Introduction – Thief Theory
Start with my article on tanky build design. This Thief build is about midway between balanced and DPS.
Just as I noted in my last build guide that the ranger is NOT a World of Warcraft Hunter, the thief is NOT a World of Warcraft Rogue. There is a tendency by a lot of people to map classes and professions across different games as if they were the same. That works when a game has copied another – which has been the sad fate of many recent MMOs. But Guild Wars 2 is not a WoW clone. It has its own design history.
The Thief began as the Guild Wars: Factions Assassin. It appears to have then undergone a series of questions and corrections goals. Chief among them being first, how do we make this class able to survive if it fails to kill its target after the initial burst of instants. The second critical question appears to be, how do we prevent this class from being able to reliably one-shot any target, saving that only for unwitting victims, but still very strong in quick-burst attacks.
To that end thieves occupy a couple of spots in the tactical battle. There is the well known ‘assassin role’ – strike from surprise, hitting hard, and vanishing away. Stealth builds are everywhere and appear to be the primary way thieves get played.
Then there are ranged archer builds designed to apply area pressure – used to stay at a distance and harass in a skirmisher fashion.
This blog presents another option. Not an uncommon one, but not the usual either. A bruiser or thug build. Its going to feel a bit like a warrior. But the ‘analogy’ is different. Where the warrior is a soldier or fighter on an ancient battlefield, the bruiser is like a gangland or barroom tough. You come in and hit hard and fast in small scale combat, and use some distraction tricks to avoid being taken out.
The icon for this is the Mexican Bandito of the Southwest, with a bit of Zorro thrown in. Or maybe ‘The Man with No Name’ of Fistful of Dollars. This is a shoot them in the eye and stab them in the gut while chewing on their nose and jabbing a spiked heel into their boot build. Save the stealth for the ninja turtle backup.
So with that in mind, I build to be strong in multi-target melee, and single target ranged. You jump in and hit a crowd, and then jump back to blast a singular victim.
The caveat here is that one of the two chosen weapon sets is known to be weaker, and I cannot really disagree with that – but I stick to it anyway.
Dual Pistols – the ranged option. The problems with this set are found in the #2 skill having a high initiative cost for what it appears to deliver, and the #3 likewise to a lesser degree. That it is all single target is also an issue, but this build is meant to turn that into an advantage.
Sundering Strikes (VI) and Combined Training (X) in Deadly Arts
Sundering Strikes applies constant vulnerability pressure. With a crit chance above 70%, the odds of having this apply more than once per 10 seconds are very good. It may even be able to trigger more often than the 1-second cooldown. With Sword in melee, this can end up applying Vulnerability all around you thereby given a damage boost to your entire team. An alternative option of Mug or Potent Poison both rely on frequent use of Stealing – which can be problematic if trying stay at range.
Combined Training is the first of two traits designed to boost up your dual wield skills. As I will note later, this build relies very heavily on using both the sword/pistol and the pistol/pistol dual wield skills. A 5% damage bonus to these skills goes a long way here.
Pistol Mastery (V) and Combo Critical Chance (IX) in Critical Strikes
Pistol Mastery is needed to make using the main-hand pistol worthwhile, and has the added bonus of aiding the offhand pistol’s minor damage. Without this trait, the Pistol is unwise even against single targets.
Combo Critical Chance is the second dual wielding trait, giving duel skills a 5% bonus to critical chance. This makes the build’s normal 73% critical chance bump up to 78% when duel wielding. Every bit counts towards pushing that up.
Alternative traits like Ankle Shots, Side Strike, and Signet Use might at first seem good, but this is an in your face shoot them in the eye and stab them in the gut build. None of that standing to the side or running around. And using your signets means losing their passive bonuses – so don’t unless its an emergency.
Power of Inertia (II), Quick Recovery (IX), and Assassin’s Reward (X) in Acrobatics
Power of Inertia, when combined with all of the above passives should be a giant clue that dodging constantly if what you want to be doing – even when there is nothing to dodge…
Quick Recovery is about damage sustainability. The thief is meant to hit hard and fast and then run for it while regaining initiative. You’re planning to hit hard, somewhat quickly, and then stand there and hit again. Your tactic is to keep hitting them until they fall over, and that takes being able to get your initiative coming back in as fast as you spend it. 2 every 10 seconds sounds like nothing… until you’re fighting something big, nasty, and slow to fall down. I’ve pulled this trait off my list many times, only to decide I actually did need it after all.
Assassin’s Reward is how you stay up when facing them down. People can look at the numbers on heals like this and say they’re not worth it. But then you run out there and spam out initiative like crazy and this thing becomes the difference that gets you over the edge.
Rampager Helm – Thief Rune
Rampager Pauldrons – Thief Rune
Knight Coat – Thief Rune
Rampager Glove – Thief Rune
Knight Pants – Thief Rune
Rampager Boots – Thief Rune
– While this play style is not about getting to the side or behind your opponent, there is not better rune set for you. Perhaps swap the last rune for another at your discretion.
– I have this slotted with a Superior Rune of the Orrian for +28 Condition damage for no reason other than that dropped for me and was Souldbound…
Rampager Sword – Force Sigil
Berserker Pistol – Accuracy Sigil
Rampager Pistol – Force Sigil
Berserker Pistol – Accuracy Sigil
Accuracy for critical chance, Force for a damage boost. Note that I only have two pistols and one sword equipped. When I swap to sword, it retains the offhand I had in pistol, so you do not need to buy 3 pistols (as I was doing until about level 50 when I realized this).
Rampager Harpoon Gun – Force Sigil
Berserker Spear – Accuracy Sigil
Soldier Back – Ruby (Berserk) Upgrade
Berserk Accessory – Emerald (Knight) Upgrade x2
Berserk Ring – Coral (Rampage) Upgrade
Berserk Ring – Ruby (Berserk) Upgrade
Berserk Amulet – Emerald (Knight) Upgrade
Hide in Shadows is your go to heal. While Signet of Malice might seem better for the constant healing, you are already getting that from your trait Assassin’s Reward. What you really want here is the ability to drop yourself off of the aggro table for a second or two. Not long term, you’ll be getting right back in there. But timed well this is useful for trading aggro with someone else. You are NOT looking at it as a way to go into a long term sneak around stealth – just a quicky shift up to the situation.
Utility Skill Choices
You won’t be changing one of these ever if possible, and the others as the situation calls for it.
Signet of Agility is the most important of my utility skills – it provides 180 precision, which gives you a bonus of 8% to critical chance. That is a major bonus. Do not remove this from your utility bar, and do not click it, unless you absolutely must and no other utility can be sacrificed.
Assassin’s Signet gives you 180 power. Power is important, but second to critical chance for you. This will boost your attack from 2966 to 3146 – not a trivial change.
The third utility slot changes constantly. The only regular there is Signet of Shadows because in the open world that’s great for exploring, and in cities just getting around. In a fight that utility is less useful as you have so many other blinds, and the mobility is not major enough for getting around given Shadow Step.
For fights, slot the third utility to best benefit the particular situation. Good choices are Scorpion Wire for pulling and Shadow Refuge if you are running with zerkers (who tend to faceplant a lot, so you will need to spend time rezzing them while they complain that you do low DPS because you’re spending 2/3rds of the fight rezzing them…). For added DPS many of the choices work.
Dagger Storm is amazing in PvP and WvW. It makes you immune to projectile attacks while being channeled, so if you don’t have aggro you can spam this one in packs of adds. In WvW, you can use it when defending territory while in a zerg. Because people are mentally trained to think of a thief as a sneaky dagger heartstriker, they often pay me no attention as I destroy them with this… Maybe thinking “that’s so foolish, somebody else will get her” only they all decide that and so none of them do…
Thieves Guild is handy in melee fights, where you don’t get the defensive benefits of Dagger Storm. As long as your two thieves don’t get aggro and don’t stand in AoE, they provide a nice bonus.
Basilisk Venom is not so useful in PvE – it wears off too fast and as you’re not trying to sneak away, has less uses.
Resulting Stats Summary
This is a ‘balanced’ dungeon build leaning towards damage. You will have moderate aggro, and you can be two shot. One-shots are not a major risk, but active mitigation play is required.
Your crit chance is the key to your success. With good power and a high crit, you will see damage numbers spike up often. Do not forget about your conditions.
Headshot on both melee and ranged options is your friend – blind may only block the next attack, but well timed can save you or an ally. I often tab over to someone beating down a teammate, hit Headshot, and tab back.
Black Powder is tricky. Save it for when in melee against large groups. Even if you lack aggro – this can take a LOT of pressure away from whoever has it.
You want to spend as much of your time as possible in melee, spamming Pistol Whip. But remember that it can root you for a time – so use it carefully in crowds. If you attract too much aggro, try Black Powder for a moment, and if you must…
Swap to Dual pistols, pick your primary target, and get back. Unload. Unload on pistols is your friend. Spam it. Hit Body Shot now and again to apply ten stacks of vulnerability – but remember that you already get this from traits.
This is the purpose of going for the single target ranged option – to apply heavy pressure to just one target, letting your ‘threat’ / ‘aggro’ on others drop down until you can safely re-enter melee. In a pure ranged fight, your goal becomes taking out the weakest link among the enemy as fast as possible, and used targeted applications of Headshot to reduce pressure at key moments.
Your heal has a short term built in stealth. If you attract too much aggro you can heal, step back, and wait a moment for someone else to take over before using pistols to single target attack for a time.
And what about Stealing? Steal is one of your gap closers. Use it to quickly move between targets. Infiltrator%27s Strike is also a good gap closer, but runs the risk of sending you back to where you were if you hit it again. However once on a target, you can use the second step in its chain, Shadow Return for reliable on demand condition removal.
This is the most ‘damage focused’ build I have, and yet it is still in the realm of balanced for good survivability. It is pretty common for me to find myself having higher armor than even many guardians in groups I dungeon run with – due to the over-popularity of the ‘zerker’ playstyle. As a result I have found myself ‘saving people’ often. A dead toon does no DPS, so I often end up having more damage done in a fight than the zerkers.
Thief is normally played in an attempt to mimic some fusion between the WoW rogue and the Guild Wars 1 Assassin. This direct, in your face, build style is often a surprise to those who encounter me – that in itself is an advantage in PvP, and often secures my spot in PvE dungeons.