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Introduction to the Thief

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Thief is a medium armor profession that focuses on dispatching your opponents quickly and (sometimes) quietly, using evasiveness and stealth as your defensive tools, and using your opponent’s strengths against them. Weapons of the thief include Daggers, Pistols, a Sword, and a Short Bow.

Most of your weapons will offer a mix of power damage and conditions applied, and even purely power damage weapons can be used in condition builds due to some trait interaction.

Your utility skills can be used for more damage, making yourself and your allies invisible, and dodging/reacting to the enemy’s attacks. In this guide, you will learn what it means to become a master of stealth, sneak attacks, and maneuverability with the following topics.

If you don’t know anything about Guild Wars 2 profession, and you maybe are looking for a short comparison, check out our introductory guides:

Profession mechanics

Thief is a relatively squishy class, thus you will be relying on stealing, stealthing, blinding, and weakening your opponents. Your attacks are based on “initiative” and don’t have a cooldown, and your one-hand weapons create powerful dual-wield skills.

Stealing and Stolen Skills

The Thief’s first profession-specific mechanic is your F1 skill: Steal. When cast, it will teleport you to a target within the 1,200 range and give you access to a stolen skill via F2 by default.

In the Open World, the stolen skill you receive will be unique to the type of creature you are stealing from. In PvP and WvW content, the stolen skill you receive will always be the same depending on what profession you steal from. Here are a few that may pop up as you adventure in Tyria:

Blinding Tuft: AoE blind and stealth

Skull Fear: AoE unblockable fear

Consume Plasma: Recieve all boons in the game

Initiative

Another profession-specific mechanic is a resource called Initiative. Normally, every profession in Guild Wars 2 has cooldowns attached to their weapon skills (skills 1-5).

Thief trades individual weapon cooldowns for initiative requirements, which recharges at a static rate of 1 per second, and this can not be changed in any way.

Each weapon skill has an individual initiative cost assigned to it, and you can recast the same skill over and over again until you don’t have more initiative.

Utility skills do not have initiative costs and have individual skill cooldowns, but there are some skills that can help you generate more initiative in case you run low.

Dual-Wield skills

Normally, every profession in Guild Wars 2 has three skills associated with their main-hand weapon (skills 1-3), two with their off-hand weapon (skills 4-5), and obviously all five skills with two-hand weapons.

If you are using two weapons, your skill 3 will change depending on both of weapons.

Thieves have the unique mechanic that’s changing weapon skill 3 depending on which weapons you have in your main-hand and off-hand slots.

For example, while you wield a sword as your main-hand and pistol off-hand your #3 skill will Pistol Whip, but if you’ll change your off-hand to dagger, #3 skill will change to Flanking Strike.

Dual-Wield skills are usually most powerful from your weapon skills arsenal.

Stealth Attacks

Another source of powerful damage are stealth attacks, Thief’s profession-specific mechanic.

Your weapon skill 1 is normally an auto-attack, but while in Stealth, it will instead change to a one-time usable stealth attack.

Sword: Tactical Strike

Dagger: Backstab

Pistol: Sneak Attack

Short Bow: Surprise Shot

Once you use a stealth attack or another skill that damages the enemy, you will receive the Revealed debuff.

If you are Revealed, you can not re-enter stealth until the debuff wears off, so make sure you are able to survive while Revealed.

Skills

Venoms

When using a venom skill, your next few weapon attacks against a target will have a bonus effect. The Venom utility skills are instant cast while the heal and elite venoms have a cast time.

  

Venom skills are a very popular pick for end-game condition-based builds, and Basilisk Venom is being picked very often on fights that require breaking the Defiance bar as it’s shared with allies around you, dealing massive defiance damage total.

Deceptions

Deception skills are all about using Stealth, Blinded, or mobility to your defensive (sometimes offensive) advantage. If you feel that you need more survivability when fighting in the open world, slotting in more deception skills will help.

   

Among Deception skills you have two Stunbreaks in form of Shadowstep and Blinding Powder, skills that will break you free from “hard” Crowd Control effects like knockback, in addition, Shadowstep is great movement and escape skill.

An interesting fact about Shadow Refuge is it will reveal you if you’ll step outside of it early.

In Deception skills, one of the greatest strengths in Open World is Blinded which will protect you from enemy attacks.

Thieves Guild's thieves will always consist of one with dual-pistols, one with dual-daggers, and one with just a main-hand sword on a core thief.

Preparations

Preparations are similar to traps used by other professions like Ranger and Dragonhunter, but Thief instead triggered when enemy will step inside the area, Thieves have full control of activating them with “flip skill” offering much more flexibility. There is no healing Preparation.

Outside Prepare Thousand Needles, Preparations are not popular picks in end-game builds because they offer a low reward for relatively high cast time and high cooldown.

Prepare Shadow Portal is often used situationally to teleport players around, even in some end-game encounters, but because it has a limit of 5 ports, Mesmer portal is much more popular pick.

Signets

Signets have two parts to them: a passive and an active effect. The passive effect will be active as long as the Signet is equipped and not on cooldown.

Once activated, Signet will apply its active effect for a short duration, at the cost of disabling the passive bonus until the cooldown will finish.

   

Thief’s signets are very good skills used in multiple game modes. For Open World, of the greatest healing skills for a Thief is Signet of Malice, in conjunction with Invigorating Precision you will be healed ridiculously fast as long as you keep attacking.

Assassin's Signet and Signet of Agility are commonly used in most power damage builds, and contrary to most sigils across different professions that are usually only taken for their passive effects, Assassin's Signet is actively used in sync with your highest damage abilities due to extremely high Power it adds.

Tricks

Tricks are all skills that help change the position of your opponent or yourself, allowing them to take more damage or deal less/no damage to you.

  

Due to the “trickery” nature of this type of skill, they are not very appealing in PvE in general, be that instanced content or Open World.

They are used in competitive game modes though, Withdraw is a very strong evasion and condition cleanse skill on a very low cooldown, making it a great heal skill for PvP.

Dagger Storm is typically not taken for the damage it offers, but for the very long evasion window it offers, making it a very good disengage skill for competitive mods

For Open World play, Haste is one of the best Tricks you can pick, relatively long Quickness on a short cooldown makes it a great engage skill.

Specializations

The Deadly Arts trait line is focused on a mix of power damage, condition damage, and utility. Thanks to the mix of the power and condition enhancements, it’s often selected for most offensive Thief builds.

Condition builds will often use 321 traits in Deadly Arts (Deadly Ambition, Panic Strike, Potent Poison), while power builds will tend to use 133 traits (Dagger Training, Revealed Training, Executioner).

Traits that offer utility include Mug, Even the Odds, and Improvisation.

The Critical Strikes trait line is all about power damage, large damage numbers via critical hits, the Fury boon, and some minor utility as well.

The most popular traits in this line include Twin Fangs, Practiced Tolerance, No Quarter, and making 321 traits the most popular pick.

Great Open World traits here are Assassin's Fury offering a huge Might boost, and insane self-sustain trait Invigorating Precision.

Signets of Power is extremely useful during fights with a large number of enemies if you like to use signets, which will now give you bonuses when you kill something.

Shadow Arts mainly focuses on improving Stealth by adding healing, condition cleanses, or conditions to it.

While most traits are defensive, some offer life stealing (Shadow Siphoning, Cloaked in Shadow, Leeching Venoms), which not only will heal you but will increase your damage, as life stealing is treated as an additional damage source.

If you are with a group of people who lack sustain on their builds, you can choose to heal/support them with traits like Shielding Restoration, Shadow Savior, and Cover of Shadow. If an enemy you are facing gives itself boons regularly, you can always take Rending Shade to remove them and potentially fear your target.

This specialization is rarely picked in the end-game PvE as there is usually no real need in using Stealth. It is however useful in competitive game modes, where Thieves often heavily rely on Stealthing.

In Open World you might find it useful in Dungeons to improve your stealthy traversing between objectives, or as a defensive tool when dealing with particularly dangerous enemies.

The Acrobatics trait line is, arguably, your most selfish specialization. Everything here revolves around dodging using endurance, evading using utility, and weapon skills.

In general, Acrobatics is the least used specialization in the game for Thieves because you can gain the same benefits through other more controllable methods.

In Open World, a niche use case might be when fighting a particularly tough enemy with well-telegraphed attacks. Extremely high Vigor uptime from Feline Grace and Vigorous Recovery with enhanced endurance regeneration via Endless Stamina can make you very evasive even in a long fight.

Trickery is a great specialization for general Thief play. All minor traits (Kleptomaniac, Preparedness, and Lead Attacks) are very powerful for both Power and Condition-based builds, but you also have multiple options to make Steal infinitely better with the boon generation or conditions applied while stealing.

The most popular all-purpose setup with trickery is 312 ( Thrill of the Crime, Bountiful Theft, and Sleight of Hand) for the Steal recharge reduction plus the generation of Might, Fury, Swiftness, and Vigor.

If you wish to deal more damage with your conditions, you can instead go with 133 (Uncatchable, Pressure Striking, and/or Deadly Ambush).

Hidden Mechanics

Any skill that you can reactivate to return to a previous location such as the utility skill Shadowstep and the sword 2 skill Infiltrator's Strike will cleanse a number of conditions off of you on return. The weapon skill can be spammed to trigger multiple cleanses in this manner, so make sure to take advantage of that if you use Infiltrator's Strike on a sword.

All of your Venom skills, upon activation, will be applied to up to 4 additional nearby targets. In addition, any conditions that are applied by your allies using your Venoms will deal damage relative to your condition damage stat, not the other person’s. Make sure to activate your Venoms in close proximity (240 radius) of your allies, especially while using Basilisk Venom to break the enemy’s Defiance Bar.

There are some stolen skills that can be utilized in more than the ways listed in the tooltip. In addition, not all of the stolen skills you can generate during a fight with multiple different types of enemies will be useful in your situation. Through practice and repetition, you should be able to get a grasp of which stolen skills are useful and how they can be used in different ways. For example, the stolen skill Healing Seed not only gives you condition cleanses and Regeneration, but it also spawns a water field for you to use combo finishers with.

Some stolen skills in end-game content like Detonate Plasma or Throw Magnetic Bomb,  are unique to a few encounters and give very powerful effects, making Thief very useful there.

Gameplay Tips

Using skills that grant you Stealth is not the only way to conceal yourself from the enemy.

Effective use of combo fields and combo finishers  (explained in more detail in the Game mechanics guide) can get you out in a pinch, apply buffs to yourself, and harm your enemies in many ways.

While not unique to the Thief, “Blasting Stealth” is commonly done by or with this profession as they have very good access to Smoke Combo Fields. you can use Blast finishers like Cluster Bomb on your short bow into the Smoke Field created with Smoke Screen or Black Powder, this will apply Stealth to all allies standing in the field.

You can also give Stealth to only yourself by using Leap Finishers in the Smoke Field. Spamming Heartseeker in a Smoke Field (ideally against the wall), is a very common way of stacking long Stealth duration shortly before engaging an enemy in competitive game modes like PvP or WvW.

To supplement your ability to hide in the shadows, Thieves’ movement skills are unparalleled in the game.

This is especially useful in competitive game modes, where taking the enemy by surprise can create an enormous advantage.

Movement skills include Shadowstep, Infiltrator's Arrow, Infiltrator's Strike, Infiltrator's Signet, and your profession mechanic Steal.


If you are ready to start playing this profession, we recommend a starter build that was created to help with the traditional leveling experience of the core profession.

If you are looking for more builds for all game modes, make sure to check your build guides.

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