Many of you have probably experienced the dungeons in Guild Wars 2 by now. For those who are used to more structured dungeon play in traditional MMOs, GW2 instances may seem like unbridled chaos, like ‘a WoW dungeon when the tank dies‘. The chaos, thankfully, can be mitigated by using our control abilities judiciously; I’ll be highlighting our tools for control in this general dungeon guide for necromancers this week.
A dungeon primer
Before we inspect our control skills, a primer for those who are new to GW2 dungeons (wait… aren’t we all new?): I believe that a mindset change is required to enjoy GW2 dungeons for what they are, instead of feeling punished for your choice of profession or role.
GW2 has been touted to have “no holy trinity;” that’s a load of hogwash. I’d argue that the roles of tank, healer and DPS are very much alive and well! Unlike MMOs where players are encouraged to specialize, GW2 dungeons demand that you play all three roles with a single toon.
The catch is that no profession can heal or tank effectively for long. Even traditional “tanky” professions and plate-wearers like warriors and guardians can’t take a beating for the duration of an encounter. This means that tanking and healing (or control and support, in GW2 parlance) duties need to be juggled by the entire party of five. Dealing damage is really just the in-between thing you do while you’re not controlling or supporting.
Players who head into dungeons, particularly tougher ones like Ascalon Catacombs, with a specific role in mind, like “Oh, I just want to DPS,” may be sorely disappointed. The sooner you realize that you’re required to tank, kite, survive and support others in the team, the quicker you’ll start to appreciate the dungeon challenges for what they are.
What is control?
I’d define it as manipulating enemy movement and abilities to reduce the damage it’s dealing to the team, while putting it in a position to receive maximum damage from the team–say, by slowing the mob down while it’s charging through a poison cloud, for example.
Necromancers have a host of skills that do just that. However, note that some of the effects are extremely fleeting, limiting their tactical usefulness because your team won’t have time to respond to or capitalize on them, unless you warn them beforehand. They seem to be merely “bonus” control effects tacked on to damage-dealing abilities.
In the following lists, I’ve ranked the skills from the most tactical (essentially those with a longer duration and higher availability) to the least (short duration, more situational).
Control movement of mob: Chill, Cripple, Immobilize, Pull, Push
This group of skills allows you to root, snare or move mobs around to your team’s advantage. Chill is probably the best control condition a necro can inflict: it reduces movement and increases skill cooldown, both by two-thirds. It’s available to us in the following forms:
1. Spinal Shivers (with an off-hand focus)
2. Dark Path (in Death Shroud form; good for tanking, since it slows the mobs and brings you into melee range)
4. Chilling Wind (in Lich form; comes with Push, a knockback)
5. Chilblains (with a staff; good for kiting but otherwise a DPS skill)
Cripple is the weaker cousin of Chill, cutting movement speed only by half. Necros cripple foes with the following:
1. Grasping Dead (with a scepter)
2. Unholy Feast (with an axe)
3. Plague of Pestilence (in Plague form; this skill can be spammed for perma-cripple for the duration of Plague form, and comes with weakness to mitigate damage)
4. Signet of Spite (powerful utility skill that also inflicts other control effects like Blind and Weakness; unfortunately, its long 90-second cooldown makes this skill unavailable most of the time in an encounter)
5. Locust Swarm (with a warhorn; its 1-second cripple is probably only good as an “escape” tool while kiting)
6. Bone Fiend and Flesh Golem (minions are iffy, in my opinion; they may not be around when you need the cripple effect most! Good as DPS supplements and incidental control, but too unreliable for deliberate tactical control)
Immobilize does what it says: it roots the mob to a spot and prevents turning, as well:
1. Dark Pact (with main-hand dagger; the 3-second immobilize may provide a big enough window for a teammate to step in or out of melee)
2. Bone Fiend (see above)
Mitigate damage to team: Blind, Weakness, Daze, Fear
This group of skills reduces the damage-dealing potential of the mob, so that you or a teammate holding the mob’s attention can do it while sustaining less damage. Blind effectively reduces the mob’s damage output to zero since it causes the target’s next attack to miss.
1. Deathly Swarm (with the off-hand dagger)
2. Well of Darkness (great support/control utility to throw at the feet of whoever’s tanking)
3. Plague of Darkness (in Plague form; this skill can also be spammed to maintain blind on the target for about 20 seconds – great for tanking)
4. Shadow Fiend (again, the availability of this blind effect depends on the flaky survivability of the minion)
Weakness reduces the target’s effectiveness by causing half of its attacks to deal only half damage. The endurance-reduction portion is probably not applicable in PvE.
1. Enfeebling Blood (with an off-hand dagger for a generous 10 seconds)
2. Corrosive Poison Cloud (corruption utility skill; 10 seconds’ worth of weakness, but the necro gets 6 seconds of it as well)
3. Plague of Pestilence (mentioned above in the cripple section)
Daze interrupts and puts the mob out of commission for a while–2 seconds, to be exact–with Wail of Doom on an off-hand warhorn.
Fear seems powerful since it interrupts and makes enemies run away, but its 1-second duration means that it’s at best a lull in the mob’s DPS output. Moreover, many boss mobs are immune to it
1. Reaper’s Mark (with a staff)
2. Doom (in Death Shroud form)
Looking at the lists above, it becomes clear that the best weapons for control are a main-hand scepter or axe for Cripple, an off-hand dagger for Blind and Weakness and probably the staff for Chill and Fear. I hope this guide can illuminate some possibilities for your dungeon play as a necromancer, and help you bring more to your team than a deathly pale but pretty face and DPS.
Remember: DPS is nothing without control (and support). In the meantime, happy dungeon-crawling!