When most of the new core specialization details and the rollout date were shared with the community weeks ago, a number of players immediately took to their favorite online build-maker (after they were patched to include the upcoming balance patch) and started plotting out new or updated builds for their characters. I was not one of those players. I had read up on some of the earlier information about the impending core specialization system; I even wrote an article about it. So when all of the new traits and patch notes showed up, I threw my hands up and resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to get any build planning done until after the patch. Fast forward to today, and I’ve only updated three of my eight max level characters.The new UI has a unicorn. A UNICORN! Let that sink in.
For those of you who have read my previous articles about specializations, you know that I’ve never been a particularly savvy theorycrafter. I usually don’t know most of the current meta builds because I tend to play how I want rather than how other players think I should play (looking at you, Citadel of Flame speedrunners). Mind you, I’m not entirely hapless. I ask a lot of questions (at the expense of my friends’ and guildmates’ patience) because even after reading up on the patch notes, I often forget a lot of what I’ve read—I still pause to remember what Ferocity does and which stat combos it’s in. Obviously, you’re not here to read about my lack of skill, but rather what I’ve learned from tinkering so far. Note: These changes are for PvE play, not PvP.
The first character I took to changing was my guardian. Right away, I knew I wanted to swap out his consecrations for something different. Prior to the patch, my traits were slotted to favor his use of symbols and consecrations together to create a tanky (soldier stats) AoE support guardian. The problem I found was that, even with the Master of Consecrations trait, consecrations take a substantial amount of time to recharge (Shelter may have lost its elite skill status in the beta, but with a cooldown like that, it might as well be), so I decided to switch to shouts. With the introduction of the new elite shout skill “Feel My Wrath!” and Healing Breeze being converted to “Receive the Light!” the choice felt like the correct one. With that decision made I added “Stand Your Ground!”, “Retreat!”, and “Save Yourselves!” to my utility skill bar, and swapped the grandmaster trait Writ of Persistence with Pure of Voice. I held onto my previous weapons sets—that is, mace, shield, and staff—as their associated traits conveniently fell within the scope of the specializations I’d been using before the patch (that, and I dig the increase in boon duration while my staff is equipped). The goal of my changes was to provide more boon support than pure healing while utilizing skills with quicker cooldowns.
Would I take consecrations back if their cooldowns weren’t so high? Possibly, but after using the same build for so long, trying something new, I feel, could provide a fun challenge. At the moment, I’m still figuring out whether or not I want to keep investing in healing power through my runes, as those particular rune sets are commonly tied to boon duration increases. Healing power, as I’ve discovered, isn’t a particularly strong stat, but I like the additional boon effects on my Superior Runes of Altruism. I’ve also considered Superior Runes of Water for their higher boon duration, but also the Runes of the Trooper for their unique effect on shout skills.Specializations: Valor, Honor, and Virtues
Next, I hopped on my warrior to find that there really wasn’t much to change. Before the patch, I ran a dual axe and longbow build that used shouts with the Vigorous Shouts trait, the passive healing from Healing Signet, and the Inspiring Battle Standard trait, which grants passive healing to those within the range of a banner, to keep myself alive. I found that even with the slight nerf of Healing Signet’s passive heal, the combined health regeneration is still effective enough to keep using that heal with my Banner of Discipline. Most of my specialization choices revolve around traits that improve both my weapon and utility skills. The trouble with some of my warrior’s (and others’) specializations is that there is always at least one spec that I invest in just to get a specific trait while the others are just kind of “meh” such as the Great Fortitude trait (I was told there’d be no math) I picked up on my way to Axe Mastery. Regardless, I got to keep my current build, which is nice.Specializations: Strength, Discipline, and Tactics
My last and most recent retcon was for my mesmer. Like my warrior, there wasn’t much to change. My mesmer runs a sword, focus and greatsword build with mantras, which may be the only build I’ve researched online. Depending on the content, I will swap out one of the mantras for Feedback as I’ve invested in the Temporal Enchanter trait for Time Warp purposes. With full mantras, though I have access to crazy healing with the Harmonious and Restorative Mantras traits. Harmonious Mantras adds an extra charge to each activated mantra, allowing Mantra of Recovery to heal three times instead of two. Meanwhile, the Restorative Mantras trait heals me and my nearby allies each time I activate a mantra for access to its charges. Take into account that mantras have a pretty quick cooldown and the fact that I can spam these under a Time Warp, and I can do a sizable amount of healing. Of course, I wouldn’t use this in PvP as mantras are a relatively easy target for interrupts being as slow to cast as they are. It’s definitely a build I would recommend for PvE, though it can be a little chaotic to manage when you’re popping mantras while keeping an eye on your illusions and shatters. It’s a fun test in micromanagement that I feel pushes me to stay on my toes in combat.Specializations: Dueling, Domination, and Inspiration
Sadly, that’s as far as I’ve gotten with retooling my characters. I took a peek and played around with some of the new engineer changes and I’m already impressed with what I’ve seen. As I haven’t explored the updates on the five professions I have left, I feel the need to hold off on forming a broader opinion of the new patch. My biggest worry at the moment is that, depending on what traits I feel I need, I’ll force myself into slotting a specialization that has one trait I really want and two others that are just average. Granted, this was an issue before the patch, and has since been lessened by the combining and streamlining of many traits (which is a huge plus). I hope everyone else is having an easier time tweaking and reworking their builds; it can be tricky to relearn a profession and their changes, especially if it’s a profession you hadn’t mastered before the new patch. I’m not looking forward to the elementalist and the thief as much for that reason. That said, learning or relearning a profession isn’t something you can just cram study for and expect great results; it takes some patience.