After spending Friday to Sunday playing Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, I now feel I’m ready to begin to share my thoughts on the revenant, and all elite specializations that were playable. In this first entry, I’ll be discussing the Reaper.

Firstly, I think it’s important to remember that Heart of Thorns is very much in Beta and ArenaNet genuinely seem receptive to making changes based on community feedback. In addition to this, although I’ve attempted to play the revenant and each elite specialization in all areas of the game, I have to say that all function well in a PvE environment and whilst there’s certainly room for improvement (we’ll get to that below) I found all of them a great deal of fun to play. Some more than others, but the biggest surprise was the potential of both the reaper and the revenant.

As a final caveat to this first impressions piece, I’m going to be a little more harsh than usual. Now is the time to begin to uncover things we dislike about a profession or specialization rather than gloss over what may then never be fixed.

Lumbering Brute

The concept of having the necromancer become a lumbering brute that’s feared on the battlefield is fine but in practice, it’s a concept that has no place in Guild Wars 2 and one that isn’t realised with the reaper. Both the greatsword and shouts have agonizingly long cast times and whilst that’s somewhat acceptable in a PvE environment (predominantly due to the predictability of enemies and their skill use) it’s both tiresome and unnecessary. If ArenaNet had offset the painfully long cast times with eye watering damage, I’d be more inclined to support the design decision but as it currently stands, the greatsword is not only lacking in damage, but leaves you so vulnerable to being interrupted that there were moments in World versus World and sPvP where I was unable to use many of my skills (notably the full auto-attack chain or Gravedigger) due to being battered around.

To make matters worse and even when using full berzerker items, the damage still doesn’t justify the cast time. You might consider hitting a target for 4,000 damage with Gravedigger significant but in comparison to say, Hundred Blades or Rapid Fire, there’s just no comparison. Surely an elite specialization that’s sacrificing speed should make up for it in damage? Better yet, lets acknowledge that something doesn’t have to be slow to give the user the feeling of power. I know I don’t feel weak when wielding a hammer on a warrior, or when I use Juggernaut. The warrior is a hulking brute of a profession who’s not only terrifying but one that also deals eye watering damage. Why, then, is the reaper neutered in such fashion when it also wears light armor (please don’t argue Death Shroud gives the necromancer survivability when it primarily prolongs the inevitable - death).

When it comes to reaper greatsword skills, I have to say that they’re all animated beautifully and are all incredibly satisfying to use. Death Spiral and Grasping Darkness are particularly satisfying, while Grasping Darkness reminding me of Kerrigan’s “pull” from Heroes of the Storm. As to whether or not the five greatsword skills are perfect? I think there needs to be some changes outside of just reducing their cast time.

The first is that Death Spiral desperately needs a longer range. 170 units just isn’t enough of a poke and as such, I’d like to see its range - as well as Grasping Darkness - increased (340 and 1200 respectively). The reaper is without question the easiest profession to kite and outside of reaper's shroud and its Death’s Charge, it’s a nightmare to even get close to anyone. I’m also struggling to understand why my character is rooted when using Nightfall. The reaper already lacks mobility but to briefly root you in place to obtain a pulsing blind and a very short cripple is just frustrating. Wouldn’t a chill, instead of the cripple, be more thematically fitting? Lastly, Dusk Strike needs to cause a chill on every strike. I’ve rarely - if ever - reached the third in PvE or sPvP and it’s primarily because of the fact that by default, you’ve nothing to keep people in place long enough.

The Shouts

Where shouts are concerned, I’d have to say they’re pretty underwhelming. “Rise!”, as predicted, is terrible. The damage poor, jagged horror’s even worse and its cooldown unjustifiable. I'd honestly go back to the drawing-board with it. “Suffer!” is somewhat better, but a 2 second chill and a tiny condition transfer for a 30 second cooldown just isn’t worth it, especially with a 1 second cast time. As for the heal, the amount it provides is small (almost 4,000) and the life force gain fairly minimal. Signet of Vampirism when traited offers so much more utility (and similar healing) whilst Consume Conditions, despite the longer cooldown, is still much better in most situations. The only shout I did find useful was “You are all weaklings!” and that was primarily because of the instant might gain, stun break and nothing more. Providing such a short period of stability seems sketchy when Armor of Earth offers 10 stacks of stability, a stun break and 6 seconds of protection. Yes Armor of Earth has a longer cooldown, but I’m willing to have a longer cooldown if it means I obtain a skill that’s actually of value.

Finally, “Nothing can save you!” and “Chilled to the bone!” are two shouts that I want to love, but which I still don’t think I could possibly squeeze onto my skill bar. Obtaining unblockable attacks is brilliant and a boon strip is always welcome, but considering the ease at which the reaper can be kited (combined with its lack of stability to actually remain next to an opponent) I’ve just never seen any significant value in the former. As for “Chilled to the bone!”, it looks wonderful and it certainly has value in PvE and sPvP but its cooldown is far too long, the chill instantly cleansed by the majority of players and the stability too short. I can’t help but look at Entangle or “Feel My Wrath!” and wonder why, once again, the necromancer seems to be getting the short straw when it comes to bang for your buck.

Reapers Shroud

What saves the reaper is undoubtedly reaper’s shroud and the fact that’s it’s a whisker away from being something truly special. There’s a flexibility to it, some mobility, a valuable dose of stability and reasonably good damage output. Death’s Charge combined with Infusing Terror into Executioner’s Scythe/Soul Spiral is formidable, especially if you detonate Infusing Terror just as you begin to spin. Having said that, reaper’s shroud desperately needs a dose of higher damage. Against most professions I felt like I was tickling them, rather than dealing enough damage for my opponent to fear me. Outside of damage, the reaper shroud is still too easy to kite. Whilst it has access to stability, I don’t feel that Death’s Charge leaps you forward enough and there’s too little life force gain to mitigate the damage you’ll inevitably receive.

My biggest issue with the reaper is that unfortunately, the elite specialization is piggybacking a profession that’s riddled with problems. I’ve written indepth before about the problems the necromancer faces and the World Tournament Series perfectly summarized just what a liability the profession is in sPvP (Nostate is a thing, don’t you know). It doesn’t matter how skilled the user is, they’re facing an uphill battle by failing to have the tools provided to them to fulfil their role as an attrition based profession. When stability isn’t freely available, or when you start with zero life force; or your life force is drained in mere seconds due to the damage creep in the game (as opposed to it being a true health bar), the reaper is always going to struggle in any environment the game offers.

It’s absolutely great that ArenaNet are working on elite specializations, but when a base profession is wholly neglected it’s also incredibly frustrating. I only look at the Chronomancer and scoff at how an amazing profession has just gotten even better. Perhaps there’s time to salvage both the greatsword and the shouts because as it is now, I’ll take the reaper's shroud but I’ll leave the rest behind. Surely that undermines the point of an elite specialization?

[Post Edit] Many players have contacted me asking for my opinion on the reaper's focus on chill and its trait lines. I've updated this article below with some thoughts on both. 

Overall I really love the concept that the reaper constantly causes chill but the problem is that it has no real value in PvE and in sPvP it's too easily cleansed. At the moment the reaper lacks enough chill on its skills (across the greatsword and reaper's shroud) to maintain it for any period of time. The build that I used all weekend, in terms of traits, really provided no room to capitlize on the limited amount of Chill I could cause. Changing my trait lines, I felt, made me far weaker. Surly providing the reaper with a frost aura or greater length of Chill would be so much better? I'm not sure why ArenaNet consider the condition so powerful, especially when the only profession who can't comfortably cleanse it is the mesmer. Finally, I have to say that overall I thought the reaper trait line was pretty good and it fits in perfectly with the signet build Nos created, it just means you have to drop Curses (I think that's a fair trade). Here's a list of changes I'd make to the traitline:

1. Reaper's Shroud should have Relentless Pursuit by default. The benefit of the new shroud should be that it has a greater ability to pursue people - needing to trait this seems at odds with the elite specialization and its concept. 

2. Augury of Death should be increased from 7% to 10%. I rarely hit 5 targets in PvE or sPvP to gain its full use and even if I did, there's no way that reducing the cooldown of shouts by 50% would be too strong. The shouts desperatly need lower cooldowns and picking up a trait to achieve this would be welcome. 

3. I've absolutely no idea why Chilling Nova is on a 15 second internal cooldown. 10 seconds is more than long enough. 

4. Chilling Force needs to provide 3% life force gain against Chilled foes, rather than 1. The short duration of Chill on enemies means you only get to hit them once before it runs out. 

5. Decimate Defenses I'd like to see become a permanent buff (similar to Bloodlust) that only removes itself once you get out of combat. That, or allow it to reach a maximum of 20%. At this point, it would be removed only when the reaper dies.

6. Soul Eater desperatly needs its numbers increasing, in line with the revenant's Assassin's Annihilation. Healing for a paltry amount, on the slowest weapon set in the game, provides no return and offers no value (even when used alongside Blood Magic).

7. Cold Shoulder should provide a 20% increase to Chill duration.

8. Finally, the Grandmaster traits are a mixed bag. I'm not overly excited about Blighter's Boon because it offers very situtational health return and a not-too-shabby amount of life force if you're by yourself but in a fixed group environment it can be strong if you've a continuous stream of boons coming your way. Deathly Chill I like but would slightly increase the damage. Reaper's Onslaught is largly fine, just a bit boring.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Lewis is currently playing The Division 2, and Risk of Rain 2, having covered a variety of genres for many years.