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Death Shroud and Life Force Guide

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August 12, 2012 - 4:21pm -- Sardu
GW2 Death Shroud Guide

Death Shroud is the unique profession mechanic for the necromancer, and can be thought of in a couple of different ways. First, it will temporarily provide you with 4 unique skills, so you could think of death shroud as an extension of your normal hotbar skills while in combat. Death shroud also increases the necro’s survivability while active since incoming damage will deplete your available Life Force instead of your health.

Provided you’ve built up sufficient life force, you can enter death shroud at any time by pressing the [F1] key. Upon doing so, a new bar containing four skills will appear on-screen, though your weapon, healing, utility, and elite skills will be disabled for as long as death shroud is active. To exit death shroud you can either hit the [F1] key again, or it will also end once your available life force has been depleted.

Life Force Tip

Above: The in-game help text for necromancers on using Death Shroud.

It should be noted that your death shroud skills must be unlocked through active use in combat the same way your weapon skills are. This process must be done twice since you will have a different set of death shroud skills while underwater, so those can only be unlocked via engaging in underwater combat.

Building Life Force

To use death shroud, you must first build up some life force. The life force meter is displayed directly above your weapon skills as shown below:

GW2 Necro Life Force Meter

You will build up life force in the following ways:

  1. Whenever a nearby enemy creature or player is defeated
  2. Through active use of certain weapon or utility skills (listed below)
  3. Through the passive state of the Signet of Undeath utility skill

You will typically build up life force very quickly while participating in dynamic events that involve defeating creatures. You can take advantage of this fact at lower levels to both unlock your death shroud skills, and get into the habit of entering and exiting death shroud in combat.

Once you enter death shroud, your available life force will slowly deplete naturally, and incoming damage will reduce your life force instead of your health. The latter helps make the necromancer one of the most resilient professions in GW2, so the faster you can build life force, the greater your survivability will be.

To increase the rate at which you generate life force, there are a number of skills that you will want to consider working into your build. These are listed below along with notes on the amount of life force gained, and the base recharge time for each skill.

Skills that Build Life Force

Skill Name Type Life Force Gain / Recharge
Blood is Power Utility +20% life force
30 second recharge
Feast Trident (aquatic) +5% life force
12 second recharge
Feast of Corruption Scepter +2% life force per condition on target
10 second recharge
Ghastly Claws Axe +4% life force
8 second recharge
Life Transfer Death Shroud +5% life force (channeled)
40 second recharge
Necrotic Bite Dagger (main hand) +5% life force
No recharge, chain skill
Necrotic Grasp Staff +3% life force
No recharge
Reaper's Scythe Spear (aquatic) +3% life force
No recharge
Signet of Undeath Utility +1% life force every 3 seconds
Passive signet state, 180 second recharge
Spectral Armor Utility +3% life force on damage for 6 seconds
90 second recharge

As you can see above, all main-hand weapons have an associated skill that helps you build life force, so you will not be restricted to certain weapon sets to do so. That said, as you go through the various Traits (listed below) that can enhance life force gain, you'll want to pay particular attention to any synergies with specific weapons.

A perfect example here would be Soul Marks which will build 3% life force whenever your marks are triggered. With that trait slotted, the staff can become one of your best weapon choices depending on how deeply you choose to factor death shroud into your overall build.

Death Shroud Skills

Once you hit the [F1] key to enter death shroud, a few things will happen. First, your default hotbar and health meter will no longer be displayed on-screen. Instead, a new bar will appear (shown below) that contains the four death shroud skills, your life force meter, and a fifth skill that allows you to exit death shroud, though this can be done by simply pressing the [F1] key again.

Death Shroud Skill Bar

Please note that once you exit death shroud, there will be a 10 second cooldown before you can use it again, regardless of how much life force you currently have.

The edges of your screen will also have a green border while in death shroud, but a more important cosmetic change is that your character will appear as a dark, ghostly form for the duration. While this looks incredibly cool, the main thing to know is that this visual transformation will alert enemy players to the fact that you're using death shroud and will react accordingly.

There are technically two different versions of death shroud: one used while on land, and a second while underwater. It's important to note that you will need to unlock each set of death shroud skills independently through active use in combat. Likewise, you'll also want to pay attention to the differences between the 4 death shroud skills you'll have access to.

Normal Death Shroud Skills:

Skill Name Description
Life Blast Blast a foe with accumulated life force, dealing more damage the more life force you have
Dark Path Send out a claw. If this attack hits an enemy, you teleport to that foe and chill nearby enemies
Doom Make your target flee in fear
Life Transfer Damage nearby foes and steal their life force

Aquatic Death Shroud Skills:

Skill Name Description
Life Blast Blast a foe with a plague that transfers one condition to them
Dark Water Blind and poison foes near your target with a dark cloud
Wave of Fear Terrifies all foes in front of you
Gathering Plague Draw conditions from nearby allies to yourself, and inflict weakness on yourself

Traits that Impact Death Shroud and Life Force

As noted above, there are a number of different traits that can greatly enhance life force gain and death shroud. The key trait line to pay attention to is Soul Reaping - not only does it contain a sizable number of traits specific to life force and death shroud, but spending points in that line increases your total life force pool by 1% per point spent.

The traits that relate specifically to life force and death shroud can be seen below:

Trait Points Description
Spiteful Spirit 10 Gain retaliation for 3 seconds when entering Death Shroud
Reaper's Might 10 Life Blast and Plague Blast grant might for 15 seconds
Trait Points Description
Weakening Shroud 10 Cast Enfeebling Blood when entering death shroud
Reaper's Precision 10 You have a 33% chance to gain 1% life force on critical hits
Furious Demise 15 Gain fury for 5 seconds when entering death shroud
Death Magic
Trait Points Description
Shrouded Removal 10 Lose a condition when you enter death shroud
Death Shiver 20 Apply vulnerability for 10 seconds every 3 seconds to nearby foes while in death shroud
Blood Magic
Trait Points Description
Transfusion 10 Life Transfer heals nearby allies
Deathly Invigoration 20 Heal in an area when you leave death shroud
Soul Reaping
Trait Points Description
Gluttony 5 Life force fills 5% faster
Vital Persistence 10 Life force drains 25% slower while in death shroud
Path of Midnight 10 All death shroud skills recharge 15% faster
Speed of Shadows 10 Move 15% faster while in death shroud
Unyielding Blast 10 Life Blast pierces and causes vulnerability
Soul Marks 20 Marks generate 3% life force when triggered
Strength of Undeath 25 You do 5% more damage if you have more than 50% life force
Foot in the Grave 30 Gain stability for 3 seconds when you enter death shroud
Near to Death 30 Death shroud recharges 50% faster

As you can see here, there are multiple options for how you can enhance death shroud, and no one specific point spread you would want to focus on. Likewise, there really isn't any one "optimal" build specific to enhancing death shroud, as many of the traits you choose will depend on which specific gameplay type you're participating in. For example, you probably wouldn't want to use the same traits in sPvP that you would in dungeons.

That said, you will want to focus on improved life force gain and slower life force drain first, regardless of which specific death shroud enhancements you're aiming for with your build. You also have the option to skip over the traits listed here altogether, but be aware that you will be sacrificing a lot of survivability by doing so.

To learn more about the necromancer profession, be sure to read our complete Necromancer Guide!


Shante's picture
Submitted by Shante on

Cool, I've been waiting for an explanation of Death Shroud mechanics.

Anyway, I saw an sPvP Anet exhibition match a few weeks ago, and I remember one Asura Necro transforming into a badass demon form with horns, twice bigger as Asura is, and I was thinking, what kind of form is this? I thought it's Death Shroud, maybe improved somehow, but when I hit Necro on Stresstest, I was a bit disappointed with real DS look,with only shadow cloud puffing around me. :))

I guess that the form I am talking about is an effect of some Elite skill, bit since I have not tried Necro in sPvP with all his skills, I am only guessing:)

Thx for guide anyways!

If you don´t smoke weed, 

I don´t know why,

'cause everything better when you 'r high.

whoresbane's picture
Submitted by whoresbane on

good article. It will be interesting to see how popular DS build will be. I cant imagen how op a good DS build will be since you can pop DS every 10 seconds.

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

Sardu's picture
Submitted by Sardu on

DS builds had a lot of sPvP players up in arms during the first couple of beta weekends due to the incredible amount of survivability involved. The thing is, to really pull it off as a strong defense build, you'll be sacrificing DPS as a result. I've had a couple of truly comical encounters where the other player couldn't kill me no matter what they tried, but then I also couldn't DPS them down faster than their heal could recharge. :)

ArcherAvatar's picture
Submitted by ArcherAvatar on

If the "Foot in the Grave" nerf is accurate, then I am deeply disappointed since it will dramatically affect my favorite PvP build for the necro profession...

I'm going to have to reserve judgment until we see ALL of the balancing changes made at launch, but some of the info coming out of the latest stress tests has been a bit disheartening, and has caused me to moderate my enthusiasm for the profession somewhat.

It's going to be a LONG two weeks...

Sardu's picture
Submitted by Sardu on

The info listed here is accurate as of the recent stress tests, but I'll be updating this and other guides accordingly during the head start to reflect any live game changes.

That said, 30 trait points for 3 seconds of stability is a really bad trait IMO. It's only slightly better than getting a free dodge, and in the process you'd be blowing the cooldown on DS to gain the benefits, so not really.

Gnostik's picture
Submitted by Gnostik on

Very well-written and informative! Thanks so much for writing this.