Elementalist 101 – History and Systems

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Guild Wars 2 Elementalist Guide

Severe Weather Warning!!!

Good ol’ Master Bronk taught me the benefits of superior firepower. He liked to say, “When it comes to besting the enemy, there’s no such thing as overkill.” – Asura Biography

Elementalist Profession Series Part 1

So…you are considering making an elementalist in GW2? You wanna control the weather, eh? Make things go *BOOM* *ZAP* *SPLASH* and *CRUNCH*? This article series can help with that decision. In this first installment, I plan to talk briefly about the history of the profession from GW1, race-specific skills that complement the profession, attunements, and weapon skills; all of which are important to consider from levels 1-30 or so (the history lesson is a bonus).

What this article series is: This series is meant to be a quick and dirty guide and advice column about the elementalist profession. I hope to promote discussion and encourage people to play this fun and versatile profession. This is primarily written for PvE gameplay.

What this article series is not: This is NOT a comprehensive strategy guide on how to play the elementalist profession. It does not include a list of all of the skills/traits with commentary. It does not discuss PvP strategy.

I can be long winded in my articles, but I’m also a big fan of tl;dr, so I’ll include that at the end of each section.

The School of Destruction

In Guild Wars 1, elementalists were the masters of the school of magic known as destruction. The profession had the highest amount of energy of all professions and their primary attribute was energy storage, which allowed for additional energy and provided skills to manipulate energy management. Most elementalists were purists and people created builds that were specific to one element (i.e.,  fire, water, earth, or air). Few would create builds that had more than 2 elements on the skill bar.

This all changed in Guild Wars 2. Energy is no longer a factor and elementalists are encouraged to mix and match elements. Gone are the single-element-by-necessity builds of GW1. Energy Storage was replaced by Arcana, which provides general profession benefits (e.g., larger area effects when using a staff) and attunement specific benefits (e.g., grant yourself fury for 2 seconds on attunement). In GW2, if you want to survive as an elementalist, you must be proficient in all of the elements.

TL;DR? GW2 eles are not the same as GW1 eles.

Character Creation

Outside of personal story, the only choice during character creation that has a strong effect on gameplay as an elementalist is race. This is because each race has race-specific utility and elite skills. Here’s a quick overview of racial skills that, in my opinion, complement the elementalist profession well:


  • Radiation Field – AoE Poison and Weakness. Great for stacking AoE condition damage.
  • Pain Inverter – Great when using daggers since your foes will be up close.
  • 7-Series/D-Series Golems [Elites] – Summons that take the heat off of you and let you damage from a distance.


  • Shrapnel Mine – AoE Bleed and Cripple. Great for keeping foes where you want them. Fits very well with Earth Attunement.
  • Artillery Barrage [Elite] – Death from above. This is the Ele’s bread and butter.
  • Warband Support [Elite] – Summon that takes the heat off of you and lets you damage from a distance.


  • Prayer to Dwayna – Nice addition to the self-heals, but beware the longer recharge.
  • Hounds of Balthazar [Elite] – Summon that take the heat off of you and let you damage from a distance.
  • Reaper of Grenth [Elite] – Chill and Poison nearby foes. Goes well with dagger skills.


  • Call Owl/Wurm – Summons that take the heat off of you and let you damage from a distance.
  • Elites – Transformation skills don’t really enhance the ele all that much, but they do offer a powerful alternative in a pinch.


  • Healing Seed/Seed Turret/Take Root [Elite] – Turret skills help to provide additional support to eles. Much like other summons, they take the pressure off of the ele.
  • Grasping Vines – Immobilizes foe, so you can keep them in AoE.
  • Summon Druid Spirit/Fern Mastiff [Elites] – Summons that take the heat off of you and let you damage from a distance.

TL;DR? The question you should consider asking yourself when choosing a race for your ele is this: do you want to enhance your offensive or defensive capabilities? Sylvari and Norn offer the most defensive options since you can fill your utility bar with summons. Asura and Charr are more offensive with AoE conditions.

Guild Wars 2 Elementalist Guide - Attunements

Fire, Water, Air, and Earth Attunements

All of the Elements!!!

The unique ability of the elementalist profession is, of course, attunements. Hit F1-F4 and you can swap between each element (once they’re unlocked). There is a small cooldown time, which can be lessened by putting points in the arcana trait line (more on that in a future article). There are 60 total weapon skills when you account for the attunements. I’m not going to list them all here (you’re welcome). What I will do is briefly write about the feel of each weapon and attunement to give you an idea what it is like to go into combat with that weapon/attunement. You can go to the Wiki to read about the skills yourself, but I also recommend checking out the GW2 Database Skill Calculator, where you can create builds and see the actual skill bar there.

Staff – Primarily AoE, multiple targets, and longer range

  • Fire – Great for high AoE damage and burning. Three “target location” AoE skills (including Meteor Shower) and one escape skill (Burning Retreat).
  • Water – Supportive and generally lower damage. One AoE damage skill (Ice Spike) and 3 skills that heal/regen. Frozen Ground also provides support by chilling foes.
  • Air – Mobility is key here. Windborne Speed provides swiftness and Gust pushes foes away. Moderate damage overall with the addition of blind and stun.
  • Earth – Great for limiting movement and dealing damage. Three “target location” skills that shut down foes through cripple, and immobilize. Also bleed and weaken foes. Magnetic Aura is great for reflecting projectiles too.

Scepter – Primarily single targets and medium range

  • Fire – Decent damage and a buff. Dragon’s Tooth hits hard, but foes often walk out of the way. Phoenix removes conditions and grants vigor.
  • Water – Light damage and healing. Two “target location” skills for light damage, vulnerability, and some healing.
  • Air – Damage over time (DoT) and spike damage. Nice 1-2-3 punch. Lightning Strike can be cast instantly while you’re casting other spells. Also blind foes.
  • Earth – Bleed and blind. Rock Barrier also provides improved armor which can be turned into a damage skill.

Focus – Primarily supportive

  • Fire – Flamewall and Fire Shield…they’re pretty self-explanatory.
  • Water – Chill and AoE daze.
  • Air – Protection from projectiles and knockdown foes.
  • Earth – Cure conditions (self), reflect projectiles, and become invulnerable.

Daggers (primary and offhand) – Primarily close-range attacks/defenses

  • Fire – Two damaging skills and a movement (forward) skill. Offhand creates an AoE at-your-location as well as a skill that does more damage to burning foes.
  • Water – Minor heal (allies) and AoE at-your-location that chills. Offhand gives frost armor (also chills) and an at-your-location AoE heal.
  • Air – Apply weakness and stun foes (when they hit you). Offhand gives movement: Ride the Lightning moves you toward foe with burst of damage, while Updraft gives swiftness and launches foe.
  • Earth – Bleed and pull yourself to target while immobilizing them. Offhand is 2 AoE at-your-location damage skills with knockdown, cripple, and bleed.

Trident – Underwater

  • Fire – Blind, cripple, and burn foes, generally hitting multiple targets.
  • Water – Two “fire and detonate” skills that work well against multiple foes. Ice wall is great for a quick escape as well. One regenerate and one heal skill. Tidal Wave flings you forward through the water.
  • Air – Two damage skills. One teleport skill and two incapacitate skills (one floats the foe, the other stuns).
  • Earth – Bleed and blind. One skill pulls you to foe and another makes them sink.

TL;DR? Staff is great for AoE and multiple foes, scepter is great for one-on-one fights, focus is supportive, and daggers (primary and offhand) are generally geared toward up-close-and-personal fights. Trident is more complex. Unlock those skills and learn what works best for you.

Closing Thoughts on Weapon Skills

Guild Wars 2 Elementalist Guide - Trident

DO NOT NEGLECT YOUR TRIDENT SKILLS! (image courtesy of the official GW2 wiki)

Weapon skills are the bread and butter of every profession, but elementalists have so many more available to them at any given time, at the cost of weapon swapping that most of the other professions have. I’ll leave you with some advice for learning and using weapon skills.

  • Figure out where (location) you want to be in combat. Staff is good for AoE and distance, Scepter/Focus is good for one-on-one, and daggers are good for up-close combat. Elementalists are lightly armored so you will need to keep defense and escape in mind.
  • Get comfortable swapping attunements. Each element has its strength. Fire is largely damage, water is heal, air is critical and movement, and earth is defense. These are generalizations, but it helps to have an idea of what you have available to you at any time.
  • DO NOT neglect unlocking the trident skills for all attunements. You’ll be sorry if you do.
  • Pick a weapon/weapon set and stick with it until you’ve unlocked all the skills. I have personally taken this a bit farther by sticking with a weapon/weapon set for a full zone. Practice, practice, practice.
  • Learn which of your weapon skills move your character around. There will be times when you need to get close to do damage, especially when using daggers. There will also be times when you need to escape. Having quick access to a movement/escape skill will save you a lot of trouble in the long run. There are several “save your bacon” utility skills that I will talk about in a future article.
  • Know your role in combat. If you’re on your own, fire and earth are your best bet for damage and defense. Air is by far the most maneuverable of the elements and can get you into and out of the action quickly. Water is more supportive than offensive. Using a staff while attuned to water is probably one of your best supportive options. Almost all of the weapons have skills that heal or regen yourself/allies and skills that chill foe(s) when you are attuned to water.

TL;DR? Scroll back up and read it anyway. It’s important. Learn from my mistakes.

Next Time

The next article will cover the utility bar in more detail including heals, utility skills by type, and elites. After the weapon skills, these are the next set of skills available to a new elementalist. No sense in discussing trait builds when you’re not high enough level to really even think about them yet! Future articles will discuss each element and trait line, trait combinations, builds, equipment, combos, and the role(s) of the elementalist in groups.

What questions do you have about the elementalist? Which weapon is your favorite and why? Feel free to post your thoughts about the profession and suggest future topics related to the elementalist.

Guild Wars 2 Elementalist Guide - Belzan

Belzan Arrakk

About the author: Belzan is an author, gamer, and a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology. He writes a blog about his characters’ stories and anything else that comes to mind over at belzan.wordpress.com. You can find him in GW under the name Belzan Furu. In GW2 you can find him on the Sorrow’s Furnace server under Belzan Arrakk. He also enjoys all manner of sweets sent to his in game mail, so if any of you like to bake….


Further reading:

  • Wedge_TT

    Great article. I’ve got a level 10 sylvari elementalist (level 60 asura warrior is my main), and love playing the character! So far, fire attunement dual daggers is my current favourite setup. Burning Speed up to the mob(s), lay down a Ring of Fire, spray them with Drake’s Breath, finish them off with Fire Grab and Dragon’s Claw. Early level mobs die so quickly! 

    • Eles are fun. I like having options. Daggers are currently my least favorite, but I feel like that is because I’m less experienced with them. I do have a similar hit-and-run tactic using daggers when attuned to air. Ride the lightening in, unload damage, and use Updraft to get out of there. I’ve been thinking of trying out Scepter/Dagger too. 

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  • Ash

    Great read and advice, I have nearly got to level 40 with my ele and I do notice some players hardly ever switching elements, it seemed really logical to switch often, to me at least. Looking forward to the next bit as I dont find the elementalist utility skills that interesting, except the weapon ones which are fun but not hugely useful.

    • Thanks. I’m starting to see people swap attunements a little more, but it is easy to get into a groove and just use the same element over and over. It’s a hard habit to break for some. 

  • LOVE! Really well done, in depth article. When I play my ele, it’s mostly dual daggers, water attunement, full on support mode! I still manage to get a couple hundred hits dog, too!

    • Thanks for the feedback! 

      Water is pretty well balanced in my opinion, though it is by far the weakest in regards to damage output. Most people pay attention to the heals and regen, but the chill and vulnerability shouldn’t be overlooked. They make targets less dangerous and more, well, vulnerable to your allies. When I’m with a group I like to nuke first and swap to water to further weaken the bad guys while the group mops up. A bit of “kick ’em while they’re down” mixed in with heal and regen when battle lingers on. 

  • and by dog, I mean DMG. autocorrect! D:

    • Wedge_TT

      Lol, I was reading that and thinking to myself “what the hell is a couple hundred hits dog?!?”. Autocorrect is definitely amusing! Also, yay for dual daggers 😀

  • Braving_the_Elementalist

    Thank you for the article, it’s nice to see elementalists getting some love!

    As for your question, my favourite weapon is a staff, although I did have fun using daggers. The reason I like the staff is the great utility in fire attunement and then the two heals in water attunement!

    • Staff is my favorite too. It is versatile and I have fun cycling through all of the big damage AoE skills when I come upon a mob. Also, it’s the only weapon I can see clearly on my tiny asura character 🙂 I think I’m going to give the Scepter/Dagger combo a try this weekend though.

      • Braving_the_Elementalist

        Haha that’s so sad to imagine that an Asura’s weapons are so tiny they cant even be see. 😛

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