Treating Your Traits Right

Traits

The Right Build

Traits are perhaps one of the best sources of individuality for your Guild Wars 2 character.  They allow for quite a bit of customization of what you are able to accomplish, as well as utility for any situation.  Unfortunately, it does come with quite a bit of a player based complications.  Though the majority of us excited about Guild Wars 2 are glad about the abolishment of the “holy trinity” (healer, damage, and tank), it would be foolish not to admit how easy it made to build characters.  A healer knows what they are trying to maximize, and the same goes for a tank and a damage oriented character.  Without this kind of structure, it is in the hands of the player to make the decisions that make their character viable.  Yes, you are quite responsible for your own survival, defense, and control options.  There will not always be others around to hold your hand for your survival or around to make sure the enemy dies.  Finding the right build is not as easy as it could seem.

Guild Wars 2 may promote groups gathering together to tackle down the same goal, but the responsibility to work together falls to the players.  Traits are one of the main ways you can create individual and group utility other than your skills.   The following are a few basic tips to help any aspiring trait build, so that you can get the most out of your trait choices.  As a note, these tips assume a full build, and some are more tailored to number crunchers.  Though we are still in beta, these tips should still generally hold unless the trait system is revamped.

Attributes Are Not Everything

Each individual trait line carries two attributes, but they do not tell the whole story about their respective lines.  There is no telling what major or minor trait would be more attractive if only you had enough points.  Don’t dump everything in one trait just because it gives you more of an attribute.  Trait lines are one of the many ways you can gain in a certain attribute.  It is true you most likely won’t find other sources to give +300 of one attribute, but you could be lacking a lot of utility for your character if you only build by them.

Minors Are Never a Bad Choice

A complete build will most certainly be in multiples of fives, but if you have the points to spare don’t be afraid to give up a major trait for two minor traits.  The reason is because almost all minor traits are more character specific.  Unlike most major traits, they are not concentrated on weapons or utility skills.  They will almost always focus on things your character will do in any weapon or utility combination.  This lets some of them to be in effect a lot longer than major traits whose bonus is expensed as soon as the linked weapon or utility skill is changed or is used.

Major Traits Come in All Sizes

Major traits are really diverse but generally they can be split into the following categories: damage modification, defense modification, attribute modification, recharge reduction, effect range increase, skill trigger effects, and misc. utility.  Choose a good mix of these options for your trait build, don’t specialize too much.  This comes back to the idea that it is your build’s responsibility to be flexible in all situations.  It’s easy to take all damage increasing traits, but think about what happens if you are bombarded with conditions with no way to remove them, and you could have spared 5 points for a trait that removed conditions whenever you dodged.  Even though you could defeat the target, their conditions will eventually defeat you.  The net gain in that case is a sad and lonely zero.

Traits Are Extra Skills

Some traits allow for the non-player controlled use of a skill at a certain health level.  These traits can be highly useful because you do not need to worry about using them consciously.  In addition they trigger at about the right health level as well.  The best part is that they are essentially extra skills.  Though you may not have the freedom to trigger them anytime you want, they certainly can trigger at times where you may need them.  Not to mention by having a trait version, it frees up a utility slot for another skill.

Boons Can Save Trait Points

This is more of a more pure math oriented perspective on traits.  Boons are one of the many ways to offset the seeming lack of an attribute.  Remember when you wish you had enough points to get another extra 50 power? (5 trait points in a power providing trait line) Well it just so happen that you have a trait in another trait line that provided Might on a triggered condition.  With the Might boon it is possible to get that 50 power you wanted so much.  That is 5 points saved that can be invested in something else, perhaps the same trait that gives you not only might but other boons as well.

Conditions Are Your Friends

More like the bane of your enemies, conditions, being the only source of debuffs in the game are more powerful than what most people give them credit for.  For some it is a question of where damage comes from, pure skill or conditions or some kind of hybrid.  These people overlook very important information about conditions.  Other than complementing your assault on your target, conditions are basically free damage and debuffs.  The only ways to avoid conditions is removal or in a very niche case, complete negation.   The latter of which is only possible by a few skills and traits that not every profession has access to.  Conditions are also surprisingly trait point efficient like boons. Why invest in more power when you can just cause Vulnerability and do more damage?  Why increase axe damage by 5% when you can cause Poison that not only reduces healing but has a net damage way above a 5% calculation?

Fear Not Defensive Traits

This is most likely a problem of perception.  Due to the fact that there is no damage, tank, healer roles, it is very tempting to trait for more and more damage.   It is very easy to neglect defensive effects.  You are still responsible for your survivability, not everyone can be glass-cannons. Not to mention certain defensive lines can make up for lack of investment in offensive trait lines with very useful major traits.  Or even convert some of your defensive attribute numbers into offense!

You’re the Boss

Having build freedom is as much a responsibility as it is the natural right of any Guild Wars 2 character.  Perhaps the community will somehow come to a “max effectiveness” trait build for every profession after release, it doesn’t mean it will be perfect or is the end-all to all builds.  Guild Wars 2 is a completely different creature and you may find viability in all sorts of different places.  Take heart that traits are your dear friends.  Not to mention you can change major traits on the fly when you are not engaged.  (Except competitive PvP, there you have full commitment.)  You have the final say in what you are trying to achieve with your character, don’t let anyone with a fancy score say any different.  Though this doesn’t mean you have the right to stubbornness, remember, flexibility is still key.

Happy traiting!


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  • http://twitter.com/JerWG Jeremy W. Goodson

    First off, very interesting article and a great read! 

    I’m really glad that ArenaNet changed up the way the “Skill Trees” work for GW2. They gave players a lot to be able to tweak to their liking. This still doesn’t fix the issue with “Cookie Cutter” builds though. The min/maxers will have builds up before beta is even over with how you “have” to spec. I wish a game company could find a way around that, but I don’t see it happening in the immediate future. 

    At least each class will have a few of these ideal specs though, as depending on your play style you’ll want to devote points to different trees. I look forward to playing around with it myself and seeing what I can come up with.

    • http://twitter.com/washednblood Matthew Bickley

       Actually I have to disagree with the cookie-cutter statement. As I’ve been looking over the traits for the various professions I’ve been struck by just how much freedom there is. While I *could* make a build that is focused on pure damage, how long will I actually live? Often times I’ve seen minor traits that I like, but only 1 or 2 majors that interest me. With that being the case I have to look at the next minor and decide if I want to place a few more points in that trait line even though my major will be a “throw away” for me. The lack of trinity forces us as players to really consider our builds around more than just pure damage because ultimately we alone are responsible for our survival. In my opinion anyway.

    • Fábio Capela

       I’ll be using cookie cutter builds simply because I don’t want to pay for respecs; too much hassle. So I will just search the Internet for something that works and, most likely, not look at the system again.

      I experiment with builds when it’s hassle-free, like in GW1. Experimenting with builds in GW2 seems to be as much a hassle as in WoW, so I’m most likely not doing it.

      • Minty Mint

        As far as we know, the fee is very minimal so you really shouldn’t have to worry that much.  ArenaNet has always had a good balance when it comes to in-game costs for items and services.  (At least if you take the original Guild Wars as an example.)  

      • outis

        As a matter of fact, respecs will be not only free, but the thing to do in pvp, as you can try out stuff on casual pvp as if you were lvl 80. Instead of going to see what others do, just try out stuff you like in pvp and add your points accordingly when you get back to pve. BTW isn’t it nice to have the same character for both ;) ?

      • Ranjit

        As Minty Mint stated: the fee seems to be rather small compared to WoW. In addition, major Traits can be switched at any time outside combat. There was a TotalBiscuit Video that demonstrated this. 

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