Note: this article is intended to provide guidance for experienced characters playing a new assassin or experienced assassins looking for additional options. If this is your first time playing Guild Wars, please see Getting started in Guild Wars Factions.
The Assassin profession is only available in the Guild Wars: Factions campaign. Guild Wars: Prophecies and Guild Wars: Nightfall users will not be able to use this profession unless they have linked a Factions key to their account. Factions owners may only create an Assassin by starting their character in the Factions campaign.
An Assassin's Place
The assassin is a hit-and-run expert. Capable of moving in, dealing a substantial amount of damage, then retreating to safety, assassins provide a means to deliver spike damage by those who utilize them correctly. Armed with fast hitting daggers, medium grade armor, and high energy regeneration, the assassin can hit quick and hard.
Note that some players in PvE find assassins as more of a liability than something useful, as they can easily die often if not properly utilizing their shadow disciplines correctly, as well as adding additional Death Penalty. This often places huge pressure on the party's healers, and high-end groups sometimes will not accept Assassins. However with a well made build and good tactics, an assassin can make groups work well if not faster than normal.
Being an Assassin
Primarily being a melee combatant, they have less armor than Warriors and fewer protection skills than Dervishes. This means that they have to be more wary of their surroundings and run when necessary. As you practice more, you will learn when you need to get out and when it is okay to stay in the fight.
Furthermore, playing the Assassin profession requires you to keep several things in mind:
Longer chains aren't always better
The Assassin's strength is in its high-damaging and condition-causing dagger chains. Be aware that the chain can be easily broken; an interrupted or blocked attack will often stop your spike altogether. Keep the chain short, as the longer it is, the more opportunities to break it. Try to fire off the entire chain as quickly as possible as delays (such as waiting for Energy) merely allow the target to put up defenses. See the Assassin attack chain quick reference
Know what and when to strike
The Assassin must know exactly what to attack, and when to do it. Target lower armor foes, such as supportive spellcasters, first. These are often vital to the enemy team and taking them out fast will deprive the enemy of healing, protection, damage or other support. Also, don't be afraid to wait for the perfect attack opportunity. For example, attacking a Priest of Sorrows after it has used Mark of Protection ensures the target can't use the enchantment on itself.
This is a good tactic to use in PvP battles as well. If an assassin uses auto-attacks on someone who is not the monk, the monk will most likely try to use protection skills on it. This is the perfect time to run up or shadow step to that monk and spike. If your build does not have a shadow step, try to attack targets that are closer to the monk.
Manage your energy effectively
Energy is tight for an Assassin, as a full attack chain will leave you dry. Bring energy management skills if you need to. Examples include the Lotus line of skills, Critical Eye, Critical Strike, or even a higher Critical Strikes attribute. Zealous Daggers are recommended equipment for most Assassin builds. Again, running out of energy mid-chain slows your spike, allowing your target to defend itself. For builds where energy management with zealous daggers are not needed, it is more effective to use a vampiric dagger tang.
Know when to run
An Assassin must know when to retreat. Most Assassin attacks aren't designed with reliable damage-per-second, so an Assassin with a recharging chain is an easy target. Effective Assassins should bring a couple of defensive skills to retreat to safety, then attack again at the right time. Consider using strong self-heals or retreat shadow steps for this purpose. This requires you to be more aware of your positioning than clases with more armor/protection skills. Keep in mind how far away you are from your monk by trying to stay within range of them of all times. If you catch yourself moving up too far, be sure you are not being attacked, and if you are be sure to run back to your monks, not away.
The Assassin is a profession that is extremely sensitive to sudden changes in the battlefield. An unexpected enemy maneuver might require you to delay your attack, retreat to safety or even abandon a chain entirely mid-spike. Stay aware of what skills the enemy is using, and be wary of foes attempting to take advantage of your chain's cooldown. It is extremely important to keep a keen sense of situational awareness, a skill that can be developed with practice.
Don't try to absorb damage
It's not a good idea to make a tanking build for the Assassin for general play, as most defensive skills are either Enchantments or Stances. These are very easily negated by foes, leaving you open to attack. There is only one assassin skill that gives you armor, and only one that reduces damage via dividing it in half. One requires that you are hitting and one requires that you are not. As you can see, assassins don't have much for protection. They do however have great DPS and powerful spikes, use this to your advantage instead of throwing it away for tanking purposes. On the other hand, one could use Shadow Form to prevent some damage, this would lend weight to tanking with an assassin.
- Critical Strikes: Increasing points into this will raise the inherent chance to land a Critical hit with a weapon attack. The increase is a mere 1% whereas the increase gained by increasing an associated weapon skill is closer to 1.4%, meaning that if your goal is to gain maximum potential for critical hits, it is better to raise your weapon skill before raising Critical Strikes. However, whenever an assassin lands a critical hit, they gain anywhere from 0-3 energy, based on the number of ranks in this attribute. Optimal values for Critical Strikes are 8 and 13 for 2 and 3 energy per critical respectively. See Critical hit for more information on critical hits improve damage.
- Dagger Mastery: Most of the dagger chain attacks are found here. The chance for a Double strike, where you strike an opponent twice regardless if the attacks actually hit, is also increased by raising this attribute. For every rank you put in this, you increase the chance of this happening by 2%. Melee Attack skills, including Lead Attacks and Off-Hand Attacks can not Double Strike, though Dual Attacks always Double Strike.
- Deadly Arts: This attribute primarily includes many non-dagger related offensive skills and debuffing hexes. Most skills in this attribute line are particularly useful for countering defenses raised by the enemy, such as kiting or blocking.
- Shadow Arts: This attribute contains more defensive and self-healing skills, but it also contains a few offensive skills. Many skills covered in Shadow Arts are designed to either increase your survivability, or to augment your ability to complete your chain.
Choosing a Secondary
- Main article: Secondary professions for an Assassin
Armor, Insignias & Runes
- Nightstalker's Insignias provide an armor boost while attacking.
- Infiltrator's Insignias provide increased armor versus physical damage and an additional boost against piercing damage (Inflicted by Bows, Spears or certain Daggers).
- Saboteur's Insignias provide increased armor versus physical damage and an additional boost against slashing damage (Inflicted by Swords, Scythes or certain Daggers).
- Vanguard's Insignias provide increased armor versus physical damage and an additional boost against blunt damage (Inflicted by Hammers and a single Sword.).
Additionally, non-profession-specific Insignias are of utility.
- Survivor Insignias grant extra Health, which is useful for improving your chances of survival.
- Radiant Insignias grant extra Energy, which is helpful for completing your attack chain.
It is helpful to have runes on your armor but usually its best to stay away from Superior and Major runes. These runes reduce your maximum Health, making you more fragile than you need to be.
The assassin's usual weapon is the daggers. Requiring both hands and having low base damage, their primary advantage is speed. With dual strikes and double strikes in addition to a fast attack speed, any buff that adds damage to each hit will find quite an improvement when paired with daggers. Vampiric and Zealous weapon mods can easily compensate for the pip of degeneration as long as the assassin keeps landing blows. However, requiring both hands, there is no room for a defensive shield or energy granting offhand item.
Many assassins will also choose a non-dagger weapon with a high variance in damage. The goal is to raise the chance of critical strikes, thereby using the highest damage the weapon can produce more frequently.
Some assassins take a weapon set using a spear and a shield for two reasons. It gives you that missing +30 health that daggers can't give you and +8 extra armor from the shield. It also allows you to active deep wounds should you not be able to activate them. This is commonly called a high armor set and is used when you are taking heavy damage. This can make healing you a lot easier. If someone was going to do 100 cold damage to you, normally you would take 84 damage. But if you take this set and use it before you take that damage, you instead take 73. You can go one step further by taking the +10 armor vs X types of damage. If you are in an area where cold damage is very common this can be a huge advantage, as now you have 88 armor instead of 70. This means that 100 damage turns into 61 damage. If you factor in that you also have the +30 health from the additional free hand, you have a net loss of 31 health, instead of 100. This also is good for out of battle energy regaining instead of using zealous weapons.
Plan of Attack
The attack chain
Effective Assassins always remember their sequence of attacks:
With only a few exceptions (such as Palm Strike, Black Spider Strike and Falling Spider), many attack skills will specify that they MUST follow one of these attacks. Many builds will seek to utilize these exceptions in order to better make use of skill slots and to use more dual attacks because dual attacks are always stronger. Remember that when a skill's conditions are met, its icon will light up. If a skill is used without its prerequisites, it will fail or miss, costing you valuable time and Energy.
Skills to use
Some skills that are useful for PvE play involve increasing the damage-per-second the Assassin can output. These skills tend to have low recharge times and low energy costs, as well as decent bonus damage or Condition-inducing ability. Examples include the Golden Phoenix Strike-Death Blossom-Moebius Strike combo for PvE play (typically while using Critical Agility). Critical Eye is the best skill to use when trying to spam combos. Golden Fang Strike is a good choice for an off-hand attack when spamming because of its short recharge and deep wound effect. This synergizes well with critical agility, allowing you to spam this even more.
However, the true power of the Assassin is in spiking, netting solo kills in seconds. Skills employed in a spiking build tend to have longer recharge times and higher energy costs, but the damage output easily make up for this. Due to the many ways of disrupting a spike, an Assassin must be ready to account for those tactics. Many skills employed by a spiking Assassins include (but are not limited to):
- Offensive shadow stepping
- Snares to slow down running targets
- IAS (Increased Attack Speed)
- A method of counteracting Blocking, if necessary
- Assorted skills or attacks that, optimally, inflict:
- Reliable self-heals when operating solo
- Methods of regaining energy quickly to complete a spike if necessary
Many effective Assassin builds tend to skip lead attacks, as they delay your ability to use powerful Dual Attacks. Incidentally, one of the spiking Assassin's most valuable assets is the element of surprise - the sooner you can get in, attack your target and get out, the better.
Tactics in PvE should change depending on how much you trust your team to keep you alive. If you are in a very reliable team with good monks, you can be a bit more adventurous. If you are in a PUG group then it is a good idea to play it safe. This doesn't mean that you should spike then run to the backline and wait for the fight to end. Instead, be wary if you are starting to take damage. Once you are, start to fall back towards your monks. The enemy AI will stop targeting you in a few seconds and you can begin attacking again. AI also tries to target foes with less armor, so if you have a shield and a spear set (High Armor Set) then it is a good idea to switch to that while running away so they target someone else with less armor. Note that this shouldn't take too much time. After a few seconds they should be on someone else.
If you plan to take a shadow step, make sure that it is during the battle, not at the start. If you start at the very edge of your aggro bubble from you monk, and you shadow step in, you are now a full aggro bubble from your monk. This leaves you very vulerable, and in many areas they will be able to kill you quickly.
Generally, you are going to want to attack the lower armor targets, as always. Depending on what enemies are in the area, you may want to specifically target certain enemies first. For instance, a Rain of Terror is a much bigger target than a Scythe of Chaos since the rain of terror has much bigger AoE. Also, knowing the skills of certain enemies can help you beat enemy groups faster. If you know that an enemy has Mark of Protection, try attacking another target. Once that monk casts Mark of Protection on that foe, switch onto the monk, as he is now completely open to be attacked.
In Player-versus-Player combat, the Assassin tends to place much more emphasis on spiking. Thus, the strategy here is to lurk around the battlefield and target relatively defenseless foes, such as an overextended Monk, enemy NPC's, support spellcasters and so on. Assassins should thus be capable of achieving solo kills in as little time as possible.
The shadow step is the Assassin's method of teleportation. This is one of the most important tools available, as it allows you to get next to a foe almost instantaneously and thus letting you use your deadly chain. In addition, it also allows you to retreat instantaneously, placing you immediately out of harm's way (for the moment). Additionally:
- Some skills, such as Aura of Displacement, offer both an offensive shadow step and a method of returning to safety.
- Others, such as Shadow of Haste, don't teleport you to an opponent, but can be canceled in emergency situations to whisk you away from danger.
- There are some shadow steps that are random, like Viper's Defense and Heart of Shadow.
- Finally, some skills like Augury of Death have no immediate effect but will shadow step you to your target at opportune times, allowing you to finish them off.
Choosing Your Build
As an Assassin you have fairly low armor, and not many healing skills, but very high attack power. You are also quite agile and swift. The best assassin can put all of these together to get in, kill the target, and escape before attracting too much attention.
For catching targets, shadow stepping skills (such as Death's Charge or Dark Prison) will allow you to jump right into range of your targets without much warning. And skills such as Siphon Speed and Shadowy Burden slow down targets, both allowing you to catch them faster and preventing foes from escaping before you land the final blow. Skills such as these are one of the Assassin's greatest assets, granting them the element of surprise, and/or debilitating their foes just before a kill.
Offensively, there are multiple ways your build can go; a short, powerful attack chain is what you'll generally use, but the Deadly Arts attribute line has plenty of other options as well. Just try to keep the above points in mind when picking a strategy; too long of an attack chain will leave you with limited skill slots for defense, and stands a better chance of being disrupted halfway through.
Defensively, Assassins have a few decent options. Self-healing skills, such as Shadow Refuge and Feigned Neutrality, are always good options, and if you've got room, you should try to bring one along.
Assassins have quite a few options for simply avoiding damage in the first place, as well; Flashing Blades is a useful Elite skill, granting the user a block chance while attacking. The down side is that this uses your elite slot on protection which could be easily done by monks or Critical Defenses. Critical Defenses is a similar skill, granting a shorter duration block chance, but with the distinct advantage of working no matter what. It also refreshes whenever you land a critical hit, allowing most Assassins to keep it up for as long as they've got something to hit.
Skills such as Dash and Dark Escape are also great for fleeing; Dark escape is great because it reduces all types of damage (Not life stealing however) and gives you the speed boost to get out, the down side being that you cannot attack with it. Dash works wonderfully for simply outrunning foes, and can be used offensively just as well to chase down targets.
All in all, you should try to think of what situations your build might run into as you build it. Maybe you're playing in PvP matches, and your job is to kill important targets without getting killed yourself. Focus on a quick entrance, short and simple attack plan, and a good way to remove yourself from harm's way when you finish your objective. Or maybe you need to kill lots of foes in a PvE setting; make sure your attacks recharge quickly enough to not shut you down between kills, and pack enough healing and defense for a prolonged battle.
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