So you'd like to be a Guardian. Good for you! We Guardians don't have to compensate certain anatomical shortcomings by having a Saber with 2 blades or even add on a 2nd Saber...we're perfectly comfortable with our mastery of the Glowstick.
This guide is going to assume basic Jedi Knight class knowledge and concentrate wholly on Guardian Specs/Stats/Gearing. If you are wondering about the basic knowledge, please read up with the class guide here at OR.net. Jedi Knight Class Guide - OldRepublic.NET
As a Guardian, you have access to 3 different lightsaber forms, though 1 has to be spec'd into.
Shii-Cho, Soresu and Shien.
Shii-Cho is the base form which you have at level 1. It is a balanced form that increases damage dealt by 3% and reduces damage taken by 3%.
Soresu is a form you get at 14. This is your tanking form and it has its pluses and minuses. Reduces damage taken by 6%, increases armor by 60% and shield chance by 15%. In addition, you also gain 1 focus when taking damage. However, your focus generating abilities generate 1 less focus and you can only gain 1 focus every 6 seconds through attacks.
Shien Form is available by spec'ing into Vigilance. It increases damage done by 6% and causes your focus costing abilities to refund 1 focus when used. You also gain 1 focus when attacked, every 6 seconds.
Here are some key baseline abilities you will be using as a Guardian. I will touch on the spec dependant ones in that section.
Strike - Your baseline focus builder.
Sundering Strike - Focus builder that adds a stacking armor debuff to the target you are attacking.
Force Sweep - AoE attacking, hitting up to 5 Enemies. Stuns Normal and Weak mobs.
Blade Storm - High Damage attack. Stuns Normal and Weak mobs.
Master Strike - Channeled ability that hits 3 times, high damage ability. Stuns Normal and Weak mobs.
Riposte - Attack available after a melee/ranged defense. Off the Global Cooldown.
Force Stasis - Channeled ability that deals damage and stuns. Also builds 1 focus per second.
Pommel Strike - Very high damage ability that is only useable on mobs that are stunned or incapacitated.
Force Push - Pushes mob back a great distance and deals damage. Finishes cooldown on Force Leap. Target is also knocked down for 2 seconds.
Force Leap - Leap to the target from range. Generates 3 focus.
Saber Throw - Throw your Saber at the target from range. Generates 3 focus.
Dispatch - Very high damage attack only useable when target is below 30% health.
Guardians have 3 trees, Defense, Vigilance and Focus. We'll focus on Defense first.
The tanking tree, while there are several hybrid builds out there, the buffs brought in 1.2 have made Defense a very well rounded tanking tree. Defense Guardians use Sundering Strike as their main focus generator. There are a couple builds, but all of them have mandatory points. The number before the talent name indicates the tier of the tree it is in, and the numbers after denote how many points to spend in that talent.
(1)Victory Rush 2/2 - With Soresu reducing the amount of focus that Sundering Strike
(1)Dust Storm 3/3 - Reduces the accuracy of your target, resulting in less damage taken.
(2)Guard Stance 2/2 - Increases your melee and ranged defenses, resulting in less damage taken.
(2)Lunge 2/2 - Reduces the focus cost of Riposte making it only cost 1 focus. Works very well with:
(3)Blade Barricade 2/2 - Increases your Defenses after you use Riposte, resulting in less damage taken.
(3)Warding Call 1/1 - On use Cooldown that reduces all damage taken by 40% for 10 seconds. "Oh Shit" cooldown if you will.
(4)Blade Barricade 2/2 - Gives you a buff that absorbs damage dealt to you after using Blade Storm.
(5)Shield Specialization 2/2 - Increases your shield chance by 4%, resulting in less damage taken.
(5)Hilt Strike 2/2 - High Damage attack on a 1 minute cooldown. Generates a high amount of threat and stuns for 4 seconds.
(6)Inner Peace 2/2 - Two-part talent that increases the duration of Enure (a tanking "oh shit" cooldown) and increases your resistance to internal/elemental damage, resulting in less damage taken.
(6)Cyclonic Sweeps 3/3 - Two-part talent that lowers the cooldown on how often Soresu form can generate focus on damage taken, bringing it down to 3 seconds. Also causes Cyclonic Slash and Slash to lower the cooldown on Combat Focus by 1 second when used.
(7)Guardian Strike 1/1 - High Damage attack that puts 3 stacks of armor reduction (stacks with Sundering Strike) or deals increased damage to targets with the maxiumum 5 stacks of armor reduction. Also generates a high amount of threat.
Skill Calculator - Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) Database (highly reccomended)
Skill Calculator - Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) Database (provides a bit more utility at the expense of damage)
Skill Calculator - Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) Database (better single target damage/threat at the expense of aoe threat/damage)
Vigilance is a damage dealing tree that focuses on Damage over Time and strong single target attacks. Uses Sundering Strike as its main focus generator. Here are some mandatory talents:
(1)Single Saber Mastery 3/3 - Increases melee damage done by 6%, required for Shien Form
(2)Accuracy 3/3 - Increases Accuracy by 3%, causing more of your attacks to bypass enemy Defense.
(2)Perseverance 2/2 - Increases Strength (our primary stat) by 6%. Causes attacks to do more damage.
(3)Burning Blade 2/2 - Adds a Damage over Time effect to your Blade Storm
(3)Shien Form 2/2 - Offensive Lightsaber form superior to Shii-Cho form, will result in more damage done.
(4)Vigilance 2/2 - Reduces the cooldown on Overhead Slash and Blade Storm, able to use those high damage abilities more often.
(4)Effluence 1/1 - Makes Force Sweep cost no focus, however because of Shien Form's refunding of focus, it actually turns Force Sweep into a focus generator.
(5)Overhead Slash 1/1 - High Damage attack, main attack for Vigilance Spec.
(5)Force Rush 2/2 - Causes Overhead Slash and Plasma Brand to increase the crit chance on Blade Storm and Dispatch, ends up adding a lot of damage over the course of a fight.
(5)Burning Purpose 2/2 - Adds a damage over time effect to Overhead Slash
(6)Zen Strike 3/3 - Talent that ends up increasing your Master Strike damage and have it generate 2 focus.
(7)Plasma Brand 1/1 - Attack that does a moderate amount of upfront damage and places a moderate output damage over time effect on the target. Please see the note about Plasma Brand below.
Skill Calculator - Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) Database
Skill Calculator - Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) Database (More PvP oriented)
*Note about Plasma Brand: Unlike pretty much every other Guardian Ability, you do not want to use Plasma Brand on cooldown. Plasma Brand costs 5 focus to use, making it your most expensive ability. It has a 9 second cooldown but the DoT it adds lasts 12 seconds. Using Plasma Brand again before the DoT falls off will only refresh the dot, not stack it, thereby causing you to lose out on some DoT damage. The upfront damage Plasma Brand does is only moderate and not worth the 5 focus without taking advantage of the full 12 seconds on the DoT effect. To get the maximum effect of Plasma Brand, you must wait for the 12 second DoT to fall off before using Plasma Brand again.
Focus is a burst damage spec mostly used in PvP, while it can be effective in PvE, it takes a lot more effort to be able to leap in and out enough to use the spec properly. The gist of the spec relies upon using Force Stasis and Force Exhaustion to build up Singularity Charges to buff Force Sweep, then leaping in to obtain a 100% crit buff to Force Sweep, then marveling at the huge Force Sweep crit you just got.
(1)Insight 3/3 - Increases the crit chance of all your attacks that aren't labeled "Weapon Damage".
(1)Swelling Winds 2/2 - Buffs Force Sweep, which is the bread and butter of this spec.
(2)Zephyrian Slash 2/2 - Slash is a focus dump you use when waiting to build up Singularity charges again, this talent gives you even more Slashes to use. Synergistic with Swift Slash.
(2)Swift Slash 2/2 - Increase crit chance on your focus dump, Synergistic with Zephyrian Slash
(3)Zealous Leap 1/1 - Gap Closer with good damage, gives Force Sweep 100% crit chance when spec'd into Felling Blow.
(3)Saber Strength 2/2 - Buffs Zealous Leap and Slash, both of which are used extensively.
(4)Felling Blow 2/2 - Gives Force Sweep 100% crit rate after you leap in, 1 of 2 key talents to this spec.
(4)Singularity 2/2 - Buffs the Damage of Force Sweep when using Force Stasis/Exhaustion, the other key talent in this spec.
(4)Inner Focus 2/2 - Combat Focus gives Singularity Charges, giving you another way to obtain them when Force Stasis/Exhaustion are on cooldown.
(5)Shii-Cho Mastery 2/2 - Gives 20% armor pen, giving a huge boost to a spec with almost 99% of its damage reduced by armor.
(6)Focused Resonance 2/2 - Buffs your crit chance, while unnecessary for Force Sweep, it does help keep you from feeling useless when Sweep is on cooldown.
(7)Force Exhaustion 1/1 - The key builder of Singularity charges, should be used on cooldown.
Skill Calculator - Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) Database (PvE oriented)
Skill Calculator - Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) Database (PvP oriented)
I'll go over stat usage here, broken down by Spec. There is a lot of debate out there still as to what stats are more important, but I will atleast give a breakdown of what stats you want, what you don't and why.
Strength - Without it you will hit like a wet noodle. Enrage timers are tight and even tank damage matters. While it is mostly regulated by BioWares gear design, do not overlook Strength.
Endurance - Increases your Effective Health, causing bosses to take longer to kill you. This stat is mostly regulated by the gear design of BioWare, however you can increase it with Augments.
Defense - Increases your chance for a full avoid of an attack. Only works against Melee/Ranged attacks, not spells. Costs a bit more itemization than Shield Rating, but since it gives a full avoid, very important.
Shield Rating - Increases the chance for a partial avoid of a Melee/Ranged attack. Synergistic with Absorb. Every point of Shield Rating makes each point of Absorb Rating better and vice versa. Costs less itemization than Defense, but is not a full avoid. Very important.
Absorb Rating - Increases the amount of damage you reduce when Shielding an attack. Synergistic with Shield Rating.
Accuracy - Important as well. Defense Guardians have 5 attacks that are weapon damage and start out at 90% accuracy. Threat and Damage matter, do not overlook this stat. You want to get your Weapon Damage attacks over 100% accuracy.
Power - Increases the damage of your attacks like Strength, but does not increase the crit chance. Good threat stat, but not something to concentrate on. Strength and Accuracy to 100 outweigh it.
Crit and Surge - I'm lumping these in together as they are synergistic with each other like Shield and Absorb, but you will generally not find much of it on tank gear. Defense Guardians have low crit rates, which make both of these stats fairly mediocre. They can help with threat, but not as much as Accuracy (to 100%) and Strength.
Alacrity - Useless, avoid at all costs. Treat it like the redheaded stepchild it is.
Strength - Your most important stat. Increases the damage and crit chance of all your attacks. Stack this over everything else when you have a choice.
Accuracy - Vigilance is a lot of burn damage, however Overhead Slash is weapon damage and starts out at 90% accuracy. If it doesn't land, you don't get the corresponding DoT. You need your attacks to hit, get to atleast 100% base.
Power - Increases the damage done by your attacks, but not the crit chance. However, once you have enough Accuracy, Power is a great damage increaser. Does increase the damage of your burns.
Crit - Crit is valuable to Vigilance because it doesn't get many crit increases through talents, however unless you have a lot of Surge, Power seems to increase damage more.
Surge - Increases the Crit damage you deal. You start out with 50% and Surge increases it from there. The more Surge you have, the better Crit is. The more Crit you have, the better Surge is...however Power seems to increase damage more.
Alacrity, Defense, Shield, Absorb - Avoid like the plague.
Strength - again the bread and butter, no real surprise here.
Surge - You want lots of Surge, and then you want some more. Focus gets TONS of crit bonuses through talents, including guaranteed crits with Force Sweep. You want to play to this advantage and get Surge up the wazoo. Take it out on a date and buy it lobster if you have to.
Power - Your secondary stat, when you can't get more Surge, get Power.
Accuracy - Most of the attacks for Focus are specials and start out at 100%, so Accuracy isn't all that important to you as Vigilance. It is still a DPS upgrade for Slash and Zealous Leap, but overall Power will outweigh it.
Crit - Because Focus gets so many crit increasing talents, especially the Force Sweep guaranteed crit, Crit is really underwhelming for this spec. Obviously it will still be a minor DPS upgrade for everything other than Force Sweep, but you really don't want to be focusing on this stat.
Alacrity, Shield, Defense, Absorb - bad, bad, bad...you no likey.