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A player character in combat with an enemy NPC.

Combat is the main gameplay aspect of Guild Wars 2 and combines skills targeting found in other MMORPGs and the action-RPG style movement and dodging. Almost all the PvE activities in the world of Guild Wars 2 involve fighting. This is even more so the case in the Structured PvP and World versus World game modes, which are primarily about the competitive combat experience itself.

For group combat, the game does not always follow the strict "holy trinity" design found in other MMOs, where classes fall into tank, damage, or healing. Instead, extensive build customization and diverse skill system allow for a multitude of vastly different playstyles. This makes every profession in Guild Wars 2 being capable of fitting each of the combat roles (damage, support, control) or sometimes even a combination of them. A variation of the "holy trinity" can still be found in the endgame PvE like raids, strikes, and fractals, where dedicated healer, boon support, and tank roles may be present, depending on the encounter.

Every profession has the tools to survive on its own. As a result, there is a skill slot in the skill bar reserved for a healing skill, and every character has the ability to dodge attacks. While it is possible to experience most of the open world content solo, there are occasional events that require more than one player, such as meta events and champion level bosses. Endgame PvE content like dungeons, raids, and strike missions is designed for organized parties or squads and requires balanced group composition involving all combat roles.

Combat basics[edit]


Primary article: Skill
Skill bar of an elementalist character wielding a Scepter and off-hand Dagger.

Whether the player wants to engage in offensive or defensive actions, the skill bar always plays a central role in combat. It can carry a maximum of ten different skills, most of which are initially locked, and looks different based on profession, chosen skills, and equipped weapons. Skills are used to damage, control and debilitate opponents or aid the user and their allies to attempt to win the battle.

The slots in the skill bar are reserved as follows (cf. picture):

Effects and potency of skills can be modified by traits and equipment. Traits are passive modifiers that change the effect of skills or profession mechanics, and provide bonuses to damage and the character's attributes.

Equipment, which includes weapons, armor, upgrade components and trinkets, primarily influences the attributes, impacting the efficiency of skills. A chosen weapon type, in addition, determines the first 5 skills on the skill bar. Each equipment item has pre-determined attribute combinations, which vary in the type of attributes provided and scale with the item rarity and level.

Weapon swap[edit]

Primary article: Weapon swap

Swapping weapons is one of the key combat elements as most professions can have a second weapon set readied. This allows players to switch back and forth between weapon sets, which will instantaneously replace the first five slots of the skill bar (the weapon skills) based on the weapon set the player is currently wielding.

Weapon-switching is especially useful for:

  • extending the number of skills available in combat,
  • avoiding long cooldowns on skills,
  • making use of the different weapon properties (such as range) in combat.

Both the elementalist and engineer professions can only ready a maximum of one weapon set at a time while in combat. However, elementalists may achieve similar effects by switching attunement, whereas engineers can equip various engineering kits.

Auto-attack and chain skills[edit]

This frame on a skill icon indicates that auto-attack has been enabled for that skill.

There is no basic attack in Guild Wars 2, since all attacks require the player to activate a skill in the skill bar. However, any skill slot can be put on auto-attack. It is thus possible to activate a skill as soon as it is recharged if no other skill is currently being cast. By default, skill slot 1 of each weapon set is set to auto-attack.

If the player is using the optional Action Camera mode, then action 1 is treated as an autoattack and is activated by left click. Most bundles do not have a default auto-attack. In Action Camera mode, left click will still trigger action 1.

Chain skills are multiple skills sharing one skill slot. Upon successful activation of a chain skill, it is replaced by the next in the series. Chains are reset back to the first skill if another ability outside the chain is used, if the player is interrupted, or when the chain completes.


Primary article: Combo

Certain skills can dynamically combine their effects in a combo that produces an extra benefit beyond the skills' normal effects. Skills that can begin a combo create "combo fields", and skills that can complete a combo are called "combo finishers". Both skills do not necessarily need to be performed by the same character, and in fact many combos are only possible using skills from two different professions.


Primary article: Targeting
Targeting an NPC displays its name and characteristics.

In order to engage the enemy, player needs to target it and use a skill. With default controls, nearest enemy is targeted by pressing Tab or by mouse-selecting it. Alternatively, getting in range of the auto-attacking skill and double-clicking the enemy model starts an auto-attack chain.

While some skills can be used without a target, it means they will be cast in the direction the character is currently facing, and might not hit the enemy. Sometimes, it can be used deliberately, for example, using leap skills without a target as a movement aid. This is only possible with "Autotargeting" in General Options disabled.

Ground-targeted abilities is a type of skill that are instead aimed at the specific area on the ground and usually affect multiple enemies (area of effect skills). Ground-targeted skills can be cast anywhere regardless of the direction the character is facing, but might be obstructed if there is no clear line of sight to the selected area.

If no other slot abilities are used, auto-attacking skill will continue to be cast at the target in range until it or the character is defeated. Stopping auto-attacks is possible by pressing "Stow/Draw Weapons" keybind or, for some skills, by physically turning the character away from the target.

Removing the target can be done by left-clicking anywhere in the game world outside of the targetable objects and NPCs. While there is no specific keybind for this action, pressing, instead of holding down, the "Lock Autotarget" keybind also removes the target.

After the targeted enemy is defeated, a new target can be selected manually. If "Autotargeting" is enabled, the next foe in range will be selected automatically upon casting a skill or if an ability was already queued just before the previous target was defeated.

Enemies also engage in combat by targeting player character, although it is rarely indicated directly in the user interface. Some skills and effects like Stealth have the ability to break the NPC targeting, forcing enemies to select the target again (if their skills require a target).


Primary article: Damage
Floating text displayed on critical hit.

There are two types of damage that skills can inflict on enemies: direct strike damage, also called "Power" damage, and Condition damage, or "Damage-Over-Time" (DOT).

Strike damage instantly reduces enemy's health by the calculated amount, and scales with the attribute Power. The attribute Precision increases Critical Chance – up to the maximum 100% of strikes being critical hits. Ferocity determines how strong the critical hits are by increasing the Critical Damage. All these attributes can be increased by using the relevant traits and equipment.

Condition damage is dealt by applying damaging conditions to enemies, and inflicts instances of damage every second until the condition expires. The eponymous attribute, Condition damage, determines the potency of each tick of a condition. Condition duration is derived from the attribute Expertise, and both of them can be increased by traits and equipment.

Effects, boons and conditions[edit]

See also: EffectBoonCondition
Effects currently present on the character are indicated by their status icons:
  • Boons appear as orange icons in the top row
  • Conditions – red icons in the bottom row
  • Other effects – middle row

Characters may have various effects on them, and boons and conditions are the most common of them. Boons provide positive effects, from increasing the character's movement speed and damage to reducing the recharge time of their skills. Conditions are negative effects that either inflict condition damage over a period of time or inhibit the character's actions, for example, by immobilizing them. Both of these types of effects are very strong and play significant role in combat in all game modes.

Boons and conditions can be applied by player characters through use of their skills and traits, or by enemy NPCs, environmental hazards, and other mechanics. In addition, there are skills and traits that can cleanse the character from conditions it suffers, or remove the boons from the enemy characters. Certain boons and conditions may be more common to some professions than others, characterizing their thematic roles.

Other common effects are Stealth, which makes the character completely invisible to enemies for a period of time, and Superspeed, which dramatically increases movement speed while in combat.

Control effects[edit]

See also: Control effectDefiance bar

Control effects (also known as Crowd Control, CC) are disabling effects like Stun or Knockdown that temporarily prevent actions or movement and disable all enemy's skills for the effect's duration. When first applied, all control effects will also interrupt the target. Control effects are found on many skills and traits and cover a wide variety of disabling actions. The boon Stability provides immunity against most control effects, while some skills have the ability to break stun or counter specific control effects.

DefianceLocked defiance bar
Defiance bar appearance in characters nameplates.

Some NPC enemies possess a Defiance bar which renders them immune to the effects of both control effects and non-damaging "soft control" conditions. Defiance bars are located beneath the target's health bar and can have three states; locked (gray), unlocked (blue) or recharging (brown), and may transition from one state to the other depending on the NPC's combat mechanics. When unlocked, players can use control effects to deal "damage" to the defiance bar to break it and make the NPC vulnerable.

Combat mode[edit]

When the character is in combat, the skill bar has yellow outline and a splash effect around it.

In addition to the explicit effects of skills, any character who attacked or was damaged by an opponent is placed in the "combat mode". Combat mode reduces character's forward movement speed, increases the cooldown on swapping weapon sets, and prevents the character from changing their equipped items or skills. Combat mode ends after all enemies you have attacked or been attacked by are dead or far enough away.

Damaging conditions, such as Poisoned.png Poisoned, can continue to inflict damage and keep a character in combat mode for a significant time even after all opponents are defeated. The player has to either wait for the damaging condition to expire or use a skill that removes conditions ("cleanses"). On the other hand, a character that avoids damage (for example, by dodging the enemy attack or using the boon Aegis.png Aegis to passively block it) can sometimes stay out of "combat mode" even while under direct attack.

Players can easily tell if they are in combat by the appearance of their skill bar: while in combat, the skill bar is surrounded by yellow haze. While in combat, the character's health will not recover naturally; while out of combat, the character's health will regenerate rapidly. Some actions such as revival take longer while in combat than while out of combat, and some actions such as the use of waypoints are not permitted while in combat.

Maximum range of "combat mode" is 1,500. Going past this range can let a player leave "combat mode" regardless if the enemy is still in combat or not, and is easily exploitable for classes with movement skills (such as teleport, Shadowstep (mechanic), and Leap) who are able to move over the 1,500 range quickly allowing for quick health regeneration. Best classes for exploiting this mechanic are Warrior, Ranger and Thief, with the Thief being the easiest to exploit the 1,500 range of combat mode.

Actions not permitted in combat mode

Avoiding and reducing damage, healing[edit]

Combat in Guild Wars 2 involves a lot of fast-paced action and movement techniques. Consequently, while it's possible to reduce the incoming damage or restore the lost health, avoiding the attacks in the first place is a major gameplay focus.

Avoiding attacks[edit]

Many enemy attacks, especially in the PvE game mode, are clearly indicated, and thus can be avoided completely by well-timed evades and blocks. Not all types of attacks can be evaded, like instances of condition damage; some skills are also unblockable.

Full endurance bar (above the health orb) indicates that two dodges are available.

The full list of techniques to avert the incoming damage includes:

  • Evading — primarily by Dodge Dodging, an innate movement ability which uses a resource called endurance; some skills also grant a short evade.
  • Blocking — some skills block all attacks for a short duration, other – only negate a specific number of hits.
  • Applying the Blinded.png Blinded condition to an enemy, which makes their next hit miss.
  • Using Determined.png Invulnerability, a powerful short duration effect granted by some skills and traits.
  • Moving out of the enemy skills range or their area of effect.

Additionally, ranged attacks and projectiles can specifically be counteracted with:

Unlike direct strike damage, the continuous damaging effects of conditions cannot be easily avoided. The most common counter is to cleanse the conditions themselves by removing them, converting into boons, or transferring them onto enemies. It is also possible to reduce the incoming condition duration by using certain skills, traits, upgrade components, and consumables (see the respective sections in Condition Duration).

Reducing damage[edit]

It is possible to reduce the damage from attacks, for example, by using the boon Protection.png Protection against strike damage and Resolution.png Resolution – against condition damage. Condition Weakness.png Weakness turns a portion of enemy attacks into weak glancing blows, reducing overall damage.

Increasing the character's attribute Toughness also reduces incoming strike damage, while the attribute Vitality increases overall health pool. However, all equipment in the game provides stats through pre-determined attribute combinations, and using defensive attributes comes at the expense of offensive stats like Power or Condition Damage. Since defeating foes is often the only way to progress events, earn hero points, etc., it is important to prioritize offense while maintaining balance with defensive attributes and abilites for solo play.


Healing restores a portion of the character's health, and its effectiveness is tied to the attribute Healing Power. Similarly, the amount of health restored with each "tick" of the boon Regeneration.png Regeneration is also based on the character's healing power.

Barrier is a mechanic that grants extra health for 5 seconds, and can be used to absorb certain amount of incoming damage.


Primary article: Downed
Downed ally icon Downed enemy icon
Downed ally and enemy icons

There are three separate life states: alive, downed, and defeated. If the character's health reaches zero, they enter the downed mode, fall to the ground and are unable to move, but gain a new health bar and a fighting chance to survive. The character's skills are replaced with downed skills for their profession, used to either to try and defeat an enemy, which rallies the character, or move to a safer area and self-revive. If the character loses all of their health while downed, they become defeated. A defeated character may wait to be revived by other players or teleport to a waypoint.

Finishing is a mechanic in the Structured PvP and WvW game modes, and occasionally in the PvE mode, that allows players to quickly defeat an opponent while they are in the downed state. It is a channeled interaction, which, if not interrupted, will immediately defeat the opponent regardless of their health while downed.

Group combat[edit]

Parties and Squads[edit]

Party/Squad creation user interface

Spontaneous group combat occurs in the PvE open world and the WvW game mode when players join to participate in dynamic events and other activities. It can be further organized by forming parties and squads to improve coordination, group support, and boon distribution. This is especially useful since most supporting skills and effects like boons affect up to 5 characters, including the caster, and prioritize allies from the same party or squad's subgroup.

Parties are used for small groups of up to 5 players and give access to the group chat, as well as tools like Call Target and shared personal markers on the map. Besides open world combat and instanced content like fractals, players can complete story missions together as a party, join each other's home instances and do other activities.

Squads allow up to 10 players, or up to 50 if created by the player with the commander tag. Numerous squad tools are available to commanders and lieutenants they assign, from putting custom markers on the players and in the game world, to "Ready Check" command and broadcast messages. Players can form subgroups within the squad with their own chat channel, with subgroups of 5 players being the most common division for efficient boon distribution.

An organized party or squad are required to participate in the instanced group content in PvE, like dungeons, fractals, raids, and strikes. Structured PvP game mode automatically populates teams with players, but allows matchmaking for pre-organized parties. The Looking For Group tool allows quickly forming new groups and find existing groups looking for more players.

Group composition[edit]

Within parties and squads, a well-planned group composition alone increases the overall offensive and defensive capabilities of the team. In addition, using characters with builds and equipment optimized for their specific group roles makes up a highly efficient team capable of tackling the most difficult content in the game.

Open world PvE[edit]

All professions and their elite specializations are capable of doing high amounts of damage as well as self-supporting to certain degree, depending on a chosen build and equipment. In PvE game mode, this is usually enough to successfully complete dynamic events and other group activities found in open world explorable zones.

While it takes large coordinated groups of players to beat many meta events and world bosses, they usually don't require planned group composition and dedicated supporting builds. There are some exceptions, however, and, in general, most activities highly benefit from a more thought-out approach to group combat to make progression more reliable and faster.

Instanced endgame PvE[edit]

Challenging instanced endgame PvE content includes high-tier Fractals of the Mists for parties as well as Raids and Strike Missions for 10-player squads. Whether it is the party or squad, high uptime of offensive boons and optimized builds can be critically important, multiplying the group's damage output. Defensive boons and dedicated supporting builds significantly increase the group's capability of withstanding incoming damage.

Several standardized roles are commonly found in most groups:

Damage builds (DPS, "damage-per-second")
Two types of dedicated damage-focused builds exist. "Power DPS" builds focus on instant strike damage (often called "power damage") and prioritize Power, Precision, and Ferocity attributes. "Condition DPS" focus on dealing damage over time through inflicting conditions; they prioritize Condition Damage and Condition Duration attributes.
Power DPS builds usually deal higher amount of burst damage within a short time frame but can be prevented from doing so by the encounter mechanics and enemy's movement. Condition DPS builds take some time to reach high damage-per-second numbers but continue to inflict it regardless of the enemy's movement. Some instanced boss encounters may additionally favor Power or Condition DPS builds depending on the boss' toughness attribute and specific mechanics.
Hybrid DPS/Boon provider builds
Power and Condition DPS builds modified to provide one of the two important offensive boons: Alacrity.png Alacrity or Quickness.png Quickness. Some boons, like Swiftness.png Swiftness, are more common between professions and are easier to maintain permanently throughout the combat encounter. Other, including Alacrity and Quickness, may require a character with a dedicated build to maintain them permanently on the group. Boon Duration can be raised either directly, or by increasing its related attribute Concentration.
Healer builds
Strong sources of healing and defensive boons are invaluable in cases where avoiding enemy attacks is difficult. A healer typically uses a build that prioritizes the Healing Power and Boon Duration attributes, focusing on supporting skills and defensive boons. These builds may vary depending on the amount of healing required in a specific encounter, from a strictly healing/support build to a hybrid DPS/support role.

The most common general group composition for instanced endgame PvE involves 5 roles in a party or each subgroup in a squad. Additional roles may emerge based on the encounter mechanics.

  • 3 Power DPS or Condition DPS builds — each focuses entirely on maximizing either strike or condition damage output.
  • 1 Hybrid DPS/Boon provider build — a DPS build capable of providing one of the Alacrity.png Alacrity or Quickness.png Quickness permanently for the group. May provide additional boons while retaining its focus on the damage.
  • 1 Healer build — provides, among other boons, the other of the Alacrity.png Alacrity or Quickness.png Quickness permanently for the group. Healer builds are also commonly tasked with the tanking through the Fixated effect or other encounter-specific mechanics.

World versus World[edit]

In World versus World game mode, group combat may vary greatly depending on the group size and set goals, from open field combat to capturing and defending various objectives. Both small parties and large squads can be highly organized and coordinated or not follow any arrangement. Standard squad composition rules apply, with group roles like DPS, Boon DPS, and Healer all used with variations. There is an an increased focus on counterplay: denying/removing boons on enemies and countering their control effects. Boons like Stability.png Stability have an increased importance in this game mode, while all standard aspects of combat, like avoiding damage and deliberate positioning, determine the competitive advantage.

Stuctured PvP[edit]

In Structured PvP game mode, each team may decide on the group composition before the start of the match, which may involve any variations of damage-oriented and supporting roles. Some builds and roles are devised around the capture points mechanics. They focus on either high mobility to quickly traverse between distant points or "bunker builds" that have a lot of self-support and are capable of defending a capture point for lengths of time.

Related skills[edit]

Healing skills that can only be used in combat

Utility skills that can only be used in combat

Elite skills that can only be used in combat

Related traits[edit]

Traits that can only be used in combat

Trait skills that can only be used in combat


  • According to The Making of Guild Wars 2, at one point during development the combat system of the game consisted solely of aiming and shooting, similar to an action game.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]