Don't belittle the SUPPORT role by calling it heal. Healing is the least dynamic kind of support there is. It is reactive instead of proactive. Healing is for when you are already losing. In Guild Wars 2 we prefer that you support your allies before they take a beating.
Support is one of the three main elements of the combat system, the others being damage and control. It consists of providing increased effectiveness and survivability in combat via additional healing, boons, defensive actions like blocking or cloaking as well as combos. Supporting is a way for players to work together to accomplish a shared goal.
Support varies from proactive to reactive – granting a boon proactively will greatly help you and your allies prevail in combat by reducing damage received or increasing damage done to the enemy, while recovering health via healing or regeneration is mostly reactive. Support also includes reviving of downed or defeated allies.
Types of support
- Main article: Healing
The simplest form of support. Unlike other forms of support it is reactive, a power used after health has been lost to restore it. Skills which provide healing to allies make up a small portion of the support skills in the game, and a character's self-healing skill is usually more effective. However, support healing is very valuable to counter pressure damage from conditions and similar damage-over-time effects. Many support healing skills serve multiple purposes; for example, the elementalist skill Cone of Cold not only heals allies, but also damages enemies. Many staple forms of support healing are those provided by traits, such as the warrior trait Vigorous Shouts which heals allies affected by their shouts, and the guardian trait Battle Presence which grants passive healing from the guardian's Virtue of Resolve to nearby allies.
Revival is also a manner of healing, and can be enhanced by the use of specific traits to make your character more effective at reviving. Some skills also revive downed allies or NPCs (but not defeated players).
- Main article: Condition
Removal of conditions from self and allies is extremely valuable form of support, as many conditions can severely hinder combat effectiveness. This is especially true in high end PvE, dungeons and in PvP, and anywhere else where use of conditions is frequent, focused or particularly harmful to your playstyle. All professions can remove conditions from self and allies in different ways; elementalists can remove conditions from large number of allies at once while necromancers can allow allies to transfer their conditions back to enemies.
Managing and using different conditions ties support close together with the other aspect of combat, control. Since most conditions act as counterparts to boons, applying a condition on enemy can have same result as providing a boon to an ally; for example, crippled and swiftness directly oppose each other, and while method and purpose of applying them differ greatly, either can be used to allow an ally escape damage dealt by an enemy or to help them stay on their heels.
- Main article: Boon
Boons (also referred to as buffs) are positive effects that can be applied to allies. They can be used to improve damage, armor, speed and other abilities, acting as a positive counterpart to conditions. Most boons are one of the most proactive form of support available. There are nine different boons in total, ranging from offensive to defensive or serving multiple purposes; examples of different boons include vigor to allow more frequent dodging, might to increase damage dealt by attacks and conditions, and swiftness to either catch up or escape enemies.
Like with removing conditions from allies, boon removal is also an important task in areas where enemies make frequent use of boons, particularly in PvP, to reduce their effectiveness in combat. Necromancers and mesmers excel in removal of boons from the enemy while warriors and elementalists have virtually no means to do so.
- Main article: Trait
Some traits can be considered to especially benefit support roles. Good examples of these include traits which grant boons to many allies, traits which grant benefits when reviving, or traits like Empower Allies or Phantasmal Healing which apply more unique, passive or active effects to allies. However, playing support role does not mean one must carry a trait with direct or indirect on allies; making use of traits which will hinder enemies in any way will undoubtedly aid your allies all the same.
- Main article: Combo
Skill combinations are often likened to be part of support role. They can range from simple augmentation of attacks like causing burning by launching a projectile attack through Fire Field to more specific tactics like granting area stealth to allies or mass removal of conditions with Light Whirl.