Guide:PvE Equipment

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TL;DR
1) Equip yourself and your heroes properly, it’s worth it!
2) Insignias: Armour>Health>Energy.
3) Attribute runes: Superior for the most important attribute, rest minor.
4) Other runes: Superior vigor, rest vitae.
5) Weaponry: 40/20/20 with enchantments, else 40/40.
Players also need high energy and shield sets.
Martial: Vampiric 15^50 of defense, unless zealous/enchanting are required.

It can be worthwhile to change equipment to ease certain quests, but that usually requires more effort than the effect justifies. Instead, it’s most common to acquire one set of fitting equipment and keep it for all purposes. This page provides you with a guideline regarding general equipment choices both for yourself and your heroes to identify and acquire equipment you can use for all purposes. The suggested equipment is not required for success, but the ideal choice to improve your team's effectivity and efficiency.

Rune selection

You can stamp one rune into each of your 5 armour pieces.

Mandatory for all characters is the most effective rune of vigor you can afford. Note that runes of vigor are not stackable, so each character receives only one. If you want more health, use runes of vitae.

Usually you should pick a superior attribute rune for the most important attribute of a character: The damage attribute of an offensive caster, the attribute that governs the spirits of a Spirit Spammer and so on. Other attributes used by the build aswell as the primary attribute should be increased with a minor attribute rune, unless equipping a mesmer – see the additional information below. Heroes receive an extra +1 to attribute bonuses received through runes put into their head gear, so you should put the superior attribute rune there for maximum effectivity. For players the additional +1 doesn’t change with the used attribute rune. Instead the fixed bonus is chosen when crafting the head gear, so you’ll need to craft multiple head pieces for your player character and select them according to the build you currently play.

Using major (+2) or superior (+3) attribute runes means trading skill effectivity for health points, as they will decrease your health by 35 or 75 points respectively. This tradeoff is absolutely worth it for the most important attribute, so you should not be afraid of having less maximum health; health points are not keeping you alive, instead you need builds which reduce incoming damage (by shutdown or protection), a high armour rating and healing. As long as you don’t drop below a health rating which makes it difficult for your backline to react a health rating of about 420 will even be beneficial compared to a health rating of 600 if using protective spirit or shelter.

Insignia selection

You can attach one insignia to each of your 5 armour pieces.

Armour, health or energy?

No energy bonuses

A larger pool of energy means that you can use more skills until you run out of energy. As soon as you have run out of energy the larger energy capacities do nothing, they’re exhausted. There are rarely any cases in which energy issues can be amended with larger energy pools, such as the Ritual Lord Prot which sets up spirits once a minute and can then passively regenerate energy until a large amount of it is required at once again.

Non-elementalist casters have 40 to 42 energy, which is sufficient to end a fight quickly and make good use of energy management skills in extended fights. If you have energy issues, don’t rely on more maximum energy – improve your energy management.

  • Gain back energy: Use skills like Air Attunement and Boon of Creation.
  • Decrease your energy consumption: Use more efficient skills (like Lightning Strike instead of Lightning Hammer), invest into Mysticism or Expertise.
  • Increase your energy regeneration: Bring skills like Lyssa's Aura and Blood is Power.
    • Note that the energy regeneration is capped at 10 pips = 3.33 energy/second.
  • Direct energy gain: Use skills such as Power Drain, Shock Arrow, Critical Eye and the necromancer primary attribute soul reaping.


Why armour is better than health

Armour decreases the received damage from most sources; only health degeneration and armour ignoring damage are unaffected by the armour rating. Degeneration can’t exceed 20 damage per second, rendering it comparatively unimportant. Purely armour ignoring damage is uncommon; more often you’ll face it combined with a greater share of armour dependent damage. In endgame areas and hard mode armour dependent damage becomes even more prevalent as the high level of foes will increase the armour dependent damage they deal largely. Therefore you should pick the most reliable armour insignia instead of a health bonus, as this will both increase your survivability better and reduce the required amount of healing, allowing your team to survive with less healing, freeing up skill slots for more damage, thus increasing both the backline efficiency and the team’s overall effectivity.

Armour improves survivability better than health points

Think in terms of effective health points (eHP): the amount of damage it takes to kill a character after damage reduction from armour is applied. Health point boosts increase eHP by a flat bonus, whereas armour boosts increase eHP multiplicatively. The 5 points armour boost from a defense mod will always be an 8.3% reduction in damage taken. Unless your health rating is below 380 the armour will always increase your eHP more than the flat 30 a fortitude mod confers. Survivor insignias fare worse compared to armour insignias – see additional information: examples of armour vs. health point bonuses. Even armour penetration still favours armour over health points before taking any healing into the calculation. Examples below.

Health points don’t do anything, while armour mitigates damage throughout a fight

Extra health points have no positive effect until your health drops as low as the health point bonus. If you spend an entire quest above 40 health points while using survivor insignias, they were useless the entire time. If playing with Shelter or Protective Spirit the additional health points will even increase the damage you take, reducing your backline’s efficiency. In contrast, having additional armour provides a constant reduction of incoming damage, which improves the efficiency of healing and protection on you: 100 damage on 60 armour rating and 100 damage on 100 armour rating are both handled by mend body and soul, but on the latter target it effectively countered 192 instead of 96 points of incoming armour dependent damage.

There are situations when running health point boosts might sound attractive because of armour-ignoring damage and health degeneration, but even then, there’d be enough damage that’s affected by armour to make stacking it better than a bit of health points that won’t do anything until you’re two seconds from degening out. (You can keep a fortitude weapon and possibly of devotion or of valor shield in inventory for emergencies.) The impact of health bonuses is not large enough to justify changing equipment for the rare occassion when they sound more promising than an armour bonus.

Recommended insignias

In almost every team build you can give yourself and your heroes insignias which reliably increase the armour rating by 10 to 20. Some of these depend on the team build; blessed insignias are good for teams with plenty of enchantments, i.e. with Dwayna’s sorrow or a protection prayers hero. Others are useful independently from the team just because of the individual character’s build. These are recommended insignias, taking into account the hero AI:

  • Any martial: Brawler’s insignias as heroes will often attack, but when the are idle, switching targets, knocked down, kiting because of running low on health or to escape AoE damage the armour bonus will be forfeit.
  • Warrior: Sentinel’s insignias with 13 and more strength.
  • Ranger: Beastmaster’s insignia if using a pet. Else sentry’s might be interesting when playing with Expert's Dexterity or Rampage as One.
  • Monk: Most monk heroes are permanently enchanted with skills such as Smiter's Boon, making blessed insignias a good choice. Disciple’s insignias can be attractive if using Draw Conditions, as they grant an even better armour bonus.
  • Necromancer:
  • Even Blood is Power heroes should not play with undertaker’s insignias as it only becomes viable at such low health ratings that the hero would rather die from the next hit than survive thanks to some additional armour. This insignia is better than tormentor’s only if the hero has less than 40% health points.
  • Mesmer:
  • Other mesmers can use it aswell. It’s a safe choice with at least three signets, i.e. Unnatural Signet+Signet of Disruption+Death Pact Signet.
  • If a mesmer has less than three signets prodigy’s insignias are the better option. Their armour bonus depends on the number of currently recharging skills, which means that it will be without effect when entering combat, very soon grant +5 armour and soon after another +5. Due to their primary attribute fast casting it is unlikely that the full armour boost of +15 is active for extended periods of time, especially if taking into consideration that plenty of popular mesmer skills like Mistrust won’t be used against opponents without fitting targets and resurrection skills will remain unused most of the time.
  • Elementalist: Blessed insignias.
  • Assassin: Nightstalker’s insignias provide a good armour boost. In case of heroes, however, sentry’s insignias with Way of the Assassin or else blessed insignias are a safer choice: When the hero is idle, switching targets, knocked down, kiting because of running low on health or to escape AoE damage the armour bonus will be forfeit.
  • Ritualist:
  • Builds based on Signet of Spirits and Signet of Ghostly Might should be played with shaman’s insignias.
  • Builds based on Shelter shouldn’t. While these spirits are alive the ritualist doesn’t need the armour bonus as much, but when there actually is a need for damage reduction because the spirits have been killed shaman’s insignias wouldn’t grant the required defense either. Instead blessed insignias usually are the ideal choice due to Boon of Creation.
  • Minion builds call for blessed insignias because of boon of creation and Explosive Growth.
  • Spirit's Strength ritualists should use ghost forge insignias.
  • Ritualist healers might use shaman’s or blessed insignias (with Selfless Spirit), but depending on their concrete build they might not have a reliable armour bonus insignia.
  • Ritualist healer heroes should use herald's insignia since they will probably be holding Protective Was Kaolai most of the time.


Special insignias

The armour bonus insignias grant only counts for the piece of armour you attached it to. Whenever you take damage the game randomly decides which of your armour pieces is hit. The chances are:

  • Chest: 37,5% (3/8)
  • Legs: 25% (2/8)
  • Head: 12,5% (1/8)
  • Hands: 12,5% (1/8)
  • Feet: 12,5% (1/8)

In case you don’t use armour insignias on all pieces of armour you should attach the non-armour insignia not to chest or leg armour to keep the chance to get hit without increased armour rating at 12,5%. This is only relevant for warriors and necromancers which have useful special effect insignias that are worth more than the armour insignia:

  • Stonefist Insignia increases the duration of knock downs by 1 second to max. 3 seconds. A standard knock down without stonefist insignia lasts 2 seconds.
  • Bloodstained Insignia decreases the casting time of spells which interact with corpses by 25%. Especially useful due to the long casting time of minion creation spells.

Hero armour

The equipment of heroes can be upgraded with insignias and runes the same way as player equipment. Invite them into your party, open your inventory, select the hero portrait on the top and then apply the upgrades. Note that in contrast to player equipment you can salvage the upgrades with an expert (or better) salvage kit without the risk of destroying the armour piece or remaining upgrades.

Hero armour: Appearance changes
In Nightfall and Eye of the North you can acquire items which allow you to change the appearance of a hero’s armour. This does not have any influence on the statistics of this hero. Already applied armour upgrades remain unaffected by the appearance change.

See also: Register and gallery of appearance changes

Razah
Razah’s primary profession is changeable; instructions can be found [here]. Equipped weapons and profession independent insignias and runes remain unaffected by this, but profession specific upgrades such as attribute runes will be destroyed. Remove them with a salvage kit before changing his primary profession in order to use them on a different hero or to sell them.

Weaponry

Caster weapons

Most current PvE teams consist almost exclusively of spellcasters. There are some common gear options to equip them aiming for best results: This involves upgrading a staff or set of wand and focus item in a specific way. Sometimes incorrectly referred to as „caster weapons“ are martial weapons with the inscription „I Have the Power!“ and a suffix of enchanting. They should not be used on heroes, as they cause issues such as support heroes wasting splinter weapon on caster heroes which barely attack due to using spells. If you chose a melee weapon it’s even worse; either you set the hero to passive, which means that it won't make any use of the received splinter weapon at all, or it will run into melee range to attack with the weapon. Therefore, if you need extended enchantment durations, use a 40/20/20.


The ideal weaponry for casters makes use of upgrades which affect spells of a certain attribute. Spell includes the following skill subtypes:

These weapon upgrades will therefore have no effect on i.e. signets and binding rituals.

Wand and focus


1) 40/40

This weapon set is the most common choice for caster builds, both for players and heroes. It consists of these components:

  • Wand: 11–22 damage (requires 9 <attribute>)
    • Inscription: „Aptitude Not Attitude“ – 20% chance to halve the casting time of <attribute> spells.
    • Suffix: Wand wrapping of memory – 20% chance to halve the recharge time of <attribute> spells.
  • Focus: +12 energy (requires 9 <attribute>)
    • Inscription: „Forget Me Not“ – 20% chance to halve the recharge time of <attribute> spells.
    • Suffix: Focus core of aptitude – 20% chance to halve the casting time of <attribute> spells.

The effects of the weapon mods affect spells of the item’s <attribute>, so if you want to enhance i.e. your illusion magic spells, use a wand and focus requiring illusion magic. A 40/40 set is ideal for builds which

  • mainly use spells.
  • focus on one attribute.
  • primarily use spells with an activation above ¼.
  • don’t benefit much from prolonged enchantments.

Exemplary build: Me/any Ineptitude

You activate Spells and Signets 50% faster. (No effect for non-Mesmer skills with a cast time less than 2 seconds.)
In PvE, the recharge time of your Mesmer Spells is reduced by 45%.
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2) High energy sets

High energy sets are tweaked 40/40 sets. They allow to use some more spells in emergency situations despite having run out of energy in the regular weapon set. In return they considerably reduce the energy regeneration while equipped: −1 energy regeneration equals gaining 20 less points of energy per minute, so using both high energy set items permanently would leave you at 40 less energy per minute. However, this weapon set is meant for player and not hero usage: Switch to it only when needed and switch back to a different weapon set while not casting. A full high energy set consists of these components:

  • Wand: 11–22 damage (requires 9 <attribute>)
    • Inscription: „Seize the Day“ – +15 energy, −1 energy regeneration.
    • Suffix: Wand wrapping of memory – 20% chance to halve the recharge time of <attribute> spells.
  • Focus: +12 energy (requires 9 <attribute>)
    • Inscription: „Live for Today“ – +15 energy, −1 energy regeneration.
    • Suffix: Focus core of aptitude – 20% chance to halve the casting time of <attribute> spells.

The effects of the weapon mods affect spells of the item’s <attribute>, so if you want to enhance i.e. your restoration magic spells, use a wand and focus requiring restoration magic.

Staves


Staves can be modified in a similar fashion as wand and focus, with some differences:

  • The energy bonus is only 10, but not tied to an attribute.
  • There is an inherent 20% chance to halve the recharge time of spells of any attribute (including spells without attribute and PvE-only spells), but the staff can’t be upgraded to add further chances to reduce the recharge time.
  • Some special weapon modifications are available of which certain builds benefit a lot.
1) 40/20/20

Similar to the 40/40 set the 40/20/20 staff allows to use many spells in a short time. In addition it prolongs the duration of enchantments used by the staff’s wielder. It consists of these components:

  • Staff: 11–22 damage (requires 9 <attribute>)
    • Inherent bonus: +10 energy.
    • Inherent bonus: 20% chance to halve the recharge time of spells (any attribute).
    • Prefix: Adept staff head – 20% chance to halve the casting time of <attribute> spells.
    • Inscription: „Aptitude not Attitude“ – 20% chance to halve the casting time of <attribute> spells.
    • Suffix: Staff wrapping of enchanting – increases duration of enchantments applied by this staff’s wielder by 20%.

The effects of the weapon mods affect spells of the item’s <attribute>, so if you want to enhance i.e. your healing prayers spells, use a staff requiring healing prayers.

A 40/20/20 is ideal for builds which

  • mainly use spells.
  • benefit from the chance of reducing the recharge time of any attribute’s spells.
  • primarily use spells with an activation above ¼ from the same <attribute> line.
  • benefit much from prolonged enchantments.

Exemplary build (40/20/20 healing prayers): Mo/Me Healing Burst Hero

Your allies are healed for 29 Health whenever you cast Monk spells on them.
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2) 40/20/30

Modified 40/20/20 staff for mesmer heroes. Instead of the enchanting suffix you give the hero a health boost of 30, partly compensating the health loss caused by using multiple superior attribute runes. Such a staff consists of:

  • Staff: 11–22 damage (requires 9 <attribute>)
    • Inherent bonus: +10 energy.
    • Inherent bonus: 20% chance to halve the recharge time of spells (any attribute).
    • Prefix: Adept staff head – 20% chance to halve the casting time of <attribute> spells.
    • Inscription: „Aptitude not Attitude“ – 20% chance to halve the casting time of <attribute> spells.
    • Suffix: Staff wrapping of fortitude – increases the health points by 30.

The effects of the weapon mods affect spells of the item’s <attribute>, so if you want to enhance i.e. your domination magic spells, use a staff requiring domination magic.

A 40/20/30 is ideal for builds which

  • mainly use spells.
  • benefit from the chance of reducing the recharge time of any attribute’s spells.
  • primarily use spells with an activation above ¼ from the same <attribute> line.
  • don’t benefit much from prolonged enchantments.
  • benefit from additional health points.

Exemplary build:

You activate Spells and Signets 46% faster. (No effect for non-Mesmer skills with a cast time less than 2 seconds.)
In PvE, the recharge time of your Mesmer Spells is reduced by 39%.
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3) 40/20/1

Modified 40/20/20 staff for heroes using Channeling Magic. Instead of the enchanting suffix, you give the hero a 20% chance to increase channeling magic by 1, which allows to hit a break point on Splinter Weapon at 17 channeling magic, increasing its armour ignoring damage potential from 1060 to 1344 (from 265 to 336 per affected foe).

  • Staff: 11–22 damage (requires 9 <attribute>)
    • Inherent bonus: +10 energy.
    • Inherent bonus: 20% chance to halve the recharge time of spells (any attribute).
    • Prefix: Adept staff head – 20% chance to halve the casting time of <attribute> spells.
    • Inscription: „Aptitude not Attitude“ – 20% chance to halve the casting time of <attribute> spells.
    • Suffix: Staff wrapping of channeling magic or mastery – 20% chance for +1 channeling magic or <attribute> skills.

The effects of the weapon mods affect spells of the item’s <attribute>, so if you want to enhance i.e. your restoration magic spells, use a staff requiring restoration magic. Note that a staff wrapping of mastery gives the attribute increase chance for spells of the staff’s attribute (so you need to use a channeling magic staff) but a staff wrapping of channeling magic gives the attribute increase chance for channeling magic regardless of the staff’s attribute. That is useful if you want to hit the break point of splinter weapon but faster casting times of spells of a different attribute, such as restoration magic in the example.

Exemplary build: Rt/any Signet of Spirits Hero

Creatures you create have 12% more Health, and weapon spells you cast last 12% longer.
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Martial weapons

General use

Usually there is an obvious choice which weapon prefix you should use and a strong tendency towards some inscriptions and suffixes. This applies to both players and heroes, even though you won’t usually play with heroes that rely on weapon attacks. Caster heroes are superior in general. However, there are some quests and missions which require martial profession heroes, so you might want to equip them effectively aswell.

For some player builds, zealous weapons are required for energy management, i.e. for Dagger Assassins and Vow of Strength Dervishes. Heroes won't need this upgrade because their usage of such energy intensive builds is suboptimal. They either won’t consume so much energy that a zealous weapon mod would improve their perfomance better than a vampiric weapon mod or their energy management would still be insufficient with zealous weapon.

Shield set

Whenever you are taking a lot of damage or you are about to die it is advisable to switch to a shield set to improve your survivability considerably. A shield set consists of these components:

  • One handed martial weapon (sword, axe, spear)
    • Suffix: Of fortitude or of defense – prefer defense unless you have conflicting limitedly stackable armour bonuses.
  • Shield (if you have enough attribute points spent into tactics, strength, command or motivation to meet its requirement, use a shield of that attribute for an even better armour boost)
    • Suffix: Of fortitude.

The inscription choices depend on your build. Shield inscriptions can be very powerful by granting 10 limitlessly stackable armour bonuses against certain damage types, but are only effective against a fraction of foes. Using a weapon based build „I Can See Clearly Now“ might be a good choice. For weapons, a caster may chose between „Don’t Think Twice“ for a minor chance to halve the casting time of spells, „Let the Memory Live Again“ for a minor chance to halve the recharge time of spells or „I Have the Power!“ for +5 energy whereas a weapon based build can either keep using its native one handed weapon or ignore the inscription slot as there are no other good options. A furious prefix on a spear may be advantageous for builds using adrenaline, adding a chance to gain more adrenaline while in the shield set.

Collectors and weaponsmiths

For various reasons the player-to-player trading economy suffers from inflation. Useful weapon modifications may not be hard to come by, but they require paying a lot. Luckily plenty of weapons can be acquired for few currency or from collectors, providing you with fully upgraded items. Some of these items have ideal modifications, which will be listed in the following sub-sections.
They also offer unmodified or partly modified weapons which are useful for creating your own upgraded weapons. This is especially important as staves of some attributes aren’t available at all by different means than having a weapon smith NPC craft them for you.

The Collector Finder allows to search in all non-low-level collector weapons for weapon types, attributes, modifications and modification combinations and even skins (including collectors exclusive skins).

40/40 sets

Gertrud in Vasburg Armory and Telamon in Leviathan Pits offer the same services. They can provide you with 40/40 sets for almost all attributes for a comparatively very low investment. However, some 40/40 sets are missing partly or entirely:

Missing scepters
  • Inspiration magic
  • Restoration magic
Entirely missing attributes
  • Fast casting
  • Soul reaping
  • Energy storage

The only relevant gap is the restoration magic scepter, as the other affected attributes don’t benefit much from 40/40 sets. You may consider turning in Droknar’s key for a restoration magic scepter after finishing the primary questline of Eye of the North to complete that 40/40 set. However, you might prefer to sell Droknar’s key to other players (it is usually traded for a lot of currency) and buy upgrades for a restoration magic staff from the returns, as many restoration magic builds benefit slightly more from a staff than a 40/40 set.

Focus items for 40/40 sets can be acquired from collectors, including attributes which you can’t craft at the weapon smith NPCs. List of collectors offering focus items for 40/40 sets

High energy items

High energy sets can’t be fully crafted by NPCs. You can only get fully upgraded scepters, both from weapon smiths and collectors, but will have to create the focus item yourself. Honglei Sun in Maatu Keep offers ideally upgraded scepters and non-ideally modified focus items, which have the +15 energy mod but +30 health points instead of the 20% chance to halve the recharge time of <attribute> spells. It’s still much better than having no high energy set. Sadly also Honglei Sun doesn’t offer all attributes:

Missing scepters
  • Inspiration magic
  • Restoration magic
Entirely missing attributes
  • Fast casting
  • Soul reaping
  • Energy storage

Without missing attributes high energy scepters can be received from collectors in Eye of the North: List of fitting collectors

Staves

You can’t get fully upgraded staves from NPCs. But you can get partly modified staves and upgradeable blanks. Manzo in Kaineng Center offers staves with an inherent modification that equals „Aptitude not Attitude“, so at least you won’t have to buy that inscription. Alas, not all staves are available with matching inherent mod effects and weapon requirements, so you won’t be able to upgrade all staves to 40/20/x. The following attributes can be used for that purpose:

  • Domination magic
  • Illusion magic
  • Blood magic
  • Curses
  • Death magic
  • Air magic
  • Fire magic
  • Earth magic
  • Water magic
  • Smiting prayers
  • Communing
  • Channeling magic
  • Spawning power

Many staves with fitting inherent „Aptitude not Attitude“ are offered by collectors, including attributes not offered by Manzo and skins exclusive to collectors: List of these collectors


Nightfall and Eye of the North weapon smiths offer staves with free inscription slot, so you can buy these and use them as blanks you upgrade with fitting modifications. This is the only way to get properly modified restoration magic staves. The first such NPC you can reach in Nightfall is Sende in Turai’s Procession. In Eye of the North it’s Asa in Sifhalla. Note that some weapon smiths in Eye of the North offer special weapon skins: Jonathan Stumpf (Jonathan’s weapons can’t be fully upgraded, don't buy from him!), Keti, Nojj, Hulen Hairyback, Balthor Coalforge.

Shields

All shields you can buy from Factions (and most from Nightfall) weapon smiths are fully upgraded. Some of the more popular modification combinations can be acquired soonest in:

+30 health points, −5 physical damage received (20% chance) 
Factions: Manzo in Kaineng Center
Nightfall: Hahbe in Marga Coast
+45 health points and −2 physical damage received while enchanted 
Factions: Nago in Wajjun Bazaar
Nightfall: Grif Ebonmane in Command Post (requires completion of The Tools of War)
+45 health points and −2 physical damage received while in stance 
Factions: Sheco in Bukdek Byway
Nightfall: Ruricu in Crystal Overlook

Upgraded shields are also offered by collectors:

Martial weapons

There are no fully or interestingly modified martial weapons available from weapon smiths and collectors. They can be used as blanks which already come with a built-in inscription (the exact upgrade depends on where you buy the weapon) as they can be upgraded with prefix and suffix. This is only useful if you don't have a fitting weapon at hand or want one of the weapon smith or collector exclusive weapon skins.

See also