After a long duration of profession release silence, ArenaNet has overcome the half-way point hump to release the guardian profession. This new profession at first glance is a spell-casting melee fighter with a huge amount of battlefield control. This second, and last, soldier profession will turn a lot of heads, especially for those already considering a warrior main.
The guardian is the first brand new Guild Wars 2 profession, but it definitely owes most of its existence to past Guild Wars professions. For a Guild Wars player, a good way to describe the guardian might be to call it a warrior steak with a side of monk potato and a small helping of ritualist carrots all covered in paragon gravy. Unlike the monk the guardian’s job is not to make red bars go up, and unlike the paragon the guardian will not have any physical ranged attack. Still the guardian owes a debt to the three Guild Wars professions that will likely not return for Guild Wars 2 launch.
The first thing to note are the guardian’s special skill types. It received spirit weapons from the ritualist piece of pie. The spirit weapons are unattackable “pets” that fight by the guardian’s side for a short time, but they can be used up for a giant effect. If the guardian wants, he can have three spirit weapons floating around him at a time at the cost of three utility skill slots. Offensive guardians will likely make good use of these to augment damaging capabilities.
The other special skill types relate more to the guardian’s significant battlefield presence. Symbols can be placed on the ground to provide momentary effects to a group of allies or enemies, and wards can be placed to completely stop an enemy from moving across the ward. There will be line wards and circular wards to encircle a group of allies, or even enemies. I can’t but help think about Protoss tactics in Starcraft 2 involving carefully placed force fields that split enemy forces. I think scalpel-like placement of wards is going to be huge in GvG. I am starting to worry with the amount of ground effects… things might get very confusing in a battlefield filled with guardian wards, necromancer wells, elementalist spells, warrior banners, and who knows what else (gunner turrets, perhaps).
To round out the guardian, the guardian will have three special virtue abilities. Justice makes every fifth attack a burning one. Courage grants the Aegis boon every 30 seconds (blocking perhaps 7% of all attacks according to the Jon Peters interview at Onlinewelten), and finally Resolve lets the guardian constantly regenerate health. The catch is that the guardian can give up the passive virtue effect for 30-120 seconds in order to give the effect to nearby players. Honestly, I think this is where skilled guardians are going to rule. When I played a paragon in Guild Wars, I could spam group effects in a steady stream. A guardian can’t do that with virtue abilities and will have to have incredible battlefield awareness to know when to pop Courage or Justice to help the group.
Going back to the Protoss analogy, I think that guardians are about control. The right time to act is going to become an absolute mantra for all guardian players. They are going to be more difficult to use to full potential than the warrior, but I think that once players get used to fighting in a less direct way, guardians will shine. While they aren’t monks, I think plenty of guardians will save the day.
There was one last thing I wanted to discuss. In the EuroGamer interview, ArenaNet said that the guardian plays a similar support role to the necromancer. I think this is the key to understanding the guardian’s effect on group dynamics. It’s all about fluidity. With a guardian, a group might want to focus on staying close together but also bring fewer defensive skills. With a necromancer, a group might need a few more defensive skills but will have an easier time taking down condition-laden enemies while hiding behind minion meatshields. The most important thing is that in a group, players are not islands. Each incoming group member will have an effect on each other group member’s decisions. So, while I think the monk paradigm is dead, I do think that the guardian might have more of an effect on group composition and planning than a warrior.
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