After looking at all the problems necromancer has, including its core weakness, ironically, of Death Shroud itself, now I’m going to look at the suitor seeking to steal the hearts of necromancer mains everywhere: the revenant.
Recall from the first post the three things that set the necromancer apart from the other existing professions:
- A Tank Tendency
- Afflicted, but Not Crippled
When the initial reveal of the revenant was done, people noticed the exact same factors in the combined pair of Jalis and Mallyx:
- Attrition through conditions and control
- Tanky through buffs and healing, particularly resistance
- Actively gains power from being hit with conditions, and can negate the conditions with relative ease
Even worse for the current plight of the necromancer, these characteristics were part and parcel of extremely strong skill synergy between weapons and utilities, as well as wholesale stronger group utility and support.
In other words, the revenant as currently revealed appears to be everything a necromancer is not, and wishes she was.
But Is It Really?
Looking deeper than just the skills available to the revenant thus far , and I don’t see the revenant as a wholesale replacement of necromancer. Consider:
- Revenants do not have a weapon swap. With the weapon sets we know about, either they can be a Jalis-focused supporter with hammer, or a Mallyx-focused damaging disruptor with mace/axe. Not both.
- Legends are extremely specific, and functionally lock the entire skill bar of the revenant combined with the lack of weapon swap.
- Since the utility swap is meant to perfectly channel the legend attached, “the right tool for the situation” is hard-locked to a particular legend.
- Traits themselves are tailor-made to particular legends*. Not taking the associated core specialization line for a legend cripples the overall intent.
*The exception is Invocation, which is more of an “exploit the energy mechanic and legend swapping” core specialization.
Combine all of these factors, and I see the revenant having crippling overspecialization. A Mallyx/Jalis mace/axe-wielding revenant might be an attrition tank extraordinaire, but there is very little else they can do outside of that.
Thus, the revenant won’t ever “replace” another profession in its abilities, so much as imitate them in a more fluid, flexible form. This is very similar to the jack-of-all-trades approach that the other two no-weapon-swap professions (elementalist and engineer) have, but with a stronger focus*.
*By that I mean that an elementalist or engineer is really good at one or two things, but can also be pretty good at several others. A revenant is extremely good at one or two things, and functionally nonexistent at anything else.
However, the revenant shows a clear path for how the necromancer’s problems can be solved. With its reveal, and all the things that have come along with it, the tools are at hand to rebuild the necromancer to be the profession it was always meant to be.
We Have the Technology
Heart of Thorns is bringing brand new mechanics into place. A good portion of the revenant reveal relied on new technology, like time-delayed cascades, player-tracking walls, and directional line attacks.
The reveal of the wyvern also introduced the concept of break bars, a breakable form of crowd control immunity.
Add in the two new boons of resistance and taunt, and the new condition of slow, and there’s a ton of tools on the table.
I’d say the primary reason people looked at the revenant and started saying “well, there’s where necromancer went” is because of the sheer amount of synergistic purpose of the various skills.
By the same token that a revenant suffers crippling overspecialization, just reading their skills and traits creates dozens of ideas of how they could work together. There’s a clear picture of what’s possible, just from descriptions.
Attrition by Another Name
When I wrote about attrition two posts ago, I had a clear picture of “steadily whittling away” or “death of a thousand cuts.”
But then I looked closer at the revenant. Channeling Mallyx with mace/axe opens up scads of conditions all across the skill bar, all of them easily combined one into the next.
The difference is that a revenant has to work harder to apply those combinations, disabling or harrying a target well enough to not just inflict a burst of conditions and damage, but to make it stick.
This “burst attrition,” as I’ll term it, is enabled by the combined counterbalance of skills that invite counterplay and the limitations of energy generation and upkeep.
Shroud and Specialties
Recall that Death Shroud is a severely limited, binary mechanic that because of its best case scenario forces a balance situation where necromancers are underpowered at any other time. That, and any other advantages or unique elements they have need to be balanced around the theoretical best case for Death Shroud.
But if Death Shroud and life force are readjusted to have more aspects than simply the lone transform, it would be a waste to not readjust the rest of the profession based on what’s now available at the same time*.
*Chiefly because balancing first around a more flexible Death Shroud, then recrafted skills and traits is twice as much balance than doing both at the same time would incur.
With this in mind, how can the new technology and focus of the revenant help the necromancer?
Retrofitting the Profession
First and foremost, necromancers need to gain access to Resistance. Badly. Ignoring conditions should be a core aspect of the profession, not something that only an elite specialization gains. This should be in the form of traits, utility skills, and possibly a high-cooldown weapon skill that currently has lackluster effects.
Secondly, Slow might fit well with the chronomancer, but it just as much fits well with the necromancer. Necromancers siphon power, taking an enemy’s strength and making it their own.
Doubtless Well of Corruption and Well of Power will exploit the Quickness/Slow relationship. But Blood Magic is one of, if not the, most lackluster core specialization in the game. It needs the help.
Further, adding Slow to the profession would fix one of the ironies of a necromancer’s poor mobility. Rather than others able to dance around a necromancer and engage on their terms, a necromancer can apply Slow as an additional way to keep them close at hand*.
*Keep in mind that Slow doubles casting time on skills, raising the likelihood that a solid immobilize or other CC gets to land before someone dashes away.
Also, it was teased that player skills will generate break bars. While I won’t be surprised if the elite specialization gains at least one, adding this new technology to multiple places in the profession, including a revitalized Death Shroud, fits perfectly with the style of necromancer.
Finally, some of the cascading effect and directional attacks would add counterplay to the necromancer as well as give the opportunity for greater, conditional* power for the profession.
*As in, not guaranteed, not necessarily condition-based.
Compared to most other profession weapon sets, necromancers have very unintuitive ones. For example, the go-to condition weapon of scepter might have the meta-purpose of “stack a lot of bleed and poison,” but the skills themselves don’t build on each other*.
*“Alright, Ima bleed him. Ima poison him. Uh…he’s still nearby, but I need more bleeds. Eat grasping hands! Sweet, more bleeds. Well, there’s this other skill on my bar that’s off cooldown…oh, that did pathetic damage. But I got life force! Cool?”
This is present in every weapon, and every weapon set. There is no “purpose” or overall synergy within weapon sets, and the typical sets are chosen simply because they stack conditions most effectively, or deal the most damage per second, not because the various skills work together.
Utility skills and traits are no better. Wells are the go-to damage option in many instances because they’re the most straightforward. Spite and Curses are picked up less for their traits, and more for their statistic boosts.
Necromancer needs purpose, it needs synergy. Right now it lacks both, and makes up for it purely with straightforward damage and conditions. So the skill and trait layout of the entire profession needs to be questioned. The past two and a half years have proven that a profession without nuance and without unique synergy within itself isn’t fit to be part of Guild Wars 2, and that must be fixed.
I realize that I just advocated turning the entire profession upside down and forcing every player of it to potentially relearn it. But more and more I realize that the profession as it exists isn’t something that can be fixed by simply fiddling with values and recrafting a few traits.
As much as it pains me to say it, we necromancers have been playing a broken profession, its implementation half-baked compared to the universally stronger professions surrounding it. We brute force solutions where the profession mechanics themselves don’t help us. We ignore glaring flaws in execution because the flavor of the profession is just that unique.
And I think that failed implementation was unintentionally caused by the lack of technology and capabilities to truly do necromancer right, like it was in Guild Wars. Now those capabilities exist, and a new approach to adding counterplay and higher skill pervades the elite specialization reveals so far.
Necromancer can and should be brought along for the ride, and not just through its elite specialization.
“Burst attrition” isn’t a thing in Guild Wars 2 right now. It’s either total burst (skills like the Plague Signet active, or Lich Form’s Deathly Claws), or steady whittling (a stack of bleed here, a couple seconds of burning there, toss some chill in with the poison for good measure…).
And that’s a balance necessity due to the simplicity of a necromancer adding on the pain. 3 stacks of bleeding and 1 of poison takes all of 2 seconds with an autoattack. Enemy players are forced to directly attack a necromancer, and likewise a necromancer is forced to keep piling on the conditions, or attrition never happens.
Burst attrition and its consequent need for sustain between the bursts is a great paradigm, creating counterplay and active play simultaneously.
While necromancer can’t be moderated by energy and upkeep like revenant is, changing its skills from simple point-and-click to ones requiring more effort removes the balance necessity. Rather than having to balance around the fact that ten seconds unattended is all a necromancer needs to have a critical mass of murder, both necromancers and their opponents work around each other in a proper dance of death.
The revenant teaches a hard lesson about necromancers. While it doesn’t replace the profession, it makes it clear that necromancers need a lot of help to achieve a similar level of purpose and synergy. This is painful especially because the revenant is supposed to be a cripple outside of whatever particular niche it’s decided to be in a given combat encounter.
But I believe there is hope with the exact things that the revenant brings to the table. Rather than being a profession hamstrung by its own mechanics and design philosophy, it can be remade into what it was always supposed to be: a tanky, attrition-based beast that laughs in the face of pain.
With a wholesale questioning of what it means to be a necromancer, and a rack of new tools for skills and traits, it can be done. It won’t be easy, but in the long run it will be far better than letting a broken profession go without a genuine fix.