[GW2] Necromancer Thoughts

I tried writing a post to mirror Zubon’s great post on elementalists, but I seem incapable of writing “guides”. I write more how I feel since I usually ignore things like builds, micromanaging stats, etc. in the actual game anyway. Here’s how I feel about a class I have spent 95% of my Guild Wars 2 time playing.

Open World

In the open world, I am a cockroach tank spreading diseases at my whim. I laugh as the crippled enemy finally gets up to my face weakened from the burden of my conditions to get a single hit off me before bleeding out their life. I snatch that orb of life away never having moved from my spot. With my health and extra Death Shroud lifebar, I feel impervious in all but the most perilous situations. I see allies drop against the Claw of Jormag, and I still stand.

Then a greatsword warrior runs up to a nearby enemy and appears to drop it in a quarter of the time it takes me. Snicker-snack. I can’t help but feel jealous.

I have tried traiting to power and precision, a glass cannon build, but a condition-based necromancer has no cannon. I have heard from power-statted necromancers using axes and daggers that we will never have cannon. We are entropy, which is a slow, steady progress. We are sustained damage. A necromancer will never feel that moment of glee of a greatsword warrior slamming in to a group. A necromancer only gets the feeling of certainty.


I feel like I become a catalyst in dungeons. I do not heal as well as a ranger or elementalist. I do not deal as much damage as most other classes, but I can make everybody else’s job easier. Crippling, weakening, poisoning, fearing, and chilling enemies are all easily within my power. I love that in doing my job I am also continually damaging the enemies without really thinking about it. They continue to bleed.

My cockroach tank also comes in to play really well here too. If I gain the attention of the denizens I don’t feel fear. I know that they will have to push through significant pain to get near me. Then I don’t mind if they take a small chunk of my 25,000+ life bar. I have another in reserve.

Sometimes I fill the room with minions to add more meat to our party. Sometimes I add wells to add more area-of-effect abilities to the group. Usually I am focusing on creating a massive burden on the enemy. It is offensive support. In small group events, this is where I feel most useful.


I don’t know what I am doing here. Minions are worthless. There are so many ways to remove conditions through group effects. I just try and add some small hurdles for the enemy to overcome. I don’t feel as synergetic as I do in dungeons where we go toe-to-toe with creatures accepting of death.

My two face cards (not even sure if they are aces) are Epidemic and Spectral Grasp. Epidemic spreads conditions around like crazy, which can be amazing against a zerg. Any nearby enemy elementalist or guardian seems to reduce that hurt pretty quickly, but it is still a great way to spread the necromancer’s love. Spectral Grasp can be hard to utilize, but when it slowly reaches out and pulls an enemy in to my line… well that enemy is going to get swarmed down in an instant. I consider it my one “kill spell” in WvW. It is also great for pulling enemies off walls.

In small wolf-packs, I try to spread chaos. Dropping marks here, wide-area cripples there, then transforming in to a lich to see them scatter like mice. Like dungeons, I feel like I am support, but with the wide battlefield I don’t feel as useful. The tide seems to turn too quickly, and I am left standing knowing that it is unlikely that I can produce a killing blow.

s/t PvP

I’ve not yet experienced much of the other PvP mode in Guild Wars 2 with a necromancer. I hear that our Lich Form elite is really scary, and we have a great bunker build where we hold down a control point. That’s about it though. In tournaments, necromancers seem to be a pretty handy support slot to have. Of course with only 5 slots to fill, and 8 professions, the necromancer still has to fight for the slot. Mesmers share some of the same role, but they shine much brighter.


Here’s my wishlist.

First, I want the team to be forced to play with minions for a week and make necessary fixes. Minions are so worthless most of the time it’s not even worth a laughable sigh. ArenaNet took so much time in beta to make sure ranger pets responded well; I don’t understand why my minions stand around half the time looking at me fighting a creature. This seems especially true for my flesh golem (elite) and “free” jagged horror that I must endure dying in front of me every 30 seconds.

Second, increase tagging and event participation for necromancers. As an “attrition-based” class, my damage has to ramp up. I don’t get 1-3k greatsword hits. I get a 300 damage hit with a 400 damage bleed. It feels that during group events with lots of mobs that even when I am AoE skeeting left and right, I am not tagging mobs very well. I’ve noticed that I have to induce at least two scepter hits to tag a mob. This is coupled with the bleed cap where necromancers are fighting necromancers for gold event awards.

Third, include at least a portion of our condition damage against destructible objects. This is just a tiring fallacy. I can’t crit destructible objects and most of my “attrition-based” damage is simply ignored.

After that I feel it is more small bug fixing and massaging. We need more viable offensive builds, but I think we are close to some. It appears that the attrition-based conditiomancer is well regarded, but it feels like that is all we have.


I love my necromancer. I love the feeling of certainty, but I am also very envious of all the power welded by other classes. I do feel like that emo-class in the corner lashing out with some snark occasionally. I don’t feel like I am part of the varsity team. Perhaps as an “attrition-based” class I never will. Perhaps I am the punching bag that tries to tire out the boxer. My two alts are a warrior and a thief who will be traited for power and precision respectively so I hope I get a completely different perspective on my necromancer from playing those two.

What I do know is that standing in one spot watching a zombie crawl towards me while bleeding profusely and dropping at my feet right as it tries to strike me never gets old. It makes me feel invincible, even if it takes a while.


16 thoughts on “[GW2] Necromancer Thoughts”

  1. sPvP as a necromancer is some of the most fun i’ve had in gw2. i get the same feeling of glee you describe as i watch opponents crawl to their death. nothing beats being able to take that greatsword swinging warrior or guardian and turn their boons to conditions. or take my allies’ conditions from them and spread them to enemies.

  2. With a necro as my main, I feel pretty much the same. Our power builds are a complete joke at the moment. As you’ve said, we have no cannon, and the problem is, for most PvE content, we don’t NEED the slow but certain victory of attrition. Glass cannon Warriors literally just kill the same amount of stuff just plain faster, and pretty much just as reliably. That leaves us with slower farming, slower exp gain, and just in general less satisfaction for open world PvE. It’s frustrating. Worse, the only magic find gear is power based (with the sole exception of the Mad King’s armor, which is limited time), so we’re double-screwed for endgame farming.

    When you start to get to places where you can’t just burst things down, then we get interesting. I love my “support” necro build, using ranged wells, staff, and scepter/dagger to spread around perma regeneration, bleeds, multiple sources of AoE/multi-target blinds, multiple AoE Weakness, all the while dealing acceptable damage. In WvW I play the same build to turn the tide in large team fights, especially at keeps (defending). When enemies try to kite our mob, a crippling grasp is guaranteed kills for our team.

    I love where the conditionmancer is right now. I just wish we could do other things as well =/

  3. So, what’s the stat focus on that “Cockroach Tank”? Condition Damage, Toughness, Vitality? My Necro’s already Scepter/Dagger & Staff, though I’ve been focusing on Wells (Well of Suffering, Corruption; also have Spectral Walk for travel purposes) and my stats’ve basically been Condition Damage + whatever. :) (only mid-20s, so no Elite yet)

    1. Basically carrion exalted armor (level 80) which will get you all the vitality you need. Try and up toughness through runes (undead) and jewelry.

  4. I like the way bone minions are at the moment, the golem annoys me when it goes off tagging random mobs, much prefer the more well behaved bone minions that stay at my heels. That feels more fitting for me for the necro, where he is surrounding by a menagerie of walking, bone creatures that only attack what I’m attacking. There is even benefit to them staying nearby, they take hits that are aimed at the necro, similar with mesmer clones, people underestimate them when they die in one hit (possibly 2 or 3 hits, if using the + illusion health signet and aegis and/or blind), but one hit saved is worthwhile too. Out of all the minions I like bone minions the best because they give two back to back blast finishers, so try to bring them along even as the only minion skill slotted to combo with dark fields for AoE blindness. If the extra minion trait was a bone minion that gave another charge of putrid explosion when it spawns would love that, so you start with two minions from the skill and then spawn a few more then get to explode several at a time.

    Necro support and condition builds are great, love wells but would possibly would like more variety in the field types. I feel well of blood should be water because the light field just does not fit or is that useful to the necro except possibly the AoE retaliation, and well of darkness, could be a smoke field. Life-steal builds don’t seem all that useful either but haven’t really played my necro that much to experience it, but I don’t know what direction they could develop that when a necro is already quite tanky, maybe when the necro is full health, life-steals give health to nearby allies, so healing gear would not affect the life-steal but would affect the healing given to allies.

  5. While my dungeon experience has been limited thus far to two story mode, I have spent my more recent time as a minion master. I echo the frustration of minions taking in the sights when they should be attacking, but when they are actually doing their job, I’m quite formidable. The trait to add toughness for each minion helps, and i’ve been able to solo a few Group events such as the Krait Witch and the Mt Maelstrom Ettin pre-event. I haven’t leveled any others to attempt this on another profession, so im not sure if a mesmer with clones or an average guardian does the same with no problem.

  6. I guess I’m a minority among the Necro mains here… I have up on sceptre as soon as I had unlocked all three skills as it just felt so weak compared to the Axe. Then I tried main hand Dagger and I haven’t looked back. 25 Power, 25 Blood and 20 in Soul Reaping. Life stealing wells with 20% shorter recharge. I use a focus for my offhand. Well of blood is my heal, we’ll of Suffering is my favorite skill, well of corruption is slot 8 and Asura’s Radiation Field takes slot 9. I use Leeroy (aka Flesh Golem) for my elite.
    Between the life stealing of the three wells, skill 2 on the dagger and the regen from skill 4 on focus when used at point blank range I don’t worry about healing much. And my soul reaping traits provide me with ghost armor and locust swarm when my health does drop.
    I may not beat a well thought out Warrior for speed kills, but I tag my fair share of mobs in group events with WoS and I drop things pretty quickly. A Guardian and I were individually killing slake in Sparkfly the othe day and I was consistently dropping my victim quicker than he dispatched his with his Greatsword. I also helped a guilder Thief with his story and he was in awe of my killing ability. And he uses dual pistols!
    Final note: I use a rune of superior rune of blood (even thought my crit chance is only 20%) and a restoration sigil to help keep my health up as well.
    Usually I switch to Staff in WvW and try to get on a siege weapon. I did go toe-to-toe with a Warrior once and stunned him by killing him. Only conditions were a few stacks of Vulnerability and Chill.

      1. First off, I messed the Traits. It’s 20 Power, 30 Blood. And I have Dagger recharge increased by 20%.
        I’m 400 in Tailor and Jeweler so everything is crafted Exotic. It’s a mix. The jewelry is 3 pieces of Power+Magic Find (Opal?)and the other two are Chryscola? — vitality and power.
        The armor is (I think) two pieces of Valkyrie with three Rampagers and one Carrion?
        Dagger is Shaman’s (I think)… Power and Vitality. Offhand is “Gaze” with the sigil replaced. But I just HAD to have the little skull! :)
        Oh yeah… One last bit: 5 Superior runes of Vampirism on the armor. The 6th is +Precision, I think. The mist form for 6 vamp runes was either not working or triggered too late, so I went with more stats instead.

  7. Seemingly every class impressions I read at least mentions feeling of envy towards the killing power of greatsword Warriors. They’re just really, really strong. It’s definitely not just a Necro thing, if that’s any consolation.

    I console myself with the knowledge that while greatsword Warriors are very strong, they’re also very boring. Spamming auto-attacks and pressing “2” for hundred blades is so unsatisfying compared to, for example, the elegance of a dagger/dagger aura-based Elementalist with evasive arcana dancing around an enemy.

    Necromancer is the profession I really am conflicted over. I really love their gameplay mechanics, but I the death/necromancer aesthetic has never appealed to me. The result is that I never feel I can become as attached to the Necromancer as I’d like to be.

    1. I find the greatsword warriors over-rated, and while I tried it on my own warrior alt I went back to the elegance and mobility of sword/sword pretty fast. Greatsword is good for pounding the snot out of an opponent that’s standing still (or has been forced to stand stil), and that’s it. Which works pretty well for soloing normal mobs, but is of limited use in group events against champions or any PvP where your opponent is capable of doing anything more sophisticated than MOAR DAMMAGE.

      Greatsword warrior appeals to the simple souls who just want to press a couple of buttons and see big numbers on their screen. Condition damagers who see an endless fountain of little numbers are far more elegant and satisfying. So cheer up – you’re better than them :)

  8. As a condition-ele, I feel your pain with destructible objects. For general PvE I run scepter/dagger focusing on earth (bleed) / fire (burn) / water (healing). What about air? Well, that’s mostly for the objects that seem to only care about straight damage (and occasionally for a quick escape).

  9. Funny, I’m actually thinking about phasing out my Warrior in favor of my Necro for “main”. But I’m not running GS. I tried it, stuff died fast, and I couldn’t stop *yawning*. Meh. So the Warrior is running Axe/Warhorn with tank traits and Berserker’s armor. The Necro is running Dagger/Dagger, 0/15/0/30/25. I’m using Knight’s/Divinity for armor, and Carrion daggers. Random mix of jewels from my JC’s push to 400. Power is over 1800, Condition Damage is a *whopping* 285. Consume Conditions, Well of Suffering/Darkness, Signet of Spite, Flesh Golem. (Can we get an elite skill that doesn’t involve replacing all my weapon skills please? I *like* my weapon skills.)

    Yeah, I might be coming up short in chain-single-pulls if I’m running like a mindless farmer, but with a little setup I can drop Well of Darkness/Suffering, two Enfeebling Bloods (trait for Blood on entering Death Shroud) and then Life Transfer, and kill 7-8 mobs faster than my warrior can kill 2-3. In perfect safety. If I wanted farmer-performance, I’d be running one of those botted rangers. What keeps me coming back is stupid stunts and peak performance. AoE Blind, an entire spare life bar, AoE dmg+vuln, chain blind, channeled life drain… Dagger/Dagger has some amazing peak performance.

    Condition damage against objects is a serious problem, but IIRC I think the devs have already said they’re looking at it. I tried the minionmancer for a minute, I tried the conditionmancer for a lot longer. And the Power/Crit build for Dagger/Dagger has it completely beat, for my money.

  10. There are two Necro specs I feel don’t get much love that I enjoy playing greatly.

    The first was my Minion Mistress who stacked Healing Power and used a Staff. Grab the Staff-cooldown-reducing trait and enjoy having an army of 5 Minions (Flesh Golem, Shadow Fiend, Bone Fiend, and two Bone Minions) who almost never die! She would constantly be healing her squad of underlings with Mark of Blood, and dropping a Well of Blood if regen’s healing was getting outdamaged too quickly. She’d apply AoE weakness by comboing Chillblain’s poison field into Putrid Mark’s blast. Her weakened enemies would be lucky if they could drop a single Bone Minion, at which point the other would explode in their face (starting their short cooldown period).

    Nowadays, however, my necro has switched to a Death Shroud focused Power/Vitality playstyle, wielding Axe and Focus. People who complain that we don’t put out fast damage haven’t tried traiting 30 Spite / 30 Soul Reaping. Her Life Blasts hit HARD when she’s near full Life Force, which she makes sure is almost all the time. Start a fight by popping into Death Shroud, fire off a few Life Blasts (applying Might and Vulnerability with each) then drop back into normal form and finish them off with Ghastly Claws to keep your Life Force Pool topped off. If you start a fight with 80% or lower Life Force, use Reaper’s Touch and/or Spectral Grasp before popping into Death Shroud. Between fights, you can top your pool off by one-shotting rabbits/rats/owls/frogs/etc, though it’s not truly necessary. For longer fights (Veterans and such) make sure you drop out of Death Shroud while still above 50% Life Force. Any lower and the damage drops dramatically. You should be able to get your Life Force back towards full in short order as long as you’re starting from at least 50%.

    My Death Shroud Spec:
    Axe (Sigil of Force) Focus (Sigil of Chilling) Power and Vitality gear (Runes of the Ice)
    Spectral Grasp, Spectral Armor OR Spectral Walk, Well of Suffering OR Blood Is Power, Plague (“oh shit” button in case I get too many adds)
    30 Spite: Reaper’s Might, Spiteful Talismans, Axe Training
    10 Curses: Weakening Shroud OR 10 Death Magic: Dark Armor (two different ways to protect yourself from taking too much damage, I think Dark Armor is more fun and the extra Boon Duration is nice for all my Might stacking)
    30 Soul Reaping: Vital Persistence, Unyielding Blast, Near To Death

    I’m able to keep Chill up pretty much indefinitely, which saves my Life Force Pool from getting reduced by enemy hits and gives me +5% damage through my (Vitality stacking) runes, on top of the extra damage from my enemy’s 20+ stacks of Vulnerability.

    Give it a try. You’ll see Necros can blast with the best of them. Our cannon is more interesting than a greatsword, because it involves managing a separate resource and phasing between two different modes.

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