I've been trying to play an Elementalist on the Crystal Desert server, and given the fact that the party system is bugged, more often than not, this means going solo, as my friends are elsewhere.

Unfortunately, I've been dying a lot, especially in my personal story. I've been bouncing back and forth between Dagger / Dagger and Staff, and finding neither option particularly amenable. Dagger/Dagger has no real way to avoid damage, as the best protection it offers are Chill, Weakness, and Stun, all of which only reduce the rate of damage, rather than prevent it from occuring (and the stun requires you to be hit in the first place!)

This results in many a time going toe-to-toe with a mob. If it's one vs. one, I can usually win, but I end the fight with half health (or less!) It seems to exist as a "Burst or be bursted" loadout, and I'm spending more time downed than I care to admit.

I've also tried Staff, but I'm finding that too far a swing in the opposite direction; I've got good avoidance and longevity (two heals from Water attunement, an extra dodge roll, etc.) but I have to stand there for ages, plinking the monster to death.

How can I strike a better balance between damage and survivability? Mobs seem to die equally fast (if not faster!) to my guardian, and she rarely takes any damage doing it! Are Solo elementalists simply unfeasible?

  • Have you tried other weapon combos?
    – SaintWacko
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 13:18
  • @SaintWacko You mean, more than 40% of all weapon combos? :P Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 23:56
  • Oh, do they not have many combos? I didn't play much as an ele. I tried it, then started a thief and fell in love.
    – SaintWacko
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 3:15
  • @SaintWacko 2 MH options (Dagger / Scepter), 2 OH options (Dagger/Focus), and one 2-H option. No weapon switch in combat. Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 4:12
  • Oh, wow, forgot about that. Never mind then! :D
    – SaintWacko
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 5:26

10 Answers 10


Brian has some basic advice that you should try to follow first. If you are still doing poorly after the fact, it's nothing to be embarassed about since story scaling will pit you against equal skill mobs almost all the time. I remember having a hard time with my story as well from the point where I was trying to find my parents.

Using skills effectively is half of the battle. Although dagger/dagger didn't work out for you, I recommend trying dagger/focus. This combo has two things going for it:

  1. Conditions that help you kite your opponent and reduce their damage.
  2. Mobility and speed of skill use that allows you to stay on your toes. No channeling skills for 5 seconds like staff.

The key to getting the most out of any weapon combo is to switch elements after using skills that have longer cooldowns. These long cooldown skills are typically on your 3-5 keys. Your 1 and 2 key skills, although on low cooldown, don't prevent your opponent from damaging you, which is not going to help you survive. Also, although they can be spammed they typically do low damage, so you end up mashing your 1 key for very little gain (the plinking). By switching elements frequently you ensure that you always have a high value ability to use; while playing around with another element all of your previously used skills are burning through their cooldowns. Elementalists are blessed with lots to do while a particular skill is on cooldown (20 weapon skills versus the average 10) - take advantage of it.

Note that this combo really only applies to solo. In dungeons and group events you can't really serve an up-front role as an elementalist - you will find more success staying back and supporting with staff or scepter, given the massive AoE damage and slow heals. Once you have mastered some dagger combos you can get up close and personal in big events.

To give you an idea of how you can skill cycle, here is a summary of my cycle for dagger/focus:

  • Lightning, 4/5, 2, 3
  • Fire, 4, 5, 3, 2
  • Water, 3, 5, 4, 2
  • Earth, 1/2 (spam), 4/5 (situational)

Start with lightning. If you are fighting ranged mobs, you can lay down Swirling Winds (4 key) to keep ranged attacks at bay while you lay out your damage. If you are fighting a melee mob, you can start with Gale (5 key) to knock them down while you lay out damage. Alternatively, do damage then knock them down just before they land a blow. Use Shocking Aura (3 key) as well in case they end up hitting you.

Then start to cycle. Switch to fire and burst as you shouldn't be needing water or earth for survivability this early into the fight. Drop a Flamewall and Fire Shield (4 and 5 keys) before doing anything else to start doing damage over time, ensuring you keep the mob in the AoE by standing near it. Then burst by dashing through them with Burning Speed (3 key) and turn around for a Drake's breath (2 key).

Switch to water next as some conditions on your opponent are wearing off. Chill them with Frozen Burst, drop a Comet, then Chill again with Freezing Gust (3, 5, and 4 keys) before using Cone of Cold (2 key). This is a stage where you can lay damage from a distance if staying close is getting you into trouble, as you should be able to kite while they are chilled.

Switch to earth and begin impaling. This is a filler element while you wait for your other cooldowns to finish, because earth does good damage over time that will last long after you switch elements. Now is the time to remove any conditions that you have accumulated using Magnetic Wave (4 key), and if you get into real trouble use Obsidian Flesh (5 key) to go invulnerable for a short time. If you are very good with timing magnetic wave against a ranger-type mob, you can do lots of damage by countering a ranged attack.

If something doesn't fit this cycle then use whatever element will help you the most. Fire is for high finishing damage. Water is for kiting. Lightning is for reducing their attack effectiveness. Earth is for tanking.

Also note that the order of skills while using one element doesn't matter that much: the point is I always have some condition on my opponent while using heavy damage skills.

Your other skill slots (6-0) are also very important. The 6 key is always a decent heal that you should use while you aren't in the thick of things. Remember that if it wouldn't overheal you, now is the time to use it as you want to burn through the cooldown asap before you really need it again.

I also highly recommend Mist Form. While in Mist Form, you are totally invulnerable (although you don't break cc) and you are capable of casting your heal at the same time (6 key), basically resetting the fight. I also recommend Cleasing Fire to break stun, because there are a number of mobs that will stun you before hitting for very heavy damage.

  • What is 'breaking cc'?
    – Alex
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 14:55
  • 1
    @Alex Some utility skills have the line, "Breaks Stun", which means, they will remove the stunned condition on activation. Other Crowd Control (CC) like immobilized or cripple, however, remain. Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 17:20
  • Another note, while in Mist Form you can cast any spell, meaning spells with a short channeling time can be cast without taking damage and uninterrupted.
    – Sadly Not
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 21:46
  • Also keep your gear up-to-date. Remember with level scaling that if you don't have good items for your level, when scaled down they will still not be good for your scaled down level. This doesn't mean that you need legendary gear, just make sure the gear level closely matches your own.
    – Sadly Not
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 22:18

I haven't seen any bugs with the party system so far, and you don't need to be in the same party as other players to play with them, except for in instanced areas.

Regardless, to survive solo you'll need to

  • Avoid events or areas that show a recommended level higher than your own.
  • Get good at knowing when to dodge, when to heal, and when to run for your life.
  • Use primarily ranged weapons to keep yourself from getting too far into the fray, while giving yourself the option to retreat if needed.
  • Focus on toughness, vitality, and healing when choosing your equipment and traits.
  • Use the armor and weapon mods (such as pebbles, runes, jewels, etc) to ensure that your equipment is reaching its maximum potential.
  • Switch your attunement to Water if you start taking a lot of damage. Water spells specialize in healing and also in slowing enemies down with the Chilled condition.
  • If you feel that you need an extra boost, try some food from certain merchants or created by the Chef crafting discipline.
  • Don't go AFK unless you're in a city, you never know when an event or patrol might catch you off guard.

Good luck!

  • 2
    Yeah, it's the personal story instances which pit 5-6 mobs at me that are the worst offenders. Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 23:55
  • When that happens, try balling them up and hitting them with some area of effect spells. Running around them and then back out usually works for me, especially if there's an ally NPC you can run them into to absorb the damage for you.
    – Brian
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 15:03

Scepter/Dagger I take down groups of five or more with no problem. I can also kill Veterans in about 4 seconds.

1 on the mob to pull them to you. (Yes, I do this spike damage in close range. If you mess up you die but you pretty much only win if you get the pattern down.) Once they are near you: 2 (DT) followed swiftly by Ring of Fire so you get the finished from DT. While RofF is up Phoenix and Arcane Blast. You now have a lovely amount of Might stacked. Use your 5 skill and thx to all that might and the fact that your opponent should be burning you will probably finish them off with this move.

If there is a large group-ish. Pull them into you like above but cast Lesser Elemental and Storm Glyphs (placing the circle on yourself) these add the extra damage needed to survive this.

At any time you need healed use the healing Glyph which adds even more might while attuned to fire.

Get this down pat and you won't die. Underwater is a whole different story though.


I never seriously played or even tried Elementalist in any other games, and I didn't give much thoughts to test one in all the Guild Wars 2 beta I played.

However, with all that said, My Main character now in GW2 is ...

Elementalist - Dual Dagger

Build: Glass Cannon (30, 20, 0, 0, 20)

Utilities: Glyph of Elemental Harmony, Arcane Wave, Arcane Blast, Armor of Earth

After all this while, playing as D/D Ele, and now working on getting legendary dagger, I can say D/D Ele is very fun to play if you know exactly how to play correctly.

For me, D/D Ele is all about "high speed combo" with crazy burst-DPS, with several CC (stun, knockdown, freeze) in between to take down opponent. Once you get used to playing this spec you will be able to take on multiple enemy as well.

Combo example:

  • Ride the Lightning (From a distance)
  • Arcane Wave & Arcane Blast (note that arcane skill does not have global cooldown)
  • Updraft
  • Burning Speed
  • Ring of Fire
  • Drake's Breath or Fire Grab
  • Earthquake
  • Churning Earth

The timing of skills and distance between you and enemy also plays a very important role in your strategy.

Vitality and Toughness stats does helps to increase little bit your survival, but then, once you have got the hang of dodging, high speed combo and able to switch to correct attunement at specific moment, you will start replace them with you own preference accordingly.

The rest my friend is for you to experiment and discover!


I'm having the same problem, mostly with ranged mobs. If they're melee, I will circle strafe to kill them, which works really well. Water helps a lot with heal, but it can be challenging to switch between everything quickly.

Also a further note elementalists and engineers DON'T have weapon swap.


I'm a solo elementalist too, and have found few difficulties, so here is what I recommend:

Use all your weapon combinations to see what works best for your playstyle. Dagger/Dagger, Scepter/Dagger, Staff, Scepter/Focus, etc. Also each combination has a set of skills for each element, so do them all.

Do your quests at your level, if your next main quest is marked as 12 and you're 11, go do normal world quests, participate in all events, do crafting, pvp if like that, etc. When you reach 12 then do the main quest.

Pull an elemental, think the skill is called 'glyph of elements' or something, use that one before a tough fight, they last a minute and can offtank for you and/or do damage.

Don't just stand there, move around. Some mobs have slow swings, and they stop to do their big attacks, which will be big 'whooshes' if you're not there when they happen.

Divide and conquer. Move away from where the quest fight starts if there are multiple mobs, hopefully some of the mobs will turn back or attack other targets.

Switch to water when using your heal skill, that will give you a regeneration for a few seconds for extra healing.

If all else fails in a personal quest, 'cheat' (I call it cheating), concentrate on killing a mob or two before you die, when you pop back up in the waypoint it's less mobs to worry about.

  • Glyph of Lesser Elementals is a good idea! It had been my first skill pick, actually, but I stopped using him when I realized the cooldown doesn't start until the elemental disappears. I'll have to give him a second look. Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 23:54
  • When you die in a personal quest it asks if you want to return to the latest checkpoint. Are checkpoints and waypoints the same thing? In my case no matter how many I killed if I died it was a complete fight reset. It would be super cool if you can slowly whittle a hard fight down!
    – Sadly Not
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 21:25

I am playing as a solo elementalist currently. You are having trouble killing stuff with a staff using fire? I kill stuff absurdly quickly with fire atunement. In addition to the usual ranged attack on 1, it has a good damage DoT on 2 (with a slight delay), an insta-aoe thing on 3 (you'll want to read it's description to make sure you understand about enemies being ignited or whatever) and Meteor Shower on 5. I don't have any trouble killing stuff using the fire atunement on staves.

Where are you fighting? Are you fighting at <=level or > level? It's hard to fight up (at least until you get very well geared and have lots of extra skill options, I'm sure).

Learn to use dodge to help with avoiding damage, in addition to just moving around. The suggestion to gear for vit/toughness isn't a bad idea either. Unlike other MMORPGs, that can make a lot of sense.


Solo elementalist? Easy.

Use Lightning Hammer.

Spawn a lightning hammer and start spamming skill number one and only skill number one. It hits hard as heck, hits all mobs in an aoe around you, and every third swing does an aoe BLIND (which means the next attack from the mobs will miss, doing no damage to you). Essentially you can kill packs of mobs without them ever hitting you if they attack slow enough.

Some other good things to throw in are mist form when stuff gets too crazy, arcane shield to block a few more attacks and then do damage, and at least 10-15 points in Water so that you can remove conditions easily.


I started with staff, then fell in love with dagger/dagger. Take Arcane Power (that makes your next five hits critical). AtTune to earth (with 5 in traits, increases your resilience too), get in among the mob, hit 4 (earthquake) then 5 (churning earth) - with both critical, the mob will be in a bad way.

Also get a lot of mileage out of glyph of elemental power (on auto recast) - lots of foes on fire, blinded, bleeding etc.

Suppose what I'm saying is don't neglect Slot and utility skills that really enhance standard skill effects.


To the poster who said eles don't have weapon swap: they do; or rather it procs every time you change element. So get a good on swap sigil and change, a lot. Be careful about cooldown overlaps (don't take two on swap sigils; make the other weapon sigil of force or something)

Not sure how high level you are. At grandmaster check out arcane evasion traits; every dodge roll does something nasty to mobs (or heals you, in water). Get a sigil of energy, dodge, swap element, dodge, repeat - whilst doing everything the chaps above are suggesting.

If you're staying in one ele, you're doing it wrong. Don't bother with lightning hammers etc - all of the weApon kits restrict you to one set of skills and one set of cooldowns so should be avoided (possible exception of icebow which has good situational uses in some dungeons)

There are some excellent d/d YouTube videos: revolutionised my play style. Traits are key and all too often folks maximise fire for easy power: this is suboptimal.

  • Except even if attunement switching counts for weapon change sigils, elementalists and engineers LITERALLY do not have a second weapon set and thus cannot "weapon swap".
    – Gwen
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 13:44

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