Prior to the third Beta Weekend Event, the profession I had spent the most time with was theNecromancer. To be more specific, a very aggressive, “in-your-face” style of Necro which was extremely resilient but could also easily dish out punishment to my opponents, be they other players or PvE critters.
Although the guardian profession was not very high on my personal list of characters to pursue, I have been following the articles written by Centurion on the profession here at GWI, as I consider them both entertaining and informative.
Then Centurion contacted me and explained that each of the regular writers of the profession articles were taking on a different profession during BWE3, and would be writing a “new eyes” article on them, to hopefully bring some fresh perspective to each profession prior to the launch. However, they were shy of the eight needed to cover each profession, and would “I” be willing to attempt such an article for the guardian profession… Well, when someone you respect asks you for help, refusing them is simply not an option in my book. So, although I’m not sure I’m up to the task, I agreed to take on the role of a Guardian during BWE3 and to write about the experience to the best of my ability.
It should be noted that all of the following is specifically directed at the beginning experience of playing a guardian in the PvE portions of the game only. This is not intended as a guide to PvP for the profession, nor will it be a comprehensive look at all of the weapons and skills for them. However, if you’re looking for some insights into getting off to a fast and fun start with the Guardian in PvE then hopefully you will find something useful here. I was able to reach level 27 (just getting started as I said) in this last BWE, and I found it to be more versatile, interesting and fun than I was anticipating.
The first thing that struck me about the Guardian, as I began considering the potential of the profession, was that they are clearly a “melee” range combatant primarily… Most of their weapons operate at very close quarters, so finding ways to mitigate the inherent risk of this style of fighting was at the top of my “to do” list.
There was a brief dalliance with the hammer but, though it provides excellent “control” options combined with good melee-range AoE and damage, the style of protection it was affording me wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.
The staff had some extra mobility and a bit of mid-range AoE damage, but it wasn’t really going to suit me as a primary weapon either… nice secondary on occasion though…
My experience with the two-handed sword started out in a very exhilarating fashion, and I can definitely see why it’s popular with the PvP “big numbers” crowd. But here, again, the survivability wasn’t quite as good as I was looking for. A case could be made for it if combined with a secondary weapon set that afforded better resiliency, but it wasn’t the way I chose to go. I didn’t want to be “forced” into swapping weapons to defend myself in a tough fight but, rather wanted to choose to swap in order to take advantage of a situation or synergy possibility.
Many folks probably think of the mace as a “defensive” option for the guardian and, in a way, it is – just not the style of defensive I would prefer or recommend.
So… sword? I normally would not think of the sword as a defensive weapon but, in the hands of a Guardian, it is that and much, much more. Contained within this single weapon is AoE damage, teleport-style combat mobility with an AoE “blind” condition and a mid-range attack combined with 100% block vs incoming projectiles.
Blind is the type of defense I love. It always works when I need it. It can’t be avoided like many other types of “cc” abilities with the use of stability. You are simply guaranteed that the next attack of your opponent can be safely ignored. All of this is why the perfect off-hand counter part for the sword is the focus.
If one AoE blind is good, then surely another one would be great, right? Yes, it is. Combining the focus off-hand weapon with the sword adds another mid-range attack to the arsenal, this time with a “ricochet” style that applies blind and damage to each opponent it hits, while giving healing and removing a condition from each ally (including yourself) that it hits. You also get a fast cast skill that will block the next three incoming attacks, and does a nice point blank AoE if all three blocks are not used and its duration expires. In fact, I actually started using this last skill on the weapon set very offensively. Using “Shield of Wrath” (the #5 focus skill) and then employing the AoE blinds from other skills on this weapon set to prevent the opponents from removing the blocks before the Shield of Wrath duration expired gave me a very nice “boom” to end fights vs large packs of critters.
So, primary weapon set of sword and focus well in hand, I initially decided to go with scepter and shield as my secondary weapon set since it provides a bit of a longer range option, some nice AoE, immobilize and vulnerability, more short-range AoE and the iconic guardian knock-back “bubble.”
What I soon discovered was that these two weapon sets (sword/focus and scepter/shield) are some of the most perfectly-matched main hand and off-hand weapon combinations in the game, and they produce a style of combat that is exhilarating, fun and does not at all feel like your mobility or range are restricted. When most other characters are maneuvering their butts off to avoid damage in combat, this style of Guardian goes where he wants, and he can stand right in the face of the opponent for much greater lengths of time.
Whether it was a “big-bad” like the ettins and cave trolls, or a “pack” of centaurs, I found I could safely adopt the most aggressive tactics and stay in the “danger zone” for far longer. The only other profession I’ve tried (and I’ve played all eight) that gave the same feeling of invincibility was the Necromancer.
Open combat with a teleport and AoE blind (Flashing Blade), then attack with the #1 skill until you see the blind condition disappear from the opponent. Many opponents are already dead at that point since the sword’s damage is really quite good but, if it’s a particularly tough enemy, then you follow that with the #4 skill (Ray of Judgement), at which point they are blind again. IF they are still alive after that blind is gone (in which case you’re standing toe to toe with a Veteran or Champion type critter), then after that second blind is gone the next attack from them is going to be blocked by the aegis from your Courage virtue. Once you see that block get used, just go ahead and pop the Shield of Wrath (skill #5) and you get three more blocks.
Keep in mind, that entire time you are in melee range of one of the most dangerous creatures in the early portions of the game, constantly delivering the damage from your sword and you have not been hit and haven’t had to maneuver at all.
Obviously, with more opponents, some maneuvering is essential, if for no other reason than just to keep them each in position to be struck by every swing of the sword. But I was honestly quite surprised at how much this style of guardian could dictate terms during combat.
The second revelation for the combat style of any guardian came when I got in the water. Who knew that the guy in heavy metal armor would actually turn out to be second only to the Elementalists when it comes to aquatic warfare? Both the trident and spear weapons for the guardian turned out to be quite amazingly versatile and effective. Excellent AoE damage, another AoE blind, an AoE burn plus condition remover, superior single target burst damage, a “Scorpion-esque” pull, and a sinking weight “cc” skill to round out the lot? Swimming with a guardian was simply a delightful surprise. No krait is safe…
The third revelation for the guardian came as soon as I was able to experiment with the utility skills. You might not think it by looking at them, but guardians have the best “pets” in the game! Their Spirit Weapons aren’t stuck in one place like the engineer’s turrets, they attack what you attack, they cannot be targeted (much less defeated) and they require no additional effort or thought on your part at all. They are just pure, good ol’ fashion “bonus.”
Centurion has already done an excellent job of covering what each of these utility skills brings to the field of battle so I will defer to his article ( http://www.guildwarsinsider.
But I will say, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not trying these versatile and effective utility skills.
Early Tips for getting started:
Give sword/focus and scepter/shield a try as your weapons. They cover nearly every situation you are likely to encounter in the PvE portions of the game.
Try “Sword of Justice” (spirit weapon) as the first utility skill you take, and then use it all the time. The duration is very good and the cool down is excellent. The bonus damage augments your DPS nicely and you get the extra “command” skill, which performs an AoE nuke/burn at the sword’s location.
Definitely take up crafting, and I strongly advise you to consider Armorsmithing and Jewelcrafting (although Weaponsmithing is also a good option). The first thing you can make with the Armorsmithing is containers that have double the space of ones you buy on-the-cheap from merchants in-game, AND the armors created with this crafting discipline are equal to, or surpass, what you will find adventuring right away, plus they just look much better.
The rings, earrings, and amulets you can make with Jewelcrafting are far better than whatever you can find in-game at the early levels, and you have the benefit of being able to tailor them specifically towards whatever style of play you prefer. In addition, if you’re like me and enjoy playing numerous alts, this one crafting discipline can help outfit every profession in the game.
On a topic related to the crafting advice; buy some mining picks immediately. No, seriously… as soon as you scrape together enough coin (I don’t remember the exact cost but it’s pretty cheap) you need to get a mining pick and let no copper node escape your wrath! Heck, if for no other reason than the incredible bonus exp you get from harvesting and crafting, you should give this a try. I made level 27 in one BWE and I cannot stress enough that I was NOT trying to speed level. (I also spent some of my time on a ranger to try that profession out, so it wasn’t even like I dedicated all of my time to just one character.) It just happened naturally with bonus exp from harvesting and about 90 minutes (total – not all in one sitting) of crafting. So, just sing “Working in a coal mine, going down, down…” to yourself or whatever you’ve got to do, but get the ore and precious stones from mining early and often.
Finally, a quick word on early distribution of trait points:
Bear in mind that you can always remove and change your traits later down the line, but when first starting out with a guardian, there is one trait line that stands out above all others for its immediate impact on play in the PvE portion of the game: Radiance.
You will immediately be improving your chance to crit and increasing the damage you do with conditions. As a Guardian, you are a serious fire-bug. You are constantly setting fire to opponents and increasing the damage this does is immediately beneficial, but the real reason your first 5 points should go into the Radiance trait line is the very first minor trait, Justice is Blind, which gives you an AoE blind every time you activate your “Virtue of Justice.”
The Virtue of Justice has only a 30-second cool down, and it normally provides you with a burning condition to apply to your opponent on every fifth attack. When activated, it gives you and every other ally in the vicinity a much more damaging burn condition on your next attack. Some burning damage for you on every fifth attack, or a LOT of burning damage from everyone present on their next attack, plus an AoE blind at your location (which is usually right in the face of the enemy). No prizes for guessing which one is more effective with any additional allies present. In large scale events, popping Virtue of Justice is the first thing you should do.
In addition to the Justice is Blind minor trait, if you go ahead and continue with the next 5 points (10 total) into the Radiance trait line then you can select the “Blind Exposure” major adept trait, which applies the vulnerability condition (reducing the armor and thereby the defense of your opponent) whenever you apply a blind. You have been keeping track of how often this style of Guardian is applying blinds, right? At this point, not only are you preventing them from hitting you, you are also shredding their defenses at the same time and thus killing them much faster. Awesome for you… sucks to be them…
After those first 10 points, my advice is to put the next 10 into the Virtues trait line, which gives you (and everyone around you) access to the Might, Regeneration, and Protection boons whenever you activate your virtues of Justice, Resolve, or Courage respectively. So many of the adept traits in the Virtues line are good, it’s hard to single out just one, but you can switch them around at will once you’ve put 10 points into this line and select one based on circumstances you’re facing, or your own personal preference of play style. Those first six adept traits in Virtues cover most contingencies. Personally I chose “Fearless” for the bonus stability effect as a stun breaker and to avoid knock down and knock back attacks that I couldn’t blind or block my way out of.
Although the guardian profession (as I experienced it) wasn’t the “support” style character I hear everyone talking about, there is a special feeling that comes from seeing an ally in trouble and performing a “Flashing Blade” to come to the rescue (blinding all nearby enemies so the next attack against your ally automatically misses) and then swapping to your secondary weapon set and performing the iconic “Shield of Absorption” to knock back all the enemies away from your ally. It’s hard to not feel like you’ve got an “S” on your chest and a red cape when you do this sort of stuff.
For me, the guardian is played best when it’s played aggressively, and I was more than a little bit surprised at how well this profession was able to accommodate that personal preference of mine.
The final thing I would say to anyone considering giving the Guardian a try is “Go for the eyes Boo!”