Hello all, I’m Nikephoros of Death and Taxes [DnT]. There has been some spirited debate on the forums lately 0ver some of the builds that have been posted. We don’t (thankfully) have DPS meters, and the various calculators and spreadsheets I’ve seen all fall short of adequately describing real-world, in-game conditions. The unfortunate result is a lot of low-DPS builds are posted by authors who describe them as “high DPS” with “excellent survivability.” My goal here is to describe why these sort of builds are not optimal for instanced content, organized OR pug.
There is no difference between boon stacking and signet stacking
A lot of builds I’ve seen lately rely on a lot of points into Tactics to enable some kind of boon stacking strategy. This is merely a marginal improvement over the mockable 5 signet build. The 5 signet build sacrifices all team utility and party-wide buffs for a small increase in personal DPS. We all (I hope) recognize this is very bad. But what, really, are the boon stacking/shout builds doing? They are sacrificing personal DPS for a small increase in team utility. This only a slight improvement over the signets.
The Tactics builds utilize very good utility skills, but normal DPS builds ALSO use those same skills. So what do the Tactics builds get for their huge investment into Tactics that the DPS builds don’t get? Slightly longer boon duration and some marginal party-wide healing. The lesson here is that the team-wide utility is generated by the Utility Skills themselves, and the Tactics-related bonuses are more or less meaningless. More specifically, Shake it Off, For Great Justice and On My Mark are skills that provide huge team utility in ANY warrior build. Adding a small amount of healing does NOT add significantly more utility than the skill itself already does. A real world example would buying an add-on for a product you purchased: would you pay double the price for a supplement to a product you own that will only make it 5% better? Ofcourse not, that is a poor investment. Putting 20 or 30 points into Tactics or Defense in order to gain a very tiny benefit is an extremely poor investment of your trait points.
You’re not going to be Superman, and you don’t have to be
A second failing of these builds is that they try to be Superman. They want to fulfill every team role, and excel at every role. They want to provide party heals. They want to provide direct DPS. They want to tank. They want to CC. Even the creators of these builds will admit that they are sacrificing a lot to achieve “balance.” The defense they cite is, “in pugs I cannot count on ______ to do _____.” This is flawed thinking. If everyone went into pugs with this mentality, you would have 5 flawed builds floundering to accomplish the tasks at hand. If you were playing a build designed to fulfill a single focused role, you might still have 4 flawed builds, but you would have at least 1 good build you could count on, and your pug would be better for it.
Specialization is the key to efficiency. Some classes are quite simply better than others at fulfilling particular roles in PvE. If everyone builds towards their class’s strengths, the team prospers. Let me be perfectly clear: the Warrior is capable of providing the most DPS in instanced content. This is the role they do better than anyone else, and this is the reason why you would bring a Warrior to your team rather than another Guardian.
Not only do Warriors have the best potential personal DPS, their best utility skills are force multipliers. FGJ, On My Mark, Banner of Discipline require no trait investment to be excellent and each increases the DPS of your team significantly. Once you have the proper skills on your utility bar, your job of providing utility is, by and large, over. From that point your consideration should be maximizing your own DPS, not being an inferior Guardian.
Is a Warrior with 30 Tactics for shout heals, or for maximizing Rune of Lyssa, providing significantly more team utility with their FGJ and OMM than a generic 25/25/0/0/20 DPS build? I would argue not. They are giving away between 25-30% DPS (my estimate) for an immeasurably small amount of team utility in case of the shout build, and in the case of boon stacking, for a minor amount of Vitality. This is not a worthy trade off, in either case.
In summary, orienting all your traits in order to stack boons on yourself is just as selfish in a team build as stacking signets is. Dungeons and Fractals are a team game, and specialization and defined roles is how you complete them most quickly and most painlessly. You don’t need to be a better Guardian than your Guardian and you certainly don’t need to be a better Mesmer than your Mesmer.
Trait Points are for hitting desired traits, not for stat numbers
Simply put, your trait points are best utilized hitting the particular major and minor traits that you want your build to have. Your personal survivability should be decided by your gear, not your traits. If you are not comfortable running a glass cannon that is entirely understandable. I would rather have an inexperienced player running full Knights and stay up than full Zerker and going down constantly. In short: I’m not opposed to people adding Knights pieces until they have the survivability they are seeking.
What I am opposed to is dumping 30 points into Defense or Tactics in order to get the survivability they are seeking. The traits that most positively increase a warrior’s DPS potential are in Arms, Strength and to a lesser extent, Discipline. Failing to hit the key traits in these lines will drastically lower your DPS. Trading away these key traits for Vitality or Toughness is a horrible maneuver, especially considering that you can get the desired Vitality or Toughness from gear without missing out on your key offensive traits. For example, a 25/25/0/0/20 warrior in an optimal mix of Knights and Berserkers will significantly out DPS a 0/20/30/10/10 warrior in full Berserkers AND do so without being significantly squishier.
The game mechanics encourage crit based stacked melee
This should go without saying, but the game mechanics as they exist today encourage instance groups to play crit builds with stacked melee. Melee DPS in general is higher than ranged thanks to increased attack speed and cleave damage, and once you know how to dodge properly it carries no significant increase in risk. More specifically, crit based melee builds have better DPS than straight power stacking builds or condition builds. And when Blackberry/Mixedberry/Omnomberry Pies are considered, the crit builds have better defense as well.
What does this mean for warriors? It means that your most optimal build for instanced content is a crit based melee build (with utility skills to force multiply crit based melee) utilizing weapons that encourage this playstyle. To be precise, Greatsword and Axe. Swords are close, but too reliant on condition damage. Hammers and Maces provide a lot of CC that is useless on any difficult fight and have lower DPS than Sword. If your build wastes any traits to maximize Hammers, maces or swords you are suboptimal. If your build uses Axes or Greatsword but isn’t focused on crit based melee potential, it is suboptimal.
Easy content is no excuse to slack off, difficult content is no excuse to water down your build
I hear a version of these fallacies all the time in defense of bad builds.
“CoF is easy, so who cares what build I run?”
Just because something is easy, does not mean you should gimp yourself by playing a suboptimal build. In an organized group, that means you are slowing down your friends. In a pug, you are wasting peoples’ time because you’re too selfish to put in an honest effort.
Easy content, rather than an excuse to slack off, is an encouragement to go faster. Sure, any crappy build can do CoF1 in 10 minutes. But only efficient builds can do it in 6. Why are you satisfied with mediocrity? Why is “good enough” good enough? You shouldn’t be, and it isn’t. This is a loser mentality. Winner mentality is pushing yourself to excel even when you don’t have to.
“This build is also good for open world pve and WvW.”
In open world PvE, when you play a joke build, you are wasting your own time. When you play a joke build in instanced content you are wasting 4 other peoples’ time. The former is fine because you’re entitled to waste your own time killing trash mobs in Orr or fighting Jormag events. Wasting a pug group’s time with your bad build is pretty disrespectful.
As far as WvW goes, I’m glad you enjoy it. I enjoy it a lot too. But my enjoyment of it does not entitle me to gimp pugs with a bad build, and it definitely would not be acceptable to foist a bad build on my guildmates in an organized run because I’m preserving a WvW spec that is suboptimal for PvE content.
“Being a glass cannon stops working in hard content.”
This fallacy is painfully wrong. Your 30 Tactics or Defense will not save you from a failure to dodge an agony attack at level 40+. Those same wasted trait points will not make you an uber tank who can steamroll the difficult sections of the dredge or grawl fractal. No amount of Tactics or Defense traits will allow you to tank Subject Alpha or Lupicus without dodging.
Once you start difficult content, you will rapidly become aware that your survivability is contingent solely upon your ability to dodge, and how often you can proc your Omnomberry Pie food and how good your Guardian is at minimizing how much splash damage you take. The most difficult dungeon fights (Lupicus, Alpha, Simin) are either DPS checks and/or dodge checks. The best possible builds for any of those encounters are DPS glass cannons designed to end the encounter as fast as possible.
No matter how badly you want the game mechanics to encourage a balanced build that is more effective than a DPS glass cannon while specced into defensive trait, the game mechanics do not. The faster you acclimate to the actual game you’re playing rather than building for the game you want to be playing, the better your results will be.
Unique for the sake of uniqueness is not a redeeming quality
I understand that a lot of people hate build conformity. They want to be unique, and not be told what they “have” to run. Contrarians are a necessary part of the game and society in general. Challenging the status quo is how new discoveries are made and how progress happens. I encourage everyone to theory-craft and buildcraft to their heart’s content.
Unfortunately, there is a difference between being unique because you’re an innovator, and being unique for the sake of being unique. Most of the trash builds people post are authored by the later. They would rather gimp themselves and their party than lose their uniqueness. This is selfish, as I described. On the other hand, there are people that simply want e-fame from creating a popular build. They will invent ridiculous ad hoc rationalizations to defend their poor choices and ignore any and all valid criticisms. Without getting into specific examples, this is detestable.
Lastly, the concept of crowdsourcing in an MMO means that the chances a lone innovator’s conclusions are better than the crowd’s are miniscule. In the rare event that an innovator invents a build concept superior to the meta, the crowd will embrace it, and refine it in the crucible of thousands of runs. The chances your Tactics or Defense oriented Warrior build is more optimal for instanced PvE than the meta DPS builds is infinitesimally small. Thus, everyone should be skeptical of such builds until proven otherwise, preferably with indisputable video evidence. When a person claims, “My build does more DPS than glass cannons AND is way more survivable!” that person is likely either honestly mistaken, self-deluded or a liar. Or any of the several possible combinations. What are likely not is more clever or insightful than the collective crowd of extremely skilled and intelligent people playing the game.
AzureRogueMember Since 28 Nov 2012
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