Hunters and Scavengers

In the conclusion of our series speculating on the possible origins of the elite specialisations of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, we’re going to cover the remaining four in one article. The reason for this is that these are the four specialisations about which at least something is known (or very strongly inferred) and, thus, for these specialisations it is less of a case of “speculation” and more of “discussion”. Much of this is drawn from prerelease information that was not presented in-game, however, so readers who missed some of this information at the time might still find a few surprises… or, possibly, confirmations of what they already knew.

So without further ado, let’s get down to business!

The Herald

Revenant elite specialisations have the advantage of coming with lore prepackaged – each elite specialisation thus far is linked with a specific Legend. Therefore, the lore explanation is simple: a revenant discovers how to channel a new Legend, and a new elite specialisation is born. In Glint’s case, the revenant in question is the very first, Rytlock: his first act on returning to Tyria is to throw a spectral Glint at a Mordrem commander (a skill not available to players, but which was probably a souped-up Chaotic Release), and while in Glint’s lair during Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire, Rytlock asserts that he learned the skills of the revenant from Glint’s spirit in the Mists. Presumably, she would have also taught him how to channel herself as well as the significant figures from the time of her prophecies.

It is worth noting, however, that without this knowledge I would probably lean towards a different analysis. The Herald’s Shoulderplate does have some similarities to charr aesthetics (specifically, the stylised feline heads that often decorate charr architecture and war machines), but since we don’t usually see dragons in charr work (unless the heads of flamethrowers count, and that is clearly a different style), I can’t say I would have recognised that without the benefit of hindsight. The Glint’s Bastion collection pieces are mostly focused on fighting Mordrem, the Exalted-killing Vinetooth Prime in particular. If I was to perform an analysis on the herald similar to what I’ve done for other specialisations, I likely would have concluded that the Exalted had passed on the knowledge to channel Glint’s power.

This serves as a cautionary note for this series, and on speculating based on hints and clues in general: the story that such evidence tells might not be the true one. While it can be interesting to speculate, and every so often such speculation turns out to be right, it should not be taken as given, and care must be taken to keep an open mind towards evidence to the contrary.

The Scrapper

Of all the elite specialisations of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, the scrapper is probably the one on which we were given the most background.

The term “scrapper” originally referred to charr who were assigned to act as scavengers, picking over battlefields and the refuse of higher-status warbands for equipment and materials which could be reclaimed and put to useful service. This caste was often looked down on by other charr, and the assignment typically regarded as a punishment detail, although some did take a humble pride in their work.

A number of these scrappers were included in the charr contingent that was dispatched to aid in the Pact’s assault on the Maguuma Jungle. With the downing of the Pact fleet, those who survived found themselves in their element, surrounded by broken equipment and other scrap that could be salvaged. Rising to the occasion, these innovators saw an opportunity to prove their worth and regain the honour of their vocation, making themselves indispensable in aiding the survival of the Pact forces by repurposing of the fleet’s remains.

While traditional engineers focus more on the pure technology of the charr, the scrappers that found themselves in the Mordrem-infested jungles would not have been able to be so picky; everything that was available could be the difference between survival and corruption, whether a particular piece of equipment was of charr, asura, or some other race’s design. Gyros, for instance, likely combined an auxiliary rotor or cooling fan from an airship with a golem brain and some useful piece of equipment such as an automated medical kit, chemical sprayer, or asuran force-field generator, allowing spare parts which might otherwise be worthless to be put to use. Similarly, some of the lightning-oriented skills on the hammer likely also indicate the use of asuran magitech.

The adoption of some degree of magitech can be seen in the Fix-R-Upper achievement. While many of the items there are likely generic to engineers in general (such as the metalworking lessons), the Energetic Chak Goop seems to be an indication that the scrapper is deliberately employing a magical substance in their work. The usage of an Inquest servo is also suggestive of this, although it may be incorporated purely for its mechanical properties with its Inquest origin being unimportant.

The Dragonhunter

Dragonhunters are another profession about which ArenaNet gave out some lore tidbits during the prerelease marketing of Heart of Thorns.

The broad concept given was that the dragonhunter specialisation arose out of guardians who decided to take a more “proactive” view of defence, hunting down dragon minions and other threats in the wild rather than waiting for them to attack a settlement. This approach has led them to develop a skill set more commonly associated with rangers: relying on traps and long-range weapons to take down targets that would be too large to risk attacking head-on with a sword or mace.

Some dragonhunters were inspired to do so through having suffered some loss at the hands of dragon minions that pushed them into a more aggressive attitude. Some took this to a point of being overzealous, with dragonhunters having been compared to witch hunters in prerelease discussions and interviews.

In this respect, it is noteworthy that some of the items required for the Ydalir achievement, specifically the drake and wyvern scales, are trophies taken from dragonlike creatures that are not necessarily minions of the Elder Dragons, and the dragonhunter equipment pieces (the gloves, bow, and Ydalir itself) all show signs of incorporating trophies taken from such creatures. This might, however, be demonstrating a degree of practicality rather than a lack of distinction; drakes and wyverns are often seen corrupted by the Elder Dragons (corrupted wyverns, in particular, appear to be a favoured form of champion), so hunting these creatures makes good practice for their corrupted cousins.

This combination of trophy-taking and solo hunting suggests that the norn might have had a strong influence in the development of the specialisation. However, this is not necessarily the case: both charr and humans also have a culture of hunting game (albeit not as strongly as the norn) and both have a tendency towards incorporating trophies taken from game into their weapons, armour, and other equipment and decorations.

It is worth noting, however, that the most prominent NPC dragonhunter we know, Braham, fills all of these boxes. He’s norn, suffered the major loss of his mother Eir at the hands of a dragon champion, and his overzealous attitude towards seeking vengeance against the Elder Dragons was one of the themes of Season 3 of the Living World. Whether among the first dragonhunters or not, it is likely that the replacement Destiny’s Edge formed by Braham to hunt Jormag contained a high proportion of dragonhunters.

While Braham appears to have left that group behind in order to return to the fold of Dragon’s Watch in recent episodes of the Living Story, it will be interesting to see their composition should they appear on-screen in future episodes.

The Druid

Druids have a long history in the world of Tyria. However, it has been left ambiguous as to what link might be present between the current generation of druids, represented by the elite specialisation, and the ancient druidic culture that transcended to an entirely physical existence long ago. The “celestial avatar” form of the modern druids could be seen as an “intermediate” state, temporarily assuming a more spiritual form – however, this might be drawing a false analogy.

There is little to be concluded from the aesthetics of the druid’s various pieces of equipment. Each one shares a generically ranger-esque aesthetic, being made of natural materials and decorated with carved animals. As a result, it seems to provide little hint as to how these druids came to be.

Somewhat more telling, perhaps, are the pieces of the Yggdrasil collection. This achievement requires the collection of an oakheart sprout (oakhearts having been associated with druids since the original Guild Wars: Prophecies) and two spirits – a nature spirit, and a so-called “friendly mushroom spirit”. Somewhat incongruously, these spirits are “acquired” through killing oakhearts and mushrooms respectively; however, the ancient druids have a well-established attitude of regarding death as a part of life, so perhaps killing these sentient plants and fungi is not seen as offensive. If so, it is possible that the purpose of collecting these spirits is so that the current generation of druids can commune with them for guidance or a source of magical power.

Ultimately, while it has never been outright stated, the most likely source of the druid elite specialisation was through rangers among the Pact forces coming into contact with the ancient druids of the Maguuma Jungle, who were willing to pass on some of their knowledge in exchange for assistance in restoring the jungle – or perhaps the ancient druids viewed spreading their beliefs as a worthy goal in and of itself. Certainly, while there is little in the way of confirmed links between the two groups of druids apart from the name, the shared name is itself significant; the first of the modern druids likely would not choose a name which could lead to them being confused with the ancient druids unless they wanted to be seen as the heirs of that tradition. Sadly, none of the ancient druid spirits, such as those in Draconis Mons, appear to have any special responses regarding ranger or druid characters.

The Others

Having now examined the remaining elite specialisations in Heart of Thorns, this brings us to the end of the series. For those who might have missed the preceding articles in this series and who are interested in the other elite specialisations, the previous articles can be found in the following issues:

Daredevil: Issue 23 (2018 Annual)
Chronomancer: Issue 22
Reaper: Issue 21 (2017 Annual)
Tempest: Issue 20
Berserker: Issue 19

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