Profession Build: Skirmishing Hardy Ranger


Introduction – Ranger Theory

Start with my article on tanky build design. This ranger build is about midway between balanced and tanky.

I was going to start with another profession, but with the recent patch all the eyes are on the ranger right now, with claims the class is broken and unplayable.

I’m finding just the opposite, the patch has buffed everything about the way I played ranger. A bow ranger I’ve spoken to notes the same thing; the June 25th patch seems to have boosted but altered the playstyle for bow rangers. Caveat being these are sample sizes of one each.

A ranger is NOT a World of Warcraft Hunter. And the recent patch set out to make that crystal clear by hitting pet reliance very hard.

So What is a ranger? It is a skirmishing class meant to be highly mobile jumping in and out of melee and ranged combat, with a pet as support (not support as in the ‘role’ in GW2, but support as in a sort of mobile semi independent buff). The is modeled off of the idea of the wilderness survivor: Grizzly Adams, combined with the special forces soldier: an Army Ranger.

The true fantasy icon for the ranger is NOT Legalos, but Aragorn.

So with that in mind, I build to be sort of in between melee and ranged. Weapon choices of Sword / Torch and Axe / Axe. A melee option that pops in and out a lot, and a ranged choice is fairly close in.

Where the WoW Hunter stays in the back and fires volleys of arrows while their pet runs in, the Ranger should be in the thick of the action. You should be busier and more active than the ‘true melee’ warriors and thieves – they’re mostly there in close. You’re all over the place.

If you go bows, short or long, that still holds. Use the pet as a sort of buff, as if it was a utility skill. Don’t sit back half AFK spamming auto-attack. Use ALL of your bow skills, and manage your pet special abilities and swapping quickly and smartly. You might stand further out than me, but you should still think as if you wee in the thick of it: ultra fast proactive actions.

Never play ANY build of ranger as slow paced and relaxed: save that for the hunters.

The Build:




Keen Edge (III) and Spotter (VII) in Marksmanship

Keen Edge is key to sending out a lot of condition damage. Once foes get low, you’ll be able to speed up the ‘burn phase’ with a heavy application of bleeding damage.

Spotter is now one of the most powerful traits in ranger, with an up to 150 boost to precision for your whole group when in combat. The ‘up to’ part is a bit concerning… but when this starts applying you will see the critical hits racking up really fast.

Sharpened Edges (II) and Honed Axes (IX) in Skirmishing

Sharpened Edges gives you yet more constant condition damage pressure. Your aim to keep bleeding constantly up on enemies.

Honed Axes only favors your ranged option, but with constant weapon swapping even if you mostly melee you will be getting a lot of benefit from the boost to critical damage.

Vigorous Renewal (IV) and Martial Mastery (X) in Wilderness Survival

Vigorous Renewal will help get back to dodge-ability after a heal. I’m on the fence over this trait. It was a choice of ‘best of the choices I saw’ and I might change it.

Martial Mastery works wonders for sword. Remember that you will be doing a lot of weapon swaps, so you want both weapons strong. There is no ‘fall back weapon option’ for ranger: everything has to perform. This gives it for your sword, and when underwater makes your spear the better option (Not as much need to swap underwater, but keep both options good anyway).

Nature’s Bounty (III) in Nature Magic.

Nature’s Bounty extends the duration of regeneration effects you apply. This will get you more miliage out of your heal, and the minor trait before it. If you find yourself not needing as much healing, you can swap this out for Strength of Spirit which gives a boost to power. On this build, it would give 55 Power.


Rampager Helm – Mesmer Rune
Settler Pauldrons – Mesmer Rune
Berserker Coat – Dwayna Rune
Settler Glove – Mesmer Rune
Carrion Pants – Mesmer Rune
Berserker Boots – Mesmer Rune

Underwater Armor:
GavBeorn Breather
– I still need to think about the upgrade slot on this.


Rampager Sword – Force Sigil
Rampager Torch – Purity Sigil
-Swap To-
Rampager Axe – Force Sigil
Rampage Axe – Purity Sigil

I might be changing ‘Purity’ for Accuracy soon to boost up critical chance. My other condition removals seem sufficient. If I keep purity, it might make sense to put accuracy in there instead of force so that purity triggers more often.

Underwater Weapons: I have not bought / crafted for this yet, but I recommend Rampage and Force Sigil weapons.


Rabid Back – Ruby (Berserk) Upgrade
Rampage Accessory – Coral (Rampage) Upgrade x2
Rampage Ring – Coral (Rampage) Upgrade
Rabid Ring – Ruby (Berserk) Upgrade
Rabid Amulet – Ruby (Berserk) Upgrade


Two Devourers. Any two of the three will do. Swap them in combat constantly to get as much use of their special ability as you can, and put them away before they die.

These were chosen because they apply conditions from range, and burrow under when targeted. You might prefer other pets – but I strongly suggest using ranged ones.

Many say pets are hard to keep alive, but if you use them right, they’re not all that bad at staying up. It is about choice of pet and managing their cooldowns. This is one of those areas where the Ranger is NOT a Hunter. The Hunter can let the pet play itself, the Ranger has to look at those F1-4 keys and master timing them all while still mastering their weapons and utilities, AND master positioning of both the pet and the ranger.

The key for this is in three basic elements:

  1. Use ranged pets, that operate further out than you. S if you are ranged and not melee, stand between your pet and the enemy.
  2. Swap pets often (F4). Have both slots filled in with good pets, and swap them constantly. If one gets aggro or takes AoE, swap it right away. Pets heal super fast when stashed, and as long as it doesn’t die the cooldown on swapping is around 15 seconds.
  3. F3 is your friend. Use it to call your pet off of a target. If my pet gets aggro or is standing in a bad spot, this will save it.


Healing Spring is amazingly good in dungeons and group events. Otherwise go with Heal as One. The Troll Unguent heal is less useful as your traits will be giving you regeneration – but if you can survive spikes, the trait that boosts regeneration duration can make Troll Unguent attractive.

Utility Skill Choices

Modify utility skills as needed to get either more conditions, or a little bit of survivability.

Signet of Renewal is the most important of my utility skills – that clears your conditions. That’s the only utility I always keep on my action bar. Everything else I change up between almost every fight… Activate it when you get too many conditions to deal with, otherwise let the passive strip them off over time.

Sharpening Stone is a major part of the DPS for this build. With the amount of condition damage I have, I want to get conditions onto the enemy as often as possible. This one stays on the bar unless a fight needs something. Its a default, but I’m willing to give it up a little faster than Renewal as I have traits that also apply it. If I have this, I hit it on cooldown.

The third utility slot changes constantly. The only regular there is Signet of the Hunt because in the open world that’s great for exploring, and in cities just getting around. Never activate that one unless in a fight where you’re stacking and have no desire to go anywhere.

Elite Skill

Rampage As One is very nice to have and spam on cooldown. The fury and might are very useful.

All of the other elite skills are situational. Use them when you know the situation calls for it.

Resulting Stats Summary



This is a ‘balanced’ dungeon build, somewhat ‘tanky’. You will have moderately high aggro, but you will not be subject to one shots.

The power and crit chance may seem low, but the damage comes out pretty good due to constant application of a lot of conditions. When playing this I don’t see large flashy numbers as often as on my thief or my warrior, but enemy mobs go down visibly faster.

Jump in and out of melee all the time. When ranged you want to be ‘just over the line’ from the reach of melee or point-blank-area-effects. It is fine to swap into Axe even when staying in melee if there is something of use there.

If there is a stack of enemies somewhere and most do not have aggro on you, the number 5 of axe, Whirling Defense, is amazing. You can also trigger it defensively to avoid a big ranged attack or a whole bunch of little ones.

Be careful with Sword skill number 2, Hornet Sting. Its crazy fun at level 5, but you will soon notice it can leap you back to the very wrong place to be… like over a cliff… or into some new adds…

If your sword has you stuck on the enemy and you need to move away, swap to axe and dodge. Or try hitting that number 2 once, but not twice.


With the recent patch, my damage and survival both went up. The change was slight, but enough to feel it.

Guild Wars 2 mythbusting: If damage is all that counts, why are you getting one-shot?

If damage is all that counts, why are you getting one-shot?

This one has been simmering in my mind since the launch of the game.

First a little background, then the claims, then my counter-claim.


Guild Wars 2 is a no-trinity combat system MMO. The idea, the intention, was that fluid roles of control, support, and damage would replace the trinity. Each aspect of the tank, healer, and DPS trinity model actually maps to one of the control, support, and damage items. The difference is that you are not supposed to locked to one of them. Not in character choice, not in talent choices, not in gear choices, not even in ‘which one am I for today’s mission?’

If the system worked perfectly, you would be playing all three roles in the same PvE combat – and they would just be labels used to describe your current action.

Intended design:

  • One moment you bash the enemy – damage.
  • The next you put up a smoke screen or protection field – control.
  • A second later you drop a healing seed or revive an ally – support.

If Guild Wars 2 worked, as it was claimed to be designed to work – we would alternate between these various tasks to get through PvE content. Bosses would hit hard enough that control and support would matter, and be susceptible to having damage become more effective when proper offensive control was used (conditions).

Would this be required, optimal, or just possible? There’s a LOT of room for debate there, and I don’t claim a bulletproof answer to that, though my theory below might seem to.

The popular claims in contrast:

I see two very popular claims among notable segments of the Guild Wars 2 community, and a third claim that compliments the first major claim. To me the two claims are a contradiction that form some of the basis of my counter argument.

The first claim is that damage is all that matters, or all that matter enough – two degrees of the same basic argument: one is best served not bothering with control and support is too weak to be impactful (some claim it is so weak it is useless, most just claim its not strong enough to be focused on).

The notion here is that just straight out bursting down an enemy is all one should care about. Build for DPS only. Do as much damage as fast as possible, before the enemy can kill anyone. The phrase “the best defense is a good offense” is the mantra of this theory.

If one focuses on just straight damage, it is possible to turn out some pretty high numbers (my thief probably has about a 4k to 5k DPS, and is NOT focused on pure damage. She could likely get about 10% higher).

The second claim is that bosses often have hidden moves with no ‘clear’ telegraph that can and will one-shot anyone hit by them. This claim then notes that there is nothing that can be done about this RNG based one-shotting. It is a flaw of design, for which some people have to ‘take time out’ to revive downed teammates. Protection, regeneration, armor, vitality, AoE healing, and so on all are too weak to counter this issue.

Because the telegraphs are hidden, or because an attack chain can put a couple of big hits in a row – dodge simply cannot catch these: which is why the claimants call it bad design.

The notion is that these attacks need to be telegraphed so skilled players can avoid them, or paced so that endurance can be there to dodge them.

A complimentary claim to the first claim is that the bosses are just giant health sinks. They have way too many hit points and so all one does is sit there and spam direct damage at them, as much and as fast as possible. That because of this high health, other tactics are less useful. I’m listing this third because I intend to put the first two claims against each other, and am less interested in this claim but will address it to a degree.

My counter-claim
As the subject of this blog post implies, I see a contradiction in the first two claims.

Essentially I boil it down to ‘if damage was all that mattered, why do you keep getting one-shot?’

If the boss is alive long enough to reach one of those untelegraphed one-shot hits and execute it – either their was not enough damage, or something other than just damage must be important somewhere, or the design is just flawed.

I’m going to argue that something other than just damage is likely important.

In part because the bosses are such health sinks, they will tend to last long enough to get off several of those untelegraphed hits, or a chain of effects that come too close together to all be dodged.

Where I flat out disagree with the claims above is the idea that control and support are so weak that they cannot be that something else.

Starting with defensive control.

Protection is a good example. If this boon is up, that’s 33% of the damage of a hit just pushed right off the table as if it never happened. 24000 damage just became 16000 damage. Bring in armor, regeneration, and a steady flow of self and group heals and a hit that might face-plant a group focused only on damage might need to occur 5 more times before it can take someone out – and even when the attacks chain together quickly, attacks on that massive of a scale will rarely chain in 5 times in so many seconds. The normal ‘very bad situation’ of 2 of them back to back moves from a sure killer to a moment to shift up the thinking for just a bit.

Armor… Armor starts to go through significant diminishing returns after 2700. But in the ramp up to that number, a few hundred more armor can be gained with a loss to damage of only a few percentage points. The trade off starts to sound very worth it when that difference is the difference that makes an untelegraphed mega-hit survivable. Instead of the sudden one-shot, you get a ‘mostly shot down’ moment that you step back from, self heal, and re-engage.

That is just two aspects of defensive control, both of which can work wonders to make the concept of a one-shot moot.

And that heal? The support aspect?

If you can toss out a 5 to 8k self heal, then you can handle any hit that leaves you with at least 1 health, and come back strong enough to just grin at the enemy. Threat in the game is heavily impacted by who has already taken notable damage. If you’re at 50% of your health, and the other person is at 90% – that gives you a threat boost. So a medium heal is actually useful as a threat management tool… The heals are designed in conjunction with the threat mechanic to allow clever players to stay up and hold aggro off of more ‘glassy’ teammates.
– granted you will want to get more healing soon… or the next hit might do you in… and so good healing counts. In fact for this regen based or proc based small heals can be better than the big self heal. If you have something like like ‘30% chance to heal on crit’ and that gives you a few hundred health – it will proc enough to get you to a place of safety after the self heal, but not so fast that your threat advantage is lost.

But this becomes a more complex act of balancing factors.

However done right – there is no longer any such thing as a surprise one shot attack in GW2.

Those untelegraphed mega attacks?

Maybe they are there on purpose – so that just dodging is not optimal. They are there, as a certain amount of unavoidable damage, so that people will hopefully be willing to suffer a 5% to 10% loss of damage for a 200% boost in mitigation through control and support.

And there is offensive control…

Why are bosses massive health sinks?

Because in addition to having high health, ensuring they last long enough to run a cycle of unavoidable hits, they have high armor – which mitigates out a lot of direct damage.

Try spamming a huge stack of conditions on a boss. Enough so that you cap out on them and some players are wasting theirs… Note how much faster the boss health can go down, when boss armor is no longer in play…
– But this again requires greater coordination, to avoid too much of players wasting them.

Condition damage builds in PvE have become unpopular due to unshakeable and defiant. Boons on bosses that prevent CC. But these boons do -not- prevent interrupts (just the associated benefits like the followup stun), and they do not stop things like bleed, poison, and confusion.

Because two aspects of conditions perform poorly on bosses (capping conditions and CC), many have simply given up rather than take advantage of the remaining still working aspects.

So maybe offensive control still has a place too, just like defensive control and support.

The counter counter that defeats my entire argument (or does it):

Some will say there are no hidden telegraphs on enemies, that you can dodge every notable attack, shake off every condition without even having a trait or skill for it, never go down, never need to revive anyone else, and burn down all enemies in mere seconds. They point to a few videos making this claim. And maybe for some content they are right, when its done by players who are so amazing they have superman underwear and three times the endurance pool of the rest of us.

But are you all that leet? And does that really work in any content?


Builds coming next:

If my plans work out right, I’ll be following this up with 5 builds – one for each of my as of this date 80s. These builds are designed to be PvE balanced builds: in the point between offense and defense. For me they work amazingly well in dungeon and open world content. I can routinely solo in places people claim are impossible to solo. I can do events in Orr on my own, I can ‘almost tank’ dungeon bosses, and so on. I do a little less damage, but I get a LOT more survival. I don’t bunker play. These are not pure support/control builds. They are offensive, but with solid defense for those moments when adds show up, bosses hit too often, telegraphs are missing, and so on.

We’ll see once I post them, hopefully I will be able to explain the choices I made.

Guild Wars 2 – A rare intrinsic reward based MMO, or why loot is so low.

Extrinsic gameplay focuses on the destination. Intrinsic focuses on the journey.

This video highlights the different mindsets:

Guild Wars 2 is an intrinsic reward based MMO. It is one of three such MMOs that I am aware of having ever existed, the others being Guild Wars 1 (officially not an MMO, but played as one by many of its fans) and City of Heroes (now dead, after an 8 year 7 month run). If there were ever other intrinsic reward MMOs, I have not yet heard of them.

This is not the method of motivation most present day MMO players have been trained for, not by a longshot. Its different. Perhaps the most different aspect of Guild Wars 2 from any other MMO. There is more ‘system shock’ in getting used to this change for the typical player than the lack of the EQ/WoW Trinity or the lack of raids.

In an extrinsicly motivated game, players seek some reward. More power, more gear, more gold, access to gated content, special mounts, special weapons, special titles, special stuff.

You are always seeking the next high, the next ‘climatic moment’, when playing an extrinsic moment. The content you do to reach that goal is ‘put up with’. It is designed to test you, or wear you down, or punish you if too slow at it, or keep you paying for a subscription longer, to reach the goal.

You get you joy when you reach the ‘happy place’ at the end of it… which lasts a few fleeting moments, and then you need to find a new extrinsic reward. Developers need to keep giving you more and more shinies to collect, or they will lose you.

In an intrinsic game, there is no real goal or destination to seek out. The peak of all the gear has little is any meaning. The shinies are few and far between if even there at all (City of Heroes had no meaningful loot system for its first few and possibly most successful years).

An intrinsic game seeks to reward the journey, and may even go so far as to remove the destination, or just hand you the destination. The ride is the fun, there is no ‘climatic moment’. You want that journey to last as long as it can, and give you all it can – because when its over, its over. You can seek a new journey, but the shiny has little meaning.

Intrinsic based games seek to get your loyalty by providing increasing amounts of depth to the journey. Make it take a while, give it more flavor, put in lots of things that are ‘off the beaten path’. More story, more color, more flavor. Less rewards, less shinies. Gear is less meaningful; often equalized. Getting the best gear is so easy its almost if not actually just given to you. Content is rarely gated; because the content is not to be overcome, but savored; so it needs to be accessible to get everyone in there for the most joy in the journey they can manage. Special titles? Easy if there. Special loot? Mostly meaningless.

The nature of the shinies in intrinsic play, when present is to enhance the journey rather than peak it. Mini pets, skins, flavor items for roleplay, guild and player halls and houses. Etc…

Guild Wars 2 is a mostly intrinsic play focused game. Its all about the journey here. The destination is meaningless. What are the extrinsic rewards?

Fractal levels and legendaries. One is designed to let people endlessly grind something just to be able to survive grinding the exact same thing set to x% harder – the rewards in it merely let you set x higher next time around. The other? A special skin for a weapon. Almost an intrinsic style reward – but set to be way out there; designed to take a few years of normal play to achieve (but set up such that extrinsic reward focused payers can knock it out much quicker… checking it off their list, only to discover it was a list with one entry).

If you get motivated by extrinsic rewards in an MMO: shinies, loot, gearing, the climatic moment, etc… GW2 is just not the MMO for you.

The extrinsic rewards are subpar, and this appears to be by intentional design. Loot is thin, gold comes slow, and even if you speed up the pace of gold, there is little to use it on. Almost none of the content is gated. Special events even often level-up people so a character at any stage of play can join in the journey. Progression is almost solely horizontal: new looks, stats moved around within the same tier range (such as shuffling between precision or power for which is higher).

GW2 is designed for intrinsic rewarding of play.

The reward is the actual play itself. The journey is the reward here, not the destination. If you enjoy exploring just to explore. If you enjoy doing dungeons just to do them. If you enjoy playing a particular character just to play it. GW2 is the MMO for you. Events and design of the maps, even the hearts – they are all built around the idea that just being there while it is happening is all the reward one needs.

Step into the world of Guild Wars 2 and look around. Vistas are a case in point here. What is the point of a vista in GW2? To get your camera to pan around and see a wide view of nothing more than beautifully rendered scenery. There is a small shiny in this, a little bit of extrinsic reward, designed to get you to just savor a place. But the entire world builds out like this. Everywhere you go, there are artistically done views to enjoy and be in. Savoring the journey, enjoying just being in there: that is what they are aiming at delivering.

Why do ‘Heart Quests’ seem shallow to so many? Because they’re not the design focus. They are merely there to get you to an area where you can enjoy being there, seeing and meeting all the NPCs, and taking part in the events staged there.

This is why they go away in Orr and Southsun. By this point in the game, the thought was that you no longer need to be led to the journey on a carrot, and can find it yourself. Talk to players who enjoy Orr and you find people who often note ‘uncovering the hidden history in out of the way spots’ or taking part in events with friends. Journey focused. Talk to players who dislike Orr and its often about the low loot, the need for a zerg like group to be able to ‘win’ the mega-events, and the lack of ‘things to do’ outside of that. Note that one group will have no trouble finding things to do, that another group never comes across. Not a flaw of extrinsic players: just that its built for a different style of player.

– This pattern, while extreme in Orr, is repeated throughout the game. So extrinsic players, on “finishing” the hearts have little “reason” to come back, while intrinsic players will return to a spot over and over again because the play there is enjoyable to just be a part of.

If you are a solidly extrinsic minded player: you need something to grind for and achiev, this is unlikely to ever be a good MMO for you. It was built, from the get go, to be the MMO for the other players. The players the competition has not been serving. The ones who just want to be a part of a fantasy world, and savor the experience of exploring it.

Guild Wars 2 is just an intrinsic reward based MMO.


References for where my thoughts on this formed over the last month: