Defying Explanation

As a regular dungeon runner in GW2, the single place that is always a source of confusion for my party members is the Defiant buff unique to Champion and Legendary foes. On a near-daily basis, I find myself having to debunk wrong information about how Defiant works and explain why particular attempts to crowd control (or CC for short) a boss do or don’t work. This post aims to explain exactly how Defiant works, dispel myths, explain confusing situations, and point out various “cheater mobs” that don’t follow the rules.

What is Defiant?

Many people probably don’t know what Defiant is at all and I can hardly blame them–the game does not have any kind of tutorial that introduces players to it, you simply start seeing it when you begin fighting Champions. Sure, you could mouse over the buff’s description and read it, but the fact that the targeted foe’s status effects all have tiny icons that are constantly shifting from side-to-side as new ones are added and old ones expire makes the tooltips vanish constantly. Trying to read your target’s effect tooltips is a huge distraction and I doubt most people bother.

But to answer the question: Defiant is a buff unique to Champion and Legendary foes that makes the foe immune to crowd controls–daze, stun, pull, push, fear, launch, and knockdown. Defiant is a stacking buff, like Might, but with an infinite duration and no stacking limit. When a foe with Defiant is crowd controlled, the CC is negated and one stack of Defiant is removed. When the last stack of Defiant is removed, the next crowd control to hit the foe will take its full effect rather than be ignored.

Where does Defiant come from?

Nearly all Champion and Legendary foes have a buff called Unshakable  This is another permanent buff but unlike Defiant there is no way to remove it. Its description reads as follows: “Gains defiant when targeted by crowd control skills. Blind is 10% effective. Weakness and vulnerability last 50% less time.” The first part is what we’re interested in. When a boss foe spawns, it will only have Unshakable and no Defiant. The first time the boss is crowd controlled the CC will take effect and cause the boss to gain Defiant. A key point here is that as of this writing, CCing an Unshakable foe is the only way to cause Defiant.

What controls how much Defiant a foe gets?

When crowd controlled, all Unshakable foes gain a minimum of 3 stacks of Defiant but may gain as many as the number of players in the area around them. I have seen the Champions in the Claw of Jormag event have more than 40 stacks of Defiant due to the high population of the event. Yes, this means 40 CC’s must be wasted before one will take effect, and no, it’s not worth it to try. The minimum of 3 stacks may vary in some areas of the game–for instance, bosses in Fractals of the Mists seem to have a higher minimum Defiant based on the difficulty scale.

That’s a lot of words, say it in 140 characters or less.

Bosses have Unshakable, which gives Defiant, which blocks CC’s. Remove Defiant by “wasting” CC’s and the boss can be CC’d again.

What are some common myths surrounding Defiant and Unshakable?

The most common myth would be the blanket belief that boss foes simply cannot be crowd controlled, period. This is demonstrably false–go find a champion and pay careful attention to how much Defiant it has, and hit it with a CC when it has none. Use one that is clearly noticeable, like a 2-second stun or a launch to make sure you see it–I promise it will work.

Another common myth is that Unshakable foes can generate Defiant on their own in some fashion. This is not true either–as I explained above, the only way a boss can have Defiant is if a player successfully CC’s it. When a boss suddenly gains Defiant and you don’t know why, another player is certainly to blame. People fire off their skills carelessly all the time (or simply don’t coordinate what CC’s are being used.) A short CC like a quarter-second daze will still cause Defiant and can easily go unnoticed if you aren’t watching the target’s status effects closely. It’s also possible that your own CC just didn’t work correctly–for instance, the target got caught on the terrain and did not get pushed/pulled/launched the full distance.

But Fear used to always work on foes with Defiant. What happened?

Fear is in the unfortunate position of being both a condition and a control–it is mitigated by condition removal as well as stun-breaks, Stability, and Defiant. There was a period of a couple of months early after launch when Fear ignored Defiant and always affected foes, but this was eventually changed back and documented in the patch notes as a bug fix.

Wait, I can think of mobs that don’t work this way!

So can I. There are many foes in the game that are immune to all control effects, but the effects that cause this should not be confused with Defiant. Here are a bunch of exceptions to the rules:

  • Permanent Stability: Several types of foes (especially Earth Elementals and similar constructs like Flame Effigies) have a permanent Stability buff, sometimes denoted by a shining yellow status effect or the word “Stability” in their tactics text. Unfortunately, some mobs have perma-stability but the UI does not indicate this in any way. Regardless of whether these foes also have Unshakable, they will never be affected by crowd controls.
  • AC Story Mode: King Adelbern and Kasha Blackblood have Unshakable, yet seem to to be affected by CC’s whether they have any Defiant or not. The lovers Relena and Vassar are Champions but do not have Unshakable because knocking them apart with boulders is a unique mechanic of that battle. Considering this is the very first dungeon most players will attempt, it’s confusing and annoying that players are not exposed to dealing with Defiant in a clear, consistent way.
  • Unstoppable: Some large foes like Risen Abominations may have “Unstoppable” in their tactics text. Unstoppable foes have permanent stability and are immune to snares like Cripple, Chill, and Immobilize. (Update: turns out Chill works on Unstoppable foes.)
  • Sink and Float: Even though these are definitely control effects, they will work even if the target has Defiant. I strongly suspect this is a bug and has not yet been fixed because it only affects underwater combat.
  • Vollym The Fierce: The champion of the battle pit in Gendarran Fields is a cheater as far as the Defiant system goes. He is a veteran mob, but will randomly be immune to crowd controls and/or gain defiant for no apparent reason. I have also heard that he gains Unshakable when a large number of players join the event. Either way, any experience you have with Vollym should not be part of your thinking when it comes to using CC’s on bosses.
  • Stationary foes: This is a common mechanic in some dungeons, especially Caudecus’s Manor. When CC’d these foes will still be disabled for the same duration they would be if they were non-stationary, but any movement effect will be negated.

But I’ve interrupted foes that have Defiant before!

The concept of “easily interrupted” skills has been silently taken from Guild Wars 1 but is never explained anywhere. Under certain conditions, certain monster skills may be interrupted even if they have Defiant. For example, the Graveling Scavengers in Ascalonian Catacombs may be interrupted from performing their devastating leap-knockdown attack even if they have Defiant, except instead of the CC’s intended effect, the Scavenger will always be stunned instead. Another more common example is the healing skill of the two end bosses of the Underground Facility Fractal. As long as the boss is Superheated, the healing skill can be interrupted by any attack, not just a control. Again, the game makes no effort to explain this, leaving it up to obsessive people like me to figure out the details.

The thief’s elite skill Basilisk Venom ignores Defiant.

I think it’s unfortunate that such a simple mechanic requires so much explanation and has so many bugs and exceptions, but there we have it. Understanding Defiant and not being mystified when your CC’s do or don’t work will make you a better dungeon player. Not only is knocking a boss on its ass or flying through the air hilarious, but being able to coordinate it is good strategy and a life saver at critical moments. Unshakable

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11 Responses to Defying Explanation

  1. P says:

    Awesome article. Lots of good details here.

    You say that an Unstoppable enemy is immune to chill. Last I checked you can chill them. Did they change this? Thanks.

    • Thanks! I will try and confirm experimentally whether Unstoppable blocks Chilled. It might not be a straight-up immunity so much as it’s immediately removed as soon as it’s applied. Unstoppable is weird.

      • jwlux says:

        I have done some observation with this, and Chill does work on Unstoppable foes. It’s the only reliable way I’ve found to slow down Risen Abominations.

  2. Pingback: This week in Guild Wars 2 | Guild Wars 2 Editorials, Magazine, Media & Podcast | GuildMag

  3. Marina says:

    Thank you very much for writing this. I’ve been playing since beta, but still hadn’t figured out the exact details to how Defiant worked; it was only after I picked up an ele that I started to pay more attention.

  4. kurtosis says:

    So, you clear Defiant by using CCs till it’s gone, then CCs actually work, but the mob still has Unshakable which means CCs should cause Defiant again. Does this mean that once Defiant is gone, only one CC works, and subsequent CCs start building Defiant again?

  5. Groggie says:

    I never quite understood how CCing a boss grants defiant to him and can remove stacks of defiant in the same time. Let’s say Claw of Jormag has 40 stacks of defiant. It would take 40 CC’s to get him back to 0, but as using CCs on him grants him defiant, so how is that even possible? Or do ‘wasted’ CCs not add defiant to the stacks? I’m so confused by this mechanic. It’s cleared up by your post, but still I feel confused. :’D

    • New Defiant can only be added when the boss is at zero Defiant, because that’s the only time a crowd control will actually work.

      • So basically, to sum it up on the gain/loss of defiant :

        1) Mobs gain defiant when targeted by CC, 3+ stacks
        2) They only gain it when they do not have 1 or more stacks of defiant on them
        3) If the mob gains defiant, it was just successfully hit with a CC (aka not nullifed by defiant)
        4) Every CC nullified by defiant causes a loss of 1 stack

  6. Andy says:

    I think it would help if the Unshakable tooltip said something more like “Gains Defiant upon being successfully crowd-controlled.” Anything to clarify that it’s only when the CC skill actually works that the mob gains Defiant.

    By saying “…when targeted by a crowd-control skill” is rather misleading and ambiguous.

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