Below is a brief summary of each of the eight playable classes – noting their pros, cons and unique mechanics. This guide doesn't go into details about each game mode or provide popular builds, but instead gives an outline of what is appealing about each class and lets you discover the details.
Also it's worth noting that while I may mark some classes as 'Easy to play', this refers to their learning curve. In truth every class has a very high skill ceiling and you'll never "outgrow" an easy class - there's always more tricks to learn and tactics to master.
WarriorsEasy to play, High Durability
Heavily armored and well armed, warriors are your go-to front line brawler, built to take out opponents with ample amounts of brute force and aggression. With the highest defense in the game, a wide array of weapons to choose from and a number of offense boosting capabilities, warriors fight enemies toe-to-toe and overwhelm them.
Adrenaline is a special mechanic to help warriors in combat. Adrenaline is built each time a warrior lands an attack, slowly filling a meter above your weapon skills. This adrenaline bar allows you to unleash a powerful attack based on what weapon you're holding in your main hand – ranging from laying down giant rings of fire to powerful single strikes. The more adrenaline you've built up, the more powerful the effect when you activate it.
+High Damage Output - Warriors are the undisputed kings and queens of the raw numbers game. No matter what your build or weapon choice you're still going to be very dangerous.
+Natural Durability - Along with good damage warriors can also claim to have the highest possible health and armor totals available to players, making them very hard to take down.
+Weapon Selection - No matter how you want to fight, or who you're fighting, warriors have a tool for every occasion. Want some ranged AoE Damage? Go longbow. Looking for some added condition damage? Pick up a sword. Want to punt somebody off a cliff? Hammers work just fine for that.
+Offensive Support - Warriors are no slouch when it comes to supporting allies, and they really shine when it comes to adding to your party's damage output, using a number of shouts and banners to add more raw damage to any party.
-Shallow Bag of Tricks - Warriors have their fair share of control conditions like stuns and immobilizes, but even using those they're still forced to come at their foes head on. If you can't win by direct combat, warriors have very few alternatives.
GuardiansMedium difficulty, High Durability
Guardians are an armored hybrid class, able to fight with both sword and magic. Based on the classic paladin archetype, guardians specialize using boons to bolstering themselves and allies while still being effective in direct combat.
Fitting with the theme of buffs and boons, guardians have a special mechanic know as Virtues. Virtues provide a guardian with three always-on buffs to strengthen them. These buffs can be temporarily sacrificed to empower nearby allies, turning a personal source of power into potent support tools.
+Survivability - Guardians actually have very low health pools and lackluster healing skills, but more than compensate for it in other ways. The Virtue of Resolve provides constant health regeneration when active, Virtue of Courage allows guardians to block attacks periodically, and a number of weapon and utility skills provide added regeneration, protection and healing. They also wear heavy armor to mitigate whatever damage does manage to get through.
+Strong Boons - One of the best support classes in the game, guardians stack boons on themselves and allies with ease. Beside the quantity of boons they can throw out, guardians have ready access to nearly every boon in the game, allowing them to buff allies however it's needed.
+Damage Prevention and Healing - Possibly their strongest feature, guardians have a number of skills that remove conditions, restore health or straight-up deflect enemy attacks. A well timed skill like Shield of Absorption can save your entire party from certain doom.
-Poor Ranged Combat - Guardians are respectable fighters while in melee range, but in ranged combat they're lackluster. They only have one true ranged combat weapon, and while it deals good damage it's awkward when trying to hit a moving target.
-Long Cooldowns - To offset the potential impact of all their powerful blocks and heals, many Guardian skills have very long recharge times – so if you mistime your skills, you may not get a second chance.
RangerEasy to play, Medium Durability
Rangers are a jack-of-all-trades class, with weapons and skills to help them adapt to anything they might face. Fighting at melee or range, rangers use quick movements and agility to outmaneuver foes in a fight.
A ranger's special mechanic is their pets. A ranger may charm any pet he finds in the open world, and once he does so can switch to it or any other pet he's charmed whenever he's out of combat. Your animal companions come in a variety of shapes and sizes ranging from tanky bears and hounds to swift and deadly hawks and cats, each with unique stats and skills. Though not always reliable, pets can provide a boost to your damage output and protect you from harm.
+Versatile - If you ever find yourself in a situation you're not prepared for, you're playing the class wrong. With many classes you have to specifically gear and trait yourself to fill a role, a ranger can swap between combat roles easier than any other class, and still do them effectively. Rangers can also pick a more specialized pet to compensate for any weaknesses they may have.
+Ranged Combat - Rangers have effective melee weapons, but their ranged combat abilities are especially noteworthy – rangers have arguably the best ranged single target damage of any class.
+Mobility - Rangers have a number of jumps, rolls and evades built into their weapons, allowing them to skirt around the edge of a conflict or dance around an attacker with ease. Kite like a boss.
-Awkward AoE damage - While still able to deal damage to multiple targets, rangers have a hard time doing it – usually requiring them to line up multiple foes and hit them with a single arrow, or getting in close and laying traps at their enemy's feet.
-Pets can be Unreliable - While they can certainly save your butt in small skirmishes, pets can be downed very quickly in some situations. Most notably pet's don't dodge out of AoE spells, making them useless in large group fights like WvW or some dungeons.
EngineerHard to play, Medium Durability
Engineers are one of the most unique classes in GW2, and in MMOs in general for that matter. Although only able to equip a handful of conventional weapons, engineers have access to a number of specialty weapon kits like flamethrowers and grenades, giving them a deceptive number of combat options. Engineers also have a large number of tricks and gizmos to help them, though learning to master these tools can be difficult.
An engineer's unique mechanic is their tool belt. Essentially, instead of equipping a single healing or utility skill in each slot, engineers equip a pair of skills – one is the “normal” version equipped to the slot and another corresponding skill is equipped to your tool belt. For instance you can equip 'Elixer B' to your normal slot, and 'Throw Elixer B' will be added to your tool belt. These tool belt skills are often weaker compared to normal utility and healing skills, but the added versatility they offer are a powerful tool in the hands of a engineer.
+Weapon Kits - Engineers have a pitiful 3 combinations of conventional weapons, but it's hard to notice that when you're switching between a flamethrower, twin pistols and elixer guns on whim. Equipped as utility or healing skills, weapon kits replace your current weapon once activated, turning one utility skill into 5 separate attacks. You can swap between weapon kits freely and there's no cooldown like there is with other class' weapon swapping, ensuring always have access to the right tool for the job.
+Conditions and Boons - Engineers have access to a crazy number of boons and support abilities. They are also one of the most effective classes at stacking conditions on a target.
+Huge Number of Skills Available - Between weapon kits and tool belt skills, engineers have access to a impressive number of tools and toys at any given time.
-Complicated - The above point can actually be a huge downside to newer players, as it takes time to learn what your myriad of skills can do. For instance, if you have an elixer gun equipped you can pull it out and lay down a healing field, but in the chaos of combat it can be easy to forget about it – or if you do remember you have it, remembering what buttons to hit to get it.
-Melee is Awkward - While they do have a few short-ranged tools, engineers aren't really built for close combat, so dealing with closing enemies can be difficult – especially for newer players.
ThiefMedium difficulty, Low Durability
Thieves are your classic assassin or rogue type characters, boasting superior damage output and mobility. Thieves are adept at moving in and out of combat, striking down a target at the instant an opportunity presents itself and then getting away safely.
Thieves have a number of smaller unique mechanics to them. First is that thieves can steal from opponents – activating your Steal ability teleports you to your target and grants you a single use of one of several special skills, depending on what type of creature you stole from. Thieves also have no cooldown on their weapon skills, instead they use Initiative which is a resource shared between all your weapon skills. You can use Initiative to repeatedly spam a weaker attack or spend it all to use a powerful skill several times in a row. Last, when a thief is wielding two one-handed weapons they can use both of them for a Dual Wield attack that changes based on what specific weapon combination you have equipped.
+Burst Damage - Using their Initiative system, thieves can unload a large amount of damage in a very short amount of time. Combined with their naturally opportunistic fighting style, thieves are very good at spiking down targets.
+Mobility and Positioning - Thieves have access to a number of teleports and dodges, allowing them to engage and disengage their enemies with ease. Because they can cover a lot of ground quickly, thieves are very good at catching foes when they're weak and unprepared.
+Stealth - More so than any other class, thieves can utilize stealth. A number of utility skills – and even a healing skill – allow you to cloak you and nearby allies to let you slip away from dangerous situations or sneak up on enemies.
-Fragile - Although they wear medium armor thieves have a very low amount of health, so you'll have to make good use of your mobility to make sure take as little damage as possible.
-Loses Effectiveness in Large Group Combat - Thieves are much better at dueling or picking off lone opponent than they are in large scale combat - their ranged weapons don't have a very long reach, and they only have a handful of AoE skills.
ElementalistHard to play, Low Durability
At first glance you may think of an elementalist as your typical stand-and-deliver magic caster, but if you try to use them as a back line artillery piece you won't get very far. An elemantalist is a complex and intricate class, and getting the most out of them is difficult – but very rewarding. Boasting some serious damage output, powerful utility and arguably the best mobility in the game, a well played elementalist is a very powerful fighter.
The unique mechanic of an elementalist is their ability to channel four elements – Fire, Water, Air or Earth. Depending on what element you're currently channeling you'll have access to a completely unique set of weapon skills (with their own separate cooldowns), and the properties of many of your utility skills will change as well.
+Elemental Attunements - Your ability to channel different elements essentially turns your one equipped weapon set into four – each with a different specialization. Learning when to swap to each element and using your full arsenal of skills is essential to playing an elementalist – if you only stay in Fire the whole time you're locking yourself out of the elementalist's full potential.
+Mobility - To compensate for their low survivability, elementalists have a large repertoire or movement skills to get themselves out of trouble. Much QQ has been had from players trying to chase down a wounded elementalist.
+Lots of Combos - Elementalists are the masters of 2 + 2 = 7. An elementalists can use many skills in tandem to produce results much greater than the sum of their parts. Not only can elementalists combo with their own skills, but they also lay down a number of elemental combo fields to help allies as well.
-Terrible in a Straight Fight - The downside to having so many neat tools is that you're expected to use them. If you don't milk your skills for all they're worth or make proper use of combo fields, elementalists are pretty weak.
-Very Fragile - Elementalists are far and away the squishiest class in the game. If you can't mitigate or avoid damage you'll be spending a LOT of your time admiring the floor.
NecromancerEasy to play, High Durability
An interesting take on the typical dark spell caster, necromancers combine a large and versatility skill set with an amazing amount of staying power. Necromancers win through attrition and pressuring opponents into submission, able to inflict an impressive number of conditions and shrug off counter attacks – the longer a battle goes, the more of an advantage a necromancer builds over their opponent.
A necromancer has use of Death Shroud, which provides a them with a unique set of skills as well as acting as a secondary health pool. As nearby creatures die or as a necromancer uses certain skills, your Life Force bar will fill up. A necromancer can then use their accumulated Life Force to activate Death Shroud – your Life Force drains over time or as you take damage, but while in Death Shroud your skills are replaced with a new unique skill set. While in Death Shroud damage you take is subtracted from your accumulated Life Force and not your health, giving necromancers a huge boost to their already great survivability.
+Versatile Skill Sets - Even a year after launch there's STILL a ton of debating among necromancers as to the most effective play style – that should tell you just how many different strong play styles there are. While many people prefer condition based play necromancers can also tank, control opponents, lay down impressive AoE damage, summon hordes of minions or even heal and support allies.
+Conditions - When properly equipped for it, Necromancers are considered the best class in the game at stacking conditions on their unfortunate targets. Necromancers have access to a number of powerful controlling effects (most notably Fear) as well as being able to stack health degeneration effects like Bleeding on multiple opponents for heavy sustained damage.
+Survivability - Between Death Shroud, their large health pools, their great healing skills and traits that allow you to leach health from enemies, necromancers are very sturdy. They do wear light armor though – otherwise they'd be unkillable. Necromancers also have access to a number of skills to help them defend against particular enemy strategies – for instance Spectral Armor can help you survive burst damage, or Consume Conditions can alleviate a lot of condition pressure.
-Limited Mobility - Once they have someone in their grasp, necromancers can control and pressure them forever – the tricky part is catching them in the first place. Their lack of mobility also makes escaping from a losing situation more difficult as well.
MesmerHard to play, Low Durability
Mesmers are the trademark class of the Guild Wars series and are one of the most unique, subtle and deadly classes in any game. Specializing in manipulating foes and countering their opponents strategies, a good mesmer will generate more hate in PvP chat than all other classes combined.
A mesmer specializes in creating Illusions to either confuse, damage or otherwise hinder their foes. These summoned pets resemble their owner and come in two varieties: Clones look just like their creators and have low combat abilities, designed more to trick opponents momentarily. Phantasms are noticeably transparent and magical, and have powerful attacks to add to a mesmer's damage output. All Illusions can be used by the mesmer with their Shatter skills, which causes Illusions to self destruct in exchange for one of several powerful effects depending on which Shatter is used.
+Tons of Unique Tricks - A mesmer has a very large arsenal of tools including reflecting projectiles, stealthing allies, creating portals for allies to warp through, making decoys, and much more. A good mesmer always has something on hand to turn the tables on their opponent.
+Powerful “Pet” Play - You know what's more frustrating to fight than a mesmer? Four mesmers. A mesmer can summon Illusions as temporary allies, so your enemies always have multiple opponents to worry about. If you're lucky you can even get your opponent to waste powerful attacks on your Clones.
+Control - As a mesmer, you'll be making your opponent fight on YOUR terms. Stacking Confusion to punish them for using skills, blocking attacks, reflecting projectiles, teleports, or constantly harassing enemies with your Illusions, a mesmer will always find a way to throw their opponent off their game.
-Fragile - One of the least durable classes in the game, mesmers are forced to rely on their many blocking and mobility skills to survive. Having weak condition removal skills doesn't help either – you're only defense is not getting hit in the first place.
-Ineffective in Direct Combat - If you exhaust your bag of tricks mesmers are very poor at exchanging blows with opponents. Mesmers can't dish out much damage without their Illusions and other tools, so if you find yourself in a corner you're going to be at the mercy of a very, very angry warrior.
Guide by: SnickyMcNibits