I figured I'd preface this post with a little bit of background, over the last few betas for GW2 I've been playing a Mesmer almost exclusively. Sure I've leveled up some other classes (Guardian, Warrior, Engineer...) but the class I've been having the most fun with has definitely been the Mesmer, which honestly surprised me a lot. Back in the original Guild Wars days I went full tilt with a warrior (40/50 Hall of Monuments and all that jazz) and definitely enjoyed every minute of it. I had tried plenty of other classes, but the warrior was one that I always kept coming back to. So going into GW2 I was almost convinced that for sure I'd end up going with a warrior or guardian. I just like heavy classes, even in WoW I had warrior a deathknight mains. There's just something about plate mail that gets me excited, maybe it's the shoulder pads. Also I definitely enjoy hitting like a freight train. With that in mind, you can imagine how it would be hard for me to fathom playing a caster, a cloth wearing, squishy, fragile, paper thin caster. And not only that, but a support caster no less. Up until this time my entire gameplay experience has been based around getting up in the thick of battle and carving my way through the horde like Paul Bunyan felling a forest of bodies. I enjoyed the feeling of combat. All this wishy washy magicy stuff just never was my thing.
Boy was I wrong. What I had not considered is that it tuns out I enjoy deception EVEN MORE.
Now, for those of you who haven't quite gotten your feet wet in Guild Wars the Mesmer is what's being referred to as an "Arcane Trickster" and they are amazing. It's a class that revolves around controlling the battle, through either conditions, clever use of invisibility, or the ability to control who has boons and who doesn't. They also have the unique advantage of being able to create Illusions, clones of themselves, which can be used either for straight up damage or can be shredded to confuse, daze, or spike your enemies. The best part of the Illusions is that they're more than willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good, and with the right build they're never in short supply. Of course you're limited to only 3 illusions at a time, so you do have to be clever about how and when you use them, but with the right decision making shredding your illusions for a clutch daze can change the tide of battle in a millisecond. It's a highly complex class, so maybe the Mesmer isn't for everyone, but I'm always up for a challenge, and the satisfaction of being able to completely get into the head of your opponents in the way the a Mesmer only can is simply astonishing.
Now that you have some idea about how Mesmers work you might recall that I'd mentioned at the start I'm the most comfortable getting right up in the face of my enemies, and recently everyone and their mother has been complaining about melee in GW2 being underpowered. I figured, this being the beta, I would take that as a of challenge and see if Mesmers could actually hold their own in melee. Noted being a melee caster you can't tank a mob straight up unless you like being gibbed in a second so I wasn't getting my hopes up for some stellar performances, but with the Distortion mechanic you can completely negate the bigger hits mobs can dish out, combine that with the main hand sword abilities like Blurred Frenzy or the torch's ability to make you invisible Mesmers have a surprisingly high level of melee survivablitiy. Furthermore the sword's auto attack applies stacks of vulnerability and removes boons which gives your party a hefty damage boost. So far so good, it would appear that building up a melee Mesmer wasn't completely out of the question and actually complemented some of the other classes quite well.
For weapon and gear suggestions what I was tending to lean towards a sword/sword or sword/torch primary set with either a greatsword or scepter/focus secondary set. The sword/sword main set gives you a good level of damage output and distortion with a block option on the offhand to negate even more damage. Having the torch offhand grants you the aforementioned invisibility escape and a phantasm that stacks retaliation on all the allies in the area which can be useful in the right scenarios. Personally I felt that from a playstyle perspective the sword/torch works much better in the pvp realm than it did in pve given that invisibility isn't the best escape mechanic for pve and having the extra block from the offhand sword makes staying around in melee range much easier. The secondary set really depends on how your trait build is, if you're heavily stacking power and precision then the greatsword is a good option for it's damage output at range. The greatsword also has a good cripple and knockback for those 'oh shit' moments when you absolutely have to get away. On the other hand if you're leaning more towards a truer 'melee support' role then the scepter/focus option shines for its illusion generation and confusion stacking. You can also take advantage of some of the Inspiration, and Illusion traits to get some more utility out of your Illusions than you would normally. Since this build doesn't rely on conditions to do it's damage you are primarily going to want to look for toughness, vitality, power, and precision on your gear to make sure you can stay alive when you're in melee range and still be able to dish out enough damage to merit getting in close.
So for those of you who are looking for a little bit of a challenge, and something quite a bit different, I highly recommend trying out a melee Mesmer. You might be surprised at how much fun you end up having. And definitely keep checking back, in a later post I'm going to break down traits and builds to really get in and show you how to optimize your Mesmer.