PvP Combat Basics

PvP Combat Basics


A guide to GW2's most important PvP mechanics and tactics to help new players improve their gameplay and understand Conquest better.

Combat Reset

Out of combat (OOC) health regenaration in GW2 is extremely fast. If you're leaving a fight and you aren't scared of getting jumped on low HP then simply wait for OOC regen to kick in instead of blowing your healing skill.

You could even incorporate this into your game plan. Sometimes on low HP it's best to reset the fight by disengaging. If you put enough distance between yourself and your enemies and manage to drop combat soon you'll be back at max HP in a matter of seconds. Then you could head back into the fight at full strength.

Bleeding Out

Time is one of the most valuable resources in Conquest, so wasting the time of the enemy team could contribute to your victory.

The concept of bleeding out opponents is simple: don't finish off the downed opponent after you win a fight, instead let them die slowly. By delaying their respawn you make things easier for your team as they don't have to prepare for the defeated enemy joining the next fight before you could get there.

It's not always the best idea however, so you need to factor in a couple of things:

  • Where's the downed opponent? If they died on the capture point and you don't have a CC that works on downed like Stomp then you have no choice but to finish them if you want to cap.
  • Is the fight still ongoing? If you were in a teamfight and they have allies around then don't take risks, finish them off as soon as you can.
  • Are their allies nearby? Even if it was a 1v1, if they are near their spawn their allies could soon come for them to pick them up.
  • How much damage or Stability Stability do you have? If your cleave is strong or you have access to Stability then you could take bigger risks because even with allies nearby you might be able to deny rez attempts if you have to.
  • Are they a Ranger Ranger? Rangers could use their pet to selfrez with Lick Wounds after spending a few seconds in downed state. This goes back to the previous point, if you have enough pressure or means to safe-stomp you might be able to stop this, but on many low damage builds you might not want to take risks with Rangers and just finish them off.

Tip: don't grief yourself as a Warrior Warrior. While getting back into the fight with Vengeance might seem like a good idea at first, do keep in mind that this skill prevents capture point contribution! In a 1v1 your opponent could simply cap the point and leave, in which case you're just delaying your own respawn for no reason as you won't be able to cap. Of course there are exceptions where Vengeance could be useful, like getting up to stomp a downed enemy in a teamfight and sometimes taking a risk in a duel to get a kill on a low HP enemy who got greedy trying to bleed you out could work, you should think twice before using this skill.


Most builds have some blast finishers, even those that don't have any combo fields. When there are players on your team with access to Smoke Fields you should be prepared to contribute to Stealth Stealth stacking before teamfights.

Here are some common blast finishers for each profession, just to mention a few:

  • Elementalist Elementalist: Frozen Burst on mainhand Dagger, Earthquake on offhand Dagger, Phoenix on Scepter, Magnetic Wave on Focus, Ice Spike on Staff.
  • Engineer Engineer: Magnetic Inversion on Shield, Holographic Shockwave on Holosmith's Photon Forge.
  • Guardian Guardian: Holy Strike on Staff, Shield of Wrath on Focus, Glacial Blow on Hammer.
  • Mesmer Mesmer: The Prestige on Torch.
  • Necromancer Necromancer: Necromancer isn't known for its combo potential and its tools are extremely limited. Most builds don't have any combo finishers that are suitable for out of combat blasting with the exception of Minion Masters and their Putrid Explosion.
  • Ranger Ranger: Call of the Wild on Warhorn, Rending Vines on Untamed (unleashed pet skill).
  • Thief Thief: Cluster Bomb on Shortbow. Thieves are especially good at providing and blasting fields with weapon skills as they aren't restricted by cooldowns and most of them run Shortbow.
  • Warrior Warrior: both skills on Warhorn, Arcing Arrow on Longbow.

Only medium armor professions have access to Smoke Fields: Engineer, Ranger and Thief.

Crowd Control

There are no diminishing returns on crowd control (CC) effects in GW2 and new CC always overwrites old CC, so in that regard combat is fairly straightforward.

What this means in practice is that if a target is standing in a 4 second Stun Stun a 0.25 second Daze Daze will essentially break the stun for them, so be careful not to accidentally help your enemies when you're using CC skills.

There are 2 groups of CC skills, hard-CC and soft-CC. The soft-CC effects tend to be conditions like Chill Chill or Cripple Cripple that don't result in loss of control over your character and thus they DON'T overwrite hard-CC. Soft-CC effects stack with each other.

However SOME conditions are hard-CC effects, these are Fear Fear and Taunt Taunt. These do not stack with one another or other hard-CC effects ike Stun Stun.

Move, Move, Move

Movement is at the heart of GW2 combat, especially in PvP.

Always be on the move, sitting ducks don't live long even in 1v1s. There's always something you could do to improve your positioning, get a better angle, avoid damage, or force your opponent into reacting to your movements.

It's important on a team level too. Understanding how to rotate around the map, not wasting time, and knowing where to go next - these are the things that decide most Conquest games. In some cases good rotations are even more important than being better in combat than the enemy team, and sometimes arriving 5 seconds too late to a teamfight is all you need to lose a game.

If you're winning a teamfight don't linger too long - if you're confident that your team can mop up the rest then start moving to the next fight before the respawning or disengaging enemies can get one step ahead of you.

Same goes the other way around - if you're losing a teamfight don't hesitate to leave. You don't need to stay until it becomes a 4v1 only to get stomped. A 4v3 with a bunch of low HP allies is probably already a lost cause, start moving to the next objective and try to mitigate your loss by being one step ahead of the enemy.

Check the minimap often, factor in enemy respawn times, try to guess where they'll go next.

Use The Terrain

This ties into movement. GW2 is a 3D space, you'd be surprised how much damage you can avoid in a game just by using the terrain to your adventage.

For example find no-port spots where classes like Thieves can't reach you that easily. Every map has some, the easiest way to locate them is to look for places only reachable by jumping. This breaks teleport skills, giving you a sense of safety. We're not telling you to play "the floor is lava" the entire game, but if you're aware of your surroundings you can climb to safety if things go wrong.

Don't Die

Yes, it sounds obvious, but one of the biggest mistakes beginners make is prioritizing fighting on capture points instead of surviving.

The important part is fighting over control of capture points, not literally on capture points until your last breath. At least not always.

Let's say you're fighting on a node and you're about to die. Unless the score is 499 and you can win by simply not letting go, you're usually better off giving up the cap and resustaining before heading back in to continue the fight. You can't contest a cap if you're dead, and those few extra seconds of contesting a cap while downed aren't worth a 15 second respawn timer + the time you have to spend running back.

Or if you feel like you can't win, just leave. That's also better than dying and giving 5 extra points to the enemy while they get to rotate and outnumber your team on the map.

In teamfights there's also no reason for more than 1 person to contest a node by standing on it. Don't expose yourself to unnecessary cleave damage if you don't have to.

Condition Cleansing

This is where new players blunder the most. Condition management adds an extra layer of complexity to GW2's combat because it's not as simple as "I got heat, I will heal" - sometimes you get hit for 5 different conditions and it'll do a total of 1k damage to you, other times you'll get hit by several stacks of just one condition but it ends up doing 10k damage in 3 seconds.

The most important thing is to not panic. Too often new players waste mass cleanses like Contemplation of Purity on harmless conditions and then die 2 seconds later to the real burst. It's true that you need to make decision quickly, but take a moment to assess the situation especially if your HP isn't critically low. If you can't decide in one glance whether these conditions on you are a real danger or not, wait 1 tick and see how much damage you actually took.

Try to build a priority list in your mind. Let's say you're a warrior with Mending (mass cleanse), "Shake It Off!" (mass cleanse AND stunbreak) and Brawler's Recovery with a Sigil of Cleansing. With only a couple of damaging conditions you don't need to use your mass cleanses so don't touch them unless you have to. A simple wapon swap here could rid you of 2 conditions, do that first and see if you still need to do something else. Shake it Off is instant so it could be better if you are very low, but if that's the only stunbreak available to you then Mending should come first.

It gets easier once you get to know other builds and learn what the dangerous skills are, conditions are no exception to that. Take Skull Grinder with Cull the Weak for example - looks extremely intimidating because it can apply a huge variety of conditions, but if you look closely the Blind Blind, Cripple Cripple and Weakness Weakness don't actually do anything to your HP and the Confusion Confusion has a short enough duration that you can just stow your weapon, stop casting, wait out the Confusion along with the non-damaging conditions, then use a smaller cleanse to deal with whatever's still on you.

  • Here if you use smaller cleanses like The Prestige too soon you could actually end up doing more damage to yourself by proccing the Confusion Confusion (if you fail to cleanse it).

Make no mistake, Skull Grinder is a big threat (especially if you were already pressured) and it's best to avoid getting hit by it, but if you assess the situation and react correctly then you can mitigate its damage even without CDs and it doesn't always warrant a mass cleanse by itself. Of course if you were already pressured and had several stacks of Bleeding Bleeding and Burning Burning when Skull Grinder landed then it's a no-brainer, use your mass cleanse without hesitation. It's all situational.

So in short: don't panic, be mindful of your cooldowns.

Safe Stomping

Stomping someone takes quite some time during which you're stationary. Depending on the profession of your enemy there are different methods you could use to avoid interruption: Stability Stability, Blind Blind, anti-projectile skills, double teleports, invulnerabilities, bodyblocking and Stealth Stealth all have their niches.

To learn more about how to use your tools to stomp enemies or avoid getting stomped, check our Guide to mastering downed state in PvP.

Cleave vs Stomp

You don't have to stomp an enemy to finish them off, that's just one of the options. Killing them the old fashioned way by doing damage also works (this is often referred to as downed cleave). Picking the right course of action depends on many things:

  • If the enemy is getting revived manually by his team they might get him up before you finish the stomp animation. In this case spamming AoE damage on them and cleaving multiple enemies tends to be the smart thing to do, and you could even cause a team wipe if they overcommit.
  • If you're playing a low damage build like a support but have access to tools such as Stability Stability or Aegis Aegis then you don't really have much of a choices, you're going to have to stomp because for you it's faster, and you have the tools to pull it off.
  • If you see an enemy coming at you and you don't have the damage to get the cleave or the tools to prevent getting interrupted then a double teleport stomp might be the way to go. You can read more about that in the downed state guide linked above.

These are just a few examples. As a beginner you're unlikely to always make the right call, that'll come from experience. What's important is to not hesitate: split seconds can make or break a stomp attempt. Try to think ahead whenever you see a low HP enemy or ally and do your best to make a decision before you even get to approach a downed player. At the same time it's not good to overcommit either - the faster you realize that your approach might not be working, the quicker you get to adapt and come up with a solution.

About Face

This is yet another keybind that could optimize your gameplay. What it does is turn your character around by 180 degree in an instant, which is quite useful for changing directions or baiting enemies by making your movements sudden and unpredictable.

Some ranged specs like Grenade Kit Engineers love using this stay at the enge of max range. Throw a grenade, about face to build distance, turn back again to prevent going out of range, throw next grenade. Repeat.

It's also popular for mobility skills like Phase Retreat. When used without a target, you could about face PR about face again to teleport "forward".


You don't always want your skills to lock onto a target in GW2, especially when it comes to mobility skills. If you want something to take you in any direction other than your target simply click off to a neutral part of your screen (any part of the terrain that isn't interactable) before using a mobility skill like Burning Speed or Leap of Faith. Having the wrong settings however could quickly ruin things for you.

Go to Options General Options Combat Options.

Disable "Autotargeting". This is option is notorious for selecting a new enemy even if you had no target, which prevents you from using mobility skills for things like disengaging. You don't want to be in a sitution where you detarget, use a mobility skill at 5% HP to run away, but Autotargeting reselects the enemy and takes you right to them instead of away from them.

Now that you know how to properly detarget, let's talk about retargeting. This is a bit more niche but still very useful.

Still under Combat Options check the box for "Allow Skill Retargeting". This enables you to do things like switching targets in the middle of the cast so that the skill can go off on someone other than the initial target or even hiding windup animations.

Some examples of retargeting:

  • Engineer's Magnet has a visual effect that connects you to the target, which gives enemies a chance to avoid the pull before the skill goes off. You could confuse enemies by casting it on the wrong target, make them dodge and then switch to the real target at the last moment. Or throw in some detargeting to the mix by using the skill without a target so that nobody sees it coming and then target an enemy in the last moment to pull them in, giving them very little chance to avoid the CC.
  • You're using Rapid Fire but the target goes behind a pillar to block your line of sight. Instead of wasting half the skill shooting arrows into a structure simply select a new target (assuming there is one) to get the most damage out of Rapid Fire (and other channeled abilities in general).
  • Mesmer Mesmer Phantasms can't be summoned on Invulnerable targets! In most cases if a Guardian for instance uses Renewed Focus then you should stow your weapon to cancel the skill to preserve the CD - this however isn't possible on Shield because Deja Vu is a channeled block. Not only would the skill go on full CD, you'd also cancel the block. This is where retargeting comes into play: simply select a different target when blocking and the Phantasm will be summoned on that target instead of going to waste.

Call Target is bound to Ctrl + T and Take Target is T by default. These are important communication tools, allowing teams to focus targets more efficiently even if they're not in voice chat.

  • Builds with teleport skills that require a target could get the most out of this feature. For example on Battle of Kyhlo a Guardian Guardian could press T to take a target inside the building (which they otherwise couldn't select due to the lack of proper line of sight) and jump them with Judge's Intervention + Whirling Wrath from outside. This not only results in them getting to the fight faster but also makes their burst more unexpected for enemies.

Fake Cast/Cancel Cast

Go to Options Keybinds and set up a bind for "Stow Weapon". There's no "cancel cast" option in GW2 so this is the next best thing, players use weapon stowing to interrupt skill animations for various reasons.

The most common reason is to save a CD by interrupting their own skill in case it would miss. That way the skill doesn't go on full CD and they can try again in a few seconds. You don't want an important elite skill like "Chilled to the Bone!" to miss because of a Blind Blind.

The other reason could be more strategic: fake cast. In this scenario the player's looking to exploit how telegraphed an elite like "Chilled to the Bone!" is by cancelling the cast right at the start with no intention of completing the channeling. The goal here is to bait enemies into wasting their dodges and defensive CDs without spending any resources of your own.

Not every skill can be interrupted without reprecussions. If there are any benefits attached to channeling the skill, for example the block on Shelter, then the skill will go on full CD when interrupted!

Not every action can be interrupted by weapon stowing, for example Engineer Engineer kits aren't considered to be weapons and thus the keybind won't do anything. Stowing usually doesn't work on mobility skills either, here you're going to have to swap weapons. There are reasons to do this especially out of combat (where weapon swapping has no CD) because oftentimes mobility skills such as Leap of Faith and Swoop deliver an attack at the end of the animation. This attack would bring your character to a halt so removing the final part with weapon swapping is optimal.


For the last part of the guide we've gathered some random facts that might not be obvious when you start GW2.

Teleports count as "crossing". If you Blink out of a Test of Faith it's the same as crossing it and you'll be damaged. If you want to use a teleport skill but don't want to be damaged, you can Blink while dodging.

Stealth Stealth doesn't break channeled abilities. Stealthing while being targeted by Rapid Fire means that you'll still be taking all the damage from the rest of the skill unless you avoid it through other means like blocking or dodging.

Revealed Revealed (the effect which prevents players from using stealth) lasts 1 second longer in sPvP than it does in WvW.

Weapon swap sigils can proc on every action that changes the left side of your skill bar, from picking up a conjured weapon to swapping attunements as an Elementalist Elementalist.

Invulnerabilities like Distortion don't protect you from taking fall damage.

You can't use skills mid-air, at least not 99%+ of them. Some instant-cast chain skills are an exception to this rule like Spectral Walk's Spectral Recall, but this seems to be almost random, as Thief's Shadowstep is a very similar skill yet Shadow Return doesn't work mid-air.

Unblockable attacks go through anti-projectile skills too like Swirling Winds and Feedback, not just blocking ones.


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