Guide to PvE
|Note: This article is geared towards new players. Please keep its contents to those which new players can reasonably understand and use.|
Player versus Environment (PvE) is where most Guild Wars players will start their career. It is the perfect place to learn about the game and the concepts used in it, but it also has a rising difficulty curve: What starts out very easy will quickly become very demanding. This guide is meant to help new players master this playing style of Guild Wars by mentioning important tactics and common mistakes. Many of these are similar to those of Player versus Player (PvP), but are mentioned here as well because PvE is likely to come before PvP for most players.
 Team build
In almost every PvE situation, you will play together with others - be they henchmen, heroes or other players. It is important to check the composition of the party before heading out to slay enemies. The "standard" balanced PvE party consists of:
4 party members
6 party members
8 party members
12 party members
- The distinction between frontline, midline, and backline stems from the different roles these characters will play in the party, as shown in the tactics section.
- Despite using a melee weapon, assassins can be classified as midline or frontline depending on their style of play.
- The number of backline characters (monks or ritualists) is usually set. Having too few means you can't keep your party healthy, and too many causes you to lose efficiency in your damage output.
- There is some leeway in the number of frontline (warriors and dervishes) and midline characters. Frontline characters can be substituted by minion masters, spirit spammers and pets. For example, for a party of 8 members, you could use 1 minion master, 1 spirit spammer, 2 backlines, and 4 midlines with 1-3 pets.
- You might want to avoid melee henchmen because they can make pulling (see below) very hard.
 Level and other performance considerations
Group performance is not only about its composition but also about each individual player. It pays to make sure you are on even level with other players and are able to cooperate with them as partners rather than a leech.
While level is not as important, early in the game being sufficiently leveled for content you want to tackle can save a lot of frustration and make gameplay smoother. Generally, you can use henchmen as a rough guideline: If you are lower level than henchmen, you are lagging behind and should catch up.
More important, however, is making sure you get your extra 30 attribute points as they become available.
Upgrading armor and eventually maxing it out is also recommended - it can easily halve damage you receive, changing you from impossible to keep alive, dirt-nap-taking corpse to contributing party member. Also adding runes and insignias to your armor can be of great help. It can be noted that weapons are not as important to upgrade, but it is highly recommended to customize them as 20% extra damage can help a lot. Performance of customized white weapons surpasses most perfect weapons that are not customized.
Having a good selection of skills is one of the most important things. Without the right skills you can not perform your role efficiently or even at all. Hero skill trainers and skill quests can supply quite a few skills but visiting a skill trainer is recommended too. When you reach max level, you should start looking for an elite skill that fits your preferred style of play.
Players who have access to them should keep in mind that heroes need to be upgraded while henchmen do not. They can be customized along with the player's game progress and should be considered when obtaining drops. For instance a new acquired weapon may not be of use to the player but a hero may benefit from it. Follow this same pattern with runes, insignias and skills. Once deep into the storyline these allies may be of great value but if left to their original poor status, they may become a problem instead.
Heroes are also a smart way to learn other professions that players don't understand yet. Have their skill bars open to monitor and watch their behavior.
 Know your enemies
Like in most computer games, the difficulty in Guild Wars is dependent largely on the number and power of your foes - the enemies' intelligence (AI) stays the same (hard mode is a notable difference). A large part of being successful in PvE stems from knowing and exploiting the AI's limitations.
The AI only attacks you if you venture into its aggro bubble. While many groups fail because they aggro too many enemies at once, this can almost always be prevented by knowing the path of mob patrols and by clever pulling. Additionally, the AI will "break" aggro if you run away for long enough. That is, if a fight goes bad, the survivors can retreat and try to resurrect the party for a second chance. Players can make the AI focus on one target: usually a tank or tank substitute calls targets. Aggro control helps your healers greatly, since they can concentrate their healing power on only one party member, making it much easier to keep everyone alive. Finally, the AI is somewhat "stupid." It will sometimes stand inside the effect radius of strong spells (AoE damage) without running away, will kite or follow you into traps, will attack through hexes that punish attacking and will cast through hexes that punish casting.
Finally, there are different kinds of enemies in different areas. For example, some enemies are considered non-fleshy, such as skeletons or ghosts, so having skills that poison your foes or cause them to bleed would be less useful. Such creatures also leave no corpses for a minion master to exploit. Depending on the mix of creatures in an area, you can adjust your skills, keeping in mind that many areas have a lethal mix of different kinds of creatures. You have the advantage of being able to check beforehand and prepare yourself for what's ahead.
 Positioning: frontline, midline, backline
The frontline usually consists of the melee fighters (plus pets and minions), the backline is formed by the healers, and all other characters are midline. The names come from the distance towards the enemy: Melee characters need to be right next to the enemy, midline casters and long range weapon users can afford to stay back a bit more, and healers typically are the most distant from the enemies. This distance from the enemy is reflected in the ability of different professions to take damage. Melee characters can absorb a lot of it (via armor or damage prevention skills), while midline and backline professions die considerably faster when under fire. Therefore, one of the most basic PvE tactics is to keep a rough order in the party's lines. Monks should not be the ones running into enemy groups first; warriors should not hide at the back of the party. Once the party gets more sophisticated, warriors should learn not to overextend, midline characters to keep enemies at maximum casting range and monks to have all party members in casting range. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule (e.g. during pulling).
 Target calling
A basic rule of warfare is to concentrate fire. Having 4 enemies at 50% health means having 4 enemies to deal with (and thus much less chance of wiping out any individual enemy), whereas 3 enemies at 75% health and one enemy at 5% health means that your party is much more likely to efficiently wipe out that one enemy and proceed to the next enemy in sequence. The method of choice in Guild Wars to achieve concentrated fire is to call targets. In PvE, it is almost always advisable to designate one single person as target caller, with the rest of the frontline and damage dealing midline characters following that person's calls.
Targets should be called depending on what most affects your party's chance of successfully destroying an enemy group (without, of course, being destroyed yourselves). More often than not, these are the enemy monks, as they can keep the rest of their group from dying. Therefore the normal target calling sequence is: healers => midline => melee. If possible, the target caller should be an experienced player.
Monsters in PvE rarely have the ability to resurrect their fallen party members, but if you know or notice an enemy type with a possibility to revive other enemies, go for those first. Examples are Afflicted Ritualists and Awakened Acolytes.
Note that even if you disagree with a particular call, you should still follow it, as the whole party attacking a less dangerous foe is preferable to everyone attacking whatever they think is best and ignoring calls. (Mesmers and Necromancers spreading hexes and conditions over the enemy group are somewhat exempt from this.)
Pulling is the act of deliberately getting aggro from a mob of enemies to make them move into a direction favorable to the party. This could mean away from other mobs, into pre-set traps or spirits, or towards a terrain more favorable to the party. Pulling can be done either by attacking the mob with a long range weapon (flatbows being the best choice) or by "touching" the mobs' aggro bubble (i.e., running closely so that the enemies just barely enter your aggro bubble). Like target calling, pulling requires some experience about a mob's behavior and should be done by an experienced party member. Since the mobs will attack the party member which pulled first, pulling is often done by tanks who proceed to use their higher defensive capabilities to stay alive after having pulled a group. Pulling is one of the cases where overextending can be advisable, since pullers usually want to avoid losing aggro to other party members (such as midline or backline party members) who might be too far up front.
Tanking means concentrating aggro on one player who is especially well equipped to absorb damage. This is usually done by warriors, due to their high level armor and defensive stances. It is a good way to prevent your backline from being overwhelmed; however, both the tank and the other party members need to work together to achieve good tanking: The tank needs to grab the aggro of as many enemies as possible, while the other party members should try not to take away aggro from the tank.
A tanking character should also do the pulling, but usually not the target calling, since the target calling benefits from being able to select the best possible target, while tanking requires the tank to be mainly stationary. If you have more than one melee fighter, it is best to have one designated tank, with the others as protectors or damage dealers so as not to split up the enemies too much. Also, Area of Effect skills will work better with one tank than two.
While it may not seem valuable from a tactics standpoint at first glance, you can actually use terrain to your advantage. Pulling groups around corners, with a tank holding a corner block or finding a bottleneck in the terrain, can bunch groups tightly together and pin them out of range of the backline. You can also take advantage of obstructions with ranged attackers, rendering nearly all enemy paragon and ranger attacks as well as enemy caster wanding damage null. Additionally, holding the high ground during a fight produces a slight tactical advantage at range for this same reason (ranged attacks deal more damage from higher up). Knowing the general layout of an area can provide you with better ways to flee should you need to as well as avoiding hidden pop-up groups.
Kiting is the simplest, yet most effective method of damage prevention: Run away from the enemy (or its projectiles or casting range) and you won't get hurt. Despite sounding simple, this is not always easy. Good kiting requires a complete overview of the battlefield, so you can start running away before the enemy gets to you. This is especially true for monks, who often focus on their party's health bars, instead of concentrating on the battle field. While kiting, try leading the mobs into the tank or obstacles to help shake off the aggro. Of course, the tank should not kite while tanking, and players who just received heavy Protection also should usually stand and tank rather than leading the monsters to attack a less well protected party member.
 Reviving party members
As a general rule, all PvE players should bring a means of resurrection ("res"). Discuss with your party members if you feel you have a reason not to bring a res. Nothing is worse than being the last person alive and not having a means to revive the party.
There are two general methods of reviving your fallen party members: during battle and after battle. The former has the advantage of enabling the revived party member to fight again, potentially turning the tide of battle in your favor. The disadvantage is that during the act of resurrecting, not just one but two party members are not contributing to the battle effort. Therefore, resurrection during battle should only be done with a Resurrection Signet or Sunspear Rebirth Signet; Resurrection Chant can also work quite well if combined with a means of speeding up the casting, such as being a primary Mesmer or using the enchantments Holy Haste and/or Healer's Boon. These cast quickly and resurrect the fallen party member with full health, preventing them from dying again straight away.
In contrast, the resurrecting after battle is safer, both for the resurrected and resurrecting player. So if the battle turns bad, a retreat may be a better solution. After you have lost aggro, you can carefully go about resurrecting your party (without attracting aggro, again). For that purpose, the monk skill Rebirth is unbeaten.
If you don't like "wasting" a skill slot for a resurrection skill, get a few Scrolls of Resurrection. They are worse than a Signet at in-battle resurrection and worse than Rebirth at out-of-combat resurrection, but hopefully that 8th skill will help you prevent deaths in the first place.
To prevent two players from wasting time resurrecting the same fallen party members, it is best to "call" your action (by holding down control while clicking on the skill).
 The Professions
This is just a very short overview of what parties expect from certain professions in PvE. For more information, read the articles and guides about the respective profession.
Warriors (frontline) are the usual tanks and often the pullers. Your party will expect you to bring a bow for pulling and at least some means of staying alive under fire. If there is more than one tank-worthy character in the party, agree beforehand on who will tank; non-tanking warriors can focus on damage or condition inflicting.
Dervishes (frontline), despite having low armor, are a melee profession. Therefore, you will be expected to soak up some damage on your own. Bring a decent self heal, but don't neglect your damage output, unless you are the designated tank. Dervishes can use a multitude of enchantments to either boost damage or defensive capabilities.
Assassins (frontline or midline) are typically hit-and-run experts, and usually avoid staying in melee range for extended periods due to their lower armor. Assassins can employ shadow steps or speed boosts for hit and run tactics (commonly to quickly gank an enemy healer or simply get an early kill), or use defensive skills and self heals if they intend to stay in melee longer. Some Assassin even use ranged weapons to stay out of melee range but still benefit from Critical Strikes; there's even a crit-based skill designed specifically for non-dagger assassins.
Elementalists (midline) in a party are usually expected to do heavy damage. Fire Magic is most typical in PvE for its high damage AoE spells, but other builds will still generally be accepted as long as they have a high damage output. Elementalists are also sometimes used for snaring, using Water Magic spells to prevent mobs from dispersing away from AoE damage. Elementalists function in some rare cases as frontline tanks themselves, using Earth Magic-based enchantments to increase armor. When facing areas full of high-armor melee enemies, remember that they can support the party by spreading generous amounts of damage mitigation or amplification: Blindness, Weakness, and Cracked Armor, as well as ward spells from Earth Magic line. With their high energy reserves, Elementalists are sometimes combined with a Monk secondary to become powerful backline healers.
Mesmers (midline) are more situation-specific, and should know the enemies beforehand in order to plan their build accordingly. Because they are more difficult to play effectively, they are also a rarer PvE profession. Mesmers typically play shutdown, via interrupts and hexes, although other builds are viable. Inform your group of your role in the upcoming fights.
Necromancers (midline) are usually expected to play a straight damage dealer (e.g. with Spiteful Spirit) or to boost the frontline via being a minion master. They can also be a party battery through a Blood is Power build, where they power spellcasters with high energy regeneration. Tell your party what you plan on doing, especially if there is another necro around. Necromancers not falling into one of those two builds will often have a hard time finding a group; be prepared to explain why you use another build if you do so.
Paragons (midline) can produce decent damage, but shine in a support role, bringing skills that benefit most of the party members (mostly "There's Nothing to Fear!" and the warrior skill "Save Yourselves!", but also Arias for spell casters, Anthems for physical damage dealers, "They're on Fire!" if the party can cause a reasonable amount of burning, etc). Bringing Signet of Return or "We Shall Return!" can also help the party, as they are reusable resurrection skills.
Rangers (midline) are often expected to either deal damage via Barrage (or similar skills) or to shutdown spellcasting via Broad Head Arrow or other bow attack interrupts. They are the most common pullers in the group as they can use their bow and run back to bring back a small group of monsters while using either Whirling Defense or Lightning Reflexes. If you play a non-bow ranger (e.g. touch ranger or trapper) tell your party before starting. Also inform them if you plan on bringing any spirits.
Ritualists (midline or backline), as a versatile profession which can support damage and healing both, make sure the party knows what it is getting. If you plan on using spirits, you may want to bring Summon Spirits to keep up with your moving group. If a party has more than one ritualist, they need to check the builds and exclude any duplication in binding rituals.
Monks (backline) normally have a focus on keeping the party alive. If you are not the only monk, coordinate with the other monk(s) whether you use healing or protection. Usually it is easiest to have one of each. Definitely tell your party if you plan to be a non-healing Smiting Prayers monk.
Note: Much of the information in this area is geared toward playing with other players, particularly strangers. If you're with a group of friends who you know, or if you decide to play solo, with just heroes and henchmen, you can experiment with various options that others in a group might not immediately accept. The fact is, in normal mode, which is where you start the game, the entire game can be soloed. For many players, the enjoyment of creating unique and effective builds is one of the great joys of the game.
 Defeating the professions
This is only meant as a very short overview of the weaknesses of each enemy profession, how to avoid their damage, and how to defeat them in PvE. For more information, read the articles and guides about each profession.
Warriors sport the heaviest armor, and so killing them often takes more time than does killing other professions. Unfortunately, they also tend to deal a high amount of damage, and so it is not always best to leave them until last. Elementalists and Curses-based Necromancers tend to work well against them.
Dervishes and assassins have greater damage potentials, and potent self-heals and protection skills, so they can become a nuisance if they focus fire on your squishies. Dervishes have the added ability to inflict damage on multiple opponents, so spreading out is advised. Assassins have the ability to teleport around and gain health from it, and blocking skills. Since very few monsters are good at both offense and defense; however, these professions are usually either quickly focus-fired and killed or ignored and left until last, depending on their build.
All melee NPCs have the weakness of not stopping their attacks when hexed with anti-melee skills, making those a good choice to bring them down. To prevent their damage, blindness and weakness (the AI groups rarely remove conditions) or protection skills (Melee attacks are more easily predicted) are best.
Elementalists, necromancers, and ritualists are potent damage dealers, whereas mesmers can often prevent you from launching your attacks. However, except for earth elementalists, they all are typically easy to pick off and thus present the best targets to gain numerical superiority, and quickly reduce the mob's damage output. As such, they are sometimes preferred as targets over healers.
Against elementalists, spread yourselves to reduce AoE damage, and move out of the location that such spells are targeting. Due to the fact that many elementalist spells have long casting times, they are also quite prone to interrupts.
If necromancers do summon minions, sometimes retreating and waiting for those minions to die off naturally is better than staying in the fight, especially if the tide has turned against you. Enemy summoners in PvE often lack the ability to heal their minions. If they use hexes, assess how hurtful the hexes are. Prioritize the necromancers only if they cast hexes that severely hinder your party. Having a player necromancer who uses up corpses can deny corpses to NPC necromancers.
When fighting against ritualists, determine if they are healers or damage-dealers to determine their target priority. Keep an eye on the spirits they cast.
AI mesmers are usually a tame bunch, but watch out for those casting damage over time hexes or the potent Energy Surge. Also, interrupts and Diversion can hurt a lot, even if the AI uses them somewhat randomly.
All of the above have low armor ratings and therefore die quickly to melee characters whacking at them.
Paragons and rangers deal moderate damage at long range, and are usually more resilient. They are dangerous via their use of conditions and interrupts. They should be attacked only after the other midline characters are down and go down quickly if you interrupt their self-heals (e.g. Troll Unguent). The effectiveness of rangers can be decreased by waiting until they use their preparation before aggroing them and interrupting the activation of the preparation.
A notable feature of assassins, rangers, and earth elementalists is that some of them have skills that make them much harder to kill for a short time. If this is the case, try hitting them a few times so that it will activate, and then move on to the rest of the enemies, after the skill has ended you can attack them again. Another way is to bring disenchantment and stance removal skills.
Monks and ritualists, when in a healing role, are important targets because they keep the rest of the foes alive. However, it is sometimes easier to concentrate on a single non-healing squishy first so that protection spells be used on that foe, and then quickly switch focus to healers, leaving the healers unable to protect themselves when their turn comes. This also reduces the damage output of the enemy group should the first foe die.
For difficult fights, if you find you are unable to kill the whole group at once, killing the healers and retreating to recover may be an option. Bringing a group-running spell (e.g. "Fall Back!") can help move out of aggro range in those cases.
Be aware that reaching for healers also puts your group into a more dangerous position. The risks and benefits have to be weighed, and while healers will always be prime targets, it sometimes is beneficial to take out a few frontliners/midliners first.
 Types of PvE
All of the above concerns all types of PvE combat in general; however, there are different types of PvE in Guild Wars and sometimes it helps to prepare for the exact type.
Usually just called missions, these form the backbone of the storyline in each campaign. Missions form the most diverse part of PvE, in each one, the party will have to reach different goals. It pays to look at the wiki page of the individual mission for specific tips, such as skills to bring. In general, the party fails the mission if every member dies, so running to safety (to later resurrect the others) when the fight goes badly is more important than usual.
The second mainstay of PvE. Unlike missions, you can usually party wipe in explorable areas without grave consequences, since you will be revived at a resurrection shrine (there are exceptions!). Most importantly, explorable areas are where quests are taken and played out. Unlike a mission, players can work on several quests at the same time. But be careful, some quests make it much harder to complete other quests.
Subterranean explorable areas in the Eye of the North. Considerably harder than normal explorable areas. Have "hidden" chests, so consider bringing the skill Light of Deldrimor. Elite Dungeons are even harder than normal dungeons.
A special form of mission that is not part of the main story line. Unlike other missions and quests, these theoretically never end (with one exception), but get ever harder the longer one manages to stay alive.
Extra hard missions, with an 8 or 12 player party size. Having a correct team build is a must, so coordinate with other party members.