Soon this week, after completing the first byzantium chest of the season 20 (securing the three grandmaster marks of the season) playing exclusively carrion Revenant (Herald and also Renegade) for the last two I’ve returned to power Herald while also experimenting (in unranked) with other builds: rifle Warrior and Deadeye and burn Guardian.
I’ve played condition and hybrid based builds from the Guardian class in the past, but most of them were either core Guardians or Dragon Hunter ones, mostly when builds that procced burn on block were a thing, and had great fun with them despite being one trick poneys easily countered by some classes. But this time wanted to try a burn Firebrand, so in the last week I’ve playing hybrid variations of the Firebrand trying to make them work, and after some testing and lots of changes I found one build that is really fun to me and seems to do the work (which doesn’t means that is going to be competitive)
Disclaimer: I usually end placed in gold tier III in most of seasons, struggling to reach plat tier I. I’m a very average/mediocre player and I’m not sure of how will perform in higher tiers which doesn’t bothers that much: I find this build engaging and fun to play and I want to share it so maybe some people can also enjoy it or provide ideas to enhance it or critize how terrible is. Regardless, lets go:
Firebrand hybrid build, Fire Salamander:
Class: Guardian (Firebrand spec)
Weapons: Axe + Shield/Scepter* + Focus (*could be replaced by Sword in some task)
Atributes: Carrion amulet in PvP, mostly Dire/Traiblazer in WvW
Rune: Lynx in PvP, either Traveller or Fireworks in WvW
WvW roaming variant:
Pure condition Guardian builds are oftenly devoted to pure condition stats, focused on burn damage and taking benefit from the trait lines of Zeal, Radiance and Virtues or Zeal, Radiance and Firebrand to maximize damage in PvE content. Zeal enhances symbols and adds condition damage. Radiance increases burn duration, burn damage, crit chances and also procs burns on hit. Virtues increases the burn procs from F1, the burn stacks and makes them AoE. Firebrand gives acces to the Axe, which grants great synergies in terms of new conditions (bleeds) cc (daze, cripple, slow, immobilize) and extra procs of burn when those effects happens, and that’s without even takin in consideration the tomes, which opens the gates of more condition damage, healing and support.
Now, a Zeal/Radiance/Virtues core Guardian burn build will fall in the “glass cannon” category and will find some limitations in PvP. I think that a Firebrand hybrid build can provide similar single target burst while having better team support through the access of broader crowd control tools and the healing and cleansing skills from the tomes. Hybrid Firebrand role should be area deny through constant condition pressure and cc, fast bursting of dangerous foes and limited
Selecting the trait lines:
Honor is a defensive trait line which only provides symbol duration and radius increase, so albeit Writ of Persistence is great this line doesn’t have much use for us.
Zeal increases the damage vs burning foes and eithet Eternal Armory or Symbolic Avenger could be useful, but I find that is not that crucial for our role as the other two core trailines.portuni
Radiance is a must: gives us a blind, increases in ferocity and crit chances, fury (more crit chances) and burn damage and duration increases. Some of the traits synergize between them, increasing the chances to proc extra burns to stack even more effects and higher burst of damage.
Virtues: another mandatory traitline; has some nice defensive and support capabilities, but the main appeal here are Glacial Heart and Permeating Wrath: extra chill from cc is a massive asset in our arsenal which wreacks havoc in the battlefield Permeating Wrat is a force multiplier: the extra procs grants that the burn stacks do massive damage and proc new effects (in conjunction with Radiace traits: extra damage on burning foes, extra crit chances on burning foes, chances of proccing fury, extra burn damage and duration).
Firebrand: aside from the tomes, which themselves offer team support through boon sharing, condition cleansing and team healing, and more burn skills and procs, the arsenal of new condotions which the traitline and the axe opens is amazing: we have now bleeds, which helps to cover our burns and make it harder to clean, plus daze, immobilize, slow and more buns. Here’s a choice because we can opt for either 1,1,1 or 1,1,3. I like the first most because it grants slow and burns after cc (which stacks with chill after cc for a more intense and hard to cleanse impairing effect) but Loremaster could be a better trait for players versed in the use of the tomes without hurting the passive procs from F1, F2 and F3. In the second tier also I would add that Weighty Terms isn’t mandatory. Tho there’s room to play with some traits here.
Selecting the weapons:
Axe: has fantastic synergies with the shield and our utility skills; offers bleeds, a strong symbol, a useful cc, and with this build procs burns, bleeds, daze, slow, cripple and chill. Some of them have short duration due logical balance reasons, but I find this weapon so heavily condi loaded that if not for the slow casting of #2 I would call it “broken”. Even if the target has broad access to cleansing or defensive immunities this builds “burns them” so fast that even if the foe survives and disengages oftenly leaves being a very weakened target that can be preyed by opportunistic attacks from our fellow players.
Shield: the perfect couple to the axe; provides AoE aegis, protection and healing, absorbs projectiles and casts a huge area knockback which burns, slows and chills, leading to extremely damaging burst and cc chains.
Scepter: this could be replaced by sword in some situations, but overall I think that has an edge over the mele weapon. Is mostly a mid ranged weapon oriented to physical damage but the fast cast of #1 can fastly stack burn procs amd the Chains of Light + Symbol of Punishment can lead to some extreme burst. Due our trait selection the Chains now burn, slow and chill and that paired with our utility choices will make this weapon really powerfull in taking down foes in teamfights.The sword offers better mobility, a blind and a high physical burst with good chances to proc multiple burns but would require to go full mele, can be avoided with a evade and doesn’t proc the cc that the scepter offers.
Focus: Ray of Judgement is a potent long range chain attack which does mostly physical damage but usually procs 2-3 burns and lets us to “cast and forget”. Is good to weak foes or put pressure on low health targets, but also to finish downed ones: remember: Permeating Wrath causes AoE so anyone rezzing will eat those burns, also. Shield of Wrath is wonderful heavy hitters. While the untraited focus cooldowns are longer than the torch I think that the survability it adds is more usefull for this build than the “balls to the wall” nature of the torch.
Selecting the skills:
This is the area in which I made more changes from the initial build; my first versions achieved a long row of defeats in unranked which were helpfull to understand what’s working and what not, going from a utility bar full of mantras to one free of them, and from having shouts and consagrations to a more pragmatic design. I found that this choices works very well for the goals of the build: area denial with burn pressure and cc, bursting dangerous foes, partial team support.
Heal: Mantra of Solace. Being honest, I don’t like the current heals of the Guardian; most of them have long cooldowns with mediocre amounts healed, require traits to even being functional and in some cases demand to spread the healings along your utilities (as with the meditation skills). So they rely on traitlines which oftenly limits the choices. Tha’s why I use Mantra of Solace: I don’t like it too much but doesn’t hurt my trait choices and the last cast in the gived build cast burn, slow, chill and immobilize, so if the things go wrong gives us a bit of air…
Judge’s Intervention: crucial. Provides 1 of our 2 breakstuns, instantly teleport us to a target up to 1200 range burning up to 5 foes in a 240 unit radius. Due the long cooldown of our breakstuns must be used wisely, but gives access to powerfull burst combos as focus #5> weapon swap> JI> shield 5> axe #3> axe #2.
Signet of Wrath: amazing. Carrion amulet (PvP) or Dire/Trailblazer/ Griever stats (WvW) already provide solid condition numbers, which this signed passively boost in another 180. For most of the match that’s what it does: buff our damage. But along scepter’s Chains of Light and Rejuvenating Respite (last mantra heal) is one of our three immobilize, which can be casted ~25 seconds. And the Chains and the signet works very well together because they have tons of range. But whereas I tend to use the chains extensively (prevent control point access, reach foes running away, freezing foes focused by my team mates or stationary ranged snipers) when I cast the active effect of the signet is always to ensure a kill: a chained Necro which barely survied a team focus and now threats to run away to recover in full force while leaving marks behind is oftenly the main target of this handly. The bound last a stunning 50% longer than Chains of Light, and due our traits it also burns, slows and chills, so if hits our foe has plenty of conditions to deal with. This is a STRONG skill, specially in a team in which your partners known how this build works and how doomed are the targets you bound.
Contemplation of Purity: Our second stunbreak and our main source of condition cleansing, along the weapon swap and tome skills. Has a long cooldown, so part of the deal consits in actively preventing conditions using evades, aegis, blocks and killing foes very, very fast. Despite the presence of strong condi builds in the meta (Necros, Mallyx Revenants, some Mesmers…) I found this skill combined with the offensive capabilities of the build enough to survive in reasonable situations.
Smite Condition: optional. Some players will prefer to use this short cooldown skill to enhance the cleansing capabilities of their hybrid Firebrands while adding damage. But I think that doesn’t help that much: The damage provided over time isn’t as strong as the passive effect of the signet and lacks the dramatical effect that the activation can have in a fight; doesn’t provide the utility of the JI to cut distances and can’t compare with Contemplation of Purity which not only cleanses more but also adds a much needed brekstun. So doesn’t replace any utility in this build.
Renewed Focus: probably the more solid choice. The elite signet would only work in a team with 3+ Guardians using it, which would be fun but probably not enough to prevent deaths due burst, and a team with so many Guardians probably will lack in terms of rotations. The mantra really only provides breakstuns and a laughlable 1 second stab; the final activation gives swiftness, longer stab and retaliation: that seems fine on paper (and usefull against this cc heavy current metagame), but does nothing against immobilizations or damage itself. The shout is great: fury + damage + quickness in a 5 second burst and short cooldown (for an elite), but without stability could be easily wasted. Renewed Focus has now a very long cooldown but is still the panic button which can save you in a critical time and the reset of the tomes grants some versatility to offset the cooldown disadvantage. Surprisingly, this slot is more contested than the heal or the utilities.
Selecting the Stats:
Amulet: Carrion. Tried Mender and Sage; both offer a significatively shorter pool of health. Despite the healing power I found that both have sustain problems (probably due my lack of skill with the tomes, which I’m to used to and it will take me time to master). The former does way less damage and the latter is quite similar in dps to Carrion but I felt safer with 20K+ HP. Now: Carrion gives plenty of damage even without the passive signet, and the broad array of cc we have provides plenty of sustain in 1 vs 1. In team fights we aren’t as durable as a Jalis/Mallx bunker but burn works great with symbols and melts enemies faster than any other condition. Burn alone isn’t a big deal, and Guardians used to lack extra condis to cover it, but this build is fully loaded of them as long as you land some cc (which you have plenty to abuse). Critical chance isn’t needed due trait buffs and fury procs. For WvW there’s two routes: either Dire/Trailblazer main stats with some Grieving/Sinister/Viper pieces if desired or a Carrion build with Grieving. The former has less physical damage with can float ~20K HP while having 3K+ armor and ~1700 condi damage, whereas Carrion improves physical damage at the cost of our armor.
Runes: Traveller .Forget Balthazar; Balthazar condition damage is barely equal to the passive signet so in that regard won’t be missed. 50% extra burning duration is stronger than 5% extended duration on all of our conditions and boons, but conditions can be cleansed and the key factor here is now how much of a single condi we can stack but how easy is to reaply and to cover it with multiple conditions, and this build has plenty of both. The extra 10% HP would be missed but the ability to travel at a 25% faster pace is way more important because betweem immobilizations, JI and the Traveller runes is way harder for foes to disengage from me and avoid damage. Balthazar makes you to do less damage. 25% increased constant movement speed is the bare minimum to prevent yourself from being a ballast.
Sigils: Theres flexibility here. I like Energy and Cleansing for the scepter & focus and Smoldering and Absortion for axe & shield, but they aren’t carved in stone. In WvW I also like Vision and Hydromancy to proc more burns and add more cc.
General usage: Salamanders are a WH 40K chapter known for their abuse of short and mid range flamethrowers and that’s more or less what this build tries here. Start the match going to middle wielding scepter + focus and start denying control point access poking ranged attacks with scepter aa and symbol, focus #4 or if the enemy team stacks in the middle maybe Tome of Justice’s Heated Rebuked. Once the fight starts to fester and a foe becomes exposed in a weak place or prompt signs of troubles (like low hp or using evades or expensive defensive skills) try to land a Chains of Light + Symbol of Punish combo. Use focus #5 or the shield skills for defense and team support if needed.
Once you are in mele range axe & shiled becomes your best tools: take advantage of shield #5’s knockdown, chill, slow and burn to land a axe #2 (daze, slow, cripple and burn) and then axe #3 to pull (slow, chill & burn). Don’t hesitate to burst a cqc Jugge’s Intervention if the enemies seems to be on the verge of collapse (sometimes won’t and you will have spent a valuable asset, but the practice will help you learn the key momnets to do so). Axe aa is full of bleeds and the last hit of the chain comes with nice burns.
Tome of Justice not only provides juicy AoE burns but also blinds at mele range, but I prefer to limit its usage to keep the passive F1 procs. The other two tomes have valuable support skills but most of them are tailored for close usage, so don’t use them while being alone except if is a must to survive.
I move a lot for the map while playing. Sure, plenty of classes have better mobility and disengage, but I have a good close gap and 3 immobilizations if I need to freeze a target, preventing him to break our node or to evade a fight. But decapping isn’t par of our role: we are good at rooting a target, using AoE cc to proc both burn and bleed stacks and impairing conditions which daze, chill, clipple and slow them, making them weaker to our damage and from our team and reducing their operativity and danger.
That’s all. I’ll keep playing the build while trying to learn and improve with it and maybe making some adjust to improve it. I don’t like too much the pure support Firebrand and the last Guardian build I played extensively in PvP was a DH trapper variant; so far I’m enjoying the change which has unique features and different flavour.