Hello, my name is Lopez. I’m a big Guild Wars 2 fan. Before Guild Wars 2, I played an extensive amount of MMORPGs. In World of Warcraft, I was a multi-season gladiator on my Death Knight. In Rift, I was a max-rank mage that usually ran a 51 warlock build. In Star Wars: The Old Republic, I was a high-ranked balance sage.
Now, in Guild Wars 2, I’m a condition necromancer. Two of the most exciting features in Guild Wars 2 for me are world vs. world and structured PvP. As someone who’s consistently on the ladder for solo and team queues, I think my experience Guild Wars 2 has given me enough knowledge to write a guide on world vs. world and structured player vs. player. Specifically, this build is mainly for roaming and small team fights. It can also hold its own in zerg vs. zerg fights, but that’s not its purpose.
I will not cover the basics of world vs. world or structured PvP. Those details are better saved for other guides, which can be easily found on the official forums. Instead, this guide will discuss condition necromancer builds and skills and how they fit into those two game types.
Table of Contents
I. Why Condition Necromancer?
Condition necromancer has the best area-of-effect (AOE) damage in the game. With Epidemic, condition necromancer 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. This can shut down an entire group of players.
But even without Epidemic, condition necromancers have wide access to AOE condition application that can bring down multiple opponents while roaming. It’s not unusual for me to take down two or three players in a short time span while I’m capping supply camps, even though I typically don’t slot Epidemic while roaming.
The mix of bleeds, burning, torment, poison and direct damage is also great single-target damage. Once an enemy’s anti-condition defenses are broken through, bleeds, burning, torment and poison stack really fast to cause a lot of pain. It won’t be the burst of thief or mesmer, but it will be enough pressure to turn away raid groups and land kills.
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, as will be explained later in the guide.
Condition necromancers also have awesome utility. Necromancers can apply poison, which reduces healing effectiveness by 33 percent, better than any other class. Epidemic can also be used to spread conditions like poison and weakness that will debilitate an entire enemy group. Corrupt Boon is one of the best boon removals in the game; not only does it dispel boons on an enemy target, but it also turns those boons into conditions. Plague is also a very potent skill in group play; it provides a huge amount of toughness, and it also allows a necromancer to blind up to five targets for up to 20 seconds. Condition necromancers also have two fears, a crowd control that can act as a stun, a distance builder and a knockback at the same time.
Even when not built for conditions, necromancers have great survivability. Death Shroud is one of the best survivability cooldowns in the game. When used effectively, it can negate stuns and crucial burst damage. Clever use of Death Shroud can turn around a close one-on-one or group fight. It saves lives!
However, all of that does come with one major downside: a lack of burst. Necromancers, as ArenaNet has explained, are masters of attrition. The class still does great single-target damage, but it’s not the kind of damage that produces huge numbers. Still, with clever use of fears, a necromancer can lock down a target and kill it with a slew of conditions.
The other major downside is condition removal. While it doesn’t completely negate condition damage by any means, it does make it so condition necromancers have to break through one to three layers of condition removal before they can start doing real damage. This slows the build-up to maximum damage, but it can be overcome through some tactics that will be explained in this guide.
Finally, necromancers are definitely lacking in mobility and are largely incapable of disengaging from fights. In group fights, it’s common for necromancers to be focused first because organized groups know necromancers are the easiest target to lock down and kill. Plague and Spectral Armor slightly help to address this issue, but they’re not enough. For the necromancer, this makes proper positioning and “pre-kiting” — building distance before an opponent reaches the necromancer — extremely important.
II. Weapon and Death Shroud Abilities
For condition necromancer, the obvious choices are scepter and dagger for primary damage and staff for longer range and utility. Trident is the best choice underwater due to its ranged capabilities, auto-attack, and crowd control.
Scepter and Dagger:
1. Blood Curse / Rending Curse / Putrid Curse: The first two attacks apply a bleed for 4 seconds default, and the third attack applies poison for 4 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. The cripple is great for building and creating distance on players, as well as securing kills on players trying to run away. The skill is 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. I use it when my other DPS abilities are on cooldown.
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. Coupled with Putrid Mark in staff and the Consume Conditions heal, a smart condition necromancer can turn damaging conditions to his/her advantage.
5. Enfeebling Blood: An AOE that applies weakness and two stacks of bleeding for 10 seconds default. Pretty standard. It’s probably the second best damage cooldown while using scepter and dagger, and weakness is a very potent debuff on enemy players.
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 staff is only used for utility and damage at range. As long as moving in doesn’t hurt, it’s better to use scepter and dagger for damage just because of how bad this auto-attack is.
2. Mark of Blood: Ground-targeted AOE that applies three stacks of bleeding 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. It can also be a small increase to survivability when fighting melee.
3. Chillblains: Ground-targeted AOE that applies chill for 4 seconds default and poison for 6 seconds default, and it’s AOE. Using this on cooldown is a must to apply as much poison and chill as possible. On top of doing damage, the poison reduces an enemy’s healing by 33 percent, and the chill is a big snare that also slows down how fast cooldowns come back up. This skill can be chained with Putrid Mark to apply weakness, which, as X. Other Tips explains, is awesome.
4. Putrid Mark: Ground-targeted AOE that counts as a blast combo finisher, does decent damage and transfers three conditions from the necromancer to a target. When paired with Deathly Swarm and the Consume Conditions heal, a smart condition necromancer can use damaging conditions to his/her advantage.
5. Reaper’s Mark: Ground-targeted AOE that fears for 1 second default. Probably the most potent crowd control in the game. Very useful for pushing back and controlling groups of players. The fear effect can be used to knock players off ledges, build distance, and stun them. It’s particularly awesome with the trait Terror, as explained in III. Traits. It can also be used to move players to the right places, as explained in X. Other Tips.
1. Crimson Tide: Applies one stack of bleed for 6 seconds default and does moderate direct damage in an AOE around the target. In underwater situations, this is a condition necromancer’s go-to damage ability. Spam away.
2. Feast: Applies weakness and does decent direct damage in an AOE around the necromancer, and gives life force if it hits an enemy. OK for the weakness and life force if enemies are already around. Try to use this ability on cooldown for the life force and weakness, which is explained in all its glory in X. Other Tips.
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. This ability’s best use is closing distance on an enemy that’s far away. It can also be used to build distance by de-targeting all enemies and aiming in the right direction. The poison and weakness are enough of a reason to try to use this on cooldown, assuming melee range isn’t a problem
4. Sinking Tomb: Sinks a target for 2 seconds. Use this as much as possible. It’s a very potent crowd control.
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 great for building distance underwater, and the chill also makes enemy cooldowns take longer to come back up. I try to use it on cooldown if getting in melee range isn’t a problem.
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. Beyond the chill and bleed, this is decent for catching up to a target. It can also be used on targets that are already close to the condition necromancer to quickly apply the bleed and chill before building distance. Another trick is finding stragglers in big fights and using it on them to get out of the thick of battle.
3. Doom: Standard single-target fear for 1 second default at range and 1.5 seconds default in melee. Amazing crowd control with a relatively short 20-second default cooldown. Very useful for pushing back and controlling players. The fear effect can be used to knock players off ledges, build distance, and stun them. It’s particularly awesome with the trait Terror, as explained in III. Traits. It can also be used to move players to the right places, as explained in X. Other Tips.
4. Life Transfer: Does AOE damage around the necromancer and builds up life force for every target it hits. This is only worth using for survivability. Remember the damage shown is cumulative for the entire channel; it is not representative of each tick’s damage.
5. Tainted Shackles: Applies a stacking debuff on targets near the necromancer that applies torment, a damaging condition. After three seconds, the debuff explodes and applies immobilize. This is a fantastic DPS cooldown that should be used as much as possible — as long as getting near an enemy isn’t a problem. (Once the ability is cast and the shackles are visible on an enemy, it’s possible to leave Death Shroud. The typical combination for Death Shroud is enter Death Shroud, Dark Path, Doom, Tainted Shackles, leave Death Shroud and stay near the enemy until Tainted Shackles explodes.)
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. The fear effect can be used to build distance and stun enemy players. It’s particularly awesome with the trait Terror, as explained in III. Traits. It can also be used to move players to the right places, as explained in X. Other Tips.
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 to immediately remove the absorbed conditions.
5. Tainted Shackles: Applies a stacking debuff on targets near the necromancer that applies torment, a damaging condition. After three seconds, the debuff explodes and applies immobilize. This is a fantastic DPS cooldown that should be used as much as possible — as long as getting near an enemy isn’t a problem. (Once the ability is cast and the shackles are visible on an enemy, it’s possible to leave Death Shroud. The typical combination for Death Shroud underwater is enter Death Shroud, Tainted Shackles, Wave of Fear, Dark Water, leave Death Shroud and stay near the enemy until Tainted Shackles explodes.
For world vs. world and player vs. player, picking traits is about maximizing what a condition necromancer is good at while minimizing disadvantages.
Unlike PvE, my skills don’t change much in PvP, but utility skills do change sometimes. Please look at IV. Heals, Utility Skills, and Elite Skills for a much deeper explanation of the heals, utility skills, and elite skills.
Although it’s traditionally looked at as the power tree, it has a few goodies for condition necromancers. It gives power and condition duration, which are OK stats but not by any means the best.
Parasitic Bond: Heals when the necromancer kills something. OK for soloing and AOE situations.
Death Into Life: Turns some power into healing power. Decent survivability boost.
Siphoned Power: Gain might when hit and under 25 percent health. No one knows why this trait exists.
IV. Signet Mastery: Signets recharge 20 percent faster and grant three stacks of might on use. This is great for Signet of Undeath, which should always be on a necromancer’s bars, and Signet of Spite, which is situational.
X. Chill of Death: Chills and removes three boons when hitting a target below 25 percent health (20 second cooldown). This is one of the best traits in all the necromancer trees because it helps guarantee kills.
XII. Dhuumfire: Critical hits apply burning. This trait is a huge DPS gain.
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.
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.
II. Weakening Shroud: Applies two stacks of bleeding and weakness around the necromancer for 11 seconds default upon entering Death Shroud. This is a decent survivability boost, especially as the metagame moves more and more toward power builds.
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.
Standard Death Shroud tree.
Gluttony: Boost life force generation by 10 percent. It addresses one of the main weaknesses of condition necromancer — low life force generation. Decent.
Last Gasp: Gain Spectral Armor at 50 percent health, with a 60-second cooldown. This trait is one of the best survivability passives in the game. Not only does it grant protection for more than 7 seconds, but it also helps with life force generation at low health — when life force is most necessary.
III. Path of Midnight: Lowers cooldown on Death Shroud abilities by 15 percent. This is an all-around great trait, but it’s particularly great when paired up with Terror, which means Doom (Death Shroud No. 3) can be used more often for high damage.
X. Soul Marks: Triggered marks give 3 percent life force. One of the major weaknesses of necromancers without this trait is life force generation, which is very difficult to build up. Getting this trait allows much more reliable life force generation, which means more survivability and reliable fears (Death Shroud No. 3).
IV. Heals, Utility Skills, and Elite Skills
Unlike PvE, skills aren’t as fluid in PvP. Still, builds can easily change depending on play style or situation. Never be afraid to experiment.
Consume Conditions: Main skill. Absorbs all conditions and heals, with each absorbed condition boosting the heal. I feel this is mandatory in PvP right now. Being able to get rid of all conditions and heal is a massive boost to survivability. Also, since well traits aren’t taken in PvP, Well of Blood’s cooldown is too long.
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 quickly negated with Deathly Swarm, Putrid Mark, and Consume Conditions.
Corrupt Boon: Dispels five boons on a target and turns them into conditions. For information on what the boons are converted into, click here. The best conversions are stability to fear, which is great for crowd control, and retaliation to confusion, which can be a lot of burst damage. This ability is incredible for shutting down boon-heavy builds, particularly guardians and elementalists, and it can be paired up with Epidemic to spread an extra load of conditions. Even if a target only has one or two boons, this skill can do a lot to reduce incoming damage and boost outgoing damage. In world vs. world, I use Corrupt Boon over Epidemic while running in a small group and fighting other small groups. I always take it in structured PvP.
Epidemic: Spreads all conditions on a target to up to five extra targets, with a 15-second cooldown. It is the best AOE in the game, allowing the spread of 25 stacks of bleeds, other damaging conditions, and any utility-based condition. In world vs. world, I replace Corrupt Boon with Epidemic when fighting in big battles.
Signets: Useful for a variety of utility. I usually use one signet in my typical load-out.
Signet of Spite: Applies most conditions in the game for 10 seconds default and blind for 5 seconds default. This ability is amazing for quickly debuffing an enemy, covering conditions and securing a kill. It’s a little tricky to land, but it’s almost a guarantee if used in combination with fear. I take Signet of Spite most of the time while fighting in small-group fights and in structured PvP.
Plague Signet: Makes the necromancer absorb one condition from each group member every 3 seconds and it can be used to break stuns and transfer all conditions on the necromancer to a target. When fighting a lot of condition builds, this is practically mandatory.
Spectral Skills: Spectral skills provide decent utility and survivability, but there’s typically only enough room on a bar to fill one spectral skill.
Spectral Armor: Breaks a stun, applies protection for 6 seconds and makes the necromancer gain 8 percent life force every time he’s hit (1-second inner cooldown). This ability is phenomenal survivability. One of the best methods for negating burst is using Spectral Armor then jumping into Death Shroud. The life force gain will typically negate any incoming damage while in Death Shroud.
Spectral Walk: Breaks a stun, provides 30 seconds default of swiftness and can be used as a limited-time teleport. This ability is great for addressing necromancer’s main problem: the lack of an out. The teleport can be used for mind games with opponents to pull them into bad positions and to build distance, and the initial use breaks stuns and helps generate more life force, which is always useful.
Spectral Wall: Drops a wall that fears enemies who tries to walk or roll through it and applies protection to allies who walk or roll through it. This is really good for controlling certain areas of the map, especially against melee classes. However, I feel most top players are smart enough to completely avoid it.
Minions: Minions are just pets. They are not worth taking in PvP, especially world vs. world. They die too easily, and they don’t bring enough damage or utility.
Wells: Wells provide great utility. While I consider them essential in some PvE encounters, I feel they’re way too easy to avoid in PvP. Good players will always roll or walk out of them before they make too much of an impact. Still, at least one well can be useful.
Well of Darkness: Player-based AOE that blinds every second for 5 seconds with a 50-second default cooldown. This ability can be used in situations with tight corridors, and it can be amazing for shutting down groups and players and keeping enemy players off allies.
Plague: Turns the necromancer into a virulent cloud that can apply conditions. This is massively useful for the AOE, 20-second blind and huge boost in toughness. It can turn entire fights around.
Armor, Weapons, and Trinkets:
For world vs. world, I use the 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 always wanted. Second, the toughness interacts with consumables to provide a decent boost to condition damage.
For structured PvP, I use the Rabid Amulet with a Rabid Jewel.
Tips for Gearing Up in World vs. World:
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.)
- Crafting: The only way to currently obtain ascended rabid weapons — known as Grizzlemouth’s weapons — is crafting. It’s a lengthy process that involves a lot of content and gathering, but it’s all explained on the Guild Wars 2 wiki here.
- 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 from world vs. world laurel merchants for 20 laurel tokens and 250 Badges of Honor. Laurel tokens are gained from daily and monthly achievements, and badges of honor are obtained from world vs. world kills and jumping puzzles.
- 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 from world vs. world laurel merchants for 25 laurel tokens and 250 Badges of Honor. Laurel tokens are gained from daily and monthly achievements, and badges of honor are obtained from world vs. world kills and jumping puzzles.
- 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.
On land in world vs. world, five Superior Runes of Perplexity and one Superior Rune of the Afflicted are, in my opinion, the best option. The set provides condition damage and another condition to stack. (Six Superior Runes of Perplexity are bad on land for necromancer because fear doesn’t count as an interrupt. But make sure to put the Superior Rune of the Afflicted on the helmet so it’s possible get six Superior Runes of Perplexity underwater.)
Underwater, place a Superior Rune of Perplexity on the aqua breather because Sinking Tomb (Trident No. 4) counts as an interrupt and therefore makes it even easier to stack conditions.
In structured PvP, the full set of Superior Rune of the Nightmare is the best option. It provides a decent all-around damage boost with extra condition damage and condition duration. The full set also provides a 5-percent chance to automatically fear any melee or ranged attacker, which does damage through Terror and provides a small survivability boost.
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 provides less condition damage overall.
For the scepter, 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 in world vs. world, Superior Sigil of Bursting, which gives 6 percent more condition damage, is the best option. Unlike every other proc-based sigil, Superior Sigil of Torment doesn’t share an inner cooldown with other proc-based sigils.
For the dagger in structured PvP, I prefer Superior Sigil of Minor Corruption, which provides a boost to condition damage with each kill, because Superior Sigil of Bursting isn’t an option.
For the staff, Superior Sigil of Energy, which gives 50 percent energy on a weapon swap, is preferred since the staff is usually a defensive weapon in world vs. world and structured PvP.
Tip: It’s also possible in world vs. world to keep another dagger with Superior Sigil of Corruption, which gives 10 condition damage for every kill up to 25 stacks, to build up condition damage stacks. Once the stacks are built up, change to the dagger with Superior Sigil of Bursting.
World vs. world laurel merchants sell infusions with stats and bonuses against world vs. world guards and lords at the cost of 5 laurel tokens and 125 Badges of Honor. Get the Malign WvW Infusion, which gives condition damage, for offensive slots and the Resilient WvW Infusion, which gives toughness, for defensive slots. Laurel tokens are gained from daily and monthly achievements, and badges of honor are obtained from world vs. world kills and jumping puzzles.
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.
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.
Koi Cake: Food buff. This gives 70 condition damage and 40 percent condition duration. It’s the best DPS food 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
Unlike PvE, there isn’t always a set rotation of skills that should be followed. In PvP, skills are a lot more situational. There’s no sense in blowing every scepter and dagger cooldown when the bleeds are just going to be cleansed off. Putrid Mark and Deathly Swarm are best saved when a few conditions are on the necromancer, and Reaper’s Mark is best used during clutch moments to lock in a kill.
However, there is some level of rotation that should be followed. In scepter and dagger, the skill priority is much like the typical PvE rotation: Grasping Dead (No. 2) over Enfeebling Blood (No. 5) over Feast of Corruption (No. 3) over Blood Curse / Rending Curse / Putrid Curse (No. 1). In staff, using Mark of Blood (No. 2) and Chillblains (No. 3) as much as possible is ideal. In optimal damage situations, it’s best to prioritize scepter and dagger over staff because scepter and dagger can apply more bleeds more quickly.
When condition removals are done, it’s also a prime time to use fear and sink to secure a kill before a target can heal. Loading up full bleeds on a target and double fearing it can create a massive health deficit that is too difficult to recover from, especially if poison and chill are on the target to lower the effectiveness of heals and make any defensive cooldowns even longer.
Optimal Burst Rotation:
In the most optimal burst situation, I will use scepter and dagger to Grasping Dead (No. 2) and Enfeebling Blood (No. 5), stack a few bleeds and some poison with Blood Curse / Rending Curse / Putrid Curse (No. 1), switch to staff, use Mark of Blood (No. 2), Chillblains (No. 3), Reaper’s Mark (No. 5), Death Shroud (F1 default), Doom (No. 3), Dark Path (No. 2), and Tainted Shackles (No. 5). This combination stacks a bunch of bleeds and torment, keeps some poison and chill up, and secures a kill with two fears in a row.
Scepter and Dagger vs. Staff:
The key difference between the scepter-and-dagger set and staff is the scepter-and-dagger set is offensive while staff is defensive.
Staff’s abilities stack less bleeds and do less damage, but they have longer range, apply a stronger snare (chill is better than cripple), and fear is amazing for controlling opponents.
On the other hand, the scepter-and-dagger set stacks more bleeds and poison, mostly thanks to scepter’s great No. 1 attack.
My advice is to swap to staff for more defensive situations (when building distance, long range), but stick to scepter and dagger as much as possible to maximize bleeds, poison, and overall damage.
VIII. Tips for One-on-One Fights
Condition necromancers have a solid mix of survivability and damage, which puts them in a great spot for one-on-one fights.
In this section, I can’t give a script of how every encounter will go — that’s unrealistic, given the variance of player actions and builds — but I’ll provide tips on how to approach the different classes. Knowing how to deal with all the classes on an individual basis makes it much easier to deal with them in group settings.
As a condition necromancer, the goal is to stay at range with snares and fear and wear through multiple condition-removing abilities. Once a guardian uses all his/her condition removals, unload every bleed possible and secure the kill.
Also, save Corrupt Boon for “Save Yourselves!” Many guardians will use it for the boons, which can be easily converted to free conditions.
This fight can be a bit scary because warriors are capable of very high spike damage and crowd control. Keep as much distance as possible with cripple, chill, and fear, and apply conditions.
If the warrior uses Berserker Stance to become immune to conditions for 8 or 12 seconds, pop Spectral Armor, Death Shroud and Life Transfer. This should buy enough time to last through the Berserker Stance.
If a warrior stuns or begins using Thousand Blades, popping Death Shroud to absorb damage is advisable.
If the warrior changes to rifle and kneels, that means s/he’s using Kill Shot. If this happens, wait about 1.5 seconds and dodge. If it’s not avoided, Kill Shot can really hurt.
Engineers can have a lot of conditions and crowd controls, but it’s easy to turn them on the engineer with Deathly Swarm and Putrid Mark. I always make sure to roll out of any ground-targeted AOEs and grenades when possible.
If an engineer drops a bunch of turrets, I will run out of line-of-sight or range of the turrets, and make the engineer come to me. Even if it means running away from an engineer, it’s better and safer than trying to deal with all the turrets and the engineer at the same time.
Many engineers will run with a few boons, which lets the engineer stack a lot of might. Against these builds, it’s best to save Corrupt Boon until might stacks are about 12 or higher. Doing this will usually strip the boons when an engineer’s elixirs are off cooldown, leaving him at a substantial disadvantage.
If an engineer is running Automated Response, apply as many conditions as possible when his health hits 30 to 40 percent. That way, the conditions will usually last through Automated Response and kill him. Otherwise, change to Death Shroud and Life Blast while in melee range to help secure a kill while the engineer is immune to new conditions.
If a ranger is ranged, s/he’ll likely be using a shortbow and might even be built for conditions. If that’s the case, turn the conditions around with Deathly Swarm, Putrid Mark, and Consume Conditions.
If the ranger is melee, build distance with cripple, chill, and fear and cleanse any conditions.
If I ever get hit by the ranger elite skill Entangle, I will dispel the immobilize, typically with Consume Conditions, and immediately roll. This lets me avoid the reapplication of the root without having to destroy it.
Ranger pets can also be used to the necromancer’s advantage. Since necromancer’s condition application is mostly AOE, pets can be used to double the amount of conditions on a ranger. To do this, I make the damaging AOEs from scepter and staff hit both the ranger and the pet, then I target the pet and Epidemic. Voila, double the bleeds on the ranger.
If the ranger is built like a bunker with a strong DPS pet, keeping cripple on the chill and running around can do a lot to diminish the ranger’s damage.
The key to applying conditions to rangers is to wait for Healing Spring, a ground-based heal that strips conditions, and Empathic Bond, which transfers three conditions from the ranger to his pet every 10 second, to go on cooldown. (Empathic Bond is easy to detect because three conditions will suddenly disappear from the ranger.) Once both are on cooldown, unload on the ranger with condition application cooldowns and fears to put him severely behind.
Most rangers currently run spirit builds, which provide a lot of buffs, damage and conditions through a bunch of very visible spirits. To deal with these builds, AOE the spirits down while making sure to hit the ranger, and try to keep range from the spirits to avoid their AOE effects.
The key to fighting thieves is avoiding their opening burst damage, which can only be properly executed through stealth. If a thief stealths right by me, I will almost always Death Shroud or wait a second and then roll. This usually lets me avoid the entire opening burst from Backstab. If for whatever reason I can’t roll or Death Shroud, I will run away from the area where I saw the thief stealth. Since stealth is time-limited, I will usually be able to outrun the thief until stealth ends. As a very last resort, Plague is always an option to absorb an opener and make a thief essentially useless for 20 seconds.
Once the opener is avoided, it’s a matter of building distance with chill, cripple, and fear. When the thief re-stealths, I use the same tactics as before to avoid any burst.
Also, I make sure to drop AOEs, particularly marks, between where a thief stealths and my position, since a thief will move toward me if he wants to attack me from stealth. If I predict the thief’s movement properly, this can let me apply a bunch of conditions on the thief before s/he even opens. I can’t even begin to count how many thieves I’ve killed in stealth because they tend to be so squishy and vulnerable to AOE condition application while in stealth.
If a thief is built for heavy survivability by making his/her stealth remove conditions and heal, the fight can take a while, but with proper play, a condition necromancer should be able to outlast or, at the very worst, stalemate any thief.
Elementalists are like guardians in that they have a few layers of condition removal, so the fights can take a while, but the condition necromancer should always have the upper hand.
If an elementalist is ranged, his/her attacks are very easy to avoid by moving. If an elementalist is melee, s/he will have a lot of mobility, but it shouldn’t be enough burst or damage to really scare a necromancer. Simply keep as much distance as possible, even against ranged elementalists, and avoid any AOEs and projectiles by staying on the move. Chill, cripple, and fear as much as possible to keep distance.
One trick elementalists love to use is mixing Churning Earth and Lightning Flash. This lets them charge up Churning Earth and teleport to a target at the last possible moment to do spike damage and apply eight bleeds. This is very easily avoidable. If I ever see an elementalist charge up Churning Earth (the elementalist will crouch and rocks will begin shaking around him/her), I will either fear to interrupt the cast (the 30-second cooldown will still trigger if the ability is interrupted) or get ready to dodge or Death Shroud once the elementalist teleports to me. One reason to use Death Shroud instead of rolling is the bleeds can then be transferred back to the elementalist with Putrid Mark or Deathly Swarm.
It’s a good idea to save Corrupt Boon for Armor of Earth. It turns the stability into fear, giving a free stun and distance builder, and the protection into vulnerability, which boosts damage against the elementalist very slightly.
When I fight mesmers, I always try to keep my distance. Even though the main Greatsword attack does get stronger the further I am, it’s better to take the slightly boosted damage than it is to leave myself close to a mesmer’s phantasms and illusions in case the mesmer uses Mind Wrack to shatter the clones on me for spike damage. Distance also helps me avoid the more threatening melee weapons some mesmers use.
It’s important to know mesmers are very vulnerable to conditions. The only tools they have to cleanse them — Arcane Thievery and Null Field — have long cooldowns and are limited in how much they cleanse.
That also means illusions and phantasms are very vulnerable to conditions. I always take advantage of this by making sure my AOEs hit as many clones as possible. If done properly, this can take out a lot of clones before they even reach me.
Another alternative to killing clones is Life Transfer (Death Shroud No. 4). It doesn’t do that much single-target damage, but the AOE can take down squishy clones very quickly.
When a mesmer does use Mind Wrack, it’s very obvious because the clones will stop what they’re doing and begin moving to their target. As a condition necromancer, it’s always advisable to kite the clones and kill them (they’re easy to one- or two-shot) or use Death Shroud to soak the burst damage.
Strangely enough, necromancer is one of the best counters to necromancer. Condition builds have a lot of ways to transfer and cleanse conditions, so it can be a bit like fighting a guardian or elementalist in that there are condition-removal layers to work through before a necromancer can be killed.
The trick is to use the condition transfers as sparingly as possible to balance damage coming in while maximizing damage going out. If done properly, I can usually get another necromancer to waste his condition removals and then transfer all remaining conditions on me to kill him.
If a necromancer is built for power, s/he won’t have as many condition transfers, and the damage will be easier to avoid. Build distance with chill, cripple, and fear, and keep conditions off as much as possible.
When a necromancer uses Death Shroud, it’s a good idea to try to interrupt the Life Transfer, which has a rather obvious animation, with fear. This makes it so the necromancer is able to soak up less damage in Death Shroud since Life Transfer provides life force. Also, make sure to run out of Tainted Shackle’s range.
IX. Tips for Group Fights
Playing in or against a group can be a completely different than playing one-on-one. For starters, not always being the center of attention opens up some leniency for dealing damage.
The biggest survivability a ranged class has is not a skill or a piece of gear. For condition necromancers, it’s not even Death Shroud. Instead, it’s range. Keeping as much range as possible is a huge deal in PvP. It’s the best way to avoid any damage.
Part of doing this means using the right weapon. Scepter and dagger have a shorter range than staff, so sometimes it’s better to sacrifice damage from scepter and dagger to not get too close to a huge group of players. This is entirely a personal call, but it’s something that will become more obvious with more play time.
But the biggest part of maximizing ranged is predicting opponents. This is all a matter of getting familiar with the game’s mechanics. The key factors to watch out for is that movement should be done before it’s too late. When a group of players starts moving towards me, I will start moving away from them as soon as possible. It’s not just about building distance; it’s about keeping distance.
Maximizing range applies in both small and huge encounters. It’s a very important aspect of surviving and, in the long term, maximizing damage by staying alive as long as possible.
Now, sometimes it is better to move in for more damage. I don’t just sit in staff and drop marks all day; I often move in to deal superior damage with scepter and dagger. Again, this is entirely situational, and it’s something one can only get used to with a deeper understanding of game mechanics.
X. Other Tips
These are tips that generally apply to both one-on-one and group fights.
Using Death Shroud:
In PvP, the main uses of Death Shroud are survivability and burst. Using it for survivability is all about predicting burst through indicators — getting stunned, a thief stealthing, a warrior using Thousand Blades, mesmer clones moving in to shatter — and activating Death Shroud to soak up any spikes in damage. It’s also a good idea to switch to Death Shroud and soak up conditions when Deathly Swarm, Putrid Mark, and Consume Conditions are on cooldown. If Death Shroud is being used for survivability, it’s also a good idea to use Life Transfer to regain life force while in Death Shroud.
It’s also a good idea to use Death Shroud for burst:
The typical rotation on land: enter Death Shroud, Doom, Dark Path, Tainted Shackles and leave Death Shroud.
The typical rotation underwater: enter Death Shroud, Tainted Shackles, Dark Water, Wave of Fear, and leave Death Shroud.
Remember it’s possible to use Death Shroud and Doom (No. 3) while in any crowd control. This can essentially act as a stun breaker if used properly. I have feared plenty of deadly channeled attacks while stunned by saving Death Shroud for the proper moment.
This is pretty basic, but while running to a zone or fight, one-shot as many critters, or gray-named mobs, as possible to gain life force. I will usually arrive to a keep or tower with close to full life force just by killing a bunch of critters.
Dodging is a huge deal in PvP, but it’s rarely used correctly by most players. First of all, never roll twice in a row at the start of a fight. I see so many people do this, and it’s a complete waste.
The best times to use dodge are when big burst damage is obviously coming, including stealth and Thousand Blades. In these situations, it’s almost always a good idea to dodge to avoid big burst.
If I’m low on health and my heal has a few seconds left on its cooldown, I will also dodge to ensure I survive just long enough for it to come up. This has saved me a walk back countless times.
Dodging properly is all about building the right experience and knowledge, but one universal truth is to be thoughtful with dodges. I strongly advise against spamming dodge on cooldown, as way too many players seem to do.
The most obvious use of fear is its stun and interrupt, but one often overlooked aspect of the ability is the fact it moves people away from the necromancer. Not only can this be used to knock enemies off ledges, but it can also be used to move enemies into deadly positions.
For example, fear can be used to move enemies into the necromancer’s allies. One easy way I do this is by going into Death Shroud, using Dark Path (Death Shroud No. 2) to jump by a target, position myself so I’m facing my group, and fearing. If I use both Doom (Death Shroud No. 2) and Reaper’s Mark (staff No. 5), I can usually push a target pretty deep into my group.
It’s also possible to use fear to push an opponent further into his/her own group. The main reason to do this is to put someone in the middle of a large group for Epidemic, which can sometimes maximize the amount of people afflicted by conditions.
This is the most under-appreciated condition in the game. In simple terms, it makes 50 percent of hits do half the damage. This massively reduces damage from power builds.
Weakness also makes endurance, which is used to roll, recharge much slower, which can be a huge deal for securing a kill.
XI. Frequently Asked Questions
Why not a healing power, condition damage, toughness?
Precision is a massive damage gain due to Superior Sigil of Earth and Barbed Precision. That set also has much less condition damage because it prioritizes healing power.
I don’t think giving up condition damage and precision for healing power is worth it, especially because I don’t ever feel like my survivability is lacking. It’s very easy for a lot of players to fall into the trap of focusing on too much survivability after a bad experience. A lot of people did it in WOW’s arenas. But the real solution is working on living longer through proper tactics and strategies, not throwing away a huge chunk of damage for some limited survivability.
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 actually makes a build do much less damage in the long term.
XII. Revisions and Additions
Nov. 28, 2013: Updated III. Traits to recommend Weakening Shroud.
Nov. 23, 2013: Revised V. Gear with new rune recommendations.
Nov. 17, 2013: Revised V. Gear with new sigil recommendations.
Nov. 13, 2013: Updated V. Gear with new sigil recommendations.
Sept. 29, 2013: Updated V. Gear with ascended weapon information and a new suggestion for runes.
Aug. 25, 2013: The guide has returned! It’s basically been revamped to fit all the changes.
June 3, 2013: Updated V. Gear with information about ascended gear obtained through world vs. world.
May 31, 2013: Updated VIII. Tips for One-on-One Fights with tips for engineers, elementalists, and rangers.
May 29, 2013: Updated III. Traits with a revised build that gets Master of Corruption instead of Lingering Curse.
May 25, 2013: Updated the build to use Spectral Walk to accommodate for a metagame that is increasingly punishing necromancer’s lack of mobility.
May 13, 2013: Updated III. Traits with a new build that goes further into Soul Reaping.
April 19, 2013: Switched my recommended runes in V. Gear to the full set of Superior Rune of the Nightmare.
April 9, 2013: Added a question and answer to XI. Frequently Asked Questions.
March 24, 2013: Updated III. Traits with a much stronger, PvP-centric build after doing some testing. It’s much stronger for world vs. world and structured PvP, but the downside is this build no longer goes hand-in-hand with my PvE build. I also updated V. Gear with ascended gear and infusions from the latest patches.
Feb. 10, 2013: Updated III. Traits to reflect testing with Terror.
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.
Jan. 1, 2013: Added a question and answer to XI. Frequently Asked Questions.
Dec. 31, 2012: Added a comparison between staff and the scepter-and-dagger set to VII. Skill Priority. Added a note about replacing Corrupt Boon with Blood is Power in IV. Heals, Utility Skills, and Elite Skills, thanks to prowagratis on Reddit for the suggestion.