Greetings, shield brothers and sisters! Now that the wait is over and we finally have boots on the ground in Tyria, I wanted to give you yet another reason to love your Guardian.
When people describe our profession, you’ll hear a lot about our support abilities and our defensive nature. While the former gets most of the attention, the latter is what we’ll be talking about today. Defense is often overlooked outside of traditional tanking roles. It isn’t as sexy or flashy as big numbers. With the Guardian, however, understanding the power behind a good defense is the key to a good offense.
We’re a soldier profession, meaning we can wear the heaviest armor in the game. Your armor is added together with your Toughness attribute to determine your defense, and defense determines damage reduction. This isn’t to say that a light armor profession couldn’t have as much or more defense as we do. They could stack Toughness to the exclusion of all else if they chose to. Soldier professions just have a head start. It also means that even a “glass cannon” build with the Guardian is a bit more durable than glass, regardless of how you build it. Our armor provides us with a natural boost in durability.
Dodging is the marquee defensive ability in Guild Wars 2. When you hear about the game’s active combat, the ability to dodge will be the first thing listed. Dodging will make you completely invulnerable to damage for the duration of its animation, regardless of the direction you dodge in. It also temporarily consumes endurance. You can dodge 2 times when endurance is at its maximum of 100 points, and then you’ll have to wait for the bar to refill. Vigor is the boon that increases endurance regeneration, and while we only have two means of granting that boon to ourselves, they’re both offensive-minded. We’ll get to that in a moment. For now, let’s just concentrate on the fact that every profession can dodge twice as a baseline.
Where things get interesting is when you add blocking into the mix. Blocking is a technique used to parry incoming attacks. A blocked attack deals no damage, and ignores any of the effects that the attack otherwise would have had. It’s an often-overlooked tool that we can easily turn to our advantage. By weaving blocks into our dodges, we can completely negate several attacks. The skill comes in knowing which ones to block and dodge, and which ones to let through, and that’s something you’ll only learn by playing.
What I can tell you with certainty, however, is that starting your adventures in Tyria with a defensive mindset will go a long way to helping you master the game’s combat.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
ArenaNet has made it easy for you to learn this mindset by starting every Guardian off with the mace. It’s a fantastic weapon that gives you and your allies regeneration and also provides a block in the form of Protector’s Strike. Unfortunately, because it’s the starting weapon, players often learn its three abilities and move on to unlocking other weapons, never to return.
The very next weapon you’ll receive will either be the Shield or the Focus, and here’s where I believe ArenaNet made a critical flaw with the Guardian. Even if a new player chooses our profession with the desire to play defensively, they’ll often mistakenly believe that the shield is the more defensive weapon. It’s not their fault. It should be. That’s what military history and fantasy lore has been telling us for years. While the shield is a great off-hand in its own way, it doesn’t block melee attacks, only projectiles. The focus, on the other hand, will blind enemies (causing their next attacks to miss) with Ray of Judgment, and has the Shield of Wrath ability, which will block the next THREE attacks.
Adding them all up gives you two dodges to weave in with four blocks, and that isn’t even considering that one of our healing abilities, Shelter, is a block as well. You also have a passive block every 30 seconds in the form of our Aegis ability, which you can activate on demand with Virtue of Courage. This makes the mace and focus a very powerful combination for new players starting out who need time to get comfortable with dodging. It can also mean the difference between life and a respawn for experienced players facing off against veteran or champion mobs, or in sPvP where holding a line and shaking off hits becomes extremely important.
The additional benefits of this avoidance and mitigation come into play when you start looking at our traits and possible ways of combining them.
Defender’s Flame, for example, gives you a 100% chance to Burn attackers when Blocking. Couple it with Fiery Wrath, which increases all of our damage done to burning targets by 10%, and with Searing Flames, which strips away a boon from enemies you burn, and you start to see how a good defense can lead to a good offense. Might of the Protector gives might each time you block as well, increasing your damage output.
Dodging attacks with the Selfless Daring trait will heal nearby allies. Taking the Vigorous Precision trait will give you Vigor every time you score a critical hit, boosting your endurance so you can dodge even more frequently. Those critical hits become even more important with traits like Empowering Might, which gives might to nearby allies every time you land a crit. If you’ve taken the Altruistic Healing trait, which heals you every time you provide boons to allies, this means your critical strikes heal you!
Taken as a whole, you have the potential to be a resilient, evasive, self-healing, support-giving damage dealer.
What’s not to love about that?
I’m already experimenting with builds in PvP and PvE that center on this philosophy, and I’m enjoying the results so far. While I’m tempted to share them with you, I’d like to take a different approach first. Sometimes I think the best thing for players is to understand the concepts behind the builds rather than the builds themselves.
My challenge to you is to take what you’ve read here and apply it yourself. Look for ways to utilize blocking and dodging into your own style of play and let me know what you come up with. Share your builds in the comments section below, or visit our forums. You never know. A really great submission could end up being featured in a future column.
Until next time…