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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Alacrity is not powerful enough to be worth bringing two Mesmers.
- Revenant plus Assassins/Berserker Mesmer > Commander Mesmer + DPS class in term of total raid DPS.
- 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.