So you look good. But guess what. As a mesmer, you hit that button and *pop* there are two of you for everyone to look at. Hit another one and *pop* *pop* there are even more of you. All looking fantastic.
Or, perhaps at some point while playing some other game you’ve come across one of those bosses that summon clones of itself. You don’t know which one is the real one, but you know you’re going to have to kill them all anyway, so you just start swinging. Maybe you’ve wanted to be that boss, and maybe you’ve thought “I could do better than that.”
Point is, as a mesmer you’re going to be summoning lots of copies of yourself, so you better find a reason to like it. Also acceptable as a reason: they’re very useful, do lots and lots of damage, and are the bane of every inattentive player. Because it’s true. So if you’ve got an appetite for instruction, read on!
You and what army?
Mesmers use two types of illusions: clones and phantasms. Clones are identical to your character and have very little health and damage, although their conditions can really add up. Phantasms are a translucent purple version of your character and have more health and significant damage. You can have up to 3 total at any time, indicated by the pink dots above your skill bar. Summoning a new illusion will replace the oldest if you have 3 already, although phantasms have some priority over clones. Think of it of as 2 slots holding priority for phantasms, while the 3rd treats clones and phantasms equally. Specifically, here’s what I’ve noticed through some testing: 1. If you have 3 phantasms and use a clone skill, the clone will replace the oldest phantasm. 2. If you have 1 or 2 phantasms and the remaining are clones, using a clone skill will replace the oldest clone—not an older phantasm. 3. Using Mirror Images (summons 2 clones) when you have 3 phantasms or 2 phantasms and 1 clone will summon 1 clone. Phew.
Illusions have multiple uses, as you might expect. Lots of damage, lots of control, and some support. You can keep them alive for the damage they deal, use them for control and let your foes attack them, or use the all-important shatter skills. Generally, any illusion build should focus its traits on one of these uses, but you should always use all these methods.
Turreting with your illusions focuses on phantasm damage mainly, but some clones are worthwhile for their conditions. The most powerful phantasms include the Warlock, Warden, Duelist, and Swordsman; useful clones include the staff’s for their random conditions and the sword’s for vulnerability. Turreting has limited effectiveness against other players because your summons are easily negated by an attentive player—the summon can be dodged or blocked, leaving you with nothing. It’s possible to cancel your cast to trick them into using their dodges and blocks, however. But more often than not, you’ll be able to wreak some significant havoc with them. Turreting works well in dungeons and high-end PvE, but susceptible to the mass amounts of AOE. Useful traits for turreting are:
- For illusion damage: Empowered Illusions, Phantasmal Strength, Sharper Images, Phantasmal Fury, and Phantasmal Haste.
- For survivability: Phantasmal Healing (especially coupled with Illusionary Membrane), Illusionary Defense, Compounding Celerity, and Persisting Images.
Specializing in clone death is more for bunker builds; it can work in PvE, but it’s a slow way to kill things. Typically you want to load up on toughness and condition damage and take advantage of the misdirection and effects that come with enemies attacking your clones. In a fight, just keep moving and overloading the battlefield with illusions. And don’t forget to shatter—you can still throw a mean punch when you need to. Keep in mind the specific wording of traits: some affect only clones or phantasms, or both; some trigger on shatters, while other when the illusion is killed or overwritten. The core traits for bunkering are:
- Effects on clone death: Crippling Dissipation, Confusing Combatants, and Debilitating Dissipation.
- For condition damage: Chaotic Transference, Master of Misdirection, and Illusionary Elasticity.
Shattering is excellent in every scenario. There’s a reason it’s the mesmer’s core mechanic, and therefore a part of everything we do. The damage, control, and survivability are just superb. One of the great things about shattering is that Mind Wrack counts as a weapon skill, so your sigils can proc—and with up to four shatters at once, it’s almost guaranteed if the sigils aren’t on cooldown. Whether you’ve got sigils of Air of Fire for the extra damage or Ice to keep them from running away, it greatly adds to the shatter’s power. There are lots of traits that affect shatters, but a couple of the more important ones are:
- For straight up damage: Mental Torment, Precise Wrack, Rending Shatter, Shattered Strength, Compounding Power (this affects the shatters themselves; with 4 Mind Wracks, the first does +9% damage, the second +6%, and +3% on the third for an extra 18% when they all hit), and Illusionary Persona (adds yourself as a 4th shatter, which effectively increases Mind Wrack’s damage by 33%).
- For utility: Illusionary Invigoration and Illusionary Persona.
Noticing a trend with Illusionary Persona? There aren’t a lot of reason not to use it, because you should always be shattering. Even if you’re fighting at range, you’ll still get a lot of use out of it for the extra Distortion and Diversion it grants you. There’s one other trait that’s at the core of every illusion build: Deceptive Evasion. Dodging means not getting hit, which is important to you as a mesmer, and getting a free clone out of it, with their myriad uses we’ve talked about, is not bad at all.
Mind Wrack 101 is a bi-weekly column devoted to the most multiplicative profession in the game. Check back every other Thursday for more!