Since the launch of Guild Wars 2 I've rolled many different characters. Testing out each profession and race combination until I could find something that really spoke to me. There are a couple of professions which are my favorites but so far only one has really stuck out as being my main character. The guardian, a Sylvari female with a mushroom head, has seen me though half of the game so far.
I didn't start out by thinking right away that I'd fall in love with the guardian because I mostly had rolled her for team composition for my guild. After getting past the initial 11 levels though, it quickly became apparent that the guardian is a force to be reckoned with.
My take on the guardian is based around support, sustain, and damage negation. This build is excellent in PvE, especially when soloing. Being by yourself entirely though is rare. My own sustain is very high. There are a lot of abilities I can use to heal myself and negate damage at the same time. Take for example my first healing ability, it will block the next attack while also restoring my health. The second healing ability, the one I use most, cures a condition every 10 seconds as a passive effect and then lets me activate it for a heal. There is a third healing ability, which I'm thinking I'll invest in soon once I'm more involved with direct group activities, that allows me to heal both myself and all allies in a cone in front of me.
What really makes a guardian unique though are their three virtues which reside on the F1-F3 keys. These abilities have both a passive and active effect which can be augmented through traits and utility skills. The greatest thing about these virtues is that all of them give it's active effect to party members, solidifying the guardian's position as support. Take note though that when you activate a virtue, it's passive effect is turned off until the virtue's cooldown completes. This makes it important to use virtues in a smart way and also rewards those who invest in the virtues trait line, which will reduce the cooldown of your virtues by 1% per point.
The F1, Virtue of Justice, ability's passive effect burns a target for 1 second every 5 attacks. This can be brought down to every 4 attacks through traits and the burn duration increased through condition duration. Burning your target is considered condition damage and anything that will improve conditions effect this ability. Other traits can give you the ability to blind all nearby targets on activation, refresh Virtue of Justice's cooldown upon killing an enemy, or even change the burn from single target into an area of effect. Virtue of Justice can be activated to give yourself and every nearby ally burning on your next attack.
The guardian's F2, Virtue of Resolve, is a very amazing ability which passively gives the guardian health regen per 3 seconds. The great thing is that this regen is effected by any +healing and can become a very powerful sustain feature. You can also pick up a trait in the Honor line that gives your passive regen to all nearby allies. Yet another trait under the Virtue line removes 3 conditions on activate and also improves the passive health regen. Virtue of Resolve's active effect heals yourself and all nearby allies.
The final virtue on your F3, Virtue of Courage, has a passive that gives you Aegis every 40 seconds. Aegis is the name for the block feature in Guild Wars 2 and will completely negate the next attack upon you, no matter what type of attack. It's a very powerful ability, especially when used with perfect timing. You can also augment Aegis to heal you on it's removal or increase the damage you do while it's active through traits. There is yet another trait which will give you 3 seconds of stability (crowd control immunity) and also lower the passive's cooldown to give you Aegis every 30 seconds instead of 40. When you activate Virtue of Courage it will give both yourself and all nearby allies Aegis instantly.
There are a lot of traits and weapon combinations for just about any profession. With that in mind I'm only going to focus on addressing those which bring support and sustain on the guardian. Essentially, what makes the guardian a support type is the one-handed mace and shield combination. One of the best parts of the one-handed mace's skills is simply the auto-attack, which heals both yourself and all nearby allies upon the third strike. The mace's number 2 attack, Symbol of Faith, is the most important of almost any skills you wield as a support guardian. Symbol of Faith smashes the ground in front of you to create a ring which gives regeneration to all allies within it and does damage to enemies every second. There are traits which allow you to both increase the size of the ground symbol and it's duration, making this a very powerful must have skill. The third and final mace skill is Protector's Strike, which will channel a shield in a small area around yourself and allies. This shield will block the next attack which would hit either you or any allies within the circle and damage the enemies within range. If the shield is not hit and broken, it will grant protection to all allies within range. The protection buff gives 33% damage reduction for a few seconds. Note that while you channel Protector's Strike, you can not attack.
There are two offhand choices for the support guardian. The first, as I mentioned earlier, is a shield and the second is a focus. Shield will for the most part be your most solid option. It's not only got heavy defensive stats to make you more tanky, but it's also got an amazing number 4 skill called Shield of Judgment. This ability gives protection to yourself and up to 5 allies within a cone shape in front of you while also damaging enemies. The shield's number 5 ability, Shield of Absorption, is one of the most defensive abilities in the game. It will create a dome around you that pushes back all enemies within range and also reflects projectiles. You can activate this ability a second time in order to heal all allies within the dome.
Equipping the focus as an offhand can be a pretty powerful option. It's first ability on number 4, Ray of Judgment, is an extremely powerful ability which has 3 effects. The first is that it will blind and damage any foes it hits, second it will heal any allies it hits, and third it will bounce between targets up to 4 times. Now the most important part of this ability lies within the bouncing between targets. It can bounce between the same two targets multiple times and it will continue to bounce until it reaches 4 targets of either ally or enemy. What does this mean? Well it means it has the potential to actually bounce up to eight times. That's right, if it goes from ally to enemy and back again with every bounce it can potentially hit up to 8 times. Of course that's only in the most perfect condition and it likely won't get that far except on the most rare occasion. The only thing I'm not certain of is if Ray of Judgment can hit it's caster. The focus' second ability, on number 5, is Shield of Wrath. This shield, unlike Protector's Strike, isn't channeled. Instead you will instantly give yourself a shield which will block the next 3 attacks. If you do not block 3 attacks before the effect ends then Shield of Wrath will explode and damage nearby enemies. Blocking 3 consecutive attacks is a very powerful feature. After looking at what the focus has to offer, I wonder often if it isn't a better choice than wielding a shield?
The last weapon, at least on land, I feel can be considered support is the staff. The staff offers with it a good combination of range, damage, and healing abilities. The first ability, which is your auto-attack, is a short ranged burst wave which will hit up to 5 targets in front of you. It's a fairly quick cast and can put out some decent damage. Your second ability, on number 2, is Orb of Light. This will send out a fairly large and slow moving orb toward your target which will damage any enemy it passes through. You can activate this ability a second time in order to detonate this orb which will heal all nearby allies. If you choose to detonate Orb of Light, it will take 4 times longer to recharge than if you simply used it for damage. I personally haven't found this skill to be as useful as it sounds. The main problem I have with it is in controlling where the orb ends up. If you aren't specifically choosing your target wisely, it may end up going off in a direction that isn't beneficial. This means that it may not hit a group of enemies or even end up near allies who need to be healed. The other problem I find with Orb of Light is judging exactly when to explode the orb. If you are a fair distance away or even up close it can be difficult to determine exactly when you should explode the orb to heal nearby allies. I think this skill is very much something a new player will screw up a lot, but I also hope that players who spend a lot of time getting accustomed to it will be able to make it really shine in combat. The staff's third ability is called Symbol of Swiftness and just like Symbol of Faith, it can be enhanced with traits. I find this ability to mainly be good for traveling across a map as it's main function is to grant allies who pass through it swiftness. It's secondary effect is that it also damages any enemies inside it. When I am planning on doing a lot of traveling I always keep a staff in my equipped. The fourth ability for a staff can be considered it's most powerful and supportive skill of all of them. It's called Empower and it's a channeled spell, meaning you can't do anything while you are casting it. It's also got a fairly long cast time, at least 3 seconds I'd say, so be sure your not going to get killed while trying to use it. Empower will grant yourself and all nearby allies might while channeling, which improves your power. Once the channeling of Empower is completed, it will heal all nearby allies, which I think includes yourself but I'm not certain. This is a great spell for improving your party's effectiveness while also giving out a big burst heal. If you have a staff equipped use this skill every time it's off cooldown. The staff's final skill is something more situational than anything, but can be used to help you get away. It's called Line of Warding and does just about that. It makes a line across the ground where you cast it that will block any enemies from passing through. You can cast Line of Warding behind, on top of, or in front of yourself while running away because it won't block your passage. Anything chasing you gets stopped in their tracks.
Finally we come to the underwater weapons. I personally like to use the spear because the trident doesn't do enough damage for me. For the purpose of covering the support guardian though I will cover the trident's abilities. The first of which is Light of Judgment, your auto-attack. This will essentially shoot out an orb of light that heals allies and damages enemies. Unlike the staff's Orb of Light, it doesn't require you to detonate it. The trident's second skill, Purity, however does require you to detonate it. This ability sends out yet another orb which will cleanse conditions on allies that it passes through. You can detonate Purity to burn enemies and again cure conditions on allies within the radius. It seems kind of silly that the orb is designed to cure conditions twice, but I suppose if you don't get some allies within the initial line of sight, you can get them with the blast. It's also safe to assume that your allies will get another condition on them between the initial cleanse and the detonate cleanse. I guess? The trident's third skill is Pillar of Light and isn't really a skill I enjoyed. It will create a, well, Pillar of Light at your target's location that damages enemies inside it every second. In my experience with this ability most of my enemies would just swim out of the pillar's radius, which isn't very big to begin with. I don't find many monsters that stay in one spot the entire time I fight them. The trident's fourth skill, Refraction, isn't really that bad. It creates a shield around you that absorbs hostile projectiles and also gives you retaliation. If it weren't for the retaliation, I'd say this skill was worthless, because it focuses on ranged defense. The retaliation though addresses any melee attacks you are suffering. The final trident skill is called Weight of Justice and it sinks your foe. This ability is simply crowd control and has no other effects.
If you managed to read through all of this article I thank you. It's a fairly long one so I hope it was written in a way that made it easy to progress through. Unfortunately it doesn't cover every single aspect of the support guardian. I have yet to cover utility skills and traits. Fear not though because I will be writing up a Part 2 article soon to address these aspects of the support guardian. Also, after a bit more testing I'll write up some articles on a more offensive guardian build.
I'd like to end this part by asking what you guys think of the guardian. Have you played it yet and if so what's the aspects you enjoyed the most? What's your favorite weapon setups?
Want more of the Support Guardian? Check out Part 2 of this series here!
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