Editorials

Daredevil: The Most Artful of Dodgers

After the first Heart of Thorns beta weekend event, I wrote about the dragonhunter and its traptastic goodness. This time, I’m going to talk about the daredevil and how this new elite specialization is revitalizing my interest in the thief profession as a whole. Since the first beta weekend event, I’ve learned that it’s far easier to learn an elite specialization’s skills and traits when you’re not being grappled, pounded, smashed, chewed, and spat across Verdant Brink. So for the second beta weekend event, I retreated to lower-intensity zones like Harathi Hinterlands, Fireheart Rise, and Orr (seriously, the Maguuma Jungle is a non-stop war zone and it will eat you) to test out what I think might be one of the more synergistic and mobile elite specializations.

During my time with the daredevil, I rolled with a mix of Assassin’s and Knight’s gear, as obvious proof of my ability (or lack thereof) to form builds in a short amount of time, but I knew I didn’t want to default on the Berserker stat meta because I loathe it (that’s right; I said it). I did, however, take a liking to the idea of a physical and trick skill hybrid build. My preferred dodge was Impaling Lotus, which I paired with the major adept trait, Uncatchable, from the Trickery core specialization line to maximize my ability to escape, all while inhibiting my targets with conditions. With the added effects of Impairing Daggers and the thief’s dual-pistol skills, I was able switch between ranged and melee combat situations with ease.

My daredevil’s skills and traits during the beta weekend event.

For a profession that has focused more on stealth upkeep and debilitating conditions to dart in and out of combat, the thief has been one of the best candidates for hit and run tactics. The daredevil, for the most part, pushes the thief in a new direction by focusing on dodging, rolling, and leaping as opposed to heavy stealth. It’s unique weapon, the staff, embodies this new direction to the letter, making for one deadly acrobat.

DODGING/ENDURANCE

As I said before, the daredevil pushes a thief’s desire to dodge, duck, and roll to its logical extreme. While a daredevil may still choose to make use of stealth skills, it no longer has to in order to keep its enemies on their toes. By equipping the daredevil elite specialization, a thief gains access to a third endurance bar, a full set of physical skills, and new traits, including a set of grandmaster traits that alter how a daredevil’s dodge mechanic works. The daredevil specialization line pairs very well with the other core specializations, especially specs like Trickery and Acrobatics, which house traits that can help fuel a daredevil’s endurance bar and grant extra initiative.

Is the staff worth it? “Stick” around to find out. *womp womp*

STAFF

Staff Strike (Chain) It’s a solid auto-attack if you stick around long enough to let the chain play out. Each attack in the chain can strike up to three enemies and the final skill, Punishing Strikes, applies four stacks of vulnerability. It also has a hidden strike skill that can only be used when your character is stealthed. My only gripe — and it’s a pretty small one — is that the Punishing Strikes’ animation is the same as the revenant’s Warding Rift staff skill. I had really hoped for a cool physical staff twirling animation instead of the magical floating staff again —  it’s sometimes the smaller touches to a profession’s visual aesthetic that help set it apart — and while the floating magic staff may work for the revenant, seeing it on the daredevil feels like cheapening a cool animation opportunity.

Weakening Charge This skill causes the character to lunge (not a leap, but a whirl combo finisher) and lash out three times at up to three targets, applying weakness to each enemy hit. It took a little time to get used to and I think that was because I wished it had a longer-distanced lunge, but as I got a feel for how it worked with the other movement-focused staff skills, I began enjoying it more.

Debilitating Arc A great foil skill for Weakening Charge, Debilitating Arc may not roll back as far as the healing skill, Withdraw, or the utility skill, Roll for Initiative, but it gives the user a good head start by crippling up to three nearby targets and removing one of any immobilizing conditions before ducking out. Used in combination with Weakening Charge, Vault, or even the Steal mechanic, the daredevil can easily leap back into action after a quick retreat.

Dust Strike This skill is pretty straightforward and works perfectly with hit-and-run tactics. Dust Strike can hit up to three targets (I’m beginning to see a pattern here) and applies a five second blind from a maximum range of six hundred. That’s easily enough time for a daredevil to jump back into combat without having to immediately worry about getting insta-pegged by say… oh, I don’t know, a Mordrem Sniper!

Vault If you were looking for a leap combo finisher, Vault is your skill. With the same range as Dust Strike, Vault allows the user to soar over a significant distance to perform an aerial takedown with a nice chunk of damage. Keep in mind that your character can still be hit while in transit so make sure your target is properly hobbled or distracted beforehand.

PHYSICAL SKILLS

Channeled Vigor For something that feels like it was pulled from a guardian’s playbook, I have mixed feelings about this healing skill. It requires the daredevil to remain stationary, which for a different profession like the guardian, is something they can more often afford to do. With that in mind, you have to create your own time to use it. For me, I found myself switching between Channeled Vigor and Withdraw, which may have had to do with where I was and how many other players I was with. Otherwise, it’s a very potent heal that also restores endurance. Endurance full? No problem! If your endurance is full the skill provides extra healing. Even better, it only has a twenty second cooldown.

Bandit’s Defense I’m a big fan of knock-downs and knock-backs (though I suppose not when they’re happening to me) and while I’ve had trouble with timing maintained physical block skills in the past, I was willing to give it another go. Bandit’s Defense is both a block and a stun breaker, and if an enemy strikes your block within melee range, it and any immediate foes will be instantly floored.

Distracting Daggers Truth be told, I only messed around with this skill once or twice. I don’t have great reaction time, so I’ve avoided most interrupt skills in MMOs as I just find I’m not that effective with them. That said, the skill is pretty simple. The closest thing I can compare it to is a mesmer mantra where, instead of stockpiling magical charges, you equip three daggers. Those daggers are thrown at crazy fast speeds and can be used to interrupt enemy skills. Skills interrupted by Distracting Daggers take longer to recharge, which I can imagine would come in handy in PvP duels.

I’m coming for you.

Fist Flurry It was a toss up between this skill and Bandit’s Defense when I was putting my build together, and while it didn’t make the cut, I still enjoyed testing it out. Fist Flurry is a close-range skill that can deal crazy damage over several phases. First are the initial five strikes. If each of those strikes hit a foe, then the skill is replaced with a second skill, Palm Strike. Palm Strike’s initial damage is minor, but it also stuns and marks the opponent for a Pulmonary Impact, which deals a major chunk of delayed damage. Something to note is that the damage from a Pulmonary Impact cannot critically hit, but even then, the total damage can be impressive.

Impairing Daggers For someone like me who enjoys biding their time, Impairing Daggers is both an assassin’s and escape artist’s best friend. The skill throws three daggers for three strikes at a single enemy. They do okay damage for a single attack, but that’s in addition to the eight seconds of poison, four seconds of slow, and two seconds of immobilization they inflict. Remember when I said I used the trait Uncatchable earlier? Add on the crippling and bleeding of the caltrops as the enemy tries to follow and you have a better chance to recoup before moving in for the kill.

Impact Strike I’m a little embarrassed about this one because when I first used this new elite ability, it took me several minutes to realize that Impact Strike had a second skill. What’s worse is that I didn’t notice it had a THIRD skill until I started writing this article, which means I didn’t get to use the skill to its full extent. That said, judging from its description, the third skill, Finishing Blow, sounds insane, especially against foes that are downed (which really only applies to the the sylvari of the Toxic Alliance, WvW players, and PvP players). The first skill isn’t much to write home about; it does okay damage and stuns. Following the initial strike, the chain leads into Uppercut, which not only does better damage, but briefly launches your foe (and even surrounding foes) into the air before triggering Finishing Blow, a powerful downward punch that, if used on a downed foe, instantly kills them.

Channeled Vigor

After getting a chance to test the daredevil this past weekend, I’m pretty confident that this new elite specialization is going to be what brings me back to playing the thief again. With an increased emphasis on mobility and dodging, I can’t wait to see what I’m able to get away with in combat and how long I can hold out against Mordremoth and its hordes of jungle minions.

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