The minion master relies on target saturation by leveraging an army of undead minions created by exploiting the corpses of fallen fighters. The minion master does little direct damage to enemies and instead, concentrates on raising and maintaining minions, who in turn damage, distract, or overwhelm foes.
The basis of every minion master build are the minion skills and minion caring or buffing skills, which define what types of minions the minion master will be able to control. Most builds contain the elite Aura of the Lich, Animate Flesh Golem or Jagged Bones, together with one or two non-elite minion skills, to ensure a constant supply of undead servants.
Minions die faster than normal players, because:
- They have natural health degeneration, which gets worse as time progresses.
- They are almost always used as cannon fodder or meat shields.
- They do not scatter from area of effect skills.
- Holy damage inflicted upon them is doubled.
Since exploitable corpses are not always present in abundance, minion masters ensure a steady stream of healthy minions with one of two approaches: healing minions or non-corpse minion replenishment, such as Jagged Bones. Minions are healed through Death Magic spells (e.g. Verata's Sacrifice or Blood of the Master) or by utilizing secondary Healing Prayers spells (e.g. Healing Ring, which takes advantage of minions clumping around their master outside of combat). Their numbers may also be replenished using the elites Jagged Bones or Aura of the Lich, which effectively respawns minions that die.
If using skill combinations such as Jagged Bones, Explosive Growth, and/or Death Nova, it can be more effective to cause damage by allowing the minions to die, allowing you to trigger these skills repeatedly on foes, generating more corpses and repeating the cycle.
The role of the minion master can be compared to that of a steam roller: taking time to get going, but once momentum is gained, very difficult to stop. Most minion masters only become useful once a few corpses have been generated. Minion Masters using skills such as Aura of the Lich and Jagged Bones require fewer corpses to be effective, as they are able to spawn minions constantly.
Since minions suffer from increasing health degeneration over time, traditional minion masters are also somewhat rush builds; they are more useful in killing enemy after enemy and less in letting enemies pass by via clever maneuvering. Additionally, they are a bit of an all-or-nothing build. Minion masters usually are very safe characters, having a wall of minions in front of them and powerful self-heal spells on their skill bars. However if the Necromancer himself dies, the minion master's minions will also become hostile towards the remaining party members.
Minion mastering is predominantly found in PvE. Apart from some very few missions, minion masters can be helpful additions to a party in any PvE area with exploitable corpses. When not playing against humans, minion masters thrive off the weaknesses of the AI, which often attacks the minion meat shields instead of bypassing them and does not concentrate on the minion master. As minion masters are limited by corpse availability, the faster your team can kill, the more minion masters it can support. Minion masters are often helpful when multiple locations need to be simultaneously defended (e.g. Dzagonur Bastion). In PvE, minion masters can benefit from killing charmable animals for additional corpses. Minion masters especially excel in areas filled with large numbers of weak foes, while they have a harder time in areas with small numbers of strong foes. They also excel in defending against onslaughts of enemy waves.
Minion masters rarely make it into the fast-paced PvP arenas. They sometimes can be found in specialized pressure builds in Heroes' Ascent or GvG. The only area of PvP where minion masters are very common are the large scale Alliance Battles and Competitive Missions, where corpses are more plentiful than in other forms of PvP. A PvP minion master's skills will vary slightly from a PvE minion master's skills in that they must concentrate more on survival since other players are often intelligent enough to eliminate the minion master so as to make his minions hostile to both teams.
Choosing your skills
Generally, you need only one or two minion animation skills (since their recharge time is short). Your choice depends on your goal:
- Maximizing firepower: Order of Undeath combines well with Animate Bone Fiend and/or Animate Vampiric Horror. The fiends last longer (since they attack at range) and the horrors lifestealing helps offset the health loss due to the elite skill.
- Bar compression: in corpse-rich environments, Aura of the Lich is the only skill you need to provide a large army. Add Masochism to increase the army size/power.
- Few corpses: Animate Flesh Golem works well in environments with relatively few corpses. For an army, you will need to combine with at least one other summoning skill. Aura of the Lich works as an alternative, since it can be used to build up a small group of 3-4 minions anywhere.
- Longevity: In areas with long gaps between fights, you want your minions to last longer. Combine Blood of the Master with one or two animation skills. Or combine Jagged Bones with Animate Shambling Horror (which create new minions from expired ones). Heroes are better off with the second alternative since they tend to overuse Blood of the Master (especially with multiple minion masters), resulting in their death. "Fall Back!" is a viable alternative.
- Minion bombers: These builds rely on rapidly dying minions to cause large amounts of AoE damage — quantity is more important than quality, so bombers can get away with a lower Death Magic rank. Key bombing skills include Death Nova, Putrid Bile, and Dwayna's Sorrow.
- Aura of the Lich produces multiple minions but recharges slowly so must be supplemented by other animation skills.
- Animate Bone Minions produces two weak minions from each corpse.
- Ritualists make good bombers since they don't need a high Death Magic rank. Their builds use Explosive Growth (damage), Boon of Creation (energy), and Spirit's Gift (party support).
Since the basis of the minion master build only requires 4-5 skills to work, minion masters have plenty of room on their skill bar. Usually this is used to bring either some direct damage to help the team gain the first corpses or some healing skills (like a hard res) that make use of a secondary profession. Another opportunity is to use minion based damage mitigation like Dark Bond.
The single largest disadvantage of the minion master is its dependence on corpses. Deaths provide the corpses needed to raise minions and the energy to cast those spells at the same time (via Soul Reaping). The minion master needs a good group to kill the first enemies for him, and he needs a constant flow of new corpses afterwards. Some enemies in PvE do not leave exploitable corpses (for example, Titans), a serious problem for minion masters. The minion master also has problems in missions that do not involve large numbers of enemies or have long periods without enemies.
Minions are undead which will take double damage from holy damage, found mostly in Smiting Prayers and Mysticism. There are also some specific skills that deal with minions, such as the Mesmer's Spiritual Pain, the Monk's Banish, the Paragon's Holy Spear, the Dervish's Banishing Strike and the Ritualist's Elite Consume Soul.
In terms of AI, minions are the dumbest unit a player can control, much less controllable than henchmen or pets. Usually, the minion master can only hope that the minions will overwhelm the enemies with their sheer numbers; getting minions to attack priority foes first is very hard.
Lastly, the death of a minion master is always a risk to the whole party since the minions are set loose and will attack everything in sight.
- Increasing Death Magic has an exponential increase in the power of the master's army (more minions at a higher level, living longer, and doing more damage).
- The maximum number of minions per master depends on their rank in this attribute.
- Necromancers can maintain 11 minions by combining Masochism and a Superior Rune of Death Magic to reach a rank of 18.
- Since Ritualists are limited to rank 12, they can usually manage 8 minions (or 9 if they use Masochism).
- When a character creates more minions than they can manage, the lowest health minions will die to balance the number.
- A drop in rank will not kill any excess minions (e.g. due to Weakness), until the character creates more (which is when the game checks to see if the limit has been exceeded).
- The maximum number of minions per master depends on their rank in this attribute.
- Dying minions trigger the energy bonus from Soul Reaping, which helps energy management for all nearby Necromancers (including foes).
- Heroes make good minion masters and are a clear option when a party must have a hero and wants an MM. They exploit corpses quickly and handle the micromanagement. However, a dedicated self heal on the left of the bar counters the Hero's tendancy to run his health low using Blood of the Master. The owner may need to force the Hero to cast Masochism and Aura of the Lich after the battle.
- A player is noticeably more effective than a hero for builds requiring minion targeting (e.g. Jagged Bones or Death Nova) once they are adept using the Minion panel.
- Other party members can take skills that help maintain the minion army, e.g. "Fall Back!" passively heals minions, especially between fights.
- Hero Monk's AI gives low priority to direct healing minions, but they will waste their energy healing individual minions and thus tend to not have max energy when the next battle starts.
- Historically popular names for this type of caster have included: Necromaster, Minionspammer, Minionfactory and Minionmancer, none of which could be applied to Ritualists.
- The minion master is often considered the Guild Wars equivalent of zerging.
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