Just wanted to put forward some thoughts I've had about roles in GW2 and how the Elementalist sits within those roles. Apologies if it appears as if I'm teaching you to suck eggs, I'm writing this as if talking to someone new to the game.
Most people are familiar with the 'Holy Trinity' from previous MMO's. You would either be playing as a tank, healer or DPS and there would be a set requirement for dungeon runs (i.e. 1 healer, 1 tank, 3 DPS). This caused some gameplay issues as you would be reliant on a tank or healer being available to run a dungeon, and this could cause some disparity in people's gameplay experience.
To avoid this GW2 have allowed any set of classes to band together and run dungeons, and allowed all classes to have self-heals to remove the need for a dedicated healer. Good bye to the holy trinity!!
In my experience, however, there is a need for a certain amount of balance in the group dyamic for a successful dungeon run. I'd like to coin the phrase "Holy Synergy" for this. Imagine a triangle, with the 3 points labelled Damage, Support and Survive. The group needs to be relatively balanced between these 3 points to be able to succeed.
Imagine that you run with a group where everyone has a build designed to keep themselves alive for as long as possible. They are all focused on the "survive" point of the triangle, and will most likely fail to complete the dungeon as they won't have the damage output to take bosses down and no support for when they're overwhelmed by mobs.
If the same happens with damage focused groups they probably lack the survivability to progress, and support will also probably lack the damage to continue.
At this point I'd like to say there are very little absolutes in GW2. There are going to be builds which buck the trends and provide both survivability and damage or support, but I believe the above is a general rule for making a group as likely to succeed as possible.
Now to the Elementalist specific part of this.....GW2 have stated that the Elementalist has the highest skill ceiling of any profession, and I believe that is because it is the profession with the most options of ay class. Again and again I read articles where people come up with arguments as to why one thing or another is better and I really think that it depends on the situation. I'm not going to use this article to say why something is the best build, just throw a few pointers in for anyone who is not too sure about what to do. I'm sure there will still be people who disagree with what I say here and they may well be right. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.
I think that when most people pick an elementalist it is because of their inherent support capabilities which can make them great in dugeons. The most logical choice for support is to pump points into water and arcana trait lines to get increased healing and boon duration and then to pick a staff to lay down a load of combo fields and aoe healing from a distance. I would say now though that this does have a couple of cons. 1) You're reliant on others noticing the fields and having the intelligence to lay down some blast finishers to proc the area boons to get the most out of it or 2) you're going to have to sacrifice the range to get close enough to use your own blast finishers. While there are a couple which are part of the staff weapon abilities using arcane wave and churning earth through evasive arcana will allow you to initiate more of these yourself. (If using a staff for fields I would advise using Blasting staff from, I think, the Arcana tree. While it will still only affect 5 enemies at once regardless of the size it will increase the chances that a team mate will receive the boons from the field\blast combos)
Another option is to use Dagger/Dagger or Dagger/Focus and use "Powerful Auras" from 30 points in Water. This (if specced correctly) can allow you to provide Swiftness, Fury and Protection to your team nearly all the time, however it does mean they will need to be close to you to pick up the effect and you will need to be in the thick of things for them to receive the boons. There is an argument about this build and whether Signets or Cantrips are better but there are plenty of posts on here about this and I've got enough to talk about without going into that.
Damage builds are my absolute favourite, and the Elementalist has a whole host of options on how to output damage. The main things to consider are whether you want to use condition damage (i.e. Bleeds or Burns) to take mobs down or direct damage, and spec accordingly. All weapons are viable for this, though I never use focus for anything so not too sure about it. Staff has great AOE damage fro a distance, Scepter\Dagger has great AOE damage from close in, and Dagger\Dagger and great single target damage (though can still be used cleverly to damage multiple foes at once). I've run all of these and found that all options can be used effectively. My advice is to find what works for you. I personally used to love condition damage with S\D using 30 points in earth and 30 points in Arcana with 10 in Air for quick glyphs while I was running around Orr by myself. Stack some might in fire using fire 4, fire 2, fire 3 and Arcane Wave and then lay down some conditions with Churning earth from evasive arcana. Run around using all the CC left in earth and air until everything has recharged and then repeat. Thought I was the bee knees until I ran a dungeon with others who were damage based and realised that beyond stacking area might (which plenty of classes can do) it was a relatively selfish build, and that wasn't how I wanted to play.
Survive. Why do we need to do this? Mainly because by staying up we can allow others to run in from waypoints and continue a boss encounter without a reset. But how can an elementalist do this? Surely this should be a guardian, warrior, or necro's job? Maybe so but it is possible for an Elementalist to survive against bosses for a limited time. While a lot of CC will not work on a boss an Elementalist is one of the most mobile classes in the game and when correctly specced regenerate vigor and endurance eough to keep evading attacks until others can run back. I would most definitely advise D/D for this role, though S/D has more CC most bosses won't be affected, and D/D allows you to proc more aura's. Use cantrips and ensure you have cantrips set up to grant regen and vigor (needs 10 in water). I'd advise Cleansing Flame, Mist Form and Teleport. Make sure you have 10 in Air for Fury and Swiftness and at least 10 in earth for protection. Remember as the main point of this is to survive we don't need to worry about Powerful aura's and as we're not using signets we don't need 20 in fire for the Fire shield from signets trait. I'd probably dump 20 in Arcana for boon duration to maximise uptime and the rest into earth for that additional toughness. You could then add the earth trait for Armor of earth at 50% health (another cantrip so will probably give you regen and vigor but I haven't tested) and the Arcana trait for Arcane shield at 25%. This should allow enough utility and survivablilty to allow others to get back into the fight after dying and stop a wipe from happening.
OMG I've rambled on like an old man recounting war stories to his polite but bored grand children. Hopefully you haven't fallen asleep on your keyboard.
I started as an Elementalist thinking I'd just give it a quick try before creating my main as a Necromancer, which I had played during the beta weekends. I still haven't created that Necro because I quickly got addicted to using a staff for Meteor Strike (laughing maniacally while raining fiery death on my enemies). When I started getting trounced by mobs getting too close to me I swapped to S\D and fell in love with churning earth and condition damage and just the general survivability of the build I was using. Then I hit 80 and decided to go run some dungeons and discovered that the pugs I was in just kept failing and realised that that was because we lacked the synergy as described above. This then got me to start looking at support builds and I picked up on the auramentalist builds and fell in love all over again.
IMO the Elementalist is the most fun to play and complex class in GW2, possibly in any MMO. The sheer amount of utility the different builds provide means that there is somethig for everyone, and this I believe is what causes so much friction on posts where people state that they have a great build.
If you're a noobie to GW2 or the Elementalist class I hope that the above will help you out and encourage you to experiment with the class. If you're an experienced Elementalist and want to put forward your thoughts on builds or the above synergy I'd love to hear your ideas. By no means am I a top Elementalist player, I've just put in some hours and think that the above is the way things work. If ypou want to post any builds that fit into this synergy I'd also love to see them, but please DO NOT start to argue about which build is best, just put your thoughts forward and have an open mind. The best build is so down to situation, player ability and opinion it's just not worth getting stressed about.
Edited by MegaCotts, 28 December 2012 - 02:32 PM.