Throughout MMO history one archetype has been feared for its ability beyond all others. In every jungle, battleground, or frontline in Azeroth, Rogues were feared for their ability to appear from nowhere, mete out excessive brutality, and disappear just as quickly as they arrived.
While we may share some things with the Rogues of other games, we Thieves cannot claim to have the same sort of Stealth as some of our predecessors but that doesn’t mean that our own version of Stealth is without merit. When it comes to using stealth in GW2 we need to be quick on our feet and thinking tactically.
As Thieves, we can acquire stealth in a number of ways. The most obvious is Hide in Shadows, as it is the very first skill you are given in the game. It is also the most direct way of getting into stealth since you simply use the skill and you to gain three seconds.
Cloak and Dagger, the off-hand Dagger skill, also grants you a straight three seconds of Stealth. There are also three utility skills which grant Stealth directly. Blinding Powder and Shadow Refugee both lay down fields which grant three seconds of Stealth, though if one were to stand in the Shadow Refugee field for its complete duration, you would stack Stealth three times. Finally, Shadow Trap gives us the longest stealth at 5 seconds.
There are also Combo Fields to take into consideration. With either a blast or a leap finisher, a Smoke Field grants stealth. If it is conjunction with a blast finisher, then you will create a field. (Quite handily, we have two skills that create smoke fields, Black Powder and Smoke Screen.)
Before getting into some strategy, we should look at Stealth a little more closely. In PvE, Stealth will stop enemy units from seeing you (and thus beginning to attack you) and will end any combat you are currently in. In PvP, Stealth causes confusion. One, very important thing to note is that when you come out of stealth, you will receive an effect named Revealed. This makes it impossible for you re-enter stealth for a short time. Finally, attacking will break Stealth. Yet, unlike other classes, there is an extra layer of tactics in this for us, but we’ll come back to that soon enough…
Now that we know the basics, let’s talk strategy. Since we don’t have unlimited, or even long, stealth, there are three specific uses of Stealth. I’ll call them Avoidance, Misdirection and Positioning.
Avoidance is probably the easiest to understand, the easiest to execute, and unfortunately, only really going to come up in PvE. You can rather easily use stealth to avoid combat with a particular mob, or extract yourself when you’ve bitten off more than you can handle, or need a minute to heal. Hide in Shadows seems the obvious choice for this.
Misdirection is your PvP-only use of stealth. Misdirection relies upon toying with your enemies minds, and computers are no fun at that (though they are eminently good at doing that to us humans). Your goal here is to use your enemies predictions against them. You want them to predict your movements, and then not go that way. Stealth is meant to be a way to keep you alive, or lose a tail. The best trick I’ve seen is actually running behind anyone pursuing you. As an enemy follows you (let us say it is an engineer), go into Stealth, and turn 180 degrees, running straight past them. It will confuse them to no end, and, if you feel inclined, gives you a great opportunity to attack. Even if you don’t take that opportunity to launch an attack from stealth, if you are quick enough, you should be able to escape if they are not paying close attention. You might consider teaming up with a Mesmer for a truly amazing amount of madness. In the few times I’ve had a Mesmer at my side, the combination of Stealth and a large collection of Clones yielded a truly mind-wracking amount of confusion on the enemy.
Finally, Positioning is the last way I believe Stealth can be used effectively. This is a little more complicated, and takes into consideration a few of our other weapon skills. Some of the skills in our arsenal have different effects based on your position relative to your target. While mad flailing does have wonderful character to it, the correct tactical positioning can be quite effective. Take for instance Backstab, the Dagger Stealth skill. If you hit a foe from behind, you deal double damage. That should have raised one of your eyebrows, and has far too much potential to be ignored. Pop into stealth, run behind your target, Backstab, profit. Similarly, the Sword Stealth skill Tactical Strike will Daze a target if hit from behind. Time this right and you could have incredibly useful interrupt at your disposal. I think it is safe to say that, if you were inclined, having a trait and skill build focusing on dipping in and out of Stealth to deal massive damage with Backstab would be an entirely viable, and quite deadly. For those inclined to do so, I wish you luck and look forward to the results (particularly if they are well tested against Engineers…).
No discussion of Stealth and its uses would be complete without at least mentioning Stealth Attacks. As I’ve alluded to above, while other classes might be able to benefit from Stealth, or even create Stealth themselves, none can claim to have a whole set of attacks while in Stealth. Each of the Thief’s first weapon skills changes when you are under the effects of Stealth. I’ve already mentioned Backstab and Tactical Strike, but those are only half of the available Stealth skills (or two of the six if you count the Underwater Stealth Attacks). Besides the effects of the two skills I mentioned in the positioning section, the other attacks are fairly normal, causing Bleeding or Immobilizing.
So with that, I believe we have a nice overview of Stealth. You know how to get it, what it does, and how you might want to use it. Next week, I’ll be doing a grand overview of everything related to Thieves in one massive column. Consider it the review before the glorious exam that will be release…
May smoke cloak you,