I'm Elusive, TC commander and long-time exclusive WvWvW player. I've been playing a lot of mesmer in zergs lately when I'm not pinned up and I've noticed a general lack of knowledge among mesmer players, as well as the misconception that all mesmers are good for is veil and timewarp. It doesn't help that (on TC at least) there are very few consistent mesmer zerg players, and of those only a few fully utilize the class to its potential.
While it is true that having a mesmer for veil is imperative for engages, and having a timewarp is nice for fights, scaling a bomb's damage up, and speeding up golem assaults, there are lots of other things that a well played mesmer can bring to the table. That's the reason for this post - to clarify some of the uses of skills and to share what I've learned with the playerbase. I'll be satisfied if each person reading this learns something that they didn't know previously.
So, let's get down to it!
Generally, a mesmer's primary role is utility/support. We all know that, but here are a few things you might not have thought of:
- Using temporal curtain (focus 4) to pull enemies back into a bomb. When your commander calls for a bomb, usually damage is fairly focussed in a specific area, ie a choke, corner of a wall, etc. When enemies are caught, they try to run out. Your goal is to drop your curtain on your zerg's side of the bomb, and activate it quickly to pull enemies back in. To help with this, you can save null field an drop that on the other side of the bomb, where enemies are fleeing into, and hope that this strips stability so your pull will connect. If you are trying to focus a specific player (commander, in regular wvwvw zergs, or maybe a specific ele/necro/backliner in a gvg setting) you can run Arcane Thievery to strip their stability and ensure your pull connects and drags them back into the bomb. Usually being caught by this will ensure death on even the most tanky characters, as they will be in the bomb for much longer and assuming you have more than a few necros/eles the damage will just be too great for them to withstand.
- If you're having trouble tagging enemies for rallies/bags/proccing Triumphant Distortion run GS and target people at it's max range. This is useful because gs1 hits enemies in the "beam" meaning more tags/more loot/more distortion procs.
- Learn how to place a proper 2nd/3rd veil, in case there is more than one mesmer and the commander wants to chain. This is something that is trickier than it sounds, and usually comes with experience. I've found the best way is to watch my stealth on my bar and place veil a short distance in front of the front line when there is about a half a second of stealth left. Ideally, the zerg should be visible for a very short time.
- Know portal's max range (fully zoomed in mini-map, make sure you keep track of where you drop and can still see it at the edge when you open. With a max range portal you can actually cause a loading screen so when portalling into towers/etc its best to avoid those absolute max range portals just incase you fail and to give your friends time to react on the other side. Most mesmers have a pretty good grasp on portal distances so this is hopefully a given.
- Learn how to stack stealth - carry a torch, and swap skills to decoy and mass invis for long range portal bombs or stealthy hiding in keeps.
- Utilize "fake" portal bombs to scare enemies. Place your portal somewhere out of sight, make your push for the choke obvious (run right up to it before stealthing/blinking through marks) and then open it right on the enemies backline. You can take the portal back to safety but it's best to stand on it for a few seconds so the enemy sees some red and drops some skills. This rarely used form of baiting is super effective against disorganized pug zergs and inexperienced commanders.
- its possible to run a mantra-healing build, such that you can cast healing mantra and damage or daze mantra on resets to heal your nearby allies for ~6k. Mantras are fun to experiment with because the healing skill can be great for condi cleanse and heals for a lot if you spec for Harmonious Mantras.
- Swap skills and traits often. Put on feedback if the enemy is pirate-shipping or there is a golem rush. Swap on Warden's Feedback for additional reflects.
- Take off Deceptive Evasion if you are portal bombing because your dodge clones can break your stealth. Be careful with The Prestige (torch4) because that can destealth you too.
- Using timewarp on your backline eles/midline necros for a bomb can make the damage drop so much faster. If your backline is organized try to drop your timewarp such that you get all of your eles and a few necros in it right when the commander calls for meteors/icebows/wells.
- Timewarp can also be used for cleaning up downs, or to speed up an in-fight re-empower where there are fields down and a water wouldn't be blasted anyways. Cutting empowers time in half means your group can have a second or two jump on the enemies group.
- If you're facing particularly hard fights/fighting outnumbered and getting rekt/lack warriors who can banner well Illusion of Life can save a wipe. When traited for manip cooldown this skill is basically a banner on a 96 second cd - meaning you can use this skill almost 3x as often as a warrior can banner. Only rallies 3 allies but if it can save your commander/frontline you can turn the tide of a fight with one skill. 99% of the time allies will "full rally" from this skill due to the active number of enemy players dying on all sides during a zerg fight.
- Veil should always be on your bar, unless your group has 3+ mesmers (and even then I'd still probably take it.) The value and utility of veil is unrivaled because its useful for so much. If your commander utilizes fake pushes you will need veils often, and its good to have a defensive veil ready in case of an assjam or flank from another guild.
- Moa can really ruin a commander's day. It goes through stability but can be dodged or blocked, so use has to be carefully monitored (I like to target the enemy driver if we are running with our own tag up) once s/he has dodged twice, start casting that moa. A good moa on a driver's push usually results in a retreat and some free downs, or the commander even suiciding with the moa5 skill, a dash that goes a good distance and I've seen many commanders accidentally use this and end up in the middle of our group alone. Side note to other commanders, if you're moa'd don't use any of the skills except the 1 skill, because they all lock you in place and have cast times. You can use the 5 skill with an about-face to retreat back the way you came swiftly, but make sure you alert your frontline so they arent caught.
- Traiting blink for the extra range is really useful for repositioning/escaping/portalbombs/pretty much everything. If you can get by without it, that's better, but it really is great to have.
- Running an interrupt build with chaotic interruption can absolutely devastate an enemys backline. Pull em together with temporal curtain, drop chaos storm, mantra daze, etc, and they will be stuck there for easy pickings by your necros.
- If you are running deceptive evasion and getting focused a quick double dodge + distortion shatter can give you a few seconds to reposition and heal.
- Do not underestimate the utility of a well-placed nullfield. It's probably one of the strongest zerg skills in the game. Use it often, place it well. Trait for extra 2s duration if you're using this well. If you're traiting duration also use feedback liberally on enemy backliners.
- Use temporal curtain on fleeing enemies to pull them into a clump in front of your advancing frontline. A little anecdote - when I play Ashe in League Of Legends, I always try to land clutch cross-map arrows. I miss. A lot. I really only land, like, one or two really epic ones per match. I feel like that is how I am with mesmer pulls when they aren't on walls or into bombs with the addition of null field like specified at the top of this list. I land one or two really epic pulls per raid, catching a full 5 enemy squishies and getting them stacked right in front of our melee. There's nothing more satisfying, I tell ya.
- Don't trait for blinding glamours or confusion on blind/confusion on glamour. It just isn't worth it. It would be if the blind pulsed but it is only on the first cast, and the confusion is only for enemies entering/exiting the field.
- There's many places where using feedback without a target can be more useful than with one. Landing a feedback inside a narrow choke ensures no projectiles will pass for the duration, so run a ways back, center yourself and after a bit of practice, you'll be able to land these awesome feedback bubbles. Using them on a targeted enemy on the other side is not the best idea because the enemies can just move out.
- If you're playing pick you should be in a periphery party aiming to take out specific targets in the enemy back line. Don't bother grouping with frontline as you'll be out of range of buffs. Try to organize with like-minded players, thieves, engis, d/d eles, etc. Pick team is really important to organized group.