After years of being neglected Arena net has finally decided to take a look at the often joked about death magic specialization. This Specialization has been a meme to the community as hands down one of the worst specializations in the game. But the real question is will these changes make what it offers worth it in the long run? Well, that's a bit more difficult to say, but I feel it might see some niche use here and there. There are some really neat design choices and other questionable ones. I'm off the opinion that they really didn't go far enough with the changes and this makes the spec still feel a bit lopsided in terms of its design. But lets get into why I feel this way.
Death Magic: This trait line has been reworked. Many traits now revolve around a new effect called Death's Carapace that increases toughness by 20 for each stack up to a maximum of 30 stacks. Death's Carapace stacks are applied for 10 seconds from all traits except Flesh of the Master.
Starting here, This is an interesting change. From the looks of the traits how these stacks will apply to the necromancer will very a bit and gaining 30 stacks for any extended period of time seems like it might not be as easy as you might think. I see 10-15 being the average from what I'm reading in the traits which is quite good, but getting that full 600 bonus toughness might take full dedication to a build designed around it. The idea is interesting to say the least, but using this as specifically a defensive ability feels like the wrong move to me. Necromancer is missing a lot of support for allies and this was a good opportunity to give them a means to providing aid to allies. I had almost thought that this could be used as a resource for the necromancer that they could spend, but we'll see why that isn't the case.
- Armored Shroud: This trait now gives 5 stacks of Death's Carapace when entering shroud.
- Soul Comprehension: In addition to its previous effects, this trait now also grants 1 stack of Death's Carapace for each kill the necromancer participates in.
- Beyond the Veil: This trait has been reworked. It now reduces condition damage by 10% while the necromancer has at least 10 stacks of Death's Carapace.
For the most part, I feel these are actually pretty solid Minors. There still is the problem with Soul Comprehension that it just is almost a completely dead trait in places like PvP or in Raids, which is a bit of a shame. In WvW though this could be quite threatening in the Scourge zergs but that is yet to be seen. With the extra life force on top of the toughness and another trait we'll get to later I feel that will be great there, but very dead everywhere else. I do like these for the most part. Taking the design of Corrupter's Fervor and putting part of it into the minors I feel is a good decision over all.
- Flesh of the Master: Instead of granting armor for each minion, this trait now causes the necromancer's minions to grant them 2 Death's Carapace stacks as long as the minions are alive.
- Putrid Defense: This trait has changed positions and its functionality has changed. It now causes poison to deal 15% more damage and grants 1 Death's Carapace stack when applying poison.
- Shrouded Removal: This trait has changed positions. In addition to its previous effects, it now grants 3 Death's Carapace stacks when a condition is removed.
Starting with Flesh of the master, this one is worded a bit odd. I feel a deeper explanation is in order, but my assumption is that they would apply their carapace to the necromancer once every 10 seconds. But this isn't at all made clear. Is it 2 stacks total or 2 stacks per minion? This isn't so clear to me, but my gut says the later. The language also suggests that it might grant the minions the carapace? This wasn't so clear to me but my assumption is that it'll be 2 stacks of Carapace per minion every 10 seconds. The confusion is part of the reason I feel the necromancer being able to grant carapace to allies was something they might get, but clearly that isn't the case, and it doesn't look to be the case for minions either. This is just my assumption and it could function differently at launch. Still, this will combo extremely nicely into another trait if it functions how I think.
Putrid Defense has long been one of the traits I felt was such a waste when compared to other traits in the same tier. It was clearly the weakest link so seeing that it grants the necromancer bonus damage poison is such a nice touch. Granting Carapace is a good compliment to this as well, although the synergy with this trait in death magic still isn't all there. You have to take Death nova to get synergy for this trait if only using death magic which I personally am not a fan of the lack of poison dedication in this specialization. I do love the trait, hopefully its use can grow with new skills or a new elite spec, but right now I still feel this will be the weakest option. This is useful for core necromancer, but condi core isn't a real thing at the moment and the pieces to its complete puzzle just aren't there and this wont put it there unfortunately.
Shrouded Removal has always been a very good trait. If this was in any other specialization it would have been a staple of the necromancer's defenses for reaper and core necromancer. So the bonus that it grants you carapace is just icing. My question about this is does it grant carapace whenever a condition is removed, or just for the shrouded removal specifically? I feel it might be the former. In my opinion if this is the case this makes Shrouded Removal the best adept trait of them all. Even with the 15% bonus Damage of Putrid defense the defensive potential here is just too high to ignore. If its the later though it'll still be very solid and I still feel it may be the default for most builds.
- Necromantic Corruption: This trait is unchanged.
- Dark Defiance: This trait is unchanged.
- Deadly Strength: This trait has been reworked. It now causes Death's Carapace to grant an additional 10 power per stack.
There isn't much to talk about here with Necromantic corruption or Dark defiance since they haven't changed. Dark defiance does have some new synergy with a grandmaster which we'll get into later. So it as an option might be worth considering. Although this level of bulk might be over kill in many situations. So lets talk about Deadly strength which has been reworked significantly. Deadly strength is leaps and bounds better than it was previously and I can see it being a real option now. The fact that this isn't tied to a stat and gives a flat bonus makes this an extremely strong choice for more tanky power builds. I can see this being a favorite of reapers who may take death just for the extra bulk who wont feel as punished for taking it. Averaging around 160-220 extra power isn't a joke and considering its not a boon this can be helpful in a boon corruption meta. Although it looks like the meta is moving away from that this trait does get me to think quite hard about the options. In PvE, this is the best trait to take and it could be the trait of choice for some WvW scourges.
- Death Nova: Updated skill facts and description. Updated attack name from Lesser Poison Cloud to Poison Nova in order to indicate that it has different behavior from Corrosive Poison Cloud. Fixed an issue that caused this trait to use the minion's stats instead of the necromancer's. Fixed various issues that caused this trait to behave inconsistently with certain minions. Increased damage by 60% in PvE only.
- Corrupter's Fervor: This trait has been reworked. It now grants 1 Death's Carapace stack when applying any condition. Additionally, at 25 Death's Carapace stacks or above, the necromancer gains pulsing protection for 3 seconds every 3 seconds.
- Unholy Sanctuary: This trait is unchanged.
Death nova is interesting. I really like the changes they've made to it but these seem to be intended effects of the trait rather than a function change. This trait could offer a minor minion bomber build, but I doubt it'll be anything more than a meme. Its interesting for sure, but I can't quite get behind a minion bomber build. Arena net is going to have to give me a lot more before this becomes a real thing. Still, I'll love to meme with this trait at least for a little while.
Corrupter's Fervor might put the necromancer over the top when it comes to carapace. This is offers quite a bit, but I personally feel that it should also grant the user 1 stack of stability every 3 seconds much like the juggernaut trait. Necromancer has long had a lack of stab so Personally feel that just having that little bit of help would seriously give them a fighting chance in these situations where they're just being juggled around. And if the necromancer is on the ground they can't get the carapace which hinders their defenses a bit too much. This trait is nice and probably the best option, but I still feel it could be a bit better.
Unholy Sanctuary unfortunately is what we call a noob trap. This trait is the absolute worst trait the necromancer could take of any specialization between adapt, master or grandmaster and the fact that it remains is a real shame. The trait is actually anti synergistic with scourge as well since it requires life force to trigger. Which if a player is desperate for this to need to trigger, they're already long dead. This trait is a trap and no one should ever take it. I was really hoping Anet would Replace this with something but that doesn't seem to be the case.
These are my thoughts on the traits, but I still have more thoughts to share when talking about death. I feel that this is a good start for the changes of death, but I overall am a bit underwhelmed with it. Not because the changes they made were bad but because it just doesn't offer the variety that death so desperately needs. The bonus toughness means that this wont be taken in most raids because of how aggro roles work and the party doesn't want to force the tank to push past 600 toughness to keep the necromancer from pulling aggro. But this shouldn't be a problem since death just doesn't offer enough to the necromancer even with these changes to warrant picking it over Spite for power or Curses for condi. And because it doesn't have any means of support it wont be taken over blood. Death feels like it'll be at its absolute strongest in WvW. But I'm not sure how much that'll matter. The dominance of scourge in zergs wont change and this doesn't change up the scourge's play style any since they'll be doing the exact same thing.
I'm also kinda disappointed that the forgotten skill type, spectral skills didn't get any traits here either. It had been removed from Soul reaping and my hope was that death could be its new home, yet this isn't the case. Spectral skills are a bit of a mixed bag so seeing them in Death would have been welcome. And its not like it would be unusual for them to double up on traits that influence skills in one specialization. Spite both buffs axe and focus. Death doesn't have a weapon that represents it while Spite and Blood both have two. So this would have been a nice place to see it.
As for a previous statement I made about support. I was kinda hoping that Death's Carapace could have been used as a resource by one or two traits to sacrifice stacks in order to provide some form of defense to allies. Be it protection, stability, resistance or perhaps a means for them to transfer conditions. I'm in favor of the sacrificial nature that the GW1 Necromancer used and I'm still wishing that would return to guild wars 2. So this is a bit disappointing, but not really that surprising. Death I feel could use some means of support for allies to make it enticing for the players.
I'm also of the option that there are far too many minion traits. Arena net should honestly reduce that to just 1 as a grandmaster and roll the bonus health and damage into base minions. I still feel death Nova doesn't quite do enough while the space could be used for more support or even spectral skills or this sort of sacrificing defenses for allies design. But this is just my opinion on the matter.
Over all, I'll wait until the release of these changes but I honestly can't say I'll be using it all that much. I do look forward to them and hope death finds a home on some builds. As for me, I'll be waiting for the Next elite spec in hopes death finds some more wide spread use.