This guide will give you a more detailed strategy based on what type of build you are running. In the Random Arenas, there are five roles a character can play. These are: Spiking, Healing, Pressure, Shutdown, and Support. If a player knows how to play his/her role well it can have a major impact on the battle.
It is important to note that effective builds specialise in one of the above roles. Builds that try to cover too much, or aren't designed with a particular purpose in mind, will typically fail to have any effect on the course of the match. There are some hybrid exceptions, but these are more often seen in higher-level team-orientated PvP.
The role of a Spiker is to quickly and unexpectedly kill an enemy by unleashing high amounts of damage in a very short period of time, typically no more than 5 seconds for high-damage combinations. Assassins are particularly adept at spiking due to their armour-ignoring damage bonuses with most attack skills, but many builds have some spike capability. A spike chain does not necessarily have to inflict enough damage to kill a full-health target; a spiker can combine their offense with another player to bring down an opponent. Due to the nature of RA, coordinated attacks is nearly impossible, but often only a small amount of additional pressure is needed to eliminate an opponent with a spike chain.
If you are a spiker, start the battle by surveying the enemy. Look for squishy (i.e. low-armour) targets to start with; Monks, Mesmers and Necromancers are priority targets, but do not rush in to spike. Eliminating the enemy Monk is often the key to wiping out the whole team, but the Monk may be the hardest target to kill -- be mindful if the Monk has any enchantments on them. The enchantment may be something defensive like Protective Spirit that would make spiking very difficult.
Instead, attack another player but do not spike him. This may cause the Monk to stop protecting himself and focus on your target. This is the opportune moment to spike the Monk or a different target. However, if another player is attacking the Monk, the Monk will defend himself, in which case, spike any undefended squishy target. Also, if your healer is having trouble with a particularly annoying attacker, it may be more prudent to spike that target to relieve pressure from your monk.
In general, choose your target and be sneaky about your spike. It is usually a bad idea to spike the target you're attacking. Spikes are unexpected and should be timed so that the Monk is unable to protect the target. Poor spikers will be predictable in their actions movements, while good spikers will constantly be assessing the battle and determining who and when to spike.
The Healer is an essential component of any team, and Random Arena is no exception. While it is possible to win without a healer in the team, having a healer will make the team far more resilient, though by no means guaranteeing victory. Monks are the traditional healers in Guild Wars, although Ritualists and some specialised Dervish builds can also provide healing support.
A good healer is able to stay alive first and foremost, while providing constant protection and healing for the team, preventing them from dying. Good healers should be able to make judgements on which skills to use and when, and decide whether it is worth saving a player at the cost of the rest of the team. Healers benefit from a strong awareness of the battle, constantly anticipating what will happen next and what is needed to keep the team alive.
Protection vs Healing
One of the common misconceptions about being a healer is that they should rely on healing skills, such as the Healing Prayers Monk line. As contradictory as it sounds, this is not accurate. An effective team healer will be able to not only restore health, but also control the amount of damage being taken, typically through skills found in Protection Prayers.
The concept of protection is simple. As a healer, your goal is to prevent your team from dying. You do not have to keep all the health bars near 100%. Trying to heal damage every time it comes is woefully inefficient, and you will soon find that energy will be a huge issue. Using protection skills such as Spirit Bond, Shield of Absorption and Guardian will decrease the amount of damage taken or reduce the probability of getting hit, and that means you are reducing the need to keep the health bars filling up. A 5-energy Guardian saves the need from wasting your valuable Word of Healing, allowing you to save the big heals for another, more needed situation.
A good Monk build will therefore include protection skills and healing skills. In more complex terms, a balanced bar will contain "small" and "big" heals and prots, each being used for certain situations.
- Small heals, such as Gift of Health and Patient Spirit, can be quickly cast to provide a decent chunk of health. These also tend to be quick to recharge.
- Big heals are often elite skills, such as Word of Healing and Zealous Benediction. These provide a large chunk of health, which combined with Divine Favor, will usually bring low health bars to near-full.
- Small prots, such as Guardian, can be cast often on allies who are being pressured, reducing the need to keep up their health.
- Large prots, such as Spirit Bond, can be used to catch spikes, preventing the target from taking huge amounts of damage.
Note, however, that regeneration spells are typically very inefficient. Regeneration is not healing; it counters degeneration. Often regeneration spells can be expensive, and in most cases you need the healing right there and then rather than waiting for the health bar to go up. Spells which are purely health regen, such as Healing Breeze and Restful Breeze do not fare well in combat conditions. Dual-function regen spells, such as Shield of Regeneration, offer a large defense bonus as well as very high regen, which is excellent for getting an ally out of trouble. When faced with degeneration, it is often far better to remove the source of the degeneration (hex or condition) rather than attempting to match it with regeneration.
Good healers must therefore be constantly aware of what is happening on the field. Many new healers are stuck on looking at the party menu to time when to use heals. Experienced players should be able to observe the screen and anticipate what will happen next and who will need to be protted or healed. Healing is a proactive role, not a reactive one.
In addition to prots and healing, the healer should also be able to remove conditions and hexes, manage energy and ensure self-survival.
- Condition removal skills should be fast-recharging. Dismiss Condition, Mend Condition and Mend Ailment are popular condition removal skills.
- Hex removal is necessary due to the wide use of hexes, and all healers should carry at least one hex removal skill. Cure Hex, Remove Hex and Deny Hexes are popular hex removal skills. Holy Veil can be used to preemptively protect against hexes as well as removing them.
- Energy management can be achieved in several forms, often using a secondary profession. Glyph of Lesser Energy is popular for Monks, as the Glyph reduces spell cost without any investment in Energy Storage. Mesmer Inspiration skills, such as Inspired Hex, can be used to remove hexes and gain energy. Adding signets, such as Signet of Rejuvenation, can provide heals while conserving your own energy. In general, you should be using your spells wisely and not firing them off on recharge needlessly.
- Defensive skills are probably the most important for your team's sake. Because you are a priority target, enemies will frequently target you first, and you will be the magnet for pressure and spikes. Protting and healing yourself is just as important as covering for your team, but be careful of wasting your skills and energy on yourself when your team need you just as badly. You should therefore bring skills, typically defensive stances from secondary professions, that you can activate when you are being threatened. Shield Bash, Balanced Stance and Disciplined Stance are popular defensive skills in the Warrior line, while Return and Dark Escape are commonly used for Assassin secondaries.
Always bring a Resurrection Signet to RA unless you are a healer. Remember that your goal as a healer is to keep the team alive. If you come across a situation where you need to resurrect someone, that means someone has died, and therefore you have failed in your goal. As the priority target, your team should be resurrecting you, not the other way around. If another player is killed, let someone else on your team resurrect. If you attempt to resurrect, you are not healing for several seconds, which will likely cause the death of the rest of your team.
Also remember that bringing a resurrect skill will also take up a slot on your bar. That means you have one less skill to assist the team, or to protect yourself, and that can make all the difference. Resurrecting means you're not healing.
Pressure is the act of straining the opposing team's healers by constantly forcing them to use spells in order to keep their team alive and functional. The key to pressuring is to apply it to as many targets as possible. A single target being hexed or poisoned isn't going to stress the monk much, but spreading degeneration to all four opponents will keep the monk busy and low on energy. Arguably, pressure is how most games in Arenas are won. Decent monks can catch spikes without too much trouble, but pressure pushes healers to their limits, and it is far easier to break a team when the healer is out of energy. Winning by pressure may take longer, and might not be as "dramatic" as killing with ninja-like speed, but it is the most consistent way of achieving success.
Note that "pressure" does not necessarily mean "degeneration". Pressure is more accurately doing anything -- from physical damage to inflicted hexes and conditions -- that forces the team healer or healers to recover. Degeneration alone is a very poor way of killing someone, and is only a secondary effect to pressure. Most professions are capable of some sort of pressure, and pressure distinguish themselves by having high damage-per-second, compared to spikers who do more damage within a shorter amount of time, but have more downtime.
A team that is not being pressured will have the luxury of concentrating on keeping one or two team members alive. A player who is not being pressured is free to do whatever they want. Something as simple as auto-attacking is pressure, and forces the foe to kite and use defensive skills. Good pressure will directly and indirectly interfere with the team's effectiveness, but some pressure is better than no pressure. The enemy monk may prove to be difficult to kill, but you don't want to leave him alone to keep his teammates up all the time. Target switching and timing can not only force players to waste their defensive skills, but also catch enemies who are then helpless against further pressure and spiking.
Originally the domain of Warriors, melee pressure is perhaps the most threatening form of pressure. Paragons, Warriors, Ranger "Thumpers" and some Assassin builds are capable of delivering constant DPS; often adding in some spike or shutdown capability to enhance their functionality. Pure damage alone is usually not enough to keep up the pressure; good pressure builds should contain an increase-attack-speed skill as well as utility skills.
- Warriors are the toughest frontliners and have a wide range of options. Practically every Warrior should carry Bull's Strike to knock down kiting foes. Common Warrior skills include IAS skills such as Frenzy or Flail, and an increase-movement-speed skill such as Sprint, Rush or Enraging Charge.
- Hammer Warriors hit hard and pack several knockdown skills, such as Devastating Hammer, Backbreaker and Hammer Bash. With up to three knockdowns, hammer warriors can quarterknock several times consecutively and keep an opponent grounded.
- Axe Warriors do high damage with fast attack speed and critical hits against moving foes, being capable of spiking foes with Eviscerate and Executioner's Strike and expanding their functionality by using secondary skills such as Power Spike, Shock or Rip Enchantment.
- Sword Warriors have access to spammable condition-pressure attacks, such as Crippling Slash and Gash, as well as increasing damage with Conjure Flame or similar Conjure skill. Dragon Slash and Sun and Moon Slash are used alternatively to keep up heavy physical damage.
- Paragons are capable of inflicting consistent damage at range, often using Aggressive Refrain for IAS, "Go for the Eyes!" for energy management and additional damage, and spear skills that have bonus damage or inflict conditions.
- Rangers are notable for the R/W Bunny Thumper builds, which use Rampage as One for IAS and IMS to maintain constant DPS along with pet damage, inflict knockdown with Hammer Bash and use Bestial Mauling for Daze.
- Some Assassin builds, such as Shattering Assault and Death Blossom/Moebius Strike do constant damage rather than spike.
Often, conditions themselves don't do much individually. Bleeding and Poison, for example, inflict a bit of degeneration, but not really worth wasting a spell to remove. However, when conditions start stacking up, they become a significant priority to the healer. Furthermore, conditions such as Cripple, Blind and Daze can render players dysfunctional; forcing the the healer to take action if possible. Good condition-orientated pressure builds should be able to spam their skills on multiple targets, often switching targets frequently to keep the healer off-track.
- Sword Warriors are particularly good at melee and condition pressure, especially with Crippling Slash builds.
- Rangers usually bring Apply Poison and switch targets per shot to spread degen. It also acts as a cover condition for pressure skills such as Burning Arrow, Crippling Shot and Broad Head Arrow.
- Paragons are also excellent for ranged condition pressure, with spammable skills such as Barbed Spear, Maiming Spear and Anthem of Flame.
Like melee pressure, condition pressure builds are usually able to take on an additional role, such as melee pressure or shutdown.
Mesmers and Necromancers can apply heavy pressure through extensive use of hexes. This form of pressure is typically the secondary effect of shutdown builds, although some skills are dedicated to applying pressure.
- Necromancer skills often inflict health and/or energy degen, or remove enchantments. Popular hexes include Corrupt Enchantment, Wither, Malaise and Depravity. Parasitic Bond is used to cover the hexes, add some degen and provide self-healing.
- Mesmer hexes typically cause heavy degen and other effects that can be exploited for shutdown. Common skills include Migraine, Frustration, Ether Phantom and Conjure Phantasm.
As with all pressure, degen alone is not enough to break a team, whereas having numerous secondary effects such as slowing down foes, draining energy and removing enchantments will put much greater stress on the team healer.
Shutdown is a method of countering an enemy by preventing them from making full use of their skill bar. Shutdown tends to be situational and will only work on certain targets. Shutdown has two forms: anti-melee and anti-caster. Mesmers, Necromancers and Rangers are the typical professions for shutdown builds, being able to neutralise opponents with hexes and/or interrupts.
Note that shutdown builds are typically very specialised. It is rare to find an effective build that can shutdown both casters and melee characters, due to attribute requirements and skill limitation. It is often a poor idea to include a skill "just in case" you come up against an opponent outside of your scope. For example, an anti-caster Mesmer shouldn't carry Empathy because it has minimal effect on the target by itself, and it detracts from the player's anti-caster effectiveness or utility.
Anti-melee aims to prevent melee builds from hitting their targets or punishing them for attacking. This can be achieved by using hexes that slow attack speed, inflict damage per attack, have a chance to miss, or inflict the blind condition. Popular anti-melee skills are Spoil Victor, Faintheartedness, Insidious Parasite and Signet of Midnight. Rangers can also assist in shutting down melee opponents by using Distracting Shot on important melee skills. Interrupting a single skill in an attack chain is often enough to render the entire chain ineffective.
When applying anti-melee hexes, it is essential to use hexes that complement each other. For example, Reckless Haste goes well with Spiteful Spirit and gw:Insidious Parasite, as the increased attack speed from Reckless Haste will trigger damage more often. On the other hand, Faintheartedness is a poor combination with these skills, as Faintheartedness reduces attack speed, and will therefore trigger the damage less frequently. Also note that hexes can be removed, so covering your hexes is important. Use a quick-recharge, low-energy skill like Parasitic Bond to prevent the anti-melee hexes from being removed.
It is also highly important to consider that effective anti-melee builds are often capable of shutting down multiple melee targets. A shutdown character that can only shut down one opponent is not necessarily benefiting the team, as the shutdown character is incapable of doing anything else. There are several ways to shut down multiple targets:
- Use a quick-recharge shutdown skill, such as Signet of Midnight.
- Use a secondary shutdown ability. For example, a Necromancer can use Spiteful Spirit, Insidious Parasite and Parasitic Bond on one target, and Faintheartedness on another.
- For builds using Blind, being able to spam the condition to as many targets as possible. For example, Ebon Dust Aura is highly effective because it triggers on every attack skill, allowing the player to continually inflict Blind.
Anti-caster builds aim to harass enemy casters and prevent them from carrying out their role. This can be achieved through interrupting key skills, increasing recharge times, and energy denial. Mesmers are best suited for this role, although Rangers are very effective at pressuring and interrupting.
Shutting down casters is not as passive as anti-melee. To be effective, the player must understand how the caster professions work, and be aware of metagame builds. Shutdown requires not only reflex, but the ability to anticipate when the target will use a particular skill. Bad shutdown characters spam their skills in the hope of getting something; good shutdown players know when to fire off their heavier shutdown skills. Migraine Mesmers slow enemy spells, allowing more opportunity to get in interrupts, but most caster shutdown is achieved through "twitch-play" -- taking out enemy spells preemptively.
Some popular methods of anti-caster shutdown include:
- Daze - Most commonly achieved by Broad Head Arrow Rangers and usually covered with another condition, such as Poison, to make it harder to remove. Dazed casters have slower spell activation and are easily interrupted.
- Disabling - Skills such as Magebane Shot, Distracting Shot, Signet of Humility and Diversion can greatly increase the amount of time needed for a spell to recharge. Disabling an important skill, such as a Monk's Word of Healing, will often trigger the defeat of the opposing team.
- Interrupting - Using Ranger and Mesmer skills to prevent casters from casting spells. Distracting Shot and Savage Shot are often carried on Ranger bars for interrupting, while Mesmers can use Energy Drain, Power Leak and Power Spike to interrupt spells and gain secondary effects. Skills that cause a spell to fail, such as Shame and Guilt, are also effective.
- Energy Denial - Many casters, especially Monks, have very demanding energy requirements, and taking out chunks of energy will make their task incredibly difficult. Popular e-denial skills include Debilitating Shot and Power Leak.
A good anti-melee player will be able to predict skill usage and use the appropriate countermeasure in anticipation. For example, watching the field will show if an enemy player is low on health, which will prompt the Monk to use a healing skill, such as Word of Healing. Even if the initial shutdown attempt fails, the Monk is likely to use it again on recharge, so remembering the recharge time will provide you the window you need to catch the next usage. Monks will typically use Guardian upon being attacked, and disabling or interrupt it is crucial. Characters that have been knocked down will typically attempt a 1/4 second spell, such as Patient Spirit. Understanding these common patterns and habits will make you a better shutdown character.
Support is a method of relieving pressure from your team or enhancing your offense by using party-wide buffs or other skills. Paragons are great support proffessions, but Elementalists, Necromancers, or Ritualists, can be good supporters.
A Paragon's Command attribute is great for enhancing your offense characters, and Motivation is good for countering pressure on your entire party. A Ritualist' Restoration spirits are great at helping your entire team with pressure.
Other proffessions offer support in a different way. Elementalists can use wards to help the party, in which case you need to be aware of where you are when you cast them to gain maximum effect. Elementalists can also support by using Energy Storage to spam skills like Heal Party or Draw Conditions to relieve pressure.
Necromancers can support in both offense and defense. Many Necromancers use an Elementalist's wards to relieve pressure. The skill Foul Feast is also a popular way to relieve pressure. If you use foul feast, consider using skills like Plague Touch or Plague Sending to remove them and cause pressure on the enemy. A Necromancer's order spells are great ways of helping your offense out, but be careful about the cost that they come with. Withering Aura is also a great way to help your offense.
Many support builds also come with pressure. If this is the case, do not let supporting waste your time. Support is meant to aid your party, but you may be able to help even more by dealing damage or creating pressure.
To play your role you must remain aware of the battlefield and stay active. An inattentive player is a dead player. Just stay calm at all times, and even the best players lose in RA, as a lot of it depends on luck of the draw.