Greetings, shield brothers and sisters! Last week I gave you an in-depth analysis of our Meditations, Shouts & Signets, and today we’ll conclude the three-part series by looking at our Spirit Weapons & Elite Skills.
I’ve taken the liberty of recording a video of each skill group so that you can familiarize yourself with how the abilities look on the battlefield. I’ll list the skills from each category, describe their functions and give insight into their effectiveness in battle. At the end of each category, I’ll pick my personal favorite from the group for my particular play style.
This is vital information for players of other professions as well. It may educate our enemies on which abilities to avoid, but it will also prepare our allies to take advantage of the many benefits we bring to a fight. I apologize in advance for the framerates in some of the videos. I shot them while inside the Mists during the Friday afternoon of the last beta weekend, and WvW was a bit unstable for me at the time. Still, I hope you’ll find them valuable.
We’ve got quite a bit to cover, so let’s get started!
Let me begin by apologizing for the terrible post-production on this video. I swear I watched it prior to uploading it and it was fine. I’m not sure how it turned into a Big Lebowski dream sequence. Mistakes happen, and I find the best thing to do is own them and move forward. I’m deeply sorry for any motion sickness this may have caused. That said, it’s time to crack on.
I love Spirit Weapons.
They add a tremendous amount of unique flavor to the Guardian, and help set us apart from the other professions. They aren’t perfect, however. There’s no current way to control their target selection, they can easily be kited as they have a moderately slow movement speed, and their attack animations are a bit on the slow side as well. On the upside, they are really powerful fire and forget weapons that are wonderful for harassing targets. They cannot be targeted or destroyed by enemies, they have relatively modest cooldowns, and they’re hard to miss when they’re swinging for your head. With the right traits, they can really add a lot of firepower to your build.
Sword of Justice summons an arcane blade to defend the Guardian and attack his enemies. Sword of Justice has a 30-second cooldown and a 30-second uptime, provided you don’t activate its secondary ability. At the bargain cost of a single skill point, it’s hard to think of a reason not to at least try it. Just like a hand-held melee weapon, Sword of Justice will also hit every enemy who falls inside its swing arc, making it good against groups. The active command ability only enhances this area of effect potential by slamming the sword into the ground where it explodes on contact, damaging nearby enemies.
Hammer of Wisdom summons an arcane hammer to defend the Guardian and attack his or her enemies. If the Sword is good against groups, the Hammer is incredible against single targets. With only a 20-second uptime and a 45-second cooldown, it won’t be as readily available as Sword of Justice, but the tradeoffs more than make up for it. Just like the Sword, Hammer of Wisdom will hit every enemy in its swing arc. As an added bonus, the Hammer will also knockback every enemy it hits on every swing. This is incredibly disruptive to your enemies. Better still, the active command ability will knock your foe to the ground for three seconds, which is ample time to set up a finisher, prevent an escape or even interrupt an attack you can’t dodge. For the cost of a single skill point, Hammer of Wisdom is a steal.
Bow of Truth summons an arcane bow that removes conditions from the Guardian and his allies. It sounds great in theory but in practice, I have yet to notice it remove a single condition. It very well may, but I’ve certainly never noticed an animation for it. For all I know, a condition could have been removed by the passive ability of Signet of Resolve, the heal I commonly run with. Fortunately, the active command ability of Bow of Truth is hard to miss. It rains down a volley of healing arrows which affects the Guardian and his allies for the duration of the animation. The cooldown on Bow of Truth is 60 seconds, it has a 20-second duration and costs 3 skill points to unlock.
Shield of the Avenger summons an arcane shield which protects the Guardian, creating a Shield of Absorption that absorbs projectiles and pushes foes back. Just like the Bow of Truth, Shield of the Avenger has a 60-second cooldown with a 20-second uptime. The active command ability of the Shield sends it hurling forward bouncing from enemy to enemy damaging and weakening them in the process. The passive bubble given by the Shield doesn’t really thrill me. Absorbing projectiles is fine, but Wall of Reflection is only on a 40-second cooldown, and it actually reflects projectiles back to their source. It may not offer 360 degrees of protection like Shield of the Avenger, but it also only costs a single skill point as opposed to the 6 skill points that Shield does. The active command ability is where Shield of the Avenger shines, turning a defensive tool into an offensive one. The question you’ll have to ask yourself is if it’s worth the cost or not.
All Spirit Weapons will benefit from the following traits in the Zeal line:
- Eternal Spirit - Master tier. Spirit Weapons are not destroyed when commanded. This is a HUGE trait for any who use Spirit Weapons, allowing you to retain the passive summon even after using the active ability. When you consider that the internal cooldowns on the command abilities of Hammer of Wisdom and Shield of the Avenger are only 15 seconds and their total uptimes are 20 seconds, this trait allows you to use their active commands twice per summon (if you’re fast)!
- Spirit Weapon Mastery - Adept tier. Spirit Weapon cooldowns are reduced by 20%. This reduces the cooldowns of Bow of Truth and Shield of the Avenger to 48 seconds, Hammer of Wisdom to 36 seconds and Sword of Justice to only 24 seconds, essentially giving it a 100% uptime.
- Wrathful Spirits - Grandmaster tier. Increases Spirit Weapon damage by 10%. Fairly weak for a 30-point trait. Even with the other traits, which boost their uptime and effectiveness, it’s hard to justify. Compare this to Fiery Wrath, which is an Adept tier trait in the same line and boosts ALL your damage against targets who are Burning.
- A Fire Inside – Radiance line, master tier. Spirit Weapons cause Burning! Remember Fiery Wrath? Of course you do.
- Improved Spirit Weapon Duration – Virtues line, master tier. What it lacks in naming creativity, it makes up for in brutal effectiveness, giving all of your Spirit Weapons an additional 50% duration! Combine this with Spirit Weapon Mastery, and let the games begin!
Centurion’s Pick: Hammer of Wisdom
It’s a passive area of effect knockback that can knock down a single target for 3 seconds on a relatively short cooldown. It’s useful against multiple foes and in single combat, and that versatility often earns it a place on my bars. My favorite Spirit Weapon by far.
The ultimate power! These skills are the most powerful in your arsenal, or at least they should be. What you’ll find with the current state of Guardian Elite Skills is there is a pretty large power disparity between them.
Tome of Courage, if you’ve read any of the beta forums, is likely to blame for the phrase “Nerf Guardians!” Although it has already been toned down quite a bit, there is no denying Tome of Courage is still incredibly powerful. Upon use, Tome of Courage locks the Guardian in place for 20 seconds while granting Stability, a major increase in health, and five skills that replace the standard weapon skills:
|Heal Area||NONE||Heal allies in the target area.|
|Purifying Ribbon||3||Release a ribbon of light that bounces to nearby allies, removing one condition from each ally hit, blinding each enemy hit.|
|Protective Spirit||15||Grant protection and regeneration to allies in a cone.|
|Pacifism||20||Pacify foes in the area, dazing them for three seconds.|
|Light of Deliverance||30||Fully heal up to five nearby allies.|
This is one of the main reasons Guardians can take so much punishment. If you use Tome of Courage as part of a build that emphasizes healing and toughness, and gear yourself accordingly, you can stand against multiple opponents. This is especially useful in holding control points in sPvP until reinforcements arrive. You won’t deal any damage, and you’ll be rooted in place the entire time, but you’ll be extremely tough to kill. If used in a group to support allies, it provides a tremendous amount of healing for the short time it is active.
You aren’t invulnerable, however, and other professions have already started to catch on to the ways Tomes can be interrupted. The Mesmer’s Moa Morph Elite Skill is one example of a counter ability that can eat up half of our Tome time. Considering that Tome of Courage has a 3-minute cooldown, having it interrupted (and effectively negated) is disappointing, but it’s those counter abilities that keep Tome of Courage balanced in its current form, regardless of what uneducated detractors may claim.
Tome of Wrath, the offensive twin of Tome of Courage, locks the user in place for 20 seconds while granting stability, a major increase in health, and five skills that replace the standard weapon skills:
|Conflagrate||NONE||Burn foes in target area.|
|Affliction||3||Send out a projectile that strikes foes, causing cripple and weakness.|
|Smiter’s Boon||5||Send out a cone that grants might and swiftness to allies.|
|Zealot’s Fervor||15||Grant fury and quickness to all nearby allies.|
|Judgment||30||Knock down and damage nearby enemies with a massive blast.|
If you prefer to throw caution to the wind and believe the best defense is a good offense, then I salute you! Tome of Wrath may not be the most practical Elite Skill in the game, as you’ll be a sitting duck for anyone smart enough to back away, but it absolutely dishes out a decent amount of pain in every direction. Sharing the same 3-minute cooldown that Tome of Courage has, it also hands out offensive boons like candy to your nearby allies, while nailing your enemies with a couple nasty conditions. While it may not provide you with the same one-man army feeling that Tome of Courage does, there is no denying that Tome of Wrath can turn the tide of battle in your favor.
Last, and certainly least, we have Renewed Focus. When activated, this Elite Skill will make you invulnerable to all damage for two seconds. At the end of that time, each of your Virtues will be recharged and ready for use once more. While it certainly sounds useful, when you consider that Renewed Focus shares the same 3-minute cooldown as our Tomes, it seriously gets the short end of the stick. Unlike the Tomes, Renewed Focus also doesn’t benefit from Elite Focus since it has no duration. I’m hoping that something will change in the future that will make Renewed Focus a more attractive option. In its current form, however, it’s unlikely I’d use it over one of the Tomes.
As I just mentioned, our Tome Elite Skills both benefit from the following trait in the Virtues line:
- Elite Focus - Master tier. Extends the duration of Tomes by 10 seconds to a total of 30 seconds.
Centurion’s Pick: Tome of Wrath
I know that Tome of Courage is the Guardian equivalent of yelling “COME AT ME BRO!”, but if I’m honestly going to pick my favorite Elite Skill, then I have to say Tome of Wrath. I play a Guardian with an offensive mindset that would make General Patton proud. Tome of Wrath falls in line perfectly with that ideology.
Whew! That concludes our three week series on Utility Skills. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. As we move forward and the game evolves, I’ll be sure to report on any changes to our Utility Skills. Thank you again for your time and attention!
Next week, I’ll be back to look at Guardians in structured PvP, including video of some of the skills we’ve just covered being put into use. In the meantime, if you have any insight into the skills I covered today that you’d like to share with the rest of the Order, please stop by our forums! If your favorites differ from mine, or if you’ve found ways to exploit… err… “creatively utilize” any of the skills we covered today, I would love to hear about it.