This week, we have the first part of a guest article by Zen Nightwing on the Guild Wars 2 profession that is most associated with chaos — the mesmer. Zen is one of the guild leaders of the Royal Tyrian Highlanders [RTH] on Darkhaven and has made the mesmer his primary character. Here he explains why you should consider creating a Mesmer of your own.
Harbingers of Chaos: Part 1: “Is the Mesmer the Right Profession for Me?”
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a “Harbinger” as one that presages or foreshadows what is to come, and “Chaos” as a state of utter confusion. When a mesmer enters a fight we are truly “Harbingers of Chaos”, for when we appear disruption and chaos will soon follow, leaving our foes in a state of utter confusion. Good mesmers thrive on chaos. We create it. We control it. Chaos is our sword and our shield. Chaos is our shroud of mists allowing us a safe place from which to freely engage the enemy. Chaos confounds our foes and gives us control — and control is really the very essence of playing a mesmer in Guild Wars 2. “Control Freaks”, this is definitely the profession for you!
Welcome to the mysterious world of the mesmer! I present to you part one of a three-part study of this complex, wondrous, and often misunderstood profession. In this part, I will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the Mesmer, and try to give you a general feel for how the Mesmer profession plays in GW2. It is my hope that those of you considering playing a mesmer will begin to get a sense of the overall power and versatility of this complex profession, and also gain some insight into whether the mesmer is the right profession for you. In parts two and three we will peel back the veil and look more in detail at the mechanics of the profession which make a good mesmer a true terror on the battlefield and a force to be reckoned with. I’ll discuss build theory, traits, armor and weapon choices, skills, tactics and more.
I can tell you that the mesmer really “does it” for me, and I now play a mesmer exclusively. After experimenting with many of the GW2 professions in beta testing and in the finished game, for me the choice came down to the mesmer and the thief. In the end the thief just had too many limitations, and the strengths of the thief really did not match my play style. I love balanced characters, and the mesmer is certainly that, and much more. The mesmer can do it all — PvE, Dungeons, Fractals, Dynamic Events, PvP, and WvW — and we can do it with the same build, equipment and traits if we want to!
If you are tired of running back to a skill trainer to “re-tool” your build every time you want to take on a different challenge, then you may want to give the mesmer profession serious consideration. Personally, I never change my trait build, never change my weapon sets, and rarely even change out my utility skills. For most mesmers, once you develop a build tailored to your own play style, trips to a skill trainer become strictly voluntary.
Oh, by the way, when I speak of the mesmer as a balanced profession, one of the best characteristics of the mesmer is that we are just as capable at operating underwater as we are on land: I would argue even more so. This has proven, in my experience, to be a huge advantage in WvW. What’s that? “Dangerous Thief”, or “Tough Warrior”, or “Invincible Guardian”? Mesmers are not “all that” you say? You have no fear of taking us on one vs. one? Alright, fair enough — just follow me into this lake right over here and we can settle this fight — just the two of us. What? No thank you? I didn’t think so.
When I refer to the mesmer as a “balanced profession”, I also mean that the attributes (those symbols and numbers which appear on the upper right side of your Hero panel in game) of a finished level 80 mesmer readily lend themselves to a character with plenty of survivability and offensive power in combat. The manner in which a mesmer’s skills and weapons synergize with each other allow a balanced mesmer to instantly adapt to any change in circumstances. In other words, mesmers have the unique ability to adapt “on-the-fly” to changes in combat and assume a different role within a party — simply by changing the way they are playing. Contrast this to a warrior. Before setting out to a dungeon, a warrior must decide if he will set his traits, armor, weapons and accessories to be a damage dealer or play more of a “tankish” role and soak up damage for his party. As mesmers, we need not make these decisions before setting off with our party. We come as a balanced profession, ready to assume whatever role is needed at the precise moment when it is needed.
Most often, this “role-switching” is done so quickly and quietly that the average party may be unaware of the switch. Your party members may comment that “we seem to be doing more damage today”, or “we seem to be taking less damage today” without even realizing that their mesmer has been stacking Might on the party, and also giving them Aegis, Protection, and Regeneration when they need it the most. The mechanics and animations of a mesmer’s skills tend to be more subtle — quieter and less flashy than many of the other professions, and therefore often go unnoticed. Mesmers find this subtlety to be a huge advantage when taking on human players in PvP or WvW. If we wanted huge thundering explosions, or loud crashing hits with bodies flying all over the map, then I suppose we would play an elementalist or another more “flashy” profession.
Unfortunately, the subtlety and complexity of the Mesmer profession often makes it difficult for us to find pick-up groups (PUGs). I feel strongly that most players have no idea what we do, or the benefits we bring to any party. Hopefully this study will serve to help mesmers gain more recognition in the GW2 gaming community. For now let me simply say that a good mesmer makes any party better. I would be remiss not to also mention that a mesmer is ideally suited (along with a thief) to be a party’s primary resurrector — it is easy for us to let our illusions take over for a moment or two and resurrect downed party members.
“Hey Zen, do you think I should play a mesmer?” This is the most common question asked of me as an experienced mesmer. The answer is, “it depends”. In order to determine whether the mesmer profession is right for you, consider your personal play style, and what you are looking to do with your character in GW2.
It may be easier if I explain first, what mesmers are (what we do well), and what we are not (what we do not do well). As you will find in Parts 2 and 3, I am a huge proponent of creating builds within a profession which capitalize on the strengths of the profession, and minimize its weaknesses. What this essentially means is that I believe we should play a profession with strengths that match our desired style of play, rather than trying to force a profession to be something, or to do something, that it is not designed to do well. With that in mind, allow me to list some of these strengths and weaknesses (yes, even mesmers have a few weaknesses):
Strengths (what mesmers are):
- Masters of controlling the battle and fighting on our own terms,
- Equally capable of soloing or playing in a party in PvE, PvP, and WvW,
- Exceptional at providing constant damage over time, providing continuous boons, and stripping boons from foes and conditions from ourselves and our party,
- Agents of chaos: using Illusions (Clones and Phantasms) and some of the best skills in the game, both offensively and defensively, to create confusion in battle and keep the enemy from hurting us, while we hurt them.
Weaknesses (what mesmers are not):
- High direct damage dealers, direct area of effect damage dealers, or spike damage dealers,
- Melee fighters for extended periods of time,
- Providers of precisely timed or targeted protection (damage mitigation) or direct healing for our party,
- Good at covering a lot of ground quickly — on a land map.
Has your interest piqued? Awesome! I really do hope so. Let me ask you then — are you the kind of player who likes to turn every combat into a chess game? Do you liken yourself to a cat, who likes to play with your food (opponents) before you eat it (them)? Perhaps you love the idea of playing the spider, weaving an intricate web of chaos and disruption, entangling your foes, paralyzing them, waiting them out until you can end the fight with a precisely timed killing strike? If so, go ahead and roll your new mesmer now!
Be patient with your new mesmer. I find that the mesmer profession is not the fastest profession to level. Fast kills and storming through maps are just not our strengths. Rather, I suggest using your leveling time as a chance to explore weapon choices, skills and traits while you perfect your playing technique, weapon swaps, and practice combo fields and combo finishers. Try not to let a single enemy even touch you as you clear an entire map — strive to play “perfectly” even if it seems like “overkill” at the time. Mastering your play style early on will leave you well prepared for higher level endeavors. Also, be patient with yourself. The mesmer profession is one which relies heavily upon its full trait lines to operate efficiently. You may feel like your lower level mesmer is running like an engine low on oil — don’t worry, everything will smooth out when you reach level 80 and finally have a full 70 attribute points to spend. I suggest spending your early trait points on survivability (Chaos and Inspiration) and let the damage take care of itself. This method also will allow you to try new things, and push the limits of your mesmer, without the risk of dying every few encounters.
Allow me to leave you with some final thoughts. Mesmers are, in my opinion, the most powerful profession in GW2 — if played correctly. However, the mesmer profession takes dedication on the part of the player to learn, study, and perfect one’s play. The mesmer is not a profession to be played “casually” or “directly” in combat, yet after some hours of dedicated play, a good mesmer build will begin to “flow” naturally — becoming a constantly flowing entity of change and improvisation: like a great jazz song! We mesmers quickly become heavily relied upon by our party, our team and by commanders on the field. I submit to you that we have a duty to be true “professionals” within our GW2 mesmer profession.
If you want to take a more casual approach to playing GW2 — and there is nothing wrong with that — or maybe you prefer a more direct method of dealing damage and killing foes, then you may want to consider a different profession. It is not that a mesmer cannot be played casually — it certainly can be — but rather that many players may find it more enjoyable to “casually” play a different profession. A casually played mesmer is one that will not reach its full potential, and this may disappoint or frustrate some players. If, on the other hand, my description of the play-style of the mesmer has whetted your appetite, and you are looking for a challenging character to master, then please join me for parts two and three of this study in the following weeks so we can explore this wondrous profession in detail!
My thanks to my friend Raphia Naon for encouraging this study, and for graciously agreeing to serve as my editor, and my thanks to GuildMag for posting my work. I look forward to seeing all of you in-game. Private message me (Zen Nightwing) if you want to team up, or just chat and share ideas — that is how we learn and grow.