Guild Wars 2 Necromancer Guide, Build - Different GW2 Necro Playstyles!
GW2 Necromancer Guide
If raising the dead, casting curses, and life-stealing sound fun to you, this GW2 Necromancer guide will be perfect for you. GW2 Necromancer can do all those things and much more! Even though, as a scholar class, they only have access to light armor, some Necromancer builds actually excel in playing at the frontline, thanks to a powerful shroud mechanic, unique to Necromancers.
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The Necromancer’s unique profession mechanic allows them to use Life Force in order to enter the Death Shroud. Necromancer gathers Life Force every time a nearby NPC or player dies. Each death fills 10% of the Life Force bar.
When you’re in the Death Shroud (Reaper Shroud or Desert Shroud for elite specializations), your HP bar gets replaced with Life Force. Taking damage results in losing some of that resource, but you get a 50% damage reduction. Similarly to many other transformation mechanics, running out of the resource doesn’t mean death, but returning to the standard form.
Some builds utilize Death Shroud only as a survival and escape tool, but there are very interesting setups that use this mechanic to deal a ton of DPS as they combat in the frontline. Entering the shroud replaces your weapon skills with a set of fixed abilities, one of them being Life Transfer that can drain Life Force and extend the Death Shroud duration. During transformation, allies can’t heal you and you no longer get the 10% of the bar filled after every nearby death.
Besides the entirely new unique mechanic, a lot of the Necromancer’s skill set resembles the kti that they had in the first Guild Wars game. They can place offensive marks and supportive wells on the ground. They also can summon undead minions. Using corruption skills, Necromancer can inflict conditions on both themselves and their enemies. Reaper elite spec gives them access to shouts, while Scourge’s punishment spells turn enemy boons into conditions.
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Necromancers don’t have the most impressive arsenal of weapons available to them, but there are quite a few options to choose from the list. Running most of the popular setups, you won't have to swap weapons that often since it's rarely necessary in case of this profession. These are the possibilities that you have for the offensive parts of your equipment.
Two-handed: Staff, Greatsword (Reaper only)
Main-hand: Axe, Dagger, Scepter
Off-hand: Dagger, Focus, Warhorn, Torch (Scourge only)
Specializations and traits
As it often is with Guild Wars 2 professions, there are multiple viable builds for Necromancers. Each one of them uses a unique set of specializations and traits that can amplify various aspects of their kit. While proper setup of spec trees is not the only important part of creating a GW2 Necromancer build, it can definitely push you from being good to being great.
Core specializations available to Necromancers are Spite, Curses, Death Magic, Blood Magic, and Blood Reaping. The Heart of Thorns elite spec is Reaper, while Path of Fire introduced Scourge. You can only have three of those trees active at a time and only one of them can be elite.
Spite – this core specialization can increase both yours and your team’s DPS output. It provides you with some powerful offensive self-buffs and allows you to inflict vulnerability to enemies. It’s mostly used in builds focused on power DPS, often alongside Reaper elite spec. Spite empowers the usage of axes and foci.
The unchangeable minor traits of this tree provide increased damage with the might self-buff and let you spread vulnerabilities across your enemies. In the first major slot, Bitter Chill grants even more vulnerability, while Spiteful Talisman increases your damage against boonless enemies (it can work in situations where foes don’t have a lot of boons, or when your team can get rid of them easily).
In the second slot, every direct damage build goes for Awaken the Pain. It gives you might as you enter your shroud and makes this buff give you more power, but less condition damage. Close to Death is great in the final position, since it gives you +20% damage to enemies below half health.
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Curses – as usual, after the direct damage tree, there are the condition-focused ones. This specialization enhances critical strikes, condition damage, and corruption spells. It also provides a synergy with specters. The Curses spec is a part of every Condi DPS build.
Your minor traits give your Critical Hits a chance to cause Bleeding, increase your Crit Ratio against enemies who suffer from conditions and provide even more Critical Hits after you enter your shroud. In the first position, Plague Sending lets you transfer conditions onto your target, after entering shroud. Terrifying Descent allows you to fear enemies and deals damage over time to the fleeing ones.
In the second slot, Master of Corruption reduces the recharge time of corruption skills and makes them apply extra conditions onto you (you can then transfer them to foes with Plague Sending). For the last position, Lingering Curse provides additional condition damage, when using a scepter. The other option – Parasitic Contagion, makes 10% of condition damage heal you.
Death Magic – this specialization synergizes with minions and grants some Death Shroud bonuses. If you’re interested in the classic Necromancer gameplay with a horde of undead at your side, you should definitely use it. Death Magic is a must-have in every Minion Master build.
Your minor traits focus mostly around buffing your shroud and accelerating the Life Force generation. As for the major traits, every Minion Master setup uses the same ones: Flesh of the Master, Necromantic Corruption and Death Nova. The first one adds extra tankiness both to you and your minions. The second makes them take conditions that would have been inflicted on you. Minions later transfer them on their targets with attacks. Death Nova makes your undead servants explode when they die, inflicting damage and poison to nearby enemies. Furthermore, it creates a new jagged horror every time you kill a foe.
Conditions applied by your minions are treated as ones applied by you. It means that, if you have any active traits that enhance the condition damage, your minions will profit from them too. For the rare non-Minion Master builds that include Death Magic, Dark Defiance can be a decent trait, as it seriously increases survivability, especially against a lot of crowd control.
Blood Magic – one of the most supportive Necromancer specs. It empowers daggers, warhorns, and wells. This tree works well with healing, reviving and protecting allies while draining life from enemies. It’s a part of every Necromancer Support build.
Minor traits allow you to heal your team while dodging, steal life from enemies and give you extra healing power bonus that becomes stronger the lower you are. As for the major ones: in the first slot, most support setups go for Ritual of Life, for extra AoE healing from Well of Blood upon reviving an ally.
In the second slot, Vampiric Presence grants you and your nearby allies the ability to steal health on hit. For the final position, you can definitely go for Vampiric Rituals to reduce the cooldown of wells and make them provide extra healing and protection. The other viable option – Transfusion, gives you extra healing and revive while you’re in a shroud.
Soul Reaping – the last core specialization has some built-in synergy with staves, but more importantly, it empowers your Death Shroud. It’s necessary for power DPS builds that take advantage of the inherent strength of this transformation mechanic. You will often see it combined with Reaper for synergy that reaches far beyond the names of those specs. Soul Reaping is also used in numerous other damage and support builds.
The minor traits are focused entirely on the class unique mechanic. Granting you more Life Force generation and increasing the cap of this resource, while also reducing the cooldowns of Death Shroud skills.
As far as the major traits go, Unyielding Blast is a great option for the first position. It makes you inflict vulnerability while you’re in Death Shroud and as we know, it increases not only yours but also your team’s damage. For support setup people like going with Soul Marks for stronger marks and more Life Force.
In the second slot Soul Barbs is a significant damage increase that triggers upon entering or exiting the shroud. For support, you might prefer extra health and incoming healing from Vital Persistence. The last slot has two good options. Dhuumfire makes you inflict burning when in the shroud which is great if you’re looking for some extra condition damage. Power DPS setups will always go for Death Perception for a significant critical chance buff when transformed.
Reaper – the elite specializations tend to be a little bit on the overpowered side and that’s definitely the case with this one. Not only the power DPS setup with a greatsword is one of the best damage builds for this class, but a casual Reaper can fit in almost any other non-support build. Furthermore, it grants access to shouts and some of them can provide really nice utility. This specialization is a go-to for most open-world builds because it provides an interesting playstyle with strong damage and decent survivability.
Besides providing the mastery over greatswords, this spec replaces the Death Shroud with Reaper’s Shroud that’s much more melee-oriented. This form is considered stronger, but its biggest downside is the quicker loss of Life Force. Basically, every build that involves this spec uses greatsword as the main weapon, since it’s by far the best option for direct damage. Meanwhile, the synergy with chilling makes the specialization viable for condi DPS builds.
Reaper minor traits make grant you the ability to inflict chill while fearing enemies and deal extra damage to the chilled ones. As far as major traits go, pretty much elects the same combination: Augury of Death, Decimate Defenses and Reaper’s Onslaught. It’s a great option for every power DPS setup since it provides a lot of critical chance, attack speed and empowers your shouts. For more condition damage you can go for Chilling Nova and Deathly Chill. Unsurprisingly, these traits let you chill foes more efficiently and deal amplified damage while doing so.
Scourge – as usual, the second elite specialization brings out an entirely different flavor than the first one. It gives you access to torches and of course, it has a unique shroud skillset. Scourges can enter the Desert Shroud and gain access to AoE skills called Sand Shades that are mostly used to assist their team and provide utility. Most of the Necromancer’s true support and off-support builds utilize this spec, but it can be seen is some condi DPS setups too. Scourge also grants access to punishment skills that turn enemy boons into conditions.
While Reaper is extremely popular in the open world, Scourge is great for hard dungeons, fractals, and raids. In general, these are the situations where you need a build that exceeds at one thing only, but it has to do it extremely well.
Minor traits of this tree amplify the usage of Sand Shades, providing extra condition damage, boons duration, and survivability. For the pure support build, your major traits should be Abrasive Gift, Desert Empowerment and Sand Savant. This combination gives you a ton of shielding and condition removal. The other viable setup is condi DPS. In this case go with Fell Beacon, Sadistic Searing and Demonic Lore for stronger torch skills and lots of burning damage.
GW2 Necromancer Builds
In this section we’re going to analyze some of the meta Necromancer builds for PvE. We will discuss how different specialization trees can complement each other as well as what weapons and skills to combine with them. We're not going to discuss builds designed for PvP. WvW and other popular modes need completely different qualities from an effective setup. Furthermore, some skills have separate PvP versions, since this is a way for ArenaNet to balance the game.
Power Minion Master
Minion Master might be the perfect Necro build for a casual open-world player. It’s not difficult to execute and the minions are reasonably strong - they're the ones that do the heavy lifting in this situation. Furthermore, they do a pretty good job of tanking the incoming enemies, making it easier for the player to stay alive, without having to kite monsters all the time.
The problem is, that you can’t control what targets they’ll focus on. It’s rarely a problem in the open-world content though. It’s a perfect example of a setup that’s well-rounded, easy to pilot and really efficient against easy opponents, but it can’t keep up in a more demanding environment. Minions aren’t durable enough to main tank powerful bosses and the DPS output is far from optimal. Keep in mind that you can't control which targets are going to be focused on by your minions.
The core and most important specs are Death Magic and Spite. If you have access to HoT, you can definitely go with Reaper as the third one. The most important feature that it provides is the shout skills, specifically “Rise!” that allows you to instantly create an army of minions.
This setup is based on increasing your might and applying vulnerability to numerous enemies. While most of your base stats won’t help your minions to be more efficient, keeping vulnerability on all foes will significantly increase the damage output of your undead army. That being said, the player should definitely utilize their weapon skills and the shroud mechanic to deal as much damage as possible.
Contrary to the first Guild Wars and many other games that include a Necromancer class, you don’t need corpses to summon the undead. At the same time, the Death Nova trait we already talked about makes you summon a Jagged Horror every time you kill an enemy. It also makes your minions explode on death, dealing damage and poisoning enemies.
The other important traits are Flesh of the Master and Necromantic Corruption to keep yourself safe. In Spite tree, it’s Bitter Chill for extra vulnerability, while Awaken the Pain and Close to Death provide bonus direct damage. The Reaper tree provides some crit rate, more power in a shroud and most importantly, the Augury of Death trait decreases the cooldown of your shouts. The Blood Magic variant gives you more survivability and makes you support your team more, but significantly decreases your damage output.
Weapon-wise, you should definitely have a greatsword as one of the options. If you struggle with controlling the situation being melee all the time, you can go for a ranged weapon in your second slot. Weapon-swapping rotation is not that important here, as long as you keep a sizeable army of minions up, utilize your greatsword skills and the Reaper Shroud, you should be fine. The rest of your skill bar should be entirely occupied by abilities that summon minions, make sure that it includes Summon Shadow Fiend and Summon Flesh Golem as the elite.
Scourge Support Healer
Minion Master is great for getting through the open-world, but what if you wanted to go for some more difficult, endgame content? Necromancer is one of the most lackluster classes in terms of sheer damage output – they can definitely be played in that role, but there are simply better options. This class, especially with the Path of Fire Scourge elite specializations can really excel as support.
This special build provides plenty of barriers, some healing, boon generation, condition removal, strong reviving tools, more utility, and even some extra damage. Scourge can’t really work as the primary healer, but this setup is an extremely powerful all-round support, providing both defensive and offensive assistance. Your main weapon set should be staff since it lets you stay in a relatively safe range from danger.
The recommended combination of specializations is Blood Magic, Soul Reaping and Scourge. If you want to use this type of build in fractal runs or raid bosses, Path of Fire is going to be necessary. The Scourge tree provides a lot of supportive power here and even more importantly, the Desert Shroud. It gives you access to a whole new set of skills to cast which are crucial in this build.
Blood Magic traits provide some extra life steal for your whole party, as well as healing and reviving tools (most importantly Transfusion). The Soul Reaping tree is mostly used to empower your Desert Shroud. It accomplishes that by increasing Life Force cap and generation, as well as decreasing recharge time of shroud skills. The elite spec provides boons, condition removal and powerful barriers with traits like Abrasive Gift and Desert Empowerment.
Your main weapon set will usually be a staff, as it provides four mark skills that synergize with your Soul Reaping traits. It also brings the most supportive and utility tools. The rest of your skills can be various punishment and corruption spells that empower your allies and impair enemies. In groups that already have a ton of boons, you can take some summoning minions spells instead of Blood Is Power and the elite Ghastly Breach. Another decent option for the healing slot is Sand Flare. Well of Suffering is a great ability to consider for additional offensive utility.
As far as runes and sigils for your gear go, there's no single best setup. You can go with Superior Rune of the Flock, Scholar or a few other viable options. The healing infusion is the best choice here. Most players go with Superior Sigil of Transference and Superior Sigil of Water to optimize their healing output.
Reaper Greatsword DPS
The Reaper elite specialization can turn Necromancer into a powerful melee damage dealer. Getting the most out of Reaper’s Shroud is the key to pulling off this build. It’s another setup that’s mostly useful for an open world. It’s a completely unique take on Necromancer, compared to what this class usually does in other games.
Reaper tree is crucial here, as it provides access to greatswords, the more powerful transformation, and shouts. Spite traits again provide a lot of damage and inflict vulnerability, Soul Reaping helps with Life Force and extra damage and crits. Reaper major traits bring out even more critical hits and enhances their damage. It’s all combined with the inherent power and survivability of Reaper’s Shroud. It’s basically one of the most powerful open world builds in the game! It definitely falls off in the endgame content, where versatility is not as useful and the damage level starts to be lacking. That being said, this build can definitely be adjusted to serve as a power DPS for dungeons and fractals.
As far as weapons go – greatsword is your best friend. You can get a ranged weapon in the second slot, specifically for pulling monsters. With the remaining skills, you have plenty of possibilities. Flesh Golem is always a good elite for open world Necro, but “Chilled to the Bone!” is also decent. In certain situations, you might want to consider Lich Form and the survivability it can provide. You definitely should use on a slot for “You’re All Weaklings!” the rest is situational/personal preference. Extra power from the Signet of Spite is another nice thing to have.
As you can see, a huge portion of Necromancer’s power is placed into the two elite specializations. In general, it’s often the case with many Guild Wars 2 classes. However, some of them have many more good options with the core content only. If you’re not interested in playing Necromancer, the other GW2 classes are Elementalist, Mesmer, Warrior, Guardian, Revenant, Thief, Ranger and Engineer. Feel free to check out our guides for each one of them!
Guild Wars 2 is an MMORPG developed by ArenaNet. It got released in 2012 and instantly created a huge player community, based on both the fans of the first Guild Wars and completely new people who continue to play and enjoy the game. GW2 already had two major expansions: Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire. Furthermore, the dragon-oriented Living World story progresses with every new patch.
What is your favorite Necromancer builds? Join the discussion in the comments!