Previously in my Guild Wars exploits, I made a point of avoiding most of the PvE meta and just did my own thing. In part this was due to a lack of desire to really see much of the high-end dungeons, and in part due to my RP-lite position that my character would not use knowledge she did not have access to, such as what boss will be using what skill, what areas were laden with mesmers, etc. I did put some effort into capturing the odd elite, so I was not entirely consistent, but in general I preferred to stay out of the GW forums and PvX wiki. This enabled me to get through all Normal Mode storylines and Eye of the North, and amass enough riches to buy a few elite armor sets, so I had pretty much all I needed.
Then War broke out in Kryta. Funnily enough, with its roaming bands of White Mantle, Mursaat, and Peacekeepers who have variable builds, it became less effective to use the meta technique of preparing a build based on what you knew the encounter would use against you, and I thought this would put players like me on a more even footing. Instead I found myself facing more defeats than usual, even in Normal Mode; builds with high damage being shredded by Elementalists and Mesmers; high prot/healing builds failing to take out enemy monks and ritualists; domination and interrupt builds frequently failing on both counts, all with the handicap of low-level, uninfused henchmen tagging along in Normal Mode. I spread my H+H out carefully to avoid AoE wipes. I painstakingly set up strategic pulls. I runed and insignia’ed myself and my team to the teeth. I sought advice from guild and general gaming forum mates. And finally, I watched in horror as my team of six wiped repeatedly on a team of four: a Mesmer/Monk boss surrounded by two Elementalists and another Mesmer.
Defeated, I crawled to Guild Wars Guru for threads about these new White Mantle and their Peacekeepers, to find out what it seemed everybody else already knew. Of the three “-ways” recommended in the threads, I only possessed one of the recommended elites with Discord, and the requisite Necromancer heroes (I’ve yet to obtain Razah on this character, and still don’t have the Jagged Bones elite – I know, shame on me). A few short skill-purchasing jaunts, and a few runes here and there later, and my party was ready to head back out and slaughter some White Mantle. The contrast was as big as the difference between the Garden of Seborhin before and after Nightfall. I cut through the White Mantle bounty as though I’d returned to Old Ascalon with a party of 8 to take on some level 10 charr. I’ll stop with the similes now, but I think you get my point.
Of course, now that I know about this not-at-all-kept secret of Guild Wars that’s been around since last year, I’m sure it will be roundly nerfedbalanced before long, so I’m doing my best to conquer all the content I can before it goes away. Suddenly achievements that I only saw by virtue of grabbing a guildy at the right time have come within reach to my H+H party: not only Shining Blade and Zaishen bounties in Hard Mode, but also Vanquishing without the use of consumables, Eye of the North dungeons, and Master’s Rewards in Cantha.
It’s changed my gameplay entirely, and though I’m proud of the things I’ve been able to accomplish (my first title attained last night and others in close pursuit), I do somewhat miss how scary the world once was from the point of view of my Elementalist, who was encountering these powerful enemies all for the first time, each time. I’m achieving far more these days, and putting things in my Hall of Monuments, but enemies are turning more and more into numbers to whittle down rather than seas of red to turn and run away from.
At least when I start getting too cocky, I’ll still have the Temple of the Intolerable for that old “ohcrap” feeling.