Traits are, more than anything else, in my opinion, the bread and butter of every profession. Well, maybe not the bread and butter. They are the spice. Whichever trait line you put your points into and which Major traits you choose really do create the flavor of your character.
This week, we’ll take an in-depth look at each of the Thief trait lines and the best Traits in them.
Putting the Points In
One of the first decisions you have to make is which three (or more) trait lines you are going to invest in. You’ve no doubt seen builds that are 0-20-30-20-0, or, 30-30-10-0-0, but what’s the theory behind this division of points?
First and foremost, I think you should very likely invest in one full trait line, the full 30 points. The Grandmaster Traits are quite powerful and should be given proper deference.
Your choice, then, is what to do with the last 40 points. Do you spreadthem out, or focus them? 30 and 10, or 20 and 20, or even 15 and 25? Personally, I suggest the 20 and 20 approach. You’ll see why in just a bit.
The focus here is on damage. Every point in the Deadly Arts tree will increase your Power (and thus your raw damage) and your Expertise (and thus your Damage over time). The Minor Traits match this theme quite well. Serpent’s Touch makes your Stealing more deadly, and Lotus Poison makes any poison you can inflict on an enemy that much more powerful. Exposed Weakness is probably the most powerful, particularly if you are able to team up with an ally who’s able to keep conditions on an enemy.
The Major Traits are far more varied in both usefulness and style. Mug can be a great Trait for the Thief focusing on Steal effectiveness, but is rather one-dimensional. Potent Poison may be useful, but I’d actually say it is unnecessary, particularly with practice at heaping and regulating Poison. Sundering Strikes seems the stand-out Adept Trait, as Vulnerability is one of the single most useful conditions in the game.
Combined Training and Improvisation are the stand out Master Traits. Dual skills are some of the best skills to deal damage, so dealing more damage with them is incredibly useful, if not a tad redundant. Improvisation is a Trait I actually hadn’t noticed till writing this, but one that has great potential, particularly if you are focusing on utility skills of one type (Venoms, Traps, etc.). The Grandmaster Traits are Panic Strike and Residual Venom. While Residual Venom might be great if you are focusing on a poison build, I’d take Panic Strike any day. Immobilize is particularly effective when chasing down a fleeing enemy in WvW.
Three Best Major Traits: Sundering Strikes, Combined Training, and Panic Strike.
This is the Trait line to go for if you are focusing on Critical Hits and Damage. Precision and Prowess go hand in hand better than any other set in all five trait lines. Any Thief would do well to invest in this trait line, and all three minor Traits are excellent tools in the Thief’s arsenal. Keen Observer is great, particularly when combined with Dazes and Stuns that prevent and enemy from doing damage to you (try the Pistol 5 Skill Black Powder). Opportunist is a great way to manage one’s initiative, and First Strikes works well when combined with any other skill that helps you keep your initiative topped off.
As for the Major Adept Traits, the winners are clearly Furious Retaliation, Side Strike and Concealed Defeat. Furious Retaliation and Side Strike are both great ways to increase your damage output, but I still think Concealed Defeat is a great way to be more survivable, as well as a bigger annoyance in WvW ( Stealth, Teleport, Stealth). Combo Critical Chance is another great trait, this time at the Master level. Ankle Shots is also invaluable if you are focusing on Pistols. However, the true jewels of the Critical Strikes tree are the two Grandmaster traits. Executioner is great for picking off stragglers, as well as for focusing on the nearly dead. And don’t even get me started about Hidden Killer. Being able to count on a critical hit is invaluable if that is the way you are building. All you need is some way to get into stealth, which every Thief has at their disposal from level 1.
Three Best Major Traits: Keen Observer, Concealed Defeat, Hidden Killer.
This is my new favorite Trait tree. The combination of Toughness and Healing makes you more survivable and more useful in a support-type role. In fact, the entire Trait line is the best to invest in if you’d like to play a support thief. Last Refuge will not only protect you, but will Blind enemies, making your team more survivable as well. Meld with Shadows and a longer Stealth is nothing to scoff at, and Hidden Assassin… well, okay, Hidden Assassin doesn’t really fit with the rest of the tree, BUT IT’S STILL GOOD, OK?!?
However, the Major Traits are truly spectacular. Master of Deception is worth it for a reduced cooldown on Shadow Refuge alone, and Shadow Protector is a must-have for anyone trying to play a support role. Hidden Thief can be a great way to buff yourself in the chaos of combat, but none of the Master traits strike me as that useful… but that’s made up for (again) by the Grandmaster Traits. Shadow’s Rejuvenation is a superb way to stay alive (Stealth yielding Regeneration as healing? Trust me, it works) and while I haven’t played with it much in a group setting, Venomous Aura has incredible potential (imagine it with Basilisk Venom…).
Three Best Major Traits: Master of Deception, Hidden Thief, Shadow’s Rejuvenation.
In my opinion, Acrobatics is one of the two trait trees (guess which one is the other one?) that every Thief should put some points into. Maybe it is just my play style, but Acrobatics is absolutely amazing. First off, you get a bonus to your Vitality and your Boon Duration. This means you have better survivability, which is never a bad thing. Then, you have the three minor traits. Expeditious Dodger makes you incredibly mobile, Feline Grace is the single best Trait for survivability for the Thief (and maybe in the entire game…), and Fluid Strikes is a pretty nice way to augment your damage.
Descent of Shadows is a GREAT trait, particularly for WvW, or for the Jumping Puzzle-minded Thief. Be ready to switch to that trait when it is needed. Fleet Shadows, Power of Inertia and Vigorous Recovery are all superb choices, but none of them stand out in particular. Fleet of Foot is a great way to remove some conditions (particularly Cripple!), but Quick Recovery is the amazing Master Trait. 2 Initiative per 10 seconds is an amazing way to recover Initiative. It’s certainly worth a look. Hard to Catch is an amazing tool for survivability, and Quick Pockets is another way to manage initiative. I don’t think that the Acrobatic elites are necessarily worth the point investment, but on every Thief I’d ever play, I’d want at least 15 points in this tree.
Three Best Major Traits: Descent of Shadows, Fleet of Foot, Quick Pockets.
Another trait line that I almost always think is necessary. Cunning is a great thing to invest in, as Steal can be very useful and an effective tool in the right situation. Malice is also not a bad thing to have, as undoubtedly there will be a few conditions you can inflict on others.
Kleptomaniac is probably the most useful minor Trait in the tree, though Preparedness might be the single best minor trait for the Thief. These two offer more means for you to manage your Initiative (there really are quite a few!). Lead Attacks is pretty good, but I do have to wonder when this benefit takes effect.
The major traits head in two directions. The best Adept Major Traits are clearly Uncatchable and Thrill of the Crime. Uncatchable makes you the Kiter to rule all Kiters, while Thrill of the Crime turns your Steal into the start of a Buff-Cannon. Bountiful Theft continues to turn Steal into a means of applying buffs to your group. Hastened Replenishment is a superb means of using healing as a way to regain initiative, but Sleight of Hand turn Steal into a Daze, which is INCREDIBLY useful. It’d be my choice.
Three Best Major Traits: Thrill of the Crime, Bountiful Theft, Sleight of Hand.
My Current Build
I thought I would share with you guys my current build and give a little explanation beyond what I have given above on why I chose what I chose.
I’ve done a 0-0-20-20-30 build. I don’t do a ton of damage because my focus is on creating an all-around support thief. The first thing I knew I had to include was Thrill of the Crime and Bountiful Theft. Being able to launch myself into the middle of the fight and release a bunch of buffs is invaluable. I decided I might as well focus on Trickery (since it’d allow me to steal more often), and so I made my steal into a Daze, providing some good crowd control.
My twenty points in Acrobatics are mainly for the two Minor Traits for the same reasons as listed above. I went with Descent of Shadows simply because it has saved my life so often, though it often gets switched out. Fleet of Foot keeps me moving, meaning I can help the group more, and keep myself alive!
Finally, In Shadow Arts, I’ve taken two Adept skills that help me provide some healing to the group. Master of Deception keeps Shadow Refuge off of cooldown, and Shadow Protector makes both Shadow Refuge and Blinding Powder good ways of providing healing.
So there we have it! A big ol’ discussion of traits! What are your favorite traits? Leave a comment here, or share your build with us in the Thief forums!