I use my Necromancer as my one and only character for WvW. I don’t do much WvW so I figure focussing on playing one class well was a lot better than playing a half dozen poorly. With my limited PvP skills as a player, I find the simpler demands of the Necromancer a good option for me. I’ve tried a ton of builds; Terrormancer, Wellomancer, Corruption, each one awesome in their own way. This build has been the result of many hours of tinkering and WvW play, including at least a half dozen complete exotic outfit changes, to arrive at what you find here.
WvW demands some strict requirements from a character build, things not needed for PvE; things like high survivability, Stun breakers and movement skills. For a zerg build you are not just building for yourself or even a small team, you have to consider how to be valuable to an entire crowd of people. The Necromancer lacks many abilities other classes can take for granted. Almost all classes have some low cooldown Stun breakers and Stability. Classes like Warrior and Elementalist have skills that allow them moments of complete immunity to damage! As for mobility and the ability to escape, I envy the skills of Mesmers and Thieves with their Stealth and short ranged teleports. The Necromancer has few of these abilities many people rightly consider vital to WvW survival. However, if the Necromancer embraces what they do have, especially the mechanics unique to their class, then they can attain a degree of sustainability which will be the envy of others.
Living in Australia and playing through on old copper lines, I have to suffer the additional penalty of a Ping that varies between 300-600m/s. This ping makes it hard to stay on a commander playing at >30m/s ping who’s weaving all over the place, only visible to you sporadically as his avatar seemingly teleports around. Even with a good computer system and my graphics turned way down, there is only so much you can do to mitigate Ping issues. Due to the Ping issue it is common to turn the direction the commander gave in Mumble, only to discover too late that he’d turned back without letting you know. Suddenly you are standing in the middle of an entire zerg alone and swiftly, dead, while your commander is saying something like “Those people that are dead, you should be ashamed of yourselves, you should probably just uninstall”. True story that, I have had commanders say those exact words and worse. Shame on them to be honest, I just find another commander these days. This build is my answer to being left alone in a zerg and expected to escape.
The focus is on survival, by taking full advantage of the Death Shroud ability as a regular panic button, usable for both offence and defence. Revenant is a Power based build, using a high base Power for principle damage. Precision and Ferocity have been sacrificed as they are of no value when trying to break down doors or destroy enemy siege. As a Power build it uses Wells to swiftly tag enemy, as well as providing buffs and debuffs to support the front line.
Provide support via mid ranged wells and attacks. High sustain allows the build to roadblock groups, allowing you to hold points to prevent enemy capping until help can arrive. You can also survive being run over by an entire zerg and still escape if the zerg doesn’t single you out for death. While primarily a zerg build, it is able to take entire camps solo if needed.
Gear and Consumables
Soldier’s weapons, armour and trinkets are standard. You want as much Vitality as you can because it counts for both your Heath and your Life Force, effectively doubling the damage you can take before being downed. Maximizing Power also means you contribute valuable sustainable damage. Toughness is simply mandatory in any WvW zerg build.
I now use Runes of Exuberance, primarily for the Vitality, but also for the small amount of Precision and reasonable Power help improve overall damage. I did use Runes of the Vampire for some time and I highly recommend them as a cheap alternative to the Exuberance. The additional Power is great but the Mist Form escape is even better. I did find that Mist Form might get you into a portal or off a wall to escape, but on the open field it wasn’t enough to really get clear. For the trinkets I find Exquisite Beryl keeps Power high while also providing additional Vitality. When I can afford it I might swap these for Azurite, though I’ll probably just move to Ascended Soldier’s.
Mushroom Loaf or Orrian Steak Frittes are my first choice, though a Plate of Roast Meat with Braised Leeks is a cheaper alternative. Sharpening Stones are my first choice for my other consumable, though I do use Maintenance Oil at times.
Note: Most people view Necromancer as best suited to Condition Damage builds, due to how well they can stack on Conditions. I do keep a set of Dire gear for when I’m manning the wall on an Arrow Cart or doing a lot of roaming. However I do change my build for those times. I have simply found that when zerging, Conditions rarely last for a single tick before being removed inside an enemy zerg. Also, the lack of Power means you will struggle to destroy enemy siege or even get credit for kills. While I highly recommend Condition Builds for smaller scale WvW and PvE, I find it struggles elsewhere.
Axe – While technically the dagger takes better advantage of Power, I find the mid range attacks of the Axe allow easier target tracking for more reliable hits. Ghastly Claws helps refill your Life Force which you will be using s lot, and a well timed Unholy Feast can really make the enemy regret tangling with you.
Dagger (offhand) – Fast recharge with Blind and Weakness, both great for mitigating damage. The AoE of Enfeebling Blood also helps tag enemies in a big fight.
War Horn (offhand) – I use the War Horn as often as the dagger, especially any time I’m away from the zerg. Locust Swarm is the main skill as it offers Swiftness while Crippling and tagging your enemy. Wail of doom needs good timing but it’s a solid AoE that can interrupt the enemy.
Staff – It’s our only viable long ranged weapon so it’s a must for that reason alone. The marks are great for putting along the top of walls or outside portals to convince the enemy to stand back. Reaper’s Mark is the most useful skill, but its long cool down means you have to use it wisely. Due to the way damage is calculated you will always want to change to Staff before entering Death Shroud, otherwise you are cheating yourself of around 10% damage on your Death Shroud attacks.
I currently follow the WvW recommended Sigil of Restoration and Sigil of Stamina, allowing for greater sustain in the zerg fights. I am considering a change and have been experimenting with other options. I’m actually considering a Sigil of Momentum and Sigil of Force for the staff to both improve survivability and damage output in Death Shroud.
Parasitic Bond – Gain almost 1000 Health for each kill. It has a five second cool down which is unfortunate but it can save your life in a big fight.
V) Spiteful Spirit – Retaliation damage is worked from Power so it works well in a Power build. As I’m using Death Shroud regularly as a panic button, Retaliation turns a defensive action into an offensive one. Few people are aware enough in a zerg to even notice when their offense backfires thanks to Retaliation.
Barbed Precision – You won’t be causing many critical hits so this minor is mostly wasted, however more free damage when you can get it is never a bad thing.
Furious Demise – A few seconds of Fury on entering Death Shroud really helps your initial attacks hurt more.
IV) Weakening Shroud – Both Bleeding and Weakness just from entering Death Shroud. Weakness can be a real game changer at the right moment, while the bleeds are just more free damage, or at least an annoyance that might cost someone a condition removal.
VI) Focussed Rituals – Being able to place Wells nearby makes them far more tactically useful to you. You can place them on walls to kill siege or stay at range while still supporting your front line. Now that I’ve used it for a few months I feel lost without it.
Death Magic (2)
Armored Shroud – A noticeable increase to your Toughness in Death Shroud, reducing incoming damage by around 7%.
IV) Ritual of Protection – You could take almost any of the other traits in this section and they would all be good choices, however I normally choose this one to offer a valuable Boon to the front line. Shrouded Removal or Dark Armor are also great options if you want to be a little more selfish.
Soul Reaping (6)
Gluttony – Increases Life Force from skills. Easy to see why this is helpful to a build that makes regular use of Life Force.
Last Gasp – One of two very valuable Stun Breakers. You also get Protection and additional Life Force. This is simply amazing for a Minor Trait.
Strength of Undeath – Any flat damage boost is very valuable to a Power build, so this is a great pick up Trait.
V) Speed of Shadows – There are many great options in this set, in fact every single one of the Adept Traits support this build very well. I opt for this one because if I’m using Death Shroud to escape a zerg, I need this speed boost.
VIII) Near Death – The build focuses on swiftly going in and out of Death Shroud for the the bonus effects. Reducing the time between shifts from 10s to 7s really makes a difference.
XI) Foot in the Grave – Your only other free Stun Breaker for a class with so few. With no internal cool down this Trait can be used every 7s, allowing you to make it through that heavily CC’d portal or escape that group of organised Roamers who will never suspect a Necro of slipping them so easily.
The variations are legion. The ones I twiddle most on the fly are Speed of Shadows and Ritual of Protection. This current set up is for zerging, and if solo or on Garrison duty there are other options that are simply better. I highly recommend that if you want to shift the points around, do not take Foot in the Grave or Last Gasp away, as they are two of the most usable Stun Breakers the Necromancer gets.
The build can be altered to add more to Wells, and the addition of Blood Magic will add to your Life Force. I ran a Well build for some time prior to this build and with Vampiric Rituals you can sustain yourself rather well. However experience has shown me that unless you are well protected, the Death Shroud abilities are worth the change.
Wells are you obvious focus with this build. You can easily modify the build to exclude the Wells, but I find they are a few of the best AoE options a necromancer can slot. However, a full bar of Wells may not be the best either.
Consume Conditions – The cool down on Well of Blood is simply to long, so unless you are behind a solid protective line you will get far more value from Consume Conditions. I often use this just for the ability to clear conditions and the 25s cool down means it should be back soon enough.
Well of Corruption – In my experience a Necromancer is assumed to have this skill slotted, and fair enough too. A zerg will often buff itself just before they clash, it’s in the very dangerous first few seconds of a clash that people will use their best Boons. Well of Corruption not only removes those Boons, it replaces them with Conditions. The value of this cannot be understated in most zerg warfare.
Well of Suffering – My primary AoE damage dealer. One application on any castle or tower champion generally guarantees me enough damage for loot. Place on siege or fallen enemy for general clean up. The low cool down means you can go to this skill over and over again.
Lich Form – Don’t worry about being a big target, you can take it. The massive increase to Power and solid increase to Precision and Vitality means you can throw out some potent attacks. I won’t go into each skill, but do take your time familiarising yourself with them.
The final Utility slot is my wild card slot. I will usually have Signet of the Locust in there for the speed buff. If I’m with a zerg supplying enough Swiftness (which most do) I swap it for Spectral Wall which is one of the Necro’s most requested skills. If I don’t trust the commander I might swap in Spectral Armor or Spectral Walk.
The most common variation is a simple conversion to PvE use. Boons are less common in PvE so swap Well of Corruption for Well of Darkness, giving you a potent fighting ground. Using Well of Power can also help in both WvW and PvE, both for the Condition removal and one of the few sources of Stability a Necromancer has access to. Both Darkness and Power are good Wells when roaming, but don’t give up your Well of Corruption.
How to use it
When zergs collide you want to quickly place both of your Wells. How and where you place them really depends on how you are fighting. If you are hitting in waves then space them out, putting in the Corruption early but saving the Suffering to place over the fallen enemy if you spot a group of them. If your zerg is aiming to just plow straight through then place your Wells across the centre area and spend the rest of your time popping in and out of Death Shroud as quickly as you can. Try to keep at least 50% Life Force in case you have to retreat, plus it will keep your damage up thanks to Strength of Undeath.
Either way you will be alternating staff with axe/dagger, trying to remember to go to staff before each shift into Death Shroud. Use Lich Form for longer ranged combat as it will make far better use of your Power than Staff does. Don’t be afraid to finish off downed people as well, it helps rally your side and stop any rally chance for the enemy you finish.
If roaming you probably just want to escape. Against a lone thief you should outlast his initial attacks but you won’t kill him before he runs away. If you have to hold against a number of people just keep alternating with your Death Shroud and stay in your Well as much as you can. Unfortunately, if nothing is dying near you then your Life Force will eventually drain away. The real beauty of Death Shroud is that you get Life Force from deaths near you even if you didn’t make the kill, so in larger battles you will always have enough Life Force.
As I’ve said, this is primarily a WvW build. It does function perfectly well in PvE, but you can definitely afford to swap some of your Toughness and Vitality for Precision and Ferocity in PvE. Pull as many enemy as you can towards you then drop a Well to fight in. The moment the Well expires go into Death Shroud. Once you’ve done a few attacks leave Death Shroud and place another Well. Spaced out and timed well you can take wave after wave of enemy and still keep going strong.
No class can survive very long against a lot of people focusing on them. This is why most classes have some mechanic that allows for a way of escaping. For the Necro, you just have to hope they leave you alone or help comes before you die. You cannot stealth, you have no swiftness and you have no invulnerability. I find that in a big fight I can mostly ignore conditions, but you would have to add more condition removal into the build to survive against a few dedicated condition builds. Thankfully, this is easy to do by swapping just one trait and a Well.
What this build most seriously lacks is large spike damage. You have a good steady respectable output, but in smaller scale fights other classes have what it takes to out last you and burst you down. For this reason I would never recommend this build for roaming, not unless you were supporting a team. Without condition damage the staff is not a great weapon, so this build is also poor for sustained ranged attacks.
What I really like
What I really enjoy most is the autonomy, the ability to fight and survive effectively without needing team support. If I want to use this build in PvE I can plow into almost anything with confidence. I like that I didn’t have to sacrifice PvE play to make a specialised PvP build. For it’s intended purpose of WvW zerging I really like being in the top 10% of people left alive after a failed clash. I never run WvW with a group, so I think I’m doing well with this build when I can regularly survive with limited support. If I do go down, it’s because the zerg focused on me, but even then, I will have pulled a heap of people away from the others who were trying to retreat. It’s those times I get angry when a commander starts insulting players for going down when he was crying for a banner rez just 10 seconds earlier. I also like knowing that my skills are helping the people around me by mitigating damage through Protection, Weakness and removal of enemy Boons. It’s the independence I like the most really; that ability to tag enough bad guys for tons of loot while still walking out the other side battered and bruised, but alive.