With a word the Virtuoso can strike their foe dumb, with a phrase they can weave their foes’ doom. Masters of blade and spell, the Virtuoso is a Mesmer duelist that focuses on devastating flashy sword play and well-timed instant cast mantras used to control the flow of battle. The virtuoso is a high difficulty build that requires active use and timing, but when played well it is a devastating combatant, high on damage while still maintaining excellent defensive capabilities.
The Virtuoso is a Power based build that focuses on using instant cast Mantras for both offense and defense. It is a reactive build, supplying a toolbox of options you can employ instantly as needed. Clones and Phantasms are used just like the Mantras, able to add to damage either passively or actively, even defensively to react to emergency situations, turning offense into defense in the blink of an eye.
DPS via direct damage. You can tank for short bursts and you also have lock down and crowd control skills.
Gear and Consumables
This build can use pretty much anything but I personally prefer Soldier’s gear. Soldier’s is ideal for boss hunting and is a solid performer in most any situation. The only gear I would suggest staying away from is Condition based gear, as this build really doesn’t offer much condition damage. The build does not rely on particular runes or sigils either. I use Runes of the Vampire myself for its high Power with regular live drain. Also, the life drain the runes give you apply, not only when you first cast your healing mantra, but for each subsequent use. This means you will get this rune benefit four times over, to other people’s single use. The final gaseous form from having six runes is your final escape should you get in over your head. For Sigils I prefer things like Force and Energy on the smaller swords, for the additional damage and clone generation. For the Greatsword I prefer Bloodlust for the additional Power. You can go for most anything though.
For consumables I prefer the Sharpening Stones for Power. Maintenance Oil is nice but you don’t need the criticals and I don’t have enough Critical damage on my gear to make Maintenance Oil a better choice than Sharpening Stones. For food I like options such as Plate of Truffle Steak or Plate of Truffle Steak dinner for the nice increases in Power. Alternatively I’ve recently become a fan of Bowl of Seaweed Salad for the Swiftness which is otherwise missing from the build. The Seaweed Salad also gives a lovely +10% damage while moving, which is very beneficial to any Power build.
I haven’t got all Ascended gear yet but I’m already pushing 4K total Attack with near 2.7K total Armour and over 20k Health. It’s enough to put a warrior to shame and they don’t have the defensive capabilities of a Mesmer.
Greatsword – Your primary ranged weapon as well as a great weapon to use as you close. I usually open a fight with Phantasmal Berserker and Mirror Blade for the additional Might and Illusions. I will then either stay at range or go to the next weapon set.
Twin Swords – A lovely mix of high damage with solid defense. You are able to strike multiple targets and with your high damage, you can wreck masses of lesser beasties.
Illusion of Vulnerability – Vulnerability equals more base damage and you will have ample interrupts to use for it.
Dazzling – More Vulnerability but only from Daze, which is a type of Interrupt. We are stacking damage already.
Wastrel’s Punishment – Bonus damage if your foe is not using a skill. So, if you either missed the interrupt because they were not using a skill, or they are not using a skill because you interrupted them, it’s a bonus 5% damage. This is going to apply a lot especially in PvE.
II) Halting Strike – Good damage that scales with Power every time to interrupt. See a pattern here?
X) Greatsword Training – More Power equals more damage. Better yet, reduced cooldowns means more damage and more Illusions.
XI) Harmonious Mantras – One extra use on each mantra you have prepared. Only one? Well, that’s a 50% increase so that’s a lot.
Critical Infusion – More stamina means more dodges. In this build that’s not just more survivability, it’s more damage.
Sharper Images – It’s more damage though not a lot. Still, more damage is a good thing and it’s more conditions for your foe to sweat over.
Confusing Combatants – More conditions which again means more damage. Never a bad thing.
IV) Blade Training – Increased critical chance and reduced cooldown on your sword skills. More damage done faster, sort of the definition of DpS.
X) Deception Evasion – A Clone when you dodge. Given every weapon easily generates two Illusions already this gives you a third Illusion to bring you to the maximum of three. It takes less than a second for you to hit this maximum. Also helpful for its intended purpose of distracting enemies. Can be a drawback when the mindless images drag more into the fight.
XI) Empowering Mantras – You will be running four mantras with this build, with this trait that’s a constant +16% damage. This trait is very much at the heart of the build.
Illusionary Retribution – More confusion, more damage.
111) Compounding Power – As I’ve already mentioned, you can pop three illusions in less than a second, so start each fight with those three Illusions for a swift +12% damage.
This isn’t the most popular Mantra Build. Typically the build works 20 points into Inspiration in order to get Restorative Mantras. They also take Mantra Mastery from Dueling for reduced recharge. They will also swap Deceptive Evasion for Protected Mantras. The idea of this change is to give more survivability by recharging mantras often for additional toughness and healing. I run Soldier’s armour so I really don’t need this extra. Instead, I’m putting those points into much higher damage.
You obviously want to stack on the Mantras, so every slot other than the Elite skill will have a Mantra. The real power of a Mantra is that once prepared they are instant cast, meaning you can even cast them while in the middle of performing other actions. Given many of the Mesmer weapon skills are channeled this is a great advantage. It also means you are reacting as swiftly as you can hit the button, so you can interrupt some of the fastest skills in the game.
Mantra of Recovery – Your only healing skill. It’s a little weak so don’t hesitate to use it to constantly top up. Do not wait until the last minute to use it because remember, you have three shots with it.
Mantra of Resolve – While the remaining mantras are optional this one should always be on your bar. Both you and your companions can shed up to two conditions instantly. Most condition removal skills are either automatic and outside your control, or they have a potentially deadly cast time. Once prepared this Mantra works instantly.
Mantra of Pain – I usually have this Mantra slotted because it can be recast almost immediately after you’ve exhausted it. It’s also an instant attack doing damage while I’m already performing other attacks, thus sharply increasing your spike damage. Even if I get to a boss fight late, spamming a couple of hits from Mantra of Pain swiftly qualifies me for having input into the battle for loot.
Mantra of Distraction – Daze both interrupts and compounds with your Dazzling trait for additional Vulnerability. Your traits also make each Interrupt cause additional damage.
Mantra of Concentration – Perhaps the mantra I slot least, but I will always swap out Distraction for Concentration when fighting many world bosses. The Claw of Jormag is a prime example as he’s constantly spamming fear as well as that wave of ice that knocks people back. Between Mantra of Resolve and Mantra of Concentration you can hold your entire party firm against the Claw’s best.
For your Elite skill take whatever you find useful. I usually use Time Warp to help out in world boss fights but I change stuff around on a whim.
Pay careful attention to set your underwater skills to the same Mantra, otherwise every time you hit the water you’ll undo your mantras and have to recast them. Also, make sure you cast your Mantra as soon as you change zones. It’s an important habit, otherwise you might port into a boss fight only to discover too late that you have zero healing skills! This build doesn’t let you swap skills in and out as much as some other builds because you are relying on those Mantras. Swap just one out and you lose a minimum of 4% damage. You can do it but just make sure what you swap out is worth it.
How to use it
I won’t recommend skill rotations. To my way of thinking, if your play style is so strongly predefined that you can make a macro to spam, then I don’t even understand why you are playing, you’re just botting without the software. Instead, this build and my play style is about providing a toolbox of skills for you to apply sensibly to the ever evolving combat.
The idea of the build is to maintain your mantras and Illusions for a constant passive damage increase of 28% from Empowering Mantras and Compounding Power. It’s a Power build, so flat increases to damage are brilliant. Add in some of the other passive bonuses from Vulnerability and Wastrel’s Punishment and you have a solid passive damage increase of roughly 41%. This means almost every hit is effectively as strong as a traditional Critical. You also have a reasonable Critical chance regardless of gear so you are putting out a lot of rapid base damage.
Mantras, Shatter skills and some weapon skills are used reactively. The moment your opponent is about to attack you are aiming to interrupt, stopping their attack for a nice damage bonus and more stacks of Vulnerability. Because of the bonus Condition Duration from maxing out the Domination Traits, it’s easy enough to hit a full 25 stacks of vulnerability, taking your passive damage up to 58% before additional Condition damage and Sigils. At the same time you are locking down your foe so they cannot do any damage to you.
In lengthy boss fights I tend to only spawn high damage Illusions like the Phantasmal Berserker and the Illusionary Swordsman. This gives you high damage companions and that nice solid +12% damage from Compounding Power. Don’t waste Illusions on low damage clones if you don’t have too, because you won’t be shattering them in a boss fight as the phantasms will give higher DPS.
You do not have ready access to Swiftness or other movement buffs. This can be annoying, especially if you are traveling with someone that has a passive +25% movement. You can make up for this with consumables as mentioned above. Other than this one issue I don’t really find anything else to complain about. You have both long and short range, ready removal of conditions and defensive skills, and devastating damage potential. Whether it’s a boss fight or a horde of minions you have the tools for the job. I use the build primarily in PvE where your interrupts are easiest to pull off. I imagine the build should perform well in PvP given the high damage combined with good survivability, but that’s only theory on my part. Where this build will suffer is in WvW where the chaos of zerg v zerg won’t allow you to be terribly clever with your well timed interrupts. You have AoE but it’s dependent on getting in close, which isn’t healthy, or on generating enough Illusions to shatter, which is near impossible in the dense DPS surrounding a zerg.
What I really like
I love how the default for the character is high damage, without needing to do anything to achieve it. I don’t have to build 25 stacks of Might or execute a set combo, all that damage is ready to unleash, just so long as I remember to prep my Mantras. This means that if I’m not doing anything important, just off farming in a lowbie zone, then the build is really laid back to use. What I also love is that if I do need to step it up then the build becomes very active as I start using skills for some nice combos. In addition, when I invariably push the limits and get into trouble, the build offers heaps of ways to blast my way out of the situation and either run or begin kiting.
The build also looks fairly nice to play, though that is mostly because Mesmers have inbuilt style. Looks great though when you join a melee with a pile of lumbering Charr Warriors and in a literal blur of motion Illusions fly off in all directions then suddenly; Boom! All the bad guys fall dead as you finish on a big shatter. Another cool feature is the Mesmer’s natural ability to cast Illusions. I can run into a fight and throw Illusions out in various directions while I sit back nice and safe. It’s like I’m suddenly everywhere at once. If I’m running solo and just looking to farm nodes I might even throw some Illusions around to distract the creatures while I safely gather the resources unmolested.
When I first started playing a Mesmer I really sucked at it. I hated the profession and it was easily my worst character. Now she is my favorite and has been the first character of mine to be considered complete enough to shower with Ascended gear.