Pets, as they're called in other games, are not very engaging in Guild wars 2. Not only that, they are fairly difficult to battle when they are effective given GW2's combat systems. What this translates to is these builds being nerfed into uselessness to give them the stigma of being boring and weak builds which has lead to their unpopularity. Over the years Arena Net's AI with pets has greatly improved and their response time and reaction is much better than it used to be. It's not perfect but it is very responsive. With all of these elements combined we have a neglected and dilapidated pet system that could use some serious updating and rebalancing. In this post I'll be using pets and summons to mean any summoned creature or animate object such as turrets.
Pet builds get a bad rap because of these problems and the struggles of balance team and player fun really makes this difficult. But pets could be improved and redesigned to be more engaging for both the Pet players and the people fighting them. This isn't an insurmountable task at all to achieve but the lack of support from the player base does put a damper on this. If it got the support it needed the game would be better off for it and I'm going to suggest some changes that could aid in these builds and improve the combat against these builds so we can bring in more playstyles into the game.
The primary professions that need this sort of update are Engineer and Necromancer. To a minor extent, Elementalist and Ranger as well. Maybe Mesmer, but I think they work as well as they should.
The two Summoner classes necromancer and engineer have much of their identity missing in the build space of the game. Minions are an open world meme build at best and Turrets are a passive farming build which doesn't provide much for the players in terms of engagement long term. Both are somewhat useful but lack the playstyle that these builds really should engage with.
I'm a bit bias when it comes to these two classes. They are my two favorites and I absolutely adore summoning builds. And it's a shame because I see such great potential with it since other games do so well with similar concepts yet GW2 doesn't. Although technically Scouge is a summoner elite spec and I'll argue with anyone who says otherwise until I'm blue in the face, which is why I was surprised when the Shades weren't summoned creatures that could be killed but don't tell arena net that, we don't need more nerfs.
Minions are lacking in a few areas. Their damage is fine but taking all the minion traits is a dps loss even if you're running a full minion build. Which shows you how little they matter to your dps. Their controlling abilities can be petty good but don't have the punch they probably should have.
Minions are closer to being viable than turrets are and they're far off the mark. With a couple of changes they would make for a much more engaging build type players could get behind.
Turrets used to be extremely dominant in PvP bunker type builds to my knowledge but were never that great in PvE. After the nerf that made them vulnerable to conditions they dropped off hard. It was like arena net had banned them from competitive formats. But even if they didn't the highly mobile chaotic pace of both PvE and WvW prevents them from seeing much play.
General Change for Pets[summons]
Probably the biggest change I'd make to the pets would be scaling. Their stats should change with your stats. So a turret build or minion build should be noticable different if running full berserker vs Magi gear for example. The damage of the pets should be noticable and their health and armor should be improved a bit more less so so they don't just become impossible to kill.
Pet builds should show up on other classes, so consider these philosophies I'm putting out there to be future proofing. Since another pet build in the future we could see being the beast master spec for Ranger which uses a pack of animals as opposed to just one is a real possibility.
In Guild Wars 1 the primary pet builds, Minion masters and Spirit spammers had specific opponents they really struggled with. Nukers from the elementalist, mostly fire but also earth. Smiting Monks with holy damage. And the specific hate skills from Dervish and Paragon which specifically dealt bonus aoe damage to summoned creatures. This is an element of GW1 I'd bring back. And I wouldn't limit it nearly as much as it was in GW1.
The important thing is that pets need to be both engaging for the players to use and to fight against. A lot of players hate pet builds because of the reasons I listed. And a lot of us desperately want these builds to be good. Pet builds should absolutely be good to use and feel good to play. They are a fundamental part of the MMORPG genre. You lose potential players who might be interested in the game because of this weakness in playstyle. So for a longevity perspective improvement on the pet/summoner builds of the game and their counterplay aids the health of the game.
When a Minion master player or a Turret Engineer finally hits max level and wants to do WvW or Raids and is told that not just their build and armor but the very type of build they like to run is complete garbage by the players of the game this immediately gives a really bad impression of the game for them. There are going to be a lot of naysayers In the comments. And I expect that. But this topic really does not get enough attention. And other suggestions are out there that might be better than mine or alternatives. So let's open this discussion up.