The staff might be the quintessential Mesmer weapon but the Greatsword comes close in levels of as a friend says, “Emulating a Noise Marine.”, whatever one of those is. Like the staff it is a two-handed weapon and as such has 5 skills associated with it.
- Spatial Surge
- Mirror blade
- Mind Stab
- Phantasmal Berserker
- Illusionary Wave
First let’s look at these skills in detail.
1) Spatial Surge
As can be seen from the tooltip, Spatial surge does more damage the further away you are. It is a pretty significant change as well and most definitely worth trying to get as much as possible. Unfortunately this isn’t a very powerful move as it currently stands as it is very difficult to stay at max range and the damage at close range is very low indeed. It synergises well with blinks, portals, and other ways of creating distance. A build that utilises Signet of Illusion and/or Persisting Images can effectively use clones and phantasms to tank enemies at a distance allowed the maximum damage. Another issue of the ability is that it’s hard to judge 1200 distance and you can easily accidentally outrange yourself in trying to ensure maximum damage and is definitely a part of the ability that requires skill and practice. In WvW it has some pretty nice defensive properties as it hits buildings and objects pretty hard and battlements provide that range you so desperately want.
This skill is NOT affected by the trait Greatsword Training(Dom:X) in terms of cooldown although of course, additional power is very nice with any Greatsword skill.
2) Mirror Blade
Mirror blade is a Bouncing attack that damages and applies vulnerability to foes and gives Might to Allies. True of all bouncing attacks each hit has full effect making this ability an incredible powerful tool. It can hit one target twice, or even three times when traited or of course him multiple targets for spread out damage. Again, like all bouncing attacks this ability will always hit the nearest available target, be it friend or foe, however unlike Winds of Chaos this ability will prefer you over your illusions as long as you are in range, and this brings us to the downside of Mirror blade. Whilst it’s casting range is 1200, the bouncing range is only from approximately 700 or closer. There is then problems especially against single targets. Firstly, granting might to a clone that does virtually no damage is a waste so we want to prioritise granting might to ourselves. Secondly against single targets the only other viable bounce is yourself. So in those situations you have to choose between trying to keep max range for Spatial surge or moving in to gain effective bounces on Mirror Blade.
Upon activation it generates a clone and as such becomes your main clone generator for shatter builds, and is pretty nice generally as whilst still a Greatsword clone(and thus can attack from range) it is quite likely to provoke the enemy, providing you with a short lived but easy to replace tank that helps keep mobs at range)
Mirror Blade is also one of the only Combo Finishers : Projectile that the Mesmer has and gains additional effects when thrown through Combo fields and it can synergise with a chaos storm nicely to also apply confusion upon the target.
Mirror Blade is most definitely affected by Illusionary Elasticity(Ill:VII) and Greatsword Training. It is also affected by Illusionary Celerity(Ill:5) and combining those two cooldown reductions brings Mirror Blade down to 4.8 seconds. Thanks to Anarl for reminding me about that.
Finally, whilst it does prefer to bounce to you there are situations I have found in which out of the four/five bounces, two can be on an enemy, one on yourself and one or two on yourself. Some people have been reporting missing bounces on this skill, claiming it is a bug. I have yet been able to accurately produce a situation in which this is the case. In every situation where I am missing a bounce I have just lost a clone and as such there is the possibility that the buffs of might where on that. I tested it for about an hour in as many different conditions as I could and my results are below.
Dodging does not seem to affect bouncing in any way.
Being in melee range makes it appear that bounces disappear but can be confirmed to have all landed due to condition and boon counts.
Moving away from the enemy after firing can sometimes result in bounces prioritising clones and illusions over yourself.
In every situation the condition and boon count is lower than it should be there are dead illusions that could not be counted to confirm any actual bugged behaviour.
My conclusion here then is that it isn’t bugged, it’s just sometimes you get unlucky in a way that makes it look like it will.
3) Mind Stab
Mind stab is a relatively small aoe burst ability that does reasonable damage and unfortunately, that’s about it. It provides a small amount of aoe damage that the greatsword otherwise lacks but it’s not enough to write home about. Being capped at 5 targets is not usually an issue due to the fact that it’s rare 5 targets will be in the same small place as the zone. It is useful and should be used on cooldown as it does more damage than Spatial Surge but I find it a somewhat underwhelming skill.
Like all zones there is a few ways to apply them, however because there is no chill, cripple, blind, daze or stun effect all that matters is hitting your target.
You can either use this skill with the traditional activate, position and activate mode, fast cast or double activate mode. For those that don’t know if you press a zone ability without fast cast turned on, and then press that ability again it activates. This means you can activate zones very fast without having to be stuck on fast cast whilst simultaneously giving you the precision you might want or need, or if you need to delay a skill but have it ready in place.
Phantasmal Berserker is the swords Phantasm and it is an interesting one to utilise effectively. It’s attack is identical to the Warriors Whirlwind Attack and damages all enemies that it passes through. This attack applies cripple and hits incredibly hard in both Power and Condition damage builds. Whilst a Phantasmal Warlock might hit harder on a single target the fact that this can hit multiple targets is really quite nice. Positioning a mob however is absolutely vital as the whirlwind always starts from the bersekers position which means you could easily accidentally put a mob in a place where only a portion of the whirlwind hits.
Like all illusion generators this ability interacts and is affected by a lot of trait slot, however I won’t list all the shatter traits here. Rather here are the traits that directly impact the Phantasmal Berserker
- Empowered Illusions(Dom:III) increases the damage of the Berserker by 15%
- Phantasmal Fury(Due:II) grants Fury to the Berserker, increases it’s critical chance by 20%
- Persisting Images(Ins:V) gives our phantasms an additional 20% health
- Phantasmal Strength(Ins:25) increases the damage of the Berserker by 15%
- Illusionists Celerity(Ill:5) lowers the cooldown of phantasms by 20%
- Phantasmal Haste(Ill:X) lowers the cooldown on our Phantasms attack, increasing their attack rate NOT the cooldown on the phantasm itself.
- Greatsword Training(Dom:X) Lowers the cooldown of Greatsword skills by 20%.
5) Illusionary Wave
Illusionary wave is a nice knockback ability that does a little bit of damage and pushes foes away from you. It’s great for getting back that range for Spatial Surge or making sure that big heavy mob doesn’t sit on you. The knockback is just the right amount too, making it impossible to accidentally push mobs out of range. In PvE mobs don’t tend to like being pushed off cliffs however in sPvP and more usefully, WvWvW a knockback is a lovely lovely skill to have. It attacks all mobs in a cone in front of you
It’s affected by Greatsword Training(Dom:X) which helps get it ready again for when needed.
Strategy and Optimisation
When wielding a Greatsword, most of your damage is direct damage that revolves around keeping might and vulnerability stacked through using Mirror Blade on cooldown. You can handle small groups and solo mobs with relative ease due to how much raw damage you have. Power is essential in making a Greatsword work and condition damage is worthless on 4 out of the 5 skills. A phantasm build based around condition damage can work but the rest of the abilities would be lackluster in comparison to a full power build. Illusionary Elasticity(Ill:VII) is a very powerful trait for the Greatsword due to Mirror Blade, as is Greatsword Training(Dom:X). You can produce clones relatively fast through Mirror Blade making shatter builds very viable. The key to good Greatsword play is knowing range intimately and being able to use your dodge effectively to open up distance. Combining Illusionary wave with dodge, or kiting away is a very effective way to keep your damage from Spatial Surge up. Greatsword shatter builds can easily wipe out mobs before they get to you and can handle a fair amount of swarming.
Greatswords’ main weakness however is against enemies that are either very fast or have significant gap closers. When spatial surge damage drops due to proximity things are just going to spiral out of control. It’s never a good thing to be taking hits AND be doing less damage at the same time.
In terms of Sigils, Bloodlust and Force are both good and any armour rune that pumps out power will be nice. Those that are utilising a more phantasm heavy build can afford to go condition damage without losing anything.
Ultimately the greatsword is a nice weapon, it has a good toolkit for handling a lot of situations, but not quite all of them unlike the staff. It can rely on you being able to kill enemies fast before they get to you and as such is not a great weapon for fighting in regions which are significantly higher level than you, especially if you’re power based.