Recap Of Changes Since Heart Of Thorns

An ideal starting point for returning players who quit Guild Wars 2 in 2015 or soon after, this guide provides a brief recap of all major changes and new content leading up to present day.

Up to date as of Icebrood Saga Episode 5 – Champions, Chapter 4: Judgment.

  • New Features
  • PvE
  • PvP
  • WvW
  • Mechanics
  • Misc.

New Features

Build and gear templates

This long awaited feature finally made it in! Players can now swap their traits, skills and gear with a single click. Well, two clicks to be precise, as gear and build templates are separate features. Each character has 3 free build and 2 free equipment slots which should serve the more casual players just fine, while additional slots can be purchased through the gem store.

Equipment slots are not just for convenience, they also STORE the gear, removing it from your inventory even when the loadout is not active!

Legendary weapons

The entire set of Gen 2 Legendary weapons is now available for players to craft, and over the years the legendary system has been expanded in every way.

Legendary gear updates

Legendaries are now the ultimate convenience feature and exist in both armor and trinket form, not just as weapons. The stats on legendary gear can be swapped in just a few clicks provided that you are out of combat.

GW2 legendary weapon stat selection

Legendary upgrades

Even runes and sigils have legendary versions now. Once socketed into gear you’ll be able to transform them into any rune or sigil you like.

Elite specializations

Each profession has got a new elite specialization since HoT. To unlock them you must purchase the Path of Fire expansion. The complete list of elite specs can be found here.


Added in HoT, this features is now also available on WvW and core Tyria maps. War gliding (the WvW version) must be purchased through the WXP system and requires no PvE grind.


Mounts were a major selling point for PoF and serve as mobility tools beyond just providing a speed boost. A Skimmer may levitate above water surface, Springers can jump to crazy heights, and Raptors have no problem jumping over canyons, just to mention a few. With the exception of the Warclaw (a WvW mount), all mounts are designed for PvE. Mounts are banned from sPvP.

gw2 mounts

Ascended cooking

The Chef crafting discipline can now be increased to level 500 and is able to create a new tier of food of Ascended quality.

Rune and sigil salvaging

You no longer have to visit the vendor to sell your useless minor sigils after having salvaged a bunch of gear, now you can just salvage them with the gear!


Gathering tools may now be upgraded with Glyphs, allowing you to customize them and add extra functionality. For example Glyph of Industry increases gathering speed, while Glyph of Reaping allows for AoE harvesting. Most of them come from the gem store.


Instanced 5 man content

Dungeons have been sidelined in favor of Fractals, the new go-to endgame 5 man content. They scale up to level 100, getting progressively more difficult and requiring more and more agony resistance. Agony resistance for the most part comes from infusions which you slot into Ascended or Legendary quality armor.

Instanced 10 man content

Raids arrived to GW2 as the hardcore 10 man endgame content in Heart of Thorns with new wings containing multiple bosses getting released consistently until the Icebrood saga, after which they’ve been more or less replaced by Strike Missions.

The Lion’s Arch Aerodome serves as the raid hub.

Strike Missions are single boss encounters that are more beginner friendly than raids. Eye of the North now serves as a strike mission hub.

Living story and open world

Anet is continuing their Living World model, releasing free content every few months for players to enjoy.

Open world maps and singleplayer story content make up the bulk of these releases, but sometimes new PvP maps or PVE endgame content is also bundled with it. The maps and story chapters are unlocked for free permanently, provided you log in before the next release else you’ll have to buy them from the gem store.

Seasons 3-4 and the Icebrood saga are up for grabs in the store. We assume that you already own season 2 but if not, you can buy that too. 


New masteries keep getting added at a regular pace. Just like gliding, mounts are also tied to masteries.

Legendary gear

The entire set of Gen 2 Legendary weapons is now available for players to craft, and over the years the Legendary system has been expanded in every way. Now there are also weapon, trinkets, and new functionality attached to them.

Dragon Response Missions

DRMs are a new type of casual instanced content doable in party sizes of 1-5, accessible via the Asura Gate at the Eye of the North.


Division system

On HoT launch ArenaNet was using pips for tracking ranked progression both in terms of divisions and rewards. You needed to keep winning pips in order to climb divisions, and every X amount of pips you also got a reward. By losing games you could also lose pips.

This is a thing of the past. Divisions are now based solely on player MMR, making ranked more skill based and less of a grind. Pips are still a thing, but they are just another reward system. Playing ranked games grants you pips that you can no longer lose, and at certain thresholds you get rewards. The more you play during a season, the better your pip rewards are going to be.

Some of these pip rewards include new PvP currencies through which you can even craft Ascended/Legendary gear.

Division pvp system

At the start of each season players have to redo their 10 placement games before they are assigned a division. At the end of the season the top 250 players on the region will earn titles depending on their position, and these titles are the same each season. One must play at least 120 games over the course of the season to qualify for the top 250, that’s a minimum of 15 games per week.

Ranked arena

By far the most popular PvP format, ranked arena is for solo and duo players who want to climb the ladder and compete for titles, earning plenty of gold and even ascended tokens on the way. You must be at least rank 20 to queue for ranked, until then you should familiarize yourself with the combat in unranked. Ranked seasons are Conquest-only, but sometimes there is a special mini-season between Conquest seasons with other gamemodes.

ranked arena miniseason

Miniseasons and new gamemodes

Miniseasons take place between Conquest seasons and are meant to spice things up by allowing people to compete for unique titles in new gamemodes such as 2v2 and 3v3.

Automated tournaments

ATs are for groups of 5 who want to engage in the most competitive aspect of GW2. These tournaments open at various changing time slots each day. Playing in ATS can net quite a lot of gold as well as qualifying points for the prestigeous monthly tournament (mAT) which has its own unique rewards on an annual rotation.

GW2 automated daily and monthly tournament UI

PvP gear

PvP gear as its separate set of items and UI is no longer a thing. Instead you’ll be using the build and equipment template features to set both your PvE and PvP builds. There is a special toggle for PvP gear in the PvE equipment panel that lets you select an amulet (this contains nearly all your PvP stats) and your PvP runes/sigils.

sPvP is still all about even playing field, no PvE grind or unlocks required!

To read more about the PvP gear system, click here.


This casual game browser format is no longer popular. Some people play it to do their PvP dailies quickly and effortlessly, but that’s about it.


Participation, reward tracks

By killing players or taking objectives your WvW participation level goes up. To check your progress click the chest icon at the corner of the minimap. There are 6 tiers – the higher your participation tier is, the faster you’ll earn your rewards.

There is a decay built into the system: after a maximum of 10 minutes without earning any participation, it starts decaying and progressively gets worse. This is to prevent players from building participation and then going afk to leech rewards. A countdown on the green participation level bar shows when exactly will the decay start.

You can choose which reward track to progress in the Reward Tracks tab of the WvW menu.

Pip rewards

Based on the same participation system as the WvW reward tracks, this one is entirely passive and you don’t have to set anything. However your participation must be tier 3 or higher in order to be eligible for pips!

The amount of pips you earn per 5 minutes depends on things such as your wvw rank, your server’s standing in the current skirmish, whether you have completed wood tier in the previous week or not, but the biggest bonus comes from playing on a borderland where your server is outnumbered.

Gliding and Warclaw

These are absolute gamechangers and we strongly recommend you invest in these two masteries first. Both of them are must have mobility tools.

War gliding is tied to a simple mastery unlock but the mount is a bit more complicated. For more info on how to obtain the Warclaw, click here.

Mists Arena

Accessible from EotM, this arena was created for events organized by players, be it dueling or Guild vs Guild. This is a place where they can face off without taking up space on regular borderlands.

Territory system

Each camp, tower and keep now has a territory marker around it. Controlling a territory means that you gain permission to glide, your Warclaw mount travels faster, and you also gain stat bonuses of the guild that owns the land.

PvE bonuses removed

Your server’s performance in WvW no longer has an effect on PvE.


An update that’s going to fundamentally change WvW and move away from the server based system we currently have is already in development, it’s called alliances. There is currently no known release date however. For more details see the official announcement.


Guild Wars 2 combat mechanics recap


Invulnerability now also protects you from condition damage, even if the conditions are already on you. In the past it only prevented new conditions from being applied.


Taunt is a new condition which makes enemies run toward you, only being able to autoattack.


Resistance is a new boon which renders conditions ineffective.


A barrier is like a shield that soaks incoming damage and starts decaying after a couple of seconds if not consumed by damage. In a way barrier scales with vitality, as the maximum barrier amount on you can’t exceed 50% of your max HP. The bigger your base health pool is, the more barrier you can stack. Barrier is represented by a sand effect overlapping your upper HP bar plus a yellow number stating the exact amount.

GW2 Barrier mechanic illustrated


Skills with ammunition have extra charges. Ammunition 3 means the skill can be used 3 times before all the charges are consumed. When a charge is used, it immediately starts recharging, meanwhile you still have access to its other charges. Only one charge will be recharging at a time, you can’t use all 3 charges of an ammunition skills and expect them to recharge simultaneously.

Boon And Condition Reworks

Torment’s functionality has been reversed. This condition now deals extra damage to stationary foes and less damage to moving targets.

Retaliation is no more, Resolution took its place. Resolution works much like Protection, this boon reduces incoming condition damage by 33%.

Resistance now only works on debilitating conditions and doesn’t help with mitigating condition damage at all.


Guild Halls

While there are no new GH features, there are plenty of new decorations and a new GH was introduced with Path of Fire.

PvE, PvP, WvW balance split

The tree main segments of GW2 are now balanced separately to some extent. These balance differences are almost exclusively numerical, not functionality changes.