Variety is the spice of life and Guild Wars 2 completely understands the necessity of including a lot of variety in the game. Each profession in the game is given its own unique profession mechanic that helps separate the different playstyles. For the elementalist that mechanic is attunement. In short, each weapon contains four sets of skills, each set aligned to one of the four specific elements, and the elementalist can switch between the four depending on what role they need to fill. It’s a bit more complicated than that, so let’s try to simplify it.
All of the other professions can have two weapon sets equipped that they can switch between; each weapon set provides five skills, for a total of ten available skills at any given time. The elementalist cannot switch weapons in combat; instead they can switch between different attunements. There are four attunements available: fire, air, water, and earth, each with their own unique playstyle. So instead of being able to switch between two weapon skill bars, the elementalist can switch between four.
The tradeoff is that the weapon’s theme (long range, mid-range, and AoE) persists through attunement switches. A good example is that a warrior can switch between a bow for long range assaults and then switch to a shield and sword for close combat defense. The elementalist can only switch between different attunements, the general weapon theme will persist. They also only have five possible weapon sets; however, counting attunements they have up to 20 different weapon sets which more than a warrior has!
Like weapon switching, there is a 15 second cooldown on the previous attunement and a 1 second cooldown placed on the remaining attunements. You can switch attunements mid-cast and while moving. The attunements are switched with the function keys, although remapping them may be in order if you don’t want to reach your hand up that far on your keyboard. Each element has its own unique playstyle, which we’ll get into below.
The Four Elements
The four elements play vastly different, so it’s important to know the abilities in each weapon skill set and how they play, so that you can be ready for anything. Below, we generalize each attunement, but understand that there is a lot more depth to this mechanic that you can only learn by playing. You may discover different ways to employ the different elements and build your own way of playing.
Fire – Raw Damage
Fire is raw damage, plain and simple; you don’t get more “raw damage” than fire in GW2. Of course, understanding how GW2 is, raw damage includes conditions (like burning) and utility, because you can control the AI by placing AoE abilities down and making them take detours (or forcing players in PvP not to take the damage and move elsewhere).
There isn’t much more to understand – if you want something dead, you go fire. Fire should be used at all times whenever you want something DPS’d down, the other attunements are capable of damage, but not in the quantity and quality that fire provides.
You will switch to the fire attunement to deal damage and gain access to Burning.
Air – Spike / Burst Damage
Of course, some enemies heal and in PvP, most enemies will use their healing skills. That’s where air comes in, like a warrior, air serves to deal damage in large increments spaced out over time. So instead of constantly flying in, the damage comes in large chunks, which is great to bypass enemy healing. Air also contains the Swiftness boon and various stuns and knockbacks for crowd control.
You will switch to the air attunement to spike/burst enemies and gain access to Swiftness / Control.
Water – Support
Water acts as a support build, containing healing and Regeneration, along with snares. As I harp on often, GW2 does not have healers or tanks, so the water attunement doesn’t necessarily give direct heals, but does help support allied players and yourself. For instance, Cleansing Wave will heal yourself and nearby allies and remove conditions while Geyser will create a short duration ground effect that heals allies inside of it. Frozen Ground is great for control, because it applies the chilled condition which increases recharge and snares enemies.
You will switch to the water attunement to gain support / healing abilities and gain access to Regeneration.
Earth – Defense and Conditions
So far we have raw damage, spike damage, and support. The last playstyle is defense and conditions, which turns the elementalist more into a tank. Again, GW2 doesn’t have “tanks” so you won’t gain access to taunts, but you will gain an array of defensive abilities like Rock Barrier which ups your defense and can be activated to throw rocks at your enemies or Obsidian Flesh which grants invulnerable, perfect for running into a keep or avoiding a huge spike in PvP. Earth also has a lot of conditions, mainly bleed, which gives earth a superior damage over time build.
You will switch to the earth attunement to gain more defense and gain access to Bleed.
Fluid Switching & Builds
Here’s the neat part – most professions generally build themselves out to focus on one thing or another. For instance, a guardian may build itself out to be a point defender, focusing on wards, defense, and support. While they can switch weapons, their utility skills and the weapons they’ll switch between will focus primarily on that function. An elementalist can switch between four roles fluidly, even building themselves out with different utility skills. Many of the utility skills switch with the attunement, for instance, Glyph of Elemental Harmony grants a different boon depending on the current active attunement and Glyph of Storms which creates a storm based on your current attunement. As a matter of a fact, all glyphs change based on which attunement you are in.
Switching between the elements is critical for the elementalist.
There are also the “arcane” skills in the utility bar that are element-less and go along with any build. Then there are element specific utility skills that can be used in any attunement, but can end up working best to fit into a specific role. For instance, Signet of Earth improves toughness and is best to carry with you when you want to be a bit more tanky.
Armor of Earth is an important utility skill to remember, because it grants stability and protection, two vital boons in PvP. See our boon guide to find out more about the different boons, but needless to say, it works well with any build, even if it’s labeled “earth.”
Ultimately, you’ll want to find a point where you can switch fluidly between the different elements in combat. Switching to air to stun an enemy, then to water to heal yourself, then back to fire to finish them off is a great and fun way to blaze your path through Tyria.
GW2 is all about bucking the norm, and the elementalist profession is a prime example. What do you think about attunements? Let us know in the comments section below.