As the title says, at the current stage of development with a lot of reworks coming over time, I'd like to look at people's opinions on the "theme and effectiveness" of each elite specialization. The goal of this is to outline problems, toss in some suggestions, but to primarily provide some condense feedback about how well you feel the elite specializations are fitting their themes and if their potency matches their themes to deliver a good experience. Hopefully this will be of use to the devs to get some quick feedback of where they have done well, and potential areas to explore improving going forward!
A simple rating of "Poor, Ok, Nailed it!" works for me, with rational for the score after.
Chronomancer - Nailed it! - Chronomancers do truly feel like time bending mages. They have tanky support builds, damaging support builds, a strong power build with phantasm spam, and are good to great in all gameplay modes. If anything, their support options are so strong they muscle out many other potential professions. They are the benchmark to beat when it comes for designing future supportive specs.
Mirage - Nailed it! - Theme is very on point, you feel like a tricky, highly mobile illusionist. The PVE condition build is a joy to play and has a fun shatter variant for confusion vulnerable bosses, and in PVP they are honestly still too oppressive from what I gather and have seen. The unique dodge mechanic is very interesting and fun to get used to, and enables them to be consistent with their damage in high pressure bosses, like Matthias.
Reaper - Poor - Reaper, as a theme and as its potency, is just not where it needs to be. For a spec called Reaper, it actively gains literally no benefit from killing kitten if it is using Reaper Shroud. It has an execution move in Reaper Shroud that does not reward killing kitten with it in any game mode. Its shouts, animations, and the Reaper Shroud itself are very cool and thematically on point, but their effects are so weak that they don't match their theme with their effectiveness. I'd love to see a Herald style rework that really provides a good DPS rotation and a very good DPS benefit when cleaving down multiple small adds. This would give Reaper some actual substance and some great use cases in some raid encounters and fractals with a bunch of adds (Xera, Sloth, Escort, KC).
Scourge - Ok - Theme is very on point, you feel like a Sand Shade wielding kitten of support and condition damage, but unfortunately the damage isn't quite what it used to be, and similar to Tempest, its support is not quite unique enough or impactful enough in a variety of situations to make it highly sought after. It does have unparalleled revive and "carry" potential however if run as a pure support, which is why I'd list it as "ok" rather than Poor. I don't believe its in need of a Herald level refactor, but could use some number adjustments and perhaps some better availability of boons across 10 man squads.
Scrapper - Poor - Scrapper is very much in a poor place even with its recent-ish trait adjustments. It just isn't as functional as it would need to be to replace any other support or tank spot in a reasonable composition. The addition of Quickness was very welcome, and dedicated builds can sustain it for 50% uptime on others and more on self, so Support Scrapper has some definite potential. If Anet could really deliver on its identity of "being in the thick of things, and returning blows with equal force against your opposition" i'd think its theme would work better. This would be a great candidate for a Herald level update, making it an extremely offensive Tank that can retaliate while using its Gyros to support itself and allies. Basically, this thing has to compete with Tank Chrono and other supports, as its never going to compete with Holosmith for a damage role.
Holosmith - Nailed It! - Perfection. Holosmith is probably the most stable, balanced elite specialization ever released that has hit its theme right on the nose. It does great burst damage, it has impactful sounds and hits, and it flows very well, particularly the kitless holosmith. If anything, the only thing i'd change would be to slightly nudge sword even higher, and make the penalty for not using kits longer to discourage kit swapping playstyle, since that was one of the professions goals I believe with Holo, but honestly its fine as is. Base engineer in PVP has too many built in survival tools however, which make Holo seem a bit oppressive in PVP.
Druid - Nailed It! - Druid is, has been, and likely will continue to remain a staple of PVE. I do wish this would change at some point to enable other supports to be used more often, but there is no denying that Druid has been consistently very good across its life span, and Celestial Avatar has fantastic animations and sounds. Staff, however, is the one area I could see needing some major reworks, as it can feel clunky and the synergy between skills is minuscule at best, and the auto attack is absolutely anemic. "Dont Camp Staff" is a meme in the raiding community due to how bad the weapon is outside of its few opening skills, then its over to Axe Warhorn. If the Spirits get changed to be more generic enhancements, or if soulbeast could use them without as much of a loss and bring Spotter, I think druids might finally move to the "nice but not required" category.
Soulbeast - Nailed It! - Although not always perfectly balanced for its theme, Soulbeast is now in a fantastic place with viable Power and Condition builds, simplified rotation options (Double Short Bow Users Unite!), and the animations are really pretty and impactful with the sounds and hit factor, especially for Power Soulbeast. The "Stances" visually aren't too impressive and could use a slight touch up, but overall Soulbeast has nailed its fantasy theme.
Daredevil - Nailed It! - While it has taken a while, Daredevil currently feels like it has finally reached its peak of balanced, strong, thematically on point use now in raids and fractals. It has strong cleave damage, does not need stealth, Steal is EXTREMELY impactful on some raid bosses (please add this to fractals!), and all builds make use of its special dodges and third dodge to great effect. Power, Condi, and even slightly support varients due to the nice Steal skills.
Deadeye - Nailed It! - Finally, we have a valuable, valid, meta-capable ranged damage dealer or back stabbing dagger junkie. Although I still don't like tying the Stealth trait to dodging (hence why I use the Stationary variant!), I think the rest of the elite spec is really fulfilling its theme of a stealth-reliant, extremely single target damage focused power house. Its my current favorite open world and raid dps build, but seriously, people need to ignore the "benchmarks" and realize that cleave damage does matter in raids and fractals, and Deadeye is literally the worst specialization for that! Also, its the single most punishing elite specialization to go downstate on, as you lose your Mark and must wait for your Steal to reset. Took us a while, but its finally in a great place.
Berserker - Ok - Berserker was designed for condition damage, control, and being a brute, and I feel like they've delivered here. That said, using Longbow absolute does not feel thematically appropriate for a "berserker" and its a shame there are no valid power build options, especially something with axe/axe and greatsword, the most quintessential "berserker" style weapons. If Anet could find a way to enable a decent Power build, and maybe make Maxe good enough as an alternative to Longbow in PVE, that would be nice, but as it stands, its still a very functional and sturdy damage option and can bring banners for a small dps loss. It does excess at cleave as well.
Spellbreaker - Nailed It! - Spellbreaker continues to do what it was designed to do, as it is a strong Power build that rips boons or prevents them, and has the ability to Full Counter mechanics to keep on DPS and even get a boost. I do wish, similar to what I said about Scrapper, that it could take the place of Chrono as an "offensive" tank that relies on countering constantly to deal its damage and sustain itself, but its not in such a bad place that it really needs a Herald level rework frankly. It also has very good cleave, similar to Berserker. Beautiful, impactful animations as well, just a shame the Daggers arent slightly more utilized on its builds.
Dragonhunter - Poor - Dragonhunter in my opinion is a thematic mess and is in need of a Herald level rework. Its primary selling point was to finally give Guardian a powerful ranged weapon that it could use in most content, but now it is rarely used only in PVP and WVW. The utilities, Traps, do not function at range, and its ranged weapon is currently not at all viable for its damage rotation. I'd love to see the damage values on the Longbow drastically increased in PVE, and perhaps increase some of the damage modifiers for being at range from the target. A Longbow + Greatsword or Longbow + Scepter/Focus set ups, depending on what content you are fighting, would be a welcome change of pace, along with ranged deploy-able traps. It still "works" as a damage dealer for now for Power builds, but it simply isnt living up to its theme of being capable at ranged, and definitely doesn't feel unique in the slightest or desired.
Firebrand - Nailed It! - Firebrand is in a fabulous place now, a solid dps option with its condition build, and an almost meta viable support build in PVE that is, unfortunately, still too strong and oppressive in PVP and WVW. My only complaint is that it cannot maintain Squad wide 10 player Quickness. By doing so, this would enable supportive Firebrands to potentially have a place in the Raid compositions, especially if a Revenant specialization could cover Alacrity 10-man.
Herald - Poor - Getting fixed soon, lets wait til Tuesday! I really hope they work "boon extending" into its kit for Glint's F2, that would give it a fantastic place in the support side of PVE in Raids and Fractals. 10-man capable Facets (through traits) would also be a highly welcomed addition for raid viability.
Renegade - Ok - Renegade is in such an odd place. It is an extremely competent DPS option in end game PVE, but many have often complained about the summoned Spirits from Kalla being impacted by CC, and thus being unreliable, despite being very thematically cool and on point, along with the other animations of short bow and the F skills. I think making the summons immune to all control, but still killable, is a fair compromise for PVP and WVW, and would also take away some of their annoyance when used in PVE. And we ALL agree that the "no valid path to target" needs to be fixed. The shortbow finally feels good to use, and other than fixing the glitch to abuse 7-Shot, I think its in a fair good place. PVP and WVW, however, it needs some significant adjustments to be used, primarily in its lack of mobility and lack of personal defense. If the F4 Orders From Above could be increased to 10 man when traited, I would die a happy man. This, along with the above Firebrand changes, would seriously open up the Chronomancer's grip on the support roles in 10 man content. Trait adjustments, probably not to the level of Herald maybe, could fix many of their issues.
From the above, the TLDR version would be:
Mesmers, Thieves, and Rangers are in a great place currently. Maybe some small shaving or adjustments, or re-purposing of some skill types to be more generalized (Spirits, easier access to Alacrity and Quickness for other professions), but otherwise probably could be left alone largely and most would be fine in PVE. Shaving some PVP/WVW effectiveness with splits would be a good idea.
Guardian, Warrior, and Engineer have one spec doing poorly or Ok, with one being a Nailed it! For these, the Nailed Its can be largely ignored, but the poor or ok elite specializations should definitely get looked into, but they shouldn't be quite as high of a priorty as the next group:
We have, in order of need, Necromancers, and then Elementalists, who both are direly in need of some adjustments, as neither has a single elite specialization that has "nailed it" at this stage of development, and both have an elite specialization that is doing poorly. Engineer can at least fall back on Holosmith to be viable, but Weaver and Scourge really don't hold up Necromancer and Elementalist very well at the moment. I'm leaving out Revenant and Herald until we can see Tuesday's impact, otherwise Herald would be joining them in the Poor category. As such, I'd love it if Reaper and Tempest could be a focus on the next updates, as well as Scourge and Weaver tweaks to bring them into the Nailed It! region before then if able.