Major edits/changes from recent updates marked in blue!
NOW YOU TOO CAN HAVE YOUR OWN ARMY OF HORRORS!
TABLE OF CONTENTS-----------------------------------------------------------------------
II. The General Build
- Weapons, Skills, and Stats
* Major Traits
* Minor Traits
- Death Magic
* Major Traits
* Minor Traits
- Blood Magic
* Major Traits
* Minor Traits
- Underwater Combat
III. The Minions
Hi guys, ever since guild wars 1, I've enjoyed the notion of being a one man army. In gw1, a minion master was a support role who not only dished out massive AoE damage, but more importantly provided a massive meatshield that increased a party's survivability drastically. Although the style has obviously changed in gw2, a minion master retains that feeling of toughness and power that comes with leading your own army. So I thought I'd share with you guys my thoughts and build on the minion master since I see so many threads with questions on this.
You are one of the most unkillable forces in PvE. With 7 bodies of HP (and death shroud) coupled with high toughness, vitality (highest base vitality in the game), and healing power, you are a real tank in the game. Being at range means you get hit less often and less hard as well, so really most deaths should have been caused by you running off a cliff. You also do an admirable amount of single target damage with all your minions along with you focusing on one enemy. Your staff is also one of the best AoE option necromancers have.
Your DPS is generally below that of many other necromancer builds. With a reliance on minions, you are also reliant on their subpar AI. When your minions are down, you are also extremely vulnerable. Minions just get destroyed by AoE damage and are generally unviable in most dungeons. Marching around needing to maintain 6 other bodies is sort of clunky and might slow you down a bit when roaming the world.
The General Build---------------------------------------------------------------------------
This build is mainly meant for general PvE open-world map roaming and personal story completion, for which it actually excels quite well at. In addition, it's useful for small skirmishes in WvW and holding points in sPvP. However, It is highly unsuited for the completion of the more challenging dungeons and fractals.
NOTE: This guide assumes that you have about 1900 Power and 1400 Healing Power, from which many of these numbers are derived. You may find that your actual numbers are a bit higher than these, as I underestimated figures to be on the safe side.
Weapons, Skills, and Stats
Your main weapon will be your staff. This will be the tool that you will use 95% of the time to heal your minions with through the use of Mark of Blood and deal AoE damage with through the use of your other supportive marks. Going into Death Shroud while wielding the staff also guarantees that your attacks while in Death Shroud will deal the maximum damage possible, as Death Shroud's power directly scales off primary weapon damage.
Your secondary set will be axe and focus. Switch to this weapon set in instances where your marks cannot trigger (world bosses) or in instances where there's just no way your minions will be damaged (eg. when dozens of people are stacking on top of a champion). This set allows you to dish out more direct damage through the use of Reaper's Touch and Ghastly Claws, while also stacking vulnerability so that your minions will deal more damage. The downside, of course, is that while you are using this set, the only way to heal your minions is through Death Shroud.
Honestly though, I'd recommend sticking with the staff 95% of the time, but hey, it's all up to you how you think is the best way to play.
Spite - Helps aid our damage output a bit.
(III) Spiteful Removal - 10 points nets us Spiteful Removal, a trait that is useful in cleansing conditions from us. This build carries surprisingly little condition removal for a necromancer build, so we'll take what we can.
(IX) Training of the Master - We go 20 points into the Spite line to pick up Training of the Master (increase minion damage by 25%) which is absolutely necessary to ensure that you get respectable amounts of damage out of your minions.
(5) Parasitic Bond - There's nothing much to say: kill a foe, gain about 1,000 life. The healing scales with healing power.
(15) Death into Life - Death into Life rewards stacking of power and damage by helping fuel our healing power. Useful.
Death Magic - Helps ensure the survival of our minions.
(V) Staff Master - Staff Mastery reduces the cooldown of our marks, allowing us to keep the regeneration up on the minions more easily by spamming more Marks of Blood and aids in the overall (AoE) DPS of staff as more marks can be spammed in a shorter period of time.
(X) Flesh of the Master - Absolutely crucial for minion masters. An additional 50% health for minions makes a huge difference in minion survivability, and yours as well. The toughness you gain for each minion is pretty nice too. With +20 toughness per minion, you're looking at an additional 120 toughness with just your standard six minions up. Add in a potential four Jagged Horrors and this minor trait can provide you with up to 200 additional toughness, an increase of about 10%, depending on your toughness.
(XI) Death Nova - This is one big packaged trait. The Death Nova itself does okay damage, and well make sure your minions give one last parting gift when and if they ever die. The AoE and poison field aspects are also nice as well. What we really like is the constant stream of Jagged Horror spawns every 15 seconds. These guys will start adding up over team as your constant healing means that more and more will start accumulating, adding a surprising amount of damage to your build. Not to mention the other benefits of having extra minions (more bodies, more distraction, more toughness from Flesh of the Master. They will also be a reliable activator of Death Nova as each of them eventually die.
(5) Armored Shroud - You gain toughness in Death Shroud.
(15) Soul Comprehension - You gain more life force from deaths.
(25) Deadly Strength- Turning toughness into power is pretty useful, and allows both you and your minions to do more damage (because of minion damage scaling with Vampiric master).
Blood Magic - Helps aid our damage output and ensure the survival of our minions.
(VI) Transfusion - Wow. This is probably the highest burst heal in the game. With full healing power gear, Life Transfer will heal around 27,000 health every 40 seconds. The people who say healing power doesn't scale well obviously have never used Life Transfer with Transfusion. In fact, this combination is great by itself within any context (paired with healing power gear). Imagine healing your entire party for their entire life bar every 40 seconds. And if that wasn't good enough, the healing is spread across nine pulses, decreasing the likelihood that you will overheal (like with one lump sum of healing). Can also heal your minions out of combat as the Life Transfer healing doesn't actually require a target. The healing scales with healing power.
(VII) Vampiric Master - Here we go. With a full set of healing power gear (and the 20/0/20/30/0 stat spread), this trait should be adding at least 70 points of damage to each of your minion's attacks, and healing you for over 65 points of health for each attack. Considering that you'll probably have anywhere from 6-8 minions at a time, you'll be healing an additional 400-500 health after every full cycle of minion attacks. Not only that, but adding 70+ points of damage is a huge boost to minion DPS. Build changing to say the least. The added damage that minions do scales with power, while the amount they siphon scales with healing power.
NOTE: Bloodthirst is a respectable alternative to Transfusion as it boosts both the damage and healing aspects of Vampiric Master.
(5) Full of Life - The regeneration helps heal you.
(15) Vampiric - The health siphon helps heal you.
You will rely mostly on your marks and your minions to deal damage, however, spamming mark of blood as soon as it's off cooldown is your priority. The more often it goes down, the longer your minions last, and with such a long cooldown on minion skills, it is imperative that they don't go down. So a typical situation would probably start with you aggroing the mobs with Necrotic Grasp, followed by laying marks 2-5 down right away, then spamming each mark as it comes off of cooldown, with Mark of Blood always taking priority. Also enter Death Shroud when you have the trait Transfusion to mass heal your minions. Your Death Shroud-based heals will be the main source of healing for your ranged minions (bone fiend and blood fiend) as they are oftentimes not within the radius of your Mark of Bloods. The Superior Sigil of Water also adds great burst heals in a large area and regularly procs. Use the minion skills as soon as they're off cooldown for a bit more utility and damage, although you may want to save them as the case calls for. If one of your bone minions dies but the other is still alive, blow the leftover one up so that you can recast to get both back.
In essence, the build is very support and control oriented. Not because there's a lot of crowd control skills (although there are many, AoE chill, AoE fear, cripple, AoE knockdown), but because of the swarming, aggro, and body-blocking potential of minions in managing just one enemy, or an entire crowd of enemies. The highly-traited staff offers both offense in the form of more AoE, but at the same time lets you lay down larger and more frequent Marks of Blood, providing massive healing for minions, and support for melee party members. In this way, you can effectively fill three different roles, lending lots of healing support while being near unkillable yourself, as well as decent AoE and single target damage.
I guess the cornerstone of everything can be said to be the staff which provides both offense and defense. The minions simply augment the crowd control portion while providing targets for your staff support skills when no one else is around, and then adding damage on top of that.
Underwater combat essentially uses the same bar, just with Plague instead of Flesh Golem since no other Necro elites work underwater. This also means you'll have to focus more on damage yourself. Honestly though, the only reason that minions even work on land is because you can keep them maintained by healing them, something you can't do at all underwater. Although technically there still are ways to heal them (Deadly Feast on the Spear), it just isn't worth it to focus on it, though you can try. Spear will do more damage, but trident will be safer.
Many experience issues with their minions not attacking when they get into a fight. Here are some tips on triggering minion aggression:
1. Auto-attack the mob you want to attack using the 1 skill. This is important, especially for the staff. I was able to reliably replicate having my minions focus on a target by first attacking it once with 1. Marks will not work; your minions will continue to stand still if you use a mark on the enemy. Bone minions seem to be just a tiny bit less responsive to this, but that may just be anecdotal.
2. Using the corresponding minion skills has so far had a 100% success rate in making minions attack. Obviously, this will only apply for some.
3. Running away far enough will disengage your minions. For flesh golem, however, you tend to have to run away farther. You'll know when he's back when he teleports back.
It should also be noted that minion power, vitality, and toughness do not scale with your stats or your traits. However, minions do inherit the condition damage, condition duration, and boon duration of the necromancer. This only affects the minions that apply conditions of course, such as the Jagged Horror and Flesh Golem.
Blood Fiend - Your main source of healing, the blood fiend siphons health (about 1500 per attack) and gives it to you. The healing scales with healing power.
Traited Health: 33345
Bone Fiend - Ranged minion which fires two projectiles that cripple once every 10 seconds. Use its utility skill to instantly immobilize enemies. Can regenerate health out of combat.
Traited Health: 17955
Shadow Fiend - Awesome minion. Inherently tougher than many of the other minions and haunt is useful in blinding bosses. Is always on the front line so he will be a meatshield for you and is constantly healed by mark of blood. Can regenerate health out of combat. The utility skill AoE blinds.
Traited Health: 27446
Bone Minions - Probably more resilient than what you thought they would be because of all the healing the get from mark of blood. They do okay damage if both are alive, but generally try not to explode them because they are worth more to you alive than dead (extra meatshields, each will be 20 extra toughness because of Flesh of the Master.
Traited Health: 12825
Flesh Golem - Awesome elite skill even if you aren't a minion master. This guy can AoE knockdown and does a ton of damage. This guy seems to be getting better and better with each patch having gone through numerous AI and health/toughness buffs. Use the golem's charge attack against things that will keep it in place (against walls, edges, doors, breakable objects) and it will repeatedly knockdown and deal continuous pulses of damage. Very useful in breaking objects and doors in WvW. His attacks also apply cripple.
Traited Health: 33345
Flesh Worm - Yes, he's good if you're one place for a long time, but the fact that you can't move him is VERY bad, basically the same as always having one less (or two) minion. The biggest pro about him is that he does a lot of damage, so maybe you can use him in long fights with Champions or Veterans.
Traited Health: 23085
Jagged Horror - These little guys won't last long in fights due to their constant internal degeneration (-3.5% health every second), but when they are up, they will provide you the +20 toughness from Flesh of the Master and will bleed the enemy on an attack. If you are constantly spamming Mark of Blood and endless mobs are coming at you, it is entirely possible to keep 3-5 of them up. Flesh of the Master does affect these guys as well.
Traited Health: 22316
All armor should be Cleric's (++Healing Power, +Power, +Toughness). The healing power is there to make sure that your heals are powerful enough to maintain your minions. The power benefits Vampiric Master, which in turn helps your minions deal more damage. Toughness is simply the last stat we are forced to take, but does provide a nice amount of defense to the already high base-HP pool of the necromancer.
Runes on armor should be 6 Superior Runes of the Monk. These maximize your healing power and increases the duration of your regeneration boons on your minions. What really sets these runes apart from other healing power runes is the six-rune bonus power that substantially increases the potency of your heals.
Lastly, if you're crazy enough to use create ascended gear for a minion master build, infusions are basically determined by your wealth. Just put Mighty Infusions in your offensive slots and Healing Infusions in your defensive ones.
For the same reason as the armor, your staff should be Cleric's. A Superior Sigil of Life should go on your staff, as it offers a huge bonus in healing power to help heal your minions with. The Superior Sigil of Water is great in it's regular and extremely high radius heals.
The axe and focus can both be Berserker's (++Power, +Precision, +Critical Damage) to maximize damage, since presumably you'll only be using that stat when you won't be healing your minions. Putting a Superior Sigil of Life on one of them also helps stack up those healing counters for after your weapon swap while having a Superior Sigil of Force helps while fighting with the axe and focus.
Spear and trident are both Berserker's because it's generally impractical to focus on healing your minions underwater. Place Superior Sigils of Force on to do more damage. Even though trident is a condition-based weapon, we go with a power-focused stat distribution because power still adds to Vampiric Master which in turn adds to minion damage.
Though underwater really doesn't matter too much. Take Berserker's on both if you want. Take Cleric's on both if you want. Take Rabid or Apothecary on the Trident if you want. It just doesn't really matter too much, and this build really isn't that effective underwater either way (most builds aren't, but that's a different problem with underwater combat...).
All Cleric's.The ascended Cleric backpiece is gotten by crafting either Quiver of a Thousand Arrows or There with Yakkington: A Traveler's Tale and choosing the Cleric affix. I'd recommend the later for its defensive infusion slot so that it is cheaper to place a healing infusion into the slot.
As always, please don't be afraid to comment or make a suggestion below. Especially in the case that I need to update some information, as the game is constantly changing.
Thank you for reading my guide and I hope this helps you a lot.
SPECIAL THANKS TO THOSE WHO HAVE OFFERED CONSTRUCTIVE ADVICE OR SUGGESTED THINGS THAT I HAVE INTEGRATED INTO THE GUIDE (or was at one point in the guide)!
Mathog - Corrected some errors and false information that I had previously included
Miss Nightly - Suggested the use of scepter as a secondary weapon
Stellar - Suggested use the of axe/focus
Setharos - Started writing in my changes and updates per his suggestion
Reverse Ghost - Added an insightful post about stacking boon durations in order to utilize secondary weapon sets (axe/focus)
Phenn - for promoting my guide in his Introduction to the Necromancer guide
Pregnantman - for correcting my minion health stats