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Guardian Tank Guide: From Beginner to Master

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Classes > Guardian / Juggernaut
Guardian Tank Guide: From Beginner to Master

Vaidinah's Avatar


Vaidinah
02.22.2014 , 07:53 PM | #1
Intro

This guide is meant to explain how to play a Guardian tank, with the main emphasis being on operation boss fights. While the information here will likely benefit you for leveling, doing flashpoints, and PvP, I don’t participate in those activities anymore. Thus, I can’t guarantee this will improve your performance in those areas.

The guide is split up into many different sections, each of which focuses on a different aspect of playing a Guardian tank. These are Spec, Gear, Single Target Opener, Single Target Rotation/Priority System, AoE (Area of Effect) Opener and Rotation, Defensive Cooldowns, and Utility. Furthermore, each of those sections is subdivided into three sub-sections depending on your level of experience/skill. This makes it easier for you to go to the appropriate area to focus on what you want to learn.

Start with the Beginner sub-sections if you are new to playing a Guardian tank (or tanking in general), go to the Advanced ones if an experienced player who is just looking for more knowledge and ways to improve, and eventually finish with the Master category if you want to play optimally or close to it. In general, everything is written on a need-to-know basis so Beginner sub-sections especially will omit a lot of explanations as you don’t want to get overwhelmed with unnecessary information. The Advanced and Master ones are there to give you a deeper understanding.

It should be noted that while this guide can do a great deal to improve your understanding of Guardian tanking, the most important part is understanding the flow of the fights. What determines your success in operations is your knowledge of the fights, your understanding of your role/class, the skill/experience of your teammates, the skill/experience you have on your character, and lastly, your gear.

To be clear, you do need an appropriate set of gear for the operation you are trying to complete, especially if you are playing with a PUG (pick-up group). In a team with people you know and trust to play well, you can be well below the necessary gear requirements to succeed. Tanking is mostly about understanding what needs to be done and doing it, not about executing the best possible rotation or having the optimal gear setup.

As long as you can hold aggro within the first 30 seconds of the fight, use defensive cooldowns somewhat correctly even part of the time, and do the mechanics needed to beat the boss, you have done everything you *need* to do to win. Of course, there is a great deal more to playing a tank if you want to become good at it, but those are the necessities.

Spec

Your spec is how you distribute the talent points you get while leveling into the three skill trees of your class. There is little variation in the Guardian tanking spec as it ends up being 36/8/2, however, there are 2 points in the Defense tree and 2 in Vigilance can be moved around as desired.

Beginner
Spoiler


Advanced
Spoiler



Master
Spoiler


Gear

This is probably the most overrated aspect of playing a character in general, even more so for tanking. When it comes to being ready for operations, don’t use more than say 10% of your total effort you put into your Guardian to figure out the best possible gear with what you have.

Beginner
Spoiler


Advanced
Spoiler


Master
Spoiler


Single Target Opener

How you start a fight is very important as a tank. In fact, your highest priority is to keep control of your opponents. This is because nothing else you do matters if they are constantly attacking the rest of your team. Your survivability (your second highest priority) only really matters if you are the focus of the boss. If you are uncomfortable starting off with the boss, have the other tank take it and practice the opening rotations listed in each section. If you are off-tanking (the tank not holding the boss), remember not to use “Taunt” or “Challenging Call” unless directed to do so by the other tank as they will guarantee that the boss will attack you for 6 seconds (with some exceptions).

The way players control who the enemy is targeting is through “aggro”. Aggro is based on the “threat” a player has built by doing damage or by using certain skills on the boss to cause it to attack a target. Normally, damage increases your threat by a 1:1 ratio so 1000 damage = 1000 threat. For tanks, your threat is doubled by being in Soresu form so doing 1000 damage = 2000 threat. Certain attacks state they have “high threat”, which means instead of your threat from the skill being doubled, the multiplier is even higher. For example, Hilt Strike increases your threat from the skill by 3 times instead of 2 and Guardian Slash increases it by 2.6 times.

Anyways, you hold aggro on an enemy by having the highest threat. If another player surpasses your threat by a significant amount, the boss will change to that target. All you need to know is that your goal is hold threat if you are tanking the boss at the time. If you lose aggro, use Taunt or Challenging Call to regain control of the boss. This will put you at the top of the threat list, forcing the boss to attack you for 6 seconds. If you continue to have the top threat after that, you will keep control of the enemy.

You can use the skill “Guard” on any DPS that you notice is generating too much threat (i.e. they are much more experienced/geared on their character) if you see they are grabbing aggro off of you. You will notice when aggro is taken from you as the enemy will face someone else. A better way to tell if you lose aggro is to have “Target of Target” turned on the interface. You can do this by going into your Interface Editor from Options, clicking on “Target of Target” (it will be a red bar if it’s off), and clicking the “Enabled” check. From there, just hit the Save button to keep this on (it will turn into a blue bar).

Also, you want to position the enemy so that it is facing you and its back is to the rest of your team as most bosses have “cleaves” that will strike the rest of your team along with you if they are in the path of its attack.

Beginner
Spoiler


Advanced
Spoiler


Master
Spoiler


Single Target Rotation/Priority System

Your rotation is just the order in which you use your attack skills with your main ones being Force Sweep, Guardian Slash, Riposte, Sundering Strike, and Blade Storm. Around 30 seconds after you start a fight, threat stops mattering since you or other tank should have used your taunts at least a few times to boost threat to the point where no one else can catch up. This is when your rotation focuses on just survivability and damage.

With more experience, you can put a larger percentage of your time into increasing the damage you do, but your main priorities at almost all times are to hold aggro and survive. The more damage you and your team do, the faster the fight ends, which means you and your team take less damage and there’s less of a chance that a disconnect or other random event doesn’t come up.

Guardian tank rotations can seem intimidating at first as you have a great deal of skills to utilize. If you come from another tank class, it will be a lot more than you are used to, but in time, you’ll adapt. Eventually, you will end up using around 15 skills, which means you have 10 other skills that aren’t main ones. As you progress, you can start adding each one to your rotation until it becomes a priority system. This means your skills aren’t used in a set order each time, but instead rely on a number of factors like your total Focus, number of enemies, applying buffs/debuffs, and so on. Resource management is critical to playing a Guardian tank as they must generate Focus to fuel most of their skills.

Beginner
Spoiler


Advanced
Spoiler


Master
Spoiler


AoE Opener and Rotation

Controlling multiple enemies at the same time has always been unnecessarily difficult for a Guardian tank. If you are playing a Guardian after coming from another tank class, you will likely notice your lack of ranged AoE options, but despite this, it’s not too bad. You just need to be in melee range to be effective as a Guardian tank and must be aware that your AoE attacks have a smaller range of effect as well. A Guardian who understands the limitations of the class and keeps his/her AoE cooldowns available for the right time will be about as good as any other kind of tank for this purpose.

Force Sweep and Guardian Slash will make up the core of your AoE damage/threat and both of these skills have the benefit of doing good damage, have bonus threat multipliers (as they are high-threat attacks), and provide important buffs/debuffs to aid in your survivability. Your goal is to jump or move to your opponents, keep them off your team, and do your best to stay alive at the same time.

One point I’d like to reiterate is that while your survivability is very important as a tank, it does not matter if you don’t hold aggro. As a tank, it’s critical to keep control of all enemies so when you have to prioritize your skills, do so with the intent of grabbing aggro first, then surviving second. If you are in a flashpoint, your main focus is holding aggro on the strongest enemies while the DPS clean up the weak ones first. This prevents the weak enemies from eventually going onto the healer as they will if no one else attacks them.

Beginner
Spoiler


Advanced
Spoiler


Master
Spoiler
The Harbinger
Intrepid

Guardian/Juggernaut Tank Guide: From Beginner to Master

Vaidinah's Avatar


Vaidinah
02.22.2014 , 07:54 PM | #2
Apparently my guide was too long as the character limit is 50000 characters. The rest of the guide is here.

Defensive Cooldowns

There are 5 defensive cooldowns used by a Guardian tank: Saber Ward, Warding Call, Enure, Saber Reflect, and Focused Defense. Beyond that, you can also use an adrenal every 3 minutes. For adrenals, use a Rakata/Exotech absorb adrenal as it boosts your armor instead of your shield and absorb ratings, which is especially important since Guardians have by far the lowest shield/absorb of all the tanks. Exotech is best for progression, but the Rakata version is almost as good and you can get a reusable version of it as well if you use Biochem. Biochem is a generally good crew skill to max since it just makes all those stims (Nano-Infused Fortitude), adrenals, and medpacs (Impeccable) reusable.

When it comes to using your defensive cooldowns, don’t be reluctant to do so. They can do a great deal to help reduce the damage you take with Saber Ward and Warding Call being useful on every boss fight. The other skills range from somewhat conditional (Saber Reflect) to very conditional (Focused Defense).

It’s good to save Enure as a defensive cooldown in case there are problems during the fight. It increases your health by 30% for 20 seconds and removes all that health after it ends. It won’t kill you if you are below 30% of your max health, but will drop you to 1 health. It’s used as a stop-gap solution to give healers time to deal with other issues that may arise during a fight.

Beginner
Spoiler


Advanced
Spoiler


Master
Spoiler


Utility

Guardians have a variety of miscellaneous skills that aren’t purely attack or defensive skills. One set of them I’d like to mention are their crowd control (CC) skills, specifically single target ones like Force Stasis, Hilt Strike, and Force Push. These are skills that paralyze the enemy, causing one to be unable to attack or move. In the case of Force Push, it actually knocks the enemy back fairly far. If you are used to playing another tank, these types of skills are usually only used to stun/displace enemies as they do little to no damage. With the Guardian, they have other uses as all of them deal respectable damage. Due to this, you will want to make frequent use of them even during boss fights in operations.

There are a couple other crowd control skills that work on multiples enemies in a small area around your character. One of these is Awe, which stuns all enemies and does so for a longer period of time than your other ones, but breaks the stun upon enemies taking damage (this is called a “mez”). The other is Freezing Force, which slows all nearby enemies by 50%. Neither of these abilities are useful most of the time in operation boss fights, but you may find that to be the opposite case during flashpoints and when leveling. There are certain situations even during boss fights when adds spawn that they may become valuable to you as well.

Beginner
Spoiler


Advanced
Spoiler


Master
Spoiler


Outro

I’m going to leave you with a Juggernaut parse with Guardian terminology shown in parenthesis.

http://www.torparse.com/a/557083/21/0/Damage+Dealt

This is an example of what can be done with a strong understanding of Guardian/Juggernaught tanking and this fight is 8 man Nefra HM. In this fight, I do 1348.81 DPS while using Enraged Defense (Focused Defense) twice and my gear is almost full 78 (was just missing 2 implants). The use of Enraged Defense (Focused Defense) two times costs me 16 Focus/Rage total (4 for initial cost + 4 triggers for each one) and I use it on every other Power of the Masters DoT the boss places on me. As my co-tank, an Assassin, is holding the boss’ aggro, this helps out the healers without losing threat, though it does drop my DPS by a significant amount. I also cycle my other defensive cooldowns during the fight to lower the damage I take.

For my DPS itself, it’s lower than that what is capable of being done due to this as the extra Rage would have allowed for more Vicious Slashes (Slash), more Vicious Throws (Dispatch), and a lot less Assaults (Strikes). If you note in the parse, you can see that I have delayed Smash (Force Sweep) and Crushing Blow (Guardian Slash) several times just as I mentioned in the Master sub-section of the Single Target Rotation. I also use my AoE taunt, Threatening Scream (Challenging Call), three times to shield my teammates during the Power of the Masters DoT.

Hopefully this guide has helped you understand just how much you can do to improve your own play and helped you with completing operations. If you have any constructive criticism or suggestions, please let me know. Good luck.
The Harbinger
Intrepid

Guardian/Juggernaut Tank Guide: From Beginner to Master

GrandLordMenace's Avatar


GrandLordMenace
02.24.2014 , 11:34 AM | #3
Probably one of the few in depth guides related to Guard/Jugg tanking. While I knew about the opener much of this has been enlightening and just overall useful and entertaining to read. If I ever get serious about guard tanking this will most definitely be useful.
Rydarus Veneris the Eternal Forum Warrior, Lord of Alacrity, of the Ruined World, 8/10 HM TOS/Rav 9/10 Dread Nightmares
GuardDPS PVE guide: http://dulfy.net/2014/12/11/swtor-3-...de-by-rydarus/

Rufussay's Avatar


Rufussay
02.24.2014 , 12:19 PM | #4
This is a really comprehensive guide, thank you. I didn't even think to use force push as a filler, but it makes sense when tanking bosses that don't include adds.

Only thing I noted was maybe changing your 'Master' opener to include cyclone slash over regular slash, as I believe cyclone generates a little more threat early on in the fight ( http://www.swtor.com/community/showt...cyclone+threat ).

I also personally find myself using hilt strike, then stasis, then blade storm before master strike, because master strike's damage is seemingly back-end loaded (though I admittedly haven't tried to prove this out via parsing). EDIT: I'm realizing that it doesn't matter if the damage is back-loaded in your opener, since it falls immediately after the taunt.

This is great.

Vaidinah's Avatar


Vaidinah
02.24.2014 , 07:59 PM | #5
Thanks for the comments. As for Cyclone Slash, it will generate more threat overall than Slash when used, but this is because mainly because it costs less Focus (2 to Slash's 3). Thus, Cyclone Slash generates more threat per second if used as the lower amount of Focus gives you more Cyclone Slashes. When used an equal number of times, though, it generates significantly less threat even being high threat as it does such little damage.

In the thread you linked, another poster, Methoxa, replied showing that one use of Cyclone Slash generated 2119 threat while Slash generated 2743. Since we want to maximize threat initially in the opener, Slash will give you more aggro in the short time you need to hold aggro.
The Harbinger
Intrepid

Guardian/Juggernaut Tank Guide: From Beginner to Master

GrandLordMenace's Avatar


GrandLordMenace
02.24.2014 , 08:08 PM | #6
Quote: Originally Posted by Vaidinah View Post
Thanks for the comments. As for Cyclone Slash, it will generate more threat overall than Slash when used, but this is because mainly because it costs less Focus (2 to Slash's 3). Thus, Cyclone Slash generates more threat per second if used as the lower amount of Focus gives you more Cyclone Slashes. When used an equal number of times, though, it generates significantly less threat even being high threat as it does such little damage.

In the thread you linked, another poster, Methoxa, replied showing that one use of Cyclone Slash generated 2119 threat while Slash generated 2743. Since we want to maximize threat initially in the opener, Slash will give you more aggro in the short time you need to hold aggro.
I could be wrong but isn't the focus cost of cyclone slash 3 focus and it generates 30 percent threat from soresu stance?

In Shien Stance as a Vigi guardian i lose a net 2 focus from using cyclone slash, and shien stance refunds 1 focus making it mean that it SHOULD lose 3 focus. Not positive though.
Rydarus Veneris the Eternal Forum Warrior, Lord of Alacrity, of the Ruined World, 8/10 HM TOS/Rav 9/10 Dread Nightmares
GuardDPS PVE guide: http://dulfy.net/2014/12/11/swtor-3-...de-by-rydarus/

Vaidinah's Avatar


Vaidinah
02.25.2014 , 12:31 AM | #7
Cyclone Slash does generate 30% more threat than normal, but the cost is still 2 in Soresu form. There's a talent high up in the Defense tree called Cyclonic Sweeps (6th tier, middle icon) that reduces the cost of this skill, Blade Storm, and Guardian Slash by 1 Focus.
The Harbinger
Intrepid

Guardian/Juggernaut Tank Guide: From Beginner to Master

Jedi_Knight_Jess's Avatar


Jedi_Knight_Jess
02.28.2014 , 05:33 PM | #8
Awesome! Since I was mostly speccing a defensive tank anyways, I hope I can make use of this guide at Lv. 29

really great that you put all that info together

Manweth's Avatar


Manweth
03.02.2014 , 02:50 PM | #9
One question:

While tanking on my alt, I've noticed problems arose even if I executed the strongest aggro opener if DPS was getting lucky crits.

So I did the obvious thing and started to use Reflect after force sweep or after GRD slash, then I taunted.

The initial aggro is so high that way that even a shadow would be flabbergasted.

I understand it's a Def. CD, but it's a 1min cooldown and at start, healers are untaxed so they should technically be able to cope without you using Reflect for first minute.

Question is: Why is using Reflect not mentioned anywhere in opener rotations?
Manwè, Former Vigilance Player and Guardian Advocate.
Former Raider. Eternal Revan Fanboy.
Nothing else matters at this point.

Vaidinah's Avatar


Vaidinah
03.02.2014 , 04:31 PM | #10
Quote: Originally Posted by Manweth View Post
One question:

While tanking on my alt, I've noticed problems arose even if I executed the strongest aggro opener if DPS was getting lucky crits.

So I did the obvious thing and started to use Reflect after force sweep or after GRD slash, then I taunted.

The initial aggro is so high that way that even a shadow would be flabbergasted.

I understand it's a Def. CD, but it's a 1min cooldown and at start, healers are untaxed so they should technically be able to cope without you using Reflect for first minute.

Question is: Why is using Reflect not mentioned anywhere in opener rotations?
It's mentioned near the beginning of the Beginner Opener and mentioned in both the Advanced and Master sub-sections in the paragraphs below.

Beginner

Quote: Originally Posted by Vaidinah View Post
Saber Throw
Force Leap + Saber Reflect
Advanced

Quote: Originally Posted by Vaidinah View Post
Saber Reflect can be used to boost your opener as it adds 8592 threat, but then it can’t be used defensively for one minute.
Master

Quote: Originally Posted by Vaidinah View Post
Saber Reflect can be used near the beginning of the rotation if desired for extra aggro, but I only recommend this if you are using it on a boss that has nothing for you to Reflect in the next minute (like Nefra or Tyrans) since you are essentially wasting a defensive cooldown to do so.
So you can and should use Saber Reflect if the boss has nothing for you to Reflect in the first minute. If you are unsure whether there are any reflectable attacks or aren't comfortable with doing the Master Opener yet, just use Saber Reflect. The loss in overall mitigation is fairly small so it's not a big deal either way.
The Harbinger
Intrepid

Guardian/Juggernaut Tank Guide: From Beginner to Master