You may, at some point, find yourself thinking, “Wait, I thought my clones were supposed to be the ones who do no damage and die in one hit—not me.” You may feel that your beloved mesmer has been blessed with the lethality and lifespan of an actual butterfly. Well, at least you look good…
So what’s going wrong? Today we’re going to look at one common problem people have with their new mesmer: survival. We’ll focus on various methods as they become available to a mesmer leveling up in PvE as well as tactics against other players.
It can be easy to feel that you do too little damage and don’t last very long as a mesmer. It’s true that we can’t take a hit well, but we have myriad ways of avoiding damage altogether. This is one of the mesmer’s greatest advantages. These methods, for the most part, are with us whether we’re built for damage or defense; as you learn the mesmer’s ways of staying alive, you’ll have more room to focus on more lethal traits and gear without sacrificing your damage avoidance.
The first skills available to you are your weapon skills. The thing to understand about them is that many times, a single skill will offer you tools for both offense and defense. You’ll want to know how to use both aspects and learn when to use them together for maximum effectiveness. For example, Blurred Frenzy does big damage and gives you two seconds of immunity—it’s worth it to use the skill for just one of those, but timing it to make use of both will give you a huge advantage. Chaos Storm is incredibly effective whether you cast it on allies, enemies, or both. Study the dual nature of your skills. If you’re just starting out, don’t just unlock your weapon skills, but learn them.
Illusions and Shatters
The next most important thing you can do to keep yourself alive is learn to use Distortion, the fourth Shatter skill. You neglect Distortion at your own peril. Think like a garage band! As you’re leveling in PvE, use it as much as you can, even if you’re not in any danger. Just get your fingers used to hitting that button. Then, as you learn which big attacks to avoid in PvE and PvP, Distortion will be reflexive.
That’s your homework this week: Use Distortion. Get comfortable with it. If you’re totally unfamiliar with it, try using it to secure a rez or stomp.
Shattering clones is a major source of the damage you deal, but don’t be discouraged when they get one-shotted away by enemies—they’re doing their job to protect you. Through clones, misdirection is your weapon. Any hit they take is one less directed at you, and you can always make more clones. Lots more. In PvP, their job is to render inattentive and lazy players harmless. But, as soon as another player shows that they’re not falling for your ruse (by picking up on your not-clone actions or target-locking you), you’ll need to rely on your other avoidance methods.
BUTTERFLY FACT: The wing shape and stripes of the Arawacus genus of butterflies resemble a butterfly facing the opposite direction. If a predator falls for the decoy and goes for what looks like the head, the butterfly still has a chance of escape (which is exactly how your clones work!).
Utility and Healing Skills
Utility skills offer their own defensive tools: teleports, stealth and aggro-breaking (and don’t forget the other form of stealth: teleporting behind players), dazes and stuns, condition removal, and reflection. Most are quite useful on their own, but some really shine through their combos: combo fields through Glamours, Mantra buffs and combos, Arcane Thievery coupled with Signet of Inspiration. Again, the best advice I can give is to try all of them.
Speaking of Mantras, I want to touch on Mantra of Recovery. Even though this column is about survival, I’m not going to spend much time with healing skills because I think it’s straightforward when you should use which. However, Mantra of Recovery tends to get overlooked. On its own, it’s not super, but it has some serious potential through its synergies. First, the trait Mender’s Purity will make it an instant condition removal; Restorative Mantras makes it so it heals when cast (the AOE heal is very nice, too); and Harmonious Mantras gives you another charge, surpassing the other healing skills in healing per second. Decoy and Mantra of Concentration will help you cast it more securely. To top it all off, your ability to spam it allows you to make full use of on-heal runes, such as Superior Dwayna, Water, or Centaur.
BUTTERFLY FACT: Mimicry and camouflage are two of the most common butterfly survival strategies—if a butterfly is attacking you, try blending in with the wallpaper or hiding under a sheet. After a couple weeks it will have died off and you’ll be okay.
And finally, there are traits (in addition to the ones that boost Mantra of Recovery). When you’re able to unlock your first Minor and Major traits, many defensive options become available. In Dueling, Critical Infusion will increase your kiting ability and Desperate Decoy will give you a last-minute lifeline. Chaos’s Metaphysical Rejuvenation and Illusionary Defense will soften the damage you take. And in Illusions, Illusionist’s Celerity will increase your illusions’ uptime and Illusionary Invigoration will spare you Distortion’s long cooldown.
Once you hit level 40 and can use Master traits, you’ll find that Illusionary Membrane in Chaos will go a long way in keeping you on your feet: you’ll gain Protection when you gain Regeneration, which comes from so many sources, including Inspiration’s Phantasmal Healing. Really, putting fifteen points into both Inspiration and Chaos will do wonders for you in PvE. There’s also Deceptive Evasion in Dueling, which will give you so many clones. So many clones.
Lastly, when you’ve hit level 60, you’ll have access to Grandmaster traits. The most important one defensively is Illusionary Persona in Illusions: it increases Distortion’s duration and you’ll always have one second of invulnerability available without the need for a clone, in addition to greatly increasing your shatter damage.
This was a long post, but it goes to show that mesmers’ ability to mitigate and avoid damage is robust, despite their reputation. I didn’t even touch on everything I wanted, but because of many of the skills’ and traits’ offensive/defensive duality, we’ll no doubt be returning to a lot of what we talked about here.
Thanks for reading! Go on. Don’t die.