NOTE: the following article is based off the BWE1 build.
“Mesmers are magical duelists who rely on deception and confusion to keep their opponents in check. Indecision is their greatest ally. Using powerful illusions to distract, they make sure they never go toe to toe with an enemy; they use their powers and tactics to set up an unfair fight.”
Mesmers were the last class revealed in Guild Wars 2 and also one of the most anticipated when it was revealed. This was because Mesmers in Guild Wars 1 had a prestigious position as the most technical and interesting class to play. The Mesmer reveal video showed many interesting new mechanics such as illusions, group invisibility, blinks and showed unconventional weapon choice for a caster such as greatsword, swords and pistols. Now that the beta is upon us, let’s take a look at the Mesmer class and find out how exactly it works and plays. Obviously since this is an early beta phase, all of this is subject to change in the coming weeks/months until and even after release.
When you start, you’re put in a unconventional territory that has you starting with a sword instead of the more common staff, wand or dagger you might expect from playing a caster in a MMO or an RPG in general. From the start, you have to get into the melee to fight off enemies and complete the “tutorial” instance of the game, which again is very atypical for a class like this, but very fun nonetheless.
As you kill a few monsters, you unlock weapon skills on your sword, the second of which is the key to being able to melee efficiently as a squishy caster. Blurred Frenzy is an ability that will lock you in place for a few seconds while you do damage to everything around you, but also make you invincible. The third, Illusionary Leap, is your first illusion based weapon skill, which will summon a clone that leaps at your target to attack it. When you can reuse the ability, you swap your position with the clone who conveniently leaped into melee range; this will also immobilize your enemy. The two skills synergize well, with the third letting you close gaps with your opponents and immobilizing them, which then gives you the opportunity to use your 2nd ability at close range on an enemy who can’t move and can’t damage you.
Mesmer Mechanics: Illusions and Shatters
Mesmers unique class mechanic are shatters, which can be accessed at any time regardless of your weapon equipped with the F1-F4 keys. These abilities rely on another unique Mesmer mechanic, illusions.
Illusions are divided into two types: clones and phantasms. Clones are generally weak illusions that mimic your current equipped weapon; so if you have a sword equipped they will do melee attacks, if you have a greatsword equipped they will do ranged attacks. Clones are generated via low cooldown abilities, often as a byproduct of another ability. Phantasms, on the other hand, are tougher illusions that generally have their own special abilities that are generated via longer cooldown abilities.
The Mesmer can summon up to three illusions which disappear when their target dies. This also means that if you’re fighting multiple opponents, you might have one per target or three on a single target.
The Shatters rely on sacrificing all your current illusions, clones and phantasms alike, to apply powerful effects. The current effects are AE damage, applying Confusion (confusion is a condition that does damage whenever the target uses a skill), applying a Daze (a type of debuff that prevents the target from using any ability) or a self only invulnerability. The more illusions sacrificed, the more potent the effect of these shatters.
Those two mechanics are fairly original and engaging, however they suffer from many drawbacks when actually used in real conditions and especially in PvP. First illusions are squishy, most likely too squishy. Clones typically die in one hit from just about anything while Phantasms might live for a couple of hits. This wouldn’t be a problem in a typical MMO, but in Guild Wars 2 abilities do not have to be directly targeted to inflict damage. So if an illusions moves in front of an attacher or steps in AOE they most likely die quickly. That makes having enough illusions to shatter an issue in PvP.
The second issue is shatters are not an instant once activated. The illusions will first have to run to their target to explode and apply their effect except for the case of Invulnerability where it is applied instantly. Another concern is that shattering sacrifices all your illusions, phantasms included, which means you lose a lot of your current damage output as well as utility. As it stands, shattering in most situations it’s not worth the loss of dps.
This is especially true with the short-livedness of illusions due to cooldowns and timing issues.
Mesmers have at their disposal a decent amount of weapon choices. Let’s take a look at each weapon set.
Staff is a condition based weapon, it applies both damaging DoTs and debilitating conditions. It has an AoE component on the autoattack that can hit multiple targets. The Chaos Storm skill is a large ground targeted AoE but on a very long cooldown. It also has support elements since most of the abilities apply boons to nearby friendly targets.
The weapon, at it’s core, is very random. Every ability applies a condition or boon out of a specific pool. For example, the autoattack will either apply Vulnerability, Burning or Bleeding, all damage oriented conditions. It also applies Might or Fury on allies. With Chaos Storm will apply Poison, Weakness, Chill or Fear to enemies while buffing allies with Swiftness, Retaliation or Aegis, aiming at both debilitating and crowd control while buffing your teammates with utility and defenses.
Sword is a melee weapon that’s mostly aimed at direct damage and pressure. It has a lot of damage potential while being fairly strong defensively. It can be coupled with various offhand weapons such as Torch to get The Prestige; an invisibility+blind ability, as well as a phantasm that grants retaliation and afflicts confusion. The other offhand, the Pistol, gives the ability to summon a ranged direct damage phantasm and Trick Shot which shoots a bouncing bullet that will stun the first target, daze the second and cripple the 3rd.
If a utility route is preferred, then a Focus will provide Temporal Wall, an ability that creates a wall that cripples enemies while granting swiftness to allies. Also it will grant a phantasm which reflect projectiles in an area around him.
Finally if you feel like one sword isn’t enough, then you can use two swords, the offhand sword granting a block ability as well as Illusionary Swordsman, a powerful melee direct damage phantasm.
Greatsword, unlike what you’d expect, is actually a ranged direct damage weapon. It has the longest range out of any of the mesmer weapon and provides strong “sniping” power. The further you are from your target the more damage your autoattack does and the other abilities focus heavily on doing a large amount of damage. Mind Stab, which does heavy damage, also applies five stacks of vulnerability. To stay at bay, the greatsword user can rely on the Phantasmal Berserker which is a phantasm that cripples on every hit as well as Illusionary Wave which is a frontal knock-back.
Scepter, the last weapon in the Mesmer’s arsenal, is a ranged hybrid damage type that provides both conditions and direct damage. It is a one handed weapon which relies on fast clone propagation via the autoattack. It also has a semi defensive option via a block and a confusion applied by Confusing Images. The offhand are the same as for sword and bring the same advantages, it’s up to you to find which one fits your play-style the most.
The weapons overall are fairly interesting, some are even very original like the randomness of staff for example, but some lack personality such as Scepter while others seem too situational like Focus.
Utilities and Elites
Mesmers have probably one of the most eclectic selection of utilities, ranging from group support abilities to self survival to direct damage.
Mantras are utility spells that need to be charged with a very long four second cast, but can then be used instantly; even while casting another ability. There are a few different mantras that range from healing to direct damage while also offering condition removal, daze and stability. Mantras generally have a lower cooldown than similar abilities from other classes to compensate for the fact that they’re very hard to use more than once in a fight due to the long casting time.
For movement, Mesmers benefit from Blink and Portal; Blink being the fairly standard self teleport ability that is ground targeted. Portal was displayed in the reveal video, it acts as a group mobility spell. You drop two portals, one the ground at your position and the second where you to travel to, then both portals become linked and any friendly entering one will be instantly teleported to the second and vice versa.
In the support role, Mesmers get Phantasmal Disenchanter and Null Field, two different ways to remove conditions from allies and boons from enemies, one via a phantasm and the other via a short lived ground AoE. They also get Mirrored Feedback which reflect projectiles back to their owner in a very large area.
Mesmers also have access to a few invisibility spells: Decoy, a self stealth which also spawn a clone to trick your opponents, Veil of Invisibility, which is a wall type ability that stealthes every allies entering it and lastly the elite skill, Mass Invisibility, which stealths everyone around you in a large area.
With the other elites, Mesmers get Moa Morph, which is similar to the typical polymorph from other MMOs. It transforms your target into an inoffensive Moa. Mesmers also have Time Warp, a large area spell that buffs all your allies with the boon Quickness, which increases animation speed by 100% allowing which allows you to attack twice as fast.
Utilities are varied and most of them are powerful, albeit somewhat situational. A lot of the utilities are support oriented. Their effects on the solo Mesmer can feel pretty underwhelming compared to similar abilities from other classes, but in a group their power can be felt drastically.
Mesmers are fun. Mesmers are interesting. Mesmers are curious, inviting, challenging, they offer depth and require skill. All this is true, however in the current early state of beta, Mesmers also are unpolished, clunky, inefficient. Out of all the classes, they’re probably one that feels like it has the most unrealized potential. Some mechanics just get in the way due to their implementation which ruin an otherwise great concept. Do not panic however, I have all hopes Arenanet will fix most of these issues, to make a Mesmer that is not hindered by his illusions but instead empowered by them.