I've played a support guardian in both betas now and I was actually much happier with its performance this time around (maybe I was playing smarter, but melee seemed a lot more survivable -- and effective).
Admittedly, I'm only 38 and haven't really dicked around in the WvWvW or PvP at all, but I've done pretty much all the PvE content I could find (full map completions, every meta event, most of the dynamics that I could find, the available dungeons, etc).
In that time I've been playing mostly with a thief. Between the two of us we haven't really had any problems with difficulty -- until we hit some of the areas in Gendarran Fields, where the enemies are 2-3 levels or more higher than what you're scaled down to (a balancing issue like we had last beta maybe?). Even then, they're completely doable provided you use your damage mitigation correctly.
Almost all the enemies deal serious amounts of damage in very short time frames. You can avoid most of it with well timed evades or through the use of boons or conditions. For example, Flashing Blade (on the sword) is hugely effective in protecting yourself and your teammates. It's a teleport and three second AOE blind on a 12 second recharge. You can ward off a lot of damage to yourself and your group using that at the right time.
My favoured (norn) guardian build at the moment is Sword and Torch as primary weapons and Mace and Shield as secondary ones.. The sword has some decent mobility (teleport) and damage mitigation (blind and a ranged block) and deal okay damage. The torch has some AoEs with condition removal (and you can hurl zealot's flame at an enemy for greater single-target damage).
The mace and shield make you fairly tanky (though not in the traditional sense). The mace has a heal-on-third strike auto-attack, a healing/damaging/light field smybol, and even more impressive an area shield that deals knockback if an enemy hits your teammate and protection to everyone if you're not hit. Not to mention that the shield has a AoE wave attack that grants protection to allies and a projectile-blocking AoE knockback that doubles as yet another light field.
Between all those abilities you can apply a fair whack of healing and regeneration while mitigating a lot of the damage you and your allies will be taking, while also dealing moderate damage to groups of enemies. Combine them with Healing Breeze (your self-heal also gives some health back to any teammates in the cone), Hold The Line (more healing and protection), Signet Of Judgement (personal suvivability plus retaliation on allies), Stand Your Ground (gotta love stability -- for those horrible enemies with all the knockdowns and lifts), and either Tome Of Courage (for larger groups -- usually dungeons) or Renewed Focus (for everything else), and you're golden.
In answer to your questions, as far as it's been my experience:
The staff is a serious support option only if you've got 3-4 people with you. Any less than that and I found its performance lackluster at best. The weird thing I noticed was the powers all seem to revolve around allowing you and your teammates to either run away from a fight (using Martyr to steal cripples and so on and the the symbol to boost speed) or run into a fight (to catch up to running enemies and so on). I think it'd probably have better application in WvWvW than in PvE. Maybe I'm wrong though.
The hammer is also another one where its usefulness is kinda questionable in PvE. It deals okay damage in an okay area of effect and has a blast AoE (which plays nice with Elementalists and so on), but the immobilize and ring abilities are kinda underwhelming in PvE. The ring works okay to keep people away from you or to keep them all grouped up for the AoE, but the long recharge kinda limits its usefulness overall. More often than not I found myself using the launch and the ring to protect myself and teammates from melee enemies while I was trying to revive someone. So... I suppose it's good for that.
Both of those weapons I pretty much avoided after the initial "learning to use the weapon" period. They really didn't suit my style of play and in the smaller group settings I wasn't finding their abilities all that useful. So... For what my opinion's worth: avoid in PvE.
Sanctuary I don't know about. There are only so many skill points, y'know... But... From what I've seen of it, it can be employed very well in PvE. The healing isn't huge, but what amounts to 10 seconds of immunity to attack (provided the placement is right) can be very,very useful for keeping your team alive.
As for whether the support guardian is viable in dungeons, well... In story mode, there's no doubt at all. In explorable mode, a lot depends on your specific build and what your teammates are doing. If you've got lots of highly mobile ranged professions in your mix, you'll find it quite a bit harder to include everyone in the AoEs you're using. Overall though, as far as support characters go, the guardian is way up on the list of viable options.
The effects can be an issue at points in the game, yeah. You should try playing with a group of four elementalits and see if you can see anything at all for all the fire or lightning or whatever. =)
Geralt RomalionMember Since 11 Jun 2012
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