SWTOR 4.0 Defense Guardian PvE Guide by Artorias.[toc]
Intro to Defense Guardian
Defense Guardian is the defacto cooldown tank. With more cooldowns to offer than Shadow or Vanguard, Guardian combines in your face playstyle with damage control like no other. With the changes in 4.0, no situation is without a reprisal by the Defense Guardian.
Each challenge has recourses from your armory of defensives, so let’s get learning how to use them effectively, shall we?
The Defense Guardian’s utilities are both assisting and instrumental to how you tank. Some of these utilities can make or break aspects of your control of a fight both in terms of your influence on a boss and mechanics or control of your own damage intake. Wrong utilities can become problematic.
|Guardianship: Challenging Call protects all allies within range, excluding yourself, granting Guardianship, which absorbs a moderate amount of damage. Lasts 10 seconds.|
Select one of the following
Gearing and Stats Priority
With the change to a few stats, some big, some small, there are differences than back in 3.0 and before. Things are a bit crazy, especially with Tank stats.
As before defense is still the back bone of Defense, as one of your cooldowns benefits greatly and in tree buffs gain from this stat as well as other aspects of the class as well. Priority is as it was before
Defense > Shield > Absorb
With 4.0, defense is now present in all mods, meaning every mod in your gear now hold defense in the new tiers of gear in 4.0, meaning our best and more sought for stat is plentiful. What has now changed is Shield and Absorb, now both share the same stat slot in implants, ear and enhancements while Defense now sits in its own slot, constantly being stacked. TL;DR: All tank gear is very defense heavy now.
Goal to head towards in SM Deceived (216) gear: 2639 (0xAug) Defense | 1569 (9xAug) Shield | 973 (5xAug) Absorb
- Form: Soresu
- Augments: Unlike Healer or DPS, you won’t be using Mastery, Alacrity etc. for your augments. You’ll primarily be using Shield and Absorb due to how plentiful Defense is in the gear. You’ll need to adjust these two values as you upgrade your gear.
- Set Bonus: War Leader – 6 Piece (KOTFE Tier).
- Armorings: With Endurance now giving a large point-to-point gain, Guardian armorings are more viable in their gain than Mastery’s contribution to force healing which was not the case before.
- Mods: Warding Mods. These are the ones with defense in them.
- Enhancements: Immunity or Sturdiness enhancements (Absorb or Shield). You will be swapping these around along with augments due to upgrades or gear changes.
- Relics: Fortunate Redoubt (Defense Rating) and Reactive Warding (X amount of Absorb Shield).
What You need to Know
Defense Guardian hasn’t got the best passive mitigation of the tanks but to compensate for this, it has an array of soft and hard cooldowns to select from to reduce incoming damage in all situations as well as a new ability that assists in damage control. Unlike Shadow and Vanguard, there is no passive stack management you need to worry about, all buffs are used and expired in rotation, but it’s how often you can keep these buffs rolling without hitch that you can minimize damage intake without having to relly too strongly on your cooldowns.
Through rotation you will gain various buffs which will increase base stats such as Absorb and Defense as well as pure damage reduction. Again, how and when you use these abilities is up to you but the better your priority and usage, better control of damage you’ll have.
The following buffs are what will appear on your UI in rotation or situationally. Their presence (or lack there of) will show you how much control you have your damage intake.
The following debuffs are applied by you in rotation which will reduce your enemies effectiveness against you and other members of your group.
- Trauma: Targets damaged by Slash and CycloneSlash receive Trauma, reducing all healing received by 20%, lasts 6 seconds.
- Impaired: Targets damaged by Guardian Slash become Impaired, dealing 5% less Tech and Force damage to all enemies, lasts 45 seconds.
- Unsteady: Targets damaged by Force Sweep or Cyclone Slash become Unsteady, reducing Melee and Ranged accuracy by 5%, lasts 45 seconds.
Unsteady and Impaired should have a 100% uptime on your targets. Both are applied by AOE abilities, as such you can have them hit multiple adds in a situation to reduce their collective stopping power. Trauma will not be used in End Game besides maybe one fight.
Impaired will reduce the enemies effective abilities that you are unable to dodge while Unsteady will reduce the chance of the ones you can dodge from landing on you, cutting down their over all capability of harming you regardless of damage type.
The most important part of this guide behind your opener. Cooldowns are the identity of the Guardian and their proper use is what will show if you know what you’re doing. The usage of these abilities will require your knowledge of fights and judgement to decide which will be needed when. Pressing a random blue button for impending damage though effective is not as effective as pressing the right cooldown for the situation.
When opening a fight, your priority, above everything else is to ensure the boss focuses on you. What this means is to make sure you’re the target of the boss from the moment the fight starts to the moment it ends or you need to swap with your co-tank. How ever, when threat is secure, this priority shifts to a defensive one, certain abilities will change in priority from level of threat to contribution to lowering DTPS while dealing damage and building resource.
Above is the ideal opener for threat. Each ability from Guardian Slash until the first taunt is rated highest to lowest in threat. You can get away with using Warding Strike under a taunt window since it won’t cause you to lose aggro while your target is under the effects of your buff.
As for Dispatch if you feel secure enough not to need it in your opener for threat, you can scribble it off and skip over it, it’s nice added damage but it’s not entirely necessary, it does require you to take Ardent Advocate, so keep that in mind. I’ve also added the relevant buffs to their abilities above i.e. Blade Barrier (Snc) indicated by the blue buff above Blade Storm, the ability that grants it. This is just to get you familiar with what ability grants what buff.
When using Saber Reflect, it is deterministic when you use it, Daunting Presence does not grant the threat prior to taking damage from your engaged target. You must wait until you’ve taken damage to activate Saber Reflect for threat, or else it’ll generate zero. Saber Reflect grants an insane amount of threat and is off the GCD. How ever, like I mentioned above, you should save Reflect for required cooldown situations if it is required within the first minute or so. You can squeeze taunts together to be more cautious if this is the case. If you are going to taunt fluff (use taunts constantly to keep building threat and forcing the boss to attack you) be aware of any impending swaps or mechanics, last thing you want is to be unable to swap due to both taunts being on CD.
Guardian Slash grants the highest threat and also impaires your target, reducing their tech/force damage (dmg). This also enables Riposte for use, meaning you can pair it with your second highest threat generating ability, Hilt Bash. Riposte grants your Blade Barricade, increasing your Defense (Def). Following this is your third highest threat ability, Blade Storm, granting Blade Barrier (Bld). Dispatch is then used depending on your utility selection. Force Sweep is finally activated with Taunt, the former applying your Accuracy (Acc) debuff to the target. From there you use Warding Strike to gain your last two buffs, Warding Strike (dr) and Warding Power (Abs) and finally, Blade Dance is used, granting Defensive Swings (Def) meaning all your buffs are now in play and your threat is secure you are fortified.
You may be asking; “Why don’t I use saber throw?” The answer is that Saber Throw generates barely any threat, only a bit more than Force Leap. In 4.0, the Focus generation of the spec is massive and you do not need any more Focus than what Leap and Combat Focus grants. You’re delaying the Threat generation of your rotation by 1.5 seconds, which is all the room a DPS needs to rip aggro from you. Saber Throw does a lot more harm than good. It does have its use.
When Opening from range and letting the boss come to you rather than you to them (rare cases where this occurs example; Dread Master Tyrans, Revanite Commanders, The Dread Council). You substitute Saber Throw for Force Leap, you will build the exact same amount of Focus and do a small bit more threat in comparison. But there is only room for either your gap closer or a Saber Throw, not both.
When in the middle of a fight, you’ll be constantly using the below abilities. Pretty much on cooldown as they branch eachother out in the opener. You may be strained here and there for Focus which is when you’ll need to use Saber Throw or Stasis to gain extra resource when Warding Strike is on CD and you need to save Combat Focus for mechanics. The list below is your priority list for abilities if they are all off CD and you have resource to burn to use them all. The premise is to maintain your buffs, how ever if you have buffs active (such as Warding Strike) you can shift priority of it to below Guardian Slash since you have that buff. The duration (or lack) of the buff/debuff determines where in the rotation abilities like Warding Strike or Force Sweep lie.
1. Riposte (off the GCD, pair it with any of the following).
2. Blade Storm
3. Warding Strike
4. Blade Dance (Vs. Guardian Strike w/ 2-piece)
5. Guardian Strike
6. Force Sweep
7. Hilt Bash
9. Saber Throw
11. Force Stasis (If you need some resource for impending costs)
12. Force Push
The highlighted abilites above all contribute to DTPS. Whether it be weakening your target or strengthening you, they’re all important to ensuring your damage taken is as low as possible. For things like Guardian Slash with your set bonus, it is optimal to delay Blade Dance by a GCD to get the Set Bonus buff vs. delaying Guardian Slash by 2.7 seconds.
Your AOE priority depends on if Warding Strike is active, the reason for this is because Guardian Slash, your strongest and highest threat generating ability is only an AOE when Warding Strike is present. If Warding Strike is not present on you and you find yourself in an AOE situation where you need to gain threat quickly (so quickly that you can’t spare the GCD for Warding Strike), you need to use Force Sweep instead.
If you have an impending AOE situation arising, it’s ideal to shift Warding Strike to the top of your priority to gain the buff for the AOE requirement as such you’ll do more damage and have more snap threat on the targets.
Lastly, Blade Blitz is AOE, how ever due to the benefit of it as a defensive cooldown and the damage output, it’s best saved as a defensive tool versus offensive. Keep in mind it’s a directional AOE rather than centered around you or a target, as such you may not even hit all targets with it and the threat output will be even lower than Cyclone Slash.
Things to Know When Tanking
Tanks are like any other role, you need to know how it works before you step foot into an instance. When you’re leveling you should get an idea of how your rotation works i.e. buffs, gaining stacks, what CD’s affect what abilities/damage and so on.
Becoming a tank is not impossible but difficult if you are not ready to learn the basic mechanics of combat. A tank first of all should sit down and look at the class they’re playing as many of the tanks diversify in play style, not by a lot but enough that each tank will feel unique, which is good. To get a better idea of how your tank operates, again look at your skill tree and buffs, even the tank specs tell you how you should be gearing also: Defense Guardian, Shield Specialist Vanguard and so on. But regardless let’s start from scratch.
Learn about threat. It is the mechanic which the entire premise of tanking is based upon. Your job as a tank is to control the boss and make it that the other roles can do their job without having to worry about survival or positioning. Threat is what determines if the boss is looking at you or them, make sure you and your co-tank are the top of the aggro table. Taunt and your rotation determine your aggro and the effectiveness of your rotation will determine how solid your threat is, hence why you see people discussing; AOE threat, high threat opener etc. It’s so they can ensure that upon engaging a target, that target will be fixated on them from beginning to end. And for the love of Lana Beniko’s butt use Target of Target! (Enable it in UI Editor)
(It’s a tiny portrait of who ever the boss is looking at. If it’s not looking at you when it should be, something is wrong.)
Learn about basic mechanics of fights and how to work with them. Fights in this game are not too different from one another. You’ll need to swap, reposition, kite, aim frontal cones away from the raid and pick up adds. If you master these points then you can adapt to almost any fight.
Try and get a feel of when to use your cooldowns. Using Saber Ward then beginning the fight is the worst thing you can do. Cooldowns are not there to make you remain at 100% for the opening of a fight, they’re there mostly to bounce back from a huge spike or incoming spike. Popping them when damage intake is low so you can maintain a 85%> HP is not needed. I follow a typical priority. Soft cooldowns at sub 70% (Adrenal, Enure, Focused Defense etc.) and hard cooldowns (Ward, Warding Call) at sub 50% or there abouts if damage is continuous on me.
Learn to use Guard effectively and why it is used on certain targets. There is a reason for everything when tanking, DPS always get guarded. DPS are guarded NOT for the Damage Reduction, it’s used for the 25% threat output reduction so you do not lose aggro.
Know when to taunt and when not to taunt. If you’re the main tank, taunting to gain some added threat is fine, but taunting off your co-tank when they’re holding the boss if you are not asked or it is unjustified should never be done.
Lastly, don’t take advice with salt. Tanking takes work, you will make mistakes, a lot. But bounce back from them, accept them and better yourself. Don’t be deluded and think that a DPS pulling aggro is their fault or you not kiting a boss into a mechanic correctly was due to a bug. If you admit your mistakes, you will become a good tank, if you blame everyone but you, then you’ll get no where. Don’t try to make it like your way is the right way. Tanking can diverse in how it is played, you can change your priorities to fit how you want to play. Play what works for you, so long as bosses die and you don’t get your raid killed, job done.