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GW2 Specializations Part One A Primer

The newest blog post on the GW2 website touches more on specializations with this part one post.

In our reveal of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns™, we told you that specializations are our way of giving existing professions new skills and traits. Specializations are actually a much bigger addition that will have an impact on both new and existing skills and traits. Here are some of the big reasons why we’re excited about specializations:

  • They separate stats from traits, opening up builds by trait choice rather than stat choice.
  • More power! You now get to select nine major traits instead of seven, including three grandmaster traits.
  • Each trait is more impactful, so choices are more build defining and meaningful.
  • The new, more streamlined unlock system is friendlier to new players and much less of a burden on players with multiple characters.
  • This new system is one that we can continue to expand while maintaining a strong sense of balance.

The original goal of the Trait system was to create a way to customize your character beyond their skills. What we’re trying to do with specialization is take everything that was positive about the Trait system and boil it down while removing or modifying the parts we felt held it back. This new system provides a solid foundation for our plans to expand the number of available traits and skills in the future. So how do specializations work?

Core Specializations

Each profession will have five core specializations corresponding to the old trait lines. The first step in customization will be to select three of the five core specializations. These determine the basis for your other build choices. For example, an elementalist may choose to specialize in Fire Magic, Earth Magic, and Water Magic. The ability to select one, two, and finally three core specializations will unlock as you level your character from 1 to 80.



Each core specialization will have three minor traits associated with it. These are automatically equipped along with the specialization itself and help define the playstyle of that particular specialization.

In addition, there will be nine major traits tied to each specialization. There are three different tiers of traits: adept, master, and grandmaster. Once a specialization has been equipped, a character will be able to select a single trait for each tier to help customize that specialization. By locking traits to tiers and reducing the overall number of traits, we’ve made each choice much more compelling.

Where Did My Trait-Line Stats Go?

We feel that separating build choices from stat decisions provides greater build flexibility, so you’ll no longer gain attribute points through a given line. Where will these stats go? Here’s a quick summary:

  • Base player stats will be increased from 926 to 1000.
  • Base attribute points on equipment will be increased so that all the gear in the game will give higher stats than it did before. This should account for most of the missing points.
  • Each profession’s attributes will be updated to have half of their functionality be part of a specialization and half of their functionality will be a baseline for that profession. For example, elementalists now have a base attunement recharge of 10 seconds, which is reduced to 8.7 seconds when the arcane specialization is equipped.

These changes should keep the total stat numbers roughly the same as they were before, even though you’ll get them from different places. In addition to these changes, the need to unlock skills and traits will be removed from Player vs. Player entirely, and you’ll automatically have all the specializations available to you whenever you’re in PvP.

What Does a Specialization Look Like?

To help clarify, I’m going to take an example line, Water Magic, and show you the exact changes we’ve made. Keep in mind that, as with all things currently in development, there may be differences between the updates I’m showing here and the traits that make it to the live game.


Minor Traits

Soothing Mist: You and nearby allies regenerate health while you are attuned to water.

Healing Ripple: Heal nearby allies when attuning to water.

Aquatic Benevolence: Healing done to allies is increased. (25%)

Major Traits


  1. Soothing Ice: Gain regeneration and Frost Aura when you are struck by a critical hit.
  2. Piercing Shards: While attuned to water, your spells deal more damage to vulnerable foes. Vulnerability lasts longer.
  3. Stop, Drop, and Roll: Dodge rolling removes burning and chilled.


  1. Soothing Disruption: Cantrips grant you regeneration and vigor. Cantrip recharge is reduced.
  2. Cleansing Wave: Remove a condition from you and your allies when attuning to water.
  3. Aquamancer’s Training: Deal extra damage when your health is above the threshold. Reduces recharge on all water weapon skills.


  1. Cleansing Water: Remove a condition when granting regeneration to yourself or an ally.
  2. Powerful Aura: Auras you gain from weapon skills are also applied to nearby allies.
  3. Bountiful Power: Deal more damage for each boon on you.

If much of this seems familiar to you, that’s good; specializations take many of the aspects of the existing system and break them down into a similar system that is clearer and easier to use.

As you can see, traits have been merged, moved, and culled, and new ones have been created, but it lets us introduce more skillful traits and more meaningful trait choices that are going to really change how you play. Although some traits are being removed, we’re doing our best to preserve as many of the current builds as we can.

Core Skills

In addition to core specializations, we’re making some changes to skills. Some skills’ base functionalities will change to incorporate lost behaviors from the removed traits. For example, the necromancer’s wells will all become ground targeted and the trait allowing ground targeting will be removed. All legacy skills will be assigned a category if they don’t already have one; for example, the engineer’s Mortar elite skill will become a kit. This means that traits and potential rune sets that affect kits can be triggered by this skill.

Core skills and core specializations set us up for our new skill and trait unlocking system, which you can find out more about in the companion piece to this blog post. We’re looking forward to letting you get your hands on specializations so you can try them out for yourself!

By Dulfy

MMO guide writer and blogger. Currently playing and covering SWTOR, GW2, and TSW.

47 replies on “GW2 Specializations Part One A Primer”

Sexy stuff. The seperation between attributes and trait lines is long overdue. Not sure if I like going back from 13 to 9 choosable traits per line though. But it all depends on the implementation.

Edit: Only just noticed the lack of racial skills in that screenshot, but it might be taken in Heart of the Mists.

Not necessarily; at the top of the tab it’s written “Elementalist skills”. Racial skills might get a separate tab.

Also, I don’t mind that we get less major traits, if they all become useful.

well we’re struck with only 3 specialisation so all builds will be 6/6/2-6/4/4-6/5/3-5/5/4 like, less interresting, and we cant take 3 adept/ 2 master traits….
a lot of build will die, even if a new branch exisit.

Sure builds will die, new builds will be made, thats kinda the point. You are gonna have to change now like it or not. Things will be different but there will be a new meta. This will be nice for a while, while everyone has to relearn and rebuild.

sure, new build will arise, but if you cant select 2 adept traits from one build, there will be less possibilities, plus, the ll remove a lot of adept/master traits, we re unsure they ll remove the one usefull… as you can see in the water branch, they keep the useless trait who remove burning and freezing with a dodge…

From what I read in this article it sounds as if you have access to all 3 tiers in every line you choose. So basically making 6-6-6-0-0 builds.

Erm are they removing stats from the original traits all together or just specialization ones are stat-less?

Oh so that little bar of 9 majors is all we get naow for each line? Tons of traits being removed then.. o.O Guess there’s a lot of crap ones that can be moved to the skill itself though. IE: almost all venom traits. Hopefully Last Refuge will be deleted.

Like the blog post says they are removing attributes from the trait lines (specializations in the new format) and boosting all the base attributes and stats on gear. They made no mention of Boon and Condition Duration though, so I am curious how they solve that. Probably they will implement a similar mechanic like with the Arcane specialization described in the blog post.

i re-read the article… it says.. each specialization will be linked to a different baseline (i assume this means cond duration… boon duration etc) he used ele attunement rate as an example… when u select the line…. you get a fixed bonus… maybe this is how it will be handled?

Yet another shallow iteration of the trait system, while weapon skills still remain completely un-customizable.

I hate it that every fucking developer turns their skills trees into shit like that. Like making a skill tree (and traits are nothing more than that) less complex gives people the ability to make their own builds. They will still just copy the best build on paper.

“We feel that separating build choices from stat decisions provides greater build flexibility” – yea… sure… Fuck that. Like I said above. Majority will fucking look up the #1 build just as they are doing now and people who actually try these things out are already using a different build most likely.

making the trait system not as complex as before gives the opportunity for new players or players that don’t play too much to find it easier to make their one build. for me this is a good decision.

complex or not complex ppl will still copy builds they find from others. but the point is not the build is the skill that you have which that will not change. what if someone copies your build he will still be a shitty player if he doesn’t know what to do

The funny part of that is, the weapons are designed with specific play styles and often particular stats in mind for the weapon to be as best as it can be. Meanwhile they don’t seem to be changing that at all.

if you want different skills for your weapon then you change weapon. this is how its done and its one thing that i dont see that will change.
thats why you are adding traits depending on what weapons you choose to have

We’re not locked into the “trait point” distribution of the specializations in the image, are we? D:

i think theyre gonna seriously fuck up a lot of people’s builds… mine included

Gonna have to go back to the drawing board on ALL 8 of my chars 🙁

Many of my builds have traits from more than 3 lines – this is fucking shit imo

EDIT – after my initial freakout… I looked at my ele (main) and by the looks of it… this new system should actually give her a serious boost in many directions… I use water line in my build… so i could really see what i could add…. damage per boon will make a big difference to me 🙂 only trouble is… she is full ascended… so it will be expensive to re-balance the gear…

One question I do have tho: what will happen to boon duration? currently gear does not usually give this

and the change of the stability boon made us to change some of our builds
its a freakout at the start indeed, but if you think that most major traits will be merge or become passive on your character that might be a benefit

with skill points becoming crafting materials, you can craft some recipes into the mystic forge and eventually transform them into money

Concur with many of the folks here in not liking the changes. They are reducing custom builds and variety by restricting you to 3 instead of 5 talent lines. WoW and SWtOR did much the same in simplifying their talent trees. Personally I think when a game moves this way, its more a matter of the devs giving up on class balancing, since simplification makes it easier for them to control dps,healing,etc.

But I like that stats are being removed from trait lines. True they gave additional flavor to lines, but I thought restricted your choices too much. Often I’d feel compelled to go down a trait line for the stats even if I didn’t like the playstyle or traits much.

They didn’t simplify anything except the way the tree UIs are laid out. You still get all of the passive and active aspects of each tree, which you undoubtedly only spent your points in cookie cutter build fashion. So instead of only getting a few leftover points to take skills that were either purely optional or downright terrible, now you get choices from several tiers of (typically) optional skills. Just because it doesn’t look the same, doesn’t mean it is simpler or denotes a lack of effort on the part of devs. If anything, it broadens your flexibility in ways standard trees just can’t.

It is less flexible though as it locks you to using only three trees, two if you want to use your class specialisation.

I would have to disagree. By restricting the talent tree choice from 5 to 3, the devs reduce the amount of variability they need to take into account when it comes to PvP or PvE encounters. Though, I’ll grant your point, something that doesn’t look the same doesn’t necessarily mean simpler. But in this particular case I think it does.

So will my celestial get boon and condi duration now since they are removing that from the lines, and not to mention other gear that is locked out of it now, so perhaps some more potent foods for those 2. I just don’t understand it was a solid 30% duration in trait lines.

Whelp, there goes my stupid flamethrower/static discharge/might stacking build thingy with perma swiftness (probably).

At least I like coming up with builds, so that, together with having 2 more major traits, will lessen the sting.

Also I don’t think that this will reduce the amount of viable builds too much. If they finally get around to making all the available major traits useful to at least one kind of role it might even improve the number viable builds. Besides, if they’re serious with steadily adding more specializations said number will explode pretty quickly.

Now if they could just revamp the ‘elite’ skills to give them more importance for builds. I miss the game changing effects the elites of gw1 could have on your build. In gw2, more often than not, it’s more a case of “That one could be useful, I guess”.

Finally it would be nice if you could influence the weapon skills beyond passive buffs from traits. It wouldn’t even need to be freely swapoutable skills. I would even be glad if we could choose between 2 load outs per weapon

agreed. alt weapon skills would be nice. and about the elite skills. so far, i know fo three that are useful in my opinion. engineer supply crate(sorta), thief dagger storm, warrior battle standard. to me, the reast are kinda novelty items. “Oooo that’s a pretty skill picture so i’ll have that skill even thought it is worthless like the rest.”

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theyre completely redoing the system, so it will seem confusing at first.
if you think about it though, its not that different from what we already do, they just organized it in a new way.

Do someone know what happened with Obisdian Focus and Focus of the Zephyr plz ? cO They just vanished in the Mists ? ^^

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