SWTOR Defense Guardian PvE Tank 6.0 GuideSWTOR Defense Guardian PvE Tank 6.0 Guide

Complete SWTOR Defense Guardian 6.0+ PvE Guide, suitable for both beginner players and more advanced and experienced veterans, who seek to improve their performance! Written for VULKK.com by Sevrahn!

UP TO DATE FOR PATCH 6.1.3

INTRODUCTION


Defense Guardians are brute force tanks. Damage in, damage out. Keep it simple – know your mechanics, mind your positioning, and you will survive just fine. None of the cheese Shadows so desperately rely on and having a bit more interesting of a rotation than “Rifle Shot”. That iconic Jedi mythos: “for over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic…” If this rang true with you and made you want to be that bastion of hope, you’re in the right place. Also if you just wanted a solid Tank who can withstand a lot of punishment through proper positioning and knowing which of your cooldowns to use in what situation – then you’re definitely looking at the right class.

Note from the author:

Checking forums, reading random guides, and talking to guildmates/friends will net you quite a bit of “build X%”, “just do Y”, and/or “keep Z in mind”; but few of these sources (if any) take the time to explain why. You’re expected to just read and follow but that doesn’t really help you learn anything overall. So, I will do my best in each section to lay out the rationale behind the suggestions made.

  • AoE = Area of Effect.
  • BiS = Best in Slot. Usually referring to gear pieces, but I may use it as shorthand for “best” in other places just out of habit.
  • CD = Cooldown
  • DCD = Defensive Cooldown
  • DR = Damage Reduction
  • DtPS = Damage Taken Per Second
  • E/K = Energy/Kinetic (Damage Type)
  • F/T = Force/Tech (Attack Type)
  • I/E = Internal/Elemental (Damage Type)
  • M/R = Melee/Ranged (Attack Type)
  • Bonus Healing – derived from your Mastery, Power, and F/T Power

GEARING AND STATS PRIORITY


Contrary to how DPS/Healer builds work (and to popular belief), Tank stat distribution isn’t a matter of BiS. While there are definitely BiS gear pieces to attain and equip – which we will go over – the actual “build this amount of this stat” is a bit more blurred of a line. To say it as plainly as possible: Tank gearing is largely subjective, and you should adjust your build to what feels best for how you play as you learn the class better.

One of the best baselines I can recommend is the DtPS algorithm written by a player named dipstik. You can find that on the official forums. It can be a bit challenging to read the first time you look at it so I’ll summarize it for the sake of this guide. For Guardians specifically, Shield and Absorb have equal priority when slotting gear, so keep them as even as possible. Defense rating is found in nearly every piece of gear you will equip and will take care of itself.

Let’s get into gear pieces individually, go over Set Bonuses and Tacticals, and then we’ll break down specific stat builds at the end of this section.

Item Slot Upgrades


For your Ear and Implant slots, the uncontested BiS piece regardless of what content you are running is the Sund Tech Warding package (Absorb). Having the highest tertiary stat amount at 471 Absorb, they are BiS for capped content; and having the highest total relevant stat budget they are BiS for uncapped as well. If you have Shield in your Ear or Implant slots, you are intentionally choosing to have a lower overall stat budget. Note: if you prefer to stack the highest Endurance possible (applicable only in uncapped content), your option is the SoroSuub Warding package – also Absorb.

Armorings/Hilt is a choice you will have to personally make. Either way you will stick to 80 or 80 R-1’s but Warding vs. Versatile is preference. 5612 Health vs. 77 Bonus Damage, 53.9 Bonus Healing, 0.23% Crit Chance (Bonus Healing may seem an odd inclusion here, but for Guardians it does play a part which will be covered later).

Mods have several different options in uncapped. Capped is simple – regardless of class, spec, and role the BiS Mod is Warding 80 R-19/20. For content where your Endurance is not a set value however, your options are as follows:

  • Warding 80 R-1 (Highest overall mitigation)
  • Warding 80 B/B R-1 (Highest Endurance with Defense for mitigation)
  • Lethal 80 B/B R-1 (Highest Endurance with Power for damage/threat generation)
  • Lethal 80 R-2 (Highest damage/threat increase but with a hit to your Endurance)

Enhancements are split between capped and uncapped. In uncapped, level 75 content your BiS are going to be Steadfast/Vigilant 80’s or 80 R-1’s. These have the highest relevant stat budget for Tanks. However, in capped content your Endurance is preset, meaning all you care about is Shield/Absorb – so your BiS here are Immunity/Sturdiness 80 R-1’s.

Relics you will take 1-2 Shield Matrix and/or Avoidance. Technically Reactive Warding lowers your overall damage taken by the highest amount, but given it can proc and be consumed by constant fluff damage during the fight instead of when you really need it you are better off relying on the pure-stat Relics.

Augments will purely be divided between Shield and Absorb unless you are creating a hybrid build and know the exact stat thresholds you’re targeting.

Crystals in your lightsaber and shield generator are at your discretion between Endurance or Crit.

Amplifiers are new to 6.0 and beyond. If you want a one-Amp-fits-all just slot Armor Penetration.

If you are specifically looking for Amplifiers that will help increase your survivability, here are your options:

  • Aural Resistance – Reduces incoming AoE damage (max 9%)
  • Force Protection – Reduces incoming damage from Force attacks (max 9%)
  • Fortuitous Redoubt – Reduces incoming damage (max 4.5%)
  • Periodic Resilience – Reduces incoming periodic damage (max 19.8%)
  • Reinforced Armor – Reduces incoming damage from Melee attacks (max 9%)
  • Tech Aegis – Reduces incoming damage from Tech attacks (max 9%)

As I said, Armor Penetration will still help you in every fight and saves you time/credits on swapping sets out. If you want the most all-around defensive Amp, then Aural Resistance is going to be your top pick as the Debilitationing majority of hits you take from bosses are AoE. When getting into content of higher difficulties, you may wish to build sets specific to Operations if you want the small extra bit of an edge. In these cases be sure to look up what damage type is the majority for the Op, or even specific to the fight/boss itself (I.E. Gods from the Machine is Tech Aegis, Dread Palace is Force Protection, and Dxun is Reinforced Armor).

RELATED ► Complete SWTOR EndGame Gearing Guide for Level 75

Set Bonuses


Unlike the other 2 tanks, Guardians do not really have a one-set-fits-all bonus. Different sets excel at specific fights while being nearly useless in others. If you need a baseline, fast answer – then just run Descent of the Fearless. For a bit more (and an option you may not have considered) keep reading.

Dashing Blademaster

Dashing Blademaster Dashing Blademaster
(2) +2% Alacrity Rating
(4) Reduces the CD of Blade Blitz by 10 seconds
(6) Guardians do not have Force Camouflage

Descent of the Fearless

Descent of the Fearless Decent of the Fearless
(2) +2% Mastery
(4) Whenever you gain or use a Force Clarity ability charge while in combat, your damage is increased by 10% for 10s
(6) Dealing damage has a 10% chance to build a Force Clarity ability charge. Can only occur once every 5 seconds

Flawless Riposte

Flawless Riposte Flawless Riposte
(2) +2% Mastery
(4) Riposte has no CD
(6) Taking damage during Enure grants Retaliator stacks, increasing the damage of your next Riposte by 10% per stack.

Fulminating Defense

Fulminating Defense Fulminating Defense
(2) +2% Endurance
(4) Challenging Call gets 2 charges
(6) Enure increases Elemental and Internal damage reduction by 75% for 3 seconds.

Lord of Pain

Lord of Pain Lord of Pain
2) +2% Endurance
(4) Reduces the CD of Challenging Call by 5 seconds
(6) Challenging Call increases your damage reduction by 2.5% for each enemy it hits. This effect lasts 10 seconds.

The Undying

The Undying The Undying
(2) +2% Endurance
(4) After executing Blade Blitz, you gain +20% damage reduction for 6 seconds.

First, yes you did read Dashing Blademaster. Second, yes that is a Sentinel set bonus (probably why you missed it on the vendor). Cooldown reduction to Blade Blitz still applies, so combining it with the Cut Loose Utility means you can have Blade Blitz on a 25s CD. Additionally, consider you’re using only the 4-piece of the bonus, so option is to you on your remaining slots. You can just run 3 Amplified Champion pieces to get those specific benefits listed in the previous section, or you can run an additional 2-piece bonus from another set to get that +2% Endurance.

Descent of the Fearless is the best all-round set as I mentioned before. This is the one I personally run in nearly every scenario unless there is a specific reason not to. More damage equals higher threat generation and just the boss/adds dying faster. There really is no downside to running this set, however some fights it doesn’t exactly have an upside in the phases that matter since you can’t use it (I.E. Brontes – damage will help for Hands and Fingers, but final phase where you’re just get flung around it isn’t exactly paying dividends).

Flawless Riposte is extremely niche, giving you a DPS increase of a different form when compared to Descent of the Fearless. Two things you really must note when running this set:

  1. Riposte is still going to cost you Focus. So, if you aren’t actively paying attention to that you will burn through your resources very, very quickly.
  2. To get the maximum damage boost out of the bonus you will be using Enure as an offensive cooldown, meaning you will not have it as a DCD option the vast majority of the time.

Additionally, the fight must have enough defendable attacks in small enough windows (or just consistently enough throughout the fight as a whole) to even warrant having it equipped in the first place. If that condition is met however, you can negate the first problem by slotting the Syn’s Second Amulet Tactical. This will make your Riposte free so you can use it as often as you want without worrying about it burning your Focus (keep in mind this means you cannot slot any of the defensive Tactical options). You can negate the second problem by only running the 4-piece, though this does lower the total damage potential of the set. Running just the 4-piece affords you the same options as Dashing Blademaster for what you want to do with the remaining slots in your gear.

Fulminating Defense is in an odd spot as far as identity. The double-charge for your AoE taunt helps with add control on multi-target fights, but the Internal/Elemental damage reduction is primarily going to be used in a single-target capacity. That being said, one thing to note is the 75% I/E DR doesn’t tell you the full story. Guardians have a base I/E DR of 10%, meaning even for a DPS this set will put you at 85% during Enure. But we are Tanks, we have several more factors in play:

  • 10% Base
  • 6% from Soresu Form
  • 5% from Inner Peace Passive
  • 3% during Warding Strike
  • 3% from Resistance (Healer buff)

Prior to the buff you will get from Healers this means you are at 99% I/E DR during Enure, with that buff you gain full immunity to I/E damage as your DR rises to 102%. Fulminating Defense is a solid option, but also somewhat niche in its application like most of your sets.

Lord of Pain is slightly overrated by newer players to be honest. The 4-piece is honestly lackluster compared to buff on Fulminating Defense at the same tier, and the 6-piece is honestly just the Leviathan’s Hide Tactical on a longer cooldown. It does have its place though. On fights with consistent adds or especially on fights with very demanding phases that include adds you can more than make the case for running it. If it is the latter option, consider combing this set with the aforementioned Tactical to get up to a +40% DR buff for those 10s.

The Undying is somewhat deceptive in its description. Keep in mind the 6s of DR starts on ability activation, and Blade Blitz gives you that 100% Defend/Resist during the ability execution for about 1.5s (during which DR is effectively useless). In reality you’re getting only about 4.5-5s max of the window being advertised in the text. Not to say picking up this set is bad by any means. It is a strong option on single-target fights for when Fulminating Defense is not needed, Flawless Riposte isn’t warranted, and players who don’t wish to run Descent of the Fearless or Dashing Blademaster.

Tacticals


Grit Teeth

Grit Teeth Grit Teeth
The cooldown of Focused Defense is reduced by 2 seconds when you are attacked. This effect cannot occur more than once per second.

Hord's Makashi Strike

Hord's Makashi Strike Hord’s Makashi Strike
Riposte consumes Warding Strike’s damage reduction and grants Retaliating Defense, increasing damage reduction by 5% for 20 seconds.

Jaw Breaker

Jaw Breaker Jaw Breaker
Using Hilt Bash while Warding Call extends the duration of Warding Call by 5 seconds.

Leviathan's Hide

Leviathan's Hide Leviathan’s Hide
Guardian Slash generates stacks of Crushing Defenses for every enemy it hits, granting 2.5% increased damage reduction per stack for 10 seconds. Stacks up to 8 times.

Grit Teeth will be your go-to in every scenario with very few exceptions. The baseline CD of Focused Defense is 120s, and this Tactical can bring that down to 40s. With Through Peace your minimum CD is down to 30s. Having such a powerful self-heal on that low of a CD is an incredible boon to any group, but keep in mind to maximize its potential you will need to be in comms with your Healers to make sure they know when NOT to heal you. Otherwise you are wasting this slot by not using the ability as often as possible.

Hord’s Makashi Strike can give you a flat +5% DR when used properly, but it involves actively reminding yourself to not spam Riposte on CD. Warding Strike gives you +3% DR and this Tactical consumes that and replaces it with +5%. What the text description does not make plainly apparent is you can reapply the Aegis buff after consumption. So what you end up needing to do is use Riposte in your opener as normal, use Warding Strike as normal, but then you will only ever use Riposte again just before you use Warding Strike for the rest of the fight. This allows the buffs to remain stacked, netting you a +8% DR compared to just +3% or +5% individually.

Jaw Breaker is highly undervalued in my opinion. It isn’t an overall BiS by any means, but there are certain fights where it comes in extremely clutch and you should definitely have it in your inventory so you can swap to it if needed. It has a strong highlight in fights with extended burn phases when you just need to live through as much damage as possible. As this Tactical interacts with your Warding Call ability, please read the note at the end of this section so you have a full understanding of what electing this option will give you.

Leviathan’s Hide is simple to use and highly effective in fights with a lot of adds. In a single-target setting Hord’s Makashi Strike will provide you with more flat DR, but once you’re hitting 2 or more enemies this Tactical matches and then exceeds the survivability given. Having up to 20% DR for 10s from an ability on a 12s CD is incredibly potent, and not to be underestimated in any multi-target scenario.

Weighing the values of Hord’s Makashi Strike and Leviathan’s Hide compared to Grit Teeth is not an easy task. If played to perfection, Grit Teeth pulls ahead in nearly all fights – but as mentioned this requires you to be in communication with your Healers and for you to actually be dropping below 70% health every 40s or so. Grit Teeth and Leviathan’s Hide are the main 2 I would say every Guardian Tank needs to have available in their inventory.

Note about Damage Reduction vs Reduced Damage Taken:

Going to clarify this now and again when we talk about the ability itself because it is important enough that this distinction be explained twice. Up to this point you have seen a lot of mentions of DR in different pieces of gear. Warding Call does not give you Damage Reduction. The ability “reduces all damage taken,” which is a completely separate interaction. Damage Reduction is applied immediately after a hit is registered, after that your Shield chance is rolled to determine if your Absorb percentage will be taken off, and the remainder from both of those will be your damage taken. It is this final part where Warding Call comes in to play. Forty percent off the damage applied after all mitigations is not as impressive as it sounds, which should be in your mind when making the decision regarding Jaw Breaker.

Example Gear Sets


Full Mitigation Set (Uncapped)

  • Stim: 1
  • Sund Tech Absorb Ear/Implant: 3
  • Warding 80 Armor/Hilt: 9/9
  • Warding 80 B Mod: 9/9
  • Steadfast/Vigilant 80: 6/1
  • Shield Matrix Relic: 1
  • Avoidance Relic: 1
  • Shield/Absorb Augments: 4/10
  • Indestructible Crystals: 2/2

Stats

  • Defense: 5591
  • Shield: 3609
  • Absorb: 3625
  • Endurance: 17,444

Full Mitigation Set (Capped)

  • Stim: 1
  • Sund Tech Absorb Ear/Implant: 3
  • Warding 80 Armor/Hilt: 9/9
  • Warding 80 R-19 or 20 Mod: 9/9
  • Immunity/Sturdiness 80 R-1: 3/4
  • Shield Matrix Relic: 2
  • Shield/Absorb Augments: 9/5
  • Eviscerating Crystals: 2/2

Stats

  • Defense: 7335
  • Shield: 3771
  • Absorb: 3757
  • Endurance: Capped

I could make this section infinitely longer with specific breakdowns of sets tailors to individual fights but that is not the purpose of this guide. I will reiterate though the above are examples of gearsets and as I said before you should use any guides or examples you come across as baselines/starting points and personally tune and adjust your gear to what works best for you.

Tanking does not have a one-and-done BiS stat distribution suggestion the way many DPS/Healing classes do.

I will end this section by clarifying a couple things. First, when getting into hybridization of your builds, keep in mind Power and Mastery do contribute to your mitigation via increasing the shield amount from Blade Barrier. Second, building for full mitigation is going to be my starter recommendation until you get a solid gauge on how to rotate your cooldowns effectively (and how good your Healers are).

After you’ve got a bead on both of those you can start to shed some defensive stats in favor of offensive ones because you doing higher DPS helps everything die faster – which is always a good thing. Finally, focus on learning the class first before stressing too hard about your gear. Do not ever get too reliant on your gear numbers because most nightmare-level raiding has to do with positioning and understanding how to counter boss mechanics with your available abilities.

After you have a solid grip on how Guardians feel and play, your gear is a secondary thing you can use to push that skill boundary even further by swapping out certain pieces of it. Switching to more damage-oriented hybrid builds is not about threat generation, that is just a bonus effect. If you can’t hold threat in full mitigation gear, you’re either tanking for the top DPS in the world or you need to evaluate how well you’re using the threat options available to you.

ABILITIES AND PRIORITIES


Passives


Jedi Guardian Passives

Discipline Passives

Primary Offensive Abilities


Warding Strike

Warding Strike Warding Strike
Primary Focus builder. Additionally, provides you with +3% DR and +3% Absorption, only reason to delay using it immediately off CD is if one of your harder-hitting abilities is available and if you are at or above 5 Focus.

Hilt Bash

Hilt Bash Hilt Bash
Threat builder. Deals a bit more damage than Force Sweep (but less than Blade Barrage) and does not cost Focus, so freely use on CD if nothing of higher priority is available. Note: this ability is counted as Force damage and does not utilize stacks of Force Clarity.

Guardian Slash

Guardian Slash Guardian Slash
Primary damage ability. Highest damaging ability you have, generates the most threat, deals damage in AoE if you are buffed by Warding Strike. Should be used immediately when off CD. Advanced: after your opening threat rotation, Force Clarity should be used only in conjunction with this ability.

Force Stasis

Force Stasis Force Stasis
Threat builder and Focus builder. Use on CD unless a higher priority ability is available.

Blade Storm

Blade Storm Blade Storm
High damaging ability which also provides you a self-shield that absorbs damage. Should be used off CD unless Guardian Slash is available.

blade barrage

blade barrage Blade Barrage
Free ability that is one of the highest damaging cooldowns you have. Cannot ask for much more, but oh wait – there is! Also gives you +6% Defense chance for 6s.

Riposte

Riposte Riposte
Damage ability. Does not respect the global cooldown so should be used whenever available considering its low cost. Also applies Blade Barricade so MUST be used at least once every 10s.

Saber Throw

Saber Throw Saber Throw
Focus builder. Does comparable damage to Slash, so it can be used in place of Slash if you are low on Focus with minimal effect to your threat output.

Force Sweep

Force Sweep Force Sweep
Secondary AoE damage ability and applies a -5% Accuracy debuff to enemies. Though this is an AoE ability, it does more damage and costs less Focus than Slash, so it should be used instead of Slash if it is off CD.

Cyclone Slash

Cyclone Slash Cyclone Slash
AoE filler ability. When you’ve already use Force Sweep and Guardian Slash and still need to generate or hold threat on adds until they die.

Dispatch

Dispatch Dispatch
Second-highest damaging ability when target is below 30% Health. Should be used off CD unless Guardian Slash is available.

Slash
Filler ability. When literally everything else is on CD, this is the button you press.

Secondary Offensive Abilities


Strike
Filler ability. Focus builder. Use only when everything else is on CD and you don’t have enough Focus for Slash.

Freezing Force

Freezing Force Freezing Force
Only considered damage when you have the Persistent Chill Utility, and in that case is a filler AoE DoT. More so used for the movement it provides with Persistent Chill passive. If you’re trying to have max AoE threat generation I’d recommend applying the DoT from this (if you have the Utility) after using Guardian Slash and Force Sweep so it is ticking while you spam Cyclone Slash.

Combat Focus

Combat Focus Combat Focus
Builds 6 Focus, 45s CD.

force leap

force leap Force Leap
Gap closer. Focus builder. Used during fights to return to a boss after displacement, switch between bosses for tank swaps, or to engage groups of adds quickly.

Force Push

Force Push Force Push
Displacement. Used on specific bosses that require you to have a knockback.

Blade Blitz
Gap closer with solid AoE damage potential as well. This ability is also a DCD, so will be mentioned again in the next list.

Defensive Cooldowns


Enure

Enure Enure
Increases your Max Health by 30% for 20s, 60s CD. Note: after 20s, you lose the health. If you are not fully healed and approaching that fall-off, it is highly recommended you let your Healer know it’s about to expire as you’re going to lose a significant portion of your health bar and the lack of communication may get you killed.

Focused Defense

Focused Defense Focused Defense
Gives 12 charges that last 15s and heal you for 6453.744 + 2.72 * Bonus Healing. Can be used only when under 70% of your Max Health. Has a 120s CD that can be reduced to 90s with the Through Peace Utility.

Awe

Awe Awe
Reduces enemies’ outgoing damage from M/R attacks by 15% for 10s. Has a 60s CD that can be reduced to 45s with the Jedi Warden Utility. This is also the only DCD you have that is affected by Alacrity.

Warding Call

Warding Call Warding Call
Grants -40% to all damage taken for 10s, 150s CD. Note: as mentioned before Damage Reduction and Reduced Damage Taken are not the same thing. While this ability is quite potent, it is not on the same level as something like the Powertech’s Energy Shield.

Blade Blitz
Increases M/R Defense and F/T Resist chance by 100% for the duration of the dash (roughly 1.5s). Has a 45s CD that can be reduced to 35s with the Cut Loose Utility. Note: beginners should use caution with this one, it can be extremely useful when timed properly, but do not dash at the expense of keeping the boss in position. Once you understand how far it goes, and how to dash into walls to not sacrifice positioning this can be one of the better DCD’s you have.

Saber Reflect

Saber Reflect Saber Reflect
Signature DCD of the Guardian. Stops all incoming R/F/T attacks while reflecting a capped amount of the incoming damage back to the attacker. This lasts for 3s but can be increased to 5s with the Daunting Presence Utility, 60s CD. Note: this ability does not protect you from MELEE attacks. For boss abilities that count as melee, using this will not help you negate any damage.

Saber Ward

Saber Ward Saber Ward
Increases M/R Defense chance by 150% for 2s and then 50% for 10s. Additionally gives +25% DR against damage from F/T attacks for 12s, 150s CD.

Opening Threat Rotations


Note: Saber Reflect is included in all these lists, however if you do not have the Daunting Presence Utility do not use it as it will not actually generate any threat. Additionally, if you need to use Saber Reflect as a DCD in the first minute of the fight you should obviously omit it from your opener.

  1. Combat FocusCombat Focus Combat Focus
  2. Force ClarityForce Clarity Force Clarity
  3. Blade Blitz + Saber ReflectSaber Reflect Saber Reflect
  4. Guardian SlashGuardian Slash Guardian Slash + RiposteRiposte Riposte
  5. blade barrageblade barrage Blade Barrage
  6. Hilt BashHilt Bash Hilt Bash
  7. Blade StormBlade Storm Blade Storm
  8. Force SweepForce Sweep Force Sweep
  9. Warding StrikeWarding Strike Warding Strike
  10. Slash
  11. Force StasisForce Stasis Force Stasis

If you have the Ardent Advocate Utility:

  1. Combat FocusCombat Focus Combat Focus
  2. Force ClarityForce Clarity Force Clarity
  3. force leapforce leap Force Leap + Saber ReflectSaber Reflect Saber Reflect
  4. Guardian SlashGuardian Slash Guardian Slash + RiposteRiposte Riposte
  5. DispatchDispatch Dispatch
  6. blade barrageblade barrage Blade Barrage
  7. Hilt BashHilt Bash Hilt Bash
  8. Blade StormBlade Storm Blade Storm
  9. Force SweepForce Sweep Force Sweep
  10. Warding StrikeWarding Strike Warding Strike
  11. Slash
  12. Force StasisForce Stasis Force Stasis

The above is listed in order of highest possible threat output. As noted, the Saber Reflect can be omitted. I will point out in the normal opener I do not recommend using Force Leap to start the fight. This is going to run contrary to what a lot of people currently do. To clarify: there isn’t inherently anything wrong with using it, but Blade Blitz does more damage and inherently will provide more opening threat in your first GCD than Force Leap would.

You will also notice I delay using Warding Strike, again this is because that opener is purely based on highest amount of threat. If your primary focus is getting your personal buffs online and applying your debuffs to the boss as fast as possible, your opener would look like this:

  1. Combat FocusCombat Focus Combat Focus
  2. Force ClarityForce Clarity Force Clarity
  3. Blade Blitz + Saber ReflectSaber Reflect Saber Reflect
  4. Force SweepForce Sweep Force Sweep
  5. Warding StrikeWarding Strike Warding Strike
  6. Guardian SlashGuardian Slash Guardian Slash + RiposteRiposte Riposte
  7. blade barrageblade barrage Blade Barrage
  8. Hilt BashHilt Bash Hilt Bash
  9. Blade StormBlade Storm Blade Storm
  10. Slash
  11. Force StasisForce Stasis Force Stasis

Taunts


Taunts are not necessarily recommended to be part of your opener, but in some cases players may find it necessary. You should never begin a fight by taunting. To help explain why, here is how taunts work:

  • Forces the target to attack you for 6s unless a scripted override mechanic is in effect.
  • Places you at the top of the threat table by giving you the amount of threat the person currently on top has (even if it is yourself) and increasing that amount by a given multiplier based on your distance to the target.
  • If you are 4m or less away from the target you are taunting, your threat multiplier is 110%.
  • If you are greater than 4m away the multiplier is 130%.

As you can see, beginning a fight with a taunt is a complete waste as you are multiplying by zero threat. If you feel the need to taunt in your opener to hold threat over your DPS, you want to meter it out for maximum effect. Keep in mind it lasts 6s, so you want to wait that full duration before using another one if you plan to use both taunts in your opener.

  1. Combat FocusCombat Focus Combat Focus
  2. Force ClarityForce Clarity Force Clarity
  3. Blade Blitz + Saber ReflectSaber Reflect Saber Reflect
  4. Guardian SlashGuardian Slash Guardian Slash + RiposteRiposte Riposte
  5. TauntTaunt Taunt
  6. Force StasisForce Stasis Force Stasis
  7. Force SweepForce Sweep Force Sweep
  8. Warding StrikeWarding Strike Warding Strike
  9. blade barrageblade barrage Blade Barrage
  10. AoE Taunt
  11. Hilt BashHilt Bash Hilt Bash
  12. Blade StormBlade Storm Blade Storm

This would be my recommendation if you are going that route. Your first taunt happens after your highest threat spike so you get the multiplier from that, bump Force Stasis up earlier because you’ll get the full amount of its threat in the window of your first taunt, then apply your debuffs to the boss and buffs to yourself. Second taunt to multiply all of that and maintain forced aggro while you go through the highest threat parts remaining in your rotation which will carry you into a third taunt if you truly need it for some reason.

Rotation by Priority


  1. Guardian SlashGuardian Slash Guardian Slash
  2. Blade StormBlade Storm Blade Storm = DispatchDispatch Dispatch (Dispatch does a small amount more damage than Blade Storm but Blade Storm additionally provides Blade Barrier, so they are equal in priority).
  3. blade barrageblade barrage Blade Barrage
  4. Hilt BashHilt Bash Hilt Bash
  5. Force StasisForce Stasis Force Stasis
  6. Force SweepForce Sweep Force Sweep
  7. Saber ThrowSaber Throw Saber Throw = Slash (Similar to above. Damage is comparable, but Saber Throw builds Focus while Slash costs Focus. If you are at 8+ Focus use Slash, less than that feel free to use Saber Throw).

Use Riposte off CD. Force Clarity should always be used with Guardian Slash. If you get a stack of it and Guardian Slash is on CD, do not use it with Blade Barrage or Dispatch even though you may be tempted. Just wait a couple seconds for Crushing to come off CD and then use Force Clarity. You will never go above 1 stack if you stay on top of it and it is the highest possible damage and threat output you can get. Do not waste stacks on lesser abilities once you’ve gotten through your opener.

Exception being if you are running Descent of the Fearless, then your priority for Force Clarity consumption is:

  1. Guardian SlashGuardian Slash Guardian Slash
  2. DispatchDispatch Dispatch (sub-30%)
  3. blade barrageblade barrage Blade Barrage
  4. Warding StrikeWarding Strike Warding Strike. Still always keep 1 stack for Guardian Slash.

Note about Threat Multipliers

Soresu Form gives all your damage a 2.5x threat multiplier. Certain of your abilities are additionally labeled with “generates a high amount of threat”. Guardians have 3 high-threat abilities and then there is the buff to Force Stasis from the Stasis Mastery passive.

UTILITIES


The only quintessential Utility a Guardian has is Narrowed Focus (Skillful). There are more in each tier that are highly recommended, and there are some in each tier that are specifically for PvP. Which ones from the recommended list can vary by the situation, I will give you some baseline specs after breaking these down, but in Operations there are usually BiS ones for each boss. If you are not looking forward to reassigning your Utilities every single fight during Ops, well, you will get used to it.

Labels:

  • HR – Highly recommended.
  • R – Recommended.
  • N – Niche. Only used in specific scenarios, or overall, just PvP-focused.

Skillful


  • HR) Narrowed Focus – +2 Focus/s when taking AoE damage.
  • (HR) Trailblazer – +25% Cyclone Slash damage.
  • (R) Guardianship – AoE Taunt gives all allies Blade Barrier.
  • (R) Battlefield Command – Getting attacked reduces the cooldown of Force Leap by 1s, 1.5s internal CD on this effect.
  • (R) Second Wind – Using Resolute heals you for 10% of your Max Health, CD of Resolute is reduced by 30s.
  • (R) Defiance – +4 Focus when Stunned, Rooted, Sleep’d, or Knocked. (Niche to bosses that have Stun or Throw mechanics)
  • (N) Gather Strength – +10-50% damage to your next Focus-consuming ability when Slowed or otherwise impaired. (Useful vs. bosses with high amounts of Slow mechanics if you just want to boost your damage output, otherwise PvP-specific).
  • (N) Debilitation – Blade Barrage immobilizes enemies. (PvP-specific).

Masterful


  • (HR) Peaceful Focus – Self-cleanse on activation of Enure.
  • (HR) Focused Freedom – +50% MoveSpeed for 6s when you use Combat Focus.
  • (R) Unremitting – For 4s after using Force Leap, you cannot be Slowed, Pushed, or Pulled.
  • (R) Pulse – CD of Force Stasis is reduced by 15s.
  • (R) True Harmony – Slow Immunity and +50% MoveSpeed during Focused Defense. Note: this one is tagged as “recommended” and not “highly” because it does rely on you being lower than 70% Health at the time you need the buff. Unless you know where that is in the script of the fight and communicate/plan for it accordingly you’re just rolling the dice.
  • (N) Purifying Sweep – 60% Slow to all enemies you damage with Force Sweep (PvP-focused).
  • (N) Preparation – Charge, Combat Focus, and Saber Throw have their CD’s reset when you exit combat.
  • (N) Stalwart Defense – +30% DR while Stunned (PvP-focused but has niche applications in fights where bosses do stun you before dealing large amounts of damage).

Heroic


  • (HR) Daunting Presence – +2s to duration on Saber Reflect, Saber Reflect generates +46980 threat on all engaged targets within 30m.
  • (HR) Through Peace – CD of Focused Defense is reduced by 30s.
  • (HR) Jedi Warden – CD of Awe is reduced by 15s.
  • (R) Ardent Advocate – Force Leap enables Dispatch to be used on any target regardless of their current health.
  • (R) Cut Loose – Blade Blitz can be used while immobilized, CD of Blade Blitz reduced by 10s.
  • (N) Persistent Chill – DoT damage added to Freezing Force, Freezing Force grants +35% MoveSpeed for 8s.
  • (N) Thwart – Guardian Leap increases damage of next melee ability, CD of Guardian Leap reduced by 5s, +10% damage reduction to target of Guardian Leap (Niche to specific fights).
  • (N) Unyielding Justice – Blade Storm extended to 30m range but deals less damage (PvP-focused).

Flashpoint Loadout


My standard Flashpoint loadout is:

  • Skillful:
    • Narrowed Focus
    • Second Wind
    • Trailblazer
  • Masterful:
    • Pulse
    • Preparation
    • Peaceful Focus
  • Heroic:
    • Daunting Presence
    • Ardent Advocate
    • Cut Loose

Operations Loadout


My standard Operations loadout is:

  • Skillful:
    • Narrowed Focus
    • Second Wind
    • Trailblazer
  • Masterful:
    • Pulse
    • Preparation
    • Peaceful Focus
  • Heroic:
    • Daunting Presence
    • Jedi Warden
    • Cut Loose

Though as I said, each Operation, even each individual fight will have a BiS utility loadout.

CONCLUSIONS


As I said in the intro, Guardians are not reliant on cheese the way Shadows are, but they are more mechanically demanding than Vanguards (though that is an extremely low bar for comparison). All-in-all they are viable in every fight of every operation and, in my somewhat biased opinion, one of the most fun tanks to play given the variety of approaches they have to staying alive. Approachable to learn but definitely a high ceiling for what all can be done optimally when playing them.

Tips and Tricks


  • Awe is one of the most underused DCD’s you have. It is a short CD on an ability that reduces the target’s outgoing damage – meaning it lowers the damage taken by your entire team when used before a period of AoE M/R attacks.
  • Using Guardian Leap on the other Tank immediately before a swap can be a pseudo-DCD for them in the right situation. They are about to take all your threat, so reducing theirs prior to the taunt does nothing and they go into the swap with the increased DR.
  • Using Blade Barrage 2s after Saber Ward will stack the +6% Defense boost on top of the +50%, netting you a higher overall Defense chance during that window. When combined with other factors such as your gear, you can be sitting in the low 90%’s for that window.
  • Final reminder that Warding Call is reduced damage taken, not DR. Abilities like Awe and Saber Ward will make it less effective if you stack them.
  • Blade Storm gives you the bubble and Blade Barrage gives you the Defense buff. Still recommend using both on CD in your rotation just to help mitigate damage overall, but as you learn fights better there are small optimizations you can make by holding them for a moderate hit or 2.
  • Guard-swapping during boss encounters can be helpful if you know why you are doing it. Most likely you and the other Tank will be guarding the DPS with the highest damage output, but after you have threat locked you can swap them to whomever in the group will be taking the most damage to help mitigate some of that. Alternatively if you’re having persistent threat problems you can guard the people with the hardest-hitting openers, and then swap to the other DPS about 60-90s into the fight since you’ve already reduced the threat of the other player enough.
  • You can abuse the distance-based threat multiplier taunts have if you keep it in mind during tank swaps on fights that are entirely melee range with a single boss. Simply back up when it is going to be your turn to take him until you are past 4m and then when you taunt you get the extra 20% threat for free just by taking a couple steps.

About the Author


My name is Sevrahn and I have been playing Defense Guardian since beta. Primarily did it through the first years of the game because I enjoy going against the grain and Assassin/Powertech or double-Assassin combos were the go-to at the time. Guardian has never risen to be the number one option at any point in the game but is has always been the most fun Tank to run in my opinion, and has always had viability for those who know how to play it well. As it stands post-6.0 all Tank classes are viable in all content, so if you are just getting into playing Tank now is a great time to play all 3 and find the one you enjoy most.

I have been a nightmare-level raider since launch with timed-run clears on most content, and have been theorycrafting for all 3 roles for the better part of the game’s life cycle (you may have seen my BiS spreadsheet in other guides or being linked in other Discords). On my off days I mostly chill or am away from my PC, but during work I have a lot of downtime so if you have questions feel free to shoot me a message on Discord and I’ll do my best to get back to you with the answers. Happy raiding!

Fair warning – learning to tank well is a trap. Your friends will never permit you to play another role once they know you’re good at this.

From Vulkk


I would like to thank Sevrahn for the hard-core dedication to this class and spec. Providing this guide for the community has been a long search and struggle for me and I am glad Sevrahn’s experience and knowledge is now in your hands, on your monitors and on your phone screens.

Sevrahn is a dedicated theorycrafter as well. His BiS PvE 306’s Sheet is often referenced in other SWTOR Class Guides here on VULKK.com and is an invaluable resource that is also always kept up-to-date for the current patch!

If you are skilled with a Class and Discipline that has not yet been covered with a guide on VULKK, and you want to provide one for the Community, contact me via email or wherever you see Vulkk present. I share on Facebook and Twitter whenever a new guide is available or will soon be ready.

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