Out of all of the weapon combinations and play styles I tried, there was nothing quite as satisfying as loading a foe with up to a dozen condition stacks and unleashing a skill which does tons of damage plus bonus damage for each condition that foe has. Afflicted with a deadly cocktail of bleeding, poison, vulnerability, and weakness on top of being crippled or chilled, my foes were all but helpless as I sent them to Grenth. The tactics I’m describing are made possible by the necromancer’s scepter, and it was my favorite weapon in the beta by far. Read on for my thoughts on the weapons I did not cover last time.
The scepter’s main attack is a 3-skill chain which applies two stacks of bleeding and one short stack of poison in a complete cycle. After a few seconds you can easily maintain six stacks of bleeding on your target, but the poison will expire before you cycle through the chain again. If the target’s health is dwindling, this may very well be enough to unleash Feast of Corruption, the aforementioned big hit and this post’s namesake. Each condition stack on your target adds 8% bonus damage on top of the conditions’ own effects–if you or a teammate have a way to apply lots of vulnerability to a target this skill will simply obliterate their health. You also fill up 2% of your life force bar per condition. The skill’s animation is the necromancer’s signature ethereal vampire teeth chomping down on the target, complete with a satisfying bone-crunching sound that befits the damage dealt.
The third scepter skill (second in skillbar order) deserves its own paragraph: Grasping Dead. This is almost certainly the necromancer’s most visible skill effect–if someone you’re playing with has no idea what you’re doing, they’ll get a clue when sets of skeletal arms reach out of the ground and cripple a group of enemies. The arms reach out wide and pull the targets into the ground. The original skill video shows many arms appearing in a line, which looked very cool, but the version of the skill in the beta was a ground-targeted circle, with one set of arms appearing per target. Amusingly, the size of the arms scales to the size of your targets. Small and normal-sized enemies will be hit by human-sized arms, but large enemies like Oakhearts will be attacked by arms that must have belonged to a 50-foot giant. As fun as this is to see I think the animation should be changed because it makes the power the necro commands look too incredible. It makes me think, “why don’t I just raise a few skeletal giants out of the ground and conquer Orr by myself?” Multiple pairs of smaller arms appearing to hit a big enemy would provide the same visual cue and still be awesome but without breaking suspension of disbelief.
I’ve already discussed the necro’s warhorn in Part I, so I won’t recap except to say that it does not pair well with the scepter. Both its skills require you to be close to your foe, and the conditions they cause do not last longer than a couple of seconds. Instead, we turn to the off-hand dagger and focus to complement the scepter. The dagger grants you a more potent version of a classic skill from GW1–Deathly Swarm–which releases a swarm of green insects which flies from foe to foe, causing blindness. This is a great way to blind a large group of enemies, in particular big dumb enemies like Ettins who will waste their wind-up power attacks while blind. While your foes are distracted by blindness use the other skill, Enfeebling Blood, to cause weakness and bleeding in a ground-targeted area. While these skills are good at reducing your foes’ effectiveness en masse, they don’t really fit into the condition-stacking death engine of the scepter because blindness expires as soon as the foe attacks and Enfeebling Blood has a long cast time. Mass blindness and weakness was certainly useful to defend my minions from harm (more on that next time,) so I can appreciate the support/control benefits of the off-hand dagger but it is certainly not a DPS item. I never tried axe/dagger or dagger/dagger but I imagine the former would work well.
Let’s move onto the focus–it’s in the screencap above for a reason. Its first skill is Reaper’s Touch and it conjures a shadowy ethereal scythe which bounces between friends and foes alike. Allies are granted a short burst of swiftness (about 1 second, kind of useless honestly) but foes are hit with a lengthy stack of vulnerablility–now we’re talking! If you’re lucky, your scythe will bounce back to a target a second time and you’ll get two stacks of vulnerability. Just stack some bleeding with the scepter’s skill chain and use Feast of Corruption as the vulnerability is about to run out for a nigh-guaranteed kill. If anyone’s getting close to you, use Spinal Shivers to chill them for 5 seconds in addition to removing 3 of their boons. Between Grasping Dead and Spinal Shivers it’s possible to restrict a target’s mobility almost indefinitely as you stay out of range stacking bleeds and poison.
The last weapon I haven’t covered is the staff. It’s a very different flavor than all of the necromancer’s other weapons as it is host to the profession’s only combo finisher weapon skills, four ground-targeted spells, and a range of 1200. It is bad advice to stand still in GW2, but with a staff you may find yourself doing exactly that–standing in the back line, casting from a distance. When you activate a staff skill you reach out with one hand as a scythe blade appears at the end of your staff–a great grim reaper motif. The auto attack sends out a shadowy hand projectile–the necro’s only projectile combo finisher–dealing decent damage.
Shadows claws are good and all, but the fun thing here is casting marks, the necromancer’s unique skill type. The skills are all ground-targeted AoEs, but lie dormant and only activate when stepped on by a foe. Their effects are varied, but there is a clear focus on support and control rather than damage: Chilblains chills foes (duh) and creates a poison combo field; Mark of Blood bleeds foes and grants regeneration to allies; Putrid Mark is a blast combo finisher and transfers conditions from allies to foes; and Reaper’s Mark causes Fear on affected foes. It’s worth noting that even though some of these marks have positive effects on allies, they must be triggered by an enemy, so plot your targets accordingly.
If you’re reading this and you’re still awake, I salute you! I’ll wrap up this series next week with a discussion of the necromancer’s underwater combat, minion skills, and healing skills.