Ah yes, it’s time for another trip into Tyria this weekend. It will be a glorious triumph for Engineers everywhere, as we march once more and burn the homes of the small woodland creatures, the large woodland creatures, and the Thieves. Gotta be honest here, I just really like burning things, and my little list here is full of very easy targets. Burning isn’t everything however; we do need to fill our Elite Skill slot with something useful, and none of our options set anything aflame!

We do have some really good toys to play with for our long cooldown though, so today I’d like to take a look at them while providing some analysis and tips for putting them to good use. Past the cut for my nail-biting, life-changing, Thief-disemboweling prose!

Elixir X

In my previous ramblings I’ve gone into great detail about the problems with this skill. Elixir X, when consumed, transforms you into one of three possible forms, each taken from another profession. You can turn into an Elementalist’s Tornado, a Necromancer’s Plague, or a Warrior’s Rampaging Brute. The random factor can be problematic, because each form excels and fails at different things, but even with its unreliable outcomes it does have it’s uses!

Cooldown – 150 seconds (2.5 minutes)

Why you should choose it – The randomness of a one in three chance is this skill’s greatest weakness and also its greatest strength. These forms are good for different purposes, and you often won’t get the one that you need for the situation. That can be a major problem in some areas, because not knowing what’s going to happen when using an Elite Skill is a tactical disadvantage. That said, your enemies don’t know what’s going to come out either, which makes this skill more viable against unskilled opponents.

Obvious Benefits – This skill has a lot of benefits – if you get lucky enough to land the appropriate form.

  • All of the transformations are very powerful. The Plague and Tornado have some major AoE (area of effect) abilities, while the Brute is excellent for single target combat.

  • You become much harder to kill during the transformation. A higher health pool and the damage mitigation abilities help you survive because transforming will make you a big target very quickly. The Brute has the advantage of not being as noticeable at first, but you will receive a lot of unwanted attention after drinking the elixir no matter what.

  • The transformation lasts a good amount of time. 20 seconds of wholesale carnage is something that I dream of nightly, and if I can do it with a stylish new look then even better!

Subtle Benefits – There’s nothing subtle about going into a rage or becoming a whirling dervish, but these transformations do have some…side effects that you might not have thought of.

  • The Plague and the Tornado have exceptional damage-mitigation abilities. The Tornado doubles the Engineer’s health pool while keeping himself healthy with continuous knockbacks and Blind effect (which causes the afflicted enemy’s next attack to miss) from Dust Tornado and Debris Tornado. The Plague can Blind, Cripple, and Weaken foes, effectively mitigating damage by ensuring that it never happens in the first place.

  • The Rampaging Brute has excellent CC (crowd control) abilities on single enemies as well as groups. He has Kick, Throw Boulder, and Stomp to keep enemies dancing to the tune of his combat, rather than theirs.

  • Being able to scream “ENGINEER SMASH!” into my teammates ears when landing a brute transformation is wholly satisfying. I’m glad that those Warriors don’t get to have all the fun!

Gameplay – Pop the elixir and transform. While playing Tornado or Plague, make sure you’re always using abilities, as they each have no cooldown. Pick the best one for the situation based on the effect if provides. While running into enemies as a Tornado, you knock them back. Running over enemies as a Plague applies Poison. Running over enemies as a Brute causes Flatness. Don’t be confused if you haven’t heard of Flatness. It’s a new condition added to Tyria after the devs saw Ranger butts.

Tips – This section is getting really big. That’s what happens when you have one skill with three effects!

  • If you’ve landed the tornado, then you can use Debris Tornado to knock enemies away from you and off of structures (usually for a falling-damage kill). Dust Tornado is another option, and does slightly better damage than Debris Tornado while applying a Blind.

  • While being the Plague (and I mean the skill, not by enlisting in the Thief corps) you need to constantly be walking over enemies to do damage while applying poison. From there, it’s your choice as to whether you’d like to apply Bleeding, Blinding, or Cripple/Weakness. They are the first, second, and third skill abilities. The trick is to always be using at least one. (For huge WvW battles, I would suggest the third ability. Crippling and Weakening enemies will allow your force to clean up the mess.)

  • The Brute is a little unique. You have some pretty powerful abilities, but only 20 seconds to use them. Most of them have enough of a cooldown to only facilitate 1-3 uses. The Brute is all about single combat, so make sure to pick the most dangerous opponents as your targets. You’re only going to get to use Throw Boulder and Stomp once, so plan accordingly.

Elixir X is a skill that takes a great deal of luck and a little patience to use effectively. While every skill has its pros and cons, I find this skill to be more underwhelming than my other two Engineer options.


Mortar

I wasn’t sure whether or not to try out the Mortar in the last weekend event, but I’m glad that I did! This puppy has awesome range, above-average crowd-control abilities and decent damage output. This is also the only Elite Skill (to my knowledge) that has an uptime of 100%. As soon as the Mortar disappears it comes off of cooldown, allowing the placement of another. Its only drawback is the lack of movement. Once you’ve placed it; that’s where it stays until it’s destroyed or disappears.

Cooldown – 120 seconds (2 minutes)

Why you should choose it – Unlimited uptime. The mortar lasts for 120 seconds; exactly the same as the cooldown. Being that it is a structure, you can also place it for allies, as well as using it yourself. Finally, it’s a method of raining death from above. This is always a good thing, especially with unwary livestock and Thieves in the area.

Obvious Benefits – The Mortar has its drawbacks, such as being rooted to one spot, but there are many advantages as well.

  • Awesome support capabilities. The Mortar does all AoE effects, whether it be harmful or helpful. The skills for all slots besides the first one can all help your team assert its dominance with Bleeding and Crippling effects, healing, enemy slowing effects, and knockbacks!

  • Decent damage, compared to our other abilities. It’s no secret that Engineers need a little tweaking to start being able to smash some Thief skulls in, but with skills like Mortar, who needs raw power?

  • Mega range! All of the Mortar’s skills have a range of 1400. That’s 200 more than most profession’s basic attacks.

Subtle Benefits – There is nothing particularly subtle about the Mortar, and that’s okay! Sometimes letting the enemy know in advance that they’re going to be slaughtered is a good thing.

  • Should you decide that you’d be more useful doing something besides manning Dr. Death From Above (Ph.D), a teammate can take up your position and have a shot at raining fire.

  • If you established yourself as a capable Mortarman, you can stop certain enemies dead in their tracks! Never worked for me in WvW, but in structured PvP I could set up camp and let the fear flow.

  • The Mortar itself can be used as a decent distraction to set up a gank (or sneak-attack). The Mortar is destructible and if enemies think they’re alone they will go for it. That’s when I uncloak and wreck everything!

Gameplay – This is a simple drop’n stop. As in, “Once you drop this, all enemy advancement will stop.” In all seriousness though, use the Mortar as a support tool. Engineers can do some great AoE damage, but we’re usually very squishy (after all, you can’t carry heavy armor around along side all of this awesome). The trade off is that we operate best at range. Stand behind your allies, or up on top of a structure while raining health and death to friends and foes. The fifth skill is especially useful, as it functions as a knockback.

Tips – The Mortar is one of those Elites that is useless in some situations, and invaluable in others. The trick is spotting which is which!

  • I didn’t use the Mortar often because of it’s non-existent movement capabilities, but it was a great tool for defending positions! I was able to hold a doorway of a WvW tower all by myself against 5 enemies until reinforcements arrived. The Tower’s residents helped, but still…

  • The Mortar is best placed somewhere that is either easy to defend, or has a choke-point entrance.

  • Spread out your attacks and time the longer cooldowns to hit first. This is a good general rule, but if any of the Mortar’s abilities stay on cooldown for too long then they’re being wasted.

  • With great Mortar comes great responsibility.

The Mortar is a skill of great power and utility, but it leaves you very vulnerable. Making the best possible use of this skill is a great deal of give-and-take. You and your teammates need to coordinate so you keep them winning the fight while they keep you safe!


Supply Crate

Aha! Here it is; my favorite Elite Skill. Supply Crate is a mythical skill, turning the tides of every battle I’ve called ‘er down in! This skill has everything: a stun, impact damage, healing, turret and/or mine deployment, and an awesome entrance! Knowledge may be half the battle, but style is the other half my friends!

Cooldown – 180 seconds (3 minutes)

Why you should choose it – This is a tide-turner for losing battles. The contents of the drop are often random, but they’re always beneficial to your allies and harmful to your enemies. It is also the most common skill that I see Engineers take, so that’s gotta count for something, right? Also, the crate is delivered by a KT29-Moahawk, piloted by an actual Moa. Not sure if my intel’s correct on that one, but it’s what they tell me!

Obvious Benefits – The calling of a Supply Crate is a blessing. It is the first round of the victory music, and has the potential to change the tide of any battle that you’re losing.

  • The drop contains all kinds of awesome treats. There’s a combination of Bandage Packs, 2-3 turrets (up to 4 if talented and lucky!), and mines.

  • The initial impact does damage and stuns. Use this to your advantage by hitting as many enemies as possible. This usually means landing it smack-dab in the center of your melee front-line fighters, like the trusty Guardians, the stalwart Warriors, or the smelly Thieves.

Subtle Benefits – I’m noticing a pattern here: none of these skills are subtle. Y’know what though? I don’t want to be subtle! I wanna be in the spotlight, juggling flamethrowers and kicking Freeze Grenades in every direction! Hmmm. What were we talking about?

  • The initial impact is a Combo Finisher! Land this ability on some standing effects (like a circle of fire or a pool of healing water on the ground) for various boons to your allies and conditions to your enemies.

  • Dropping this crate is a morale booster. Once allies see the crate fly in (with a rather dramatic entrance I might add) they know that there is quick access to healing and relative safety nearby. The crate’s drop zone becomes a kind of rally point. Start dropping them often and you will notice this.

Gameplay – Call this baby down when things start to go south, just like the Thieves’ brains for the winter. Once it’s hit the ground, you really shouldn’t need to announce its arrival. In no one is taking advantage of it though, make sure they’ve noticed its presence. Beyond the initial impact, most of the benefits are passive, so fight near ground zero to gain the most effect.

Tips

  • The Supply Crate only costs 10 skill points, at the time of this writing. Buy it as your first Elite Skill; you wont regret it!

  • This is one of those abilities where you want to scale back how often you use it. Wait for the opportune moment to strike, because of how well this ability can affect battle outcomes.

  • Using this ability in a 1v1 situation isn’t a bad idea. There are enough medical supplies, turrets, and other goodies to save your skin if you start losing your capture point to some dirty, sneaky Thief. The best part? Thieves never look up.

Out of our three choices here I usually lean towards the Supply Crate, but the choice is really dependent on the conditions of the fight as well as the arena of play. Supply Crate is an excellent PvP tool, while Elixir X really shines in PvE. The Mortar falls somewhere in the middle, and all three have a place in any part of Tyria. All you have to have is the forethought to plan how you’ll blow everything to smithereens instead of simply jumping into the fray!

As an aside, it seems that my dear *ahem* friend Wormwood has foolishly published his plans for the whole world to see. When will these Thieves learn that action always breeds reaction? He plans to infiltrate our AETA sanctum while we’re distracted this weekend, but two can play at that game! I will return his favor by donning a cover, joining the ranks of the Thieves, and rolling around in the mud a bit. Once they’ve accepted me into their smelly ranks (See what I did there? Muahaha!) I will start performing reconnaissance and weave a plan that will result in the destruction of the entire Thieves’ Order! It’s time the Thieves started looking nervously over their shoulders! Until next time, fellow AETA members!