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Monday, August 28, 2006

Guild Wars: Sealed at PAX

Since I've just about recovered from PAX, I thought it would be a good idea to write up a report of the Sealed Guild Wars competition from my point of view. The official report on Day 1 is already up - I'm the guy pictured with not a whole lot of hair. I'm just going to talk about the Sealed competition here since mostly apart from that I was helping my wife out on the GW Live event.

Firstly, a description of the format. You were playing Team Arena with the normal arenas. Each player in the team of 4 got 16 skill cards to share with their team. The cards were randomized with 3 levels of rarity, listed as "ranks". It seemed like basic toolkit cards were rank 3 (commonest, I think), stronger cards were rank 2 and narrow cards were rank 1. Update: apparently elites were rank 1. For example:
  • Lyssa's Balance - rank 3
  • Drain Enchantment - rank 2
  • Icy Veins - rank 1
From your pool of 68 cards total, you had to build 4 normal PvP characters. Charm Animal and Resurrection Signet were "freebies" - any character could use those without a card. Multiples of cards were possible.

16 cards per player seemed a little slim - it felt a bit like playing old-school Magic sealed where you only got 1 booster on top of the sealed deck and no extra land. There were some pretty wide distributions in terms of skill pool power although I did feel that play skill and build strategy was still very significant. I should note that no matter what the skill pools are people will bitch, moan and complain about it. A classic example of this syndrome was the last sealed game I played at the Factions prerelease, where our opponents complained bitterly that the skill selection was unfair - but it later turned out that both teams had the same skill pool to build from.

I was playing with some of the other PIE guildmembers. Sadly, we only had 2 players there who are really active PvP players right now. In the first round, we had a draw with some good defensive stuff (Expel Hexes, Mend Ailment and a selection of solid healing spells) but very limited offense. Specifically, we had:
  • no interrupts
  • no knockdowns except Whirlwind and Bane Signet
  • a total of 3 Warrior skills (only 1 of which actually did damage)
  • no lead attack for an Assassin
  • 4 elementalist damage skills (Ice Spikes, Whirlwind, Lightning Touch and Meteor Shower)
  • no damage spells for a Necromancer
  • no damage preps for a Ranger and Melandru's Shot and Focused Shot as the only bow attacks
We did have Zealot's Fire, Strength of Honor, Scourge Healing and Bane Signet. This was the source of my first big mistake here - we ended up running a smiter. This was a terrible call since Zealot's Fire doesn't really do a lot without some really spammable spells and energy management to back it up. The second mistake was that the Necro ended up running Blood is Power as his elite - whereas given our lack of offense Wither would have been a much better call.

Our initial build was an axe W/R with pet, a smiter, a healer and a necro. Empathy on the necro was good but not a lot else - we didn't have a really good energy sink for BiP that justified the massive health sacrifice.

Our opponents had done a much better job of assembling a build and had (if I remember correctly) an Assassin with full attack chain, a shutdown Mesmer, a Necro and a decent Monk with Life Sheath. Predictably, we were crushed both due to our bad build and some bad play - we should really have instantly targeted the Assassin and tried to DP him as much as possible. Once we'd played a round or two we were playing a little better so there was an actual fight but it was still pretty pathetic. We were swept, 3 games to 0.

In retrospect, the build I would have run with the skill pool we had:
  • the same axe W/R with pet
  • a bow R/A with Focused Shot and Melandru's Shot, a pet, Caltrops and nothing else
  • the healer monk
  • the necro with Wither, Parasitic Bond and Empathy
Milling around between matches, I did notice a few players I recognised from the various GW forums - notably Wasteland Squidget (team UAX), Vindexus (team Reconnects) and Samyel (spectating).

In the second round we played, instead of that we did add the R/A and replaced the smiter with a W/E with Ice Spikes as his only real skill. Alas, this time round we were playing against Vindexus's team with a Crippling Shot ranger who predictably wrecked our hapless Warrior duo. Another savage beating. Ah well, lessons learned and all that.

On Day 2, we ended up being one of the lucky teams selected to play against the devs. It may well have helped that one of the QA guys (mentioning no names here...) was a friend of ours. This time we switched out one player (StonkingBytes for Spleen of Nannor, who really wanted to play). We had a better skill pool this time up on offense but our monk skills were nonexistent. We ended up running:
  • Rt/Mo with Preservation and Union
  • A/W with Black Mantis Thrust -> Fox Fangs -> Nine Tail Strike and Disrupting Blow
  • Beastmaster with Disrupting Lunge
  • Blood Necro with Dark Pact / Vampiric Gaze
which was a lot better although weak on defense. We ended up losing 2-1 in some hard-fought games. On game 3 in the Ice Arena I personally kited 3 of their team round the length of the map at less than 50 health the whole way, which was quite amusing. Alas, when my Chariots of Fire impression ended up at our Priest he was already dead and the game was over shortly after. Some great games, though.

I was playing the Necro, one of my favourite roles. I have the skill bars for the Necro and Beastmaster, both of which were pretty reasonable for Sealed play:
  • Necro: Dark Pact, Vampiric Gaze, Icy Veins, Reckless Haste, Drain Enchantment, Inspired Hex, Lyssa's Balance, Resurrection Signet.
  • Ranger: Disrupting Lunge, Maiming Strike, Dodge, Viper's Nest, Kindle Arrows, Needling Shot, Charm Animal, Resurrection Signet.
Personally, I'd probably have switched out Needling Shot for Comfort Animal on the Ranger since I think the opposing team is much more likely to target the pet if you have Disrupting Lunge.

The final 2 teams came down to team UAX (Squidget) vs. team Reconnects (Vindexus) with UAX walking away with the gold and a $4,000 prize. Alas, I was working and couldn't watch the match although I heard that both teams had strong builds and the games were a real battle. Congratulations to the winning team!

Update: the official site now has coverage of the finals including the builds.

Update update: more coverage of the Sealed from Dimlight (thanks Samyel!)

Update The Third: Weapon of Choice has interviews with a couple of the players.


Blogger ironcat said...

Nice summary. It was cool chatting with you, and I'm glad you had fun.


8/31/2006 05:05:00 PM  
Blogger Clamatius said...

I've had a couple of questions on what the hell we were doing with the Ice Spikes guy in the second match.

The theory was that since we had basically no damage skills, a warrior who just hit T-Space the whole match with no skills may be better than running another character with terrible skills. We actually seriously considered having 2x empty-bar guy + a monk, but ended up figuring that spamming Focused Shot would be better.

Turns out Ice Spikes Guy wasn't good at all if the opposing team had a Cripshotter. I think Vindexus's team would have stuck us on a stick and cleaned the floor with us anyway, cripshot or no, but it was an interesting experiment nonetheless.

And yes, mea culpa - I forgot to switch out legs and hands to Gladiators to make it to the magical 25 energy for Meteor Shower. That's what I get for never playing Warriors, I guess. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have cast the Shower - I'd rather have just have Ice Spiked again and that's why I didn't bother taking the time to go back to reroll.

8/31/2006 05:22:00 PM  
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