Elementalist Build: Building a better Gandalf


Introduction – Elementalist Theory

Start with my article on tanky build design. This PvE Elementalist build is ‘balanced with a slight nod towards tanky. It is intended for PvE, Dungeons, and perhaps WvW.

While Ranger, Thief, and Guardian suffer from perceptions that they are ‘just like their WoW counterparts’ almost no one mistakes the Elementalist for a ‘DPS Mage’. In fact the class is often dismissed in PvE for not bringing enough under the faulty presumption that DPS is all that matters.

If you’re here, you’re potentially open to being disabused of that notion and finding a role for your Elementalist in PvE. I’ve got that role, but I can’t convince others for you that more than DPS counts. Much more counts, and people will continue to faceplant while believing otherwise. But if the GOP can believe it had a shot at winning the 2012 election by sitting in its own echo chamber for years, and the wingnuts on the right can still believe they’re not crazy despite the rest of the world having all the proof they need… well, people love being in echo chambers.

And the echo chamber that DPS is all that matters in Guild Wars 2 PvE will continue no matter how many people fail at it, all because ‘a random guy on the internet who plays at a pro-level pulled it off in his youtube video’. This isn’t Lake Wobegon, not everyone can be above average, let alone Captain Amazing. The first rule of the top 1%, is that 99% of us are not it. If I go out on a limb here and say you dear reader, suck: I have 50-50 odds of being right. But if I just say “you are not Captain Amazing”, I’ve got 99 to 1 odds of being right. I’ll take that bet.

And frankly, even Captain Amazing still gets one-shot from time to time. Why accept that? How much time is spent ‘running back’ or coordinating running past to skip mobs in all those ‘faster runs’? Often that part takes longer than the actual dungeon run itself. Quite common to see a group spend 10 minutes trying to skip a 2 minute encounter, and 5 minutes running back from a 1 minute fight because you can dodge twice in a row, but not thrice.

Ok to you readers, I’m also a random person on the internet. No reason to trust me either – but do get thinking as you look this over.

There are three sides to the model in Guild Wars 2 PvE: Support, Damage, and Control. The typical Elementalist path in Guild Wars 2 is Support or extreme Bunker control in WvW and sPvP, and thus its lack of popularity in PvE. When brought into PvE it is often assumed you must go Dagger/Dagger to get the most out of the class’ weaker DPS. Or you show up for the Gravelings in Path 1 of Ascalon Catacombs with an Icebow, and then switch back to your other character after that fight. This build looks at going into Control – but not as a bunker. Controlled DPS.

On the surface the Elementalist looks like its namesake from the original Guild Wars, but that class was very strong on DPS and Support, but soft on control and unable to withstand even mild aggro.

Guild Wars 2 has changed the dynamic to be still strong in support, moderate in control (until it flips to bunker where it is near the top in a specialized form of control), and weak in DPS. At least by default.

My iconic role model here is Gandalf, standing on the bridge declaring “You shall not pass!” You’re not the heavy damage hitter, but you can tank something to a degree, and you bring your own brand of amazing to the situation.

That means bringing an overall package, that can hold aggro in a dungeon, and switch between support, control, and DPS as needed in mid fight.

You have 4 elemental attunements, if you aren’t using all of them in the average pull, you’re doing it wrong.

The Build:




Internal Fire (VI) and Burning Precision (V) in Fire Magic

Internal Fire: You will spend a majority of your time in fire. This ends up happening in any build that doesn’t go heavy support or bunker. It is just that good for damage. With this trait, its even 10% better. Pretty much mandatory for any build that wants to hit hard.

Burning Precision offers a 30% chance to cause burning on a critical hit. Never underestimate Condition Damage. It is very popular to dismiss it, yet it is a great way to do a lot of damage with little effort. This build, like many of those I design, makes significant use of condition damage. With regular critical hits, this trait will be able to apply constant pressure to the enemy.

Soothing Winds (VI) and Bolt to the Heart (V) in Air Magic

Soothing Winds is handy for getting a bit more healing power. You will see constant comments that healing power is useless in Guild Wars 2. Read them, and then smile as those little tiny numbers you spam out like crazy prevent wipe, after wipe, after wipe. Let that echo chamber have its fun while you keep groups up while barely trying. TOO MUCH healing power is a waste. But a little actually does go a long way. With this build, this trait is giving 95 healing power.

That said, you could got for One with Air for more mobility instead of Signet of Air or Quick Glyphs if you rely on the elemental a lot. But One with Air requires shifting to air in mobility moments.

Bolt to the Heart opens up the concept of a burn phase – that moment in the fight where you speed up to finish them off. A 20% bonus to damage is no laughing matter, and gives you all the motivation you should need to focus fire on any enemy that gets low.

Signet Mastery (II), Stone Splinters (VI), and Written in Stone (XII) in Earth Magic

Signet Mastery will keept your signets active, shaving 20% off the cooldown for more spamming opportunity. This is a signet build, but one where you want to be spamming the active play of the signets.

Stone Splinters gives you a bonus of 10% if you get up close. Staff is a ranged weapon. So what is going on with this choice? The answer is that you’re built to take a beating, and get some aggro – so embrace it. Get in there and hit them hard with a big stick, up close and personal.

Written in Stone is a cornerstone of your build. THis lets you spam your signets with abandon without giving up their passive bonuses. And that makes a signet build very worthwhile.


Rabid Helm – Mesmer Rune
Berserk Pauldrons – Mesmer Rune
Knight Coat – Mesmer Rune
Rampager Glove – Mesmer Rune
Knight Pants – Mesmer Rune
Berserk Boots – Rune of the Baelfire (+25 Power)

Underwater Armor:
GavBeorn Breather


Rampager Staff – Accuracy Sigil

Accuracy for critical chance. This is almost always a good Sigil to have on one of your weapons, and when you only have one weapon – its often the ideal choice.

Underwater Weapons:
Rampager Trident – Water Sigil
– Going for a little spill off support here as underwater combat tends to be confusing and button mashing for many people. This will let you give your team a little more space to mash random buttons in such a highly skilled way.


Cavalier Back – Emerald (Knight) Upgrade
Magi Accessory – Ruby (Berserk) Upgrade x2
Magi Ring – Azurite (Sentinel) Upgrade x2
Knight Amulet – Emerald (Knight) Upgrade


Glyph of Elemental Harmony is your go to heal. While Signet of Restoration might seem better for both the constant healing and this being a signet build, the boon from Glyph of Elemental Harmony is very useful. That said, I recommend trying both and seeing which plays better in the long run. I have been unable to decide.

Utility Skill Choices

We’re going for a signet build, which should have been obvious from the traits. Because of your last trait; Written in Stone, you can spam these to your heart’s content.

On the one hand you can pick any three utilities, but on the other hand, one of them comes way out on top for damage and another way out on top for mitigation.

Signet of Fire is the most important of your 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. You might notice a trend if reading my builds – if there is a utility that always gives precision, or a trait, I get it. It is the best place to buff this up just a little bit more, and lets your weapons and armor do things other than just ‘zerker’.

Signet of Water cures a condition every 10 seconds. That is not fast, but it is better than nothing. Don’t dismiss Chill in PvE either – not only is the reduction to skill recharge very powerful against bosses, but the movement reduction is very handy against adds. You active condition removal is found in Healing Rain – Don’t forget it.

If you still have trouble with condition damage pressure, put Cleansing Fire into place (if human, Prayer to Lyssa can be better).

The third utility slot changes constantly. The only regular there is Signet of Air because in the open world that’s great for exploring, and in cities just getting around. It is still useful in fights as a blind with a damage component. But this is the most common Signet for me to swap out when the situation calls for some special ability.

Elite Skill

I’m really not a fan of any of the elite skill choices.
Glyph of Elementals is however, quite handy for the earth elemental. Unlike every other pet in Guild Wars 2, the Earth Elemental can take a beating AND tends to be an aggro hog in PvE dungeons. In other words, its a pocket tank on a cooldown. Very useful in boss fights or fights with a lot of adds.

Resulting Stats Summary



This is a ‘balanced’ dungeon build leaning towards tanky. You will have moderate aggro, and can take a boss hit or two. But don’t get overconfident with that. You should be ok having about 30-40% of boss aggro time.

Your success relies on switching attunements constantly and changing your role back and forth between support and control while still keeping up a lot of damage.

I will often open with Flame Burst and then as they get close to me, hit Burning Retreat, positioning to get NPC mobs to walk through as much of the line as possible. You can spam Lava Font on mostly still mobs, but Meteor Shower is best saved for when you’ve got them standing in one spot.

Air is tricky, but Gust can be used to keep some distance. However remember that most of the time you want them relatively close to you for Stone Splinters to do its thing. Out of combat using Windborne Speed can be handy, and makes a credible argument for using One with Air and thereby dropping Signet of Air.

If there is a large stack of adds, you get to show off your control skills by dropping Static Field into them. That is an excellent way to really slow the enemy’s damage output down and open them up to attack.

Magnetic Aura is extremely useful in a ranged fight. Get in between the enemy and the softer member of your group and hit this. Earth is going to be mostly about opportunities to cast Eruption and Shockwave for heavy condition pressure and, when used on enemies lacking defiant – mobility control.

I alternate between saving water for crisis moments and staying in it for periods of time. Judge this by your group. If they have trouble handling incoming damage, switch in to water and spam it into the crowd of melee – where you can hit both enemies and allies. And the benefit of staying close now becomes not just Stone Splinters, but constant self healing.

This is a jack of all trades build. That’s not a bad thing. You’re settling for decent to good in every field. TO play that means you need to be staying in the thick of the battle – right on the edge of melee – and constantly swapping around as the situation demands. You are not stand in the back support and ranged, and you are not the dagger/dagger run in there and hit had and fast. You are steady and reliable, but hard hitting.

Its a style that gives you more options than too much specializing.

And what about when soloing? The common comment is that staff is very weak when solo. This is part of why the build has the toughness it has – you can take the hits when solo, but you still do good damage. Enemies will not go down as fast as they would on a dagger / dagger – but when you can solo more than one veteran at a time, while in melee; a slight delay is not all that bad.

And if it gets tough, pop into Earth, drop your elemental, and let it tank for you while you heal up (and your water heals work on the elemental too).


This is my balanced build. The closest I go to the absolute middle of the line as a Jack of all trades. It is great in normal dungeons. Not the speed runs, but the PUGs where you don’t know how many people will be good and how many won’t. You can hold such groups up pretty well. That’s really what most runs will be anyway. Even in speed run dungeons – the people doing them are frankly, not all as good as they think they are. Which means this is a great build for anything other than a ‘premade speed run team’.

Its good soloing, you don’t need to be ‘at the top of your game’ as you can take the hits, but you do enough damage that you can get stuff done.

Its great in World v World. Its a wide open field there in regards to what you will have on your side and what will be on the other side. You put out very solid AoE pressure, and can support the moderately skilled to excellent members of your team. And if somebody notices you there – you can take a few hits.

Your weakpoint is condition damage. Very low vitality on the build, so you need to be always ready to hit Cleansing Fire or Healing Rain

One thought on “Elementalist Build: Building a better Gandalf

  1. I’ve been trying this build and it seems quite fun so far (though admittedly with the wrong gear, still getting exotics for my ele). Thanks for posting this.

    Incidentally, did you actually mean Prayer to Lyssa or Prayer to Kormir?

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