Guild Wars: How to Train Your Hero

If you have no idea what heroes and henchmen are, you should go read my previous article first.  Last time, I told you what they were and how to get them.  In this article I’ll explain some general behavior of NPC allies and how you might want to build your heroes.  This will be a slightly more advanced article so feel free to skip it for now if it’s irrelevant to you.  It probably will be around later if you need it then, unless I ninja delete it just as you need it.  I’m sneaky like that.

See the flags?  1, 2 and 3 correspond to positions in the party list.  Order matters!  The far left flag is for everyone not already flagged by 1, 2, or 3.

See the flags? 1, 2 and 3 correspond to positions in the party list. Order matters! The far left flag is for everyone not already flagged by 1, 2, or 3.

I have one tip for everyone, regardless of experience: flag your NPCs, call targets, and learn to micromanage.  Fights in Guild Wars should be approached methodically and carefully.  Trying to faceroll is a very bad habit to get into, especially if you try Hard Mode.  Experiment with positioning your NPC help so you know what works and doesn’t work with your preferred group.  Also learn which skills you must tell them to use and which they will efficiently use on their own.  Even if you call the “wrong” target, it’s much better than calling no target.  Trust me when I say this will save you so much suffering.  Now, on with the more detailed stuff.

There are three behavior guidelines you can set for your heroes: Fight, Guard, and Avoid Combat.  Fight means they will attack anything that enters their danger zone, will endeavor to fight your called target, and tend to kite less.  Guard means that they will not engage until they are attacked and/or you engage.  They will not wander that far from the guard point (flag or you) and tend to kite attackers around more, for some reason.  Avoid Combat is just what it sounds like.  They will not fight back, will not directly damage enemies, and love to kite.  Most of the time, you’ll want them on Guard, but the other settings have their uses.

Heroes are NPCs of course and don’t know everything the player knows, but they do “know” many things: energy/HP levels, whether someone is casting something, what conditions/enchantments/etc everyone has, and so on.  This leads to several interesting effects.

Shift + Left Click to disable a skill on a hero's bar.  Here I've disabled the resurrection skill so I can decide when to use it.

Shift + Left Click to disable a skill on a hero’s bar. Here I’ve disabled the resurrection skill so I can decide when to use it.

1. They will not try to apply the same effect to allies or foes who already have that effect.  This is both good and bad.  They don’t waste skills on effects that don’t refresh, but if your hero’s only attack has a debuff or condition attached, they will not use that skill again until the effect wears off.  This could ruin a build or really lower damage output, so keep that in mind.

2. Similarly, they won’t use heals and energy restoring moves on people with full bars.  They prioritize those with lower HP, which is (again) both good and bad.  If one of your other heroes is at 1 HP, but the mission critical NPC ally is at 20 HP, your hero has a higher place on the heal priority list.

3. Although they were programmed to be kind of like human players with regard to timing, their reaction time with interrupting is insanely fast.  Combine that with “knowing” when foes are casting and you have really good interrupters.  If you ever come across an “[Interrupt Henchman],” they are great to take along if you don’t have heroes or have extra space in a party.  The major downside is that they will interrupt everything as it is cast, meaning they won’t necessarily interrupt what they need to interrupt.  If there’s something that absolutely, without a doubt, must be interrupted, do it yourself or micromanage the hero.  If you just want some random interrupt coverage, heroes are awesome for that.

4. Heroes recognize when someone is hexed or has a condition and will endeavor to remove them if they have the means.  They however do not know which conditions and hexes are more severe than others and just remove them as they are applied.

Sadly, heroes never coordinate.  When one person gets hurt, all healers will try to heal them, even though at least one of them will probably be wasting their time.  They will all try to resurrect the same person and will usually do so as their first priority, even over healing others or doing damage.  Have a resurrection plan.  Disable all such skills and use them manually, only have one hero with it not disabled, or do the resurrecting yourself.  Whatever you do, don’t leave it to them.  Also, everyone with an interrupt will try to interrupt the first skill they see, thus having multiple interrupter NPCs would be redundant.

Heroes are notoriously bad at energy management.  The AI seems to make no allowances for this whatsoever.  They will use whatever skills are available as they become available without concern for things like saving some energy for that big hitter that’s coming off cooldown soon.

One of the good ones.  Also, [Domination Henchman] is often a good substitute.

One of the good ones. Also, [Domination Henchman] is often a good substitute.

Unfortunately, melee heroes tend to be a hindrance.  They get body blocked often and end up just standing around, run around a lot to avoid enemy AoEs, and the game doesn’t handle the unique features of the melee classes all that well.  Assassin chain attacks, dervish enchantments, adrenaline skills, and such are rarely used efficiently.  You can make builds that bypass some of these problems, if you really want to.

There are several more problems with the particulars of certain professions, but that wanders into metagame territory, so I’ll just leave it here for now.  I can write more about this later if there’s interest or I’m bored.

With that out of the way, what makes a good hero build?  It’s a good idea to put some condition removals and interrupts on heroes in general as they’ll “notice” sooner than players.  Beyond that, you want to account for two basic ideas with heroes: energy management and simplicity.

Make sure they have at least one means of restoring or conserving energy.  Necromancer heroes are very popular because their primary attribute compensates for this wonderfully in most circumstances.  For others, you’ll want to seek out a skill or two to put on their bar and maybe even slap some radiant insignias on them (depending on build).  Lastly, do not ever give them anything complicated as they will never do it right.  Simple, repetitive, and foolproof are what you are looking for.

Final tip: The PvX wiki I linked to before and will again has builds specifically for heroes.  If you want to try your hand at making builds yourself, then please at least consult this wiki page to see some peculiar skill use.  You don’t want to assign a bunch of skills that the AI never uses.

Before wrapping up, I am putting out a request for information.  I’m going to assume this is all helpful to someone(s) because I’m arrogant like that, but if there is something you really want to know about Guild Wars, leave a comment or question somewhere.  What do you want to see from me?  If nobody has any requests, I’ll just keep on keeping on.


Feel free to leave comments, questions, compliments, or favorite movie quotes below.

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