There are a lot of times when this column is not in any way a ranking, when it is just a list of things usually in a particular order but not exactly set up with number one being the best or highest ranked or anything. Then there are times like this week, when I was seized by a force I cannot adequately explain and decided to rank all of the professions in Guild Wars 2 from best to worst.
I should note here that when we talk best to worst, what I am ranking these things on is not playability, damage, or meta popularity. This is a ranking purely based on originality and general design concepts, so anyone who would like to point out to me that the actual DPS ranking for these professions is wildly different is invited to collect a genuine no-prize from the podium to the left. With that preamble out of the way and the tone set, let’s get to ranking.
(And if anyone wants to be an especially bright spark and say, “Wait, there are only nine professions in GW2,” I invite you to keep reading.)
1. The Mesmer
Look, Mesmers may not be your personal favorite class to play. (They aren’t mine.) But it’s hard to argue that they aren’t the most original and unique thing that GW2 has to offer, and I don’t think it’s exactly a coincidence that these strange illusion-and-condition mages survived the trip from the first game with little need to draw inspiration from other professions whatsoever. Mesmers are just distinct and neat, and I respect that even if they’re not my choice for actual play.
Don’t let them know it, though, or you’ll never hear the end of it.
2. The Engineer
You might argue (correctly) that GW2 is hardly the only game to make engineering an entire combat discipline unto itself, but you can’t deny that the Engineer does it with panache. Indeed, the only reason this profession doesn’t rank higher is the simple reality that this is hardly as original as the Mesmer is, but it’s a well-realized version of it that manages to fit some unique weapons in and give players a lot of options about how to play.
Seriously, even having played an Engineer for a while for our Choose My Adventure column, I still couldn’t help feeling like the profession’s tricks looked overpowered and cool when everyone else used them. That’s something fun.
3. The Revenant
Here’s a profession I would love to rank higher that is held back by the simple reality that it’s just trying a bit too hard along the way. Like, here are elements of the Dervish! Here’s your Ritualist blindfold! Here are all your legendary stances to bring you back to the setting’s lore! Here’s that dark knight aesthetic that we’ve all wanted so there’s that faint sense of being some sort of dread avenger or whatever because the horned kittycat paid for his whole seat but he only needs the edge.
The Revenant is pretty good, but it’s also that kind of pretty good that’s trying so hard. You’re glad that it’s succeeding but it’s like someone threw every leftover profession idea from the original Guild Wars in a blender with a sprinkling of edgelord.
4. The Necromancer
This profession is the original dose of edge in the game’s setting, complete with all of the skeletal minions and death embraces and swirling doom energy and so forth that you could want. That having been said, I really do like how this franchise has handled the Goth Eyeliner Mage archetype in general. Necromancers manage to have that feeling of not quite being a pet class but also not not being that, married to unique mechanics and a sense of ongoing, inevitable demise that they should have.
It also helps that a lot of otherwise perfectly likable people in the story wind up being Necromancers, thus undercutting that “Goth Eyeliner Mage” joke rather nicely.
5. The Guardian
I remember that Guild Wars spent a lot of time trying to convince everyone that the Monk wasn’t just a healing class while everyone but farmers knew it really was. That’s the Guardian in a nutshell: It’s like you put together a stock Paladin class but then you were proud of yourself for calling it a Guardian as if that convinced anyone. If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it’s a Paladin. We’re not fooled.
That being said, the Guardian gets some points just for the fact that if you want to play as Ye Olde Healinge Castere, you’re also signing up for the more offensively tilted and heavily armored Guardian to throw a little curveball in your way. Turns out that’s worth a fair bit. Plus, you know, it gets bonus points because I really happen to like paladins.
6. The Thief
The central mechanic of the Thief is kind of a stroke of brilliance, making your stealing of concepts rather than items into an entire play mechanic and giving you what amounts to an extra trick every time the ability cools down that can sometimes wildly change your overall playstyle. It’s a shame it’s not more reliable, but that would take something away from the fun of the profession, so maybe that’s kind of the point.
Both of the elite specializations that the profession offers are also weird and unique twists on the idea, too, so that makes the Thief a little more interesting than just a straightforward look at its rather standard leather-clad assassin archetype might suggest. It’s subtle, but there’s a lot going on with the Thief.
7. The Warrior
By contrast, what is going on with the Warrior is exactly what you would expect from the name. The Warrior is out here being as Warrior as it can be, I literally wrote a whole column about how every single Warrior is the same and this is as Warrior-y as any Warrior could possibly be. That doesn’t mean it’s bad by any stretch of the imagination, just that it’s… well, predictable. It works on a base level exactly like you expect a Warrior to work.
However, it gets a boost away from the bottom because the Warrior elite specializations are insane. Like, I’ll tease the developers for adding a gunblade to replace the weapon swapping of the profession, but that’s also a crazy idea that I kind of adore. You can set yourself on fire as part of a specialization. That’s some novelty.
8. The Ranger
It’s not exactly a secret that I tend to be less than enthusiastic about pet classes, but the Ranger makes me sad by being basically exactly what you’d expect from a pet class. You hang back with a ranged weapon while you let the animal do most of the work. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame anyone for doing this; if I could get my cats to work in gainful employment, I would do that. But the Ranger doesn’t really do anything beyond that. It is, by and large, exactly what you would expect from a Ranger down to its name.
Even the elite specs are kind of what you’d expect. However, they’re also probably exactly what you want if you signed up for this. As mentioned before, this is all tongue-in-cheek, so this isn’t a failing so much as an observation that it’s not really an original experience compared to others.
9. The Elementalist
It’s a mage. Elementalists are mages in everything but name, and for some reason that name just irks me because you can tell there was someone who wanted to make sure you didn’t realize this profession was just Generic Blasty Mage and thought that the name would throw you off the track. As a result they get the second-lowest spot on the list because you have seen this elemental spellcasting before. Let that be a lesson to you.
No, you do not get bonus points for a hammer.
10. The Commando
This is the most unoriginal profession ever put forth by the team, and it isn’t even playable.