Heroes Are Made, Not Born

From finally seeing the mesmer in action all the way down to the few people buzzing about there finally being timestamps in the chat log, there has been a slew of new information since the Press Beta Weekend.  There has been a torrential flow of intelligence gathered by my data-mining ninjas programmed to scout YouTube and the rest of the web about everything Guild Wars 2 including the reveal of the (somewhat) final state of traits and attributes.

With the major overhaul of the trait system and a minor tweak to the attribute system that greatly increased the amount of different play styles for each profession (both of which were explained by Jon Peters here), we seem to find ourselves with a nearly complete look at both.  With this knowledge comes a great responsibility to inform our dear readers (that’s you!) about the new way of approaching character builds: a way that includes synergy between both your traits and your attributes.


Attributes are an extension of what the original Guild Wars uses and is found in almost every MMORPG in existence.  With attribute systems found everywhere from RPG roots like D&D to the amazingly popular World of Warcraft, they are a staple of RPG gameplay.  In Guild Wars 2 attributes like Power, which increases your attack damage, and Prowess, which increases your damage multiplier on critical hits, make your character more powerful in a general sense.  Below is a list of those attributes and how they make your character more able to survive the deadly enemies found everywhere in Tyria.

Basic: These attributes naturally increase as your character levels as well as with armor bonuses and traits.

  • Power:  Increases Attack
  • Damage Precision:  Increases Critical Strike Chance
  • Toughness: Increases Armor
  • Vitality:  Increases Maximum Health

Offense: These attributes can only be increased with armor bonuses and traits.

  • Prowess:   Increases Critical Strike Multiplier
  • Malice:  Increases Condition Damage
  • Expertise:  Increases Condition Duration

Support: These attributes can only be increased with armor bonuses and traits.

  • Concentration: Increases Boon Duration
  • Compassion:  Increases Heals

Profession Specific: These attributes can only be increased with armor bonuses and traits.

  • Warrior – Brawn: Increases Burst Skill Damage
  • Guardian – Willpower: Decreases Virtue Recharge
  • Thief – Cunning: Decreases Steal Recharge
  • Ranger – Empathy: Increases Pet Attributes
  • Engineer – Ingenuity: Decreases Tool-Belt Recharge
  • Mesmer – Guile: Decreases Shatter Recharge
  • Elementalist – Intelligence: Decreases Attunement Recharge
  • Necromancer – Hunger: Increases Life-Force Pool

With this list of the attributes we can see that there is a bit of synergy to be found in them alone.  For example, a thief can help to maximize his damage if he increases both his Precision and Prowess, making him able to hit critically more often and do more damage when he does.  This synergy is only superficial, though, and can greatly benefit from traits.


Each profession has 5 trait lines with 3 tiers in each line.  For example, a necromancer has a trait line called Spite.  Like any other trait line Spite has 3 tiers: the Adept tier, available once your character reaches level 11, the Master Tier, available at level 40, and the Grandmaster Tier, available at level 60.

Each tier has 1 minor trait slot and 1 major trait slot.  The minor traits are static, meaning you will get the same minor traits as any other Necromancer that puts points into Spite.  When you place 5 points in Spite you will get the first minor trait in that line.  The second minor trait is available at 15 points and the third at 25 points.  When the Necromancer places 10 points into Spite he gets his first choice of a major trait.  There is a list of major traits available to choose from.  This major trait list is the same for Adept, Master (20 points) and Grandmaster (30 points) levels of Spite and you choose a different one at every major trait level.

With traits like a mesmer’s Confusing Combatants, which makes his illusions cause 3 seconds of confusion when they are killed, and a guardian’s Righteous in the Face of Death, which makes the guardian regenerate health as long as he is below 25% health, you can see the benefits are more specialized with traits than they are with attributes.  For reasons of not wanting carpal-tunnel I will not list all of the traits available to all professions.  For those you can visit the Guild Wars 2 Wiki.


Let’s make an example.  Let’s build a mesmer named How Many Fingers (HMF).  Now, let’s place him in WvW and bump him up to level 80 for the sake of time.  At level 80 with no points into any trait line and naked as the day he was born he has a certain number assigned to each of his attributes.  For ease let’s say that he has 400 of each basic attribute and 50 of each of the others, including his mesmer attribute, Guile.

Ahead of him, HMF can see Joe-Bob the Gigantic Warrior standing around, looking at flowers, presumably writing poetry and what-not.  He wants to make Joe-Bob’s dream come true and make him think he is a little girl on a swing set, but not before he makes Joe-Bob hit himself as many times as possible.  This means you likely want to place points into the Illusions trait line.

One of the reasons to choose Illusions is that Illusions gives HMF an additional 10 points in Malice and 1 in Guile for each point you place in Illusions.  Let’s place 30.  These 30 points brings you from 50 points in Malice to 350 and from 50 points in guile to 80 points.  This means his conditions, including Confusion, do much more damage and his shatter skills recharge faster.

Due to HMF’s minor Illusions traits his illusion summoning spells cool down faster and shattering those illusions causes Confusion on Joe-Bob and gives HMF the Might boon.  He chooses major traits that makes his Reflection shatter skill last twice as long and his Confusion from his Cry of Frustration shatter skill last twice as long as well as an additional 30 Power for each illusion summoned.  That’s a maximum of +90 Power!

HMF wants to really throw Joe-Bob off his game so he wants to throw conditions everywhere.  HMF’s mesmer conditions will confuse Joe-Bob and make him think he’s bleeding and crippled along with many other mind tricks.  The points into Illusions can really help with the additional Malice making his conditions do more damage.  HMF also gets an additional 10 points in Toughness and 1 in Concentration for every point placed in Chaos.  Let’s, again, place 30 giving HMF an extra 300 Toughness and 30 Concentration.  This will give HMF a little bit of survivability against an enraged Joe-Bob.

Toughness doesn’t just help HMF with armor, though.  One of his minor Chaos traits causes 10% of his toughness to be given purely as extra condition damage.  Eat your heart out, Malice.  The other two help him survive by giving him 5 seconds of Regeneration when he reaches 90% health and he gets an extra 50 toughness any time he’s below 90% health.  That means he gets an extra 10 condition damage as well as extra armor anytime he’s not the picture of health.  He also chooses to get 30 Toughness for each Illusion (maximum: +90 Toughness) and an extra 50 Toughness while wielding a staff.  Luckily, HMF just found a new staff underneath the corpse of a fallen teammate who just died next to him.

We have 10 trait points left.  Let’s place them in Domination.  This gives him an extra 100 Power and an extra 10 Expertise, lengthening the duration of his conditions.  His new minor trait causes HMF to give 5 seconds of Vulnerability to any foe he interrupts – possibly with random applications of the Dazed condition.  For his major trait let’s choose one which makes his illusions cause Vulnerability to nearby foes when they are shattered.  Now, HMF has a full build.  With some new duds that primarily increase his Malice and Toughness and secondarily his Guile and Expertise, How Many Fingers will be unstoppable.

This is just one of many possible builds for just a mesmer.  HMF can destroy with the liberal application of conditions and armies of illusions that do the same and doesn’t even include armor insignias and such!  With 12 possible choices for major traits (at launch) in each line and so many different play styles there are possibly hundreds of different, perfectly viable builds that synergize amazingly inside every different profession.  That’s not even to mention how these professions could be specifically built to synergize with other professions in the same group, acting as a full-team build.  The above meta-build is just one that is primarily damage with a little support but one could build a mesmer that is almost all damage, mostly support, or one that can survive reasonably on the front lines of battle.  As you can see, builds in Guild Wars 2 will be amazingly complex but at the same time usually completely style-based on the individual player.  I can only see a sliver of the possibilities but I can tell the others will be fun to find.

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