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The Scourge: An Elite Specialization Redesign Concept


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Buckle your seat belts everyone, this is a long one!

With the launch of Path of Fire, we got a new set of Elite Specializations, including the Scourge elite spec for Necromancer. ArenaNet advertised the spec as a support/condi hybrid, focused primarily on battlefield control and sacrificing the Necromancer's Death Shroud in order to gain access to a new versatile set of skills via Sand Shades placed on the ground as AoE spots. They would be able to support through a new mechanic, Barrier, a sort of overshield-esque defensive line that protects HP from damage while it's active. More recently, it's been described as possessing "heavy support", which means that the direction the developers want the class to move in is clear.

In practice, this hasn't worked out entirely. The Barrier mechanic, introduced with PoF, is implemented halfheartedly. Scaling with both Healing Power and max HP means that you will reach a point where the only way to get bigger Barriers is for your allies to invest in Vitality to make their potential Barrier pool bigger, which cuts into their playstyles; Barrier has several downsides that make its practical use limited, including a very fast decay that requires quick thinking and timing to apply it, the lack of a Barrier Grandmaster trait on what is supposed to be the premier Barrier elite spec, and the fact that like healing, Barrier is cut 70% by Fractal Agony, exacerbating the decay issue exponentially in that content, as well as making Barrier application result in meager numbers to the point where they may as well not exist.

The Scourge also has an inordinate amount of boon hate present on the spec, far more than it needs, and certainly more than base Necro needed. The skill type introduced with Scourge, Punishments, relies entirely on boon corruption for maximum damage potential. This creates a lopsided problem: in order for the Punishment skills to matter to players, their foes must have regular boon application. This means that in sPvP and WvW, Punishments are particularly powerful because players have much greater access to boon application, but in the vast majority of PvE content, the skills are inferior to every other skill type that Necromancer has access to. Even in Elonian and Crystal Desert maps, the mobs that do apply boons to themselves do not do it with enough regularity that these skills would be stronger than say, base Necromancer's Corruption skills.

The corruption mechanic present on the Punishment skill type also specifically converts boons to Torment and Cripple (and nothing else), which means there is a lack of flavorful diversity in condition application. The end result is that Scourge is even stronger and more dangerous in game modes it didn't need to be better in, and lacks stopping power in the content it was already only adequate in. (Side note, I will point out here that Warriors also got the Spellbreaker elite spec in this expansion, which is almost entirely about boon hate, so much so that I have to wonder why they bothered putting this level of boon hate on Scourge as well, especially since, as previously stated, Necromancer was no slouch in the boon hate department already, but desperately needed help in the Support department).

As for the Sand Shades, there were problems immediately, but I won't spend time talking about the Shade stacking bug, as that was unintended behavior from the start as we've heard from the devs. What I was concerned with was how they were planning on dealing with the number of Shades, the targets affected, their size, and trait inheritance. There was a whole host of balance problems for them during the beta, the biggest of which was that originally, Scourge was able to hit a disgusting 20 targets with Sand Savant traited. In WvW, this was nightmarish to fight against, so the target cap on both the small and large shades was nerfed. This nerf, like most changes to Necromancer, carried over into PvE, where Sand Savant does not have the same amount of gameplay impact. As for the small shades, well...long story short, having multiple shades in the first place makes players want to stack them, regardless of whether their effects stack or not. Unfortunately, because of the way the Shades function, it's difficult to have them inherit the shroud autoattack traits and not have them either be completely useless or overpowered. The devs also have to balance for both the big and small shades existing, meaning that they can't make one more powerful than the other. This is a problem.

TL;DR: Scourge has balancing power locked up by Boon hate it doesn't need, Barrier implementation isn't 100% on the ball, Sand Shade synergy with other Necromancer trait lines is hard to pin down, and the idea behind the spec being a "heavy support" is just that, an idea. It doesn't exist in game.

Alright, now that I have the introduction out of the way, let me get to the part you clicked on the topic for: a conceptual redesign of the Scourge elite spec.


So what I really wanted from Scourge was a real "heavy support", which, due to everything I just described, is something that it can't actually be. So, what could be done to fix what I see are design flaws with Scourge and Barrier? Here's what I came up with. Note that I don't give hard numbers here; it's more about the concept than the numbers.


In my opinion, Scourge not having a Barrier Grandmaster trait on its top line is a huge oversight. If Scourge is the premier Barrier elite spec, it needs this to cement its role. The problem is that Sand Savant (and all the problems that Shades have) are in the way. Sand Savant needs to either:

  • a) be made the default shade. Easiest way for you to disincentivize player tendency to shade stack is to take away the ability to do it in the first place. In use cases (especially now that you’ve fixed the shade stacking bug), only 1 shade is used anyway in all but the most niche situations. There’s very little gameplay benefit to having 3 shades anymore.
  • Or b) Gotten rid of entirely so Scourge only has access to the 3 shades. This way, you can actually do cool stuff with 3 shades instead of them being inferior to the big Shade and taking up balancing room and potential.


  • Remove the Barrier reduction from Fractal Agony. It already has to deal with natural decay, and this cuts the amount by 70% on top of that. This also serves to separate it from healing, which is far more accessible in comparison.
  • NEW BARRIER GRANDMASTER - Your Barriers are stronger and decay slower. Give allies Resistance when you give them barrier (ICD). (Resistance only applies to allies, not you). This is the first of many changes I would make to Scourge to allow it more group support while also making sure that its self-sustain does not go through the roof.


The problem with Punishments as a skill category is that they are completely reliant on boon corruption to reach their maximum potential. Boon corruption is very powerful in sPvP and WvW but nigh useless in almost all PvE content in the game. Even the new PoF mobs that have self boon application do not apply boons frequently enough for Punishments to have more power and utility than say, Necromancer's Corruption skills. Fixing this would require a complete redesign of all PvE content from the ground up to rely on mobs using boons to gain tankiness and sustain, instead of it being something inherent to their level/class/mob type/etc. Obviously this is something that will never happen, so my solution instead is this.

PUNISHMENT skills no longer corrupt boons on nearby/targeted foes. Instead, they apply a unique status effect (think Pulmonary Impact) called "Punish". The idea here is an extreme version of old Confusion; deals 0 damage until you meet the requirements, and then applies conditions once those requirements are met.

“Punish” – A unique status effect that inflicts damaging conditions upon use of certain skills or abilities. The status effect can stack up to 5 times (one for each Punishment skill). Each stack of Punish carries its own associated Punishment.

  • As an example: If you have one Punishment that inflicts Torment on evade, and one that inflicts Poison on heal, if the target heals and evades at the same time, both Punish stacks will trigger at the same time.
  • However, if they just heal, or just evade, they will only trigger the associated Punish stack.
  • Punish stacks themselves do no damage, expire after a short time, and conditions as a result of Punish can be cleansed or ignored with Resistance.
  • Punish stacks activate on Skill Activation, not completion.

Note that all conditions listed here are inflicted once, and the regular effects of the skills are unchanged.

  • SAND FLARE - Punishment from this skill inflicts Torment and Cripple on foes on their next attack.
  • TRAIL OF ANGUISH – Punishment from this skill inflicts Torment and Bleeding on targets on their next CC.
  • SAND SWELL – Punishment from this skill inflicts Torment and Blind on targets on their next evade or dodge.
  • SERPENT SIPHON – Punishment from this skill inflicts Torment and Poison on targets on their next heal (This Punishment will activate whether the target activates a heal themselves or are healed by something/someone else such as Regen or a Druid).
  • GHASTLY BREACH – Punishment from this skill inflicts Torment and Burning to targets that remain stationary after 1 second. Adds stacks of Punish per pulse. (How this works is, if foes remain stationary while this skill is active and they are nearby, this skill pulses Torment and Burning onto them every second for the duration. If you are constantly moving however, you don't receive any stacks of Torment or Burning, but still get the Punish stacks, which means until you move out of range, the skill ends, or the Punish stacks expire, you cannot stop moving unless you want to take all of that damage at once).

Notice how the Punishments now actually apply to a much bigger amount of mobs in PvE? There are far more mobs that attack, CC, evade, and receive healing, than there are mobs that apply self boons.


Right now, the third Scourge traitline is 100% about boon corruption. I’d rather have a second support line that can compete with the Barrier line, so that you have a choice between reactive support and proactive support. Thematically, Necromancer already has a different kind of flavor for support in Life Siphon; it just happens to be awful. The third traitline here revolves around healing your allies through Life Siphon effects, and granting benefits for allies siphoning life. There’s also synergy with the Blood Magic specialization.

  • NOURISHING ROT – You gain Life Force (ICD) every time you or an ally siphons life.
  • UNENDING CORRUPTION – Manifest Sand Shade grants Regen to allies near it. Life Siphoning effects are stronger.
  • FEED FROM CORRUPTION – Each time you or your shades cleanse a condition from an ally, they gain 1% of their combined Power and Condition Damage as additional life siphon for 5 seconds (ICD).

The important thing with this idea is that, unlike the Barrier line, this one provides greatly reduced personal benefit in exchange for group support. None of the Life Siphon benefits here apply to the Scourge (except the Life Siphoning strength increase, which buffs Vampiric Aura and Vampiric for them), and allies now have incredibly powerful sustain; sustain that goes away when the Scourge dies. So don't die.

And that's all I wrote! Let me know what you think of this novel I posted, and feel free to share your own ideas in this thread as well.

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Very good suggestions. Only thing I'd do different is perhaps have Feed From Corruption be an actual increase in % of damage to allies whenever they siphon life OR whenever you take conditions away from them (with ICD of course). This would make a nice contrast between Barrier defensive support necro and Siphoning offensive support necro. Apart from this, that is one of the most comprehensive posts analyzing the Scourge I've seen so far.

In fact, and very sadly, your analysis is much better than any statement made from the dev team, starting from the very announcement of the elites. Why in Tyria did they empower Necro even more in the game modes it was already overpowered in?

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@maxwelgm.4315 said:Very good suggestions. Only thing I'd do different is perhaps have Feed From Corruption be an actual increase in % of damage to allies whenever they siphon life OR whenever you take conditions away from them (with ICD of course). This would make a nice contrast between Barrier defensive support necro and Siphoning offensive support necro. Apart from this, that is one of the most comprehensive posts analyzing the Scourge I've seen so far.

In fact, and very sadly, your analysis is much better than any statement made from the dev team, starting from the very announcement of the elites. Why in Tyria did they empower Necro even more in the game modes it was already overpowered in?

I thought about increasing ally damage while they life siphon, but I didn't want to commit to the idea as I am thoroughly against unique buffs of any kind in the game. Thank you for the feedback! I'm definitely interested (though skeptical) of the upcoming balance patch to see what will become of Scourge in the near future.

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