5.0 Class Guides SWTOR

SWTOR 5.0 Shield Specialist Vanguard PvE Guide By Yam’unun

SWTOR 5.0 Shield Specialist Vanguard PvE Guide by Yam’unun


Intro to 5.0 Shield Specialist

Launching into the fray with a jetpack-propelled attack and able to withstand powerful offenses, the Vanguard trained in the Shield Speciliast specification takes the brunt of the assault while employing a wide range of tech-based attacks to scorch and trip up even the most formidable adversaries.”

The Shield Specialist Discipline of the Vanguard AC is one of the 3 tank Disciplines in Swtor. With 5.0 it has gone through some rough times having lost almost  the rest of its ranged abilities and nerfs to Adrenaline and Riot Gas. While gaining nothing new while playing the same in 5.0 and compared to the strength of Shadow tanks right now, it is in the right hands more than capable of clearing the most difficult content in the game.


  • Threat Generation: 9/10
  • Mitigation: 7/10
  • Damage: 6/10

5.0 Changes

Compared with 4.0, with 5.0 all classes are going through several changes that will affect how the classes play down to their core level.

Universal Changes

With 5.0 all base classes will be removed from the game and characters starting from level 1 will have be choosing an Advanced Class and choosing a Spec at level 10. Utilities also have been reworked with not only change but an additional Legendary tier of utilities including new ones. Also all abilities for melee classes will be instant including VG with very few channeled abilities that can be used on the move.

VG Shield Specialist Changes

Base Class abilities have been mostly reworked with the VG. Pulse Cannon has been replaced with Ion Squall which has been removed from the game. Mortar Volley has been replaced with the new Artillery Sticky Grenade with Flak Shell. These two old abilities will be now exclusive to the Commando class.

Gearing and Stats


Listed Below are the Optimal Numbers as suggested by Bant’s Theory Crafting. This is his work and indebted for it (Source: BantsThreadonSWTORForum)

Iokath MK-5, Tier 3: Legendary (242 ilvl)

73.42% Reduction | 7379 Endurance (2xC, Stim) | 6714 Mastery | 910 Power | 3793 Defense | 2201 Shield (7xE, 6xA) | 1413 Absorb (3xE, 8xA)

Iokath MK-3, Tier 3: Artifact (240 ilvl)

73.12% Reduction | 7067 Endurance (2xC, Stim) | 6451 Mastery | 910 Power
3605 Defense | 2138 Shield (8xE, 4xA) | 1370 Absorb (2xE, 10xA)

Eternal Commander MK-15, Tier 2: Legendary (236 ilvl)

72.84% Reduction | 6924 Endurance (2xC, Stim) | 6315 Mastery | 910 Power
3523 Defense | 2102 Shield (9xE, 2xA) | 1352 Absorb (1xE, 12xA)

Eternal Commander MK-13, Tier 2: Artifact (234 ilvl)

72.52% Reduction | 6634 Endurance (2xC, Stim) | 6065 Mastery | 910 Power
3337 Defense | 2100 Shield (10xE, 1xA) | 1248 Absorb (13xA)

Eternal Commander MK-3, Tier 1: Artifact (230 ilvl)

72.14% Reduction | 6382 Endurance (2xC, Stim) | 5830 Mastery | 910 Power
3183 Defense | 2015 Shield (9xE, 3xA) | 1237 Absorb (1xE, 11xA)

Notes about numbers: Numbers are based on modeling and therefore have limitations. Use with a grain of salt. Gearing is based on maximizing mitigation but due to extreme amount of defense use of either Warding B mods or even Lethal B or Lethal Mods is preferred.

Set Bonus

Set Bonus: Supercommando

  • 2 Piece: 2% Damage Reduction when Energy Blast is activated
  • 4 Piece: Activating Shock Strike Reduces CD of Taunt and AoE taunt by 2 seconds
  • 6 Piece:Increases Duration of Riot Gas by 3 Seconds and Reactive Shield by 4 Seconds

Stats and Gearing Methods

Now I will not say their is only one way and if not you will never clear anything as you might expect from a guide as long as you gear have proper item level, no fight will really come down to how min maxed you did your tank. Unless you forgot to budget a stat entirely or forgot to put your gear on (Hey it happens :D).

That said here are some generally agreed upon ranges of stats people use

  • Shield: 1800-2100
  • Absorb: 1300-1600
  • For VG Shield>Absorb>Defense

I leave out defense as the amount of defense is far over the limit needed.

Mitigation Build vs Higher HP Build

Higher HP build whereby mostly defense is traded for HP is gained through any combination of B Mods, Bulwark/Bastion enhancements or DPS relics because they have HP.I personally lean towards more HP for my builds to counter spikes since it’s mostly trading defense for HP and many spike attacks aren’t countered by defense. Unfortunately BW has decided that BiS is only unlettered so you will have to go with less than BiS Mods and Enhancements for HP.


Credit to Jaymis for writing these out already thus saving my fingers and for the simple idea of making it a table. His 5.0 Pyro Guide can be found here . (Recommended Utilities are bolded.)



Iron WIll:
Reduced the cooldown of Tenacity by 30 seconds and the cooldown of Hold the Line by 10 seconds.

Hydros are your bread and butter for VG tanking from speed to ignoring lots of physic mechanics it is handy. Especially with the CD increase in 4.0


Reflective Armor: When Into the Fray is triggered, it will also deal X elemental damage to the attacker if the attacker is within 10 meters.

Free Damage when attacked by AOE is useful when not a lot of adds and bosses with AOE or cleaves.


Muzzle Augs: Increases the range of Ion Pulse and Magnetic Blast by 2 meters and the radius of Explosive Surge by 1 meter

Mostly worthless as a tank you will for the most part be in 4m range and its only 2 meters now


Shrap Satchel: Increases Explosive Surge damage by 25%

Good for AOE heavy fights


Entangling Tools: Ion Pulse and Explosive Surge reduce the movement speed of affected targets by 25% for 3 seconds. Additionally, Neural Dart slows the target by 50% for 6 seconds.

PVP Utility


Parallactic Combat Stims: You recharge 20 energy cells when stunned, immobilized, knocked down or otherwise incapacitated. Additionally your next Tech ability deals 10% extra damage or healing.

Mostly PVP utility with little situational PVE use as a tank



Battlefield Training: Increases in combat movement speed by 15%

Very Useful as a tank especially on with lots of movement and kiting


Sonic Rebounder: Sonic Round protects all friendly targets in its area of impact, excluding you, granting Sonic Rebounder, which reflects the next direct, single-target attack back at the attacker.

Very useful as this is your raid utility. Helps reflect damage and reduce incoming damage.


Electro Shield: When activated, your Reactive Shield ignites in a blaze scorching attackers for X elemental damage when they deal direct damage to you. This effect cannot occur more than once each second.

Free Damage for pushing a phase faster


Containment Tactics: Reduces the cooldown of Cryo Grenade by 15 seconds.

PvP Utility


Accelerated Real: Reduces the cooldown of Harpoon by 10 seconds.

PvP Utility with situational use on Revanite Commanders


Frontline Defense: Reduces the cooldown of Riot Strike by 2 seconds.

Useless Utility



Strategic Supremacy: Harpoon immobilizes the target for 3 seconds. In addition the cooldown of Stealth Scan is reduced by 5 seconds, and any target it reveals is immobilized for 3 seconds and increases the movement speed of all allies within the scan area, excluding yourself, by 50% for as long as they remain within it and for 6 seconds after it expires or they leave the area.

Pvp Utility


Paralytic Augs: Increases the durations of Cryo Grenade by 1 second and Neural Surge by .5 seconds.

PvP Utility with situational use on Revanite Commanders


Advance the Line: Increases the duration of Hold the Line by 4 seconds.

Useful for extending HtL cheese by 4 seconds


Re-energizers: When Reserve Powercell is activated, it recharges 10 energy over the next 5 seconds and immediately increases threat towards all current enemies by a small amount if Ion Cell is active, or reduces threat towards all current enemies if Ion Cell is not active.

Mostly DPS utility but can be taken if nothing else


Smothering Slag: Flak Shell reduces the movement speed of all affected targets by 75%. This effect can only occur once every 30 seconds.

PvP utility


Efficient Tools: Allows Adrenaline Rush to be activated while stunned and causes Adrenaline Rush to purge stun effects when activated. This will not work against other types of incapacitating effects or scripted stuns, which are often used by Flashpoint and Operation bosses or other special non-player characters. In addition, increases the range of Harpoon and Shoulder Cannon by 10 meters and eliminates the energy cell costs generated by Cryo Grenade and Neural Surge.

PvP utility



Aim Extensions: Battle Focus grants Aim Extensions, allowing Ion Pulse Ion Storm, Flak Shell, Energy Blast, and Energy Burst to be used at 30 meters for 15 seconds.

Gimmick utility and doesn’t even have High Impact Bolt.


Focus Stims: Battle Focus increases damage done by 5% while Ion Cell is being utilized and increases damage reduction by 5% while Ion Cell is not being utilized

Helpful for tight dps checks


Guard Cannon: Damaging a target with your Shoulder Cannon Missiles heals you for 3% of your total health.

Since the nerf has limited use but can be taken if nothing else needed


Charge the Line: Hold the Line increases movement speed by an additional 45% while active.

Useful on fights with heavy movement


Pull and Pummel: Harpoon deals tech damage to pulled targets and grants Reel and Rattle, causing your next Stockstrike or against the pulled target to deal 20% additional kinetic damage and stun the target for 1.5 seconds. This effect lasts for 6 seconds.

Due to being in 4m range at most times pretty useless due to Harpoon minimum distance being 10m


Battering Blitz: Using Storm grants Battering Blitz, resetting the cooldown of Storm and increasing movement speed by 30% for 6 seconds. While Battering Blitz is active, Storm may be used once within 10 meters of the target and deals 50% additional damage but does not cause an additional interrupt, immobilize or charge. This effect cannot occur more than once every 15 seconds.

Situational use if nothing else is taken

Abilities and Passives

Listed below are a general outline of a VG Tank’s abilities and passives.


The strengths of VG tanking lies in its passives abilities and heavy armor along with its ability to dish out damage from range. With this in mind VG tanking is all about keeping up your passives which luckily is quite easy to do if you use your abilities right.


With Ion Cell your Armor, Shield, Absorb, Damage Reduction and Accuracy (you have full accuracy while in tank stance) are increased while your damage is decreased. When using it has a chance to deal extra energy damage when you use an attack

The core element of VG tanking is maintaining its passive stacks of Power Screen and Shield Enhancers. When you reach 3 Stacks of Power Screens Energy Blast will become available to use significantly increases your absorption by 25%. Building stacks of Power Screens which increase your Absorb revolve around shielding an attack and proc’ing your Ion Cell through attacks particularly High Impact Bolt and Stockstrike. These last two abilities are used to build your Shield Enhancers which increase your Shield.

Shield Tech Passives:


Ion Cell

Loads your rifle with ion powercell, giving ranged attacks a 15% chance to deal additional energy damage once every 1.5 seconds. While this cell is active, armor rating is increased by 60%, damage reduction is increased by 5%, shield chance is increased by 15%, threat generation is increased by 100%, accuracy is increased by 10%, and all damage dealt is reduced by 10%.


Ion Overload

Dealing damage with Stockstrike triggers Ion Cylinder on the target and dealing damage with High Impact Bolt triggers Ion Cylinder on the target and up to 7 additional enemies within 5 meters. In addition, when Ion Cylinder deals damage, it will also shock the target for X additional energy damage over 6 seconds. None of these effects damage sleeping, lifted, or incapacitated enemies. Generates a high amount of threat.


Static Field

Ion Pulse and Explosive Surge cause trauma and weaken their targets. Weakened targets deal 5% less damage with ranged and melee attacks for 45 seconds. Targets with Trauma receive 20% less healing from all sources for 6 seconds.


Energy Screen

Shielding an attack or triggering your Ion Cell generates a Power Screen, increasing shield absorption by 1% for 20 seconds. Stacks up to 3 times. This effect cannot occur more than once every 1.5 seconds. In addition, each time you build a Power Screen or refresh your Power Screen stacks, the active cooldown of Energy Blast is reduced by 1 second.


Pulse Engine

Direct damage attacks have a 50% chance to trigger Pulse Engine, which finishes the cooldown on Ion Wave or Ion Storm and causes your next Ion Wave or Ion Storm to generate no heat and deal 100% more damage. This effect cannot occur more than once every 15 seconds.


Shield Cycler

Increases shield chance by 2%. In addition, shielding or defending an attack recharges 1 energy cell. This effect cannot occur more than once every 1.5 seconds.


Static Shield

Increases the critical chance of Stockstrike and Explosive Surge by 10%. In addition, shielding or defending an attack has a 50% chance to finish the cooldown on Stockstrike. This effect cannot occur more than once every 7.5 seconds.


Power Armor

Increase damage reduction by 2%, armor rating by 15%, and the damage dealt by Ion Cylinder by 10%.


Static Surge

Increases the damage dealt by Explosive Surge by 15%. In addition, Storm grants 2 charges of Static Surge, which makes your Ion Pulse and Explosive Surge generate no heat. Each use of Ion Pulse or Explosive Surge consumes a charge of Static Surge.


Ion Shield

Increase damage reduction by 2%. Additionally, Energy Blast damages up to 3 additional enemies within 5m of the primary target. Does not damage, sleeping, lifted, or incapacitated enemies.


Soldier’s Grit

Adrenaline Rush now heals you for 2% of your total health every second while above 35% of your maximum health. Additionally, Battle Focus increases defense chance by 35% while active.


Deflective Guards

Increases melee and ranged defense by 4%.


Ceramic Plating

Increases shield absorption by 4%.


Shield Enhancers

Stockstrike and High Impact Bolt grant Shield Enhancers when activated, increasing shield chance by 1% for 15 seconds. Stacks up to 3 times.


Energized Absorbers

Energy Blast increases shield absorption by an additional 5%.


Offensive Abilities


Ion Storm (IS): 10 meter conal attack and hardest hitting attack now an Instant. Double Damage with Pulse Engine and causes targets to become Impaired reducing their F/T attack damage of enemy by 5%. 10m


High Impact Bolt (HiB): Ignores 60% of armor and with Ion Cylinder can cause damage to multiple targets. Builds Power Screens and Shield Enhancers. Use on CD. 10m


Shoulder Cannon (SC): Loads 4 missiles to be used off GCD 1 every 1.5 seconds and goes on CD for 1.5 minutes. With heal utility can provide a now small heal but should not be delayed as very useful in building threat and doing damage. 10m


Stockstrike (SS): Builds Power Screens and Shield Enhancers. One of your hardest hitting attack. Use on CD. 4m


Energy Blast (EB): Uses Power Screens to boast absorb by 25% for 6 seconds. Should be used on CD unless saving for a major hit. 10m


Ion Pulse (IP): Main filler and causes Enemies affected to be Weakened and do 5% less M/R Damage as well as Trauma. 10m or 12m if Utility is taken.


Hammer Shot: Secondary filler as it costs no energy. 30m


Flak Shell: AOE does moderate damage. 10m.


Artillery Blitz: AOE does moderate damage. 10m


Explosive Surge (ES): Filler AOE and does moderate amount of damage. 4m.


Harpoon: Pulls Enemy towards you if capable and/or generates a lot of threat. Utility allows it to deal damage if taken.


Storm: Gap Closer and provides 2 free FP or FS.


Neural Surge: AoE Hard Stun


Cryo Grenade: Single target hard stun



Oil Slick: Covers surrounding area in gas and for 10 seconds (13 with 6 piece) enemies within riot gas are slowed 70% and M/R accuracy reduced by 15%. Can act as a raid utility if you aren’t tanking or there is M/R Dmg going out to raid.


Battle Focus: Increases Crit Chance and more importantly gives you 35% defense chance for duration. With Riot Gas and built in defense this can give you a very powerful cooldown..


Reactive Shield: 15 seconds (19 with 6 piece) you take 25% less damage from incoming attacks.


Adrenaline Rush: When activated it goes on stand by for 1 minute. During that time when health dips below 35% it will heal you up to 35% and if above 40% heal for 2% of total health.


Hold the Line: Increases movement speed by 30% (45% with utility) and grants immunity to physics and movement impairment for 6 (10 with utility) seconds.


Recharge Cell: Recharges 50 Energy Cells.


Reserve Powercell: Makes next attack cost no energy cells.

General VG Passives and Misc


 Focused Impact

High Impact Bolt Ignores 60% of the targets armor and Stockstrike deals 10% more damage


Into the Fray

Increases the duration of Reactive Shield by 3 seconds. In addition, suffering direct damage from area attacks recharge 2 energy cells and heals you for 2.5% of your total health. This effect cannot occur more than once every 3 seconds.


Stealth Scan

A useless PVE ability that is handy for uncovering sneaky stealthers in PvP.



The greatest Meme of VG tanking BW has given us. Best use for trolling teammates.

Rotation and Priorities

A Standard “Opener” (Will Vary):

Preload SC–>Harpoon–>Storm–>SS and SC Spam–>HiB–>IS or EB –>IPx2 or IS–>SS or IP–> EB or IP–> Taunt and IP–>SS/HiB—>IS–> AOE Taunt->…… Priority


1) EB (Energy Blast)

2) SC (Shoulder Cannon) (off GCD)

3) SS (Stockstrike)

4) HIB (High Impact Bolt)

5) IS (Ion Storm) (with Pulse Engine)

6) IP (Ion Pulse)

A few notes about VG tanking rotation. First Harpoon had its threat greatly increased making it near equivalent to the Shadow force pull. 15k threat of the bat is pretty nice. With Storm you get the free 2 Ion Pulses. Right away you want to build your Power Screens and Shield Enhancers. Now depending in a real fight if you have gotten a third screen or not use Energy Blast. If not use Ion Storm to put the F/T debuff on the target and deal serious damage. During this time you want to use your shoulder cannon since it’s off the GCD and adds to your threat generation and skills.

If the boss does no or little M/R dmg during at least the first two minutes you can use Battle Focus as an Offensive cooldown instead. Since raid buffs go out at the beginning you can grab a metric poop ton of threat. After first EB use your taunt then FB to get that M/R debuff up then just go from their. Procs are mostly dependent on shielding attacks so see it as priority not static. And here and there rapid shot for heat management as it can build fast even with Reserve Powercell and Recharge Powercells.

Advice on Tanking in General

Tanking is one of the three trinity types found in Swtor and when it comes to defining clear goals and what constitutes good or even great tanking is harder to quantify than DPS or Heals. That said there are some core keys to being a great tank in Swtor able to tank any boss. I’ll outline them below

  1. Global Rule aka No one is perfect- You will make mistakes and you must own up to them. This is key for any role but particularly for tanks. No matter how good you are you will make mistakes because no one is perfect. The key is to learn from them and admit them while at the same time focus on how to do better rather than you made a mistake.
  2. Generate all the threats- Keeping threat is highest priority and use both taunts. This is primary goal of tanking as the boss is hitting you instead of a DPS or Heals. Unless a boss has an aggro drop mechanic or you aren’t currently tanking boss use your taunts as much as you see fit.
  3. Go Ham on the boss: Every extra dps counts on the boss; the more you do the less DPS have to burn. Particularly true in NiM, tank DPS can help shave off a good number. Tanks can push over 2k in most set piece fights. Whether it’s doing over 400k+ on the Revan Core, shaving a few % off of Brontes, or preventing a third surging chain on Dread Guards, tank DPS does help. Which leads me to last rule
  4. Never waste a GCD: Doing nothing is the worst thing you can do: Whether throwing in taunts for extra threat, spamming Hammer Shots when far away, or carbonizing some adds, every GCD can be filled with something. Unless Styrak is giving you the ole Choke’aroo Kappa.

Final Notes & Acknowledgements

I like to thank everyone over my time playing SWTOR for helping me become a better player. I am thankful for my guild Origin in helping achieve where I am. Shoutouts to Roscoe, Var, Mal for being dank leaders. To the current main team, Jaydenz, Sabz, and Adorable. Special Thanks to Deatch who is always awesome. Shoutout to the people in Nemesis Striker, Paxxyon, and Jericho. Shoutout to former raid members/players including Derpynova and the the one and only Loak. Thanks to my Republic guild Fortitude and to Team Res Zan, Lor, Val, Semmi and Sov. Thank you Dulfy for hosting this guide. Thanks to past authors of the VG guide here which I read when learning how to play. Thanks to all readers as well.

About the Author

I am Yam from Jedi Covenant since my first Vanguard is name Yam’unun after hitting random button the on the character creation screen back in 2.10. I have mained a Vanguard tank since 3.0 and getting to know all the ins and outs raiding with several guilds on JC especially <Origin> which most recently I have raided with over a year and a half clearing all 8m NiM content in 4.0 post Sniper/VG nerfs and 10/10 Rav/ToS HM and re-progressing through it again in 5.0. I also main the other 2 tank classes and have pub mirrors as well. I like this game, raiding and dank memes. You can watch me live at my Twitch YamSwtor and also can usually find me tanking on Roscoe2311 and Lorhin streams as well respectively. ^^

By Dulfy

MMO guide writer and blogger. Currently playing and covering SWTOR, GW2, and TSW.

18 replies on “SWTOR 5.0 Shield Specialist Vanguard PvE Guide By Yam’unun”

Good guide, even if the majority of it was in the 4.0 one already =D
I have one comment and one question.

C: I still suppose (although not tested) that Explosive Surge with 25% utility is stronger DPS than Ion Pulse because of the passive 10% crit you get on it in the discipline tree. So that every time it’s possible while in melee range, it’s better DPS to use ES instead of IP.

Q: Even if reflects are stronger than ever and using them is more than advised to meet the DPS checks in Master Mode, have you had the opportunity to test out the DPS a Vanguard tank actually lashes out in comparison to Guardian and Shadow (without reflects)? Because it was one of its strongest suits in 4.0 and I would love to know if it’s still the case now.
Thank you!

Thanks and hello again 🙂

1) Probable, I intended to do a section on that vs IP but it wasn’t finished in time. Hopefully added soon.

2) Firestorm took a hit in damage output just like Searing Wave and Ravage. So damage is a bit lower. In comparison it’s probable not that too big difference not counting Reflect. The main thing is Sin tanks are just so much stronger than any other tank atm allowing heals to DPS more.

Also I’ve been playing my Sin way more this Expac so I haven’t had time to test everything :^

Guess the raiders really did leave the game cause normally these guides would have comments four pages deep.

That and nothing really has changed for VG for 2 years lol. Plus anyone left is tanking is playing a Sin :^

Nope . I’m still here, and still with my VG (+ PT) tank. It was my first char, my most beloved char, and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything else. Even after respeccing Guardian/Jugger for DD my VG will stay tank forever.

Ooh Rah!

As a newbie to tanking…I don’t see what Augments are recommended. Can you please put that in your guide? thanx 😛

“I leave out defense as the amount of defense is far over the limit needed.”
what is that limit needed exactly?

The stat pool is such that 2k Defense is probable enough. The important thing is that you that defense is built into the tank mods/enhc/left side so there’s no need to budget when gearing.

What about the relics I need to use? I’m new at tanking and I don’t know which ones to take…
Also, you said 2k is enough so everything above 2000 can be put into power (via lethal mods)?

Focused Retribution and Serendipitous Assault. Yeah it can but only do that via mods as you want to keep the other mitigation stats.

Almost being 242 geared I’ve swapped all defense mods against unlettered lethality (damage) mods. Still have about 25% defensive left. That’s enough.
Because defense is crap. It does not work against force/tech damage and is therefore most useless against most damage , e.g. the dread masters in DP, or revan in ToS, and many others.
Usefull only in the first few operations (EV, KP, EC) where lot of melee and range damage comes in.

And I would gladly forfeit those 25% defense in exchange for additional 25% shield, getting my vanguard to about 75 – 80% shield chance -> THAT’s what I would call a shield specialist imo.
Also the additional damage from the lethality mods comes in quite handy.

I don’t see how we’re supposed to have 72% damage reduction, full 230 (augmented) w/ set bonus I have 52.47%, The only way I see it possible to get to 72% (temporarily) is via Reactive Shield… Or am I blind? Help.

I’m in the same boat; I believe the proper custom mod setup to get there is possible, I just have a hard time believing you need so much off-time crafting mods and augments (or earning the money to buy them) to min/max and get this stat distribution. Is the game really so unaware of optimal stats that even in full 236 gear the raw stats only bring shield/absorb to barely half of what’s recommended?

Great guide bro!!! I learned alot!!! Can’t wait to start tanking with my Vanguard!!! Currently switching between Tactics and Plasma…not really satisfied with either atm…thank you!!

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