Mesmers are a tricky profession; they were one of the last to be introduced and almost universally thought of as underpowered through the vast majority of BWEs. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Mesmer is a very fun profession to play and actually quite powerful if you understand the fundamentals. With the buffs they received just prior to the launch they achieve parity with other DPS classes by the time you achieve level 80, or jump on one in sPVP.
Mesmers are extremely dependent on traits, much more than any other class. For example, using arbitrary, made up numbers, an Elementalist starts off with 80% of its full potential and gain the last 20% of its power via traits as he or she levels up to 80. The Mesmer, on the other hand, probably starts off at 40% of its full potential and their traits give it 60% of its strength. Because a bulk of a Mesmer’s damage is based off of illusions one way or another, there are a series of traits and skills that make them do more damage and survive longer that are essential to almost every build.
Let’s assume you know how Mesmers work; and if you don’t there are a ton of videos out there explaining what the difference between clones and phantasms are. The Mesmer has two styles of play currently: Shatter Builds and Phantasm builds. Shatter builds provide high, spike damage while Phantasms provide high sustained damage. For the sake of leveling, it is highly recommended that you develop a shatter build as most NPCs don’t live long enough for your Phantasms to be efficient. Phantasm builds really don’t become effective until level 50 or higher once you can slot Phantasm Haste and other damage enhancing traits.
Build Order: Domination +10, Illusions +10, Chaos +10
Weapons: Greatsword, Staff
Stat Priority: Power, Precision, Crit Damage
Utility Skills: Feedback, X, Signet of Illusions
Why Greatsword and Staff?
In the early levels, Mesmers are incredibly squishy: They have Light Armor and no real defenses and you are speccing glass (power, precision with no toughness or vitality). The solution to this is to keep all of your targets at range which means the Greatsword and Staff are perfect combinations. The MH Sword is an excellent weapon, but since Sword #2 roots you in place, it’s not a very mobile weapon and detrimental to you early on.
The most asked question is “Why not the scepter?” Two major reasons: 1) The damage is quite pitiful; it’s single target, and its defensive capabilities ask you to sit still and block something to do damage. 2) Even though in a Shatter build, you want clones to shatter, you have to remember Mind Wrack has a 15 second cooldown and Cry of Frustration is even longer. You have plenty of time with your Staff and Greatsword to pump out enough illusions to shatter them and while you wait for Shatter cooldowns, you’re doing more damage.
Ultimately, the Greatsword and the Staff allow you full mobility (except Mindstab, GS #3), defense, and strong offensive capabilities. The Greatsword #2 attack pumps out clones every 6 seconds while doing great AOE “bouncing” projectile damage. The Phantasmal Berserker does great damage and also hits multiple targets and Greatsword #5 is a very useful knockback ability that adds to your defense. The Staff is equally attractive with it’s #2 and #3 which produces illusions and a fast rate. Ability #2 offers some defensive blinking, while Chaos Armor and Chaos Storm are some of the best abilities a Mesmer currently has.
There are two must have utility skills: Signet of Illusions which increases your illusion health by 50% so they are now not one-shotted, and Feedback. Feedback essentially creates a bubble around a target reflecting all ranged attacks back at them. If the target does not move, often they nearly kill themselves. If they target does move, you just bought your self a second or two of them not attacking. The second Utility Skill slot can be used for whatever skill you find yourself comfortable with. Phantasmal Defender and Mirrored Image both offer extra illusions, while Null Field gives you fantastic utility in PVP.
Protip: Use Feedback on siege weapons.
As we’ve mentioned, the Mesmer is incredibly squishy so your combat strategy has to reflect that. The first rule is to never stay still, keep moving around your target so they can not hit you. While you’re moving around, your objective is to pump out one or two illusions so you can shatter them; don’t wait until you have three up. More often than not, your first illusion will be dead before your third is ready to go and sometimes you want to save up those skill cooldowns for your second or third target.
When you put out a phantasm, make sure it actually attacks at least once. Most phantasms have a 4-8 second delay between attacks and you can usually kill a target before it attacks again. Shatter them before they get killed so you don’t waste a damage opportunity.
Get used to swapping between your weapons so you can access Chaos Storm on your staff, drop your clone and phantasm, shatter them and get back to your Greatsword. Use Greatsword #2 as often as possible as it’s your main damage attack. Use Greatsword #5 to put targets at range so your auto attack does more damage.
Use Feedback on those pesky Centaur Sharpshooters and keep them busy.
If you’re going to be using a Shatter build, get used to pressing your F1-F4 keys as often as you can. Don’t be afraid to use them, even if it’s at the beginning of combat. Earlier on, you may want to keep your clones up longer so your target doesn’t focus on you as much, but as you get better at playing a Mesmer you’ll learn that you can stay alive easy enough without your illusions.
As you level beyond level 40, you’ll see your Shatters become more powerful as your illusions will begin applying random conditions and confusion every time. As you unlock the next tier of Master traits, you’ll want to prioritize Illusions as your main trait line. The Grand Master trait, Illusionary Persona, counts you as a clone so you can use your shatter abilities without have any clones available to you. Here is an example of a Shatter build that you can build towards. Before you jump into the comment section to blast the build, we acknowledge there are a variety of different variations. You can use a variation that strengthens illusions so you can have a combination Shatter/Phantasm build or you can have illusions cause cripple or vulnerability with shatter. This build focuses on taking advantage of adding additional bounces to the Staff autoattack and Greatsword #2, reducing the cooldown of Chaos Storm and Armor as well as all the Greatsword attacks.