this guide will probably be quite long, so it's unlikely i'll finish it all in one setting. as such, this guide will be presented in parts. this is part I.
alliance battles (AB for short) at its very basic is the art of holding 4 or more shrines consistently. if your side can achieve that, victory will be yours 80-90% of the time. sounds easy? that's because it is. winning AB is not about how many people you can kill, or how long you survive. in fact, most of the concepts of pvp does not apply to AB. as such, the ability to kill other players, and the ability to tank multiple attackers are not very valuable. what's really valuable are the ability to cap shrines quickly, as well as the ability to keep your opponents from capping faster than you.
The concept of "maximum influence"
this basically means: "how many targets can you affect?" builds and players capable of achieving a high maximum influence are generally more valuable in AB. those with little maximum influence tends to be quite useless.
there are a few common build types in AB, as well as the mentality behind them. some more effective than others. here i will outline the most common.
the "i killed u guud" character
the majority of builds in AB tends to consist of these ones. such builds are often played by players who have little knowledge/regard for the workings of AB, and are just there to kill (although there are exceptions). assassins, warriors, and dervishes tend to fall into this category.
while they are generally good at killing other players, their overall effectives is questionable. does the ability to blow up a player in uner 5 seconds really help your side to win? maybe, but probably not. their maximum influence is very low, since everything they do can only affect one target at a time. in terms of capping shrines, they are often quite bad. for example, an assassin generally cannot cap most of the shrines by itself. if they stray any where near the elite elementalist shrine, they will get blown up in under 5 seconds. without proper support backing them up, these characters are often useless.
the "i tanked u all" character
probably the most useless archtype in AB. they generally rely on defensive stances or stacked layers of protective enchantments to "tank". while they are very good against the "i killed u guud" characters (since they can draw them like flies to rotten food), they generally have zero influence. common professions are tanking warriors (dolyak sig anyone?), earth eles, 55 monks.
these characters are very effective at capping shrines. a properly-played nuker can clear a shrine of all NPCs in a matter of seconds. often, the final outcome comes down to how effective the nukers on your side is. with that said, these characters tend to be very fragile. the ability to blow up NPCs does not translate into how well they can kill opposing cappers, nor how well they can disrupt their opponents. overall, their maximum influence can be quite high, as long as they don't get blown up on their way to the next shrine. the most common builds are fire nukers of some sort.
disruption, party support
they are a huge shortage of good characters in this category. generally, this is because most ABers are too stupid to know how to play them, and too stupid to know how much influence they can have on the battlefield. these characters can have enormous maximum influence, capable of interfering with multiple targets, and buffing the effectiveness of many allies. however, a badly-played character in this category is worse than useless. common builds: shutdown necros, shutdown mesmers, cripshot ranger, BA ranger, motivation/command paragons, weapon rits.
lastly, there are the healers and protectors. in an organized party, they are very effective. in your average pug, they are quite useless. given the size of AB maps, it is very easy to get seperated. once that happens, these characters cannot perform up to their usual effectiveness. their maximum influence can be very high. but often times, they are not worth their character slots. common builds: healer/protector monks, restoration rits.
Fitting it all together
always remember that to win AB, your side must hold 4 shrines or more shrines more often than your opponents. as such, when making a team (whether an organized party or just a pug), its best to look for players that have the highest maximum influence. the best characters in this regard are nukers and disruption/party support. usually, you'll want at least someone capable of nuking and 1-2 characters in the disruption/party support category. the final 1-2 character slots can be filled by a character than can score that single vital kill. generally, you want a good, smart assassin with good battlefield awareness, as well as the willingness to follow target calls. of course, if you can find a warrior or dervish who can do the same, that's fine too. if you are making an organized party, you'll probably want a healer of some sort. if you are making a pug, then it's best to skip the healer and bring more damage/disruption. healers are generally a hinderance to unorganized pugs since it's easy to get seperated.
judging by part I of this guide, i feel i should take a different focus for part II. hopefully this will be a bit more organized and coherent. part II of my guide will delve into some of the finer details of AB. for the most part, ABs run on random pugs. yes, there are highly coordinated groups running around as well, but they are few and far in between. for the vast majority of players, AB is nothing more than RA x10 with specific objectives. as such, the rest of this guide will teach how to play properly and effectively in such an environment. for those who do play in organized teams, you might still gleam a few helpful tips.
The golden rules
here i'm going to outline a few effective mindsets that will help players perform better in AB. remember that these tips are for the pug majority.
#1: "don't ever depend on your teammates"
as one of the twelve random players in AB, your job is to perform at the best of your abilities. why? because this is the only thing you can truly control. you can't control other allied parties with just team chat, and your own group probably won't listen to you very carefully as well. so here's the first and most important rule of AB: "don't ever depend on your teammates." take the initiative and do everything by yourself. if your party follows you, great. if not, then ignore them and do your own thing. since you cannot control the actions and skill-level of your teammates, it is best to assuming they are all blithering idiots and treat them that way. when in doubt, always prepare for the worst (in this case, assuming all your teammates have an IQ of 2).
#2: "never fight a losing battle"
when fighting any resistance, always use whoever you're with as meatshields. let them take the blunt of enemy offense. if they survive and kill a few, great. if they die, then either mop up the surviving enemies or run like hell. of course, chip in on the fighting, kill/disable the key targets, but never expose yourself to a lot of danger. when in doubt, just run away and do something more productive. this leads to the second rule: "never fight a losing battle." AB maps are big. there are always battles somewhere on the map that you can win, so there's no point fighting losing ones.
#3: "fight decisively, or get the hell out"
when you do decide to fight, fight decisively. identify and kill/disable the most important target first. try to keep if you find you can't kill/disable that key target, then turn tail and run. either the target is too skilled, in which case you better run because he's gonna kill you, or the target is a tank, in which case they can be ignored. this is the third rule: "fight decisively, or get the hell out." you'll want to get any skirmish you find over with as quickly as possible.
#4: "when approaching a mob, always approach from the rear"
mobs are common occurences in AB. the mobbers often don't even consciously mob up. often a mob forms simply because a whole bunch of people from multiple groups all decide to run in the same way, and are too stubborn to seperate from the pack, or multiple groups all happens to converge on a single shrine. as such, always prepare to deal with the sudden appearance of a mob. from my personal experiences, i present the fourth rule: "when approaching a mob, always approach from the rear". why? because mobs are the weakest at the rear. that's where the stragglers are, ones who are the slowest and weakest. as such, they are more easily picked off. also, it takes time for a mob to turn around and deal with a threat from behind, as most of its damage dealers are in the front or center, leaving you more time to kill/snare/disable. a couple of players attacking from the rear can weaken and slow down the mob sufficiently to break it up.
those are the four golden rules of AB. follow them above all others, even above capping shrines. after all, you can't cap very well if you find yourself dead with a 20 second res timer all the time.
there are really only three viable tactics in AB: capping, defending, or mobbing. the last one only really effective if you happen to own all the shrines already and are intent on keeping your opponents inside their base.
this is the simplest tactic of the three. simple run around and capture the nearest shrine you side doesn't possess, and kill/run away from any opposition in between. don't be too particular about who's with you. if all else fails, at least they'll serve well as meatshields. if the number of people around you goes behind five, then try to split away from them and go somewhere else.
this is the most complicated tactic, and is often the most unreliable. while fairly straightforward for a coordinated group to pull off, this tactic is very difficult and chancy with a random pug. often, you'll find yourself retreating to a shrine with/without a few allies, while being outnumbered by your attackers. in this situation, just look at the formation of your attackers. if they seem uncoordinated and staggered in their movement (as in one arriving before the others), then stand and fight with the aid of your npcs. never underestimate shrine npcs, for they are often extremely deadly (especially the elementalists. they are nasty). often you can quickly eliminate the first uncoordinated attacker and leaving you with a very favourable position. if, however, your attackers are coordinated in any way, the best you can hope to do is to slow their capping. even then, it's often best to just abandon the shrine. remember golden rule #2: "never fight a losing battle".
this tactic is only effective when your side possesses all the shrines on the map. in this case, mob the main entrance as well as teleport pads of your opponents' base. your job is not to score kills, but to ensure that none of them gets out. usually if your side assumes this position outside of your opponents' base, the game has already been won. however, always keep an eye out for the shrine number. if you find that someone is slowly capping your shrines behind the mob, then go after them. you'll have the advantage of shrines on your side, so winning those skirmishes won't be too hard.
hopefully you find part II of my guide more informative and coherent than part I. always remember the four golden rules and use them in your advantage.
to begin this guide, i'd like to quote a post in another thread. i feel what this poster said is quite relevant to this guide:
Originally Posted by Sun Fired Blank
...Thirdly, players of other higher PvP formats aren't, by grace of their experience, spectacular AB players. The short answer is that AB has another dimension that isn't a factor for HA or TA. For any format, you have to ask for yourself and your opponents; what can or can't I do alone, what can I do if another person helps me (and the situations that might I require help), and what can (or is) my team do(ing) as a greater whole? Many HA and TA players are spectacular at #1 and #2. #3? Er...
HA and TA players are profoundly capable of resolving single altercations in a quick and timely fashion. They quickly and properly respond in a lethal fashion to a very large number of situations. The problem is that for either format, #3 is very seldom a concern. Those formats lock players in a sphere of misery that rapidly and violently shrinks and expands. You don't ask what your team is doing; they're a huge adjacent glob of death and pain, and they're probably screaming to you about it over vent. You don't ask what their team is doing; they're in your face doing the same thing. And you very seldom have any reason or space to do anything else.
GvG players often do #3 in a very explicit and spectacular fashion. The map gives you a chance to do many things that you simply can't do in HA or TA. In the very simplest form of doing #3, they might execute a split or hold the flagstand. In a more complex form, they might save a tenuous situation through many clever manoeuvres; and many of those are in response to the other guild.
In stark contrast, AB requires that you are superbly aware of #3 on a map that has a truly breathtaking amount of geometry and seven points of interest, doesn't always give you a quick means of joining your group if you die and lacks a useful means of interacting with other groups. The great AB players consequently develop #3 as intuition. The problem is that #3 as intuition is not useful for Heroes or Gladiators or Champions or Vanquishers or Guardians. It's only useful for AB.
My experience is that great players only begin to develop that sense around 1,000,000 faction earned through AB. If you donated every point of that faction to your alliance (post-update, grumble), you'd be a defender of your faction (r7) and 25% of the way to r8. The problem is that AB isn't very competitive. You can develop #3 as intuition and outright fail to develop #1 or #2.
The second is that saying AB is PvE / isn't PvP is wrong. That's a statement many folks make that properly reflects a lack of decent competition and the means to encourage it, yet denies the complexity that is present and should be more of a factor (if the format had more competition...). They're comparable to anyone that screams "4-4-4" and "cap, cap, cap!" It means they sort of get it, but not really. That's a bit akin to screaming "kill the monk!" in arenas.
The third is that our the debate over if a specific faction is more prone to mobs does not help the original debate: is it viable? And that question, to me, indicates that AB is very broken (and to be honest, has always been broken). You shouldn't ask "does mobbing work?" We know they work. You should ask "why do mobs start?" and "why do mobs work?" You should also seriously ask "why is it so derided by most PvP enthusiasts?"
to put this simply, AB is a pvp arena that not just stresses the importance scoring kills and identifying+shutting down the most dangerous target to your team, but it also stresses the importance of doing the same to the benefit of everyone on your side. this guide will focus specifically on this issue. to start, i'll focus on the different aspects of the mob, and then go on to explain other AB related topics.
to mob or not to mob....
the mobbing tactic can and should be an effective tactic in AB. however, notice the emphasis on "can" and "should". for mobbing to be an effective tactic, you should know when and how it is most effective, and avoid mobbing when the situation is not favourable.
there are three forms of The Mob (tm): A) a mob that runs in one direction, B) a mob as the result of two teams converging, and C) a mob that blocks the exits to the opposing base. out of the three, B and C are the most dangerous, with A being dangerous only to stupid people. to understand why B and C are the most effective, it's necessary for us to take a look why they form in the first place.
B forms as the result of two allied parties running in opposite directions, and happens to converge together and quickly seperate again. if they happen to converge when there's no enemies nearby, then the mob disappears as quickly as it is formed. if they happen to converge together on an enemy shrine, or an enemy group, the full effectiveness of this form of mob is quickly realized. outnumbered, the enemy group have only two options: run, or die. most of the time the enemy group is quickly eliminated in a brutal pincer movement (thus cutting off all escape). once the enemy group is eliminated, the two teams continues to run in opposite directions and the mob disappears. the advantage of this kind of mob is twofold: it does not diminish capping speed, and it creates quick and favourable skirmishes for your side. this form of the mob also mirrors the GvG tactic "collapsing", which is the art of creating a momentary favourable outnumbering situation for your team and zerg-rushing the hell out of those isolated targets before their monks get into position to heal them.
C occurs after your side caps every single shrine on the map and then proceeds to park everyone around every exit out of the enemy base. while there is no capping ability in this mob whatsoever, it is no longer relevant because none of your enemies are going to get out of their base. with everyone blocking every exit, and with a shrine or two behind your back, it is virtually impossible for you to lose in this situation. the only thing to watch out for are the stray enemy cappers that are still out there, so it is usually a good idea to have a couple players break away from the mob to rat them out.
out of the three forms of the mob, A is the weakest and the most often seen. it is generally consisting of 7 or more players running in the same direction, often members of 3 teams. this is the form of the mob that most people complain about, since it slows down capping speed. also, since it's impossible for a pincer movement to occur, anyone with half a brain can simply avoid it and cap around it. this form is also the least organized. this allows a skillfully-played disruption character, such as a cripshot, to easily break it up by snaring/picking off the weakest targets in the back of the mob, thus weakening/slowing it down with minimal sacrifices in capping speed on the cripshot's side.
AB team aspects
the standard AB character roles can be divided into four categories: A) damage dealers (encompassing standard hitters, spikers, AoE, degen), B) support (encompassing prot/heal monks, rits, paragons), C) disruption (encompassing shutdown mesmers, shutdown necros, cripshot/BA rangers), and D) everything else (encompassing tanks, minion masters, 55 monks, leechers). generally, those with a brain run A B and C, with the retards running D. obviously, for a successful AB team, you'll need have A B and C presented in some form or another. that way, you'll have an answer to most of the threats against your team, and have a way of eliminating that threat. you also need enough damage on your team to eliminate shrine npcs in order to effectively cap it.
one of the most hotly debated aspect of the AB team is whether it is more effective to split the team, or stay together to cap. the answer unfortunately is not so cut and dry. the simple answer to this question is: if it benefits your side, then do it. if splitting your team means you can gather more points, then do it. if staying together to cap single shrines is more effective at the moment, then stay together. the most effective way to go about this is actually to split off a single character to accomplish something while rest of the team go on to cap. the loss of a single capper generally do not affect the capping speed much, and the split character (if played skillfully) can have a big impact elsewhere on the map.
one of the best solo characters in AB is the cripshot. if left alone, they can quickly render entire teams useless using the snare and hit-and-run tactic. in 1vs2, or even 1vs3 situations, their general toughness and shutdown ability can give them the victory. they are also the ideal character to leave behind to cap an unoccupied shrine while rest of the team move forward to cap another, as well as a great solo defender of a shrine against multiple attackers.