Guardians have seen a lot of play in WvW for quite a while now, especially among commanders. While builds have changed over the past few years, the fact that they remain vital to group play both as anchors, healers, and all-around team support hasn’t changed. They’re still some of the best all-around team players. I’ve written a number of builds for guardians for people that have already played them. This is directed more towards players that are new to guardian, or just new to group playstyle.
Before you read: These builds are put together with large scale fights in mind, both open field and close quarters. I have included a build for roamers, but this is primarily focused on teamplay. These builds are not flexible, nor is there room for substitution unless otherwise stated. Most builds in this guide rely on the rest of the builds being present and may not be the best in solo/small-scale situations.
Guardian: Strengths and Weaknesses
At some point, guardians were easy to get high dps on and were easily among the top dps classes in the game. Coupled with their survivability, it made it a fairly popular class accross the board. If you’ve never played guardian or just have some catching up to do, here’s an outline of what they do best and where they fall short.
This is a guardian’s strongest point. I don’t exaggerate when I say guardians have the potential to run through groups of 10 (sometimes closer to 15 or 20) and still make it out alive. There’s been plenty of times in WvW where I’ve fallen behind and have to make it across a bridge to get to my group, and there’s a mass of enemies blocking my way. A good majority of the time,
I can plow through and stay up long enough to make it back to where I need to go. The following stats and utilities are key when it comes to being able to support and survive.
Even without a lot of focus on healing power, guardians have so many heals at their disposal that there should never be a time where you can’t recover a few thousand health. However, guardians only have a select few abilities that allow for decent burst healing. The key is to be proactive about your healing (without overhealing) instead of reactive. By the time you’re down to an eighth of your health in a large group fight, it’s a bit late to efficiently recover. I say efficiently because you can easily recover from low health, but usually not without spending unnecessary time backing out to recover. Being proactive allows you to say in the fight while actively doing damage and supporting your team.
That moment when you clash with another group, you’ll occasionally notice someone in your party gain a massive line of boons…and conditions. Their health will almost instantaneously drop to half or lower, only to be regained as quickly as they lost it. Guardians that run shout builds will frequently have a rotation of buffs, buffs, and more buffs. There will never be a time when you don’t see at least 3 or 4 on their bar. Of course, they don’t have just the ability to buff themselves. Shouts usually always affect party members in some way, and usually give them a good number of boons.
Condition Removal or Duration Reduction
On top of all the buffs, guards have excellent condition removal. Signet of Resolve removes a condition every 10 seconds. Purity removes a condition every 10 seconds. A full set of Superior Rune of the Trooper (previously soldier, who are still catching up on updates) remove a condition from you and each party member every time you shout. If you’re not using Trooper runes, Superior Rune of Melandru sets coupled with Bowl of Lemongrass Poultry Soup will make conditions fall off fast.
Where guardians fall short:
Guardians naturally have pretty low vitality, leaving your health at an easy 13-15k if you don’t focus on finding ways to increase your health pool. This is ok in small-scale PvP where you rely on toughness and healing to pull through, but when you’re dealing with massive amounts of conditions from the enemy zerg, anything less than 16-18k health isn’t going to fly.
Now when I say mobility is a guardian’s weakest point, I mean it in the sense that they’re really not meant to go anywhere. You can dodge and block all you like, but when you try to run away, you’re not going anywhere unless you have people to back you up. Period. No questions asked. If anyone tries to argue “but oh, I can get away from *insert class here* without a problem”, I will refer you back to the beginning of this guide where I talk about group play. The point is, you’re meant to be the last one standing. If you’re dying, more than likely, the rest of your group is already dead. If you’re running away trying to stay alive, you’re wasting time when you could be respawning and regrouping.
Which brings us to escape abilities. You don’t need them. Unless you’re split between two different groups and you need a way to back to group A after group B wipes, you shouldn’t be trying to run away. In which case, throw on that greatsword/hammer combo and get ready to run if your group wipes. Odds are you’re going to get chased, especially if you’re tagged up.
Commander Builds: Selfish vs. Selfless
As previously mentioned, guardians are one of the best (if not the best) team player. You heal everyone, give people boons and take their conditions, drop control effects and stability—naturally, people are going to want to stick to you. However, there are a lot of cases where you need to be a little “selfish” with your build. What’s going to keep you alive the longest? What will help in a situation where you need to be the last one down? Think about self heals, traits, boons, and gear that will directly affect you, even if it might not help the rest of your party. In other cases, you may not have the numbers to think this way. Your group might need all the support they can get to be successful. When it comes down to it, smaller groups rely on strict teamplay to come out on top, and can’t have the mindset of “I don’t need this, I can just have someone else spec this way”. The difference in mentality simply comes down to the resources you have available.
The first build we’ll cover relies a lot on other builds being present in your group. This is one of the builds that I would describe as “selfish” and relies on numbers. (But let’s face it, it’s next to impossible to build a guardian that doesn’t somehow support allies in one form or another.) It focuses on maximizing your survivability and healing (without actually getting gear with healing stats). Your primary stat will be vitality to give you room to deal with heavy condition damage, and your secondary stats will be toughness and power. While it’s not absolutely required that you get sentinel armor, it’s highly recommended.
First, let’s talk a bit about your traits and what you want to aim for. Here’s our build.
For what we’re trying to do, every bit of condition removal you can get within these traits is a must. So for Valor, you’ll want to pick up Purity (V) which removes a condition every 10 seconds. It doesn’t sound like much now, but with all of the other condition removal/duration reduction in this build, it all adds up. Part of this also relies on you having food buffs. Don’t ever underestimate how much additional effects of temporary buffs (food, sigils, oils/stones/crystals) can help out.
Valor’s major Master trait is your “flexible” option. Especially when your focus isn’t on healing power gear-wise, the extra bit of healing you get from Mace of Justice (VII) helps. Depending on the gear that is available to you and what skills you use the most, you can swap between this and Honorable Shield (IX), which gives you some extra toughness and reduces shield cooldown. Personally, the only time I’ve ever used this is I know when we’re going to be stuck in a tight spot with lots of players (garri captures and such), and I really don’t see it being all that useful otherwise. Weapon skills in general are very situational. We’ll cover weapon swapping and variation later on.
Honor is our most important trait line here. You’ll be gaining a decent amount of vitality and healing power in addition to some traits that will greatly increase your healing (not just healing power, but the number of heals available). Writ of Exaltation (III) are going to make larger symbols. In general this is a good trait to have for any hammer/mace and shield/staff builds since all symbols now heal due to your next trait: Writ of the Merciful (X). The is also where you pick up Selfless Daring (minor trait) which heals you and your allies at the end of your dodge. Per dodge, you can easily crank out about 600-700 healing per person. Your final trait, Force of Will (XIII), should give you an extra 300 vitality at level 80.
With Virtues, we’ll be able to pick up some more boons (including party boons). Up until this point, there’s been no mention of stability. I’ve heard two sides to the stability argument, which we’ll talk about shortly. For now, we’ll be using Indomitable Courage, which grants stability whenever you pop Virtue of Courage. You should also be frequently using consecrations, so also pick up Master of Consecrations (VI), which reduces consecration cooldowns and makes them last longer. The first minor trait, Inspired Virtue, also makes your virtues give the following boons:
So to sum up your traits:
Valor (4): V, VII
Honor (6): III, X, XIII
Virtues (4): VI, X
This is where a good majority of the debates starts when it comes to builds: what skills you should use and which ones you shouldn’t. I’m not going to go into PvP with nothing but shouts just like I’m not going to go into WvW with a bunch of spirit weapons. I’ve seen so many conversations about how useless some skills/traits are and have yet to find a single trait that is completely and utterly useless in all situations. I believe situational might be the correct term, but not necessarily useless. Which brings us to the next discussion: boons.
Many times stability has been described as a “cripple” that uses a trait or skill slot that you could be using for something better. This may be somewhat more true in smaller groups (as you can generally see/predict attacks and dodge to avoid getting knocked down or pulled), but in large groups it’s impossible to predict when you’re going to get knocked down. It’s better to pop a few second of stability when running through a group AND dodge, than it is for you to risk getting interrupted and caught in the initial attack. The first action between two large groups is almost always to drop a ton of static fields and AoE attacks. If you’d like to risk getting knocked down and going down in a matter of seconds in the middle of all of that, then no, you don’t need stability. (Of course, I’ve also seen the other side to this argument where players have potentially unnecessary amounts of stability.)
However, this particular build is about survivability and planning ahead for errors, so I recommend stability for when you run into another group head on.
Primary skills used in this build:
The first two skills should almost always be on your bar. The third can be swapped out based on situational needs.
Hallowed Ground has two major uses. The main one is as emergency stability that gives you 20% boon duration and a fire field. So yes, when you’re calling for a fire field before you rush in and your favorite elementalists are asleep at the wheel, just throw it down yourself. And you have a hammer to blast it with. Done. Note: Gotta be careful with this one, as you don’t want to waste it for might stacks when you’re running into a group that has double your numbers.
Wall of Reflection
This one’s pretty straight forward. When you’re running up to a gate and you see all those pretty red circles on the ground, it’s usually best to cover the people on your rams. While it won’t do anything against siege, it’ll definitely annoy the hell out of people firing at you, and generally discourage them from continuing to do so. Many times I’ve seen people die on the inside of a tower due to guardian bubbles and mesmer feedback. (Read below for more information on reflection.)
The only thing better than a 12-second reflective bubble is a 7.5 second bubble that blocks enemies and projectiles and heals you. While it won’t kill anyone trying to deal out burst damage, it’s definitely a life saver when you’re up against a gate and taking heavy damage from arrow carts. The last thing you need on top of that is player damage, which this solves for a short while. (In other situations, wall of reflection is generally more useful.)
“Stand Your Ground!”
For those of you that would rather not use your traits for stability (or feel that two ways to get stability isn’t enough), you can add this to your bar instead of sanctuary. (Just keep in mind this isn’t going to help you too much when you’re on a gate.) It also gives you 6 seconds of retaliation (not reflection).
This shout is one of the better (arguably) stun breakers if you’re stuck in the middle of a static field. Just keep in mind that you’ll be drawing tons of conditions on you, which can end very badly if you’re already using health. If you just want a stunbreaker on your bar, Stand Your Ground or Contemplation of Purity may be a better alternative.
Contemplation of Purity
I don’t generally recommend running this alongside consecrations. This particular skill sees a lot of use in shout and meditation builds, but it doesn’t shine quite as much here. Aside from being a stunbreaker, it doesn’t see a lot of use when you already have a lot of condition removal and condition duration reduction. However, I will cover a few builds later on where this sees a lot of use.
I’m only going to briefly touch on gear, because most of this is somewhat self-explanatory if you’ve been in WvW at any point in time. Your focus should be vitality for one reason: lack of a large health pool make it difficult to deal with conditions and raw damage at the same time. Guardians need a balanced combination of toughness and vitality to reduce damage. If you’re running a shout build that almost purely focuses on keeping conditions off yourself and allies it’s less of a hazard, but in WvW, conditions are a constant in large group fights. Meaning if you’re used to be able to run in PvE/PvP with 14k health and little condition removal, you’re going to have to change the way you think about stats.
All Sentinel gear is recommended, but Soldiers works as well if you have some extra Honor Badges or dungeon tokens to burn. Accessories should be Soldiers, and weapons should be Nomad, Soldier or Sentinel. If you want the best all-around gear that’s a bit more flexible, it’s best to use a combination of Sentinel or Soldier armor with Cleric weapons and accessories. This will reduce your vitality, but will still allow you to easily manage conditions.
Hammer is incredibly underrated when it comes to guardians. Typically, guardians tend to run staff/greatsword, staff/mace/shield, or greatsword/mace/shield. Hammers don’t see a lot of use for the following reasons:
1. They are slow. So slow.
2. Auto attacks. That third swing makes it seem like you’re sitting there forever.
3. Symbols. Hammer guards are notorious for messing up water fields with their auto attack.
4. Clunky. Your gap closer is incredibly short and is almost disappointing after using great sword.
5. Did I mention slow??
However, hammers are awesome in zerg fights. I can’t express enough how much easier it makes it when you have several hammer guards running with you. Forget about the symbols, the slowness, and overall clunkiness. That third auto-attack does more damage than people think, plus the damage and extra healing (traits) from the symbol. Your 2 skill provides a small gap closer and a blast finisher. 3 immobilizes a line of enemies for a few seconds, giving you a bit of time to rush in and knock people out of your way with Banish (4), run through to the middle of the zerg and drop your Ring of Warding (5) to break up the group. As slow as it is, it flows together nicely and you can do most of it on the move.
Your second weapon set should be mace/shield. Along with Virtue of Resolve, heals from symbols, heal on dodge, the attacks from mace provide yet more healing. Your third strike on auto attacks (Faithful Strike) provides a decent amount of healing, Symbol of Faith (2) heals and gives regen, and Protector’s Strike can do some good damage to attackers that are target you and your party (if they’re standing by you). Shield of Judgement gives you some slight damage (and protection for 6 seconds) while Shield of Absorption absorbs projectiles and provides a knockback.
Staff is useful, but most of what you can do with staff, you can do with your other weapons, or other people can do for you. Speed boost? You have elementalist’s static fields, warhorns and your own speed boost on shout, Retreat. Might? Refer back to ele and half the other classes that can help stack might. Line of Warding? Now you have Ring of Warding on hammer that you can trap people in so you can beat them up (or do what you’re supposed to and drop it and keep running). All that, staff does occasionally come in handy if you’re wanting to stick to mid-range combat as opposed to melee.
Sigils, Runes and Consumables
Sigil of Energy on each of your primary weapons makes it easy to dodge consistently. Even if you don’t need to dodge, you’ll probably need to heal allies. Don’t forget how much healing that puts out. For secondary sigils use Water on Staff and Hammer (you’ll be swapping these out) and Sigil of Life on your shield.
Runes are completely up to you. For the purposes of this guide, I recommend Superior Runes of Melandru to help with condition duration reduction. However, since I run a lot from area to area (and a play with small groups that lack group speed boosts), I’m generally running Runes of the Traveler/Speed on a separate set. Runes of the Trooper are awesome, but you’re not going to be using shouts in this build. Avoid them like the plague, as you’ll only be running one shout at most. (One of the comments made while writing this was that Melandru runes are terrible for team play compared to Trooper, but we’re not focusing on team play. We’re focusing on how YOU can best survive.)
For consumables, it’s best to go with Bowl of Lemongrass Poultry Soup, which reduces condition duration by 40% and gives +70 vitality and Potent Superior Sharpening Stone, which gives you power based on 6% of your toughness and 4% of your vitality.
Now let’s look at the opposite end of all this. Say you’re running in a small group of about 5 to 10 players. You still have to be able to survive the bigger groups in the area, but you also have to do enough damage to successfully take out guards, gates, and smaller squads you run into at supply camps and such. The goal is to pick quick, evenly-matched fights that don’t turn into long, drawn out fights of who can run back the fastest. If a tower has a defense of equal your numbers, you’re already at a disadvantage since you’re attacking. If they have over double your numbers, it’s really not worth wasting time over. The following build is meant for small team fights that require balanced amounts of dps and survivability.
Click here to view the build.
A note in advance: This build relies a bit on stacks from sigils and consumable buffs for extra healing. You’ll see a significant decrease in your health, increase in healing power and toughness more or less the same (slightly more than the last build, but not enough to be noticeable).