The Rules of Engagement is the column that provides Republic Troopers with highly detailed intel on everything a Trooper needs to know to adapt and overcome on and off the battlefield.
Written By: David Souza
Today’s piece will be an introduction to the Shield Specialist specialization for the Vanguard Advanced Class for those who have recently reached endgame or are looking ahead to gain familiarity with their Vanguard tank’s future arsenal. I will speak about some basic principles and give a few examples of more specific ability use during gameplay. Many of these areas will be broken down and delved into further in future articles and serve as a primer to answer the most pressing concerns for Vanguards looking to embark on the road of Shield Specialist tanking.
First let’s take a look at the most important stats for a Shield Specialist and how they impact your gameplay. The Old Republic makes it pretty intuitive as to which stats are best for each class and role, but buried a bit more deeply into the system are several nuances that provide an edge to those who know what to look for.
Aim — While Endurance weighs more heavily on a Shield Specialist’s gear, Aim is still considered the primary stat of any Trooper. As Aim increases both your critical chance and your base damage the increase in damage is exponential instead of linear. And while damage isn’t the primary concern of a Shield Specialist, threat generation is, and every extra point of damage translates directly into you doing your job that much more effectively.
5 Aim/1 point of damage
Variable with diminishing returns/1 percent of critical chance
Enhanced By Skill: Steely Resolve
Endurance — Endurance is the second “primary” stat for every class, but it is of particular importance to tanks as their role ensures that enemy attention will be on them more than any other member of the group. Most Trooper gear that provides a higher amount of Endurance over Aim is geared towards Vanguard Shield Specialists.
1 Endurance/10 points of health
Enhanced By Skill: Soldier’s Endurance
Cunning — Cunning is often glossed over as a “distant” secondary stat for the Trooper. While it’s true that you don’t want to pursue a heavy armor set featuring Cunning over Aim you do want to accrue as much Cunning as possible from secondary sources (such as datacrons) as each point increases your combat effectiveness with nearly all of a Vanguard’s core attacks.
Variable with diminishing returns/1 percent of tech critical chance
5 Cunning/1 bonus damage
Though the stats below are entitled secondary, they are anything but. In many ways, they are how you truly tailor your character to fulfill the role you envision (or require) within The Old Republic. It’s important to note that all secondary statistics suffer from diminishing returns, meaning that the more rating you get in a particular area the less benefit you receive for your character.
Armor — Armor rating is based directly off of the gear that your Shield Specialist wears and provides a constant and passive form of damage mitigation against energy and kinetic damage. Note that armor does absolutely nothing to mitigate elemental or internal damage.
Increased By: Armor Rating
Enhanced By Skill: Rebraced Armor
Defense — One of the most important secondary stats for a Shield Specialist, Defense relays a direct percentage reduction to your opponent’s chance to successfully land an attack. The higher your Defense, the lower any enemy’s chance that it will strike you, causing the attack to miss or be dodged or parried.
Increased By: Defense Rating
Shield Chance — Perhaps the most important secondary stat for a Shield Specialist, Shield Chance is the direct percent chance that each attack will be partially mitigated by your shields. The amount of damage mitigated is based upon the Shield Absorption score.
Increased By: Shield Rating
Enhanced By Skill: Shield Cycler, Counterattack
Shield Absorption — The Shield Absorption score is the percentage amount that damage will be directly reduced when a Shield Specialist’s shield activates.
Increased By: Absorption Rating
Enhanced By Skill: Ceramic Plating
Accuracy — This represents your chance to successfully strike the target with an attack. It is tested directly against a target’s Defense, with the Defense score being applied directly as a negative. Note that an ability that deals “weapon damage” generally has a lower chance to hit than other abilities.
Increased By: Accuracy Rating
Using the correct ability for the situation is at the heart of being proficient with any class, and the Shield Specialist is no exception. Outlined below are introductions to many of the abilities that you will come to use on a normal basis and how to best bring them to bear throughout your gameplay. I’ve noted what skills enhance what abilities based upon the likelihood that a Shield Specialist will invest at least 30 points into the Shield Specialist skill tree.
Ion Cell — The cornerstone of Vanguard tanking is the use of Ion Cell as your primary combat cell. By activating Ion Cell you place your Shield Specialist into a stance that provides several advantages geared towards generating threat and mitigating damage, including increased armor and shield chance and random ion damage procs. Of note that is that the 5 percent damage reduction from Ion Cell reduces ALL damage types, even internal and elemental.
Enhanced By Skills: Neural Overload, Ion Shield, Supercharged Ion Cell, Blaster Augs
Reactive Shield — This is your panic button when high bursts of damage are incoming and little to no healing is available, as it mitigates an additional 25 percent of ALL types of damage and is particularly useful against elemental and internal damage.
Adrenaline Rush — While not the bastion of survival that Reactive Shield is, when used properly Adrenaline Rush will keep you alive those few extra seconds until a healer can land that critical heal or your medpac refreshes from cooldown.
Cryo Grenade — Cryo Grenade proves very useful as it can stun enemies up to the Elite level for 4 seconds, effectively taking them out of the fight for a short time. For battles where there are a lot of interrupts required I often use it as a backup to Riot Strike.
Enhanced By Skill: Containment Tactics
Neural Surge — This ability has many applications depending on the situation. It can be used right after you Storm a group of enemies to lessen incoming damage and drop a Smoke Grenade and Explosive Surge. Or it can be used as yet another backup to Riot Strike for those times when you REALLY need a lot of interrupts.
Smoke Grenade — Unlocked through the Shield Specialist skill tree this ability drops the melee and ranged accuracy of all enemies surrounding the Vanguard by 20 percent for 18 seconds and is useful against dangerous groups of trash as well as boss fights.
Guard — Guard is an ability that should always be up on one of your group members at all times as it reduces threat generation by 25 percent, as well as absorbing 5 percent of all damage suffered by the recipient. I find that it provides the most advantage when used on one of the highest melee damage dealers in the group, as the target is nearly always within the 15-meter range limit.
Ion Pulse — This is the Shield Specialist’s most efficient single target damage/ammo for short range (10 meters) attacks. While it doesn’t pack the punch abilities like Stockstrike and Pulse Cannon do, it has no cooldown and is the go-to ability for dumping ammo while other abilities are refreshing.
Enhanced By Skills: Static Field, Intimidation, Demolition, Frontline Offense
Stockstrike — It’s the hardest hitting single-target ability a Shield Specialist has for only 2 ammo and should be shown priority whenever it is off cooldown.
Enhanced By Skills: Ion Overload, Static Shield, Static Surge
Pulse Cannon — While this is a frontal cone AoE ability it’s ammo-to-damage ratio is so efficient it should be used on single targets whenever it is available. Make certain to dump other high damage abilities, like Stockstrike, before using Pulse Cannon as it affords you with a few seconds of ammo regeneration as well.
Enhanced By Skills: Intimidation, Demolition, Tactical Tools
High Impact Bolt — A situational ability that requires the target to be suffering from a periodic or incapacitation effect, High Impact bolt provides a very high ammo-to-damage ratio and should be shown priority when available.
Enhanced By Skills: Brutal Impact, Focused Impact
Mortar Volley — While it suffers from a long cooldown, Mortar Volley is the best ammo-to-damage ability available to the Shield Specialist. It is excellent for pulling large groups of trash but can also be used on bosses in the right situations.
Explosive Surge — This point-blank AoE surge provides the Shield Specialist with a respectable amount of AoE threat generation when tanking groups of enemies. Note that the ammo-to-damage ratio for Explosive Surge is not very efficient, so it is best used sparingly to help gain or keep agro on groups of enemies.
Enhanced By Skills: Static Field, Intimidation, Static Shield, Static Surge, Demolition
Sticky Grenade — Sticky grenade has a single target ammo-to-damage ratio that is just slightly behind Stockstrike. Sticky Grenade truly shines when used early in a group pull, crowd controlling one mob for a few seconds and potentially damages multiples upon detonation.
Recharge Cells — This ability has a very powerful application in Vanguard tanking, and that is to assist you in gaining and keeping threat. When necessary extend your rotation past the high ammo regen threshold till you hit 2 ammo, engage Recharge Cells and then fire off a Hammer Shot and continue your normal rotation.
Reserve Powercell — Functioning similarly to Recharge Cells, in that it allows you to generate more threat, Reserve Powercell makes the next attack you trigger cost no ammo. I generally use it while regening ammo to unleash a Pulse Cannon to generate considerable threat while I gain 3 seconds of free regen.
Battle Focus — Though this applies directly to damage in the form of critical strike I put it under Utility abilities because, as noted previously, damage to Shield Specialists is threat first and foremost. I often pop Battle Focus at the beginning of boss phases so that my group’s damage dealers can go blasters-to-the-wall on their output.
Riot Strike — Vanguards have been blessed with one of the shortest cooldown interrupts in the game, and Riot Strike is key in many encounters where interrupting a boss or minion is integral to overcoming the encounter.
Enhanced By Skill: Frontline Defense
Harpoon — For those who enjoy running Flashpoints this skill provides an excellent tool for pulling and threat generation. It can be used for up-front agro, target positioning and patrol separation.
Enhanced By Skill: Tactical Tools
Neural Jolt — All tanks have taunts in their toolbox, and for the Shield Specialist Neural Jolt fits the bill. This single target taunt has the advantage of working at 30 meters and comes in very handy in all kinds of situations when you’re called upon to gain or regain agro on a mob.
Sonic Round — This ability serves as a ranged AoE form of Neural Jolt that works just as well on a single target as it does on a group. Do not hesitate to use this as a second taunt if needed, just remember that it is on a separate 45 second cooldown.
Depending on your build as a Shield Specialist you may focus slightly more in one area over another. However, I will speak to several of the skills that I find to be of particular value and illustrate their use.
Static Field (Tier 1 Shield Specialist, 2 ranks)
This skill is key for any tanking Vanguard as it lowers the damage of targets struck by either your Ion Pulse or Explosive Surge, providing an instant 4 percent damage mitigation.
Ion Overload (Tier 2 Shield Specialist, 2 ranks)
This provides extra damage and threat from both your passive Ion Cell procs and all Stockstrike attacks by adding a direct proc that affects the target with a damage-over-time effect.
Rebraced Armor (Tier 2 Shield Specialist, 2 ranks)
An absolute must, this skill adds 16 percent bonus armor providing persistent damage reduction for tanking.
Shield Cycler (Tier 3 Shield Specialist, 2 ranks)
Shield Cycler provides a 2 percent bonus to your Shield Chance while also enabling passive ammo cell regeneration on shield procs.
Ceramic Plating (Tier 3 Shield Specialist, 2 ranks)
Providing 6 percent absorption for shield procs this is one of the best skills, particularly as your Shield Chance increases.
Smoke Grenade (Tier 3 Shield Specialist, 1 rank)
Purchasing this skill unlocks the ability to drop Smoke Grenades every minute, which affect all enemies in a large radius, reducing their accuracy with melee and ranged attacks by 20 percent for 18 seconds.
Ion Shield (Tier 4 Shield Specialist, 2 ranks)
This adds a permanent 2 percent damage reduction while Ion Cell is active and is a must-have for a Vanguard tank.
Storm (Tier 5 Shield Specialist, 1 rank)
The Vanguard’s version of ‘charge’ this ability is a key opener for many fights, providing a no-cost initial hit, stun and immobilize.
Enhanced By Skill: Charge
Counterattack (Tier 6 Shield Specialist, 5 ranks)
This skill increases your Shield Chance by 10 percent, making it one of the most valuable skills in the entire tree as it provides not only damage mitigation, but other benefits that rely on shield procs (Shield Cycler, Static Shield) for use.
Demolition (Tier 1 Tactics, 2 ranks)
Demolition increases critical chance with all elemental attacks by 6 percent, making it invaluable for use with several of a Vanguard’s core tanking tools, such as Ion Pulse, Pulse Cannon and Explosive Surge.
Power Armor (Tier 2 Tactics, 2 ranks)
This ability increases damage mitigation from ALL sources by 2 percent putting it up there as one of the best skills for all Shield Specialists.
Tactical Tools (Tier 2 Tactics, 2 ranks)
I tried speccing away from this skill for a time and I couldn’t stand playing without it. The 3 second cooldown reduction on Pulse Cannon is useful in all situations, and the 10 seconds off of Harpoon is invaluable when tanking Flashpoints.
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Tags: Accuracy, Adrenaline Rush, Advanced Class, Aim, armor, Battle Focus, Bioware, Ceramic Plating, Counterattack, Cryo Grenade, Cunning, David Souza, Defense, Demolition, EA, Electronic Arts, Endurance, Explosive Surge, Guard, Harpoon, Heavy Stock, High Impact Bolt, Ion Cell, Ion Overload, Ion Pulse, Ion Shield, LucasArts, Mortar Volley, Neural Jolt, Neural Surge, Power Armor, Pulse Cannon, Reactive Shield, Rebraced Armor, Recharge Cells, Republic Trooper, Reserve Powercell, Riot Strike, Shield Absorption, Shield Chance, Shield Cycler, Shield Specialist, Smoke Grenade, Sonic Round, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Static Field, Sticky Grenade, Stockstrike, Storm, SWTOR, Tactical Tools, TOR, Trooper, Vanguard