Barraging is considered an alternative to Nuking but which accomplishes the same goal: AoE damage over a large or tightly-packed mob of enemies. The benefits of Barraging over using high-powered AoE spells are mostly related to the ability of delivering a more stable stream of damage due to the fact that AI mobs do not scatter as easily.
The name "Barraging" actually comes from the Ranger skill Barrage, but in time, the build in which it was used has grown to use skills from other professions as well, like the Elementalist, the Ritualist Channeling Magic skill-tree and even the Assassin. A small description of the skill before we go on: Barrage is a ranged attack skill that damages your target and an additional six targets around it (thus the maximum you can hit are seven targets) as well as adding bonus damage to each of those arrows. Using the skill will also remove any preparation you have active, rendering them useless (they will not affect any arrows from Barrage).
Every barrage build has the elite skill Barrage. Because of the second part of the skill, no Barrage build should contain a preparation. Also, it is worth noting that Barraging is almost strictly reserved for PvE. It has very little to no use whatsoever in any kind of PvP.
The only real equipment you need to Barrage is a bow. The problem comes when someone asks, "Which bow?". Technically they are all good, but practically this is one of the most disputed discussions in Guild Wars to date. Without appearing too opinionated, here are some very short reviews of which work well and why, or why not:
- Flatbows: They have a high arc, and even with Favorable Winds you have a chance of missing moving enemies. The high arc also means a longer flight-time which in turn means a bit lower refire rate. Still, they have longbow-range and you can "snipe"-barrage out of harm's way which works well with pets, minions or other meatshields.
- Shortbows:The almost exact opposite of the Flatbow, with a lower range and flight-time. They also have the highest refire rate, though that may actually work against Barraging, read below why.
- Longbows: These are similar to the Flatbows, but with a lower arc and lower refire rate, but also lower flight time. Some people put this on the same level as the flatbows, more or less justly. Also useful for shooting out of harm's way behind a meatshield.
- Recurve Bows: They have the lowest arc in the game while also maintaining a bit of range, comparable to that of the Hornbow, but less than the Flatbow/Longbow. This one is a good interrupter bow and some use it to Barrage because of its low flight-time.
- Hornbows: Hornbows have the 10% sundering advantage but also the lowest refire rate in the game. Some use this because of the refire rate when using 25% IAS skills like Tiger's Fury.
If you had trouble following the technical talk, here is a simplified summary of the above:
- If you use Favorable Winds and have a tank/meatshield, stick with the Flatbow or the Longbow for the range.
- If you don't mind getting in the middle of them, you can use the Shortbow or the Recurve bow for the faster shots and lower flight-time.
- If you have an IAS-skill, use Hornbows for a bit more damage.
About the Shortbow's refire rate (as mentioned before) and the Hornbow with an IAS-skill; the problem is that sometimes, either due to ping or user-lag, you will do this combo: Fire Barrage, (your character pulls another arrow and nocks it on the bow), you push to fire another Barrage and your character then ends up redoing the animation, losing vital time. This is one of those things you get a feel for. That's why people have these arguments, some prefer the Hornbow because they don't experience it, some the Recurve for the same reason, some the Flat just because. All in all, try and use all the bows in combat and stick with what you like most.
Sticking to a Ranger primary profession, we can lead into different types of builds usually using different attributes. Before going into secondary professions here are some build types which can fill up your barrager bar.
First there is the Pet Barrager. In Barraging, a Pet may, or may not be used, depending on the constitution of the party or the tactics in use. The general perception that one is needed comes from the Barrager/Pet combo that was widely in use in farming the Tomb of the Primeval Kings, and remained in the collective consciousness of the players as such. A Barrage/Pet build consists of Barrage as well as Comfort Animal.
Pets can add energy management through skills like Scavenger Strike and more area of effect damage through skills like Melandru's Assault. Having a pet also opens up to using the PvE-only skill Never Rampage Alone which is a handy IAS-skill. Pets can also add single-target damage whether it be Brutal Strike to finish off enemies, or Poisonous Bite for a little bit of degen and to fuel Savage Strike. Beast Mastery also opens into nature spirits, but there is more on that in the next section.
The Spirit Barrager consists of skills which involve nature spirits. Although it is important to choose these spirits wisely as they also affect enemies, nature spirits can add positive buffs to your bow and damage or can help the survivability of your team. That's what a Spirit Barrager comes down to; making sure that your team can benefit from what you bring.
The most recognized nature spirit for Rangers would have to be Favourable Winds - this spirit will shorten your arrows' flight-time and increase their damage so it is a great skill to bring if there are multiple Rangers in your team. If you have a lot of physical damage-dealers in your team, Winnowing can be a great addition as it buffs all physical damage, but beware as this also affects enemy physical damage. On the defensive side of bringing spirits, there is Winter, a spirit that changes all elemental damage to cold damage, which your team can bring specialized armor to negate. Symbiosis is another spirit which can strengthen your team if you use enchantments, but beware that when enchantments end they lose the health that Symbiosis was giving them.
This type of Barrager would easily be the most recognized. It uses skills from the marksmanship attribute to add more single damage, AoE damage, interrupts or conditions to the build.
Savage Shot and Distracting Shot are the most recognized interrupts in PvE and PvP. Although interrupts aren't as important in PvE and PvP competitive play the shutdown interrupts allow can still be highly beneficial to a Barrager. Skills like Sloth Hunter's Shot and Power Shot add single-target damage which can be very useful when taking down priority targets and cleaning up leftovers who aren't close enough to each other for Barrage's multiplying effect. Volley can add extra AoE-damage but is generally not needed in a Barrager build as Barrage itself has a very short recharge. Conditions in a Barrager build are also welcome, whether it be a snare in the form of cripple from Pin Down or bleeding from Screaming Shot. They can add many benefits to team builds.
PvE Only Skills Barrager
Since the addition of many PvE-only skills from Guild Wars: Eye of the North, they have found themselves a home in the flexible Barrager bar. These skills can add many effects whether it be AoE damage, single-target damage or shouts to buff yourself and your team. Note however that a skill bar can only have a maximum of three PvE-only skills at any given time.
Ebon Vanguard Assassin Support is a good skill, as it brings another meatshield who can knock down a hexed or conditioned foe, then proceed to deliver a quick 100+ damage chain. Technobabble is takes up the full potential of barrage, as this can lead you to shut down a mob of casters (without a boss) for six or so seconds. Skills like "Finish Him!", Ebon Vanguard Sniper Support, "You Move Like a Dwarf!" and many others can add great single-target damage. Then there are PvE only skills like "I Am the Strongest!", "By Ural's Hammer!" and Ebon Battle Standard of Honor which can add great damage boosts to yourself. Since Barrage hits multiple enemies at once, it can quickly charge adrenaline for "Save Yourselves!".
Summary so far
It should be noted that most Barrager builds are a mixture of all of these types but try not to specialize in more than two and try to keep to a maximum of three different attributes. So your build may look like this:
The first three optional slots may be bow attacks from the Marksman Barrager or Pet attacks. If you choose a Pet Barrage, make sure to take Comfort Animal. The next three optional slots should be skills you use in certain circumstances or that buff or protect yourself or your team. PvE-only skills, nature spirits, Comfort Animal are all options for these slots.
Next we dip into secondary professions which open up even more skills.
Ritualists are a common secondary profession for Barraging due to the inclusion of weapon spells.
The core of Ritualist usage as a subclass for the Barrager consists almost entirely of the powerful Weapon Spells it boasts. The main reason is that Weapon spells are not preparations and as such are not removed by Barrage, making them a good choice for upgrading the Barrager build.
The first pick to consider would be Splinter Weapon.
Splinter Weapon does a certain amount of damage to enemies adjacent to the one you hit; this is limited to your next 1-4 attacks. Ideally, you have four enemies together, you activate Splinter Weapon on yourself, attack with Barrage hitting all four enemies and then your screen fills with floating numbers from all the damage you did. You hit one of the targets with one arrow from your Barrage, which fires the Splinter Weapon at the rest of the three enemies. In this exact moment, your other three arrows also hit their respective enemies and each fires up the Splinter Weapon. In the end you end up with a "cluster bomb" effect, doing a significant AoE-spike. Also, while your Splinter Weapon will only affect the first four arrows from your Barrage, that hit the enemy, the AoE damage from itself will affect ALL adjacent foes. The reason why Splinter Weapon is so powerful with Barrage should be clear by now.
That is all great and amazing, but it does come at a high price. The Barrager has to recast Splinter Weapon after each Barrage, and at 5 energy, while it might not seem much, in a short period of time, you may end up with a one-digit energy count. You will use about 3 energy per Barrage and 5 energy per Splinter Weapon, considering that you can fire an additional Barrage between Splinter Weapon's recharge, in just around 12 seconds you would have used 19 energy. This can be countered somewhat by using a Zealous bowstring with your bow, but overall, it's up to you to figure out how you want to do the energy management. It can also possibly be solved within the team build.
Since Heroes at this time are not all that good at using Splinter Weapon, the only real way you can use this build without too much micromanaging is to use it yourself.
Ritualist secondary also opens up to the use of Summon Spirits which can be great for a Spirit Barrager as it helps you by not having to recast the spirits for each new cluster of mobs you face.
Choosing an Elementalist secondary for our Barrager might seem amusing at first, and although uncommon in today's "PvE meta" its variants are still usable. While people might be thinking of a build with Barrage and Fire Storm attached to the skillbar, again, we are going to use skills from this profession to improve upon our "mighty" Barrage.
First, to use them you have to have the correct bow string on your weapon. Fiery bow string for Conjure Flame, Icy for Conjure Frost and Lightning-damage for Conjure Lightning. While this might decrease a bit of damage (since you can not use a Sundering or Vampiric bow string), it's compensated by the damage granted by the Conjures. They all sport 5-17 bonus damage that is added on top of the damage done by your bow. That can be further improved by using a Glyph of Elemental Power before firing up the Conjure Spells. They last pretty long so recasting them will not be a drain on your energy supplies, and also the main part why one would use them with Barrage, is again, because they are not removed by it like preparations are.
Each Conjure variant may have further synergies. For the Conjure Flame you might add Mark of Rodgort to apply burning, or a teammate may bring it to save you the energy. The important thing about Conjures is however that the damage is steady and reliable and does what it's supposed to: add extra pain to your enemies. This setup is effective on it's own, and should not be considered a throw-away. In the end, Barragers should just compare this with the other variants available to them and choose whether they prefer reliability or spikeability.
The Necromancer contributes to the Barrager-build by offering damage boosts through a few limited hex-skills and Order-spells. They in themselves don't really deserve a special section because they are mostly skills you should bring on other party members or heroes, but since they can be used with Barrage on a single skillbar setup, they will be listed here for reference. These are generally inferior to proper variant builds and should only be used as support for those builds. Note that Orders builds cannot be used with Conjure Barragers in a team setting.
Mark of Pain is like a little persistent Splinter Weapon stuck to an enemy. While Barrage might benefit from using it, it has a better use with Triple Shot/Dual Shot builds, allowing you to hit the target repeatedly. Order of Pain, although possible to use before firing two Barrages, does not give a significant damage boost for one Barrager. Only bring it if you have 2-4 Barragers in your party, and you will cycle them to have it up constantly.
Monk as a secondary for Barragers mainly help on the defensive part, as they contain little to no skills worth using to increase damage dealt. Again, these will be listed just for reference and in no way might they outperform the stand-alone variants in terms of offensive power.
Live Vicariously if self-cast lets you enjoy health per each hit. The energy might be a problem though, so you might consider the next skill. Vigorous Spirit, unlike the above, has a fixed duration, more health per hit, and only a 5-energy requirement to cast. Mending Touch is a great skill which makes sure you can take care of your own conditions, but this is generally not needed if you have confidence in your team's Monks.
You can combine both of the above if you know you will need the extra healing power.
Judge's Insight is one of the few damage-increasing skills the Monk offers to the Barrager. It is particularly useful for bows that don't have a sundering modifier on them, as this skill will add 20% armour penetration, and of course, to add yet more sundering damage to those that do. Not only does it do that, but it also converts your own, or target ally's (hence can be used by a hero or party member), damage to holy damage. Very few creatures are resistant to holy damage, many more are actually extra vulnerable, especially demons and the undead (the undead take a striking double damage from holy attacks), which adds up in certain situations. This skill however, can be costly on energy, and has a rather long recharge time for its duration.
This offers great anti-undead capabilities with the Mysticism enchantment Heart of Holy Flame. The 20-second-long enchantment converts all damage to holy damage without any point investment. It costs 10 energy however, and you'd miss out on the end-effect since preferably the enemy will not be close and will die quickly.
Warrior as a secondary can open into more IAS-skills such as Flurry and Frenzy (which are stances so they will not be canceled by Barrage). But most imporant for having a Warrior secondary would be to take the skills "Save Yourselves!". This skill takes full advantage of Barrage's AoE-damage and should quickly be charged by the hitting of multiple foes at once. There is also another advantage of having this on a ranger over a warrior and that would be positioning. Rangers (depending on their bows) would be standing in the midline or backline of the party and so from here the effect of "Save Yourselves!" would benefit the players that may need it the most, the vulnerable casters.
Different First Professions
This variant does not require you to have Ranger as a primary profession. It uses the Critical Strikes primary attribute of the Assassin to disperse a higher DPS through criticals. It's often referred to as a "crit-barrager" and while it might not be as popular, it's still a Barrager build and it gives Assassins a different way to play their class depending on the needs of their party.
A basic crit-barrager build is this:
With 16 points in Critical Strikes and the buffs up you should have a very high crit-chance, and with Barrage, you will get a major energy boost aswell due to Critical Eye and Critical Strikes. This will allow you to fire Barrage at zero or even gaining energy per Barrage.
In the Optionals you have a wide variety of choices. From Way of Perfection for health gain, to the PvE Norn skill, "Dodge This!", to Keen Arrow and Savage Shot/Disrupting Shot, those spaces will fill up to match whatever you might need. Sharpen Daggers used to enable the dispersing of bleeding through each Barrage you fired; now, it has been nerfed to a maximum of 11 attacks at 16 Critical Strikes, but still, it can be used to some of its former success and can be recommended in the skillbar. Another highly recommended skill combo to have would be Critical Defenses and Critical Agility. These refresh when you make a successful critical hit, and with the "crit-barrager" that is quite often. They will grant you a 75% block chance, some 10-22 armor and a constant 33% IAS which will prove to be useful in a more close-quarter-combat enviroment.
Ritualist primary only opens up one thing and that is higher Channeling Magic through the use of runes. This is sometimes used if splinter damage is more relied on for damage than the actual Barrage. Otherwise, Ritualist primaries are played the same as the regular Ranger primary Barrager.