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The Casual Approach to Raiding

Are raids accessible? The topic of raiding in Guild Wars 2 has been a polarising aspect of the game since their announcement in August 2015. Now almost 2 years and 4 raid wings later, the community of PvE players is still split on this end-game content; whilst some call for more difficult bosses, at the opposite end of the spectrum, others call for much easier, story-driven encounters. There exists a disconnect between those dubbed “hardcore” raiders who clear all wings weekly and with ease, and “casual” players who may be new to encounters; may struggle with them despite consistent practice; or may just not be at all interested in the first place. If the latter group sounds like you, I’m here to tell you that needn’t be the case; with the right attitude and tools, everyone can raid without dedicating endless hours to it.

Are Raids for Me?

But why should you want to raid in the first place? Many people have different motivations, and often there’s a combination of them. If you’re questioning if raiding is worth your time, here are some of the top reasons I think it should be:

  1. Legendary armour. If you fancy working towards armour with animated parts, selectable stats and swappable runes (not to mention looking generally pretty badass), then there’s no way around it – you’ve got to raid for the materials.
  2. Unique skins and miniatures. If you’re into your Fashion Wars, each raid wing brings an abundance of unique skins and miniatures that can only be obtained by killing the associated bosses. Scholar Glenna is your go-to gal for spending Magnetite Shards (the currency obtained in raids) on gear that takes your fancy, which is a great way to obtain ascended equipment cheaply.
  3. Liquid gold. For only a few hours each week, players who clear weekly earn a sizeable amount of gold from each boss chest, which is guaranteed to drop an exotic or ascended item. The time spent learning a fight pays dividends once you’ve got it on farm.
  4. The challenge. There’s no better PvE environment than a raid wing to truly challenge yourself in Guild Wars 2, whether that be learning a boss mechanic or pushing your understanding of a profession. Content in dungeons and the open world simply don’t come close, where stacking and zerging often rule. Raiding puts you in a completely different, focussed, mindset – and I for one enjoy the challenge. Who knows, you might too.

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How and Why Not to be Afraid

The idea of a different mindset is not something to be wary of, but embraced. Raiding requires each player to maintain focus on the fight at hand for its duration, anticipating and reacting to boss mechanics and performing a correct rotation of skills. The idea of a skill rotation or sheer number of mechanics to learn at once may seem daunting at first, but like many things, it’s all a matter of practice. Nobody started out good at raiding – it’s a test of patience and a little bit of grit; a willingness to dedicate some time to learning from your mistakes and improving over a number of weeks.

Everyone who plays Guild Wars 2 is capable of killing every raid boss that currently exists – and don’t let yourself think otherwise. At the top tier of raiding, near-perfect skill rotations and mechanics are expected, but most raiders aren’t – and won’t ever be – at that level. If your aim is just to kill each boss and you’re not trying to set a new world record, being just good enough is all that matters. Worrying about having low DPS, or what happens if you fail a dodge, isn’t necessary as mistakes often happen even in the best of groups. Having taught GuildMag’s raid group for learners for several months, this is often a common trail of thought I see across many new raiders. Without a doubt, the most important aspect to focus on is gradually learning to handle each aspect of a boss fight; doing so will slowly build your confidence with that encounter, until a point where you no longer need to focus on it and can turn your attention to improving your skill rotation instead.

Fear of negative judgement by more experienced players is a common mental barrier also seen amongst learners. I’d be lying if I said that’s never going to be the case, but in my experience the reality is a much more pleasant one. Many are happy to help those new to an encounter, and can often be seen joining learning PuGs to offer friendly advice without passing judgement. The key is surrounding yourself with like-minded players who are eager to learn and support each other, which brings me to my top tips for getting into raiding.

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Tips for New Raiders

As an experienced raider and leader of two raiding groups, I’m confident that the collection of tips below will help you on your journey to raiding success.

Find a guild or dedicated learning group

As discussed above, a group of nine other individuals you raid with regularly will provide some essential stability and a supportive environment in which to learn and progress together. Going it alone isn’t a recipe for success; instead, look for a group to join that guarantees time for practice at least once a week. Some great resources to find such a guild or group include /r/guildrecruitment, the official forums and /r/gw2raiders. For those on an NA server, GuildMag runs a training group aimed at steady progression; an application to join can be found here.

Use a meta build designed for raiding

Whilst any build of your own design will generally work in the open world, successful raids typically require a good group composition with players running builds designed to provide DPS, healing or utility based on various roles. The meta shifts with every balance patch, but a consistent source of builds can be found at qtfy.eu, along with DPS benchmarks for each profession and their effectiveness per boss. It’s worth noting that these benchmarks are what top-tier players can achieve under optimal conditions, and are a goal to work towards when practising but should not be taken as the be-all and end-all. In actuality, DPS requirements are very lenient and you don’t need the highest damage possible to secure a kill – just to provide comparatively good damage output and be consistent in it.

Make sure to find a build you’re comfortable with and stick with it until you’ve mastered it. You’ll be able to contribute more by being comfortable on a single profession than trying to swap between many, so leave multiclassing for later.

Practice with the DPS golem

Inside Lion’s Arch Aerodrome is an instanced area called the Special Forces Training Arena, where players can try their build against a golem that will measure your DPS. Unless you’re playing a pure healing build (like magi’s druid or tempest), each raid build has an optimal order of skills (called a rotation) to provide the highest DPS (or other utility, like boon uptime). It’s this rotation of skills that you need to become comfortable with, to the point where executing it becomes second nature and you can focus on the fight at hand rather than staring at your skill bar for cooldowns. The only way to achieve this is by putting in the time to practice outside your usual raid runs, and ideally you should be somewhat familiar with the build before you step foot into your first raid.

If you’re using a build from qT, each usually comes with a written and video rotation – study these, then attempt to replicate them on the golem. Your aim should be to see a steady increase in your DPS as you continue to practice, until you’re nearing their benchmark. Make sure you have the following realistic buffs applied to you by using the Arena Console:

Banner of Strength; Banner of Discipline; Empower Allies; 5 Grace of the Land stacks; Spotter; Frost & Sun Spirit; Alacrity; Boons (Fury, Quickness, Regen, Swiftness, 25 Might). qT also uses Pinpoint Distribution for condition builds. Finally, you should use the small, 4 million HP golem unless the benchmark says otherwise. It’s worth noting that the benchmarks achieved on the golem are unlikely to be achieved in an actual raid – bosses move and players have to deal with mechanics that interrupt their rotations.

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Learn the mechanics before you enter a raid

Reading up on the encounter you’re about to face before you step foot into it never hurt anyone. Whilst it is possible to go in blind, many others expect you to have done your research beforehand so more time can be spent actually practicing over explaining. There are plenty of resources that cover boss mechanics, some of which are included below:

  • http://dulfy.net/category/gw2/raid-guides/ – Dulfy’s guides cover the basics of each encounter, but you shouldn’t use these as the only guide you follow. Whilst they’re a great introduction, the guides lack detail and common methods for dealing with each mechanic.
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vzjvxuIvFE – GuildMag currently has a comprehensive 5-minute video guide for the Vale Guardian, with additional guides for all remaining bosses planned for release later this year.
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiSsq85T23Q – Tekkit’s Workshop contains quick video guides for most current encounters, providing a useful way for you to actually see each boss.

Accept responsibility for mistakes

You’re going to make a lot of mistakes – everyone does. To progress, you need to own every mistake you make and attempt to learn from it. Frustration is a natural emotion when learning, especially if you make repeated missteps, but letting this get the better of you will only compound the problem. A positive attitude is key to progressing and enjoying your experience; Guild Wars 2 is only a videogame after all, and are you really going to let that one mechanic prevent you from obtaining your raiding goal? As Winston Churchill once said, “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Don’t be afraid to PuG

The more practice you can get the better. Whilst entering the LFG tool for raids often seems like a daunting task for new raiders, there are in fact many people in the same position as you, all looking for more practice in an elitism-free environment. The weekends are a great time to advertise for, or join, learning groups; most experienced raiders looking for kills will have cleared earlier in the week, and those remaining are more likely to be learners or players willing to help learning groups. Make your LFG entry explicitly a learning group and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

The Raiders Inn Discord server is a fantastic place to find training PuGs led by veteran trainers, and is open to both EU and NA players.

Closing Thoughts

Ultimately, raiding in Guild Wars 2 pays back what you put into it. Like many things, raiding comes more naturally to some people than others, but I remain confident that everyone can learn to raid by following the simple tips above and putting in the effort. Set yourself a long-term goal to work towards, whether it’s legendary armour or clearing all bosses, and keep that in mind every time you’re practising. Eventually things will start to click – it’s all just a matter of perseverance.  

I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences of raiding in Guild Wars 2 in the comments below – do you feel they’re accessible to you? Should anything be changed for future raids?