Identifying Builds In PvP
In PvP it's very important to understand two things: what your team comp is and what builds are your opponents playing. New players are recommended to read through the PvP introduction guide.
The goal of this guide is to help players identify the builds of the other 9 players in a given PvP game as quickly as possible, ideally even before they enter combat. At the very least this should give you a rough idea of what to expect from each player based on their profession, elite spec and build choices, which sometimes also allows you to make adjustments to your build or reroll before the game starts.
Understanding your team is equally important but often overlooked. For instance if you're playing support but the team already has one then it'd be wise for one of you to change builds, but if the other person is not so communicative or none of you understand that the other is playing support then you're in for an awkward match.
Eles are on the weaker side when it comes to their core builds, most Elementalists you encounter are going to be on an elite spec. Seeing a core ele is already a sign that you're about to witness something unorthodox.
- Condition - click on them, check for signets. If they have and a couple of other signets then they are playing a condi bunker spec with good sustain but low to medium damage and poor mobility. Suitable for smaller fights such as 1v1s.
- Fresh Air - Scepter, no signets, not even for the healing slot. High mobility, decent CC, big burst damage but very squishy. Plays as a roamer, wants to +1 fights and finish targets in seconds. Ranged casters.
- Core Support - Staff set (and no signets). Inspect their weapons if they are on your team. Staff is the only core Ele weapon they carry on their back so that one is the easiest part to spot. Support Eles bring outstanding healing and AoE cleansing to the table but their support capabilities are rather limited outside Water attunement and they are quite easy to focus when not in Earth.
- Support - Tempest is the go-to support spec of Elementalists in PvP, at least 9 out of 10 are going to be playing support so even from the elite spec icon you can make an educated guess. These tend to be Dagger/Focus or Staff builds. They can share auras, boons, do lots of healing and offer AoE cleansing for the team. Depending on their build they could be weak to either power or condition damage. If they are in and you see a icon on the buff bar that means they run the Earth build which has lower cleansing but better defense against power damage.
- Other - non-support Tempest builds are rare but they do exist. Seeing any signets on their bar or a Scepter is a good indicator. These could be anything from sidenoders to teamfighters, their exact nature can be hard to determine as these are often homebrew builds.
- Condition duelist - Sword, on their buff bar. This is the most common Weaver build. Fire Weavers will be looking for 1v1s and other smaller skirmishes. Good sustain, medium damage, uses to burst.
- Fresh Air - Scepter/Focus, usually no signet in the heal slot as they play either or . Freshweaver has excellent ranged burst damage, very high combat mobility, good CC. Rather poor sustain, especially against conditions. buff's often active on their bar, easy to tell in combat. Roams the map, seeks to +1 fights.
- Lightning Rod - Dagger/Focus, this is a melee focused CC-machine centered around the trait . Much more likely to have a + combo than S/F Fresh Air. LR builds are easy to spot in combat as you'll see frequent lightning strikes whenever they CC someone, which also applies Weakness to the target. For them the best defense is a good offense, they don't have much sustain but their CC and Weakness spam keeps their enemies at bay. Stability is very useful to have against them.
Catalysts are known to be versatile duelists that can also pull their weight in teamfights. Unfortunately all of their builds run very similar healing, utility and elite skills, so identifying them without seeing their weapons or animations might be difficult. Their most common builds are:
- Fresh Air - in combat S/F FA Cata is easily identified from their frequent attunement swapping back to Air and the buff that comes with it. High damage and mobility, low-to-medium sustain and range.
- Condition Scepter - they too run Scepter but what sets them apart from FA's playstyle is how much they love spamming the Fire autoattack with Quickness. Attempt to counterpressure them if they're trying to do that and always keep an eye on your Burning stacks as it could quickly overwhelm you.
- Power Hammer - Hammer has a distinct look and unique animations including the elemental orbs floating around the caster. Expect a melee duelist with high damage and high sustain, but they're a bit weak against conditions.
- Power D/D - currently it's the only Cata spec that'd run Dagger. Similar to Hammer Cata but they have better mobility and condition cleansing.
The vast majority of Engineers in PvP are playing power-based specs focusing on burst damage with minimal sustain. They have plenty of unique buffs from traits and signets that could help us identify what we're up against.
- Power - check their buff bar for , this means they are running Explosives. Usually a sign of a squishy but high damage power build.
- Power - if they have Explosive Entrance expect a low sustain high damage build with and/or heavy point-blank AoE from gyros.
- Bunker - if the Explosive Entrance buff is missing there's a chance that they are playing a bunker build. Be careful in melee especially when contesting a point as they're still able to do high damage by overlapping various AoE skills such as and .
- Power - expect Holosmiths to run high damage, low sustain builds. Their bunker builds are dead and condi was always niche. They'll roam the map and attempt to +1 fights, but better ones could also take some 1v1s. They're generally weak to conditions, but the Tools variant fares better against them. You can spot a Tools holo from their frequent but short duration Vigor procs or charges.
- Condition - check their buffs for . These are midrange jack-of-all-trades, master of none specs. Can perform a variety of roles, their damage depends a lot on their Mech and the Superconducting Signet. Low sustain, high mobility, decent damage in medium range to close range. Avoid the green AoE ring around the Mech when it appears. Check out this build for more details.
- Power - once again, keep an eye out for . Low sustain, high mobility, moderate ranged damage. There aren't a lot of Rifle Mechanists in ranked these days however.
- Bunker - if none of the above mentioned signs are present, assume it's a bunker build. Low damage, medium sustain, sits on node and either stalls or tries to win over time. Destroying their Mech reduces their sustain and takes away their killpotential.
One word: signets. Most Mesmer builds run at least a signet or two, with some taking as many as 5. Which ones and when? That's what you need to learn to be able to tell their builds from a simple glance at their buff bar. While we can make some guesses even from a single signet, usually it's the combination of them that gives it away.
- Condition Duelist - + + is the cornerstone of many sidenode Mes builds, often with as the elite. On rare occasions there might even be a 5th one - when it's a bunker build with heavy focus on boons. The most popular core build here is the Inspiration Condi bunker build.
- Power Shatter - these run fewer signets or sometimes none at all. While they can make use of both and as utilities, most of the time they can't make room for both as + a mantra will take priority, leaving only 1 slot. If you see both of those signets together that's almost certainly a condi build.
If you get to inspect them or pay attention to a few animations the weapons could make it obvious, with power builds running Greatsword with Sword and condi taking Staff with Scepter.
- Condition Bunker - these run wells which means no signets (or 1 signet at most). Chronobunkers are very durable with low damage and a bit of group support.
- Power Shatter - look for and . Shatter Chronos are extremely dangerous but equally squishy, capable of ending fights in an instant if they go unchecked.
- Despite being one of the weaker elites in PvP, Mirage has outstanding build variety due to its design. We can use the same rules that'd apply to a core Mes - 4 or more signets equals bunker/1v1 spec, but telling which one's power and which one's condi just from their signets might be difficult.
- A lone usually signals a burst build with low sustain that's meant to roam the map and +1 fights, but Mirage has both condi and power burst builds.
- Condition Duelist - now this one gets a bit tricky. Virtuoso has inherent synergy with so most of their builds tend to pick up Inspiration and a bunch of signets. Both condi sidenoders and power burst builds could go for as many as 3-4 signets.
- Power - slightly more likely to opt for 1 utility signet instead of 2.
It's hard to determine a Necromancer's build out of combat but they have plenty of unique combat related buffs to help us identify them at any point during the fight.
- Signet spec - + combo makes this easy to identify. Despite running Spite these are relatively high sustain specs as far as Necro builds go with above average healing and Life Force management. Not very popular outside WvW but it's worth remembering. Usually they sacrifice some of their teamfight potential to become better at 1v1s.
- Blood Magic spec - in combat look for a icon among their buffs. These Necromancers use Blood Magic to boost their sustain and might even have which makes them better at reviving allies. Every attack they do also does a bit of extra armor ignoring damage.
- Death Magic spec - check for Carapace stacks, same icon as the trait. DM is another sustain oriented specialization, they gain extra defenses against every type of damage.
- Minion Master - this is the only build that'd play any minions other than . Even if they don't have any minions out when you spot them in a fight, they run both Blood and Death Magic which you can identify using the methods explained above. Despite 2 defensive lines MM Necros can do quite a lot of damage and perform any role from 1v1s to teamfighting. Killing their minions significantly lowers both their sustain and their damage but the minions explode when killed and leave behind an AoE field, so watch out for that if you're in melee!
- Regular Condition spec - no signets, no minion army. Still relatively tanky because of Blood Magic and shroud, this is a teamfight build with lots of condition damage and boon removal. Terrormancers use Fear chains to burst targets as their Fear deals damage every second, so Stability and stunbreaks are important to have.
- Power - currently the most popular build for Reaper, assume that this is what you're up against. High damage, low sustain teamfight build. They often use Blood Magic and have as their elite but sometimes trade Blood Magic for Spite which makes them easier to kill but also mora dangerous if left unchecked. If you see a icon on their buff bar after they enter/leave shroud then you're almost certainly dealing with one.
- Condition - condi Reaper is very similar to power Reaper in their role and characteristics. They use as their elite and focus heavily on Chill uptime and boon corruption. Some play entirely without defensive traitlines (like Procmancers), so no Blood or Death Magic. They can apply lots of cover conditions at once which makes the important ones quite hard to cleanse.High priority target.
- Condition Blood spec - on rare occasions you may encounter a Scourge, likely playing a Blood build. These are hybrids between support and damage dealer that shine in larger fights. Poor to medium sustain, same goes for damage, but they can share barriers with their team. Their real strength is their rez power as they are able to teleport downed enemies to their position and revive them extremely quickly. It'd be a good idea to focus them first in most fights, or at the very least get ready to switch to them when you down an enemy player and a Blood Scourge is present.
Harbinger has higher mobility than other Necromancer elite specs but depending on the build they can also be a lot squishier, as Harbinger shroud doesn't soak up incoming damage.
- Condition (Death Magic) - the more tanky version of Harbinger, easy to recognize from the Carapace stacks. They spend most of their time in teamfights but could also do fine in 1v1s and other smaller skirmishes from time to time.
- Condition (Soul Reaping) - no Blood Magic, no Death Magic, pure damage. Their Quickness autos in shroud can be quite dangerous if they get to freecast as these could apply up to 3 different conditions including Burning. High priority target.
- Power - very similar to SR condi Harb, treat it the same way. They tend to run Axe instead of Pistol and have the buff.
In sPvP Guardian is a profession of extremes. Either a great support that's hard to kill but has no damage, or a complete glasscannon with high burst. Sometimes their elite spec already tells the whole story.
- Support - only supports would run so that's all you need to look for if you need to decide if they are one. This is true across all Guardian specs.
- Power - no signet, 1 twohanded weapon (Hammer or Greatsword, never both on the same build). Low sustain, high burst. Watch out for on Hammer and on GS. They love bursting from a distance by teleporting in during these two skills using .
- Almost all of them run the Power Trapper build. Very squishy but plenty of active defenses, they even have Stealth access. DH is a major threat to other low sustain specs but doesn't fare too well against bunkers. Dangerous in both melee and ranged combat.
- Returning player from 2017, please be patient. Maybe send them a viable build too.
- They only have one competitive build, highly mobile melee spec with lots of damage.
Rangers are known for being good duelists and roamers who can threaten others with massive bursts often from stealth. Most of their elite specs are just slightly different takes on the same archetypes and playstyles.
- Power (with Marksmanship) - click on them and look for the buff, it's a passive that comes with Marksmanship. They tend to have low sustain but very powerful bursts, especially on single hit attacks like on Greatsword as Marksmanship is great at stacking up modifiers to make their next hit stronger. Core Rangers can be a bit more durable even with Marksmanship than the elite specs as they don't have to trade Wilderness Survival for it.
- Condition Duelist - it's easy to spot a condi Ranger from their pets, at least one of the two is likely going to be a bird ( Eagle or Raven). Condi rangers tend to be durable 1v1ers who might be capable of doing some rather strong burst combos. They often have access to stealth and lots of Immobilize which they use to set up kills.
Druids tend to be duelists rather than supports in PvP.
- Power GS/Staff - the Staff and Marksmanship buffs like and are good indicators of this build. They have lots of stealth access and Immobilize which they use to root you into Greatsword bursts. Duelist Druid is a good 1v1 spec but if you can get out of the Immob and dodge the Maul they're not very dangerous.
- Decap - no Marksmanship buffs, Longbow/Greatsword. Bit of a gimmick, Decap Druids aim to neutralize enemy capture points using knockback skills rather instead of trying to kill their opponent. They focus on CC and sustain and look for 1v1s.
- Power Longbow - while most of them don't run Marksmanship, it's because they don't have to. Soulbeasts have plenty of strong, built-in damage modifiers and even which they're able to benefit from due to their elite spec mechanic. Their bursts are scary but sustain mediocre even with Wilderness Survival. Check out Sic 'em sniper for more details.
- Condition Duelist - Hawk + Siamoth or a Wolf as pets. Axe, Shortbow for midrange damage and melee burst. A condi Soulbeast's sustain might not be the highest but their damage and mobility make up for that.
- Power Longbow - the usual Marksmanship burst build with Longbow and Greatsword but with a few twists. You need to look out for one of two things: unblockable attacks or teleports, but usually not both on the same build. If you spot a then it's unblockable attacks, if there's no signet then which they can use to jump on you with Greatsword.
- Power - check their buffs for , this is a sign of running a power-based burst build. Roamer playstyle. Good mobility, high damage, low sustain but plenty of active defensive CDs to survive focus and disengage. They have multiple teleport abilities so get ready to be jumped, try to abuse the terrain against them by utilizing no-port spots. is of couse another giveaway, but they're only in it half the time and there could be some hybrid build that runs it as well.
- Condition - if there's no Expose Defenses buff we can assume it's a condition Herald as that's the secnd most popular spec on Herald. could clear up any and all doubts regarding the spec too. Condi Heralds are mostly teamfighters with heavy AoE pressure and some CC.
- Support/Bunker - Ventari Heralds can be recognized from their and the floating tablet that comes with it. They either support teamfights or stall sidenodes as long as they can either in 1v1s or outnumbered situations. Their healing is some of the highest out there, but they can be vulnerable to CC and condition damage. They heal allies around their moving tablet. Mobility's low, and unblockable attacks render many of their strongest defensive CDs ineffective. They do no real damage but have some solid CC options.
- Power - currently power is the only viable Renegade build, but you probably WON'T see as they're playing a fairly tanky build that's capable of standing its ground from 1v1s to larger fights. Using shortbow they have better range than most other Revenant builds and can do burst damage with . Very well-rounded build, but they can be countered by condition bursts.
- Power (bunker) - the most popular Vindi build is a lot like Renegade, running a fairly defensive setup but still doing respectable damage. Their mobility is above average and they do much better against conditions than a Renegade. Can do anything from 1v1s to teamfights, they even bring AoE healing and cleansing to the table for supporting their team. In combat they also have the buff, which tells us that they play Salvation.
- Power (burst) - once again helps us spot the high damage, low sustain variant of power Rev builds. These Vindicators play only offensive specializations and lack the sustain to 1v1 like their more tanky counterparts, opting for more of a highly mobile assassin role. The complete lack of Unyielding Devotion should also be confirmation.
There's often no easy way of identifying a Thief build without seeing their weapons and animations in combat. Thieves are known for their exceptional mobility which lets them cross the map in no time to +1 fight or decap enemy nodes. They are typically low sustain, medium damage specs focusing on single target pressure.
- Condition - the most common core Thief build is Condition P/D. Medium range, medium damage, heavily reliant on projectiles. They don't have the sustain tools of D/P and S/D thieves so they have a hard time when counterpressured.
- Power D/P - if you're attacked from Stealth and frequently keep getting blinded in melee you're dealing with a Dagger/Pistol Thief. Those are the two main defensive mechanics of D/P, otherwise they are quite squishy. High mobility with frequent stealth access makes them the very good at mindgames and pulling off unpredictable rotations around the map. You'll have to learn their animations, there's no way around it.
- Power S/D - the Sword/Dagger spec utilizes shadowsteps and evasion to go toe-to-toe with others better than most other specs. Unlike D/P focus more on consistent pressure rather than burst damage. Easily spotted from their icon which frequently appears below their nameplate along with the lengthy animation and relatively slow autoattacks.
- Condition P/P - Pistol/Pistol is one of the few Thief builds that were made for duels. Easy to spot from which they use inside to combi stealth and follow up with . This is their bread and butter combo which they repeat over and over again, making them rather predictable.
- Power Rifle - probably the only type of Deadeye you'll ever encounter. Rifle Deadeyes rely heavily on range, stealth, shadowsteps and projectile attacks to do burst damage from a safe distance. Avoid open spaces when you're facing one and get ready to dodge if they stealth in the middle of the combat.
- Condition Scepter - a versatile build that can do anything from 1v1s to supporting their teammates. Does well in both melee and midrange. Somewhat reliant on projectiles but not entirely. You can already reliably guess the build from the elite spec icon but the icon on the buffbar could narrow it down.
- Power - if they have and they're playing an extremely high burst damage spec with 0 sustain. Top priority target if they are on the enemy team, try to peel for them if they're on yours.
- Condition - with no signets assume they are running a 1v1 condition build.
- Support - click on them and look for the buff. This means they are running Tactics, any other build would run Defense or Strength. Usually have a Warhorn offhand too. Expect lots of AoE healing, barriers, CC, some cleansing and an AoE rez. Healbreaker is the most common version of the build.
- Condition - look for a lone . Power would play Rampage, support would take Banner. Condi Spellbreakers are extremely tanky duelists with medium damage and low mobility.
- Power - if you see an empty buffbar, they are power. Most of the time they are dualists but Power Spellbreakers have outstanding build variety. Their 3 most common variants are GS/Dagger duelist, Hammer/Dagger duelist, and Hammer/GS teamfighter.
- Power - the only Bladesworn build in PvP right now is a power damage one with shouts. Can be fairly durable but they're very susceptible to CC chains and their kit offers a level of support for their team, both healing and cleansing. Medium damage with unblockable bursts that they have to charge up standing still.
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