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Raid Team Composition Guide Updated 9/4/16

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A guide for raid party compositions is very complicated. I’ve tried to write this and do a video on it about a half dozen times, and each time I’ve started it has sorta spiraled out of control due to complexity and exceptions to rules and eventually I’ve written 10,000 words and reached no firm conclusions.

Part of the reason for that is that the bosses themselves have mechanics that change what is optimal for them compared to the abstract optimal composition. This means there are as many exceptions as there are bosses, which could be argued defeats the purpose of having a set rule. The second issue is that not every team can run an optimal comp. Some raid groups have two people who are, for example, Mesmer mains and they have to create a squad that accommodates two Mesmers, though this is not optimal today. A lengthy article could be written on the minute topic of the best 2 Mesmer squad compositions.

In Part 1 of this guide I will discuss the optimal squad composition. I will argue for and against particular classes and setups, and this will be highly dependent on the meta as we know it today. All of that could be invalidated one balance patch from now, but I will endeavor to establish core principles that can be used a guide longer term.

In Part 2, I will discuss common alternative compositions, covering their strengths and flaws. Additionally, I will touch on exceptions to the standard team organization rules based on boss mechanics, and also how to accommodate players into a squad when you are constrained by what professions they can or cannot play and are forced to run a non-meta composition.

Part One: The Meta

The meta as it now stands is based around a few pillar concepts, any of which can change with future balance patches. These pillar concepts are as follows:

  1. Warrior party buffs are so good it is worth bringing two of them to ensure all 10 players receive them, even at the cost of over-buffing.
  2. Druid/Ranger buffs are so good it is worth bringing two of them to ensure all 10 players receive them, even at the cost of over-buffing and over-healing.
  3. Quickness is so powerful, any team comp that cannot give a meaningfully high uptime (80% minimally) of Quickness to 10 players is automatically a failure. One competent Mesmer is sufficient to achieve this currently.
  4. Alacrity is not powerful enough to be worth bringing two Mesmers.
  5. Revenant plus Assassins/Berserker Mesmer > Commander Mesmer + DPS class in term of total raid DPS.
  6. Having a source of Protection in your squad is incredibly valuable, even in experienced groups.

With these as our current rules, we can create the following skeleton:

Subgroup1: Warrior, Druid, DPS/Utility, DPS/Utility

Subgroup2: Warrior, Druid, DPS/Utility, DPS/Utility

Subgroup3: Revenant, Mesmer

Most teams will select Thief, Elementalist, or Scepter Guardian in the DPS slots. Depending on the mechanics of the fight and the hit box size of the boss, these are most desirable DPS classes. The smaller the hit box, the better Thief is. The bigger the hit box, the better Staff Elementalist becomes. Scepter Guardian is somewhere in the middle, with a lower DPS ceiling than either but brings different utility such that a mix of DPS classes is usually desirable.

Another common choice for this slot is one hammer Guardian. Hammer guardian sacrifices some DPS potential for reasonable Protection uptime for the entire raid with the help of the Mesmer’s boon spreading abilities. Additionally, it has some extra healing over time from it’s constant symbol uptime. Most groups would only need one of these, as additional Hammer Guardians would suffer from diminishing returns.

The last common role in this slot is a Viper Necromancer. While the single target DPS potential of the Condition necromancer is normally far below the other choices, it shines particularly in fights where it can abuse Death Nova to create an army of minions, or Epidemic to spread condition to other targets. Additionally, there is no better class in the game at clearing conditions from their team. In fights with significant condition pressure, a necromancer can pull conditions off their teammates and send them back to the boss which is both a defensive and offensive benefit.

This squad composition is known in the community as 4-4-2. It has the dual benefit of being able to be specced for highest overall total raid DPS, while being able to simultaneously being able to bring two healers and have every useful defensive buff. Since it has 4 optional slots, as I discussed, it allows for ample room to accommodate players who may not be able to play a particular class. A team with a 4-4-2 composition can easily incorporate a group of players that, for example, contains individuals who can only play Guardian, Necromancer or Thief without having to radically alter its base.

While I will deal with “what if?” scenarios in Part Two, I would like to mention the 5-4-1 composition, which I consider the variation to 4-4-2. The difference between the two is the 5-4-1 does not use a Revenant, and the Mesmer user Commander’s gear to achieve 100% boon duration solo. This allows subgroup 1 to add another DPS/Utility slot. As I mentioned before, better results are achieved with 4-4-2, but this is extremely close. Assuming your group doesn’t have an experienced Revenant player, you are better off using 5-4-1 than asking an experienced Elementalist or Thief to play Revenant poorly.
Posted May 25, 16 · OP · Last edited Sep 4, 16
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Part Two: Non-Meta Compositions

7-2-1 aka F-Squad


Of the non-meta stock team compositions, the most common is the 7-2-1 composition. This composition is based around the idea that one warrior can maintain full buffs on 7 people including him or herself, so a low DPS second warrior is unnecessary. This frees up a slot for an additional DPS class. The last notable feature is that it has a healer alone in the 3rd group. This is an ideal place to put a pure healer in healing gear who doesn’t benefit from the DPS squad buffs but will be able to spread healing evenly.

The strength of this composition is the ability to minimize the role of warrior for teams that may only have one dedicated warrior player, as well as easily accomodating a fully specced healer, such as a Magi’s water camp Staff tempest should one be desired. Since it has an extra slot for a DPS class, it is good at accommodating groups that are heavy on players who can only play thief or elementalist: in a 4-4-2 comp the 5th Elementalist on your team would normally have to re-roll but a 7-2-1 composition could accommodate them.

Unfortunately, this group also has some weaknesses that keep it from being meta. First, the Revenant is non-optional. Even if your Mesmer has Commander’s gear, there would be nowhere to place another character. The ‘7’ group is hardcapped as warrior buffs will only cover 7 players, adding an 8th player will result in unacceptable buff downtime for all 8. Leaving an extra Ele with the Mesmer is also undesireable as that Ele will receive none of the warrior buffs and will often be short of 25 Might. And putting a character down in group 3 with the healer will result in even less buffs than being with the Mesmer and an over-prioritization of heals placed on the least important player in the raid. Thus, the Revenant in group two is fairly non-negotiable. This is a deal breaker for groups that can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t play Revenant.

Lastly, you will have 3 characters who do not have perfect Might or any warrior buffs. One may argue that the ‘3’ healer doesn’t need buffs, that the Rev is self-sufficient, and the Mesmer dps is “low anyway.” None the less, the missing Might and warrior buffs represent around 490 to 1400 lost stat points per player depending on Might coverage. Multiplied by 3 players, this is a significant loss of DPS in total from the raid. Also, this is assuming your ‘3’ healer is a DPS-irrelevant pure healer. If your ‘3’ healer is in fact a relevant Berserker or Viper Druid, the loss of buffs becomes even more problematic as the missing buff stats cost you more total DPS. This is the foremost reason why this composition has been determined to be weaker overall than the 4-4-2 or the 5-4-1.
Posted May 25, 16 · OP · Last edited Sep 4, 16
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5-5 aka Mirror Comp

The 5-5, otherwise known as “mirror comp,” is the most conservative of the two near-meta groups. The 5-5 is similar to the 4-4-2 in that it runs two warriors and two druids, but goes a step further and uses two Chronomancers.

The pros to this setup are that buffs are absolutely perfect: each player will have full boons, all the warrior and druid buffs, maximum Quickness uptime and close to permanent Alacrity. This is, essentially, a comp where you leave nothing to chance.

The cons are definitely dealbreakers for a group looking to maximize their DPS or to accommodate players with limited role availability. However, this comp is so close to the superior 5-4-1 comp discussed before, that there is almost no reason to run this comp unless you are completely locked into running two Mesmers or you don’t have the option to use Commander’s gear.

One thing worth mentioning, as Thief is now a larger part of the meta, is that Thief benefits significantly less than Staff Ele from Alacrity. In a group with 4 DPS Elementalists the 5-5 comp is nearly as powerful as 4-4-2. If you use 4 Daredevils, 4-4-2 is going to be lightyears ahead of 5-5. Scepter guardian splits the difference as it benefits a great deal from Alacrity but not to the same extent as Elementalist. When picking 5-5 keep in mind that its value is largely determined by your DPS slot choices.
Posted May 25, 16 · OP · Last edited Sep 4, 16
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Part 3

What If Scenarios


In the real world, most guilds and raid groups out there do not have the luxury of having players who can efficiently swap to another fully geared class and be comfortable playing it. Most people reading this are going to have this issue and will need to make accommodations for their own needs. What follows are a few scenarios along with what I believe the best, most effective resolution to them to be and why.

My group has two people who play Mesmer, what’s the best way to include both?

As you may have guessed, I would recommend a 5-5 comp. I would do a split, ideally, with one of the subgroups having a Berserker Chrono and the other using Commander’s gear. Having one Mesmer with toughness gear will allow that player to be the tank for Vale Guardian and Gorseval, KC or Xera. I would recommend that if you are forced into a 5-5 comp that all your DPS come from Elementalists or Scepter Guardians.

My group only has one healer and he is a pure healer, which setup is best?

I would recommend 4-4-1-1 for you. If your team has a pure healer such as Magi’s druid, auramancer or water staff ele and no other healers the most efficient place for them to be is alone in their own group. This means either 4-4-1-1 or 7-2-1. If your mesmer is Commanders, 4-4-1-1 will give you the best result from a DPS perspective. If your Mesmer is not, and requires a Revenant, 4-3-2-1 is the best way to position a single pure healer.

My group doesn’t have any Druids at all and we use another class to heal, what is best?

I would recommend either 4-3-2-1 or 4-4-1-1 with the justification being the same as the previous answer.

A boss calls for 3 or more players to run Condition Damage based build, how to optimally incorporate that?

The best setup for that case would be a 4-4-2 team composition, with one of the 4 sub-squads being the condi team. If you use a condi-warrior as your Phalanx Strength might stacker, he will not have to bring Empowered Allies, and thus it makes sense for you to put as many condition classes with him, and as few direct damage classes. Since Druid and Warrior have viable condition based variants of their meta builds, it is not hard to swap those in 1 for 1 and use your “dps slots” on a pure DPS condi class like engineer, venomshare thief, viper necromancer, or condi elementalist.

My group prefers to use two full Magi’s healers. What’s the best way to utilize them?

If they are both druids, I would recommend 4-4-2 for maximum druid buffs as I described in Part 1. If one is a Druid and the other is an Elementalist (or some other pure healer class) I would recommend 4-4-2, to maximize buff efficiency.

Conclusion

I hope this guide was useful for groups that have trouble figuring out the best way to utilize the available players they have, as well as explaining why the current meta is what it is, along with presenting some reasonable alternatives to that. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
Posted May 25, 16 · OP · Last edited Sep 4, 16
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First of all, thanks for the post Nike.

With regard to double healer comps, I was wondering about 6-2-1-1 or 7-1-1-1. I recognize we're getting pretty far off meta at this point, but it's pretty easy to imagine future content requiring higher healing output than existing encounters.

6-2-1-1 gives full offensive buff coverage with priority to damage classes. 7-1-1-1 gives buff priority as well and accommodates a commanders chrono, which could have a variety of benefits, especially as assassin's presence might prioritize low damage raid members in this case given the presence of two dedicated healers and no real party prioritization to prevent them from receiving revenant buffs. I can also imagine running a damage oriented ranger for spirits and spotter in this case though don't know how close or far from optimal that would be. It was not my understanding that rangers had especially competitive damage.

WIth regard to mirror comps, it seems like the ability to distortion shatter some encounter mechanics (namely Vale Guardian green circles, though Slothasor shake and some Matthias mechanics also seem like natural choices) would allow higher dps uptime, and potentially significantly so. I don't know to what degree that has been considered in optimality, and I also don't know to what degree a power chronomancer can provide quickness to 5 players, especially with spillover between groups given positioning and so on. It seems like the same justifications for running a guardian would in some ways tip the scales toward mirror comps that certainly would have lower target dummy dps, but may be able realize higher scholar and rotational uptime even assuming very proactive defensive play from all raiders.

It'll be interesting to see in future updates what ANet's vision for raid composition is, especially given what were obviously strong opinions about alacrity and party-swapping from chronomancers in the last major pve update. I wouldn't be surprised to see more tanked fights eventually either.
Posted May 25, 16 · Last edited May 25, 16
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I think 4-4-2 is better for double healers so long as both are druids. If one is a druid and one isn't, 7-x-x seems ideal putting the druid with the 7 and the 'other' alone. Druid buffs are too good to waste.
Posted May 25, 16 · OP
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WIth regard to mirror comps, it seems like the ability to distortion shatter some encounter mechanics.

This would be a very niche thing to do, It's best used as an "oh shit" button for those things. Back when Mesmer's had the old Precog it was something creative to try.
Posted May 26, 16
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wrote:
The meta as it now stands is based around a few pillar concepts, any of which can change with future balance patches. These pillar concepts are as follows:

  1. Warrior party buffs are so good it is worth bringing two of them to ensure all 10 players receive them, even at the cost of over-buffing.
  2. Druid/Ranger buffs are so good it is worth bringing two of them to ensure all 10 players receive them, even at the cost of over-buffing and over-healing.
  3. Quickness is so powerful, any team comp that cannot give a meaningfully high uptime (80% minimally) of Quickness to 10 players is automatically a failure. One competent Mesmer is sufficient to achieve this currently.
  4. Alacrity is not powerful enough to be worth bringing two Mesmers.
  5. Revenant plus Assassins/Berserker Mesmer > Commander Mesmer + Elementalist in term of total raid DPS.
  6. Having a source of Protection in your squad is incredibly valuable, even in experienced groups.


Would you mind elaborating on these points a little bit?
:3
Posted May 26, 16
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What specifically?
Posted May 26, 16 · OP
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I'll take a stab.

As it stands, low defensive requirements in raids mean that raid compositions are largely dominated by considerations of maximizing outgoing damage.

1-2. Warrior and druid both bring enough offensive buffs and high enough personal damage that bringing 2 each for a 10 player raid provides sufficiently high raid-wide modifiers on out-going damage at sufficiently high coverage levels that it offsets their relatively low personal damage compared to top personal damage classes (tempest). 2 each virtually guarantees full coverage on all warrior and druid buffs.

3-5. Chronomancer+Revenant can provide, together, a combination of decently high personal dps, high raid quickness uptime, and reasonably high alacrity uptime that it is worthwhile to bring one such pairing (or an individual chronomancer in some cases). One of these pairings, or a single chronomancer, does not guarantee full coverage on alacrity, even quickness in some cases, or the revenant buff assassin's presence, but these buffs are not generally considered to be significantly valuable to justify bringing additional chronomancers or revenants.

6. While defensive considerations are not the foremost concern of most compositions, there are a few relatively low-cost (in terms of theoretical raid-wide dps) ways to get protection on a lot of people, so bringing an DH or having a revenant pulse protection can be helpful and is worth considering. This mainly only applies to bringing a DH in 5-4-1 to my understanding. Rev in 4-4-2 can provide a lot of protection, at least in my experience, especially later in the fight.

These factors give something of a skeleton of party compositions, which means 5-6 roles are pre-determined in theoretical optimal group setup to be 2 war + 2 druid + 1 chrono (+ 1 revenant). This gives rise to 4-4-2 pretty naturally.
Posted May 26, 16 · Last edited Jun 7, 16
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