Each profession in Guild Wars 2 has a total of five trait lines and they’re generally themed according to the profession. For the elementalist it’s actually quite simple, the first four are elements and the fifth is the arcane, a generalist trait line. Traits provide three separate bonuses, the first is the passive attribute bonus, the second is a minor trait bonus that unlocks at 5, 15, and 25 points and is not selectable, and the third is the major trait bonus at 10, 20, and 30 points which can be selected by the player.
Traits are critical to making builds because many of the major traits play directly into some build ideas. That’s why elementalists have be careful not to get stuck in the mentality that each trait line is for a specific element, but focus on what each one offers. Sure, putting your points into fire will make your fire abilities better, but it’s generally assumed that the fire line will increase your damage, with the option to buff summoned weapons, some signets, and your fire themed spells.
We’ll delve into each trait line and try to understand the various major traits, along with how the passive attribute bonuses contribute to the profession. If you need to know more about attributes, check out our attribute guide. We'll also be taking a look at how traits syngergize and picking up combos is a great idea.
To make things simple, any numbers referenced are estimates and theoretical, based off of the default PvP armor set. As the game evolves, they may alter or move numbers around and you may gear yourself differently, so assume all numbers are there as estimates. Any combos of traits listed are basic synergies, traits are heavily build dependent and you must customize your traits to your build.
Fire Magic – Power and Condition Duration
Power increases your attack for all non-condition abilities and condition duration increases the length of time that your conditions are on your enemy. This means that your attacks will be more powerful and your conditions more effective. With thirty points in, you’ll gain 30% more condition duration and 300 power.
Fire is something you’ll probably want to put points in for most of your builds, especially any which focus on offense. Three hundred power is the difference between 687 damage and 790 damage with your fireball, or about 100 extra damage a hit before any other modifiers. So it’s definitely important because that can equal a ton of damage over time considering it applies to all of your attack abilities.
As far as major traits go, Internal Fire (10% more damage with fire) is important. With a staff at a training dummy, it took my fireball hits from 900~ to 980~ or about 80 more damage a hit. Pyromancer’s Alacrity is also important, 20% cooldown reduction will take Lave Font from 6 seconds to 4 3/4ths a second, which is impressive. Persisting Flames (30% longer fire fields) is great in support roles where you want to give your allies burning or when using a staff, otherwise Pyromancer’s Puissance is rather nifty, it’ll let you keep up 3~5 stacks of Might while attacking, which got my fireball ability above 1,000 damage.
Those listed above are the go to traits for most basic builds. More complex builds may look into comboing Ember’s Might (5% more damage to burning foes) with Burning Precision (30% chance to apply burning on critical) which works outside of the fire attunement. So you can technically burn enemies with any attack that can critical.
- Flame Barrier (5 Points) – You have a 20% chance to cause burning whenever a foe attacks you in melee and you’re attuned to fire. You shouldn’t be hit in melee, so this isn’t that amazing.
- Sunspot (15 Points) – Inflict damage at your location when you attune to fire. It’s a little bit more damage whenever you are attunement swapping. It’s about 500 damage at level 80.
- Burning Rage (25 Points) – Deal 5% more damage to burning enemies.
Air Magic – Precision and Critical Damage
Air is mostly considered the burst or spike damage attunement and precision (critical chance) and critical damage make it even more so. In default PvP armor and no points in Air Magic, you’ll have a 4% chance to critical strike. With 30 points that raises to 18%, or 14% critical strike chance for 30 points. It also gives you 30% more critical damage, which makes each of those critical hits hit harder.
Air is another key component for any damage oriented build. The more points you put into air, the greater the chance of a critical, which means you deal more burst damage. This is great for any offensive, non-condition heavy build since precision does nothing for conditions. Like I mentioned above, the Ember’s Might and Burning Precision combo synergize well with a heavy focus in Air Magic.
The major traits are a bit interesting. Bolt to the Heart deals 20% more damage to foes with less than 25% of their health. This is amazing for whenever you need to finish someone off fast. Aeromancer’s Alacrity is, again, great if you’ll be using air abilities for its 20% cooldown reduction. Grounded is another great trait, 20% more damage on foes who are knocked down or stunned. That’s 40% or so extra damage tool if you stun someone below 25% health.
- Zephyr’s Speed (5 Points) – 10% faster movement speed while attuned to air. It’s almost worth five points to pick this one up to increase your mobility.
- Electric Discharge (15 Points) – You strike your target with an air blast. It does about 600 damage at level 80, give or take.
- Weak Spot (25 Points) – 60% chance to cause vulnerability on critical hits. This is decent, because it gives you a good chance to apply vulnerability which is 1% additional damage on a critical strike. The vulnerability lasts about 4-5 seconds, more with more condition duration.
Earth Magic – Condition Damage and Toughness
This is the control and condition trait line. Elementalists don’t have a ton of condition based offensive builds, compared to other professions, but they can definitely put down a lot of burning and bleeding. So if you’re looking at making a condition heavy build then this is definitely the path to go. Using Staff 2, Eruption, 30 points in Earth will mean the difference between 45 damage a tick and 60 damage a tick on the bleed. Combine with Fire Magic’s condition duration; you’ll be looking at 3,266 damage vs. 5,432 damage from the full duration of the bleed.
Toughness increases your armor by 1 point, which lowers direct damage. This is great if you’re wanting to go into a dungeon and “tank” as an elementalist. My one recommendation if you go this route, take Summon Earth Shield. It’ll help mitigate some of the incoming damage if you’re in a scenario that you can’t keep the enemy away from you.
For major traits, Salt Stone gives 5% additional damage for bleed. Impale, Ring of Earth, Earthquake, Churning Earth, and a few more skills apply bleeding, so this is a passive 5% additional damage to any condition build. Strength of Stone gives 10% more damage while attuned to earth and Written in Stone lets you maintain the passive effects of signets, which are key to a good condition build.
- Stone Flesh (5 Points): Gain 1 toughness per level while attuned to earth. This is obviously 80 extra toughness at level 80 which is a fair amount.
- Earthen Blast (15 Points): Does damage and cripples foes when you switch to the earth attunement. This one is actually really nifty for gaining distance.
- Enduring Damage (25 Points): Deal 10% more damage while your endurance is full. This one is neat, since it’s a flat 10% damage until you dodge roll.
Water Magic – Healing and Vitality
Water is a support trait line and nothing else. Healing increases the health restored from your healing abilities and vitality increases your health. For vitality, 30 points will take you from 17,245 health to 20,245 or 3,000 extra health. That’s a few additional hits before you’re downed. For healing, Dagger 5, Cleansing Wave, will heal 1,302 at 0 points and 1,602 at 30 points. A sizable amount.
If you’re going support then you’ll want to max water out and focus your gear around healing. While GW2 doesn’t have dedicated healers, it does have dedicated support. For a support build, your major traits should be Aquamancer’s Alacrity, Cantrip Mastery for increased survivability, and Cleansing Water for condition removal.
- Soothing Mist (5 Points): Regenerate health while attuned to water. It’s a nifty passive, but not horribly strong, about 90~100 health per tick at 80.
- Healing Ripple (15 Points): Heals you and nearby allies when you attune to water. Heals for about 1,500.
- Bountiful Power (25 Points): Deal 2% more damage for each boon.
Arcana – Boon Duration and Attunement Recharge Rate
Boon Duration works in percentages, 30% with 30 points and Attunement Recharge is 2% per point or 60% with 30 points. It’s a 15 second cooldown on previously used attunements with 0 points and that drops down to 9 seconds with 30 points. It’s a 2 second cooldown on available attunements when switching and about a 1.2 second cooldown with 30 points.
Arcana is useful in a variety of builds, mostly because it is rather generic. In a “traditional build” of 30/30/10, you’ll do 30 in one line, 30 in another, and 10 in arcana (or 30/20/20), although honestly the sky is the limit when it comes to picking your traits. Boon Duration is important, just because it lets you stack more duration / intensity because you have your boons lasting longer. Attunement recharge is also important because it lets you switch between your different attunements faster, making it easier to be more fluid with switching.
Elemental Attunement is a favorite because it applies a boon based on the attunement you switch to, which just general synergizes well with each build. The second tier abilities are all weapon based, so if your build involves a staff you’ll want Blasting Staff which makes your AoE staff abilities bigger. The last tier is an easy one, Evasive Arcana is generally a neat dodge roll mechanic and Elemental Surge is wonderful if you carry any arcane abilities and can synergize to get conditions on your foes quicker.
- Arcane Fury (5 Points): Grant yourself fury for 2 seconds on attunement swap. Fury for 2 seconds is kind of neat; it isn’t affected by boon duration however. Fury gives you a 20% chance to critical strike and the two seconds gives you about enough time to get one or two spells off.
- Lingering Elements (15 Points): Attunement bonuses last 5 seconds longer. This one is a bit tricky, basically your attunement is like a boon and it applies itself to you when you’re in that attunement. You can see the icon on the left side of your skill bar. When you switch, you’ll be in two attunements for 5 seconds, which lets the previous attunements affects apply to you for that duration.
- Arcane Precision (25 Points): Skills have a chance to apply a condition based on your attunement on critical hits. Fire is burning, Water is chilled, Air is blindness, and Earth is immobilize.
It's important to see how these attributes, minor, and major traits work together because your build will depend on it. What's your favorite line of magic? Let us know in the comments section below.