Guides

A Guide to Choosing a Raid Profession

You’re level 80 and you’re ready to experience the challenging end-game content of Guild Wars 2. For many players, that means one thing: raids. Raids are 10-man instances with bosses and encounters that require you to coordinate with your teammates to succeed. Although not explicitly required, you’ll want a special build and ascended gear. Many groups and guilds require you to at least have ascended weapons and trinkets since they confer more of a stat increase than ascended armor. However, all raids can be done in exotic armor — ascended gear just allows you to complete content faster or gives you more of a margin for error. This guide will help you choose which profession you want to prepare for raiding.

Getting Started

To be truly useful in raids, you should have all the current Guild Wars 2 expansions, since later expansions generally add stronger elite specializations. You need at least one expansion to access some of the raids regardless.

You’ll most likely use a meta build to participate in raids, which standardizes the weapons, stat set, utility skills, traits, and skill rotation you’ll be using. These builds are created by the community and tested to capitalize on the build’s purpose. They allow you to do damage, support your allies, or tank while also providing benefits to your group. Meta builds, and to some extent, meta team compositions, help you complete content quickly and efficiently.

You can easily switch out a skill or a trait on a meta build to make your job easier on certain bosses, increase your personal survivability, or compensate for something lacking in your group without significantly hurting your damage or rotation. Meta means recommended; it’s only truly necessary when you’re trying to speed clear or complete content with fewer than ten group members.

The best current resource for raid builds is the guild Snow Crows. They have damage benchmarks and profession-specific tips for each boss.

Choosing a Profession and Playstyle

When I provide the possible builds for a profession below, I’ll only include builds that currently exist in the meta or those that have previously persisted in the meta for a significant amount of time. The builds and special roles a profession can fill change as new expansions are released, so one day you might be able to play a healing necromancer or a tanking guardian.

Balance patches generally do not greatly impact meta builds. They may change which skills you use or the order of your rotation, but a balance patch will almost never open the possibility for a condition DPS build where none existed before. If they do, the skills or traits that made this possible are often altered or nerfed in the weeks following the patch.

There are three main types of builds: damage/DPS, support, and tanking. Damage builds can be divided into power DPS and condition DPS, based on which type of damage the build excels at. Power DPS is raw, direct damage that excels in short bursts. Condition DPS requires time to build up and continues doing smaller amounts of damage over long periods of time. Since raid encounters can last up to ten minutes, condition damage is often the better option, but in bosses that clear conditions and go invulnerable occasionally, or those with specific burst phases, power DPS might be better.

Support builds also have two subtypes: healing and utility. Healing builds do exactly that, while utility builds provide offensive or defensive boosts and have unique capabilities like grouping mobs together or reflecting projectiles. Some builds, like the druid support builds, are more like hybrids of the two. Healing in Guild Wars 2 doesn’t work the same as in other MMOs; it relies more on positioning, proximity to allies, and skill placement. There are few skills that simply heal all allies or cure conditions without additional effects or special circumstances being met.

Tanking is a bit different as well. It’s less about having the highest health and toughness, although that’s certainly part of it, and more about being able to evade, block, or mitigate damage. In addition, who has aggro during an encounter is based on one of several possibilities: the player with the highest toughness, the player farthest away, or a randomly or conditionally selected player who gains the Fixated effect.

Other Considerations Before Making Your Decision

  • Which expansion(s) you have. This decides which raids, elite specializations, and stat combinations you have access to.
  • The cost of crafting/buying the armor, weapons, runes, and sigils. Currently the cost of gear for a build, from cheapest to most expensive is power DPS, condition DPS, healing, and finally tanking. Keep in mind some gear or upgrades might require map currency or dungeon tokens to purchase.
  • Ease of executing, fluidity, and flexibility of a rotation. Some rotations are long and complex while others allow for more improvisation or mistakes in skill order or timing.
  • How often/many special roles you might be asked or expected to take on. Although every profession will have to know all the boss mechanics and execute some of them, some professions are better for certain roles.

The Professions in Detail

Possible Specialized Roles

  • Blocking problematic attacks. This simply means you prevent deadly attacks that might do high damage or knock players off a platform from hitting your teammates. Many of these attacks can be dodged by players, but this interrupts their rotations and, depending on how experienced your group is, may not be reliable. Examples include Gorseval’s Spectral Impact/slam, Slothasor’s Spore Release/shake, and Deimos’ Annihilate/knockback.
  • Controlling adds. This involves knocking back, immobilizing, or slowing additional mobs that might join a boss fight. Examples include seekers at the Vale Guardian, charged souls at Gorseval, and Rigom at Samarog.
  • Defiance bar damage. Every profession is usually expected to assist in breaking a boss’ defiance bar, but some professions have better weapon or utility crowd control (CC) skills to assist in this.
  • Destroying objects. This means breaking or destroying inanimate objects bosses may summon or spawn during a fight. Any profession may do this, but those with good ranged attacks or high burst damage are preferable. Examples include spectral darkness at Gorseval, cannons at Sabetha, and bloodstone fragments at Xera.
  • Killing adds. Just as it says, this is killing additional mobs that spawn during a fight, sometimes in a particular place or at a certain time. This does not refer to an add that becomes the new focus of the fight like Sabetha’s champions or Dhuum’s Enforcers because every player will be attempting to kill it instead of the original target or ultimate boss. Examples include Jade Scouts at the Mursaat Overseer or Tormented Dead at the Soulless Horror.
  • Kiting mobs or attacks. This means running around in a specified area or pattern to contain the damage or chaos that might be caused by long-lasting ground-targeted AoEs or mobs run amok. There is often a way for a particular player to be targeted by the attack or gain aggro of the mob(s). Examples include flak at Sabetha, Soul Feast/hands at Deimos, and Dhuum’s Messengers.
  • Reflecting projectiles. This just refers to using a skill that reflects and/or destroys projectiles to prevent damage to players or accomplish a mechanic. The two may not be interchangeable; some projectiles specifically need to be reflected to break a shield while others can be reflected or destroyed. Examples include slublings at Slothasor and blood shards at Matthias.

List of Professions

ElementalistMesmerNecromancerEngineerRangerThiefGuardianRevenantWarrior

Builds: Power DPS, Healing

Special roles: Destroying objects, killing adds, kiting

The elementalist is almost always the highest DPS profession. If it isn’t, more often than not it’s due to a balance patch introducing a stronger-than-intended trait or skill mechanic that will likely be tuned down. Because of its strong DPS, it has always found a role in raids as the most highly desired power DPS profession.

Unfortunately, the elementalist is fragile as it wears light armor and has the lowest base health. It requires decent healing and intuitive positioning to constantly output its high DPS. On bosses with continuous and/or unavoidable damage like the Vale Guardian or Matthias, you may be better off playing a different, sturdier profession with less DPS.

The elementalist’s rotations rely on both skill, attunement, and often, conjured weapon cooldowns, so you might find them more unforgiving than other professions with shorter cooldowns and only a single weapon swap to worry about. Since the elementalist relies so heavily on well-placed, possibly delayed, AoEs that persist, the profession tends to do better against stationary targets.

The elementalist has always reliably had a power DPS build, in thanks to the high burst damage associated with the staff. It has occasionally had condition DPS builds, but even its traits ostensibly geared toward condition damage tend to lend themselves more to power damage regardless. With the release of the tempest, it earned a spot among healing support professions with valuable skills such as Rebound, as well as shouts, which provided easy access to shareable auras and could be augmented with traits like Invigorating Torrents and Elemental Bastion.

Since it usually carries a ranged weapon and has many AoE abilities, elementalists are often called upon to destroy objects or kill additional mobs. They can also be fairly mobile, deflect attacks, and always have built-in additional healing to call upon so they’re a good choice to kite. Since water attunement is always at their fingertips and they have many group healing skills, it is usually implied that they can and will assist the dedicated healer in the group if things go south.

Overall, the elementalist is the best there is for raw damage, but they have low survivability without using tricks that take away from their DPS. Their rotations run from moderate to high difficulty since they have up to twenty skills to keep track of at any given time, not counting their conjures.

Builds: Condition DPS, Power DPS, Utility, Tank

Special roles: Blocking, defiance bar damage, reflecting

The mesmer is a versatile profession that, even at its most selfish, has much utility to bring to the table. Even prior to the introduction of raids, the mesmer was used not for its DPS, but for its exceptional ability to increase the efficiency and expediency of groups. To this day, two of its most useful abilities are to ball up a group of mobs with Temporal Curtain and destroy or reflect projectiles with skills like Phantasmal Warden and Feedback.

When raids were released, the need for a tank became apparent. Enter the chronomancer: an elite specialization that can speed up actions and activation times, lower skill cooldowns, and has a plethora of direct and readily available ways to block, evade, or completely avert damage. The catch? It has a long and complex rotation and, as a tank, it’s responsible for positioning the boss correctly, avoiding the necessary attacks, and granting the party a high uptime of the boons alacrity and quickness. It also has several variants depending on which boss you are tackling and how organized your group is. Mesmers that choose to tank will almost always have to know more than anyone else in the raid group about a boss’ mechanics, and, as such, will be tasked with profession specific jobs.

The mesmer as a DPS profession is a fairly new phenomenon: it only entered the meta in Path of Fire, mostly due to a huge change in the way its summoned illusions work. As a result, it’s difficult for me to make generic statements on its applicability. Both the current power and condition damage builds are easy to execute. The power build offers decent burst DPS, although nowhere near that of the elementalist. The condition build sacrifices some survivability for damage since, as a mirage, your dodge is no longer mobile but stationary.

The mesmer’s Distortion shatter combined with the Inspiring Distortion trait is the main way it blocks an enemy’s attacks for the team. It can also share stability gained from the Bountiful Disillusionment trait using Signet of Inspiration so even if the team is hit by an attack, it is not knocked down or back. Since both of these are abilities of the core mesmer, unless they are replaced entirely by a future elite specialization, mesmers will be able to do this no matter their build and will often be encouraged or expected to by a raid group.

Mesmers also have the highest defiance bar damage in the game thanks to Signet of Humility along with a few lesser CC skills. They are the easiest source of projectile destruction or reflection.

Overall, mesmers have the highest, most versatile utility of any profession, but this comes at the cost of many varied builds and complex rotations if they want to take full advantage of that role. Though the mesmer as a DPS profession is fairly new, it stands as a high-damage, easy-to-execute role that still gives up survivability for DPS, which is exactly as you’d expect.

Builds: Condition DPS, Power DPS

Special roles: Killing adds, kiting

If the mesmer is still an altruist even at its most selfish, the necromancer is an egoist even at its most benevolent. The utility a necromancer provides its group has slowly increased over the years, but if you want desperately to support your allies, the necromancer probably isn’t what you should play.

The rotations tend to be short and easy. Even though the reaper seems meant to be a power DPS spec, its traits and shroud skills tend to make it a better condition DPS spec. The rotation is simple either way: you will be dipping into shroud every once in a while and possibly commanding your summons, the Shadow Fiend and Flesh Golem in particular, to use their special attacks. The scourge build uses only one weapon set, so you don’t have to worry about intuitively remembering your cooldowns or precisely executing your rotation. Rather, you will be prioritizing skills or focusing on using certain skills in tandem.

Both the core necromancer and the reaper have shrouds that effectively grant the player a second health bar, making them masters of personal survivability. Be aware that not all the necromancer’s elite specializations have a shroud, so switching might be a jarring experience if you were used to effortlessly maintaining your health. On the other hand, many of the necromancer’s skills and traits cause or amplify life stealing, making it the tankiest light armor profession when it comes to taking hits.

Arguably the best profession for annihilating adds, the necromancer has a skill called Epidemic. This skill spreads all the conditions from one target to another. With up to five other dedicated condition DPS players inflicting everything from burning to poison, that’s a staggering amount of condition damage hitting a target at once. The result is exactly what you would predict: the additional enemy dies within seconds. This is excellent for the controlled death of adds in fights like the Mursaat Overseer, where too many Jade Scouts coming alive at once can overwhelm your team, and the Soulless Horror where Tormented Dead must die in specific locations so their devastating AoE field doesn’t hit your teammates.

Builds: Condition DPS, Power DPS

Special roles: Defiance bar damage, controlling adds, kiting

For a long time, the engineer was the epitome of a jack of all trades, master of none, but it has maintained respectable DPS builds for quite a while. Like the elementalist, it can’t switch weapons, but instead of switching attunements, you will be using kits and, in the case of the holosmith, going into Photon Forge mode.

The engineer’s power DPS builds have always been easier than the tricky condition DPS builds by far. This is because the kits have many great condition skills that inflict bleeding, burning, poison, and confusion so the rotation requires switching quickly and flawlessly from one kit to the next. A good power build was originally nonexistent, but when one did enter the meta, it involved using the equipped weapon more often than the condition DPS build. No matter which build you choose, you will have multiple skill bars to worry about.

As far as support goes, the engineer could offer almost anything, but in smaller quantities or with less proficiency than other professions. The thief has more stealth, the elementalist can stack more might, and the mesmer has more access to reflects. This changed when the trait Pinpoint Distribution was introduced, but in its current state it’s only situationally worth sacrificing the engineer’s personal damage for the group wide buff.

The engineer might be second only to the mesmer in terms of how much CC it provides to break a defiance bar. Between its weapons, kits, and toolbelt, it has several skills that launch enemies such as Overcharged Shot and Big Ol’ Bomb. On top of that, it has a myriad soft CC with skills like Glue Bomb and Freeze Grenade, making it great for slowing the charged souls trying to approach Gorseval or trapping Rigom in Samarog’s bubble for as long as possible. As a scrapper, the engineer also has a niche build available to kite Deimos’ Soul Feast, though the job is tedious.

Overall, the engineer maintains a spot as mid-high DPS depending on the complexity of its rotation, with trickier builds naturally offering higher DPS. It also offers great CC and moderate utility to augment professions that do it better.

Builds: Condition DPS, Healing

Special roles: Defiance bar damage, controlling adds

The ranger as a DPS profession follows a predictable pattern: its builds start out exceedingly strong, rivalling other professions for a spot in the top of the pack. But after a while, as other professions are buffed or nerfed in balance patches, it slowly drips down to the middle of the pack: certainly not bad, but overwhelmed in the rankings nonetheless. Why? The answer lies in its simplicity and flexibility. Its skills tend to have short cooldowns, meaning there isn’t necessarily an explicit rotation, but rather a preference or importance for which skills to use first. It’s also easy to play, great for new or casual players, but perhaps boring for more experienced players or those seeking a challenge. In essence, it’s respectable, but not remarkable.

The ranger’s condition damage builds will probably always rely on flanking a target since its primary condition damage trait line is Skirmishing and the Hunter’s Tactics trait is too good to pass up. Flanking simply means your character is positioned to the side of or behind the enemy.

Despite its simplicity, the ranger has earned a spot in every raid group thanks to its Heart of Thorns elite specialization, the druid. Throughout the first two expansions, it’s been the most sought after healer, because while it doesn’t have the sheer amount of healing of a tempest, nor the defensive boon share of a firebrand, its unique offensive buffs can’t be beat. This includes spirits, might from Grace of the Land, and Spotter. And it’s not just the druid: the core ranger still has spirits and Spotter, while the Path of Fire soulbeast has powerful stance sharing. In many ways, the ranger is geared toward assisting its allies.

The ranger’s special roles are related to its team-based nature, with ample CC to help regulate adds or break defiance bars. It has many skills that cripple and immobilize for soft CC, and several that daze, stun, and knock down or back for hard CC. The best skills are Entangle, Spike Trap, and Concussion Shot with the oft-used shortbow. It can also choose to fight alongside pets with good CC including moas, the electric wyvern, or the rock gazelle.

Overall, the ranger is easy to play, cooperative even as a DPS profession, and runs the gamut from middling to superior DPS depending on the timeline of balance patches. It always has access to CC, but it might give up DPS for it.

Builds: Condition DPS, Power DPS

Special roles: Defiance bar damage

The thief has often rivaled the elementalist for the profession with the highest damage, though it tends to fall a little short or be better against enemies with small hitboxes whereas the elementalist tears through large hitboxes. The thief’s main talent, stealth, is downright useless in raids where the group is constantly revealed so it can’t bypass entire encounters. However, if you bring a thief to the Bastion of the Penitent, it can do something no other profession can: pick a lock.

Similar to the ranger, the thief’s rotations for both power and condition DPS are uncomplicated and effortless—typically the easiest rotations for the largest damage payoff. This changed with Path of Fire when other professions gained strong elite specializations while the thief unlocked the deadeye. It’s a specialization with poor burst potential, low mobility, and not enough cleave to finish off several mobs at once. It still has a remarkably simple rotation, but next to the more potent specializations of other professions, it falls flat. Also like the ranger, many of thief’s skills and traits grant bonus damage if the player is flanking the target.

Since the thief has been a consummate damage dealer in raids, it has little use in the way of special roles. It has the ability to blind one or more enemies with every weapon except the rifle, and it inflicts cripple with regularity as well. Though it doesn’t do quite as much as a mesmer’s Signet of Humility, the thief can share Basilisk Venom with allies, adding up to a potential 750 defiance bar damage.

Overall, the thief is a one trick pony with excellent DPS and low difficulty, but not much in the way of utility or special roles. The only mildly problematic part of its rotations is keeping behind the boss, and it might flag behind at bosses with intricate positioning where it doesn’t always have that luxury.

Builds: Condition DPS, Power DPS

Special roles: Blocking, controlling adds, destroying objects, killing adds, reflecting

If you wandered into the world of Tyria imagining the guardian was the ultimate support profession, you might be disappointed. That’s not to say it can’t or isn’t good at support — its firebrand elite specialization is actually quite adept at healing and support. The problem truly lies in group composition theory. While the firebrand may be good at support, it doesn’t hold a candle to the unique offensive buffs offered by the druid. Thus the guardian awaits an elite specialization to let the support flavor of the profession shine.

The guardian usually has impressive DPS builds. Its builds are much easier to play than an elementalist’s, but slightly more complex than the thief and ranger. As a power DPS dragonhunter, it has high burst potential, while the firebrand can stack crazy amounts of burning.

You’ll quickly notice that even a guardian’s “DPS” builds have a lot of passive support to offer. They have shouts, mass blinds, might-granting abilities, and AoE pulls. They excel at granting their party members aegis, swiftness, protection, retaliation, and stability. The firebrand increases the guardian’s natural defensive support with additional healing, condition cleansing, and even quickness, which is usually a mesmer’s job to provide.

The guardian is nothing if not versatile. Since it has a ready supply of aegis, it can be just as good as the mesmer at helping allies block attacks so they don’t have to dodge. Particularly as a dragonhunter, it can proficiently control adds with pulls, cripples, and immobilizes. Since it regularly uses strong power-based ranged weapons in its builds, it can strike down enemies or objects from afar without moving away from the boss. Finally, it can both destroy and reflect projectiles with skills such as Sanctuary, Wall of Reflection, and Chapter 3: Valiant Bulwark with the Tome of Courage.

Overall, the guardian has both high damage and support potential, the latter of which it can maintain even with a damage-centric build. Its rotations are easy to moderately difficult, but if you want to feel useful and involved in a fight, the guardian has plenty of options to do just that.

Builds: Condition DPS, Healing

Special roles: Kiting

As the last profession to enter the game, the revenant has taken a while to find its stride and a cohesive theme. When Heart of Thorns was released, a power DPS and support build utilizing its elite specialization, the herald, was integral to raids groups. It did superior DPS and shared boons with allies. Ultimately, wave after wave of nerfs hit the revenant within a couple months, along with existing skill pathing problems that were not fixed for a long time, and it became the least used profession in raids.

Path of Fire improved the state of the revenant in end-game PvE, but only by a little. A condition DPS renegade build was born with a moderate difficulty, the hardest part being watching your energy so you know when to swap legends. It has superior damage on large hitboxes, but in the perfect conditions, an elementalist can do up to 10,000 more damage per second.

In general, the revenant always maintains a certain level of flexibility like its close cousins, the elementalist and engineer, both have. It too has a unique stat-boosting buff called Assassin’s Presence and no matter the build or legends you choose, you can usually bolster the support of your allies with might, ferocity, or alacrity. But therein lies the problem: the revenant has a little bit of everything, but the professions that excel in only one aspect have other buffs to give or more DPS. It suffers from the same malady that plagued engineers in the core game. It’s okay at everything, but not particularly great at anything. We can only hope new elite specializations will give it an edge.

The revenant is one of the best professions to kite Deimos’ Soul Feast ability using the heal- oriented Ventari legend. A passable healing build can be made for the revenant in other situations, but it is rarely used except on bosses that do massive damage like Matthias. Even then, a tempest with its extreme burst healing is superior.

Overall, the revenant is still finding its place in the game as the newest profession. Its rotations have average difficulty, but its DPS is lacking against smaller hitboxes and it doesn’t have as much burst potential as the elementalist or guardian. The boons it offers aren’t enough to give it a utility build, but it can help other professions with uptime.

Builds: Condition DPS, Power DPS, Utility

Special roles: Defiance bar damage, controlling adds, killing adds

Since the beginning of the core game, long before raids were implemented, the warrior has been a dependable support and DPS profession. The warrior has the highest base health and wears heavy armor, making it the profession best able to take a hit. With that ability comes the drawback that there aren’t quite as many ways to mitigate damage. An elementalist skilled at gliding through its attunements as a situation calls for it, a thief that knows how to utilize its stealth and mobility, or a guardian that triggers its blocks and potent heals at the right time might all survive longer. A warrior may be effectively wrecked as soon as it runs out of health.

Because of its balanced health and mitigation, the warrior also has above average DPS. Its rotations are moderately difficult, being dependent on timing to proc certain skills or else lose a huge chunk of DPS.

Much like the guardian’s firebrand build, the warrior has comparable builds with both the berserker and spellbreaker specializations that serve as true DPS/support hybrids. Warriors, like rangers, are universally desired for their strong partywide damage boosts: Banner of Strength, Banner of Discipline, and Empower Allies. On bosses that deal significant damage, increasing the likelihood multiple party members may be downed at once, their Battle Standard can revive up to five fallen allies. To this day, nothing comes close to replacing the warrior’s banners.

Every one of the warrior’s physical utility and elite skills provide hard CC or immobilization, giving the warrior great defiance bar damage. Power DPS builds tend to use some of these skills (Kick and Rampage) normally while condition DPS builds might have to give up some damage to include them. Their sword burst skill, Flurry, is good for immobilizing adds. With a condition DPS build, they can cleave adds from range with the longbow, and they are usually responsible for melting the ice patches at Matthias by setting them aflame.

Overall, the warrior offers a surprising amount of utility for its high DPS and with a little finagling, it can offer a lot more utility or CC at the cost of only a few thousand DPS, making it crucial for every team. It can also take a hit and its rotations are of an intermediate difficulty, making it a good profession for those who want to feel useful without investing a ton of time at the test golem.

Takeaways

Now that you’ve read up on each professions strengths and weaknesses in raids, I hope you’ll be able to make a decision about which one to venture in with. Just remember the meta changes with every expansion released and builds change with balance patches. All changes to the meta and to optimization can usually be found on Snowcrows within a week or two of a patch hitting, sometimes sooner if the changes are small and sometimes it can take up to a month or so with an expansion. In addition, the elite specializations may alter something big about the profession. The scourge lacks the necromancer’s trademark shroud, the mirage’s dodge doesn’t travel, and the normally mobile thief gets stuck in place as a deadeye to name a few examples. Regardless, if you love your profession, I encourage you to stick with it as they’re all useful and rewarding in their own way.

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