The Art of Wushu: Preparing for group PvE

The Art of Wushu Preparing for group PvE
I will be perfectly frank when I say that I tremendously dislike PvE in Age of Wushu. It's not that the PvE is bad compared to other games; it's that I feel that the point of the game is ultimately PvP, whether that comes in the form of economics or direct combat. I play Age of Wushu because I like the PvP, and I don't see the point in spending hours in co-op dungeons to get rewards that I could just buy on the market.

However, the playerbase pretty much disagrees with me. Most high-level guilds focus heavily on PvE. There seems to be a very fixed mindset in place with MMO players that encourages them to go for "endgame" PvE content, even though it is really just one path of many in Age of Wushu. Therefore, I feel obligated to cover it. If you are interested in learning more about forbidden instances, I advise you to get into a high-end guild and ask questions. I can give you the basics of what to expect and how to prepare, but there are a lot of specifics and everyone does things a little bit differently.

If you raided in another game, this won't really be surprising

Age of Wushu has two types of group PvE. The first are "Jianghu challenges," which are colloquially referred to by the playerbase as "mini instances" or "minis." These are a good challenge for a group of low-level players (up to six) but are generally sort of easy for leveled characters. Most minis are done with teams of two or three and occasionally solo with the right items and build. Teams of two make it quite a bit easier, as energy is less of a problem.

Forbidden instances are the real group PvE, and they are generally challenged with the maximum number of players. This can be as few as six, but it can also be a raid group with several full parties depending on the instance. Twilight Village (all difficulty settings) and Green Cloud Castle Normal are built for six people, but all others require a raid group of at least 12. You can go in with fewer than the maximum number of players, but unless you are very over-leveled for the instance, this is a bad idea.

Forbidden instances must be done for certain internal skill quests. Everyone must do Twilight Village and Green Cloud Castle on any difficulty to unlock tiers of his or her second internal skill, and some third internal skill quests also require players to clear forbidden instances. Since these quests represent hard caps on your character's progression, you generally will have to do them a few times at some point. It is possible to use the market to get the skills, but this is very inefficient and I don't advise it.

All forbidden instances have the same basic formula: a bunch of trash mobs and/or some puzzles followed by a boss fight, repeated until you clear all the bosses in the dungeon. The overall formula should be very familiar if you've ever done a dungeon or raid in another MMO. The boss mechanics are also similar; expect dance mechanics and limitations on attacks as you would in any other MMO.

The Art of Wushu Preparing for group PvE
Preparation for individuals

The most important issue in any PvE instance is energy. Energy recovery is very slow, and leaving combat is difficult or impossible during a boss fight. Thus, you will absolutely need energy management tools. I recommend taking NPC pills for both health and energy as well as crafted consumables. HP/IF recovery food and herbalist pills all help a lot. There are also arena consumables; they can be purchased in limited quantities each day and give very powerful healing for both health and energy.

You will also need array skills. Everyone in your raid needs the appropriate arrays. For TV, you will need only the 3-man Trinity Array from the early tutorial quests. For others, you will need to do some outside questing to get. Each dungeon has an array associated with it, and you should make sure you are appropriately skilled before entering. If you do not have at least the 6-man Return to Origins Array from Luoyang, most group content will be closed to you.

Weiqi players are highly prized as array leaders. If you are a weiqi player, you will want a formation that restores energy. The Wheel Sword formation can be purchased in Scholars from the Weiqi vendor, and there are other arrays that you can find or buy that give energy regeneration as a secondary effect with high enough skill. If you are a Weiqi player, make sure you at least have Wheel Sword, and ask your group what other formations they want you to have.

It is also a good idea to know the best possible attack rotation with your skills and build. You are looking for the best possible DPS sequence you can fire off without any gaps. Fortunately, most styles have a fast-recharging filler attack, and arrays also have a fast-recharging array attack. In any fight that does not require you to rotate feints, you should prioritize multi-hit attacks to take advantage of per-hit damage buffs.

Some boss fights are called "feint bosses." These bosses generally have a very powerful blocking skill that produces some very undesirable effect if blocks your attacks. Many of them heal for ridiculous amounts if anyone on the team hits the boss while it is blocking. These bosses require low-hit rotations and frequent feints instead of the normal high-hit rotations.

The Art of Wushu Preparing for group PvE
Party roles

There is not, strictly speaking, a holy trinity in Age of Wushu. However, there are a number of abilities that are expected in a raid group. Healing is not one of these things; all raid members, including the tank, are expected to manage their own health. Tanks are generally chosen by their ability to sustain health through powerful boss attacks.

The second major role is a character with Boundless Sword, used to activate Pierce the Sky/Sky Ballistic. Generally this person is a Scholar, since Boundless Sword is a Scholar style. Sky Ballistic gives the entire party a very large per-hit damage buff and also regenerates the team's energy by a small percentage every second. If one Scholar properly rotates Sky Ballistic when available, it will solve a majority of the team's energy problems on its own. Most are terrible; if you're a Scholar, keep this skill in the forefront of your mind and always try to keep it going.

The third major role is that of an Emei, used to keep Golden Buddha Light up as much as possible. It is very difficult to keep permanent unless the tank is Emei. Since Emei make fairly good tanks, this is often a double role. GBL gives the entire party a very large damage resistance buff and is essential for high-end raiding. If your tank is not an Emei, it is wise to have more than one and have the two stagger their GBL activations.

The final major role is that of a Tangmen. This role cannot be substituted by other schools. Tangmen who have reached level 36 in Six Directions Canon can use Following Madness together with Swallow the Whale to produce a huge string of crits, debuffing the enemy with many stacks of the Mangle debuff. This debuff adds bonus damage to every hit landed on the target, and it is absolutely ridiculous when stacked. Tangmen aren't mandatory for easier instances, but the damage output from 6DC is mandatory for harder ones.

Other schools are generally just damage support, although they can also serve in another very important role...

The Art of Wushu Preparing for group PvE
Assassins

Age of Wushu is all about PvP. Instead of a dance mechanic (or sometimes in addition to one), player assassins will be summoned to fight your team. The boss fight is timed, and the assassins' job is to delay your raid until the time is up. If they succeed, they get some pretty nice rewards and you have to try the boss over.

This is probably the best part of instances, and by that I mean I love getting the opportunity to be an assassin. It is vitally important that you defend your raid from bloodthirsty jerks like me because most of the people who sign up to be assassins know they're going into PvP and are at least passably skilled at it. That being said, the assassin party is more disorganized and about half the size of the raid party. Expect to devote a third to half of your raid to fighting them during these battles. The remainder should DPS the boss normally but be on alert for any assassins who make it past your hunters.

The best assassin targets are generally the core team members. Emei and the tanks are the obvious targets, but the best prize goes to the array leaders. Breaking the raid's array generally wipes the raid, and if they can score it about five minutes in or later it probably completely ruins the fight. As an assassin, if you can identify the array leader, try your best to take him or her down. As a raider, be advised that dying to stop an assassin is totally fine as long as you're not one of the Emeis keeping GBL up, the tank, or the array leader.

There is a ton to learn about PvE instances that is not covered here. Ask your guildmates if you're planning on it, and follow their preparations. You'll be glad you did. However, you'd be more glad if you just went to kill people and ignored PvE. Take it from me!

Age of Wushu is a wonderous place, full of hidden secrets, incredible vistas and fearsome martial arts. Join Patrick as he journeys through China, revealing the many secrets of this ancient land. The Ming Dynasty may be a tumultuous time, but studying The Art of Wushu will give you the techniques you need to prevail.
This article was originally published on Massively.