July 3, 2020

7 Guardian Class Tips in LOTRO

The Guardian class in the Lord of the Rings Online has many different mechanics and skills that may make it seem daunting for beginners.With the Guardian entry of the LOTRO Basics quick tips guide series, we will break down the class to help improve your Guardian experience! 

In this guide, I will have 7 tips for the Guardian class, covering gameplay, traits, builds, equipment, etc. The goal of the LOTRO Basics 7 Class Tips series of guides is to help newer or returning players better understand their class and get started with them. For other guides in the 7 Class Tips series, they can be found at this page: https://www.lotrobasics.com/p/class-guides-and-resources.html

This guide is up to date with U32, in March 2022.

The 7 Guardian Tips:
  1. Fillers and Weaving
  2. Aggro, Threat, and Force Taunts Miniguide
  3. Animation Cancelling (With Stamp)
  4. Flexibility in Class Trait Builds
  5. Specs, Class Traits, and Leveling
  6. Deeding While Leveling (With a Shield)
  7. You Don't Have to Tank!

Tip #1 - Fillers and Weaving (Gameplay)

Guardians have many important skills and skill chains that need to be prioritized in combat, and this is true for each spec:
  • Blue - block chain, force taunts, and defensive buffs take priority
  • Red - parry chain and bleeds take priority
  • Yellow - AoEs, debuffs, parry chain (and block chain if you are using a shield), and force taunts take priority

With how fast paced combat is, you have time in between all the priority skills to quickly weave in your "filler" abilities - skills that are used when nothing of higher priority is available or needed. Guardians have both single target and area-of-effect fillers, but the strongest fillers (highest DPS, essentially damage divided by animation time) change based on level and eventually Legendary Items.

In general, Sting and Vexing Blow are your strongest fillers to weave into your gameplay. Sting has a very quick animations and at low-mid levels does a lot of ST damage. Vexing Blow has a longer animation, is AoE, and by mid-high levels does a lot of damage. Oher than Sweeping Cut, it is the only basic AoE skill.

While you may be too busy to fit in more fillers, Guardian's Ward, Stagger, and Sweeping Cut are other possible options depending on your spec and traits. Keep in mind fillers are just that - you should still focus on priority skills!

Sting and Vexing Blow

Tip #2 - Aggro, Threat, and Force Taunts (Miniguide) - What They Are and How They Work

Force taunts (commonly referred to as just "taunts") are a valuable asset to any class, especially a heavy-armoured one that often tanks. Understanding how your force taunts work is key to beginning tanking as a Guardian! 

The ultimate effect of a taunt is that it forces the enemy (or enemies) to attack you for a short duration. The method by which they do this is more complicated. Force taunts have three main steps:
  1. Force enemies to attack you - 5 second base duration for Guardians
  2. Copy the threat of the player with the most threat on the taunted enemies - allowing you to swiftly reach the top of the threat list for the taunted enemies
  3. Multiply the copied threat - causing you to now have the highest threat on the taunted enemies and allowing you to maintain aggro even after the force taunt duration ends
Threat is used to describe how likely a mob is to attack you versus somebody else - the one with the highest threat will be the target of the enemy. The person the mob is attacking is considered to have aggro of the mob. As a tanking Guardian, you want to maintain the highest threat on enemies so they attack you instead of others in your group (and as a DPS Guardian, you want to avoid having aggro). As a bonus, every tank spec in the game (blue and yellow for the Guard) get a passive threat boost, allowing them to maintain aggro even if they're damage is lower.

In Practice: The use of a force taunt is to ensure that mobs are attacking you. Sometimes a DPS or healer could pull aggro in group content and by using a taunt, you force them to attack you instead. An advanced technique is waiting a short amount of time before you taunt enemies so you can copy and multiply large amounts of threat to better maintain aggro throughout a fight. Additionally, even as a DPS Guardian, taunting enemies off of healers or "squishy" DPS can be a good move and save them from defeat!

Guardians have a lot of force taunts, which is one of the many reasons they are such valuable tanks! At baseline (no traits), they have a large AoE taunt in Challenge, a ranged ST taunt that can start Fellowship Maneuvers with Fray the Edge, and finally a melee taunt that slows enemies with Engage.

Guardian force taunt skills

Tip #3 - Animation Cancelling (With Stamp)

In LOTRO, animation cancelling is a game mechanic in which you use an "immediate" skill to interrupt a skill that is the middle of its animation, allowing you to use your abilities faster and increase DPS. For more information on the mechanic, check this guide out: https://www.lotrobasics.com/2020/05/animation-cancelling.html.

On the Guardian, you have three immediate skills, all of which can be used to animation cancel, however they all have other important uses to watch out for. Additionally, when thinking about animation cancelling, you have to consider how long the animation of the immediate skill is to decide if it is even worth using that just to animation cancel.
  • Catch a Breath requires a block or parry response, has a long cooldown, and restores morale and power. It also has a long animation, so likely not worth using just to animation cancel.
  • Ignore the Pain removes debuffs on a short cooldown, and has a medium-time animation. If no debuffs are needed to be removed and your active skill has a longer animation this may be worth using to occasionally animation cancel.
  • Stamp is a short cooldown damaging interrupt with a very short animation. This is the top choice skill for animation cancelling as long as you don't need to save the interrupt!

Immediate Skills

Stamp is the most efficient skill to animation cancel with. In regular combat, I highly recommend using it in combination with any long animation skill such as Sweeping Cut, Brutal Assault, To the King, and Shield Swipe, just to name a few.

Animation cancelling also allows you to fit in more fillers, pointed out in Tip #1! Advanced techniques with animation cancelling may involve lining up your important immediate skills with a longer animation skill to gain the effect of animation cancelling while also filling your need for the important immediate skill.

Tip #4 - Flexibility in Class Traits and Builds

The Guardian offers a lot of flexibility in how you build your class traits, no matter what specialization you choose. At higher levels, there are also a few hybrid builds you can choose from depending on your needs and while leveling, it is good to keep in mind the flexibility of your traits and specs as you build your character. The next tip will focusing on building and traits while leveling.

The Guardian's three specialization lines:
  • Blue - Sturdy tank
  • Red - DPS
  • Yellow - DPS oriented tank

Possible building options and flexibility:

Blue will often only dip into yellow as it provides both defensive options and strong abilities for AoE, aggro, and utility.

Red can choose between increasing offensive prowess by focusing on the yellow line after finishing out the red line or may bolster defenses by going into the blue line for some survival traits and utility, creating a tanky DPS.

Yellow offers some of the most flexibility, no only being an option for red line and blue line Guardians to dip into, but also by allowing you to dip into blue and/or red as a yellow Guard.
Dipping into blue allows you to bolster your defenses, somewhat aiding in your weak spot of not being as sturdy of a tank.
Dipping into red allows you to maximize damage, gaining strong bleeds and parry reaction skills from the red line. This build is the closest to Warden tanks for highest DPS as a tank.
Opting to go into both red and blue allows you to get strong defensive abilities while also giving a moderate increase to damaging capabilities.

For sample builds, Olebenny provides some great options in his Level 130 Guardian Guide. Here are some potential builds to look out for, from Olebenny:
For a bonus tip, you also have a lot of flexibility in virtues you equip, especially while leveling and for casual group content! Some common focuses include tactical/physical mitigation, max morale, finesse, critical rating, and physical mastery.

Tip #5 - Specs, Class Traits, and Leveling

Continuing with building, I want to share a tip on building as you level! Guardian leveling has a few sections where certain specs are strongest that we will go through. The overlap in levels is where transitions in power occur.

Low Level (1 to ~40)

The Guardian is a great class for lower levels with their strong physical damage. When you unlock your trait trees, yellow will be the strongest spec due to the Flash of Light passive that goes along with your Telling Mark skill, which does a lot of AoE damage, especially at low levels! Because of this, I recommend yellow line for all of your low level needs - it works for soloing, questing, group content, and tanking! While yellow was the fastest for leveling, in single target fights or long fights, red line still dealt more damage, and could be a consideration depending on your leveling situation. At low level, there differences are small enough, that I recommend whatever spec you have most fun with.

Medium Level (~30 to 70)

Moving up in the levels, in the 30s, the red line starts to become a lot stronger, and it eventually begins to compete with yellow line in terms of damage output. In the 30s, I switched back and forth between yellow and red a lot on my Guardian depending on the situation. By about 40+, red line was consistently doing more damage than yellow except for in AoE situations. At that point, red line was a great option for fast leveling!

This is also the level where blue line starts to show that it is a sturdier tank spec - you will take less damage than yellow line but will also deal less damage. If you are interested in sword-and-board dedicated heavy tanking, I recommend beginning to practice with the blue line around then!

Moving on up, as this range progresses towards the end of Mirkwood and middle of Isengard (65-70), you will continue to get new skills, important traits, legendary items, and each spec will slowly progress towards their final form. 

High Level (~65+)

This is around when the specs will feel much more fleshed out and each will feel like they are fully playing towards their role. Your character will still build up and gain new traits and things, but it will be at a slower rate and your gameplay experience is fairly set in by now..

Tip #6 - Deeding While Leveling (With a Shield)

Class deeds background:

Class deeds may be an annoyance for players, especially solo players, as they don't often use the skills needed to progress the deeds. Additionally, many class deeds are based on outdated balance and mechanics and some rarely used skills need to be used hundreds of times. The Guardian is an unfortunate victim of this system, but due to the character power gained from class trait points gained from completing class deeds, I recommend powering through this and focusing on your class deeds while leveling!

Shield use:

A typical leveling Guardian probably won't use a shield much as a 2-handed weapon provides maximum kill speed in landscape and is a good choice for low level instances. However, some class deeds require many uses of skills that require a shield. If you tank or plan to tank a lot with a shield, this isn't the biggest barrier, but for a player such as myself, I have to force myself to use a shield for these deeds. 

My strategy is to spec into the yellow line and use a shield while leveling to get these deeds out of the way and get my class trait points earlier! Other than heavy tanking in the blue line, the yellow line is a great spec to go sword-and-board with a shield. A large portion of your damage comes from Flash of Light, where weapon damage does not matter as much compared to regular skills. Additionally, using a shield with yellow will help bolster your defenses and make life easier on healers in group content. 

Guardian class deeds to focus on while leveling:
  • Controlled Breathing - Use Catch a Breath 250 times
  • Grim Challenge - Use Challenge, Fray the Edge, or Engage 300 times
  • Guardian's Ward - Use Guardian's Ward 1200 times
  • Hit Where It Hurts* - Use Stagger 1000 times
  • Phantom Pain - Use Ignore the Pain 300 times
  • Quickness - Use Sting 1500 times
  • Reactive Blocks - Use Catch a Breath 250 times
  • Retaliatory Strikes - Use Retaliation 800 times (note: Whirling Retaliation does not work)
  • Stoic* - Use Guardians Pledge, Protection, or Protection by Sword 200 times
  • Shield Expertise - Use Shield-blow 1500 times
  • Never Bashful - Use Bash 500 times
  • Finals Straw - Use Hammer Down, Juggernaut, or Cataclysmic Shout 1000 times
* these deeds require skills that are rarely used, no matter what spec. Although a little outdated, the LOTRO Wiki has a complete list of class deeds, broken down by level: https://lotro-wiki.com/index.php/Guardian_Deeds

Bonus tip: Class quests are also a part of the class deed meta deeds to gain class trait points. So, be sure to do the level 15, 30, and 45 class quests even if you don't need the gear rewards!

Tip #7 - You Don't Have to Tank!

I personally find the Guardian's red line to be one of the funnest melee DPS specs in LOTRO. So, for the last tip, I want to share that being a DPS Guardian is okay! 

Background story: Back in the day, the traditional role of the Guardian class in its entirety was to be the tank, similar to the Minstrel being the healer. After many changes to the class system, traits, and balance passes, all DPS specs - including Guardian's red line - was bumped up to respectable levels, where all these DPS specs were now going to be viable. As always, end game meta changes swiftly for the top tier of DPS specs and classes, but for casual content - any spec on any class is now enough to fill its role. Another problem, quite rare with LOTRO, is with the community, especially older players and how they still saw Guardians as "just a tank" and nothing else (even in a brief period when Guardian DPS had to be nerfed because it was too high). The bottom line of this story is that a DPS Guardian is an acceptable role for casual content.

However, it should be pointed out that at high levels (especially 100+), Guardians are not the best DPS. Like many other DPS specs, red Guardians will not be taken for the most difficult endgame content since there are better options, but that is the nature of the endgame meta in LOTRO. In contrast, at low-mid levels Guardians have high DPS output and are strong contenders for the damage role. As mentioned in the previous two tips, red line Guardian is a great option for fast leveling!

This is a longer tip that doesn't have much else to say besides bringing awareness to non-tanking Guardians, but I just wanted to share my great experience filling the DPS role on a class traditionally known to only tank.

That is it for the Guardian entry in the LOTRO Basics 7 Class Tips series! Some of the tips were a bit longer than the Warden entry, but we covered more mechanics of the Guardian, where more explaining hopefully helped! Please comment if you have feedback or a class/guide request!

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