Heart Of Thorns Survival Guide

Many players find the Heart of Thorns expansion bewildering.  Intricate, layered maps and tough enemies make it very challenging to find a safe path through the region.  Masteries can help enormously with both these problems, but the ol’ “chicken and the egg” riddle comes to mind: how do you survive long enough to earn those masteries?

Master Masteries

Most of this article will try to answer that question, but first let’s look at why masteries help.

Masteries make it far easier to get around the Heart of Maguuma.  You can glide over chasms, stealth past enemies, catapult to difficult-to-reach places and even teleport across the map.  They are very useful—and fun!

The first four masteries you should get, in order, are:

  1. Basic Gliding
  2. Bouncing Mushrooms
  3. Exalted Markings
  4. Updraft Use

There are many more masteries beyond these basics.  For a more in-depth look, see the Guide to Heart of Thorns Masteries article in this issue.

Filling the XP Bar

While it’s true you should focus on getting those four masteries first, there’s a catch.  How can you earn the experience to unlock those helpful masteries without first having the masteries?

The too-simple answer is “just play Heart of Thorns.”  Complete events, kill enemies, explore, do adventures, harvest, do the story, etc.  While that’s certainly where the XP comes from, there are some tactics that will help you get XP faster, and with less frustration.

Tactic #1: Start Sturdy

The masteries you earn in HoT are shared by all your characters. For your first character to set foot into HoT, choose one that excels in survivability, DPS and mobility.  Later, when you’ve unlocked some “getting around” masteries, you’ll find HoT is much more enjoyable on your less durable characters.

Tactic #2: Boost Your “All Sources” XP Rate

There are two broad categories of Experience boosts in open world content:  Experience Per Kill boosts and Experience From All Sources boosts.  

“All sources” XP boosts are particularly powerful for Heart of Thorns content.  In addition to experience from kills, you also get xp from events, map completion, exploration, harvesting, some achievements, and finishing story chapters.

All sources experience boosts come from only three sources:

  • HoT-era Experience Boosters.  These add 50% to all experience gained while in a HoT map (except from crafting).  You can buy a 2-hour version from the Black Lion cash shop, or sometimes get one in-game from an achievement chest or a Black Lion chest.  

    If Guild Wars 2 budget prevents you from buying boosts or Black Lion chest keys from the cash shop, consider buying the 30-minute version from the laurel merchant for 1 laurel each.

  • Guild XP Gain.  If your guild hall has unlocked this buff, you can get it for free from Nathan the Bartender.  It adds up to 10% more experience.
  • Fireworks.  Setting off fireworks from the Lunar Festival gives you a buff for another 10% experience.  Each firework buff lasts only 5 minutes, but you can set off several to stack up to 2 hours duration.

Use all three together and you’ll get up to 70% more experience for everything you do in Heart of Thorns.  This provides a very noticeable increase to your mastery XP progress!

Tactic #3: XP in a Box

There are several types of HoT “bouncy chests” that reward XP, and the “all experience” boosts affect them!  The XP is awarded as the bouncy chest is cleared, not when you open the chest from your inventory.

These are the common HoT bouncy chests and the base XP they contain:

  • Map cycle chests, varies by Contribution and location:  up to 90,000 XP
  • Hero Challenge daily chest: 34,671 XP
  • Adventure daily chest:  13,335 - 24,003 XP
  • Adventure first time chest:  26,6670 - 80,010  XP
  • Map completion chest: 8,001 XP

With max “all XP” boosts of +70%, each hero challenge daily chest is worth nearly 60k experience!  At that rate, just 9 hero challenges would fill the XP bar for a tier one mastery.  

Tactic #4: More XP from Kills

You’ll get plenty of opportunity to kill mobs in HoT, and fortunately the “experience from kills” boost is pretty common.  You’ll get it from:

    • Pre-HoT Experience Boosters, including Enchanted Reward Boosts.  +50% XP from kills
    • Food and utility buffs. +10-15% XP from kills
    • Killstreak Experience Boost . +10% XP from kills per stack, up to +100%
  • Banners. +10-15% XP from kills
  • Communal Bonfire. +10% XP from kills

Another way to get more experience from kills is to target enemies that don’t get killed often, since these offer bonus XP.

On the (Meta) Clock

Fighting in a group to advance the zone meta event is a great way to get experience from both events and kills, and earn the mastery points you’ll need to complete your mastery unlocks.  It’s also a great way to get loot and help with harder fights.

Unfortunately the metaserver system can make it quite challenging to find an active map, since players are often shunted to empty maps.  The workaround is to use Looking for Group tool (LFG) to find and taxi to an active map.

You’ll also need to know when to look for a group.  Just like the Vinewrath in the Silverwastes, you might choose to taxi in a bit before the main event.  Alternatively, just like the Silverwastes, you might prefer to get more XP and currency by working on the smaller events leading up to the final fight.

Unlike the Silverwastes, however, Heart of Thorns maps run their meta on a two hour cycle.  There are several apps and web pages that show an HoT event timer, but one of the easiest to remember is on the official wiki.  In fact, you can open it from in-game using the following command:

The timer apps do a nice job of showing you what is happening now, but they don’t show you when players tend to put up taxis.  I’ve added blue arrows to the HoT Meta Clock illustration article showing the typical times to taxi for the “main event”.

Here are some LFG tips to catch the main event in each map:

  • Verdant Brink.  In LFG, look for “VB T4” about midway through the “Daytime” phase.
  • Auric Basin.  In LFG, look for “AB meta” about midway through the “Pillars” phase.
  • Tangled Depths.  In LFG, look for “TD meta” about midway through the “Help the Outposts” phase
  • Dragon’s Stand.  Instead of using LFG, waypoint directly to Pact Base Camp waypoint.  Arrive at least 15 minutes before the map resets and join a squad.  After reset (and dying), revive and taxi to the squad leader. You want to do this as quickly as possible, since the leader’s map often fills very fast.  Once there, drop the “taxi” squad and join the squad for your lane.

In my experience, this is the most reliable way to get into an organized Dragon’s Stand map that will complete the meta successfully.  If you decide to use LFG instead, try to get into a map as close to the reset time as possible.

If you are looking for folks to help with map completion or achievements, open your own group in LFG and taxi people to your map.  Alternatively, use /map chat to group up immediately following the meta on a busy map.

Surviving the Journey

Enemies are quite a bit harder in Heart of Thorns than in the parts of Tyria we’ve enjoyed for the first three years of the game.  To survive (and thrive!) you’ll need exotic gear or better, a good build and a few tricks up your sleeve.

For builds, I often run one designed for sPVP.  These tend to offer a little more survivability than dungeon builds, but still have enough DPS to let you progress at a comfortable pace.

For skills, I recommend you consider:

  • Dodge & Evade.  If you haven’t mastered dodging yet, now is the time!  Additional skills or traits that add more Evades are super helpful in HoT.
  • Projectile Reflection.  There are some new archer enemies in HoT, and they hit like a freight train.  If possible, keep a projectile reflect or block skill handy.  Or plan to avoid these monster hits by dodging.
  • Stun, daze, knockdown, launch, pull.  These “hard” CCs are the key to quickly breaking a Defiance bar to deprive your enemy of it’s big attack, and make it vulnerable to your DPS.

A venerable gem of military wisdom helps here too: know your enemy.  Some of the most deadly new enemies are easily countered when you learn their tells.

More than anything else, I recommend patience and a sense of fun.  Heart of Thorns is a huge region, with plenty of places to get lost (and plenty of ways to be defeated).  If you find HoT intimidating, try going ‘bite-sized.’  Every map is organized by outposts (or lanes), so one good way to really learn a map is to master each outpost before moving on.  

Personally, I find Heart of Thorns a beautiful, rewarding, and engaging place to spend my time.  As you unlock masteries, learn your way around and develop ways to fight the new enemies, you may start to agree!

Published: March 18th, 2016   |  17,085 Reads

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