"A 'Support Build' in this game can be likened to the use of undergarments. Little realize how important it is until it is sorely missing."
The Necromancer in Guild Wars 2 has been considered an enigma by some. Numerous queries have been posted to these forums in search for suggestions on viable builds for this profession. Fortunately, there's also been a steady proliferation of guides proposing a myriad of excellent builds. It is hoped that this guide will provide yet another build for consideration, with references to the Guild Wars 2 Wiki and explanations for the benefit of the newer players in our midst.
This guide proposes a 'Balanced/ Support' build which readily allows switching of utility skills between Corruptions and Wells, while providing great benefits to allies in small group play. This build excels in mitigating or reducing damage from foes through debuffing (with frequent weakness along with chill, blind, cripple and vulnerability), is adept at condition control, has the ability to provide useful combo fields, with poison and bleed conditions for damage over time, utilises Death Shroud to increase survivability, and to augment its weapon and utility skills.
The traitline setup also grants access to what could be some of the best minor traits available to the Necromancer, including Furious Demise, Target the Weak and Last Gasp.
The variant that involves the use of Wells is very capable on land, even in large 'zerg fights' where the Corruption skills appear to struggle. While underwater, Wells are not usable, but this is coincidentally the type of combat that a lot of players would rather avoid, so it is here that the Corruption skills have a chance to shine. This is helped further by the high density of foes in some underwater locations.
A Little About Myself
In 'real life' I work as a full-time veterinarian and have done so for over 5 years as of this time. Hobbies include photography, fishing and also writing. In the past I used to write product reviews for a website which demanded detail, which might explain why some of my posts on this forum have been [unnecessarily] verbose and formal. Hopefully this guide will hold your interest despite the detail. I've always enjoyed helping people and animals of all kinds and try to apply this to everything I do...whether it may be at an online forum or in a multiplayer game. As such I hope this guide will be helpful and worth the time you spend reading it. As always, feedback is greatly appreciated, especially if any errors need to be corrected.
The Build and its two of its Variants
The links above demonstrate only two broad variants based on the same trait line setup, which in reality gives a lot of flexibility in your choice of traits, which you can modify out of combat to fit your playstyle or requirements, without needing to spend any in-game coin on a re-trait. It is recommended to open the links to both the build variants above and review them side by side while reading the guide. This is because the key traits of choice are within those templates while other potential choices are discussed later in the guide. Notice that in the case of either build, I did not include the use of any amulets or jewelry, however the choice of gear attributes is covered towards the end of the guide.
Trait Line Setup
Curses (30 points invested)
Other than the options covered in the two build templates above, some of the other useful traits available are:
Weakening Shroud- This will cast the near equivalent of Enfeebling Blood (a dagger OH skill) over your current position as you enter Death Shroud. A strong ability with limited range due to its 240 unit radius.
Spectral Attunement- A potential choice if you decide to use Spectral skills such as Spectral Walk (incredible for its base 30 seconds of swiftness plus Life Force generation if struck during the 'spectral' phase), Spectral Armor (substandard at this point with only 6 seconds of protection on a 90 second cooldown) or Spectral Wall (tricky to use, but undeniably useful, is both offensive and defensive and provides an additional combo field) instead of Plague Signet. Spectral Grasp is another offensive and useful skill that can be used in some situations.
Blood Magic (20 points invested)
Other useful traits worth discussing are:
Dagger Mastery and/ or Bloodthirst- Offensive-defensive (respectively) options for a dual dagger Necromancer.
Mark of Evasion- Another very good trait. The Mark of Blood from this trait differs from the staff counterpart mainly because it is also a blast finisher.
Vampiric Precision- Currently substandard, but has the potential to be very useful with a high precision build such as this one, if health siphoning is improved.
Transfusion- Awesome area of effect (AoE) healing (albeit in pretty small amounts in this build) for your allies, and less situational than Ritual of Life, but the latter makes this build a superb reviver because the resulting Well of Blood heals you, then leaves a lingering light field and minor healing for the next 10 seconds.
Soul Reaping (20 points invested)
Vital Persistence- A good trait to consider instead of Soul Marks if you find yourself frequently running out of Life Force through natural drain. Personally I find that this build generates plenty of Life Force in actual use.
Spectral Mastery- Like Spectral Attunement, a reasonable choice if you prefer to use Spectral skills instead of Plague Signet.
Unyielding Blast- An underrated trait with good potential, but it may be tempting to be stuck in auto-attack mode instead of cycling through your other weapon skills and utilities in a more efficient manner.
Mark of Revival- Excellent in combination with Ritual of Life in cases where you find yourself getting a lot of other players on their feet, which does happen on a fair few occasions.
Decaying Swarm- Situational, but if you are in a real pickle and need to kite away then this could save your life!
Choice of Utilities
Some of the other useful utilities (besides those already mentioned) that will fit into either one of the two broad variants suggested above are:
Corrupt Boon- Useful on some of the big champs/ bosses that self-boon. A lot of these same foes are unshakable which makes blind markedly less effective. Occasionally you will also encounter trash mobs that are immune to blind. If you are using the Wells variant of the build, use Well of Corruption instead.
Signet of Undeath- Very slow to cast, easily interrupted skill. Occasionally wasted since the downed player will either die, be revived by another player or rally through getting a kill. Pull it off successfully in a sour situation however, and it will turn the tide dramatically. This skill allows you to revive another player while standing a safe distance away from the action. Logically this skill would be well complemented by Ritual of Life and Mark of Revival, but both of these traits trigger at your location rather than at the location of the revived ally.
Summon Flesh Wurm- The primary purpose of this skill in an otherwise non-minion build is for mobility. At this time my experience with it is purely experimental. Occasionally I've encountered instances where I had to traverse areas with dangerous/ annoying foes that I'd rather not fight. Spectral Walk would not necessarily get me out of these situations by itself. In the future, I will be testing these two skills in combination to see how well they work.
Choice of Elite
This will be brief, because truly, both Plague and Lich form are very good Elite skills. Plague is naturally more fitting in a 'support' build with its strong crowd control (CC) abilities, while Lich form is incredibly damaging and game-changing because of its offensive nature, providing a giant boost to power and critical chance. It has minor CC ability with Chilling Wind and arguably Mark of Horror, and Grim Specter as condition control. Plague form is my personal choice in dungeons where I prefer to play a supportive role, while in open world PvE events, zergs, farming and solo situations, I prefer Lich for its ability to destroy foes.
Choice of Weapons
To be concise, I favor the staff as my main weapon, especially combined with Wells which provide fields for additional combos. On a weapon swap my personal choice for an offhand (OH) has always been the dagger. The choice of mainhand (MH) is a little more murky. The scepter, axe and dagger MH each have their own uses.
Under the most controlled conditions I could achieve, the scepter autoattack trumps that of the axe, dropping a heavy armored golem more quickly and by a good margin. In a separate test rotating through the three skills of each weapon, the scepter still comes up on top. On a light armored golem the difference is smaller, but the impression I get is that in this particular build, the scepter is more damaging than the axe under most circumstances. With the number of conditions you can stack on a target, Feast of Corruption deals very attractive damage on a single target. Caps to bleed and poison stacks during many big boss fights does limit the usefulness of the scepter in these cases. Choose between the axe and the dagger instead to deal more 'vanilla' (direct) damage.
The axe has the edge when it comes to Life Force generation and the ability to stack vulnerability which other players can then take advantage of. It also appears to trigger weakness from Withering Precision more often than attacks from a scepter. Ghastly Claws is hard hitting and has a low cooldown, while Unholy Feast deals area of effect (AoE) damage, is an AoE cripple, grants retaliation to self, and can be useful for getting 'tags' on a mob while farming with a team.
Both the axe and dagger MH are stronger than the scepter when used on inanimate objects (which do not take damage from conditions) such as turrets and gates. The dagger MH autoattacks are strong and generate Life Force quickly, with the drawback of requiring the player to be in melee range. Life Siphon on the dagger MH however, is awesome with its offensive and minor defensive capability.
In the interest of constantly generating Life Force (which will keep you in Death Shroud more often and protect your health pool), I will usually pick either the scepter or axe over the dagger. Sometimes I have all three available to choose from as the need dictates. With this traitline setup, it is easy to re-trait for the use of the dagger if you wish, with a focus on siphoning health.
The staff is a natural choice for many builds, particularly a defensive one like the one proposed here. It is a long-range weapon with tremendous levels of utility that can be used and abused with the dark combo fields from Wells. By itself, the staff provides one combo field (poison) from Chillblains, plus two combo finishers from Putrid Mark (reliably generates area weakness when used with a poison field) and Necrotic Grasp.
Wait patiently for the mob to get into position, drop a Well of Suffering, then quickly lay on Chillblains, followed by Putrid Mark and then Mark of Blood. This will only take seconds to perform, causing weakness, blindness, chill, bleeding and poison on up to 5 foes within a radius, plus ongoing damage and stacking vulnerability from the Well of Suffering for a short period of time and regeneration on allies within the radius of Mark of Blood.
For additional CC, there are many options at your disposal. Well of Darkness is an AoE blind pulsing every second for 5 seconds, while the use of Plague of Darkness while in Plague form can blind foes in the same manner for the entire 20 second duration. Deathly Swarm from dagger OH also blinds up to 3 targets. Traiting for Chilling Darkness further strengthens the utility of these skills. Reaper's Mark and the Death Shroud fear skills, Doom and Wave of Fear are also indispensible CC skills.
Use Plague Signet (currently bugged to some degree, sometimes copying conditions from allies to yourself rather than actually removing them, but once fixed will become a superb stun break and condition control) and Putrid Mark to remove conditions from allies and transfer them to a foe. If you are conditioned and struggling with both those skills on cooldown, use Deathly Swarm (still bugged to some degree, see the Wiki for more info) or turn them to your benefit by using Consume Conditions.
Death Shroud is one of the Necromancer's coolest abilities and should be used frequently, not just as an 'Oh $%*^' button to soak damage when disabled or when you forsee a big hit and have run out of energy to dodge, but to apply pressure and for its CC abilities such as fear (with Doom) and chill (with Dark Path which also adds bleeding). Life Transfer is useful AoE damage and I tend to use it straight after getting into Death Shroud to take advantage of the bonus from Furious Demise, but like any channeled skill it is easily interrupted, so take some care before using it. This build encourages the use of Death Shroud by traiting for reduced cooldown on all its associated skills through Path of Midnight.
Avoid getting stuck in auto-attack mode. Instead, cycle through your weapon skills (on both weapon slots), utilities, Death Shroud and Elite form (where appropriate) to apply consistent pressure. I'm personally adverse to face-tanking and prefer to practice active dodging, kiting and circle-strafting where necessary, always watching my allies, foes and my position on the field.
Choice of Gear Attributes, Runes & Sigils
Obtaining a high level of precision is one of the aims of this build, with secondary attention to toughness and condition damage, then critical damage and power being of tertiary importance. High precision works defensively with Withering Precision to keep weakness on a foe more often, while a critical hit is always a welcome bonus to damage. With that in mind, consider using armor and/ or weapons with the following inscriptions:
More aggressive options: Rampager and Berserker
More defensive options: Knight and Rabid
Rabid gear is a good match for this build, but the inscription cannot be crafted and gear with these attributes is difficult to obtain or expensive, so consider this a long-term goal if you wish to go this route. See here for more detail on item attributes. Mix and match items with different attributes to achieve the balance that suits your playstyle.
For Runes, choose amongst the following, using a set of up to 6 of the same runes:
More expensive- Superior Rune of the Eagle, Thief or Ranger (take a set of 5)
Middle ground- Superior Rune of Lyssa
Cheapest for PvE- Superior Rune of Rata Sum
In theory, the 6th bonus from a full set of Superior Runes of Lyssa is tremendous for Lich form, however as of the last test there are some bugs. Going into Lich form does not grant you any boons. If you stay in Lich until the entire duration, you also do not receive any boons when returning to normal form. However, if you get out of Lich form before the entire 30 second duration is over, then the boons are applied. With Plague form however, the boons are applied as promised. This has been queried with Support for clarification.
Superior Rune of Rata Sum is a diamond in a rough, an inexpensive set that meshes well with the one of the philosophies of this build in PvE only: applying weakness as often as possible and for as long as possible. For WvW however, its effectiveness is reduced. My assumption is that Radiation Field would never trigger since it is a racial (and hence PvE only) skill.
When it comes to Sigils, choose amongst the following:
Staff- Superior Sigil of Earth, Debility (does take effect when you apply area weakness with Putrid Mark in Chillblain's combo field), Fire (offensive, and for farming), or Accuracy.
Scepter- Superior Sigil of Earth or Agony.
Axe- Superior Sigil of Earth, Accuracy or Fire.
Dagger OH- Superior Sigil of Agony, Accuracy, Debility or Fire.
Sigils do take effect even in Death Shroud. Those that have a chance to apply their effect on a critical hit will work very well with Life Transfer and the short-term bonus effect of the minor Curses trait, Furious Demise. When dual wielding, be aware that two such identical sigils have a combined 36% chance to take effect, not 40% (as per info on the Wiki page on Sigils).
If you read through all of that and reached the end, then I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your time and attention and hope the information was helpful. If you didn't read it all, no matter either! The bottomline however is that none of this information is gospel truth. It is merely an opinion. It is expected that many builds and variants will emerge as the game continues to mature and the Necromancer finds its place amongst other professions. In the meantime, it is hoped that this guide was useful to you in some way, and that you will in time, find the build that is perfect for YOU.
Till then nevertheless, happy playing!
Edited by Xekk, 27 October 2012 - 11:12 AM.