Will We See Spirit Watch and Skyhammer in Competitive PvP?
The latest Guild Wars 2 patch brought us some delightful changes to several PvP maps, completely overhauling both Spirit Watch and Skyhammer. With these changes, I want to take a deeper look into the specifics and whether or not they have a place in ranked queues or even competitive play.
Spirit Watch had it’s secondary mechanic altered, thus making it more focused around conquest and creating a far more enjoyable experience. The orb at the center of the map now spawns at the 13:00 mark on the clock and every two minutes after a successful capture. However, if a player holds onto the orb for, from my own personal testing, what seems to be about 1 minute and 30 seconds, the orb will automatically despawn from your own hands and respawn instantly at the Alter of Ascension.
Upon obtaining the orb, a player is given two skills to use called Power Bolt and Orb Strike. Power Bolt is a low-damage ability that feels fairly worthless while Orb Strike will do the exact same damage amount as Power Bolt, only it will also stun your target for two seconds. If you happen to hold onto the orb for too long and it is despawned from your hands, you will continue to hold onto these two abilities until you use your “five” ability and drop this “state” of combat you are currently in. Along with this, players are no longer able to gain superspeed while holding onto the orb, which ultimately normalizes this secondary mechanic for the better.
Lastly, the orb now grants 25 points for capturing it while on a node that is currently not held by your team and 50 points for capturing it on your own node. This is an insane amount of points if you use this wisely by capturing in on your own team’s node. Think of this as the equivalent of two boss kills on Forest of Niflhel. This mechanic will push games to finish at a faster pace on this map, which is exactly what we need in the current state of PvP.
The landscape of the map is very unique, having more verticality than any other map we currently have in play. Although you can relate it to Temple of the Silent Storm in some ways, this map requires far more vertical movement to the nodes and walkways positioned fairly high up in the air. Classes like thief, revenant, and guardian will be able to take advantage of this and may find themselves in luck if this map comes into play, as teams will have great use for their mobility.
Thief has struggled in the last few metas and although it is improving, it is still overshadowed by revenants. This map has an overall fairly decent sized landscape, making it easier for theives to be played due to their shortbow mobility being of use. The common analysis behind thief play is having your team focus on two nodes and letting your thief deal with the third, in which this map plays directly into that hand. I expect this class to surface on this map the most, along with revenants continuing to be a dominant force. Classes like warrior and necromancer, who have always struggled with vertical movement, will slowly fall behind on Spirit Watch, as they have fairly few skills to keep up.
From a single Academy Gaming tournament, I can say that this map makes conquest extremely entertaining to spectate given the different strategies at play. It is very easy to shut down a three-node split from the beginning of games, seeing as how you can pressure the middle of the map and catch anyone out who may be looking to sneak across (also, another reason for thieves to be played, utilizing their stealth mechanics). This will force new strategies to be planned out and different styles of play. Most play seemed to be focused on conquest, as expected. Although, the orb was always accounted for by most teams but not fully taken advantage of seeing as how most teams didn’t seem to care to protect their orb-runners or give the opposing runners any attention at all. It more or less felt as influential as a Svanir/Chieftain kill, if not slightly less. It is a fairly large point boost, just enough so that teams cannot avoid it given that the orb spawns at the center of the map, which is often ran past off of respawn.
Overall, this is an exciting map with new dynamics that create for an exhilarating atmosphere once again. If you’re worried about the same old spectator experience, think again! Spirit Watch will certainly be featured in Academy Gaming weekly tournaments, but I don’t think we will see it in the Pro League scene for quite some time. Since it is currently in the beta stage, ArenaNet is looking for feedback for ways to improve upon this map. I think once some alterations are worked on by making the secondary mechanic slightly more valuable and perhaps some changes to the landscape around the side nodes, we may see this in contention for a few best of three series in the pro scene down the line.
Skyhammer was quite the controversial map before the latest patch. It was a referred to as ‘the hotjoin map’ and it was not welcomed by the community in any sort of queue. Between the jump pads, falling off the map, the secondary mechanic being worthless, and the overall mayhem, there were plenty of issues for ArenaNet to clean up.
With the recent changes, Skyhammer has been brought back to life and looks better than ever. Having several layout changes, the infrastructure of the entire map was completely overhauled, removing much of what was never enjoyed in the first place. With the removal of the majority of jump pads and windows to fall through, an outer ring was formed around the map to ensure no falling off of the map aside from the Skyhammer location. Anyhow, enough about the changes that you should go check out yourself… what have these done for the map?
Skyhammer is far more playable and finally revolves around conquest rather than finding hilarious ways to throw players off the map. The Skyhammer mechanic was redone and makes for a far better experience. It now has a spawn time at the 12:00, 9:00, 6:00, and 3:00 marks, allowing for players to go through the same portal to fight over a fourth node. Once this node is captured it will fire a cannon down upon all three nodes to knock opposing players down and deal damage. Although this can be dodged, it will also decap all nodes your enemy owns, potentially creating a huge swing if you’re not careful. This ultimately forces the Skyhammer to be dealt with at all times, and is slightly different than the Tranquility buff on Temple of the Silent Storm in that it isn’t quite as harmful or helpful, depending on whether or not you captured it, to your own team’s score.
Like Spirit Watch, this map was enjoyable to spectate and viewing how teams would play around it. While it was only played once during the Academy Gaming Weekly, it was in the finals which showcased experienced PvP players. I’m under the impression both teams weren’t quite sure what the mechanic entailed entirely, but as soon as their nodes were decapped, they quickly found out. This allows for comebacks multiple times throughout a game, helping it play like Temple of the Silent Storm, which is a thrilling map to spectate. On the opposing end, this unfortunately creates for longer games due to the nature of nodes being decapped so frequently. This can be an issue in tankier metas where long games are already an issue on the main competitive maps.
Vertical movement is good to have here but doesn’t require teams to be as dependent upon it. It is still a fairly decent sized map, meaning making use of highly mobile classes will be of use. Unfortunately, the portal to the Skyhammer does not open until it hits the exact time on the clock, meaning mesmers are only able to leave portals at the portal itself rather than at the actual Skyhammer location.
All in all, this map has made its way back into semi-competitive play, seeing as it had a ton of work done to it and finally has an exciting secondary mechanic. I’m sure I will throw it into the Academy Gaming map rotation, but I still doubt we will ever see this in competitive play. With it having two layers associated with it in many places, and too much ‘open space’, I find it frustrating at times when you want to move a fight over to a node, rather than having dozens of skirmishes in the roads, which detracts from the main conquest objective. That is an issue that would once again require a restructure of the map’s landscape, which I doubt we will see anytime soon.
With both maps getting their much needed changes, I think players will be far more inclined to choose these when voting in unranked and ranked queues. They’re far more exciting to be a part of as a player and spectator, making them a prime map for tournaments that are outside of the Pro League level at this time. It’s certainly possible we could see them get that far in the future, especially Spirit Watch, but the beta phase will be the best time to figure out what else needs to be changed moving forward. Be sure to let me know your thoughts about these maps in the comments below!
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