Flameseeker Chronicles: Test driving Guild Wars 2 End of Dragons’ Vindicator, Bladesworn, and Catalyst elite specs

    
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It’s time again for another End of Dragons elite specialization beta! It’s an exciting time for Guild Wars 2 players, who are learning what elite specs they will be playing as and alongside in this highly anticipated expansion. This time around we have the Revenant’s damage-support hybrid Vindicator spec, the Warrior’s totally-not-a-Final-Fantasy-XIV-Gunbreaker Bladesworn spec, and the Elementalist’s in-your-face Catalyst spec.

This set of specs seem to me to be more strongly Cantha themed than the previous batch, which is definitely welcome. So let’s get to them, shall we?

Vindicator

The Revenant’s previous two elite specs have each introduced a new legend, but the Vindicator introduces two! Well, two that function as one. The new Legendary Alliance stance grants slot skills that, when used, flip between damage-focused versions in Archemorus side and support-focused versions in the Saint Viktor side.

If you have fond memories of Guild Wars: Factions’ Ritualist class, you might want to check out the Vindicator’s elite skill. On the Archemorus side, it summons the spirit of Archemorus himself to throw a spear at your target, dealing a bunch of damage and torment to anything in his path. On the Saint Viktor side, you will summon an urn of Saint Viktor’s ashes that floats along in front of you, healing nearby allies. While the urn is up, you take less damage from enemies, but you will slowly take damage and can’t receive any healing yourself. Pressing zero again smashes the urn, and, depending on how low you let your health get, applies healing and a variety of boons to allies within range.

I’m sure some min/maxing type players will do some amazing things with this spec, but as for me, I feel it’s overcomplicated for what it does. Yes, one of the things that I like about Revenant is that it’s a little more involved than most of the other classes, and I have always felt that it rewarded that complexity appropriately, but having to manage which of my skills need to be red and which need to be blue at the right time so they’re off cooldown when I need them, on top of managing my energy bar, just seems like too much.

Besides, revenant already has great DPS and support options in the Renegade, and it feels like Vindicator is trying to do a lot of the same things but with more complexity. The removal of the second dodge, with skills and traits that make your endurance refill faster, adds another layer of complexity. It’s too bad, because I like the greatsword, just not the spec it’s attached to. Maybe once those min/maxers figure out an optimal rotation I’ll revisit it, but for now, I’m planning on sticking with my ghost cats.

Bladesworn

The Bladesworn was perhaps the most confounding from this set of three class teasers from ArenaNet, with the character drawing what looked like a greatsword with a gun barrel from his hip. The color scheme and outline matched that of the Warrior concept art, but Warrior has had access to greatsword — and sword, for that matter — since launch. Additionally, datamining showed the Warrior getting pistol, but that monstrosity is far too big to be a pistol, right?

It turns out it’s a bit of both a pistol and a greatsword. Taking the Bladesworn elite spec removes the Warrior’s ability to swap weapons in combat, much like the Engineer and Elementalist, and replaces it with the gunsaber, which is drawn with F1. There is a surprising amount of ranged damage mixed in there — three of the five skills have a ranged component, with the fifth being a gap closer — but interestingly, even the ranged skills all find a way to reward being in melee range.

Also gone is the Warrior’s signature adrenaline resource, replaced with the very similar resource, flow. Whereas adrenaline builds per hit, flow builds slowly over time, with certain skills and traits that increase the flow build rate.

The Bladesworn can then spend flow and root themselves to charge up their dragon trigger, which is unleashed in one of three devastating attacks, called Dragon Slashes. Force is melee, Boost is a dash, and Reach is a ranged projectile. Of course, the melee version is the most powerful and the projectile is the weakest, in accordance with the amount of risk involved in their use.

The Bladesworn is pretty vulnerable while charging dragon slash, so skills four and five are about mitigating that vulnerability a little. Skill four grants aegis, blocking the next attack against you, while five lets you blink a short distance away, allowing you to get out of small AoEs or reposition for an optimal attack. It kind of reminds me of the Deadeye: You are rooted in place so you can deal extra damage, but you can make short hops (blinking instead of dodging) and protect yourself (by blocking a single attack rather than stealthing).

The offhand pistol is perhaps less interesting than the gunsaber, but it deserves a look nonetheless. First, a bit of trivia: Pistol is the only one-handed weapon that the Warrior can wield that other classes can wield in either hand that the Warrior can’t wield in both hands. I’m not sure why it has been a rule that Warriors should be able to dual wield every one-handed weapon, but that streak is finally broken. I guess now you could say that anything Warrior can wield in its main hand, it can also wield in its off hand.

At first glance, the fifth skill on the Bladesworn’s pistol is a fairly straightforward “shoot at stuff in front of you” attack that pushes the Bladesworn back a bit. It is an ammo skill, with up to six ammo, but unlike most ammo skills, all of your ammo is spent at once. You can wait for all six ammo to regenerate before firing again for maximum damage, or you can fire with only partial charges if need be. The fourth skill is a gap closer that restores three charges of ammo to skill five.

Ammo management is a big thing with the Bladesworn, and its elite skill reloads one ammo to all skills, be they slot skills, weapon skills, or gunsaber skills. I’ve always wanted a viable rifle warrior. Could this be it? We’ll have to see how the meta shakes out!

Catalyst

Elementalists have traditionally been a heavily ranged class, which makes sense for the game’s squishiest profession, but then Path of Fire’s weaver spec gave Elems a melee sword and taught them to dance in and out of combat to mitigate the amount of damage taken. Interestingly, End of Dragons’ Catalyst’s hammer is also a melee weapon, but only when in water and earth attunements, which are decently tanky, while skills in the more aggressive fire and air attunements are mid-ranged.

The coolest thing about the Catalyst’s hammer is its third skill, which functions similarly across all four elements, summoning a projectile of their current element to orbit them for five seconds and granting elementally appropriate buffs. Shifting to another element and pressing three again adds an orbiting projectile of the new element and refreshes the timer on the previous one. This way, the Catalyst can get projectiles from all four elements orbiting them. Then, by pressing three again in any element the Catalyst already has circling, you can launch all four elemental projectiles at their foe for a big burst of damage.

I actually had a bit of trouble getting all four of these going during my time with this class. Five seconds is a lot shorter than it sounds when you’re in the heat of battle, especially if you want to sneak in an extra skill in each attunement. Get knocked down once — or go down, because, you know, Elementalist — and you’re likely to break your chain.

The main mechanic of the Catalyst is the jade sphere, which can be summoned to an area to grant boons and create a combo field that changes based on your current attunement. Think Scrapper’s gyros, except with an energy system similar to the Warrior’s adrenaline instead of a traditional cooldown. The jade sphere also projects a hologram of one of the four Canthan Celestials, phoenix (fire), kirin (water), salt spray (air), and turtle (earth). All of the Catalyst’s slot skills are themed around different elements, and gain extra effects if used in a jade sphere field of that element. For instance, Fortified Earth grants extra barrier when used within an Earth sphere, and using Relentless Fire while standing in a fire sphere makes your attacks unblockable for a short time.

So there you have it. The Vindicator is a damage/support hybrid spec with high potential and even higher complexity, the Bladesworn is a fun and powerful burst DPS with some cool new ideas, and the Catalyst is a more durable melee mage with some decent AoE support options. If you are interested in trying any of these specs, be sure to get in before Saturday and make one for yourself!

Flameseeker Chronicles is one of Massively OP’s longest-running columns, covering the Guild Wars franchise since before there was a Guild Wars 2. Now penned by Tina Lauro and Colin Henry, it arrives on Tuesdays to report everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see explored, drop ’em a comment!
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Ben Stone

Tried all three, was as I suspected. Bladesworn and Catalyst look fantastic, but are super awful to actually play.

Vindicator looks super boring visually, but is very easy to play and will be very, very good in PvP with certain trait setups. I was able to dodge/ae heal/ward every 3s by picking the defensive boost line. It felt very broken.

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TomTurtle

At a cursory glance, Bladesworn bothered me the least, which isn’t the most glowing of recommendations. Not the most informed nor exhaustively tested either to be fair.

I really hope ArenaNet is taking all the elite spec feedback into serious consideration and is willing to make much needed changes, though I’m not exactly confident that they will.

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Bruno Brito

My findings for Bladesworn:

Went on SPvP with it. I played one game before giving up. This e-spec is absolutely weird. Fast-hands is nerfed with Gunblade ( 8.5 seconds CD instead of 5s ), and the lack of a normal burst or ability to activate Dragon Trigger without GB swapped hurts.

It’s clear that the spec makes adrenaline/flow managing a living hell in stressful scenarios. You’ll lose a LOT of efficiency running Bladesworn. Berserker does damage better, Spellbreaker does support better.

While we’re on that subject: the best concept i’ve seen ran with BS is a bruiser-support build: Shouts. You pick shouts because the elite BS allows you to recover ammo, which also recovers your shouts. It’s not bad, but again, Spellbreaker is just better.

And who the hell thought that charging a burst was a good idea?

The way i see it, BS is a PvE spec. It’s rotation is extremely prohibitive for PvP. I saw people theorycrafting for WvW a lot of support specs for BS with ammo shouts and they’re all a flop.

I tried Catalyst for 5min on a dummy and i instantly gave up. Some of the worst mechanics i’ve seen in a game. I don’t play Rev so i can’t say much, but i found the Legendary Alliance extremely clunky to use. I think Vindicator will benefit much more of other, more direct legends, like Shiro/Jaris

Right now, the best e-spec i’ve seen of all the bunch was Willbender and even that is a stretch. This is not doing good for my hype.

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Arktouros

Virtuoso is very good, it’s just lazy and dumb. Blades are just clone charges without the clones and the trait line has virtually zero synergy with anything else as basically a third damage line. Dagger is just the best of Greatsword condensed down into a 1h weapon giving you free powerful offhand abilities with focus/pistol/torch/sword. It’s giga damage when combo’d right with proper abilities/specs (I was hitting regularly for 21k with the F1 skill with a Dom/Illu/Virt build and with Shatter Storm + Blade Renewal I could do it twice back to back).

It’s just going to get nerfed within the first few weeks of the game which is depressing.

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Bruno Brito

How much survivability does Virtuoso lacks? I hear you describing me the damage and i agree but if it’s avoidable damage and too CD intensive, then Virtuoso becomes a +1 class. To be fair, since Thief is kinda lackluster at the moment, it might be a good spot to be, but i don’t know. Good standalone classes are seen as better in SPvP because they can contest nodes better.

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Arktouros

This was the build I was using for min-maxing damage for PvE. The gear is the gear I already have equipped and generally does very well for casual PvE survivability (just enough HP/Armor to not hate life with lots of Condi Cleanse and Stability). The only part I’m not 100% on is the Master trait as quick/fury on block is nice with Bladeturn Requiem (25s cooldown) but equally Phantasmal Blades is same amount of Fury on a 15/20s cooldown plus blade damage (and seems to have no ICD) and Sharpening Sorrow would give a reason to use Bladesong Sorrow (but I don’t do anything with conditions so expertise is wasted). I mostly chose Bladeturn Requiem because I use Sword Offhand a lot for the block.

The “21k” big dick damage move is F1 shatter, which you have 2 charges of, and are on 12s cooldowns with nearly 75% crit rate with 227% crit damage. I’ve purposely avoided stacking all the little goodies on like Bloodlust to 25 or Compounding Power to 5. With Blade Renewal it’s a 60s cool down but also provides distortion for 3s which is total damage (but not CC) immunity.

Biggest threat to it’s damage is projectile hate, as everything is a projectile more or less, but that’s why there’s sword/sword where they’re unlikely to utilize it. Not sure how this would look in SPvP as I generally hate that game mode and prefer the open world roam of WvW.

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Bruno Brito

Projectile hate is a big issue in WvW, but way more manageable at roaming or SPvP. Maybe GS can bypass the projectile hate? I’m not a Mesmer main.

Wouldn’t torch be better for you as a roamer to use the invis to engage/re-engage?

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Arktouros

Depends what you want to do when solo roaming. You keep blades out of combat so you can walk into an engagement ready to burst someone down basically. What little roaming I did during the test one guy basically I hit with two big burst skills, he started doing his defenses/evasion then I just charged up the next and alpha’d him again and it was over.

But if you wanted to do a 1vX scenario then condi/mirage/etc probably going to work out better all around with invis and other trickery with clones. Greatsword is really bad DPS, generally only useful in PvE after various nerfs they’ve done over the years.

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Greaterdivinity

From what I’ve been reading in terms of feedback it seems like there are some great concepts/ideas, but that the execution isn’t terribly impressive. I tinkered around with Bladesworn a bit and it’s got cool animations and themes at the very least, but I don’t know anywhere near enough about warriors and didn’t play enough to form any broader opinion.

Honestly, between how underwhelming the elite specs have been in both rounds based on feedback that I’ve seen (not universally, but definitely overall), and the kinda lack of anything to be excited about beyond that…fishing seems fairly routine and skiffs are fairly mundane (mobile combat platforms are boring if that’s in the cards for them)…and outside of that I’m not seeing much of a “hook”. More story, new zones, standard stuff but like…where’s the really interesting take on something like mounts with PoF? The introduction of masteries like HoT (though I wish they’d drop them or stop treating them like de-facto linear levels)?

Man, I was hoping that the return of a few folks and knowing who was actually running Anet and the GW2 team. But it seems like they’re not quite settled still. I can’t help but feel like they’re leaning pretty hard into the nostalgia of Cantha for GW1 players carrying this expansion hard : /

I hate that I feel like I’ve gone from excited that we’ll explore Cantha and that we’re finally getting an expansion, to concerned that the IBS saga was gutted for it, to a bit less concerned that it was delayed and would be getting more time, to concerned again that fishing was apparently a core marketing tentpole for the expansion, to very concerned seeing the player reactions to the elite specs so far. If nothing else, this expansion hype cycle has been a roller coaster of emotions.

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Reginald Atkins

a TLDR after playing with all three briefly.

with Vindicator I managed to drop in a superior sigil of stamina on my GS before Anet made it so that beta characters couldn’t… get stuff from the bank.. something.. it’s strange. Anyway with Stamina boosting from the trait line in addition to the sup sigil of stamina the end result is your “Jump” is available almost instantly per-kill. May not be the highest DPS but OMG it is fun…. it is so much fun. Imagine Dragoon from the FF series without a jump recast timer.

Bladesworn I wanted to love it, really, but I found it just too klunky and ironic that a class that uses “Flow” has so little flow in how it plays. I’ll poke at it more, I want to like this elite, surely I’m missing something.

Catalyst Let’s give the squishiest class in the game ANOTHER melee weapon and a ridiculously disjointed skillset that’s so complicated it makes weaver look like a one-trick-pony. hoo boy, this elite… wow, just wow, and that’s not in a good way. FAR too much to unpack here but, wow.

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Tenthyr Adi

The feedback so far for Catalyst has been very ungood. Seems the spec doesn’t actually know what it wants to be, the spheres feel kinda tacted on, and the orbitals require even more stance dancing on an already complex class.

So far the best thing people have said about it is that it works better with dagger and uh… If all the spec has is the jade sphere, why not run core elementalist?

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Arktouros

And if you want a melee/midrange hybrid that focused on auras why not run an existing specialization of Tempest that will generate auras, give you survivability and comes with Dagger/Warhorn AND generate well like areas of elemental affects with Overloads that actually do something on their own without needing other abilities to make them seem useful.

As lazy as the Virtuoso was in terms of class design, at least it wasn’t actually bad like the rest of these.

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Tenthyr Adi

What? the feedback for bladesworn has been pretty strongly positive barring a few tweaks that are needed.

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Arktouros

Not gonna pretend like I waded through every page of feedback for the Bladesworn but the general consensus I read, beyond the negative impressions in competitive modes like Bruno above, was that it over all felt very slow and clunky for things like open world. Essentially things like Dragon Trigger being interrupted or by the time you’re ready to pop off everything being dead in an event kinda things.

Even then lets be real here and acknowledge that most of the builds that people consider “good” for Warrior all have some form “Bannerslave” in their name which kinda lets you know what people want/expect from the class. I haven’t read anything about Bladesworn that would override or change people’s opinion on that matter.

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Bruno Brito

Thing about bannerslave is that it’s mainly a specialization of a role that Warriors performed for years in the game: The DPS that buffs other DPSers. Warriors always used Phalanx Strenght to boonshare might, and pull more Warriors were always seen as a good idea, until people realized that other classes like Rangers could pull way more DPS if they had the boonshare of Warriors. Over the years, the role of support DPS only evolved from boonshare to actual bannerslaving. Even in WvW, Warriors are unparalled offensive supports.

So, it’s quite expected that people would go expecting a similar role. But in PvE ONLY, BS seems to be overperforming. There are videos already showing upwards of 300k crits on Dragon Trigger channels.

The problem is that everywhere else, the spec seems like ( using a Bellular expression here ) a busted piece of shit.

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Reginald Atkins

IMO Ele peaked with Tempest… everything since has felt like a test to see how much more complexity they can throw at the class.

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Arktouros

Weaver isn’t bad if you can carve out a niche combo to rotate between. Like I use Sw/D with Celestial and then just rotate Earth/Fire over and over. Keeps up the condi duration and pumps out disugsting amounts of bleed/burn while remaining pretty tanky.

Catalyst tho I don’t even know where to begin. Build up energy to use a stationary circle on the ground that only when I stand in it some of my abilities/utilities become useful/good but is otherwise completely useless? Whole thing is just yikes.

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Arktouros

The GW2 forums are basically full of posts with how bad these elite specializations are now that people have had a chance to play with them.

All the talent is gone.