With the Engineer finishing off the Adventurers, it’s time to start into the Scholars! Perhaps the quintessential example, this article is about the first profession revealed for GW2, the Elementalist. Like the Engineer, the Elementalist has a very limited weapon selection but also has a mechanic to greatly expand their first 5 skills. Also like the Engi, the Ele can only have one weapon set equipped at a time. Their weapons are:
- Main Hand: Scepter, Dagger
- Off Hand: Dagger, Focus
- Two-Handed: Staff
Without the unique mechanic I can’t really discuss the weapon choices at all, so this time it’s getting talked about first. The Elementalist has 4 Attunements that it can use and switch between very rapidly. Mapped to F1-4, each Attunement has some instant effect upon switching to it, a passive effect and changes the first 5 weapon skills on the bar. The Attunements are: Air, Fire, Water and Earth.
When switching to Air the Ele sends out electric shocks at nearby foes. The skills are all associated with wind and lightning. When casting spells, nearby foes will be shocked by the aura associated with this Attunement. Air seems to be focused on several forms of CC in blind, daze, stun and knock-back.
Switching to Fire hits nearby enemies with fire damage. Fire skills tend to be all about damage and AoE for the most part- it’s sort of the core DPS Attunement. The aura for Fire deals damage to melee enemies that attack the Ele.
The Water Attunement is somewhat multi-faceted. Switching to it will heal nearby allies a bit, and the aura both heals allies and chills (slows) enemies in the area. The focus of Water seems to be in some area damage + heal combinations and various slowing effects. A strong Control and Support leaning can be found here.
Earth Attunement is the least documented and has not been shown publicly yet. It reportedly gives damage reduction to the Elementalist while active. Few skills have been revealed, but if GW1 is any indication, the Earth Attunement may end up being focused on self damage reduction, PBAoE spells and area defensive spells (Wards in GW1).
Attunements are both simple and complex at heart. Simply put, changing your Attunement changes your battlefield role fairly dramatically in predictable ways: switch to Air for CC, Fire for DPS, Water for Support and Control, and Earth for survivability and Support. In some ways, it makes the Ele very versatile because it can cover almost any role at any time. On the other hand, with their massive breadth comes a penalty in depth. Where other classes can choose their ranges to operate at most effectively and fine-tune their skills with up to 4 weapons/off-hands at a time, the Elementalist gets only the choice once and it determines all 20 of their skills. The weapons serve mostly as range indicators, where the staff is the longest range with the longest cooldowns, daggers interestingly are middle ranged weapons, and scepters/focuses are short ranged with fast activations and lower recharges. Where a Warrior might take a weapon set for mobility and enemy snares (sword + shield) and then supplement that set with a longbow for when they need to be more out of the heat and use long range, an Elementalist will be stuck with whatever range they need, whether or not all of their skills are optimal.
The weapons and their skills
Air Attunement: As previously mentioned, the Air skills tend to focus on conditions. Chain Lightning, like its GW1 counterpart is a multi-target damage-only attack that arcs between targets. Lightning Surge is a charge-up skill and when fully charged both damages and blinds the target; otherwise it simply does damage. The cooldown at this stage appears to be fairly low (at 10 seconds). Gust serves as a knock-back with a 20 second cooldown. Lightning Storm is a fairly standard long range nuke and Static Field lays down an AoE that dazes enemies and draws a circular pattern which if crossed dazes the enemies again. Overall the Staff is a very strong control focused weapon with some strong conditions attached to it.
Fire Attunement: Damage is the name of the game for Fire. Fireball is an AoE nuke, Ring of Fire is an AoE nuke with burning as a rider, Lava Font is a repeat-damage AoE for a duration. Dragon’s Tooth is the only single target damage spell here, and Meteor Shower is once again another AoE nuke, this time with a knockdown attached just like in GW1. The overall recharge times on the Fire Attuned staff are a bit longer than the Air staff, ranging from 20-45 seconds as opposed to the 10-30 seconds of Air.
Water Attunement: The closest thing we’ve seen to a consistent heal thus far lies in Water Blast, the spam-skill for Water. It damages enemies and heals allies within a small radius of the enemy. This should be great for all those melee characters. Ice Shards and Ice Spike both seem to just be damage spells, but Frozen Ground applies the chilled condition as a snare. Rounding out the skills is Healing Rain. I’m not sure if it does damage, but the main use is that it heals allies in the area with the regeneration boon as well as removes conditions. It’s on a pretty long cooldown though (45 seconds).
Air Attunement: In the on hand set the dagger provides Lightning Whip as the spam skill, Lightning Touch and Shocking Aura as the next two. Lightning Touch deals damage and applies vulnerability to the enemy while Shocking Aura damages and stuns nearby enemies on a 20 second cooldown. Given the strength of stun, that’s pretty significant. The off hand skills provide a little bit more situational support. Ride the Lightning teleports you to the target on a bolt of lightning and Swirling Aura grants a short protective barrier that blocks ranged attacks and shocks the attacker.
Fire Attunement: Aside from Dragon’s Claw (spam skill), on hand daggers grant Drake’s Breath for a cone of damage that can be used on the move and Burning Speed which has the Ele leap forward and leave a burning trail behind. This can serve both as a distance closer and an escape, but it is worth noting that it has a somewhat long cooldown of 30 seconds. The off-hand skills are Energy Shield and Flame Touch, the former giving a temporary 50% damage reduction (with a deserved 90 second cooldown) and the latter simply burning the foe. I’m not very enthralled by the Fire daggers personally, but that’s the curse of this profession.
Water Attunement: Daggers in the Water Attunement have decently short cooldowns and have a lot in common with their staff counterparts. Healing wave can be spammed to damage close enemies and heal yourself and your allies, Cone of Cold works just like Drake’s Breath, and Armor of Frost gives damage reduction and freezes nearby enemies. Frozen Burst can immobilize and Geyser is an area heal, but unlike the staff, these off hand skills have fairly short cooldowns (25 and 20 seconds respectively). Depending on the healing difference between Geyser and Healing Rain, the dagger might be a bit better on the support end than the staff.
Air Attunement: At the moment the only scepter skill we know of for Air is Lightning Strike, an attack which stuns and blinds the foe, all for the low low cooldown of 15 seconds! That’s a pretty good start for the item if you ask me.
Fire Attunement: Flame Burst seems to be the spam skill and it inflicts burning. Given that conditions can stack, that seems to be pretty decent damage-wise. Flamestrike is flat-out fire damage on an 8 second cooldown. Phoenix on the other hand has a pretty neat effect: it sends out a flaming phoenix to attack foes in a line, then it returns to the caster’s current position damaging foes along that line, and then heals the caster. Very position dependent, but potentially pretty strong.
Water Attunement: Vapor Blade gives the Ele a line based effect for its spam skill which can be handy. Shatterstone is a short cooldown (4 seconds) attack that drops an exploding ice spike onto an enemy. Water Trident, a signature skill of GW1 sends out a line of water that knocks back the target of the attack with a moderate cooldown of 20 seconds.
Air Attunement: Currently unknown.
Fire Attunement: Both of the focus skills for the Fire Attunement provide walls of fire. Flamewall creates a wall perpendicular to the Elementalist that burns enemies crossing through it. Of note is the fact that enemies can be force through it, projectiles can be shot through it to add fire damage, and some professions have spinning-style attacks that make it shoot flames such as Cyclone Axe for the Warrior or Whirling Defense for the Ranger. The other skill is Burning Retreat which is functionally the same as Burning Speed, but in reverse.
Water Attunement: Both of the Water skills cause the chilled condition on enemies, and both have fairly long recharges (30 and 45 seconds). Overall it seems kind of underwhelming, but we’ll have to wait and see.
I don’t actually have many concerns for the Elementalist. The unique mechanic is interesting, functional, and provides a lot of breadth for a single class. It fills a lot of concepts all at once. My only worry would be that many people simply like playing “The Nuker” and will only play with Fire, or others might try and force Water for a dedicated healer which we know is not the intent of the design. Alas, hopefully people will understand the idea. Personally speaking I don’t really like the idea of having only one weapon set because at least 1/4 of the skills I don’t really like for any given weapon given all of the Attunements. That said, it does provide a way to have a lot of skills always ready seeing as most of the skills have 20 seconds or less cooldown and you can switch Attunements to have access to fresh skills and recharges.
Why this profession is for you
The quintessential spell slinger, the complicated mage, the AoE master; all of these fit the bill of the Elementalist. If you are able to keep 25 skills in your head and keep track of your cooldowns, there is a lot of potential in this class. That, or if you like to yell “Lightning Bolt! Lightning Bolt! Lightning Bolt!”