Guide to Hero Basics and Optimization
|Note: This article is geared towards new players.|
Please keep its contents to those which new players can reasonably understand and use.
This Guide to Heroes assumes the reader has access to the Nightfall campaign. While additional heroes can be obtain through completion of the Eye of the North and Beyond expansion content, players may find their heroes' overall effectiveness and end-game viability severely limited without having access to the Nightfall campaign.
Heroes vs. Henchmen
In Guild Wars you're not a solo fighter. You can (and should!) play in a team. Players are not always available to join you, so you will have to resort to filling your team with NPCs. There are two kinds of AI allies you can choose:
- Available in every outpost.
- Fixed set of skills.
- Unmodified equipment.
- No micro management of skills possible.
- Unlocked through quests.
- Entirely customizable skill bar.
- Upgradeable equipment
- Advanced micro management options available.
- Heroes are better than henchmen
Although henchmen are a good help initially as you don't have much gold to buy new skills, they will soon prove worse than heroes: Because of their fixed skill sets, you can neither improve their individual performance nor create synergies between multiple team members. In endgame areas, equipment modifications will become more important, giving heroes an additional advantage. Lastly, micro management of single skills or flagging heroes individually is extremely helpful in certain situations, especially boss fights, but only possible with heroes, not henchmen.
- Hero build customization
Heroes have access to all skills of their primary and secondary profession which are already unlocked on your account. You can distribute their attribute points, choose their skills and change their secondary profession. To do so you add them to your party and then click on their portrait at the top of the skills and attribute window (standard hotkey: K). Title based PvE-only skills are unavailable to heroes.
- Hero equipment
Their base armour rating grows with their level, reaching the maximum armour rating at level 20. There are hero armor pieces but they only change its visual appearance, not the statistics. For power upgrades you have to improve their armour with insignias and runes like that of a player. Heroes can be equipped with weapons just like a player to benefit from weapon modifiers and better base statistics.
- Micro management
You can manipulate the performance of your heroes in various ways. Except for flag usage they require you to open the hero control panel. To do so, invite the hero into your team and click on the number next to its name.
Hero Control Panel
- See also: Positioning
- Heroes will not always line up ranged characters at the rear, with melee characters in front, as you might expect.
- Heroes will change formation when the player changes from a melee weapon to a ranged or a ranged weapon to a melee.
- Heroes holding bundle items will stand in the front with melee characters.
- See also: User interface
Pets belonging to heroes will use the same combat mode as their heroes.
Heroes will aggressively confront enemies:
- They will attack (in priority order) called targets, selected targets within spirit range of the hero, non-selected enemies actively engaged with the party, and non-selected enemies within the hero's aggro range.
- They prefer attacking foes with the lowest armor rating, and will prioritize foes with the lowest health over foes above 50% their maximum health.
- They will separate from the flag or the controlling player, if necessary.
Heroes will guard the area near a flag or the controlling player (whichever is closer and within earshot), refraining from combat until actively engaged.
- They will not attack enemies unless (in priority order) forced to use a skill, the selected target is called, the selected enemy actively engages the party, or the non-selected enemy enters the party's aggro circle.
- They will not move beyond the guarded area unless forced to use a skill and the target is out-of-range.
- They will return to the guarded area after using a forced skill or the enemy moves far beyond spirit range.
- They will often go out of their way to attack a spirit, despite being in "Guard Mode".
Heroes never attack and will attempt to avoid enemies when attacked, kiting as needed. They will not attack selected or called targets unless forced to use a skill.
- They generally will not use skills that directly target foes or cause point blank area of effect damage:
- Non-lethal skills, such as Signet of Lost Souls, will not be used.
- They will use skills that indirectly affect the enemy:
- Damaging skills that target allies, such as Smite Hex, Balthazar's Aura, or weapon spells.
- Ward and well spells that inflict detrimental effects on foes.
- Trap skills.
- Summoning skills that bring forth minions or spirits, such as Aura of the Lich and Signet of Binding .
- Item spells, that require activating urns and dropping them.
- They will use damaging Flash Enchantment Spells such as Heart of Holy Flame or Zealous Renewal if an enemy is in the area of effect.
- See also: Priority target
Target a foe and then click on the crosshair in the left bottom of the Hero Control panel to lock your hero unto it until the target gets killed.
Forced skill use
- See also: Hero behavior
- Heroes can be ordered to execute skills by clicking on the appropriate skill on the hero skill bar.
- When a hero is ordered to execute a skill during the activation of another skill, the hero will cancel the activation of the first skill and proceed with the ordered skill.
- The hero will not use any other skills until they have successfully activated the ordered skill.
- Heroes can be ordered to drop their current bundle by clicking on their monitor.
- By clicking on a skill in the hero control panel you force the hero to use it. In case you currently haven't selected a target the hero will chose one on its own. The same applies if you have selected a target which, due to its affiliation, that skill can't be used against; i.e. when you target yourself and force the hero to use a skill which can only be used against foes, such as Flare. If you have locked your hero on a target but were targeting a different foe yourself when forcing the skill usage, the target locking will be bypassed for this one skill usage. There are some issues with forcing skills to be aware of:
- a) When forcing a hero to use a skill against a target which can't be targeted by certain skill types it will stop using skills and wand this foe until it dies. This can be the case when using a hex spell like Lightning Strike or an enchantment like Ice Spear or Patient Spirit against spirits. Another somewhat common cause for this to happen is forcing any spell against a foe enchanted with Spell Breaker, Shadow Form or Obsidian Flesh.
- b) The wanding issue will also appear when you force a hero to use a skill which is currently on recharge or the skill gets interrupted upon its forced usage. The hero will wait until the skill has recharged and then reattempt to use the skill.
- c) When forcing a hero to use a skill the hero is currently using your commanded usage will be treated as executed.
- d) Heroes don't maintain most bonds – enchantments which will stay on the target until removed by the bonder. If you want a hero to maintain a bond such as Strength of Honor on you, you'll first have to suppress this skill.
- Hold down your suppress key (standard: left shift) and left-click on the hero's skill in the hero control panel to suppress it. It'll be marked with a stroke-through red circle. Do this if you don't want your hero to use a certain skill in one fight, if you want to use a skill only manually or if it is a bond you want the hero to maintain.
- See also: Hero flag
You can flag your first three heroes individually using buttons below your compass and the remaining up to four heroes collectively. If you want to individually flag the remaining heroes aswell, you have to assign keybinds. Open the control options (standard hotkey: F11) and select Action: Command Hero 4/5/6/7. Assign keybinds to these so you can use individual flags for all heroes instead of only the first three. This is most useful when you want to lure foes into your prepared and spread-out team. You are introduced to flag usage in the quests Command Training and Hero Tutorial.
- See also: List of Hero General Builds
Heroes play an important role in the stories of Nightfall and Eye of the North. As a character progresses through the storyline they perform quests which grant access to heroes. Often a hero needs to be included in the party to access or complete certain quests or missions. Heroes can often have special dialogue in quests and missions, especially if they are compulsorily involved, and may sometimes chip in with comments when they are in a party even if they are not required for the mission or quest.
Some heroes obtained in PvE may not start off at the maximum level and need to be included in a party and gain experience just like a player character. Heroes will also gain experience if they are in the party when experience is rewarded for completing a quest. Similar to henchmen, heroes take a portion of the loot.
Fully equipping all 31 available heroes per character in PvE is an expensive and time-consuming exercise. While maximum equipment for heroes is not strictly required for PvE, it does offer benefits to players willing to invest. A full set of well-equipped heroes is useful in PvE, especially in hard mode, where a well-designed team with complementary skills can vastly improve the player's chances of successfully clearing an area for the Vanquisher title.
You have seven equipment slots:
Armour can be upgraded with one insignia and one rune per piece. Weapons that are wielded with two hands will cover both the weapon and offhand item slot, which means that you or your heroes won't be able to benefit from a shield while wielding a bow. Weapons and offhand items can be upgraded with modifications of three types, but only one modification of the same type per item:
- A) Prefix, Inscription, Suffix: Axe, Bow, Hammer, Spear, Staff, Sword
- B) Inscription, Suffix: Wand, Focus, Shield
The first available armour smiths which craft armour with a maximum armour rating are:
- Jolvor Stoneforge in Boreal Station. This is the first outpost reached in the Eye of the North expansion and the fastest to reach crafter with maximum armour rating for characters created in the campaign Nightfall.
- Kakumei, Ryoko and Suki in Kaineng Center. They are faster to reach than Jolvor for characters created in Factions.
Easy leveling strategies
It is easy to reach maximum level of 20. These suggestions are for Nightfall heroes only; all heroes in Eye of the North and Beyond already are level 20 at recruiting.
- Heroes can enter hard mode without being level 20; take advantage of this when doing faction farming.
- Heroes can use Junundu before level 20 without any health or energy penalties; however, their armor ratings will be lower, and they will deal less damage with skills that are affected by armor.
- Use scrolls to help improve the amount of experience earned per kill.
- Repeating the quest A Show of Force with the above strategies will result in very fast leveling of heroes.
- Add the heroes you wish to level up into your party before accepting quest rewards.
Cheap equipment strategies
A hero with sub-par equipment is better than a hero with no equipment at all. Fortunately, equipment with the best stats are cheap and easy to obtain. Some of the following methods allows you to sacrifice something other than money to have heroes ready for battle.
- Free equipment
- Live off the land, waiting until you find items via drops; this costs nothing, but is riskier, since it extends the amount of time you are fighting with poorly-equipped heroes.
- Use promotional weapons. (You can use the same item for as many heroes as you like by repeating the /bonus command after equipping the previous one.)
- Collector weapons are essentially free, if you have collected the requisite trophies.
- The Bonus Mission Pack can offer a small series of free weapons early on.
- Low-cost alternatives
- Develop only a few heroes at a time; this limits your flexibility, but ensures you always have a few well-equipped heroes.
- Share equipment across heroes and across characters. Weapons can be swapped for free, but runes/insignias cost about 16 per swap.
- Buy cheap runes/insignias: most armor upgrades cost 100, so if you cannot afford the best runes/insignias, buy the cheapest.
Fast unlocking skills
If too few skills are unlocked on your account, it is most efficient to create a PvP character slot and farm Balthazar Faction or buy Flames of Balthazar. If you are unsure which among the 150+ skills to unlock first, consider builds at PvXwiki as a guideline for the most frequent and effective skills used in the heroes' skillbar by the Guild Wars Community.
Selecting which unlocked heroes to use for your party can be tricky, and it is made harder when you have to choose between two mutually exclusive heroes to recruit. There are three basic strategies:
- choosing by region (if this is your first playthrough and you have not unlocked hard mode)
- choosing by profession (to help balance your team or learn skills for your heroes and yourself)
- choosing by effort required (how quickly you can unlock the heroes if you are experienced and are speed clearing)
Recruitment by region
| Acolyte Jin or Acolyte Sousuke|
(optional, mutually exclusive until campaign completion)
| Margrid the Sly or Master of Whispers|
(mutually exclusive until campaign completion)
|Vabbi|| Goren or Norgu|
(optional, mutually exclusive until campaign completion)
|Realm of Torment|| Goren, Acolyte Jin, Margrid the Sly, Master of Whispers, Norgu, Acolyte Sousuke|
(optional; starts off as a Ritualist, but can change profession)
|Eye of the North|
|Far Shiverpeaks||Ogden Stonehealer, Vekk|
| Xandra, Kahmu|
|Charr Homelands||Pyre Fierceshot|
|Tarnished Coast|| Hayda|
|Requires Prophecies and Nightfall|
|Requires Factions and Nightfall|
|Kaineng City|| Zenmai|
|Requires Prophecies and Eye of the North|
|Far Shiverpeaks|| Keiran Thackeray|
|Kaineng City|| Miku|
| Zei Ri|
|Requires Prophecies, Factions, and Nightfall|
Recruitment by profession
Here are some things to consider:
- Starting skills matter in the beginning. There are three cases in Nightfall where you must choose one hero over another resulting in four outcomes with duplicate professions. However, these heroes will have different beginning builds. For new players (with few skills unlocked), it can be wise to consider the two builds before selecting:
- Acolyte Sousuke vs Acolyte Jin:
- Vekk/Zhed vs Acolyte Sousuke: Zhed specializes in Water Magic and Earth Magic, allowing defense through snares and wards; Vekk specializes in damage-intensive anti-melee Air Magic; and Sousuke specializes in damage-intensive area of effect Fire Magic.
- Pyre/Margrid vs Acolyte Jin: Pyre has Savage Shot; Jin has Kindle Arrows; Margrid has Apply Poison.
- Master of Whispers vs Margrid the Sly:
- Pyre/Jin vs Margrid the Sly: If you have Jin or Pyre for another character, Margrid might be a better choice (to pick up the extra skill)
- Livia/Olias vs Master of Whispers: Both Livia and Olias focus on Blood Magic and have some Death Magic (notably: minion skills); Master of Whispers focuses on Curses, with some Blood Magic.
- Goren vs Norgu:
- Jora/Koss vs Goren: Both Jora and Koss use Swordsmanship and Tactics, each providing Bleeding; Goren uses Hammer Mastery and Tactics, providing a conditional knock down.
- Gwen vs Norgu: Gwen specializes in Domination Magic and Inspiration Magic; Norgu specializes in Illusion Magic, with some Inspiration Magic.
- Melee AI has considerable room for improvement, whereas Mesmers have become a very impactful class in PvE.
- Acolyte Sousuke vs Acolyte Jin:
- Be aware of the capabilities of the henchmen available and customize your heroes accordingly. For example: Aidan lacks interrupts, Nightfall monks do not have hex removal, and there are no minion master henchmen available in Elona.
- Balance in a party is generally a good thing; for a new account (with few skills unlocked), balancing often means choosing heroes from different professions. Later, as a more experienced player, you can find good reason for overlap (e.g. Discordway teams use at least three Necromancers).
Recruitment by effort required
An alternative way to consider selecting heroes is how quickly you can complete the necessary quests to unlock them.
- Quick or effortless acquisition
These heroes are unlocked early in the storyline; no builds are required and all can of be obtained within 1 hour of gameplay:
- Nightfall: Koss, Dunkoro, Melonni, Tahlkora, and either Acolyte Jin or Acolyte Sousuke
- Eye of the North: Gwen, Vekk, Ogden
- Core: M.O.X.
- Small effort required
These heroes require a short quest, or are obtained automatically after playing through the early part of a storyline:
- Prophecies: Olias
- Factions: Zenmai
- Eye of the North:
- Significant effort required
These heroes are typically available late or after campaign completion and require an additional quest:
- Eye of the North: Anton (requires completion of The Missing Vanguard, and has a fairly long quest sequence)
- Very high effort required
These heroes were introduced as part of end-game expansion—Guild Wars Beyond—requiring the full completion of one or two campaigns, and a very long quest chain. The quests are difficult and require a preexisting well-designed team build with complementary skills and considerable time investment (10 or more hours of gameplay), with no possible shortcuts: