Guide to playing as an assassin

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Overview[edit]

The Assassin walks the shadows, a deadly viper ready to strike at the heart when the enemy least expects it, nowhere and everywhere all at once. Many look down upon the Assassin as soulless killers; in truth Assassin profession is an honorable (and necessary) role, exacting justice to those who believe themselves above the laws of nature and society, and are swift to remove a threat before most realize its existence.

Assassins are masters of their chosen weapon, the dagger, and are expert at inflicting Critical Strikes that cause massive damage. They are swift melee strikers who are meant to get in and get out, inflicting massive damage quickly with multiple hits. The Assassin is trained to efficiently link attacks together in a chain that does not give the enemy a chance to hit back. They have mastered the ability to move as shadows—Assassins wear only lightweight armor and prefer to avoid damage by not being there when the enemy’s strike lands. Their other magical skills include hexes that lower the target’s defenses and protect the Assassin from harm.

Attributes[edit]

Critical Strikes (Primary Attribute)[edit]

Critical Strikes represent the assassin's energy management; this aspect allows an Assassin to expand into other professions. For every critical hit, the assassin gains 0 to 3 energy depending on the attribute. In addition to the energy gain, the chance for a critical hit on an attack is increased by 1% for each rank in this attribute. Refer to the table in Critical Strikes for the exact scaling of these two benefits. A skill using this attribute that sees frequent use is Critical Defenses.

Dagger Mastery[edit]

Dagger Mastery increases the damage and critical hit chance with daggers. Also, each rank in Dagger Mastery adds a 2% chance that attacks from your daggers will double strike. Note this does NOT apply if you are using any other weapon. Most of an Assassin's dagger attacks use this attribute, with some exceptions being attacks under Critical Strike and Vampiric Assault which is under Deadly Arts. One combination used very frequently is Moebius Strike together with Death Blossom.

Deadly Arts[edit]

Deadly Arts is the assassin's offensive spell store. There are simple damaging spells in here, as well as battle-enhancing hexes. The currently most frequently used Deadly Arts skills are Dancing Daggers and Impale.

Shadow Arts[edit]

Shadow Arts mainly contains self-healing and defensive abilities and shadow steps. Hidden Caltrops is a popular snare.


The Way of the Assassin[edit]

Assassins can be described as “glass cannons” -- they hit hard but break easily. Assassins are capable of a solo spike with lethal effect, but both their attack combos and defenses tend to be fragile. For that reason, assassins hit and run -- popping in with a shadow step or a burst of speed, then quickly escaping after their combo is completed. Some assassins are built for pressure rather than sudden solo spikes, but due to the assassin’s relatively weak armor they must be wary of attacks against their own person.

Compared to Warriors, Assassins have weaker armor, yet many of their skills function at melee range. This can place the assassin in danger, both from PvE mobs and PvP opportunists. A large consideration in the game, both in PvE and PvP, is surmounting the enemy’s defenses before your own healing is exhausted. An assassin constantly at melee range with enemies can drain a friendly healer's energy quickly.

Assassins can easily overextend past the range of their healer's ability to heal, and so must be mindful of their location relative to the healers in the party. Forcing a healer, be it a Monk or Ritualist, to extend out in an effort to heal an assassin means putting the healer in greater danger, as well as preventing the healer from doing their job of healing, as every second the healer is traveling to spell range is another second the healer isn’t healing.

Mobility and deception[edit]

Assassins are, more so than any other profession in the game, quite effective at controlling positions. This mobility is key to an assassin’s ability to quickly deal damage then escape back out while still alive. This mobility should not be overlooked for an assassin in PvE, but is especially important in PvP.

The stance Dash is the fastest speed boosting stance in the game over short distances and can be used for both offensive and defensive purposes. Dash can be used to escape an area of effect, dodge projectiles such as arrows and spells, or quickly kite out of attack range. It is also a good way to cancel out a previously applied stance with minimal recharge time.

Assassins have the unique ability to shadow step, which is a teleport that moves an assassin either to an enemy, an ally, or a prior position. Shadow steps can occasionally be useful in PvE, as seen by their use in solo farming builds or to complete certain mission objectives. However, shadow steps are much more commonly used in PvP. For example, the assassin profession is occasionally taken as a secondary profession on a warrior or a monk expressly for shadow stepping skills. Offensive shadow steps are often used as the opening skill in an assassin skill chain or "combo" (see assassin combos below for more information).

When using shadow steps, remember that you cannot go to enemies that you cannot normally reach by just walking there, thus if a gate is closed, you cannot go behind that gate by shadow stepping.

Attacking as energy management[edit]

Assassins, like a caster, have four pips of energy regeneration; however, assassin skills are costly and often used in quick succession as a part of combos. In order to have enough energy to complete a combo, an assassin should use some form of energy management. An assassin gains energy via attacking. This is more often a convenience rather than a hindrance as attacking is often when an assassin needs energy the most.

The inherent energy management of an assassin is the Critical Strikes attribute, which grants energy for every critical hit scored. With a rank of at least 3 in the Critical Strikes attribute, you receive 1 energy back per critical hit. At 8 ranks of the Critical Strikes attribute, you receive 2 energy back per critical hit. And finally at 13 ranks of the Critical Strikes attribute, you receive 3 energy back per critical hit.

The skill Critical Eye can increase the energy gain per critical hit. Also, any skill that increases the chance of a critical hit will indirectly increase the energy gain from attacking. For example, Wild Blow always lands critical hits, and so can be used cheaply by an assassin.

Zealous mods on weapons, which give a point of energy for each successful hit at the expense of a point of energy regeneration, are also used to replenish an assassin's energy during the energy intensive combinations.

Some assassin skills give you energy directly. These skills often have "Lotus" in their names. The dagger attack Critical Strike also returns energy, in addition to the normal energy gain from a guaranteed critical hit.

The skill Assassin's Promise offers an alternate means of energy management, but is only rarely used in PvP due to its unreliability. The assassin needs to be assured that his target will die and that the hex won’t be removed, which is far from a guarantee in PvP. Assassin's Promise can be effective in PvE, as mob deaths are more predictable and mob bars are well known. However, taking it into a PvE area where hex removing spells are common on enemy skill bars is not advisable.

Attack skill damage > dagger damage[edit]

The majority of damage an assassin deals comes from the +damage on attack skills as the daggers themselves deal very low damage. Because daggers have the lowest maximum damage of all weapons, "auto-attacking" (attacking an enemy without using skills) tends to be very ineffective with daggers unless their faster attack frequency is taken advantage of with "per hit" skills such as Conjure Lightning or Order of Pain.

Understanding combos[edit]

Unlike other professions, the assassin profession has skills which require the use of other skills prior to activation. An assassin combo consists of running through these skills in rapid sequence. In a normal skill chain, Lead attacks are used to activate Off-hand attacks which in turn are used to activate Dual attacks. A combo must be used on a single target -- you cannot start a combo with a Lead attack on one enemy and then follow up with an Off-hand attack on another.

This limitation curtails the power of the dual attacks, which would otherwise be overpowering. A Dual attack consists of two separate attacks performed in the time a single normal attack would take place, both receiving the damage bonuses and effects of the skill used -- combined, these attacks can hit for a hefty amount of damage.

The aim of a combo is to successfully hit a target with one or more dual attacks.

There are also certain skills that break the standard progression from lead attack to off-hand attack to dual attack. For example, the “black” prefixed off-hand attacks require the target be hexed. This essentially means hexing the target enemy is a lead attack for the black off-hand attacks. Another example would be Palm Strike as it is a touch skill which counts as an off-hand, and so allows an assassin to cut straight to executing a dual attack skill. Moebius Strike is an Off-hand that must follow a Dual attack, and Exhausting Assault is a Dual attack that must follow a Lead attack.

Designing a combo[edit]

  • Will the combo kill an enemy, or otherwise accomplish a goal?

While this is obvious, it is sometimes overlooked. For PvP, whether a combo can kill or not can be gauged by simply adding up the numbers. Also, combos that incorporate knock downs and deep wounds are popular and effective in PvP.

Some combos aren’t meant to kill with a single spike. Assassin combos can pressure, interrupt, and strip enchantments from a target as a goal. Even combos that are meant to kill with a single spike often incorporate knock-downs that can be used as an interrupt if the situation demands.

When designing a combo, the recharge times of the component skills need to be considered. A combo that can only be used once every 45 seconds isn’t terribly useful, regardless of its effect. However, a combo that can be executed often can be useful for pressuring enemies, but may lack the spiking power of a combo with a slower overall recharge.

  • Is there enough energy management in the build to pay for the combo?

The combos meant for solo spiking usually have high energy costs; on the order of 40 energy is typical. That would be a high price for even an elementalist to pay, and an impossible price for an assassin to pay without the use of energy management.

When designing a combo, an assassin player should look at the amount of energy he needs to spend and also ascertain how he is going to regain energy over the course of the combo. The answer is critical hits, zealous daggers, and/or the dagger attacks that return energy (such as Black Lotus Strike or Critical Strike).

  • How fragile is the combo? Is it easy for a target to escape?

Many assassin combos are easily thwarted, ruining the remainder of the combo. Choosing a good target at an opportune time can mitigate the fragility of an assassin combo. Beyond that, skills can be incorporated into a combo to make it less fragile.

Buffs to attack speed naturally increase the speed in which the combo is performed. This gives targets and their allies less time to react to the assassin’s combo.

Knock-downs can suspend an enemy from kiting and otherwise acting, and so are popular elements to assassin combos.

Snares, speed boosts, and shadow steps can counter kiting.

Certain assassin attacks and skills cannot be blocked. Also, the hex Expose Defenses is a cheap way to prevent a target from blocking an assassin's attack string.

Skills frequently used in combos[edit]

Obviously, the bulk of combos incorporate dagger attacks. There are many other non-attack skills often used as a part of assassin combos, often as substitutes for lead attacks. A few examples include:

Aura of Displacement Aura of Displacement is a shadow-step and an enchantment. As an enchantment, AoD can be the lead for Golden Phoenix Strike. Plus, AoD can be canceled by the assassin for a shadow step back to his previous position. This is especially useful in Alliance Battles, where you may need to kill a lone player quickly in the large area.

Horns of the Ox Horns of the Ox bears special mention because it is a dual attack that knocks a target down. So, after hitting with Horns of the Ox, an assassin can continue his combo with Falling Spider or Falling Lotus Strike.

Impale Impale can apply a cheap deep wound after a Dual Attack.

Moebius Strike Moebius Strike is special in that it is an off-hand that follows a dual attack, with a chance of recharging all dagger attacks. So Moebius Strike can be used to chain a single dual attack, such as Death Blossom for massive AoE damage.

Shadow Prison Shadow Prison was popular because it combines a snare, a shadow step and a hex to follow e.g. with Iron Palm or Black Mantis Thrust. As of recent changes, Shadow Prison is less widely used because of its long recharge almost rivaling that of Dark Prison.

Siphon Speed Siphon Speed is often combined with Black Mantis Thrust to lengthen the snare and then exploited with Jungle Strike and/or Trampling Ox.

Shock Shock was popular in the past. As a knock down it can lead to Falling Spider or Falling Lotus. However, because this skill causes Exhaustion, assassins that use shock indiscriminately can find themselves tapped out of energy.

Shove Shove is a touch ranged knock-down, leading to Falling Spider or Falling Lotus.

Flurry Flurry is useful because it is a solid IAS and assassin skills are not mitigated by its damage reducing effects.


Assassin skill names nomenclature[edit]

Many of the names of Assassin skills include keywords that can be used to help figure out the effect of the attack.

Asp / Spider / Viper These skills inflict poison on the target.
Black Black skills have some extra effect on targets that have been hexed, or can only be used on targets that have been hexed.
Falling Falling off-hand attacks can only be used on knocked down targets.
Fang Causes deep wound. 1
Fox Fox skills bypass blocking.
Golden Golden dagger attacks either require the user be enchanted, or have some extra effect on targets if the user is enchanted.
Lotus Lotus skills return energy.
Mantis Mantis skills cripple targets.
Ox Ox attacks knock targets down.
Wild Wild attacks remove stances.

1 The skill Fox Fangs does not cause deep wound.


Understanding the profession[edit]

PvE[edit]

While Assassins are commonly used in PvP, the use of a primary Assassin in PvE is somewhat limited. Due to their low armor and fragile dagger chains (mainly caused by Henchmen and Heroes converging on the Assassin's target, especially if it is the first of the battle), Assassins are not commonly seen in Missions or Quests. Many people, however, prefer to have a secondary Assassin profession because of the unique skills in Deadly Arts and Shadow Arts. Assassins also have a rather bad reputation among PvE play because when Guild Wars: Factions was first released, players new and inexperienced to the Assassin profession started using them as "tanks", which was a poor choice which resulted in frustration from many players. However, Assassins are arguably the best running profession in the game, used as either a primary or secondary profession by runners. Due to the overwhelming popularity of assassins as a farming or speed-clear profession, they are becoming more popular in regular PvE.

Fast-killing with Assassin's Promise[edit]

Many assassins use complete parties of henchmen, as these are easy to focus on one target. Then they hex the called target with Assassin's Promise and then quickly kill that target to get back energy. This allows for using combos with higher cost. You can also use a highly damaging combo to weaken your target substantially.

Farming with an Assassin[edit]

Farming as an assassin is usually done as A/E using Shadow Form to be nearly invincible. The general strategy is keeping Shadow Form up to its full recharge duration, finding a mob, and killing that mob with many point blank area of effect spells, preferably those that apply burning, as Shadow Form causes you to deal less damage with attacks and skills, but not with health degeneration. Frequently seen skills are:

Be aware that invincibility to enemy spells by Shadow Form is not always guaranteed. Some enemies have skills that can remove Shadow Form (like a Ferothrax using Rending Aura) or skills that are not spells (like the Signet of Judgment that an Azure Shadow uses) that go through Shadow Form unhindered.

Hard Mode considerations[edit]

As assassins are generally easy to defeat, it is important to be less fragile in hard mode. This problem can be solved either by adding defensive skills or staying out of melee range.

When playing the assassin in hard mode, it is mandatory to stay in range of healers and to bring either a fast escape through shadow stepping or decent defense skills. Critical Agility and Critical Defenses are nice decent defense skills, which may be easily maintained through the use of either malicious strike or critical strike.

In hard mode, assassins should consider bringing one other melee and a monk with protective spirit/ reversal of fortune or other damage reducing skills. At times, bringing a third monk or supportive healer i.e. a necromancer/ritualist or ritualist may be needed.

PvP[edit]

In GvG[edit]

Most Assassin builds in GvG involve splitting with Shadow Prison, Aura of Displacement Bars, or Seeping Wound skill bars.

In Random Arenas[edit]

Due to assassins having some specific properties, they will often have to choose other targets besides melee professions. An assassin's damage output mainly comes from bonus damage from skills. This combined with the fact that these skills have to hit successively to have their proper effect means that assassins are relatively more susceptible to blocking enemies, damage reduction, and shutdown (auto attacking will deal virtually no damage, and waiting for every individual attack to hit is a loss of time). Assassins, as mainly a melee spiking profession, should usually target the foe most susceptible to melee spikes, instead of pressuring the enemies with healing power or low armor; in other words, when targeting enemies, the presence of blocking and damage reduction skills should be considered before the foe's armor rating and damage output.

Assassins lack healing abilities and have low armor. That's why they depend strongly on a monk in arenas. There are currently a couple types of assassin builds that can be seen in arenas:

In HA[edit]

In Heroes' Ascent, assassins played a role as targets for Ancestors' Rage in a ritualist spike team. This is no longer possible, though, because now, Ancestors' Rage does not stack with itself if more than one person uses it on the same target.

They are also still used in the popular "Sinway" build, which utilized two lead Assassin spikers to quickly dispatch enemy healers and casters.

In Alliance Battles[edit]

Assassins, as a very mobile profession, can be quite useful in Alliance Battles. Their unique Speed Boosting skills and Shadow Steps are useful in the large-scale Alliance Battle maps, but as usual, when targeted by enemy mobs, they are easily killed.

When taking an Assassin in battle, consider the following skill combinations:

  • Aura of Displacement Aura of Displacement is extremely useful for ganking enemies. You can easily dispatch a lone player utilizing Golden Phoenix Strike as your skill for starting off a chain, quickly followed by (for example) a series of devastating knock-down attacks, and swiftly shadow step back to your team.
  • Shadow Walk Shadow Walk can be used as a non-elite, non-enchantment alternative to AoD. This way, you can still utilize effective dagger chains that use elites such as Moebius Strike + Death Blossom, and use a cancel stance like Dash or Dark Escape to return to your original location. This skill disables attack skills for one second, which can ruin the element of surprise that shadow steps provide, but the touch skill Palm Strike can be used to both ignore this disable time and instantly snare the target.
  • Dark Escape Dark Escape is a good speed boost and can be used to kite from enemies as well as quickly capture shrines. This skill is commonly used in favor of the non-attribute skill Dash, as Dark Escape also halves the damage you take. However, keep in mind that it will end if you attack, leaving you completely without its damage reduction.

Staying alive[edit]

Defenses and self-heals[edit]

Assassins have a variety of defensive and healing skills at their disposal. Most of these are found under the attribute Shadow Arts.

Defense through damage reduction[edit]

Blocking is a widely used method of reducing damage. For the assassin blocks can come from enchantments like Critical Defenses or stances like the elite Flashing Blades.

The main source of damage reduction for the assassin is mobility. A variety of skills can be used to avoid the sources of damage. For example by causing the crippled condition on melee attackers and then kiteing them, so they cannot land a hit. Speed boosts like Dash can also be used in that manner to avoid harm. Finally the assassin can use shadow stepping skills like Death's Retreat and Return to fall back into his allies ranks. Most of these mobility skills can be used in both offensive and defensive ways.

Healing[edit]

When avoiding the damage was not enough, healing is needed. The two main healing skills of the Assassin are Shadow Refuge and Feigned Neutrality. Each of them provides a significant amount of health regeneration. Shadow Refuge functions as a combat healing, since it also adds additional healing when it's user is attacking while it ends. On the contrary Feigned Neutrality is removed once the Assassin attacks or uses a skill. However, it adds an armor bonus of 80 while it lasts, making it a good skill to use for a charge and retreat tactic. For sustained healing while in combat, Way of Perfection can be used. Especially when a high number of critical hits are certain.

Playing in a party[edit]

One must remember that an assassin is not a warrior. Going into battle before your other teammates is never a good idea.

In PvE, allow the warrior or dervish to cause and maintain aggro. That way, the enemy AI will focus on someone other than you, allowing you to unleash your attacks on any pivotal or inconvenient opponents.

In PvP, assassins must be speculative with which targets to attack. It is also best to stay in the back until the time is right, rather than to stay in battle and, more than likely, be killed.

An assassin is a unique support profession, in which damage is the main, and only concern when contributing to a party. Remarkable mobility and survivability should not be overlooked, and courtesy to the healers of the group will be rewarded.

As for every other profession, an assassin must pay attention to the status of the group, and go with the ebb and flow of battle.

What to avoid[edit]

As assassins are weak in terms of armor, they can die very quickly if they do not keep an eye on their surroundings and health. Moving far beyond your group, especially moving far from your healer(s), can quickly result in death.

Try to keep an eye on your enemies' abilities as well. Due to the assassin's main damage being its skill chains, any ability that causes an enemy to block will likely disrupt your chain and lower your damage output greatly.

Do not hesitate to break your attack chain and escape from battle should things start going badly; you can always wait a few seconds and jump back into the fray when things aren't quite as dangerous.

Play styles[edit]

Most assassin styles fall under two categories; Martial and Caster.

Martial Assassins[edit]

A few common assassin martial builds are based on Weapon Mastery and/or Critical Strikes, with little or no spellcasting.

Dagger skill builds[edit]

  • Assassins are primarily designed to use their skill combos to deal deadly amounts of damage and conditions to a single target in a small window of time, thus making it difficult for the target to receive support from its allies. Making use of Shadow Arts skills to both move rapidly around the battlefield, and prevent or escape from dangerous situations, complements the large number of abilities in the Dagger Mastery, Critical Strikes, and Deadly Arts lines that are optimized for hit-and-run strikes.
  • Assassins often utilize Moebius Strike and Death Blossom to do consistent AoE damage. Being designed to stay in combat, these often utilize more defensive skills than other assassins.

Axe skill builds[edit]

  • Critical strikes from axes are extra strong due to the higher maximum damage from axes. In addition, using an axe allows an assassin to also carry a shield and be less fragile.
  • PvXwiki Example - PvE Critical Axe Assassin

Bow skill builds[edit]

  • The elite bow attack Barrage removes ranger preparations, as a limit to the damage it can deal. However, Barrage can benefit from an assassin's attack buffs, including Critical Eye, Critical Agility, and Way of the Master enchantments. In order to be effective, a barrager needs numerous targets packed tightly together. This situation rarely arises in PvP, but is frequent in PvE.

Scythe skill builds[edit]

  • Since critical hits' damage is based upon the max damage of a weapon, scythes can score the strongest criticals. By reaching high chances for critical hits, the scythe's downside, very low minimum damage, is negated. With the additional possibility of hitting up to three targets, this can create a large damage output. In specific, Way of the Master and high Critical Strikes are used to reach a critical hit chance of around 50%. A Zealous Scythe helps with energy management in addition to the Critical Strikes attribute.
  • Some assassins use a scythe to deal critical hits to multiple foes in front of them. Because the scythe has a large damage output, these critical hits can be deadly. They boost their critical hit rating with Way of the Master and Critical Eye so that they are nearly sure that their attacks will be a critical hit. They stay alive with Skills like Critical Defenses and Way of Perfection, while they boost their damage per second with Critical Agility.

Caster Assassins[edit]

A few common assassin caster builds are based on Deadly Arts and/or Shadow Arts, with little or no melee attacks.

Death Spike[edit]

  • Death Spike uses the skills Entangling Asp and Iron Palm whose recharges are reduced by Deadly Paradox to cause a 4 second lockdown that quickly renews while fueling the poison requirement of Signet of Toxic Shock. At max DA this combo can easily hit for 150 damage. Combined with Dancing Daggers and Augury of Death this is a potent combo but, it is also extremely draining as you will not be able to use Critical Strikes to refuel. Due to repeated nerfing of Deadly Paradox this combo has been greatly weakened.

Shadow Form[edit]

Snares and debuffs[edit]

Choice of secondary professions[edit]

  • RangerRanger
    • Ranger bows in PvE can be used for a critical barrager build. Assassins are well equipped to take advantage of Disrupting Accuracy as they have numerous ways to improve their critical hit rate. Antidote Signet is an easy way to get rid of conditions quickly.

Further reading[edit]


Guides for all Professions (edit)
Core: Warrior WarriorRanger RangerMonk MonkNecromancer NecromancerMesmer MesmerElementalist Elementalist
Factions: Assassin AssassinRitualist Ritualist        Nightfall: Paragon ParagonDervish Dervish