WvW builds and ideas - Thief


New Member
A long time ago, I said I would post some ideas and examples of how to play a thief in WvW. Please note that these ideas are generalities and may apply to sPvP, but since I don't do sPvP, you'll need to work that out on your own.

I highly believe that a person needs to find their own build and so I plan to give you my build and playstyle simply as a general idea of one way you can play. There are other playstyles that suit other people. I will also present some nuances that thieves can do which others can not.

Some people prefer to play glass cannon burst direct damage (focusing on power/precision/crit%/crit dmg) builds which can be effective, but ANet is making currently changes to limit the amount of pure bust damage a thief can do. Thieves are able to do 8000+ burst damage against heavily armored classes (3000+ armor), but if you do this then you sacrifice all other abilities and utilities and everything you have is directed to doing damage. If this is what you want to do, it can be effective and one style of play.

However, others such as myself, prefer to play a tanky DoT build (stacking toughness/vitality/condition damage) ... a skirmisher. This build style allows you to wait patiently for the opportunity, zip in, strike, get the kill, and zip out. In my opinion, this was ANet's original idea behind the thief class and there is a lot of synergy between skills and traits that you can pull off to support this role.

The Build

My build - an idea/playstyle taken and then tweaked from SlicGW (aka. Wild Bill) on YouTube.

The idea behind the build is to build up poison damage and the bleeds from pistol, but more than anything else to spend 75% of your time in stealth or dodging. By popping into stealth with this build, you also cause blinds while the condition damage ticks away and your health ticks up. Dodging is enhanced with the extra endurance. The bread and butter of this build is having the dagger offhand which gives you on-demand stealth (+ blind!) when it connects on an enemy, stealth from your heal skill, and shadow refuge which grants long term stealth if you stay in the field for 5-6 seconds before moving out of its effect (note: shadow refuge does not cause blind).

As an alternate weapon, I keep my shortbow on hand with max DPS stats and the sigil that gives the fire aoe. This is for when defending a siege from the battlements, but honestly, that isn't a well suited battle for this build. You're all about being on the front line ... zipping in and out to finish people off, or skirmishing on the flank.

The skills I typically run with are Spider Poison and Shadow Refuge with the 3rd skill in a rotation depending on the need:
  • If I am running around, I have Signet of Shadow on for 25% speed.
  • If involved in a siege, I have Scorpion Wire for pulling people off battlements.
  • If involved in an open world fight, I either keep Ice Drake Venom/Devourer Venom up for preventing escapes or Haste for DPS (Beware! this takes your endurance to 0) or Roll for Initiative if I am feeling less aggressive.

For an elite skill, I typically keep Thieves Guild up since it can provide a good distraction and added DPS. Dagger Storm has its place, but the damage seems inconsistent and the stability has limited use. Dagger Storm feels more useful in PvE when trying to get in kills from the bots!

Trait synergies:
  • Poison (stealing or skill) -> poison applies weakness -> poison applies 2 stacks of might -> poison applies steal health -> condition on enemy means 10% more damage.
  • Stealth (NOT shadow refuge) -> stealth causes blindness -> Stealth lasts 1 sec longer -> condition on enemy means 10% more damage.
  • Dodge -> approximately 33% less endurance cost -> dodge applies 2 sec swiftness
  • Damage taken -> If 75% or less health, condition removal (bleeding, poison, burning) and 10 sec regen with 45 sec cooldown -> If 25% or less health, auto-stealth and blinding powder.

Being sneaky, tricky, and devious:

This is the most important part of this post, to be honest. Thieves are masters of misdirection and subtlety. Use that to your advantage! Be sneaky, do the unexpected, and you'll reap the rewards for taking the chance more often than not.

  • Pulling from battlements - As mentioned above, using scorpion wire is a great way to pull people from the battlements during a siege. Rangers hate nothing more than to think that they have the high ground advantage and DPS only to be pulled to the ground surrounded by 10 angry siege soldiers! A typical combo is to pull them with scorpion wire, use spider and devourer venom for the damage/immobilize, stealth skill (#5 dagger offhand), use the stealth version of auto-attack (approximately 4-5x damage of a normal strike). By this time, immobilize has worn off (or they cancelled it) and hopefully others have seen what you did and joined in taking that player down.
  • Thieves Guild from stealth - many of the Thief's skills, even the channeled ones, can be used both on the move and from stealth. Use this to your advantage! It's fun to #5 strike a person blinding them and popping you into stealth, and hitting your Thieves Guild elite, then having 3 of you "come out of stealth" to attack.
  • "Perma"-stealth - You have a lot of stealth abilities and they can be chained together. You can also pop into your healing stealth or shadow refuge while being in stealth already. A great tactic for retreat is to pop #5 stealth on a player (or on a pet or on a mob), pop swiftness from your dodge, pop healing stealth, throw down shadow refuge, wait for 5-6 seconds to get the bonus stealth, then pop another dodge swiftness (usable 3 times in a row, by the way). In doing this, you can move a long distance away and a lot of people won't notice the shadow refuge.
  • Hidden stealth kills - This is my favorite. When I saw Wild Bill (in the video above do this, I was in shock and awe ... you can do that?!). You can channel the death blow while in stealth and I would always recommend popping #5 stealth before doing a killing blow in WvW. This gives the player and ANYONE around him a false sense of safety. I love getting aggressive against someone in a zerg at half health ... dodge roll in with swiftness (you can decide to pop healing stealth if you want), throw down a #5 stealth and channel a killing blow in the midst of the enemy zerg while 2-3 people run over and start res'ing the downed person. Typically, you can then dodge roll back out to safety. Most of the time I save healing stealth for the retreat. This is also a fun thing to do when flanking and you can easily use terrain to conceal your presence.
  • Shadow Refuge revives - Going into stealth clears a target which means that if you have a downed comrade, throw down shadow refuge to give them a fighting chance to get back up. More often than not, the long duration of shadow refuge is enough to get that person back up. If you do this while not in combat, it is a guaranteed revive even solo. Note however, that enemies can see shadow refuge and will likely aoe the area. Watch your health. Two dead people is not a step in the right direction.
  • NPC's/Mobs as pets - Many times there are aggressive mobs or NPC's nearby that you can use to your advantage. If you can lure your prey into aggro'ing them, then if you pop stealth all the mobs will attack your enemy. This is especially fun if you can find non-aggresive mobs because your attacks are all single target which means that the mobs literally can become like your pets. Note also as mentioned above, you can use mobs to pop #5 stealth.

I hope these things help you understand strategies on how to WvW as a thief and also how to deal with thieves that have similar builds. I ran into one the other day and it is REALLY annoying - especially with the target clear every time they stealth. The build is not a power build and 1-on-1's are typically slower than with other builds, however the survivability is spectacular - I got 50 WvW kills last night without a single death! I highly encourage you to watch some of Wild Bill's videos (above) to see how a person who has mastered this build easily takes on 1v3's at times. And ... before you ask ... I have no idea how he manages 25k health AND 100/bleed tick ... seems to me you can only get one or the other, but then again, I don't have my rune or jewelry sets done yet.
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