This guide details my current build. If you've come here from an older link (say, in one of my videos), this build may not match the build I was using when I shared the link. It's different because I've come up with a version that I think is better, and if your'e trying to use my build I'd recommend the latest version. However, if you want to see the build I used in that video, use the "history" tab at the top of this page. I always make sure this page is accurate when I publish a video.
This is a work in progress. All the basics are here, but I still need to clean it up and add more detail/explanation. In particular, I'm missing a section on design reasoning, and the gameplay section needs more work.
- 1 Traits
- 2 Weapons
- 3 Slot Skills
- 4 Gear
- 5 Gameplay
- +300 Toughness
- +300 Healing power
- Last Refuge
- Use Blinding Powder when your health reaches 25% (90-second cooldown).
- Meld with Shadows
- Stealth skills last 1 second longer.
- Hidden Assassin
- Gain might (2x) for 15 seconds when you go into stealth.
- Infusion of Shadow (Essential)
- Gain 2 initiative when you enter stealth.
- This trait is essential to the build. It lowers the initiative cost of Cloak and Dagger to 4, which makes it reasonable to use frequently. This will allow you to stealth frequently. This trait also causes your healing skill and utility skills to grant you initiative, which is a great free bonus.
- Shadow's Embrace
- Remove one condition every 3 seconds while in stealth.
- This is an incredible condition removal trait. Without Shadow's Embrace, this build has very weak condition removal. However, with this trait, we get some of the best condition removal in the game. This combined with Shadow's Rejuvenation makes stealth an incredible survival tool. This trait removes a condition immediately when you stealth, and then every 3 seconds thereafter.
- Cloaked in Shadow
- Going stealth blinds nearby foes.
- This trait really increases your defenses, especially in an AoE setting. You'll be stealthing frequently, so this skill will give you frequent AoE blinds. Cloaked in Shadow allows you to survive an AoE fight with ease and prevent lots of damage to your group. In PvP, this works really well against hard-hitting, slow builds (like hammer warriors), but it's somewhat weaker against enemies with a high attack volume.
- Shadow's Rejuvenation (Essential)
- Regenerate health while in stealth.
- This trait is essential to the build. You have tons of stealth in this build, so this trait gives you powerful self-healing on demand. This heals for something like double the Regeneration boon, and it pulses immediately when you stealth. Even if you stealth and then immediately attack, you'll still get healed for ~350 (base healing).
- +150 Vitality
- +15% Boon Duration
- Expeditious Dodger
- Gain 2 seconds of swiftness on evade.
- Feline Grace
- Dodging returns some of the endurance used.
- Power of Inertia (Recommended)
- Gain might (10s) when you dodge.
- This trait is a decent boost to your damage. It will give you 3-5 stacks of might in combat, or 105-175 power and condition damage.
- Descent of Shadows
- Release Blinding Powder when you take falling damage. Take -50% falling damage.
- This trait is great for jumping puzzles and other situations where you know in advance there's a good chance you'll fall, but other than that it's rarely worth slotting.
- Vigorous Recovery
- Gain Vigor (10s) when you use a healing skill.
- Slot this trait if you're looking for a more defensive build. Along with Bountiful Theft, this gives you 100% Vigor uptime. Combine that with Feline Grace and you can dodge twice every seven seconds. This also gives you 100% swiftness uptime with Expeditious Dodger and Thrill of the Crime. More mobility and defense, but you're sacrificing a decent chunk of damage.
- Fleet Shadow
- Move 33% faster in stealth.
- I'm currently experimenting with this trait. This essentially gives you swiftness while you're in stealth. In combat, this build has really high swiftness uptime, but without the endurance regeneration food it can't have 100%. I frequently end up dodging while in stealth simply to gain swiftness so I can catch up to my enemy. This trait would allow me to save dodges for when I'm out of stealth, and I'd never have problems with mobility while in stealth. This would also make stealth skills even more powerful as an escape.
- Steal recharges 25% faster
- +250 Condition damage
- Stealing gives you 3 initiative.
- Increases maximum initiative by 3.
- Lead Attacks
- Increases damage by 1% per initiative.
- Thrill of the Crime (Essential)
- When you steal, you and nearby allies gain 10s of Fury, Might, and Swiftness
- A large boost to both damage and mobility for the whole group. This gets even more powerful with our bonuses to boon duration.
- Bountiful Theft (Essential)
- Stealing grants you and nearby allies 15s of Vigor. Also removes two boons and grants them to you and nearby allies.
- This is another strong group buff. Vigor is extremely powerful, and this lets you give your whole group 60% Vigor uptime. The boon stealing is a bonus, but very nice when it gives your group something good. Note that unlike Thrill of the Crime, steal must actually hit for this to be effective.
The basic attack for the Sword is great. It does the same damage as a dagger's basic attack (1% less by my testing), but it's a frontal AoE. The single-target damage of this weapon is good, which makes the AoE damage incredible. This attack chain is made even more powerful with the cripple and weakness on the third hit. Along with the conditions, the third attack (Crippling Strike) does 66% more damage than the first or second; always try to get the full chain off.
This skill is one of the most underrated skills a thief has. Infiltrator's Strike is a great gap-closer; a 600 range and 1s immobilize. However, the true power lies in Shadow Return. This gives a sword/dagger thief a stun break that is always available. As a bonus, it removes a condition, although I usually don't find that worth the five initiative cost.
Shadow Return is also a great escape tool for PvP. It's a well-known tactic to run one direction, stealth, and then run a different direction to throw the enemy off. However, this gets much more powerful if you run one direction, stealth, and then shadow return. You'll be far away running the opposite direction when you unstealth.
I rarely use this skill. The boon removal is nice, and as of 10-22 the first attack is unblockable. However, this skill frequently has trouble hitting the enemy, and for the initiative cost I'd rather use Cloak and Dagger for more damage, stealth (and all the stealth-based trait bonuses), and a 2s daze.
Dancing Dagger is a fantastic skill. It's a ranged cripple, which makes it fantastic for keeping multiple enemies in melee range. It's a 100% projectile combo finisher, making it the best projectile finisher in the game. All other finishers with 100% chance to combo are on cooldowns, and no-cooldown skills usually only have a 20% combo chance.
This skill is central to the build. It's the thief's only stealth skill that doesn't have a long cooldown. It deals very high damage (with some vulnerabiltiy to boot), and puts you into stealth. With this build, that means that you blind all nearby enemies and gain two stacks of might. You also get access to Tactical Strike, which is an extremely powerful 2s daze. This skill should be used frequently, as it makes up both a large part of this build's damage and a huge part of its defense and control. You can also use Cloak and Dagger for an escape tool or a safe stomp in PvP.
Cloak and Dagger has a high initiative cost, and it is only offset by Infusion of Shadow which gives 2 initiative if this stealths you. However, you don't receive that initiative if this skill doesn't put you in stealth, so be very careful not to use this skill while Revealed is up, while the enemy is blocking, while you're blinded, or when they're out of melee range. Using this skill without getting the stealth will burn 40% of your initiative pool for no gain.
I use this weapon most often purely for the shadowstep. However, I'll sometimes pull it out for a large-scale dynamic event where I'm having trouble staying alive or tagging enemies. I'll also use it for the rare occasion when I'm participating in a WvW siege. It has great AoE and it's ranged, so it's perfect for dancing around the outside of a large fight. This is also good for the rare occasion that I have to kite something.
Hide in Shadows I pick this as my heal almost all the time. Withdraw heals for more, but I hate having to give up my positioning. The 4s stealth is great, and combined with traits that blinds nearby enemies and gives me two initiative. I also love the condition removal, and the regen is made more powerful by my bonuses to boon duration.
Shadow Refuge A great defensive and support tool. Can be used for an easy revive, or to heal your allies. It's also a great aggro control, which is something that only Thieves and Mesmers can do. All kinds of other uses, like ambushing in WvW or harvesting a node surrounded by enemies. Thanks to my traits, this gives me 8 initiative, and if I stand in it for the full duration I'll get 12 stacks of might.
Blinding Powder Another AoE stealth for aggro control or a revive. Also useful to restore initiative or get off a stun when I don't have time to cast C&D. An instant aggro-drop panic button that even works while you're stunned.
Infiltrator's Signet I use this in a lot of ways. It's a non-interrupting gap-closer, which means you can use it in the middle of a skill cast and it doesn't break stealth. Combined with Cloak and Dagger, this means a guaranteed hit. It also lets you move while channeling Dagger Storm. This is also a great stun break, which is useful if I don't have a Shadow Return up. If I don't use it for a while, it gives me passive initiative regeneration which is great for long travels with the Shortbow.
Dagger Storm I go for Dagger Storm, because it can do all kinds of neat things. It's a great burst of AoE damage, it's a huge projectile reflector, and it gives you 11s of stability. Just keep in mind that you don't have to cast the whole thing. I'll frequently only use this for a couple of seconds and then dodge out of it, unless I'm able to kite them around or I'm fighting people who only use projectiles.
- Armor: Soldier's/Invader's (power > vitality & toughness)
- Jewelry: Emerald (toughness > power & precision)
- Jewels: Ruby (power > precision & crit damage)
- Weapons: Cleric's (healing > power & toughness)
This build focuses entirely on direct damage, so you won't see any condition damage. I went for balanced offense and defense. I have high power for great sustained damage. I have high toughness, which vastly increases my defenses. I have decent precision, which is a boost to direct damage and activates my sigil and food. I have decent vitality, which provides better defense than toughness against condition damage and in short fights. I take a little bit of healing because this build has a lot of self-healing, but it's a low priority since most of my abilities don't scale well with healing power.
- +25 Healing power
- +15% Boon duration
- +25 Healing power
- +15% Boon duration
- +40 Precision
- +28 Toughness
- +28 Power
I take the first two runes for the +30% boon duration. This build involves stacking a lot of boons on both myself and my group, so this increases my damage (from Might and Fury), mobility (from Vigor and Swiftness), defense (from Regeneration and Vigor) and support.
For the final two slots, there weren't any 2-rune bonuses that I wanted. I chose to go for stats in stead. I took Emerald Orbs because they give a great boost to both damage and toughness, and this build is all about offense/defense balance.
Sigil of Fire (Sword)
- 30% Chance on Critical: Trigger a Flame Blast for AoE Damage (Cooldown: 5 Seconds)
This gives me a nice damage boost. This build has a respectable crit chance, and since I'm doing lots of AoE damage this sigil activates frequently.
Sigil of Paralyzation (Dagger)
- +15% Stun duration
This sigil is absolutely fantastic. I'm not sure if it's bugged or if the tooltip is just wrong, but it works very differently than you'd think. It affects dazes as well as stuns, and it seems to be giving more than the 15% it claims. It raises my 2s Tactical Strike daze to something like 2.75s. I still need to do testing to figure out exactly how much it does. Since I'm dazing frequently, this drastically raises my daze uptime. This makes it far harder for the enemy to do anything to stop me, and with this sigil I can permanently lock down one PvE mob (they attack really slowly).
Sigil of Hydromancy (Shortbow)
- Freeze nearby enemies for 3 seconds when you swap to this weapon in combat.
I almost never use my shortbow in combat. Keeping a Sigil of Fire on it was doing me little good. 90% of the times I swap to this weapon in combat are when I'm in over my head and I need to run away; having an AoE freeze will help me run away, even if the duration is fairly short. I tried putting a Sigil of Perception or Bloodlust on it, but I hated having to kill a bunch of enemies with my shortbow to build up stacks.
- 66% Chance to steal life on critical.
- +100 Precision.
This is my WvW food. It gives me a decent offensive boost with more crit chance (which means my Sigil of Fire activates more often as well). However, it's the lifesteal that makes this food most powerful. This gives me lots of health in combat, especially when I'm in an AoE situation.
- +40% Magic Find while under the effects of a boon.
- +20% Boon duration.
I use this food for PvE. The 20% boon duration alone would be worth using, and is a great boost when I'm giving my friends boons with Steal. I always have a boon up, so the +40% Magic Find gives me a noticeable increase in quality of loot drops, which is great for both dungeon runs and solo PvE.
- 100% Chance to gain might on dodge.
- +40% Endurance regeneration.
This is my mobility food. With this food, I can maintain permanent swiftness much more easily, which makes covering ground in WvW far less painful. It also gives me a decent boost to both defense (from the dodging) and offense (from the might). I rarely use this, because I'd rather take a little longer to get to the fight, but fight better once I'm there.
First off, you need to know that this build has no active burst. None. Almost every other build/spec has a combination of buttons they can push to get a big chunk of damage right here, right now. This build has none of that. You can get some random burst from multiple critical hits in a row, but there is no way you can deliberately cause burst. With this build, you down people by applying high sustained damage while keeping them crippled and dazed, unable to retaliate or flee.
In this build, you'll use sword/dagger almost all of the time. We do the most damage with sword/dagger, and other key components of this build (control, stun breaks) are on sword/dagger. In general, you should only use shortbow for mobility or for siege in WvW. There are exceptions, but that's a good rule of thumb. Melee does more damage than ranged (especially for this build), and we can survive in melee so there's rarely a good reason to use ranged weapons.
The backbone of this build's damage comes from the first slot attack chain. The attacks are a frontal AoE attack, which means that it's easy to hit multiple enemies. It also means that you don't have to worry about targeting the correct enemy; simply position yourself properly while attacking and you'll hit them. You can use this to hit enemies in stealth (or enemies out of stealth but not yet rendered). The third strike in the chain does 66% more damage than the first or second attack, so do your best to get all three attacks off. The third strike also applies 2s of cripple and weakness, which will help keep the enemy in melee range.
Against single targets, you'll want to throw in Cloak and Dagger ► Tactical Strike. Tactical Strike hits for barely more than a first slot attack. Cloak and Dagger, however, hits really hard and gives two stacks of might for 22s. You also daze the enemy, which helps keep you alive. By stealthing frequently, you can maintain 8-10 stacks of Might on yourself in combat, which equates to 300+ power. That's a healthy damage boost.
With this build, you get +1% damage for each point of initiative you have. This can grant you up to 15% damage, although it will usually give something around 8%. Try to keep your initiative high. If you're constantly running at low initiative, you're giving up damage you could otherwise have. However, don't let this keep you from using a skill when it's needed; it's worth giving up a little damage for a few seconds to close a gap, break a stun, interrupt the enemy, or stealth when you need to.
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