Hello, my shield brothers and sisters! This week, as promised, I’m going to provide you with some advice on leveling your Guardian from level 41-80. If you missed the first part of my Guardian leveling guide, where I covered levels 1-40, don’t worry–you can find it here.
Before we begin, there are some points I need to make in order to put this article into context.
Since this is the Guardian column, we’re going to move beyond general leveling advice and focus on specifics, broken down by level bracket. If you’d like to read more about general tips and guides, we have an extensive guide/tutorial section ready and waiting for you.
If you’re brand new to the profession, I provided an overview of the Guardian in a previous article as well. It’s a comprehensive summary of our weaponry, trait lines and unique abilities. For long-time readers, some of my suggestions here may contradict those I’ve expressed in earlier features. As a rule of thumb, always trust the most recent information. Abilities have changed over time, and so has my experience level. If we refuse to adapt, we fail to learn. If we fail to learn, we die.
Those disclaimers aside, let’s dive in!
FORGING YOUR DESTINY!
In the first installment, I broke down the leveling experience into distinct ten-level brackets. This was because those levels are considered your apprenticeship. You start with a basic idea of what the profession is, and through experimentation, trial and error, you familiarize yourself with everything the Guardian can do. Each bracket contained a different focus, and each deserved to be handled individually.
With levels 41-80, we’re going to take a different approach. These are your mastery levels. This is where you start to apply what you’ve learned and build your Guardian around the play style that you enjoy most for how you’re spending your time in-game. Since Guardians can vary greatly at max level, I can only share with you what I’ve done as someone who has focused almost exclusively on PvE. My main concern has been getting the most from my dungeon experience, and I’ve planned my build to achieve that goal.
The only advice I can give you here is to begin with the end in mind. Use the Mists lobby to test out various builds and weapons in order to find out what appeals to you most. Play a few rounds of hot-join PvP. Pay special attention to how your weapon swaps can complement one another, and how your combination fields and finishers work.
Once you start entering higher-level zones, you’re going to find the average time between levels decreasing. This is because the number of dynamic events and the amount of experience you’re rewarded for them is increasing, even though the amount of experience you need to level up is staying the same. Before you know it, you’ll be 70 and ready to cross into Orr. After that, those final 10 levels can seem like a blur.
CENTURION’S DUNGEON BUILD
Since I’ve been getting a number of questions about my build recently, I figure the best way to give examples of what I’m talking about would be to break down my build, and explain why I’ve made the choices I have.
Here is what my trait distribution looks like:
The first rule of any build I create is to build around the traits you want, not the passive stats that each line gives. There are plenty of ways to balance your stats out or stack them into one or two areas if that’s what you’re looking to do. It’s easy to pick up more Precision, but you can’t always reproduce what a specific trait can do. What I normally do is select one or two traits that I MUST HAVE and then build out everything else around them.
For my dungeon build, these marquee traits are Empowering Might (which is 20 points into the Honor line and gives me and my allies Might every time I land a critical strike), and Altruistic Healing (which is 30 points into the Valor line and heals me for a small amount every time I give a boon to my allies). The combination of these two traits mean that every time I crit, I heal myself, so long as there are allies around to receive the Might boon.
Other important Major traits include:
- Signet Mastery - Signets recharge 20% faster.
- Inscribed Removal - Using a signet cures a condition on me.
- Defender’s Flame - Gain a 100% chance to burn attackers when I block.
- Purity - Lose a condition every 10 seconds.
- Resolute Healer - Generates a Shield of Absorption when I start reviving an ally.
The important Minor traits are:
- Justice is Blind - When activating Virtue of Justice, nearby foes are blinded.
- Renewed Justice - Virtue of Justice is renewed when I kill a foe.
- Might of the Protector - Gain might when I block attacks.
- Vigorous Precision - Gain 1 second of vigor when I critical hit.
- Selfless Daring - The end of my dodge roll heals nearby allies.
My main weapon set is the Mace and Focus. My secondary set depends on the encounter. I’ll generally either use the Scepter and Shield or the Hammer, depending on the encounter. My weapon sigils usually center around quickness on crit in the main hand and +5% critical strike chance in the off-hand. More swing chances mean more potential crits, and a higher critical strike chance helps with that.
My utility skills will change around a bit based on the encounter as well, but generally are as follows:
- Signet of Resolve - Heal. Signet. Passive benefit cures a condition every ten seconds.
- “Hold the Line!” - Shout. Grant protection and regeneration to allies.
- “Stand Your Ground!” - Shout. Grant stability and retaliation to yourself and allies.
- Signet of Judgment - Signet. Passive benefit reduces incoming damage by 10%. Active ability grants retaliation to nearby allies and weakness to nearby foes.
- Summon Mistfire Wolf – Elite. Burns and chills on every attack. Decent damage. Fire and forget. And most importantly, because I can.
The end result is that, even with my relatively low crit chance, I still crit fairly often. Often enough to see Might stacks ranging anywhere from 5-9 deep on both me and my allies. This boosts my personal and total party damage output quite a bit. I’ve chosen to go with an almost even spread of stats as far as my gear is concerned because the glass cannon setup of all power/precision/critical damage wasn’t performing well for me in explorable modes. I still do plenty of damage, but my ability to survive most encounters went way up with a balanced distribution. I may begin to tweak this towards a more offensive mindset as my experience in each explorable dungeon increases, but for now it’s fantastic.
As I said earlier, every time I land a critical strike with this build, I heal myself. I also get a vigor boost, which means I can dodge more. This means I can freely weave in dodges between the blocking and blinding the mace and focus offers. My dodges also heal me and my party members for a small amount, and I often find myself playing the risk/reward mini-game of maximizing my rolls to heal allies on my way into and out of melee range with an enemy.
Speaking of healing, since all 3 of my utility skills provide boons to my allies, I essentially have FIVE on-demand heals when you include Signet of Resolve and Virtue of Resolve into the mix. Given that I have an impressive amount of mitigation with the 10% damage reduction provided by Signet of Judgement, the aegis mechanic, and my aforementioned blocks and blinds, I can get out of most sticky situations with my pride and health bar both intact. If I need a 6th heal, I can swap to the scepter/shield and pop Shield of Judgment. It damages foes and gives protection to yourself and up to five allies, and since protection is an ally boon, it’s another heal for me.
Condition removal is almost a non-issue thanks to the fact that the passive ability of Signet of Resolve and the Purity trait stack with one another. They’re on the same internal timer, but the net result is that I drop TWO conditions automatically every ten seconds instead of only one. If I need on-demand removal, using either Signet of Resolve or Signet of Judgment cleanses a single condition, thanks to Inscribed Removal. Even my shouts each remove a condition, thanks to the final set bonus of the Soldier rune.
Virtue of Justice is almost spammable for AoE packs thanks to Renewed Justice, and since Justice is Blind will blind every enemy around me when I fire it off, it becomes a powerful way to boost my group’s offensive output with glorious burning while also protecting them from the next incoming attack. I will often charge headlong into an oncoming horde of enemies and hit Justice for the AoE blind. This gives me time to slam a Symbol of Faith from the mace into the ground, followed almost immediately by a Shield of Wrath from the focus. This not only blocks the next three attacks; it also gives myself and my nearby allies retaliation, thanks to the cross-profession combo of a light field with a blast finisher. After that opener, it becomes a game of read and react, using my abilities, movement and even the terrain to my advantage. If I want to press the advantage, I can. But I can also roll away (healing as I go), and fall back with the scepter to drop a Smite for more AoE damage or to immobilize a foe with Chains of Light.
It’s a very versatile and effective combination in most situations.
Most… but not all.
The hidden gem of the Guild Wars 2 trait system is the opportunity cost involved with any build. As I’ve said to players before, the question isn’t “Is this trait worth it or not?” The real question is, “Is this trait the best one for me given my current situation?”
When it comes to traits, opportunity cost basically means that for each point I place into a specific line, it equals a point I can’t place elsewhere. In my build, I only end up with 7 major trait slots. Choosing which ones to take can be a challenge at times.
But you need to see the full picture in order to really appreciate ArenaNet’s design. Not only do I get access to those 7 slots, I get access to every single trait that those slots allow me to access. This means that if I know the next fight is going to be one where we’ll face waves of numerous normal enemies, I can swap out the scepter/shield and equip my hammer instead. I can also swap out Defender’s Flame and swap in the new Glacial Heart trait. (If you haven’t researched this trait, never fear. I made a short video about it.) Now, without the need to respec or change a single point in my build, I’ve drastically changed the method and effectiveness of my play style.
I can do the same thing with skills also. Wall of Reflection is an extremely situational and exceptionally powerful ability that I’ll swap out “Stand Your Ground!” for fights where I know we’ll be in the line of fire of several enemy projectiles.
Don’t just look at your build as a static entity. Look at every way you can modify it, even while keeping your points in the same place. It will make you more adaptable.
And don’t be afraid to respec completely, either. The cost of dropping and relearning your traits is fixed at a little over 3 silver at level 80. It doesn’t increase with every successive respec, so don’t trouble yourself over it. While I’d easily pay 400 gems for a dual-spec functionality, the costs are very forgiving. If I know that I’m going to be headed into World versus World or chain-running events in Orr with friends, I’ll change my build up completely for those tasks.
I understand that the tone and direction of this article was vastly different than the 1-40 guide, but it’s with good reason. At the entry level in any field of knowledge, you’ll often be told what to do. It’s only after you start down the road towards mastery that you begin to encounter the reasons why.
The goal of this article isn’t to say “copy this build and use it as a guidepost to level 80.” I’m sure any one of you can come up with something just as good, if not better. And that’s the whole point. The goal is to get you thinking about how a build may best fit YOUR playstyle. It’s about applying a critical eye toward how traits, weapons, sigils, runes and stats all weave together to make your Guardian your own. Once you start thinking that way, you can apply it to any area of the game – PvE or PvP – and you’ll be able to appreciate our chosen profession even more.
As always, I’m available for Q&A via the comments section below or on our forums.
Until next time…