Guild Wars 2 – The Anatomy of a Skill Bar

Guild Wars - The Blank Slate

Wars - The
Blank Slate


In the original Guild
campaigns and Eye
of the North
players are essentially given a blank slate to create builds for their
provided they adhere to a few key rules:

  • Skills can only be from
    your Primary or Secondary profession, in any
  • A maximum of 1 Elite skill
    can be used per build
  • A maximum of 3 Title Track
    skills can be used per build (PvE Only)
  • Skills can only be swapped
    out in Towns or Outposts

Of course actual build creation
is a much more complex thing, but for the most part the sky is the
limit in terms of exactly which of the hundreds of available skills
can be placed into the 8 slots at any given time. For example, here is
a Ritualist build that I use fairly often in PvE:


In the above example, the main
focus of the build is on primary
Ritualist skills, with 1 slot taken up by the Elite skill Signet
(slot 1) and 2 slots
utilizing the PvE-only Title Track skills
and Feel No Pain
(slots 2 and 8). The beauty of this system
is that another player might decide to create a similar build, only in
their version the PvE-only skills might be swapped out with something
from their secondary profession to make the build function altogether
differently while still having a heavy focus on spirit spamming.

While some might consider 8
slots to be fairly limiting when
compared to other titles in the genre, once you begin to factor in that
teams consist of 8 players you suddenly begin to realize just how
complex a thing selecting a team build consisting of 64 skills out of
hundreds spread across 10 different professions can be. In fact, the
relative lack of restrictions to builds in Guild
is one of the
major things that have been revisited in Guild
Wars 2
. According to
Lead Designer Eric Flannum:

If you use the CCG
paradigm to explain our skill system, we
went from a system with almost no deck building restrictions in Guild
to one that has some necessary
and sane
deck building restrictions
in Guild Wars 2.
The new system is much friendlier to new players and
to those players who either aren't interested in the deck
building aspect (or are just not that good at it), but it still allows
advanced players to come up with literally hundreds of combinations to
trash their opponents with. One of our designers did the math and the
possible number of combinations is in the millions. This system also
allows us to more easily balance the game and maintain that

Wars 2
- The Structured Deck

Among the first details
regarding combat
to be revealed for Guild
Wars 2
was an interesting
look some of the changes that have been made to the original
game's 8 slot skill bar design. The most obvious among them is of
course the addition of 2 additional skill slots, for a total of 10 in
GW2. But what are some of the other, potentially more significant
changes, and how will they ultimately effect combat and build
construction? Let's take a look at some of the main restrictions
on builds and how they'll differ somewhat from the original game.


In the above image, I've color
coded the 10 skill slots to
make it easier to visualize what each of them can contain. Keep in mind
that this is only an estimation of how a build might be structured
based on available information so far, as it's entirely
possible that the final layout will be very different than what I've
mocked up here.

Based on the known info so far,
builds in Guild Wars 2
will consist of
the following:

  • 5
    skills will be based on your current weapon set and profession

    - Players will be
    able to switch between two weapon sets at will depending on their
    profession, which is represented by Slots

    above (green
    representing the first weapon set, and red the second set).

    While it's uncertain whether
    players can choose which 5 skills to use with their current weapon from
    a longer list or each set of skills
    will be static based on other criteria, this
    is still a very unique approach when you consider that in the original
    game only physical damage-dealing professions (Assassin, Warrior,
    Ranger, Dervish, Paragon) have access to weapon-based skills. In fact,
    that tends to be the norm for just about any fantasy-based RPG. In GW2,
    even casters like the Elementalist will have access to skills based
    solely on which weapon they choose to equip.

    Other variables yet to be
    revealed include whether or not a single type
    of weapon can have multiple forms of damage. For example, can you equip
    a Fiery Dragon Sword and gain access to 5 fire based sword attacks vs.
    an Icy Dragon Sword which would give access to 5 cold based sword

    As you can see, what first
    appears to cut available skill selection
    neatly in half will still potentially offer players a fairly broad
    spectrum of skills depending on weapon sets they choose to equip. This
    makes weapon selection infinitely more significant than merely
    providing base character stats and a damage range for auto attacks. The
    other bonus here is that you can freely switch between sets during
    combat, which should provide a much more fluid element to combat just
    based on these first 5 slots alone.

  • 3
    Skill slots will be based on your profession and race

    This is represented by the orange Slots

    Not a
    whole lot has been revealed about these three slots
    thus far, though I would imagine they will be heavily
    geared towards things such as
    your character's race. For example, it's been said
    that Norn will have the
    ability to transform into a bear, with their skills switching to match
    new form. While the alteration could occur among the weapon skills, it
    much more likely that this group of three skills will be the ones
    directly affected.

    interesting variable to consider is whether there
    will be something similar to the PvE-only Title Track skills in Guild
    . If
    so, I would imagine those would be slotted here as well, though
    it's entirely
    possible they could fall into one of the other categories depending on
    type of Title Track-style skills are available, if any.

  • 1
    Skill slot is reserved for an Elite skill

    - This is
    represented by the gold Slot 9

    As with the original game, Guild
    Wars 2
    will have Elite
    skills which are said to be much more powerful this time around.
    However, a
    primary difference here is that the elite slot holds a set place in
    each build,
    whereas in Guild Wars
    players can opt to not use an elite skill at all
    if they
    so choose.

    It remains to be seen whether Signets of Capture will
    survive the 250 year period between games, or if elite skills will be
    by an altogether different system. Personally I enjoy the
    aspects of having to go out and capture elites, though I certainly
    wouldn't be
    surprised if this system has been completely redesigned for GW2.

    The last thing to note here is that available elite skills
    will still be based on your character's profession. Even with
    the removal of
    secondary professions from the mix, I'd imagine elite skills
    will still remain
    the cornerstone of most builds.

  • 1
    Skill slot is reserved for a Healing skill

    - This is
    represented by the blue Slot 10
    above. And yes, I realize that
    keyboards don't have a number 10 key, but what are you gonna

    The addition of a dedicated healing slot is something entirely new to
    the Guild Wars
    universe. Intended as a means of allowing anyone to solo
    effectively, it will be interesting to see specifically what types of
    skills can be slotted here. So far, it sounds as though a fairly
    diverse array of skills types will fall into this category, including
    more direct heals as well as group buff-type skills among others.

    As with the weapon skills, the available healing slot skills will
    depend on your profession. For example, a Warrior might have a skill
    like Frenzy
    slotted to instantly fill their adrenaline gauge, while an
    Elementalist could use Aura of
    which sounds as
    though it
    will function very similarly to the current GW skill of the same name.

    Another interesting thing to consider is the impact this could
    potentially have on PvP. While I'd imagine that the primary
    healing class(s?) will still have the biggest available heals, it will
    be incredibly useful for full teams to have at least some means of
    easing the pressure that most healers face when attempting to keep them
    alive in the thick of battle. Mind you, not all skills that can be
    slotted here will necessarily be associated with replenishing health,
    but this is still a very powerful tool to give to players either way
    and something that I've been wishing MMOGs would adopt for

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