After a brief title change and 4 months having passed, I felt it time to look once again at Guild Wars 2’s profession to establish what’s hot and what’s not. As always, this post is based on my own anecdotal evidence while I remain ever keen to hear your views on the status of your profession.
When I previously spoke about the guardian, I described it as an immovable object. Unfortunately, it’s still an immovable object. Bunker guardians are still mandatory for all tournament play and make life infinitely easy in PvE encounters. Having recently played through the press preview of the Spirit Watch map, one particular ArenaNet developer was using a very shout heavy build and as a result was more than capable of tanking 3-4 enemy players hitting him at once. The frustrating issue here is the fact that it remains impossible for many professions to kill such players in a 1 on 1 scenario.
Fortunately for me I regularly run a trapper/condition ranger, which chews through such builds. If you aren’t lucky enough to have such a counter (there are far too few) you and your team will be forced to throw everything you have at the guardian in the hopes he or she buckles. This makes guardians indispensable in tournaments (especially as an Orb carrier in Spirit Watch) and far too useful in PvE
The recent changes brought by the patch fixed several key bugs and improved many skills. Frustratingly, they made various skills that were already strong, even better (see Spirit Weapons). While I can appreciate the fact that like any profession, guardians deserve bug fixes, what they really need is an evaluation on their usefulness and potency. I have always stood by the fact that any profession should be capable of surviving against multiple players based on their individual skill – not the equipment they have or the build they are forced to use.
If you’re seeking a profession still very much in demand, on all fronts of the game, look no further.
I can’t remember the last time I saw a warrior with a great sword outside of PvE. This is especially interesting when you think back over the last few months and the hysteria surrounding Hundred Blades. Partly the reason for the great sword exodus at a PvP level is the fact that many players have finally developed tactics to combat it, but also because hammers are the new “must have”.
I’ve always been a fan of the hammer in Guild Wars 2, even more so when it’s being wielded by a huge norn or charr in cultural armour. With the combination of knockdowns, pushback’s and blast finisher’s; hammers are formidable in PvP and WvW situations. I still don’t consider them a replacement for the greatsword in PvE, but if you do frequent tournaments and invaders often it’s well worth picking one up.
In regards to physical changes or improvements to the profession, there’s been very little movement. They’re as strong as they ever were and just as sought after. The last few patches have continued to tidy up various skills and traits making them one of the most polished professions in the game.
Engineers still remain the black sheep of Guild Wars 2’s professions, though there has been some improvement in regards to player perception of them (they are exceptional bunkers in tournaments). When it comes to PvE they are still shunned by many (being kicked from parties by those unfamiliar with the professions can be all too common) but those individuals should be swiftly ignore. Although it remains a niche profession, it remains powerful and flexible in the right hands.
Changes to sigils (which now effect kits) is the biggest improvement, which was much needed. Sadly, ArenaNet also nerfed one of the best kits the engineer has (grenade) by 30% because of it. As one of the few viable kits at high end PvE and WvW, it’s difficult to stomach. The raw damage levels of some kits have also been changed to ensure they are equivalent to “Exotic” quality, but I’ve yet to really notice any specific difference.
The Flamethrower has seen some love with the cone attack a lot more accurate, while the skill “Flame Blast” can now be detonated manually. Airblast now prolongs burning and flame jet also deals more damage to those burning. These are all solid changes that have made the kit much more desirable.
There are still many issues with the engineer, specific to traits, kits and notably the rifle. However, if you like versatility and a challenge, it’s still in a good place especially when it comes to tournaments just be prepared to specialise only in condition damage.
My last update on the ranger wasn’t particularly pretty. Having capped mine, kitted her out in the best gear available and really knuckled down a spec that works for me my view on them has shifted considerably and all for the better. Pets are still slow to use their abilities, but when controlled manually (i.e telling it whom to attack and when to return) they are incredibly powerful. Some changes have been made to a pet’s ability to attack moving targets which is definitely noticeable and path finding seems better. Most of this has gone unreported in patch notes, but I’ve definitely seen a difference.
Unfortunately, there are still gripes with the profession but none of these prevent it from being formidable. The flavour of the month at the moment is to stack healing power, condition damage and toughness in order to bunker, you then invest a significant amount of your traits in the vitality, toughness and pet trait lines. In many ways this allows you to survive long periods while letting your pet deal all the damage all the while making use of the swords movement skills to avoid damage. It works exceptionally well, but I expect it to be tweaked some time in the future (especially when it provides near constant vigor).
The major issue outstanding is agony resistance in Fractals and how it absolutely destroys pets, even when the ranger has it. Hopefully it will be fixed soon.
My guild has one active thief out of 90 members. Many of these members simply rerolled and chosen other professions, for both WvW, PvP and PvE. Whether or not this is indicative of the profession is very subjective, but it’s been months since I encountered any heart seeker “spam” and longer since I saw a thief in WvW. Part of the problem I fear is the fact that other professions hit hard, last longer and have more versatility. The rest of the problem stems from initiative (which is an inherent limiter for the profession) which requires a much greater analysis from ArenaNet on its functionality and viability.
At the moment, condition damage thieves are very popular but are quickly made redundant due to bleed stacks or the ease at which conditions are wiped. Sword specialisation is also prominent in World versus World due to its darting nature of attack and retreat play. For the most part however, I’d probably advise people playing a thief for the time being. While they can melt most PvE content, they aren’t particularly sought after in WvW, tournament PvP or end game dungeons leaving you as a second class citizen.
Elementalists have taken a turn for the better and worse since I last wrote about their status. There are now two things about the profession: double daggers and bunkering. I haven't encountered an elementalist for months that doesn't have either. The reason for this is the fact that they are nigh on indestructible, while their damage is ridiculous with the right setup (stacking Bloodlust plus Might). I say this having played a double dagger bunker elementalist for many tournaments. In many ways, I would count this build as the most overpowered in the game and am genuinely struggling to understand why it hasn't be trampled on by ArenaNet. The mobility afforded by double daggers, combined with 3 cantrips and almost complete specialization in toughness and vitality trait lines leaves a profession capable of taking on more than 4 players at once, and if against weaker foes, coming out on top. While there is no shelf life to this build, it's lasted so long with the power well known, I can't see it going anywhere soon.
The darling of Guild Wars 2 continues to remain pivotal to the effectiveness of parties and content. Veil, Portal, Time Warp and Feedback are four skills guilds and individuals don't want to live without while their scepter and its reflective trait is capable of destroying others in WvW. There really isn't much to build on when it comes to the mesmer as although they lack physical mobility (they have very few movement swiftness skills) they make up for this in every single department. So much so and if you're thinking of making a profession you really should look no further.
Build variety still remains a sore subject for necromancers who are still so heavily reliant on conditions and the dreaded bleed cap. While the bugs for necromancer continued to be squashed (though not quite as fast as they should be) their minions are still poor even in comparison to the rangers pet. Luckily, several new builds have reared their ugly corpses in recent months, notably the "juggermancer" which places a massive emphasis on death shroud, power and precision. It isn't common and I still consider well bombing, alongside staff conditions the most potent of builds, but it certainly adds some variety.