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Guide:Spike Calling

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A guide for frontliners covering the basics of how to call spikes.

Why me?

As a frontliner, one of your primary duties is to call spikes. Although midliners can (and often should) call spikes, it is mainly a front’s responsibility. Though it probably makes sense intuitively, the following reasons explain why:

Deep wound 
Aside from Paragons, standard midliners cannot inflict a deep wound like a front can. Being capable of biting off up to 20% of your target's health (regardless of their armor) with the deep wound alone puts you in a position of power, and with great power comes great responsibility.
Movement 
Unlike a midliner, a front needs to be in melee range of its target to do anything. Thus, it makes more sense for a midliner to hit the front’s target than it does for a front to struggle trying to keep up with the elementalist's ability to cast on varying targets easily, regardless of where they may be standing (assuming they are still within cast range).
Coordination of skills 
Spikes (obviously) tend to be more effective when the front has plenty of adrenaline skills to unload and when the midline has their damage skills available, so it is important to try to spike when both are available. It is a lot easier for, say, an axe warrior, to count the skill recharges of his elementalist so he knows when to spike again, than it is for an elementalist to keep track of the warrior's adrenaline.

Basics

The goal of a spike is to have your team's damage come together all at once on a single target, so that the total damage is enough to kill, or at least severely 'injure' the enemy. In its simplest form, the method for calling a spike is to select a target for your team, count down from 3, and have everyone unload damage at 1. There are generally 2 types of spikes – clean spikes and pressure spikes.

Clean Spikes

Clean Spikes are exactly what they sound like. The goal is to be able to coordinate your team’s damage well enough so that it lands on a target all at once, dropping an enemy’s health from 100% to 0% in under a second, thus claiming a “clean” kill. When calling clean spikes, it is important to pay attention to what damage skills your team has and their varying cast times. Some team members may have damage skills that they need to queue earlier than other team members so that all spells complete casting at the same time, thereby allowing the damage to land at the same time; thus, it is especially important to count down from 3 with actual second-long intervals. With most team builds that rely on clean spikes, the quality of spikes is more important than the quantity (see pressure spikes), although frequent calling is still a must. A properly executed clean spike should be extremely difficult for a monk to catch, assuming the target isn’t pre-protted. If your spikes are clean enough to force the enemy heal monk to use Infuse Health every time, or for the prot monk to use Spirit Bond (PvP), then they are likely to be getting low on energy, and you can expect to make kills soon if you have not already made them.

Pressure Spikes

With pressure spikes, it is important to call frequently to keep enemy monks under pressure. Often accompanied by some form of widespread degen and shutdown, pressure spikes rely on frequent burst damage on various targets. You do not need to (and should not expect to) kill with every spike. Keep in mind that every time you do damage, the monks must use energy to heal the team back up, and that they do not have enough energy to keep up forever. If you don't call, their energy will be full. But, if you call frequently, even if you don't kill, you will still hurt the enemy monks’ energy. The goal with pressure spikes is to throw damage at many different targets so that the enemy monks’ energy pools cannot possibly keep up. Note that although pressure spikes do not necessarily need to be as “clean” as a proper Spike (quantity is usually more important than quality), you should still aim to make them as precise as possible.

Calling with a Partner

Many standard GvG builds include 2 fronts, both of which share the responsibility of calling. So, it is important for the duo to develop a sort of harmony when calling spikes.

Overcalling

The most common problem that arises when there are multiple spike callers is overcalling, which is when as one person calls a spike, the other disrupts it by calling a different target. Although both calls made may have been good targets – even potential kills, the disruption caused by overcalling ensures that neither spike will be effective. Through practice and communication, frontline duos work to eliminate this fiasco from their gameplay. This can be accomplished with a number of techniques.

  • Alternating
    • Some duos may decide to alternate the spike calling, such that front #1 will call a spike, and as he builds his adrenaline back up, front #2 will call another. By agreeing to alternate, the fronts greatly reduce the odds of one overcalling the other, and greatly increase the frequency and effectiveness of their team’s spikes as well. However, the pattern may need to be broken in some situations. For example, if it is front #1’s turn to call, but they are knocked down, crippled, blind, or suffering from any other form of shutdown that prevents them from calling, they could instruct front #2 to go ahead and call again.
      • This is an instance where communication between the frontline is extra important. If front #1 does not tell his partner that he is unable to call the current spike, then the entire team would simply be waiting in silence and confusion, with no sort of spiking happening.
  • Dedicate Primary Caller
    • Decide before the game which caller will be the primary caller, and give that one the authority/priority on spikes in case of an overcall. If front #1 is the dedicated primary caller, and he and front #2 begin to call at the same time, front #2 will need to abandon his call and allow front #1 to continue calling. Front #1 will need to be sure that his target is the most recent thing pinged so his midline can follow the correct target.
  • Speaking
    • This is the most basic technique, and often the most effective. Telling your front partner something as simple as “Hey, I’m gonna call the next spike on the mesmer in a couple of seconds once my deep wound is charged” will help make sure that they don’t accidently overcall you in the next few seconds. Also, it will tell them not to go autoattack the mesmer, which would run the risk of enemy monks protting him up before your intended spike.

Coordination

  • Knock downs
    • Say, for example, a front duo consists of a dervish and an axe warrior. The dervish could notify the warrior that he wants to spike the heal monk, and could ask him to Shock the prot on the spike. So, as the dervish counts 3-2-1 on the heal, the warrior will run to the prot and KD him with Shock right as his team spikes the heal, ensuring that no prot spells can be cast on the heal. This is a highly effective play that can prove deadly if done correctly.
    • Even if you are not specifically asked to KD a monk on your partner’s spike, you can still go ahead and do it anyway if you have the opportunity. Just remember to notify your team that you’re doing it so they could play accordingly.
    • For general play, you should usually announce every time an enemy is knocked down. Informing your team that the enemy mesmer, for example, is knocked down, will let them know they are free to cast for the next 3 seconds.
  • Converging
    • Rather than having one frontliner on a spike, while the other frontliner is off hitting a separate target, it is sometimes a good idea to have both frontliners hit the same target for a full team spike. You can ask your partner to “converge” with you on the next spike (meaning you ask your partner to come join you on the spike so you can both beat on the same target together), so that your team maximizes the amount of damage focus on a single target. The secondary frontliner joining in on the spike does not even have to unload any adrenaline (though it would help). With autoattacks alone, converging could easily add 100+ damage to the spike.
    • Remember that your other front isn’t the only person you should be coordinating with. For example, if you plan on KDing the heal monk on a spike, make sure to let your mesmer know that ahead of time, so he can Shame/Diversion the prot monk instead of the heal, since the prot is the one who will be on his feet.

Counting

To maximize the power of your calls, you're going to have to be doing a lot more counting than just 3-2-1.

Stances

  • It is much harder to kill an enemy monk than something else on the team because of stances. Typically, a prot monk runs Balanced Stance, while the heal monk runs Dark Escape. Both of those skills are quite powerful, and can be used to prevent an otherwise certain death. So, assuming you are not running a form of stance removal (like Forceful Blow or Wild Throw) you need to learn how to play around stances
  • If you want to KD the prot for a spike, then you’ll need to catch him at a time when he’s vulnerable to KD, meaning when balanced stance is recharging. To do this, go to knock the prot monk once; hopefully, he will fall for the KD bait and pop his balanced stance. From there, count to 16 seconds to know exactly when the Bstance has worn off. Different prots may spec different amounts into tactics, so counting all the way up to 16 is just taking precaution, since, although most prots will have a slightly shorter balanced stance duration, it’s very unlikely for a prot to have one longer than that. Once 16 seconds have passed, you know you have a 14 second window (as balanced stance has a 30 second recharge) to KD the prot at will.
    • The exact same tactic can be applied to dark escape as well. Pressuring the heal monk and scaring him into popping DE will open a 20 second window to spike him out once it has worn off.

Prots

By keeping track of which prots you see your enemy backline uses, you can have a better idea of how vulnerable other targets may be. Powerful prot skills, such as Aegis, can give your spikes a hard time. So, when you see the prot use aegis, you know that for the next 27 seconds, that skill is unavailable, and that you should use that to your advantage.

Your Team's Skills

Spiking frequently is important, but if you are spiking in such short intervals that your team's skills may have not even recharged yet, you probably aren't being as effective as you could be. So keep in mind what skills your team has, and try to space your spikes out so that at the least, your midline will have something to give you. If you have a [[Build:Me/Rt GvG Energy Surge|dom mes] with Shatter Enchantment, for example, you would definitely want to make sure a spike with shatter is a good one, so as not to waste it. Once your mesmer uses shatter, count to 20 and be ready to use it effectively.

Target Selection

The most difficult part about calling is deciding which targets are the best to go for. Many people believe that target selection is all about professions, meaning they think just spiking mesmers or eles is the best plan of attack. While it is true that professions dictate armor class, so some professions just naturally have lower armor ratings than others, and are thus more vulnerable to big damage, there are many other more important factors to consider when selecting a spike target. When searching for a good target, try to consider the following:

  • Their positioning
  • Their personal defensive skills (if any)
  • What they're holding (Flag, 40/40, shield set, etc.)
  • Runes and insignias
  • Death Penalty
  • Resurrection Skill

Positioning

Let's say the enemy mesmer is feeling aggressive and really wants to hurt your monks. This will likely cause him to push up further into the battle so he can reach your monks better. However, in doing this, the mesmer is also getting further and further from his own monks. If you spike this out-of-position mesmer, and enemy monks have to waste even a second moving forward to be within casting range of the mesmer, your chances at scoring a kill are much higher. Even if the monks reach the mesmer in time and save him, they are now in a more vulnerable position than they were in before, and probably burned a lot of extra energy to compensate for the bad positioning. The lesson here is to keep your eyes on the position of enemy monks, and to look to see if there is anyone standing out of their range. Note that this includes enemy fronts; overextended dervishes or warriors make for good spike targets.
  • Be careful not to have your team lose ground (overall team positioning) from trying to turn around and spike an enemy behind your team. This is best avoided by only having one frontline go back instead of both.
  • To add on to the previous point, a great way to create pressure is to attack the enemy team in the front and back at the same time. If enemy fronts decide to play very aggressively on your backline, you can have your midline hit them. Since the fronts are taking big damage and are out of monk range, you know that the enemy monks must push up a lot for them, which creates a great opportunity for you to jump on them hard. Monks will have a difficult time trying to save themselves while also trying to move forward to save their fronts.

Defense

  • Midliners often have a defensive skill, commonly Dark Escape, so you need to be sure you apply the same tactic your learned earlier to these targets as well. If you know you need to score a quick kill on anything at all, a midliner with an unpopped dark escape is probably not your best target.
  • Some targets will often just be much harder to kill than others. A stone sheath elementalist, for example, will almost always be enchanted with Stone Sheath. Even if stone sheath is uncovered, and you have a Shatter Enchantment/Strip Enchantment ready, using those removals on stone sheath would mean you cannot also use them to remove incoming prots, making the stone sheath ele a very difficult target to kill. This does not mean that you should never try to kill them, but that a lot more effort and coordination will be required to do so.

What they are holding

  • As flags are a crucial part of GvG gameplay, enemies holding flags make for great targets (for the possibility of a flag return, and because they are not on shield set). However, enemy monks will certainly understand that, and will take great precautions to protect whoever is holding their flag. Thus, you must coordinate well with your team to spike the flag carrier when it is most vulnerable, meaning: when its defensive stances (if any) are used, when Aegis is recharging and when you have the most damage and shutdown available. So pop the flag carrier's stance, lure the prot into using aegis on a pressure spike, have your mesmer try to hit any key monk skills with Diversion or Power Block one of them, and make sure Shatter Enchantment and Strip Enchantment are both available for the spike if present in your team setup. By doing these things, you maximize the possibility of killing a flag carrier.
    • Note that these steps can be used to kill any desired target, but are just extra important for flag carriers
    • Never underestimate the importance of bonus armor. Keep your eye out for any enemy players that are off of their shield set, as they are more likely to die to your spike than they otherwise would be. Even just keeping some consistent pressure on a caster can force him off of his 40/40 and onto his shieldset, thus reducing his performance.

Runes and insignias

Some builds are most commonly run with major or even superior attribute runes, lowering the character's health points and making it an easier spike target.

  • Wastrel's Mesmers usually use a major domination magic, lowering their health points by 35.
  • Avatar of Balthazar Dervishes usually use a major attribute rune to hit their break point on Harrier's Grasp. This is partly offset by the dervish's inherent +25 health points.
  • Lightning Surge Elementalists, especially if they're meant to split, usually use a superior air magic, lowering their health points by 75.
  • If someone notices that a midlince character uses a major or superior attribute rune, i.e. by noticing that Shatter Enchantment deals more than 94 damage, they should notifiy the team of it so you can spike this target with priority.

Some armor insignias allow to spike targets more easily or make it especially hard to spike them.

  • Necromancers may run tormentor's insignias, increasing the holy damage they receive by 16/hit. If you have an avatar of Balthazar dervish he should throw a spear at the necromancer to check whether the damage is increased. If it is, it will turn spiking and pressuring the necromancer with the dervish much more effective.
  • Mesmers with plenty of signets run artificer's insignias, giving them an unremovable armor bonus of 9 to 15.
  • Main team elementalists most commonly run blessed insignias. If you can keep them unenchanted with skills such as Rend Enchantments, they will get hit for a lot of damage if their prot is delayed with Diversion, Shame or a knock down.
  • Lightning surge split elementalists often run aeromancer insignias. If they are at main team and you have a physical heavy setup, like two frontline characters and a paragon, your spike will be more effective than usual. If you run an elementalist based spike, your damage will be cut down noticeably without any way to bypass the bonus armor.

Death Penalty

This one may seem obvious, but is worth a mention. Keep track of which enemies have acquired some DP, and continue beating on those characters. Remember that the more DP an enemy has, the more likely their monks are watching them closely, so you need to try your best to sneak more kills in there. At -15%, a target becomes easier to kill. At -30%, they become very easy to kill (caster spikes alone can usually do the trick). Once an enemy reaches -45% or more, you can expect them to be hiding in the back, or shuttling flags; teams may often have to reconfigure their entire gameplan once of their players reach a high DP.

Resurrection Skill

  • Keep track of which enemies have burned their Resurrection Signets, as well as who is carrying Death Pact Signet (PvP). Killing the player holding pact guarantees (assuming they don't base res) a normal signet to be used. Once normal signets are all used up, there is no getting them back, outside of a Morale Boost. If you know all normal sigs have been used, then the enemy carrying pact becomes an excellent target, as they will not be able to do anything once he is dead.
  • Look out for enemies resurrected by death pact signet. They also make great targets, as killing them is basically 2 kills for the price of 1, and, if they are to be resurrected immediately, it would require 2 res sigs.
    • The characters which are most likely to carry death pact signet are domination mesmers, hammer warriors and dervishes.
    • Some teams use multiple instances of death pact signet. You may create death pact chain kills, killing the two players with pact by killing a single pacted party member. Achieving such a triple kill may decide a match for you, so any level of coordination required to succeed in this is appropriate.

Using the Clock

  • All dead players base res every 2 minutes, starting at 2:00, so use that mechanic wisely. If your team is pushed deep into your own base, try to kill a healer right before an even minute in the game so that they resurrect all the way in their own base, allowing you to more easily push out of your base, or to even kill the enemy team completely. Similarly, if your team is the one that has pushed the enemy into their base, try to kill players after time (this is called timing someone) so that they do not resurrect automatically.
  • As mentioned before, you have a lot of things to keep count of. It’s difficult to do it all on your head, so use the in-game clock to make things easier for yourself.

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