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Intro Guide to Builds in GW2

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July 24, 2012 - 6:36pm -- Sardu
Intro Guide to Builds in GW2

Intro Guide to Builds in GW2

As you progress your character in Guild Wars 2 either in normal PvE or World vs. World (WvW) gameplay, you will begin unlocking the core components that constitute a “build”. These unlocks occur through active participation in combat, character level milestones, or access to gear upgrades depending on the individual component.

We’ve broken down these core building blocks of GW2 builds below, in the order of when you’ll encounter or unlock them in PvE or WvW gameplay. For quick reference, these are as follows:

Level Unlocks
1 First weapon skills, Profession Mechanics, Healing Skill
5 First Utility Skill Slot
7 Weapon Swapping
10 Second Utility Skill Slot
11 Adept Trait Tier
20 Third Utility Skill Slot
30 Elite Skill Slot
40 Master Trait Tier
60 Grandmaster Trait Tier

Please note that in The Heart of the Mists, GW2’s massive structured PvP lobby, each of these components will automatically be unlocked and your character will be scaled directly to level 80. For more on this aspect of structured PvP (sPvP for short), be on the lookout for our complete guides to sPvP in GW2.

Weapon Skills

The first, and most important part of your build that you’ll have access to are your weapon skills. When you create a new character, you will have a main hand weapon equipped, with the first skill automatically unlocked. As you actively engage in combat and defeat enemies, you will progressively unlock the remaining skills for that weapon.

GW2 Weapon Skills Tab

Upon completion of the intro for each race, you will be rewarded with a choice of off-hand weapons. The off-hand weapon skills occupy the 4th and 5th skill slot on your hotbar, and need to be unlocked through active use the same as your main hand weapon skills.

It’s important to note that weapon skill unlocks are progressive. This means that you won’t be able to unlock your off-hand skills (slots 4-5) if you haven’t yet unlocked the second and third skills on your equipped main hand weapon (slots 2-3).

You will need to complete this unlock process for each weapon your profession is able to equip. To see a full list of available weapons for your profession and a list of the associated skills, open the Hero window [H] and on the left side open the Skills and Traits tab (shown above to the right).

GW2 Aquatic Weapon Tip

A full list of which weapons are available to each profession can be seen below:

Axe         X X   X
Dagger X       X X X  
Mace     X         X
Pistol   X   X     X  
Scepter X   X X X      
Sword     X X   X X X
Focus X   X X X      
Shield   X X         X
Torch     X X   X    
Warhorn         X X   X
Greatsword     X X   X   X
Hammer     X         X
Longbow           X   X
Rifle   X           X
Shortbow           X X  
Staff X   X X X      
Harpoon Gun   X       X X X
Spear     X X X X X X
Trident X   X X X      

Profession Mechanics

The second part of your build that will automatically be unlocked (either partially or in full depending on your profession) when you begin the game is a unique mechanic specific to your profession. In some cases these profession mechanics will also need to be progressively unlocked through active use, similar to your weapon skills.

For example, new necromancers will be able to activate the Death Shroud mechanic [F1] once you’ve built up enough Life Force. This gives you temporary access to 4 unique skills, though only the first of these (Life Blast) will be unlocked initially. As you continue using Death Shroud actively in combat and defeating enemies, you will progressively unlock the 3 remaining skills.

GW2 Warrior Adrenaline Tip

Certain professions will unlock additional aspects of their unique mechanic through leveling. Examples here include the Warrior which unlocks the ability to build up to three stages of Adrenaline power as they level (shown above), or the Elementalist which unlocks additional Attunements after the first few levels of gameplay.

Healing Skills

The third and final aspect of your overall build that will be automatically unlocked on newly created characters is your Healing Skill slot. This skill will appear on your hotbar in the 6th skill slot, located directly to the right of your heath meter as shown below.

GW2 Healing Skill Slot

Additional healing skills can be unlocked as you advance your character by purchasing them with Skill Points. Skill points are earned 1 per level upon reaching level 5, and can also be earned by completing various challenges found throughout the world in both PvE and WvW gameplay.

All professions have access to 3 unique healing skills, with an additional healing skill available based on the race of your character (Human and Sylvari only). Once an additional healing skill has been purchased, you can slot it on your hotbar by clicking on the small arrow for that skill slot. A full list of skills available for that slot will appear, with locked skills being grayed out on the list.

As there are no dedicated healing professions in Guild Wars 2, your healing skill will be a critical aspect of your build, regardless of which game type you choose to participate in. Please note that racial skills (including healing skills) cannot be used in sPvP. This helps preserve the balance between all characters in competitive PvP, while still offering you some unique gameplay options based on your character’s race in PvE and WvW combat.

Utility Skills

At level 5 you will unlock your first Utility Skill slot. Similar to healing skills, utility skills need to be unlocked for use by purchasing them with any skill points you’ve accumulated through leveling or skill challenges.

The available utility skills for your profession can be seen by opening the Hero window [H] and clicking on the Skills and Traits tab. In this view, left-click on “Slot Skills” to bring up the complete utility skills list for your profession.

GW2 Necro Utility Skills

As you can see above, utility skills are broken down into three basic tiers. You must unlock 5 skills in each tier to progress to the next, and the skills in each tier will cost more skill points to unlock.

  • First Tier Skills – 1 point each
  • Second Tier Skills – 3 points each
  • Third Tier Skills – 6 points each

As you advance your character’s level, you will also unlock two additional utility skill slots. The second slot (skill number 8 on your hotbar) unlocks at level 10, and the third one (skill number 9) unlocks at level 20. You can swap out your active utility skills at any point so long as you’re not actively engaged in combat. This process is the same as swapping your healing skills as described above.

Finally, as with healing skills, all professions will gain access to unique utility skills depending on the race of your character. The same rule applies for sPvP here, so you will only be able to access and use your racial skills in PvE and WvW.

Weapon Swapping

GW2 Weapon Swaps

With the exception of the Elementalist and Engineer, beginning at level 7 you will unlock the ability to swap between two unique weapon sets during combat. To equip a second weapon set, open your Hero window [H] and you will see a list of all items in your inventory that you are able to equip to the left of your character portrait.

From here you can drag & drop weapons into your second weapon set slots. Once you’ve got a second weapon set slotted, you can quickly change weapons by simply right-clicking on any weapon from your inventory and select to equip it in your main or off-hand depending on the weapon. Please note that this will replace the weapons in your Active set only.

To swap weapon sets either in or out of combat, press the [`] key, located directly to the left of the number 1 key on your keyboard. Outside of combat you can swap active weapon sets at-will, but during combat there will be a short recharge time each time you swap active sets.

GW2 Weapon Sets Tip


At level 11, you will gain access to Traits. Traits allow you to enhance the primary and secondary Attributes for your profession, customize how certain skills function in combat, and improve your overall effectiveness in combat.

Beginning at level 11, you will gain 1 Trait Point per level, for a total of 70 points at level 80. Each profession has access to 5 unique Trait Lines, with each line consisting of 3 10-point tiers. The levels at which these tiers unlock is as follows:

  • Adept – Level 11
  • Master – Level 40
  • Grandmaster – Level 60

To unlock each of these tiers, you will need to visit the Trainer NPC for your profession. These will be located in all major cities, or just outside of them in the starting explorable zones. To find the trainer for your profession, you can open your map [M], or they will also display a book icon for your profession over their nameplate.

The cost of each training manual can be seen in the image below:

GW2 Training Manuals

Elite Skills

The final major component of standard builds in Guild Wars 2 is your Elite Skill slot (skill number 10 on your hotbar). Elite skills become available to purchase and use starting at level 30, and are more powerful than your other utility skills. As such, both the skill point cost and recharge times for elite skills are also much higher than other skill unlocks.

The available elite skills for your profession can be found in the same tab of your Hero window as your healing and utility skills. There are also two tiers of elite skills; first tier skills cost 10 points to unlock, while second tier skills cost 30 points.

Armor and Weapon Upgrades

The final thing to consider in your build will be the attributes or other enhancements gained by your equipped armor, weapon sets, and accessories. Most items in the game have Upgrade Slots that allow you to customize which attributes are enhanced, or add secondary effects.

As you advance in levels, upgrades can be added that provide additional benefits for each piece of gear that uses the same upgrade. You can also craft armor, weapons, and accessories which gives you direct control over the exact attributes or enhancements you want to add to an item.

To learn more about how Attributes impact your character’s build and combat effectiveness, be sure to read our complete GW2 Attributes Guide.


oneeyered's picture
Submitted by oneeyered on

Awesome sauce

Its a simple world for complicated people



sylvinstar's picture
Submitted by sylvinstar on

Perfect guide for the beginner.yes

Raina's picture
Submitted by Raina on
Thank you for this. I have been trying to get a straightforward explaination on this since the first BWE.

Madrox's picture
Submitted by Madrox on

The highest I've gotten pve during the past BWE's was level 12. It's going to be a long time before I can use an elite skill vs a random mob.