12/13: Back in the game since my real-life friends started playing.
I have received quite a few questions and PM ever since I mentioned on and off the forums that I play an aggro magnet guardian. I think it's time I share some of my experiences.
When I reached level 80 about 3 weeks after launch, I remember the hype at that moment was support guardian with cleric gear (paladins!). But I didn't like playing support as the support is pretty weak in this game and I also didn't want to purchase a separate armor set for dungeons since I'm pretty broke (who wasn't at the beginning? )
I fooled around a little and it didn't take me too long before I come to the conclusion that the best role for a guardian is to be a tank. After all, guardians have the highest base armor, awesome self-healing via virtue of resolve and altruistic healing, and have the most amount of defensive skills and utilities at their disposal. What's the point of having so many defensive skills, utilities and traits if I don't use it to tank?
The vision I had at that time was me tanking while 4 other party members pew pew safely from range. If that's true, then I can almost single-handedly dictate the success of my PUG group. I get to control my own destiny in PUG groups, great!
I have to say here all that is just my personal belief and you're free to disagree. I know that tanking might not be everyone's cup of tea.
Aggro Mechanics (Simplified version)
One significant hurdle stands between me and my utopia: how does aggro work? After some testing and fact gathering, I believe the following factors come into play
1) First sight
5) Support via healing/boon/res
7) Remaining health
8) Luck (it's truly random sometimes)
Everything on the list is intuitive except for toughness. The counter-intuitive fact is that having more toughness will actually attract more aggro on lots of instances, especially bosses. This turns out to be the most important factor in gaining and holding aggro.
Note: There is a more detailed version of aggro mechanics at the end of this post.
My hypothesis is that aggro is calculated as the weighted sum of all the listed factors. For the mobs to switch target, the new target need to have an aggro that is greater than the old target's aggro by a certain amount. Performing various actions such as ressing a downed teammate may add a significant amount of aggro thus making the mob change target.
So to prevent losing aggro, you need to build up a huge enough aggro differential compared to the next aggro target of your team. The logical way to do this and which synergizes with the whole concept of being a tank is to stack toughness. I find that to be effective, you need to stack toughness to the point where your armor is 3000+.
At the same time, DPS matters. If you hit like a wet noodle, you'll lose aggro because the aggro differential from the toughness difference alone is going to diminish as the fight drags on.
Once I get all that down, the plan to gain and maintain aggro is easy: In order of importance
1) Stack toughness
2) Stack DPS
3) Heal only when I'm truly low on health. If I can stay at 8k health and have no danger of getting downed, I don't heal.
4) Charge headfirst into battle
5) Use melee weapons and have shield as off-hand if possible
6) Spread boons via shouts
Do note that it is not enough to just stack toughness, you also need decent DPS to be able to gain and hold aggro.
If you have played around with guardian traits, you could basically guess the traits from points 1,2,5 and 6.
Valor 30 is a no-brainer. We get to stack toughness, get +30% to crit damage, and get access to altruistic healing for awesome self-healing.
Radiance 30 to get the DPS. The largest DPS boost comes from the last 10 points (radiant power and right-hand strength) so unfortunately going full 30 is a must.
Honor 10 for the vitality, vigor (need to dodge pretty often) and shout cd reduction.
Except for knight's helm, I run 5x Orrian armor with power, vitality and toughness (soldier).
The accessories are beryl amulet, 2x Emerald Orichalcum Earring (knight) and 2x Emerald Orichalcum Ring (knight). The rings, earrings and backpack are slotted with exquisite ruby jewel.
Rune-wise I have 6x Superior rune of divinity (I got it when it's below 1 gold) but it's not a must and you could run with rune of the soldier, dolyak or earth. The key thing is to get to 3000+ armor (I have 3150 armor or 1939 toughness),
I know Rune of divinity is freaking expensive at the moment (5g each), so an alternative would be 3x emerald orb + 3x beryl orb for a total of 102 power, 60 precision, 6% crit damage, 42 vitality and 42 toughness. You lose out on some survivability and DPS but it's not that much.
Theoretically speaking, sword + shield fills the criteria the best although sometimes I run GS (just love it too much). On various occasions I also use hammer, mace or focus as offhand. Keep in mind that if you run a 2H, you can change right-hand strength to perfect inscriptions and get 15% damage reduction with signet of judgement. This allows you to facetank with hammer on various occasions.
The second weapon set is always scepter + focus for the non melee friendly boss. I will opt to go range whenever I know I could maintain aggro even at range (this happens more often than you think). Scepter also hits pretty decently with this setup; 61% crit chance, +66% crit damage. Scepter auto-attack will hit for 1-1.5k on crit during the level 80 dungeons. In fact, I recommend anyone trying out this build to avoid melee at the beginning and go scepter + focus. Get used to the aggro before going melee.
Sigil of superior force on 2H and offhand and sigil of superior accuracy/air/fire/ice/frailty on 1H weapons.
Healing, utility and elite skills
Healing: Signet of resolve or Shelter.
Utility: depends on situation, but in general, it's 3 shouts (hold the line, retreat and save yourselves; stand your ground if there is knockdown) or 2 shouts (retreat and save yourselves) with signet of judgement.
Elite: Renewed focus.
Recommended food buff
Omnomberry pie for 66% chance to lifesteal on crit with no internal cooldown. The most OP food buff ever. Synergizes extremely well with 60+% of crit chance.
*Wielding a greatsword during this screenshot
TLDR: Aggro magnet Guardian
A walk through CoF path 1(Ferrah)
Just to give you a sense of what to expect, here's what happens if you bring such a Guardian to CoF path 1.
1) Flame region turrets and mobs
Smite -> flashing blade (or leap of faith)
Gain aggro of the two silver mobs (look out for fire!)
2) Slave driver
Stay in scepter + focus. Boss will beeline towards you unless there is a melee. You will gain the aggro of the effigy depending on the positioning (first sight).
3) Bridge event
The champion mob will eventually direct all its fire on you. Face away from party. Can be facetanked if another party member can stack weakness.
4) Same as 1
5) Kill the acolytes
3 - 5 mobs will be on you (due to proximity, the rest will be going after other party members)
6) Rolling boulders and vault (aggro doesn't matter here)
7) Searing effigy
Stay range. You will be the target of its long-range single target attack.
A word of caution here. Because the lower-level dungeons such as AC, CM and TA tend to have more mobs per fight, and because damage, vitality and healing are poorly scaled at these levels. you're going to get focused fire by the mobs and be downed incredibly fast if you're not prepared. You may want to switch to 0/30/30/5/5 instead to exploit the fact that more mobs = more VoJ spam = more might = more healing from altruistic healing.
Aggro Mechanics (Detailed version)
In a way, the aggro mechanic in GW2 is not that much different than the aggro mechanic in WoW. Most of the concept of aggro from WoW applies here. So, if anything, you might want to look up how aggro and threat are managed in WoW before coming back here.
Threat and aggro tables still exist in GW2, they are just way less transparent how they are actually calculated. GW2 also throws in a few extra factors into play (see the list earlier) while having no taunt skills to directly pull aggro. However, the standard tactic for a tank to do the opening moves to gain aggro still holds here.
Complication arises once the full party engages. At this point, the question becomes: how does the designated tank with high toughness hold aggro? In WoW, the mob switches target once the threat by another character exceed the tank's by a certain amount. The same applies here. So understanding how threat is generated is the key to understanding how aggro is held.
My hypothesis is that threat is calculated as a weighted running sum of
1) damage dealt
2) boon generated
3) specific actions such as ressing (generates a large one-time threat)
4) remaining health
The weights are determined by
1) toughness, the more toughness that you have, the higher the weights (my conjecture is that the higher weights come into play more prominently when armor exceeds 2600)
2) equipment, i.e. equipping a shield increases the weights
To put all these into perspective, let's consider a sequence of events during a typical boss fight.
1) A high toughness tank with 1H melee weapon and shield aggro boss.
2) The rest of the party starts to DPS.
3) Threat is generated by damage dealt. Suppose the tank hits like a wet noodle. So despite the higher threat generation weight, a glass cannon D/D thief managed to pull the aggro off the tank.
4) Boss kills thief. Boss continues to hit downed thief until thief stealths.
5) Boss goes back to hitting tank.
6) Another players starts to rez the thief, instantly generating a huge amount of threat and pull the aggro from the boss.
7) Boss kills player ressing ..... chaos ensues...
It all goes wrong because the tank doesn't have enough DPS. It's not that much different from WoW really. Sufficient DPS to make sure that the DPSer doesn't pull aggro off. That's why I stressed the importance of having enough DPS.
Have fun tanking!
11/12: Added a section to clarify maintaining aggro and gear choices. Added alternative to rune of divinity. Added recommended food buff.
11/13: Added screenshot of final stats.
1/4: Added some further thoughts on aggro mechanics.
Edited by paradiselight, 04 January 2013 - 04:58 PM.