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Guild Wars 2 Thief Guide
raphael 16.07.2019 0

Guild Wars 2 Thief Guide

As far as GW2 Professions go, Thief is definitely one of the least versatile. There are builds that use different weapons or specialization trees, but pretty much all of them are focused on DPS. It’s an interesting change, minding the fact that in first Guild Wars, similar Assassin class is considered one of the best tanks. As an adventurer profession, Thieves wear the leather medium armor. Let's get into the GW2 Thief guide in detail.

In GW2 no matter if you’re focused on a condition or direct damage, it’s possible to deal with great amounts of DPS. You can use daggers, swords or even a rifle or staff with the elite spec, but your chances of escaping the damage dealer role are rather slim.


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Thief Unique Mechanics

First of all, Thieves live up to their profession’s name and they can actually steal items. The target is not actually losing anything, but the player obtains one of the items for a list that’s defined by the enemy’s type. This mechanic s not a way of making money though. Instead of placing a random item in your inventory, it gives you temporary access to a stolen skill. You can get some really powerful ones, especially when raiding. 

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The thief also has access to a special resource called initiative. Their weapon skills don’t have any recharge time, but instead, they have an added initiative cost. You can store up to 12 points of this resource and then use them for a powerful skill chain for an extremely high burst of damage. The obvious downside is the time it takes to replenish your initiative stock.


Thief Skills

Thieves have plenty of abilities that allow them to shadowstepping* to enemies or allies. They also have stealth skills that let them become invisible and stealth attacks that can deal extra damage to unsuspecting foes. They can use venoms to empower their whole team’s weapons. Thieves also have access to traps and various deception and trick skills.


*shadowstep – a mechanic that allows a player to instantly appear next to their target. It will only work if the target is not walled off and can be reached by walking.


Thief weapons

While double daggers probably remain the most iconic weapon setup for a Thief, this class also has a bunch of other possibilities in terms of picking the perfect gear.


Main-hand: Dagger, Pistol, Sword

Off-hand: Dagger, Pistol

Two-handed: Short Bow, Rifle (Deadeye only), Staff (Daredevil only)


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Specializations and traits

Even though Thieves are mostly a damage profession, there are some relatively defensive options in their specialization trees. A lot of their survivability comes from dodging attacks, blinding enemies and moving swiftly through the battle.


Some of the specs had been inherited from the Assassin class’ attributes in the previous game. Shadow Arts, Deadly Arts, and Critical Strikes definitely differ a little bit from their older versions, but the identity remains similar.


Choosing the optimal specializations and traits will be one of the most important parts of making your build run as smoothly as possible. They can greatly enhance different skill types, playstyles and aspects of the Thief profession.


Critical Strikes – the general idea is pretty much in the name. This tree will let you land more critical hits while making them deal more damage to your enemies. It’s a really powerful core tree that’s used in basically every power DPS setup (meaning most of the meta Thief builds). It’s also great in the open world. Moreover, Critical Strikes synergize with pistols and signet skills.


Your minor traits provide an extra critical chance and critical damage, gated by your own or your target’s HP percentage threshold. A lot of the major traits options go further in that direction. For the first position, Twin Fangs provide extra critical chance and damage when you’re over 90% HP. The other option - Assassin’s Fury increases your power.


In the second slot, Practiced Tolerance is a great option that provides extra critical damage that scales off of your critical chance. For the pistol setups, you can also go with Ankle Shots that allow you for kiting enemies and deal with additional damage to them.


In the final slot, No Quarter further increases the critical chance and critical damage, which makes it the best option for pure DPS. Invigorating Precision provides some decent self-healing from critical strikes. It might be good for open-world builds that need some kind of survivability and sustain.


Deadly Arts – another amazing damage specialization. This one works well with both main types of DPS – direct and condition. It’s not that useful in the open world though. It synergizes with daggers, as well as placing traps and poisoning enemies.  It also amplifies the stealing mechanic.


Minor Deadly Arts traits let the player reliably inflict poison and vulnerability and deal more damage to enemies suffering from conditions. In the first major slot, you can go either with Dagger Training or Mug. The first one gives you an additional source of poison and the second provides extra damage and self-healing when you steal an item.


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In the second position, Revealed Training grants you extra power upon revealing and Panic Strike provides more conditions. The third slot again provides two interesting options. Executioner grants 20% extra damage against enemies that are below half health. 20% is a lot, which makes it the go-to option for most builds. If you’re looking for a poison-heavy condition DPS setup, you might actually prefer Potent Poison for extra duration, damage and stacks of this condition.


Shadow Arts – one of the more defensive spec trees. It focuses on using stealth and supporting your team, with some reviving, condition removal and venoms. It also empowers blinding and deceiving enemies. It can be used in some of the more supportive builds that focus on empowering your teammates’ damage output. In general, it’s probably the least used Thief’s specialization.


Minor traits of the Shadow Arts tree help with reviving allies, staying in stealth longer and reducing incoming damage. The major traits are pretty situational. You can take Last Refuge or Concealed Defeat as the first one, they both apply blindness to enemies. Leeching is pretty nice if you’re trying to support your team with venoms (you probably shouldn’t pick this specialization if you’re not looking to do that). For the last position, Cloaked in Shadows is another source of blindness and some defense, while Shadow’s Rejuvenation provides decent sustain.


Acrobatics – a huge part of Thief’s identity is dodging and moving around the fight quickly. These aspects are significantly buffed by the Acrobatics tree. Moreover, it also empowers sword skills. It’s another spec that is considered a bit underpowered and not being used that often.


Minor traits of this specialization are focused on dodging, generating more endurance, swiftness and boon duration. The major traits almost exclusively provide evasion, condition removal, and self-healing. Swindler’s Equilibrium also provides some extra damage with a sword and Upper Hand helps with initiative generation.


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Trickery – this specialization improves stealing, trick skills and helps to deal with initiative. It provides some damage boosts in tandem with the ability to burst harder with the bigger initiative supply.


Minor traits increase your initiative cap and generation as well as enhance your damage output as you spend this resource. The best major trait for the first slot is Burst of Agility since it gives you some nice boons when you attack your foe from behind or from the side.


Trickster in the second position can empower your tricks and let you cleanse conditions. As for the last slot, all three possibilities have their merits. Quick Pockets provides extra initiative on weapon-swapping what creates a potential for great burst with longer combos that include two weapon sets. Meanwhile, Sleight of Hand dazes the target you’re stealing from. Bewildering Ambush works similarly but inflicts confusion instead.


Daredevil – the Heart of Thorns elite specialization enables Thieves to use staves (not really to cast spells, but to hit their enemies with them). It enhances dodging and endurance generation. Daredevil also gets access to a set of physical skills. It slightly changes the stealing mechanic – replacing it with a swipe – a variant that can’t be blocked, but has a lower range. This tree is very popular and often used in DPS builds and during adventures in the open world.


Minor traits increase your endurance cap and let you generate this resource by using swipe. They also enable you to inflict weakness to your enemies. Major traits differ a lot between different builds. Escapist’s Fortitude provides self- healing and cleansing conditions. The other first slot option – Marauder Resilience provides extra health and damage reduction.


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In the second position, Havoc Specialist provides extra damage for the amount of endurance that you spent, giving you more power after dodging. Meanwhile Staff Master grants you extra endurance as you spend your initiative. All of the third slot traits replace your dodge with something else. Bounding Dodger is a really powerful option. It turns your dodge roll into an ability called Bound that deals AoE damage. Lotus Training provides extra conditions instead, while Unhindered Combatant brings in some extra crowd control.


Deadeye – the new weapon type for this elite spec is a rifle. It opens up the potential to become a ranged damage dealer, but it’s rarely used in other situations than running around in the open world. It also grants access to cantrip skills that provide extra survivability and crowd control. This tree can be used in setups that require single target DPS.


The stealing mechanic is replaced by Deadeye’s Marks. Marking an enemy lets you generate malice stacks when you hit them with your abilities. These stacks will be consumed to empower a stealth attack when you use it.


Deadeye’s minor traits provide some health regeneration and extra damage against marked targets. In the first major slot, Malicious Intent is the best option, as it accelerates your malice generation. In the second position, Premeditation provides extra damage for every boon that you have active. If you’re using a rifle you might also consider Silent Scope for extra critical chance and stealth upon dodging.


As the third major trait, Be Quick or Be Killed is definitely a great option. It provides quickness, extra damage and a critical chance for a short time after marking a target. It can greatly increase your DPS level against a single target, making it great when fighting bosses. If your enemies die quickly anyway, you may choose to go with Maleficent Seven to increase your malice cap. Furthermore, it provides extra boons and restores initiative.


GW2 Thief Builds

We went through specializations and traits, so we already know a thing or two about some of the available parts that can be used to create a build. Now let’s break down some of the complete Thief PvE meta builds to learn how they’re combined together. We're skipping over WvW roaming and other PvP modes, due to balance differences. 


We will take a look at three different setups that utilize different parts of this profession’s kit. We will discuss the weapons that they use, as well as the healing, utility, elite skills and provide some execution-related tips. However, Thieves are not too versatile as a profession, so the most popular setups are not that different from each other. Of course, you can always try many different setups in the open world to find your personal best GW2 Thief build, but pretty much every meta build for fractals and raids is a DPS setup that combines of Critical Strikes, Deadly Arts and one of the elite specializations.


As with every other profession, you can gain a lot of power and possibilities with the elite specs. Remember that sometimes you'll have to adjust your build for a specific location. Most popular setups revolve around power DPS. This is the reason that they use the Superior Rune of the Scholar. The sigil choice is slightly less obvious and depends more on the situation as well as player preference.


Core Dual Dagger

Core Thief Double Dagger Build

Talking about various GW2 builds we always try finding at least one example that’s either designed for core specializations or at least has a viable version that can be played without expansions. With Thief, it’s even more difficult than usual, as almost every build is heavily focused around the Daredevil or Deadeye tree. 


This double dagger build was designed specifically for core players. It utilizes Deadly Arts, Critical Strikes and Trickery. Similarly to most Thief’s builds, it exceeds at bursting down single targets but doesn’t offer that much AoE. It's designed for an open world, but it can definitely hold its own in a relatively easy dungeon. 


The damage profile is rather mixed, with a lot of power and critical hits, but also some bleeding from dagger skills and poison provided by the Deadly Arts. With this setup, you also get a decent amount of defensive tools and mobility from the skills.


Deadly Arts traits provide the extra conditions and a significant damage boost with Executioner. Critical Strikes tree does exactly what it’s name suggests, providing extra crit chance and damage. Trickery helps with initiative management and the Trickster trait let’s you cleanse some conditions.


If you do have some expansions, you can always run a similar setup, just replacing Deadly Arts or Trickery with one of the elite specs. As Daredevil you’re probably going to want to fight with staff though. Deadeye, however, can do really well with double daggers.


Skill-wise, the Signet of Agility and Assassin’s Signet provide some passive damage increase and Withdraw can be replaced with Signet of Malice if you don’t take much damage or conditions. Shadowstep and Haste are two stunbreaks that provide mobility, so always have one of them on your bar. For the elite slot, Dagger Storm reflects projectiles, provides some conditions and damage, while Basilisk Venom is a great option for crowd control.


Dual Pistol Deadeye

Dual Pistol Deadeye Build

The other open-world build we’re going to talk about can be a little bit more convenient at times because it uses ranged weapons (it can often be important in the open world). It deals with a lot of single target damage, what’s not always perfect, but the ability to quickly burst down an enemy is very useful.


The core specializations in this build are Critical Strikes and Trickery. The first one provides extra damage and synergy with pistols (Ankle Shots trait is really important here). Trickery allows for harder bursts with the extra initiative. Deadeye’s Mark mechanic significantly increases the single target DPS. As traits, you should go with Malicious Intent for extra malice stacks and Premeditation and Be Quick or Be Killed for extra damage.


Again the same two signets are used for the exact same reason. Hide in Shadows provides extra stealth as a healing spell. Roll for Initiative is a stunbreak that helps with kiting and restores initiative. Shadow Meld is a great elite option for more stealth.


Daredevil Power DPS

Thief Daredevil Power DPS Build

With this build, you can deal huge amounts of direct damage using a Staff. It’s a great option for players who want to start getting into the endgame content like raids and fractals. The damage output is really good and the playstyle and rotations are very simple. At the same time, it gives you the possibility of holding your own in some of the most demanding, hard locations and making a lot of gold from loot. It's perfect for a raid beginner. 


This build is based on the powerful damage steroids from Deadly Arts and Critical Strikes with the ability to cleave multiple enemies in combat with a staff. It doesn’t have the most potent AoE in the game, but it’s still better than almost entirely single target damage profile of other Thief weapons. This, alongside the ease of execution, makes Daredevil builds the safest choice for this profession during raids and fractals.


Traits setup for the core specializations is pretty similar. The notable changes are Revealed Training for extra power and Mug for healing when you use swipe. Meanwhile, the Daredevil tree provides extra damage that requires you to utilize dodging well, with traits like Havoc Specialist and Bounding Dodger.


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As far as the skills go, Channeled Vigor is a great option for the healing ability, since it also provides extra endurance. The same two signets are also used in this build for additional damage. Fist Flurry is a very powerful option for the last utility slot. There are a few good elites to choose from. Basilisk Venom provides the most utility, Thieves Guild the highest damage and Impact Strike is somewhere in the between. You can go with a similar Deadeye variant with double daggers for more single target burst, but much less AoE. Just watch out for enemies that inflict blindness, as you don't really have built-in condition removal, you're going to need someone in your party to cancel the blind and let you DPS properly.


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Guild Wars 2 Professions

As we explained, Thief is very efficient DPS character, with some really easy to play builds, bet this class might seem a little too one-dimensional for some players. If you’re looking for more versatile GW2 classes or simply want to try another playstyle for another day of gaming, there are many different options! The remaining professions are Elementalist, Mesmer, Necromancer, Engineer, Ranger, Warrior, Guardian, and Revenant. Check out our guides to learn more about them! 


Guild Wars 2 is an MMORPG developed by ArenaNet. It offers it's players a lot of freedom in creating their favorite builds, while also enabling them to switch their setups between adventures. Even though there's plenty of challenging endgame content and some builds really need a lot of practice to master all the rotations in raids and fractals, the majority of the players community views GW2 as a casual MMORPG. That's because most of the content is accessible to players who play in short sessions and don't devote their lives to optimizing their builds. The dragon-themed story and worldbuilding are top notch, with a lot of throwbacks to the game's predecessor as well as the Living World feature that makes Tyria an ever-changing place. 


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