Tactics Vanguard

Last Updated: 5/31/21

Table of Contents


About the Class

Tactics Vanguard is a strong melee burst DPS class. Tactics has arguably the highest burst in the game due to its ability to front-load damage via Cell Burst and off-GCD Shoulder Cannon missiles. Tactics also functions as a semi-ranged class due to the 10m range of many of its abilities. Combined with all of its abilities being instant and unmatched mobility with Hold the Line, a gap closer and a pull ability, as well as cheese potential via Sonic Rebounder, Tactics is a strong addition to any raid team.

Role in Operations

Tactics is a melee burst DPS class but with a unique semi-ranged capability. As such, Tactics can be very useful in many target swapping encounters. However, care should be taken for target swapping in AOE situations due to the need to re-apply Gut. Tactics will do best dealing with adds that involve burst phases, such as the Anomalies in phase 2 of the Terror From Beyond HM/NiM encounter. Tactics also has several defensive capabilities and heavy armor, so can function as an off-tank in emergency situations so long as there are no major damage spikes.

Utility and Mobility

Vanguards have strong utility for a DPS class. They can guard and taunt, they have an 4 second hard stun (Cryo Grenade), a 2.5 second AoE stun (Neural Surge), can pull certain targets for positioning, can use Sonic Rebounder for a group reflect of various heavy hitting mechanics, and can apply an armor and tech damage debuff to targets.

Regarding mobility, Vanguards are unmatched amongst all classes. All of their abilities are instant and can be used on the move, many have a 10m range (or with a seldom-used utility can be boosted to 30m), they have a gap closer and a pull ability, and Hold the Line that can grant a huge speed boost with up to 10s of duration and only a 35s cooldown (with all utilities taken to buff Hold the Line).


As a class with a tank specialization, Vanguards have strong survivability. Possessing heavy armor, a strong defensive cooldown in Reflexive Shield, 30% AOE/Stun damage reduction, Vanguards are capable of stepping in to off-tank when a tank dies until they can be rezzed.

6.0 Impact on Discipline

After spending most of the 5.X patch cycle in a very strong position on the DPS charts, Tactics started 6.0 much weaker than most expected. Between the weaker position and the very strong synergy provided to Plasmatech by the Meteor Brawler set bonus and Superheated Fuel tactical, relatively few folks ran Tactics early on in 6.0.

Thankfully, the developers corrected course and provided some buffs to the discipline and changes to the Powerlode tactical that bring it in line from a DPS perspective. The discipline still seems slightly out of line with developer expectations - they seem to think Veteran Ranger should be the ideal set bonus and the early consensus in 6.1 is that Meteor Brawler is still the way to go - but the discipline is back to being a burst DPS powerhouse. Between Powerlode crits and Firefall burst, the discipline can crank out the huge burst damage better than anyone.


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.

Skillfull Tier

You must take 3 to advanced to Masterful.

Parallactic Combat Stims - You recharge 20 energy cells when stunned, immobilized, knocked down or otherwise incapacitated. Also, when incapacitated, your next Tech ability deals 10% damage or healing. This effect lasts for 15 seconds.

A highly useful utility for any fights with lots of physics-based mechanics, as it boosts energy regeneration and damage.

Reflective Armor - When Into the Fray is triggered, it will also deal elemental damage to the attacker if the attacker is within 10 meters.

Into the Fray is a passive ability that can be triggered from area attacks. Normally it will regenerate some energy and provide minimal healing. In any fights with lots of AoE damage this utility is worth taking. It is especially powerful in the Underlurker encounter due to the nearly constant AoE damage.

Iron Will - Reduces the cooldown of Tenacity by 30 seconds and the cooldown of Hold the Line by 10 seconds.

I usually take this utility in any situation where Hold the Line will be useful.

Shrap Satchel - Increases Explosive Surge damage by 25%.

Very situational, I only take this utility in fights where I know add control is important and I only need 2 of the 3 utilities above.

Muzzle Augs - Increases the range of Ion Pulse and Tactical Surge by 2 meters and the radius of Explosive Surge by 1 meter.

I almost never take but mention for high movement fights the additional range could be useful if no other utilities in this tier are needed.

Masterful Tier

You must take 6 between Heroic and Masterful.

Sonic Rebounder - Sonic Round protects all friendly targets in its area of impact, excluding you, granting Sonic Rebounder, which reflects the next direct, single target attack back at the attacker.

The best and only mandatory utility for Vanguards, this can provide a huge survivability boost (and in some cases even a notable DPS increase) through timely use of your AOE taunt / threat drop. Always take. See below for further discussion around potential uses of Rebounder.

Electro Shield - When activated, your Reactive Shield charges with electricity, zapping attackers for elemental damage when they deal direct damage to you. This effect cannot occur more than once per second.

A helpful DPS boost especially for tanks as they are usually taking direct damage, I usually take unless I need a utility below.

Frontline Defense - Reduces the cooldown of Riot Strike by 2 seconds. Also, damage taken while stunned is reduced by 30% for Shield Specialist, and damage taken from area effects is reduced by 30% for Plasmatech and Tactics.

A mandatory utility for DPS and a highly useful if situational utility for tanks. I always take as a DPS player and take as a tank for any encounter with notable stuns (e.g., Coratanni/Ruugar in Ravagers to reduce damage from Pearl’s stun attack).

Battlefield Training - Increases movement speed by 15%.

Can be useful on high movement fights. That said, I find between Harpoon, Storm and Hold the Line that is sufficient movement capability. Given that I frequently take utilities buffing Hold the Line, this utility seems redundant in most encounters.

Heroic Tier

A maximum of 3 utilities

Power Focus - Power Yield increases damage done by an additional 2% when attacked while Ion Cell is being utilized and refreshes its duration when attacked while Ion Cell is not being utilized. Power Yield cannot last longer than 30 seconds.

A helpful utility to all Vanguard players, as Power Yield functions as both an offensive and defensive cooldown. For tanks, Power Yield provides a slight DPS increase during its duration. For DPS, Power Yield’s duration is extended. I recommend taking this new utility in all situations.

Charge the Line - Hold the Line increases movement speed by an additional 45% while active.

I find this utility to be a much more useful choice than Advance the Line’s extra 4 seconds of duration and nearly always take it. For fights where Hold the Line is frequently useful, taking both as well as Iron Will provide a huge buff to Hold the Line.

Re-energizers - When Reserve Powercell is activated, it recharges 10 energy cells over the next 5 seconds and immediately increases threat towards all current enemies by a small amount if Ion Cell is active, or reduces threat towards all current enemies if Ion Cell is not active.

Extra energy regeneration is always useful. The additional increase to threat for tanks or threat drop for DPS is also useful. I usually take this utility, though I may sometimes opt for an extra lower tier utility for situational fights.

Advance the Line - Increases the duration of Hold the Line by 4 seconds.

I frequently take this utility if I don’t feel the need for an extra point to take a situational utility in a lower tier. The majority of movement phases in SWOTR are relatively short, so often the extra 4 seconds isn’t super useful. There are some exceptions, most notably the Rain of Pain phase in the Master/Blaster encounter in the Ravagers operation. That said, a further buff to your best movement ability is always nice so I find I frequently take it.

Aim Extensions - Battle Focus grants Aim Extensions while active, increasing the range of Ion Pulse, Tactical Surge, Flak Shell, Artillery Blitz, Energy Blast, Cell Burst, Plasma Flare and Plasmatize by 20 meters.

Very situational for fights where using abilities at range is desirable. Could be useful on fights like Master/Blaster, though in general the opportunity cost of other potential choices makes it sub-optimal.

Example Utility Build

Here is what I run for most encounters, though I frequently take other situational utilities for specific fights.

Key Passives

Serrated Blades - Increases the damage dealt by Gut's bleed effect by 15% and causes targets damaged by your Stockstrike to become Sundered, reducing their armor by 20% for 45 seconds.

This passive is notable for enabling Tactics to apply an armor debuff. This should happen rotationally so does not impact the rotation but should be applied as early as possible within the opener.

High Friction Bolts - High Impact Bolt may be fired at targets that are not incapacitated or suffering from periodic damage. Also, High Impact Bolt ignores 30% of the target’s armor, regnerates 5 energy cells if it hits a bleeding target, and refreshes the duration of your Gut's bleed effect, if present.

This passive and Tactical Accelerator are the foundation of Tactics energy management. Using High Impact Bolt as often as possible is key due to its 5 cell energy regeneration. This passive also buffs High Impact Bolt's armor penetration (effectively 50% when combined with the Sundered debuff applied by Stockstrike) and makes it useable on anyone.

Tactical Accelerator - Stockstrike, Tactical Surge, Flak Shell, and Explosive Surge finish the cooldown on High Impact Bolt and make the next High Impact Bolt deplete no energy cells. This effect cannot occur more than once every 6 seconds.

This passive is the most important to Tactics rotation. Due to High Impact Bolt being free when procced, regenerating 5 energy cells due to High Friction Bolt passive, plus passive energy regeneration, proccing Tactical Accelerator every 6 seconds becomes the most important goal of the rotation.

Havoc Training - Increases the critical strike damage bonus of Stockstrike, High Impact Bolt, Tactical Surge, Gut, Assault Plastique, and Cell Burst by 10%. Also, when Assault Plastique damages a target, the target will become Susceptible, increasing the damage it takes from tech attacks by 5% for 45 seconds.

This passive provides a helpful damage boost but is notable primarily for applying a second target debuff. Due to this buff and its high inherent damage, Assault Plastique should be used very early in the opener. As Assault Plastique should be used very nearly on cooldown in the rotation, the debuff should maintain full uptime.

Reflexive Shield - When you take damage, the active cooldown of Reactive Shield is reduced by 3 seconds. This effect cannot occur more than once every 1.5 seconds. Also, when taking damage, you have a 20% chance to emit an Energy Redoubt, which absorbs a low amount of damage lasts 6 seconds. This effect cannot occur more than once every 10 seconds.

This passive provides a helpful reduction in cooldown on Reactive Shield. Given that it is Vanguard’s primary defensive cooldown, this is a very needed passive benefit that can lower Reactive Shield's cooldown from 2 minutes to as low as 40 seconds if taking continuous damage (i.e., meaning that with a 15% duration of Reactive Shield, it’s uptime can range from 12.5% up to 37.5% of the fight).

Charged Loaders - Increases the damage dealt by Shoulder Cannon by 15%, and also loads 3 additional missiles. Also, this increases the critical hit chance of Stockstrike and Assault Plastique by 5%.

This passive gives Tactics additional uses of Shoulder Cannon. The additional 3 missiles load immediately but it is still important to wait before pulling a boss for all 7 missiles to be loaded so that they can all be fired during the opener.

Critical Recharge - Increases ranged and tech critical chance by 2% and reduces the cooldowns of Recharge Cells and Reserve Powercell by 30 seconds. Also, your energy regeneration ability builds Energy Lodes.

This passive is notable for allowing building Energy Lodes through your energy regen ability out of combat. This should be used to ensure every boss encounter is started with 4 Energy Lodes so Cell Burst is ready for use early in the opener.

Gearing in 6.0

Gearing Stat Allocation

Please see my Gearing Guide for a detailed overview of gearing in 6.x in SWTOR. Please also see my Alacrity Guide for a much more in-depth look at alacrity.

For Tactics Vanguard, I gear as follows:

  • Set Bonus: Meteor Brawler

  • Tactical: Powerlode (Flame Detonation only for very heavy AoE fights)

  • Amplifiers: Tech Wizardry

  • Mods: Unlettered Lethal Mods

  • Relics: Devastating Vengeance & Primeval Fatesealer (Serendipitous Assault & Focused Retribution for Dxun/PVP)

  • Stim: Proficient

  • Adrenal: Critical (Attack for Dxun only)

For Tactics Vanguard, I allocate my tertiary stats as follows:

  • Accuracy: 1,585 - 1,630 (anything outside this approximate range and I usually try to re-optimize by swapping around enhancements and augments)

  • Alacrity: around 1,400 (at least 1,895 if the Zeal guild perk applies)

  • Critical: all remaining tertiary points go into Critical

  • Shield: None

  • Absorb: None

Set Bonus

Meteor Brawler

Increased drop rate from operations.

(2) +2% Endurance

(4) Shockstrike and Stockstrike's energy cost is reduced by 4. Energy Blast, Shockstrike and Tactical Surge increase damage dealt by 10% for 15 seconds, this effect cannot occur more than once every 30 seconds.

(6) Activating Battle Focus gives you Ionfall for the duration of Battle Focus. During this time, dealing damage with Ion Wave, Ion Pulse, Tactical Surge, Stockstrike or Shockstrike builds up to 7 stacks of Ionfall. When Battle Focus ends, it detonates dealing elemental damage to all enemies around that scale with Ionfall stacks. After it explodes, your energy-using abilities cost 50% less energy for 20 seconds.


Meteor Brawler is an amazing set bonus for DPS between the 4-piece energy cost reduction and +10% damage buff that should have very high uptime and the 6-piece Ionfall damage and follow-on energy cost reduction.

Even though this set appears to have been developed primarily with Plasmatech in mind, it still provides great utility to Tactics. Stockstrike is already a key element in the Tactics rotation, so the energy cost reduction there is a noticeable benefit especially given that pre-6.0 set bonuses usually factored in an energy cost reduction already. Additionally, the 6-piece set bonus energy cost reduction following Ionfall helps Tactics just as much as Plasmatech.

Impact on Rotation:

Make sure to use Battle Focus as an offensive cooldown aggressively and make sure you build 7 stacks of Ionfall to maximize its burst damage and then be aggressive with energy to take full advantage of the 4-piece and 6-piece energy cost reductions.

When to Take:

I greatly prefer this set bonus to the Veteran Ranger set. It seems to me to be ideal for sustained DPS over the periodic “bonus missiles” provided by Veteran Ranger, and the consistent and burst energy cost reductions make Tactics more fun and easier to play without energy management difficulties. Absent further changes to buff Veteran Ranger from an energy management perspective, I anticipate keeping Meteor Brawler as my set bonus for both Vanguard DPS disciplines.

Veteran Ranger

Increased drop rate from Dxun Nature of Progress operation. Not available from Tech Frag vendor.

(2) +2% Mastery

(4) Dealing damage with Shoulder Cannon grants Salvo, increasing Shoulder Cannon damage by 3% for 5 seconds. This effect can stack up to 5 times. While Shoulder Cannon loads missiles you restore 2 energy per second.

(6) Each Shoulder Cannon rocket has a 75% chance to trigger an additional rocket. When Shoulder Cannon is put on cooldown, it applies Autocannon to you for 60 seconds, firing a rocket at your current target whenever you deal damage. This additional rocket can fire once every 10 seconds.


The developers have stated they intended the Veteran Ranger set bonus to be the preferred set bonus for Tactics. In my analysis it continues to fall short of Tactics primarily due to the weak benefits of the 4-piece set bonus.

The 4-piece set bonus provides some steady energy regeneration once every 1.5 minutes as you load Should Cannon missiles. This is nice but tricky to fully utilize since often Shoulder Cannon should be used to align with Battle Focus and/or Power Yield burst windows instead of for energy regeneration purposes. The secondary benefit making Ion Wave apply a debuff is just silly because (1) Ion Wave is not a rotational Tactics ability and is very energy-costly making it clunky within the rotation; and (2) the 5s duration is only enough to fit at most 4 missiles into the vulnerable window anyway, which makes very little sense to not provide a window to fully utilize all missiles.

In comparison to Meteor Brawler, the 4-piece simply pales in comparison. Meteor Brawler provides essentially a near-permanent 10% damage increase and a much better permanent cost reduction of 4 energy to Stockstrike. This 4-piece set bonus is soooo good and Veteran Ranger is just not that great.

The 6-piece set bonus is nice to provide periodic extra damage. Every 1.5 minutes you should be able to fire 7 missiles normally and up to 6 extra missiles from the 6-piece prior to the RNG chance for extra rockets. So that’s 13 missiles total with a chance to get another 3-5 missiles most of the time. Very respectable.

However, again it pales in comparison to Meteor Brawler. The Meteor Brawler provides an Ionfall massive burst damage ability every 2 minutes and then 20s of 50% energy cost reduction. Ionfall is likely already enough extra bonus damage to outweigh all the Veteran Ranger missiles but even if not then the extra spam of higher damage abilities made possible by the energy cost reduction tips the scales.

So in the final analysis, Veteran Ranger is neat but Meteor Brawler provides better and more usable energy management options, a better overall 10% damage buff and more controllable and targeted burst damage via Ionfall.

Impact on Rotation:

The only change would be to consider using Ion Wave prior to beginning Shoulder Cannon spam, though it’s unclear whether that is enough of a DPS increase to justify its cost and place in the rotation. Otherwise, the set bonus emphasis on additional missiles makes it even more important to align Shoulder Cannon spam with Battle Focus and Power Yield offensive cooldowns to maximize the additional damage.

When to Take:

I recommend Meteor Brawler over Veteran Ranger in all instances.

Tactical Items


Increased drop rate from operations.

Increases Cell Burst critical chance by 100%. Power Yield instantly builds 4 Energy Lodes and getting critically hit while under Power Yield builds an Energy Lode.


Even if it is may not be optimal in a sustained damage context, Powerlode is really fun when paired with the Meteor Brawler set bonus. Consider that you can hit Battle Focus (+25% critical chance for 15s) then trigger a 4-stack Cell Burst and have a cumulative +125% critical chance, which is more like 170% critical chance when considering base critical chance from stats. Oh and if Power Yield is off cooldown you can hit two 4-stack Cell Burst hits in a row… That is some CRAZY super crit damage, and even more if you use Power Yield to get some extra damage and/or have the +10% damage buff from the Meteor Brawler 4-piece set bonus running. Oh, and don’t forget Ionfall triggering at the end of Battle Focus and hitting another huge spike of burst damage.

The above is essentially all that needs to be said for Powerlode, as it gives Tactics a huge spike of burst damage that is accompanied periodically by another huge spike in Ionfall. It may not be the best tactical for sustained damage, but for any fights where burst DPS is a factor this one is great because it concentrates that damage increase in a very controllable way.

Impact on Rotation:

Try to time your use of Power Yield right after triggering Cell Burst. This will enable a second consecutive use without wasting any stacks of Energy Lode. If possible, try to time as many uses of Power Yield during Battle Focus as possible to further maximize the incremental damage increase.

When to Take:

I usually take Powerlode to maximize my burst damage windows. On fights that have no burn windows or downtime, I will sometimes swap to Energized Blade. That said, I usually stay with Powerlode because it is just a lot more fun.

Energized Blade

Increased drop rate from flashpoints.

Gaining an Energy Lode stack increases Retractable Blade's damage by 25% for 10 seconds. Stacks up to 4 times.


Energized Blade seems clearly intended by the developers to be the “sustained DPS” tactical versus Flame Detonation (the “AoE tactical”) and Powerlode (the “burst tactical”).

The main issue with Energized Blade for me is that Retractable Blade is not that strong a DoT and the discipline does not have a feature the enables the DoT to tick at an accelerated rate for any reason. Its purpose in the discipline is to facilitate energy management by making High Impact Bolt recover energy when procced by Tactical Accelerator.

So how much of a buff should this provide to Retractable Blade? The Energized Blade buff lasts 10 seconds and gains 1 stack every time we build an Energy Lode, which we can do every 6 seconds via High Impact Bolt. As such, we should be able to rapidly build up to the maximum 4 stacks of Energized Blade and should be able to keep the 100% buff thereafter assuming no downtime longer than 10 seconds.

Theorycrafting shows that Retractable Blade should deal around 10% of overall damage prior to considering tactical item buffs, so this tactical should provide an extra 10% of damage and buff Retractable Blade to dealing around 18% of total damage. This makes it a strong buff to sustained damage.

Is it better than Powerlode? I do not think that it is due to the synergy between Battle Focus providing +25% critical chance and Meteor Brawler's Ionfall damage providing a very powerful burst window. Tactics is fundamentally a burst DPS discipline so Powerlode plays better to its strengths.

Impact on Rotation:

Play normally in sustained damage situations and make sure to use High Impact Bolt in the rotation optimally to build Energy Lode stacks.

When to Take:

I recommend Powerlode over Energized Blade in all situations, though Energized Blade is still a solid tactical option for fights with high uptime on targets.

Flame Detonation

Increased drop rate from flashpoints.

Dealing damage with Ion Wave or Explosive Surge to a target affected by a pre-exploded Assault Plastique causes it to explode, creating a large explosion and dealing damage to all nearby enemies.


Tactics has a major weakness normally when it comes to dealing sustained AoE damage. Artillery Blitz and Ion Wave are nice AoE abilities but with a long cooldown, leaving the discipline left with only Explosive Surge. Even worse, the discipline’s energy management falls apart without continuing to use High Impact Bolt when procced, leaving the discipline unable to even spam AoE damage to the same extent as many other classes.

Assault Plastique is a strong single target damage ability, so making it an effective AoE ability is a huge help. Between that and the other cooldown-based AoE abilities and some spam of Explosive Surge, Tactics should be able to at least hold its own on the few fights where high AoE damage is a must.

With all that said, if you run both disciplines I would generally tend to swap to Plasmatech for heavy AoE fights.

Impact on Rotation:

In an AoE situation you should be using Explosive Surge as your filler ability anyway. Just use Assault Plastique on cooldown (as you would in a single target rotation priority) and then make sure to use Explosive Surge right after to spread its damage.

When to Take:

Any fights with heavy AoE damage requirements. Tactics deals fairly weak sustained AoE damage so requires this tactical to even deal decent sustained AoE damage. Taking the Meteor Brawler set bonus also helps provide some solid burst AoE damage via Ionfall.


Tech Wizardry

Tech Wizardry is an easy choice since the Vanguard disciplines deal primarily Tech damage and so get the largest DPS increase and the only increase that is consistent across both Tactics and Plasmatech.

Key Abilities

Power Yield (60s cooldown, instant) NEW IN 6.0 - Applies a stack of Power Yield to you, increasing your armor by 40% and your damage done by 2% for 10 seconds. Whenever you take damage, an additional stack of Power Yield is applied, up to 5 times.

Power Yield is a new cooldown ability in 6.0. It provides both an offensive and defensive boost and excels during phases where the player is taking damage.

Gut (15 cells, no cooldown, range 4m) - Stabs the target with a knuckle-plate vibroblade, dealing kinetic damage and causing the target to bleed for internal damage over 18 seconds.

Vanguard’s only DoT ability, it is refreshed by High Impact Bolt due to the High Friction Bolts passive ability. As such, it should only need to be applied when first engaging the target and will be refreshed automatically via the rotation.

Assault Plastique (15 cells, 15s cooldown, range 30m) - Throws an explosive that sticks to the target and detonates after 4 seconds, exploding for kinetic damage.

A high damage filler ability, Tactics players should strive to use this ability on cooldown. Note that Assault Plastique does NOT proc High Impact Bolt via the Tactical Accelerator passive ability, so it should be deferred to either Stockstrike or Tactical Surge if doing so will proc High Impact Bolt.

Stockstrike (15 cells / 11 cells with set bonus, 9s cooldown, range 4m) - Strikes the target, dealing kinetic damage.

Tactics only melee ability (other than the initial application of the Gut DoT), Stockstrike is a high damage filler ability and procs High Impact Bolt via the Tactical Accelerator passive ability. This should be used very nearly on cooldown.

High Impact Bolt (15 cells, 15s cooldown, range 10m) - Fires a very powerful round at the target, dealing weapon damage.

High Impact Bolt is the key to the Tactics rotation via various passives making it able to be procced every 6 seconds and making it free, regenerating 5 cells, granting an Energy Lode, and dealing extra armor penetration. High Impact Bolt should be procced every 6 seconds / 4 GCDs and should be used in the 3 GCDs afterwards prior to being procced again.

Tactical Surge (15 cells, no cooldown, range 10m) - Fires a concentrated surge of energy at an enemy target, dealing energy damage.

Tactical Surge is the Vanguard spammable filler dealing moderate damage. Tactical Surge procs High Impact Bolt via Tactical Accelerator and should be used to do so whenever Stockstrike is on cooldown. Skillful play of Tactics requires careful use of Tactical Surge to avoid compromising energy levels.

Shoulder Cannon (1.5 minute cooldown, range 10m) - Deploys a shoulder cannon that gradually loads 4 missiles over time. Tactics gets a bonus 3 initial missiles so receives 7 in total once all missiles are loaded. Once loaded, the shoulder cannon can be triggered again to fire against an enemy target within 10 meters, launching 1 missile that deals kinetic damage. A missile can be launched up to once per 1.5 seconds. Loading and launching the shoulder cannon does not respect the global cooldown and can be done while controlled. Once all missiles have been loaded, depleting all missiles puts the shoulder cannon on cooldown for 1.5 minutes.

Shoulder Cannon is a big reason that Tactics has such amazing burst damage capability. Shoulder Cannon should be pre-loaded before each fight and used during the opener. As much as possible, it should be used at the same time as the Battle Focus offensive cooldown to maximize its damage.

Cell Burst (20 cells, no cooldown, range 10m) - Unleashes your High Energy Cell's stored energy to decimate the target, dealing energy damage. This damage increases based on your current number of Energy Lodes. Energy Lodes build when High Impact Bolt is used, and up to 4 charges may be stored at once.

Tactics highest damage ability, Cell Burst should only be used with 4 charges (it will glow when 4 charges are present). Due to its higher cost, it should generally be paired with Reserve Powercell to maximize energy levels. It is important to use it at 4 charges but without delaying a proc of High Impact Bolt and avoiding capping (i.e., using High Impact Bolt when already having 4 Energy Lode charges will waste an Energy Lode and lead to a DPS loss due to less frequent Cell Bursts).

Hammer Shot (no cooldown, range 30m) - Basic attack.

Your free ranged filler. Use it whenever you are at range and without a gap closer or occasionally for energy management purposes.

Explosive Surge (15 cells, no cooldown) - Emits an Explosive Surge, dealing elemental damage to up to 8 enemies within 5 meters.

Tactics AOE filler ability, Explosive Surge also procs High Impact Bolt. In an AOE rotation, Explosive Surge is should be used in place of Tactical Surge.

Artillery Blitz (channeled over 3s, 30 cells, 15s cooldown, range 10m) - Calls down artillery strikes while unleashing plasma blasts that deal kinetic and elemental damage to up to 8 enemies in the targeted area while depleting 30 energy cells over the duration.

A useful AOE offensive ability. Should be paired with Reserve Powercell whenever possible.

Flak Shell (15 cells, 9s cooldown, range 10m) - FIres a high impact shell that instantly explodes on contact with the target, spraying the area with searing bits of slag that deal kinetic damage to up to 8 enemies within 8 meters of the initial target.

A useful AOE filler, though depending on utility choices Explosive Surge may still be preferable.

Storm (15s cooldown, range 10-30m) - Leaps to a distant target, dealing kinetic damage, interrupting the current action and immobilizing the target for 2 seconds.

Vanguard’s gap closer that deals low damage and can interrupt certain abilities. The immobilizing effect is not relevant in PVE content.

Cooldowns & Other Abilities

Harpoon (45s cooldown, range 10-30m) - Pulls target to your location and generates high threat.

Hold the Line - Grants 6 seconds of immunity from movement-impairing effects, knockdowns and physics and increases movement speed by 30%. 45s cooldown.

Sonic Round (45s cooldown, range 30m) - Fires a Sonic Round that taunts your target and all nearby enemies, forcing them to attack you for 6 seconds, if Ion Cell is active. If Ion Cell is not active, threat towards all current enemies is immediately reduced.

Battle Focus (2 minute cooldown) - Increases ranged and tech critical chance by 25% for 15 seconds.

Reserve Powercell (1:30 minute cooldown) - Your next ability depletes no energy cells. Effect lasts 15 seconds.

Recharge Cells (1:30 minute cooldown) - Recharges 50 energy cells over 3 seconds.

Reactive Shield - Increases damage reduction by 25% for 12 seconds. 2:00 cooldown.

Adrenal Rush - Applies a Health Monitor that lasts 60 seconds, which triggers Kolto Overload when your health is reduced to 35% or less. If your health is already 35% or less, it triggers immediately. Once triggered, it goes on cooldown for 3 minutes and rapidly heals you up to 35% of your max health for 10 seconds but will not exceed 35% of your max health.



The Tactics rotation revolves around proccing High Impact Bolt via the Tactical Accelerator passive ability, which can be done every 6 seconds / 4 GCDs. The proc makes High Impact Bolt free, and will regenerate 5 cells if Gut is active on the target (which it should always be active). This is the key aspect of the Tactics rotation given that the specialization has no free damaging abilities other than the basic Hammer Shot. As such, any player who fails to proc High Impact Bolt every 4 GCDs will do dramatically less DPS, either due to having to use Hammer Shot much more often or by wrecking their energy (typically both).

Beyond the overall goals to (1) maintain Gut on the target (which is automatically refreshed by the rotation, so only has to be applied once); and (2) proc High Impact Bolt every 4 GCDs, the rest of the rotation is all about tweaking and optimizing damage output. Make sure to use Cell Burst at 4 stacks prior to the next use of High Impact Bolt. Try to always use Assault Plastique and Stockstrike on cooldown. Try to ensure that Battle Focus burst windows are aligned with the availability of Cell Burst and Shoulder Cannon to maximize its benefit.

6.0 NOTE: This opener and rotation assumes the player is using the Powerlode tactical. If not using this tactical, the opener and priority will be slightly different as Cell Burst cannot be used consecutively via Power Yield within a Battle Focus window.


























  1. (Pre-fight) - Use energy regen ability to load 4 Energy Lodes

  2. (Pre-fight) - Load Shoulder Cannon missiles

  3. Assault Plastique - Since we usually have to run in or Storm in, I lead with this attack since it takes a few seconds to deal damage. As much as possible, I try to get close enough before pulling that I can skip a gap closer GCD per #5 as it allows more DPS in my opener by not delaying everything 1 GCD.

  4. Storm - Use a gap closer if you are unable to run in during the GCD that you apply Assault Plastique.

  5. Gut - First order of business is applying our DoT that forms the foundation of the rotation by enabling net-positive energy use of High Impact Bolt.

  6. Adrenal OFF GCD - We are about to start dealing crazy damage and ideally we trigger our adrenal before Assault Plastique explodes so its damage is also buffed.

  7. Battle Focus OFF GCD - Unloading cooldowns for our burst window

  8. Begin Spamming Shoulder Cannon OFF GCD - Always a priority to spam your missiles during a Battle Focus window. Most of these missiles will also benefit from Power Yield's damage buff as well.

  9. Cell Burst - The beginning of our burst window opens with a big hitter.

  10. Power Yield OFF GCD - Offensive cooldown and gives us 4 free Energy Lodes via the Powerlode tactical.

  11. Reserve Powercell OFF GCD - I always try to use for the second Cell Burst, though using it for the first one is fine also. I delay it mostly due to the many off GCD cooldowns being hit at once, so this smooths it out a bit better for us non-keybinders. If you don't use this energy cooldown early then you will crash your energy. This is usually enough for me to avoid going to far negative on energy so that once Ionfall triggers I can work my way out of it via the ability cost reduction from Meteor Brawler.

  12. Cell Burst - A second Cell Burst so quickly is crazy strong burst with the Battle Focus tactical.

  13. Sonic Round OFF GCD - A good time to hit a threat drop after the 1-2-3 of Assault Plastique and two Cell Bursts. It is very easy to pull aggro on Tactics at this point (and again when Ionfall triggers in a few more GCDs).

  14. High Impact Bolt - This should be your only non-free use.

  15. Stockstrike (procs High Impact Bolt / Rail Shot)

  16. High Impact Bolt (procced, free) - Need to use every 4 GCDs no matter what.

  17. Tactical Surge - Filler when nothing better is on cooldown

  18. Tactical Surge - Filler when nothing better is on cooldown

  19. Tactical Surge (procs High Impact Bolt) - Must proc every 4 GCDs

  20. High Impact Bolt (procced, free) - Need to use every 4 GCDs no matter what.

  21. Stockstrike - Prioritized over Assault Plastique in order to get its damage inside the Battle Focus window. (Note that Ionfall will typically trigger during this GCD and deal some more very high burst AoE damage.)

  22. Assault Plastique - This came off cooldown about the same time as Stockstrike in the previous GCD. Normally I would prioritize it first, but in this case using Stockstrike first gets all its damage inside the Battle Focus window while Assault Plastique will tick after the offensive cooldown expires either way. If Ionfall triggers before this GCD (it should trigger about the same time or just before depending on APM/alacrity), then I benefit more from the reduced energy cost by delaying it as well.

  23. Tactical Surge (procs High Impact Bolt) - Must proc every 4 GCDs

  24. High Impact Bolt (procced, free, 4 Energy Lodes) - Need to use every 4 GCDs no matter what.

  25. Cell Burst - The last big burst of our burst window.

(continue priority rotation - we should still have cost reduction on fillers from Meteor Brawler for a few more GCDs so we can continue to prioritize Tactical Surge over a basic attack and should continue to do so until we are forced to hit Recharge Cells then go back to the normal priority rotation and be very careful with our energy.)

Single Target Priority Rotation


Every 4 GCDs, Stockstrike > Tactical Surge

The most important goal of our rotation is to proc High Impact Bolt via the Tactical Accelerator passive ability. This passive can trigger every 6 seconds before alacrity, which means that net of alacrity it can always be triggered every 4 GCDs. Maximizing the proc rate for High Impact Bolt helps with energy regeneration, increases damage, and enables more frequent use of Cell Burst.


Within 3 GCDs following a proc, use High Impact Bolt while glowing to generate an Energy Lode, do high single target damage, and regen energy.

High Impact Bolt can be delayed 1-2 GCDs in order to use Stockstrike, Assault Plastique, or Cell Burst. That said, it cannot be delayed any more than GCD 3 following its proc, as doing so will lead to either delaying the next proc 1 GCD or wasting a use of High Impact Bolt.


When you have 4 Energy Lodes, use Cell Burst BEFORE next use of High Impact Bolt (use Reserve Powercell if possible).

Anytime Cell Burst is available with 4 stacks, it should be used before High Impact Bolt. This is because High Impact Bolt will build another stack, or it would normally as since we are maxed at this point in the rotation the stack would be wasted. Bear in mind that you can PROC High Impact Bolt without any issues, which should mean you have at least 4 GCDs and as many as 5 GCDs after Cell Burst starts glowing to use it.


Use Assault Plastique and Stockstrike on cooldown.

These two abilities are a DPS increase over Tactical Surge or your basic attack, and they are not locked in their usage unlike High Impact Bolt. Thus, the closer to their cooldown you use them, the more frequently they will be available and the higher DPS you should achieve.


Align use of Battle Focus and Shoulder Cannon for a burst window when Cell Burst (and adrenal if possible) is usable.

Anytime Cell Burst is available with 4 stacks, it should be used before High Impact Bolt. This is because High Impact Bolt will build another stack, or it would normally as since we are maxed at this point in the rotation the stack would be wasted. Bear in mind that you can PROC High Impact Bolt without any issues, which should mean you have at least 4 GCDs and as many as 5 GCDs after Cell Burst starts glowing to use it.


(If Recharge Cells is NOT available)

When above 80 energy, use Tactical Surge as a filler. When below 80 energy, use Hammer Shot.

The easiest mistake to make for Tactics is to over-use Tactical Surge. If you drop below 60 energy, it can be difficult to recover unless you can immediately hit a procced High Impact Bolt or have an energy cooldown available.


(If Recharge Cells IS available)

Use Tactical Surge as a filler until 20-30 energy, then use Recharge Cells and use priority above.

Recharge Cells will regenerate 50 energy over 3 seconds. Thus, if you use around 20 energy, you will regenerate to 70 energy via the ability. That should enable one use of an attack other than your basic attack and a basic attack or use of a procced High Impact Bolt (which will regenerate energy as well). My strategy is usually to try and use around 20 energy if I have High Impact Bolt available or can use a GCD to use a basic attack, otherwise I try to go no lower than 30 energy.

Rotation Analysis - 1, 2, 3, 4

The Tactics rotation block is the shortest of all disciplines at 4 GCDs (most are 6-12). It is also among the simplest with only 4 regular abilities (Stockstrike, Assault Plastique, High Impact Bolt, Tactical Surge) along with your basic attack and 2 semi-frequent abilities (Cell Burst and Shoulder Cannon).

As such, the key to decision making can seem complex per the discussion below, but it really comes down to internalizing the priority system above. The rotation is designed to make you monitor several things at once, such as (1) your energy level (deciding whether to use a basic attack or not); (2) whether the next GCD will proc High Impact Bolt; and (3) thinking several GCDs ahead to balance #1-2 along with optimizing usage of offensive cooldowns.

The analysis below is intended to look at each GCD within that 4-GCD mini-rotation. The beginning and end will be very fixed and easy while the 2nd-3rd spots will float a lot depending on available abilities, energy levels. The key to success will be thinking several GCDs ahead to minimize delay of powerful fillers while still proccing High Impact Bolt every 4 GCDs without messing up your energy.


Stockstrike > Tactical Surge

(to proc High Impact Bolt)

Our mini-rotation begins with proccing High Impact Bolt via the Tactical Accelerator passive. For single target damage, we can only do that via Stockstrike or Tactical Surge. Stockstrike is strictly better in all aspects so should always take priority.


Filler Priority (highest to lowest):

  1. Hammer Shot (If <60 energy and no energy CD available)

  2. Assault Plastique

  3. Stockstrike

  4. Cell Burst (ONLY at 4 stacks and glowing)

  5. High Impact Bolt (should be procced and glowing)

  6. Tactical Surge

Although the use of Cell Burst and High Impact Bolt are higher overall priority to the rotation, their use can be delayed a GCD if Assault Plastique or Stockstrike are off CD. This is because the generation of Energy Lodes and proc of High Impact Bolt is fixed for every 4 GCDs, so this prioritization should enable more frequent use of high damage fillers in Assault Plastique and Stockstrike.


Filler Priority (highest to lowest):

  1. Cell Burst (ONLY at 4 stacks and glowing)

  2. Hammer Shot (If <60 energy and no energy CD available)

  3. Assault Plastique

  4. Stockstrike

  5. High Impact Bolt (should be procced and glowing)

  6. Tactical Surge

The overall ability priority is the same except that Cell Burst becomes top priority if (1) it has 4 Energy Lodes; and (2) High Impact Bolt has not yet been used in this rotation. If these are true, Cell Burst must be used here so High Impact Bolt can be used in the next GCD, otherwise 1 Energy Lode would be wasted and would lead to lower DPS through less frequent use of Cell Burst.


Filler Priority (highest to lowest):

  1. High Impact Bolt (should be procced and glowing)

  2. Hammer Shot (If <60 energy and no energy CD available)

  3. Assault Plastique

  4. Stockstrike

  5. Tactical Surge

If High Impact Bolt has not been used yet, it takes absolute priority in this GCD to avoid delaying another High Impact Bolt proc and to avoid wasting High Impact Bolt. Cell Burst is not on the priority list, as if it had 4 Energy Lodes prior to this GCD it should have been used by now.


Stockstrike > Tactical Surge

(to proc High Impact Bolt)

We return to the beginning of the 4 GCD mini-rotation again and continue...

Tips & Tricks

The biggest trick to Tactics is thinking “1-2-3-4” for your rotation and making sure you (1) use High Impact Bolt in GCDs 1-3 and then (2) use Stockstrike or Tactical Surge in GCD 4. Skilled players do this without thinking. For early players, it really does help to think in this fashion. Proccing High Impact Bolt on CD will boost your energy regen and overall DPS.

The second biggest key to Tactics is deciding when you can use Tactical Surge and when to use Hammer Shot. Skilled use requires thinking a few GCDs ahead. For example, if you know that Assault Plastique and Cell Burst will be off cooldown in the next several GCDs and neither Reserve Powercell nor Recharge Cells are available, I would err on the side of Hammer Shot to make sure using my high damage abilities doesn’t wreck my energy. It’s impossible to get this perfect, but for newer players always go with Hammer Shot unless you are near maximum energy, and as you play the spec you will get more comfortable with this decision.

Another nuance to Tactics is deciding when to use High Impact Bolt in each mini-rotation. If everything is on cooldown except Tactical Surge and your energy is below 85%, use High Impact Bolt always. If the same is true but energy is above 85%, I would use Tactical Surge than High Impact Bolt on the next GCD (assuming doing so would not delay the proc of High Impact Bolt).

Defensive Cooldowns




  1. Reactive Shield (all damage) - Reduces all damage taken by 25% for 15 seconds. Reactive Shield is a good multi-purpose defensive but is not well suited to mitigating high burst damage, which really is Vanguard’s only weakness as compared to Guardians and Shadows who can cheese many Force/Tech attacks via Saber Reflect and Resilience, respectively. Care should be taken when to utilize this defensive. Recommended use is not necessarily to mitigate single burst damage abilities. Try to time your defensive to include a big hitting attack but also any high damage phases before or after depending on boss mechanics. Using it to mitigate one attack after which there is substantial down time is a huge waste of a Vanguard’s precious defensives.

  2. Adrenaline Rush (all damage) - When health goes below 35% it will provide a continuous heal for 8s, or if above 40% health will heal for 2% per second. This isn’t a defensive ability precisely but functions similarly by helping you recover from damage. Not useful against big spike damage, it is extremely useful against steady damage during a burn phase. Some examples include Draxus’ or add attacks, the tank challenge in Raptus, or burn phase in Dread Council.

  3. Sonic Round (raid utility) - Not helpful to the Vanguard tank directly, Sonic Round is extremely useful to help mitigate raid wide damage or potential one-shot attacks to non-tanks via the Sonic Rebounder utility. See the section at the end for some examples of potential effective use of Sonic Rebounder.

Tips to using Sonic Rebounder

  • KP Jorn & Sarg - Unload

  • KP Karraga - fire puddles

  • 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

  • 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