Mesmerize the World
The mesmer is one of the most feared duelists in Tyria and the Mists; her myriad illusions confuse and distract enemies, allowing the mesmer to dance and flit about a flailing foe, and to hew into him at her choosing. But the massive battles of World vs World are a far cry from the intimate, controlled killings of structured pvp. No amount of illusions will be can distract an onrushing zerg or confuse an incoming trebuchet shot. The mesmer must dig deep into her pool of available skills to be effective in large scale warfare. In this edition of PvMesmer we will examine some of the most useful mesmers skills and in the context of WvW's unique form of combat.
Anyone familiar with WvW knows the most heated action revolves around the gates to a tower or keep. From the outside, the thick walls of these bastions can be quite challenging to breach. Furthermore, the NPC guards, defensive fortifications, and player characters on top of those walls pose an additional impediment to living. Before going to work on the gates, an assaulting force needs to make sure they can survive a fight on the enemy's doorstep. You need to clear the walls of fortifications, drive back defenders, and when possible, eliminate them outright. There's no profession that can clear the walls quite as quickly as an elementalist layering AoE's, but the mesmer has its own set of tools to put pressure on erstwhile defenders, and even a few tricks that can really make her the envy of an assault team.
Clear the walls
The mesmer's signature AoE spell, Chaos Storm, is nothing to scoff at. With a very flashy effect as well as six condition applications – most notably daze and chill – Chaos Storm is a respectable wall clearer. Another mesmer option for clearing walls is to use phantasms; the two options in this case are the greatsword's Phantasmal Berserker and the focus' Phantasmal Warden.
The advantage of a phantasm is that it does not have a duration, and will continue its grim work until it or its target is destroyed. The warden is largely stationary, but outputs a great deal of damage at its location, and is good at chipping away at defensive structures like cannons or oil cauldrons while blocking – or reflecting – projectiles. The berserker is, as of this writing, the stronger choice; the berserker is infamous for being the one phantasm able to be cast without line of sight, allowing it to barrel even through foes that have retreated from the battlements.
Pick them off
Putting pressure on the walls and destroying fortifications is very well and good, but defenders can retreat to safe harbor behind their walls where they can heal and prepare before redoubling their efforts. One of the most amazing tricks a mesmer can pull off is keeping an enemy in the line of fire, or even delivering him right into the middle of your battle lines for easy access. The focus skill Temporal Curtain chains into Into the Void, a skill that pulls nearby enemies in a straight line towards it; placing the temporal curtain on the side of a wall can give defenders a nasty surprise as they find themselves yanked back into a dozen layered AoEs, or in some cases outside their own walls and at the tender mercies of your bloodthirsty horde. There is nothing quite so satisfying as looking straight into the eyes of the ranger pelting you with arrows before flinging him flailing over the side of his own battlements.
Let's take a look at the situation from the other side of the wall now. The defender's aim is to outlast the assault; bunkering down until the enemy moves on to other targets is just as successful a defense as routing an assault and chasing them to the hills. So while Chaos Storm, Phantasmal Warden and Phantasmal Berserker are very solid skills in encouraging an assault to not press too close, a few other tactics can tip the playing field in your favor.
Unseen above the fray
To avoid being nuked down by assaulting forces, mesmers – like thieves – can enter stealth; Veil and Mass Invisibility can cloak your allies while The Prestige and Decoy can be used on the fly. Moving unseen atop a wall allows extra time to survey enemy forces and determine where best to focus your efforts. Getting a better angle to nuke down a flame ram or call out an overzealous assailant weakens an enemy assault that much more. Stealth is also well employed when you find yourself outside your own walls; when forcibly pulled off your own ramparts, stealth is one of the most reliable methods to escape to safety back behind your own walls.
A slippery creature
Speaking of escaping, mesmers possess perhaps the most versatile skill in the game: Portal. By placing one end of a portal in the safety of your own stronghold, you have a quick out no matter where you end up. Not only do you have an escape route you can place at will, but you can save someone else's bacon too; any ally can also use your portal to make a quick getaway. Portals aren't just for emergencies either; when the gates are fully encircled by besiegers, portaling in reinforcements from the back prevents unnecessary casualties.
Portal also saves you the return trip when that downed enemy is just too tempting and you're suddenly throwing yourself bodily off your own walls so you can 'F' him to death. It sounds crazy, but mesmers are also some of the best executioners in the middle of an enemy siege; the combination of stealth skills and portal can get the mesmer in and out of a situation that no other profession would dream of surviving.
Barring the door
Some other mesmer tricks can be pulled off from within your walls, safely behind the closed gates. Is the enemy knocking on your doors with hammer, blade and ram? Often a Chaos Storm or Blurred Frenzy will get their attention and knocking them off their feet with Into the Void or Illusionary Wave can send them into a temporary retreat. If the enemy is primarily bombarding your gates with projectile weapons, a well placed Feedback bubble will shield your door while sending back enough confusion-laced projectiles into the enemy throng to give them pause.
While the towers and keeps are the focal points of contention, when a zerg meets another zerg and they love each other very much, a bloodbath is born. In an open field battle with large numbers of people, AoE becomes the preferred form of damage. This means the mesmer can't rely on clones and phantasm staying up for more than a few seconds; the mesmer's illusions are best treated as one off damage spells. The Phantasmal Berserker and Warden are the best choices to deal damage to an enemy formation before getting pounded out of existence. While the mesmer has plenty of damage to go around – in this case particularly with the greatsword – the mesmer's toolkit has so much utility it would be tragic not to apply some of those abilities with a bit more creativity.
With all the skills flying around during a massive battle, so many combo finishers will be deployed that the effects of any combo field skill will be magnified many fold – and the mesmer's ethereal combo fields are some of the best. Chaos Storm damages and inflicts conditions while also granting boons to allies, including the prized aegis; Feedback turns the enemy's projectile damage into your own; Null Field cleans all conditions from your forces while making sure no boons stick to your foes; the phenomenal Time Warp doubles again the damage of your army, unleashing a withering fusillade of inhuman proportions. All of these skills further magnify the strength of your fighters as they are enveloped in protective Chaos Armors and begin stacking deadly confusion on your enemies.
An evolving situation
Most of the other capabilities previously mentioned will also find a use during skirmishes. Stealth skills allow you and others to move unseen about the battlefield, finding more opportune places to strike or cover a temporary retreat. Projectile reflection via Feedback or focus skills traited with Warden's Feedback protect your forces while redoubling the damage done to the enemy. The pull from Into the Void can be an unpleasant surprise for some frontline enemies as they find themselves suddenly in the midst of your forces. Place a Portal somewhere safe, and you'll never have to worry about getting caught too far behind enemy lines. The situation is so fluid when fighting in the field, it's impossible to comprehensively list what skills should be used when, but mesmer skills have so much utility and are so multi-faceted there will always be a use for some skill during a fight.
You may sometimes find yourself apart from your zerg, or have chosen to move about the map in smaller numbers. In this case, the dynamics of engagement change drastically. The most important capabilities in a small group or solo situation are mobility and overwhelming damage. You never know whether the single foe you see is a lone wolf or an outrider for a larger force. If you choose to engage, it is wise to finish quickly; the longer you perform the dance of death, the closer death my come in the form of a thousand swords and arrows. The mesmer's best tools for fast upfront damage are the greatsword, the one handed sword (in either hand) and the pistol. Coupled with the ultimate 1v1 Moa Morph elite skill, the mesmer is fully capable of dispatching even two enemies in quick succession.
The best skills to duel and dispatch enemies are not the best to survive, however. If caught unawares, no amount of Moa Morphing or Phantasmal Berserkers will save your hide. Stealth skills, the swiftness boon, Blink and Distortion are all part of the mesmer's repetoire of skills and are fine getaway tools. Still, none of them at all measure up to the efficiency and facility of Portal. A solid skill in many situations, portal is indispensible for a lone roamer; placing a portal in a safe area before heading into the unknown gives a one minute safety tether that can provide a quick and easy out for even the most dire of situations. Given the Guild Wars 2 engine's maddening propensity for not rendering a horde of enemies until they are snarling at you from within arm's reach, a guaranteed escape route like portal is one of the wisest investments of a skill slot.
I cannot in good conscience write an article about mesmers in WvW without mentioning the jumping puzzle known as the Obsidian Sanctum and the infamous dark room. Portals are already far too useful for their own good in jumping puzzles; and in an adversarial setting where you actively compete against enemies, it becomes an indispensible tool. Movement throughout the puzzle becomes nearly unrestricted for any team with a mesmer, as anyone who falls or is picked off by the opposition can be accessed and resurrected without penalty, and entire sections of the puzzle can be bypassed if the mesmer is decent at navigating the dungeon.
The mesmer's formidable selection of other utility skills also increases in potency in this setting. Invisibility, especially shared with allies, can make all the difference in a surprise engagement. When dealing with a foe launching arrows or rocks at your position, Feedback and Phantasmal Warden gives you some breathing room to plan your next move. The push and pull from Illusionary Wave and Into the Void, respectively, are powerful tools to level the playing field in an asymmetric encounter; pulling an enemy off an inaccessible ballista or throwing a foe off a cliff to even the numbers in a team fight is immensely satisfying. With considerable stealth options, projectile reflection, powerful enemy control abilities and the unmatched utility of Portal, the mesmer is a veritable terror to deal with – an invisible stalker haunting the depths of the Obsidian Sanctum.
Great armies clash across the vast battlefields of the Mists. Castles, keeps and towers are assaulted, defended, taken and held. Mighty engines of war spew their death dealing works against mortal flesh. Honed blades strike the life from bodies as deadly magicks scar the air amidst deadly melees. In the throes of warring chaos, the mesmer plays a vital part: her grand illusions and can change the tide of a battle, her deceptive manipulations can secure important objectives, her razor-edged dueling skills ruthlessly eliminate the lone enemy saboteur. No matter the situation, the mesmer shows her quality as one of the most versatile warriors in the eternal Mist War.