While I promised a final review in this column last week, I was stricken with a case of bad math. Next week will be the grand review of all things Thief. Oh stop your whining and take it out on an Engineer!
So, what to do instead of that? Gentlemen, Ladies, sentient beings of varying descriptions, I present to you Wormwood’s Best of the Thief: Beta Edition. Forthwith, I shall submit my opinions on which skills, weapons and items were the absolute best during your days of sneaking, stabbing and general skullduggery in the many betas and stress tests ArenaNet has hosted. So, sit back, grab a snack and enjoy!
Award for Best Utility Skill: Signet of Shadows
While Roll for Initiative and Scorpion Wire have a special place in my heart, I have to give this award to Signet of Shadows for one reason, and one reason only: the 25% increase to movement speed. This is one of the single most useful benefits any skill or trait provides, and frankly, was a must have in any game mode I played during beta.
In PvE, the movement speed increase is wonderful for getting around the world, outrunning dangerous mobs and simply remaining mobile. Once you hit PvP, however, things start getting more interesting. In WvW, I’d say you need to have this skill unlocked before you can truly be an asset to the team. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one of the skills you always have on your action bar, but you should always be ready to trade it in when trying to get from A to B. The faster you can get to a battle, the faster you can start contributing, and that is one of the single most important aspects of WvW. Finally, in sPvP, (I did finally manage to start playing sPvP matches. I must admit, I should have started sooner. It is a great amount of fun, and a great test of your ability) having this signet equipped can help lead to superiority in map control. Being able to zip around the map as a highly mobile thief, capturing points and tracking enemy players, can be incredibly effective.
And this isn’t even considering the active effect of this signet! Being able to Blind your target and anyone near them is a great skill to be able to call on. In large team fights it can give your side an advantage for a couple of seconds that can easily lead to victory.
Award for Best Elite Skill: Thieves Guild
I’ve not yet discussed the Thief Elite Skills in Lock & Key. To be honest, this is because, outside of a few instances, I do not find these skills essential to my plans. They are certainly powerful, and certainly do what they advertise, but I just can’t seem to fit them in.
However, if I were forced to make a decision on which of these skills I feel is most useful, which seems to be the case presently, I could only respond with Thieves Guild. The utility in both PvE and PvP of this skill is simply too great to ignore. In PvE, the extra help of two NPC allies can be invaluable in a tight spot, providing the extra help you need in finishing off a few mobs or deal some extra damage to that Champion mob you happen to be fighting.
In PvP, Thieves Guild serves a very different purpose. Of course, the two Thieves you summon are still useful in combat, but they are more useful in trying to trick your enemies. Rather than a single person, you can now effectively appear to be three. This could be incredibly useful in dissuading solitary opponents from attacking you, or misleading enemies as to the number of people that might be holding an objective. I think that this probably will work better in WvW as opposed to sPvP, simply because deception is far more viable a tactic in WvW.
Award for Best Weapon: Sword
The debate over melee versus ranged fighting will continue for ages, but it is the judging body’s opinion that damage output is not the primary deciding factor for which weapon may be considered the ‘best’. While I still stand by the wonderful, characterful, and oh-so-cacophonous pistols, I have to admit that the Sword takes the cake for me.
The main-hand sword represents your primary means of mobility in combat. The shortbow may have access to Infiltrator’s Arrow, but Infiltrator’s Strike more than makes up for the Sword’s lack of that amazing skill. For me, it isn’t the Shadowstep to the enemy that sells the skill. It is the Shadowstep away from them. Darting in and then out of combat after delivering a few blows with Flanking Strike, or Dazing the opponent with Pistol Whip, is the essence of Thief combat. As you take pot shots at the enemy with your Pistols or your Shortbow, watch for the right moment to strike. This might be a particularly high stack of Vulnerability, or just after an enemy’s massive attack. Then, jump in with Infiltrator’s Strike, Slash away, and jump out with Shadow Return.
Even if you choose not to use the Sword, it represents what I would call the ‘proper’ way for a thief to fight. Hit-and-run should be your motto as you slice and dice your way through Tyria. Use it as a guideline if you will.
Award for Best Stolen Item: Ectoplasm
When I stole my first Ectoplasm, I was deep in the Ascalonian Catacombs, fighting through waves of vengeful spirits, a friend on either side of me. Leaping forward, I snatched a Glob of Ectoplasm from one of the assailants. Hovering over it for a minute, I was astounded. All the boons? ALL THE BOONS?
Consume Ectoplasm can be stolen from a number of the Ascalonian Ghosts (as well as Earth Elementals for some reason that I’m not sure I understand). After using it, you’ll gain 10 seconds of Protection, Regeneration, Vigor, Might, Fury, Swiftness and Aegis. This will reduce your damage taken by 33%, grant you a good bit of healing, increase your endurance regeneration by 100%, increase your power and condition damage, give you a 20% critical chance, increase movement speed by 33%, and block the next attack. All at the same time.
Now of course, you’ll only see this on occasion in the PvE World while exploring the region of Ascalon, or when you steal it from an enemy in PvP. Nevertheless, I think the facts are plain enough that this item is the most powerful stolen item we Thieves could have the pleasure of acquiring. It also tastes ever so slightly of Thundershrimp, which I can’t say is a bad thing. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if this item was changed by release, since it frankly seems a little overpowered.
Award for Best Character in a Supporting Role: Quinn
Is he incompetent? Sure. Annoying? You bet. These facts don’t stop Quinn, your character’s companion in the Street Rat Human Story Line from being a believable character, and one that fits in nicely with the atmosphere of Thieves.
For those who are uninformed, Quinn is your character’s longtime friend if you grew up on the streets of Divinity’s Reach. He visits you in the hospital after you become the “Hero of Shaemoor”, and then he writes to you shortly after, in need of help. Over the course of your Personal Story, you help him with his involvement with a Divinity’s Reach gang. I won’t spoil the story, but I’ve heard more than a few people express their frustrations with Quinn. Having just received a detailed report of his action from my man in Divinity’s Reach, I cannot say that I disagree with this judgment.
For Thieves, Quinn represents a tale of warning. Quinn got himself in far deeper than he should of. As Thieves, we will likely be dealing with the same sorts of people as Quinn deals with in the Human Personal Story. Never truly trust the people around you, not even your oldest friends, especially if they are Engineers. A healthy dose of paranoia will do you good in the world of Tyria.
Congratulation Quinn. You’re the worst.
With this, we bring this award ceremony to a close. With just over a week left, you can almost taste the salty air of Lion’s Arch, and almost hear the roar of gun on the battlefield. Stay strong, get prepared, and make sure to keep you blades sharp.
Oh, and thank the Six for making me a Thief,