First let me introduce you to my level 45 (at time of writing) main. Meet Gaangnam the asuramancer.
With this 1-40 leveling guide, I’ll point out some tips and checkpoints that you might have missed along the way, while you’re having a blast exploring the wonderfully detailed world of Tyria (aren’t you?). What I’m not going to do is to tell you to “do this quest” or “repeat this x times” because this is not a power-leveling guide.
This is an entirely PvE-centric guide, so I’m picking skills and traits for their versatility and ease of use in mainly soloing and some group play.
With that, let’s level up!
For a smooth leveling experience, I’d recommend focusing our early necromancer build on two key considerations: speed, and area of effect (AoE) abilities.
Need for speed
Over the course of your necromancer career, you’ll be running a lot between waypoints. A little speed boost will save you some time, over the long run. Sure, you could take it slow and smell the roses, but being able to speed through scenery you’ve been through a number of times wouldn’t hurt.
Here are the necro skills and traits that give you a speed boost:
Locust Swarm (with the warhorn off-hand)
Signet of the Locust (1-point utility skill)
Speed of Shadows (10-point trait in the Soul Reaping line)
Quickening Thirst (20-point trait in the Blood Magic line)
I’ve left out the aquatic skill, because most of us will spend most of our time on land, unless you’re a quaggan lover. The first two skills are what we really want for our purposes (cheap and versatile), so we’ll incorporate them into our build as soon as possible.
The other aspect of speed is of course the ability to dispatch mobs as quickly as possible. In other words, maximizing damage per second (DPS). We’ll keep this in mind as we plan our build.
Boom goes the necro
The key to leveling is dynamic events. They’re not only fun, and sometimes pretty epic, but they also provide the best bang for buck in terms of XP versus your time. Dynamic events usually involve loads of mobs, and AoE skills will let you tag as many of them as possible to maximize the XP yield from each event.
Now we have a host of AoE abilities but I’ll point out my favorites:
Life Transfer (skill 4 in Death Shroud)
Corrosive Poison Cloud (1-point utility skill)
Plague (10-point Elite skill, only available at level 30)
All of our weapons come with AoE skills, except the dagger main-hand. The two-handed staff is our weapon of choice for dealing out AoE mayhem. Our various Wells, are also important AoE abilities, particularly in group play.
Here’s the plan
Keeping the abilities listed above in mind, how can we best capitalize on them during the leveling process? Keep in mind that this is probably only one of the many “efficient” ways out there, but it’s a plan that I’ve had a good experience with.
Levels 1-4: Grab that warhorn reward at the end of your tutorial and equip it. You want to grab Locust Swarm as soon as possible, because it’s the earliest Swiftness buff (+33% movement speed) we have access to. The buff will save you some time when you explore the cities, particularly larger ones like Hoelbrak and Divinity’s Reach. Spending some time at this early stage exploring the cities is generally a good idea because it’ll orientate you to the world and get you the necessary waypoints for easier travel later. It’s also an almost risk-free way of scoring the early levels!
Gold-saving tip: You’ll need 10 silvers at level 11 to pick up the Adept’s Training Manual to start investing in traits, so some monetary prudence is needed. Instead of using waypoints right across the map, save some coin by first porting to the nearest city via Lion’s Arch. You can get to Lion’s Arch from wherever you are by heading to the Heart of the Mists, accessible via the PvP tab of your Hero panel (press H). Waypoints in a city are free-of-charge, use them!
Don’t forget to pick up all three gathering tools and some salvaging kits as soon as you can afford them. Gathering is a good way to pick up some XP and achievements, and salvaging unwanted gear is great for accumulating materials for crafting. For purposes of leveling, you’ll probably only want to hit the gathering nodes that are along the way.
Unless you’re a crafting enthusiast, I would also recommend that you focus on leveling one craft for the time being, like Tailoring. The crafting disciplines are essentially competing for the same materials (other than Chef and Jeweler) and trying to gather enough mats for two such crafts may slow down your leveling momentum.
Level 5: Your first utility skill slot unlocks. Grab Signet of the Locust for a passive 10% speed buff. The signet’s active ability is a little AoE life-steal, but I find the passive boon more useful. As you complete skill challenges, you’ll find yourself unlocking more and more utility skills. Optimally, you’ll want to unlock only skills that you use the most, so that you’ll have 50 points at level 30 to pick up Lich Form and its two pre-requisites.
How do you figure out which skills you’ll like? Well, head to the Heart of the Mists and voila, you’re instantly level 80, and you’ll get to play with all the necromancer toys. Isn’t that convenient?
Level 7: Weapon swapping unlocks. At this point, you’re probably using axe/warhorn as your main weapons. I’d recommend having the staff as your second set for long range AoE work, particularly for dynamic events. Depending on drops and heart rewards, you’ll get our other weapons too: scepter, focus and dagger. Give them all a spin, and find one that fits your playstyle.
What I find hard to recommend is the dagger main-hand, for reasons mentioned here. My favorite short to mid-range weapon set is the axe/warhorn.
Level 10: Second utility slot unlocks. I picked up Summon Bone Minions for that additional bit of passive DPS, and a burst of AoE damage when I sacrificed them. Other viable options include Corrosive Poison Cloud.
Level 11: Pick up the Adept’s Training Manual for 10 silvers (which hopefully you have by now). It’s time to dive into the wonderfully complex world of traits. It’s also time to be more selective of gear so that you pick the ones that work best with your build.
For effective leveling, you’d want to dispatch mobs as quickly as possible. This means focusing on Power, Precision and Critical Damage attributes. The math behind these three attributes is beyond the scope of this guide for now, but I would recommend starting with a trait point in the Spite line for 10 points of Power and eventually Parasitic Bond, and Reaper’s Might at level 20. These two traits work nicely with our objectives of maximizing DPS, while minimizing downtime.
Level 20: The final utility slot unlocks. Things get more interesting here, as you’ll have access to a number of skills by now. My soloing toolbar looks like this: Well of Blood (heal plus group heal over time), Signet of Spite (passive power buff), Summon Shadow Fiend (passive DPS and tanking), Summon Bone Minions (ditto), and Corrosive Poison Cloud (AoE) or Signet of the Locust (passive speed buff).
For group play or dynamic events, it really depends on your build and playstyle. Well of Blood is by far, the only must-have for group play. Remember that you can rejig your skills as soon as you’re out of combat. I like to swap in the locust signet while travelling, for obvious reasons.
Similarly, your major traits are not locked down. While you need to go to the vendor to reset all your trait points, you can change your choice of major traits at no cost. This is great for tweaking your build for various scenarios.
Level 30: The Elite skill slot unlocks finally. I’d recommend picking up Plague and Lich Form for this slot as soon as possible. I picked up Summon Power Suit too, the Asura racial Elite, because who doesn’t like robot suits?
Level 35: You may wish to pick up the Tier 1 cultural armor at this point from vendors in your home city. You’ll quickly outgrow the armor as you level past 35, so the gold investment here is really for the armor skins that are unique to your race.
Level 40: At this level, you get to look forward to pick up Master’s Training Manual which you’ll use at level 41. The book resets your traits, gives you access to the second tier of traits (beyond 30 points) and most importantly, costs 1 gold.
You may also wish to pick up, to the tune of 9,800 karma points, a Tier 1 cultural weapon. I picked up a staff, simply because I couldn’t afford both a main and off-hand. Let me stress again at this point that getting cultural gear is purely for race-specific looks, and you will quickly out-level the stats on these items.
We’ll look at levels 41-80 next week, and if you have a favorite build you want to share, please let us know in the forums. In the meantime, enjoy the journey and don’t forget to grab the vistas!