Editorials

Don’t Fear the Reaper. Be Terrified.

By Draxynnic and Starconspirator, with contributions from Kriss Watt

By taking up the greatsword, the necromancer Marjory Delaqua signaled the beginning of the reaper’s onslaught. The necromancer’s powers, structured around life and death – the frailty of the body and fleeting warmth of life – grow naturally into this new specialization. Necromancers harvest the blood of others through vampirism to sustain themselves and commandeer the life force of fallen enemies in order to shroud themselves in Grenth’s darkness. It is this mastery of darker energies – plagues, curses, reanimated corpses – that colors the profession. With the reaper elite specialization, the other-worldly necromancer dons a new darkness, that of the scythe-wielding horror, Death personified.

Birth of the Reaper

Speak Menacingly, Carry A Big Sword

In the original blog post, Robert Gee explained that the greatsword was a natural weapon choice for the new specialization, given its size and weight. Drawing on the theme of an inevitable end, the reaper’s greatsword attacks are well-telegraphed and devastating when the blow lands. (We all know the end will come, we hope it will not be painful…but when the reaper swings his sword, yes, pain will follow.) Necromancer players who have longed for more power and the ability to close in on their prey can be forgiven a mad chortle.

Although the reaper attacks slower, every strike can hit from three to five targets. This couples nicely with skills that force opponents into a cluster, such as Reaper’s Grasp, the number 5 greatsword skill, and may combine well with some of the dragonhunter traps, especially those that keep enemies from wandering about. The reaper’s melee attacks may also work well with attacks or spells that daze and confuse, especially since the specialization draws heavily on the theme of death’s icy grip – reapers are chilling machines.

Yet, this slowness may prove to be the specialization’s greatest weakness as it remains to be seen how effective perma-chill and a couple of grip skills work out in PvP. One interesting choice, however, is the Adept trait, Relentless Pursuit, which allows slow reapers the ability to ignore mobility-impairing conditions.

Remember, Apprentice: Commoners get the scythe, nobility get the sword.

Let the Reaping Begin!

Shifting into the Reaper’s Shroud, the necromancer gains five new attacks, their normal weapon replaced with a scythe. As with the greatsword, the shroud skills will affect multiple enemies, chilling, fearing and draining life force, inviting the necromancer to close in on groups of players. The necromancer’s Death Shroud offers players both offensive and defensive capabilities. As we discussed during episode 26 of GuildMag’s podcast, the Shroud allows necromancers a way to escape harm, absorbing more damage than they should be able to given their health pool and light armor. Although this can be seen as defensive, Death Shroud skills can also inflict a punishing amount of damage, quickly stealing life from mobs of enemies.

Yet, for all its power, the current Death Shroud will only protect the necromancer while it is sustained and once it drops, the necromancer is returned to their previous state. By contrast, the reaper’s ability to fill their health as well as their life force while maintaining the Reaper’s Shroud is an important addition to the mechanics of this profession. As a light armor class, only by sustaining his own life can the reaper maintain close contact with enemies for an extended period of time. The Reaper’s Shroud skill number 3, Infusing Terror, may act as a panic button in these situations, fearing mobs in order to buy the reaper precious time for skills to finish recharging or health to regenerate.

YOU ARE MINE TO TOY WITH!

Taste That Blood!

In addition to the reaper, necromancer aficionados have something else to look forward to in the revamps to Blood Magic. Life steal is being reworked in order to continue operating while in Shroud, allowing the possibility of topping up your main health bar while you’re using the second. More significantly for necromancers that dream of having a more supporting role, however, is the addition of the new Vampiric Aura effect. Exactly how this will be applied to allies has yet to be elaborated on, but Guild Wars players should now be feeling some nostalgia towards Order of the Vampire and other necromancer “order” skills, from a time when necromancers were among the best offensive support around. In addition, in a somewhat less extreme change but with the potential to be a literal lifesaver, ArenaNet is apparently testing the possibility of making the Transfusion trait able to revive downed allies. Also, while Life Leech has a long recharge, it is still shorter than any of the currently available reviving skills, so this change has the potential to make the necromancer the best profession around for yanking themselves and their allies out of Dhuum’s grasp.

So, a character that focuses on collecting as many foes as possible and killing them all with area melee attacks? Nope, doesn’t ring any bells. None whatsoever.

Echoes of the Past

Last week, we looked at the dragonhunter and considered the possibility that it could represent the use of specializations as a means of reintroducing the concept of secondary professions. The reaper specialization seems to continue that trend, with a twist: The secondary profession is not a Guild Wars 2 profession.

Remember all those Avatar of Grenth + Wind Prayers dervishes that became popular after the dervish rebuild, draining massive amounts of health while throwing around cripples and other conditions on all around them? The reaper is, basically, that, albeit perhaps without quite so much of the lifesteal (we’ll see how much there is when the Blood Magic changes are done). With both greatsword and the new Reaper’s Shroud (complete with scythe), the reaper, like the Wind Prayers dervish, focuses on laying waste to all in its vicinity.

The new shouts only reinforce this. As shown in the Points of Interest livestream, their shout status seems as if it’s mostly a mechanical thing in order to allow them to interact with runes such as Trooper (PvE)/Soldier (PvP) – the shouts have a cast time and a more significant graphical effect than the shouts already in game. Instead, what they resemble more closely are the range of enchantments that were available to the dervish, whose primary effect was to dish out conditions and a small amount of damage to surrounding enemies, with the enchantment status mostly being so they can synergize with other dervish skills that interact with enchantments. While the enchantment-strip mechanic as it was would be quite difficult to bring back into Guild Wars 2, the reaper seems to compensate for this through access to a wide range of other synergies, including being able to use finishers in its own fields.

If nothing else, the new shouts will give reapers plenty of opportunities to TALK LIKE THIS.

Played in such a pure sense, the reaper could be seen as more of a dervish than a necromancer. However, it does seem to synergize effectively with the rest of the necromancer skill set – we saw the potential use of corruptions in Points of Interest, and other necromancer utilities could also be used to enhance the reaper’s feel – a combination with wells, for instance, would allow for additional punishment to foes within an area. Alternatively, a reaper could play effectively as a pure ranged necromancer for the most part, such as a staff/axe+focus necro, but with the ability to assume reaper form to punish enemies that think they have the necromancer pinned down in melee. This would work particularly well with the new change to how siphoning health interacts with Shroud, allowing a necromancer to heal themselves through siphoning while the Shroud is active.

The New Face Of Death

Dark armor, check. Giant rune-inscribed sword, check. Ability to point at the other fellow and say “Die!”… Working on that.

There had been a lot of community discussion before Heart of Thorns was announced proposing a ‘death knight’ or similar profession. Some had looked at the revenant and considered that it may be the response to those requests, with its ability to draw power from dead people and demons. However, it’s apparent that it is the reaper that fits the ‘death knight’ description. Instead of producing a new profession, ArenaNet has taken the profession that already had similar powers, and gave it the option to become a melee monster. Although some in the community have found fault in the reaper – having no blast finishers, for example – when we are able to play them in the expansion, they may surprise the doubters and prove to be highly regarded members of the dragon assault team.

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