In Recent updates
As of the last patch we saw a game wide nerf to damage (the necromancer was not exempt from this) how ever the changes that came with the patch no doubt pushed us back from the insta kill meta and closer to a bunker meta not as bad as the HoT bunker meta but still some what close.
Lets get one thing correct here. All bunker builds are strong right now not just the necromancer. Core necromancer just more or less happens to be one of the strongest ones because core was already geared into being really tough evne by post patch standards but could still be eaten by anything that gave it the stink eye.
Now as most people have noticed necromancers have begun stacking defenses to well not die because getting killed sucks. While i wont say here what the strongest version of the build is because there are at least 2 or 3 variants of it based on personal taste all of them work fairly well. Some stronger than others also depending on the skill of the player.
Its obvious that the meta has always been geared to "Focus the necromancer first" and as of this patch its the first ive seen where that strategy totally fails. This how ever is not a bad thing because there should not be a standard of always focus the necromancer first. There should be situations where that strategy fails to work from time to time. "But this is more than that!"
Necromancer has become exceptionally resilient due the lower damage meta and stacking defenses which is not surprising people predicted it "could" happen. Obviously people are playing flavor of the week / month / patch which is fine nothing will stop players from doing this. Basically what you need to know is that it works like this.
Fixing the problem
This is where the hard stuff comes in obviously it needs to be nerfed. Im not here to dispute that.
How ever there are multiple ways to go about doing it. The sustain is high for a combination of 3 reasons reasons but really you only need to change 1 or 2 or so to fix the issue.
Death shroud blocks too much damage
This is very much the most direct cause of why its too strong. Death shroud cuts 50% of all incoming damage before applying those points of damage to the shroud resource meter. Nerfing this down to a 33% reduction or nerfing the overall total by 33% are two possible solutions here which leave all play styles and builds intact without over hindering any of the elites. As noted earlier there is a wide range of the bunker necromancer build that can produce exceptionally high sustain and not all of them use the tools people point at which means that there is likely another cause.
Life force generation is high
Life force generation to some extent needs to be proportionally high to the meta. However the hard part to balance is that skills are designed in mind with the idea that things are falling dead around the necromancer for example in wvw deaths happen all the time and free life force is exceptionally high in mass fights. This is also easy to notice in the FFA pvp arena where you gain freel life force from kills you had no part in. In spvp matches however life force from deaths is exceptionally low and the weapon skills alone do not generate enough life force thus necromancers needed far more resource generation options. While cuts here certainly help solve the problem with the bunker core builds it also ruins the elites hindering them considering that they generally consume more life force and dont have a ton of extra modern tools to increase their incoming life force. You combine this with the fact that taking one of them usually means losing out on afew trait resources and over nerfing this spells the end for the elite specs. Cutting back things like singet of undeath from 3% down to 2% would be a good start. Cutting back Fear of Death from 15% down to 10% or possibly more might also be a good start. As a user of Undeath for well over a year before it ever got its buff i can certainly say the main issue is not with the signet. Considering ive seen high sustain necro builds that dont use it and do just as well as the ones that do use it it means that it cannot be the main source of the issue. Again i point to the above shroud blocking too much damage.
Overall game dps is too low
This is a fact. Overall damage is slightly too low and based on what anet said some damage may be coming back to cc skills and in various other ways in the future. Depending on how much damage comes back directly means over nerfing one or both above topics will have drastic impacts on the necromancer going forward and nerfing them should be handle with care. Hot fixes are ok however it should also not be a finite solution should the meta shift back into high damage again.
Necromancer's play style and design.... why nerfing the core profession too much can kill it and its elites
The necromancers play style for anyone who has yet to figure it out is based on soaking damage not evading damage. Previously there was a very large gap between soaking damage and avoiding it. This patch closed that gap considerably possibly even overlapped it making damage soaking more optimal for a few professions or builds than damage evading.
No matter what nerfs come this style and design of necro will not change so long as anet is hard set on not giving the necromancer evasive tools, more boons, blocks, mobility, stealth, etc.
Necromancer will for ever be locked into soaking damage as apposed to avoiding it. Nerfing its resource thats used to do that in the wrong way or by the wrong amount single handedly ruins the Core necromancer and all of its elites as all of them are based on doing this.
For those who are fighting the bunker builds under stand that before you say "Necromancers dont even need to dodge 'x' burst or 'y' skill like everyone else" Consider the fact that they likely cannot dodge as they only have 2 dodges at any given time. In many cases you are left with no options and simply have to take the damage at face value. While every other profession directly has more options to avoid or negate it. In many cases this is not an option for the necromancer.
In 80% of situations when someone says "Necromancers dont need to do x like everyone else" its likely because they cant as those options are not openly available to them based on anets hard balancing and design choices forced on them thematically. IF other professions have to jump off a point for a moment to breath and heal its not uncommon that necro cant get far enough fast enough to do those things with its lack of mobility vs other professions who can literally leap or blink away instantly to a safe space for a breather. This is but 1 example. Its certainly not impossible to adapt the play style of other professions and get away with it form time to time though its just not something they can always do.
Nerfs are welcome but keep in mind
There are not other play styles defensively that the necromancer can take and it will need to soak hits rather than avoiding them so long as anet does not give them defensive tools. No matter what elite specialization you put on this will not change. No matter what amulet you run this will not change. No matter what weapons you put on this will not change.
Thats why it needs to be addressed carefully
My personally suggestions would be to start with the shroud itself before anything
Tone down some of the life force generating skills and healing where its needed
Nerfing life force generation should be treated with care though. It probably needs to be rebalanced and reworked all together in the future by decreasing gain from deaths and some traits and increasing the gain on weapon skills considerably higher which means any LF gain attempts can be denied by evading/ blocking the necromancers telegraphed attacks.
Honestly i dont really see much of a problem with this even aside from the auto damage scaling being above a 2.0 coefficient drop that down to like a modest 1.7 as it only does raw damage and its fine.
Honestly i dont think much needs to change here "yet" if the above things change. People who call death magic broken right now need to understand that it was borderline irrelevant in the recent metas. As a personal defensive line it still needs to work as a defensive line after any sustain nerfs. Unless you like the idea of every profession in this game slapping on its support lines for personal sustain that works better than its personal defensive sustain lines. (which is dumb i really wish anet would do something about it)
Lastly 2v2 pvp
This mode is practically new and is a mini season, people need to remember that its likely not going to be something anet balances around unless it replaces conquest 5v5
Much like wvw you shouldn't go into this mode expecting perfect balance in head to head fights. You should be specifically expecting exceptionally strong duo combos.
IF you balance professions for 2v2 team fights things will start to fall apart in 5v5 modes or any larger scaled game type.
Ideally this game was never designed for permanent 2v2 competitive and there is always going to be a broken combo in 2v2 that is mad strong because the game is not balanced for it. Of course we wont know what those combos are until after Firebrand and Necro are fixed which is also another good reason to fix them!
This is similar to the whole wvw vs pvp issue on a smaller scale.
If you nerf a build or profession because it does well in one mode or game type its likely to suffer in the other game types if you hold it to the same standards of the game type you nerfed it around. Simply put you wont ever get balance for 2v2 if you balance for 5v5 and you wget balance for 5v5 if you balance for 2v2. There will always be some level of difference between how things perform in these settings and thats just a given. But if 5v5 is the standard for the main season thats what balance should mainly aim for.
There are other ways to balance 2v2 though like limiting amulets even further for that game mode is one extreme example i can think of off the top of my head.
1: Yes.. nerf the necromancers sustain no arguments there... No.. do not hard balance it for 2v2 do it for 5v5. Considering its sustain is the only problem realistically it is the main thing that should be considered with 5v5 in mind. Any additional frustration can be directed to the thing that supports it in 2v2 which is firebrand.
Some people might not realize it yet but you stick the current firebrand next to anything on a bunker build and its not going to be easily killable or killable at all. This is just covered by necro taking up all the real-estate at the moment
2: Yes its ok to cut life force gain.. No its not ok to cut it so much that Reaper and Scourge cannot function as they generally have higher cost.
3: I blame Joko for all of this