Recently selected as a game for GNGWC (Game and Game World Championship) 2009 for the second year in a row, Atlantica Online has proven itself to be one of the premier microtransaction MMOs for PvP.
With its intricate strategy, decently-executed balancing, and, most importantly, build flexibility, Atlantica provides great appeal for those looking for a solid tactical experience in an MMORPG.
In a majority of PvP in MMORPGs, build flexibility is little or nonexistent. For purposes of this article, the term "flexibility" refers to both 1) flexibility as in variety of choice when creating a build and 2) flexibility as in relative ease in changing one's build.
Build flexibility naturally allows for the possibility of strong atypical builds. In Atlantica, atypical builds can be - but are not necessarily - more powerful than standard builds. This balance allows players greater freedom when choosing mercenaries for their build since they do not feel they have to be greatly limited in order to be effective.
But first, to understand what makes a build unconventional in Atlantica, we need to talk about what makes a build conventional.
The Conventional Convention of Mercenaries in PvP
There are a few mercenaries that you will see in a significant majority of most successful PvP builds (division 4 and higher). The most frequently seen two mercenaries are easily the monk and the exorcist.
The monk is the premier support character in PvP. He serves three purposes, all of which are unique to the monk and extremely useful. 1) Protect or Shield of Protection - passive healing to the main character. 2) Awakening - Decreases stun counter. 3) Holy Guard - Purification and protection of a row of mercs from skills. Currently, besides using stimulant, awakening scrolls, and purification scrolls, the monk is the only mercenary who can relieve from stun or purify through skills.
The exorcist is primarily used for his "Mana Seal" skill, which silences staff characters for two turns, thus preventing healing, many forms of AoE damage, and any of the monk's utilities. But since the skill's cooldown is three, the exorcist's staff opponents usually have at least a one turn window of opportunity to act, in which healing, damage, and, most importantly, holy guard can occur. Staff mercenaries on the player's own team under the effect of Holy Guard will prevent them from sealing. Still, even though his primary utility can be sapped from him quite quickly, the exorcist's mere presence applies pressure on the opponent team to holy guard characters that he may want to or to use purification scrolls. Additionally, the exorcist provides passive Fast Casting support to his staff teammates.
Other mercenaries that are used quite frequently depend on the current patch, but as of now, they are Oracle (and/or Shaman), Northern Viking, and Dark Archer, as well as Spartan in high level builds.
Essentially, a conventional build is one that is well-balanced at adapting to many situations and is common among moderately-to-highly successful players. A build usually possesses a few basic qualities to be considered "conventional" and likely to be successful in PvP:
- a Primarily Healer (Oracle or Shaman), primarily to help decrease effects of focus fire
- a Strong Front Line for tanking and damage
- a few Long-ranged mercenaries for stun, scroll cancel, and/or mid & back-row spike damage
- one or two mercenaries besides Exorcist that limits opponent's actions (such as N. Viking or D. Archer)
A typical long-ranged/staff main formation may be
Tank / Tank / Viking (front row) Long-Range /Open-Spot / Exorcist (middle row) Monk / Main / Oracle (back row)
A typical melee main formation may be
Tank / Tank / Main Exorcist / Open-Spot / Long-Range Monk / D. Archer / Oracle
These criteria are considered essential to conventional builds because they provide the user the simplest ways to counter the most common strategies, as well as a variety of ways to inflict damage on the opposing team.
As seen in these examples of typical formations, there are many mercenary slots that have some flexibility. Therefore, even within this realm of conventionality, the user possesses a great level of variety in mercenary and thus strategy selection.
Not following one of these basic criteria allows the user increased flexibility and, in most cases, makes their build unconventional. While those who step out of the box of unconventionality will be met with greater challenges, there are definite advantages to doing so.
Advantages and Disadvantages of an Atypical Build in PvP
- Many opponents and builds will not be ready with strategies to effectively deal with your build
- Fun, uniqueness, and creativity all provides greater entertainment to observers
- Not many people will be able to provide you with build assistance
- The build is likely to have glaring weaknesses that a smart player and/or another atypical build is easily able to take care of
Next I will detail how to make effective atypical builds.
But everyone uses a monk and exorcist in PvP!? Does that I mean I have to?
Oh, that is not true my friend! In fact, you can get away without having both. However, if you want to be rather successful, building a monk-less and/or an exorcist-less build may require some extra brain work.
First, let's look at a monk-less build.
Think about what you are sacrificing most. Passive protection to your main character = gone. Ability to remove DoTs, debuffs, and limiting effects such as Silence = greatly diminished. Ability to remove stun = greatly diminished. A monkless build requires the user to accept these limitations and be able to work around them. For example, the user must find ways to kill off an opponent's viking quickly or be able to handle frequent freezing axe.
Because of much lower overall level protection, that means you are likely to die much more quickly than the opposing team. In order to compensate for the lower level of survivability in addition to the inability to heal as frequently (inability to remove silence, seal, etc. on staff), the player must either 1) use mercenaries that have a high level of survivability or increase overall survivability or 2) somewhat neglect survivability and instead focus on very high damage output, through focus fire or multi-hit/AoE.
But also think about what you can gain by dropping the monk. The monk has the lowest direct damage output in the game, and additionally, he is susceptible to physical attack. Replacing the monk with a mercenary that drastically improves damage output and/or increases overall resistance to physical attacks can be a good move especially in builds focused on those themes.
Example Monk-less Survivability Build:
Sword / LK / Spartan Prophet / Exorcist/Viking / Inventor Oracle / Shaman/D.Archer/Viking |/Main (Melee/Staff)
Strategy: Freeze, Heal, Silence, & Seal whenever possible. Use purification scrolls and potions, making sure you protect any vulnerable mercenaries from death. Focus fire as much as possible.
Example Monk-less Multi-Hit Build:
LK / Spartan / Spear/BT Janissary | Viking/Witch/Prophet/Exorcist / Exorcist/Artillery Main (Gun/Chainsaw/Musician) / Oracle / Inventor
Strategy: Pummel columns with this build. Use freeze and stun to help prevent turtling. Use defense debuffs to help expand power of multi-hit.
Example Monk-less Focus Fire Build:
Sword / Viking / LK/Spartan Prophet/Janissary/Witch/Princess/Artillery/Inventor/Exorcist Shaman (with HoD) / D. Archer / Main (Bow/Gun)
Strategy: Focus fire and snipe on mercenaries that are most threatening to the formation. Then focus fire on the main, using the Silence/Seal to stop heals.
Secondly, let's look at an Exorcist-less build.
Exorcist-less builds are currently a bit more reasonable than monk-less builds. Without an exorcist, the player sacrifices the ability to seal the back-line early in a match. Additionally, builds won't get the benefit of the Fast Casting passive, so minimal staff usage is ideal. The most a player gains from dropping the exorcist is greater damage output. How can both of these problems be addressed, while maximizing the gain?
Example Exorcist-less Focus Fire+Stun Build:
LK / Spartan / Sailor/Spear/Viking/Inventor Janissary/Cannoneer/Artillery/Princess/Oracle Monk / D. Archer / Main (Ranged)
Strategy: Attempt to poke a hole in the formation as soon as possible. Stun to prevent action and movement. Silence the back-row when possible and focus fire on the main or on other weakened mercenaries. Use monk to diminish War Cry.
Example Exorcist-less Stun Build
LK | Spartan | Viking/Spear Inventor/Janissary/Cannoneer/Artillery Monk / Oracle/Princess/Open-Slot / Main (Gun/Cannon/Axe/Chainsaw)
Strategy: With a lot of somewhat weak mercenaries, this team must stun and prevent scroll usage in order to minimize damage. Consider eliminating an opponent witch quickly so as to prevent scroll usage.
Notice that all aforementioned builds, while missing 1 standard criterion of a conventional build, possess the other 5.
Living without a Monk & an Exorcist
Is it possible to go a step further and take out both?
Taking out both, the player's survivability decreases greatly, however, the potential for causing stun and damage increases significantly.
Additionally, because Holy Guard isn't available to erase silence and seal and because there is no Fast Casting, skill-heavy-dependent magic builds may be extremely difficult to work with (and work against), so a staff main is out of the question.
Example Monk-less & Exorcist-less Survivability+Light Stun Build:
Sword | LK | Spartan Prophet | Main(Melee) | Inventor Oracle | Princess/Witch/Cannoneer | Janissary
Strategy: The prophet provides a small amount of protection to the melee main. Stun key mercenaries, and play aggressively.
Example Monk-less & Exorcist-less Stun Heavy Build:
Inventor / N. Viking / Spartan Artilleryman / D. Archer / Janissary/Sailor Princess / Main (Ranged) / Cannoneer/Sailor
Strategy: Use debuffs and skills whenever able to cripple and expose the enemy formation. Use Sailor instead of a long-ranged if wanting focus fire.
Using the thought processes above, we will explore build unconventionality beyond monks and exorcists in part 2!