“Conversion Holo is Meta, if you’re an Engi in the Arena you should be running Holosmith!”, “LOL, People still play Pistol/Pistol thief?” These are a couple of the phrases I’ve seen in team chat during matches leading up to and including the new Ranked PvP season that began April 3rd. If you happen to have been a part of Arena PvP over the past 6 or so years, you’ve probably seen something similar. It may not have been directed at you, or perhaps it was you who was saying it, but there’s an undercurrent of PvP fanatics in GW2 that believe there is only one correct way to play a class in structured PvP, and that’s the MetaBattle way. If you pray to the holy MetaBattle gods to tell you what to play, I have some startling news for you, you’re ruining PvP.
For the uninitiated, MetaBattle is a website that breaks each Guild Wars 2 profession down with “the best” class builds by gameplay type. That means if your favorite class is a Thief, you have builds for Conquest (arena PvP), Fractals, WvW and Raids. What you won’t often find is a build that is really considered the “meta” or “the best” across all gameplay types, nor will you find a “meta” or best build available for each specialization. The strange dichotomy between PvP and PvE in terms of build variety makes it virtually impossible to be the best in all areas with a single build. Fortunately, in the PvE space, there isn’t such a stark difference in most PvE encounters between the “Meta Builds” and running whatever you think is fun, minus perhaps high level fractals and raids, but that’s a conversation for another time.
Where MetaBattle goes wrong in the PvP space is simply in its function of ranking builds. Firstly, some builds are ranked by the community, while others are considered “Meta” by a curator, regardless of how the community ranks these builds. In that sense, curator builds while powerful, may not be what the community found as the strongest build. When someone says to you “You should be playing Blood Scourge Necromancer” simply because a curator said it’s top billing when you’ve found more success in playing a Minion Master necromancer in PvP, they are making the assumption that a Curator knows your skillset better than you do.
Secondly, ranking for a build in general negates that one important factor, and that’s the skill and understanding to play the build effectively. If you aren’t good at playing a Dagger/Pistol thief, and prefer to use two pistols, swapping to a Dagger Pistol build from MetaBattle won’t suddenly make you a Thief Savant. I once was taken over the knee of an Elementalist that utilized a staff in PvP, much to my dismay, and there is no Arena PvP build available that would recommend such a weapon or playstyle, but it effectively changed my view on build variety in GW2.
Lastly, in almost every situation, any given build has strengths as well as weaknesses, and after a few minutes of gameplay, you can cherry pick the weak links on your team or the opposing team based on their MetaBattle build. Without much forethought, when you see a Necromancer these days, you can pretty much assume it’s going to be a Scourge spec’d Necromancer. If it’s a Mesmer, you’re looking at mostly a “Power Shatter” Mirage build. While these builds can be strong when played properly, players rarely deviate from the builds mentioned, and therefore, an astute opponent can see the telegraphs coming, have the team focus particularly pesky enemies, or if you have a build that’s especially weak against another, bypass the fight altogether until you have assistance.
In essence, Metabattle isn’t infallible. If it’s used for anything, it should be used as an initial guide to learn what other people might be playing. That players are attacking one another over the usage, or nonusage of particular builds they deem as appropriate only accentuates the toxic nature of competitive gaming. Even more importantly, using a website to determine and define what abilities your character uses should be considered sacrilegious to fundamentally understanding your heroes. In the end, you may very well end up with a MetaBattle build, but at least you would understand the fundamental reasons why you chose that build. Some may say this idea of learning your character may be a little radical, and unnecessary after 6 years, but I say, next time you load into a PvP arena and see teams half filled with Scourge necromancers all running the same builds as you, remember that it wasn’t your fault they are there, it’s MetaBattles.