Meet the Reaper: Necromancer’s Elite Specialization

by Robert Gee on May 14, 2015


Greetings, mortals and immortals alike. Today we’ll be talking about the highly anticipated greatsword-wielding necromancer elite specialization, the reaper. This devastating melee brawler is at home in battle when surrounded by as many enemies as possible, cleaving through hapless foes for life-force sustainment. Once the reaper has enough life force, they can transform into a devastating avatar of destruction that leaves enemies frozen in terror.

The Horror

The reaper’s thematic roots come from classic movie monsters and survival horror games. We pulled elements from slow but seemingly unstoppable horror monsters like Pyramid Head and Jason Voorhees to try to craft the feeling of a relentless pursuer who becomes extremely deadly once they close the distance to their prey. The greatsword is the ideal weapon for expressing this sense of dread due to its size and weight, but there was one thing that was missing—what’s a reaper without a scythe?

The reaper’s first minor trait is called Shroud Knight, and it gives the necromancer a completely new set of melee-focused skills while in Death Shroud. Additionally, when activating the new Reaper’s Shroud, they also equip a giant shadowy scythe and gain some additional particle effects to signify to opponents to watch out. The skills available while in Reaper’s Shroud share some similarities with their Death Shroud counterparts and—where applicable—inherit traits that are normally applied to them. Because Reaper’s Shroud is focused on melee combat, it centers much more on skills that allow reapers to get close, stay close, and cleave enemies. Here’s one example:

Death’s Charge—Spin your scythe and dash forward a moderate distance, damaging foes in your path. When the dash ends, release an explosive poison cloud.

Death’s Charge replaces Death Shroud’s Dark Path, which is a movement skill that allows a necromancer to close distances to opponents. Death’s Charge also closes distances, but uses slightly different properties. Both of these skills also benefit from the trait Path of Corruption, which causes Dark Path to convert boons on struck foes to conditions. If you’re wondering where the chill effect on the original Dark Path went, don’t be alarmed—it just moved to a different skill. In fact, the reaper is quite adept at utilizing this particular condition.

Chilling Victory

The chill condition has always been thematically tied to the deathly feel of the necromancer, and the reaper takes this a step further. Many of the reaper’s traits gain benefits from chill or chill effects in some way. With any elite specialization, we try to build a theme using the minor traits and expand on different aspects of that theme using the major traits. Besides Shroud Knight, here are the other two reaper minor traits:

Shivers of Dread—When you inflict fear on an opponent, you also inflict chill.

Since the reaper’s special weapon is melee focused, we wanted to make sure that players wouldn’t feel bad about using the necromancer’s iconic fear condition. It’s no fun to inflict fear on an enemy only to have them run away from your attacks. By adding chill to fear, the reaper can easily close the gap on a helpless victim. Reapers may not be light on their feet, but that doesn’t mean their enemies will be able to escape!

Cold Shoulder—Chill lasts longer, and chilled foes deal less damage to you.

By extending the duration of chill effects, the reaper is able to stay in close where their threat is the most potent. Chilled foes also have a harder time dealing damage to the reaper, making the reaper an imposing foe for enemies without proper condition removal.

Both of these traits work together with the reaper’s other chilling skills to wear down foes until they succumb to the cold touch of death.


Big Windup, Big Payoff

One of the most immediate things you’ll notice when you take charge of the reaper in Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns™ is that the greatsword attacks are slow. In fact, most of the reaper’s attacks have a fairly sizeable cast time. Drawing on the themes of horror monsters, we wanted to express a sense of dread and weight behind each blow. This means that while the reaper doesn’t swing a greatsword as fast as other professions do, the damage modifiers and effects for each blow are much more pronounced.

A core skill for the reaper’s greatsword is the Gravedigger execution skill. When activated, the reaper draws upon dark energy to deliver a slow but devastating blow to all the foes around them. This skill has a very high damage modifier and can easily take a huge chunk out of an unwary foe. If any of the foes struck by this skill are below 50% health, the skill’s recharge time is dramatically reduced. This skill fits with the overall feel of the reaper by allowing you to easily grind down groups of enemies that are already close to death.

Not all skills are single-hit powerhouses like Gravedigger. Some hit more than once, and others don’t do as much damage, but they are all tuned to deliver a satisfying payoff for the wait.

Death Wail

To fit in with the area-of-effect theme of the greatsword, the reaper gets a full set of shout skills. All of these shout skills act as attacks that can hit up to five enemies and scale in effectiveness based on the number of targets struck (and yes, you read that right—reaper shouts deal damage!). In this way, the reaper is rewarded for diving into the thick of battle to engage as many foes as possible. Reaper shouts differ from warrior and guardian shouts in that they focus more on harming foes than they do on bolstering allies.

“Rise!” is an example of this new type of shout. When activated, it strikes up to five foes in a large radius, dealing a small amount of damage and summoning a jagged horror for each foe struck. While it’s not especially powerful when going toe-to-toe with a single enemy, it scales in power very quickly with more foes. Additionally, one of the reaper’s traits allows a tactical player to reduce the recharge of any shout based on the number of foes it strikes. Reapers with this trait and several shout skills can become dangerous powerhouses over prolonged encounters.


Fear the Reaper

That’s all for today’s glimpse into the dreaded reaper specialization. If you’re not scared off yet, tune in tomorrow for the Points of Interest livestream at noon Pacific Time (UTC-7) on the official Guild Wars 2 Twitch channel, where we’ll be going over more of this deathly specialization.