Guild Wars 2 - Elementalist Focus Guide by Elr3d
It's been pretty much my thing to play the Focus on my Elementalist lately. As a bit of background, I use my Elementalist mostly in WvWvW (it's the funniest class I have at hand) and found it effective in dungeons, though the amount of snares and control you have can prove unnecessary in some of them. My comments on skills will mainly be from a WvWvW point of view.
Focus a very underplayed weapon, and, in my opinion (somewhat biased I'll admit), most underrated. As such, it's difficult to see new builds using Focus emerge, because well, everyone loves what D/D can offer, and it's common belief that what D/D can't offer, Staff can. And there was quite the amount of videos and great guides to prove it. Now, I'm not denying the inherent qualities of D/D and Staff, or even S/D (which is a popular leveling set), but I'd like to address the fact most Elementalist are thinking the focus is "bad" or not worth building around.
Let's see why the Focus is actually a worthy weapon for Elementalist.
What is the Focus for Elementalist? It's mainly a weapon providing you very useful situational utilities, which while being a lot less mobile or bursty than a Dagger Off hand, allows you to absorb quite the punishment before going down, and dish out some ranged snares a Dagger simply cannot do. I find it also promote careful and thoughtful play as opposed with simply rolling your usual D/D dps rotation and start panicking when you get knocked down in the middle of it.
I'll go through the different attunements and related skills.
- Fire: Probably the least appealing attunement for the Focus, which may be a reason why the Focus as a whole is underplayed as Fire in Dagger Off-hand is actually very strong.
The #4 is a Firewall, which as a Fire field has its uses in the same way as Ring of Fire do. We'll see later why the small size of the field isn't a problem with a Focus.
The #5 is the Fire Aura, which ticks burning around you (Edit: ticks burning on hit, thanks kibakiri for pointing that out), and is objectively the worst Aura of all whatever your perspective given the Elementalist easy access to burning and the huge cooldown (40 seconds for such a shitty aura is terribad). However, being an Aura, it makes the Focus eligible for Auramencer play.
- Water: This element is actually good and where the fun begins.
The #4 is a 900 ranged snare inflicting 3 second chill on a 25 second cooldown, which means it's almost impossible to dodge as your character will only move his hand to trigger it.
The #5, Comet, is a 900 range small AoE daze (2 seconds) on a 120 radius around the landing location with a 25 seconds cooldown. This skill isn't that cool at first glance, but it's a blast finisher which triggers at your location with a very low cast time. This is the main use of it, and the low cooldown makes it available very often.
- Air: Things start getting awesome.
The #4 is the single best defense against projectile in the game. It creates a huge (400 radius) zone of winds lasting 6 seconds, where projectile cannot enter (or be created), as they are "destroyed". Note they are "destroyed", and not "blocked".
This means this works against unblockable projectiles, such as trebuchet and catapult shots, and this skill alone is a reason why all WvWvW Elementalist should carry a Focus in their bag to help defend the walls. 30 seconds cooldown, 24 when traited, which means 4 Elementalist can keep it up constantly when traited, and if well coordinated, 3 of them can nullify trebuchet damage entirely. Swirling winds is also invaluable in zerg battle as it's one of the only AoE spells that don't give a shit about the 5 man limit. You can try and throw a hundred projectile through it, they'll all get destroyed. It allows you to escape almost anything safely if you're out of reach of melee players. It has great uses in PvE, as it can block any projectiles. For instance, CoE turret Golem buffs are actually projectiles thrown by the turret. Cast the winds on the golem and he won't get buffed anymore. CoF AoE fireball turrets get stopped by this skill also.
The #5 is a 900 ranged 2 seconds knockdown (!!) in the same fashion as the Water #4, making it very difficult to dodge, and is an awesome burst initiator.
- Earth: Earth is the attunement where you'll basically say "I won't die".
The 2 spells are defense-oriented and instant cast, so you can use them even when CCed.
The #4 is a very versatile 25sec cooldown skill that do moderate AoE damage, cure three conditions and give you projectile reflection for 3 seconds. It's great to use inside a burst into superior enemy force, as your Elementalist throwing magic everywhere will get strongly focused, and you'll just throw their attack back in their face. And it's a blast finisher that triggers at your location, as does Comet (Water #5), which makes Firewall->Comet->Magnetic Wave a very fast 6 might combo.
The #5 spell is the second reason an Elementalist will want to use a Focus. Obsidian Flesh is a 4 seconds invulnerability, instant cast, on a 50 seconds cooldown (40 when traited). It allows you very creative gameplay, the most fun use I have of it is to cast it while transforming into a Tornado, as the invulnerability will carry over the first few seconds of the transform. Also awesome escape tool which compensates the glaring lack of mobility.
So yeah, Focus has good stuff, now why should I give up my pretty numbers to run it?
Focus basically give you very reliable defensive tools in Earth and Air attunements. As such, running a Focus doesn't force you to take at least 2 cantrips to just be able to stay alive. This most notably opens the door of Arcane builds and Glyphs builds while still being able to react to an incoming heavy burst, as you can afford to run 0-1 cantrips (remember that attunement swap can be used while CCed, so Obsidian Flesh and Magnetic Wave can very much compensate the lack of stunbreakers).
Here's what I use at the moment as D/F and S/F elementalist. I run an Arcane build, using the flexibility of Elemental Surge to inflict the needed condition at a given time. The gear I use is high power/precision oriented, with some condition damage and some toughness.
Scepter/Focus (Note it's the same traits repartition and I just swap the aura traits for the Toughness when channeling, heal and Air auto attack being channeled)
I won't go into detail with my build, as I plan to do an explanatory video of it, and this post is getting long enough already.
- Coupled with a dagger, a Focus can allow you to get focused and resist the burst. Considering you have the Shocking Aura on Dagger main, this makes up for the best "Come on, hit me!" setup. Magnetic Wave + Shocking Wave makes you immune to projectiles, while punishing people that wants to melee you, leaving you only vulnerable to AoE spells. Dagger Main offer enough mobility (Fire #3 and Earth #3) for you to be unpredictable, and give you another Water snare. Overall a very powerful melee alternative to D/D, dishing out still decent damage while being able to resist bursts.
- Coupled with a Scepter, a Focus allows you to secure the most damaging spells you have, Dragon's Tooth + Phoenix. Air #5 knockdown duration is just enough for you to land them both, and pretty much force your enemy to use up a stunbreak to get out of the shit he's into. You can protect everyone in the group with Swirling winds, pop Obsidian Flesh if you get focused, use Comet to shut down ranged immobile characters (some necros don't seem to move much when fighting) for a few seconds. The range of the focus spells is the same as the Scepter so they synergize good.
Try the Focus. It allows you to take a step away from cookie butter play, and will make you play better as you'll have to react on the fly and not only apply your rotation. The tools it offers are incredible, and if you are aware it's a control/snare/projectile defensive weapon you can still build a powerful offensive character by slotting offensive utility skills instead of your usual 2-3 cantrips you use to stay alive.
I hope this post will get some Elementalist to try it out, and we'll be able to see more Focus play and builds in the future!