Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2 Elite Specialization preview weekend impressions

Over the weekend Guild Wars 2 players had the chance to get to grips with the new Path of Fire elite specializations in a PvP setting, so I, of course, jumped in with both feet and tried out some of the specializations for myself.

You’ll know already if you’re familiar with my ramblings that PvP isn’t a massive love of mine, but I simply couldn’t resist giving it a go for the sake of the elite specializations. I didn’t get to sample each one for myself because I had some key family events that fell over the weekend too, but I’ve been sure to provide a brief as-I-saw-it summary of the elite specializations I didn’t get to spend time actively playing.

In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’ll share my thoughts on my preview time spent playing around with the Weaver, Holosmith, Mirage, Scourge, and Spellbreaker and watching the work of the other elite specializations. These are simply rapid-fire impressions — I had to be brief to fit them all into the span of one column — but they should nevertheless be helpful to those who didn’t get hands-on over the weekend.

Weaver (Elementalist)

Playtime: Around an hour or two

What it does: A Weaver, as the name implies, possesses the ability to knit together different elements to create new skills that possess the best characteristics of the two blended elements. Where Elementalists once would have changed their elemental attunements at will, with a cooldown on the recently used one, a Weaver’s elemental cooldown is one and the same for all elements to prevent an immediate swap to another blend before the cooldown ends. The Weaver favours close combat with a sword, getting up close and personal with foes to deftly channel combined elements to deadly effect.

Impressions: I relied quite heavily on Unravel during my time with the Weaver, which I wasn’t expecting. The ability to untangle my attunements briefly let me get a little bit of breathing space in familiar territory while I never figured out what I should be doing, but I deeply suspect that seasoned Weavers will not rely on this ability at all. The dual attack skills felt powerful with their clever effects and, although I’ve read many comments to the contrary, I didn’t find them lacklustre or boring at all. I also took a little while to get to grips with such a squishy character taking on the front line role because I never really use my Ele for PvP: I’m not fantastic at PvP by any stretch, but I certainly left behind many corpses while I attempted to get this one right. I feel as though I need much more help in the survivability department, perhaps even some improvements to the barrier base numbers? I get the impression that I will love this elite spec in PvE settings, but a PvP novice like me simply cannot cope with it in those do-or-die moments.

Holosmith (Engineer)

Playtime: About two or three hours

What it does: Holosmiths harness the power of the strong Elonan sun for their quirky experimental inventions, creating light constructs with the newly created and immensely powerful photon forge. Like all good inventions in GW2, the photon forge isn’t perfect: the device is rather prone to overheating when under heavy use and this heat output can cause a great amount of damage the user. While many Holosmiths will want to avoid the burn, some choose to roll with the device’s overheating and use it to cause damage to both nearby enemies and themselves.

Impressions: Oh my goodness, is the photon forge ever fun! Of all the elite specializations, I was most looking forward to testing out the Holosmith, and I’m certainly not disappointed. It looks cool, feels fluid, and it possesses that uniquely Engi quirk as well. I felt as though the Holosmith was a fairly popular choice all round and I saw quite a number during my playtesting, which perhaps backs up my love for this elite spec. Holosmiths are heavy hitters and I definitely felt that this was the most powerful elite specialization I tested: It’s simply too early for me to claim that there are balance issues after only a handful of hours spent trying the specs, but it is something to watch out for. The only disappointment for me was that the sword doesn’t flow as nicely as I expected it to. Lastly, of every elite spec I tried, this one seemed to stand on its own the most. We’ll see if this is just the spec’s initial flashy appeal dazzling me or whether I’ll agree after launch.

Firebrand (Guardian)

Playtime: None, though my husband played it while joining me

What it does: The Firebrand is a rather more academic Guardian who is a zealous lorekeeper that strives to undo the corruption that Palawa Joko brought to the desert. The Firebrand makes for an excellent field medic and is also skilled in conjuring magical fire. These axe-wielders, who have access to both quickness and supportive healing abilities, use tomes to both deal with enemies and protect friends.

Impressions: Colour me impressed, ArenaNet! I didn’t initially click with the Firebrand on paper, but I have to say that this elite specialization pleasantly surprised me. This spec is all about offensive support: Bringing the bleeds and burns to foes seems to be very entertaining indeed if my husband is anything to go by. He managed to save my bacon a few times while also keeping up that condi damage, so I’d say that the spec does exactly what it says it will. I’ll certainly try out the Firebrand at the next available opportunity after watching him play.

Mirage (Mesmer)

Playtime: Less than an hour

What it does: The mirage cloak allows attacks to pass through this mesmer type without harm while also working offensively. The axe is useful for both close and mid range attacks, and the ambush mechanics allow for some impressive tactical plays that are appreciated by Mesmer fans. There’s not a whole lot more to mention here, which I’ll get into in my impressions below.

Impressions: While I found no huge bugbears while tinkering around with Mirage, nothing about how it works felt all that exciting for me. While I undoubtedly enjoy playing my Mesmer, but this elite spec simply felt like more of the same thing to me and I’m quite upset by that. To me, Mirage is visually more striking and has much more flavour than its base class, but mechanically speaking, I don’t find it much of a stretch from the base build at all. Am I alone in thinking this? I didn’t even put an hour into Mirage because it was such a shallow step from what I already understand about Mesmers. I’m particularly interested in hearing what you think about this one.

Scourge (Necromancer)

Playtime: Around two to three hours

What it does: The Scourge summon sand shades from areas of power that both shield allies and torment foes. Punishment skills remove boons and convert them into cripple and torment, while protective barriers for allies and the swift application of fear to enemies allows for excellent levels of field control. Scourges trade access to Death Shroud for those Shade skills to create this support build for Necromancers.

Impressions: This elite specialization adds a bit of complexity to the user-friendly Necromancer repertoire that I appreciated, though it was a bit of a task coordinating well in the PvP setting. I really missed my “oh crap, pop Shroud!” fallback, but this I’m sure is more of a Tina thing than an actual issue with the spec. Setting those sand shades effectively takes practice, and I feel as though getting that right in such a fast-paced setting is something that’ll need more than just a couple hours to master. I need to engage my brain far more than I have done before while playing my Necro and my skill use is far more situation-dependent than usual. When I got the balance, however, I did feel a little overpowered. Again, I won’t cry about balance issues after such a short playtest, but it’s something to keep my eye on.

Soulbeast (Ranger)

Playtime: None, though my husband played it while joining me

What it does: Soulbeasts merge with their pets to assume their archetype and gain specific abilities. The archetypes are far-reaching and offer the full host of flavours you’d expect: A Soulbeast can be a stout defender, ferocious attacker, deadly condi-based battler, supportive healer, or even a versatile utility user. Each pet family offers pets of multiple archetypes, of course, so a Soulbast really is spoiled for choice.

Impressions: The Soulbeast was the highlight of Steven’s weekend, but that’s not to say it was without problems. Survivability was a problem that he experienced throughout his testing and his damage output wasn’t stellar and the dagger main hand was rather lacklustre. Where the Soulbeast shines is most definitely in beast mode though: Steven thought that this was really cleverly employed and he enjoyed the variety offered in this department.

Renegade (Revenant)

Playtime: None

What it does: Renegades are made for the offensive support playstyle, pairing a significant damage increase with Kalla’s Fervour and granting might to allies with Heroic Command. Enhancing allies’ damage output while disrupting enemies is the order of the day here.

Impressions: Honestly, I didn’t play the Renegade because not one thing in the description made it sound at all unique or interesting. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s like ArenaNet just combined all the buzzwords from each other new elite spec and just spat them all out for this one in an attempt to make something interesting here. I admit though that my Revenant is probably my most neglected character after my Ranger, so perhaps it’s just me? The warband is apparently costly to use for not much payoff and I see that it polled poorly in the non-scientific but nevertheless still interesting poll that hit the GW2 Reddit.

Deadeye (Thief)

Playtime: None

What it does: The Deadeye used the rifle to deadly effect, taking out whatever foes happen to fall within that long sightline with ease. Deadeye’s Mark trades the Steal skill’s ability to steal items for the ability to steal aspects of their targets, and the kneel mechanics are a fantastic addition to the Deadeye repertoire.

Impressions: I feel as though I missed out here: That shockingly long range alongside the precision mechanics seem made for smallscale PvP settings to me. I do hope, though, that when I actually do test out Deadeye that it applies equally as well to PvE settings and isn’t just a clunky novelty in the open world. Perhaps this will be fun for taking out some world bosses from a new perspective? The cantrips and Malice generation seem interesting enough to have my attention though.

Spellbreaker (Warrior)

Playtime: Around an hour

What it does: The Spellbreaker is a throwback to the Sunspears, and their affinity with daggers comes from casting aside the outlawed spear while retaining its deadly tip to use at close range. Spellbreakers are experts at nullifying the advantages of magic use, with Loss Aversion dealing damage to enemies when stripping their boons. Full Counter is a powerful ability that both absorbs attacks and performs an interruptive counterattack to foes in your vicinity.

Impressions: I found the Spellbreaker to be a rather safe bet: Although it didn’t shock me, however, it was definitely more entertaining than the Mirage from my perspective. The reason for this lies mainly in how active I felt when playing and how much I had to actually engage with the skills to be successful. I found landing a full counter to be one of those “woo hoo!” moments you search for in PvP, and the maintenance mechanics found with adrenal health, for example, kept my attention. I don’t know if it’s amazingly different from what we already had, true, but daggers make up for this for me. The daggers, while not amazing when it comes to raw damage output, look like poetry in use and blend in some useful utilities too. I’ll certainly give the Spellbreaker another whirl.

Over to you!

Did you play around with the elite specializations this past weekend? How did your favoured classes shape up? Let me know your thoughts on the elite specs — especially those I didn’t have time to test out for myself — in the comments below.

Tina Lauro has been playing Guild Wars 2 since it launched and now pens the long-running Flameseeker Chronicles column, which runs every other Wednesday and covers everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see covered, drop a comment Tina’s way or mail her at tina@massivelyop.com.
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48 Comments on "Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2 Elite Specialization preview weekend impressions"

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TBPlayer2112

As a Ranger main I wasn’t too thrilled with the Druid specialization in HoT. Soulbeast on the other hand is a very welcome change. I played with it for a few hours and I’m hooked. Will be pre-purchasing PoF now asap. Can’t wait to try out all the new pets and builds!

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draugris

Apart from balancing seem to be worse than ever, at least in pvp i spent the most time with scourge and holosmith.

Scourge imho powerwise is absolutely ridiculous regarding dmg output in condi but for me as a necromancer since beta i missed the necro feeling on this spec. Also i feel that scourge may be only a gimmicky one trick pony and if people figure out how to deal with the shades the spec may be useless but only time will tell. Holosmith was fun to play, i liked the photon forge mechanic and that you constantly pop in and out to balance damage you put out and damage you get. Powerwise holosmith imho is the second broken spec after the scourge.

The other specs with the exception of spellbreaker and weaver felt kinda meh to me. I really do hope that Arenanet this time take player feedback especially from the remains of the competitive community serious and tone the damage across the board down and balance things better than they did with hot.

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Paragon Lost

Yeah I’m worried that my main class will no longer be one that I enjoy with what I’m reading about the play style. I love playing my ranger as ranged and/or with a pet. The elite spec sounds like nothing that will interest me.

Personal peeve but it seems far too often that an mmorpg that I play will change the class that actually is my main/favorite one in a way that I don’t like. :/ I say that as an altoholic player who tends to play all classes to the cap at least. Maybe I’ll swap to my thief and make him my main. We shall see.

kalamari_
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kalamari_

and thats the good thing about elite specs. they are just options to play your class in another way and not completely change your class forever. you want to play a LB ranger with a pet in PoF? then play it! ;)

Mitzruti
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Mitzruti

I feel like beastmode is more the sort of thing to hop in, blow all the skills and then cancel. losing the pet is too much of a sacrifice to linger in it.

but really, as cool as the potential burst combo for my GS ranger is, I’m actually more interested in the new pets coming alongside it. some of them are pretty bonkers, wish they’d go back and touch up some of the junkier vanilla ones.

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Nathan Aldana

as a ranger and revenant player, I’m hyped as hell for soulbeast and renegade

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Nathan Aldana

Granted I admit thats based more on lore than sheer power.

abyssalstar
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abyssalstar

I main Ranger, so obviously Soulbeast is of the most interest to me. I wasn’t disappointed. I love the new mechanic and the flexibility of build options (as opposed to the Druid’s hard focus on support). I didn’t play too much, as I didn’t want to spoil myself before PoF goes live, but the taste of what I’ll be getting has me hyped.

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Paragon Lost

Liked, because I’m hoping that I do end up liking the new spec, but I am worried.

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Rumm

I find myself having to make a difficult choice. I really enjoyed Holosmith, to the point where I used one of my 80 boosts on an engineer, but I really dislike the other current engineer builds and having to swap in and out of different kits. If I decide to main Holosmith, and it gets nerfed to oblivion down the road, I’ll have a wasted character slot. The elite spec plays like a completely different class from the base engineer, which is an issue when the base class isn’t very fun.

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Peregrine Falcon

I see what you’re saying, but I love playing my engineer. I don’t bother to switch kits all of the time though, I just use the flamethrower. So much fun setting everything on fire!

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Alex Willis

I hear you on the kit switching — it’s the only thing preventing me from committing to the class. (Kit/Weapon switching is such a huge mechanic in this game and I cannot for the life of me figure out why.) Have you fully committed to the boost? If not, I’d say hold off — even a really awesome Holosmith will still have to switch at some point.

miol
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miol

I feel quite the opposite, but more because imo my engi isn’t an Asura to match the whole Holosmith theme, and I love the challenge of constantly changing kits so far with my condition vanilla one, as it has next to Elementalist and Mesmer one of the less boring and very flexible skill rotations on the fly! ;P

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Rottenrotny

Isn’t it weird that I’ve been playing GW2 almost every day and have purchased PoF already… yet I didn’t bother with the PoF preview nor have I cared enough to read about the elite specializations and all the new stuff?

I guess I’ll start now with this article! :P

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Alex Willis

I was in the same boat. I meant to try the new specs but got distracted doing WvW raids. The important thing was I still went out and had fun. :D

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blah blazh

All I did was test out each spec on Saturday for about 2 total hours, and then I stopped. The first weekend I did something similar. While I did want to play more, I want to save my excitement for when the expansion gets released.

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Rottenrotny

Sounds like a good plan.
Typically I avoid reading about and watching videos for upcoming games and expansions. I want to feel that total lost noob feeling when I log in day 1. ^_^

I’m gonna read about these elite specializations though and see if anything catches my interest. I’ve been leveling a Guardian and already have high lvl Sorc and Warrior so I’ve got some options. First impression here is disappointment though as I don’t see any elite specializations that use giant 2h swords/axes as their primary weapon.

Mitzruti
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Mitzruti

greatsword works well with spellbreaker because it’s burst skill loses nothing significant from being restricted to a 1st level. given that you can reset the cooldown with full counter, it shouldn’t be to hard to maintain fury anyway.

soulbeast’s greatsword while in beastmode give the attack-of-opportunity bonus to your own maul, and can use sic’em to boost their damage up even higher for a pretty cool burst combo.

just a couple ideas that seem like you might have fun with.

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Rottenrotny

Cool! Thanks for the info. I’ll check ’em out.

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Sally Bowls

I still don’t have a feel for whether elite specializations are just some flavor for the bored or the new meta. I.e., at the end of this year when things have settled down, what % of players/playtime will be launch/HoT/PoF specializations? 80/10/10? 5/5/90?

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imayb1

I’m sure meta builds will still list core classes alongside HoT and PoF specs for meta in various types of gameplay.

Personally, I am looking forward to trying several PoF specs. However, I’m not giving up Chrono for Mirage and while I plan to play Weaver and Scourge, I will build new characters for those specs so I’m not giving up my Tempest or Reaper, either. Yet, I enjoy core ranger. I’d like to think I am not alone in that I use a smorgasboard of classes. :)

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Alex Willis

Probably more like 10/40/50.

miol
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miol

Heavily depends if we’re talking about PvE, raids, WvW or sPvP…
Like it is with HoT right now, with big differences between those play types for every profession!

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blah blazh

My favorite was Scourge, it really felt good.

Renegade was intriguing for me. It is not a pvp spec for sure though. I’ll be interested to see how it does in pve.

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Alex Willis

New Necro player here but who is looking to keep playing the class. What did you like about Scourge?

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blah blazh

The damage potential is really great. Plus it has some decent might support if you want to play it that way. It seems fairly viable for both pvp and pve (haven’t tested it in pve though obviously). You do lose a bit of survivability with the lost of shroud but you do gain quite a bit of barrier gain (new mechanic) that can help offset that.

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Alex Willis

Given that I’m very new at the class and still haven’t unlocked Reaper, I’m finding I rely very heavily on Shroud for survival. In fact, I’m a fair bit more survivable than I thought I would be given how easy it can be to build life force and regen base health while in Shroud (meaning the only thing that threatens me with actual death is my Shroud cooldown). So I’m very curious about this spec, given that it’s not possible to Shroud at all — it seems like it would play as an entirely new class.

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imayb1

Actually, Scourge’s f5 is sand shroud, which grants barrier (life). As long as you plan ahead just a tad, barrier can make up for necro/Reaper shroud.

If you enjoy condi-necro, Scourge is going to be fun! Soooo many condis. Lots of boon corrupt, steal, and conversion too.

I recommend Wooden Potatoes’ overview of Scourge, as he runs down some of the powerful synergies available to the spec. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwTlsrnDs78

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Sally Bowls

As we know, MMO players just play what they enjoy.

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Utakata

I think that was a well aimed poke at the Outlaw Rogue spec in WoW. o.O

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Eliandal

When Ranger (my preferred class) just wasn’t keeping up, I just stopped playing. Since September 2015 I have about 10 hours total played – and 8 of that were trying out the new Soulbeast. I didn’t find anything to bring me back :/

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Arktouros

There’s a graph of Thematics vs Power and everyone has their breaking point on that graph where the raw power of the other class is more enjoyable than the theme of another.

Weakness is rarely enjoyable.