The latest game update released earlier this week included a number of positive changes to necromancer skills and traits. Rather than simply rehashing a basic list of what’s been altered (you can find the original update notes on the official wiki) I spent some quality time on my necro in-game to test each of these changes out. We'll also take a look at one skill (and trait) that didn't make the cut for the latest update, but is in need of a number of fixes.
Before we get started, I did mention in the last episode of Grenth’s Grog that I would be taking a closer look at dagger necro builds. Once I began writing everything out, I discovered that there was a lot of information I thought was worthy of inclusion based on all of the variables involved. Off-hand weapons, utility skills, attributes, and traits can all have a very deep impact on how a dagger build plays for a necro, and each of those things are worth taking the time to assess properly.
So instead of rambling out a 5,000 word opus all in one pass, I’m going to be taking a different approach to that kind of build analysis. While I’m certainly not the best video editor in the world, I’ve been working on putting together a series of videos that showcase specific builds – such as the variants on a dagger necro – and will begin running them with my next necro column. If you’re a fan of some of the other professions, we’ll be doing some build analysis videos for many of them as well, so stay tuned for more details!
On that note, let’s dive into the latest updates for the necro, shall we?
September 25th Necromancer Updates
The necromancer still has a few skills and traits that aren’t functioning properly, but this latest update addresses a number of issues that have been present since launch, or tweaked things so that they simply improve gameplay. I’ll be going down the full list of these changes from top to bottom, and adding any notes based on my in-game experiences and screenshots to help illustrate some of the changes that didn’t have long descriptions in the update notes.
- Necromancer Skill Updates -
Taste of Death: This skill’s healing fact has been updated
This one is pretty straight forward, with a tooltip that clearly describes what the skill does, and the amount you will be healed for. The heal amount will still depend on your character level, and your overall heal rating. In and of itself, Taste of Death remains the necro’s weakest direct heal, but only if you ignore the life steal component of having the blood fiend active in combat. Here are how the three heals stack up on a level 80 necro that’s built for power and condition damage at the cost of healing and vitality:
Spectral Wall: This skill has been updated to apply the correct amount of vulnerability (10)
The changes to spectral skills in this pass are highly positive, such as the fix to spectral wall. It’s one of those skills (and skill lines) that I’ve seen used far less often than most others, but hopefully this update will help make them more attractive options again.
Spectral Walk: This skill has been updated to be more active and to work properly with its recharge trait. Sever Spectral Bond has been changed to Spectral Recall.
This skill has found a semi-permanent home on my utility bar in PvE and WvW. We can now decide when we want to recall to the point where the walk was initiated, if at all, and no longer suffer a negative penalty in the process. This is an extremely positive change for the skill overall; now I just need to retrain myself on its usage. Previously I was in the habit of simply double-tapping the key to use it since my main usage was to gain the 30s of swiftness. If you do that now, however, it will snap you back to your original location.
Putrid Mark: This skill has been fixed to make it properly unblockable with the Greater Marks trait.
This represents a fix for this skill / trait combo rather than an outright change in functionality. Staff-focused sPvP builds and support necros in dungeons should be pretty pleased with this one for obvious reasons.
- Necromancer Trait Updates -
Vampiric: Fixed a bug with this trait so that it now functions with projectiles.
Long story short, this trait was fairly decent for dagger builds, but wasn’t really providing any benefit for scepter and staff builds. The base heal amount still tends to be fairly week (roughly 1/10 of the life steal from the blood fiend) but shifting attributes to increase healing, and slotting weapons for quickness can easily help this trait live up to its name.
Close to Death: This trait has been updated to provide its listed 20% boost instead of the previous (unlisted) 10% boost.
This was already a worthy trait for power / precision builds. For a while I was running a daggers build that used quickness sigils and was amazed at how quickly things dropped compared to some of my other builds. This trait is worthy in a number of situations, and well worth the 30 points in Spite. In PvE it helps you defeat single targets incredibly fast, and in PvP it can help offset some of the inherent armor rating of guardians and warriors.
Banshee’s Wail: This Curses trait has been updated to apply extra swiftness.
This one mainly applies to how the trait impacts Locust Swarm which grants a base 10s of swiftness. While not a significant boost, Banshee’s Wail will mean you gain 12s of swiftness from Locust Swarm, and will be able to use the skill every 25.5s. If you pair Locust Swarm with Spectral Walk (both traited to reduce cooldown and extend duration of effects) you can keep swiftness active the majority of the time, making for an incredibly mobile necro.
Minion Master: This Death Magic trait has been updated to properly affect the elite skill Summon Flesh Golem.
This low cost (10 point) trait is definitely worth slotting if you plan on running a minion master build. With this update the flesh golem can be summoned at 48s, down from the base 60s. While you could consider this more of a fix rather than a direct improvement, it still improves the quality of life for minion masters regardless.
Mark of Evasion: This trait can now trigger the Soul Marks trait.
Mark of Evasion is a low cost (10 point) Blood Magic trait that will leave a Mark of Blood when you dodge. It’s basically a handy way to gain some extra regen (and cause bleeding) without having to swap to a staff for the same effect. With Soul Marks, your marks will generate 3% life force when triggered, so this is a decent improvement to another utilitarian trait.
Reaper’s Protection: This trait has been updated to properly work with a variety of crowd-control effects.
At 20 points in Death Magic, this is one of those traits that would be perfect for sPvP if only fear had a longer duration. At present it’s sort of a gamble. For example, before unleashing a more powerful skill it’s fairly common to CC your target first to help insure it lands. Assuming that’s the case, Reaper’s Protection will negate that from happening once every 90 seconds. At the very least it will help negate the incoming damage you would have normally received while CC’d but given the long cooldown it may or may not help save your bacon right when you need it the most.
- This Week’s Wish List Fix -
Spiteful Talisman: Focus skills recharge 20% faster and have an increased range.
This trait is currently functioning properly with Spinal Shivers. However, outside of combat, the tooltip for Reaper’s Touch properly displays the increase to 1,200 range (up from 900) and recharge reduction to 14s, but then reverts back to 900 range and 18s recharge as soon as you enter combat. In fact, even before entering combat you can target an enemy and the tooltip will still display a 1,200 range, but this only works on Spinal Shivers – Reaper’s Touch will show a red indicator that you’re not in range (and you technically won’t be if you try to use the skill).
Also notice how much the skill changes based on being in or out of combat. Not only is Spiteful Talisman not having its intended impact on reaper's touch, but both the damage and healing component of the skill sees a fairly drastic reduction the moment you enter combat as well.
I’ve been using a scepter / focus build fairly heavily this past week, so this would be my wish list fix for necros in the next major update pass to our skills and traits.