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Elementalist Attunement Guide

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August 13, 2012 - 9:20am -- Xerin
GW2 Elementalist Attunement Guide

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.

Earth and Air Attunement GW2

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.

GW2 attunements on cooldown

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.


whoresbane's picture
Submitted by whoresbane on

I was very bored with ele in guild wars 1, still it was my main. I dont even want to touch the ele in gw2.

"The individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists."

Wedge7's picture
Submitted by Wedge7 on

I really enjoy the ele in GW2. Their flexibility is amazing, with their attunements allowing them to switch combat role depending upon what is required. It takes a while to unlock all the skills, but once you do, you have a very powerful character at your fingertips! 

ArcherAvatar's picture
Submitted by ArcherAvatar on

The CD (cool down) on an element you've switched from can drop from 15 seconds to 9 with 30 pts placed into the Arcane trait line.  (a 40% reduction in the CD.)

The elementalist profession may seem fairly "simple" to some folks on first blush, but there is a depth and complexity to playing it masterfully that only reveals itself with time and experience.  Understanding what you can do with combinations and synergies between the various attunements is where the real depth of the profession lays.

Galen's picture
Submitted by Galen on

The temptation in PvE is to just run around in Fire, since massive DPS is a big thing in PvE.  While you can do this and be pretty successful, I like to start off a fight in air more often than not.  I quickly do some burst damage, switch to doing earth for some conditions and then, depending on how down my opponent is compared to me, I'll either switch to water to do slow damage, or if I need to finish the fight fast, I'll go to fire and simply lay waste.

Coming up with a playstyle of attunement swapping is one of the keys to having fun with this class, and you do an amazing job laying out the differences between the elements.

Only other thing I would like to stress, is that some weapons are better at focusing on these elemental roles than others, but I also think this is rather self-evident in the game since it is true with all professions.


sylvinstar's picture
Submitted by sylvinstar on

Elementalist was on my launch list until I retried engineer during BWE3.  If I ever buy a character slot Elementalist is first on my list.

Xerin's picture
Submitted by Xerin on

Thanks, yeah I changed the link shortly after posting. I'll alert the lord commander of the site to fix it :)

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

As a issue of a certainty, many glyphs homework help  transfer based on which attunement you are i