Last Updated: 5/29/21
Table of Contents
About the Class
Defense Guardian is a melee tank class. Overall tank balance is good and has generally been good in past content, so Guardians can tank any content in SWTOR though on a fight-by-fight basis they may be slightly better or slightly worse than Vanguard or Shadow tanks. Guardians have a lot of defensive cooldowns and also have several abilities that aid their mitigation, so a skilled player will make optimal use of cooldowns to fit the situation while maximizing the uptime of defensive abilities.
Role in Operations
As the tank, Guardians should be focused on maintaining aggro on the Ops boss and as many adds as possible. Guardians have strong Focus generation even in an off-tank role and can do excellent AoE DPS (relative to tank gearing levels) to hold aggro on adds during Ops fights. That said, Guardians will generally excel best in situations where their cooldowns (especially Saber Reflect) can be best utilized.
Utility and Mobility
Guardians have strong utility for a tank class. In addition to single and AoE taunts to grab aggro, Guardians also have stuns (Force Stasis for single targets, Awe for AoE situations), interrupts (Force Kick and Force Leap), and Force Push. Guardians also have Guardian Leap, which can shine in an off-tank role to provide a 20% damage reduction for 6 seconds. With the proper Utility, Guardians can also use Challenging Call to grant a small AoE damage reduction to nearby team members.
Regarding mobility, Guardians have Force Leap, Guardian Leap (to friendly targets), and Blade Blitz to move around the battlefield. In certain circumstances, Force Push can also be helpful. In addition, Guardians can take various Utilities to grant speed boosts.
6.0 Impact on Discipline
The 6.0 expansion gave Guardian tanks several powerful buffs to mitigation via their new set bonus and tactical item options. Depending on the set bonus and tactical combination chosen, Guardian tanks can have a permanent extra +5% DR, can have Focused Defense available every 30-40 seconds, or in add-heavy fights can have high uptime of up to +40% DR!
Given the nerf to Shadow Force Speed to remove its defensive benefit for tank disciplines, in 6.0 it is expected all 3 tank disciplines will be much closer in viability than in 5.0. As such, Guardian is very much a viable and powerful tanking option for all content.
Tanks have uniformly strong survivability and Guardians are no exception. In general, their passive mitigation prior to skills and abilities is typically middle-of-the-road (i.e., Vanguard > Guardian > Shadow). When taking everything into consideration, the mitigation is balanced well enough that player skill will ultimately determine which class is more successful in a given situation.
I usually take some combination of the following Utilities, though the optimal combination can change from fight to fight. As of 6.0, the tiers have been reorganized.
You must take 3 to advanced to Masterful.
Taking non-periodic area of effect damage generates 2 Focus. This effect cannot occur more than once every second.
This is the only mandatory utility in the Skillful tree, with the second choice being situational amongst Defiance, Battlefield Command, or Trailblazer. Every operations encounter in SWTOR has some AoE damage component, so this utility offers basically free Focus and should always be taken.
You generate 4 Focus when stunned, immobilized, put to sleep, or knocked around.
This utility is situational for fights with lots of physics effects. On a fight like Underlurker, this utility generates effectively unlimited Focus which is a strict DPS boost by enabling more use of fillers. Know which fights benefit this utility and only take in those situations, as otherwise either Battlefield Command (mobility) or Trailblazer (AoE DPS) will typically be better choices.
Getting attacked reduces the active cooldown of Force Leap by 1 second. This effect cannot occur more than once every 1.5 seconds.
I find this utility very useful on any fights with adds where I am likely to hold aggro periodically and where movement is required (e.g., Draxus, Hive Queen, Bestia, etc.). Better mobility = more uptime on targets = more DPS.
Cyclone Slash deals 25% more damage.
I will sometimes take this utility if neither Defiance or Battlefield Command provide any benefit. That said, all three Guardian disciplines have comparatively strong AoE DPS so I feel that this is frequently not needed outside a few very specific fights (e.g., Hive Queen Veteran Mode).
Challenging Call protects all other allies within range, excluding yourself, granting Guardianship, which absorbs a moderate amount of damage. Lasts 10 seconds.
This utility makes the Guardian tank’s AoE taunt or DPS’ threat drop an AoE mitigation buff. It should only be taken on fights with predictable AoE damage where the majority of the team can be closer together (e.g., burn phase in Dread Council).
Whenever your movement is impaired, you gain a 10% damage bonus to your next ability that consumes Focus. This effect can stack up to 5 times and lasts 15 seconds.
I find this utility useful on similar fights to Defiance, such as Underlurker in Veteran Mode, where it provides a strict DPS increase. It should always be taken in such situations, though overall it is situational due to that status effect being uncommon.
You must take 6 between Heroic and Masterful.
For the Defense discipline, Force Sweep slows the targets it damages by 60% for 10 seconds. For the Vigilance and Focus disciplines, Force Sweep and Vigilant Thrust sunder the targets they damage for 45 seconds. Sundered targets have their armor rating decreased by 20%.
A mandatory utility for DPS Guardian disciplines due to the armor debuff but should never be taken outside of PVP for Guardian tanks.
Force Leap grants Unremitting, granting immunity to movement impairing effects and effects that push or pull you around for 4 seconds.
A highly situational utility that is more useful in PVP, there are a very few select circumstances where it is useful in PVE. The most notable example is Master & Blaster Veteran Mode in the Ravagers operation, where taking Unremitting and Battlefield Command can enable solo tanking Blaster and ignoring its knockback attack via this utility.
For Vigilance and Focus, all area effect damage is reduced by 60% for 15 seconds after Challenging Call is activated. For Defense, all damage is reduced by 30% when stunned.
This utility is mandatory for Vigilance or Focus players as it makes your threat drop an incredibly powerful AoE defensive cooldown. For Defense tanks, it is highly situational for only fights with significant stun potential (e.g., Pirate Captains in Ravagers operation).
Enure removes all cleansable effects when activated.
A situational but frequently useful utility, take whenever having a self-cleanse is a key mechanic. Note that this is usually only the case with very hard hitting DoTs or status effects, or one-shot mechanics (e.g., Death Mark in Veteran Mode Dread Council). Otherwise, I would usually not take this utility in lieu of Through Peace (Focused Defense can be used to heal to full via a DoT).
Reduces the cooldown of Force Stasis by 15 seconds.
Force Stasis normally has a 60 second cooldown so this utility reduces its cooldown by 25%. Force Stasis is a nice ability for Defense given its high damage, Focus generation and high threat. Do not take it if a better mitigation or mobility utility is warranted but it isn't a terrible choice if you have a free slot.
Activating Combat Focus purges movement-impairing effects and increases your movement speed by 50% for 6 seconds.
This utility is highly situational and I only ever take it on NiM encounters with frequent roots and kiting requirements, such as Warlord Kephess or Cartel Warlords. It has a long cooldown but the extra root break can be super helpful given the high spike damage potential on these fights.
A maximum of 3 utilities
Reduces the cooldown of Focused Defense by 30 seconds.
Focused Defense is a very powerful self heal and having a 25% shorter cooldown will frequently mean you can get 3 uses per fight instead of 2. I nearly always take this utility.
Force Leap enables your next Dispatch or Whirling Blade to be used against a target with any percentage of health. Lasts up to 15 seconds.
I find this utility helpful to add more DPS via more frequent use of your execute ability. That said, it only really adds significant value in fights where you will be able to periodically leap from boss to adds, where there are multiple bosses, or where bosses have transition or movement phases. This encompasses the majority of fights and so I find it useful. In fights where there is essentially no movement and no use of Force Leap outside of the initial pull, I may not take this utility and take Unyielding Justice to get a periodic use of Force Push as a more powerful filler.
Force Leap finishes the cooldown on Force Kick. Also, Saber Reflect lasts 2 seconds longer and for tanks generates high AoE threat.
I nearly always take to improve the utility of Saber Reflect. The cooldown reset on interrupt is also highly useful for a few specific fights like Izax. On Izax Phase 3 (interrupt phase), two Guardians alone can essentially handle all the interrupts due to being to take 3 straight interrupts (Force Kick interrupt -> (dance out of melee range) -> Force Leap interrupt -> Force Kick interrupt).
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.
This utility’s boost to Force Push makes it a higher priority filler and can increase overall DPS slightly. That said, I usually do not take this utility on any fight where I can use Saber Reflect to boost my DPS and/or mitigate sizable damage.
Reduces the cooldown of Force Push and Awe by 15 seconds. Additionally, Saber Throw immobilizes the target for 3 seconds.
This utility is far more relevant in PvP content than PVE. That said, Awe's 15% M/R damage reduction can be useful on some boss fights, so on those fights this utility might be valuable to provide higher uptime. This is particularly true for fights with lots of melee attacks that Saber Reflect will not mitigate.
Blade Blitz can be used while immobilized, purges movement-impairing effects when activated, and deals 50% more damage. Additionally, the cooldown of Blade Blitz is reduced by 10 seconds.
A very situational utility I sometimes take when a reduced cooldown on Blade Blitz is important as a defensive cooldown for heavy spike damage or as an additional kiting tool sometimes. A great example is using this utility to get a second Blade Blitz to cheese Slams during Terror NiM first phase.
Example Utility Build
Here is what I run for most encounters, though I frequently take other situational utilities for specific fights.
Utilizing a defensive lightsaber form, increasing armor rating by 60%, 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.
This passive applies all your basic tank attributes to increase your ability to mitigate damage and generate threat on a target. The nerf to damage dealt is designed to discourage “skank tanking” where in PVP a player equips a shield generator and uses a tank specialization but otherwise uses DPS gear. This has no bearing on PVE content as you want as much mitigation as you can get.
Force Sweep deals 75% more damage and consumes 2 less focus. Also, the critical chance of Cyclone Slash and Blade Barrage is increased by 30%.
This passive makes Force Sweep very useful as a filler even in single target tanking rotations, as it deals more damage than Strike (your spammable filler) and for a cost of 1 focus instead of 2 for Slash. Given that Force Sweep also deals an accuracy debuff to the target, it should be used after higher priority abilities. The crit boost to Cyclone Slash is very helpful to grab aggro on adds by spamming the move, as over time enough should crit to help you maintain AOE aggro.
Targets damaged by your Force Sweep or Cyclone Slash become unsteady (melee/ranged accuracy decreased by 5%) for 45 seconds. In addition, damage dealt by Blade Storm is increased by 40%.
This passive applies a helpful debuff via your AOE abilities, and as noted for the Pacification passive Force Sweep is a useful filler. The damage buff to Blade Storm ensures it deals enough damage (and more importantly threat) to justify its use prior to the additional shield applied via the Blade Barrier passive (see below).
Riposte consumes 1 less focus and no longer causes a global cooldown. In addition, melee and ranged defense is increased by 3%.
This passive changes Riposte so that it is off-GCD. It will generally be triggered by Guardian Slash and periodically elsewhere, and should be used immediately for the benefit provided by the Blade Barricade passive (see below).
Riposte raises a Blade Barricade, increasing your defense chance by 5% for 10 seconds.
This passive makes Ripostea defensive ability in addition to dealing damage.
Force Stasis deals 100% more damage, generates 100% more threat, and activates instantly.
This passive makes Force Stasis effectively a DoT ability, as it activates instantly while its damage is applied over time. The buff to damage and threat (and it being free to use) makes it preferable to Strike as a filler.
Activating Blade Storm grants Blade Barrier, which absorbs a moderate amount of damage. Lasts up to 10 seconds.
This passive grants Blade Storm its defensive buff, which is highly beneficial and makes it a top priority in the tank rotation.
Increases shield chance by 4% and reduces the cooldown of Saber Ward by 30 seconds. 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 immediately suffer the damage reduction effect.
An oft-overlooked passive that provides nice passive benefits while also making Awe a nice low cooldown, high duration defensive to use against melee/ranged damage.
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.
This passive can make Blade Storm or Dispatch free with proc, so is helpful from an energy management perspective.
Increases the critical chance of Force Sweep and Guardian Slash by 20%. Also, Warding Strike deals an additional 30% damage and increases shield absorption by 3%.
This passive further buffs your AOE damage/threat potential. The buff to Warding Strike is very powerful and along with Blade Barrier is arguably the best defensive buff available in your rotation. Make sure to keep maximum uptime of the 3% shield buff.
Dealing damage with Blade Barrage increases your defense chance by 2%. Stacks up to 3 times and lasts for 6 seconds.
This passive is helpful and applies another rotational defensive buff.
Gearing in 6.0
Gearing Stat Allocation
For Defense Guardian, I gear as follows:
Set Bonus: Lord of Pain (Descent of the Fearless or Fulminating Defense are also good choices, some other sets like Undying or Dashing Blademaster can work also)
Tactical: Grit Teeth (Leviathan's Hide is usually my backup though I sometimes use Makashi Strike also)
Amplifiers: I usually mix a variety of gold defensive amplifiers
Mods: Unlettered Warding Mods (I would swap to Warding B Mods if running Master Mode Dxun)
Relics: Relics of Avoidance & Shield Matrix (I prefer the extra raw tertiary stats)
For Defense Guardian, I allocate my tertiary stats as follows for full mitigation. My primary goal is to divide my tertiary stats such that Shield is 1,000-1,500 points higher than Absorb.
Accuracy: None (tanks have 110% accuracy as a tank discipline)
Shield: At least 4,000 (I gear for spike damage mitigation so Shield > Absorb)
Absorb: Up to 3,000 (I gear for spike damage mitigation so Shield > Absorb)
For Defense Guardian, I allocate my tertiary stats as follows for offensive gearing. My preference is to gear Alacrity to reach a 1.4 second cooldown, since it is a more consistent DPS increase and has some secondary benefits for increased uptime of some passive mitigation skills. I then target a minimum of mitigation stats and push the balance into Critical.
Accuracy: None (tanks have 110% accuracy as a tank discipline)
Alacrity: 1,350 (450 is fine if running the Zeal Guild Perk that provides +5% Alacrity)
Critical: Around 2,000 or more (I put the balance of my stat budget into Critical after hitting the other targets)
Shield: At least 2,500
Absorb: At least 1,000
Defense Guardian has a LOT of viable set bonus options and does not have a clear-cut best in slot option unlike Kinetic Combat Shadow (Efficient Termination) or Shield Specialist Vanguard (Emergency Power).
Your gearing approach as a Defense Guardian mostly comes down to personal preference and your tolerance for having multiple set bonuses to swap between for specific fights.
If you only want one set bonus, I would recommend either Lord of Pain or Descent of the Fearless. Descent of the Fearless is useful on every fight but only buffs your damage and provides no mitigation benefit, and so is difficult to recommend for progression when still learning fights and mechanics. Lord of Pain provides a very small mitigation buff on single target fights but is very powerful on fights with consistent add waves. I prefer Lord of Pain for its situational utility but either are fine.
Fulminating Defense would be the third main option for gearing but its availability is limited solely to Master Mode Nature of Progress gear drops or the Kai Zykken random gear vendor.
Other gear options are a bit niche and very situational in my opinion, and I wouldn't generally recommend if you only want one set bonus but are great if you set up multiple sets. With that said, taking one of these can work since again there is no clear cut best choice. Flawless Riposte provides some damage and mitigation but Descent is better in my opinion. Dashing Blademaster is a great backup set for some fights but otherwise the cooldown reduction will not be that useful on most fights. Undying is also a viable choice though I dislike how it takes Blade Blitz as a cheese ability to make it a short duration general purpose defensive cooldown.
One other option I should mention for PVP is Force Bound, which is a very popular and great choice for players who PVP frequently.
Lord of Pain
Increased drop rate from operations.
(2) +2% Endurance
(4) Reduces the cooldown of Challenging Call by 5 seconds.
(6) Challenging Call increases your damage reduction by 2.5% for each enemy it hits. This effect lasts 10 seconds.
Analysis: The primary set bonus for Guardian tanks, Lord of Pain provides a straight buff to mitigation that has decent uptime if the AoE taunt can be used on cooldown. Challenging Call has a 40 second cooldown with this set bonus (originally 45 second less 5 seconds from 4-piece bonus), so using an AoE taunt on cooldown would provide at least a 2.5% DR buff for 10 out of every 40 seconds.
The set bonus therefore is helpful but not super powerful outside of encounters with lots of adds. In any situation where multiple bosses/adds have a high frequency the DR buff can reach 20%.
Impact on Rotation: The tank with aggro should try to use their AoE taunt on cooldown if possible to maximize the uptime of the DR buff. If add phases are expected or a tank swap is necessary, saving the AoE taunt may be optimal. Basically, if you know you can use your AoE taunt without messing anything up and you know you won’t need your AoE taunt for 15 seconds, use it!
When to Take: When prioritizing mitigation. Lord of Pain grants some mitigation even in single target situations versus Flawless Riposte (which grants none). It does not provide any buff to tank DPS.
Descent of the Fearless
Increased drop rate from Onderon/Mek'sha daily missions.
(2) +2% Mastery
(4) Whenever you gain or use a Force Clarity ability charge while in combat, your damage is increased by 10% for 10 seconds.
(6) Dealing damage has a 10% chance to build a Force Clarity ability charge. Can only occur once every 5 seconds.
Analysis: The preferred set bonus for Guardian and Sentinel DPS, Descent of the Fearless provides a powerful option for tanks who want to gear for DPS. Given the minimal benefit offered by Lord of Pain, this is a fairly viable option.
Impact on Rotation: Just as you should with any other set bonus, make sure to prioritize using Force Clarity with Guardian Slash as it will provide the greatest additional damage. Otherwise, make sure to time your use of Force Clarity to maximize uptime of the 10% damage buff. If you use Force Clarity and then get a free charge immediately from the 6-piece set bonus proccing, wait until the current buff is about to expire before using it again. Given the 10% chance to build a charge and the absence of any DoTs, Defense Guardians are unlikely to maintain very high uptime to maximizing it is the most important goal to get the most DPS benefits from this set bonus.
When to Take: When prioritizing damage. Descent of the Fearless will generally provide a better damage increase as compared to Flawless Riposte. Lord of Pain provides a mitigation benefit that Descent of the Fearless lacks, but outside fights with steady add waves many tanks may prefer a significant DPS boost over a marginal mitigation boost.
Increased drop rate from The Nature of Progress Operation on Master Mode Difficulty, and has a small chance from Unidentified items on the Spoils of War vendors.
(2) +2% Endurance
(4) Challenging Call gets two charges.
(6) Enure increases elemental and internal damage reduction by 75% for 3 seconds.
Analysis: The new Fulminating Defense set added in patch 6.1.2 as a drop from Master Mode Dxun Nature of Progress is a potentially powerful set bonus for some fights. The six piece adds nigh immunity to internal/elemental damage, which can be really powerful on fights with high I/E spike damage. Many damage mechanics deal other types of damage, so this defensive is easily wasted without knowledge of damage mechanics on a boss fight.
Impact on Rotation: Make sure to understand which mechanics deal I/E damage and use your cooldown to mitigate the biggest spikes.
When to Take: Fulminating Defense adds a very powerful if situational defensive cooldown, which is far stronger than Lord of Pain (adds a little DR for a short time on fights with lots of adds), Flawless Riposte (adds a little uptime on a defense buff) or Descent of the Fearless (best for DPS but adds no mitigation). I recommend it for all situations provided the player is capable of identifying which mechanics can be mitigated successfully with this new cooldown.
Increased drop rate from Dxun operation, Nature of Progress. Not available from the tech fragment vendor.
(2) +2% Mastery
(4) Riposte has no cooldown.
(6) Taking damage during Enure grants Retaliator stacks, increasing the damage of your next Riposte by 10% per stack.
Analysis: The Flawless Riposte set can significantly boost tank DPS. Riposte has a 6s cooldown, does not respect the global cooldown, and is only usable defending an attack. If the tank is taking defendable damage (Melee/Ranged) they should be triggering this set bonus very quickly, which would make Riposte usable at least 2-3 times more often. When tanking adds, it may be spammable every GCD. It provides minimal benefit to mitigation/survivability, as without the set bonus Riposte should still be usable often enough to maintain 100% uptime on the 5% defense buff from Blade Barricade.
Impact on Rotation: The optimal rotation in 5.x is unchanged, which is to continue using Riposte on cooldown as often as possible. When actively tanking a boss or adds, Riposte will be used far more often than without the set bonus.
When to Take: When prioritizing tank DPS or when AoE taunts are not advisable to proc the Lord of Pain DR bonus. Lord of Pain grants situationally better buffs to mitigation, so Flawless Riposte will be better for tanks confident in their healers and how to manage cooldowns. Honestly neither are amazing for mitigation though. Also, Descent of the Fearless is a better overall DPS set for tanks and is far easier to acquire, so I only recommend Flawless Riposte as an alternative with a fun memey playstyle.
Increased drop rate from operations.
(2) +2% Alacrity rating
(4) Blade Blitz's cooldown is reduced by 10 seconds.
(6) Activating Blade Blitz while under Force Camouflage makes it critically hit and slows any targets it damages
Analysis: Dashing Blademaster is clearly intended as a Jedi Sentinel set bonus given its 6-piece set bonus. However, the 4-piece set bonus provides some powerful situational utility as a Defense Guardian tank set bonus given Blade Blitz's use as a defensive ability to completely resist many high damage mechanics.
When a player activates Blade Blitz, they gain +100% defense chance against melee/ranged attacks and +100% resist chance against Force/tech attacks. As such, Blade Blitz can be used to completely mitigate may damage mechanics in SWTOR. Blade Blitz's cooldown is normally 45 seconds or 35 seconds with utility. Reducing the cooldown from 35 seconds to 25 seconds may not sound powerful but in some fights with predictable high damage mechanics it can be vey helpful.
If taking Dashing Blademaster, I strongly suggest only equipping 4 pieces and using Amplified Champion pieces for the rest of your armor for the extra mitigation amplifiers.
Impact on Rotation: No change in rotation but Blade Blitz will now have a 35 second cooldown (25 seconds with utility) so will be available more often during a fight.will now have a 35 second cooldown (25 seconds with utility) so will be available more often during a fight.
When to Take: Dashing Blademaster can be a good choice on any fights with predictable high damage mechanics where it is safe to use Blade Blitz to avoid damage, especially fights without lots of adds (where Lord of Pain may be better) or high damage internal/elemental mechanics (where Fulminating Defense may be better).
A few good examples of fights where Dashing Blademaster performs well are Terror From Beyond and Dread Master Bestia. In the Terror From Beyond first phase, extra uses of Blade Blitz are very helpful in Master Mode to mitigate tentacle Slams. In the Dread Master Bestia fight in Veteran and Master Mode, Blade Blitz's cooldown of 25 seconds can be used to solo tank Bestia by activating it at the end of Dread Strike and avoiding the debuff.
Increased drop rate from Conquest.
(2) +2% Endurance.
(4) After executing Blade Blitz, you gain 20% damage reduction for 6 seconds.
Analysis: Undying is a general purpose Jedi Knight set bonus that players will quickly and easily assemble at least four pieces by completing their weekly conquest. The 2-piece set bonus is more helpful for tanks than DPS but is mostly wasted due to the cap on Endurance in level 70 content.
The main benefit from Undying is the 20% damage reduction for 6 seconds after activating Blade Blitz. Straight damage reduction is the second best type of mitigation buff (after absorb shields) since it affects all types of damage, most notably internal/elemental damage that cannot normally be resisted, cannot normally be shielded and is not affected by damage reduction provided by armor.
It is important to note that activating Blade Blitz already provides 1 second of immunity to most attacks via the +100% increase to dodge/resist chance, so the Undying set bonus only adds 5 seconds of damage reduction that can be effective in reducing damage.
20% damage reduction has an amplified effect on how much less damage is taken due to SWTOR's combat mechanics. Using a simple example, 20% more damage reduction should reduce damage taken by 30-35% on average while it is active.
The primary downside to Undying is how it makes Blade Blitz a combination of a cheese mechanic and a short duration defensive cooldown. Blade Blitz can be very inconvenient to use on cooldown as a general purpose defensive due to the requirements for tank positioning, so simply cannot be used in many fights safely. Many fights also rely on using Blade Blitz to cheese high damage or one shot mechanics, and thus may waste the 20% damage reduction buff.
The counter to this perspective is that +20% damage reduction for 5 seconds every 35 seconds (assuming you take the utility to reduce Blade Blitz's cooldown) is a nice extra cooldown to add to Defense Guardian's impressive list of cooldowns. Undying is also arguably far less situational than Lord of Pain, though Lord of Pain remains a much more powerful set bonus for fights where it is useful.
In my opinion, this makes Undying and Lord of Pain fairly equivalent in benefit with Undying more broadly useful but still situational and requiring more skill/planning to use while Lord of Pain is more situational but more powerful in those situations.
Players looking to utilize Undying should only use four pieces to get the set bonus and should use Amplified Champion for the other three pieces to get extra mitigation amplifiers.
Impact on Rotation: Normally Blade Blitz is used either for movement or for mitigating high spike damage mechanics. For fights where Blade Blitz is not needed as spike damage cheese or just during phases where it is not needed, Undying lets the player use it to add 5 seconds of 20% damage reduction. Try to weave its regular use in between defensive cooldowns to smooth your damage taken profile, or use it proactively for higher damage phases or when you see other healers becoming stressed but using a more powerful cooldown is not possible.
When to Take: Undying is a great starter tank set bonus for Defense Guardians since it only requires 4 pieces and is very easy to assemble through completing conquest each week. The 20% damage reduction can be very helpful if used smartly, though overall getting 5 extra seconds of +20% damage reduction every 35 seconds is nice but not hugely powerful. I recommend any players prioritizing mitigation who do not want Lord of Pain and cannot get Fulminating Defense should take Undying as a general purpose tanking set bonus.
Crafted by Synthweaving.
(2) +2% Accuracy Rating.
(4) Enemies affected by Awe have their Force and Tech accuracy reduced by 70% for 6 seconds after Awe wears off.
Analysis: Force Bound is an interesting set bonus since normally Force/Tech attacks do not miss since Defense chance usually only affects the chance to dodge melee/ranged attacks. A very small set of abilities also provide a Defense chance to resist Force/Tech attacks, which includes Riposte (+5% from Blade Barricade) and Blade Barrage (+6% from Defensive Swings) in the Defense Guardian discipline. Taken together with the Force Bound 4-piece set bonus, it is possible to reach an 81% chance to resist Force/Tech attacks over a short duration. When combined with Defense Guardian's strong base mitigation, useful kit of control abilities, powerful sustained defensive cooldowns and powerful cheese cooldowns, this makes Defense Guardians very strong tanks in PVP.
Impact on Rotation: When fighting players in disciplines that primarily deal Force/Tech damage, use Awe aggressively to debuff them and receive a high chance of resisting their heavy hitting attacks.
When to Take: I do not recommend Force Bound in any PVE encounters but Force Bound can be a powerful set bonus in PVP.
Crafted by Biochem. Not available from the tech fragment vendor.
The cooldown of Focused Defense is reduced by 2 seconds when you are attacked. This effect cannot occur more than once per second.
Analysis: Focused Defense has a 1:30 minute cooldown with the Through Passion utility. Taking this tactical could reduce the cooldown to as low as 30 seconds. This makes a self-heal cooldown capable of healing to full available 8+ times per fight, potentially. Really really strong.
Impact on Rotation: None. Focused Defense will be available more frequently as a defensive cooldown, so use when needed.
When to Take: Heal-intensive fights that contain steady incoming damage. The utility of the tactical goes way down if you either (1) aren’t taking damage frequently enough to trigger all the self heals (i.e., fights with lots of down time); or (2) if it is not a difficult heal check and healers are keeping you >70% health such that the ability isn’t usable and/or charges are wasted.
Increased drop rate from Onderon and Mek-sha daily missions.
Guardian Slash generates stacks of Crushing Defenses for every enemy it hits, granting 2.5% increased damage reduction per stack for 10 seconds. Stacks up to 8 times.
Analysis: Leviathan’s Hide is strictly inferior to Makashi Strike in single target encounters, as its 2.5% DR is half the 5% buff provided by Makashi Strike. However, in any situation with multiple bosses in close proximity (e.g., Jarg/Sorno) or where adds are present in the fight and near the boss, this tactical becomes incredibly powerful via a potential 20% DR buff. Just a few examples are Foreman Crusher in KP (add phases at 75/50/25 health), Dread Guards in TFB (if keeping bosses close together) and Titan 6 in S&V (pull adds to boss).
Leviathan's Hide also provides amazing synergy with the Lord of Pain set bonus, where using Guardian Slash and AoE taunting can provide up to 40% extra DR for 10 seconds.
Impact on Rotation: Guardian Slash should generally be used on cooldown, but if taking this tactical it may be optimal to delay 1-2 GCDs to align its use for add phases to increase the DR buff.
When to Take: Fights with multiple bosses and/or adds in frequent close proximity, or if you are the off-tank dealing with add groups (e.g., Grob’thok in S&V, Malaphar in ToS, etc.). You need to be hitting 3 or more targets regularly to make the DR buff worth taking over Makashi Strike, thus it is situational and shouldn’t be your main Tactical but is a good one to have for certain fights.
Hord’s Makashi Strike
Increased drop rate from flashpoints.
Riposte consumes Warding Strike’s damage reduction and grants Retaliating Defense, increasing damage reduction by 5% for 20 seconds.
Analysis: The power to this tactical comes from being able to stack the 5% DR from this tactical with the 3% DR from Warding Strike. Despite Riposte consuming the buff, this can be accomplished by treating Riposte as a defensive cooldown and only using it when you can immediately use afterwards. In this way, you “consume” the Warding Strike 3% DR buff to apply the Makashi Strike 5% DR buff, then immediately use Warding Strike to re-apply the 3% DR buff for a cumulative total of 8% DR.
Impact on Rotation: Do not use Riposte on cooldown. Anytime you need to use Warding Strike to generate Focus or at least every 20 seconds, your rotation should include Riposte > Warding Strike to (re-)apply the 5% + 3% = 8% DR buffs.
When to Take: Any fights where Embrace the Pain or Leviathan’s Hide is not highly useful. Makashi Strike grants the most powerful consistent DR buff at the expense of some DPS and should be used if you aren’t sure what to equip.
Aural Resistance (or Armor Penetration for offensive gearing)
Picking tank amplifiers can be frustrating due to the overly specialized nature of the options. You can pick amplifiers that mitigate any specific type of damage (weapon attacks, Force, Tech, DoT or AoE) along with some other options. Some fights have lots of certain types of damage but no fight has all of them, which makes picking tank amplifiers feel much weaker in terms of their impact. This is unique from DPS or healer amplifiers where any viable choice should help you on every fight in a relatively consistent manner.
The general consensus among theory crafters is either (1) set up two complete sets of gear and go heavy Force mitigation on one set and Tech mitigation on the other, and swap sets from fight to fight (e.g., Dread Palace has lots of Force damage, Gods has lots of Tech damage); or (2) go with Aural Resistance for all encounters. The first option is definitely optimal but much more expensive..
Nearly every encounter has notable and sizable AoE damage. Most healers are stressed by four ways: (1) high burst damage to tanks (usually unavoidable); (2) high continuing damage to tanks (usually unavoidable); (3) high burst damage to DPS (usually avoidable); and (4) high consistent and/or burst AoE damage to the entire raid (sometimes avoidable, sometimes not). In this sense, getting a nice buff to AoE mitigation can help minimize the overall raid healing that is necessary from your healers and free them up to better burst heal you through tank-only mechanics. It’s not as good as an amplifier buff to overall DR or shield chance, but it’s still likely the best option available unless you want two different sets of gear.
As an alternative, tanks can go with offensive amplifier builds. You get more “bang for your buck” there and extra DPS = extra Threat and the boss goes down faster too. For this purpose, Armor Penetration is an good choice. (Note this is updated since I missed the second iteration of theorycrafting on amplifiers. I always run mitigation amps on my tanks.)
Force Clarity NEW IN 6.0
Consumes all ability charges and applies Force Clarity stacks to you. Each stack increases your next direct single target melee attack by 25% and is consumed whenever you deal damage with these attacks. Recharges 1 ability charge every 30 seconds.
A new offensive cooldown, it can be used in the opener to buff you heaviest hitting ability for +100% damage or used every ~30 seconds to buff an ability damage +25%. With the Descent of the Fearless set bonus, it also provides a +10% damage buff and can generate extra charges during combat.
Deals high weapon damage, enables Riposte, and Impairs the target (deals 5% less Force/Tech damage) for 45 seconds. If you are protected by Warding Strike, it damages up to 7 additional nearby targets as well. Does not damage sleeping, lifted or incapacitated enemies. Generates high threat.
Your highest damage ability and biggest threat generating ability, it also provides a great debuff and enables Riposte which provides a very helpful defensive buff. Use on cooldown without exception.
Deals moderate weapon damage. Cannot be parried, dodged or miss. Can only be used after successfully defending against a ranged or melee attack or after one of your melee attacks is parried dodged or misses. Also enabled by Guardian Slash
Riposte is off-GCD so is bonus damage to your rotation. It also provides a 5% defense buff. Use anytime it procs.
Deals moderate weapon damage. Generates 6 Focus and increases damage reduction by 3% for 20 seconds.
Your main Focus generating ability and provides the best defensive buff for the class. It’s cooldown is only 12 seconds before alacrity, so in most instances you can delay using the ability if you are capped on Focus without losing the buff.
Deals high kinetic damage. In addition, weak enemies are stunned for 4 seconds. 10m range.
One of few ranged abilities that also generates high threat and provides a defensive shield, use as often as possible.
Deals high kinetic damage and stuns target for 4 seconds. Generates high threat.
A long cooldown ability that generates very high threat, use in the opener and then off cooldown.
Deals high weapon damage.
A free filler ability that provides a Defense boost, use when available but is relatively low priority compared to abilities higher on this list.
Deals high energy damage. Normally usable only on targets below 30% health. Range 10m.
A high damage filler but does not provide any defensive boost. Use as often as possible when no abilities that buff mitigation are available.
Deals moderate damage and generates 3 Focus. 30m range.
A ranged ability and energy generating ability. Use when needed as a filler.
Leaps to target and deals low damage. Immobilizes target for 2 seconds and interrupts its current action. Builds 4 Focus. Cannot be used against enemies in cover. 10-30m range.
Used for movement and to add a second interrupt.
Hits the target and up to 8 enemies within 5m for moderate kinetic damage. Stuns weak and standard enemies for 2 seconds.
Applies a helpful accuracy debuff, is your next best AoE ability after Guardian Slash, and deals decent single target damage when nothing else is available.
Hits up to 8 enemies within 5 meters in front of you for low weapon damage.
Your spammable AoE conal ability, only use in AoE situations.
Generates 6 Focus. Off-GCD ability. 45 second cooldown.
Your energy cooldown, try to use aggressively to deal extra damage and build extra threat.
Stuns the target for 4 seconds, deals moderate kinetic damage and builds 3 Focus over the duration.
Force Stasis is heavily buffed by the Stasis Mastery passive ability, making it effectively a free DoT that builds Focus, deals high damage and generates high threat.
Deals moderate weapon damage.
Your spammable filler, you should use to spend excess energy but takes bottom priority otherwise.
Deals low weapon damage and generates 2 Focus.
Your basic filler, only use when you are low on energy and need it for abilities. You generally should not use often in this discipline.
The Defense Guardian tank rotation is all about (1) building threat during the opener to maintain aggro; (2) maximizing your mitigation through defensive cooldowns and skills; and (a distant third) (3) doing as much DPS as possible.
The only set rotation is the opener (see below), otherwise your priority use of abilities should be determined based on your objective (i.e., Threat Generation, Mitigation, Focus Generation, AoE situations). That being said, the Threat Generation is probably the closest to a consistent priority list so that is reasonable for newer tanks outside of AoE situations.
Force Leap - Gap closer and procs Vicious Throw if taking utility
Combat Focus OFF GCD
Force Clarity - Taken here to apply its damage buff to Guardian Slash and should only be used with Guardian Slash unless running Descent of the Fearless (in which case extra stacks may be available)
Guardian Slash - Biggest damage ability and applies Force/Tech damage debuff
Riposte OFF GCD - Off-GCD procced by Crushing Blow and applies Defense buff
Hilt Bash - High threat ability used to build threat and hold aggro during opener
Force Stasis - I try to use Force Choke in the opener due to its outstanding threat generation. If spike damage during the opener is a concern then I may let it float to later in the opener to get Force Scream, Smash and Aegis Assault buffs active earlier
Blade Storm - Good damage and applies an absorb shield
Saber Reflect IF NOT NEEDED AS A DEFENSIVE COOLDOWN See below for commentary about when to use Saber Reflect in the opener as it can vary depending on group composition and fight
Dispatch IF TAKING UTILITY
Force Sweep - Does decent damage and applies an accuracy debuff
Taunt (high threat builders on CD, Taunt carries to next Guardian Slash)
Warding Strike - You will need some energy by this point and Warding Strike applies a 3% buff to damage resistance
Guardian Slash - Use on cooldown
Riposte OFF GCD - Use on cooldown
Blade Barrage - Applies a helpful defense buff
Blade Storm - Use on cooldown
Challenging Call AOE TAUNT
NOTE ON SABER REFLECT IN THE OPENER
The use of Saber Reflect in the opener is very situational depending on the specific fight and your team composition. The primary reason to use it in the opener is for the extra threat generation prior to taunting. I recommend using it when it is safe to do so because you will not need Saber Reflect as a defensive cooldown in the first minute or so of the fight.
Do not use Saber Reflect in the opener if it can be used to mitigate damage early in the fight. I am usually very careful with using Saber Reflect in my opener in NiM operations since there is so much damage that I really want to use Saber Reflect to mitigate big hitting mechanics.
The question I have received a few times is "why not use Saber Reflect in the first few GCDs? Sometimes I do!!! My thinking around using it a little later is that I've experienced that on average I tend to be more likely to mitigate high damage attacks by delaying it slightly. I also use it earlier for fights where I need to taunt earlier also.
See below for some discussion on when to time your taunt. If you are going to use Saber Reflect in the opener at all, make sure to always use it before your taunt.
NOTE ON TAUNT TIMING IN THE OPENER
The timing for your first taunt in a tank opener is very context dependent on the specific fight and your team composition. The factors to consider include the following:
Can DPS pull threat off you and how quickly?
Does your group composition include more than two high burst DPS disciplines (AP PT, Lightning Sorcerer, etc.)?
Is a momentary loss of aggro by the tank highly likely to lead to a wipe? A great example is Blaster cleaving the group in the Master/Blaster encounter.
These answers should inform your taunt strategy. The ideal is to wait as long as possible to taunt without losing aggro for an extended period. Your taunt guarantees aggro for its duration but its more important effect is a small multiplier on your threat. The more threat you build before taunting the greater the boost provided by your taunts. Taunt too early in your opener and you may be at risk of losing aggro later on.
If you can safely lose aggro for one GCD without a DPS getting one-shot or cleaving the group, then it's okay to delay your first taunt until mid-opener. If you lose aggro then just taunt back. This may also be a safe strategy if you have no more than two players running burst disciplines and can use guards to mitigate their burst threat in the opener. DoT classes that take 3-4 GCDs to start dealing big damage are far less risky to lose aggro.
For fights where you absolutely cannot lose aggro for even one moment, I recommend taunting a bit earlier. In such situations, I usually taunt around my first use of Force Scream instead of a couple GCDs later. If so, make sure to move up your use of your AoE taunt (if safe to do so in the fight) and your single taunt again when it comes off cooldown.
Another tip is to get your team in Starparse and track threat using an overlay. I find that to be really helpful if I am trying to delay my taunt as long as I can to see if someone is getting close on threat and then immediately taunt.
Highest to lowest. This is pretty close to your ability priority most of the time. The 1st job of a Tank is to hold aggro, so stick to this most of the time.
Guardian Slash (AoE damage when you have the buff from Warding Strike up)
Riposte (OFF GCD, use when available, only usable after a dodge or Guardian Slash)
Dispatch (when health >30% or if using Ardent Advocate utility)
Force Sweep (AoE, still generates good single target threat)
This is similar to the Threat Generation. Use these abilities AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE to maximize your mitigation. The only exception is Warding Strike. Due to its 20s duration and 12s cooldown, you can delay a few GCD’s if you are capped on Focus.
Guardian Slash - Applies Impaired debuff (5% less Force/tech damage for 45s)
Riposte - Grants Blade Barricade (increases Defense rating by 5% for 12s)
Blade Storm - Grants Blade Barrier (shield absorbs moderate damage)
Warding Strike - Increases damage reduction 3% and Absorption 3% for 20s.
Blade Barrage - Each tick increases Defense by 2% (max of 6%) for 6s.
Force Sweep - Applies Unsteady debuff (reduces accuracy by 5% for 45s)
Guardians generate lots of Focus so Focus management isn’t a huge issue. Skilled players should focus on it more as a matter of boosting DPS.
Combat Focus - Cooldown grants 6 Focus. Use in initial pull and then whenever you get low on Focus and Warding Strike is on cooldown.
Warding Strike - Generates 7 Focus.
Saber Throw - Generates 3 Focus. Only use when at ranged or part of initial pull.
Force Leap - Generates 3 Focus.
Force Stasis - Generates 3 Focus over 4s.
Strike - Generates 2 Focus. You will use Strike on occasion but not frequently.
Combined with effective use of your AoE taunt, Guardians should be capable of really strong AoE DPS and easily hold aggro in most situations.
Guardian Slash (with Warding Strike buff) - This is the key to AoE aggro. With the Warding Strike buff, this ability deals strong damage and huge threat generation.
Force Sweep - Strong AoE DPS and applies accuracy debuff.
Cyclone Slash - Your AoE filler, with the Trailblazer utility, does strong damage.
(large single target damage)
Reflects single target ranged/force/tech abilities for 5s with Utility. Also works great to build AoE threat. Is best used for really heavy damage mechanics (e.g., Terror’s Scream) that would otherwise one-shot you. Be really careful about knowing when it will work so you don’t waste it (e.g., the Huge Grenade in HM S&V Titan 6 can’t be reflected since it’s AOE damage). 1 minute cooldown, so you can use many times during a fight. Note that it does NOT work versus melee attacks!
Increases Defense by 50% and Force/Tech damage reduction by 25% for 12 seconds. It also provides a second buff, Blade Turning, that increases Melee/Ranged Defense by 100% for 2s. This cooldown is pretty awesome for everything. The 2 seconds of Blade Turning can be used for immunity to dodgeable attacks, the +50% defense should get your overall defense above 80% such that most melee/ranged attacks are dodged, and the 25% Force/Tech damage reduction is really strong also. 2:30 cooldown.
Reduces damage taken by 40% for 10 seconds. A good multi-purpose defensive, though it's important to note that reducing damage taken is less helpful than flat increases to damage reduction, so this defensive is decidedly weaker than Saber Ward. 2:30 cooldown.
Usable when below 70% health, cooldown grants 12 charges that will be used one at a time to provide a small heal as damage is taken. Best used during damage phase with lots of small damage (e.g., the Tank challenge during HM Dread Palace Raptus). 10 second duration, 1:30 cooldown (2:00 without Utility).
Your “oh s**t” button, this provides a temporary self-heal for 20s. Use it during heavy damage phases or when you know healers are really stressed but can give you some fake health to survive while healers are stressed. 1 minute cooldown.
(any large individual mechanics)
Increases defense by 100% during ability. The timing of the buff is difficult to manage during a fight, but when timed appropriately can be used to ignore various mechanics. With Saber Reflect, this makes Guardians extraordinarily strong at avoiding large one-off damage mechanics. 45s cooldown but can be reduced to 35 seconds with utility or 25 seconds with utility and the Dashing Blademaster 4-piece set bonus.
Use the best available tanking adrenal, which will absorb 30% of incoming damage up to a certain limit. Lasts 15s and a 3 minute cooldown. Most fights last between 5-7 minutes, so in difficult fights try to time an adrenal as an additional defensive cooldown early in the fight so you can use it twice.
Reduces melee/ranged damage of nearby enemies by 15% for 10 seconds. 60 second cooldown (45 second with utility). Awe uses the GCD. A useful defensive ability for fights with high melee/ranged damage.
How to Use Defensive Cooldowns
Guardian tanks have arguably more defensive cooldowns than any other tank class. Those defensives include several opportunities to complete mitigate high damage attacks, longer cooldown defensives that provide high sustained mitigation benefits across all damage types, and a variety of less powerful but low cooldown defensives that can help you smooth damage profiles when a big defensive is not available.
When comparing Guardians to Shadows, their biggest advantage is versatility. Shadows have to be very careful with using defensives since they are specific to types of damage, whereas Guardians for the most part can use most defensives against most types of damage. Compared to Vanguards, Guardians have a lot more cooldowns and so should be pro-active in using them, especially the low cooldown defensives.
Here are a few tips to maximize the effectiveness of your defensive cooldowns:
Only use defensives for mechanics where they will actually mitigate damage. This is the most important tip. Guardian tanks are fortunate in that most defensives will work against most types of damage, but that is not true for every cooldown and some are better for certain types than others. Here are the easiest mistakes to make:
Saber Reflect will not work against most AoE damage mechanics or melee damage. If the enemy is hitting you in the face there is a decent chance Saber Reflect will not mitigate that damage. Please note that some "melee" attacks are actually Force/Tech attacks and Saber Reflect WILL work. The best and fastest way to check this is to look at your damage taken details from a combat log of the fight and see what type of attack (melee, ranged, Force, Tech) to determine which abilities are eligible. Also note that Saber Reflect will work against some AoEs (e.g., the lightning pylons on Firebrand/Stormcaller) but generally will not be effective.
Awe will only debuff melee/ranged damage and only if the enemy is in range. This is a nice little defensive you can use frequently for yourself or even to help your co-tank. Make sure the enemy is in range when you use Awe. Also note that the debuff will not help if the enemy uses primarily Force or Tech attacks.
Saber Ward is great for Force/Tech attacks but is amazing against melee/ranged attacks. With your base defense and the rotational defense buff from Riposte and Blade Barrage, you should have nearly 100% Defense for its duration. This makes you effectively immune to melee/ranged attacks for 12 seconds. The 25% damage resistance to Force/Tech attacks is also really good. Be thoughtful about which mechanics to use Saber Ward on as it is such a strong defensive cooldown. One-off big hitting mechanics can usually be mitigated with Saber Reflect or Blade Blitz, so Saber Ward should usually be used for the most dangerous sustained damage mechanics.
Understand when it is safe and desirable to use Saber Reflect to fluff damage. On some fights you can use Saber Reflect to deal enormous damage but only when doing so is safe. A great example is the Stormcaller/Firebrand encounter in Explosive Conflict, where you can generate 2k extra DPS by stacking lightning orbs and standing in them while Saber Reflect is active. In a few Veteran or Master Mode boss fights, this technique can make the difference between hitting enrage or clearing the DPS check. Be careful using this awesome power!
Use Blade Blitz to mitigate big hitting mechanics but watch your positioning! Blade Blitz is great to give you immunity to nearly every damage mechanic on a 45 second or less cooldown. Keep in mind your positioning, though. Blade Blitzing into the group so they eat a cleave is a risk, as is dashing off a platform to your death.
Communicate with your co-tank and healers. This is the most important part of good teamwork as a tank. Both tanks have defensives and healers have healing cooldowns. Communicate and call out if you are about to hit a damage phase without a cooldown available, so that healers know to be extra aggressive on keeping you healed or so your co-tank can swap in early (if mechanics permit). For single boss fights, coordinating tank swaps around the use and availability of defensive cooldowns is a key element for success in higher difficulty operations.
Prioritize low cooldown defensives for triage and plan use of high cooldown defensives. Saber Reflect, Focused Defense, Enure, Blade Blitz and Awe all have short cooldowns and can be used 3-4 times per fight or more. These are excellent choices to use when you start to get a bit low on health and need some extra mitigation. Saber Ward, Invincible and your Adrenal can only be used once or twice per encounter so it is usually best to save these for specific damage phases or for unexpected issues.
When possible, try to save one good defensive cooldown for emergencies. You can never predict when bad things might happen unexpectedly, whether that's your co-tank dying, a healer dying or some DPS standing in stupid to fluff and making the healers' job far tougher. In any of those situations, you really want to have a good defensive to hit to bridge through those phases to get out a rez or help healers get through a tough spot. For Guardians, I usually try to save either my adrenal + medpack or Invincible. Both are nice defensives with a long cooldown but aren't quite as amazing as Saber Ward, which is so good you should try to plan its use instead of leaving it on the shelf just for emergencies. This assumes you can get by without a key defensive, which may not always be true. Do not let yourself die by not using a defensive "just in case", but as much as you can try to always keep something in reserve.
How to use your taunts
The biggest difference between a skilled tank and an unskilled tank is their use of Taunts. A skilled tank will nearly always have a taunt available if needed and doesn’t rely on taunts to maintain aggro on the boss, whereas an unskilled tank will frequently lose aggro and say “my taunt is on cooldown!!” leading to a DPS or healer getting killed.
Use Taunt in your opener. Your opener should be focused on building maximum threat. When used optimally, you should NOT need a taunt to hold aggro in the opener. However, using a single target Taunt after your heavy hitters should help give you cushion. The single taunt has a short cooldown and few Ops require target swaps in the first 20 seconds, so in almost every case using Taunt in your opener is a best practice.
Use Taunt as the first ability in your opener. Taunt has two functions: (1) forces target to target you for 6 seconds; and (2) boosts you to the top of the Threat table plus a small cushion. Using Taunt to pull grants virtually no aggro at all, so the only benefit is it makes the Boss target you for 6 seconds. Since you should be using your heavy hitters up front, this makes you much more likely to lose aggro 10-15 seconds into the pull. NEVER USE YOUR TAUNT TO PULL. Sorry, that can’t be stressed enough. Optimally, you should use your taunt around 10-15 seconds into the pull when your heavy threat abilities are on cooldown and you start using lesser abilities. This will give you extra Threat and cushion, carrying you until your threat builders come off cooldown. After 2 sequences of threat building, you should generally be in good shape from a Threat perspective.
Taunt whenever you lose Aggro. This is simple and should be easily tracked via Target of Target. If you are tanking a boss and they swap to a DPS, Taunt immediately and call it out in voice chat to remind the DPS players so they can use a threat drop ability.
Taunt on cooldown. As long as you can maintain Aggro on the boss, you should try to conserve Taunts. Many fights require tank swaps and having a single Taunt can be great to help control adds. The worst thing that can happen is to need a Taunt and it be on cooldown.
Remind DPS to let Tank pull. It’s fine to remind people that tanks should pull first. This enables you to grab initial Aggro and flow into your threat building abilities to maintain Aggro on the boss. A DPS pulling early can mess that up and cause a group wipe. On PUG’s, I will give one or two reminders then the next time I will let the DPS die on a trash pull to remind them. Don’t do that to guild members, but if you’re having issues do let an officer or the Op leader know and they will deal with the situation.
Communicate when you Taunt. DPS should be using threat drop abilities on cooldown, but communicating when you Taunt is a good reminder. It is also very helpful for the second tank so they know what you’re doing and don’t accidentally taunt at the same time.
Complain about DPS losing aggro or ask them to “go slow on DPS”. DPS should always be trying to do maximum DPS. Period. The classes are balanced such that tanks should be able to maintain aggro on the boss without using a Taunt. Combined with a single Taunt and an AoE taunt, there is no excuse for an experienced tank to need DPS to hold back. That said, I would make an exception for gearing runs where a new tank with poor gear is running with over-geared DPS players.
Other Tips and Tricks
Use Target of Target. This enables you to see who is targeted. If you lose aggro, you will see it when the boss swaps to a DPS or a healer. You can then Taunt back immediately instead of waiting for them to complain, die, or take massive damage.
Use Guard effectively. You should guard the highest DPS. Period. You should not guard the healer. Their heals build inconsequential threat on any enemy who is taking damage. The only way a healer should pull aggro is on adds not taking any damage. Depending on the fight, responsibility for those adds should fall on the off-tank or assigned DPS.
Tips to using Saber Reflect
EC Zorn & Toth - all circles
EC Tanks - Double Destruction, Lightning Pylons, Adds
EC Vorgath - turrets
EC Kephess - Add damage inside reflect bubble (reflects to Warrior), Walker (stand under it while it is immune after popping reflect)
TFB Dread Guard - Doom
TFB Kephess - red laser
TFB Terror - slam, Scream
S&V Thrasher - firebug AOE
S&V Operations Chief - terminate
S&V Warlords - Sunder
S&V Styrak - add’s channeled lightning attack, orange debuff during lightning AOE
KP Jarg & Sorno - Unload
KP Karraga - fire puddles
DF Draxus - Subteroth explosion, Draxus non-cleave attacks, Guardian thundering blast, Guardian cleave
DF Grob’thok - raidwide Roar
DF Corruptor Zero - chest laser, missile Barrage, ranged add attack’s
DF Brontes - orbs (note you can taunt someone else’s orb then use reflect to pop without damage)
DP Tyrans - fire at the door (not inferno), though be very careful doing this
DP Raptus - force execution
DP Council - burn phase AOE
Ravagers Sparky - brutal punch, add jump
Ravagers Bull - scatter blaster, mass barrage, ore carts, add attacks
Ravagers Torque - turrets, fire device, shoots lasers, knockback from panel destruction
Ravagers Master/Blaster - rain of pain
Ravagers Cora/Ruugar - most boss attacks
ToS Malaphar - spear throw
ToS Commanders - Kurse smash
ToS Revan - heave, Saber overcharge, HK mines, Core’s AOE
Toborro - purple circle
Monolith - slam, first tick of Curse