I spent some time trying to rework necromancer. While necromancer is currently viable/meta in all game mode, I feel like it suffers from low build diversity (admittedly all classes do) and I expect these changes would fix that as well as make the necromancer a more interesting and enjoyable class to play overall.
WARNING: wall of text incoming. However, I structured it the best I could, so you get most of the ideas by just reading « Motivation » and « Changes summary ».
I also invite the interested reader to my previously suggested elite specialization for necromancer: the warlock
As said in the introduction, necromancer currently works in all game modes. To be precise, we have:
- great class in open-world thanks to amazing self-buffing and « passive » tankiness
- meta condi build for raids, in great part thanks to minions and epidemic
- meta corruptomancer for PvP, being one of the best class at removing the loads of boons and having very high condi pressure
- meta wells back/mid-line for WvW, thanks to ranged AOE damage but mostly boon corrupts.
However, there are a few very important negative side to this nice picture:
- power damage is very low in instanced PvE, where the self-buffing (and to some extent the passive tankiness) does not matter. The main reason is the rarity of damage multipliers. On top of that, the class lacks offensive support and is thus completely dispensable.
- Power necromancer is nowhere near meta. Also, both power and condi are incredibly susceptible to focus-damage because we lack scalable defenses and have low access to stunbreak/stability. This means the meta build needs to be baby-sitted to work.
- Despite some good tools in Reaper specialization, necromancer has difficulties going frontline, mostly because of lack of invulnerabilities to escape when a fight is turning dire. Also, the damage as backline is fairly limited, staff being more utility than anything.
The key problem of necromancer is the shroud mechanics. It gives insane passive defense. To balance this, the developers have prevented us access to:
- active defenses (block/evades/invuln)
- slow (easily interrupted) and low healing (compared to our health pool)
- High damage
So when trying to add those things to the necromancer, care has to be taken to remove some passive defense at the same time to keep the class balanced.
A secondary problem the apparent lack of support. While classes like guardians or elementalist can load you with boons, the necro has barely any access to boons. However that does not mean the necro has not support. Far from it! Actually, if you look at the necromancer design, you can see a very strong parallel with the guardian. I would argue that the necromancer has one of the highest amount of supportive skills/mechanics in the game, but it is not « direct » support, but « debuffing » support. For each guardian « aegis », there is a necromancer « blind », for each « protection », a « weakness », for each « might » a « vulnerability », for each condition cleanse, the necromancer brings boon rip.
The problem is that the game favors boons to conditions. This is clear in PvE where you can give all your team protection/aegis but weakness/blind will just go to the breakbar. Also, debuffs require your to hit a target while boons don’t. Finally, the amount of condi cleanse is far greater than the amount of boon rip. Also, arenanet have started to give debuffs like candies (almost everybody can apply decent vulnerability, weakness, even chill now).
The strength of debuffs should still not be underestimated, but for them to shine as they should, a global rebalance has to be done. I will not develop those, but a key point is described here in the « Condition cleanse and the boon/debuff balance » section: