In case you’re joining me for the first time (welcome!) you can find my first two articles in this series here and here. Today I’ll discuss how minion mastery has changed between Guild Wars and GW2 as well as Bone Minions, the explosive front-line creeps of the necromancer’s undead host.
Before I dive in, I want to talk about something I found interesting with respect to the game’s lore. If you wanna skip straight to gameplay notes, hit the next paragraph. When casting my summoning skills my character would shout an incantation (hey that’s the name of this blog!) or command to invoke the necromancer’s dark powers. A typical example is the name of this post, but one I found much more interesting was “Grenth, I call upon your power!” I was playing as a human blessed by Grenth at birth so this made perfect sense for my character to say. However, Grenth is merely a human god. The Charr want nothing to do with gods of any kind, especially those worshiped by humans; the Asura and Norn have their own belief systems; and Sylvari society is not even out of its infancy let alone has it had time to ponder the origins of magic and divinity in detail. Point being, I would be surprised if any non-human necromancers spoke this line and if the other races don’t have their own lore-specific callouts to match. If I’m correct it really speaks to ArenaNet’s attention to detail and ability to stay true to its rich lore from design to implementation. If you’ve played a non-human necromancer and can confirm any of this, please let me know!
Anyway, onto the juicy stuff. In GW2, the biggest departure that the minion skills take is that you are never reliant on corpses in order to summon minions. When you summon a minion, it simply emerges from a portal of dark energy. If you’re hearing something in the distance, it’s probably the sound of GW1 necromancers rejoicing. This change means you can summon any minions your build depends on before heading into combat, rather than having to kill enemies just to “get started.” This was not a big deal in Guild Wars PvE, where corpses were plentiful, but in PvP corpses were scarce and minions were seldom used after Minion Factory team builds were nerfed out of existence. I am sure this change is primarily meant to encourage the use of minions in PvP (I hear minions were very effective there,) but no longer being restricted by corpses clearly helps PvE necromancers as well.
There are two other notable changes. The first is a welcome one–with the exception of Jagged Horrors, undead minions do not lose health over time! Gone are the days of having to continuously spam a minion-healing skill only to have your minions die before the next battle anyway. The second is more of a new restriction–there is no skill which lets you continuously summon more minions. Each minion-summoning skill is part of a sequence and becomes unavailable while the summoned minion(s) are alive. Not only does this render minion factories impossible, but large hordes of minions will be uncommon as each summon takes up a healing, utility, or elite skill slot which might be put to better use on a different skill type. According to the wiki one can control up to 8 Jagged Horrors at a time, but since it is possible to summon five of them at a time(!!!) I do not imagine they are very durable.
Bone Minions, costing just one skill point, are the first summon you’ll probably unlock. Casting the skill will summon two Minions which look like an amalgamation of a juvenile Skritt and a vampire skull. The fact I’m able to speculate as to what the Bone Minion’s origins are should not detract from the fact they are creepy little bastards.
Bone Minions do have a basic melee attack if you leave them in battle unattended, but they can be put to much better use. Once summoned the Minions’ skill sequence changes to Putrid Explosion which causes one of your minions to explode, killing it and dealing significant damage. Putrid Explosion casts instantly and has a mere 1-second cooldown so you can explode both Minions in rapid succession for lethal spike damage. Applying Vulnerability, increasing your Power attribute, and increasing your criticals are the best ways to boost this damage. When both Minions are dead, you can summon new ones after a 20 second cooldown.
Quick general note about the chained Minion skills like Putrid Explosion. When I say they “cast instantly” I mean that they have do not interrupt your character’s actions in any way–you can be moving, dodging, or casting/channeling a different skill when you activate it. In the case of Putrid Explosion this allows you to set up some devastating one-two punches for massive damage, like my personal favorite from Part II, Feast of Corruption.
The biggest disadvantage Bone Minions have is that they are very squishy. If they start getting attacked at all, you can be sure they’ll be dead in seconds. One power attack from a big dumb monster like an Ettin is instant death. In Part II, I mentioned that Deathly Swarm causes mass blindness which makes it a great skill to cast as your Minions get into prime positions to explode. If you’re using a melee-range weapon, it will instead behoove you to hold off on summoning until you’ve closed the gap so your little bombers spawn in damage range.
One annoying tactical note is that there’s no way to indicate which minion you would like Putrid Explosion to blow up. It detonates the minion standing closer to you without regard for whether an enemy is actually in the blast radius. This can lead to you wasting one or both explosions if the second minion is under attack. It’s best to let the further-away minion die so you can get a sure hit once foes close in on the other one. I would like to see this behavior changed–even some kind of visual queue as to which minion will explode would be a good start.
My ability to blather on and on has amazed me yet again–I was also going to talk about Bone Fiends, Shadow Fiends, Flesh Wurms, healing skills, and underwater combat, but that’s simply too much for one post at this level of detail. I’ll be getting those last topics posted this week before the next BWE–you will know everything I do about necromancers by Friday, even if it kills me. Heh. Necromancers. Kills me.