Possible stance: Legendary Nornbear stance, of course!
In the previous article of this series, we looked at one of the greatest heroes of the norn to analyse his potential as a possible revenant legend. In this article, we’ll look at a figure who… well, there are some who view him as a hero, to be sure, but most have a different opinion.
Players of Guild Wars: Eye of the North will remember Svanir playing an important role in the norn part of that campaign. The brother of Jora – the first norn we meet in the campaign and an ancestor of Jhavi Jorasdottir – Svanir sensed the power of Jormag’s champion Drakkar sleeping beneath the frozen lake and sought to make that power his own. In a way, he succeeded in this but was corrupted in the process which caused him to raid the nearby norn settlements. With the help of the PC, Jora finally tracks down her brother to slay him, taking the first step to removing the stain on her family’s honour. Unfortunately, this did not prevent future generations of male norn taking inspiration from Svanir’s example and turning to Jormag for power and guidance, leading to the formation of the Sons of Svanir.
At face value, Svanir may seem to fall short of the second rule I established at the start of the series (that a legend should be a legend in their own right rather than being defined by their relationship to a more impactful entity), due to essentially being a puppet of Drakkar. Despite this, I think he does scrape through because Drakkar is only a background character in his legend. And there’s no question that Svanir himself has had a significant impact on the history of the norn, as he is the central historical figure for the main enemy faction of the norn.
Like Asgeir, Svanir was probably a warrior once, but his transformation into an ice-encrusted bear resulted in a unique skillset in Eye of the North. This set of skills, along with a general ice-bear theme, could serve as the basis for a legend.
To start off this bear theme, let’s look at some potential weapons. The obvious choice would be melee weapons that resemble bear claws. Two possibilities immediately come to mind: if the weapon is to be oriented towards conditions, a main hand axe to go with the existing axe offhand could be a possibility, especially if the elite specialisation weapon has a blade shaped like a claw (possibly something similar to the Tengu axe design). Alternatively, if oriented towards power, it could be a pair of daggers. However, since the elite specialisation is based on the theme of an icy bear, I’d expect it to have access to a lot of chill, which immediately brings up a synergy with Abyssal Chill. So we might as well bite the bullet, assume it’s going to be suitable for a condition-oriented spec, and go with the main hand axe. It might work best as a hybrid weapon, having power coefficients high enough that it can also function well with a power build.
Attacks with this weapon should have a bear theme, perhaps with ghostly, chilling bear claws accompanying each attack. A possible attack chain (considering that the available offhands will be axe and sword, both offensive weapons) could be to swipe once with the mainhand weapon, once with the offhand weapon, and then finishing off attacking with both, inflicting bleeding with each attack. The second attack could be a Maul-type skill, inflicting bleeding with multiple attacks. A possible candidate for the third skill could take inspiration from the Shattered Spirit skill used by the Nornbear in Eye of the North – removing hexes (or conditions in Guild Wars 2) from the user and inflicting additional damage with each condition removed.
This leaves five remaining skills which could potentially fill out the utility slots.
Spirit World Retreat allowed the Nornbear to disappear, applying energy degeneration to nearby enemies and healing the Nornbear for each enemy affected. In Guild Wars 2 terms, this would be similar to Hide in Shadows in effect, serving as a healing skill that also granted stealth to the revenant. This could be combined with a burst of cold that chills nearby enemies, increasing the healing granted by each enemy struck. Unseen Aggression could then serve as a flipover to this skill as long as the revenant remains stealthed, allowing the revenant to come out of stealth by knocking down an enemy.
Charging Sprint operated very similarly to Bull’s Charge, and could probably be assumed to operate similar to the Guild Wars 2 version of Bull’s Charge: charge towards a target and knock them down if you hit.
Spirit Roar served the Nornbear as an area attack against all nearby enemies, dealing additional damage for each enchantment on enemies that are struck. This could serve as a means of allowing the revenant using the Nornbear Stance to punish the use of boons – they wouldn’t be able to remove them like Mallyx, but if the skill has a short (or zero) recharge, they might be able to put heavy pressure on a group of enemies relying on boons. Alternatively, instead of simply inflicting extra damage, Spirit Roar might inflict conditions such as Chill based on how many boons are on the enemies hit, or the roar could also grant Might to allies, granting more Might based on how many boons are on the enemies struck.
Spirit Senses made the Nornbear immune to Blind and Weakness, and made the Nornbear’s attacks steal health while being unblockable. To me, that seems a bit overloaded – and, even as a boss skill, Spirit Senses had a longer recharge than any current revenant skill.
What I’d be inclined to do, then, is split it up. With revenants generally being associated with blindfolds, I think it would be fitting for the “you can’t blind me” skill to become the F2 skill for the elite specialisation as a whole. The simplest approach would for it to be a spammable, low-energy skill that removes Blind and applies Revealed to any stealthed enemies nearby, and possibly add a stack or two of the Unblockable effect. A possibly more advanced form could make it a maintained effect that makes the revenant immune to Blind while also allowing them to see stealthed enemies nearby (similar to Nuhoch Stealth Detection, but limited by energy rather than by which map you’re in).
For the other side of the skill, I’m inclined to look at the elite slot for a possible transformation into the Nornbear itself, echoing Svanir’s own transformation. Using this upkeep skill could grant immunity to Weakness, apply lifesteal to attacks, and to reflect the icy theme, perhaps it could allow the revenant to apply chill with attacks while in that form. A name like “Strength of the Icebear” or even “Become the Nornbear” might be fitting for this skill. With appropriate lifesteal coefficients, this could be useful both for power builds and (through Torment inflicts via Abyssal Chill) condition builds.
This leaves one utility slot remaining, but I’ve now run out of Nornbear skills to draw from. Bear abilities, however, could come to the rescue here. A signature ability of bear pets is having access to Defy Pain – while a new name (perhaps Nornbear’s Defiance?) would probably be fitting, this could be a means to spend energy to buy a little extra time when under pressure (within reason, of course). Alternatively, Shattered Spirit could be moved to this slot, possibly converting conditions into Might stacks, while weapon skill 3 becomes another bear-themed skill. Following the CC theme, this could possibly be based on Heavy Swipe.
The overall theme is for the Svanir-inspired Revenant to be a brute in melee combat. Unlike the Mallyx rev, which just spreads conditions on all around them, a Svanir rev would be more focused: while they do have an area effect with Spirit Roar, they can probably only do so a few times before draining their energy and it probably would not be energy-efficient unless hitting multiple targets with at least a few boons. Instead, they want to pick out a target, knock them down and chill them so they can’t get away, and maul them (possibly literally). Having a heal skill which grants Stealth would give them limited access to stealth to disengage or to turn the tables with a brutal ambush, while Spirit Senses could make them a powerful counter to stealth builds in turn. Having a reasonably low-cooldown condition removal skill on the weapon or on the legend skill bar would also give the build some ability to shed conditions, something that is often a problem for revenants that aren’t running Mallyx at present.
For now, I think we’ve covered the strongest possibilities for legends coming out of norn history. Next up, I expect to find a candidate who’s a little shorter…