Note: this article is intended to provide guidance for experienced characters playing a new necromancer or experienced necromancers looking for additional options. If this is your first time playing Guild Wars, please see the Pre-Searing guide for Prophecies, Getting started (Factions), or Getting started (Nightfall).
A Necromancer's Place
The necromancer has a number of useful roles it can play. Equipped with armor-ignoring spells, they can be useful for direct damage. With a large assortment of hexes and debuffs, it can play a more offensive support role. Otherwise, it can create its own army composed of undead minions and use them to roll over anyone standing in their path. In addition to its offensive capabilities, a necromancer has skills to increase the health and energy of allies, but usually at the cost of his/her own health.
Being a Necromancer
Necromancers have become in fairly large demand in both PvE and PvP. The role of a necro can vary widely, playing both supportive and offensive positions. It helps knowing what roles are suited for different situations. For example, a mission with a bounty of corpses is wonderful for creating undead minions, but when fighting a large number of undead or elementals, their corpses may not be there when you need them.
Many of the useful necromancer skills require the caster to sacrifice life. It is possible to kill one's self by attempting to use one of these skills when heavily damaged and thus must watch the health bar carefully while under attack. Minion masters have even more to worry about when teamed with other minion masters, as the sacrifice from Blood of the Master affects all allied minions and raises the sacrificed life.
While in demand for both PvP and PvE, the necessary roles may be much different. In PvE, AI mobs often may clump up, making Spiteful Spirit incredibly powerful, but in PvP, smart foes will often know better than to keep mindlessly attacking.
An important aspect of battle, especially in PvP is corpse control. Only necromancers can currently exploit corpses, and if none of your team can, it can put it at a disadvantage if the other team does. If using wells or minions, the necromancer must keep a sharp eye out for when anything dies. The energy gain from Soul Reaping, experience gain, and faction gain can be used for this purpose, as it may not be easy to actually watch everything in the battle. Once fallen, a corpse can be used by friend or foe, so its best to use it before your enemies can. Minions have a fairly long cast time, and it is possible an enemy (or ally) could use the corpse for a Well Spell or another faster casting spell before the minion is created. In such a case, the energy used is wasted if there are no corpses when the spell completes.
Most necromancers focus heavily into one of the three main attributes of Blood Magic, Curses, or Death Magic. Most will either put the remaining points into skills related to their secondary class or into the primary necromancer attribute, Soul Reaping.
- Soul Reaping: Soul Reaping is a mixed blessing. In large, heavy battles where things die frequently, it can easily supply vast amounts of energy. However, in long drawn battles with large amounts of healing keeping everyone alive, expensive hexes may easily run dry and reduce the necromancer's effectiveness. Minion masters especially focus on Soul Reaping to fund their expensive minion spells.
- Blood Magic: With an arsenal of vampiric skills and hexes, a blood necromancer can simultaneously hurt their foes while healing themselves. All life-stealing skills ignore armor, allowing them to work effectively against warriors as well as casters. A number of blood skills also aim at granting health or energy regeneration to allies, making blood quite useful. Furthermore, the enchantment Awaken the Blood increases the attribute by an extra two points, allowing a necromancer to easily achieve 18 effective attribute points for dealing damage or draining life.
- Curses: A large number of the game's debuffs are found here. Hexes that cause health degeneration, energy degeneration, healing reduction, attack speed reduction, self-damaging effects, cause Weakness, enchantment removal, or just extra damage can all be found in this one place. Most of these skills are used to pressure an enemy and cover the team's weaknesses. Awaken the Blood also increases this attribute by an extra two points, and it lasts a reasonably long time with only a few points in Blood Magic.
- Death Magic: Masters of the dead, these necromancers tend to focus on creating their own small army of Undead minions. While often the weakest members of the party at the start of a zone, an army of minions can build momentum and tear through many PvE zones. They also are quite effective in PvP in large battles with many corpses, but not as much in the smaller arenas. A number of direct damage spells and numerous other spells to target corpses can be found here as well.
Types of Necromancers
This is not an exhaustive list of builds, but rather a short summary of common themes that many popular necromancer builds fit within. For specific builds see the article on builds.
While often the weakest member at the start of a new zone or PvP battle, the Minion Master takes on the role of a commander, creating and directing an army that can deal and take substantial damage. They are in high demand in many PvE missions, as the large number of foes lends itself well to the minion master's army. However, some foes do not leave corpses (such as skeletons, ghosts, and elementals), and thus make it difficult to keep the undead army rolling. For more information on this strategy, see the general minion mastery guide.
These necromancers focus on dealing damage to clumped up foes with the elite hex, Spiteful Spirit. Melee-based foes such as minotaurs and trolls will easily kill themselves by all attacking the same target, triggering the damage to spread through the group with every attack. However, some foes, such as imps, tend to spread out, making this tactic much less useful.
A large number of the necromancer's spells steal life from their foes or deal armor-ignoring shadow damage. Put together a group of these, and they can deal substantial spike damage to a foe while simultaneously healing themselves.
While focusing on one particular hex may be risky, as your opponents can remove it, including an array of debilitating hexes can saturate the ability of enemy monks to remove them. Often, the more damaging hexes are covered by cheaper ones to further inhibit the ability for them to be removed. Parasitic Bond is a great example of a cover hex, as its cheap cost and fast recharge allow it to be placed on multiple opponents, thereby making it difficult for enemy monks to detect which to remove. Combine with a mesmer secondary to access an incredible library of hexes.
Operating like the Invincible Monk, this solo build can survive indefinitely against a barrage of attacks as long as they do not strip enchantments or cause massive health degeneration. While monk skills are used to stay alive, the necromancer skills are used for offense.
Many skills in the game come at a high cost, and to remain effective, casters need more energy than they can produce on their own. Such situations call for a necromancer battery to cast Blood is Power or Blood Ritual to keep their energy flowing. Particularly in large teams, such as seen in the Elite Missions, monks will use the high-cost spell Heal Party and rely on the necro to keep them from running out of energy when healing is needed. These necromancers often pick up other skills to combine with another role to be useful when not feeding energy to allies.
In teams that rely heavily on physical attacks, the necromancer enchantments Order of Pain and Order of the Vampire can add to the pressure. Having a large area of effect, the necromancer can keep its distance from the battle while supplying its team with extra power on every swing of the axe or arrow fired.
Choosing a Secondary
Depending on what roles you would like to play as necromancer, the secondary profession can be crucial or unimportant at all. For an extended look when choosing a secondary, see Secondary professions for a Necromancer.
While not having as many hexes as the mesmer, the assassin does come with a fair number of them - primarily in the Deadly Arts line. This may provide an alternative for a necromancer who enjoys throwing around hexes. Otherwise, the shadow stepping can complement the necromancer's corpse traversal spells.
While not a typical profession combination, one can utilize Soul Reaping in heavy battles to supply the energy needed to cast some of the high-powered elementalist skills. Otherwise, the elementalist glyphs may be useful for a number of the expensive, slow-casting Curses.
By combining with the mesmer secondary, the necromancer has more hexes available to it than any other profession combination. The combination can be arranged to take focus on debuffing any foe that the necromancer may face. In addition, Arcane Echo is commonly used to allow a second copy of Spiteful Spirit for the SS Necro. Finally, the energy stealing skills may come in useful for missions where foes die less frequently.
As a number of necromancer skills require a health sacrifice, many choose to bring in a monk's healing library to help regenerate that lost health. In large battles with many things dying, a necromancer can utilize its Soul Reaping to provide energy for healing the team as well as itself. A few minion masters will use skills such as Heal Area to keep their minions as well as themselves alive. Other fun combinations such as Vengeance and Death Nova also open themselves to this combination.
Another combination that is not common. Some teams built around Edge of Extinction may have a necromancer bring the spirit, requiring at least one to have this combination.
A number of the ritualist skills will affect minions, but most are along the ritualist's Spawning Power line and thus can not have any attribute points in them. Also, a couple of skills such as Vengeful Weapon may supplement a life-stealing necro. A necromancer with a ritualist secondary specializing in the Restoration and Soul Reaping lines can provide high-powered healing spells and weapon spells to the entire team and spam them constantly without running out of energy, as long as enemies are dying.
Of all the base caster types, the necromancer is one of the few that can keep itself alive at melee range. From there, the necro can either utilize a melee weapon or begin casting some of its touch ranged skills. Skills from the Tactics line may also help, as the stances and shouts could give that extra survivability that is needed on the front lines. Dark Fury may also find its place to gain extra adrenaline along with fellow warriors.
Armor & Runes
Many of the choices of Necromancer Insignia are related to the roles of the necromancer. Tormentor's Insignia are fairly good as a default armor, as they raise defense and few enemies use smiting prayers in response. Otherwise, a minion master may consider insignia fashioned for Death Magic, but beware that the armor will lose its strength if the minions are killed, when the MM needs it the most. Energy granting insignia are popular due to the expense of many necromancer skills. As for runes, many will tend towards a superior rune in their primary attribute. The more superior and major runes one has equipped, the less health they sacrifice with skills, but it raises the risk of being killed by enemies.
Necromancers also have Bloodstained Insignia which reduce cast time by 25% for any spell targetting a corpse. These are highly recommended for minion masters or those trying to establish corpse control.
The typical caster selection of wands, staves, and offhand items is available to the necromancer. Keep in mind that using weapons with Hale staff heads or wrappings of Fortitude will increase health, but also health sacrificed when using sacrificial skills.
The way a necromancer fights largely varies depending on the role it is playing. Minion masters should look into the General minion mastery guide for details on the unique way they operate. Otherwise, as a caster it is usually best to keep away from enemies. If using hexes, try to keep important hexes covered by less important ones to protect against removal. Furthermore, spam hexes across different opponents if possible to apply pressure on enemy monks and to hide who your stronger hexes are on. If using wells, call them as you cast to let your team know they are friendly.
|Effective profession guides|
| Warrior • Ranger • Monk • Necromancer • Mesmer • Elementalist|