Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Guild Wars 2 Casual 80 - Runes & Trinkets

So in my previous casual 80 article, I talked about evaluating your options for getting your first full set of exotic armor, and setting some goals based on that.  Once you get your armor, well then what?  Well that leaves upgrading your armor, filling out your trinkets, and getting your hands on some sweet weapons.  I'll save weapons for yet another post, and this morning we'll talk a bit about filling out your trinkets and selecting armor upgrades.

Armor Upgrades
So you've got your 6 pieces of exotic armor, and you know you want to upgrade them, but you're faced with a confusing array of terminology and stats, and no clear direction on how to get what you want.   I spent quite a bit of time reading up on this myself, and it took me some time to make sense of it all.  As such, I can't for a minute profess to be an expert, so if any of my information here is incorrect or incomplete, please feel free to (politely) correct me in the comments. 

First, to be clear,  for this article I'm talking about armor and trinket upgrades only - not weapon upgrades.  They use their own system of upgrades.  However, it is important to distinguish between armor and trinkets as well, as the rules for updating them are slightly different.  Let's talk about armor first. 
Your six armor slots (head, shoulders, chest, pants, gloves & feet) can take one of three different upgrades: Runes, Gemstones, or Crests.  
In researching upgrades for my own character, I discovered an important, semantic distinction.  It's easy to  refer to both gemstones and jewels for upgrading interchangeably, but there is actually an important difference.  Gemstones can be used to upgrade both armor and trinkets.  Jewels, the crafted, upgraded version of a gemstone, can only be used to upgrade trinkets.  So - gemstones can go in any slot, jewels only in trinket slots.  

Gemstones follow the standard three stat upgrade model, offering a major stat of +20 (or +3%) upgrade, and two minor stats a +14 (or +2%) stat upgrade.  A comparison table of gemstone upgrades can be found here.

I went with Runeof the Infiltrator for additional
Shatter Damage
Runes are a bit different. Runes offer a cumulative upgrade for each successive piece you place in a piece of armor.  So place one Rune of the Eagle in one piece of armor, and you get +25 precision.  Add a second Rune of the Eagle to another piece of armor, and you'll get the +25 precision and the +3% condition damage.  In general, the thing you're paying attention to is that 6th piece bonus.  It's usually a cool ability or proc, and offers the chance to make your character interesting and distinctive - as well as just being damn useful.  Say you want precision and critical damage.  You could slot Ruby Orbs, which will load you up with power, precision damage, and critical damage.  Or you could slot six Runes of the Golemancer, which will also grant you precision and critical damage, but also a 5% chance to summon a golem.  You could be a sylvari ranger that also summons golems!  How cool is that? Here is the list of runes, ordered by major attribute.
Crests, for all intents and purposes, are just gemstones by a different name. That is, they can be placed in both armor and trinket slots, and they offer the standard trio of stat upgrades - one major, and 2 minor.  The nice thing about crests is that they offer stat combinations not available in gemstones.  Here's a great table that compares the stat allocations available for both gemstones and crests, together.

Which to Choose?
It's actually really difficult to make an apples to apples comparison between the benefits of runes versus the benefits of gemstones, but that doesn't keep people from trying. (Coincidentally, that forum post is a classic example of a person saying Jewels when they mean Gemstone.)  If you're looking for pure stat upgrades, gemstones will give you the most stats for your money.  This is especially true considering that gemstones are typically much cheaper than their closest rune equivalent.  But runes offer some incredibly useful and interesting abilities that are not available in any other way.  For instance, I myself, for my mesmer, slotted Six Runes of Infiltration, which only grant me a paltry +50 to precision, but more importantly, a total of +10% damage to foes below 50% health, and I cloak when my health falls below 50%.  As I typically shatter foes when they are close to death, this just makes my shatter that much more powerful.  And an automatic cloak when close to death is just useful for both PvE and PvP.  So my advice is to read over the big list of runes, and see if there's something there that catches your eye, and seems appealing.  But if you prefer the hard reliability of a straight up stat increase, then by all means save some money and slot out in gemstones or crests.

How to Get?
You're most likely going to just straight up buy your runes or gemstones off of the trading post.  It's certainly the easiest (if not the most efficient) means of acquisition.  But anyone can go out and gather gemstones, so it's certainly feasible to collect those.  And crests are found in chests fairly often.  Runes can be salvaged out of armor drops, though superior runes don't drop terribly often.  Additionally, runes can be crafted by 400 level armorsmiths, leatheworkers, and tailors - but each of those professions can only craft a small subset.  However, if say you're an elementalist, and the Rune of the Elementalist looks to be exactly what you'd like, you quite likely already have 400 tailoring - so no reason not to craft your own. 

So you got your six pieces of armor and thought you were done?  Pffft!  You still have six more piece of armor to fill out - those easily overlooked trinket slots on the right hand side of your character sheet! For trinkets you have one back piece, one amulet, two accessories (usually earrings, but not always), and two rings.  And selecting trinkets is a bit problematic, as they don't really advertise them in sets like they do armor (though as we'll see they actually are offered in some sets).

Ascended gear now available for Laurels
Ascended Gear
The most important thing to know about trinkets right now is that the best in slot gear are the ascended trinkets.  Ascended gear was introduced in the Lost Shores patch, along with the Fractals Dungeon. They offer a slight upgrade over their closest equivalent exotic, and because they don't have a normal upgrade slot, the upgrade stats (ie., those that would typically come from the jewel commonly crafted into the upgrade) are built right into the piece.  When you're selecting Ascended gear, it's important to pay attention to the type of Infusion slot that the piece has.  In the shopping list at the merchant, you'll see three pieces that seem to offer identical stats, but the difference between them is the type of slot.  It will typically be an offensive slot, a defensive slot, or a utility slot.  These types, in turn, determine the type of Infusion Upgrade that you can place in that slot.  I know - don't ask me, I don't design this stuff I just report it.  But you don't want to spend your hard-earned Laurels or Pristine Fractal Relics and get something that you didn't intend. One more important thing about the ascended gear - if a piece is marked as unique, they mean it.  You can't equip two of the Red Ring of Death, no matter how much you might want to.

Acquiring Ascended Gear
Currently ascended items are only available for the back slot, the amulet slot, and rings.  Until the recent introduction of Laurels, you could only acquire these pieces by running the Fractals dungeon, in Lion's Arch. And in fact, for the back piece, it is still only available through Fractal dungeon runs.  The somewhat convoluted path of converting fractal relics into ascended gear is left as an exercise for the reader, but suffice it to say it requires much running of those Fractals.  However, ArenaNet realized that not everyone wants to run dungeons every day, so they introduced ascended amulets and Laurels in the Frost and Fire Prelude patch.  Now you can purchase ascended amulets and rings from the Laurel vendors, as well as infusion upgrades to go into the slots of that new gear.  Just see the second and third tabs at the Laurel vendor. The pieces typically range in price from 30 to 35 laurels for each piece.  Which, isn't chicken feed, but for no more than the price of logging in a bit and doing your daily achievements, you can over time be rewarded with the very best gear in slot for those pieces, which I think is a fair trade.

What about Exotic?
So the ascended gear is, indeed the best in slot, but that's really more of a long term goal.  For now, you should be concentrated on putting some exotics on those ears and around your neck.  And in truth, no one is going to yell at you for not having ascended gear unless you're in the upper echelons of fractal dungeon runs, and if you're doing that you're no longer remotely a casual 80, and this guide is useless to you anyway.

Exotic trinkets can be acquired most easily through the trading post, or crafted by your favorite level 400 jeweler.  Back pieces are available in a variety of ways, and seem to be a favorite reward of the designers for completing holiday event achievements.  Spending some time perusing the trading post is a great way of seeing the kinds of stuff that's available, but because there are so many unique trinkets that drop from loot, it can be a somewhat time consuming and daunting task.

Trinket Sets
So though they really aren't advertised as trinket sets, sets are what they are.  You can collect a set of trinkets that have exactly the stats you want in one of two ways.  The first, and most versatile, are the crafted sets.  Though you can't fill the back slot, you can get a matched set of every other piece from the level 400 crafted pieces.  Refer here for a list of the various pieces the jeweler can craft for you, and that you can in turn find on the trading post for sale.  So for instance, say you're looking for Berserker stats (Power, Precision, and Critical Damage).  Then you want the Ruby Orchalcum Blank of the Berserker, where Blank is one each of an amulet, two earrings, and two rings.  It should be noted though that the jewelers are pretty proud of these pieces, and they'll run on the average from about 2 to 5 gold per piece.

Another option though, are the karma trinkets.  Each of the karma merchants at the various temples in the Orrian zones (Dwayna, Grenth, etc) offer a full set (including a back piece) of exotic trinkets with the stats that are associated with that deity   So for instance if you visit the Temple of Balthazar in the Straits of Devastion, and talk to tactician Deathstrider, you can purchase a full set of Cavalier trinkets, which offer Toughness, Power, and Critical Damage in each slot.  One of the really nice things about these pieces as they come with empty upgrade slots, so you can still augment them further with the jewel of your choice.  This is the route I took, by the way, for my trinkets, outfitting a full set of Rabid trinkets upgraded with Emeralds, augmenting my toughness and precision in all of my trinket slots.

Now these trinkets aren't cheap - each one is the same price as a piece of Karma Armor  - 42,000 karma.  So to outfit in a full set of these trinkets you'll spend as much as you would for a full set of armor - 252,000 karma.  But as we already know, with daily and monthly achievements offering karma jugs, it's pretty easy to accumulate a truck load of karma.  Here is a list of the six temples and their merchants.  You can view each of these to see if they offer a set with a stat combination that you like.

And that pretty much wraps up my discussion of upgrades and trinkets.  They're not quite as easily packaged as the armor pieces are, as there are so many options and different pieces.  But hopefully you now have a better understanding of the options available to you to fill out those six slots, and some goals to work towards to finish out your equipment.  Comments, questions and additions are welcome below!