Hi all, after posting my build and giving updates along my character progression I've had a few people ask me to make a guide to provide additional insight on the different choices I made. I've detailed it below and will provide updates as I move forward in GW2. Wall of text incoming.
Intro - Why I made this build
As an avid Guild Wars player (logged 2600hrs on my Ranger) I've always loved the profession and jack-of-all-trades style attached to it. In particular, I loved how many different ways the ranger could be played (BA Degen, Barrage/Pet, BHA Epidemic, Cripshot, Dagger/Scythe Expertise, Trapping, Running, just to name a few). I think the GW2 Ranger, which is different in many ways, can still be played in very different styles.
I wanted to make my GW2 human ranger (Azraell, add me!) a dignified, intelligent leader, not a happy treehugger like the profession's name might suggest. I therefore explored what was possible for rangers outside of conditions, which fit with the naturey side. Although this becomes limiting (as traps, spirits, and many other skills & traits tend towards conditions), I found several great aspects in the ranger that can be build into a powerful crit-based build, which closely fits with the vision of my character.
Liru's Critical/Pet Synergy Build
First things first - the link (will be constantly updated as I refine my build).
- PVE, power/crit focused build
- Great synergy with pets
- A bit of AOE, enough for 90% of PVE scenarios I've run into
- Sword/Horn is most fun weapon combo IMO, Shortbow is a machine gun
- Little ability to withstand damage, but great mobility & evasion
- Shortbow: FAST! Great for stacking crits, highly mobile, cripple & stun CCs. This weapon is great because it keeps you on your toes, forcing you to flank, and greatly rewards skilled players with huge damage. Piercing Arrows gives the shortbow great AOE for 90% of cases.
- Sword: Aah, my one true love. Good damage, a bit of AOE, but more importantly the FASTEST weapon in the ranger's arsenal. You'll see why this is important with the traits below.  and  offer great evades which, along with dodge, helps counteract the build's low toughness & HP. The animation also looks great!
- Warhorn: Big uptime of AOE Swiftness, Fury & Might = OP. Also, birdies. Nuff said.
- Quickening Zephyr: This skill is an absolute beast, even with the long cooldown. You attack with your sword twice as fast (which is very, very fast!) and therefore double your amount of crits. This skill absolutely melts through any PVE mob's HP bar. Bonus effect: reviving (and mining!) twice as fast.
- Signet of the Wild & Signet of Stone: These two skills severely increase you and your pet's survival rate with additional toughness & regen. Stone's active acts as a panic button as you F3 your pet out of the battle so it doesn't die (to keep the low cooldown on pet swap).
- Rampage as One: RaO was a great skill in GW and remains so in GW2. The Fury, Stability, Swiftness & Might buffs transform you into an unbeatable juggernaut, which added with QZ & Call of the Wild lets you solo mobs sometimes 5 levels higher than you.
- Healing: anything you like. Everyone has his own preference. I use Healing Spring in general for team buffing & condition removal. A few great topics on the ranger subforum cover this extensively.
This is where this build really shines. The traits I've used focus on the synergy between critical hits and pet damage output, so both me and my pet deal as much damage as possible to the target. Let me show you why all the choices in this guide fit together:
- Marksmanship: Opening Strike & Alpha Training both serve one purpose: stack vulnerably on your foe to rip him to shreds. Steady Focus & Piercing arrows transform you into an AOE machine gun when switching to your shortbow.
- Skirmishing: my favorite trait line - In addition to raising your crit chance & damage, the traits in this line offer great synergy with pets. Pet's Prowess combined with a feline pet (high crit chance) means insane damage coming from the little thing. Add Furious Grip and your will raise it even further. But Companion's Might is the overall best trait IMO: every time you crit (and this is why you want QZ and Fury!) your pet gains Might. Carnivorous appetite aligned with your utility skills and the JAguar's F2 stealph make your pet very, very hard to kill.
- Wilderness survival: Although this is a crit oriented build, the ten points in WS give a world of good: the +50% endurance regen adds to your mobility & damage thanks to Steady Focus in MM, and Expertise Training adds to your pet damage even more. Note: You can take Wilderness Knowledge (20% Survival skill recharge to have QZ more often if you prefer).
- Beastmastery: Masters Bond. That's all there is to it. By rapidly gaining stacks, your pet becomes an invincible killing machine. Note: do NOT let your pet die! If your pet gets under 20% health, use Signet of Stone, Jaguar F2, F3, or switch to bear. I repeat, do NOT let your pet die!
- Jaguar & Lynx: These two kitties are your main partners & damage dealers and will be out 80% of the time (a part from very difficult mobs where you need a bear to tank or devourers for ranged). Feline pets have 2100 precision which added to buffs from traits leads to insane amounts of damage. They have remarkably high survivability, and look great! Mine are called Nibbles One and Two. Remember to switch between them often (for regen & quickness).
- Brown Bear: This little guy is a tanking powerhouse. Once the enemy has focused on him, you can attack like crazy knowing that the bear can withstand a huge amount of hurt. The F2 is useful for a condition cleaner (I hate being crippled) but you can switch to an Arctodus for the bleeds instead. Mine is called Desmond the Moon Bear
- For additional details on pets, check out Sycthrex's amazing Pet Guide.
- For Runes & Insignias, you can decide to play either glass cannon or more tanky with Runes of Divinity, which I'm running now. I use the Quickness sigils as you will quick very often and it is a very easy way to double your damage output for a short period of time.
- Take care to keep improving precision or your critical hit rate will decrease rapidly as you level up.
- Pets can attack a different target than you using F1. This is fantastic to rapidly fill hearts as using this build your pet will be able to take down just about any mob alone.
- While under level 80, I'd suggest a general leveling priority of skirmishing > beastmastery > marksmanship.
- Keep your pet alive using F2, F3, F4 and signet of stone - no excuses. However, swap often - the quickness is really that good.
- For dungeons: I will write a more comprehensive dungeon section in the future. For now: focus on shortbow, switch to horn to buff you and your team, switch to a longbow if you need heavy AOE. For pets, use double cats on bosses, bears & devourers/spiders for anything else.
Current level: 80
I've reached level 80 and this build is still as good and fun to play as it was at lower levels. I can rapidly melt through most enemies and the need for mobility/evasion keeps me on my toes.
Older: level 50
Build has been fantastic so far. Very low resistance to damage, but the huge damage output & overall fun experience is completely worth it. I'm still not 100% certain on using longbow as offhand weapon, but otherwise I'm pretty set (comments always welcome!).
The one annoyance I still have is that Sword  locks you in place. Although this means your character is always in range, it can make dodging out of heavy enemy attacks buggy and I've died several times when I could easily have evaded - I'm sure Anet will correct this once they have taken care of the larger priority issues.
Just a quick note: I am one of the rare players who think pets are in a good shape right now and with proper management, will not die and can deal massive amounts of damage. Even the pet AI is okay IMO - I'd just wish pets could jump down walls without me having to store or switch them.
The ranger is in a great place right now and I really like how they've built the class. I'm a fervent believer that there is no "best build" out there and all ideas are viable depending on how they are played - you might find that you prefer the typical SB & Axe/Horn condition build over mine. On the other hand, please don't hesitate to try this out and leave feedback, I'm learning along all of you and there is always ways to improve.
See you ingame!
1.1: Level 80 edit: switched to Shortbow, Jaguar pet. Optimized traits. Dungeon part coming soon.
1.2: Switched to dual cat Mighty Swap. Added General tips section. Still need to do dungeon & wvw parts :<
Edited by Liru, 02 October 2012 - 11:45 AM.