What This Thread Is For
A Description of the Necromancer
A Disclaimer on Conditionmancers versus Powermancers
Class Mechanic: Death Shroud
V. Putting It All Together
Tips for Leveling
VI. Builds and Gear
Death Shroud Builds
What This Thread Is For
Welcome, first and foremost. This thread is meant to be a resource for newcomers to the Necromancer profession. It has some basic info on the class, skills, and weapons, tips for leveling, and links and descriptions of several end-game builds. Hopefully it will be a place for discussion of the class in general. The guides and tips will focus largely on the Powermancer for two reasons: First, it’s my personal area of expertise, and second, because the current Meta for PvE is centered on direct damage. Conditions are viable, but they fall quickly behind direct damage builds in the most important PvE areas: high-end dungeons and fractals.
This thread is massively out-dated as of June 23, 2015. I'll be updating it slowly as I work through all of the builds/trait/specialization changes. Bear with me, if you will. Any input would be appreciated!
This thread has been updated with information following the April 15, 2014 patch. Given the huge rework to the leveling and trait system, many things have been made simultaneously more simply and complicated. Hopefully the edits here will sort those out.
My name’s Phenn. I’ve been playing the Power Necromancer since BWE2, and have buildcrafted through most of the Necromancer’s various nerfs and buffs. I have close to 800 hours clocked on three different Necros, and have tried just about every conceivable Power build available, as well as tinkered with many of the Condition builds that have cycled through the game releases. Though I personally enjoy the hard-hitting meta builds, many of the builds I’ve developed revolve around a particular playstyle that I enjoy rather than min/maxing damage. I can always be reached through PM here on Guru, or in-game at Phenn.5167.
I would be remiss not to mention several Necro players that have been instrumental in both the development of this guide and my understanding of the class in general. I'd be hard pressed to list everyone who's given insight, but the following stand out.
takarazuka - Taka was the Necro would got me interested in the class and who provided the foundations for my builds and plenty of discussion as I refined several of the concepts below.
OChunx, Pregnantman, and Nyid - These guys have helped along the way as sounding boards for new ideas, as well as offering much-needed critiques of both this guide and several others.
Loperdos - Good friend and guildie who's put up with my obsession with Necros and willingly joined my tests of many, many builds. Not a week goes by where Loper's not looking over some new brainchild of mine.
A Description of the Necromancer
I’d start this section with GW2’s official description, but the class in reality isn’t in the place that the development team would have it. So my description will focus on where the class is at the moment. The Necromancer is two things: First it’s an underdog class. Everything it does another class can do in an easier fashion, and often times better. You play a Necro because you want to play a Necro. Second, it’s a scrappy class. It can take hits and make mobs pay. It can mix it up in the middle of a swarm of enemies and come out on top—bruised and beaten, but victorious. Third, the Necro is selfish. To play in the best, Necros offer very little to a party in the way of buffs, boons, or heals (healing could be debated, but other classes still do it better). If you play a Necro, your job is to tangle with death and leave your party to clean up the rest.
A Disclaimer on Conditionmancers versus Powermancers
As my experience with Conditionmancers is very limited, and as others have done a far better job than I could of explaining the builds and playstyles, I will link/defer to them. I'll still provide a description of the weapons and playstyles that revolve around ConD builds. Suffice it to say that, in GW2’s PvE, Conditionmancers can be powerful, but suffer from the universal “gimp” that condition-caps apply. Because of the Meta's preference for Power builds, the majority of this guide will be devoted to Powermancers and how they play.
Class Mechanic: Death Shroud
Before we go any further, we have to address the unique class mechanic that makes Necros excel at this “scrappy” combat. Death Shroud is a toggleable second health pool that locks out weapon skills, utility skills, and elite skills, but offers five new combat skills. They are all useful to …kill all the things. On top of the new skills, any damage (whether direct or ConD) will hit your LF pool, and not your HP. While in DS, all hits are reduced by roughly half (due to a weird conversion factor that even the Devs can’t figure out). This is what makes Necros tanky, even in the glassiest of setups.
The skills are great for Power builds. The auto attack hits like a truck, even with its slow cast/aftercast time. The closer to the target you are the more damage it does. It can be traited to stack Might on yourself, pierce, and stack Vulnerability on enemies. DS #2 (Dark Path) is a slow teleport that Chills and Bleeds mobs around the target, and is an great supplement to ConD builds while in DS. DS #3 (Doom) is an insta-cast Fear that’s invaluable for interrupting big hits if you’ve been knocked down, and procs Terror for builds that take the trait. DS #4 (Life Siphon) is an AoE channel skill that does great DPS and refills your LF bar (better returns for hitting more mobs). DS #5 (Tainted Shackles) is an AoE bind skill that stacks Torment on mobs and, when it ends, immobilizes them, and further adds to ConD damage.
As awesome as DS skills are, the LF bar suffers a constant degen of 4% per second (2% if traited). In light of that, it’s not a good idea to hang out in DS if you’re not using the skills. One final strength of DS are the various traits that proc on entering or exiting DS. Builds that rely on these traits are dubbed “flash” builds, and can be useful in stacking quite a few boons and benefits on yourself, allies, and ConD and debuffs on enemies.
In many ways, Death Shroud plays like the Engi’s kits or the Ele’s attunements. It’s important to know that you can swap into DS to pop off a necessary skill whenever you need to even if you're CC'd. It also works as an efficient block (so long as you don’t have a sliver of HP left, as any spillover damage will carry through DS into your HP). Getting used to DS is key for a well-played Necro.
Nearly all the weapons that a Necro has access to can be used in a power build. The one possible exception is the Scepter, which is the mainstay of all ConD builds. The scepter itself has a rather low coefficient for direct damage, and has as its one saving grace a lot of ConD built in (see here for an extensive breakdown of Necro weapons’ coefficients). The rest find their place in the Powermancer’s arsenal in one way or another.
Dagger (D/ and /D)
The dagger is the mainstay of power builds that don’t rely on DS for their direct damage. The dagger has an incredibly fast auto attack at just 2.2 seconds. In that two-ish seconds, the dagger hits four times, which means high chances to proc on-crit traits and sigils, as well as making it an excellent weapon for Siphon builds.
D/ AA – Four hits over 2.2 seconds that generates 8% LF each rotation. Best option for quick generation of Life Force outside of A/ #2.
D/ #2 (Life Siphon) – Channeled siphon attack that hits nine times healing for approximate 200 HP per tick base. The heal scales slightly with healing power now, but not enough to merit stacking it (more on this and siphons in general below). Good skill to use when you need a breather or can’t close the gap with mobs.
D/ #3 (Dark Pact) – This skill does decent damage and drops a very long immobilize (3s) on the target. Use it to lock down Champs or Bosses in crucial spots or to hold high-mobility mobs in your wells.
/D #4 (Deathly Swarm) – This skill alone makes offhand dagger powerful. It damages, blinds three targets, and transfers three conditions to those targets. Every ConD build uses it, and many power builds will, too. This is definitely not a “spam on CD” skill, and can make or break a battle. It gets even better when traited to Chill on Blind.
/D #5 (Enfeebling Blood) – Even with the long CD (25 seconds, 20 if traited), this skill can turn the tides of an encounter. In a ConD build it’s two stacks of Bleeding in AoE. In Power build, it’s a long-duration AoE Weakness that can really help in situations where Blind is useless (a la Dredge Fractal). In a Power build, this is a potent tool, both for survivability as well as contributing to some group utility.
Where the dagger reigns supreme outside of DS, the axe rules in DS. It’s the only weapon in the Necro arsenal to get a direct-damage boost from traits, and that percentage boost transfers directly to all damage-oriented skills in DS. That being said, the weapon itself struggles from a very weak auto attack, and isn’t reliable by itself.
A/ AA – The AA of the axe stacks Vulnerability on the target, but suffers from a near-useless damage coefficient (with base power, the dagger AA has better DPS than the axe AA when buffed to 1800 power). As such, you should do everything in your power to avoid having to AA with the axe. If you need a few stacks of Vuln, that’s fine. But don’t spam it if you want damage.
A/ #2 (Ghastly Claws) – This skill is one of the axe’s saving graces. It’s on a relatively low CD, is a channeled attack, hits rather hard, and generates a decent chunk of Life Force. Like the Thief’s P/P skill Unload, this should be spammed on CD in order to build up LF in order to get back into DS.
A/ #3 (Unholy Feast) – This skill is a strange hybrid skill that has more applications in WvW than PvE. It hits up to five targets in AoE for decent damage, strips a boon from each, cripples, and stacks three seconds base of Retaliation for every target hit. It’s a good skill to pop before jumping into DS. But it’s not a DPS boost.
The focus is, perhaps, the best single-target offhand available to Powermancers. Each of its attacks debuff and control the target, and provide substantial boons to the user. Additionally, it’s unparalleled at LF-generation against single targets.
/F #4 (Reaper’s Touch) – This is a bounce skill, and as such must be carefully applied. Even though the range is stated at 900, the return bounce is a good deal shorter than that. So if you want to get the benefit of the bounce, it’s best used within 600 range. Given that, however, it’s a fantastic skill. Each bounce on an enemy does decent damage and drops four stacks of long-duration Vulnerability. Each bounce on an ally drops Regeneration, much like the Guardian’s Focus #4 skill. Additionally, it generates 4% LF per hit on an enemy, making it invaluable for generating LF against single targets. For this skill alone, it pairs well with A/.
/F #5 (Spinal Shivers) – This skill has more application in PvP settings where enemies stack boons. In performs the same in PvE, however, and can be useful against boon-stacking mobs like Dredge. It does good base damage, and adds damage per boon removed up to three. Additionally, it drops a decently-long Chill on the target making it good for control.
The warhorn is the single most valuable offhand in the Necro’s weapon choices. It provides unequalled control through both its skills, and synergizes well with nearly all Powermancer builds.
/Wh #4 (Wail of Doom) – This skill is a cone-AoE Daze two seconds long. It can be tricky to aim at first, but it excels at interrupting big attacks from a distance, or locking mobs down in Wells. Smart use of this skill can turn the tides of an encounter quickly. This can hit more than one target and also goes through targets, so if you have them stacked, they will all get dazed.
/Wh #5 (Locust Swarm) – Arguably the best Powermancer weapon skill, Locust Swarm is a PbAoE that lasts for 10 seconds (15 if traited—it should always be traited), and cripples and damages up to five mobs in range on a one-second pulse. Additionally, it generates 2% LF per mob hit per second, making it the fastest way to generate LF in AoE. On top of all that, it drops 10 seconds (15 traited) of Swiftness on the user.
The staff is the iconic weapon of the Necromancer, and has applications in both ConD and Power builds. However, it is largely a utility weapon, and is incredibly difficult to build around. The one possible exception is Minion Master builds, and I’ll mention those briefly below. Every Necro should have a staff in their inventory, however, as the utility it offers is excellent. Additionally, it offers the highest boost to Death Shroud damage apart from a traited axe.
St AA – The AA on staff is a slow-moving projectile that pierces, generating 4% LF for every target hit. It’s not a reliable source of LF-generation, and neither is it a good source of DPS. Like axe’s AA, it’s not worth spamming.
St #2 (Mark of Blood) – This skill is on a low cooldown, and drops three stacks of Bleeds on up to five mobs, as well as Regen on up to five allies. The direct damage value is rather low, and as such shouldn’t be relied on for DPS. Pop it to drop some Regen on allies, then move on.
St #3 (Chilblains) – This skill has some utility and does okay damage. It drops a short Chill in AoE on mobs, and leaves a Poison Field for comboing. Beyond that, not much else to say.
St #4 (Putrid Mark) – According to the devs this is “one of the most powerful skills in the entire game.” I’ll pause sarcastically for second. … Okay, in reality, this is a good skill. It hits hardest of all the marks, is a Blast Finisher, and transfers three conditions from you to one of the affected mobs. Despite the tooltip, it does not transfer ConD from allies—a bug that’s been around since the patch on June 25. Rather than fix it, the devs have changed their tune and are now saying it was a nerf. Either way, this mark is useful as emergency ConD clear, and for blasting Fire Fields. Spam it immediately after Chilblains for a double-Weakness AoE combo.
St #5 (Reaper’s Mark) – This mark is a great utility skill which Fears up to five targets when it triggers. Excellent for emergencies, but bad for most dungeons where stacking mobs up is key. Use it when you need to get mobs off of yourself, an ally, or while rezzing.
(A note on Marks: In Power builds, marks are valuable for their utility alone. If you swap to staff, it’s best to drop all of the damaging marks and swap back ASAP, as you’ll take a significant hit to your DPS if you stay on staff for long. Think of staff as a free extra four utilities. Another way to do it is to start in Staff and open with all the marks, thus eliminating the need to wait for the weapon swap CD).
The scepter is the mainstay of all Condition builds. The autoattack applies Bleeds and Poison on each rotation, and the #2 attack stacks even more Bleeds along with a Cripple. In addition, S/ synergizes exceedingly well with the Curses traitline, buffing both damage and duration. If you're going for a ConD build, you will always take a scepter. Usually, the dagger is paired with the scepter, as its offhand skills synergize to near-perfection.
S/ AA – The AA of the scepter stacks two short-duration Bleeds and a short-duration Poison over the course of roughly 2 seconds per AA rotation. The AA supplements the higher-duration Bleeds that come from other weapon skills or utilities. Additionally, the relatively-fast attack speed means that proccing Bleed-on-crit traits/sigils occurs relatively often. Whenever the big-Bleed skills are on CD, spam the AA to keep the Bleed stacks topped up.
S/ #2 (Grasping Dead) – This skill is the primary Bleed stacker for the scepter. Untraited, S/ #2 won't stack Bleeds (the 7-second duration expires before the skill comes off CD), but with just a little Bleed-duration, Grasping Dead can quickly stack long-duration Bleeds. Being ground-targeted, it is a little harder to land on mobile targets, but the radius is somewhat forgiving, and hits up to five mobs in the AoE. One use of Grasping Dead followed by Epidemic produces six Bleeds on four mobs and three on the target.
S/ #3 (Feast of Corruption) – This final skill is a little weird for a ConD build, as it scales entirely with Power. It does direct damage that increases per unique Condition on the target, as well as generating a little Life Force per unique ConD. The skill can be used on CD to keep your LF-pool topped up, and to supplement the damage your Conditions are doing. But it has little use beyond that.
There are few “must have” utilities in the Necro Powermancer arsenal. Rather than explain every single slot skill, I’ll identify the most important in each category.
Of the four utilities in the corruption line of utilities, Blood is Power is the most useful for Powermancers. Blood is Power, however, gives 10 stacks of long-duration Might, while Bleeding both the target and the user. The self-Bleed can be avoided, however, if using the skill without a target. You’ll still get the Might. The self bleed can also be used in conjunction with Consume Conditions (heal skill) for some extra healing, or in conjunction with /D #4 to throw a bit more DPS at the enemy.
The others, Epidemic, Corrosive Poison Cloud, Corrupt Boon, are situationally applicable, but rarely find their place on a Powermancer’s bar. For a Conditionmancer, however, they find a lot more use. Not many mobs stacks boons (with the exception of Dredge), and since Corrupt Boon is on a long-ish CD and has trouble hitting due to pathing issues, it's not a great contribution to ConD builds. Corrosive Poison Cloud also has similar problems. It's excellent at applying Weakness and Poison on those mobs that heal or have strong AAs. But once again, the long-CD and the Weakness that's applied to your own toon makes it difficult to find a place in the Conditionmancer's arsenal.
Epidemic, however, is the absolute best skill for ConD builds. It takes all the Conditions on the target and applies them to five other targets within a 600 radius, and it does this on a 15 second (or 12 second traited) CD. Epidemic should follow every ConD burst rotation, as it will often double the number of ConD stacks on the mobs it hits. Finally, Epidemic will "steal" any Condition on the target even if you didn't apply it. In huge world-events, this can be great for clearing trash adds. All of your allies have ConD stacks up to 25, and then you spread that to all the surrounding adds for huge damage. Also, any ConD applied by Epidemic will scale off of your Condition Damage stat.
In Power builds, Epidemic can still be useful. If you're stacking debuffs like Weakness, Vulnerability, and Chill, Epidemic can spread them quickly to adds.
Only two signets really have any value for the Powermancer: Signet of the Locust which is both a siphon and a 25% runspeed boost, and Signet of Spite which is a flat boost of 120 power. Signet of Spite can also be used in conjunction with the Curses-line 25-point minor trait which gives 2% extra damage per unique condition on the target. Pop Signet of Spite on a mob, and you get an automatic 12% damage boost. However, this lasts only thirteen seconds, so in prolonged engagements, the passive is much better.
As far as Condition builds are concerned, the Signet of Spite is excellent for a quick ConD burst on a target, especially if followed up with an Epidemic. Plague Signet is useful in dungeons or fractals that are heavy on ConD, as it'll slap them back on the mob. Be very careful with this Signet, however, as it'll pull ConD from your allies. So if you're not watching your ConD bar, you can very quickly pull more ConDs than you can handle.
Minions are interesting in PvE. Unlike other iterations of Necromancers in other games, you won't be commanding an-ever-expanding army of the undead to bowl over enemies. Instead, you're trying to keep a few hard-hitting minions alive while they do your damage. If you’re running a Minion build, then you have no choice but to take the Minion utilities. Even in non-Minion builds, the minions still have niche uses.
Since the Blood Fiend and the Flesh Golem are covered below, we'll look only at the Minion utilities. First, Bone Minions are the cheapest, lowest-CD, and most expendable minion. Each has relatively low DPS, but you get two of them. Additionally, they can be exploded for serious damage and each explosion counts as a blast finisher. For the finisher alone they can be really helpful in parties. The Shadow Fiend is a hard-hitter and stays in melee. The active skill is a insta-cast Blind (be wary though: activating the skill is instant, but there is a small delay before the Shadow Fiend actually applies the Blind). The active also generates 10% LF, which can be very helpful if you're struggling to fill up your LF pool. The Bone Fiend is a ranged minion that has a nasty habit of always drawing Aggro. If you can keep him alive, however, his attack is a double projectile finisher and Cripples. The active is a long-duration Immobilize.
The Flesh Worm is an interesting beast. Once summoned, it can't move. Its AA does very good damage, however, making it useful when you know that a fight is going to stay in roughly one place. The active is even more unique. Activating the Flesh Worm will kill it, teleport you to the spot that it was located (so long as the LoS permits), procs a blast finisher at that spot, and generates 10% LF. This can be particular useful in fights where you absolutely need to get away from a spot and can't dodge (the Lupicus fight in Arah is a great example).
Each of these minions can be useful for their utility in just about every kind of build, and need not be limited to Minion Master builds. However, you have to know how and when to use them, so practice goes a long way to understanding the nuances of using minions.
Spectrals are an interesting group of utilities, and they all have their place in the Powermancer’s repertoire. Spectral Grasp is a great interrupt/pull that also generates an insane amount of LF if it connects, as well as Chills the target. This can be key in some builds. Spectral Wall is also an excellent source of control, as it will Fear any mob that crosses the line, as well as giving Protection to allies that do the same. Once again, it’s situational.
Spectral Walk and Spectral Armor function very similarly in that they are both stunbreaks, and while using both, getting hit generates a certain percentage of LF. Their effects in this respect stack, totaling a gain of 10% LF per hit per second, and this effect will continue while in DS. Which isn’t bad. On top of this, Spectral Walk grants a ridiculous amount of Swiftness (30 seconds base), and for a period of time allows you to teleport back to where you activated the skill. When falling, you can “double-tap” Spec Walk to reset the fall and take little to no damage. Spectral Armor is less entertaining, and simply gives six seconds of Protection when activated.
The Well utilities are what make the Powermancer the lawnmower of trash mobs. Each is powerful, and each has its place on the utilities bar. Well of Suffering should never leave the bar, however, as it pulses very high damage and stacks Vulnerability in a huge AoE. Well of Corruption also pulses damage (less than Well of Suffering), and corrupts boons into conditions on mobs standing in the AoE. Well of Darkness blinds targets on a one-second pulse. Well of Power is a stunbreak, and turns conditions on allies and yourself into boons.
Every Well can be traited to do damage through siphons (even the ones without base damage), and can heal through siphons. It’s hard to conceive of a Power build that doesn’t have at least one Well.
The Necro has two outstanding heal skills: Consume Conditions and Well of Blood. The former is on a shorter CD and heals extra for every unique condition on you, while also removing those conditions. There’s no limit to how many it can clear. 90% of the time, you’ll want to run this heal. In Conditionmancer builds Consume Conditions is a great way to deal with many of the self-applied ConD that comes from the Corruption utilities. Well of Blood’s base CD is too long to make it a viable heal. However, when traited it becomes potent, as it will pulse heals after the initial heal, pulse siphons, and do damage through siphons.
Summon Blood Fiend also works in all build types. It's a constant sustain that does damage. If you can be sure that it won't drop quickly to boss AoE's, the Blood Fiend is actually very good.
Finally, there's the Signet of Vampirism. Don't take this heal. Ever. Don't even unlock it. ANet screwed it up so bad that it's actually a detriment to take rather than a boon.
The Necro elite skills are rather lacking. For 90% of the time, Flesh Golem will offer you the best “bang for your buck.” It’s added DPS, and Fleshy has a potent knockdown that can serve as both a great opener or as a clutch save in a battle. The Fleshy’s charge also hits medium to large targets more than once, so it’s extremely useful for stripping stacks of Defiant off of boss mobs and champs. It can also be used in the same way that Burning Retreat is used on an Ele. If the mob is pinned against the wall, Fleshy’s charge will hit quite a few times as he runs into the wall.
Plague is a valuable “oh crap” button, but has more use in PvP and WvW than PvE. The long Blind pulse can help save a group from wiping, but because of the long CD, it’s not necessarily the best choice. Underwater, however, this is your only choice.
Lich Form can pack a powerful punch in builds that are geared toward high Power. But once again its long CD makes it difficult to substantiate taking it as a DPS boost. It does look flippin’ cool though. So there’s always that.
The trait lines for the Necro are infamous in GW2 as the most buggy of all classes. Some traits are still broken and have been since release. Unfortunately, this means that many interesting build ideas are gimped by necessity of taking certain “must have” traits. Other builds are gimped by an overabundance of good traits in one solitary line, forcing use to choose. Either way, I’ll break down the benefits of each line here, and highlight some of the best traits in each.
Spite: Power/Condition Duration Line
These stats may seem a little disjointed until we realize that even Power Necros benefit from long-duration debuffs (Weakness, Chill, etc.). The highest-damage Power builds will make strong use of this line, and there are several traits worth considering. Unlike some other lines, none of the minors are worth traiting specifically for.
For Conditionmancers, this line is useful for the ConD duration and for the Grandmaster-tier trait Dhuumfire. If you're building for Conditions, only go into this line if you're going a full 30 points to get Dhuumfire.
At the Adept level, all six options have their place. Top tier choices are Spite II, and VI. If you’re running /F, Spiteful Talisman (Spite II) is excellent. For builds that emphasize DS, Reaper’s Might (Spite VI) is crucial. Second tier choices are Spite III, IV, and V. If you’re running a DS-flash build, Spiteful Spirit (Spite V) will give you some retaliation. If you need ConD removal Spiteful Removal (Spite III) is a phenomenal choice. Finally, Signet Mastery (Spite IV) is beneficial if you’re running with signets to boost damage.
At the Master level, three options stand out. Axe Training (Spite VIII) is a must for any Axe/Death Shroud build. The damage bonus carries over to the skills in DS making it powerful. Training of the Master (Spite IX) is a good filler if you’re running Fleshy for the extra DPS. Chill of Death (Spite X) is a great single-target trait that drops mobs quick. For most situations, however, Training of the Master is the best choice.
At the Grandmaster level, only one option is worth it for Power Necros: Close to Death (Spite XII). This is a huge boost to DPS when mobs are under 50% HP. If you put 30 points into Spite, it’s for this trait alone. For Conditionmancers, Dhuumfire is the only good choice. It procs 4 seconds of burning every 10 seconds on Critical, and it adds substantially to your DPS. Update: With the Feature Patch, Dhuumfire now procs on Life Blast in DS. Where this does give you the ability to apply burning when and where you want it, it also means you have to manage the hidden CDs of DS skills in addition to your weapons and utilities.
The new unlockable trait Parasitic Contagion (Spite XIII) returns 5% of all ConD you deal as healing. The trait is largely pointless in PvE, as the durability of a full-Rabid-gear Condimancer was already very high. However, it's a suitable replacement for Dhuumfire, and gives impressive sustain when coupled with a big Epidemic.
Curses: Precision/Condition Dmg Line
The Curses line is like the Spite line in that it offers both ConD and Power boosts. It’s the Necro’s source of Precision and Precision-related traits. Unfortunately, this line has way too many good traits in it, meaning we are limited in how effective we can be. Two of the minors (the 15-point minor and especially the 25-point minor) make traiting into this tree worth it by themselves. Target the Weak (Curses 25) is incredibly powerful.
At the Adept level, two stand out: Weakening Shroud (Curses IV) and Chilling Darkness (Curses III). The former drops AoE Weakness when you enter DS which can be a powerful life-saver. The latter causes Chill every time you Blind a mob, which makes for near-complete shutdown in many situations. Nearly all the time, Weakening Shroud is a must-have.
For Conditionmancers, Hemophilia (Curses II) is a must-have, as it bumps Bleed duration by 20%. The 5-point minior trait also adds substantially to the amount of Bleeds that you can output.
The Master level has many good traits. Top tier would be Banshee’s Wail (Curses VIII) which both reduces the CD on Warhorn skills while boosting their durations. This is a must-have with any build using Warhorn. Second tier would be Spectral Attunement (Curses X) and Master of Corruption (VII). The former boosts the duration of Spectral skills and their effects--key for any Spectral-heavy build. The latter reduces the CD on Corruption skills, making Blood is Power a formidable provider of Might stacks.
For Conditionmancers, once again Master of Corruption (VII) is excellent for faster Epidemics, but Terror (Curses IX) is crucial. Terror turns Fear into a DoT ConD that hits hard by itself, and even harder when the target has Conditions on them. As such, Terror can be a very potent addition to a ConD build.
The Grandmaster level has no traits that benefit Power builds, as Withering Precision’s internal CD makes it all but useless. Only go 30 points into Curses if you absolutely need a trait from one of the other tiers.
For Conditionmancers, however, the Grandmaster tier trait Lingering Curse (Curses XI) adds a third more duration to all Scepter traits before ConD duration is calculated. This is crucial for making a ConD build succeed.
Update: The April Feature Patch added the trait Path of Corruption (Curses XIII) which makes Dark Path (DS #2) corrupt up to two boons on the target. Since Dark Path is unblockable, the trait will corrupt Stability and Aegis. Against bosses and mobs that stack boons (particularly dredge) this trait is worth picking up for the fight where necessary.
Death Magic: Toughness/Boon Duration Line
Update: With the April Feature Patch, the Death Magic line underwent several changes. The most prominent of these is the removal of the Adept- and Master-tier minor traits, their combining with major traits, and their replacement. The Adept minor adds toughness based on level while in DS. It's not worth taking the 1 point just for this trait, but it does mean you don't have to deal with little Jagged Horrors when you don't want them. The Master-tier minor gives you 20% more LF when things around you die, meaning you fill up your LF bar faster around trash mobs, with no change against bosses.
The Death Magic line offers boon duration and Toughness, and, though neither of these is critical for a Power Necro or a Conditionmancer, they can be helpful in certain situations.
The honorable mentions in this tree are Ritual of Protection (DM IV) that drops Protection on allies when using a Well, Staff Mastery (DM V) which reduces the CD on Marks, and Greater Marks (DM VII) which makes the radius of Marks bigger.
For the Minion Master, however, this tree is crucial.
At the Adept level, Minon Master (DM III) is good as it reduces the CD on summoning Minions. It does NOT, however, reduce the CD on Minion active skills, so if you're running a build that focuses on keeping minions alive, it's not important. However, if you're running a build that emphasizes Death Nova (explained shortly), then this skill is crucial because you'll be resummoning your minions often. Additionally, Staff Mastery (DM V) is critical for Minion builds, because it reduces the CD on Marks. This trait alone makes it possible to keep Regen up on your Minions.
At the Master level, Flesh of the Master (DM X) adds 50% more health to your minions, and now also adds toughness to your armor rating per minion (the old Master-tier minor trait). This trait is crucial for any build that keeps your minions alive as long as possible. The other excellent trait is Greater Marks (DM VII) that increases the radius of the Staff's Marks, as well as making them unblockable. This makes it easier than every to keep Regen up on the minions.
At the Grandmaster level, only Death Nova (DM XI) has any real application in PvE. Every minion that dies will explode, do damage, and leave an area that damages and poisons mobs. Death Nova now also spawns Jagged Horrors (like the old Adept minor). If you're running a build that uses minions as kamikaze bombs, this is the trait for you. More often than not, however, you'll use the Grandmaster spot to pick up a trait from the other two tiers.
Update: The Feature Patch addition to the Death Magic line is Unholy Sanctuary (DM XIII) which regens health while in DS. This particular trait has powerful applications in PvP bunkering, but in PvE is, once again, difficult to justify.
Blood Magic: Vitality/Healing Power Line
The Blood Magic line suffers from having traits that affect too many things. Wells, Siphons, and Daggers all gain their best buffs from this line, but often at the cost of not being able to buff another complementary component in the build. The Vitality and Healing Power from this line are not worth traiting for specifically, but the first two minor traits (and the third, come December 10th) are quite good. The Adept minor gives five seconds of Regen whenever your health drops below 90%. For runes with health-cap bonuses (like Scholar Runes), this is rather helpful. The Master tier minor turns every hit of every skill into a siphon. This means you get a small amount of health and do a small amount of extra damage per hit. This, coupled with other siphons, can prove very powerful. The Grandmaster tier minor trait gives 90 extra Power so long as your health stays above 90%. This synergizes well with the Adept minor, and is set to get a decent buff in the December patch.
At the Adept level, there are several worthwhile traits. If your emphasis is on siphons, the both Bloodthirst (BM II) and Vampiric Precision (BM V) are excellent choices. The former boosts the return on siphon skills and traits by 20%, and the latter replicates Vampiric’s effect but on every critical hit. This synergizes well with BM 15, in that a crit will proc both Vampiric and Vampiric Precision.
Apart from siphons, Dagger Mastery (BM I) is a good choice if using off-hand dagger. It gives higher uptime on AoE Weakness and quicker ConD transfers. Transfusion (BM VI) got a buff recently and is a very potent AoE party heal. It does not affect the user while in DS, but it can be the difference between your party wiping or staying up.
At the Master level, more valuable traits pop up. If you are running a Healing build or a DS-flash build, Deathly Invigoration (BM IX) is an excellent choice, as it drops a AoE heal (similar to the Guardian’s dodge-heal) every time you leave DS. Ritual Mastery (BM VIII) is key for all Well-heavy builds, reducing their CDs by 20%. Quickening Thirst (BM X) gives a speed boost depending on the number of daggers wielded, and can free up a utility slot.
At the Grandmaster level, only Vampiric Rituals (BM XII) stands out, as it makes all Wells (even the non-damage ones) siphon health. This means Well of Suffering, for example, can proc Vampiric (BM 15), Vampiric Precision (BM V), and Vampiric Rituals (BM XII) on every pulse for every enemy. There is a lot of Well + Siphon synergy in this line.
If you’re running a Minion Master build, Vampiric Master (BM VII) and Fetid Consumption (BM XI) can add DPS and ConD clear respectively to your Minions.
Update: The new trait for the Blood Magic line is Unholy Martyr (BM XIII) which is a really bad trait. It draws one ConD from a nearby ally every three seconds while in DS, and adds 5% of your LF back for every ConD pulled. Unfortunately, the 5% LF every three seconds can't even slow or stop the natural degen, let alone the damage that a ConD would do to your LF pool. As such, it's not really worth taking.
Soul Reaping: Crit Dmg/Life Force Pool Line
Soul Reaping is the trait line for Death Shroud builds, as it not only has most of the traits affecting DS skills, it also boosts the DS pool by up to 30%. Crit damage also comes with this line, but is not worth traiting specifically for. The minors aren’t bad, though. The Adept tier boosts every LF-generating skill by 10%, usually adding about 1% more LF per skill. The Master tier is a great lifesaver against TKOs, as, at 50% health, it procs Spectral Armor giving you both Protection and clutch LF-generation (not only that, the stunbreak will also proc, which can be key in avoiding big hits). The Grandmaster tier offers a percent damage boost when your LF is above 50%. This is great in dagger builds that don’t use DS for DPS, but it’s not worth traiting specifically for.
At the Adept level, Vital Persistence (SR II), Path of Midnight (SR III), Spectral Mastery (SR IV), and Unyielding Blast (SR VI) are all top-tier. Vital Persistence reduces the speed at which your LF pool decays while in DS and can offer very good uptime on DS builds (it’s also set to be buffed to a 50% reduction instead of 25% come December 10th). Path of Midnight reduces the CDs of all DS skills, and is very good for DS DPS builds. Spectral Mastery is a must in all Spectral builds for the 20% CD reduction. Unyielding Blast allows the Life Blast AA to pierce and stack Vulnerability on targets, making it a “must have” for DS builds.
At the Master level, there are fewer good choices, Near to Death (SR VIII) being the best for Power builds. It reduces the CD of DS to seven seconds, boosting the effectiveness of flash builds immensely. More often than not, however, the Master tier is best slotted with a trait from the Adept level.
At the Grandmaster tier, both options are good. Foot in the Grave (SR XI) provides 3 seconds of Stability, making it excellent to pull of clutch Life Siphon + Transfusions, and it makes flash builds stronger. Deathly Perception (SR XII), however, is the crown-jewel of the Soul Reaping tree, as it gives 50% additional crit chance when in DS. Built correctly, a DS build can crit 99% of the time with this trait alone. For nearly all DS builds, Deathly Perception is a “must have.”
Update: The Feature Patch added the new trait Renewing Blast (SR XIII) which is supposed to heal allies for ~300 health every time a Life Blast passes through them. The trait is impressively bad for any and all game modes and can be ignored.
So having walked through the Necro weapons and skills, we’ll take a second and look at how they can be put together. Some utilities mesh well with weapons, and some don’t. These suggestions aren’t set in stone, but they’re a good place to start.
Dagger/Warhorn + Wells or Siphons
The dagger’s biggest weakness is the fact that it’s single-target. Combining it with the warhorn allows you to slow mobs down (/Wh #5), take them on one-by-one, while keeping up damage on the others. Wells naturally boost the AoE DPS of the D/, and the /Wh keeps mobs locked down inside the Wells. This is perhaps the strongest synergy in the game when combined with Siphons, as the D/ hits fast, /Wh ticks once a second for 10–15 seconds on all mobs (hitting and critting), and Wells supplement with more damage and siphons. I recommend this combination to anyone new to the Necro Powermancer.
Dagger/Focus + Spectrals
When combined with the /F the single-target nature of the D/ gets even more powerful. High Vulnerability means the heavy-hitting D/ hits even harder. Spectral skills allow you some flexibility in dealing with hard-hitting bosses, and make DS a viable block.
Dagger/Dagger + Wells or Spectrals
Offhand dagger is an excellent debuff tool and pairs well with D/ which can take advantage of the debuffs. Wells add to this, and Spectrals are always a solid choice.
Axe/Warhorn + Wells or Spectrals
This setup is good for DS-focused builds only. It excels at generating LF and keeping it topped up while in DS (/Wh #5 continues to work while in DS). Spectral skills also add to LF, and Wells supplement A/’s poor DPS.
Axe/Focus + Spectrals
Similar to the D/Wh description, this set is an excellent option for single-target DS builds. It generates good LF against one opponent, and in conjunction with Spectrals can maintain it.
Scepter/Dagger + Corruptions
This is, perhaps, the only real combination for a Conditionmancer, and it should be the first and foremost that you use if you want to play with Conditions. Corruption utilities pair well with the S/D, as they help manipulating or dropping more ConD.
Staff/Staff + Spectrals
This combo is not for the light-hearted, and demands some very specific traits. It lends itself toward a hybrid build that does ConD damage, then swaps to Death Shroud to do direct damage.
Tips for Leveling
Update: The Feature Patches have changed how leveling works in GW2. The trait points have been consolidated so you receive only 14 where you used to have 70. As a result, you don't get trait points until level 30, which makes early levels quite a bit more difficult.
MCBiohazard has put together an excellent walkthrough for leveling the Necromancer on the current system:
So I bit the bullet and leveled a necro from 1-80 without birthday boosters. Here are my thoughts, a bit scattered though as I try to remember what was important. Some traits can be a pain to unlock due to being tricky mini-dungeons or meta events that are not always available during your play time but overall, it shouldn't be too hard to get the traits you need for the build you want to go for at level 80 without having to spend at the trainer. If you play in mind to unlock traits along the way, you should have plenty of skill points left over even after buying all your skills to splurge on the key traits you don't want to attempt to unlock.
The trait unlock system will dictate your leveling path and it will require you to do all sorts of content for certain key traits. Asuran and Sylvari alts unfortunately get the short end of the stick as they have no unlocks whatsoever in their two starting zones aside from the rather important for condimancer Curses II trait Hemophilia that can be got from Twilight Arbor story mode. Humans, charr and to a lesser extent norn probably are best situated to naturally move into the zones that have important traits for necros.
Gendarren Fields full clear grants Spite III Spiteful Removal and you can also pick up Blood IV Mark of Evasions from the Provernic Crypt mini dungeon as well as Curses VI Focused Rituals from defeating Elite Officer Jayne in the Brigatine Isles
Harathi HInterlands is a smorgasboard of useful unlocks. Defeating Kol Skullsmasher grants you Spite VI Reaper's Might, which is one of the key traits for any aspiring Life Blast death shroud build. Defeating Sharky the Destroyer will grant Curses V Reaper's Precision, which also is very nice for tor any death shroud build. Defeating Gargantula will give you Blood V Vampiric Precision, for those lifesteal builds. Doing the Ulgoth world boss will give you Curses III Blinding Darkness, which isn't too useful but he may be an easy follow up after defeating Kol Skullsmasher. Full clearing the zone will give you Blood IV Ritual of LIfe, which also isn't great but hey, might as well finish the zone for the extra XP and free mats since you've been running around there so much.
Fields of Ruin has two useful traits for the necro and going into that area will naturally lead to Blazeridge Steppes and Iron Marches, where a few more can be found. Full clearing the zone will grant Death III Staff Mastery and doing the Ogre Wars meta event ending with defeating the Foulbear Chieftain will unlock Soul II Vital Persistence, useful for any flavor of death shroud build.
Lornar's Pass has a very important key trait for the Life Blast death shroud build. Doing the Lord Ignius chain event and defeating him will grant you Soul VI Unyielding Blast. Defeating the Champion Ice Wurm underneath the Durmand Priory will grant Soul V Speed of Shadows, which isn't too essential but low hanging fruit if you happen to be in that area while clearing. Clearing the map will grant Curses IV Weakening Shroud, also quite useful for weakness uptime builds.
Clearing Blazeridge Steppes will grant Spite V Spiteful Spirit. Iron Marches has the fire shaman world boss, who will grant Curses IX Terror upon defeat and also has Victurus the Shattered, who will grant Death IV Ritual of Protection, useful for well based utility bars, and the Branded Devourer Queen who will grant Soul X Soul Marks
Dredgehaunt Cliffs has an assortment of niche traits that might be useful for certain builds. Doing the Forsaken Halls minidungeon and defeating the Fleshgrazer at the end will grant Death I Dark Armor. Defeating the dredge commisar at Tribulation Rift will grant Blood IX Deathly Invigoration. Full clearing the map will grant Soul IV Spectral Mastery.
Bloodtide Coast also has one or two niche trait unlocks. One comes from the Admiral Taidha Covington world boss, defeating her grants Soul IX Master of Terror. Defeating the Giant Blood Ooze in Challdar Gorges will grant Death VI Shrouded Removal
Timberline Falls has a useful trait for lifesteal builds if you defeat the Nonmoa Lake krait witch. Doing so grants Blood VI Transfusion, one of the best AoE heals available to necros.
Sparkfly Fen has a key trait for minion masters. If you complete the Verenium Delves jumping puzzle, you will unlock Blood VII Vampiric Master, which will grant your minions extra lifesteal damage.
Don't neglect doing your personal story, the dungeon story modes and zerging around in Eternal Battlegrounds/Edge of the Mists as soon as you are able to as there are useful unlocks for doing so.
By the time you're able to get into the Mount Maelstrom zone, you should be able to wander into Fireheart Rise and Frostgorge Sound safely and you will be able to fill out your trait list with the unlocks in all these zones. You should be 80 by the time you get into Orr so you can take your time unlocking the grandmaster traits that will be associated with the Orr temples and certain minidungeon/jumping puzzles there.
As for leveling builds, necros always could get by without too many traits unlike some of the other classes that really shine only with them unlocked. When in doubt, power dagger necro with wells will get you by just about anything. But minion masters unfortunately won't be able to access their key traits until much later in the leveling process or at end game so while it is still very safe to carry a minion bar while leveling, there will not be much to supplement them. Likewise condimancers may want to wait until end game as well to spec in as their key traits are also fairly late in. Death shroud necros will probably have the easiest time leveling as they will be able to get the Life Blast traits soon after they break into the 30-40 zones.
Before launching into the builds, I want to make a note about gearing. For Power builds, when you’re limited to one- and two-stat gear, you’ll want to emphasize Precision. As soon as you can pick up Berserker’s, do so, and stick with it. The Power Necro has a great deal of survivability through Death Shroud and is far more resilient in Glass Cannon gear than most classes. If you’re really struggling and want more defense, stick to Knight’s gear. It’ll boost Power and Precision decently, but stack an immense amount of Toughness for you. Even with a few pieces of Knight’s you’ll see your survivability jump.
For Condition builds, once again emphasize Precision while leveling. When you hit 80, get and stick to Rabid gear. You can get all the armor and trinkets from Orr Temples, and the weapons are cheap enough on the trading post. Rabid adds enough Precision for ConD builds to proc all the on-crit traits and sigils that make the build.
That being said, let’s jump into the builds.
Update: The Feature Patch added the insta-reset feature to traits, meaning you can change builds on the fly now. As a result, builds are no longer as exclusive as they once were. Instead of grouping builds by function, I'm now adding the gear type associated with those builds. Essentially, any build under Berserker's Gear will work in the field and can be swapped quickly for any other Berserker's Gear build.
Meta Builds (Berserker's Gear)
The Plague (Credit to Brandon the Don)
Brandon has done an excellent job assembling a build that addresses the Necro's problem in groups through maximizing uptime on crucial debuffs. Just like the Elite of the same name, this build capitalizes on the stopping-power of debuffs to assist the party in taking down trash and bosses alike. If you're looking to bring the most to a group that you can, check out this build first.
If you want pure DPS, however, the following are your best options. These builds are going to hit hard—very hard. If you like huge DPS these are for you. However, they lack in group support, and are very selfish. If you’re okay with this tradeoff, then you’ll enjoy these builds.
The True Glass Cannon
If you want pure damage, this is the build for you. The only defense it offers is DS as a pseudo-block. But it hits like a truck. Flesh Golem, Dagger, Locust Swarm, and Well of Suffering all combine to drop a huge amount of DPS very quickly. Not much else needs to be said.
Vampiric Glass Cannon
Captain Kerfuffle has put together a min-maxed version of the Glass Cannon build that makes use of Vampiric and Vampiric Precision to boost DPS. This build has a significant edge as far as survivability is concerned over the standard Glass Cannon, and addresses to a certain extent some of the Necro's weakness in dungeon parties.
This build, unlike the one above, focuses its damage output on Death Shroud. It stacks damage bonuses and Crit Damage to make Life Blasts hit and hit hard. All of your DPS comes from DS, so you’ll want to get in and stay in as long as possible. Otherwise your DPS will take a big hit.
Death Shroud Builds (Valkyrie and Assassin's Gear)
These builds focus more or less on the Death Shroud mechanic. They tend to be gimmicky, and as such, aren’t for everyone. But if you like the DS mechanic or just want to be tanky in Berserker’s gear, then these builds are for you.
Specter of Death
[This build uses Valkyrie Gear] This build focuses on high-uptime of Death Shroud. Damage comes primarily from Life Blasts, which, in this build, stack Might, pierce, and stack Vulnerability. The huge Life Force pool allows for sustained combat while in DS, taking hits, and soaking up damage for the party. The weapon choices of A/F and A/Wh in conjunction with a heavy focus on Spectral Skills provide very fast Life Force generation when DS finally runs out. A little unorthodox of a build, but can be very powerful in the right hands.
[This build uses Assassin's Gear] This build has all the AoE. The staff’s Marks serve as an opener, followed shortly by Wells. Swapping to DS is crucial for this build, as it guarantees crits on all attacks. With a fast CD on the biggest attacks from DS, this build has a huge AoE spike. When everything’s on CD, your DPS will drop dramatically, sustained only through Life Blasts. But most trash won’t survive the onslaught.
Dagger Builds (Berserker's Gear)
Dagger builds pack a punch and usually rely on Wells for AoE. Death Shroud is used in these defensively or for the utility that the skills offer. The need to manage DS skills carefully (and to be aware of blind CDs) make these builds play closer to a Mesmer or Engineer. There is quite a bit of flexibility in each of these, and can be tweaked to suit many purposes.
Death Dancer (Credit to Loperdos)
This build focuses on popping in and out of Death Shroud to gain the bonuses that are associated with it, as well as using it as an on-demand block of sorts. This isn't as effective as it used to be (due to nerfs in recent months), but it still does a decent job at it. D/D is the main weapon-set, using /D #4 in conjunction with Blood is Power for a touch of additional DPS, and using /D #5 liberally. The D/Wh is used for an on-demand stun (/Wh #4) as well as a great AoE (/Wh #5) and access to perma-Swiftness through a combination of Locust Swarm and Spectral Walk.
The mobility of this build comes from its ability to keep swiftness up 100% of the time, so it makes it difficult to hit. Keep moving. It does good burst AoE, but once Well of Suffering, #4 and #5 in DS, and Locust Swarm are all on CD, its AoE capability starts to fall off. Its benefits are high-ish mobility (for a Necro), decent AoE Weakness, decent Vulnerability through Well of Suffering, and good sustained DPS through D/D.
(The last trait in the Curses line is entirely optional. The Runes of the Pack in the build link are there to help with maintaining perma-Swiftness, but can be swapped for something else.)
This build is all about sucking away the life of any and all opponents. The Well-Necro has some of the best AoE DPS in the game, and it gets even better with this build. Even in full Berserker’s gear, this build is very tanky due to the constant influx of health. Simply waltz in, pop Locust Swarm, drop all the Wells, and watch things die.
This is a variation of the Well-Bomber, but brings a decent chunk of group support. It offers a good uptime on AoE Weakness, good control through Blinds and Chills, and very good party Heals. It plays similar to any Well build, but requires careful attention on CDs for best support.
Conditionmancers (Rabid Gear)
These builds are geared entirely around Condition damage. Be aware that Conditions struggle to match the DPS of direct-damage builds and are gimped by the hard caps on several conditions. As a result, you'll find these builds to be frowned on in PvE.
PvE Conditionmancer (Credit to OChunx)
Chunx has put together great, basic ConD build. It stacks Burning, Terror (when traited), and Bleeds for its damage, and packs quite punch with all the ConD up. You'll be able to stack immense amounts of ConD and spread it around. However, you'll do next to no damage to stationary objects that are unaffected by ConD. So be prepared to take a while to kill that Centaur Weapons Rack. Use Terror for open world roaming/map completion (for more damage) but use Master of Corruption when doing fractals/dungeons (so fear doesn't scatter stacked mobs) and farming large mob events (more Epidemic tags).
The Terrormancer is both a fun build to play and an immensely irritating one. I don't recommend taking this build into dungeon or fractal group that plans on LoSing mobs and bosses, as its primary damager is Fear. Fear makes mobs move. But this build will give you powerful ticks of Terror, as well as allow you to stack decent bleeds. In the interim, you do decent direct damage through DS.
Niche Builds (Cleric's and Celestial Gear)
These builds are for those who like what they do and are willing to sacrifice personal DPS for a particular role in a party. These builds aren’t going to match meta, but they will offer a distinct playstyle.
The Minion Master (Credit to OChunx)
OChunx has put together the above build on Minion Masters, and I highly recommend it. The Minion Master is a hybrid build of sorts that doesn’t truly fall into either the ConD or the Power camp. It revolves around keeping your minions alive as long as possible to do most of your damage, while you support them through Regen and Bleeds. I've had a blast with this build.
The Hybrid (Credit to Nemesis)
Nemesis' hybrid build is an interesting cookie altogether. It won't match the raw DPS of a Powermancer, nor will it stack Conditions like the ConD builds. But it will do a decent amount of both. If you're looking for something that demands a good head for rotations, and you have a group that's okay with you taking up 50% of the ConD cap, then you may enjoy this build. Unfortunately, some of the gear is difficult to obtain.
Edited by Phenn, 05 November 2015 - 01:07 AM.