that, at the same time as making a potentially viable build for Power Mesmer to work, they removed the Distortion from Protected Phantasms, a trait that was already weak in the WvW setting became useless.
In the current metagame, support Chronomancer is a powerhouse for bringing CC and support to a group, and is brilliant in moderation for its unique utilities and ability to remove boons and conditions. But variety is extremely lacking, with no viable power or condition build being available. Phantasmal Disenchanter is an incredibly powerful damage dealer and boonrip, and Phantasmal Defender is a high spike skill when landed, but spawns too close to the user to be properly viable in a zerg setting just yet.
My feedback for Mesmer revolves mostly around the Phantasm attacks and their function in WvW. In any setting with multiple enemies and large AoE attacks phantasms and clones become completely useless. This is a problem already acknowledged in PvE, where clones no longer took full damage from AoE attacks, but remains a killer for the class in WvW. Without clones, shatters are weakened and 1/5 skills for every weapon set become redundant.
Warrior exists simply to bring Winds of Disenchantment, which took a hefty nerf in the latest patch. In my opinion it now sits exactly where it should, a large area denial skill, but no longer instantly butchers the boons off all inside. The class is actually a fairly strong damage dealer and has many boonrips thanks to various skills from the Spellbreaker kit, and now that Winds is no longer AS MUCH of a game breaker, Warriors have the chance to experiment with further gameplay options and builds. Berserker is a strong DPS option that suffers from the need to be in melee range even more than Spellbreaker, lacking Full Counter to assist in the sustain department. In terms of support Warrior falls far behind any other class, lacking enough healing, condition cleanse or group buffs for moving allies to be meaningful.
In the current metagame, all groups need to take Spellbreakers for Winds of Disenchantment. The area denial creates space for ranged comps or allows melee comps to focus enemies and generate significant downs. Along with this, the Spellbreaker has decent boonrip outside of the winds, and moderate damage if allowed to cleave in melee range. Berserker can be an extremely competitive DPS slot, but with the boon removal meta in full swing there is no way for it to sustain in melee range against Scourges. Outside of Melee range there is no viable option at all for Warrior in a zerg scenario.
My feedback for the Warrior is minimal, I strongly believe the Winds nerf was enough to keep the class in the meta but prevent a single skill from being completely overpowered. Winds is still a powerhouse of a skill.
Rangers have a few decent options available to them in zerg fights, but nothing strong enough to solidify a place in the metagame. Frontline Soulbeast has excellent utility through stances and extremely high damage output- but thanks to a 360 radius on the Stances in unable to be a main stability provider or give out enough meaningful utility. Longbow Soulbeast can demolish backline targets, especially Weavers, with very little risk to themselves. This is countered by the inability to consistantly put out DPS pressure and a lack of utility when at this range. Frontline Druid Healer is another of the best healers for healing large groups, but despite huge healing and might output is extremely vulnerable to conditions with little to no area cleanse and minimal personal cleanse. Condition based frontline builds are somewhat viable, capable of dealing reasonable damage with good utility, but the damage is too low to consider taking one over any other class.
In the current metagame only Druid Healer and Frontline Soulbeast are viable slots to take, but not optimal. Ventari Renegade can do the same job as the Druid but with the addition of Alacrity and a spammable AoE condition cleanse, and Frontline Soulbeast whilst having high enough damage to compete with any class cannot keep themselves alive without extreme party support, relying too heavily on Protection which is easily removed. The buff to Greatsword was a fantastic step in the right direction, taking a laughably underpowered attack and making it decent.
My feedback for Ranger is for Arenanet to continue in the direction of the last balance patch, fixing up pet skills and improving some of the laughable weak skills available. Along with this, additional cleansing power and stance radius would go a long way in giving Ranger a solid place in the meta.
This patch gave Scrapper a huge buff to personal and group support, turning a class that was almost entirely a damage dealer with minimal group support in to a powerhouse at condition cleansing that can also bring stealth and other utility. However, Scrapper still lacks any significant damage output, and that makes it still a very competitive slot to take since you would sacrifice a lot of damage for the condition conversions. Holosmith is the highest damage dealer in a zerg if it can get in to melee range and stay there- but it cannot. Self sustain is a huge problem for the class, inherantly squishy, vulnerable to conditions and power damage alike. The problem lies in the distribution of traits and utilities- Warrior for example can take damage oriented traits and be carried through by their stances and high base defensive stats- whereas Engineer is required to trait and gear quite defensively to survive, which then cuts their DPS to a level that is simply not viable.
In the current metagame, Scrapper is evolving to become a solid pickup in any comp, able to bring stealth and reveals along with modest damage and great condi to boon conversions that help a lot- albeit in moderation. Holosmith is sitting out of this meta, unable to push without heavy group support. If it can get among the enemy, it becomes extremely powerful, but at range they lack any meaningful DPS option to help with downtime in pushing.
My feedback for Engineer is mostly to give the class a viable ranged option that is not butchered by reflects and enables them to maintain damage outside of pushing, as well as small personal sustain buffs to Holosmith to help carry it through the oppressive damage of Scourge and Revenants.
Well, thats about all I have for this current Metagame. This list is compiled of my own reaction, results of extensive testing, feedback from both the Metabattle discord, website comments, official Forum class sections, WvW section and the official subReddit. Please add in your own feedback. My personal opinion on this metagame is that it is actually quite enjoyable- but could do with allowing more options for engaging at melee (the dream?). Currently, some boon rips and conversions are a huge problem for melee gameplay, and would love to see some sort of %dmg reducing infusion to help combat the power creep, but don't believe this is in itself a strong solution.
Please let me know anything I have missed, and lets start a good discussion that can HOPEFULLY be used in future balancing, or at least raise some questions that the devs can answer for us