Hello, my name is Lopez. I’m an avid Guild Wars 2 fan. Before Guild Wars 2, I played almost every other major MMORPG release, from World of Warcraft to Star Wars: The Old Republic to The Secret World. When I focused on World of Warcraft, I achieved gladiator on my death knight for seasons 8, 9, and 10 of arenas.
In Guild Wars 2, I decided to focus on both PvE and PvP content on my condition necromancer. I used this build to get to lv. 30 fractals within a week of their release. At this point, I feel like I’ve built up enough experience to write a guide, so here it is! This guide will mostly focus on dungeons, fractals, and small-scale event farming, mostly because all the other PvE content is relatively simple enough to not require a guide.
If you have any questions, feel free to send me a message in-game (Lopez).
Table of Contents
I. Why Condition Necromancer?
In one word, Epidemic.
Condition necromancer has the best area-of-effect (AOE) potential in the game. With Epidemic, it can spread all the conditions on a target to up to five other targets. Not only can this be used for massive AOE damage if it spreads 25 stacks of bleeds, some stacks of confusion, burning, and poison, but it also has the benefit of spreading debuffs like blind, chilled, cripple, fear, immobilize, vulnerability, and weakness.
To top it off, condition necromancers can do solid single-target damage. With might from Blood is Power, each of my bleeds do about 149 damage every second. Since I can typically stack 10 to 16 bleeds, that’s 1490 to 2384 damage a second. That’s not even counting my direct damage from attacks and my other condition damage from poison.
That single-target damage also comes with the added benefit of being executed from range. While direct-damage builds tend to sacrifice damage at range, condition builds keep the same DPS and sacrifice burst instead. Being able to keep maximum range is a massive boost to survivability and damage potential. It lets a condition necromancer overcome many boss mechanics while doing maximum DPS.
By itself, necromancer also has a lot of useful utility. It constantly applies poison, which does damage and reduces the effectiveness of healing abilities by 33 percent. Wells can be used to AOE heal, convert conditions on an ally to boons, convert boons on an enemy to conditions, perpetually blind, and apply vulnerability, all while giving protection through traits. Corruption skills can be used to apply weakness and convert boons on an enemy to conditions. Signet of Undeath is an in-combat revive.
Then there’s Death Shroud. This ability can be used every 10 seconds at the expenditure of life force, which can be obtained by both killing enemies and through specific abilities. It’s very good for survivability and utility, but as a condition necromancer, it’s not a good idea to stay in it for long. Still, it’s worth emphasizing that it’s one of the best survivability cooldowns in the game because life force essentially acts as a second health bar.
However, all of that does come with one major downside: a lack of burst. Necromancers, as ArenaNet has explained, are masters of attrition. Their access to AOE damage, condition damage, solid utility, and deadly debuffs is balanced out by a total inability to spike down a target’s health. This can hurt in some PvE fights and encounters that demand quick kills (for example, Giganticus Lupicus’ grubs are harder to solo for a necromancer), but it’s easily made up by a proper team composition.
The bleed cap is also a potential downside to condition necromancers. The cap of 25 bleeds forces a good group to not get more than one condition-built member. This also makes some traits and stats, particularly those focused on bleed and condition duration, a little worse, but more on that later.
II. Weapon and Death Shroud Abilities
There’s really not much diversity here. Scepter and dagger are the bread-and-butter of the build, with staff acting as a proper secondary weapon for utility and AOE damage. In underwater situations, trident is almost always the best option due to its auto-attack.
Scepter and Dagger:
1. Blood Curse / Rending Curse / Putrid Curse: The first two attacks apply a bleed for 5 seconds default, and the third attack applies poison for 2 seconds default. Get ready to spam this a lot! When every other attack on scepter and dagger is on cooldown, this is the best damage option.
2. Grasping Dead: An AOE that applies cripple and three stacks of bleed for 7 seconds default. It also applies cripple, which is very useful on trash and some bosses that need to be kited. It’s probably the best damage cooldown while using scepter and dagger.
3. Feast of Corruption: Decent direct damage, and scepter’s main source for life force, which is used for Death Shroud.
4. Deathly Swarm: Blinds and transfers three conditions from the necromancer to its target, with the potential to bounce to up to three targets. This ability is incredible. It can be coupled with corruption skills to apply self-afflicted conditions on enemy targets. For example, using Blood is Power before Deathly Swarm hits a target will transfer the self-applied bleed to a target, resulting in two extra bleed stacks for 10 seconds default.
5. Enfeebling Blood: An AOE that applies weakness and two stacks of bleed for 10 seconds default. Pretty standard. It’s probably the second best damage cooldown while using scepter and dagger, and weakness is great, as explained in IX. Tips.
1. Necrotic Grasp: Does direct damage through a piercing, slightly homing projectile. It’s a pretty terrible auto-attack. Spam it during downtime on cooldowns, but the terribleness of this attack is the main reason it’s important to switch out from staff to scepter and dagger as soon as possible and why it’s better to never change to staff in single-target situations. The only advantage is it pierces, so it can AOE bunched-up mobs or mobs in a line.
2. Mark of Blood: Ground-targeted AOE that applies three stacks of bleed for 8 seconds default in an AOE. It also applies a regen to anyone who’s close to the mark when it’s triggered, healing anyone in a target’s melee range. Great AOE and bleed application.
3. Chillblains: Ground-targeted AOE that applies chill for 4 seconds default and poison for 6 seconds default, and it’s AOE. Use this on mobs that heal and/or need to be kited. It also applies a poison combo field, which can be chained with Putrid Mark to apply weakness.
4. Putrid Mark: Ground-targeted AOE that counts as a blast combo finisher and does decent damage, transfers all conditions from the necromancer to a target, and transfers one condition from each ally close to the triggered mark to a target. Probably the most overlooked staff attack. In a coordinated group, this can essentially act as a party-wide single-condition cleanse. The blast combo finisher can be used with Chillblains to apply weakness.
5. Reaper’s Mark: Ground-targeted AOE that fears for 1 second default. Probably the best interrupt in the game. Very useful for pushing back and controlling AOE packs. It used to always work on bosses, but it’s now limited by defiant, a buff typically on champion and boss mobs that needs to be worn down by crowd-control abilities before the mob is vulnerable to crowd control. It’s particularly awesome with the trait Terror, as explained in III. Traits.
1. Crimson Tide: Applies one stack of bleed for 5 seconds default and does moderate direct damage in an AOE around the target. It is what a condition necromancer uses underwater 90 percent of the time. Spam, spam, spam.
2. Feast: Applies weakness and does decent direct damage in an AOE around the necromancer, and gives life force if it hits an enemy. As long as getting in melee range isn’t a problem, using this on cooldown for the life force and weakness is ideal.
3. Foul Current: Shoots the necromancer at a target and leaves a trail that applies poison for 4 seconds default. It also drops a poison combo field, which Frozen Abyss (No. 5) can combo with to apply weakness. The poison stacks very quickly, so it’s typical to get about 12 seconds of poison on a target even if it moves out of the trail. Still, it’s not worth using for damage over Crimson Tide (No. 1).
4. Sinking Tomb: Sinks a target for 2 seconds, and it ignores Defiant. Use on cooldown, assuming it won’t put a mob in a bad position.
5. Frozen Abyss: Does good direct damage, applies about 4 seconds default of chill while charging up, and applies seven stacks of vulnerability for 7 seconds default, but it has a long cast and requires melee range. It’s a blast combo finisher, which can be used with Foul Current (No. 3) to apply weakness. Unfortunately, the cast on this ability is too long for how much damage it does; only use it to build distance on enemies.
Death Shroud (Land):
1. Life Blast: Does decent direct damage. Mostly useless as a condition necromancer. I only use this when I need to stay in Death Shroud to survive.
2. Dark Path: Applies chill and three stacks of bleed for 5 seconds default, but it puts the necromancer in melee range. I will always use it when I switch to necromancer as long as getting into melee doesn’t put me in a bad spot. (Tip: It’s possible to cast this then jump out of Death Shroud immediately after, which usually allows the necromancer to get one other attack in before the projectile lands. It’s also possible to mitigate the forced melee range with Doom and Deathly Swarm.)
3. Doom: Standard single-target fear for 1 second default. Amazing interrupt with a relatively short 20-second cooldown. On bosses that don’t need to be interrupted, I use this on cooldown to wear down Defiant. It’s particularly awesome with the trait Terror, as explained in III. Traits.
4. Life Transfer: Does AOE damage around the necromancer and builds up life force for every target it hits. Great survivability tool and AOE damage, but it’s not worth using for damage in single-target situations. Keep in mind the damage shown on the screen is cumulative for the entire channel, not representative of each tick.
Death Shroud (Underwater):
1. Life Blast: Does moderate damage and transfers one condition. Like its land-based alternative, I only use this when I need to stay in Death Shroud for survivability, even though the condition transfer can be nice, especially after Gathering Plague (No. 4).
2. Dark Water: Applies blind for 3 seconds default and poison for 7 seconds default. Worth using with every switch to Death Shroud.
3. Wave of Fear: Applies fear in an AOE cone in front of the necromancer for 2 seconds default. Requires small-to-medium range and facing the target. A downgrade from its land-based alternative, but still useful. I try to use it on cooldown if melee range is not a problem. It’s particularly awesome with the trait Terror, as explained in III. Traits.
4. Gathering Plague: Transfers all conditions from party members to the necromancer. Very useful when multiple party members are struck with conditions, especially if it’s paired up with Consume Conditions or Plague Signet to immediately remove the absorbed conditions.
For condition necromancers, picking traits is about maximizing damage while also picking up some utility to be useful to the group. Here is my base build with the heal, utility skills, and elite skill I use a plurality of the time. The equipped skills are meant to act as a base, not a definitive set. Please look at IV. Heals, Utility Skills, and Elite Skills for a much deeper explanation of the heals, utility skills, and elite skills. Skills are very fluid and always changing depending on the encounter. Here is my guide for Fractals of the Mists, which shows how my abilities change from encounter to encounter in Fractals of the Mists.
One advantage to this build is changing over to world vs. world only requires a few major trait and utility skill changes. For more information on my world vs. world build, click here.
The standard tree for bleeds and conditions. It gives condition damage and precision, the two best damage stats for condition necromancer.
Barbed Precision: Gives critical hits a 66 percent chance to apply one bleed for 1 second default. Decent damage, but it’s slightly held down by the bleed cap since the bleed last for so little time.
Furious Demise: Gain Fury for 5 seconds default when entering Death Shroud. This is pretty amazing, especially when paired up with Barbed Precision and Superior Sigil of Earth. One way good and great condition necromancers are set apart is by maximizing fury through Death Shroud.
Target the Weak: For each condition on a target, boosts direct damage by 2 percent. It’s not amazing since it only works on direct damage, not bleeds and poison. But it is an okay damage boost since all attacks have direct-damage components to them.
II. Hemophilia: Increases bleed duration by 20 percent. Pretty standard. It is bogged down by bleed cap, as all condition duration is, but it’s still a hefty damage boost.
VI. Terror: Fear deals damage every second, and it deals 50 percent additional damage if other conditions are on the target. A decent DPS boost, and adds a small element of burst to condition necromancer.
VII. Master of Corruption: Reduces the cooldown on corruption skills by 20 percent. Replaces Terror (VI). Great for Blood is Power and utility from Epidemic. For more information on corruption skills, check out IV. Heals, Utility Skills, and Elite Skills.
Standard survivability tree. I consider it the second best tree since it provides much-needed survivability, some increases to boon duration, and greatly improves the staff.
Reanimator: Summons a jagged horror, which applies bleeds when it attacks, whenever the necromancer kills an enemy. More than one can be out at a time. Decent DPS boost.
Protection of the Horde: Grants 20 extra toughness for each minion the necromancer has summoned. Okay trait, considering a necromancer will typically have a flesh golem and jagged horror out in PvE.
II. Greater Marks: Increases the radius of marks and makes them unblockable. Really great trait. It makes marks easier to aim, makes marks more effective at AOE, and allows the necromancer to do damage through block.
IV. Ritual of Protection: Causes wells to apply 3.6 seconds of protection, which lowers direct damage by 33 percent, to anyone on them when they’re cast. Really amazing utility skill, and I consider it a necessity for Well of Blood.
Standard healing and dagger tree. I go into this for the slight survivability and cooldown reduction for wells and dagger skills.
Full of Life: Applies regen for 5 seconds default to the necromancer whenever s/he’s hit and below 90 percent health, but it has a 30-second cooldown. Decent survivability passive.
Vampiric: Siphons health on attacks. Decent self-heal.
I. Dagger Mastery: Lowers cooldown on dagger abilities by 15 percent. Very good for Enfeebling Blood, the second best bleed application while using dagger and scepter, and Deathly Swarm, which is great for transferring conditions.
VIII. Ritual Mastery: Lowers the cooldown on wells by 20 percent. It’s necessary for builds that use Well of Blood since the default cooldown is way too long.
Options and Alternatives:
Although a majority of fights require my base set-up, there are some situations in which I switch out major traits. This can be easily done out of combat, and it’s always advisable in prolonged underwater encounters, where it’s not possible to use wells.
IX. Focused Rituals: Allows wells to be ground targeted. In some fights, corruption skills are switched out in favor of well skills, so it’s a good idea to replace Master of Corruption with this.
XII. Withering Precision: Gives critical hits a 25-percent chance to apply weakness for 3 seconds default. Trading Lingering Curse for this is a big DPS loss, but it essentially makes weakness a passive condition on mobs. (For more information on why weakness is awesome, check out IX. Tips.)
V. Staff Mastery: Staff skills recharge 20 percent faster. Pretty standard cooldown reduction. Amazing for maximizing staff’s AOE and utility. It also makes switching into staff for utility less painful damage-wise by allowing more Mark of Blood spam. It’s a suitable replacement for Greater Marks, particularly in some single-target situations.
VIII. Reaper’s Protection: Makes the necromancer AOE fear whenever s/he is hit with hard crowd control (stun, daze, knockback, knockdown, sink, float, fear, or launch), with a 90-second cooldown. I like this ability in theory, but the cooldown is way too long. Still worth considering against mobs that heavily use crowd control abilities.
X. Flesh of the Master: Gives minions 50 percent more health. It’s an okay replacement for Greater Marks in single-target encounters that don’t require swapping to staff.
III. Mark of Evasion: Drops a weaker version of Mark of Blood at the end of a roll, with a 10-second cooldown. It’s good for stacking two extra bleeds for 8 seconds default, but it can encourage some bad rolls and requires melee range.
IV. Heals, Utility Skills, and Elite Skills
Although the build I linked earlier has a base of skills that I stick to in the average fight, it’s important to note that heals, utility skills, and elite skills can change depending on the situation. There is no reason to use Epidemic on a purely single-target encounter, as good as it is. There are some encounters that demand more group utility and survivability through wells. Minions are completely worthless and flat-out detrimental in some fights. Knowing all the utility skills available to me lets me adjust my build to match different situations.
Here is my guide for Fractals of the Mists. It shows how my abilities change from encounter to encounter in Fractals of the Mists.
Well of Blood: Applies an instant heal to the necromancer and then acts as a ground-based heal-over-time spell that any ally can use. It also drops a light combo field, which gives retaliation on blast finishers (Putrid Mark) and condition removal on projectiles (Necrotic Grasp). This is the standard heal for my build because it makes use of traits to give protection and have a lower cooldown.
Consume Conditions: Absorbs all conditions and heals, with each absorbed condition boosting the heal. The cookie-cutter heal for necromancers without well traits, particularly Ritual Mastery (Well of Blood’s cooldown is too long without it). The best part is this heal essentially ignores poison’s healing debuff and, in fact, gets stronger from absorbing poison. It can also be chained with corruption skills to boost the heal. In PvE, I mostly use this underwater, but it can be okay in some condition-heavy encounters.
Corruption Skills: Corruption abilities provide utility on top of the occasional damage. The downside to them is they each apply a condition on the necromancer, but this self-applied condition can be transferred to mobs with Deathly Swarm and Putrid Mark.
Blood is Power: Applies two stacks of bleeds for 30 seconds default on the target, grants 10 stacks of might to the necromancer, and applies two stacks of bleeds for 10 seconds default on the necromancer, all with a 24-second cooldown if traited for corruption skills. This ability is a huge damage boost. The bleeds are nice by themselves, especially when the self-applied bleeds are transferred to an enemy target. But the best part is the might, which grants 350 condition damage for 14.4 seconds. The might is retroactive, so it affects all bleeds already on a target. At lv. 80, this translates to 17.5 more damage per bleed tick for about two-thirds of the time as long as Blood is Power is used on cooldown. (Some people claim this ability sometimes does not work, but, in my experience, that’s not true. It has never failed me as long as I’m facing my target and within range.)
Corrupt Boon: Dispels all boons on a target and turns them into conditions. For information on what the boons are converted into, click here. Decent for mobs that stack boons, particularly for mobs that stack stability because stability can be corrupted into fear. (Some people claim this ability sometimes does not work, but, in my experience, that’s not true. It rarely fails me as long as I’m facing my target and within range.)
Epidemic: Spreads all conditions on a target to up to five extra targets, with only a 12-second cooldown when traited. Epidemic is the staple of the condition necromancer. It is the best AOE in the game, allowing the spread of 25 stacks of bleeds, other damaging conditions, and any utility-based condition. However, it’s not very good on boss fights that are focused on single-target damage.
Corrosive Poison Cloud: Ground-targeted AOE that applies weakness and poison on a target for 3 seconds default instantly and then every 3 seconds for 12 seconds, but it applies weakness to the necromancer for 6 seconds default. It also acts as a poison combo field, which can be used for more weakness through a blast combo finisher (staff No. 4) and for poison through a projectile (staff No. 1). This is an overlooked ability, mostly because a lot of players underestimate weakness. For more information on how awesome weakness is, go to IX. Tips. I usually replace Epidemic with Corrosive Poison Cloud for single-target situations.
Signets: Useful for a variety of utility. I usually use one signet in my typical load-out.
Signet of Undeath: Ranged, small-radius AOE revive that can be used in-combat and affects up to three downed players, with a 180-second cooldown. It also generates 1 percent of life force every 3 seconds. By far the most useful signet in group situations. No matter how good a group is, someone is bound to be downed at some point. This can make the process of reviving a player that much easier. One encounter in which this signet particularly shines is Giganticus Lupicus in Arah. Since avoiding melee range is generally advisable on that boss, having a ranged revive can be a lifesaver, literally. Honestly, unless I’m underwater, this signet is always equipped, and it’s only unequipped underwater due to the finicky targeting. (Note: The revive only works on downed players, not fully dead.)
Plague Signet: Makes the necromancer absorb one condition from each group member every 10 seconds, and it can be used to transfer all conditions on the necromancer to a target. It sounds better in theory than it works in practice, mostly because the 10-second pulse timer is too long. I generally recommend Well of Power over this for condition removal.
Signet of the Locust: Grants 25-percent move speed, and it heals the necromancer and damages a target when activated. Never use the active ability for this, and only use it for the move speed. It’s a huge speed boost, so use it on fights that require heavy kiting or to move around between pulls or while avoiding mobs.
Spectral Skills: These abilities are too selfish, and their cooldowns are usually too long to be effective. Spectral Walk used to be decent for kiting, but there’s really no reason to use it over Signet of Locust in PvE. (In PvP, Spectral Walk is sometimes good for the stun break and teleport.)
Minions: For the most part, minions are more trouble than they’re worth. Their AI is unreliable — it sometimes doesn’t attack at all — and they tend to die too easily. They also do very little except provide extra damage, so they are generally a huge sacrifice in terms of utility. Still, one minion in particular is sometimes useful in single-target situations.
Summon Flesh Wurm: Summons an immobile wurm that does damage. The wurm can also be sacrificed to teleport to it and poison foes surrounding it. It’s a decent damage option for single-target situations, but I usually prefer Corrosive Poison Cloud for the poison and weakness.
Wells: Wells are amazing utility. When traited for them, they are probably the best support a Necromancer can bring. They also drop dark combo fields, which gives blind on blast finishers (Putrid Mark) and life steal on projectiles (Necrotic Grasp). However, using them comes at the cost of damage since they typically replace Blood is Power and Epidemic over Signet of Undeath since a revive is always useful and great utility.
Well of Darkness: Player-based AOE that blinds every second for 5 seconds with a 1-minute default cooldown. Amazing for packs of mobs, particularly in the Cliffside fractal. When properly traited, it also applies protection for ranged mobs if dropped on party members.
Well of Power: Player-based AOE that removes one condition on allies and the necromancer every second for 5 seconds, and each condition removed turns into a boon, with a 1-minute default cooldown. For a full list of how the conditions are converted, click here. This is probably the best option for a necromancer looking for party-wide condition removal. It is particularly useful on the Legendary Imbued Shaman in the grawl fractal because it turns its nearly constant burn into aegis, giving more survivability for a fight that desperately requires it.
Well of Corruption: Player-based AOE that removes one boon on enemies every second for 5 seconds, and each boon removed turns into a condition, with a 45-second default cooldown. For a full list of how the boons are converted, click here. Corrupt Boon is preferable unless the necromancer is traited for wells, and, even then, the fact Corrupt Boon dispels all boons at once typically puts it over the edge.
Well of Suffering: Player-based AOE that applies two stacks of vulnerability for 5 seconds default every second, lasting for 5 seconds total, with a 45-second default cooldown. The vulnerability can be helpful for party members, but I feel it lasts for too little time to be effective. Still, it can be useful on fights in which conditions are marginalized, like the last two bosses of the dredge fractal.
Lich Form: Turns the necromancer into a super-powered lich with lots of direct damage and minions. This is only useful in the last two bosses of the dredge fractal. Otherwise, keeping bleeds up with flesh golem is preferable for damage.
Summon Flesh Golem: Summons a pet that does decent damage. The AI for the pet can be really stupid, and the pet dies a lot more than I would like. But it generally attacks whatever the necromancer is attacking and does decent damage, effectively acting as a big damage-over-time skill. It also has a useful knockdown. This is my typical elite skill.
Plague: Turns the necromancer into a virulent cloud that can apply conditions. This is really only useful for the AOE blind and massive boost in toughness because it doesn’t enough bleeds to make up for the loss of AOE bleed application from scepter and dagger or staff. The AOE blind is amazing, however, on packs of mobs, particularly on trash in the Cliffside and Ascalonian fractals.
Armor, Weapons, and Trinkets:
I stick with rabid stat combination, or condition damage, precision, and toughness. The precision is good because it turns the Barbed Precision trait and Superior Sigil of Earth into huge damage boosts. The toughness is good for two reasons: First, it’s a great boost to survivability, which is vastly underrated in dungeons where some damage is too difficult or downright impossible to avoid. Second, the toughness interacts with consumables and the full set of Superior Rune of the Undead to provide a decent boost to condition damage.
There is one downside to the rabid set-up: Enemies have a higher chance of attacking — or “aggroing” — whoever has the most toughness. So if a condition necromancer with full rabid gear is in a squishy group, enemies will focus the necromancer more than other players. In my experience, it’s not a big deal. For others, moving around more often to deal with the extra enemy attention could become tiresome; for these people, dropping some toughness for another stat — such as power — could be a good idea. Still, this should only be a problem in a faulty group set-up.
There is also a case for precision, power, and condition damage gear if survivability isn’t an issue for whatever reason. Power does not benefit conditions, but necromancers have enough direct damage for it to be a decent direct-damage boost. Still, even without a full set of Superior Rune of the Undead, this stat combination has less overall condition damage than the rabid stat combination because it prioritizes precision over condition damage and power.
Tips for Gearing Up:
Getting a set with rabid stats — condition damage, precision, and toughness — can be a pain, but it’s possible with time and patience. This list should make the process a bit easier.
Accessories, Amulets, Backpacks, and Rings:
- Trading Post: Tortured Root (accessory), Colossus Fang (amulet), and Plague (ring) are all available on the trading post, but they can be fairly expensive.
- Karma: Accessories, amulets, backpacks, and rings can be obtained at the Temple of Dwayna in Malchor’s Leap, which is accessible through the Tempests Waypoint.
- Trading Post: Khilbron’s set.
- Karma: Head, shoulder, hand, and leg pieces from Click here for the full list and locations of the vendors on Dulfy‘s amazing website.
- Dungeon Explorable Modes: Caudecus’s Manor, Twilight Arbor, Honor of the Waves, and Arah provide the full sets.
- Trading Post: Mystic Wand (scepter), Malefacterym (dagger), Bramblethorne (staff), and Limitless Furnace (trident).
- Dungeon Explorable Modes: Caudecus’s Manor, Twilight Arbor, Honor of the Waves, and Arah provide all the rabid weapons.
- Karma: The best underwater breather is masterwork — or green — quality. Buy the Gavbeorn Breather of the Afflicted at Gavbeorn’s Waypoint after the Temple of Melandru event. (Also, underwater breathers replace helmets underwater, so remember to slot it with a rune.)
- Laurels: The best rabid ascended accessories are Fierceshot’s Arrowhead and Marriner’s Flask, which can be obtained with 40 laurel tokens and 50 Globs of Ectoplasm. Laurel tokens are gained from daily and monthly achievements, while Globs of Ectoplasm are obtained from salvaging.
- Guild Commendations: The best rabid ascended accessories are Fierceshot’s Arrowhead and Marriner’s Flask, which can be obtained with 12 guild commendations and 5 gold. Guild commendations are obtained from guild missions.
- Laurels: The best rabid ascended amulet is Hymn to the Prophets, which can be obtained with 30 laurel tokens. Laurel tokens are gained from daily and monthly achievements.
- Mystic Forge: The best rabid ascended backpack is Endless Quiver, which is made at the Mystic Forge. Click here for the recipe.
- Laurels: The rabid ascended rings are Khilbron’s Phylactery and Ouroboros Loop, which can be obtained with 35 laurel tokens. Laurel tokens are gained from daily and monthly achievements.
- Fractals of the Mists: The rabid ascended rings are Khilbron’s Phylactery and Ouroboros Loop. In fractals, they can be obtained through the chest or tokens from the fractal level 10 and higher daily quests. For more information on fractals and the fractal daily quests, check out my in-depth guide.
The full set of Superior Rune of the Undead is one option. It provides decent survivability and turns some toughness into condition damage. In straight math terms, it’s the best possibility for maxing out bleed ticks. With my gear, which caps toughness at 1,875, it’s 93.75 condition damage. That is nearly the same amount of condition damage on a chest piece. In total, it adds about 5 damage per bleed tick, or about 3.9 percent more bleed damage with no might.
One alternative is three Superior Runes of the Krait and three Superior Runes of the Afflicted for some decent condition damage and condition duration. This set has potential, but I feel it’s bogged down by the bleed cap. The cap ruins condition duration as a stat if there is more than one condition-built member in a group. If a target is consistently capped at 25 bleeds, it’s better to make those bleeds tick for more damage than it is to be capable of stacking more. But if there aren’t any other bleeders in the group, the condition duration set is more DPS.
Unfortunately, my build is stuck with the rare-quality Crest of the Rabid to maximize condition damage through condition damage, precision, and toughness. Like stated earlier, Exquisite Coral Jewels are also viable for condition damage, power, and precision, but it does give less condition damage overall.
For the scepter and staff, Superior Sigil of Earth is standard. It gives critical hits a 60 percent chance to apply a stack of bleed for 5 seconds default. This is a huge part of the build, and it’s why condition necromancers want precision.
For the dagger, it’s more about personal preference. I prefer Superior Sigil of Accuracy for 5-percent critical hit chance, but Superior Sigil of Agony is also viable for longer-lasting bleeds and Superior Sigil of Corruption is good if it’s possible to keep 10 to 25 stacks. I tend to avoid other proc-based sigils because they share an inner cooldown with Superior Sigil of Earth, so it’s better to grab a sigil with a passive boost.
These upgrade slots are applied only to ascended gear. There are few ways to get them, with the most expensive methods giving the best stats:
- Mystic Forge: The Mystic Forge is where the best infusions with both stats and agony resistance are obtained, but they’re also very expensive recipes. I recommend getting Malign Infusion (Fine) for offensive slots and Resilient Infusion (Fine) for defensive slots. It’s also possible to get a Versatile Malign Infusion (Fine) for defensive slots, but it’s extremely expensive.
- Laurels: It’s possible to get infusions with just stats at the cost of 5 laurels. I do not recommend this for fractals because agony resistance is a huge deal, but if you don’t care about fractals, get the Malign Infusion (Basic) for offensive slots and Resilient Infusion (Basic) for defensive slots.
- Fractal Relics: Versatile Simple Infusions are the cheapest infusions because they can be bought for only 75 Fractal Relics, but they only give 5 agony resistance and no stats. For high-end fractals, these are better than the infusions from laurels because agony resistance is more important than stats.
Unfortunately, consumables are often overlooked. This is a shame because even the affordable options add 189 condition damage and 36 percent condition duration. That’s a massive damage increase! Since I realize consumables can be too expensive for some, I’ll list what I consider the affordable options and the best options.
Super Veggie Pizza: Food buff. This gives 60 condition damage and 36 percent condition duration. It’s the affordable, nearly max DPS food for condition necromancers.
Eggplant Fritter: Food buff. This gives 60 condition damage and 26 percent magic find. It’s the affordable, nearly max DPS food with magic find for condition necromancers.
Quality Tuning Crystal: Miscellaneous buff. This converts 5 percent of toughness and 3 percent of vitality into condition damage. It’s a massive damage gain, especially when paired with condition damage, precision, and toughness gear.
Rare Veggie Pizza: Food buff. This gives 70 condition damage and 40 percent condition duration. It’s the best DPS food for condition necromancers.
Cup of Lotus Fries: Food buff. This gives 70 condition damage and 30 percent magic find. It’s the best DPS food with magic find for condition necromancers.
Master Tuning Crystal: Miscellaneous buff. This converts 6 percent of toughness and 4 percent of vitality into condition damage. It’s the best damage gain, especially when paired with condition damage, precision, and toughness gear.
VII. Skill Priority
For the most part, this will cover weapon rotations. Utility skills are highly situational, with Blood is Power and Epidemic acting as exceptions due to their damage-based nature. Those utility skills should be top priority — assuming other bleeds are up in the case of Epidemic — over all weapon skills. Also, read VIII. Use of Death Shroud for how to maximize Death Shroud in rotations for DPS.
Scepter and Dagger vs. Staff:
The most important thing to know about the two weapon sets for condition necromancer is staff is only there for AOE and utility, while the scepter-and-dagger set is much better for damage. The scepter-and-dagger set is capable of stacking twice as many bleeds, which is obviously ideal for maximizing condition damage. The poison, chill, condition removal, and fear from staff are still great for dealing with large packs of mobs, but they’re simply not as good as the scepter-and-dagger set is for damage.
What this means is staying in staff for too long leads to a big drop in damage done. In the ideal situation, a condition necromancer should be using the scepter-and-dagger set as much as possible, and staff should only be changed to for 10 seconds (weapon swap cooldown) when it’s needed to AOE mobs or fear.
Single-Target Situations on Land:
Stick to scepter and dagger. The ideal priority is Grasping Dead (No. 2) over Enfeebling Blood (No. 5) over Feast of Corruption (No. 3) over Blood Curse / Rending Curse / Putrid Curse (No. 1). Deathly Swarm (No. 4) is good when afflicted with conditions, particularly after Blood is Power is used. Also, try to use Death Shroud on cooldown, but only stay in it for long enough to gain fury from the Furious Demise trait and use Doom (Death Shroud No. 3) for the Terror effect and, if melee range isn’t a problem, Dark Path (Death Shroud No. 2).
In some situations, it is worth changing to staff for the chill, poison, condition removal and fear. When to swap is entirely situational. Just keep in mind changing to staff is a large DPS loss in single-target encounters due to the very weak Necrotic Grasp (staff No. 1), and tread carefully.
AOE Situations on Land:
Cooldown spam! Start with staff, use all the marks, even Reaper’s Mark (No. 5) for the fear. Try to use Chillblains (No. 3) before Putrid Mark (No. 4) for the weakness-applying combo. After marks are used, switch to scepter and dagger, use Grasping Dead (No. 2) and Enfeebling Blood (No. 5), then use Epidemic (utility skill). Change weapons as much as possible after that, and use Epidemic on cooldown.
Crimson Tide (No. 1) spam is condition necromancer’s main underwater DPS ability, but it’s a good idea to use Feast (No. 2) on cooldown for the weakness. In between, make sure to use Sinking Tomb (No. 4) as much as possible for the crowd control. Also, try to use Death Shroud on cooldown, but only stay in it for long enough to gain fury through the Furious Demise trait and, if melee range isn’t a problem, use Wave of Fear (Death Shroud No. 3) for the Terror effect and Dark Water (Death Shroud No. 2).
VIII. Use of Death Shroud
Death Shroud is one of the best tools necromancers have. It is a massive survivability cooldown and, with traits, it can be used effectively for condition damage. Unfortunately, it’s one ability that is woefully misunderstood, so it deserves its own special section!
Gaining Life Force:
For the most part, condition necromancers should be gaining life force naturally through Feast of Corruption and killing mobs. It’s not something anyone should think about too much. However, it’s important to keep in mind that killing mobs is a huge boost of life force, so if a mob is low and the necromancer isn’t capped on life force, it should be prioritized quickly for life force gain.
This should be what most life force goes into. As a condition necromancer, it’s not a good idea to stick around in Death Shroud because it means bleeds fall off, and bleeds are the main source of damage. So save up that life force for survivability! There are a few good moments to utilize the survivability, particularly when a heal is down or when it’s necessary to soak up conditions and other damage-over-time effects (Agony in fractals!) or any big hits from bosses. I use this a lot to soak up AOE attacks (pesky red circles) when I can’t or don’t want to use a roll.
As a condition necromancer, Death Shroud is used mostly to gain fury, which gives a 20 percent chance to critically hit, and to use Doom or Wave of Fear, which do sizable damage with the Terror trait. To do all of this, simply hit the Death Shroud button (F1 default), use Doom or Wave of Fear, and then press the Death Shroud button again to leave the form. Sometimes it is also a good idea to use the No. 2 abilities (see below).
In most fights, I use Death Shroud on cooldown to keep fury up as much as possible. I only save it on certain fights in which I know I’ll need Death Shroud for survivability (examples: Giganticus Lupicus in Arah and the Legendary Imbued Shaman in the grawl fractal).
Constant use of Death Shroud essentially means two or three extra stacks of bleeds, a substantial damage increase.
To further maximize the fury, I usually try to use it when I’m only going to spam scepter No. 1. This can stack more bleeds due to scepter No. 1′s fast cast time.
In both land and water, Dark Path and Dark Water (No. 2 abilities) are the only really useful damaging abilities for a condition necromancer. On land, No. 2 applies bleed and chill, but at the cost of forcing melee range. On water, it applies poison and blind, which are decent damage and utility. Both are worth using when possible.
Except for special situations noted in II. Weapon and Death Shroud Abilities, avoid other abilities.
Epidemic for Single-Target Damage:
Most bosses have adds, and most necromancer abilities are AOE. This opens up a huge window for essentially doubling the amount of bleeds on a target. The process is simple: Stack bleeds on the focus target and an extra mob with AOEs, target the extra mob, and Epidemic. Voila, conditions on the focus target are now doubled. If used effectively, this can let a single condition necromancer push the bleed cap in fights that consistently involve extra mobs.
This is the most under-appreciated condition in the game. In simple terms, it makes 50 percent of non-critical hits do half the damage. This can be a huge damage decrease depending on a mob’s critical hit chance. Even if a mob has 50-percent critical hit chance, this is still a 12.5-percent reduction in damage overall. That can seriously save lives and heals!
Wear Down Defiant:
As explained earlier, Defiant is a buff typically seen on champion and boss mobs that makes them immune to crowd-control abilities. It is explained in full detail here. It’s important to wear down Defiant to maximize the amount of crowd control that is available on a boss, so it’s a good idea to use Reaper’s Mark while in staff*, Doom while in Death Shroud, and Charge (flesh golem ability) as much as possible. There are some situations where it’s a good idea to save the crowd control (interrupting a heal or big attack, for example), but wearing down Defiant is a big help in most fights.
*As good as wearing down Defiant is, never switch to staff just for the Reaper’s Mark. Since staff’s No. 1 skill is such awful damage for a condition necromancer, it’s typically not worth the damage loss.
X. Frequently Asked Questions
When should condition necromancers swap to staff in single-target situations?
It’s very situational. When I really need to slow down damage and build distance on an enemy, I’ll change to staff to chill (No. 3) and fear (No. 5). When I really need to get some conditions off myself or some teammates, I’ll change to staff to use Putrid Mark (No. 4). Otherwise, I stick to scepter and dagger for the damage.
Why not 10 points into Spite for Reaper’s Might?
As good as the might is, I don’t think it’s worth it. There are two problems with this:
First, the slight DPS gain from might is not worth letting bleeds drop. Here is my math comparing both scenarios, assuming that the necromancer stays in Death Shroud for five Life Blasts, and excluding any bleeds from crits for the sake of simplicity:
Life Blast spam for Reaper’s Might: 4,575 damage total = (8.75 extra bleed damage from might * 15 seconds of might * 12 bleeds on average) + 3,000 direct damage
Scepter No. 1 spam: 8,685 damage total = (132 bleed tick without might * 8-second duration * 6 stacks) + (243 poison tick without might * 3 stacks) + 1,620 direct damage
Second, fury from Death Shroud benefits scepter’s No. 1 attack more because it has half the cast time as Life Blast. That means more crits, which means more chances at stacking an extra bleed. That means the full math would favor scepter No. 1 even more.
Why not Sigil of Battle?
First, you really shouldn’t be swapping that much in single-target situations, which actually makes Sigil of Battle nearly worthless on a lot of bosses. Second, it shares an inner cooldown with Superior Sigil of Earth, so a swap can potentially delay extra bleed stacks.
Why not might duration runes (two Superior Runes of the Fire, two Superior Runes of Hoelbrak, two Superior Runes of Strength)?
For this, it’s best to do a straight-up mathematical comparison. The math above for Reaper’s Might shows might duration would have to be about tripled for it to be on-par with scepter No. 1 spam, which is impossible even with might duration runes. So it’s best to just look at Blood is Power, the only other source for might available to necromancers.
Here is the mathematical head-to-head comparing bleed damage gained from a full set of Superior Rune of the Undead and the might duration rune set:
Full set of Superior Rune of the Undead: 14.075 total bleed damage per tick = (28 condition damage from first rune + 55 condition damage from third rune + 100 condition damage from fifth rune + 98.5 condition damage from sixth rune) * 0.05 bleed coefficient for condition damage
Might duration rune set: 5.25 total bleed damage per tick = ((12 seconds of might duration from Blood is Power * 0.6 increased might duration) / 24-second cooldown on Blood is Power) * (350 condition damage from Blood is Power * 0.05 bleed coefficient for condition damage)
It’s a lot of complicated math, but it shows the extra uptime on Blood is Power’s might gives about 37.3 percent of the bleeding damage in the long term in comparison to a full set of Superior Rune of the Undead. Even worse, that’s assuming that Blood is Power is always being used on cooldown, which is unrealistic.
Plus, since Blood is Power is the only major source of might necromancers have, it would be required in every encounter to maximize the might duration rune set. That’s fairly limiting. There are a few boss fights where I don’t run with Blood is Power at all, particularly the Legendary Imbued Shaman encounter in the grawl fractal.
The might duration rune set does come with the upside of also increasing direct damage, but the build this guide is for is foremost a condition build. Scepter and off-hand dagger also have pretty terrible coefficients when it comes to power, so any power gain is really low on the priority list for a build that mostly relies on scepter and dagger.
Why not carrion gear (condition damage, power, vitality)?
Carrion gear is a damage downgrade for condition builds:
1. Less condition damage: The lack of toughness on carrion gear means there’s a reduced benefit from consumables and Runes of the Undead, which leads to lower condition damage.
2. Less bleed ticks: Less precision means less Barbed Precision and Superior Sigil of Earth procs.
Vitality is also worse than toughness for condition necromancers because necromancers have enough base health without any gear, so I would argue it’s also a survivability downgrade.
Why not a hybrid gear set-up?
The main reason hybrid builds, meaning builds that combine power and condition damage, are mediocre in Guild Wars 2 is because the stats from the main DPS archetypes — condition damage, precision, and toughness in rabid and power, precision, and critical damage in berserker — scale better when taken together.
For example, with berserker gear, precision is geared toward making critical strikes more frequent, but in the same set-up, critical strikes actually get stronger. So every percent of critical strike chance (21 precision at level 80) actually becomes better as the critical strikes triggered become stronger through power and critical damage. The math behind this is simple: With no extra critical damage, 1 percent chance to crit, or 21 precision, only adds about 0.5 percent DPS. With 50 percent extra critical damage, that 21 precision suddenly adds about 1 percent DPS because the critical strikes triggered are now doing double the damage.
It’s the same concept with condition damage, toughness, and bleeds in the rabid set-up. With rabid gear, precision triggers more bleeds, while condition damage and, to a much lesser degree, toughness all add to bleed damage. So each point of precision becomes stronger with each point of condition damage and toughness because the more frequent bleeds also tick harder.
In other words, it’s better to focus on two or three main stats, especially as each individual stat gets higher, because of how the stats synergize with each other. If a hybrid approach is taken to gearing, the lack of focus makes a build do much less damage in the long term.
XI. Revisions and Additions
May 29, 2013: Updated III. Traits with a revised build that gets Master of Corruption instead of Lingering Curse.
April 4, 2013: Added a question and answer to X. Frequently Asked Questions.
March 24, 2013: Updated V. Gear with the latest ascended items and infusions.
Feb. 10, 2013: Updated III. Traits to reflect testing with Terror.
Feb. 6, 2013: Added a note about how toughness works with aggro in V. Gear. Thanks to Daeron on the official forums for pointing this out.
Feb. 1, 2013: Updated II. Weapon and Death Shroud Abilities, particularly underwater abilities, to reflect changes since the guide was written.
Jan. 30, 2013: Overhauled V. Gear to make tips for gearing up a lot easier to navigate and read.
Jan. 28, 2013: Updated tips for gearing in V. Gear to reflect the new patch.
Dec. 28, 2012: Adjusted wording and a typo and removed a question and answer from X. Frequently Asked Questions since it was a bit misleading, all with the help of Ancallan on the official forums.
Dec. 26, 2012: Clarified that the trait build linked in III. Traits is meant to act as a base, not a definitive set.
Dec. 23, 2012: Added and updated images. Added a question and answer to X. Frequently Asked Questions about using staff in single-target situations.
Dec. 22, 2012: After making it through the apocalypse, I decided to edit III. Traits to better encourage the use of Well of Blood.
Dec. 21, 2012: Added Summon Flesh Wurm to the minion section in IV. Heals, Utility Skills, and Elite Skills. Corrected wording for some skill descriptions.
Dec. 20, 2012: Added a question and answer to X. Frequently Asked Questions about might duration runes. Added dungeon gear with rabid stats to gearing tips in V. Gear. Adjusted wording on some ability descriptions.
Dec. 19, 2012: Added questions and answers to X. Frequently Asked Questions. Added VI. Consumables, largely with the help of notpowercat on Reddit. Added more information, partly with the help of bigballer_status on Reddit. Ran some corrections, largely with the help of lettucemode and Drarnor Kunoram on the official forums and froghorn on Reddit. Fixed some typos.