I've been playing this game for several years since I was in high school, and I've had a long time to watch the combat mechanics of GW2 go from Esport potential, to the sad state they are in today. Only be recognizing our past failures do we have any chance of salvaging the future.
Failure #1. Infrequent and often trivial balance patches to a sophisticated and diverse game with limitless customization
Guild Wars 2 offers many ways to customize your play style through dozens of different stat prefixes, traits, runes, sigils and skills. A single class could easily produce dozens if not hundreds of functional builds. Among those array of builds it is inevitable that there will be a couple of builds with unusually high performance that soon become classified as meta. With so much customization, and potential to produce broken builds, Anet should have taken a more involved role in balancing the game, especially during the launches of new expansions. It was a grave mistake to let builds like immortal-mesmer make a mockery of a once plausible esport contender, or builds like chill-reaper/revs and scourgebrand to run rampant in WvW. I believe that if anet was **serious **about having a balanced, competitive and perhaps even esport recognition, they needed to release combat patches at least as often as any other esport game such as starcraft 2 or LoL. The expected time-cadence should be about every 3 months, not the 5-6 months that we have right now. To make matters worse, the patches we have now aren't necessarily even tailored to PvP; they are instead holistic patches for PvE+PvP that usually only scratch the very surface of grievances for each game mode. This leads us into the next failure
Failure #2. The reluctance to distinguish and balance the combat system according to different game modes
There are arguably four major game modes in GW2, and combat varies so extremely across them that the game would never be balanced unless we treated them as different combat environments entirely. The first game mode is PvE which encompasses raids, dungeons and open world. For the most part any meta raid build would work just fine in a dungeon or in open world. The second game mode is SPvP which is generally taken to be 5v5 domination style combat. In general, these modes were balanced separately but I still feel like a few "PvE" changes were casually seeped into PvP.
The third and fourth combat environments are unique to WvW. My classifications are a bit arbitrary but I'll explain why I chose to partition WvW into two systems. The first combat environment is basically small scale which encompasses the lone roamer, and up to maybe 6-7 man havoc groups. Build wise they are similar to Spvp but often have inflated stats due to more efficient stat combos and food, and more emphasis on sustained combat and cleave damage as compared to their SPvP counterparts focused a bit more on faster mobility and more single target damage so that you can rotate points more efficiently. The fourth combat mode which I would dub reverse quantum mechanics is large scale combat which generally encompasses organized groups or guild with 15 or more people led by some sort of driver. What prominently distinguishes large scale from small scale is that hybrid builds become almost entirely replaced by specialized builds focusing on either pure damage, or pure group sustain. I think the comparison between quantum mechanics and classical mechanics suitable because once you approach a certain size regime (player count>15) skills like group sustain, and glass aoe damage become exponentially stronger!
If you take a meta build from each other these game modes and attempt to use it in another you will notice a sharp drop in performance because the objective and interactions of those game modes are entirely different. You can **never ** balance any of the game modes by using a 1 size-fits-all approach because they are so vastly different.
Failure #3. Allowing combo fields to become obsolete and phased out in favor monopolistic profession based system.
Something that I think rarely gets discussed is how we basically made combo-fields obsolete by heart of thorns by taking all the advantages we got from combo-finishers and shifting them onto one or two professions. A quick history lesson, back in the Scarx days guilds used to rely on blasting fire fields to generate might (and empower), and blasting water fields to recover health. It used to be the hallmark of any competent and organized group to manage combo fields. However, ever since I believe HOT we suddenly had access to unprecedented group sustain capabilities through minstrel water tempests and for a time uber-boonshare. The problem with this transition is that when combo fields were the primary means of buffing a group, almost every profession and every build with a couple of blast finishers could contribute in the buffing process. Compared to now, there is no point in blasting fields because the return of investment pales in comparison to advantages of outsourcing all sustain and buffing responsibility to one person in the party. For example, there are only two widely accepted meta healers in existence; minstrelbrand and minstrelscrapper and every other build is leagues behind to the point where two classes have a duopoly on sustain. Mechanics like these hurt diversity in the game and often promote discriminatory behavior when including people in squads.