SWTOR 7.0 Defense Guardian PvE Guide (Tank) for beginners and more experienced veterans: Skills, Choices, Rotations, Gearing, Builds!

This guide is written for VULKK.com by Dongo

Table of Contents:

Introduction to Defense Guardian

“Jedi Guardians see the Force as an ally in unwavering defense. Protective techniques and dominant offensive attacks allow Jedi Guardians to persevere against all odds. The Jedi Guardian’s focused mind, limitless determination, and unmatched skill with a lightsaber make them almost completely unstoppable.

Defense is the tanking discipline for Jedi Guardian and one of the three tanking disciplines in the SWTOR. Defense’s biggest strengths lie in its ability to take tons of incoming damage through passive mitigation and strong defensive cooldowns while dealing large amounts of damage back to the attackers. In this guide I intend to cover the basics of abilities, utility choices, gearing, and rotations of the Defense discipline to help you build a strong foundation with the class so you will feel confident playing it. 

With the introduction of combat styles in 7.0 all Classes and Disciplines received major changes. Some notable changes Defense received include: 

  • Saber Reflect/Blade Blitz/Awe are no longer baseline, you can only spec into one of these abilities at a time
  • New defensive and offensive options available in the new Ability Tree.
  • Removal of optional speed boosts for Combat Focus and Focused Defense 
  • Self Cleanse is now a baseline effect for Enure

Terms

  • CD – Cooldown
  • DCD – Defensive cooldown
  • AoE – Area of Effect
  • GCD – Global cooldown
  • M/R – Melee / Ranged damage
  • F/T – Force / Tech damage
  • DR – Damage Reduction

Damage Types and Mitigation

Understanding the different damage types of abilities in SWTOR is crucial when it comes to tanking. Knowing the types of damage your defensive cooldowns are effective against as well as the types of damage enemy abilities are doing will allow you to make better decisions to reduce damage taken and keep yourself alive. If you want to learn more about the different damage types and how they work you can check out: SWTOR Guide to Damage Types and Damage Mitigation by Endonae

If you are curious about the process for mitigation it looks something like this:
Defense Chance > Damage Reduction > Shield Chance > Reduced Damage Taken > Absorb Shields*
*Shields like Force Armor or Blade Barrier

Damage Reduction vs Reduced Damage Taken

Before we get into it i want to explain the difference between Damage Reduction and Reduces Damage Taken. Though they may sound like the same thing they function differently. To simplify things Damage Reduction is passive mitigation so it is applied before an attack deals damage, while on the other hand Reduced Damage Taken is applied after an attack deals damage. 

So for example let’s say you have a 50% DR baseline and a boss hits you with an attack that deals 100k damage before mitigation. Without a DCD this attack would deal 50k damage.

If you use a DCD that increases your DR by 40% you would raise your total DR to 90% and take 10k damage. 

If you use a DCD that reduces your damage taken by 40%, the attack would deal 50k damage after DR and the DCD would reduce that value by 40% so you end up taking 30k damage. 

As you can see DR is much more powerful than Reduced Damage Taken and you should keep that in mind when we go through some of the new DR tools Guardians received in 7.0.

Abilities Explained

Passives

Warding Power Warding Power

Increases the critical chance of Force Sweep and Guardian Slash by 20%. Additionally, Warding Strike deals an additional 30% damage and increases shield absorption by 3%.

Pacification Guardian Pacification

Force Sweep deals 75% more damage and consumes 2 less focus. Additionally, the critical chance of Cyclone Slash and Blade Barrage is increased by 30%.

Visionary Visionary

Generates 1 focus when attacked. This effect cannot occur more than once every 3 seconds.

Blade Turning Blade Turning

The first 2 seconds of Saber Ward grats 100% melee and ranged defense.

Focused Striking Focused Striking

Reduces the cooldowns of Sundering Strike and Warding Strike by 3 seconds each and increases the focus they generate by 2.

Preparation Preparation

When you exit combat, the active cooldowns of Force Leap, Threatening Focus, and Saber Throw are reduced by 100%.

Single Saber Mastery Guardian Single Saber Mastery

Increases the damage dealt by your weapon by 20%.

Soresu Form

Utilize a defensive lightsaber form, increasing armor rating by 61.5%, damage reduction by 6%, shield chance by 15%, threat generation by 150%, and accuracy by 10%. While utilizing Soresu Form, all damage dealt is reduced by 10%, and all Strike abilities generate 1 less focus. Replaces Shii-Cho Form. 

Dust Storm

Targets damaged by Force Sweep and Cyclone Slash become Unsteady. Unsteady targets have their melee and ranged accuracy reduced by 5% for 45 seconds. In addition, damage dealt by Blade Storm is increased by 40%

Lunge Lunge

Riposte consumes 1 less focus and no longer causes a global cooldown. In addition, melee and ranged defense is increased by 3%.

Expeditious Protector Expeditious Protector

Increased armor rating by 15% and when your guarded target is attacked, your movement speed is increased by 30% for 6 seconds.

Blade Barrier Guardian Blade Barrier

Activating Blade Storm grants Blade Barrier, which absorbs a small amount of damage. Lasts up to 10 seconds. Riposte raises a Blade Barricade, increasing your defense chance by 5% for 10s.

Abating Defense Abating Defense

 Increases shield chance by 4% and reduces the cooldown of Saber Ward by 30 seconds

Courage Courage

Parrying, deflecting, shielding, or resisting an attack has a 50% chance to grant Courage, reducing the focus consumed by your next Blade Storm or Dispatch by 1. Lasts up to 12 seconds, and stacks up to 3 times.

Inner Peace Inner Peace

Increases the duration of Enure by 10 seconds. Increases elemental and internal damage reduction by 5%.

Defensive Swings Defensive Swings

Dealing damage with Blade Barrage increases your defense chance by 2%. Stacks up to 3 times and lasts for 6 seconds.

Damage Abilities

Warding Strike Warding Strike

Generates 7 focus and is your primary focus builder. Grants you 3% damage reduction and 3% absorption for 20 seconds. Deals a moderate amount of damage. No focus cost. 12s CD.

Guardian Slash Guardian Slash

Your largest damaging and threat generating ability by far. Deals AoE damage if you are buffed by your Warding Strike. Also enables the use of Riposte. Importantly this ability applies the Impaired debuff to all enemies hit, reducing the force and tech damage they deal by 5%. Costs 4 focus. 12s CD

Riposte

Deals a moderate amount of damage and does not respect the global cooldown. Is able to be used after activating Guardian Slash or when you defend an attack. Additionally grants you Blade Barricade which raises your defense by 5% for 10s. Has a low cool down (or no cool down with the Retaliator Set bonus) and should be used whenever available. Costs 1 focus. 6s CD.

Blade Storm Blade Storm

Deals a high amount of damage and grats you a small absorb shield. One of your few ranged abilities and adds to your survivability, very good overall. Costs 3 focus. 12s CD.

blade barrage Blade Barrage

Deals a high amount of damage and grants you 6% defense chance over the duration. Defense buff lasts for 6 seconds. No focus cost. 18s CD.

Threatening Focus Threatening Focus

Instantly generates 6 focus and reduces the cooldown of Taunt and Challenging Call by 5 seconds. Additionally, it damages all taunted enemies within 15m for a moderate amount of damage. The taunt cooldown reduction and damage are nice additions in 7.0. No Cost. 45s CD.

Force Sweep Force Sweep

Deals a moderate amount of damage in an AoE around you. Importantly applies the Unsteady debuff to all enemies hit, reducing their melee and range accuracy by 5%. Costs 1 focus. 15s CD.

force leap Force Leap

Deals a low amount of damage and leaps you to your target. Very useful to engage new enemies or swap between targets. Also roots your target for 3 seconds. Builds 3 focus. 15s CD.

Saber Throw Saber Throw

Deals a low amount of damage and has a 30m range. Your only 30m ranged ability besides leap, most often used as a filler to generate focus. Builds 3 focus. 30s CD.

Slash

Deals a low amount of damage and is your primary focus spending filler ability. While this ability is fairly weak, you will use it quite often while waiting for stronger abilities to come off cooldown. Applies the trauma debuff to the target reducing the healing they recieve by 20% for 6 seconds. Costs 2 focus. No CD.

Dispatch Dispatch

Deals a high amount of damage and has a 10m range. Can only be used on targets below 30%. Very strong filler ability that can be used on low health targets or after using Force Leap with the War Master utility. Costs 3 focus. 10s CD.

Strike

Deals a low amount of damage and builds focus. Very low priority filler ability, should only be used when everything else is on cooldown and you do not have excess focus to spend. Builds 1 focus. No CD.

Hilt Bash Hilt Bash

Deals a moderate amount of damage and stunning the target for 4 seconds. Generates a high amount of threat. Strong ability for the damage and threat generation. No focus cost. 60s CD.

Force Stasis Force Stasis

Deals a moderate amount of damage and stuns your target for 4 seconds. Has a 10m range and also generates a moderate amount of threat. Very useful ability all around for damage, threat, focus generation, and CC. Builds 3 focus over the duration. 60s CD.

Force Push Force Push

Deals a low amount of damage and knocks the target back several meters, then knocks them down for 2 seconds. Resets the cooldown on your Force Leap. Mainly used for CC or as a free ranged filler ability however the Force Leap reset can be very useful in some situations. No focus cost. 60s CD.

Optional Damage Abilities

Cyclone Slash Cyclone Slash

Deals a low amount of damage to enemies in front of you. Your main AoE ability outside of Guardian Slash and Force Sweep. Also applies the Unsteady accuracy debuff and Trauma debuff. Option at lvl 27. Costs 2 focus. No CD.

Defensive Abilities

Saber Ward Saber Ward

Increases M/R defense by 50% and absorbs 25% of Force and Tech damage for 12 seconds. Additionally increases M/R defense by 100% for the first 2 seconds with Blade Turning Guardian passive meaning that you are basically immune to M/R damage for the first two seconds. 

Extremely potent DCD against M/R damage and should put you close to 80% M/R defense chance for the duration against enemies affected by the Unsteady accuracy debuff. The 25% Force and tech absorb is very strong against those damage types. 150s CD 

Warding Call Warding Call

Reduces all damage taken by 40% for 10 seconds. While not as strong as actual Damage reduction, the reduced damage taken granted by this ability is still valuable.

Since this DCD is not restricted to any specific damage types it is useful against all damage. This makes it a very strong and well rounded DCD that helps cover some of the weaknesses of our other defensive cooldowns. 150s CD

Focused Defense Focused Defense

Grants you 12 charges of Focused Defense for 15s, whenever you take damage you consume a charge and heal yourself for a moderate amount. One restriction on this ability is that you can only activate it while below 70% health.

The effectiveness of this ability can vary based on the size of the hits you are taking as well as the frequency of the hits. It is most effective in situations where you are taking lots of small or medium hits and will easily heal you to full hp. It can be dangerous to rely on this cooldown when you are taking large hits that are spaced out since you only heal yourself once per damage tick. In most cases it is best to use this cooldown around 30-40% to try to avoid overhealing, however if you anticipate large damage to come you can use it at higher hp to ensure you don’t get bursted through it but you may waste some of the healing. 90s CD with Through Peace utility (120s CD without)

Enure Enure

Temporarily increase your health by 30% for 20 seconds, however after this 20 seconds you lose this hp. Additionally in 7.0 this ability now removes all cleansable effects at a baseline without the need to take a specific utility.

While this ability might seem a bit strange it is actually quite useful, it effectively works as an “HP borrow.” The extra health is very good at helping you survive big hits that might otherwise kill you or to give yourself some extra health to work with to give your healers more time to heal you up. Since you lose the extra health when the effect expires, it is important to communicate with your healers to make sure you have enough health to survive when the effect ends. 60s CD.

Shield Adrenal Shield Adrenal

Absorbs up to 30% of damage up to a cap for 15s. (Current cap is 84261 for Advanced Kyrprax Shield Adrenal) Very solid DCD that works against almost every type of damage.

Tooltip can be a little confusing but basically the way it works is that it absorbs up to 30% of each attack you take while the buff is active. When the adrenal absorbs damage it subtracts the amount absorbed from the damage cap, if the total amount of the damage absorbed by the adrenal exceeds the cap the buff ends early. I recommend training up your biochem to have reusable shield adrenals or carrying a stack of them on you for challenging content. 180s CD

Medpac

Heals you for a large amount instantly and for a small amount over time for 15s. Only usable once per combat. As a tank it is very important for you to always be carrying medpacs. They are great for saving your life when you get low or to give you enough health to make sure you survive a big hit. 90s CD

Optional Defensive Cooldowns (More on these later in Ability Choices.)

  • Saber Reflect
  • Blade Blitz 
  • Awe

Utility Abilities

Taunt Taunt

Taunts the target forcing it to attack you for 6 seconds. Your single target taunt, more on how you should use your taunts later. 15s CD.

Challenging Call Challenging Call

Taunts all enemies within 15m forcing them to attack you. Your AoE taunt, again more on taunts later. 45s CD.

Force Kick Force Kick

Interrupts the target’s current action and prevents that ability from being used for 4 seconds. Your interrupt, required for some fight mechanics and useful against most mobs.  12s CD.

Guardian Leap Guardian Leap

Leaps you to a friendly target, reducing their threat by a moderate amount and reducing their damage taken by 20%.

Being able to use allies as leap targets can help you move around quickly to kite mobs or get into position for an upcoming mechanic, especially more useful now with the loss of all of our optional speed boosts. The threat reduction and reduced damage taken parts of this ability are also useful but you need to be careful when you Guardian Leap group mates so that you don’t cleave them with any enemies that might be agrod onto you or that you don’t cause your co-tank to lose agro of any enemies they might be tanking. 20s CD

Guard Republic Jedi Knight Guard

Places Guard on a friendly target, reducing damage taken by 5% and reducing the threat they generate by 25%. These two effects apply regardless of range and the damage redirect is only a factor in PvP. No CD.

Who should you guard?
Choosing who you guard as a Guardian tank is fairly important for threat purposes but also determines how often we proc the 30% speed boost from Expeditious Protector. If you are doing a fight with heavy movement it will benefit you to guard a target that will often take damage and grant you the extra movement speed. Outside of this in general: you guard Healers when you have a situation where you have many add spawns that are difficult to generate threat on quickly, you guard your strongest AoE dps when you have a heavy AoE situation(I.E. Vigilance Guardian), you guard your strongest Burst DPS when you are having problems keeping threat at the start of a fight (I.E. Tactics Vanguard), or if threat is a non factor you can consider guarding your co-tank to grant them the reduced damage taken as well as proc Expeditious Protector often. Also note that you can change guard at any point to maintain Threat against changing conditions in a fight. 

Ability Tree Choices

Note: I sometimes refer to some of these choices as “utilities”. That word is not to be mistaken for the old “Utilities” system that existed in the game before 7.0.

Level 23 Choice

Defensive Stance Concealment and Scrapper Defensive Assault

  • Effect: Warding Strike increases your damage reduction by an additional 2% when it deals damage.
  • Recommendation: Take when you want maximum survivability. Extra 2% DR is nice to have and raises total DR granted by Warding Strike to 5%.

Targeted Ambush, Bleeding Pommel, Penetrating Slash for Rep and Imp, Relentless Blades, Targeted Assault Marked Assault

  • Effect: Warding Strike deals 50% more damage to taunted targets
  • Recommendation: Could possibly be better than Antagonizing Assault in very specific situations however i do not recommend taking this. Constantly taunting in a fight could cause problems with either you taunting at a bad time or not having a taunt available when you need it. Requires deep knowledge of the encounter and more planning than it is worth to get full value of this utility.

Taunting Strike, Antagonizing Assault Antagonizing Assault

  • Effect: Increases the damage, critical hit chance and threat of Warding Strike by 20%
  • Recommendation: Take this in most situations when you want a DPS and threat output increase. 

Level 27 Choice

Cyclone Slash Cyclone Slash

  • Effect: Slashes up to 8 enemies within 5 meters in front of you for a low amount of weapon damage and inflicts the targets with Trauma, which reduces the healing received from all sources by 20% for 6 seconds.
  • Recommendation: Take this when you need extra AoE damage outside of Guardian Slash and Force Sweep. My default choice for this tier as it gives you a spammable AoE attack.

Debilitating Slashes Debilitating Slashes

  • Effect: Blade Barrage immobilizes the target for 3 seconds and generates 1 focus.
  • Recommendation: Take this when you have no need for extra AoE damage and want slightly more focus.

Blade Burst Blade Burst

  • Effect: Blade Storm does damage to additional enemies in a cone in front and slows them by 50% for 6 seconds
  • Recommendation: Take this when you do not need constant AoE damage from Cyclone Slash but want some extra AoE burst. The slim conal on this ability makes it difficult to use even in stacked AoE situations so it is generally better to take Cyclone Slash.

Level 39 Choice

Deadly Field, Retargeting, Explosive Reset, Roll Knife, Guardian Focus Guardian Focus

  • Effect: Dealing damage with Guardian Slash while Warding Strike is active grants a barrier of protection to up to 8 allies within 10 meters for 6 seconds. 
  • Recommendation: Take this when you want more personal and group survivability. Grants 10% DR to yourself and nearby allies for 6 seconds on every Guardian Slash, very powerful.

Befall, Energy Barrel (Agent and Smuggler), Critical Interrogation, Deep Cuts, Dusk Ward, Crippling Wounds, Critical Slash Critical Slash

  • Effect: Guardian Slash critical chance and threat generated is increased by 20% and its cooldown is reduced by one second each time it critically hits.
  • Recommendation: Take this when you have no need for the increased survivability of Guardian Focus and want more Damage and threat output. Synergizes well with your Warding Power passive to increase Guardian Slash critical strike chance to around 60%. The cooldown reduction part of this utility is very powerful in situations where you consistently hit multiple targets with Guardian Slash.

Gloom Ward, Shattering Burst, Crushing Mark Crushing Mark

  • Effect: Guardian Slash deals 50% more damage to taunted targets.
  • Recommendation: Take this when you want some extra single target or AoE burst in specific situations. While this utility is better than Marked Assault because Guardian Slash already deals massive damage and can be used for AoE, I do not recommend taking it because it suffers similar drawbacks.

Level 43 Choice

Critical Defense Critical Defense

  • Effect: Critically hitting with direct attack reduces the cooldown of your Threatening Focus by 1 second. Threatening Focus purges movement impairing effects and increases your melee and ranged defense chance by 10% for 10 seconds.
  • Recommendation: Always take this utility. Makes your Threatening Focus a mini DCD with the added M/R defense chance. The cooldown reduction on direct attack critical hits synergizes well with our other passive crit chance buffs. Root/slow break is also useful in some encounters.

Marked Focus Marked Focus

  • Effect: Dealing direct damage to taunted targets generates 1 focus and heals you for 1% of your maximum health. This effect can occur once every second.
  • Recommendation: Do not take this utility over Critical Defense. Suffers similar drawbacks as the other utilities that require taunt. Generally do not need the extra focus when you are tanking an enemy as you would already gain focus from your Visionary  passive. The healing is a decent bonus, however you would only expect to heal 4-5% per taunt with the rate limit. Should only be considered if the encounter has little to no melee/ranged damage. 

Thwart Thwart

  • Effect: Guardian Leap grants Thwart, increasing the damage dealt by your next melee ability by 20%. This effect lasts for 10 seconds. Additionally, reduces the cooldown of Guardian Leap by 5 seconds and reduces the threat and damage taken by an additional 10% each for the friendly target of Guardian Leap.
  • Recommendation: Mainly PvP focused utility, potentially useful if you had some weird strats that involved using Guardian Leap on cooldown. Don’t recommend you take this.

Level 51 Choice

Unyielding Justice Unyielding Justice

  • Effect: Increases the range of Blade Storm to 30 meters, but Blade Storm deals reduced damage beyond 10 meters. Additionally, Force Push deals 20% more damage and grants Unyielding Justice, allowing your next Blade Storm to deal full damage regardless of the distance from the target.
  • Recommendation: Take this when you want another ability that can be used up to 30 meters. Useful for when you find yourself needing more 30m ranged abilities beyond Saber Throw and Force Leap.

Battlefield Command Battlefield Command

  • Effect: Getting attacked reduces the active cooldown of Force Leap by 1 second. This effect cannot occur more than once every 1.5 seconds.
  • Recommendation: Take this in most situations. With the removal of most of our optional speed boosts, Guardians are more reliant on Force Leap as a mobility tool. Allows you to have Force Leap up more often to swap targets or engage new enemies. Synergizes well with War Master in the level 64 tier. 

Defiance Defiance

  • Effect: You generate 4 focus when stunned, immobilized, put to sleep, or knocked around.
  • Recommendation: Take this on encounters that have many stuns/roots/knock-ups that can proc its effect. Generates you a ton of focus on certain encounters.

Level 64 Choice

War Master War Master

  • Effect: Force Leap grants Unremitting, granting immunity to movement-impairing effects and effects that push or pull you around for 4 seconds. In addition, Force Leap enables your next Dispatch or Whirling Blade to be used against a target with any percentage of health. 
  • Recommendation: Take this in most situations. The immunity to push/pulls and roots/slows can be very useful in some encounters. Additionally the Dispatch it enables is a nice dps increase.

Stalwart Defense Stalwart Defense

  • Effect: All damage is reduced by 30% while stunned.
  • Recommendation: Take this on fights where you are often stunned and are unable to use Resolute to remove the stun. 

Second Wind Second Wind

  • Effect: Reduces the cooldown of Resolute by 30 seconds and causes Resolute to heal you for 10% of your maximum health when used.
  • Recommendation: Take this on fights where you are often affected by CC effects that can be removed with Resolute.

Level 68 Choice

Saber Reflect Republic Saber Reflect

  • Effect: Reflects all direct single target ranged, Force, and tech attacks back to the attacker for 5 seconds. The damage done by each reflect is capped (116010) , and the cap rises with each new rank of the ability. In addition, Saber Reflect generates a high amount of threat (77340) on all engaged enemies within 30 meters when activated. 60s CD
  • Recommendation: Take this in most situations. Most enemies or bosses have some attack that is reflectable so this is usually your default option. Knowing what attacks you should be reflecting is one of the most important skills to learn as a Guardian. Using reflect effectively not only increases your survivability but can also deal insane amounts of damage. Note that Saber reflect does NOT work against melee attacks. 

Awe Awe

  • Effect: Confounds up to 8 nearby enemies, preventing all action for up to 6 seconds. Damage ends the effect prematurely. In addition, targets affected by Awe deal 15% less melee and ranged damage for 10 seconds after the confounding effect ends. Targets immune to the confounding effect will immediately suffer from this damage reducing effect. 60s CD
  • Recommendation: Take this only in situations where Saber Reflect and Blade Blitz are not particularly effective. Useful for encounters with lots of Melee/Ranged damage or when you want the CC effect.

Blade Blitz

  • Effect: Quickly rush forward 20 meters dealing a low amount of weapon damage to enemies in your path and increasing your defense chance by 100% while dashing. Can be used while immobilized and purges movement-impairing effects when activated. 35s CD
  • Recommendation: Take this when you know that there is nothing important for you to Saber Reflect in the fight. Most effective when you need extra mobility/root break and can use the short (1s) defense chance buff to avoid predictable damage spikes.

Level 73 Choice

Gather Strength Gather Strength

  • Effect: Whenever your movement is impaired, you gain a 10% damage bonus to your next ability that consumes focus. This effect can stack up to 6 times and lasts 15 seconds.
  • Recommendation: Mainly PvP focus utility, has very few PvE applications. Only take this on very specific encounters that have many roots or slows that can actually proc this effect often. 

Purifying Sweep Purifying Sweep

  • Effect: For the Defense discipline, Force Sweep slows the targets it damages by 60% for 10 seconds.
  • Recommendation: Also PvP focused, has little to no use for PvE. Do not recommend taking it ever. 

Through Peace Through Peace

  • Effect: Reduces the cooldown of Focused Defense by 30 seconds.
  • Recommendation: Take this in 99% of situations. The cooldown reduction it provides is very valuable and all the other choices in this tier do not have much benefit in PvE. 

Gearing and Stats Priorities

Legendary Implants

Blue Legendary Implant Force Resistance Package
Effect:
Elemental, Internal, Kinetic and Energy damage reduction is increased by 3%. Comes with Absorb rating.
Recommendation:
Take this whenever you are doing challenging content and need the extra survivability. Although the DR bonuses are minor, this is the only Legendary that directly increases survivability. 
Teal Legendary Implant Retaliator Package
Effect:
Riposte has no cooldown. Comes with Shield rating.
Recommendation:
Our second tanking Legendary can be considered a slight survivability increase due to it having Shield rating. Riposte having no cooldown can provide a noticeable DPS increase on fights where you are constantly defending melee/ranged attacks. Note that the extra Ripostes require a high APM to not waste procs and can cost you a lot of focus so you need to be careful to not run out of focus.
Yellow Legendary Implant Fearless Victor Package
Effect:
Whenever you use a focus spending damage ability, your melee damage is increased by 10% for 10 seconds. Comes with Critical rating.
Recommendation:
While this is technically a dps Legendary, it is one of our best options. Provides a significant DPS increase due to the majority of our damage being melee damage. The critical rating also synergizes well with utilities like Critical Defense and our other crit passives.

Other Legendaries

Red Legendary Implant Champion’s Precision Package
Effect:
Activating Combat Focus, Burning Focus or Threatening Focus grants Champion’s Precision, increasing your critical chance by 20% for 8 seconds. Comes with Critical rating.
Recommendation:
Another DPS Legendary but is not nearly as strong as Fearless Victor. If you wanted to run a pure DPS build you might consider this over Retaliator, however Retaliator would outperform it in most real fight situations.
Red Legendary Implant Nimble Master Package
Effect:
Activating Saber Ward grants Nimble Master increasing your movement speed by 100% for the duration of Saber Ward. Comes with Alacrity rating.
Recommendation:
Mainly PvP focused Legendary, kind of fun to play around with but has no practical uses in PvE. Do not recommend it. 
Red Legendary Implant Vicious Thirst Package
Effect:
Slash, Blade Storm and Cyclone Slash add Vicious thirst to their targets, stacking up to 5 times. Killing an enemy with Vicious Thirst stacks increases your damage by 3% per stack for 10 seconds. Comes with Alacrity rating.
Recommendation:
Mediocre for Tanks and DPS alike. Don’t bother.

Tactical Items

Grit Teeth Grit teeth
Effect:
The active cooldown of Saber Ward is reduced by 2 seconds when you are attacked. This effect cannot occur more than once per second.
Recommendation:
Take this in most situations. Changed from reducing the cooldown of FD to Saber Ward in 7.0, this tactical allows us to significantly reduce the cooldown of one of our strongest DCD’s. Note this is a crafted tactical and its schematic can be found on Kai Zykken some weeks or purchased off the GTN.
Hord’s Makashi Strike Hord’s Makashi Strike
Effect:
Riposte consumes Warding Strike damage reduction and grants Retaliating Defense, increasing damage reduction by 5% for 20 seconds.
Recommendation:
The extra DR granted from this tactical can be pretty handy on some encounters but it requires you to change how you use Riposte and Warding Strike. To get maximum value out of this tactical you must only use Riposte right before you activate Warding Strike, this allows you to maintain both DR buffs for a total of 8% DR between both buffs (10% total if you have Defensive Assault utility!). Note that since you have to hold Riposte proc’s to do this you will lose some DPS and some uptime on Blade Barricade.
Leviathan’s Hide Leviathan’s Hide
Effect:
Guardian Slash generates stacks of Crushing Defense for every enemy it hits, granting 2.5% increased damage reduction per stack for 10 seconds. Stacks up to 8 times.
Recommendation:
Good tactical if you can consistently hit 2 or more targets with Guardian Slash. Synergizes well with the cooldown reduction on Guardian Slash from the Critical Slash utility. Depending on crits and the number of targets, it is possible to maintain 100% uptime of the DR buff from this tactical.
Jaw Breaker Jaw Breaker
Effect:
Using Hilt Bash while Warding Call is active extends the duration of Warding Call by 5 seconds.
Recommendation:
Can be a good choice if you need a longer duration Warding Call to help you survive a specific phase or mechanic. Requires some planning ahead as you need to have Hilt Bash available to use during your Warding Call duration.

Optional Tacticals

Life Warden The Life Warden
Effect:
Taking damage below 20% heal will rapidly heal you for a large amount. 10 minute cooldown.
Recommendation:
Definitely not the best option but is usable if you do not yet have any of the better tacticals.
Throwing Arm Throwing Arm
Effect:
Saber Throw lowers the target’s accuracy by 70% for 6 seconds.
Recommendation:
Potentially useful in some solo content or flashpoints as the accuracy debuff is quite strong. Note that it does not work against Operations bosses or most strong boss type mobs found in operations encounters.
Syn’s Second Amulet Syn’s Second Amulet
Effect:
Riposte refunds one focus and finishes the cooldown of Furious Strike
Recommendation:
Technically a Focus Guardian DPS tactical, but focus refund on Riposte synergizes well with the Retaliator Legendary for a high DPS build.

Stats and Gear Pieces

My gearing philosophy for tanking is a bit different from how one might approach gearing a DPS. Unlike DPS, tanks do not have Accuracy and Alacrity thresholds they need to aim for. This allows tank gearing to be less strict and does not have only one “right” build. While every fight has different damage profiles it is most useful to gear for the general case. When gearing tanks I aim to have roughly a 65-35 split between Shield rating and Absorb rating, leaning towards higher Shield rating. This stat distribution works out well with the unmoddable Bulwark gear pieces we are given since it has 4 shield pieces and 3 absorb pieces. Also with changes introduced in 7.0, different classes can share almost all the same gear, minus weapons and implants. So this gear set and stat distribution will also work well with Kinetic Combat and Shield Specialist if you plan on playing those specs. 

There is one point I want to make before we get into detail about gearing. While it is important to have “proper” stats and gear, the most important factor to your survival is good DCD usage. Now this doesn’t mean that you should ignore your gearing, you should still aim to have a good balance of Shield and Absorb. However most of your attention should go into answering these questions: What are the best Legendaries for me to use here? Am I getting enough value out of my tactical or could another one help me more? Do I have DCD’s available for when the fight hurts most or am I overlapping them or using them when the fight is not very stressful?

So to make things simple for each gear slot you want:

  • Mainhand: Bulwark
  • Offhand: Bulwark
  • Head: Bulwark
  • Wrists: Bulwark
  • Chest: Bulwark
  • Hands: Bulwark
  • Feet: Bulwark
  • Waist: Bulwark
  • Legs: Bulwark
  • Ear: Bastion or Bulwark
  • Implants: Combination of 2 of Force Resistance / Retaliator / Fearless Victor
  • Relics: Shield Matrix and Avoidance
  • Tactical: Grit Teeth/ Hord’s Makashi Strike/ Leviathan’s Hide/ Jaw Breaker
  • Augments: Combination of Shield and Absorb
  • Color Crystals: Indestructible (Endurance)
  • Stim: Fortitude (Endurance)

A few notes about the gearing above: 

For the Ear slot, it does not matter if you have Bastion or Bulwark, just wear the highest item level piece.

For Implants, it depends on the encounter. I recommend purchasing them in the order of Fearless Victor > Force Resistance > Retaliator. Carry all three of them on you so you can swap between Legendaries as needed. If you do not have your legendary implants yet you can use either Bastion or Bulwark. 

For Relics, I recommend that you have at least one Shield Matrix relic but the second slot can be either a second Shield Matrix or Avoidance, favoring the highest item level of course. Other Relics like Shrouded Crusader or Reactive Warding are usable while gearing up but Shield Matrix and Avoidance are what you want to aim for. 

For Augments, the exact number of Shield and Absorb augments will vary depending on what gear pieces you have exactly in each slot. Just try to use them to balance your Shield and Absorb rating with roughly a 65-35 split, favoring higher Shield rating. While the Augment 77’s (300 ilvl) augments are currently the best, they are tremendously expensive. I only recommend going with these if you can afford to spend up to 1 Billion per augment and know exactly how many of each you will use in your final build. Otherwise it is perfectly fine to use the Augment 74’s (286 ilvl), or even Augment 73’s (276 ilvl) while gearing up as they are way cheaper and the stat difference from the Augment 77’s is small. 

What about Critical and Alacrity?

It is not uncommon for tanks to run some DPS tertiary stats. I only recommend this if you and your healers are very comfortable with the encounter. Investing into alacrity enough to get a 1.4s GCD will be a significant DPS increase but it comes at a heavy cost of close to 2100 tertiary stats so I do not currently recommend it. Critical rating is a bit easier to use since you don’t need to invest a large amount of stats to gain value. Every point of Crit is valuable and Crit synergizes well with many of our passives that increase Critical chance/damage and also works well with our Critical Defense utility.

As you are gearing up your stat distributions will change and things will sometimes get a little funky. Just always use your highest item level gear pieces and do the best that you can to balance your stats out but don’t worry about everything being perfect until you are max item level. If you want more info on gearing on the gearing process in 7.0 check out this guide by Endonae: SWTOR 7.0 EndGame Gearing Guide for level 80

When moddable gear becomes available later into the expansion this section will need to be updated. 

Best Defense Guardian Builds in 7.0

You will notice some similarities between the builds below. Your main choices will be in the lvl 23, 39, and 68 tiers. Refer back to the Ability choices section for more explanation on each choice.

These are just two examples of potential builds. There are many other combinations out there so I encourage you to experiment with different utilities/Legendaries/tacticals to see what works best for you in each fight. 

Damage Focused Build

Appropriate for Solo content, Flashpoints, and some raid encounters. This build focuses on choosing the higher DPS options over survivability. Saber reflect could be swapped for Blade Blitz depending on fights or preference. 

Legendaries: Fearless Victor & Retaliator
Tactical: Grit Teeth/ Hord’s Mikashi Strike/ Leviathans Hide/ Jaw Breaker/ Syn’s Second Amulet

SWTOR 7.0 Defense Guardian PvE Guide and Best Builds - Damage Focused Build Template

Defensive Focused Build

Appropriate for difficult Flashpoint bosses and difficult raid encounters. This build chooses the options that improve our survivability and DR wherever possible. Saber Reflect could be swapped for Blade Blitz or Awe depending on the encounter. This build with Hord’s Mikashi Strike tactical can put you around 65% DR when you have all your DR buffs up.  

Legendaries: Force Resistance & Retaliator/Fearless Victor
Tactical: Hord’s Mikashi Strike/ Grit Teeth/ Jaw Breaker/Leviathans Hide 

SWTOR 7.0 Defense Guardian PvE Guide and Best Builds - Defensive Focused Build Template

Openers, Rotations, Ability Priorities

Single Target Priority

Below is the single priority ability priority list. In general, it is sorted by damage, if two abilities deal similar damage the one with defensive buffs is prioritized higher. 

  1. Guardian Slash Guardian Slash
  2. Blade Storm Blade Storm
  3. Dispatch Dispatch
  4. blade barrage Blade Barrage
  5. Hilt Bash Hilt Bash
  6. Force Stasis Force Stasis
  7. Force Sweep Force Sweep
  8. Riposte Riposte*
  9. Warding Strike Warding Strike
  10. Slash
  11. Saber Throw Saber Throw
  12. Force Push Force Push
  13. force leap Force Leap 
  14. Strike

*Note that Riposte should be used on cooldown. Since it is off the GCD it does not interfere with activating our other abilities. Riposte also gives you Blade Barricade for 10s so you want to use it often to maintain this buff. I put it at that spot in the list to show its damage relative to your other abilities. Be careful when using the Retaliator Legendary as all the extra procs can drain your focus, you do not want to delay stronger abilities due to lack of focus. Using weaker focus builders like Strike + Riposte is actually about 60% more damage than using a Slash and wasting a Riposte Proc.

AoE Priority

  1. Guardian Slash Guardian Slash
  2. Blade Storm Blade Storm with Blade Burst Utility
  3. Force Sweep Force Sweep
  4. Cyclone Slash Cyclone Slash*

Use Warding Strike before your first Guardian Slash. Use Warding Strike and other focus builders as necessary.

*Cyclone Slash becomes better than Slash at 2 targets. At 3+ targets it becomes worth using over our other single-target abilities.

General Opener

  1. force leap Force Leap
  2. Warding Strike Warding Strike 
  3. Guardian Slash Guardian Slash + Riposte Riposte 
  4. Blade Storm Blade Storm + Threatening Focus Threatening Focus
  5. blade barrage Blade Barrage
  6. Force Sweep Force Sweep
  7. Hilt Bash Hilt Bash 
  8. Force Stasis Force Stasis
  9. Slash (Or Dispatch Dispatch with War Master War Master utility) 
  10. Warding Strike Warding Strike
  11. Guardian Slash Guardian Slash + Riposte Riposte 

After the opener just follow your priority list. Use Threatening Focus as needed to supplement your main focus builders, also remember that Threatening Focus deals damage similar to Force Sweep to all taunted enemies within 15m. As fun as dealing damage is though, always prioritize your survivability and mechanics over DPS and uptime. 

How Taunts Work

The exact details on how taunts function are not explained anywhere in the game and this often leads to some confusion on how they work. Taunts basically function as a threat multiplier, since taunts are multipliers they become more effective the more threat there is on a target.  

When you taunt an enemy it takes the current highest threat, multiplies it by 110% or 130%, sets your threat to that value and forces the enemy to attack you for 6 seconds. The multiplier is dependent on your range from the target when you activate taunt, if you are within melee range (<4m) it is 110% and if you are outside of melee range (>4m) it is 130%. Some mechanics that force target swaps or threat drops can cause enemies to change targets even when taunted. 

So when you engage new enemies you don’t want to open with a taunt. It is generally best to go in, hit them with a few high threat abilities, and then taunt them so that your taunts generate more threat. 

Using this information let’s take a look at what our open looks like when using taunts. You will want to use this opener when pulling a boss and you want to be the first one tanking it.

Opener with Taunts

  1. force leap Force Leap (+ Saber Reflect Republic Saber Reflect*)
  2. Warding Strike Warding Strike 
  3. Guardian Slash Guardian Slash + Riposte Riposte + TauntTaunt
  4. Blade Storm Blade Storm + Threatening Focus Threatening Focus
  5. blade barrage Blade Barrage
  6. Force Sweep Force Sweep
  7. Hilt Bash Hilt Bash + Challenging Call Challenging Call
  8. Force Stasis Force Stasis
  9. Slash (Or Dispatch Dispatch with War Master War Master utility) 
  10. Warding Strike Warding Strike
  11. Guardian Slash Guardian Slash + Riposte Riposte

*Only if you are specced into Saber Reflect and do not need it for a specific mechanic within the first 60s of a fight.

If using Riposte + Taunt is difficult for you to activate between one GCD you can activate Taunt after Warding Strike instead, however, this will generate less threat. When you want to solidify your threat even more, and do not need to save your taunt for an upcoming mechanic, use your single target taunt again right after the taunt debuff from Challenging Call expires.

How to get and use Starparse

StarParse is a popular program used by many SWTOR players to read the information generated from their combat logs. StarParse is useful for real-time combat stats like DPS/DTPS/HPS/Timers as well as useful for analyzing your combat log after fights. Being able to check how much damage you are taking and from what sources can help you better understand how to use your defensive cooldowns. If you join a raid group in StarParse it will also display death logs from the last 10-15s before a player dies. These death logs can help you quickly identify the cause of a death, whether it was by mistiming DCDs or if it was due to a lack of healing. You can download StarParse here: http://ixparse.com/

Conclusions

I hope all this information was helpful to you whether you are just starting with Defense Guardian or if you are just trying to get up to date on the 7.0 changes. I’ll leave you with a few tips and reminders before I finish. 

Remember the types of damage and attacks your cooldowns mitigate so you can use them against the right things. 

While minimizing DTPS is important, it is more important to prioritize using DCDs to minimize spike damage as spike damage is more likely to get you killed. 

Try Saber Reflecting everything so you can learn what it works on, you will find some unexpected attacks it works against but you will also find that it does not work against some attacks you would expect it to. 

Guardians are very slow now with the removal of all of our movement speed boosts besides Expeditious Protector, being creative with Force Leap/ Guardian Leap/ Blade Blitz will help you move around the fight quickly and position. 

Finally, tanking as a role can be intimidating at the start. The only way you will get more comfortable with tanking is by doing fights. You won’t always get it right the first time but the more you familiarize yourself with the class and the fights, the better you can plan how to use your defenses and where you need to be for each mechanic.

About the Author

Most people know me as Dongo or Funkyphil, I’ve been playing SWTOR since 2014. Juggernaut was my first main class in this game and is my favorite class to play. Currently, my main role is Tank but I have experience with every spec in the game and have cleared all Nightmare mode content as every class and role. I am GM of the raiding guild <Failure> on Satele Shan and lead Group Emerald. My most notable PvE achievements include World First 5/5 NiM Gods, World Second Gods Timed run, World Second 6/6 NiM Dxun, World First Dxun Timed Run, and World First Ultimate Hunter. A few notable PvP achievements include Rank 1 & 2 Juggernaut Solo Ranked S9, Rank 1 Mercenary Team Ranked S9, and Rank 3 Mercenary Solo Ranked S11. I would like to give a thanks to my guildmates as well as all my current/past raid teammates for helping me become a better player and for all the great times we’ve had together. 

If you are interested you can find videos of me playing Guardian tank and other specs on my Youtube Channel and on my Twitch Channel. If you want to contact me you can send an ingame mail to my character Dongo on Imperial side Satele Shan or add me on discord Funkyphil#6309.

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