The DPSer's get all the glory because they're pulling the high numbers and getting the kills, but the support class is about helping those DPSer's do their job to the maximum potential.
In most other MMOs, support characters are relegated to "healers" and "crowd control" roles. However, the mechanics of Guild Wars 2 are very different. You cannot play a dedicated healing class in this game, and if you try, you will not be able to heal on the level you need to for you to be an "effective" healer. This is by design. Every profession in the game is able to deal damage, heal, and offer utility to allies. Because of this, no one class can truly specialize in anything other than being a damage dealer.
However, that DOESN'T mean you cannot spec your character to offer group support and utility. You just cannot be a "pure healer" in the traditional sense.
In my opinion, "support" in Guild Wars 2 breaks down into the following categories:
- Condition Removal
Buffing is about applying boons to yourself and allies that will help them in some way, be it through increasing their Damage dealing, enhancing Damage Mitigation, enhancing Movement or Attack Speed, or improving health regeneration. Buffs in this game are represented by yellow shields that will appear when you are under their effects.
Condition Removal is a form of healing. Conditions bypass armor, so their damage is not mitigated by the toughness/armor stat. Conditions can stack in intensity and duration, and can eat through a player's health pool extremely quickly. Being able to remove conditions on your teammates is a vital part of being a support character. Conditions take the form of red shields that will appear when they are affecting you.
Rezzing is another form of healing. When a player reaches zero health, they enter what is called a "Down State," where they have a chance to recover. Should they fail, they will be dead. A proper support player can help rally downed players by resurrecting (aka "rezzing") them. Players in a downed state can be rezzed quicker than a player that has been fully downed.
Healing is about replacing a character's lost health to prevent them from being downed.
So a player who is properly performing in a Support Capacity will be doing all four of these things while in a group. Now, keep in mind that all players can perform these actions to support their team, no matter what their class. However, players who spec their character to maximize these skills will offer a greater amount of support to their team.
A Note About Damage
Many players dislike playing support roles because they feel they cannot "kill" anything. However, because of the way the stats work in GW2, if you are able to equip full exotic armor, your power and attack will be on par with most other damage classes. However, you will not see huge spikes or burst damage because you will have a very small critical hit chance.
Therefore, you will not be gimping yourself if you choose to play support, but other classes or builds WILL be able to kill quicker than you. You can assist your team with your attacks, but your goal isn't to kill, it's to help kill. As long as you are able to keep your DPSer's operating at maximum potential, you are bringing more to the party than you would be if you were trying to maximize your DPS output.
So as long as you're okay knowing you won't be racking up lots of kills, you should be okay for playing a support role in the game. If that thought bothers you, playing a support role may not be the right choice.
Support Weapons For The Guardian
A big part of playing the support role is to choose the right weapon for the kind of support you wish to offer. Here are the top weapons for the Guardian that offer some type of support for the group:
1. The Staff - this is the Guardian's #1 support option. Any support-oriented Guardian without a staff is not a true support player. The staff offers healing, swiftness buffs, might buffs, crowd control, and condition removal, all in one weapon. I'm not going to say the Staff is mandatory for a support Guardian, but if you want to maximize your support potential, this is a weapon you should not be without.
2. Two Handed Hammer - the Hammer offers symbol-based retaliation buffs, as well as crowd control. It is also good for AOE-based melee damage.
3. The Mace - this weapon offers symbol-based healing, as well as the ability to shield players.
4. The Shield - this off-hand weapon offers the ability to grant protection to allies, as well as some crowd control and projectile protection.
5. The Focus - this off-hand weapon isn't as group oriented as the Shield, but it offers the chance to blind up to four enemies, and gives the user some protection in the form of it's shield.
I have found that the best support combo for weapons is Staff with a Scepter/Focus or Scepter/Shield as your alternate weaponset. But this is a personal choice based on what type of support you want to offer your group.
Armor Sets For Support Guardians
When making a support character, the thing you'll want to focus the most on is SURVIVABILITY. In this sense, you'll be creating a "tank" character who can take a lot of damage. The reasoning behind this is that the longer you're able to survive, the longer you can support your team and the better able you are to rez your teammates should they need it.
In WvW and Dungeons where you will be exposed to high damage attacks, the increased survivability you're able to bring to the table is invaluable. With a support build, you will very rarely die - it does happen, but only if it's unavoidable.
So your primary stat focus should be on Vitality and Toughness. This will increase your ability to both mitigate attack damage and survive lots of condition damage as well.
The ideal armor set for a support based Guardian is the "Soldier's Armor," which is a generic term I use to describe armor that has the Power/Toughness/Vitality stat combination attached to it. You can find this armor in 4 locations:
1. Ascalon Catacombs Vendor (Lion's Arch) - Bought with tokens from the Ascalonian Catacombs Dungeon
2. Honor of the Waves Vendor (Lion's Arch) - Bought with tokens from the Honor of the Waves Dungeon
3. Orr Karma Vendors (Various Locations in Cursed Shore in Orr) - Bought with influence for 42,000 a piece.
4. WvW Armor Vendor (In any WvW map) - Bought with Badges of Honor gained from killing players in WvW.
Getting a full set of "Soldier's Armor" will maximize the toughness and vitality you can gain from armor, and make you able to survive most encounters. This is a huge boon to allowing you to rez your teammates and continue to buff them and heal them.
Until you're able to go full Soldier Armor, however, I'd recommend using exotic Valkyrie armor. This will maximize your health pool and dramatically increase your survivability. I've found that full exotic armor gives you enough defense that you won't notice the lack of toughness in your build, and having a health pool of 20,000 will keep you up longer than if you had a smaller health pool and more toughness.
Some players will prefer to use Knight's Armor instead. This comes down to personal choice. I've found Valkyrie armor superior. But eventually, it should all be replaced with the Soldier's Armor for the best of both worlds.
Some people might argue that Cleric's Gear is worth taking because of the Healing Power you get from it. I tend to disagree. I've found Healing Power to be a very poor stat in this game, and I think it's that way by design. ArenaNet does not want dedicated healers in GW2, and trying to be one is a waste of time and effort. I'll show you how to get enough healing power to be an "effective" healer a little later in this guide. But just know I believe Cleric Armor, or any armor with the Healing Power Stat, to be useless and an unwise investment.
For a support oriented build, I recommend going full exotic Valkyrie trinkets - amulet, 2 earrings, 2 rings. This will help you reach that uber 20K health pool you'll need. For the back slot, you have two options...
The first is the Guild Defender Backpack, which will give you +20 Power, +14 Toughness, and +14 Vitality. The Second is the Guild Caretaker Backpack, which will give you +20 Healing Power, +14 Vitality, and +14 Precision. I'd recommend the Defender Backpack since Healing Power doesn't scale well and you get enough of that stat from other sources (which we'll discuss in a bit).
The Guild Defender Backpack can be bought from the Guild Armorer if your Guild has unlocked that upgrade. It cost 5 Gold, but is the best backpiece in the game.
For a support character, you're going to want to utilize Rune bonuses to help the utility you bring to the group. So any runes that do not help you to buff, cure conditions, heal, or rez are not worth your time.
There are lots of runes out there you can choose to apply to your character, however I believe that for a support Guardian, our ability to apply boons to our teammates is our greatest support role, so choosing rune sets that allow us to enhance our boons is a wise investment of our resources.
My favorite set of Runes to use are what I like to call the "Holy Trinity." This is because you are actually mixing 3 different sets of runes to maximize your boon duration bonuses.
The Holy Trinity is:
- 2 Superior Runes of The Water
- 2 Superior Runes of the Monk
- 2 Major Runes of Sanctuary
The #2 set bonus for each of these Runes is an increase in Boon Duration. With all three of these sets in place, you will have a +40% increase in boon duration, which means all buffs you apply to yourself and your allies will be increased by 40%.
Yes, that's right. The people you apply buffs to benefit from your boon duration increase. This means the might you cast on them lasts longer, the swiftness you cast on them last longer, the Retaliation, Quickness, Protection, etc.
You can certainly choose other runes to apply to your armor, but I've found this combination to be the most beneficial for a support role. In the build I'm going to share with you, you will have a 90% increase to boon duration. This allows you to keep swiftness on your group permanently, and if you have a similarly-specced teammate, you can keep perma-might on your group as well.
Make sure you have a Superior Sigil of Life applied to your main weapon. This will give you a 25 stack each time you kill a foe that ups your healing power. With a full 30 points in Honor and a full 25 stack of life, you should have around 500 healing power, which is more than enough to make you an effective healer.
You'll also want a Superior Sigil of Energy on your 2nd weapon set to give you an extra dodge roll heal. The third Sigil is up to your personal preference. The Superior Sigil of Water, which gives you a 30% chance to heal, seems to only happen on crit, and your crit chance is so low in this build it's not worth the investment. Instead, you may want to use something that strips boons from enemies.
You will want to keep a large supply of Chocolate Omnomberry Cream on you at all times. This consumable gives you +20% boon duration increase that lasts for 30 minutes. When I'm with a team in a dungeon or in WvW, I'm eating these whenever I need to. They're necessary for the +90% boon duration.
You can have 2 consumables active at once. One food, and one potion. Depending on the dungeon you're going into, you'll want to consume the potion that will help you most against the mobs in there. In WvW, it's a personal choice as to which stat you'd want to boost, using a Maintenance Oil or Tuning Crystals.
This build focuses on the Guardian trait lines of Honor and Virtues, since they give you the most support potential. We also use the Valor line, but that's optional depending on your playstyle.
Here is the build:
Ultra Guardian Support Build
It is 0/0/10/30/30, fully speccing into both Honor and Virtues, with 10 points in Valor. The traits we choose are:
- Strength In Numbers - Nearby Allies Gain +30 Toughness
- Writ of Exaltation - Symbols Are Larger
- Two Handed Mastery - Two Handed Weapon Skills Recharge 20% Faster
- Writ Of The Merciful - All Symbols Heal Allies
- Consecrated Ground - Consecrations Use Ground Targeting
- Master Of Consecrations - Consecrations Recharge 20% Quicker & Last Longer
- Absolute Resolution - Virtue Of Resolve removes 3 conditions, it's passive effect is stronger
For most Support Guardians, the best utility comes in the forms of our consecrations, symbols, and shouts. Those are the skills we will primarily be using to support out teammates. Shouts are for buffs, symbols are for buffs and heals, and consecrations are for heals and condition removal.
Shouts tend to work best in dungeons, while consecrations really shine in WvW. Symbols are good for when you're travelling or defending points/keeps. But a combination of all three are the best use. This build is designed to help us maximize our Symbol and Consecration utility. But it can be changed to fit your personal style of play if necessary.
Putting 30 points in the Honor like gives you 300 Vitality (3,000 HP), and +300 Healing power, which is more than enough to be an effective healer in this game. We'll get a bit more healing power from our weapon buff, but we don't really need it.
Putting 30 points in the Virtues line makes our Virtues recharge faster, and gives us a +30% increase to our boon duration. 30 points in virtues, plus the Holy Trinity of runes, plus the consumable equals to +90% boon duration.
The ten points we put in Valor gives us just a little bit more toughness, and allows us to buff our allies with a bit extra damage mitigation.
The Utility Skills we use with this build are:
- Healing Breeze
- Purging Flames
- Wall of Reflection
- Tome of Courage
Healing Breeze is not our best heal, but this skill allows us to heal others a little bit. It's a little bit of a weaker self-heal than Signet of Resolve, with a 40 second cooldown. However, any allies standing in front of you will get healed by it. It's a decent cone heal, not great, but better than nothing. You just have to be sure you angle your character in front of those you want to heal in order for it to be effective.
Purging Flames is a good condition removal consecration. Not only that, but it can also be used offensively to burn enemies. It's also a fire combo field, so ranged users can shoot through it to apply burning to their target. You can cast this on allies, or place it far behind enemy lines to burn the bad guys. Plus, it's on a fairly quick cooldown.
Wall Of Reflection is the best skill a Guardian can have on his bar. This skill will block projectiles and send them back to the enemy that fired them, so it's an offensive skill. It's also a light combo field, so ranged users who shoot through it will cure a condition on themselves, making this skill invaluable to have. In WvW you can place this in front of a gate to protect it, or up on the ramparts so attacking defenders get their projectiles shot back at them.
Retreat is a great group speed buff that is useful for when you're travelling around the map. You can use this in conjunction with Symbol of Swiftness from the staff to keep refreshing it's swiftness boon for almost permanent swiftness. Plus, it also grants Aegis to 5 allies, so you all gain the chance to block the next attack after it's used. All in all, a great skill.
Now, you can swap these out for skills like Sanctuary, Hold the Line, Stand Your Ground, Save Yourselves, etc. It all depends on your playstyle. These are the ones I find most effective for me.
Tome Of Courage is for when you just need to heal your group. The #5 skill on this ability allows you to give everyone around you full health, and the #1 skill is an AOE targeted heal you can spam very easily. The other skills are group buffs and debuffs for your enemies. All in all, this is the best elite skill for a support guardian.
Very few Guardians know how to use their virtues properly. You're going to want to learn how to use the F1, F2, and F3 keys if you're going to be an effective support Guardian.
First off, know that the passive effect these virtues offer are crap compared to their active effects. So not using them for their passive benefits to yourself is a bad idea for support. You'll want to use them constantly while in battle to support your team.
Virtue of Judgement (F1) allows you to burn your target, which helps to DPS down the target your group is focusing on. This has the lowest recharge time of all the virtues, so use it whenever you can on bad guys. Just keep in mind that you actually have to HIT someone with your weapon to apply the burning.
Virtue of Resolve (F2) is a small AOE group heal. it doesn't heal for much, but when you trait into Absolute Resolution, it removes 3 conditions from you AND your allies! So it's also an AOE condition removal skill, which makes it ay-may-zung! This, combined with your consecrations, make it so that you are a condition removing machine, and your group will love you for it.
Virtue of Courage (F3) grates Aegis to yourself and up to 4 nearby allies (for a total of 5), which allows you and your allies to block attacks. When you cycle this with Retreat, you're able to prevent damage to your team on a fairly consistent basis. In big battles, I try to use this whenever it's off cooldown, or try to time it to block a big attack from a boss. It has the longest cooldown time, so plan accordingly.
How To Play A Support Role
In a support capacity, you'll very rarely be at the front lines of battle. You'll tend to hang back, keep an eye on your allies, and figure out the best way to assist them.
If you're in a party, learn to keep an eye on your party's portraits to see when they have conditions and boons applied to them.
Learn what the different boons and conditions are, and how they affect you.
Ground targeted Consecrations allow you to help choose where your consecrations will land, so you can place them where they'll do the most good. For shouts, you'll need to run to where you want the shouts to be applied, which is why you'll need major damage mitigation for a support role.
With this build, your dodge roll will heal yourself and allies, so dodging a lot will be spamming a group AOE heal which is pretty decent. If you have a sigil of energy on one of your weapons, use that to get an extra dodge roll heal in.
Use symbols to give a good Heal over Time to allies. Symbol of Swiftness is great for this, and this is an extremely useful skill in WvW, especially if you're defending a keep.
Try to grant Aegis to your allies whenever you can to help mitigate big attacks on your allies.
Use condition removal liberally. Your job is to get rid of conditions as soon as you see them. Don't slack on the job!
Use shouts and Empower to continually buff your allies. You always want to try and keep your team buffed as much as possible - especially if you have the increased boon duration!
Empower is your best healing skill. Use it whenever it's on cooldown to heal all your nearby allies. It will also buff their damage.
Try to use Healing Breeze on just 1 ally who really needs a heal. Don't try to use it to heal a ton of people.
BE SURE to tell your allies and teammates to fire through your combo fields to remove conditions and such. Most people don't know that firing their arrows through Wall of Reflection will cure them of conditions. By the same token, make sure you tell your team not to run out of symbols that have white lines around them, only red lines need to be feared!
Try and rez people in downed states only. If they are completely dead, wait for the battle to be over to rez them, otherwise you run the risk of getting killed while trying to rez your ally.
Also Virtues and Shouts do not break rezzing, so keeping them available for dangerous rezzes can be very helpful. Especially Virtue of Courage and Virtue of Justice (if its been traited for the AOE blind effect).
If you see a lot of people rezzing a player, use that opportunity to protect the people doing the rezing instead of joining in. Pop Aegis on them using Retreat or Virtue of Courage, and lay a symbol on them to keep them healed. If you can, drop a sanctuary on them as well. If you run with a mace or shield, this is the situation to use them in.
When using a shield, the protection buff is more powerful than the debuff, so use the #4 shield skill on your allies liberally.
If you use a focus, use #5 Shield of Wrath constantly, especially if you need to move into a situation where you'll be exposed to damage. You can also use this to ensure you can get your heal skill or elite skill off.
Finally, don't expect any thanks or glory. Your team or allies won't notice most of what you do. Support is a thankless job, but when you're NOT there, people tend to notice. Just know that the longer you can keep your team alive and moving, the better you're doing your job.
Thanks for reading this massive wall of text. This was a rather long post, but I hope it gave you a good idea of how to play a support oriented Guardian. I've tested this build in both Dungeons and World vs. World. It works great in WvW, but I prefer a more damage oriented spec in dungeons. However, if you enjoy the support role, running this build in dungeons will not hurt you.
As always, I welcome all feedback and suggestions.
Edited by Ultramatum, 23 October 2012 - 10:01 PM.