Samtinory’s Mod 14 Guardian Fighter (Tanks, Buffs, and DPS)
Andrew J Baillargeon
My in-game name (for my Guardian Fighter) is Samtinory. This class has been my main since Day 1; my personal in-game pride and joy, the class I’ve spent the most time learning, grinding for, spending AD on, and the whole enchilada. I finally decided I would take what I’ve learned to the MMO Minds realm, mostly because I feel like I know a lot about this class, and can offer a lot in the manner of useful information to those who seek it out. This is a guide I would like to update as future mods come and go, and has been recently updated to accommodate for the new Mod, Mod 14, incorporating all of Barovia and Castle Ravenloft.
This guide will contain:
An overview on Guardian Fighters
Elaborating on key terminology that specifically pertains to Guardian Fighters
Analyzing the Guardian Fighter in today’s metagame
This guide will cover the following for Tank Guardian Fighters, DPS Guardian Fighters, and Buff Guardian Fighters in order:
1. A brief overview on each specific playstyle
2. The best gear, starting from head and armor, and ending on shirt and trousers
3. The best artifacts, primary and secondary, to run
4. The best companions, summoned and active, each playstyle has
5. The best legendary mounts and mount powers that each playstyle could be running
6. Mount insignia bonuses that are optimal for each playstyle
7. The best powers to run, and for what scenarios
8. The best feats to run
9. The best weapon and armor enchantments each have to run
Without further ado, let’s begin.
Overview on Guardian Fighters:
I like to compare this class to the Control Wizard class; this class is extremely misunderstood. Nobody, sometimes not even some GFs themselves, understands exactly what this class is meant to do, what it accomplishes, what interacts best with it, and all. The simple truth is people will typically prefer DPS Guardian Fighters over the other two kinds, and for different reasons, all of which depend on the party and the content being run. Before Castle Ravenloft came out, when Cradle of the Death God was the cutting edge content, GF Tanks were totally unheard of. Totally outclassed by Oathbound Paladins in this ten man trial, this is because a majority of the buffs a GF gives off are group specific, meaning only half the party will be able to benefit from them. Meanwhile, the OP’s Powershare is shared to the entire ten person party, which ends the debate right then and there. Castle Ravenloft has somewhat brought the GF Tank back to relevance, if only because GFs Tank the Sisters of Strahd a bit more effectively than OPs. That said, OPs can, with a bit of practice, eventually end up Tanking the fight just fine, so this is only really an advantage for a Tank who isn’t terribly experienced with Ravenloft, but understands shield cancelling and knows how to maximize usage of the Fighter’s Recovery daily. While OPs are still going to be preferred as Tanks in most other content, GFs have a few tricks up their sleeves that will you potentially think otherwise if a good one comes knocking on the door. First off, let me make two things clear: 1. Into the Fray and Commander’s Strike are NOT the only two buffs a GF should bring to the table, nor should they be the only two buffs the player is under the belief they are receiving from a good GF. Second, Debuff GFs are absolutely a thing. ITF and CS are our most well known support moves. They are both tremendous buffs, but this guide will go more indepth on an entire arsenal of other buffs and debuffs an optimized GF should be running. In truth, Buff GFs and Tanks are not terribly different, from a well optimized lense. To that point, DPS GFs and Buff GFs don’t have to have entirely different builds, even if it is better for a Buff GF to be tankier than the typical DPS GF build. As a closing note, DPS GFs are somewhat fickle and quite reliant on party support; we are a somewhat niche build, but we have by far and away the highest ceiling of any DPS class in the game as we are still quite capable of doing insane things, such as killing Orcus on Tomb of the Nine Gods in three fell hits. Our single target is amazing, and our AoE isn’t half bad either.
Important terms for a GF to know:
ITF= Into the Fray (encounter power)
CS= Commander’s Strike (encounter power)
CP= Crushing Pin (important feat for all three playstyles)
ET= Enforced Threat (encounter power)
KC= Knight’s Challenge (encounter power)
GW= Griffon’s Wrath (encounter power)
SWW= Shield Warrior’s Wrath (class feature power)
SSC= Soul Sight Crystal (artifact DPS GFs must have)
KB= Knee Breaker (encounter power)
Tac= Tactician (Tac GFs= the paragon Tanks and Buffs need to be going down)
ToI= Tide of Iron (At-Will power)
WMS= Weapon Master’s Strike (At-Will)
KV= Knight’s Valor (encounter power)
VM= Villain’s Menace (important Daily power)
A quick look at GFs in today’s metagame:
As previously mentioned, DPS GFs are quite volatile. With the correct party built around them, DPS GFs are absolutely devastating. Without such a party, they can still be effective, but will usually be unable to reach their true potential. Where most classes, such as Great Weapon Fighters and Hunter Rangers, fit onto just about any party, a DPS GF trying to reach their ceiling has some extremely specific demands. Speed-running end game parties will usually try to meet these demands, but most other parties will not. To conclude that note, DPS GFs are extremely inconsistent, but have a potential that is quite easily higher than any other DPS class in the game, hands down. This guide will touch base on what exactly a good party to be built around a GF truly is. As for Buff GFs, Buff GFs have grown to be quite popular ever since Cradle of the Death God and Castle Ravenloft came out. The reasons for this are simple; while yes, the GF has a number of debuffs up its sleeve, two of the class’ buffs in Into the Fray and Commander’s Strike are heavy buffs. In a party of 10, you have pretty much definitely hit your debuff cap. This is also the case in a serious end game group preparing to take on Castle Ravenloft. Buffs, at that point, are invaluable; especially considering ITF is a speed buff, which aids some greatly in not falling off at CODG’s push/pull. For Tanks, as previously mentioned, their needle had been going in the opposite direction, but things have slightly turned around since the creation of Castle Ravenloft.
Now, let’s have a more in depth look at Tank GFs:
A brief overview on this playstyle:
Where we have Oathbound Paladins, who essentially tank off of temporary HP and, to a lesser extent, their damage output, you’ve got Guardian Fighters: good ol’ fashioned mitigation tanking. The concept of stacking Defense and HP to Tank is quite old school, just as much as the concept of a GF Tank is. While they are still viable outside of CODG, this particular playstyle has certainly seen better days. While they are certainly capable of providing useful buffs to the party, often this class comes up short to the Oathbound Paladin in tanking, because many of the OP’s best buffs are provided by simply existing. Meanwhile, in order to actually Tank, the GF often has to give up a decent amount of Buffing potential, and, by association, often does pitiful damage depending on the content being run (looking at you, FBI). Unfortunately, we have to have a minor emphasis on our DPS. Unlike OPs, who have multiple powers that do the aggro work for them, a GF has to be a little bit more mundane: we hold threat with a number of different powers and feats, combined with our ability to actually damage our opponents. Thankfully, the ratio is very easy to meet: if the DPS isn’t outdamaging us on roughly a 50:1 ratio, we usually don’t struggle to hold threat. This is only really an issue when Tanking Orcus in Tomb of the Nine Gods, when the main DPS takes the right key to double their DPS. Not to say that this playstyle is unviable, as it is definitely not, but it is simply outshined by OPs in virtually every facet imaginable. Keep this in mind if you decide to seriously create a GF Tank; finding runs in end game content, particularly with high level players, will be difficult.
Best gear on the Tank GF:
Head: Crown of the Undead, Shieldlord’s Head: Crown of the Undead is an interesting tool. While the DPS GF can make better use of it, and got another standout helm, the GF Tank got the Crown of the Undead and new Shieldlord’s helm to work with this mod. Undead can really work for maximizing your ability to aggro a mob. It synchronizes well with the GF Tank’s rotation, and also allows the Tank to pull mobs all in 1 spot, for the team’s DPS to smash. If you use the Crown, make sure to communicate this with the DPS, so they know to watch for the mobs to end up pulled in towards you. Of course, if you can’t get a hold of the Crown, or would prefer the better flat stats, a Shieldlord’s helm is right up your alley, obtainable through Seals of the Crown, which are earned running Castle Ravenloft. Of course, the Primal helm and Rex Corona have gone the way of the dinosaur (pun absolutely intended) and are no longer really worthy of consideration.
Armor: Fured Kiuno of the Bear, Shieldlord’s armor: not a ton of particularly appealing options here, but for its solid stats and good equip bonus, Fured Kiuno of the Bear gets the nod. Again, more damage= better aggro, making it the optimal choice. The Polaris hunt in Omu drops these quite often, and because Polaris is a T1 hunt, it’s fairly easy to obtain. With Shieldlord’s outclassing even Vivified Primal Armor, there is no reason to consider Primal over Shieldlord’s. Of course, Primal is still serviceable (and can work, since obtaining enough Seals of the Crown to get Shieldlord’s will be tough for a GF Tank to begin with) but is outclassed entirely by Shieldlord’s, and should be replaced by Shieldlord’s or the Fured Kiuno of the Bear as soon as possible.
Arms: Lycosa’s Barbed Gloves, Fearbringers, Survivor Wraps: Say goodbye to the Ring of the Cursebringer and HELLO to the newest piece of kick ass gear: the Lycosa’s Barbed Gloves. Great flat stats, an unbeatable equip bonus, the ability to relieve ourselves of running an otherwise worthless ring, all mesh together to make the undisputed best set of Arms in the game for a GF Tank, and if you come across a set, equip them without hesitation. That being said, Survivor Wraps for Tanks shot straight up in viability this mod, and that all had to do with tanking the Sisters of Strahd fight. Slap on Shield Warrior’s Wrath, make sure to keep up Fighter’s Recovery, and you will end up proccing SWW what seems like a million times in this fight. Of course, Fearbringers have superior flat stats and a not too shabby equip bonus themselves, and because of this, they will usually be preferred since they don’t inhibit the GF Tank’s survivability like the Wraps do. Of course, Shieldlord’s are viable for possessing the best flat stats in the game, but you really want to get the equip bonus off of either Fearbringer’s or Survivor Wraps. As a closing note, Wraps are still useful even outside of the Sisters of Strahd fight. While clearly, you aren’t trying to be a DPS, dealing more damage certainly helps, especially seeing as how you’ll be taking hits and spamming Fighter’s Recovery or VM ad nauseum either way. Note that Wraps should only be run if you plan to equip Shield Warrior’s Wrath, as otherwise there would be no point to running Wraps, since the GF Tank does not spec into Reckless Attacker and would therefore not get anything out of Wraps at all if Shield Warrior’s Wrath was left unequipped.
Main/Off Hand: MC3 set, Primal set, Pioneer set, Sunset set: MC3 set is a pretty straightforward set. Giving everyone a 2% buff to their outgoing damage and damage resistance is solid, and though the bonus is small, nothing else we have gives a buff like that, giving it the nod. Primal is a solid option; we are Tanks and will proc its equip bonus pretty much 100% of the time. Pioneer makes sense, and should be used instead of Primal if you are short on either Recovery or Armor Pen, as it provides the best array of flat stats of any set in the game when in a party. Sunset set should only be considered over Primal when in Barovia. Frankly, the thinking of equipping weapons based on what area you’re in is plainly unappealing, but if you’re one to min/max (you would probably have MC3 if you were like this, but I digress) then Sunset outclasses Primal when in Barovia (more importantly, Castle Ravenloft) and should be run under this circumstance.
Feet: Heels of Fury, Boots of the Willed, Tempter’s Sabatons- it should be noted that the equip bonuses on the Fured Kiuno of the Bear and Heels of Fury do NOT stack, because they are the same exact buffs. If you get a hold of Heels of the Fury, keep them and scrap the Bear armor. That said, Boots of the Willed are our next best bet: decent enough flat stats and a great equip bonus to buff up our Aggravating Strike make it a quality choice. The Tempter’s Sabatons are an interesting and definitely viable piece of work as well, for having good flat stats and a great equip bonus, useful especially at a low level, but also persisting to the end game as well. Shieldlord’s deserves a mandatory honorable mention for possessing the best flat stats in the game.
Neck: Lichstone Amulet, Cloak of Valhalla, Baphomet’s Infernal Talisman: One of the few facets of the GF Tank to remain unchanged into Mod 14, Lichstone Amulet gives AC, Recovery and Defense. Best flat stats in the game hands down, and it also is a key cog of the Mastercraft set, with Alacrity being like cocaine for a Tank GF. It is truly BiS by a mile for a Tank GF. Cloak of Valhalla is a budget option, inferior to Lichstone in just about everyway, not giving us Alacrity, but the Valhalla set is still solid, giving a unique debuff that almost never hits a cap, and having good flat stats in its own. That set bonus, however, is not so great in practice: we take hits perfectly fine without it, the set bonus will usually not protect our allies from dying, and as previously mentioned, the set is outdated. Baphomet’s is a fine option for simple damage output from the Demon Lord’s Immortality set, but only if it is used alongside the Demogorgon’s Girdle for a Waist and a Shard of Orcus Wand artifact; otherwise, it is pretty much useless. Fanged Beaded Amulet is not a bad option, but it is beaten out by the Lichstone Amulet, as the Lichstone Amulet not only has better stats for a Tank GF, but it’s also noticeably cheaper and easier to get. While the set bonus conveyed by the Vistani set may seem appealing on paper, to be used to give Enforced Threat or VM a nifty debuff, in practice, it is incredibly difficult to make actual adequate use of, and dedicating an entire artifact, neck and waist to a mere 5% debuff is a terribly inefficient way of providing such a debuff, especially if you’re in a party which is hitting their debuff cap.
Rings: If you cannot get ahold of the Lycosa’s Barbed Gloves for arms, make sure to have at least one Ring of the Curse Bringer. Proccing CP is godlike for us, and is a great buff, notably one of the few we can proc passively if we have this ring. If you have the Lycosa’s Barbed Gloves, Cursebringer instantly goes from undeniably best in slot to becoming totally expendable. What you could then do for your 2 rings is you could try to maximize your Defense, to improve your ability to take hits and improve upon your Martial Mastery feat. You could grab a couple rings that improve your Recovery (preferably one that has two Offense slots) or you could grab Rings of the Gravestriker/Shadow Stalker for their respective equip bonuses, for help holding threat. Depending on your stats, there’s usually not a bad direction you could go here, and you can mix and match this depending on your stats. If you go for the former, a Lichstone Ward Ring or a Ring of Defensive Action will get the job done. Ring of the Deathdasher +5 is an intriguing option as well, but doesn’t quite hold up to the other two, though it turns into a really good idea if you’re Tanking FBI for the hill climb. If you want a ring along the lines of the second option, a Beaded Restoration Ring will be your fairly straightforward best bet.
Waist: Lichstone Sash, Beaded Sash, Demogorgon’s Girdle of Might: Like with the neck, the Waist selections did not get any better in the transition to Mod 14. If you got the Lichstone Amulet (or the Fanged Beaded for that matter) do not consider anything other than Lichstone or Beaded Sashes; Alacrity is way too good to justify getting anything else. Valhalla Belt is the go-to if you picked the Cloak of Valhalla, if only for completing the set; do know, though, it is outdated and totally inferior to the Mastercraft set. Finally, if you picked Baphomet’s Infernal Talisman, Demogorgon’s Girdle of Might is the waist you’d need to select to make choosing Baphomet’s make any sort of sense at all. Fortunately, the Demogorgon Girdle has pretty solid stats for GFs. The set also has the benefit of helping save some AD if you planned to also make a DPS GF down the road.
Shirt/Trousers: Shirt of the Chultan Merchant and Lower Primal Paints are going to be your best combo. The Recovery gained from the Chultan Merchant shirt is awesome, and by far beats out the insignificant bonus to our dailies that the Upper Primal Paints provides. Lower Primal Paints get the nod, mostly because nothing else really stands out, and they possess the best flat stats, and have a slight edge against the competition with a decent equip bonus.
A quick look at the Tank GF’s best artifact options:
Primary: Champion’s Banner, Charm of the Serpent, Heart of the Black Dragon, generic buff/debuff artifact: a pretty good deal of freedom here. Generally, an artifact with a buff or debuff will do. However, know that they don’t all stack. Also know that there are classes “known” to run these artifacts. For example, Divine Oracle Devoted Clerics usually run Heart of the Black Dragon, which would render ours slightly redundant if it was our artifact of choice. That said, Heart of the Black Dragon is a wonderful fit alongside the Artificer’s Persuasion insignia bonus, which would still afford it at least some merit, even if the DO or someone else is also running it. Champion’s Banner, however, gets the nod as our best artifact; absolutely perfect flat stats combined with being a great buff/debuff make it nearly unbeatable. Coming in as a new potential addition from Mod 14, is the Thirst artifact. Bear in mind that, in order to make decent use of the Thirst artifact, you MUST know how to shield cancel the lunging aspect of the artifact, as otherwise you could literally end up flinging yourself off an entire platform depending on where you are. As of now, it is unknown as to whether or not Thirst stacks, and because the set it is associated with is BiS for Oath of Protection Oathbound Paladins, you may wish to keep a keen eye out for this, and try to use yours after the Paladin’s debuff has worn off, or communicate with them to do vice versa.
Secondary artifacts: Like with other classes, we want these artifacts to have optimal flat stats, which involve giving us Recovery, Defense, Hit Points, and any assortment of Armor Pen, Crit Strike, or Power, if needed. Heart of the Black Dragon could go here for its solid stats if you wanted to mix and match it with another buff/debuff artifact, depending on the party composition and who’s running what. If you chose to run Baphomet’s Infernal Talisman and Demogorgon’s Girdle of Might as Neck/Waist, Shard of Orcus Wand becomes mandatory to complete the set bonus as a secondary artifact. Heart of the Blue Dragon is an underrated artifact as well; remember that our Mark gives automatic Combat Advantage, which the 3rd bonus on the Blue Dragon automatically boosts our ability to do damage to whatever we’ve marked. The Recovery and Crit on it are solid as well. Waters of Elah’zad is also pretty solid for its stats. The Tome of Ascendance, Eye of the Giant and Wheel of Elements are solid for their stats as well. No new artifacts were introduced transitioning to Mod 14 that are worthy of particular mention for secondary artifacts.
The best leg mounts for Tank GFs:
By far, the Swift Golden Lion is BiS. For a multitude of reasons, really. The most obvious is that it greatly improves everyone’s survivability, including your own. A couple not so obvious things it does are proc CP and give a minor buff to your DPS (assuming that they were able to keep up their temp shield). However, the Lion is not the only serviceable option. The Commander/Warpainted Tyrannosaur get mandatory mention for being near infallible in every way: good stats, great combat power which also procs CP. Nothing to not like here. The Tenser’s Floating Disc is not a bad choice as well, with a solid combat power and great stats for us. The Legendary Carpet of Flying may suit slightly better than the Tenser’s Disc, though; it procs CP, has great stats, and its combat power has decent practical function at mobs by drawing everything in one area for the DPS to smash. This particular aspect of it should be utilized in conjunction with a Crown of the Undead (if you have one equipped) to hold mobs in one place for a significant amount of time. If you learn to truly abuse these features, you should be able to hold stuff in place long enough for the DPS to totally wipe a mob out, especially if the mob is undead and subject to the stunning conveyed by the Crown. Swarm deserves a mention, although it’s not quite as good as the aforementioned options; we appreciate the self buff less than we do the higher debuff given by the Lion and T-Rex. While it is unknown currently if the Swarm procs CP, if it does not, then it is even less worthy of consideration than it’s superior, less expensive options listed above. Frankly, even if it does, the better, cheaper options do so as well, so the Swarm would not have an advantage in that area. However, the self buff is still helpful, and it still debuffs the target, so you could do a lot worse, even if it has a worthless equip bonus of additional Life Steal Severity.
Analyzing the best mount insignias for a Tank GF to have:
1. Shepherd’s Devotion – this should be run by every class in the game, and the Tank GF is no exception.
2. Artificer’s Persuasion – this collection of stats gained is great. Especially if you’re running Heart of the Black Dragon.
3. Cavalry’s Warning – clearly only worth running if you have a legendary mount, but if you do, take this insignia bonus up.
4. Protector’s Camaradie – Not worth using if you run the Priestess of Sehanine Moonbow companion, but if you aren’t, this feat can aid our Tanking efforts nicely.
5. Artificer’s Influence/Champion’s Return- Champion’s Return should be chosen at an early-mid level, especially for help with Tanking FBI, while Artificer’s should be chosen otherwise.
Now, let’s talk about the Tank GFs companions:
Summoned: Priestess of Sehanine Moonbow, Dancing Shield, Con Artist/Chultan Tiger: This will likely turn some heads, but the explanation for this is quite simple. In a decent party, your party has likely already hit their debuff cap. Consider that if the 2 DPS are running an SSC at bosses, that’s a large amount off your debuff cap then and there. Dancing Shield becomes the best companion if you are not hitting your debuff cap, but if you are, the Priestess gets the nod. Why? Well, the Priestess has a crucial buff and an underrated debuff that is not really subject to a cap, seeing as how damage debuffs in this game are fairly rare, especially those to an enemy’s crit chance. Through Moon Beams, everyone gets a massive boost to their Critical Strike. A DPS that has not hit their Crit Cap (more common than you think!) will experience a ridiculous spike in their DPS depending on how far they were off of their cap (the farther they were from their cap, the greater they’ll appreciate this buff). It also doesn’t hurt to have the support team hit a good deal harder either. Meanwhile, Moon Beams also debuffs the enemy’s critical chance. This is huge, for a number of different reasons. Enemies in end game content come with a built in 35% critical chance, which our Priestess friend slashes to 15%. That improves everybody’s survivability, and it’s a debuff which pretty much never is hitting a cap or being cut off in anyway, so it’s also quite reliable. Dancing Shield’s 20% defense debuff is legit, though, and is the better companion to have if you are not hitting your debuff cap as a team. Con Artist or the Tiger come nowhere close to as good as the former 2, but are hardly a bad fit for any class or playstyle, so they had to receive at least a mention. Harper Bard is an overpriced option, though it gets noted because it provides useful buffs, a useful debuff albeit one with a mere 50% upkeep, and gives us good stats when it procs bondings as a Leader companion.
Active: Rust Monster, Air Archon, Earth Archon, Razorwood companion: Rust Monster is extremely helpful to improving the party’s, including your own, survivability, and it pretty much procs all the time if you’re doing your job. Beyond that, nothing else really helps that much, so you may as well improve your own ability to do damage. Razorwood is going to find its way into this discussion simply because of how easily we grant ourselves Combat Advantage, and how much of a damage boost the Razorwood gives whenever we are in Combat Advantage. It is without question better than other options, such as the Alpha Compy, Siege Master or Fire Archon. As a concluding note, the Blacksmith only makes sense at a very low level. As we stack Defense and mitigation, we start to take less and less damage, and the Blacksmith’s active bonus becomes quite meaningless.
Selecting the Swordmaster paragon is optimal, as Swordmaster provides us with a useful At-Will and a useful Daily power that we lose out on by selecting Iron Vanguard.
At-Wills: Weapon Master’s Strike and Tide of Iron: A couple of debuff At-Wills hardly need much justification, as the competition beyond these two is almost nonexistent. Crushing Surge is a fairly weak option, but it can work at a very low level if you really need the healing.
Encounters: ITF/CS/ET get the job done at mobs. ITF is usually the best one to use first, followed by ET to aggro the mob. CS then gives everyone a buff to anything that was hit by your ET (which should usually be everything in the area). When reaching a single target situation, ET can usually go away for GW, to proc CP. KC is an option if you have trouble holding aggro, but is a fairly subpar option since it doesn’t really buff anything and has a high cooldown period. KV is another option, and has situational merit. In particular, KV is nearly a must have both in the Kabal fight in Master Spellplague Caverns and is a solid option at the Withers fight in Tomb of the Nine Gods. KV can also save a party member’s life if they get chained to a Sister of Strahd, although sometimes it can fail to do this completely depending on where the party member was and how much the party actually attacked the Sister during this phase of the fight. It should be noted that Lunging Strike and Line Breaker Assault have pretty much no merit, and in the case of the latter, even less merit if you have Lycosa’s Barbed Gloves or a Ring of the Curse Bringer equipped. Lunging Strike’s talents are totally redundant, and Line Breaker Assault does virtually nothing other than proc CP, which is done much more efficiently by ET if you have Lycosa’s Barbed Gloves or a Ring of the Curse Bringer on for mobs, or by GW in single target scenarios. As a lasting note, ITF and CS should never leave your tray, ever.
Dailies: Villain’s Menace and Fighter’s Recovery are the go-tos for mobs. Frankly, there’s never a good reason to remove Fighter’s Recovery. Where Paladins have temp HP to effortlessly take hits with, we have Fighter’s Recovery. The most braindead daily in the game, where all we have to do to easily take hits is hit stuff back. This Daily becomes even more essential when Tanking the Sisters of Strahd; with it, you go from instantly dying at ten stacks of their debuff to living through this sequence of attacks without effort, especially when in guard (making SWW way easier to proc as well). Fighter’s Recovery works with virtually anything, to direct weapon strikes, to Damage over Times, even to things like a Briartwine or Thunderhead Enchantment proccing (which, yes, means we could take hits by literally standing there and doing nothing in some scenarios). In single target situations, drop Villain’s Menace for Crescendo. Crescendo procs CP, but is also a very slow attack. You will need to learn how to shield cancel to maximize its value. Terrifying Impact is outclassed by Villain’s Menace if you are running the Lycosa’s barbed gloves or Ring of the Curse Bringer, but deserves a slight mention if you are not. You really should never find yourself needing to run this daily.
Class features: Enhanced Mark and Shield Talent are usually our best options. Enhanced Mark is mandatory. Shield Talent, however, is not. Shield Talent is chosen for maximizing our ability to use Aggravating Strike (our right handed At-Will when in guard), so we can aggro things as efficiently as possible. However, when you’ve developed a comfortable rotation and can confidently manage your stamina, Shield Talent can be dropped. Solid options to replace it are Combat Superiority, Shield Warrior’s Wrath (which becomes a much more interesting option if you happen to be running Survivor’s Wraps), Steel Grace and Steel Blitz are all viable options to replace it with. In particular, Shield Warrior’s Wrath is a fantastic option to run during Castle Ravenloft. I’ve beaten the Sisters of Strahd part to death, but it’s also quite helpful tanking the Arcolith, Strahd himself, and it’s helpful in a multitude of different Mob situations in this dungeon. It becomes a significantly stronger option than its alternatives in Ravenloft.
Feats to spec in to:
First, it should be noted that any serious late or end game Guardian Fighter Tank must spec into the Tactician Paragon. Thankfully, by the time we get this far, the training wheels offered by the Protector path are no longer necessary, so you should not see a noticeable reduction in your ability to take hits. For low level Guardian Fighters, exploring Protector is not a bad idea, but for the end gamers, Tactician is a must. For the purpose of compressing this portion of the guide, I’ll be covering feats to spec into and not spec into under this paragon path.
Fight On: 5/5, fairly straightforward, we want to maximize our ITF and CS spam.
Crushing Pin: 5/5, the best feat we could possibly have. Speccing into this is absolutely mandatory, it is the reason why we run stuff such as Ring of the Curse Bringer and Crescendo.
Daunting Challenge: 5/5, Giving our allies more survivability is helpful. It’s more helpful than our alternative, so it gets the nod
Grim Promise: 0/5, not really useful, as our defense really should be high enough to comfortably take hits anyway. If it’s not, Fighter’s Recovery and Villain’s Menace are sufficient for backup, rendering this feat fairly redundant and only having situational merit, since we shouldn’t be running Crescendo too much anyway.
Rousing Speech: 5/5, The GF Tac build has a reputation for stimulating our allies’ AP gains, and this feat is part of that magic. Spec into it with confidence, as it is also unique for being one of few buffs to trigger passively.
Inspiring Leader: 5/5, this one should really not require any explanation: a large buff to ITF is an obvious must have.
Powerful Strike: 0/5, we don’t run either of these powers, and by association, get absolutely nothing out of this feat.
United: 5/5, providing the team with more survivability and being another buff that triggers passively is a welcome feat to spec into.
Surging Tide: 5/5 we run ToI anyway, this just makes it even more potent. A noticeable buff to an attack with no cooldown is quite welcome.
Terrifying Menace: 0/5, again, not a power we get any use out of. GW is a much better source of proccing CP, it does more damage, and has charges to it, making this feat completely redundant.
Martial Mastery: 1/1, our capstone feat. Requires little justification to spec into, but this is also why GF Tanks aren’t totally useless today. This is also, incidentally, why stacking Defense is never a bad idea, even when we already take hits effectively enough.
Weapon and Armor Enchantments to run:
Weapon: There are really no weapon enchantments beyond the obvious (Bilethorn, Flaming) which are “unviable”, per se. If you wanted to be particularly stingy, grabbing an assortment of debuff enchantments, such as Terror or Plaguefire, and switching them around depending on the party would be a good idea. If you are on a budget and wanted an around the clock enchantment, Frost is a really solid choice, since it stacks with others who run it and gives us a really nice buff. Feytouched is a simplistic option for the DPS buff it gives us. If your crit is high enough, Dread is also a viable choice. Lightning is useful for holding aggro against mobs, but is not too useful in single target situations for much else other than reducing our cooldowns, though this in itself is also a good idea, albeit one which is outclassed by Frost. Holy Avenger is a lesser all around version of Feytouched, and should really not be considered at high levels of play, though it has merit at a lower level for the damage resistance it provides and the healing it gives. As a concluding note, Prominence is totally worthless for a GF Tank. The enchantment as a whole is really only good on Great Weapon Fighters, rendering it a wholly irrelevant option for GFs of all playstyles.
Armor: Once again, there are very few choices which are “unviable” though there are options which stand out. Negation at the Transcendent level or higher is probably BiS for its cooldown, but Briartwine and Thunderhead are good options as well, especially since both can proc CP if we are running Lycosa’s Barbed Gloves or Ring of the Curse Bringer. Fireburst works under a similar line of thinking, but is less consistent than Briartwine and not as rewarding as Thunderhead. If you are running the Priestess of Sehanine Moonbow companion summoned, go with Briartwine over Thunderhead, since you won’t be getting critically hit as often. Avoid Barkshield and Soulforged; we get hit too much for the former to be of any particular use (not to mention we can take hits well enough without it anyway) and the latter is fairly useless, since we hardly ever die anyway, and when we do, since we’ve been holding aggro the entire time anyway, we are likely to just go straight back down after it procs, rendering it useless.
Overview on DPS GFs:
A fickle, efficient and deadly playstyle, a good DPS GF is one hell of an ally to have. When the world records for speed runs on Tomb of the Nine Gods and Cradle of the Death God were set, who was the Hdps? That’s right, a DPS GF. Though the transition to Mod 13 nerfed DPS GFs somewhat, this class still boasts deadly efficiency. Although current unfortunate metagame trends (DCs running Cleanse, the nerfing of the DO DC) are somewhat troubling, the DPS GF is just ever so barely flexible enough to function at a really high level in present day. It should also be noted that some of these trends, such as Cleanse DCs, have begun to dissipate slightly, as these DCs have learned how to optimally play their class, and have begun to realize the power our class is capable of.
The best gear for DPS GFs:
Head: Decaying Habit, Crown of the Undead, Shieldlord’s Head: This mod really did DPS GFs right, as far as the head goes: all three of these options represent massive upgrades from last mod, depending on what you were running. If you happen to have the Habit and the Undead, Habit should be run IF AND ONLY IF you are experienced, can end boss fights really quick, and preferably, can even threaten to one phase a particular boss. That said, you don’t have to be able to one-phase it, per se; you only begin to lose your base power off the Habit after a minute and 30 seconds in combat, so there’s plenty of wiggle room. That said, I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for lesser levelled DPS GFs, or for DPS GFs in a party where the buffs and/or powershare aren’t particularly great. Habit can still be run in mobs, but Crown of the Undead offers better consistency and a slightly better equip bonus (especially in Tomb of the Nine Gods or Castle Ravenloft): Using a Villain’s Menace in the right position can potentially grant you a wider array of targets to be hit by your Linebreaker’s Assault. Through this, you are not only increasing your own DPS, but you are also supporting the team: proccing CP, stunning stuff and keeping it all close in one tight area, and drawing it all into one area for your allies to help smash. Undead isn’t really that useful in single target, however, so if you don’t have the Habit but you do (somehow) have the Shieldlord’s Helm, switch to it in single target. While Rex Corona technically isn’t “unviable” due to the fact that it never actually deducts your stats like the Habit could, the truth is that it only actually noticeably outperforms the Habit for about 30 seconds in a particularly lengthy fight. What’s more, we aren’t a powersharing class, so the difference is scarcely ever actually truly felt. The Habit peaks at us getting a whopping 4,928 Power from it, which is huge. Meanwhile, the Corona peaks at a respectable 3,347, but it only retains this bonus for 5 seconds before disappearing completely, while the Habit’s bonus fades a lot more slowly after reaching its peak. The only time we should ever reach the full 24 stacks (12 bonus, 12 negative) of the Habit is in Cradle of the Death God; otherwise, whatever is in front of us is pretty much definitely dead by then, or well before then. Even if you are not strong enough to defeat whatever’s in front of you before the Habit starts to lose Power, the advantage the Corona has, as far as we’re concerned, is tiny and seemingly nonexistent. Because of this, the Habit outclasses the Corona for a DPS GF in its entirety, and the Corona is not worthy of consideration if you are in possession of a Habit.
Armor: Fured Kiuno of the Bear, Vistani Breastplate, Shieldlord’s Armor, Knotted Garbs: This mod presents a challenge to us, from an Armor and Boots standpoint. In theory, it is easy enough to assume that the Bear armor is BiS outside of Barovia, the Vistani armor is BiS in Barovia, and to call it a day at that. However, in practice, this is not so simple; the Heels of Fury are the new BiS boots, and unfortunately their equip bonus does not stack with the Bear armor. Because of this, if you get ahold of Heels of Fury, the Bear armor should be scrapped entirely and replaced, while the Heels should be run wherever you go. If you do not have Heels, keep the Bear armor on everywhere except for Castle Ravenloft, when the Vistani armor becomes the best to have. If you have Heels of Fury and are outside Barovia, the Shieldlord’s armor becomes your best bet. Knotted Garbs should only really be used if you are outside of Barovia and are in a party where the Powershare is noticeably weak (the team doesn’t have a Pally tank, the AC and/or Pally is a low level, there’s no AC, etc) as otherwise the equip bonus is good, but not great, and doesn’t quite hold up to the superior flat stats offered by Shieldlord’s. No matter what you have for boots, the Vistani Breastplate is by far the best to wear while in Barovia. That 5% damage bonus is incredible. While the flat stats are good not great, the equip bonus alone makes it undeniably the best to have when running in Ravenloft.
Arms: Survivor Wraps, Fearbringers, Jawrippers: Thankfully, Devoted Clerics gamewide are beginning to adapt into “No-Cleanse” builds, so the ability to fearlessly run Survivor Wraps is noticeably higher than it used to be. In a party where the DC(s) are not running Cleanse, there is no scenario where another set of Arms can stand up to the Survivor Wraps. The Survivor Wraps, upon triggering their equip bonus, proc two extremely important things: Reckless Attacker, which is the Conqueror Path’s Paragon power, and Shield Warrior’s Wrath (when in guard), which are two massive DPS buffs which tick every second. Mix that with the DPS GF running Knight’s Challenge, and your DPS with Survivor Wraps will be downright scary after about 3-4 seconds and taking 1 or 2 hits from whatever you use KC on. These arms are the magic behind doing things like dropping T9G Orcus in 3 or 4 hits. That said, because Cleanse DCs unfortunately do still exist to a minor extent, it would be wise to carry an alternative, as Survivor Wraps become nerfed badly under this condition. Enter the Fearbringers: while the Fearbringers are nowhere near as good as Wraps in a decent party, they are certainly not by any means a bad option. With a great equip bonus of its own, and they become the best arms to have when in a party with a DC running Cleanse. Jawrippers are a lesser version of Fearbringers: we appreciate the boost to our At Wills Fearbringers provides even at the expense of our Dailies, because Villain’s Menace, our go-to Daily, is used for the self buff it gives us, not the damage. The damage the attack itself deals is already paltry to begin with, so the Fearbringers will be preferred to Jawrippers and Terrored Grips for this reason. It should be noted that Terrored Grips are terrible to run at Mobs because they murder our Recovery, and should never be considered in mobs. In general, stay away from items which detract from offensive stats more than they add to them.
Boots: Heels of Fury, Boots of the Willed, Shieldlord’s boots: Heels of Fury are BiS for certain. Think of them like you would think of the Fured Kiuno of the Bear, then remember that the Heels possess better flat stats than the Bear Armor, representing an all around upgrade. Remember to dump the Bear armor if you obtain the Heels, as their bonuses do not stack. Boots of the Willed are still viable, but now that they are very clearly not best in slot anymore, and when you consider how hard and expensive they are to get, especially compared to the Heels, it simply makes little sense to go to the effort of getting them if you don’t have them already; consider that you could run the Sister of Fury Barovia hunt about 60 times for every 1 Tyrant lure you could run, from a cost perspective (Sister hunt = roughly 40K each, Tyrant lure = roughly 2.4M in Smops each)
Neck: Baphomet’s Infernal Talisman: the ONLY option that makes any sort of sense, for completion of the Orcus set. Worried it will get outdated? Fear not! Not only will it not get outdated anytime soon, but in Mod 14 this set got even better, while the competition for it remains virtually non existent. With there being no other set that comes close to matching this set’s ruthlessness, there’s no other neck worth considering beyond Baphomet’s Talisman. Fortunately, this can be easily had, either through a small sum of AD for an epic one, or through completion of the Maze Engine Campaign, which yields one of these in Uncommon quality for free!
Rings: A bit more finnicky than the Tank GF, there are a couple different ways you could go. The most simplistic thing to do is to get 2 Bronzewood Raid Rings and call it a day. However, another intriguing option is to have a Ring of the Cursebringer. While it may seem as though Cursebringer is totally obsolete, with the Lycosa’s Barbed gloves coming out, these Barbed Gloves are pretty much totally unviable on DPS builds due to the vastly superior options there are for this playstyle, so Cursebringer still has a degree of viability on a DPS GF. While debuffing isn’t your job, providing yourself with this buff can help yours, and your allies’, DPS just a bit. That said, in mobs, Line Breaker Assault will usually be run, which procs CP just as well, while GW does this in single target as well, making Cursebringer usually not preferred for the reduction in stats (1 defense and 1 offense vs 2 offense) you would experience using it instead of Bronzewood Raid Ring. Of course, the Gravestriker rings are Best in Slot by a mile: gaining a flat damage bonus for being close to our target is unbeatable. If you should happen upon a +5 and +4 of this ring, equip them both without thinking twice.
Waist: Demogorgon’s Girdle of Might: falling under the same line of thinking as the Baphomet’s Talisman, there is simply no reason to consider anything else. Thankfully, the Demogorgon’s Girdle, despite being of a low item level, actually gives great stats. Combining this with being a part of the best DPS set in the game, and the decision is extremely straightforward.
Shirt/Trousers: Upper and Lower Primal Paints don’t have much competition, and therefore check out as good options.
Taking a look at the DPS GF’s best artifacts:
Primary: Soulsight Crystal; really requires no explanation, the best single target class in the game with an artifact designed to do the most damage in single target scenarios. For AoE scenarios, the Wheel of Elements or Decanter of Atropal Essence are your go-tos. Use the Decanter if one of your support class can reliably give you Fire from the Wheel, use the Wheel yourself otherwise.
Secondary artifacts: looking for artifacts with good stats, there are a number of ways to go depending on your composition. The Fragmented Key of Stars is going to be the best stat based artifact, giving Power, Crit, and Armor Pen all in one. Lantern of Revelations is a must have, not just for its crit and armor pen, but for its combat advantage damage bonus (we can automatically give ourselves CA with our Mark, the Lantern gives us free damage). Other artifacts depending on your stats, such as the GWF Sigil, CW Sigil, Kessell’s Spheres of Annihilation or the Charm of the Serpent also make sense. Of course, save space for a Shard of Orcus Wand, as it completes the Demon Lord’s Immortality set, a set which is way too good to go without.
Best leg mounts for a DPS GF:
There are a number of really good mounts for a DPS GF. However, after Mod 14 dropped, none are better than the Swarm. The combat power on the Swarm is ridiculously good for DPS characters, and is undeniably BiS. The Commander/Warpainted Tyrannosaur are worth obvious mentions, for having really good stats and a fantastic combat power (which also procs CP, giving ourselves a further buff). The Swift Golden Lion, on paper, may not seem like a great option, but it is actually sneakily underrated; it is by far our best source of proccing Wrathful Warrior, it procs CP on whatever it hits, it has the potential to boost our DPS, and it allows us to use KC single target a lot more fearlessly, and by association, allows us to gain more stacks of Reckless Attacker and SWW without worrying about dying, or doing something niche such as utilizing Fighter’s Recovery. Tenser’s Disc has a good albeit finnicky combat power; it will be difficult to fit it into our rotation, but if it can be done, it’s worth at least looking at. If you’re in particular need for stats that are given by leg mounts such as the Imperial Rage Drake or Armored Axe Beak, go for it; just know they don’t have very good combat powers. Stay away from the Black Ice Warhorse or Arcane Whirlwind; in a party with a powershare Anointed Champion Devoted Cleric and powershare Oathbound Paladin, the Power provided by these two mounts is insignificant, and their combat powers aren’t very useful, making them not worth the AD.
Now for your optimal mount insignia bonuses:
1. Shepherd’s Devotion- every class in the game should be selecting this, and the DPS GF is no exception.
2. Cavalry’s Warning- a simple bonus for our DPS that is welcomed, particularly in AoE scenarios. Only worth choosing if you have a leg mount, of course.
3. Combatant’s Manuever- Not as strong of a choice as it used to be, as the bonus is subjected to minor relative increase due to the Razorwood companion being introduced in Mod 14, but because there is a lack of useful alternatives, Combatant’s Manuever is still a solid choice.
4. Artificer’s Persuasion- a passive buff granted to us after using a Soulsight Crystal. Not the greatest stats, but decently helpful for proccing SWW.
5. Protector’s Camaraderie – Assassin’s Covenant is quite tricky to justify using now, if you are running a Decaying Habit, and Camaraderie is therefore going to leapfrog it this Mod. Dropping Covenant restores your Defense, and will allow you to take hits a little bit better to more efficiently proc Reckless Attacker, SWW and Combat Superiority. Extremely helpful for not dying a million times in Castle Ravenloft, particularly at the Sisters of Strahd.
Looking at the DPS GF’s best companions:
Summoned: Chultan Tiger, Sellsword, Con Artist: the Tiger is by far BiS. It’s not even close. 3 offense slots, 2 rings, a debuff that gets better in Combat Advantage (which we automatically give) and hitting decently hard by itself make this decision a no brainer. The other two were amazing options pre Mod 13, but are sadly fairly outdated nowadays. If you already had one leaking into Mod 13 or 14, you’ve got a serviceable placeholder; switch to the Tiger ASAP.
Active: Air Archon, Earth Archon, Fire Archon, Razorwood: Pretty straightforward really, Archons for damage output. Razorwood is an absolute must have: we can give ourselves Combat Advantage all the time, meaning that the Razorwood represents a ridiculous self buff on whatever we mark, be it with our manual mark or a mark we give via ET.
Swordmaster is the go to here; WMS is way too good for this playstyle to lose out on. Do not consider Iron Vanguard.
For AoE situations: ITF/ET/Linebreaker Assault for Encounters is usually the go to. You can throw out Linebreaker Assault for Lunging Strike or even GW if you’re on the FBI hill climb, since making good use of Linebreaker Assault can be quite challenging on this part. In AoE situations, it’s usually best to face as many enemies as you can, use Linebreaker Assault, drop an ITF, then lay down an ET. If done correctly, it will hit like a truck, especially if you were able to use your Survivor Wraps to proc SWW and Reckless Attacker a good bit before facing said mob. For At Wills, you’ll want WMS and Crushing Surge/ToI. Surge does more damage, ToI has a built in debuff. Neither are terribly useful, however, so take your pick. For Dailies, Villain’s Menace is our primary way to proc SWW off of our Survivor Wraps. Fighter’s Recovery becomes the go to 2nd daily for Castle Ravenloft, specifically at the Sisters of Strahd; it will keep you alive when you use Knight’s Challenge on one of the Sisters.
Single target scenarios: ITF/KC/GW is the go-to. The single target rotation is quite finnicky, but is the most fickle part of a DPS GF: even if you hit your rotation perfectly, if you did so without your party’s buffs at your back, your DPS will come up short. Your rotation, thankfully, is decently simple: wait for the Tank to grab aggro. Mark your target to get Combat Advantage, strike with your WMS to reduces your target’s mitigation to your GW, lay down your VM, and hold guard to proc SWW off of your Wraps (skip this step if not running Wraps). Hold guard for about two or three seconds, then use KC. Let your target strike you once while in guard (twice or three times if not running Wraps), find an opening (an opportunity where you can drop guard without dying) and use your Soulsight. Drop an ITF, and if the buffs are there, light ‘em up with GW. If not, try to sit in guard and stall for time for the buffs to get there. Don’t wait too long as to miss out on your KC+Soulsight+GW window, though. If the buffs aren’t there and your window is closing, make do with what you got and hit with your GWs. If your WMS debuff has worn off while stalling, try to reapply it before striking with your GWs.
For your class features, Shield Warrior’s Wrath will be necessary if you run Survivor Wraps. Either way, Combat Superiority is also the next best bet. If you aren’t running Wraps, SWW can be dropped in AoE situations for Steel Grace if you need the crit, Steel Blitz if you don’t, but you’ll experience a noticeable DPS drop if you aren’t running SW + Wraps.
The best feats for a DPS GF:
Unlike Tanks and Buff GFs, the DPS GF, while it does base inside the Conqueror paragon, is not full 100% Conqueror. To compress this portion of the guide, I will travel through the entire Conqueror paragon, name off feats to use and not to use, then mention feats we should be using from the Protector and Tactician paragons.
Improved Vigor– 5/5: Not really useful, but a little bit more useful than our other option. If you’ve got any particular reason to go with the other, though, go for it.
Take Measure– 0/5: Ideally, we shouldn’t be getting hit too, too much, so instances of us getting critically hit and living will be rare. Improved Vigor is hardly a necessity, so you could decide to spec into this instead. Hardly a do or die decision.
Wrathful Warrior– 5/5: Remember that ITF’s temp HP does proc this feat. Because the competition isn’t useful, that only serves to make speccing into this even more of a no brainer. Even more of a no brainer if you happen to have the Swift Golden Lion mount.
Stunning Flourish- 0/5: We don’t use this attack. Plain and simple. GW outclasses Flourish in every way imaginable. Nothing to see here.
Jagged Blades- 5/5: A good feat for mobs, especially if you hit a lot of enemies with a Linebreaker Assault. The bleed itself is hardly significant, but if you happened to be running Ring of the Cursebringer, it can be procced off of the bleed. Not terribly great, but worth speccing into for lack of a better alternative.
Crushing Shield– 0/5: Not as good as Jagged Blades, and is noticeably inferior when you’re at the Sisters of Strahd in Ravenloft, relying on Jagged Blades to help keep you alive when a Sister starts attacking you and you use Fighter’s Recovery.
Cruel Cut Style– 0/5: Cleave is kind of an awkward middle child of an At Will. It obviously has no merit over WMS, it still does less damage than Crushing Surge, and doesn’t provide the debuff ToI does. Not worth speccing into.
Staggering Challenge– 5/5: A damage bonus from KC and a damage bonus to GW. Speccing into this shouldn’t really require much explanation.
Tactical Superiority– 5/5: Literally speccing into a flat damage bonus across the board. Yes please!
Menacing Impact– 0/5: Not a bad feat, but there’s just no room for it. We don’t use VM for its damage output anyway, so this feat can safely be dropped.
Reckless Attacker- 1/1: This is half the reason you run Survivor Wraps. It also is procced from taking hits while in guard, which you’d do after using Knight’s Challenge. It’s also, ya know, this paragon’s capstone.
Armor of Bahamut (Protector)-5/5: Not particularly great, but is needed to reach the really important feat from this paragon. Feel free to select Plate Agility if you’d like; you’ll hardly notice the difference, unless you’re in PvP.
Staying Power (Protector)-5/5 This feat is what gives WMS its value. Essentially self-buffing our GW by 10% in single target is paramount.
Crushing Pin (Tactician) – 5/5: Again, this feat self-buffs our second, third and fourth hits of our GW, and is stellar in both single target and mob situations.
The best weapon and armor enchantments for a DPS GF:
Weapon: This is, fittingly, a finnicky choice. Feytouched at the Transcendent level or higher offers the best consistency, and is the best enchantment if you plan to do a lot of pugging, but if you’re in a premade group where the buffs are gonna be there, roll with a Dread enchantment. Simply put, our DPS comes from Encounters the most, and this means Dread is a solid choice even in pug groups. Beyond this, Vorpal is an option at lower levels, but is nowhere close to as good as the former two. As a concluding note, Prominence is totally worthless for a GF. The enchantment as a whole is really only good on Great Weapon Fighters, rendering it a wholly irrelevant option for GFs of all playstyles.
Armor: Negation is probably BiS, but Barkshield and Soulforged have varying degrees of viability. Barkshield should be scrapped when running Survivor Wraps, as it would become completely useless in that scenario given that Wraps’ DoT chews up Bolstered Bark stacks. Briartwine and Thunderhead are iffy options, only viable if you choose to run Ring of the Cursebringer, but with a little bit of careful shield work, these options can be serviceable, and become even better if your Tank isn’t particularly good. Soulforged is situational. Generally, dying a lot at the end game isn’t something to really worry that much about, and when you go down you lose all of your buffs, so Soulforged’s usefulness is really only noticeable at a mid level of play.
Overview on Buff GFs:
My personal favorite, Buff GFs are extremely flexible, fit on virtually any party, and are probably the easiest of the three playstyles to create a decent character out of. Your choice of running various things is usually pretty straightforward. While there are a number of things that are clearly BiS, none of our Buffs are dependent on our DPS, so the requirement to effectively play this class is much lower than Tanks and DPS playstyles. That said, Recovery and Defense are your two most important stats. Generally, you’ll want someone in your party who benefits from our buffs. An AC DC should be automatic in end game parties, and they definitely benefit from having us around. Hunter Rangers (especially Trappers), Great Weapon Fighters and Control Wizards also benefit from our presence a lot. Just make sure you’re running the right powers and feats, and you’ll be pretty well set off of that alone.
The best gear for Buff GFs:
Head: Crown of the Undead, Shieldlord Helm, Ras Manca’s Spare Hat: while the Tank and DPS GF received heads that greatly benefitted them this mod, the Buff GF is still kind of at odds, head wise. Crown of the Undead is probably your best bet, for the same reason it works for the Tank and DPS – pull as much stuff as you can in one area, and have your DPS pals smash it with their various AoE powers. Again, make sure to communicate this strategy with your teammates. This is an easier to strategy for tankier Buff GFs to pull off, as you’ll be running ET to mark your targets, and this combined with the Crown’s pull may cause you to aggro what you’ve hit. Be careful. The Ras Manca hat, seemingly an odd choice for a Buff GF, is listed here because the Poison can proc Lycosa’s Barbed Gloves or Ring of the Cursebringer, for CP purposes. If you don’t happen to be running the Gloves or Cursebringer, Ras Manca’s is then still decent for its acceptable flat stats, but outclassed by Shieldlord’s in this capacity.
Armor: Fured Kiuno of the Bear, Shieldlord’s armor: not an area which received an “obvious” choice this mod, the Bear armor tends to work best for this class, especially if you are running Crown of the Undead and need the decent AC provided by it. Shieldlord’s is your next best bet, if only for its superior flat stats to its competition.
Arms: Lycosa’s Barbed Gloves, Fearbringers, Shieldlord’s arms: Lycosa’s immediately became the best set of arms for this playstyle to run, hands down. Running it relieves of your need to run Ring of the Cursebringer, and this can be great for the Buff GF, stat wise. It is by far BiS. Beyond that, Fearbringers are your next best, albeit significantly lesser option. Good flat stats, nice equip bonus. About all there really is to it. Shieldlord’s receives a mention for having the best flat stats in the game. That said, Survivor Wraps are still viable because this playstyle can more easily fit and make adequate use of Shield Warrior’s Wrath, meaning the Wraps are easier to run than they are on Tank GFs. Still, they have extremely poor flat stats, don’t benefit the team, and your DPS will not be particularly inspiring with or without them, so they’re only listed here because they aren’t flat out unviable, not because they’re optimal.
Feet: Tempter’s Sabatons, Heels of Fury, Shieldlord’s boots, Boots of the Willed: Tempter’s has good flat stats and a great equip bonus, giving them the nod. Heels should be run instead of the Bear armor if you’re not sure which to keep, since they don’t stack. Shieldlord’s appearing here should be fairly straightforward – flat stats. Boots of the Willed are somewhat mediocre for this particular playstyle, but get the mention for two reasons. First, they aren’t unviable, and DPS GFs tend to want to run them, so in this particular instance, they can become a usable budget option for DPS GFs. Second, They aren’t by any means bad, as a self buff is far from a bad thing to have. The only real issue with them is that their flat stats are kinda crappy, and are only really particularly good if you’re low on Armor Penetration.
Neck: Lichstone Amulet, Fanged Beaded Amulet, Baphomet’s Infernal Talisman: Like with the other two playstyles, this set of options remains unchanged from last Mod. Whatever you do, go with an MC3 Neck/Waist of sorts: Lichstone is best because it gives us Recovery and Defense, with a nifty boost of +8 to our AC improving our ability to be aggressive, somewhat reckless, and stack Martial Mastery as much as possible. Fanged Beaded is decent, but more expensive than Lichstone and not as efficient, though the Power and Crit gives it some merit, in addition to being an MC3 neck. Baphomet’s as a part of the Demon Lord’s set will maximize your DPS, which, in a nutshell, is certainly not bad, but the MC3 set gives us Alacrity, which is simply too good to pass up. However, DPS GFs with an alternate Buff build can take solace in the fact that the Demon Lord’s Immortality set is still perfectly viable on a Buff build, albeit not exactly “BiS.”
Rings: Having one Ring of the Cursebringer used to be borderline mandatory; passively proccing CP is literally a cornerstone attribute of good Buff GFs, and therefore, Cursebringer WAS without question BiS. That said, if you happen to have a set of Lycosa’s barbed Gloves, the need to run Cursebringer vanishes. No need to have Cursebringer along with the Gloves, nor is there a need to run a second Cursebringer Ring, as the effect doesn’t stack (frankly doesn’t need to, so using more than one of these would have questionable practical value anyway). For your two rings, kind of like with Tank GFs, if you already have the Lycosa Gloves, you can either choose 2 defensively oriented ring to maximize Martial Mastery or an offensively oriented one to improve your DPS. You could also mix and match, depending on your stats. For the former, go with a Lichstone Ward Ring for consistency and best overall stats. For the latter, a Bronzewood Raid Ring, Shadowstalker or Gravestriker Ring of +4 or higher is perfectly viable. Note that if you don’t have a set of Lycosa gloves, Cursebringer becomes borderline mandatory as to passively proc CP on whatever we hit.
Waist: Lichstone Sash, Beaded Sash, Demogorgon’s Girdle of Might: Lichstone Sash is a great choice to stack Martial Mastery and to complete the MC3 set to obtain Alacrity. Beaded, however, is a much stronger choice than the Fanged Beaded Amulet was for a neck; you aren’t missing out on AC by choosing it over Lichstone here, you gain useful Intelligence and Charisma out of it, and you retain the Recovery you would’ve gotten out of Lichstone. You do gain Constitution from Lichstone, but the stat itself is more useful for Tanks, doesn’t help Martial Mastery and is not mandatory or particularly helpful by any means. But, it gets the nod as “BiS” for boasting Defense and Recovery. Demogorgon’s Girdle is the must have if you chose Baphomet’s Infernal Talisman, and it boasts useful stats on its own in Strength and Constitution. Notably, none of the MC3 belts have that combo of stats, giving the Demogorgon’s Girdle an interesting niche. However, unless you chose Baphomet’s Infernal Talisman, Demogorgon’s doesn’t come close to warranting consideration, as with it you cannot complete the MC3 set to receive Alacrity, which is much more useful than the Demogorgon Girdle’s base stats.
Shirt/Trousers: Shirt of the Chultan Merchant and Lower Primal Paints, much like Tanks, are the go tos here. Recovery off the Merchant Shirt is great, and beats out the Upper Primal Paints easily. This is even moreso if you’re running Fearbringers for arms.
The best artifacts for a Buff GF to run:
Primary: Generic buff/debuff artifacts will do. Champion’s Banner is really solid, giving a useful Buff/Debuff and having great stats. Others, such as the Charm of the Serpent, Heart of the Black Dragon, Wheel of Elements, and even the Lantern of Revelations are also solid options for their respective buffs and debuffs. If you choose the Wheel, make sure to coordinate your choice with the DPS so that they can receive the Fire with maximum efficiency. Thirst, introduced in Mod 14, is a slightly stronger option for Buff GFs than it is for Tanks, since we aren’t Tanking. Still, you will want to shield cancel the lunge so you can be stuck in animation for as little amount of time as possible.
Secondary: Generally, artifacts with Defense and Recovery will check out. Even better if they contribute to your DPS in the process. Sigil of the Devoted, Waters of Elah’zad, Heart of the Blue Dragon are some fine examples. If you chose the Baphomet’s Infernal Talisman and Demogorgon’s Girdle for Neck and Waist, Shard of Orcus Wand becomes mandatory to complete the set. Without the former two, though, the Orcus Wand’s stats are quite poor and become replaceable.
The best companions for a Buff GF to run:
Summoned: Priestess of Sehanine Moonbow, Dancing Shield, Con Artist: Like before, the Priestess is going to be the best companion a Buff GF can have (only if legendary and at level 40), especially in ten or more man trials, such as Cradle of the Death God and Master Svardborg Assault. Having one allows the Buff GF to be able to carry a lot harder if need be, providing a massive buff to DPS characters who have not reached their crit cap, helping out the support class in hitting a pretty good deal harder and, if you haven’t hit your crit cap, helping your DPS a lot as well. Dancing Shield is probably BiS in single target scenarios, if the party is not hitting their debuff cap (becomes increasingly rare as you hit the end game, especially if running with primary debuff classes such as DO DCs and MoF CWs) but the Priestess is better otherwise. Con Artist is much more viable for us than Tanks or DPS, because it offers the best procced stats as a three ringed companion, and it only being 2 offensive slots instead of 3 doesn’t bother us in the slightest. If you go with the Con Artist, make sure to load him up with as much Recovery as possible. Having three Beaded Restoration rings loaded with Silvery Enchantments is as easy a way to do that as it gets. While the Lillend seems tempting for being a Leader (Power + Recovery) with three rings, the truth is that it’s only viable at a mid level. While it’s actual quite good at that level, it’s use begins to diminish as you travel towards the end game, as it becomes quite superfluous (especially when running with a Templock or Devotion Paladin) to the point where it becomes overshadowed greatly by the Con Artist. Like before, the Harper Bard is an overpriced albeit decently serviceable and outclassed option. Simply put, the Harper Bard offers less of a buff than the Priestess, less of a debuff than the Dancing Shield and Con Artist, procs for less stats than the Lillend, and costs an insane amount of AD. It can work, but there are far better, cheaper options to be had.
Active companions: Generic DPS companions will do here. While it’s perfectly reasonable to want companions who have flat boosts to Defense and Recovery, this is a terribly inefficient and frankly unnecessary way of attempting to get these stats, so improving your DPS becomes the most efficient way to go. At the end game level, a Rust Monster makes sense for Tankier Buff GFs. Beyond that, generic DPS companions such as the Air Archon, Earth Archon, Siege Master and Razorwood, make sense.
The best leg mounts for a Buff GF to run:
Similarly to the Tank GF, the Swift Golden Lion is going to be your best choice. The Warpainted/Commander Tyrannosaur challenges that designation a little bit more for Buff GFs, though, but in good parties where you’ve hit your debuff cap, the Lion blows the Rex out of the water, outclassing it in its entirety. Beyond that, the best leg mounts for a Buff GF line up rather similarly to those of the Tank GF. Swarm is about as viable for Buff GFs as it is for Tanks; not bad, but there are better options. The self buff isn’t as good as it is for DPS GFs, and the smaller debuff when compared to the T-Rex or Lion is noticed. No word yet on whether or not it procs CP, but if it does, then I will likely return to update this portion of the guide, as this would upgrade the Swarm’s viability for the Buff GF noticeably.
Mount Insignia bonuses for a Buff GF:
1. Shepherd’s Devotion- an insignia bonus every class in the game should be running.
2. Cavalry’s Warning – a great bonus if you should happen to have a leg mount
3. Artificer’s Persuasion- a phenomenal feat for a Buff GF to be running, especially if you have the Heart of the Black Dragon artifact.
4. Protector’s Camaraderie- a buff to our Power and Defense is welcomed, but only if not running the Priestess of Sehanine Moonbow companion
5. Combatant’s Manuever – a nice buff to have when coupled with Ring of the Cursebringer or Lycosa’s Barbed Gloves.
Powers a Buff GF should be running:
In AoE situations: ITF/ET/CS, exactly like a Tank GF. Your rotation is also exactly like that of a Tank GF: ITF first, ET for the Mark, then CS to buff that Mark even further. Villain’s Menace should be run in AoE, mostly because it’s the best way you have of mass-proccing CP against as many things as possible if you’re running Lycosa’s Barbed Gloves or Ring of the Curse Bringer. If you are not running Lycosa Gloves or Curse Bringer (this should be amended ASAP) then run Terrifying Impact at AoE. Either way, this should be swapped to Crescendo for single target situations. Learn to shield cancel the Crescendo; you only need to get the first two hits in order to proc CP, letting the animation continue beyond that is a terrible waste of time and buffing potential. While Buffing, make sure to prioritize keeping your Mark up, in addition to keeping CP up. ITF is good and fun, but it takes a back seat to those two. Of course, Marking and CP aren’t rocket science, and can be easily kept up amongst your other buffs.
Your class features are not of terrible importance beyond Enhanced Mark, which is mandatory. Steel Grace can be great for running ahead of the whole party, aggroing as many things as you can, and drawing them all as far as you can so that everything can be killed in a great big cluster. Only recommended if you’re with an experienced party, particularly one seeking to speed run the dungeon. Combat Superiority has no particular drawbacks, but is somewhat less appealing since we aren’t Tanking or running Knight’s Challenge. Steel Blitz is consistent, but is also somewhat mediocre. SWW becomes pretty much mandatory if you’re running Wraps, but beyond that is also somewhat mediocre on this playstyle. I guess Shield Talent could be helpful in the event the Buff GF needs to emergency Tank (the Paladin died off or something happened where your Tank was removed from play) but has obvious problems with being situational.
Feats for a Buff GF to be running:
Predictably, this class benefits mainly from the Tactician paragon. You’ll find that its feats are similar to that of the Tank GF.
Fight on– 5/5: Reducing cooldowns in a manner that isn’t hitting any sort of cap is great. Spec into this with confidence.
Crushing Pin– 5/5: I feel like I would be like a broken record player if I had to once again explain that this feat is amazing, especially with the Lycosa’s Barbed Gloves or Ring of the Cursebringer equipped.
Daunting Challenge– 5/5: An attack debuff that aids our allies sure is nice. Though this feat isn’t terribly useful in experienced groups, it still functions better than the competition, and is helpful for less experienced groups.
Grim Promise– 0/5: This feat only benefits us, and since we’re not tanking or running Crescendo except in single target, we scarcely ever actually benefit from it.
Rousing Speech – 5/5: A passive way of buffing our allies’ AP gain is great. It has proximity issues, but in a Buff role, we find it a lot easier mitigating this than as a Tank. Make sure to stay close to your allies.
United – 5/5: Much like Daunting Challenge, this isn’t the best of best feats, but is better than the competition and triggers passively. You don’t really have a great reason to not spec into this.
Inspiring Leader – 5/5: A nifty damage buff from ITF is heavily welcomed, especially since you are not locked into place Tanking a particular enemy, and can move around to ensure your allies benefit from ITF even better.
None of the trio of Powerful Strike, Terrifying Menace or Surging Tide are worth speccing into. Martial Mastery gets a 1/1 because it’s our capstone and gives our allies great AP gain whenever we take damage.
For the remainder of your feat points, you can either select Improved Vigor/Take Measure from the Conqueror path in order to access Wrathful Warrior, or you can spec into Armor of Bahamut/Plate Agility from the Protector path to get to Staying Power for the WMS buff. Either will do, as neither will be of particular significance.
The best weapon and armor enhancements for a Buff GF:
Weapon: Very similar to the Tank GF, though Feytouched’s usefulness is somewhat diminished since you don’t really care about holding aggro anymore. Frost is probably your best, most consistent option, but if you really wanna meta game, running a Frost, Terror and Plaguefire in your tray to match different parties makes sense, since Frost isn’t BiS if nobody is running Terror or Plaguefire in your party. Still, Frost will never, unlike those two, lose effectiveness under any scenario, even if someone else is running Frost, so if you’re on a budget and need an around the clock enhancement, use Frost. It should be noted that, under no scenario does running Bronzewood make any sense; its talents are outclassed by superior options, and we already Mark targets anyway, and thus the Bronzewood is totally redundant and overall inferior to the aforementioned options. As a lasting note, Dread only makes sense if there’s nobody else in the party running it, and even then, it will usually not be as helpful as Frost or Terror; it has a smaller debuff that only yields better DPS for the GF, which is not usually too helpful. For DPS GFs on a budget, though, it can work, but again, only if nobody else is running one. Feytouched falls under a similar line of thinking, though it does virtually nothing for the party and serves as merely a flat DPS boost. Not bad, but there are definitely better options.
Armor: Falling under a similar line of thinking as the DPS GF, Negation at Trans or higher is going to be BiS for two reasons. 1, the recovery boost is great. 2, it enables us to be more aggressive in AoE situations, which can help keep our buffing potential high, and it can help to abuse Martial Mastery as thoroughly as possible. However, Barkshield is perfectly viable (unless you are running Survivor Wraps) for the same reason as the second reason behind running Negation, although it doesn’t allow you to utilize Martial Mastery as much. Soulforged is much more viable on this playstyle, since it doesn’t Tank (or hold agro) or have Buffs it doesn’t want to lose via going down. That said, Soulforged is pretty mediocre since it relies on you going down to be of any use whatsoever. Beyond these three, other Armor enhancements will generally not be useful.
……Aaaaaand that’s all!
I hope you got what you’re looking for in this guide. If not, feel free to ask away! I’ll do my best to field any questions asked, as well as updating this guide as needed. Good luck!