Monday, May 19, 2014

The Honor Of The Yak : GW2

Cancel all leave! Put all plans on hold!. We're in the penultimate match of the nine-match WvW Tourney and all hell has broken loose on Yak's Bend.

While undeniably an improvement on the system used in Season One, the much-ballyhooed Swiss matchmaking system turned out to have certain...flaws. After the first three weeks we had fallen into a comfortable pattern. We'd face two worlds ranked above us, come third, take one point. We'd drop a tier and face two servers ranked below us, come first and take five points. Rinse, repeat.

This would have left us tying for third place at the end of the season, a better result than had been widely predicted. Most people on YB, if they were paying any attention at all, probably assumed, as I did, that we'd just roll merrily on like this until the season hit the buffers. Only someone else had other ideas.

The charismatic commander I referred to a while back took a couple of matches to warm up but these last couple of weeks he has been incandescent. Two weeks ago, a week when we should have come third according to the pattern, he launched an all-out blitzkrieg on Fort Aspenwood, at one point wiping them completely off their own map and reducing them momentarily to a PPT of zero. As a result we came second that week and the pattern was broken.

Are you sure this is a good idea?

Unsurprisingly, this caused some murmurs of concern among the troops and even a few of of the other Commanders. There are posted rewards for placement in this Season and some people care about them. Others care about where we rank. By breaking the pattern we put ourselves, potentially, in a more difficult position.

Last week, the general feeling was, we needed to beat Stormbluff Isle and come second just to keep ourselves in contention. Even if we were up to that task, and most of us felt we were, there was a certain amount of concern that our fate might not be entirely in our own hands, because Henge of Denravi, the bandwagon server du jour, was perfectly capable of putting enough bodies on the ground to crush either opponent at their whim and quite possibly both at the same time.

Or, rather, they used to be. That was how they operated for the first six weeks of the season, crushing all opposition, racking up six straight wins and nailing down an unassailable first place come Tourney's End, which is, once again, how a pattern came to change. For a server to which huge numbers moved specifically so they could place first overall the job had effectively been done. Why go on fighting when the war is already won many of them must have reasoned. The HoD hordes thinned, leaving behind a hard, skilled but much-reduced core.

Golem flying a kite - always a sign things are going well

So, we beat SBI and came second. All the Commanders now seemed to be on message. We have spies so strategy no longer gets discussed in open channels and most co-ordination between commanders goes on in voice chat, inaudible and unexplained to field grunts like me. The results, however, much tighter co-ordination, better response times, a clear if veiled sense of a plan being carried out, seem quite apparent.

All of which meant that, going into week eight, we were in a more precarious position than ever. HoD are a busted flush. A couple of their guilds apparently did some name-calling that our Glorious Leader took to heart so we spent the last few days of Match Seven sitting in their Garrison while holding all their Keeps. A few weeks back they'd have swarmed us like army ants. Now they simply can't bring those numbers out.

For the first 48 hours of match number eight the assault on The Henge continued, driving the broken steamroller into third place for the week, where it looks like it will remain. The upshot of which is that we need not just to come second this week but first. It's a hard road that leads to the exact same place to which we could have slouched comfortably but if we make it, oh the tales we'll have to tell.

You can never have too many Omegas : old Yak's Bend proverb

Late Sunday evening my time we shifted gears and turned on FA. Four hours of the most intense defense I've ever enjoyed in WvW followed before I had to call it a night. FA tried over and over to take Bay on our borderland to establish a foothold to swat us down like the upstarts they undoubtedly think we are. They couldn't do it. Nor could their other teams take Hills or Garrison while we were hunkered down in Bay.

They came again and again, getting as far as the Lord's room, where we wiped them every time. I was on my full zerker Ele and the destruction was glorious. Of all the classes and builds I've played in WvW, which is a lot, it's the one in which I feel most effective. I've never been a big fan of DPS classes but when you're in a pressure situation like that and you can see your rain of fire wilting the attack it's very satisfying. I also die far less than I thought I would and there's always the option to switch to Water and pump out the best healing in the game (faint praise, I know).

It's not a great screenshot but its the only one I remembered to take.

At one stage we had the full FA zerg in Bay along with about twenty or so HoD doing their hyena opportunist thing. When I went to bed Yak's Bend Borderland had been queued for an hour. Waking up this morning I see we've closed the gap on FA from the 12k it was when I logged out to less than 5k. It's going to be a tough week with another like it to follow.

If we pull it off, our reward will almost certainly be an out-of-season ranking we can't sustain and a series of heavy defeats as we slip back down. Just like last time. Yak's Bend is clearly what, in football terms, would be called a "Cup Side". If there's a structured competition with a series of vital matches we'll bring our A-Game. Week after week in the leagues - not so much.

SynCaine, talking about why TESO's PvP hasn't worked for him, said recently:

"The huge PvP zone is a giant improvement over GW2’s WvW. Bigger map, better siege equipment, better combat system, better performance; just all around superior. Yet I’m as excited to spent time there as I was in GW2; not much. Other than PvP for the sake of PvP, what am I doing there? I really don’t feel connected or care about the outcome, large or small."

This is the core of it. For many of us playing WvW in GW2 we do feel connected to the outcome. I'm fighting alongside many of the same players on Yak's Bend now as I was in the weeks right after launch and even more who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me during some of our astonishing achievements during Season One.
You can say that again. And again. And again.

I chose Yak's Bend for emotional reasons before GW2 even went into the first beta weekend. I have never played for any other server and unless they merge us I never will. I know exactly what I'm doing there. I'm defending the Honor of the Yak. As time goes on it becomes apparent that almost all other servers can't stand Yak's Bend. Good. It would be awful to be "that plucky little server". We're bloody-minded nuisances and proud of it. We'll ruin anyone's day if we can (although unlike some servers I might mention we'll do it without cheating, hacking or exploiting). If we win, all well and good. If not, well we gave the other guy some bruises he'll remember for a while.

This is why SynCaine is both right and wrong at the same time. PvP does need to matter. If you don't feel it then what is the point? But you can't assume that just because it doesn't matter to you it doesn't matter to anyone. Emotional commitment is earned, yes, but it's also given.

Yaks Bend may finish the Season in glory or we may end it in ashes but we'll know one thing either way: we didn't just sit back and work the odds, we gave it our best shot. Can't ask more than that.


  1. This is an interesting read. I am on Blackgate and our server is facing an interesting situation this week as well. Both TC and JQ have decided Blackgate is the biggest threat for season 2 and have engaged in a season long cooperated 2v1 against us.

    Going into this week we know that we are most likely to lose just like we did in the previous three weeks facing the 2v1, however the server has decided that we are not going to go down without a fight and the whole community has rallied. Our enemies are twice our size and yet they just can't crush us as we are fighting tooth and nail to stay close. The server pride and sense of purpose is really strong and I think this is the best part of GW2.

    1. I'd heard about that. It's tough being on the wrong end of a team-up like that but if there aren't going to be alliances then what's the point of having three teams? It's very surprising that TC an JQ have managed to keep their pact going for several weeks, though. When YB had our bandwagon-breaking alliance with Ehmry Bay against Stormbluff Isle in Season One it was extremely hard going keeping everyone on message for three or four days!


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