Elementalist 101 – Utility

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Zojja: Famed elementalist and former member of Destiny’s Edge.

“Where does he get those wonderful toys?” – The Joker, Batman

Elementalist Profession Series Part 2

In the first installment of the series I talked about the weapon skill bar with the intent of giving you, the reader, a sense of what each weapon and attunement felt like to wield. Today I will be talking about the utility skill bar, which allows for a lot of versatility in play style and complements the strengths and weaknesses of the weapon skill bar. My goal for this article is to give you a quick and dirty understanding of the different types of utility skills, make a case for when to use which ones, and offer a bit of advice on how to maximize the benefit of many of these skills by using traits. Follow along below for more information.

Belzan’s utility bar in the Hero Panel with the racial skills blacked out.

The Basics

I’m assuming that you are already familiar with the hero panel (to the right). This is where you purchase your utility skills with skill points. You gain access to your utility skill bar (also called “slot skills”) at a staggered rate as follows: Healing skill is unlocked at level 1, first utility skill at level 5, second and third at levels 10 and 20, respectively, and your elite is unlocked at level 30. This means that you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try out new skills as you slowly unlock them.

As you can see, the skills are tiered and you won’t have access to some of the later skills right out of the gate. This limits your options at low levels, but by the time you reach, say, level 30, you should have enough skill points that you can pick and choose the skills you want. Also keep in mind that you can swap any of your utility skills outside of battle.

When deciding which utility skills to bring, consider what you need based on your weapon and gear (and later, traits). There are several “save your bacon” skills that can help you out defensively, especially since the majority of your weapons skills focus on dealing damage. Arcane Shield, for example, is almost always on my skill bar. Cantrips are great for shoring up your defenses and escaping trouble, while conjure skills offer you an additional weapon skill bar for even more options. I recommend playing with each utility skill on your bar at least once to get a sense for what role it plays in your play style.

Traits can augment these skill choices further. I want to introduce some quick shorthand about traits to minimize clutter. As you know, traits are classified into Adept, Master, and Grandmaster tiers. Minor traits require an investment of 5/15/25 points in the trait line, while major traits (what I will mostly be talking about) require an investment of 10/20/30 points in the trait line. The first number is the Adept tier, the second Master, and the third Grandmaster. Quick Glyphs is a major Air Magic trait, which requires 10 trait points to access. Thus, “Quick Glyphs (Air 10)” indicates which trait line and how many points you need to get the trait. Easy peasy.


Your self-heal is the first utility skill available (and it’s free!) and every elementalist starts out with Glyph of Elemental Harmony (GoEH). It is a quick, strong heal that gives you a boon based on your attunement. The other two self-heals are Ether Renewal (ER) and Signet of Restoration (SoR). Because the list is short and because these are your biggest defense, I’m going to devote a little detail to each here.

Glyph of Elemental Harmony is a strong heal that immediately gives you health and a boon. No muss. No fuss. Because it is a glyph, the boon you receive is dependent on the element you’re attuned to when you cast. Also, as a glyph, it benefits from glyph-specific traits (described in more detail below).

Ether Renewal is perhaps the strongest of the self-heals and it also removes conditions. The downside is that it is a channeling skill (4 sec cast time) that can be interrupted and it isn’t available underwater. There are two traits that affect channeling skills that are smart to consider when using this skill: Obsidian Focus (Earth 10) and Zephyr’s Focus (Air 10). The former boosts your toughness while channeling, and the latter gives you more endurance (for dodging).

Signet of Restoration heals you a small amount each time you cast (passive ability) and heals you for a bit more when you use it (active ability). It heals for less that GoEH, but the passive ability is nice when you’re casting a lot. See below for traits that benefit signets.

Each self-heal has it’s strengths, but I generally prefer ER for the condition removal and take GoEH underwater with me. I only use SoR with signet-heavy builds.

All of the elementalist utility skills in action

Utility Skills

You can slot up to 3 utility skills on your bar which gives you lots of options for different situations. Five different skill types are discussed below, and I have also included discussion about auras. I broadly cover each so you can get a sense of what to expect from using that skill type. I’ve also included traits to consider when using these skills. The list of traits is not comprehensive.

Arcane Skills

Primarily associated with critical hits. Arcane Blast and Arcane Wave are critical attacks, Arcane Power makes your next 5 attacks crit, and Arcane Shield (my favorite) is a “save your bacon” blocking skill. They provide nice damage and the attack skills trigger in combo fields.

Arcana is the trait line that influences these skills the most allowing for a 20% faster recharge (Arcane Mastery; Arcana 10) and adding a condition on use (Elemental Surge; Arcana 30). Additional “on use” traits restore endurance (Arcane Energy; Arcana 20), cause vulnerability (Shard of Ice; Water 10), and increase critical damage for 10 seconds (Arcane Lightning; Air 20). Arcane Retribution (Arcana 10) automatically applies Arcane Power when you hit 75% health and Final Shielding (Arcana 10) applies Arcane Shield when your health reaches 25%.


Mostly defensive in nature and each one is unique. Mist Form makes you invulnerable, Cleansing Fire removes conditions and burns your foe, Armor of Earth mitigates damage, and Lightning Flash is a teleport. Each has a clear purpose for being on your skill bar, but I like to use Lightning Flash to get into and out of combat. Also, consider slotting these skills when dealing with traps.

The Cantrip Master trait (Water 20) reduces recharge of cantrips by 20%. Soothing Disruption (Water 10) and Spell Slinger (Fire 10) give you boons when casting cantrips. Earth’s Embrace (Earth 10) applies Armor of Earth when your health reaches 50% and the traits Burning Fire (Fire 10) and Soothing Wave (Water 20) add burning and regeneration, respectively, when you use Cleansing Fire and Mist Form, respectively.


These skills give you an environmental weapon that changes your weapon bar. The elite skill Fiery Greatsword is included in this group. Each skill has its own feel and is very similar in theme to its respective element (e.g., Frost Bow adds vulnerability and chills, Lava Axe burns). The elite is quite devastating and deals large damage, burns, and is very mobile. All conjured weapons have 15 charges (each skill use uses one charge), which can be increased by 10 charges with the Conjurer trait (Fire 20). Burning Fire (Fire 10) and Soothing Wave (Water 20) add a condition or boon to their respective elemental conjures. I don’t often use conjures, but I recommend giving each of them a swing and drawing your own conclusions.


The effects of these skills are different depending on your current attunement. Included in this group are Glyph of Elemental Harmony and the elite Glyph of Elementals. The first two available (1 skill point each) are Glyph of Elemental Power and Glyph of Storms. The former adds a chance for a condition when casting spells while the latter is a nice AoE damage spell. Glyph of Lesser Elementals and its elite big brother summon a pet to do damage, which is a nice distraction for your enemies while you blast them. Glyph of Renewal is pretty neat though. It is a dedicated rez that is very flexible. I like to take it in dungeons and whenever I’m with a group. Become familiar with the attunement specific effects so you can quickly use the version of this skill that is most effective for the situation.

There are only 2 glyph-specific traits and both are in the Air Magic trait line. The first is Quick Glyphs (Air 10) which cuts the recharge by 20%, and the other is Inscription (Air 20) which gives you an attunement-specific boon on use. Quick Glyphs is great for lowering the recharge on GoEH. 


Nearly all professions have signets and they haven’t changed all that much from GW1. They have a passive effect and an active “on use” effect. Once triggered, the passive effect is unavailable until recharged. Included in this group is Signet of Restoration. These are nice “buff” skills that you can add to your bar and forget about with the passive abilities providing you minor benefits. All of the active uses apply a condition to foes.

Several traits provide “on use” effects to signets including applying vulnerability (Shard of Ice; Water 10), restoring endurance (Arcane Energy; Arcana 20), and applying burning or regeneration (Burning Fire; Fire 10, and Soothing Wave, Water 20) when using Signets of Fire or Water, respectively. Signet Mastery (Earth 10) reduces recharge by 20% and Written in Stone (Earth 30) allows you to keep the passive effects when activating signets. Fire’s Embrace (Fire 20) is of note because it gives you a Fire Shield whenever you use a signet. Fire Shield is a nice offensive shield that burns foes who hit you, but it is also an aura (see below) and triggers any traits that relate to auras.


These are not an official skill type, but they are often treated as such and there are dedicated traits for them. Knowing where they are on your skill bar and how to use them can benefit you greatly. There are 4 aura skills available when attuned to the associated element while wielding the appropriate weapon:

  • Fire Shield – Focus Skill 5 (also applied through the Fire’s Embrace trait) – Burns foes who hit you
  • Frost Aura – Dagger Skill 4 – Chills foes who hit you
  • Magnetic Aura – Staff Skill 3 – Reflects projectiles
  • Shocking Aura – Dagger Skill 3 – Stuns foes who hit you

To maximize their availability, use a Dagger/Dagger or Dagger/Focus build. Using the Fire’s Embrace trait and slotting several signets will trigger Fire Shield every time you use a signet.

Zephyr’s Boon (Air 10) and Elemental Shielding (Earth 10) provide boons whenever you use an aura. Powerful Aura (Water 30) and Arcane Resurrection (Arcana 10) apply auras to nearby allies (the latter only when reviving them).


Elementalists have 3 elite skills: Conjure Fiery Greatsword, Glyph of Elementals, and Tornado. The first two are described above. Tornado is a transformation skill that, well, transforms you into a tornado. While in this form you launch nearby foes and can shoot lightning, dust devils, and debris at foes. It is quite devastating really. I personally haven’t gotten to play around with it, but I’ve seen it in game and it looks great. It is expensive (30 skill points), but worth investing in since it is the only elite skill that is available underwater.

Underwater…Tornado becomes Whirlpool

Final Note About Underwater Utility Skills

There are several utility skills that ARE NOT available underwater. If you’re using them and jump in the water, they are removed from your skill bar until you are back on land. Here’s the list:

  • Ether Renewal (healing)
  • Lightning Flash (cantrip)
  • Conjure Skills (none are available underwater)
  • Glyph of Elementals (standard and elite)
  • Glyph of Storms (Glyph)

That leaves you with all of the arcane skills and all of the signets. I recommend jumping into the nearest body of water and setting your skill bar with the skills available. This makes it your underwater skill bar, replacing prohibited skills with those that you have slotted already. I often cruise the depths with Arcane Shield, Arcane Blast, and Arcane Wave. 

Final Thoughts

That covers all of the utilities and hopefully helps you to get a good sense of which skills are right for you and which are right for a given situation. My next few articles are going to cover each element in more detail to give you a sense of what it is like to be attuned to it and also help you make decisions about how much to invest in that element’s trait line.

What skills are on your utility bar? Do you have a favorite skill or skill type? Feel free to post your thoughts about the profession and suggest future topics related to the elementalist.

Guild Wars 2 Elementalist Guide - Belzan

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: