Attributes in Guild Wars 2 are the fundamental characteristics which improve your effectiveness in combat. Each profession can access ten attributes, with nine of those shared between all professions and the tenth unique to each profession. Attributes are subdivided into three types: Primary, Secondary and Profession. As you level up, your primary attributes will increase automatically. The total value of your primary attributes when you reach level 80 will be 916. Attributes can also be increased through items or traits as you progress through the game. In general terms, the higher your attributes the stronger you will be.
The four primary attributes are split into two offensive and two defensive types. As mentioned above, these will naturally increase as your level progresses.
Power — every point increases attack by one point.
Power, in its most basic form, determines your damage output as each point in it increases your attack by one. Without confusing you with the calculations or mathematics behind how damage is calculated, all you need to know is the more Power you have, the more damage you will deal. There are exceptions to this, specific to Condition Damage (see below) but for most professions and setups, if you want to hit hard, having items or investing in trait lines that increase your Power will see you deal high damage.
From a personal perspective, if I’m not running a Condition Damage build, I always try to aim for around 1900 Power and although this isn’t the highest value you can achieve, it does ensure you deal a good amount of damage without sacrificing attributes in other areas.
Precision — increases critical hit chance.
Precision increases your chance to critical hit and like Power, is an offensive attribute. At level 80, all professions have a chance to critical hit of 4%. This is incredibly low but it is easily increased through items or trait lines. The main benefit of Precision, besides the fact that critical hits are great for spike damage, is that many effects from traits or skills are triggered by critical strikes.
Certain traits will directly increase your Precision attribute, such as a Mesmers Blade Training that provides +50 Precision, while skills such as an Engineers Infused Precision will only trigger when you critically hit.
I always try to aim for around 50% chance to critically hit as many of my builds revolve around such trait triggers. With the rate of attack/fire from many skills or weapons it’s almost guaranteed with such a Precision rate that you can keep trait triggers active. To achieve a 50% chance to critically hit, you would need a Precision attribute total of around 1800.
Toughness — every point increases armor by one point.
Toughness is one of two defensive attributes. Each point spent in Toughness will increase your armour and your ability to withstand direct damage. Toughness doesn’t affect your ability to mitigate Condition damage but only physical attacks from weapons or spells. Similarly to Precision, there are various traits for certain professions that provide a direct increase, such as a Warriors Shield Master trait which provides +90 Toughness while wielding a shield. There is no rule as to how much toughness, numerically, that you should aim for. With very little Toughness you can still survive a long period of time if you are clever with your positioning and use of dodging in order to avoid damage, but anything around 1600 Toughness at level 80 should see you withstand plenty of damage, when combined with your armour.
Vitality — every point increases maximum health by ten points.
Vitality determines your total health pool and so it’s important to have a good amount of it so you don’t die in two hits. Vitality is also easy to calculate as one point increases your health pool by ten. We know that all professions at level 80 have base attribute values of 916, so simply multiply that by ten (9160) and you have your health at maximum level, when excluding items or traits.
Vitality is also incredibly important when fighting against players who specialise in Condition Damage as Conditions bypass armour and toughness and will instantly eat away at your health pool rather than have some of the damage mitigated by your defences. In this circumstance it’s obviously best to have as much Vitality as possible, however many builds are viable with as little as 17,000 health (when factoring in traits and items) as long as you avoid as much damage as possible through remaining mobile.
The five Secondary Attributes common to all professions, like the primary, are split offensively and defensively (three and two, respectively). Secondary Attributes, unlike primary, do not automatically increase as you level and can only be increased through specialising in trait lines or from items and equipment. To make things a little more complicated, Secondary Attributes also have names they are familiarly known as.
Boon Duration — Improves the duration of all boons applied by the character.
Boon Duration is also known as Concentration and increases the duration of Boons by 1% per point spent in the specific profession trait line. If you were to invest 30 points into a Rangers Nature Magic trait line, your Boons would receive a 30% increase to their duration. Or if you were to invest 25 points in a Guardians Virtue trait line, you would receive a 25% increase to your Boon durations. This secondary attribute can be incredibly useful when running a supportive Boon heavy build, as it will elongate the duration of them significantly.
For example, an Engineers Elixir B provides Might for 30 seconds, but with 30 points spent in the Engineers Alchemy trait line this would see its duration increase to 36 seconds. If you then combined this with the trait Potent Elixirs (which also provides a 20% duration increase) this would see Elixir B grant Might for 42 seconds; a significant improvement.
Condition Damage — Improves the damage done by conditions like burning, poison, confusion, and bleeding.
Condition Damage is also known as Malice and is paramount for a multitude of skills that apply physical conditions. Contrary to the Primary Attribute descriptions earlier, Power does not affect the damage of a condition, the Secondary Attribute -- Condition Damage/Malice -- does. Without investment in Condition Damage, your conditions (such as Bleed, Poison, Confusion) will deal very little damage. If you do choose a playstyle that relies entirely on Condition Damage, it is absolutely vital that you achieve upwards of 1000 or your damage will be incredibly low and as Condition Damage isn’t leveled naturally (unlike Primary Attributes) this can be difficult to achieve and will often leave you struggling to even out your other Primary Attributes. Luckily, most weapon sets have a clear focus (Power orientated skills or Condition Damage orientated) so it makes life a little easier in determining which path you want to take when investing in trait lines and items.
Condition Duration — Improves the duration of all conditions inflicted by the character.
Similarly to Boon Duration and commonly known as Expertise, Condition Duration does just what it says; it increases the duration of all conditions you inflict on an opponent. Also similar to Boon Duration, each point invested in Expertise will see its duration increase by 1%. If you were to invest 30 points into a Necromancers Spite trait line, your conditions would receive a 30% increase to their duration. This would see a typical condition such as Bleed, caused from the skill Blood Curse, increased from a duration of 7 seconds, to around 8.5.
Expertise is a strong secondary attribute when paired with other items that elongate the lifespan of conditions as while your conditions are active, they are often dealing damage or hindering your foe and as conditions tend to rely on attrition to wear down your opponent, having them last longer is never a bad thing.
Critical Damage — Improves the damage multiplier on critical strikes.
Critical Damage is also known as Prowess and provides a damage increase to your critical hits, with each point invested in Prowess increasing your critical damage by 1%. It’s a little difficult to describe this secondary attribute without some mathematics involved but in its simplest form, the more Prowess you have, the more damage you will deal when you critically hit.
For those interested in some minor mathematics, critical hits by all professions provide a damage increase of 50%. For example, if your standard attack deals 50 damage, when you critically hit an opponent you would deal 75 damage. This is your base attack damage (50) including a 50% increase (50 + 25 = 75).
By investing 30 points in Prowess (30% extra critical damage) you would actually deal 90 damage. This is your base damage (50) including a 80% increase, as you’ve added 30% on top of your base figure.
It should be noted that Prowess does not effect conditions, so irrespective of how much Prowess you have -- as conditions cannot critically hit someone -- there is little value in investing in it. However, for individuals who enjoy seeing large damage numbers, whom have a high critical hit chance and whom deal physical attacks, it can be incredibly useful for really high damage spikes.
Healing Power — Improves all outgoing heals that your character does, including self heals.
Healing Power is also known as Compassion and improves both incoming and outgoing heals that your character does, including healing from the Boon, Regeneration. Healing Power generally translates as one point invested provides one extra health point on your main heal, with varying differences for splash heals that provide regeneration. A simple example of this would be 100 Heal Power provides 100 extra health to your heal.
Unique to each profession are eight attributes. Like secondary attributes, profession attributes do not automatically improve as your character levels and require investment on your part, into a specific trait line. Each unique profession attribute improves a key element of the profession. It should be noted that you do not have to specialise in profession attributes if you do not wish and won’t be at any disadvantage over another who does. Profession attributes are there to support a specific style of play and if that style of play doesn’t suit you, you shouldn’t feel any pressure to invest in them. Below is a list of the profession attributes which we’ll be covering in a little more depth in a future guide.