The beta weekend may be over, my shield brothers and sisters, but now the real work begins.
Last week, I provided you with a comprehensive overview of our profession, and while the information there is still viable, battlefield conditions can change very quickly. Today we’ll cover a change that had a significant impact on us, one which has created a bit of controversy across all professions: the tiered trait system.
Up until this weekend, players were completely free to choose how they allocated the available traits in each line. This led to an incredible amount of flexibility and made each of the major traits in the Adept tier extremely meaningful and powerful. For an investment of only ten trait points per line, you could select the very best trait in that entire line for your particular play style and preference. Prior to this weekend, the strongest builds often took advantage of this with a 30, 10, 10, 10, 10 point distribution.
This lack of restriction made quite a few of us happy, especially those of us coming from other MMOs with very inflexible talent trees where cookie cutter builds reign supreme. From a sheer number-crunching standpoint, the open trait system delivered an almost overwhelming amount of variation.
But the system wasn’t without its drawbacks.
Placing all of the emphasis on the Adept tier of choices meant that by the time you unlocked your Grandmaster thirty point Major Trait, you were picking your third favorite option. That’s the opposite of what should happen once you’ve mastered a trait line. Your Grandmaster trait should be the most powerful choice you make, and with the new tier system, it will be.
The old system also led to an illusion of choice in most cases, despite its perceived variation. If one talent per line was considered the “must have” for a particular role, then all others quickly fell by the wayside. You could cherry pick the best trait in each line and move on to the next line. The only way for ArenaNet to counter this under the old system would be to make each of the twelve choices in each trait line equally useful and perfectly balanced in strength and utility. Even accounting for different roles Guardians can take and our personal preference as players, it would be a near impossible task.
Moving forward with the tiered trait system, we avoid these issues. It may feel restrictive in many ways, but I’m hopeful that it will be the better system in the long run. Following the 6/4/2 progression format, it still allows you a fair amount of choice in the Adept tier, allowing dabblers the flexibility to experiment. Those who invest deeper into each tree unlock more potent abilities.
The one major complaint I have about the system isn’t the tier restrictions, but rather how traits become mutually exclusive by design. For example, when you unlock your 30 point Major trait, any rational person will jump at the chance to finally take one of the Grandmaster traits they’ve been waiting for. If your were to do otherwise, it can only mean that both Grandmaster talents were sub-par to begin with and need improvement. The problem is you only get one of the two. You’ll never be able to have builds where both Grandmaster traits are taken. You can swap between them since you’ve unlocked them both, but that’s it.
Consequently, this will have a trickle-down effect on the remaining talent slots. You can only take an Adept trait in the 10 point Major slot, and you’d be considered foolish to “waste” your Master slot on anything less than a Master trait. Because of this, the fact that you can use your Master slot on remaining Adept traits is sort of meaningless. Almost no one would be willing to do that unless one of the Adept traits was extremely powerful, and if that ends up being the case, I suspect ArenaNet will just swap it out with a Master trait in a future build.
What we end up with is choices that are very slot specific all the way up the line. It isn’t a gamebreaker, and I absolutely believe that skilled players will adapt, overcome and succeed in creating viable builds. You just have to understand the system going in. My advice is to think about your preferred style of play, match it up with a Grandmaster trait in a line or two that sounds too good to pass up, and then work your way backwards down the trait line from there.
But enough speculation. The real question is, how do these changes affect Guardians specifically?
I’m glad you asked!
Below you’ll find a listing of Major Traits for each line, broken down by their Adept, Master and Grandmaster tiers.
- Adept Traits – Binding Jeopardy, Fiery Wrath, Protector’s Impact, Revenge of the Fallen, Shattered Aegis, Spirit Weapon Mastery
- Master Traits – Scepter Power, Eternal Spirit, Focused Mastery, Greatsword Power
- Grandmaster Traits – Wrathful Spirits, Zealous Blade
- Adept Traits – Healer’s Retribution, Signet Mastery, Shimmering Defense, Inner Fire, Searing Flames, Blind Exposure
- Master Traits – Radiant Fire, A Fire Inside, Inscribed Removal, Powerful Blades
- Grandmaster Traits – Right Handed Strength, Perfect Inscriptions
- Adept Traits – Meditation Mastery, Defender’s Flame, Strength of the Fallen, Strength in Numbers, Purity, Retributive Armor
- Master Traits – Honorable Shield, Focused Mind, Defender’s Shield, Mace of Justice
- Grandmaster Traits – Altruistic Healing, Monk’s Focus
- Adept Traits – Protective Spirit, Superior Aria, Writ of Exultation, Protective Reviver, Resolute Healer, Pure of Heart
- Master Traits – Writ of Persistence, Empowering Might, Two-Handed Mastery, Writ of the Merciful
- Grandmaster Traits – Pure of Voice, Battle Presence
- Adept Traits – Justice’s Wrath, Vengeful, Consecrated Ground, Courageous, Resolute, Fearless
- Master Traits – Elite Focus, Purity of Resolve, Improved Spirit Weapon Duration, Master of Consecrations
- Grandmaster Traits – Extended Consecrations, Judgemental
An important point to mention is that unlocking each tier does require both a manual purchased from your profession trainer and a level requirement. Unlocking the Master tier requires level 40, while Grandmaster requires level 60. This means in the early levels you’ll be spreading points across at least two tiers. Be sure to account for this in your PvE builds as you level.
For my part, as someone who enjoys an offensive play style and who frequently duos with an Elementalist, I picked up Fiery Wrath from the Zeal line as soon as possible. The free 10% damage increase against Burning targets was just too good to pass up, and between her spells and mine, there was so much fire going around, we could have been charged with arson.
I coupled this with Justice’s Wrath from the Virtues line to enhance the Burning from Virtue of Justice, picking up Inspired Virtue as a minor in the process. I gave my Virtue of Justice even more power with the Justice is Blind minor trait from the Radiance line. In the end it meant my Virtue of Justice burned longer (keeping that 10% damage increase rolling), gave me Might and Blinded up to five nearby enemies in the process. This was extremely effective, and was great for even prolonged encounters since it’s only on a 30-second cooldown.
My build for structured PvP was a different story, but one that’s best saved for another time.
What was your beta build for leveling? For PvP? How did you make the most of the tiered trait system to build your better Guardian?
Visit the Guardian forums and let us know!
In the near future, we’ll take a close look at the other half of the changes to our means of customization: the utility skill tiers. While those tiers didn’t stir up as many tears as trait tiers, they still have a major impact on how the game is played.
Until next time…