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Cae's Guide to Vanguard Tanking in 2.0

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Classes
Cae's Guide to Vanguard Tanking in 2.0

Justcae's Avatar

04.27.2013 , 09:41 PM | #1
Hi Guys! I'm Cae! As of the date of this post I've successfully cleared all in game published content. I've cleared this content on my main which just so happens to be my Vanguard. I've noticed that there have been alot of questions about how to gear. Futhermore I've noticed there being some basic misunderstandings of the fundamentals of tanking. This is my effort to correct such things and try to provide you with the information you need to go forward in this game.


That being said what are the basics of being a tank? At the very least what you need to strive to do is hold the attention/aggro/threat of the most damaging NPC's in the game. At the same time not falling apart like a hardcore game of drunken jenga. As you progress you will learn how to more effectively hold more, and survive longer.

The key to growing these is to be aware of what your class can do, how to gear your character, and developing an overall awareness to the content you are doing at that moment. Knowing what is going to happen when you pull a group of beasties is essential to long life, and group happiness.

Terminology and What They Do?

So lets break down the very basic tenents and terminology of being a tank.

Threat - Threat is literally what your group both lives by and dies by. If you have it the group lives, if your group has it your group dies at an alarming rate. When you engage in combat with any NPC is has a list of the people in combat with it. Based on the actions of the people in your group they move and fall on this list. Typically the person on the top of this list is the person whom this NPC is going to attack. Threat is gained by attacks done to the NPC by both you and the DPS, as well as the healers keeping you all standing.

Taunting - You as a vanguard have two abilities which will automatically give you the attention of an NPC, unless of course it is immune to taunting. A taunt will make you the NPC's primary target, as well as force them to attack you for a number of seconds. If you did nothing to further build threat on these NPC's after that time has passed they may well turn away from you. Luckily when you taunted the NPC what the game did is give you the amount of threat required to pull the creatures attention off of whatever it was on before. You can even use taunts to increase your own threat on creatures already on you. Advanced tanking, and end game raiding requires you to do this.

For more on the details of threat and tanking click below.


Guard - Guard is an ability found in the Vanguard tab of your ability panel.

"While active, the guarded player takes 5% less damage and generates 25% less threat. In addition, so long as you remain within 15 meters of the guarded player, 50% of all incoming damage from enemy players is redirected to you."

The key for PvE is the first sentance of the text. If you are playing in a group and are consistently losing or battling for threat that person is the candidate for your guard. It will as the text says lower their threat by 25%. If they do pull from you, they'll take 5% less damage until you get it back. The second line of text is specifically for PvP and has no bearing in PvE.

Cooldown - Most abilities in SWTOR have some sort of internal cooldown after being used. That is not what this is referring to. Cooldowns in general are those abilities which are so defensively powerful they have a long cooldown. Its key to learn when to use these abilities. If you know they attacks you are going to be facing it becomes easier and easier to survive formerly difficult moments. Simply by using your cooldowns you can limit the damage to you, and to the the group by thousands and thousands of points of damage.


The bonus of being a tank is that stat balancing becomes a lot less complicated than other roles. We can get rid of several stats right off the get go. Those stats which would aid DPS or heals? Get rid of them. Alacrity, accuracy, and surge have no business being on your character. Bioware does indeed put them on some of your class sets. However, Bioware does not min/max your gear and hopefully you will. Those three specifically increase DPS, which though it would increase your threat generation, are not needed at all. Especially after you've mastered taunt boosting.

Defense (dodge) - This stat has improved for Vanguards in 2.0. When you initially hit 55 the fastest way you can increase your survivability is to stack this number. It gives you the most return for your stats early. It does however drop off, and is not needed past a certain point. Beyond that defense is only used in attacks against you that are classified as "Melee" or "Range." If it is not one of these categories you will not be able to defend against them with this stat.


Shield - Shield was significantly buffed in its role in 2.0. Before shield was exactly like defense in that it only worked on abilities classifed as "Melee" or "Range." Now however your shield will work those but also any ability that does kinetic, or energy. Most boss NPC's in this game have several hard hitting abilities. Almost all those abilities deal one of those two types of damage and are shieldable. This is huge for shield. It also makes out lives a little more complicated as far as balancing stats. As shield and defense still both work on what they did before, but now shield works on more it can complicate your stat balancing a little bit. Luckily for you, aside from augments and relics, shield does not compete with defense for points. Shield only competes with all those stats we previously pointed out we didn't want. Namely alacrity, accuracy, and surge.


Absorb - Absorb works hand in hand with shield. It is also the fastest climbing of all the defensive stats because of this. Absorb means nothing without shield, and shield means nothing without absorb. Absorb is the percentage of damage that will be reduces by a shielded attack. Absorb and defense fight directly for points on your gear. A defensive mod or enhancement will either have absorb or defense. It will not have both. Luckily because your shield is going to be naturally high due to you being able to stack it, absorb benefits.


Endurance - Directly affects your health, which consequently determines how much damage is required to defeat your character. A very simple stat that is easily understandable. As you gear your character to how you see fit, you will find a number that you appreciate. There is no right or wrong number for where you end up with this. It will be somewhere in the mid 30k health area.



Adrenaline Rush - "Activating this ability mmakes you Fired Up for up to 60 seconds, which triggers an Adreniline Rush when your health is reduced to 30% or less. If your health is already below 30%, Adrenaline Rush triggers immediately. Once triggered Adrenaline rush goes on cooldown for three minutes, and rapidly healths you for up to 30% of your max health for 8 seconds, but will not exceed 30% of your max health"

This ability can be a life saver. It was much easier to use in its previous incarnation but is far more powerful now. Its further improved in our tree by "Soldier's Grit" which allows it to heal you for 2% of your health every second even after its healed you to thirty. They've made it so that you can preemptively use this ability. If you know you are heading into a very damaging part of the fight and you are already wounded you can queue this ability to fire. Very useful ability. It will take you time to learn when best to use this.

Cryo Grenade - Fairly simple. Four second single target stun. Useful for interrupting abilities on NPC's while your interrupt is on CD. Also useful to help your group keep particularly damaging NPC's locked down while being DPS'ed.

Diversion - Threat drop. Not particularly useful for a MT. Though could be used in some overly complicated strategies. This is meant more for our DPS'ing fellows.

Explosive Round - A very poor ability for the Vanguard class. Feel free to not have it on your bar.

Full Auto - An extremely poor ability for the Vanguard class. Deals damage very similar to Hammer Shot, costs cells, and requires you stay in one place. Do not even train this ability. This is a Commando skill. Do not use. Ever. Ever? Ever.

Hammer Shot - Your default "auto attack." Very useful due to its range. Does decent damage do to stance procs. Because it fires off several attacks every use you will almost always be gaining some measure of threat.

High Impact Bolt - One of our high damage and thereby high threat abilities. Requires a DoT be on the target. No worries that's what the Ion cell proc is for. Try to use this ability whenever you have the chance. Due to spec later outlined, this will also build a stack of power screen and reduce your cooldown for Energy Blast.

Hold the Line - Formerly found high in the Tactics tree. Now all Vanguards and Commandos may use it. The increased run speed in combat is useful, but what will make it particularly useful to you as a tank is the immunity to all movement impairing, knockdown, and physics. By popping this at the right moment you can avoid most or all of some bosses "Burst phases."

An example of this is the bonus boss of Hammerstation. If you use this ability during the channel of his rampage phase he will not be able to knock you down. He'll just stand there looking at you intensely for a moment and then carry on regularly attacking you.

Mortar Volley - Our highest damaging skill. The fact that it's AOE is all the better. Very hard to actually use when you are pressed against a wall with a horrible camera angle. Very strong to use on the beginning of a pull. Both with bosses or just NPC packs.

Pulse Cannon - Amazing ability. Unfortunately subject to knockbacks so you may have to time it correctly while tanking some bosses. Use it whenever you can. With the proper spec you can actually fire off two almost back to back. FIres a cone extending 10 meters infront of you. Does AOE damage. Really couldn't ask for more. When you are doing the 3 second channel, you will almost recoup all of your ammo spent activating the ability originally.

Reactive Shield - Damage reduction of 25% for X number of seconds. Affected by your 2 piece set bonus. Amazing cooldown. Your very strongest cooldown for mitigating high damage phases of fights. Use it liberally after you know the timing of bosses big hits.

Recharge Cells - Gives you a portion of your ammo back. Huzzah!

Reserve Powercell - Makes your next ability free. I typically use this in conjunction with Mortar Volley at the beginning of fights.

Stealth Scan - Reveals stealthed enemies. Some NPC's like Stealth Killers in the raid Explosive Conflict have the ability to steath. By putting this underneath them they will no longer be able to stealth and allow DPS to remain on them.

Sticky Grenade - Very strong ability for its cost. Longe range, delayed damage AOE. Very useful for pulling NPC packs around corners like on Mandalorian Raiders. throw your grenade, and start high tailing it behind a corner. The NPC's won't start chasing until the grenade actually lands on the targeted NPC allowing you to be out of range and ducked behind a corner. Again, very strong ability.

Stockstrike - Your bread and butter attack. Always use it as soon as it is up. Applies your Ion Cell DoT whenever you use it, allowing you to use High Impact Bolt. Is reset by shielding attacks if specced for it. Very strong ability.

Tenacity - Your crowd control break. Some fights (Titan 6 in Scum and Villany) will require you to use this in order to prevent damage or not be one shot. Must have on your bar.


Battle Focus - More of a DPS Vanguard skill. But still useful to increasing the threat you do over a period of time. I will typically use it just before firing my motor volley at the start of a pull. It is improved by "Soldier's Grit" but the improvement is very minor.

Explosive Surge - Your spammable, if expensive AOE. If you have "Static Surge" in your tanking tree specialized, and you should, you will be able to use this ability for free twice after using Storm. Very useful for AOE phases of fights, or large packs of NPC's. Applies your Static Field debuff lowering those affected by it damage by 5%. Only thing that moderates its use is its high cost in cells.

Guard - Noted above.

Harpoon - Is your pull. A very useful ability for positioning mobs for AoE or just peeling them off someone at range. This skill is noted for being "High threat" but it realy only applies the same amount of threat as one stock strike. Don't expect it to make something change targets. The threat is applied even if the NPC is physics immune.

Into the Frey (Passive) - New from 2.0. Increases the duration of our Reactive shield (yay!), and while we are in AOE we regen ammo and are healed for 2.5% of our health. Now, no one is going to stand in an AOE on purpose because of this. But being that you are the Tank you are going to be targeted by all of the bosses cleaves, as well as be the target of other variously nasty AOE's. This helps mitigate some of that unavoidable damage and gives you more ammo to boot. As this is passive you do not need to activate it, you get it for simply being awesome.

Ion Pulse - Your spammable attack that costs cells. Improved in various ways through your spec. Most noted is the application of Static Field which lowers the targets damage by 5%. Use this whenever you have ammo to burn and everything else is on cooldown.

Neural Jolt - Single target taunt. Functions outside of the GCD. Can not miss. Ever.

Riot Strike - Your interrupt.

Shoulder Cannon - Very difficult ability to master. Loads 4 missiles over 20 seconds starting with the activation of the ability. They will stay loaded for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, or upon use of all 4 missiles the ability goes on cooldown for 90 seconds. Due to (suggested) spec, each missile will heal you for 5% of your max health. This ability functions outside the global cooldown. The missiles are able to be fired even if you are subject to crowd control.

I will typically have these loaded before starting a boss, and spam them at the start to increase my threat. In more serious content, I will have them loaded and waiting for parts of increased damage or where healing may have to be focused elsewhere. ex) Lots of Missiles on Titan 6.

Sonic Round - AoE taunt. Functions outside of the GCD. Can not ever miss. Ever.


Energy Blast - Altered significantly in 2.0. Still amazing. Regenerates ammo, and applies a buff to your absorb by 25%. Functions outside of the global cooldown. Cooldown is lowered by shielding attacks, and proc'ing your Ion cell. There is zero reason to take anything else over this. None. I can say with confidence if you do not have this skill you are doing it wrong.

Riot Gas - Also altered significantly in 2.0. Improved the accuracy debuff to 30%. Slows all enemies inside of it by 70%. This accuracy debuff does affect Bosses. It does only affect those attacks classified as "Melee" or "Ranged." You can look at this as increasing your defense (and everyone whom has a NPC attacking them in the gas) by 30%. Not bad.

Storm - Your charge/leap/teleport/jump. Whatever you want to call it. Takes your character from where you are, and puts you by that NPC way over there so you can hit them with your gun like a completely sane person would. Side note) This is why Eminem would play a Vanguard.

Specialization and Why?


My Current Spec (Nov 3, 2013)

You will have 4 (6) points that you can put wherever you feel necessary. But the points outlined by the following are basically must haves.

Shield Specialist Tree (36)

First Tier

Static Field 2/2 - Allows your Ion Pulse, and Explosive surge to apply a -5% damage debuff to target. Must have.

Steely Resolve 3/3 - 9% aim. Overall threat increase.

Second Tier

Ion Overload 2/2 - Makes your Stock Strike proc your Ion Cell. This will lower your cooldown on Energy blast, and allow you to use High Impact Bolt.

Overcharged Cell Capacitor 3/3 - Improves all elemental damage by 6%. Abilities affected? Ion Pulse, Pulse Cannon, Energy Blast and Explosive Surge. All go to moves.

Rebraced Armor 2/2 - Increases Armor rating by 16%. Armor affects Kinetic, and Energy damage. Which just so happens to be most of the damage in the game.

Third Tier

Riot Gas 1/1 - One of your strongest cooldowns. Must have. No excuses.

Shield Cycler 2/2 - Increases shield chance. In addition when you shield you regenerate cells.

Ceramic Plating 2/2 - Increases absorb by 4%.

Fourth Tier

Supercharged Ion Cell 1/1 - Makes High Impact Bolt trigger an AOE blast from Ion Cell. Increases Ion Overload damage by 25%. This also makes it so HiB builds a powerscreen, and reduces the cooldown for Energy Blast.

Ion Shield 2/2 - Flat 2% damage reduction to all incoming damage.

Static Shield 2/2 - Increases the crit chance of Stockstrike and Explosive Surge by 16%. But also, shielding an attack resets Stockstrike. Very important talent.

Fifth Tier

Storm 1/1 - A fantastic ability required for tank swap ease. No excuse to not take it.

Static Surge 2/2 - After using Storm, two free uses of Explosive Surge.

6th Tier

Deflective Guards 2/2 - 4% Dodge.

Pulse Engine 2/2 - Direct damage attacks reset Pulse Cannon, and make Pulse Cannon tick twice as fast. Second rank makes this proc a 18s cooldown, very important.

7th Tier

Power Screen 1/1 - Shielding or Triggering Ion Cell gives you a stack of Power Screen. Power Screen stacks 3x's. Each stack improves absorb by 1%. At three stacks allows the use of Energy blast.

Guard Cannon 2/2 - Improves Explosive Surge, and Shoulder cannon damage and threat by 5%. Each missile now heals for 5% of your total health.

Soldier's Grit 2/2 - Your Adrenaline Rush heals for 2% of your health every second above 30%. Battle focus increases alacrity by 5% (meh).

8th Tier

Energy Blast - As noted above. No excuse not to take it. Extremely powerful ability.

But Cae!? That's only 34 ability points? The points I outlined are the must haves of PvE tanking. I'm leaving you with two points to spend however you wish. Want more HiB damage? Pick up Brutal Impact 2/2. Want to run fast the entire duration of combat? Pick up Charge! 2/2. Want your Explosive Surge to snare all those caught by it by 50%? Pick up Sharp Satchel 2/2. None of these are going to make or break your character and are completely up to your individual play style.


First Tier

Focused Impact 3/3 - Improves Accuracy by 3% for Ranged and Tech. Additionally High Impact Bolt ignores 45% of armor. Because Bosses have resists to Tech now this improves your threat and minimizes their resists.

Power Armor 2/2 - Increases damage reduction by 2%.

Second Tier

Tactical Tools 1/2 - Reduces Pulse Cannon by 1.5s.


But Cae I have 4 points left over?! I know. You can place those points however you see fit. I have them in Demolition 2/2, and Heavy Stock 2/2. But that isn't going to change how I tank any different than how you tank if you pick up Soldier's Endurance 3/3. Would I spend those points there? Clearly not, but you aren't wrong for putting them there, or any other place you wish.

Justcae's Avatar

04.27.2013 , 09:41 PM | #2
Rotation/Priority System

There are typically two ways to open a fight as a Vanguard. Those two ways are entirely dependent on whether or not this single skill is on cooldown or not.

1. Mortar Volley -> Storm -> ES -> SS -> HiB -> (EB) -> (PC)

Mortar Volley is your strongest skill and its a pain in the *** to place while tanking. However you should take full advantage of it any pull you can. Every boss fight starts with my Mortar Volley as it gives you such a huge threat base to start off of. Storm to close and give you the two ES procs. Stockstrike to get its reset cooldown rolling and proc your Ion Cell. Your HiB is now open due to your DoT from Ion Cell. Between HiB and SS you now should have two stacks of Power Screen. As soon shield one attack you will have your three stacks required for Energy Blast which will always be fired on cooldown. Pulse Cannon is almost always procced by now, but even if it isn't you should use it. Its a very high damage skill even without the proc.

2. SG -> Storm -> As Above.

If Mortar Volley is on cooldown, use Stick Grenade as your opener. Because it's a doubly delayed (Travel time + delayed damage) the NPC's won't react until your already flying through the air from Storm. They'll start closing around you, your explosive surge will give you a threat base, followed very shortly by your delayed blast from sticky.

Priority System

1. Energy Blast

2. Stock Strike

3. HiB

4. Static Field debuff (which should be maintained at all times)

5. Pulse Cannon

6. If all of the above are on cooldown, or you are ammo starved, Hammershot.

Other notes

1. Shoulder Cannon is a very difficult skill to make use of effectively. You either have to look at it as extra threat, or healing. At the start of a boss fight I'll use it as extra threat, spamming the missiles during the opening rotation. As they function off cooldown they are not noted above. All other times I'll use it for the self heal. Make sure you load it as soon as its off cooldown for that reason. If there is a big hit or set of attacks coming my way I'll want to have 4/4 missiles readied. Because I'm using it most often for the 20% health over 2s, I can not tell you when you should use it otherwise.

2. Make sure every rotation, especially in the opening stages, you effectively taunt boost(see previous post). I'll use neural jolt on cooldown if the fight allows from the 5th skill pressed on. Only holding it in reserve if there is a tank swap, or threat drop. No one will touch your threat.

Justcae's Avatar

04.27.2013 , 09:42 PM | #3
Hey Guys!

Long time since an update. A long time ago I went through each boss and tried to break down everything attack by attack and give an overload of information. It was actually kind of beyond what most people want to know. I'm going to give a bunch of break downs for the current edition of Hard Modes as it pertains to Vanguard tanking. Overall guides for the instances are available elsewhere. I'll even link Suckafish's guide somewhere in here if you need an overall guide towards strategy. Hopefully this guide will help you.

This guide will touch on small gearing suggestions as it pertains to relics as well, hopefully they provide you guys with some further insight into your gaming experience.

Edit) Disclaimer - When I go into the damage breakdowns all Dodgable is also shieldable as well. So if it were stated as 25% Dodgable/65%Shieldable/10% Unmitigatable a total of 90% of the damage is shieldable. The damage is collected from parses where my mitigation is the following.

Defense: 21.5% Shield: 41.5% Absorb: 37% (w/o Absorb Stacks)

If your stats vary from mine, the damage profiles of the mobs outlined below will change. But they will be ballpark.

Dread Fortress PvE Overall Guide


Gate Commander Draxus


Corruptor Zero


Dread Palace PvE Overall Guide





The Dread Council

Best wishes guys feel free to ask any questions

Operations Guide Links

Nursejenna's Avatar

04.27.2013 , 09:51 PM | #4
Can I have your babies?

Side Note: I am Cae's healer in Ops..and can say without hesitation that he is a healer's dream. So listen up and pay attention! When building your tank - stop listening to the babbling about what looks correct on a graph and listen to someone that can actually get down the content and not make it a nightmare!

P.S. Full Auto is a terrible skill!
Readers are plentiful; thinkers are rare.

Justcae's Avatar

04.27.2013 , 10:11 PM | #5
Only if we can name it Horatio, and it wants to grow up to become a Vanguard.

Keleset's Avatar

04.28.2013 , 10:28 AM | #6
Great guide so far. What relics are you using?

Justcae's Avatar

04.29.2013 , 02:41 AM | #7
For relics I am currently using...

1) Arkanian Relic of Shield Amplification. This relic is available from your basic comms vendor.

Equip: Shielding an incoming attack grants 510 Absorb Rating for 6 seconds. This effect can only occur once every 20 seconds, and shares this limit with similar defensive effects.

2) War Hero Relic of the Shrouded Crusader. I do not know if this is still available to new Vanguards.

41 Endurance, 113 Shield

The reason why I am using it is that it currently gives me 1.77 shield all the time.

Other Relics Available

1) Arkanian Relic of Imperiling Serenity

89 Endurance, 29 Power.

Use: Increases Defense Rating by 395 for 20 seconds.

This increases Defense/Dodge by roughly 4% depending on where you are on the curve.

2) Arkanian Relic of the Shrouded Crusader

89 Endurance, 29 Power.

Use: Increases Shield, and Absorb Ratings by 245 for 30 seconds.

Lasts for 10 seconds longer than the defense clicky. Gives me roughly 3.5% Shield and 5% Absorb.

Of the two, I am closer to switching over to the second than the first. The problem is they just are not game changing enough to really get you out of a bad situation. They will both offer you minor changes in your damage avoidance but its so small its hard to go with them. If you try to hold the on use ability for a bad situation not only does it impair your overall mitigation, but as just mentioned they do not actually help you all that much. Due to the longer duration of the second one if I did not have access to the War Hero relic I would opt for that one.

Just for perspective all the avoidable attacks in S&V(have not gone through TFB to confirm) are either Kinetic or Energy. These damages are affected by your armor. The old Rakata armor adrenal increases your damage reduction for these attacks by ~8%. That is over twice as good as the Defense clicky.

Why twice as good? Assuming that every attack you faced was of the category Melee/Range the dodge relic would act the following way. You would avoid 100% of the damage 4% of the time. The armor adrenal would help you avoid 8% of the damage 100% of the time.

But wait, I said that it is over twice as good. Your defense only affects attacks that are melee/ranged. Much of the damage you face comes from tech/force attacks. Any attacks that you face that are tech/force that deal kinetic/energy damage would make the old Rakata adrenal even more effective in comparison. That is how badly the new click relics are for tanking currently. It is actually sad.

Maybe I am expecting too much out of the on use relics. You can argue that the old War Hero relic does not actually change things all that much either. For summary though those are the two relics I am using, and if I did not have access to the War Hero one I would use the Shield/Absorb on use for its improved duration and affecting a greater number of attacks.

quirez's Avatar

04.29.2013 , 06:46 AM | #8
Awesome guide!

Sticky i say, STICKY!!

this guide has all the informations a new Vanguard/Powertech tank might need.

Good job Cae!
Operative Siduri
Sniper Yai'co


SilentKitty's Avatar

04.29.2013 , 05:15 PM | #9
Ahh great =)
Female Mandalorians who romanced Torian are missing his Resol'nare and Mando'a lessons conversations since 4.0 launched. Please fix this!

meaghs's Avatar

04.30.2013 , 03:26 AM | #10
Heya, nice guide so far.

Regarding choosing Focused Impact over Demolition and Blaster Augs 8%.. I know that 'everyone' traits this way however...

Demolition will increase crit chance of all elemental attacks by 6%. In a common rotation you will spam ion pulse, Pulse Cannon (when it procs), and Energy Blast. I would propose that the damage and threat gained by a 6% increase in critical chance to these skills outweighs the increase to HiB accuracy that Focused Impact gives, especially since HiB is something of an 'off rotation' skill... (you will likely prioritize skills that generate powerscreen for your Energy Blast over HiB).

Taking this argument further if you trait Blaster Augs your Damage by Ion Cell is increased 8%. Surely this 8% is also going to generate greater damage and more threat than Focused Impact as well. Thoughts?

Again, Thanks for the guide! - M.