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Necromancer Guide

July 31, 2012 - 2:47am -- Sardu
GW2 Necromancer Guide

The necromancer in Guild Wars 2 draws plenty of thematic inspiration from the traditional caster archetype of being a practitioner of the dark arts who can control the dead, drain life force from the living, and use poison and cold based attacks to slow and wear their foes down over time. While each of these rings true of the necromancer profession, in GW2 they are also built for high survivability, and are one of the game’s best examples of what is possible with Conditions as the cornerstone of damage output rather than larger direct damage attacks.

GW2 Necromancer Icon

Necromancer Quick Facts

  • One of Guild Wars 2's three Scholar professions
  • Able to wear Light armor
  • Able to summon a variety of undead Minions
  • Makes effective use of Conditions
  • Uses a unique mechanic called Death Shroud
  • Can fight a short, mid, or long range
  • Can fulfill a tanking role in dungeons thanks to high survivability
  • Makes an excellent point defender in Structured PvP

Necromancer Themes and Combat Roles

The necromancer makes heavy use of Condition damage to drain the health of their foes over time rather than focusing on direct damage attacks. Most of the necro’s weapon and utility skill lines take this into account, and also provide plenty of opportunities to transform Boons into Conditions on foes, or benefit from the presence of Conditions in various ways.

The necro breaks away from the archetype by being a strong melee- or mid-range combatant, but can also be played at range depending on which weapons you equip. They also offer high survivability which can be augmented through a combination of the Toughness attribute, Life Stealing abilities, the Death Shroud mechanic, and the ability to summon minions.

GW2 Necro Putrid Explosion

This helps make them a great profession for solo PvE, but the necro also stands out as one of the best tanks in dungeons, and offer strong defense in structured PvP. On the flipside, in World vs. World the necro does tend to suffer from a lack of long-range offensive capabilities, and often functions best in a support role in that game type.

Necromancer Weapons

GW2 Necro Weapon Skills

Starting at level 7, the necromancer is able to equip two unique weapon sets. These can be actively swapped by pressing the [`] key at any time out-of-combat, though there will be a short cooldown after swapping weapon sets during combat before you will be able to swap back again. For more information on how this system works, please refer to our Intro Guide to Builds.

The weapons that necromancers can equip along with their associated skills can be seen in-game by opening the Hero window [H] and selecting the Skills and Traits tab on the left. You can see a list of available weapons for the necro below, or also by clicking to view a larger version of the image shown to the right.

Main Hand

Off-Hand

Two-Handed

Aquatic

Axe

Dagger

Staff

Spear

Dagger

Focus

 

Trident

Scepter

Warhorn

 

 

Life Force and Death Shroud

The unique profession mechanic for the necromancer is called Death Shroud. This is a temporary state that you can enter that will grant you access to four additional skills both on land and while underwater.

You can activate Death Shroud at any time by pressing the [F1] key, though first you must have built up sufficient Life Force. Life force can be gained through active use of weapon and utility skills which can be further augmented through Traits. Your total life force will be displayed directly above your weapon skills as shown in the image below.

GW2 Necro Skill Bar

Upon entering death shroud, your life force will slowly drain over time, but will also serve as a temporary secondary health pool. In other words, instead of taking damage to your health while in death shroud, incoming damage will instead reduce your available life force. Once your life force has been depleted you will automatically exit death shroud, but can also do so at any time by pressing the [F1] key again.

This mechanic can be used to greatly enhance your survivability, and there are a number of traits that provide additional benefits to using death shroud, slow the rate at which life force drains, or even factor in strong team support components.

For more details on death shroud, life force, and supporting skills and traits be sure to check out our complete Death Shroud and Life Force Guide.

Necromancer Trait Lines

Upon reaching level 11, you will begin earning Trait Points (1 per level for a total of 70 at level 80) that can be spent in any of the five available Trait Lines. Each point spent will increase 2 primary or secondary attributes, with every 5 points spent unlocking either a Minor or Major trait.

The trait lines for the necromancer are listed below, along with their associated attributes and weapon or utility skill type associations.

Spite

  • +10 Power per point spent
  • +1% Condition Duration per point spent
  • Improves - Signets, Death Shroud (minor), General Damage

Curses

  • +10 Precision per point spent
  • +10 Condition Damage per point spent
  • Improves - Warhorn skills and the Wells, Corruptions, and Spectral utility skill lines

Death Magic

  • +10 Toughness per point spent
  • +1% Boon Duration per point spent
  • Improves - Staff skills, Survivability, Minions and Wells

Blood Magic

  • +10 Vitality per point spent
  • +10 Healing Power per point spent
  • Improves - Dagger skills, Marks (staff skills), Wells, and Minions.

Soul Reaping

  • +1% Critical Damage per point spent
  • +1% Life Force Pool per point spent
  • Improves - Death Shroud (major enhancement), Spectral skills

Additional Necromancer Tips

The necromancer can be incredibly fun to play, and is easily one of the most durable professions in Guild Wars 2. To account for a naturally larger health pool and high survivability, however, necros are focused primarily on using condition damage to slowly wear down foes rather than being a major direct damage dealer.

As such, regardless of what weapon sets, traits, and utility skill lines you focus on, you will want to make sure you also factor increased mobility into your build. For example, you can gain Swiftness both in and out of combat via the Warhorn skill Locus Swarm, or via the Focus skill Reaper's Touch during combat. The Spectral and Minion skill lines also offer some interesting mobility options worth considering. The spectral skill Spectral Walk can be used as an escape mechanism, while the active skill gained from summoning a Flesh Wurm, Necrotic Traversal, can provide you with a short range teleport.

You will also want to get used to entering and exiting Death Shroud early on, as it can not only be critical to survival in sPvP and dungeons, but can also greatly enhance your direct damage output for a brief period thanks to the Life Blast skill.

Be on the lookout for more detailed guides to the necromancer profession, and don't forget to check out our regular necromancer column, Grenth's Grog, for plenty of necro build analysis and discussion.


sylvinstar
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The problem with spectral walk is that you end up back where you started when you pop it (according to the description).  I guess this gives you some temporary relief and scouting ability for WvW or dungeons, but I see this as a very limited skill when you look at what else you could be putting on your bar.  Also, is it just me, or is going into the Soul Reaping line not as good as it used to be?  It seems like in BWE1 going into a death shroud focused build required less points in that line to be effective.  I can't remember for sure, but it seems like when they tiered traits and moved traits around that it toned down what you could do when traiting for death shroud builds.

Sardu
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Spectral Walk does have very situational use, but here's a good example:

I play point defense fairly often in sPvP, and unless other teammates are around I'll need to buy as much time as possible until reinforcements can arrive when under attack. So say I've got two players smacking me over the head -- I can hit Spectral Walk and begin leading them away from the capture point (buying time) since 99% of the time people will chase you down for the kill vs. squatting on the point.

This can be great at the keep in Niflhel since you can drop SW at the bottom of the stairs, teleport back to the capture point, heal up, and break line of sight from the attackers temporarily.

All of that happens pretty quickly, but can buy you enough time for help to arrive rather than attempting to simply absorb all of the damage, or allow the attackers to get comfortable on the cap point in the meantime.

Yski
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Also, I read someone talking about being able to cast it and then end it early just to get the 30 second swiftness. Personally, I like the idea. Adds a nice tactical choice when using it

Every single forum I've used to spread anti guardian propaganda has subsequently died out on me. Coincidence? I think not!

blightshadow
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It is indeed possible.

From the wiki: 

"Sever your spectral bond. You will not return to the casting point, but the act will leave you Vulnerable for three seconds"

You get 3 stacks of vulnerability on you for 3 seconds if I remember correctly.

I used it a lot in PvE in the last BWE just for the speed boost but I think it could be very useful in PvP aswell;

If you are trying to get away from someone, cast it and run. If he follows you, wait for the duration to end and you pop back to where you cast it. If he isn`t following, sever the bond and you got away safely.

Akilles7
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In regard of the survivability, my advice is to invest in Vitality first than in Toughness.

As it is now, Vitality soaks damage and conditions much better than Toughness.

Ravic
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I disagree with your assessment that the "the corner stone of damage output" for Necros is condition damage.  While condition builds are certainly very strong, I feel that direct damage is just as viable.  While a Necro doesn't have the huge burst of Warriors, I feel like we can build for very high moments of pressure.  A power/precision/prowess build can go into Death Shroud and hit heavy armor characters for 2k+ crits with the auto attack (3k+ on light armor).  We can also go into Lich Form and hit heavy armor characters for 3k+ crits (4-5k on light armor).  There is really no magic bullet for people to dodge/counter since we can just keep spamming our auto attack.  We HAVE to be focused down during this, because our pressure is just too high if we are left to free cast (4-5k damage every second for 30 seconds while in Lich Form is just dirty).

I also want to say that I've really enjoyed all of your articles, Sardu.  I started out with my heart set on making an Engineer at launch, but I decided to try out a Necro after reading your piece on Necros in sPvP.  Best decision ever!  

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