Vitality vs Toughness

 Posted by on October 31, 2012  Guides, Guild Wars 2
Oct 312012

Having looked before at the offensive attributes Power and Precision, it’s time to turn the microscope on Vitality and Toughness. If you haven’t read the post on Power vs Precision I suggest you do as I’m going to be building a little on the theory.

A dose of reality

Vitality raises your character’s health by 10 per point, while Toughness reduces the effect of direct damage. Because they affect survivability in different ways, in order to compare the two accurately you need to take a different approach to just comparing raw numbers. Really, when it comes to survivability the only thing that matters is how many attacks your character can take before it is chomping on the dirt, and that means creating a hypothetical attacker. Our attacker will be similar to the one we created for the Power vs Precision article, with 1000 weapon damage, a skill multiplier of 2 and a Power level of 1500 (I consider this around average) with no additional Precision or Critical Damage. Just as before, actual results will vary!

The damage that this attacker does to your character is related to Armor, which is the sum of Defence (from your actual armor) and Toughness. As a result, the amount of damage taken by a character will depend on their profession type – Scholar, Adventurer or Soldier. The number of times a character can sustain damage will depend on character health, and therefore Vitality. Unfortunately, the amount of base health of a character isn’t broken down by armor class, but on the following table.

Professions Base health, level 80 Base health+vitality, level 80
Warrior, Necromancer 9,212 18,372
Engineer, Ranger, Mesmer 5,922 15,082
Guardian, Thief, Elementalist 1,645 10,805

This means that Elementalists, Mesmers and Necromancers will all survive a different number of times for the same hit, so we’ll have to break down survivability by profession. And because no character is going to survive 100 hits before taking a dirt nap, we’ll have to break normal and critical hits apart.


When it comes to improving Vitality and Toughness, there are a few options available to players. The clearest ones are through traits, and it’s possible through sacrificing points in other lines to push both Vitality and Toughness to +300. There are also options through armor, jewellery, runes and more.

Overall I’ve calculated that any character should be able to get an additional 1095 Toughness through prioritising it through traits, armor, jewellery and runes, and an additional 751 Toughness through minor attributes on armor and jewellery and pushing the traits. In a similar way, it’s possible to get an extra 780 Vitality through traits, armor and runes (there are no jewellery pieces with primary Vitality) and 751 through minor attributes on armor and jewellery and with traits. You may be able to squeeze another 30 or so points somewhere but that’t nothing to write home about.

However, it’s important to note that just because you could push all your gear towards survivability it may not be advantageous to. The first line of defense is always to not get hit, which you can do for free by using appropriate positioning, skills and dodges. Also, if an enemy is dead it can’t kill you – it’s no good surviving if you can’t take anything down! But more on that later; let’s get to the maths!


Here’s the data on how many hits all the professions can take from our imaginary attacker.

Profession Health Armor Standard Attack % of total Hit count Critical Attack % of total Hit Count
Elementalist 10805 1836 1,634 15.12% 7 2,451 22.68% 5
with Secondary Toughness 10805 2587 1,160 10.73% 10 1,739 16.10% 7
with Primary Toughness 10805 2931 1,024 9.47% 11 1,535 14.21% 8
Mesmer 15082 1836 1,634 10.83% 10 2,451 16.25% 7
with Secondary Toughness 15082 2587 1,160 7.69% 14 1,739 11.53% 9
with Primary Toughness 15082 2931 1,024 6.79% 15 1,535 10.18% 10
Necromancer 18372 1836 1,634 8.89% 12 2,451 13.34% 8
with Secondary Toughness 18372 2587 1,160 6.31% 16 1,739 9.47% 11
with Primary Toughness 18372 2931 1,024 5.57% 18 1,535 8.36% 12
Thief 10805 1980 1,515 14.02% 8 2,273 21.03% 5
with Secondary Toughness 10805 2731 1,098 10.17% 10 1,648 15.25% 7
with Primary Toughness 10805 3075 976 9.03% 12 1,463 13.54% 8
Engineer, Ranger 15082 1980 1,515 10.05% 10 2,273 15.07% 7
with Secondary Toughness 15082 2731 1,098 7.28% 14 1,648 10.93% 10
with Primary Toughness 15082 3075 976 6.47% 16 1,463 9.70% 11
Guardian 10805 2127 1,410 13.05% 8 2,116 19.58% 6
with Secondary Toughness 10805 2878 1,042 9.65% 11 1,564 14.47% 7
with Primary Toughness 10805 3222 931 8.62% 12 1,397 12.93% 8
Warrior 18372 2127 1,410 7.68% 14 2,116 11.52% 9
with Secondary Toughness 18372 2878 1,042 5.67% 18 1,564 8.51% 12
with Primary Toughness 18372 3222 931 5.07% 20 1,397 7.60% 14

So overall, raising Toughness by 750 points allows characters to take between 3 and 4 more normal hits and around 2 more critical hits. Prioritising Toughness will only help against 1 or 2 additional critical or normal hits. Considering the sacrifice in Power output, that doesn’t seem a very good trade off to me!


Again here’s the data on surviving our imaginary attacker

Profession Health Armor Standard Attack % of total Hit count Critical Attack % of total Hit Count
Elementalist 10805 1836 1,634 15.12% 7 2,451 22.68% 5
with Secondary Vitality 18315 1836 1,634 8.92% 12 2,451 13.38% 8
with Primary Vitality 18605 1836 1,634 8.78% 12 2,451 13.17% 8
Mesmer 15082 1836 1,634 10.83% 10 2,451 16.25% 7
with Secondary Vitality 22592 1836 1,634 7.23% 14 2,451 10.85% 10
with Primary Vitality 22882 1836 1,634 7.14% 15 2,451 10.71% 10
Necromancer 18372 1836 1,634 8.89% 12 2,451 13.34% 8
with Secondary Vitality 25882 1836 1,634 6.31% 16 2,451 9.47% 11
with Primary Vitality 26172 1836 1,634 6.24% 17 2,451 9.36% 11
Thief 10805 1980 1,515 14.02% 8 2,273 21.03% 5
with Secondary Vitality 18315 1980 1,515 8.27% 13 2,273 12.41% 9
with Primary Vitality 18605 1980 1,515 8.14% 13 2,273 12.22% 9
Engineer, Ranger 15082 1980 1,515 10.05% 10 2,273 15.07% 7
with Secondary Vitality 22592 1980 1,515 6.71% 15 2,273 10.06% 10
with Primary Vitality 22882 1980 1,515 6.62% 16 2,273 9.93% 11
Guardian 10805 2127 1,410 13.05% 8 2,116 19.58% 6
with Secondary Vitality 18315 2127 1,410 7.70% 13 2,116 11.55% 9
with Primary Vitality 18605 2127 1,410 7.58% 14 2,116 11.37% 9
Warrior 18372 2127 1,410 7.68% 14 2,116 11.52% 9
with Secondary Vitality 25882 2127 1,410 5.45% 19 2,116 8.17% 13
with Primary Vitality 26172 2127 1,410 5.39% 19 2,116 8.08% 13

Overall, raising Vitality by 750 points allows characters to take 4 or 5 more normal hits than a normal character, and around 3 or 4 critical hits. Because there’s such a small difference between prioritising Vitality and having it as a secondary attribute (around 30 points, or 300 health), being attacked by someone with this amount of power makes very little difference and may only allow you to survive one more attack. Again, this seems like an extreme trade off.

Comparing the two

So it looks like points in Vitality go further than points in Toughness and in many ways this is actually true. Toughness only affects direct damage and has no effect on damage from conditions at all, so even if you do have several thousand toughness, you might not survive very long if you get bleeding, burning and poison stacked on you. This is where Vitality shines, because it will help you survive condition stacks for longer.

However, as your character face foes with higher amounts of Power and Precision, Toughness will reduce the damage these foes can do allowing what health you have to effectively go further. It’s not enough to only look to raise Vitality as you’ll find your health will disappear quickly against heavy hitters and you’ll be unable to heal effectively unless you look at raising Healing Power.

Choosing your equipment

Like so much in Guild Wars 2, you’re going to be making a compromise when it comes to choosing equipment and that brings up the big question of how much survivability is enough. Every second you’re fighting is a second you can use to cause damage and apply conditions to the enemy, move to a more favourable position, heal, remove a condition or get an ally involved to help. Your skill, the weapons you like and the utilities and traits you want to use will play into assessing this.

While I do play mesmer primarily which has lots of movement options, I consider surviving around 12 hits to be enough on any of the professions I play regularly (warrior, elementalist). This does mean that the gear I want will be different on all of them. For example I may be able to “get away” with just having offensive gear on my warrior, but since I like having money that isn’t spent on repair bills, I’ll have to consider something different on my elementalist.

Ultimately, the equipment you choose is going to come down to the options supplied to you by the game. And at this point I’ll bring up the post that started this all off which is designed to help you understand your options and make an informed choice – Attributes and Equipment in Guild Wars 2.

Hopefully you found this helpful. If you have any questions, please do leave me a comment below or stalk me on Twitter.

  3 Responses to “Vitality vs Toughness”

  1. I’ve figured this out all by myself 😛 I managed to get the hang of this one day and start applying it to my elementalist.
    But it’s nice to see stats and what not, thank you for the helpful advice 🙂

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Both this article and the power vs precision article are great. You give enough information and numbers for the math challenged to work with ;).

    Question: Between the two forms of damage, direct vs condition damage, which seems to be more effective? I guess it is highly class dependent but I’m just wondering what are your thoughts.

  3. Like you said, it’s very class dependant and even weapon dependant.

    For example, on my mesmer in PvE I like to use sword + pistol and staff. With my utility skills there’s only one thing on my bar to be guaranteed to benefit from condition damage – the second shatter skill which causes confusion. My clones and other skills may never stack a poison or a confusion on a target. As a result, I’ve chosen to stack on Power (around 2100) and boost my survivability a bit. It works and I can drop things pretty quickly as well as take the odd punch. (I’m not happy with this setup in WvW though)

    In PvP though, confusion is very effective so I switch to a scepter + pistol, sword + torch setup. I now have at least 4 sources of confusion, most of them resulting in multiple stacks so I’ve pushed up Condition Damage (650) and Power (1800). And even though confusion will only use 15% of the Condition Damage value and then have it’s damage halved by the format, it’s still over 100 damage per stack and slightly amusing watching people kill themselves by panic while they’re trying to work out which is the real you.

    Bloodlust aside, it really does depend on your profession and your weaponry. If you can count 3 or more sources of Bleed, Burning, Poison or Confusion on your favourite bar, I’d definitely recommend having some condition damage.

    The only other advice I’d give is that it’s great if you can generate 25 stacks of burning, but what happens when you start hitting a target alongside someone else who can do the same? One of you will be useless as you can only stack any condition up to 25 times. This is where having direct damage is an advantage.

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