Guardian Tanking Primer [UPDATED FOR 2.0]
-=- What is tanking? -=-
The first, and most important thing to understand is: "What is tanking?" At a very high level, tanking is all about controlling the flow of the fight. At a lower level, tanking is about controlling the damage your party takes. Your primary tools for this are "threat" and "mitigation". Bad tanks can use one effectively, good tanks can use both and great tanks use a slew of other abilities too, like stuns, snares, mezzes and pushes.
SW:TOR is my first MMO and I look at tanking a little differently to those that have played WoW. Many groups you run with will expect you to hold threat on everything in every pull and if everyone plays properly thats not too hard. However, there are very few groups you will run with that play "properly". If you can keep aggro off the healer, they can keep you up and you'll get through the pull. Aim to hold the strongest 2 or 3 things in the pull and keep the rest off the healer but don't fret if they start hitting the DPS. Broadly, THAT is the role of the tank.
Let my preface the rest of this guide by saying: Tanking on a Guardian is tough. If you want an easy ride, go roll a Vanguard. If you're staying past that, believe me: Guardian tanking is some of the most fun you can have in this game. You use the most offensive and defensive abilities of any tank in SW:TOR.
-=- Abilities -=-
= Stances =
Guardian stances are usually a set and forget thing. You're going to run in Soresu almost all the time as a tank. However, it is possible to do the stance dance as a Guardian without much downside. Swapping stance is instant but uses a GCD, it also empties your Focus bar. One important thing to remember: its easy to build focus in Shii-Cho or Shien, its not in Soresu. So changing INTO Soresu mid fight will probably require you to burn Combat Focus, changing out won't. Onto the stances!
- Soresu -
Your tanking stance. Increases threat by 100%, armour rating by 60% and shield chance by 15%. All abilities generate 1 less focus and Soresu generates 1 focus when you take damage but can only occur once every 6 seconds. Also reduces all damage by 6%. When specced this stance also gives 9% Ranged and Melee defence and reduce the rate limit on Focus generation to 1 every 3 seconds.
- Shii-Cho -
Increases damage by 5% and reduces damage taken by 5%. This is your starting stance.
- Shien -
Hybrid's solo/DPS stance. Increases damage by 6% and all attacks that cost focus refund 1 focus. In addition, taking damage generates 1 focus but cannot occur more than once every 6 seconds.
= Focus Generators =
Focus generators build up your focus to use for stronger attacks. I'm only going to list the Focus generated when in Soresu form.
- Strike -
Your basic attack, hits 3 times. Generates 1 Focus.
- Sundering Strike -
Applies the Sundered Armor debuff to the target and generates 4 Focus with a 15 second CD. When specced the CD is reduced to 12 seconds and generates 6 Focus.
- Force Stasis -
3 second channeled stun. Generates 1 Focus per second. When specced this becomes an unchanneled stun and can be used like a mini Combat Focus.
- Combat Focus -
Instantly generates 6 Focus. Off the GCD.
- Saber Throw -
10-30m ranged ability. Generates 3 Focus. This is only usually used during an opener.
- Force Leap -
10-30m ranged ability. Instantly closes the gap between you and the target and generates 3 Focus. Usually used during the opener and rarely after that.
= Focus Drainers =
Focus drainers are your heavy hitting attacks.
- Riposte -
Can only be used after successfully defending an attack. Costs 3 Focus ( 1 when specced), is off the GCD and can't miss. Also increases melee and ranged defence by 3% for 12 seconds when specced. Free threat and damage. Use it whenever its off its 6 second CD. When specced CD is reduced to 4.5 seconds. Can be further reduced to a 1.5 second CD while Saber Ward is active.
- Blade Storm -
10m ranged ability. Costs 4 Focus (3 when specced) and has a 12 second CD. When specced generates a Blade Barrier that absorbs a moderate amount of damage. Once you have Blade Barrier use this on CD.
- Force Sweep -
5m AoE centered on you. Costs 3 Focus and has a 15 (12 if specced) second CD. When specced also applies 5% accuracy debuff to all targets. Can also be specced to apply the Sundered Armor debuff to all targets.
- Guardian Slash -
The capstone of the Defence tree. High Threat ability that costs 3 focus with a 12 second CD. If the target is affected by the Sundered Armor debuff does a "Smart" AoE on 4 other targets nearby and knocks down Weak and Normal enemies. Also enables to use of Riposte and increases damage reduction by 3% for 20 seconds.
- Slash -
Hits the target. Use it if you have Focus to burn.
= Focus Neutral =
These abilities neither cost, nor generate Focus. Use them when you have plenty of Focus but all your important Focus drainers are on CD.
- Master Strike -
3 Second channeled ability, 30 second CD (27 if specced). Hits like a TRUCK. Use this whenever you can.
- Hilt Strike -
"High Threat" 4 second stun on a 60 second CD. Generates less threat than Force Sweep on a single target and bosses can't be stunned. Useful when everything else is on CD or you are low on Focus.
- Force Push -
10m range. Pushes the target away from you and finished the CD on Force Leap. Great for positioning mobs or resetting leap if you need it again soon.
= Defensive Cool Downs =
- Saber Ward -
Increases Melee and Ranged Defence by 50% and reduces damage from Force and Tech attacks by 25% for 12 seconds. For the first 2 seconds increases Melee/Ranged defence by 100%. 2 piece set bonus increases this to 3 seconds. 180 second CD which can be talented to 150 seconds.
- Warding Call -
Reduces all damage taken by 40% for 10 seconds. 2 piece set bonus increases this to 12 seconds. 180 second CD which can be talented to 150 seconds.
- Enure -
Increases maximum HP by 30% for 15 seconds when specced. At the end of this you lose that HP. Great for buying your healer more time or when you know a big hit is coming. If you don't have a healer, do NOT use this until you know you can kill the thing within 10 seconds. 90 second CD.
- Focused Defence -
Costs 4 Focus to activate and reduces threat by a moderate amount. Whenever you take damage for the next 10 seconds, spends 1 Focus to heal 3% of max HP and reduce threat by a small amount. 45 second CD. WILL Focus starve you and drop threat. Don't use it unless you KNOW what you are doing.
- Saber Reflect -
Available at level 51. Reflects all single target direct damage Ranged, Force and Tech attacks back at the attacker. Lasts 3 seconds with a 60 second CD. When specced lasts 5 seconds and reflected damage is "High Threat". This is a gem of an ability and makes ranged mobs much easier to tank on a Guardian. Be warned that this does nothing on melee attacks or AoEs so you need to learn how and when to use it, it is also the only reason that AoE taunting early can be a viable strategy for holding groups of enemies. That doesn't mean I encourage that strategy but it works better with a Guardian than the other tanks because of this. I'll try add a section near the end of times to use this and try keep it up to date for the new Ops as they are released.
= Miscelaneous =
- Guard -
Reduces threat generated by the target by 25% and reduce damage taken by the target by 5%. The 50% damage transfer ONLY APPLIES IN PVP. Use this to stop a DPS pulling threat.
- Taunt -
30m range. Forces the target to attack you for 6 seconds. See the section on taunting for more info.
- Challenging Call -
Forces all targets within 15m to attack you for 6 seconds. As above.
- Awe -
Stuns all nearby targets for 6 seconds. Breaks on damage. Great for controlling crowds but don't use it in an AoE targeted area.
- Force Kick -
Interrupts the targets current action and prevents that ability from being used for 4 seconds. This is your interupt. See the section on interrupts.
- Guardian Leap -
30m range. Leaps to a friendly target reducing their threat by a moderate amount and reducing the damage they take by 20% for 6 seconds. Great utility and great mobility but you need to watch out for cleaves when using this.
-=- Builds -=-
There are several minor variations to the Guardian tank build since there are 4 'filler' points in the Defence tree and 10 points to customize slightly in the other trees. For now, here is a link the PTS version of the tree. I don't believe anything has changed since 2.0 hit live.
Here is a quick rundown of the talents. I've grouped them by tier and color coded them.
Take these talents always.
Suggested filler talents or PVP talents that are still useful in PVE
- Dust Storm -
Has a 33/66/100% chance to reduce the accuracy of targets of Force Sweep or Cyclone slash by 5%. 5% less accuracy is 5% more defence.
- Victory Rush -
Sundering Strike generates 1/2 more Focus. More Focus is always a good thing. ALWAYS.
- Master Focus -
Increases damage dealt by Master Strike by 5/10%.
- Lunge -
Reduces cost of Riposte by 1/2 in Soresu form and increases the critical chance of Riposte by 7.5/15%. You should be using Riposte on CD and cheaper is better.
- Guard Stance -
Increases armor rating by 15%. More armor means less damage taken.
- Battlefield Command -
While in Soresu form getting attacked reduced the active CD of Force Leap by 0.5/1 seconds. Can only occur every 1.5 seconds.
- Guard and Thrust -
While Saber Ward is active reduces the CD of Riposte by 1.5/3 seconds.
- Blade Barricade -
Using Riposte increases all your defences by 2.5/5% for 20 seconds. This is one of the reasons you should use Riposte on CD.
- Warding Call -
Extra defensive CD.
- Purifying Sweeps -
Force Sweep has a 50/100% chance to apply the Sundered Armor debuff to all affected targets.
- Blade Barrier -
Has a 50/100% chance to create a barrier that absorbs a moderate amount of damage when using Blade Storm. This accounts for close to 10% of a Guardian tanks mitigation. You NEED this. Scales with Strength and Power.
- Courage -
While in Soresu form, parrying. deflecting, shielding or resisting an attack has a 25/50% chance to generate 1 stack of Courage. Each stack reduced the Focus cost of the next Blade Storm or Force Sweep by 1. Lasts 10 seconds. Makes 2 of your key survivability mechanisms cheaper. Proper use of this can be the difference between swimming in Focus and starving.
- Stasis Mastery -
Force Stasis no longer needs to be channeled applying its full effect over 3 seconds. Turns Stasis into a true hard stun and garuntees 3 Focus every use.
- Hilt Strike-
High threat 4s Stun with 4m range.You need it for access to Guardian Slash but an extra stun is useful on trash.
- Sheild Specialisation -
Increases shield chance by 2/4% and reduces the CD of Saber Ward by 15/30 seconds. More survivability is good.
- Jedi Warden -
Reduces the CD of Force Push by 7.5/15 seconds and the Focus cost of Freezing Force by 1/2. This is a great PVP talent but nearly useless in PvE.
- Guardianship -
Challenging Call has a 50/100% chance to grant Guardianship to all allies (excluding yourself) in range which absorbs a moderate amount of damage. Essentially gives everyone else in the party a Blade Barrier. Has some use for dealing with raid wide or unavoidable damage but isn't amazing in PvE. Much better in PvP.
- Cyclonic Sweeps -
Reduced the rate limit on Visionary by 3 seconds and reduces the Focus cost of Blade Storm, Guardian Slash and Cyclone Slash. More Focus and cheaper key abilities. This is an amazing talent.
- Inner Peace -
Increases the duration of Enure by 2.5/5 seconds and increases Internal and Elemental resistance by 5/10%.
- Expeditious Protector -
Whenever your Guarded target is attacked you gain Expeditious Protector for 6 seconds which increases movement speed by 15/30%. Largely a PVP based talent.
- Daunting Presence -
Force Leap has a 50/100% chance to reset the CD on Force Kick. Additionally, Saber Reflect lasts 1/2 seconds longer and generates a high amount of threat on all enemies in 30m when activated. Mostly useful for the buffs to Saber Reflect.
- Beacon of Might -
Reduces the CD of Warding Call by 10/20/30 seconds. Increases the damage of Hilt Strike and Guardian Slash by 5/10/15% and reduces the CD of Riposte by 0.5/1/1.5 seconds. This is like Christmas, damage buffs to Guardian Slash, reduced CD on Riposte AND reduced CD on Warding call. Simply amazing.
- Guardian Slash -
Capstone ability. See above.
- Single Saber Mastery -
Increases melee/ranged defence by 1/2/3% while in Soresu form. Increases threat generated by Force Sweep and Cyclone Slash by 10/20/30%. Free defence and more threat on an ability you already use on CD.
- Stagger -
Increases the duration of Force Leap's root by 0.5/1 second.
- Improved Sundering Strike -
Reduces the CD of Sundering Strike by 1.5/3 seconds.
- Accuracy -
Increases Melee and Force accuracy by 1/2/3%. I put 1 point here since its of limited value anywhere else.
- Pereseverance -
Increases Strength by 3/6%. More strength is more damage and more threat. I suggest both points.
- Defiance -
Generates 2/4 Focus when stunned, slept or knocked down. There are so many control effects on tanks this is great on trash but limited value on bosses.
- Swelling Winds -
Increases the damage of Force Sweep and Cyclone slash by 10/20% and reduces the CD of Force Sweep and Zealous Leap by 1.5/3 seconds.
- Momentum -
Only applies while in Shii-Cho form. Was a trap before but more so now.
- Insight -
Increases Force critical chance by 2/4/6%. I take the 1% accuracy over this since I prefer consistancy when tanking. The total damage and threat increase should be about even either way.
- Second Wind -
Activating Resolute has a 50/100% chance to heal you for 10% of your maximum HP. Can be useful but requires you to reach tier 2 Focus and personally I don't think its worth it.
= Notes on the pre-2.0 18/23/0 Hyrbid =
Pre-2.0 there was a Vigilance/Defence Hybrid. That is still around but has been severely gutted while the Pure Defence build has been significantly buffed. The Hybrid can no longer benefit from Unremitting and no longer has superior survivability. It still has some value in PvP but is outclasses in PvE by the Pure Defence in every single way.
= Rotation =
The Guardian rotation is a priority system and now fits nicely on a 12 second cycle.
Your highest priority ability is always Blade Storm. It should ALWAYS be used on CD. Thanks to changes over time to other abilities the buffs or debuffs they provide are longer than their CD so delaying them slightly does not reduce survivability.
Now that said priority during a fight is:
- Blade Storm
- Riposte (since its off GCD)
- Sundering Strike (less than 6 Focus)
- Guardian Slash
- Force Sweep (with 2-3 stacks of Courage)
- Master Strike
I intentionally leave Force Stasis and Hilt Strike out of the priority since they are more useful as a stun on trash and primarily for Focus Generation or management during a boss fight. They should be used at your discretion.
Now that priorities are out of the way lets have a look at openers. I like to get some solid threat on the targets and get all my survivability buffs as soon as possible. Once that is done I try and space out Blade Storm and Force Sweep to make the best use of Courage stacks. On to the opener!
1 - Saber Throw
2 - Force Leap
3 - Force Sweep
4 - Guardian Slash (+ Riposte)
5 - Sundering Strike
6 - Blade Storm
7 - Master Strike
The opener in 2.0 is a LOT simpler than the old Hybrid opener I used to run. If there are lots of grouped up ranged enemies I'll pop Saber Reflect after Sundering Strike, if they are spread out I'll pop it after leaping in. The reason for that is Sweep and Guardian Slash stun them, you WANT them attacking you while Reflect is active.
-=- Mechanics -=-
Tanking relies on 2 primary mechanics: Threat and Mitigation. Threat is a measure of how much the enemy hates you and mitigation is a measure of how much you reduce incoming damage. It's useless to be able to mitigate if you aren't getting attacked and its useless to be attacked if you go down quickly.
= Threat =
As mentioned above: threat is a measure of how much the target hates you. In SW:TOR, all damaging abilities generate threat on the mob they target equal to the amount of damage they deal. If you are in tank stance you generate an additional 100% threat. If you use a "high threat" attack you generate an additional 50% threat, this is additive. Healing on the other hand generates threat equal to 50% of the amount healed divided evenly among all mobs in the pull.
What does that mean? As a tank:
- High threat attacks generate threat equal to 250% of their damage on the attacked mob.
- Normal attacks generate threat equal to 200% of their damage on the attacked mob.
- Self-Healing generates threat equal to 100% of the amount healed divided amongst all mobs.
As a DPS:
- Attacks generate threat equal to their damage
As a Healer:
- Healing generates 50% threat, but its on everything.
In short: Anything you don't attack will run at the healer. However, the healer should never pull threat off you if you are attacking the mob. Basically: make sure every mob is attacked by someone or CCed.
In SW:TOR, there are 2 "ranges" for threat. Melee range is 4m fom the centre of the mob and Ranged is anything beyond that. In order to take threat off the current target of a mob you need to surpass that targets threat by a percentage. 10% for melee range and 30% for ranged. Now that has 2 benefits we can exploint: if you keep the DPS beyond 4m they will need to beat your threat by 30% to pull off you and if they do, by staying within 4m you only need to beat them by 10% to pull back. However, taunts complicate this slightly.
I have since discovered how the melee/ranged mechanic works. Range is measured from the centre of the targeters hitbox to the edge of the targets hitbox. This includes the range displayed on your target frame. Enemies with large hitboxes often end up with their melee range being INSIDE their hitbox. This is also the reason that Zorn's fearful effect doesn't hit you if you are at 30m range since you are measuring to the edge while the effect is measured from the middle. Threat ranges are the same.
= Taunting =
Taunts in SW:TOR actually generate threat. The way a taunt works is that it will set your threat to the amount required to pull threat of the current target, even if that target is you. If you are with melee range that will put your threat at 110% and if you are at range that will be set to 130%. This gives us 2 tricks. First, by always taunting from over 2.5m away, we are generating the most threat and reducing the chance of a DPS pulling threat. It also means we can taunt off ourselves to increase threat by 30% (because we're going to be over 2.5m away). I refer to this as "taunt boosting".
Taunt boosting has upsides and downsides. The upside is you can generate a huge amount of threat with it. If you taunt boost on CD, by the 2 minute mark you can stop attacking without fear of losing aggro. The downside is, many fights in newer Operations require you to tank swap, so you need to keep a taunt open for that. I recommend learning to hold threat without taunt boosting and only to taunt boost on fights like Writhing Horror where losing aggro causes you to die.
That said: it can be very useful to drop a taunt (or an AoE taunt if you need to save the single target for a tank swap), early on in the fight to give you a little bit more of a threat buffer. I can hold threat without it but I like to use it as a safety net.
The important thing to remember is: taunting early generates less threat, but it also takes less threat to pull off you. Taunting later generates more threat but you aren't likely to be pulled off at the end of a fight. This also means that you should NEVER open with a taunt.
= Mitigation =
Mitigation is a measure of how much you reduce incoming damage. There are 4 main components to mitigation: Armour, Defence, Shield and Absorb. You also have Resistance which applies to Elemental and Internal damage, but is only increased through skills. There are also 3 different types of attacks: Melee/Ranged Kinetic/Energy, Force/Tech Kinetic/Energy and Force/Tech Internal/Elemental. M/R K/E attacks can be Defended, Shielded and are reduced by armour. F/T K/E attacks cannot be defended but can be shielded are reduced by armour. F/T I/E are only subject to I/E resistance from skills. Fortunately, very few attacks are F/T I/E. The vast majority are M/R K/E.
Now that we know what applies to what attacks we should have a look at what those stats actually do. Defence applies first, this is your chance to completely avoid an attack. Shield applies next, if the attack hits you may shield it. If you do, you reduce the damage you take by your Absorbtion. Lastly Armour applies. Whatever K/E damage you take is reduced by your armour.
To get a little more technical, SW:TOR uses a 2 roll system. First of all Accuracy vs Defence is rolled to see if the attack hits. If it does, Shield vs Critical is then rolled. The important thing to learn from this is: Crits can never be shielded. Forutnately though, Ops bosses don't ever crit. Crit also takes precedence over Shield, if I have 40% shield and the enemy has 70% crit chance. My chance to shield against them is only 30% but there is no chance for a normal hit. It will either crit or be shielded.
So a couple of things to clarify from the above. High Defence actually lowers the value of Shield and Abosrb, if you defend it, you can't shield it. High shield makes absorb more useful and vice versa, the more you shield, the more you want to absorb when you do. While Defence makes the other 2 less useful, Defence is an all or nothing stat. This leads to a "spikiness" in damage. It is very important to have good Shield and Absorb as well as Defence. Armour is always there but it can only be increased by going up in tiers of gear. This game also has diminishing returns on all stats, so stacking one is not wise. Try and keep your stats balanced at the moment its looking like 25% Defence, 40% Shield and 25% absorb is a good target.
Finally: A lot of tank gear has accuracy on it. GET RID OF IT. Accuracy has very little value to a tank, swap it for shield/absorb/defence instead.
I'm just going to chuck a quick TL;DR in here: I don't tell you what stats to aim for here. This whole section breaks down to: do what works for you. As does the next section.
Guardian tanks use Strength gear. There are 2 sets we use:
- Bulwark (Black Hole, Hazmat, Black Market, Verpine)
- War Leader (Campaign, Dreadguard, Arkanian, Underworld)
The main difference between the 2 is the set bonus, which is only available on the War Leader gear. Importantly, the Campaign/Dreadguard pieces do not stack with the Underworld/Arkanian pieces for determining set bonus. Interestingly, this means we can get the 2 piece bonus twice. The set bonuses we have available to us are:
2 piece - Increases the duration of Warding call by 2 seconds and the duration of Blade Turning by 1 second.
4 piece - Increases the amount absorbed by your Blade Barrier by 20%.
The set bonuses are great but you can get by without them if you need to. Generally, I'll break my 4 piece set bonus if I'm upgrading by 2 or more tiers, I won't break it to upgrade 1 and I am to get it back as quickly as I can. Now the set bonus is held on the armoring so we can move it between different gear to achieve a look we want.
When you drop that armoring in a different piece it will determine the armor rating based on the level of the armoring and the armor type (Light, Medium, Heavy) of the shell. Adaptive will always scale to the highest type you are able to wear. You should only ever use Heavy or Adaptive armors as a Guardian tank.
Using Medium or Light armor sends a message to the rest of your group that you are more concerned with how you look than how you perform and this may cost you a raid invite.
When you are acquiring most gear there are 3 pieces we are interested in:
hold the set bonus as discussed above, sets the armor rating of the shell and has Strength and Endurance on it.
contain Endurance, Secondary and Tertiary stats. Secondary stats are Absorb, Defence, Power and Crit. Tertiary stats are Shield, Accuracy, Alacrity and Surge. As tanks we are only interested in Enhancements that contain Shield and Defence or Shield and Absorb. Ideally we want the Enhancements that have the highest Secondary and Tertiary tanking stats.
contain Endurance, Strength and Secondary stats. There are also 3 types of each Modification: Unlettered, A lettered and B lettered mods. Unlettered mods have Low Endurance, Moderate Strength and High Secondary stat. A lettered mods have Very High Strength, moderate Endurance and Very Low Secondary stat. B lettered mods have High Endurance, Moderate Secondary stat and Low Strength. If you are gearing for Endurance you want to use B lettered mods, if you are gearing for Mitigation you want to use Unlettered mods.
There is also an Earpiece and two Implants that contain Secondary and Tertiary stats as well as Endurance and Strength. In effect this means we have 12 (or 21 depending how you look at it) gear slots with Secondary stats and 10 gear slots with Tertiary stats. Since Shield is the only Tertiary stat we are interested in this gives us a fixed minimum (which is almost always above our ideal minimum in a 3 floating variable comparison) when looking at any given gear tier if you are using the Best In Slot (BIS) Enhancements, that makes comparing the value of Absorb and Defence really easy at a given tier.
I recommend reading some of KeyboardNinja's work if you are after gearing targets, I've linked it elsewhere in the post. Eventually we will see spreadsheets and tanking calculators updated with the 2.0 values and those will also be useful.
When looking at Earpieces and Implants in 2.0 there is an interesting phenomenon when looking at BiS options. The crafted "Veracity" implant and earpiece provide the highest possible mitigation stats but have quite low Endurance and Strength. Given that the Shield/Defence Implants can only be acquired from drops and not purchased with comms I would recommend using the Veracity implants at least until you can get the Underworld or Arkanian implant token at which point you should consider if losing a small number of mitigation points (~35) is worth the boost to Endurance (~50) and Strength (~70) per implant.
Finally we have Relics. Relics are different from the rest of our gear in that they contain Endurance, Defence for tanks or Power for DPS/healers and have an activated or Proc ability. If you played prior to 2.0 we were also able to get Relics from PVP that had a static increase to stat which were a BIS option for most tanks. We have 2 relic slots and largely, using the same type of relic in both slots is wasted since the Proc's share an Internal CD (ICD) and the activated relics cannot be activated together. At each tier the types of relics available remain the same and only the stats change. The types of relic available for tanks are:
- Relic of Shield Amplification (Shielding an attack increases Absorb by X for 6 seconds. 20 second ICD)
- Relic of Fortunate Redoubt (Being attacked has a chance to increase Defence by X for 6 seconds. 20 second ICD)
- Relic of the Shrouded Crusader (Activated: Increases Shield and Absorb by Y for 20/30 seconds. 120 second CD)
- Relic of Imperiling Serenity (Activated: Increases Defence by Z for 20/30 seconds. 120 second CD)
The activated tanking Relics have a different duration depending on the tier they come from, earlier tiers have a 30 seconds while later tiers were reduced to 20 seconds.
Relics are a really interesting debate and tell you quite a bit about the tank that's using them. As with gearing methodologies below there isn't really a "right" or "wrong" choice and solid arguments can be made for most combinations of relics. There are arguably optimal choices for a given fight but its a complicated area and doesn't make of break your ability to survive.
My current choice of Relics is my old Elite War Hero passive Defence relic and a Relic of Fortunate Redoubt. Previously the Relic of the Shrouded Crusader gave a higher contribution to mitigation and was less prone to bad RNG than the Imperiling Serenity when activated but I have yet to compare them properly in 2.0.
If you are a new tank in 2.0 you are almost forced to use one Proc (Fortunate Redoubt is best for us) and one Activated relic. If you are a pre-2.0 tank you may have a Static relic you can continue to use. The Proc relic does come out ahead of the Static in time averaged Defence but many players argue Guardian's don't "need" an activated Relic thanks to their numerous CDs. This comes down to play style, if you don't use your Activated relic, a Static would be better, if you do, it depends how and when you use it. Time averaged, the Activated relics still fall behind the Statics but if you leverage them properly, or have periods of downtime the Activated ones can come out ahead.
Finally, I'll cover Absorb Adrenals. Absorb Adrenals give a huge boost to survivability stats for 15 seconds on a 180 second CD. In 2.0 the Absorb adrenal got a bit of an overhaul. Prior to 2.0 this Adrenal gave a boost to Armor rating while it now gives a boost to Shield and Absorb. With this change, the old Adrenal gives a larger increase in mitigation. I would highly recommend using the old ones (Exotech or Rakata) if you have them over the new Nano-Infused one.
When it comes to gearing a tank there is really important aspect: you need enough mitigation to bring the incoming DPS down to a healable level and enough HP to survive 1-2 boss hits. This mark is actually amazingly early in the gearing process for 2 reasons:
1 - Healers can get very high numbers quite quickly.
2 - Most boss damage is relatively low, high damage phases are usually designed for a CD to be used or involve raid wide damage.
Anyway, what this means is that we have a 'surplus' of points to work with. Now if you have watched the Forums for any period of time you will have seen thread pop up all over the place about Effective HP vs. Mitigation and Mitigation Stacking vs. Endurance Stacking. There are always arguments that last many pages on these threads but the net conclusion is always the same: if everyone plays optimally, mitigation stacking is superior. "Optimally" is a VERY important factor here, but since you can't account for player skill, its often overlooked.
Now, that doesn't mean that mitigation stacking is the 'right' option. There isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to gear. Even wearing DPS gear is arguably better for some fights, for example, Soa or Bonethrasher. Really, what it comes down to, is once you bring your mitigation stats up to a point where incoming DPS is reduced to a level the healers can handle and you have sufficient HP to avoid being 1-2 shot, you have 2 common options:
1 - Reduce that incoming DPS down even more so healers don't have to heal as much.
2 - Increase your HP to increase the period of time you can survive without a heal.
Some people will also argue that adding DPS stats at this point is useful. I won't say its not, but I wouldn't recommend it. It isn't wrong, it just doesn't match my philosophy of tanking.
Since people seem to like gearing priority lists, I'll provide them here for each methodology.
Mitigation Heavy: Defence > Shield > Absorb > Endurance > Strength
Endurance Heavy: Endurance > Defence > Shield > Absorb > Strength
There is also a third priority, which I will refer to as the Kitru Priority. It involve minimizing Endurance since it is arguably a useless buffer stat. If you're healers are playing optimally, surplus Endurance is largely wasted. IMO this is only advisable when farming content, not when progressing but YMMV. Anyway, here it is:
Defence > Shield > Absorb > Set Bonus > Strength > Power > Endurance
Let me be perfectly clear here: all three are correct ways to gear. The best option is what works for you and your healers, regardless of what any one else says.
That said, I have tried both methods, and both are completely viable. Personally, I prefer to maximize mitigation but one of my healers found it much easier to heal when I boosted my HP. Since then, I've balanced my gear somewhere in the middle. I tend to use B lettered (Endurance heavy) mods, mitigation heavy enhancements and augment for mitigation, usually Defence.
If you're really keen when it comes to gearing you can run 2-3 gear sets and swap out depending on the fight. If you choose to do this I'd recommend the following sets:
- Mitigation heavy gear set (Defence heavy) for most boss fights.
- Mitigation heavy gear set (Absorb heavy) for Kinetic/Energy Force/Tech heavy fights like Kephess the Undying.
- Moderately endurance heavy DPS set for Internal/Elemental heavy fights like Soa and possibly Stormcaller.
Importantly, 3 gear sets is NOT required at all. You can tank completely fine with just 1 set but if you want to push for the optimal mitigation for every fight or avoid useless stats for a given fight, multiple gear sets will get you there. I would recommend having a DPS offset for fights which only require 1 tank like Karagga or fights where tanks aren't required like Infernal Council or Bonethrasher.
= Stuns, CC & Interrupts: The other type of mitigation =
Believe it or not, there is more to mitigation than just gear. Remember that an enemy that can't attack deals no damage. We have 2 tools to achieve this: stuns and interrupts. Your healer and sometimes DPS can also help with this with their CCs. As the tank it is your responsibility to pick the CC targets. You can let your party chose if you like, but you will usually want a certain mob taken out of the action. Personally I like to have Internal/Elemental damage enemies CCed.
Your interrupt is one of your best forms of mitigation in SW:TOR. If you see a cast bar, you should instinctively hit your interrupt. Infact, if you only have 1 keybind: this should be it. As you get better and do more content you'll get a feel for what NEEDS to be interrupted and what is NICE to interrupt. For example: Malgus' Unlimited Power NEEDS to be interrupted. Concusion Charge (or any knockback) is NICE to interrupt.
The last type of mitigation is one that everyone should use. Don't stand in any circle other than the Sage's Salvation!
-=- Multiple Target Strategies -=-
Multi target tanking is one of the hardest things on a Gaurdian tank. Fortunately, we now have 2 "higher threat" AoE abilities: Force Sweep and Cyclone Slash. A fully melee pull is probably the easiest group to deal with. A rotation like:
1 - Saber Throw (Change target)
2 - Force Leap
3 - Force Sweep
4 - Guardian Slash
5 - Sundering Strike
6 - Cyclone Slash until out of Focus
7 - Combat Focus
8 - Cyclone Slash until out of Focus
Then go into a normal priority rotation and change targets every 2-3 attacks and you should be fine. AoE taunt if you need to but avoid opening with it.
Group pulls are complicated slightly when there are melee and ranged targets. Ideally you'd like to have any outlying ranged mobs CCed while you gather up all the melee on one of the middle ranged mobs. You want to do something like:
1 - Saber Throw on ranged mob
2 - Leap to another ranged mob
3 - Force Sweep
4 - Guardian Slash
5 - Sundering Strike
6 - Cyclone Slash
7 - Blade Storm on a ranged mob
8 - Combat Focus
9 - Cyclone Slash until out of Focus
Then go into a normal priority rotation and change targets every 2-3 attacks and you should be fine. AoE taunt if you need to but avoid opening with it. If there are more than 2 or 3 ranged mobs, see the strategies below.
Group pulls are made a great deal harder when there are multiple ranged targets spread out. You will need to learn 2 really important things to be able to do this effectively:
1 - The LOS pull
2 - Leap -> Push -> Leap
= The LOS Pull =
The LOS (Line of Sight) pull involves aggroing a group and then hiding around a corner so they all run towards you and group up at that corner. This is the easiest way to group up ranged mobs but relies on your group following instructions and the terrain allowing it. It is important to remember with this tactic that the healer mustn't heal until you have established aggro on the group. Ideally the DPS will also wait for that.
= Leap -> Push -> Leap =
Both Vanguards and Shadows can pull an enemy to their location. They would rush into the largest concentration of mobs and pull the outlier in. Guardians can still manage this, but its a little more involved. A Guardian will need to leap to the outlier, Force Push him into the group and leap again. This can be complicated when DPS don't wait for you to finish doing this but once you get the hang of it, its really handy.
- Saber Reflect and Multi-Target Theat -
Since 2.0 and the introduction of Saber Reflect, spread out ranged mobs are a lot less painful on a Guardian tank. They are still the worst type of pull but they are much easier to deal with. Ideally you will combine these strategies with one of the above (LOS or Push -> Leap) strategy and ideally your DPS and healer will give you time for Saber Reflect to do its thing before dropping massive AoE or heals. When talented, Saber Reflect also puts ~8000 threat on everything that's aggroed in range. If you use it early it's like a pseudo AoE taunt AND the enemies will start building threat on themselves for you.
Important considerations with Saber Reflect:
- If they aren't attacking you, it does practically nothing.
- If they are attacking you with AoEs it does nothing.
- If they are attacking you with melee attacks it does nothing.
There are some really great things about Saber Reflect though. Remember that annoying "Heat Beam" ability the mobs in Chasing the Shadow use? Or Unload that every Commando type mobs loves? Or the good old Ambush and Series of Shots from the Sniper types? Those are awesome when they're reflected. Best part is many mobs like to open up with those abilities so if you time it right, you can not only avoid a huge initial volley, you can deal it right back to them AND get a huge boost to threat.
Thankfully Saber Reflect is on a really short CD so even if you use it at the wrong time it'll be back up soon. Just like Resilience for Shadows this is an ability that should be used and abused, even if you use it at a poor time its better than not having used it at all during the fight.
However that leads us to an important point. While Saber Reflect is active you need to be careful with interrupts and stuns. There is nothing quite as annoying as popping Saber Reflect in anticipation of an Ambush and having the Sentinel next to you start Force Choking. The worst part is, 55 seconds out of 60 they are doing exactly the right thing so you can't harass them.
Basically it comes down to this:
Are there lots of ranged mobs attacking me (for example: on the pull)? Use Saber Reflect.
-=- Saber Reflect : When to use it -=-
This section is still under construction. Any suggestions are welcome.
- Tunneling Droid's Mining Beam Channel. If popped with 5s to go you can survive the full channel without being cleansed.
- Vorgan the Volcano. Popping this on the pull will enable you to hold all 3 while burning Torch down as long as your DPS don't decide to attack their own targets.
- Plenty of times to use it for the trash pulls, not so much on the bosses.
- All the turret pulls are excellent candidates for Reflect. They'll take off about 20% of their own HP.
- Boarding Party (Agent and Bounty Hunter) are great options to reflect, just be wary when they're the last on left: the heavy hitters are AoE.
- Mavrix is almost entirely ranged, as are the turrets he spawns.
- Moderately useful on Officer Xander but he's more mechanic driven anyway.
- Bonus Boss's Force Lightning Channel.
- Moderately useful on General Ortol but as with Xander, its more mechanic driven.
- Ripper and Shivanek. This will hold Shivanek while you burn down Ripper.
- Grand Moff Kilran is entirely single target ranged and tech damage.
- Colonel Daksh's eye laser can be reflected but that's more for amusement than actually useful.
- Assassin Droids are entirely ranged but have a reasonable amount of AoE. Also beware killing a shielded droid can bug the fight.
- Mentor fight is entirely ranged and tech.
Battle of Ilum
- Darth Serevin's Dark Blast is about it, everything else is usually skipped.
- HK is heavily single target ranged and tech damage. As are the turrets that spawn.
Kaon Under Siege
- Final boss Commander guy is ranged, other 2 are melee.
- LR-5's channelled cannon is a great option, not too much else unfortunately.
- Sav-Rak spit should be able to be reflected but the value is questionable.
- Lorrik's Flurry of Bolts can be reflected, phase 2 and 3 are entirely melee though.
- Cannons before Annihilation Droid: Makes it very easy to solo tank these.
- Soa: Soa is exclusively single target Force attacks. Might as well reflect some of those.
- Jarg and Sorno: Both use a high number of single target tech and ranged attacks. Unload and Flame Burst are great options to reflect.
- Turret Gunners before Karagga: Very high single target damage, if they're hitting you make them hit themselves.
- Zorn is entirely Fore/Tech and does quite a bit of single target damage.
- Stormcaller is also high Force/Tech but his cleave (the important bit) isn't single target. I assume you could reflect the Mortar Volley hits while kiting spires though.
- Vorgath is entirely ranged attacks.
- Pulsar Droids: reflect Railshot
- Possibly the Trenchcutters but I still need to test that. Reflected damage loop FTW!
Terror from Beyond
- Kephess the Undying is almost entire Force/Tech and ranged. I suspect the laser and Dread Bomb can't be reflected though.
- Operator is largely ranged or Force/Tech damage. Disinfection (the charge up attack) can be reflected and when he spawns is a perfect time to use Reflect.
- The Terror From Beyond's Scream.
Scum and Villiany
- Underworld Arms Trader's Final Offer ability.
- Rail Turrets Rail shot, they seem to target randomly so this can be difficult to use effectively.
- Operations Chief's Terminate.
- Olok the Shadow is entirely ranged and tech attacks. Just make sure he is actually attacking you before you pop it.
- Sunder's The End ability. Most of his other attacks appear to be heavily Force/Tech as well and Reflect can save you a LOT of damage during his rooting phase.
- Dread Master Styrak's Lightning Manifestations. These guys will take off about 60% of their own HP across the 5s Reflect is up. Just make sure the DPS leave yours to last since he's dealing no damage and killing himself, burning him while the others are up is a waste. It should be up for every Lightning Manifestation as well.
- Dread Master Styrak's Thundering Blast. I prefer the Lightning Manifestation option (saves more damage and helps with DPS burning) but this is another choice. Given the CD, its pretty much one or the other.
-=- Handy Hints -=-
Here are a couple of handy hints to keep in mind while tanking.
- Always keep the mob faced away from the group. Some things have cleaves, its better to be safe than wipe.
- If you know a mob has a knock back, stand close to a wall so you don't have to run back in.
- Turn on your Target of Target in Interface Editor. If its not you: Taunt!
- If you only keybind one thing, keybind your interrupt.
- Ignore the PvPers and the Elitists, Backpedalling is handy on a melee tank, but know when to do it.
- If you want to be a tank: level as a tank. You'll learn much more doing this than respeccing at 50.
- If a DPS is hitting their own target, stun it. When the stun wears off, taunt it. You get all the threat they just built and they take no damage from it for 10 seconds. If its not dead after that the DPS can have it back.
-=- Extra Reading -=-
Both of these are excellent resources for Guardian tanking tips. The video on TankingTOR is very helpful but I'm not sure how much longer they're going to be available and Malliscant no longer plays or updates the site.
-Camarius' Guide: http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=307622