The Basics of WvW Commanding
This guide focuses on how to start commanding in WvW for a small to large group. In it will be covered the basic objectives of commanding, communication tips, how to get started and some general fight tactics.
Commanding in WvW is often seen as a daunting task, and something beyond the reach of many players. The reality, however, is that commanding is highly accessible to anyone with a commander tag, as long as they follow some basic rules and guidelines that make the experience more enjoyable for themselves and for those that choose to follow.
First and foremost, to command a squad in WvW you need a commander tag. These can be purchased from the Commander Trainer in World versus World, cost 300 gold and 250 badges of honour. This price is for many a large gate to beginning your commanding. The idea behind gating a commander tag behind this much gold is to force players to actively play the game for a length of time to be able to afford it, hoping to keep commanders exclusive to somewhat experienced players. If you play with a group, see if players are happy to help fund your tag so you can command with them.
Once you have a commander tag, you should only use it if you intend to have people follow you and to take objectives that require a modest amount of people to achieve. For example, "tagging up" while you flip camps and roam is not advised. Not only will people not follow you, but these tasks don't require a group to perform. As well as that, your tag can be misleading to others who think that you are trying to take objectives or go for fights.
Instead, use a commander tag to form up around enemy objectives. If you want to command, always have goals in mind for your squad. When starting with only yourself and a few others, be sure to advertise that you are actively trying to get a group and what you want to achieve in team chat, along with the map you are on. For example, "My group is going for Klovan tower on EBG, join on me for squad." is a simple and effective way of communicating what you are doing so anyone playing can join you. Achieving goals like tower captures, keep captures and Stonemist captures makes your group more attractive to players, who see that you are actively playing the game and being successful. On the opposite side, sitting around in the open, or waiting in a keep for people to join you, is often a quick way to lose players, who will get bored and go off to do their own thing.
A friendly attitude towards people joining your group, and openly taking all classes, builds and people is highly recommended when starting out. Rather than trying to force players to adapt to your desires, work with what you have. In a group made up of thieves, rangers and mesmers, you are unlikely to take on an organised fighting group. You can however take important towers, pressure objectives and use siege to turn the tides of fights when defending your own territory.
Common Commander Objectives
When deciding to tag up, take a look at the map. Commonly, you will be starting in the Eternal Battlegrounds where the majority of the players are, but you can also use team chat to call out to these players by sharing what borderland you are on and what you intend to do. If the map has objectives close to your spawn that the enemy owns, mainly towers or low level keeps, this can be a good opportunity to start commanding and form your group while taking these safe and easy to access areas. Once players see you are active and gaining ground, your group will grow, and you can expand to more dangerous areas. Make sure you always get supply from nearby camps or from your own keeps- there is nothing worse than running to a tower and not being able to finish building the siege you place!
Safe objectives include spawn towers like the South East and South West towers of the Alpine and desert borderlands of your enemies, the North West and North East towers of your home borderlands, and any tower in your third of Eternal Battlegrounds. You can also include tier 1 undefended Stonemist Castles and the keep closest to your spawn on enemy borderlands as safe objectives, but if they are defended even lightly they can be significantly harder to take. Your home borderlands, if your Garrison keep has a waypoint, is also quite safe virtually anywhere against non upgraded objectives, as you can easily run supply and respawn from a central location.
As your group grows to around 10+ people, it becomes safer to head into enemy thirds of the Eternal battlegrounds or the northern parts of enemy borderlands. A group of this size can carry more supply, letting you build more siege and therefore take upgraded enemy objectives in a timely manner. Remember, the longer you take setting up and sieging something, the longer the enemy has to build counter siege and call reinforcements. You can see our guide on placing siege and counter sieging for in depth placement of siege for each objective.
If you plan on hitting anything with a waypoint belonging to an enemy, you require either a sizable group or need to be absolutely sure no one is going to stop you. Even a single arrow cart can stop a small group's assault, as the time it takes for your siege to break down doors and walls is longer than the time it takes for the arrow cart to break down your siege- not to mention the possibility of having siege disabled, or enemy reinforcements coming. Take this into consideration, as dying or failing to take objectives can often lose you a lot of players who no longer see the group as successful and would rather do something else.
For every World versus World server there is a community discord, teamspeak or other method of play communication. If you are not a part of your server's chosen community platform, ask in team chat and someone will most likely be able to link it to you. Most serious commanders use the voice communication aspect of these platforms to quickly relay instructions to followers and to co ordinate groups in fights, as well as to enjoy the social aspect of the game.
If you are nervous about voice communication, or unable to use it for other reasons, you can still communicate with players through squad chat and team chat. For urgent messages, holding SHIFT+ENTER lets your broadcast messages to the entire squad on screen- but this can be pretty annoying if you use it all the time and players might leave because of it.
The best things you can communicate are what you intend to do, where you are, and what you need each player to do to achieve your goal. If you want to take a tower, communicate to everyone that you will need supply, which tower you are going to, and potentially what way you want to take it. If players know they will need supply and are en-route, they can stop and grab supply before meeting with you. If players are with you, they know they will need to build, or to take down cannons and oil on gates. A silent commander often loses followers, who have no idea what the 'grand plan' is and begin to wander off.
If you are in voice communication with other players, make sure to be friendly and supportive. Barking orders and yelling won't get you very far with many of the more casual and easy going players, and in public groups that will make up a large portion of your team mates. Remember people play the game to have fun first and foremost. Ensure everyone is aware of what you are doing and why.
Sometimes fighting another group is inevitable- or its exactly what you tagged up to do! Either way, you should be prepared for a fight at any time, whether its inside objectives or in the open field. Other groups will want to stop you from taking what is theirs, or might just try to hunt you down for the fight.
If you plan on commanding fights, voice communication and class compositions becomes significantly more important. Guardian, Warrior and Mesmer are the best classes for commanding fights, letting you be extremely durable but effective. Voice communication is essential to let your allies know when to use offensive skills, when to move away and when to engage. Typing during these fights is almost impossible- and even if you can do it, it wont be nearly as effective.
When fighting an enemy group, a lot of what you do will depend on the metagame at the time. For example, in the current metagame calling for "Stealth Gyro" is common, using scrappers to stealth your group to engage, and most skilled groups will be using their Desert Shroud and Wells in co ordination, as well as timing their Wind of Disenchantment with other offensive cooldowns. For a public commander, you don't have as many options available to you, and it will be nearly impossible to micro manage all the cooldowns of all your players.
Focus instead of movement- keep your group at a safe distance unless you are telling them to use offensive cooldowns. Staying at range, and moving in with a Winds of Disenchantment and calling for "Bomb", "Spike" or "Damage" is a common way to get across that you want offensive cooldowns dropped. Make sure you are only running into the enemy if you know that you have offensive cooldowns ready, as otherwise they could use the opportunity to use their own damage on you. Fighting has many intricacies warranting its own guide, and so we will only cover the basic strategies.
If your group has support classes, spread them out among the parties in the squad along with the damage classes. This way they can help one another sustain through enemy damage. Move your group away from enemies who clearly want to engage on you so that you don't fall victim to their damage cooldowns, letting them waste them as you run. If a group continues to chase you, and are stringing themselves out as they do, use this as a chance to turn and use your own cooldowns. With much of their group strung out, the front runners will be more vulnerable to your damage. Take the downstate enemies you get, finish them off, and disengage from the action again until you have cooldowns ready (ask a necro player to tell you his Desert Shroud or Well cooldowns for example). Once you have these, you are ready to go back on the offensive. Not all groups will play this way, but it is a safe and easy starter pack to fighting effectively with a public group.
Above everything, stay aware of what your enemy is doing. If he is running, you don't have to chase, and if he is coming at you you do not have to stand your ground. Move in relation to the bulk of the enemy players and keep your group safe. Even if you stalemate a fight, your group will be much happier and more willing to follow you than if you charge recklessly and die continuously. If you find a group you can't take, consider moving around them and taking a few objectives for a while to bolster your numbers, re organise your parties and try again close to towers or keeps where you can safely retreat if it looks bad. Remember you are a public tag, not a guild raid, and no one is expecting you to be fighting highly organised groups if you don't want to or are not defending objectives.
Predicting Enemy Groups
Now that you can identify safe objectives, you can also use this to recognise what would be safe for enemy groups. Consider your own movements if you were on that server, and what you would or could do with a group of their size. If you know there in another group on the borderlands, and want to be able to defend from them or engage them in fights, knowing where they will be is key.
If for example you see a camp and tower flip near your keep with many different guilds lined up to claim, then a group of a decent size has taken it. That could mean they might go for the keep, and you can head towards the gate on the side of the captured tower to check it out or to intercept. Alternatively, if you are seeing towers changing sides on a map, you can follow the pattern to find a group. For example, if a group takes South West Tower, then Bay, then North East camp and North East tower, they will either be going to the north camp or to hit the garrison on that side. If you know the group is relatively small, and not geared up to siege a garrison, you would head to the north camp to cut them off.
Generally, commanders will try to keep on the move and continue to follow a line of objectives until there is either nothing left to take or an objective they are incapable of taking. Following that rule lets you find enemy groups quickly and easily, if you pay attention to the world map. Once you know where they are, you can decide if you want to ignore them and do your own thing, go and fight them, or if you need to defend your own objectives from them.