While my heart will always belong to the Chronomancer, I allowed my eye to wander a little for this most recent Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns Beta Event.
First I found myself drawn back to my first love, jumping into the middle of fights and smashing faces with the Berserker, the Warrior’s Elite incarnation.
Next, I was seduced by the more subtle and evasive strategies of the Daredevil, the Elite version of the Thief profession that’s not afraid to come out of the shadows.
I had about 5 hours with each over the weekend, long enough to work out the basics but nowhere near enough to explore the depth and opportunity they presented. I tried to play the classes in the spirit they were intended, using the new skills to the exclusion of others that in some cases may have been better choices.
My first instinct when approaching the Berserker was to embrace the burning and bleeding that were in such abundant supply through the newly available offhand torch, traits and Rage utility skills.
I chose to go for full condition damage, stacking bleeds with a sword and longbow, and burning with pretty much everything else. When you play Zerker, you’re on fire, your friends are on fire, it’s a big fire party and everyone is invited!
With short cooldowns on skills, sped up attacks and various sources of quickness, the Zerker is all-go and you feel it. It’s a button mashing adrenaline ride of diving groups and chasing down your prey, and much more deserving of the profession-specific resource ‘adrenaline’ than its vanilla counterpart.
While the pure condition build certainly got the job done, switching to a hybrid damage setup felt like it really opened up my options.
Personally I found the Berzerker fun to play, but I’m not sure if there’s a place for it in the gallery of the hallowed meta builds. Current Warrior builds are so strong that unless you’re really into setting things on fire while being on fire you might be more comfortable in the very successful niche Warriors already inhabit. We may well see some Berserkers creeping into zerg groups in WvW, with many ways to apply and spread AoE burning, a good source of stability and all kinds of crowd control.
On the other hand, it’s good that the new options for Warriors don’t make the strong elements stronger, and bolster the weaker aspects of its arsenal. With tuning and balance patches, not to mention variety of content in HoT, the Zerker could find its place alongside the Warrior.
The Daredevil was my next guide through the jungles of Maguuma, and those first couple of hours were rough. Maybe it was that I couldn’t shake the Zerker mindset, but after choosing to put together a build for the Thief Elite Specialization with no stealth at all, I was dying more than I was used to.
After settling into a different perspective, getting into the rhythm of the extra dodges allowed by the Daredevil’s superior endurance and the ebb and flow of the movement abilities of the newly available staff, it started to click.
When it did click, when I found myself taking my time and watching the enemy, reacting to their skills, it felt great. The skill cap here is potentially extremely high, and I can’t wait to see what the best players can do with it. This kind of counter play feels so rewarding to me, and the Daredevil is a specialization that will reward careful, considered, skillful play.
After messing around and trying a few things, taking a second look at the traits and especially the Grandmaster options that augment your already beefed up dodging ability, I stumbled into what I like to call the Roflcopter Double Dagger build.
The Daredevil Grandmaster trait Lotus Training turns your dodge into a version of the double dagger ability Lotus Strike, but one that applies bleeding, torment and cripple instead of poison. Between the evasion provided by this trait and this skill, the heal skill Withdraw and on-evade traits, it gets a little silly.
Becoming a swarm of bees around the heads of your enemies feels delightfully cheesy, as you apply good condition pressure, soft CC and constant whirl finishers the evasion Daredevil feels just as elusive as their traditional stealth-lurking partner.
Two more Elite Specializations that are fun and flavourful, adding to their core professions without losing what makes the classic versions compelling. Neither were enough to tempt me away from my first choice for HoT, but I dare say many players will fall in love with them just the same.