Guide to playing as a necromancer
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"Why do people view Necromancers as unclean? I mean, really, do you want dead bodies lying around all the time? We provide a valuable community service. Undead that hunger for mortal flesh, clawing their way out of the grave with the fanatic, blind will to serve... Withered husks of desiccated zombies, shredding flesh with unrelenting, claw-like fingers... The beauty of a stilled, yet ever-screaming heart... Such things frighten you? How sad. You really need to get out more."
The Necromancer is an extremely flexible profession that can fulfill a variety of roles. Necromancer favors pragmatism where morality gets thrown out for efficiency: only results matter. While many view necromancers as selfishly evil, some of the greatest good has been done in service of Grenth, when their patron god's good works aligned with a necromancer's self-interests. If you like bringing your enemies back from the dead to serve you as their master, sucking the life-force out of an enemy with a single spell, or are willing to sacrifice your underlings for even greater power, then the necromancer might just be for you!
Commanding the dizzying array of curses and blood spells at their disposal, and piles of the dead in their wake, necromancers excel at area clearing and quickly defeating large groups of enemies. Necromancers are the only profession that willfully inflicts itself with severe negative effects—using their own life force to fuel powerful abilities—in order to defeat the opponent and gain the upper hand in combat; being at death’s door does not concern them if no adversaries remain to deal the killing blow. Once the first enemy falls, a barrage of exploding corpses, condition-spreads and blood spikes follow suit, until the battlefield is littered with the bloody remains of their foes: more resources ready for exploition. The minions at the necromancer’s disposal can disrupt enemy lines and scatter their ranks, create diversions, or to simply open a path for their master to escape to safety.
The major roles expected of necromancers currently in PvE are Spiteful Spirit necromancers (also called SS), Cultist's Fervor (CF for short), Minion masters (MM for short), Blood is Power (or BiP for short), and in certain cases Spoil Victor necromancers (SV for short). Major roles expected of necromancers in PvP currently are Hex shutdown, and Orders. However these popular builds only show a fraction of what necromancers are capable of. Because of their popularity it is advised to tell your team when you plan on doing something else, such as healing or using secondary skills.
Soul Reaping (Primary Attribute)
This is the primary ability of a necromancer. Whenever any creature in range dies, the necromancer receives energy equal to their rank in Soul Reaping. This is a powerful method of energy management, but subject to some handicaps: the gains are limited to three times every 15 seconds (after which the cycle resets) and the potential energy is lost if the necromancer is already at maximum energy (although, in this case, these deaths would not count against the three-gains-per-15-seconds limit).
There are only nine Soul Reaping skills, three of which are elite. The Signet of Lost Souls can be used for active energy management; at rank 12, it can generate up to roughly one point of energy every second.
A curse Necromancer uses his abilities to weaken foes so that his allies can easily kill them, or to hinder them in many ways. Shadow of Fear and Enfeebling Blood will render a group of fighters useless. Barbs and Mark of Pain can amplify damage on a foe. Some curses skills also deal direct, armor ignoring damage like Spiteful Spirit, Feast of Corruption and Desecrate Enchantments. Curses Necromancers are primarily used to destroy large mobs of enemies, quickly and efficiently.
Blood magic revolves around manipulating the health of all those involved in a battle, through stealing from foes, transferring to allies, and sacrificing your own. Many skills like Shadow Strike or Vampiric Gaze steal life from foes, ignoring armor and most defensive skills completely. Several blood magic skills require a sacrifice of the necromancer's own health. Caution is advised since health sacrificing skills, combined with damage pressure from foes, can prove a burden for your team's healers if not properly controlled. The Blood Magic line also contains the powerful skills Blood Ritual and Blood is Power, which are used to boost the energy regeneration of other party members.
Death magic revolves around the use of corpses in a variety of ways, but also includes skills that deal cold damage and cause harmful conditions. The most widespread usage of death magic is to create undead minions. For a detailed description see Minion Master. Another effective component of Death magic lies in the skill called Discord in which a player, or hero, can deal massive amounts of damage quickly and repeatedly; this skill is most frequently coupled with minion spawning skills, conditions, hexes, and some ritualist skills to destroy many types of foes. Other useful skills makes corpses or dying foes explode for potentially devastating damage across the whole enemy party.
Depending on how you play, your survival strategy will be vastly different. For example while using blood magic and curses, using skills like Enfeeble and Faintheartedness to lower the damage of enemy attackers and then using life stealing skills to regain health is one way. When playing as a Minion Master you can use your minions as a shield, such as physically blocking melee fighters with numerous melee minions and using skills such as Dark Bond to migrate damage to your minions, and skills from your secondary profession to heal yourself. Try to stay out of harm by means of kiting. When using standard armor without increased armor rating, it is advised to avoid getting attacked directly. Proper movement and positioning can reduce the damage taken from melee and ranged attackers.
Playing in a party
Party play as a Necromancer will vary with the different builds and dungeons. Generally speaking, there are 2 different party styles that the Necromancer will focus on: Damage dealing to enemies, or partywide support. Damage focused Necromancers tend to be Minion Master, or Spiteful Spirit Curses focused (with general exceptions). These types of Necromancers should stay in the midline of combat see body block page for formation (i.e. warriors in front, casters in middle, monks/BiP in back). Partywide support Necromancers should stay behind Monks and midline casters during play. The builds will typically include Blood is Power, Order of Pain, Ebon Vanguard skills, Wells, and more. The partywide support Necromancer should focus almost exclusively on the party, and not the enemies.
What to avoid
If you are using minions, enemy area of effect damage can quickly decimate your army as your Minions do not avoid AoE damage like Heroes and Henchmen do.
Watch out for large groups of fast attackers, your best bet is to send your party out first so you are not the main target.
Builds and team roles
As the section "play styles" will elaborate, necromancers have a very big array of play styles which all have their advantages and disadvantages. When optimizing your build, it is hugely important for a necromancer to know what he's facing. This is because most playstyles of the necromancer are very conditional. For example: a minion master can be both a decimating offensive and defensive force, but if there are few or no corpses available in the area, they will quickly find themselves useless and vulnerable. Knowing your playstyle's strengths, weaknesses and what you're up against is the key part of being a necromancer.
The 2 best known playstyles are minion master (MM) and Spiteful Spirit (SS). These will also be the ones you will be asked to play most frequently by other party members. In high end PvE, Blood Is Power (BiP) necromancers are very often requested too.
A Spiteful Spirit Necromancer is commonly used to deal large amounts of AoE damage against several foes.
A Blood Is Power Necromancer (BiP) is commonly used in high end PvE missions such as: Urgoz's Warren or Justiciar Thommis' level of Slavers' Exile. The builds used by teammates (most notably monks and elementalists) tend to be very energy intensive. Using the skill Blood is Power, a BiP can keep up the energy of an entire team indefinitely. The downside of the skill (being the health sacrifice) is commonly countered by lowering the maximum Hp to 55 or even 1 (in which case no health will be sacrificed at all). Obviously, a BiP necromancer will stay far behind his team.
It is important to note that in a team formation, the necromancer should be either in the middle line (with casters, paragons, etc); or in the very back line behind monks (in the case of a BiP Necromancer). Necromancers should never lead the frontline of teams by pulling aggro or by being a tank. Solo necromancer play will vary with secondary professions.
Frontline team builds
Frontline necromancers utilize dark aura to deal armour-ignoring area damage. They are glass cannons, providing potent offense but straining their backline. Some soul taker builds are designed to receive dark aura from a party member.
Midline team builds
- Minion master
- A minion master, often abbreviated to MM, is a type of necromancer build which relies primarily on the use of animated undead creatures from the corpses of fallen enemies and allies. Generally, a minion master relies directly on minions for damage, trying to keep up a large army of powerful minions, useful elite skills include Order of Undeath (which briefly buffs minion damage), Animate Flesh Golem (which gives you an infinitely reusable minion) and Aura of the Lich (which increases Death Magic rank, can animate a minion without a corpse, and can quickly animate numerous minions when corpses are present). In PvE, necromancers tend to use Ebon Battle Standard of Honor which, if well placed, can hugely increase the damage output of all minions. Minion masters are generally restricted to PvE and Alliance Battles because of the small amount of corpses to animate within PvP.
- The minion bomber is a minion master variant which relies on Death Nova (and, for ritualist / necromancers, Explosive Growth) to deal damage, animating large numbers of cheap minions using Animate Bone Minions, often accompanied by Animate Shambling Horror. For elite skills Animate Flesh Golem, Aura of the Lich or Jagged Bones can be used to reduce reliance on corpses, while Icy Veins can be used to provide non-minion-based damage. This playstyle is generally assigned to heroes, who (unlike most players) have no trouble at all targeting minions with Death Nova. Minion Bomber's tend to use skills that purposely destroy their minions so that they will explode to deal more damage to enemies. Skills for Minion Bombing include: Taste of Death, Feast for the Dead, Death Nova, Jagged Bones, Blood of the Master, and a few other optional skills. This build relies exclusively on the generation of minions to operate properly.
- Cultist's Fervor support
- This orders build uses spells which affect the entire party, such as Order of Pain and Order of the Vampire as well as bringing some Energy support spells. Orders necromancers also usually bring some form of a self-heal because both spells require a large amount of health sacrifice. Such necromancers also usually bring Well of Blood to heal allies, as well as a single damage-dealing skill.
- This build uses blood magic to steal life from enemies. A Blood Magic necromancer tends to be very self-sufficient; dealing damage and healing the caster simultaneously. They can also do their part as a support hero, with skills like Blood Bond and Blood Ritual, or with wells such as Well of Blood or Well of Power.
- Spiteful Spirit shutdown
- This type of PvE build, often abbreviated SS, relies upon the Prophecies Curses elite skill Spiteful Spirit, often accompanied by Arcane Echo. It is particularly useful against large groups of tightly packed foes. Because it only needs 1 or 2 skill slots and isn't Energy-intensive, running a Spiteful Spirit build allows considerable freedom in skill selection and attribute distribution.
- Lingering Curse (and Other Curses)
- Another common necromancer build uses curses (hex spells) to drain an enemy's health or inflict damage whenever any enemy attempts to use skills. Examples of such skills are: Spiteful Spirit, Suffering, health degeneration Wells, Cacophony, Rip Enchantment, and many more. Lingering Curse causes enemy mobs to lose health over time, and works well in conjunction with other health degen skills, and damage over time skills. Curses Necromancers are some of the most high demand Necromancers.
- Spoil Victor shutdown
- This type of PvE build, often abbreviated SV, relies upon the Factions Blood Magic elite skill Spoil Victor. Spoil Victor is particularly useful against healers, multi-target attackers, bosses and small groups of powerful foes. Like Spiteful Spirit necromancers, Spoil Victor necromancers have considerable freedom in skill selection and attribute distribution. Keep in mind that SV will only work when you (or another party member) has less health than the hexed foe, so it is useful to decrease your maximum health by a manageable amount and use the Monk Core skill, Protective Spirit. Having minions out is very useful to have since the minions usually have low health, boosting the utility of Spoil Victor.
- Contagion pressure
- Mainly in Heroes Ascent, necromancers can be the center of a very effective condition spreading build, centering around the skill Contagion. Necromancers can use Foul Feast to remove conditions from their team members (or from a monk with Martyr) and spread them around all foes in the area with Contagion. Due to the small recharge time of Foul Feast, 2 necromancers "juggling" conditions around can cause a condition pressure that practically no defensive basis can succesfully remove.
- Discord damage
Backline team builds
- Battery support
- Energy support necromancers, often called "batteries" or "BiPs", use the elite skill Blood is Power (or the non-elite Blood Ritual) to supply their allies with energy. For casters such as the Elementalist and the Monk this is extremely beneficial as it allows them to continue using their skills without running out of energy. Batteries are very popular for supporting Bonding Monks and Nuker Elementalists in areas like the Fissure of Woe. Often BiP necromancers use equipment to reduce their maximum Health, thereby reducing the sacrifice amount, however this makes it necessary to stay back and avoid aggro, which is impossible in some missions and dungeons. BiP Necromancers are more common in PvE.
- Restoration healer
- Due to the large sum of energy that necromancers are usually hauling, the N/Rt has been a breakthrough in healing for the PvP and PvE portions of Guild Wars. These necromancers usually bring elite skills such as Weapon of Remedy, Preservation, or Spirit Light Weapon to heal their party. Some of these healers will also choose to bring Order of Apostasy to add enchantment removal pressure to the opposing team.
In PvP, necromancers are commonly used to spread massive health degeneration to the other team using such skills as Lingering Curse and Suffering. Necromancers are commonly used as a form of defense by causing massive pressure through degeneration, moderate damage or adding to the pressure of the enemy monks. They can also be used in offensive builds such as blood spike. Blood spike builds usually consist of many necromancers with a monk backline to heal, and sometimes a flag runner. They are commonly used in GvG due to the mechanic of Life Stealing and nullifying the opposing teams Protection Prayers monk. With the enemy team only having one healer, they usually collapse to the pressure of the many self-sufficient necromancers.
Necromancers have several strong PvP skills. Pain of Disenchantment can remove up to 3 enchantments and deal 100+ damage. Wail of Doom can hinder powerful spells to deal very little damage, and high healing spells to heal for almost nothing.
Solo non-team builds
- Saccers utilizes health sacrificing skills in conjunction with Death Nova, Dark Aura, and Contagion to literally sac oneself to death, resulting in additional damage by Death Nova.
The maximum armor rating of the necromancer armor is 60 and has the inherent effects of a maximum energy increase of +10 and an energy regeneration increase of +2. Like any armor set a player can equip it can be upgraded with insignias (prefix) and runes (suffix). The armor is composed out of a Scar pattern (head), Tunic (chest), Gloves (arms), Leggings (legs) and Boots (feet).
These are the ideal armor upgrades for a necromancer:
- Scar pattern:
A staff is a two-handed projectile weapon with a maximum damage range of 11-22, an attack speed of 1.75 seconds, and depending on the staff and its linked Necromancer attribute, can deal dark damage or cold damage. It also grants an inherent energy bonus (maximum of +10 energy) and halves skill recharge of spells (up to a maximum of 20%). Staves can be upgraded with a staff head (prefix) and a staff wrapping (suffix), and those with an inscription slot can be inscribed.
A wand is a one-handed projectile weapon with a maximum damage range of 11-22, an attack speed of 1.75 seconds, and depending on the wand and its linked Necromancer attribute, can deal dark damage or cold damage. Wands with an inscription slot can be upgraded with a wand wrapping and an inscription, while those without may come with an inherent modifier instead.
A focus item is an off-hand weapon that is generally paired with a wand and grants a maximum of +12 energy. Foci with an inscription slot can be upgraded with a focus core and inscription, while those without may come with an inherent modifier instead.
- Weapon sets
Summing up the 4 weapons you are best to have for your 4 weapon slots.
- 1: a
- 2: a
- 3: a
- 4: a longbow that does not require any upgrades
Each build has an optimal equipment combination or require specific type of upgrades. Like your builds, you can experiment with your equipment to see what combination of equipment works best for you. While experienced necromancer players commonly use and recommend the following equipment loadouts, new players are encouraged to learn by experimenting with their own builds, loadouts and play styles.
For all of the available weapon upgrades for the staff, wand, and focus, see the list of weapon upgrades.
During the 22nd April 2020 update, the scythe Anniversary Scythe "Sufferer" was added along with the elite skill Soul Taker. It is the only scythe in the game that requires Soul Reaping. This scythe is a melee weapon with a damage range of 9-41, an attack speed of 1.5 seconds and deals dark damage. It can be upgraded with a scythe snathe, a scythe grip and an inscription.
Choice of secondary professions
- Mesmer: If there is a free slot, some interrupts are also quite useful. Many Domination Magic skills can be used in conjunction with skills in the Spiteful Spirit build, such as Empathy and Backfire. Necromancer hexes and Mesmer hexes can work very well together as many of them do similar things. The Mesmer skill Arcane Echo is used to duplicate Icy Veins, Spiteful Spirit or Spoil Victor build by allowing the caster to apply the hexes to multiple foes at once. The skill Epidemic is also an excellent addition to the Contagion and many necromancer skills that cause and transfer conditions.
- Monk: The monk's Protection Prayers attribute line is used to play backline roles. Benefits especially minion masters with some strong healing skills, protection prayers (Protective Spirit) are useful for builds that run on low HP for sacrificing or even 55-HP farm builds. The minion master build requires keeping minions alive, and AoE healing skills such as Heal Area make this easier.
- Assassin: In PvP-gameplay, the assassin skills Return and Dark Escape are used in PvP-Arenas to improve the necromancer's survivability. Dash is a common speed boost. Some hex spells, such as Augury of Death, and conditioning skills are often used in PvP areas in spike builds that deal additional damage based on conditions. In PvE-gameplay, the necromancer can mimic assassins by playing dagger builds while improving their own performance with supportive necromancer skills. The Assassin secondary profession is used mainly in conjunction with 3 necromancer heroes who have the skill called discord; the player use Assassin's Promise with slowly recharging necromancer skills.
- Ritualist: Ritualists' Restoration Magic skills can be exploited with Soul Reaping and is commonly used for backline healing. This makes the Necromancer an extremely capable healer replacement for the Monk, especially in team builds deliberately penalizing monks.
- Dervish: Strong, efficient self-heals supports minion masters which sacrifice life very often. Many minion masters use the Dervish enchantment Mystic Regeneration as a form of self healing to counteract the life loss from Blood of the Master. This combination can become increasingly stronger with more enchantments like Aura of the Lich, Masochism, Dark Bond, and Infuse Condition.
- Paragon: Paragon's Command skills "Fall Back!" and "Go for the Eyes!" can be used with minions and commonly add utility.
- Warrior: In PvP-gameplay, Protector's Defense is used to improve the necromancer's survivability; but in PvE-gameplay, offers no viable skills worth taking or investing in.
- Ranger: The ranger offers no viable skills worth taking or investing in, aside from animal companion to trigger instant recharge of Signet of Sorrow.
- Elementalist: In PvP-gameplay, Glyph of Lesser Energy helps alleviate the upfront energy demand of necromancer builds; but in PvE-gameplay, offers no viable skills worth taking or investing in.
- PvP game mechanics
|Guides for all Professions (edit)|
|Core: Warrior • Ranger • Monk • Necromancer • Mesmer • Elementalist|
|Factions: Assassin • Ritualist Nightfall: Paragon • Dervish|