Introduction to Raiding
Disclaimer: This guide is aimed at beginner-intermediate level raiders. The “rules” set out here will often have exceptions, but these exceptions will almost always apply to high-skill groups. In the interest of brevity, these have been omitted under the assumption that groups to which the exceptions would apply will already be aware of them.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Roles
- 3 Role Fundamentals
- 4 Group Requirements
- 5 Squad Composition
- 6 Group Layout
- 7 Simple Raid Builds
- 8 Raid Guides
This guide aims to be an introduction to raiding in Guild Wars 2. It will cover the various roles that classes will commonly fulfill within a raid, and how these roles were settled on. For new groups, there will be an explanation of how to set up a squad for an encounter and provide some good builds for new players. If there are unfamiliar terms, the glossary may be of assistance.
When tackling raid encounters, one of the key ingredients to a successful kill is having an effective team composition. Like many RPGs, Guild Wars 2 features distinct roles similar to the “Holy Trinity”. However, Guild Wars 2 differs slightly in that it features a soft trinity of Damage, Support and Control. These map onto the traditional roles of DPS, Healing, and Tanking, but with some additional functions.
Deals damage. Damage (or DPS) is ultimately the most important, and focused role within a raid and the majority of actions of Support and Control players will be aimed at enabling the DPS players to do their job. The design of attributes in Guild Wars 2 is such that damage roles will focus on either power or condition damage. The two types differentiate themselves as follows (with some exceptions):
- Power - bursts damage in a short duration and hence suits fights with short phases. A few bosses also have low toughness, which strongly benefits power builds.
- Condition - takes some time to ramp up their damage, but deals more long-term and so are suited to fights with longer phases. Some condition builds apply Confusion or Torment, which deal extra damage when the target activates skills or moves. Builds that inflict these conditions are able to deal damage very quickly on suitable bosses.
The best DPS classes will vary from encounter to encounter and group to group, so there is a lot of variety within this role.
Support comes in two main flavors - buff support and healing. These flavours are not mutually exclusive.
- Buff Support - provides boons and/or unique buffs to the squad.
- Healing - keeps the squad alive.
Support players are often tasked with handling mechanics in fights, as they typically have downtime in which they do not need to be healing or applying buffs.
As will be discussed in this guide, some supports are significantly more effective than other options, so many groups will run the same core group of supports on most encounters.
As a role, control usually manifests as the tank. It also refers to control effects (CC), and while this is rarely a dedicated role in itself it can inform the optimal builds fulfilling the other roles.
Tanking in raids is very binary - there will be a single requirement, and whichever player fulfills that requirement will be the tank. It is most common for the tank to be the player with the highest toughness stat, though other encounters have the tanking based on proximity, randomly assigned, use of specific Special Action Keys, or have no tank at all. It is extremely rare that control will be a role in itself, as will be explained below the functions of control are usually handled by Damage or Support players.
As such, the role of tank will usually be assigned to the most suitable class of those the squad has already taken to the encounter.
A kiter may be considered a sub-role of tank. Rather than control the boss’s aggro, they will typically be the target of a particular mechanic, though the exact requirements of the role vary greatly depending on the encounter.
This section covers two fundamental goals that define how the previously described roles are best covered. While the two goals may seem contradictory, both must be considered when defining builds or compositions.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks when moving from open world to raids is the need to unlearn much of what Guild Wars 2 teaches players while leveling: That classes are built to be self-sufficient, and able to perform all three roles at once.
Team-based game modes such as raids promote role specialization (particularly in DPS players), as focusing on one particular role will be much more effective than multiple players all trying to fill multiple roles.
Put clearly - a player on a damage role is there to deal damage. Sacrificing that damage to improve personal healing or survivability lowers the effectiveness of the entire group, as the lower the damage, the longer the boss will take to kill. The longer the boss is alive, the more mechanics will occur that have the chance to cause a wipe. With Guild Wars 2’s active defense there are practically no mechanics that cannot be avoided with skill, mitigated through encounter mechanics, or out-healed by healers.
Team members must be trusted to fulfill their roles, and not plan for failure by pre-emptively covering for others' mistakes. Adjusting a build to be less specialized should be a reaction to failure rather than in anticipation of it.
This is the reason why it is often recommended to run a “meta” build. These builds are optimized to perform their roles in the most effective ways possible. In cases where builds have options to fulfill other roles as well, this will have been chosen such that it has the minimum impact on their primary role, with the maximum gain of the supplementary role.
As previously stated, of the three roles damage is the most common to focus utterly on just one role.
Where damage is concerned, more is always better. With support, however, a build can provide more healing or boons than is necessary. Where this is the case, supports will often partially fill other roles, though their priority should always be the primary role.
A good approach to support builds (and team compositions in general) is: “As offensive as possible, as defensive as necessary”.
Tanking is almost always a “compressed” role. Many classes in Guild Wars 2 come with sufficient active defense to survive as tank (aided by healers) without the need to build for survivability at all, and so the tank role will be fulfilled by a damage or support (typically a support).
Aside from the specific requirements required for each encounter, there are a number of common effects that groups should seek to provide on (nearly) every encounter.
One of the key support aspects that every group should fulfill is providing certain essential boons. These boons are considered essential because of the huge damage increase each provides - if a class could provide just one of these boons to the group it would be worth taking instead of a DPS player even if it did literally nothing else. In practice though, most boon supports can provide multiple boons.
- Might - Might provides a massive damage boost to both power and condition damage builds.
- Quickness - Quickness speeds up (almost) all actions in the game, allowing players to get more skills into a smaller window of time. This is of huge benefit to all players.
- Alacrity - Lowers the cooldown of all skills. Similar to quickness, this allows more skills to be activated within a smaller window of time and is of huge benefit to all players.
- Fury - Increases the chance to critically hit by 20%. Almost every power build will require fury to reach 100% crit chance. In addition to the damage boost, many builds have on-crit effects that form part of their rotation and it is especially important to those builds. Even condition damage builds frequently have on-crit effects that make the boon very strong.
A note on boon strip
At the start of a raid encounter, support classes should begin providing their essential buffs as soon as possible. However, all boons will be removed from players shortly after the encounter begins (varies from encounter to encounter, but usually within three seconds). This means that players providing boons need to wait until after this boon strip occurs before they begin.
The above boons are essential for every damage class, and should always be provided. Some builds rely on additional boons, and these should be provided when you have such builds. Generally, some amount of these boons will be provided by the class in question, but the higher uptime the better.
- Swiftness - Swiftness provides a damage boost to both power Weaver and power Warrior (both core and elite specializations).
- Vigor - Vigor provides bonus condition damage to Mirage and increases the damage potential of both Daredevil and Mirage as their rotations involve frequent dodging.
- Retaliation - Power guardian builds (and elite specializations) gain multiple benefits from having retaliation.
A note on regeneration
If you are running with two (or more) healers, at least one of them is likely to be a Druid. Druids’ primary healing and buffing abilities are found in , which is charged through healing and damage. By far the most effective way to charge is by the druid applying Regeneration to allies. If players receive regeneration from multiple sources, the most powerful effect will be the “active” one and so other healers should avoid applying too much regeneration in case it overwrites the Druid’s.
In addition to boons, several classes provide unique buffs. There are many different types but three in particular bear highlighting:
- Permanent buffs - There are several buffs that are constantly applied in an AoE as long as the provider is in combat, such as . While not as powerful as other buffs, they will often be the deciding factor for determining which supports to take.
- Banners - Warriors can drop banners on the field that provide an attribute boost to 10 players. The buffs are not affected by the Warrior’s attributes, so they can run a full DPS build (aside from the utility slots for banners). For this reason, a squad is greatly benefited by having a Warrior on every encounter.
- Spirits - Rangers can bring powerful spirits as utility skills. As the vast majority of groups will require a healer, these are most easily taken by a Druid. The spirits are potent enough that it is worth running at least one Ranger build to take a spirit even if a Druid is not present.
While many classes benefit from particular conditions being on the target, the only truly essential condition is Vulnerability. Many builds (particularly power) provide enough Vulnerability to keep it capped on a boss, but in the event Vulnerability is not capped some adjustments will be required. By far the simplest solution is to have a Druid take .
An aspect of role assignment that is often underappreciated. Around half the raid encounters feature enemies or objects that will spawn near the group and can either cause serious damage to the squad or waste the squad’s time dealing with them. Depending on the encounter the simplest solution is to use skills that pull enemies into the boss where they will be quickly killed by the DPS, or skills that hit targets over a large area so that enemies or objects will be defeated without the need to take focus off the boss.
Numerous skills can fulfill this function, but two in particular are worth mentioning due to their potency:
- - A Chronomancer can take an offhand focus to access Temporal Curtain. The curtain itself can be placed at 900 range from the Chronomancer and activated a second time to pull up to five targets within 600 range to the center of the curtain. Unlike other options, the pull is not restricted by line of sight, can pull to remote locations, and affects a larger AoE than most alternatives.
- - A condition necromancer can take Epidemic as one of their utilities. This is a low-cooldown skill (when traited) that can hit up to 5 targets within 900 range of a primary target, copying conditions to them. With sufficient conditions on the main target, this is enough to kill the majority of additional enemies, thus offering an incredible amount of cleave without ever needing the necromancer to take focus off attacking the boss.
While the above options are strong in their own right, they can also be supplemented by additional skills. The following are worth mentioning as they are taken by support classes that many groups will already have in the group.
- - Firebrand will normally take an axe for DPS or to provide Fury. This skill is a moderate 600 range pull on three targets.
- - A Ranger (typically a Druid) can take an offhand axe to gain this skill, which will pull three targets towards the player. The skill has a range of 1200 but will only pull targets 450 units as the axe returns, and is somewhat slow-moving.
While the above two skills are not strong on their own, they can be very effective when combined with Temporal Curtain - either by using them to pull foes closer after Temporal Curtain groups them up or by pulling additional foes that may have been missed by Temporal Curtain.
- - If the squad has a Condi Berserker providing banners, then their longbow burst skill is Scorched Earth - a large 1,200 range AoE that deals a large amount of burning and can be used very frequently while is active. The AoE is divided into 5 separate sections, each of which has its own target cap, so the skill could theoretically hit up to 25 targets. The best use of this skill is for the Berserker to line themselves up so that the boss is between them and the target(s) to be cleaved. Not only will this allow for effective long-range cleave, but hitting multiple targets will provide higher stacks of , making this a DPS increase!
As mentioned when discussing Fury, power builds’ gear is optimized around reaching 100% crit chance. In order to do this, Fury, and are always assumed to be present. The first two are sufficiently powerful that they should always be taken, but many classes do not require so it is not essential to apply it to everyone.
All these factors will combine to define the structure of a squad. The vast majority of buffs can affect either five or 10 targets. Where an essential boon or buff is only five-target, there will need to be at least two sources to cover every player.
There are only two reliable sources of Quickness in the game - Chronomancers and Firebrands. Daredevil or Thief can also provide Quickness on raid encounters with the Detonate Plasma stolen skill (currently Matthias, Keep Construct (from the Projections), Mursaat Overseer, and Adina).
With the right build, Chronomancer can provide 10-target Quickness with , but this requires the entire group to remain closely stacked as the AoE is small.
More commonly, both Firebrand and Chronomancer will provide five-target Quickness within their subgroups.
Chronomancer brings the option for excellent pulls and is a very effective tank due to the high amount of active defense and the ability to provide boons at range, meaning that they can be further from the group. However, their wells provide boons after a few seconds delay, making them less reliable if players move a lot.
Firebrand’s Quickness is limited to a narrow cone and a small AoE around the Firebrand, making them less suited to tanking, and they do not have as strong a pull as a Chronomancer. However, they do more damage than Chronomancer and can provide a wider variety of boons (including Fury). They also apply Quickness frequently and instantaneously, making them more reliable.
Renegade brings several powerful benefits:
- With staff, it has access to the most powerful CC in the game, .
- It provides , which is a strong unique buff.
- It boosts both survivability and DPS with .
- It has the option to bring allowing for permanent Stability uptime or for more support and projectile defense.
Might and Fury
Per the rule of role compression, these builds will typically also perform healer (Druid and Tempest) or DPS (Deadeye) roles as well. As the majority of groups will require at least one healer, Druid and Tempest may be the most suitable and Druid is by far the most common for the following reasons:
- It provides and , which are two potent buffs unique to Ranger. It can also provide a if the group’s Vulnerability output is lacking.
- It provides to its subgroup.
- It can heal and provide Might while off the stack. This enables a Druid to handle other mechanics away from the group without losing much effectiveness.
- It can provide a good amount of CC through pets.
- It has the option to bring an offhand axe for additional pulls.
Depending on the boss, a squad may desire multiple healers. While groups should always be aiming to have as few healers as possible, as many as necessary should be taken. It is most efficient to have a Druid as one of those healers, but Druid’s sustained healing is comparatively weak so it may be beneficial to something else as an additional healer.
Special mention must go to Scourge - while it has low healing and provides practically no buffs, it has the strongest access to barrier in the game. Barrier effectively prevents the targets from taking damage and can even allow the group to survive some attacks that would otherwise instantly down players. Scourge also has access to , which will teleport downed players to your location and begin reviving them. This enables Scourge to save a group from situations that would otherwise be a wipe.
A note on reviving
It is important to note that reviving players from downed state is everyone’s responsibility - letting a player die because a DPS player won’t break their rotation will result in much lower DPS overall.
There are a few exceptions:
- If reviving the player would get other players killed.
- The tank should not revive as they will turn the boss towards the rest of the group, making matters worse.
- Healers are well suited to reviving as healing % modifiers affect the speed of reviving. However, in cases where there is only one healer, the loss of healing on the remaining players can easily lead to more people being downed. With multiple healers, this is less risky, but you should still avoid having all healers reviving.
Of course, everyone should still revive as a last resort if no-one else will.
Warrior and Ranger provide incredibly powerful buffs at minimal cost so these compositions will assume the presence of a druid and a banner warrior.
A note on buff priority
Generally speaking, buffs apply on the following priority: Subgroup -> Proximity. This means that a five-target buff will be applied to members of the subgroup within range, and if this is fewer than five, it will then be applied to the closest player regardless of subgroup. Similarly, if there are more than five targets within the subgroup in range, it will apply to the five closest players to the source of the buff.
This behavior can be useful when applying buffs that would otherwise over-cap (be provided to the same target more times than is necessary for permanent uptime). This is particularly notable with regards to permanent application buffs such as and . These buffs have a nine-second duration but are applied every three seconds, which means they can easily be maintained on more than five targets. Hence six or more targets in the same subgroup can have the buff permanently applied to them due to the natural changes in positioning within the subgroup. Other buffs (such as Quickness and Fury) may not be so evenly distributed however, so in practice it may be safer to limit a subgroup to six players, or seven in cases where there will often be one member away from the group (such as Slothasor).
The priority of buff application also applies to boons, but healing and condition cleansing is slightly different: a healing skill will not target a player that is at full health, nor will a condition cleanse target a player with no conditions (there are some exceptions, typically when the skill also provides a buff), and will instead apply to the highest priority target that can be healed. This means healing will “overflow” to other subgroups, though the healer’s subgroup will still receive more.
A note on stacking
There is no ability in Guild Wars 2 to target a specific character for buffs or heals, and they are instead applied in an AoE according to the priorities described above. This means that groups will “stack” near one another to ensure that supports can hit as many players as possible.
In general, melee weapons deal more damage than ranged options and so the result is that the stack will want to be in melee range where possible. Therefore, in the vast majority of encounters the tank will face the boss in one direction while everyone else stacks directly behind it. This also ensures that players take less damage, as attacks aimed at the tank usually cleave.
Because of this, the benefits of ranged weapons are somewhat minimized and even classes that are capable of dealing all their damage at range are still encouraged to be in melee.
Looking at the most common options above, a squad of 10 players will usually be divided into two subgroups and each should have a source of quickness. A Renegade can provide alacrity to 10 targets, so only one will usually be needed. This gives three options for sorting out Quickness and Alacrity:
Subgroup 1 Chronomancer (providing Alacrity and Quickness) Druid DPS 2 Chronomancer (providing Alacrity and Quickness) Banner Warrior DPS/Healer Subgroup 1 Chronomancer (providing Quickness only) Druid Banner Warrior 2 Firebrand Renegade DPS/Healer Subgroup 1 Firebrand/Chronomancer (providing Quickness only) Druid Banner Warrior 2 Firebrand/Chronomancer (providing Quickness only) Renegade DPS/Healer
These compositions only cover the first three slots in each subgroup to allow for layouts other than five-five, and remaining slots will typically be filled with DPS or encounter-specific roles. The use of a druid has been assumed, though all the most common options for providing Might are 10-target so they can be placed anywhere. However, while Firebrand can maintain permanent Fury in its subgroup, Chronomancer cannot.
In double-Chronomancer setups, they should take a to provide 10-target Fury. In a mixed comp, the Druid should be placed in the Chronomancer’s subgroup and can provide Fury with (and only take if extra Vulnerability or CC is needed). In a double-Firebrand comp, the Druid does not have to provide Fury.
Similarly, as a Warrior’s banners hit 10 targets, it does not matter which subgroup they are placed in. However, as the Warrior should typically be doing less damage than the DPS players, it may be recommended to place them in the Druid’s subgroup if a Renegade with is being taken.
If there are additional healers, these should be spread such that there is at least one in each subgroup.
All that remains is placing the DPS players. Three classes, in particular, are of note:
Weavers and Power Berserkers (DPS or banner) - Both of these classes get a significant damage buff from Swiftness and require . As the Druid is also the most reliable source of Swiftness thanks to , these classes should be placed in a Druid’s subgroup if there is no other reliable source.
Next, Dragonhunters require high Retaliation uptime, which is best provided by other Dragonhunters. Hence Dragonhunters should usually be placed together or split evenly between the two subgroups if there are too many. As Dragonhunters don’t require but benefit greatly from , it will often be best to place them in the support Renegade’s subgroup if there is one.
Remaining DPS should be placed depending on whether they require to crit-cap or not.
When deciding which composition to run, consider the following:
- In addition to the benefits already mentioned, Chronomancers can extend the duration of boons with . This effectively provides ~15-20% uptime on any boon to all 10 players (only 5 if the Chronomancer is not running the Inspiration traitline), provided there is a primary source.
- Having at least one Firebrand means that Fury can be covered in both subgroups without the need for . This allows the Druid to take both offensive spirits in addition to to provide Protection.
- Firebrand and Renegade can be run as strong healers if extra support is needed.
- Having a renegade means that Chronomancers do not need to provide Alacrity, and can run an additional utility instead of .
These factors make the Chronomancer-Firebrand-Renegade composition the most well-rounded.
Simple Raid Builds
For a selection of recommended builds for beginners, check out our Simple Raid Builds guide
Hopefully this guide has provided an understanding of the considerations that go into forming a raid team. Both this and the guides below aim to be written in such a way as to be relevant irrespective of the current balance. They provide details on the roles that are required for each encounter and together with this guide should be enough to build compositions for each encounter that work for your group.