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Scrying Pool Feature

Scrying Pool: A HoT Desert

Welcome to the Scrying Pool, my Guild Wars 2 column here on Mattsta.Ninja.

There is a lot of talk in the community about how Heart of Thorns was bad. I have already done a review series of sorts, and while I do think there are areas of improvement—many of which are likely to be improved upon with the April Quarterly next week—I think the expansion was really good.

One of the complaints floating around of late is that Heart of Thorns only delivered half an expansion. Mike O’Brien already gave his points on the topic, but really the idea of HoT being half an expansion is just really dumb. The major points players will bring up are Legendary weapons, the Fractal Legendary backpiece and the lack of Legendary Armor. These three things apparently equal the four maps, personal story, WvW map, guild halls, new profession, elite specializations, masteries, new crafting discipline and all of the other little things like new weapon and armors that players can earn in-game.

I will agree that it sucks Legendary weapons were cancelled—especially when they were a bullet point on the HoT list of features. Legendary Armor however, was never expected to be out yet. They said that you would be able to make the armor once the first raid was fully released which they also said was being released as three separate wings. Before HoT launched I was expecting the last wing to land in late April which was only slightly off as the third wing isn’t expected until late May or early June. You can’t say they haven’t delivered on something when we haven’t even reached the estimated delivery date.

The last item on the community’s short list is the Fractal Legendary backpiece. I’m a bit sad that we don’t have this yet, but seeing as the wait means it won’t be tied to a leaderboard more than makes up for the wait. If you didn’t know, there was going to be a Fractal Leaderboard implemented with HoT. The details and rumors are a bit sketchy on how the leaderboard worked, but apparently the leaderboard ended up not being good at all and was scrapped. Before it was scrapped however, the leaderboard was going to be a source of one of the gifts required to take the Fractal backpiece precursor and turn it into a legendary. Never able to place on the Fractal leaderboard? Guess you were never going to be able to make that legendary.

So it does suck that we don’t have the Fractal Legendary yet, but I think the delay was for a good reason. The wait is almost over as the teaser trailer from yesterday confirmed that we are getting the legendary as part of the April Quarterly.

Something else that the April Quarterly is going to be changing is the amount of grind that is needed for everything HoT. I haven’t seen many complaints about grinding lately, which I think might be in part because of the quarterly hopefully fixing some things and part is just that enough time has passed.

I have already said that I don’t think the grind is that bad. In fact it seems somewhat comparable to what we have had in GW2 previously. Living World Season 2 gave us the Dry Top weapons and the luminescent armor. The latter was a boring grind as each new piece was a copy pasta grind of the previously released pieces. In actuality each subsequent release made it harder to get the RNG piece that you needed as we went from a guaranteed for the first piece to a 1 in 6 chance for the last—though the patient could wait for a special guaranteed method of obtaining them in follow up patches. Dry Top weapons were even worse as you would open chest after chest hoping for that fossilized insect in addition to the geode grind to buy the recipe for a weapon.

But at least those grinds didn’t have an end date on them—which gave players like myself time to finish them in the break leading up to HoT. We could go back to Living World Season 1, which had multiple times where rare items had high RNG or time investment to obtaining them during content that left after only two weeks. I ran the Molten Facility Dungeon multiple times a day for the entire two weeks it was out and never saw either the Mini Molten Firestorm or the Jetpack backpiece. Monocles, Mini Helmed Moas, Selfless/Thoughtless Potions, Sovereign weapons—and probably more that I can’t recall at the moment—all fall into this category of burst grinding.

But we could go back even further. Legendary weapons have always been a huge grind since the game launched. We could also talk about those dungeon skins and how each path only gives 60 tokens for the first completion of a path. Want to collect all the armor and weapon skins from a dungeon? It’s going to take you a couple months farming the dungeon paths for those tokens. We could even go back farther, to when dungeons would only give about 20 tokens when you completed a path. That couple months of farming was going to be closer to 6 months of farming if you still only did each path once per day.

Less than four months after HoT launched I was about 3/4ths of the way completed with collecting everything directly obtainable from the first three maps. This includes all of the weapon and armor skins, tonics, miniatures and all of the collections in some way tied to the maps—I had all of the elite specialization weapons, both of each of the three order backpieces and both of the luminescent backpiece collections all completed. This however doesn’t include RNG items such as the handful of unique weapon skins and items like the Chak Egg Sac infusion. Currently I am not all too interested in these items, though the Lightward’s Battlestaff is pretty cool.

So I was on track to average 2 months for each of those first three maps which puts them on par with the dungeon skins and in the realm of the living world season 2 maps. I was undoubtedly farther along than the average player, but I also wasn’t the furthest along out of anyone. A player on reddit posted that he completed everything I was going after and did it when I was just reaching the halfway point.

Overall I don’t think the grind on the first three maps were that bad, but I have all but stopped progress to wait and see how they are fixing the grind. I originally planned to farm up a bunch of map currencies to buy up everything once the update went out, but then decided to wait as it’s possible that the fix to the grind isn’t to make things cheaper on the merchants but make the currencies easier and faster to get. I’m guessing this is the case for Verdant Brind especially, where 3 airship parts always felt lower than what those cargoes should have been dishing out as the base amount.

If there is one thing that I think that ArenaNet truly messed up on the expansion with, it wasn’t with the expansion itself but with the lull in content before and after its release. In the AMA they mentioned that they have 70 people working on the next expansion. I think it was a mistake to announce this, as when anything happens negatively the community is quick to comment how ANet could take developers off of the next expansion. I do however, think that it is good to have a good amount working on the expansion already.

I think this sets up nicely for a lot of the expansion to be worked on while we are still getting Living World updates. With HoT, it seemed like a skeleton crew was working on the expansion up until Living World Season 2 was completed at which point everyone was moved over to work on the expansion. This would have left a lot of work to do on the expansion without anyone to really work on anything else both leading up to the expansion and for anything to be released shortly after the expansion. I think at some point we will still see developers being swapped—where instead of the current approximately 70/30 Living World/Expansion split we will see it go to 30/70 Living World/Expansion—but that core Living World team will still be able to release content leading up to the expansion and get content ready for after the expansion’s release. ArenaNet just threw too many resources at HoT which left a desert of content before and after the expansion.

Something else that has me really hopeful is the setup that was most of HoT as ANet made comments that HoT was setting up for the future with getting systems in place. With the next expansion, ANet doesn’t have to worry about decorating the house while it’s still being built. The mastery system is in place and ready to be expanded upon, the balance team isn’t trying to convert all of the old traits into the new specialization system while also making the new elite specializations, Guild Halls and Missions are in place and ready to be expanded upon and even WvW is getting its overhaul before the next expansion comes out.

So while GW2 is in a shaky place within this desert of content, I think that the game will be in a sustainably better place once the next Living World season starts up in the next couple months and will remain so up and through the next expansion.

Scrying Pool Feature

Scrying Pool: Journey to Nowhere

Welcome to the Scrying Pool, my Guild Wars 2 column here on Mattsta.Ninja. Earlier this week, Age talked about the disappointment and concern with the latest announcement that new Legendary Weapons were being “cancelled indefinitely”. I agree with most of what Age said, so for the Scrying Pool I’m going to focus on what I believe is the core reason for this shift: precursor crafting.

Precursor crafting has been “on the table” for a very long time. The idea of getting lucky—either through the forge or getting a precursor as a drop—or spending hundreds of gold to buy a precursor was always a large deterrent to crafting a legendary. It just isn’t fun to constantly wish upon a star or throw your life savings into something that is only a piece of your true end goal.

This is where precursor crafting came in. Instead of being an all or nothing goal, precursor crafting was going to give players a more measured approach to getting that singular, yearned for piece of the legendary puzzle. Instead of going all in to buy a weapon, the idea was to slowly save toward it.

This is where collections were going to see their grand triumph. The parts of the collection might end up adding up to the same cost that buying a precursor originally entailed, but the journey, the slow completion of a collection would divide that cost into more manageable pieces.

In place of this simple goal, we ended up getting a much more bloated system. Now instead of a singular precursor, every legendary weapon has three different levels of precursors. While the idea is interesting—letting players craft a broken prototype of a weapon that slowly builds in grandeur until the final legendary is built—we end up with a bunch of weapons that most people will never use. How often will you want to roam around with a gnarled looking staff once you have the Nevermore staff to wield in its place?

While having two additional skins creates some bloat and more development time for the artists to create the skins, I don’t think that it is the art side of precursor crafting that is the real problem. The larger problem is the implementation of more steps and collections than were needed.

It is kindof cool to make the legendary journeys unique. Each weapon gives a little bit of story and place within the world of Tyria. The benefit of these unique stories however, does not match up with the development effort to implement them vs how many players will see these journeys. A long time ago I talked about how cool it would be to get new skins for existing Ranger pets. One of the largest negatives about the idea was that it would reach very few players as the only ones that would be interested in these new pet skins were players that actively played a Ranger. While the potential playerbase for these new precursor journeys is not limited by race or class, I feel the percentage of the playerbase that would pursue them would be smaller even than those interested in pet skins.

Even if there are a lot of players who go after legendaries, the likeliness of them going after a second or third is incredibly low which is a problem when ArenaNet spends the development time making every legendary journey unique. If there are players that go after every single legendary, it then doesn’t mean that those journeys are going to be memorable enough to bother making them all unique.

A number of weeks ago I had started working toward H.O.P.E. and successfully finished the first collection and crafted its subsequent precursor. They only thing I remember is that I needed bolts of damask to filter some honey. I don’t remember anything of the journey so far and it isn’t something that is repeatable. There is no going back and “reliving” that part of the world. After it is completed it is essentially removed from both the game and my memory.

Which all ties into the ultimate problem of precursor crafting. It is stupid to make content that very few players will see, fewer will remember, even fewer would share and rewarded with “broken” versions of weapons that most players won’t care about.

The problem of these legendary journeys extends beyond just the development vs. benefit issue. These journeys are also tying the world down in various ways. There are now events, mobs and random interactable objects that must stay in the world for the rest of the game’s lifespan. Want to blow up a city or have a corner of a map come overrun with dragon minion’s? First you need to go through and make sure that removing the existing content won’t interfere with any of the 24 precursor journeys that will be in the game once the new short bow comes out in the April Quarterly.

That isn’t to mention the bugs that we are seeing all over the place in terms of the legendary journey. Remember the Shatterer remake? ArenaNet went and remade an entire world boss because the fight caused a single issue with just one of the precursor journey requirements. Multiply that development time by the number of bugs across the number of precursors and a large issue becomes clear.

Solution #1

Precursor collections should have simply been the 2nd tier of each legendary. Talk to any master crafter related to the weapon to learn how to grow as a craftsman. Now blowing up a city doesn’t matter as there are 5 other cities with those master craftsman plus the handful littered around the open world. There isn’t worry about random event X being broken that then causes players to not be able to make a certain legendary.

The second collection by itself fulfills what precursor crafting was set to do. It gives a way to slowly progress through smaller pockets of progress. The second collection is very easy to copy paste across all of the weapons making development time on it short and simple. Then because the formula is the same across all the weapons, players can help players understand what needs to be done even if they haven’t worked on that specific precursor.

Solution #2

This solution comes from a good friend—a Mr. Clouded Chimera—who brought this up as I was talking about how the legendary journey should be. He brought up the solution of simplifying the journeys into a single repeatable journey for every legendary.

One of the problems of the current system is that most players won’t experience most of the journeys. Even if a player went and made 6 legendaries, they are only seeing a quarter of the journeys that ArenaNet developed. With a single journey for all the legendaries, players only need to go after a single legendary to see everything.

I would even go farther as to make a different journey for each core set. The original 20 legendaries would have the Core Legendary Journey as the source for their precursor. Complete the story and at the end you would get a chest that lets you select one of the core precursors. The new HoT Legendary weapons would have the HoT Legendary Journey. Finish this story and likewise get a chest that lets you select one of the HoT precursors. Ready to release the next HoT Legendary? Just put its precursor in the chest.

Focusing on a single journey could also allow more development to be put on making it more memorable. While it removes the uniqueness of lore bits for each weapon, ArenaNet could potentially build this into a small personal story complete with instances and cutscenes. A small part of the current journey and its lack of memorability, is that the journey in no way feels Legendary. This solution would put more development into a single journey that could feel way more epic.

The first solution is definitely the easiest, as all of the pieces are essentially in game to set up the simplified journey. I do however like the second solution which keeps the idea of a journey intact. While the second would take much more development time to get implemented, once the current two journeys were completed it would become more manageable. Expansion 2 could have its journey implemented with or near the launch, be a major bullet point of the expansion and be easily expandable to include all of the legendaries until the full set is released.

While the second solution still has the problem of tying down the world—with NPCs, objects and instance locations needing to remain in the world—limiting it to just one journey per expansion makes it easier to manage and see where items/NPCs that can’t be messed with exist.

I hope that this decision to stop production on legendaries doesn’t discount the release of Legendary Weapons in the future. Instead, I hope it allows ArenaNet to step back and see where they can improve in the future to make these items more easily implemented.

Forum Post


Mattsta is the Best!!
Colin Johanson

Because really, there is no denying his epic awesomeness!

[gw2forum post=”″]

Guild Hall - Treasury
Dara Potocska

Hey guys,

We have the issue in our system and the team is still looking to identify a fix.

An additional question for you all:

  • If you have the ability to check this at a different location, does this issue happen (ie: if you have the issue at home, but then don’t at a friend’s home, or school)?
    • If it worked in a new location, were you using the same machine or a different machine?

Also, since I’ve not seen any of you mention trying a few troubleshooting things that come to mind, could you guys give the two things below a try? The guild halls use the same UI tech as the Gemstore and Trading Post. And what may potentially help is to run the game as administrator or to clear the cache for the game (in case something weird has happened to your caches).

Run as administrator:____________________________
To run Gw2 as administrator right click on the game and select “Run as administrator” from the drop down. This will open the game in administrator.

Clearing the Cache:____________________________

  1. Close the game client
  2. Open explorer and go to your c drive.
  3. In “search local disk” search for “gw2cache”
  4. When the search completes, a folder with a name like: [gw2cache-{B3601E0B-C97D-1C9C-081E-60B37DC99C1C}] should be shown (with an address similar to “C:\Users\YourComputerUserName\AppData\Local\Temp”)
  5. Delete that folder in your results.
  6. Start up the game and return to your guild hall to access the UI.
    I’ve tossed in a screenshot of the search part in case folks want to see the file, etc.

Thank you all for your patience while we try to hunt the cause of this issue down!

Attachments: (Not hosted on Mattsta.Ninja)

Scrying Pool Feature

Scrying Pool: The Future~

Welcome to the Scrying Pool, my Guild Wars 2 column here on Mattsta.Ninja. This article we are going to talk about something a little different: the future~. While a lot of the times I focus on the future—with my grand ideas for fixing this or adding that—this week I wanted to focus less on the what and more on the when.

I had this idea to create a schedule of when I expected things to come out last week, but wasn’t really sure if I was actually going to release it. There is good reason why ArenaNet doesn’t put dates on their future releases as community expectation can be a call to arms when not delivered. Just look at the fractal leaderboards and backpiece that has some crazy fans claiming that not even half the expansion has been delivered.

The AMA at the end of last week changed things a little bit. Not only did it show some more openness from ArenaNet, but also put some lose scheduling that confirmed some—and changed a few—of the recent parts of the schedule I had put together. Plus ANet already has the crazy fans in an uproar so my schedule isn’t really going to hurt anything.

So without further ado, here is my estimated schedule of GW2 releases for the rest of the year. I’ll dive into the schedule more below.

  • March 8:
  • Raid 1 Wing 2
  • March 22:
  • Basic Update (Bug Fixes, etc)
  • April 1: (Friday)
  • April Fool’s
  • April 5:
  • Super Adventure Box
  • April 19:
  • PvP League Season 2 Ends (April 18, Monday)
  • Spring Quarterly Update
  • May 3:
  • Basic Update (Bug Fixes, etc)
  • May 17:
  • PvP League Season 3
  • May 31:
  • Raid 1 Wing 3
  • June 14:
  • Living World Season 3 Episode 1
  • June 28:
  • Living World Season 3 Episode 2
  • July 12:
  • PvP League Season 3 Ends (July 11, Monday)
  • Summer Quarterly Update
  • July 26:
  • Living World Season 3 Episode 3
  • August 9:
  • PvP League Season 4
  • Living World Season 3 Episode 4
  • August 23:
  • Basic Update (Bug Fixes, etc)
  • Maybe something special (Festival of the 4 Winds, Anniversary things?, etc)
  • September 6:
  • Raid Release #4
  • September 20:
  • Basic Update (Bug Fixes, etc)
  • Maybe a SAB re-release (probably not include new content, just opens up again)
  • October 4:
  • PvP League Season 4 Ends (October 3, Monday)
  • Fall Quarterly Update
  • October 18:
  • Halloween
  • November 1:
  • Living World Season 3 Episode 5
  • November 15:
  • Year 1 Pro League World Championship (approx. give or take 2 weeks, most likely a Saturday)
  • Living World Season 3 Episode 6
  • November 29:
  • PvP League Season 5 (Year 2)
  • Living World Season 3 Episode 7
  • December 13:
  • Wintersday
  • Raid Release #5
  • January 17?:
  • Living World Season 3 Episode 8
  • January 23: (Monday)
  • PvP League Season 5 Ends
  • January 28?: (Saturday)
  • PAX South Xpac 2 reveal
  • February 7:
  • Winter Quarterly Update
  • February 21:
  • PvP League Season 6

There are a few things that make a schedule like this easy to make. First is the consistency of ArenaNet to do patches every other Tuesday. If you look at my schedule, every date mentioned is every other Tuesday unless it is specifically mentioned as being on another day of the week. The other is the introduction of 8-week long PvP Leagues and the quarterly updates that take place during the gap between seasons.

The first release of note on the schedule doesn’t come until April. April 1st falls on a Friday this year, giving a nice weekend for ArenaNet to fool their community once more. The following Tuesday is a patch day and is the day I foresee us seeing the return of Super Adventure Box. Rumors have it that SAB is definitely coming back this April and it feels right to lead off the month with it. I don’t think that it would be this year’s April Fool’s however, but I am hoping that the two are related with the joke being something “trolling” the community about SAB before turning around first thing Monday and announcing that SAB actually is coming the following day.

The month of May sees the only thing that I had change after the AMA last week. Originally I had slated that Living World Season 3 would start on May 3 and consist of 12 episodes. The AMA confirmed however that the 3rd Raid Wing would come out in May or June—giving more weight to my estimated release of May 31 for the next raid wing—and moving my estimated release of Season 3 to June 14. I am confident that Living World Season 3 will start the patch right after we get the next raid wing.

The Living World then ends up similar to Season 2, with us getting a few episodes and then a break before the later half of the season. Season 2 started in July, so my estimate of it starting in June puts a longer break between the first and second halves. This time however, we have content to fill in that gap. Raids, PvP Leagues, a Quarterly Update and Halloween highlight the in between with the possibility of the Crown Pavilion opening up for the anniversary and a back to school re-release of the Super Adventure Box being added in as well. Just to reiterate the schedule, if we do get the SAB back again in September I am not expecting there to be any new content. This September SAB would just be opening the doors again. I don’t expect the fourth world in SAB to hit until 2017, letting 2016 be the year of World 3.

Living World then continues back up in November to take a Wintersday break before the last episode releases in January. This lines up perfectly for another PAX South expansion reveal at the end of January with Xpac2 coming out again in the August-October 2017 timeframe. I didn’t put this on the schedule, as this is getting too far ahead, but I also don’t think that we will have an empty gap throughout most of 2017 like we saw with HoT in 2015. Not only will we continue to have PvP Leagues and Raid releases, I think we will see a Season 3.5.

For season 3 I think we will be staying mostly in the jungle and core Tyria. There is a Dragon’s Stand explorer achievement for discovering the whole map that highlights that there are two areas of the map that we still haven’t discovered. The HoT personal story achievement New Horizons leads us to a closed door in Rata Novus that will likely lead to where we meet back up with Taimi. And that is just what I think will happen in the first half of the season. The second half of the season I think will lead us somewhere else in the jungle, opening up a new map and rewards.

A lot of speculation is pointing toward Kralkatorrik being the next Elder Dragon of note. The problem is we are still in the jungle, all the way across the game world from the desert that Kralkatorrik calls home. This is where Season 3.5 comes in. The announcement would reveal that we are indeed heading into the desert and this in between season will open up the first map in the desert, preparing us for the fight—and expansion—ahead. In this way this new map would be similar to Silverwastes is for HoT, giving an existing map to pull players into the HoT personal story.

One thing I don’t have listed anywhere on the schedule is fixes and updates to game modes. People really want that fractal backpiece apparently and the WvW community wants some love. This is all stuff that fits into those Quarterly updates. It is hard to guess everything that we will see in these updates, as who expected the Brew of the Month club in the winter quarterly. I am expecting however, that these updates will end up being like dominoes for the major areas of the game in that once a quarterly update starts updating an area, the subsequent quarterlies will continue to include updates to that area.

The Spring Quarterly I have coming out April 19 and will see the Fractal Legendary Backpiece finally be craftable. ArenaNet has said the delay for this was due to the legendary only being craftable after doing well in a new fractal leaderboard. While the delay sucks, I like that we are not going to have to go through a leaderboard to get it. In its place I think we will have challenges similar the challenge motes that were part of the precursor collections, just at much higher fractal levels this time. To that end I think we are going to see the first round of instability improvements targeting the specific fractal levels that will be needed to make the legendary backpiece. Following quarterly updates will continue to update these instabilities with my guess that the Fall Quarterly in October will bring the first new fractal. Much like the improvements to instabilities, after the Fall Quarterly I think new fractals is likely to become one of the points in upcoming quarterly releases.

Also in the Spring Quarterly I am guessing we will see the next legendaries. While they mentioned that the mace and shortbow are the two closest legendaries to be completed, I’m really only expecting one of them to be ready by the Spring Quarterly. ArenaNet said that they are going to be releasing these when they are done, which could mean a quarterly with only one legendary or a multitude within the same quarterly. After the Spring Quarterly, I am expecting things to start ramping up and we will see 2-4 legendaries each quarter.

The WvW improvements I’m not expecting in the Spring Quarterly. The first improvements I imagine will start rolling out in the Summer with WvW quickly becoming the largest section of the quarterly updates. The WvW changes sound like they are going to be big, so I think we will be seeing WvW take the main stage all the way up to Xpac2 which hopefully brings another new WvW map.

The one thing I’m hopeful for but not entirely sure it will happen is the raid releases I have listed. While the AMA did help solidify my guess of a May 31 release for Raid 1 Wing 3, I have another two raid releases listed for this year. This ends up making the time between them fairly short with the last release I have listed just barely making it into the last patch of the year. This makes the content really nice for playing over the winter holidays, but also makes it very prone to slipping into next year. Plus with the 3rd raid release finishing of the Forsaken Thicket raid, it is very possible that the 4th release will take a little longer to get released.

Scrying Pool Feature

Scrying Pool: Fix-r-Upper

Welcome to the Scrying Pool, my Guild Wars 2 column here on Mattsta.Ninja. This article is the last in a series of reviews for everything Heart of Thorns. To wrap up the series I wanted to go back through everything HoT and look at the things that I think ArenaNet can improve on in a patch.

A lot of the things I will talk about are things that I mentioned in one of the 8 articles (links to which you will find at the bottom of this article). That doesn’t mean everything that I wanted to change will end up here. For example, while talking about guild hall rewards I wished that the new guild hall weapon sets—Shimmering and Tenebrous—were individual collections similar to how the machined weapons were set up. While I still want this, I don’t think making a large switch like that is really going to be likely at this point.

The other thing I want to mention is how I didn’t actually talk about everything HoT. This is either because I have very little experience with them—such as the new precursor crafting—is a topic I had talked about leading up to the launch of HoT—such as how I love Stronghold in PvP—or is something beyond the scope of purely a review—such as the current state of WvW or dungeons.

So with that said, let’s jump into the Fix-r-Upper article of this review series. And by Fix-r-Upper I mean let’s talk about fixing some stuff, not the Scrapper hammer skin that I honestly think is just meh.

The best place to start off is with the Maps and their Metas. There isn’t a whole lot of room for improvement here unfortunately. As I mentioned in the Map Meta article, I really like these maps being on timers. Out of the 6 new maps—the 4 HoT maps plus Dry Top and Silverwastes—Silverwastes is the worst and is in large part because of its lack of timer to its events. The efficient way is to bail on a Silverwastes map to find another that is close to the breach. It seems even ArenaNet didn’t like this with the constant additions that tried to entice players with things like extra damage and magic find if they just stayed on the same map.

HoT map metas seemed to be set up like World Bosses. Unlike Silverwastes where players would just jump to a different Silverwastes, ArenaNet gave the option to bail on a HoT map in favor of a different map. As the timers rotate through their map, you end up with a system where about every 30 mins one of the major metas is kicking off. You could go do Chak Gerent in TD, then 30 mins after it had started the Tarir event is kicking off and about 30 mins after it had started the bosses in VB are spawning during its nighttime.

Out of the map timers, I think VB is probably the best—which is good since its Day/Night timer being socketed into the game’s day/night cycle makes it completely unchangeable time-wise. While I like the AB and DS metas the least, there would need to be a lot of changes made to change the timing of these metas. The events on these maps end up filling the time really well and shortening the timer would result in making it hard to complete all the events in AB and very difficult to get the Mouth of Mordremoth killed in DS. Dragon’s Stand would probably be easier—just make NPCs run faster and tune the health down on everything—but would still be so much work that I don’t think we would see a change.

The map that is most likely to see a change—and is the map most in need of a change—is Tangled Depths. While maps like AB do a really good job at filling the time between metas, TD does a terrible job at it. Instead of lasting 2 hours for a full rotation of the map-wide meta plus the Chak Gerent meta, the map could easily have its timer reduced to an hour. On an organized map the first meta could be fully finished in about 30 minutes, leaving an hour to sit around before the Chak Gerent shows up. This however is the extreme, so while the meta could be reduced to an hour, I think the meta shouldn’t be reduced that heavily—maybe to an hour and a half. Players on those organized maps would still find 30 minutes to kill—which is great for things like hero point trains—but still leaves room for the unorganized maps to get things done. Even this might seem difficult to change when left alongside all the other HoT maps that are potentially being left alone.

While I don’t seeing much room for changing the meta themselves, the way the rewards are handled is a different matter. The biggest problem I see with the timers and the metas changing every 30 minutes, is that the majority of rewards are dished out in these last 30 minutes of these map rotations. By being on the map when the map-wide meta ends and staying through the rest of the meta, you will end up netting about 80% of the rewards while you were there for less than 25% of that map’s rotation.

Auric Basin with something like 85+% personal participation will reward 75 Lumps of Aurillium for the 2 metas. The inbetween map progress rewards will get you around another 60 lumps. The hour and a half build up to get ready for the assault on Tarir? Only about 60 lumps total. There is just too much focus on those metas with the large sum of map currencies you get.

The first thing I think needs to get changed is nerfing the amount of map currency the metas give. Instead of giving 75, they should be reduced down to around 40. To compensate for this, the map-wide metas should be rewarding the map progress boxes way more often. Instead of getting 4 bouncy chests through that hour and a half, there needs to be like 8-10 bouncy chests. Now instead of getting 60/75/60/75 for the four different reward phases, players might get 150/40/45/40. Instead of 80% of the rewards in 25% of the time, players would get about 45% of the rewards in 25% of the time and a more reasonable 55% of the rewards for that remaining 75% of the time on a map.

One of the reasons I think this is needed is the community saying there isn’t value in playing for only shorts amount of time. This is currently true, as if you are not there for that 25% you really are not getting much for your time. This shift means going in anytime during the map will be rewarding to some degree.

Another place I think needs a look at it in terms of the map currencies is adventures. I didn’t realize for a long time that the daily chests from adventures actually gives map currency. For a long time I had stopped doing adventures as they were only useful for getting personal participation on the map up and the occasional rare gear. Currently the adventures give a uniform 2 map currency in the bronze daily chest, 3 in the silver and 5 in the gold. First is that the chests need to mention this as a source of the map currency, as the auto-deposited currencies are easy to miss. Secondly is that the currencies should scale depending on the adventure. Getting 10 map currency from an easy gold is nice, but there are adventures that aren’t easy to get gold on and just 10 map currencies isn’t enticing. So advertise better that adventures give map currency and increase the amount of currency for more difficult adventures.

The last point I want to bring up for map currencies is the Ley-Energy Matter Converter. This thing is awesome and I love that you can convert one map currency into another. The rate of 25 of one map currency for only 10 of another however, is not awesome. This could easily be changed to give two of the 10 currency bags for a 25:20 exchange rate. It would still be better to do the map that has the end currency you want, but if you are someone who hates TD you could still have the option to do AB and exchange over at a slightly less efficient rate. This way you can play more the way you want and still get the expansion’s rewards. Also, why is there a daily cap on using the Ley-Energy Matter Converter. If players have the currency and want to convert it to another they should be able to. Even if buying other things, it’s not like ArenaNet put super high value items in this thing.

Moving on to the actual rewards you can buy with that currency, overall I think a reduction wouldn’t be bad. I think the sweet spot for an item is 250 of a map currency, which is where a lot of the items you get on vendors sit at. If anything is much more than 250, it needs to either be just barely higher or something really special.

Chak weapons and Bladed armor are the two big culprits here. Chak weapons run 750 ley line crystals for two-handed weapons and 500 for one-handed weapons. This is in addition to the Chak Eggs you need to collect from the meta and bosses on the map. These prices are really high, and players are likely to get the Chak Eggs faster than the map currency which is the opposite of what players should be experiencing. Dropping these into the realm of 500 and 300 would definitely put these in a better place. Even so players are likely to get Chak Eggs faster than this, so ArenaNet should consider allowing players to exchange 1 Chak Egg for 10 ley line crystals.

I mentioned during the review series about Bladed armor and how I hate the blanket price of 500 airship parts for all the armor pieces. Not only is this blanket pricing uninteresting, it ends up with an armor set costing a lot. I’d like Helm and Boots to drop down to 250 airship parts, gloves and shoulder to 350 and pants to 450. Not only does this make things a little more interesting, it results in the cost of the armor getting cut by a third.

Next is the Runes and Sigils. While the Sigils are not in a bad place, the runes end up costing a fortune as you need to buy 6 of them to get a full set. Instead of getting cheaper, I’d like to see these change from buying the Rune or Sigil to buying a recipe to craft the Runes and Sigils. Now the 250 map currency cost would be good for just a recipe, and if ArenaNet still wanted a map currency cost they could implement a very cheap item—like 25 map currency—that would be used as an ingredient for that map’s rune and sigil.

Lastly is the Miniature and Tonic. Each map has one of these and the price is just too high. At 1000 map currency in VB, AB and TD and a shockingly high cost of 250 crystalline ore, these fun items are just way too expensive. These however, fall into that special item for things higher than 250 of the map currencies. While players spend 250 map currency for a piece of a collection that will eventually be the elite spec weapons, these fun items come as the whole, finished product. A good price point for these might be in the 600 map currency range. The crystalline ore miniature and tonic should be taken down from 250 ore to around 50 ore.

Speaking of things that cost a ton of crystalline ore, we move into the guild hall rewards. While I think everything could use a reduction in price, the armor and weapons are not too bad. The armor and weapons have the benefit of being piecemeal. Buying one weapon or one armor skin is not much of an investment. A single miniature however, could end up costing the player 30g, 150 crystalline ore and a couple months of guild missions. Doing the math, you are looking at a year of guild missions just to get the 11 new miniatures and that is if you don’t get any of the new weapons or armor and never throw guild commendations at the new guild trader in your guild hall.

The guild hall in general ends up being pretty expensive, but with the exception of a few outliers I don’t think this is necessarily bad. Scribe is really bad, but this is something ArenaNet has already said they were going to fix. The big problems with Scribe are Sand, Pigments, Resonating Slivers and Linseed Oil. Sand and Linseed Oil simply just need their amount reduced, sand by a lot and the oil by just a little.

Pigments and Resonating Slivers are only really a problem because of the compounding nature of Scribe. Players start out using Brown Pigment, but when they get to the next tier they don’t swap out brown for a different color. Instead, another color is added to the formula in addition to brown. Then the next tier adds another color, then another. For pigments, there needs to be a reduction in how much pigment is used, but not by a flat amount for all colors. Instead they need to ramp up through the tiers. Brown pigments might only use one, while the last color at the top of the pyramid might use 8. In the end this would help level things out as brown is used in low quantities many times while the higher pigments are not used very often but use a large amount when they are used.

There are two things I think need to happen with Resonating Slivers. Whenever a resonating item is used it needs 3 of them for the recipe. So a low level item uses 3 Resonating Slivers and a high end item needs 3 Resonating Lodestones. How you make those higher tier resonating items is by combining 3 of the lower tier. For example, 3 resonating slivers combines into a single Resonating Fragment. I think both of these recipes needs to have the amount reduced from 3 to 2. This means the recipes that use slivers don’t see much of a change as it just drops from 3 slivers down to 2. A level 400 recipe however, would see a big change as the total amount of slivers required would go down from 81 to a much more reasonable 16.

To finish things off is raid and fractal rewards. Last week I mentioned how I’m not a fan of the way the unique rewards are dished out. I’d still like to see this reworked, but unless we see a change with wing 2 that comes out next week I doubt the currency would see any change. Ascended gear also seems to be few and far between in both fractals and raids. This may be intentional—as we now know that ascended gear is the end game gear for the rest of the game’s lifespan—but still feels too low at where the drop rate sits currency.

And that is it. By the vast majority I really like HoT. Even the stuff that I don’t like, such as the state of higher tier fractals and scribe are things that they have already said they are working on and are potentially going to be fixed in the next quarterly update. Raids are awesome, I really enjoy the new open world maps and I had fun running 12 characters through the expansion’s personal story. HoT has been awesome and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

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Scrying Pool: The Fractals and a Raid

Welcome to the Scrying Pool, my Guild Wars 2 column here on Mattsta.Ninja. This article is the next in a series of reviews for everything Heart of Thorns. As we reach the end of the review series, it is time to talk about something a little more challenging. Challenging group content that is.

I like Spirit Vale. It is a good introduction to what raiding is in GW2. Overall I don’t have too much to say about raids as I think they are really well done. I am curious where raids go from here, but that wait won’t be long as the next wing is coming very soon.

The difficulty in raids feels perfect. It is challenging to where it is limiting to the higher and more committed player base, but isn’t to the point where it is only the top tier of players that are going to complete the content.

If there is one area that felt underwhelming with raids it has to do with rewards. Raids are the top end content where the rewards are only given once a week, but the drop rate on some of the unique items and non-unique ascended gear seems pitifully low. Out of my 20+ boss kills I saw one unique ascended—Sabatha’s backpack—and no non-unique ascended gear. Miniatures have been a better source of drops with three unique miniatures—out of the 8 total—with an additional two duplicates.

I like the weekly lockout on the reward chest for each boss, but the drop rates just don’t feel like they are matching up. While I don’t think that the rewards should be a super amazing drop rate—to leave reason for players to continue clearing the raid in subsequent weeks—the next wing is about to come out and there is still a lot of unique rewards left in wing one.

To help offset this is Magnetite Shards, the raid specific currency that is rewarded for successful and good, but unsuccessful attempts. Like rewards being capped per week, so are Magnetite Shards. One problem with this cap is that most players would need to go back and fail the bosses a good amount of times to reach the weekly cap on these shards.

While it is nice that players still get something for hitting their head against a boss, I don’t know that I like the currency being awarded for failure. I’d rather see the reward drops from bosses include a slot that contains either a unique drop (ascended skin or miniature), a non-unique ascended or a large chunk of Magnetite Shards. This way you are either getting something awesome or getting the currency to eventually buy the awesome thing you want off the vendor. Instead of a separate, invisible limit on how many shards you can earn, the cap on the currency would be tied to the same lockout of boss rewards where players would find the only source for the currency.

The other side of the rewards is the liquid gold and experience players get from the boss chest. While this is a really nice chunk of change, it doesn’t seem like a week’s worth of reward. Going and helping another group kill a boss you already rewarded for that week is super underwhelming. It would be nice to see 1 gold and some experience added to subsequent boss kills during the week. While a gold might not seem like much, remember that once wing two comes out the first kill on any of the Spirit Vale bosses will go down from rewarding 4g to rewarding 2g.

Moving over to Fractals, HoT doesn’t seem to have been nearly as kind to this 5-man content. Overall the changes to fractals ends up being kind of meh. I really like the change from a randomized set of fractals to being able to go and run individual fractals, but this came at the price of everyone rerolling swamp all the time. The cap was raised to 100, but the lack of additional fractals makes those extra levels just feel like extra levels. Fractal weapons now have a more direct acquisition, but the new Golden Fractal weapons came in with almost the same randomness to getting them that fractal weapons previously suffered.

Mistlock Instabilities were a cool idea, but fell far short of anything I imagined them to be. From the way they were described, I was expecting each fractal level to have a unique instability that was tuned for that fractal. An idea I had thought of leading up to the release of HoT was that players would take significant damage whenever they jumped in the Jade Maw fractal. While those players that automatically jump everywhere would be feeling the pain, the idea was for players to look differently at the fractal. Instead of running through straight to the boss, players would need to ensure they could get out of combat after jumping through the introductory jumping puzzle. While this would put a small spin on the Jade Maw it wouldn’t really do anything to any other fractal, which is why I was hoping for individual fractal levels have their own unique instability.

Instead what we got was a blanket instability system where every set of 10 levels after 30 has the same instability. Not only is this blanket system uninteresting, some of those tiers become really annoying. While the idea is probably to make players switch up their builds and play tactics, it just results in players slogging through fractals all while just accepting every enemy will have max stacks of every boon on them. Instead of bringing something interesting or clever to a fractal, instabilities are mostly an annoyance to not even consider. And another reason to just roll swamp.

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Scrying Pool: The Mattsta-ry System

Welcome to the Scrying Pool, my Guild Wars 2 column here on Mattsta.Ninja. This article is the next in a series of reviews for everything Heart of Thorns. In each article I talk about one particular area of the expansion and what I thought of it. Today I’ll focus on Masteries.

Masteries are really interesting. They provide a way to get a lot of varied passive bonuses thought training each line. As you train through the line you get access to more bonuses or in the case of gliding upgrade the original bonus. I think the mastery system is really neat and could introduce a lot of unique things to the game that wouldn’t have really been possible otherwise.

That isn’t to say I think they are fantastic. The biggest concern I have with them is the simplicity of the entire system. Select a mastery track, earn experience and then unlock it if you have enough of the appropriate mastery points.

There are two problems I have with this simplicity. The first is the lack of choices with only four lines in the jungle—not including the relatively short raid-dependent line—and three lines in core Tyria. The second is the inability to choose exactly what you want to pursue.

With the way the mastery lines are set up, you aren’t really choosing a specific mastery but which line to make progress in. For example, I’m not choosing to work on ley line gliding but to work on the gliding track. This might mean that I’m actively working on the ley line gliding upgrade, but it could also mean that I might be working on lean techniques currently. Even if I wanted to be progressing on ley line gliding, I’m relegated to whatever upgrade is the current tier for the line I have chosen.

So while there are 23 masteries in the jungle—again not including the two raid masteries—you never have more than four options to pick from. If you are interested in getting the Exalted Purification to work on a collection, you can’t actively work on that until after you have completed Exalted Assistance—the mastery in front of purification on the Exalted line and honestly an almost completely worthless mastery.

I think the masteries would have been better set up more like a typical rpg skill tree. Instead of progressing the masteries in a predetermined line, players could forge their own path and select the order in which they want to unlock the masteries. This would also give more choice as instead of those 4 lines to choose between, you might have 20 individual mastery choices available to you.

Having this more free approach to the order of masteries would also allow for some better unlock management on the part of ArenaNet. Instead of the masteries requiring more experience and mastery points than the upgrade before it, masteries could be more individually assigned experience and mastery points.

I don’t like the way masteries ramp up each tier. While at the beginning this is a nice ramp into the line, the later upgrades end up getting a bit crazy. The last Nuhoch mastery—Nuhoch Alchemy—costs 12 mastery points and over 4 million experience, but is the least useful out of all of the Nuhoch masteries. With the more open system, masteries would be given the amount of mastery points and experience more relative to what the mastery is giving in return. From here players can start making their own choice, to go after the easier and cheaper masteries first or work toward the more expensive, but more useful masteries. This would also help even out some of those later masteries that while more expensive are comparatively not as enticing to players as some of the earlier ones in a line.

While I want this more open mastery tree system, I still think that players would need to unlock the first of a line before being able to freely choose. This is obvious for the gliding line in which the player would first need to learn gliding before continuing on to upgrade the glider. While the other lines are not dependent on that first upgrade in a line, they can be extremely useful—almost required—as they are all mostly focused on getting players around the jungle.

The real reason I want this first mastery to be the stop gap before pursuing the others however, is that I don’t want the first mastery in a line to be unlocked like all the rest.

Players go into the jungle and complete the first story instance Torn from the Sky which unlocks the entire mastery system for the account. At this point the player still doesn’t have any masteries. After unlocking gliding—which the game forces players to unlock first in the jungle—and continuing the story, the NPCs act like gliding is a super common thing that the player has always had.

I would have rather had these first masteries in a line be more connected to the story. Instead of talking to an NPC after unlocking gliding that makes it seem like a common practice, I would have liked to see an entire instance focused around why gliding is so important. Instead of making it seem like the most common thing in the world, have the pact also incorporating it into use alongside you. I don’t recall seeing any NPCs using gliders at any point, so there could be a story behind how gliding is risky and the pact has already lost enough at this point. The commander however, no longer has anyone to override his or her decision and can decide to take the risk anyway—introducing us to a jungle where only the player is ever seen gliding.

Completing this instance would instantly unlock basic gliding without need to go gain more experience or mastery points to do so. Now the rest of the gliding tree is available to choose and progress in. The other trees would still be locked until players did the relevant story that unlocks each line. Bouncing Mushrooms would be taught by the Itzel. Likewise Nuhoch Wallows could be taught by the Nuhoch—which would be a slight rearrangement as currently Nuhoch Hunting is the first mastery in the Nuhoch line. Exalted Markings is the first in the Exalted line and would make a great lore instance as you learn how to read the Exalted language and their history from the Exalted themselves.

While many of the lines are tied closely to the jungle—with three out of the four lines being named after one of the inhabitant races within the jungle—the mastery system feels far too disconnected from the story running through the Maguuma. While having all of the masteries tied into the story would remove any progression this system creates, I think they should each start rooted in the story before branching out into their own trees.

The other large concern I have with the mastery system is the future. I wasn’t really a fan of bringing gliding into core Tyria. None of the maps were specifically designed for gliding. While there are some areas that would be neat to have gliding, overall it was going to not feel nearly as awesome and useful as it does in the jungle.

The biggest problem I had with it was the idea of crossing the invisible line between different expansions. The masteries were set up nice and neat where masteries were tied to each region. These four lines are for the jungle while these other three are for core Tyria. While it didn’t bother me that core Tyria masteries were crossing the line—for example the auto loot from Pact Commander working everywhere in PvE—I thought the expansion masteries needed to only affect that expansion’s areas.

What happens when we get to the next expansion. Will gliding just automatically work in that expansion like how it automatically worked in Core Tyria? Speculation has us going to the desert to fight Kralkatorrik next. What if there is new potentials for gliding such as needing to train to be able to glide through large sandstorms or use dust devils to get height like updrafts currently do? Will players be required to go play the HoT content to unlock gliding before being able to learn some of these masteries in the desert?

With the separate approach, if ArenaNet did want to bring back gliding for the desert they simply add another gliding line for the desert region—something I was really hope they would do when bringing gliding to Core Tyria. Then if they had the story unlock approach for the first mastery in a line, they could explain in a story instance why gliding in the desert is different from the jungle.

A long time ago I talked about mounts in GW2 and how I think it should be something that only happens in a specific area. The desert was the area I was thinking about and masteries are the perfect platform to introduce them. If masteries don’t keep to their own regions however, sliding mounts in as a mastery might not work.

Then there are some of the other masteries which seem almost too good. Adrenal Mushrooms from the Itzel line seems perfect for raid instances and Nuhoch Stealth Detection is really neat for just about any open-world PvE area of the game. While stealth detection could be easily copied to a different line, how are you going to explain mushrooms from the jungle popping up in the middle of a desert? Of course you could always have something else do the same thing as the mushroom, but how long before there ends up being a ton of things in the world of Tyria that all magically do the same thing?

With all of that said, I really like the mastery system. It gives some really cool passive upgrades that wouldn’t have been obtainable anywhere else and really opens up the “what will they do next” speculation that wasn’t really available before HoT.

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Scrying Pool: Bucket of Elite Specs

Welcome to the Scrying Pool, my Guild Wars 2 column here on Mattsta.Ninja. This article is the next in a series of reviews for everything Heart of Thorns. So far I have talked about the personal story, the open world maps and their rewards and the guild halls, scribe and guild hall rewards. Today I’ll focus on one of the major features of HoT, Elite Specializations.

Elite Specializations are an extension of the 9 professions that players choose when first creating a character. When I was speculating what we were going to see with elite specializations months before the launch of HoT, I was thinking that elite specs were going to try and fill the gaps that each profession had. For Mesmer, I thought that this was a lack of straight offense on the right side of their bar.

What Elite Specializations ended up being however, was slightly different. Each of the elite specs offers a different game play, most of which were areas that the profession was previously missing. These areas fall into three categories—Damage, Support and Tank—and hybrids of these. Below are each of the professions and the categories I see them fitting into:

  • Guardian — Damage
  • Revenant — Support
  • Warrior — Damage
  • Engineer — Damage/Tank
  • Ranger — Support
  • Thief — Damage/Tank
  • Elementalist — Damage/Support
  • Mesmer — Damage/Tank/Support
  • Necromancer — Damage

Each of these I think are pretty good elite specs. The ones that fall short currently are Thief and Engineer as nothing really needs a true tank currently and Thief’s evasion tank might be too unruly to ever get much use.

There are other elite specs that while good missed the mark a little bit on what the class needed. Necromancer is a perfect example, as the class was missing some good damage output. The class however, is also missing a good way to support other players which is leaving it out of many raid compositions. While I really like the Reaper, it might have been better for the profession to get a more hybrid Damage/Support spec.

Then there are some elite specs which just end up being too good. Mesmer is the only thing on the list with three different categories, getting some nice damage boost out of wells and traits like Chronophantasm, tank through some wells and the elite specs shield and support through wells, the shield and Alacrity. What is possibly worse is that it ends up doing all of these areas really well with the right rotations without needing to spec differently for each category. I think ArenaNet might have realized this before they put out the strong nerf to alacrity which reduced some of the support that Chronomancers are putting out.

The other really strong elite spec is the Glint stance for Revenant. Being all upkeeps and boon duration output, the class is able to easily upkeep many of the boons that required specialized builds and rotations to get anywhere close. Get a Herald and a Chronomancer together and you end up with a powerhouse of party support that isn’t going to get replaced without some major nerfs or reworks. Even with the huge nerf to alacrity, this combo is still a must have for raid groups.

While I have not PvP’d much since HoT came out, it sounds like most of the elite specs are really strong. The only real downside to this is that some of these strengths sound like they come in the form of gimmicks with infinite bunker Chronomancers and “It’s a Trap!” Dragonhunters highlighting the cheese. Outside of these it sounds like the elite specs did a good job of shaking up the meta, though some more fine tuning could be needed to further balance things out.

I think that Elite Specs being a must have for most of the professions and feeling incredibly powerful is intended. While right now it almost gives a feeling of no choice, these are ‘Elite’ specs and should be powerful to match. A consequence that we haven’t witnessed yet is that you can only have one elite spec equipt at a time. I think the feeling of no choice is because there really isn’t supposed to be much of a choice there until we get the next round of elite specs. Instead of deciding between vanilla Thief and the Daredevil, players might eventually just be deciding between Daredevil and the Shadowknight.

The only major problem I have with the elite specializations is the process of unlocking them. Characters must have all of the non-elite specializations by spending hero points to unlock all of the core skills and traits for the profession. After this elite specializations are unlocked in the same way as core abilities, just put hero points in to collect all of the skills and traits for that elite spec. Outside of a unique weapon and armor reward for starting and finishing the unlock of an elite spec, the only real difference is that the elite spec requires a lot more hero points to unlock than any line of core abilities.

At 250 hero points, fully unlocking an elite specialization takes much more effort than the core abilities that would come out to about 85 hero points for a comparable amount of skills and traits. And this is the nerfed value as the launch of HoT saw players needing a whopping 400 hero points in order to fully unlock a single elite spec.

I like the nerf to the amount of the hero points needed for elite specializations. As ArenaNet stated when they made the change, players were looking forward to equipping these elite specializations and then going out into the jungle to face the new challenges. With a 400 hero point requirement however, players would have been left doing the opposite as they faced the jungle’s challenges before they had the points to unlock the elite specialization.

This change did have a few oddities because of it. Players now end up going into the HoT personal story on their brand new abilities just to see their NPC allies still rocking the core set of abilities for their profession. I think the NPCs slow adoption of elite specs was intentional to match the players similar inability to fully equip their elite specialization until after they had likely finished the story. I imagine by the time the next season of the Living World rolls out later this year we will see our NPC allies using the new specializations alongside the players.

The idea of having players take a while to get their new elite specialization isn’t too weird. I am glad they made the change to make them more accessible, but not because of any sense of time commitment. Going into an expansion you are going to have lots players that want to choose their own focus on which area of the expansion they pursue first, whether that be unlocking their profession’s new goodies, exploring new areas or rushing through the story. Many hero points being locked behind the new mastery system would have made 400 points challenging to do without first doing everything else. Those players that wanted to focus on unlocking the elite spec would have been out of luck.

Instead of requiring an essentially random number of hero points, I was hoping that unlocking the elite specialization would have been more of a driven experience. This could have been done in a couple of different ways.

First is the story driven approach, where each elite specialization had a short side story that they could follow which would slowly—or even all at once at the end—unlock their elite specialization. The biggest problem with this is the extra amount of effort it would have taken to implement. Not only would it have been extra story—and likely more NPCs and instances to tell that story—there would need to be 9 different stories that needed to be told.

The second is to have a collection for each of the elite specializations. Before HoT came out we were able to see a glimpse of the achievements panel during one of ArenaNet’s livestream. On the stream you could see that there was a new category for collections simply called Specialization Collections. My speculation at the time had been that players would need to go out and do things on a profession that would eventually complete the collection for that profession and unlock the elite specialization. As we now know, those collections were for the ascended version of the unique elite specialization weapons. Even the specialization collections were subpar to what I was hoping for in an elite spec unlock collection. While I think that this would have been easier than the story driven approach, it would have had the same problem of requiring much more development time to implement for all 9 professions.

What I liked about both of these however, is that they could have been set up to allow players more choice in where they focused their efforts. Instead of diving into the HoT story, I could have chosen to start my journey with the Mesmer’s Chronomancer story or collection.

It would have been really interesting to meet a hermit in the jungle that had a bunch of strange quirks but knew all of these secret techniques to improve our abilities. Even at its worst it would have been better than putting a bunch of meaningless points into a random elite spec bucket.

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Scrying Pool: Guild Hall…Rewards?

Welcome to the Scrying Pool, my Guild Wars 2 column here on Mattsta.Ninja. This article is the next in a series of reviews for everything Heart of Thorns. Last week I talked about Guild Halls and the Scribe and how I think they are poorly implemented, something that ArenaNet at least partially agrees with as they have announced plans to make Scribing much cheaper in the near future. This week I’ll talk about the more personal rewards that can be obtained through the guild hall.

Part of the guild hall is the market district, which as its name suggests is filled with various merchants. For this article, I’ll focus on three of these merchants and their wares: the Armorer, Weaponsmith and Miniature merchant.

The Armorer and Weaponsmith are old merchants that are able to be upgraded in the guild hall. Previously only offering a few pieces—which honestly were not very appealing to any player—they now offer full sets of their wares after being upgraded. While the armorer has just one set for each of the three weight classes available, the weaponsmith allows players to make two different weapon sets that are tied to the two different guild halls.

The Miniature merchant on the other hand is an entirely new addition. This merchant comes in three tiers, offering more miniatures with each tier that the guild unlocks.

What is similar across all three of these merchants and their new wares, is that they are in no way cheap. While players can go and collect only one piece of armor or craft that one weapon, for the sake of this article I will look at what it takes to collect everything.

The first thing players are likely to notice about the prices is the inclusion of Crystalline Ore—a material gained from opening Noxious Pods in Dragon’s Stand—in the cost of everything. I remember after HoT launched seeing people complain about the elite specialization weapon collections requiring 50 of the ores for each weapon. Fifty of these is nothing however when you look at how much the guild hall needs to collect their rewards.

To get all of the guild hall weapon recipes—of which each weapon recipe unlocks both the Shimmering and Tenebrous recipes for that weapon—will run players 640 ore. Getting the armor recipes will cost players a little more at 730 ore, but the winner of the three is Miniatures which total a whopping 1150 crystalline ore!

Crystalline Ore isn’t the only cost to these either. Players will need to spend 160 guild commendation for the weapon recipes, 183 for the armors and again taking the lead is miniatures requiring 575 guild commendations. In addition to this is the monetary cost. Weapons and Armor need to be crafted which will put players back about 100g for the armor and 160g for the weapons from my estimation. Miniatures just flat out require gold to purchase them and will cost players 230g.

The cost of the miniatures is just crazy. I like that they have set things up for players to work toward, with different skins, miniatures and other rewards to gain throughout HoT. While players can pick and choose which to work toward, the only players likely to be interested in these guild miniatures are those who, like myself, want to try and collect all of the miniatures. Between the guild miniatures and a miniature on the Dragon’s Stand merchant being sold for 250 crystalline ore, it almost feels like ArenaNet is punishing miniature collectors. While I think the prices of all of the guild rewards are too high, the miniatures take the cake for being absolutely ridiculous. For the amount it takes to buy these 12 miniatures, I could finish both the 18 armor skins and 32 weapon skins and still not have spent as many guild commendations or crystalline ore.

Weapons are also unforgiving, but not because of the cost of their recipes that you buy off the merchant. Part of the crafting cost of these weapons are the Guild Commendation weapons. To make a Shimmering Sword for example, you need to buy the Guild Spatha sword skin for 3g and 5 guild commendations. To make the Tenebrous Sword you will need another Guild Spatha for another 3g and 5 guild commendations. There are players—myself included—that bought these long ago to collect for the wardrobe. While I might have some laying around on various characters, I imagine most of them I had thrown out or forged long ago.

That’s 89 guild commendations I wasted. Buying them now to make the new guild hall weapons will unlock the guild commendation skins in the wardrobe in the process. Players who already had them unlocked in the wardrobe already, but no longer have the actual weapon, are going to need to rebuy them again. Instead of buying each weapon twice for the two guild hall weapon skins, they are going to end up buying the old guild commendation weapons for a third time.

Even if you had never purchased them before, buying the guild commendation weapons twice over just doesn’t feel good and adds even more cost to making these weapons. With Heart of Thorns we saw the introduction of weapon collections, namely the Machined weapon set where every weapon in the set has its own unique collection. I don’t know why they didn’t apply this same treatment to the guild hall weapons.

With the collection approach everyone would end up on the same cost field. Players like myself who had previously purchased the guild commendation weapons would already have that part of the collection done. Other players would just be catching up to the cost by buying the weapons for their first time as well. It also removes the pretty crap feeling of buying the commendation weapons twice just to be fodder in making a different weapon. With the collection approach I would buy that Guild Spatha once and it would unlock that part of both the Shimmering Sword and Tenebrous Sword collections.

The rest of the collection could then be very similar to the way the Machined weapons are set up. There could be an item from each of the map currencies that much like Machined weapons would cost 250 of each currency but would unlock for both the Shimmering and Tenebrous collection for that weapon.

The recipe would still be something you would need to buy from the merchant in your guild hall and would work in two ways. First, buying the recipe would unlock both the Shimmering and Tenebrous collection for that weapon and allow for the map currency items to become unlocked and available for purchase. Second is that the recipe item would unlock 4 different recipes. When crafting a weapon you need two different components, for example a Sword Blade and a Sword Hilt. It is here that the two collections would be different as the Shimmering Sword collection would require you to make a Shimmering Sword Blade and Hilt while the Tenebrous Sword collection would need a Tenebrous Sword Blade and Hilt. These components would be the same as making the normal version of these components—possibly their oiled counterparts—but would have the additional ingredient in the Shimmering and Tenebrous crystals.

This would create a lot of collections which I think are really awesome, but would easily fill up any collection section. Much like there is a separate category for the specialization collections, there could be a new weapon collections category that would include the Machined, Shimmering and Tenebrous collections for each weapon. Honestly this should have probably existed for just the Machined weapons, as the Basic Collections category was already getting to be too full before they added 16 collections for the machined weapons.

Out of the three reward types coming from guild halls, I think that the guild armors are the closest to being in a really good spot. At 183 guild commendations and 100g, I think the armors sit in a pretty good place. I wouldn’t mind that guild commendations value being a little lower—maybe around 125—but it isn’t overpriced in my opinion. Like I mentioned in an earlier Scrying Pool, I like that there are items and rewards to work toward.

The Crystalline Ore price is the only thing truly terrible about the guild armors’ cost. While crystalline ore is technically more readily available than guild commendations due to the latter’s weekly limit, I think that the crystalline ore for all of these should be closer on par to the guild commendation pricing. Currently you need 4 times the amount of crystalline ore over guild commendations for both the weapon and armor recipes. I think these rewards would be better situated if the ore to commendation ratio sat around 1.25:1. This would bring the armor cost down from 730 to about 225 and the weapons from 640 to 200. These are both more reasonable and much less daunting for players to slowly work toward.

This ratio for the Miniatures would still cost about 725 crystalline ore, but again the pricing on the Guild Hall Miniatures is just all around stupid. #ANetPls

New Year Feature

Lunar New Year Achievements

Most of the Lunar New Year achievements this year are focused around Dragon Ball. These include completing matches, collecting various upgrades and health around the map and interrupting enemies. Outside of Dragon Ball there are two festival achievements with Light up the Sky and Firecracker Finder.

Firecracker Finder

This achievement needs you to go and find all 10 of the firecrackers found around the Crown Pavilion in Divinity’s Reach. These reset daily—as there is a daily festival achievement to use 5 of these firecrackers—so it is best to do all 10 within a single day. You can find a map that shows the location of each firecracker as well as a video below. Note that this patch adds gliding in core Tyria, making some of these much easier to acquire. Gliding is not required however, as long as one has access to your profession’s falling damage reduction trait.

Light up the Sky

This achievement requires players to shoot off 100 total fireworks. While the achievement specifically mentions Lunar New Year fireworks, any fireworks that is a bundle item will count toward this achievement. One option is to go to Rata Sum and buy a fireworks bundle for 32 copper from Pyromaster Zarrt, which will let players finish this achievement in a quick and easy manner.

Eldvin Monastery Brew of the Month Club

This collection will have players savoring a collection of brews year round. Each month after players first enter one of the major cities, they will receive that month’s brew in their mail. These brews however, are only sent to members of the club. To sign up for the club—and unlock this new collection—players will need to go talk to Master Brewer Desch at the Eldvin Monastery in Queensdale. Membership to this club will incur a one-time fee of 10g. Completing this collection—which will take all year as long as players stay active with the game—will reward a new backpack (shown below) and the Finely Crafted title.

The Shatterer

None of the achievements for the Shatterer seem all too difficult. The only one that might be a challenge—and is also the only achievement requiring the use of gliding—is Lightning Reflexes. This achievement requires you to dodge the Shatterer’s Focused Lightning attack 40 times total while gliding. I so far have done this 3 times by complete fluke. Most of the rest look to be fairly easy, though having gliding will make some easier purely by not having to worry about other players already being on mortars and turrets to do achievements like Medic! which has you throwing med kits to allies. The meta-achievement requires completing 10 of the 11 achievements, so players without gliding will still be able to complete the meta. Some of the other achievements will require teamwork, such as No-Fly Zone requiring players to break the Shatterer’s Defiance bar 20 times.