Welcome to this guide to the basic profession mechanic of attunements for the Guild Wars 2 Elementalist. The swapping of attunements substitutes the ability of the Elementalist to switch weapons during combat. With a weapon swap, e.g. a Necromancer has the possibility to use 10 different weapon skills in combat (5 from the first and 5 from the second weapon). The Elementalist has just one weapon, but four attunement, which allow him to chose from a pool of 20 weapon skills.
The drawback to this advantage is the fact that an Elementalist is limited to the same "range category" within the attunements. While Warrior has a Longbow for ranged attacks and a hammer for melee, the Elementalist is always keeping his range, e.g. long range with the staff.
How are the attunements and the swapping of them affecting your game play?
Once you swap out of an attunement, the ability to switch back is delayed by a cool down with a recharge timer. The cool down is 15 seconds, which can be reduced by putting trait points into Arcana (see the [Basics] Trait thread or the sticky Introduction thread for further details). Each trait point in Arcana reduces the cool down by 1% (with a maximum of 30% for 30 trait points in Arcana)
As a rule of thumb, every 5 points in Arcana reduces the cool down of the attunement by one second. A five to six second improvement does not look like a big deal (but you have to keep in mind trait points in Arcana come with other benefits as well, like applying boons to yourself and allies) but to somebody who swaps strategically, it can make a difference.
But even with high Arcana, you can not use an Element, fire off one skill, swap to the next attunement, cast a spell and switch back to the original attunement! How will this affect the game play of the Elementalist? Lets take a look at some theory-crafted examples of point allocation and play style.