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Guild Wars 2 PvE Tempest Guide (Heart of Thorns Update)

Let us look at some ballpark numbers for Tempest DPS. After the various balance patches, this guide will give you a rough idea of how the different skills perform as a Tempest towards PvE. Real in-game damage is complicated, so we won’t worry about 10% or 20% inaccuracies in the calculation below.
  • Tempest gets a modest boost in damage of roughly 10% when using overloads.
  • Condition builds can in principle approach the damage of direct damage builds.
Let us assume: PvE. Exotic gear. Permanent Fury and 25 stacks of Might. For direct damage builds, a factor 1.5 from traits and other boni. For condition builds, maximal condition duration for a factor 2.0. For simplicity and since there are too many options, no other increases of stats from runes, food, skills, etc. We will focus on average sustained damage, as opposed to burst damage. Under some further reasonable assumptions that may not relate at all to what you see in the game™, we obtain the following numbers for damage per second.

Direct damage builds

Berserker Staff Fire/Air/Tempest
6100 Fire rotation
1600 OLF
7400 Fire rotation with OLF
  • If we run Tempest, then Overload Fire (OLF) boosts our damage by 20%.
  • Choosing Tempest over Water or Arcana looses 5% to 10% damage depending on specs. Overall Tempest gives us a modest damage boost of roughly 10%.
  • The numbers don’t add up trivially because casting OLF takes away time from other skills.
Berserker Fire/Air/Tempest with OLF
7400 Staff Fire rotation
4900 Dagger/Focus Fire rotation
4800 Scepter/Focus Fire rotation
  • Other main-hand options do significantly less DPS for a basic Fire rotation. The main reason is that Lava Font (which we assume to be traited for recharge and duration) is very strong at 3700/s. Of course, there are other reasons and situations where D/F or C/F may be preferred.
  • Warhorn off-hand contributes less than Focus, mainly because the cooldowns are rather high, so we do not consider it here. May still make sense for its utility.
Berserker Fire/Air/Tempest with Fresh Air and OLA
7200 Staff Air-Fire rotation
6600 Dagger/x Air-Fire rotation
  • Overload Air (OLA) becomes strong with Fresh Air because we can cast it roughly every 10 seconds. Channel OLA, swap to Fire, cast a quick fire skill for damage, swap back to Air after the first critical hit. Or wait for OLF to come up, which gives similar damage, but fewer boons and is a little harder to land.
  • Overloads scale with weapon strength, so OLA on staff is 10% stronger than on scepter or dagger.
Condition damage builds

Now that conditions stack well, there no longer is a killer argument against condition builds in groups. The question is what sort of damage we can obtain. We focus on burn damage here.

Sinister Fire/Tempest
4900 Dagger/Focus Fire
1800 OLF
900 Signet of Fire
7100 Dagger/Focus with OLF and Signet of Fire
  • Tempest with OLF gives a damage boost of 25%. Signet of Fire is very strong against single targets.
  • We assume that all the ticks from fire fields that do burning actually hit. Damage from burn on crit is not included.
Sinister Fire/Tempest with OLF and SoF
7100 Dagger/Focus Fire rotation
7300 Scepter/Focus Fire rotation
7000 Staff Fire rotation
6200 Staff Earth rotation (bleeds instead of burning)
  • The different weapon sets give similar results, but almost 40% of the damage comes from OLF and SoF.
Dire Fire/Tempest with OLF and SoF
6300 Dagger/Focus Fire rotation
6400 Scepter/Focus Fire rotation
5400 Staff Fire rotation
  • One reason to use a condition build is that we can get Dire gear for a big increase in tankiness for a rather small loss in damage. For D/F, Dire gives 90% of the damage of Sinister while your effective health in Dire is at 260% compared to 100% for Sinister.
  • Soldier gear can play a similar role for direct damage builds, but compared to Berserker you loose significantly more damage. Both comparisons become less favorable when not assuming full might and fury, but Dire or other condition gear is still worth considering.
Comparison of direct damage and condition damage

The ballpark numbers above say that a standard Berserker/Fire build gets about 7000/s, and that a standard Sinister/Fire build also gets about 7000/s.
  • In practice, condition damage works far more slowly than direct damage. For up-front burst direct damage is easily two, three times more effective than condition damage. It used to be bleeds (very slow) compared to fast direct damage. Now it is burns (faster than bleeds) compared to direct damage that includes sources that tick over time (somewhat slower). As a very rough ballpark number, you may easily loose 50% of the longterm condition damage quoted above if the fights are too short for your slowly ticking burns/bleeds to make a difference.
  • However, I think condition builds for Ele cannot be ruled out simply because the base damage is bad. Condition damage can be comparable to Berserker. And damage falls-off more slowly when making a transition from Sinister to Dire than for Berserker to Soldier.
  • The direct damage is calculated for target armor of 2600, which is the tooltip/wiki default. However, does someone know what the average target armor is in PvE? The game seems balanced in the sense that for light armor of, say, 2000, direct damage is favored by 30%, and decreases against foes with higher armor, which favors condition damage. Some new content is designed to favor condition damage by large factors (Mordrem).
Big factors

Don’t take these numbers too seriously. There are several big factors that are much more relevant than a 10% or 20% difference in such estimates. Just a reminder:
  • Your skills have to hit. If you rely on Lava Font, Overload Fire or Flamewall, you only get full damage for mostly stationary targets.
  • Factor 1 to 5 depending on how many targets are involved.
  • Do you have fury and 25 might all the time? 25 vulnerability? Breakbar control? Alacrity etc?
  • Burst can be much more important than sustained damage, which is all we considered here.
  • Ranged, melee, and in between. It is a little strange that Staff is in many situations the best ranged weapon and the best melee weapon. Long-range can be much better than trying to go close-range with overloads.
  • Damage under pressure. If you have to dodge (say out of OLF), or move, or be rezzed, different skills are better at keeping your damage high.
Damage calculation

Most of the needed information can be found on the GW2 wiki.

Direct damage per second for various skills can be computed from the skill-fact damage given on the wiki, which is the tooltip damage at power 1000 without any other modifiers and assumes target armor 2600. Multiply the wiki number by (effective power/1000) and divide by the total casting time plus cooldown. The catch is that there is cast time and some after cast time, which people had to measure carefully.

Average direct damage is proportional to effective power, which includes the average damage from critical hits. For example, exotic Berserker equipment with full might and fury gives power 3039 and effective power 5271.

Example: For effective power 5271, we compute for Staff/Fireball that dps = 343 * 5.271 / 1.4s = 1291/s.

To compute total damage, we should add up the dps from each skill in an optimized skill rotation. Instead, you can use a quick and not too dirty estimate, the skill spammer. Assume that we cast all non-auto skills as often as we can and else we do the auto attack. We compute the total dps by adding up the different non-auto dps numbers, plus the dps from the auto-attack for the time that we are not busy casting the other skills.


These numbers are only rough estimates. They are no substitute for careful meta build crafting, but looking at ballpark numbers can point out interesting things to look into further. What I take away from all this is (for PvE):
  • The classic staff meta can be improved by perhaps 10% with Overload Fire.
  • Overload Air is an interesting alternative.
  • Condition builds do seem to be viable as well. This holds up in game play. From other posts, it would seem that condi Eles are outdamaged by Engis, and it would be nice to have actual numbers.
  • Heart of Thorns adds a lot of variety (and I love it!), but with regard to DPS the Elementalist lost more than was gained if you figure in the cut to Frost Bow 4. Once you get over that, Elementalist is still a fun class to play, with lots of utility and many damage options.
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Credits: [PvE] Tempest DPS mini guide by Abraxax