The second and final Soldier-class profession is the mystical Guardian. The Guardian is a master of both melee attacks and magical implements. They can wield the following weapons:
- Main Hand: Mace, Scepter, Sword
- Off Hand: Focus, Shield, Torch
- Two-Handed: Greatsword, Hammer, Staff
Looking at the main hand weapons, there are two melee weapons, and one magical. Both the sword and the scepter have ranged attacks, though the spam-skill for the sword is melee range and the scepter is a ranged attack. Like the Warrior, the second skill provided by the sword is a distance closer, in this case a teleport with a blind attached to it. The mace provides an ally support skill by the name of Protector’s Strike which will likely be very nice for party-oriented play, and it also provides a ground-based AoE which will be good for fighting groups. The scepter is the one-handed all ranged option, providing two ranged damage attacks and an immobilize. Guardians looking to the support role may use the scepter in one of their weapon sets for keeping foes busy and immobilized without having to get close.
The shield provides two skills that are both used for protection. Both Shield of Judgement and Shield of Absorption have means of protecting both the Guardian and its allies from attacks unlike the Warrior’s shield skills, which are more about self protection and offense. It seems that a shield and scepter together will provide a powerful back-line support feel, giving a mix of damage, CC, and protective barriers and buffs.
Both the focus and the torch are more offensively geared, and both have a way of removing conditions. Ray of Judgement (focus) is an attack that does damage, blinds enemies, and removes conditions from allies. It seems like one of those skills that will be difficult to decide when is best to use it (either proactively for a key blind, or reactively to purge conditions). Cleansing Flame (torch) also is a damage + condition removal skill, but it has a shorter cooldown (20 vs 30 seconds) and doesn’t have as strong of an offensive tool as the blind provided by Ray of Judgement. The second skill provided by the focus is Shield of Wrath, a skill that shields allies for a few seconds, then explodes if the shield isn’t broken. It has a long cooldown, but seems fairly powerful. Alternatively, the torch provides the Guardian with a flaming aura that damages foes, and can be deactivated to shoot a fireball at an enemy. Overall, the torch seems to be a more proactive damage-centric off-hand item with lower cooldowns and the focus seems to have skills with variable purposes all stuck together. It appears that the focus will take a lot of work to use optimally, but it may yield much better supportive results.
Moving onto the two handed weapons, the only one we have much solid information on is the staff. As a magical weapon, it provides all ranged attacks with several interesting support-themed skills. The first is Symbol of Protection, a ground-targeted AoE that both damages enemies and buffs allies within the zone. It will complement the melee fighters like the Warrior quite well, and it has a relatively short cooldown of 12 seconds. Another support skill provided by the staff is Martyr, which strips all of the conditions your allies are suffering and transfers them to the Guardian, and then proceeds to buff the Guardian with (I believe) every type of buff in the game, or at least most of them. The most interesting skill in my opinion however is the Line of Warding- a spell that draws a line on the ground through which enemies cannot pass, but allies can freely move through. This skill has deep tactical implications given the value of mobility in this game. Suddenly skills like savage leap can be stopped, but teleports may be able to penetrate the wall (or not, depending on the coding). A Guardian, with this wall and its symbols, can truly create a shape and flow to the battlefield to funnel enemies.
The unique mechanic
The Guardian has three virtues that each have two states- passive, and activated. While being used passively, the virtues each grant a bonus to the guardian either constantly, or in measured intervals. When activated, the Guardian then shares these buffs with its allies (and itself), but then the virtue becomes inactive for a much longer cooldown. The three virtues are:
- Justice—Every fifth attack causes burning. Use this skill to make nearby allies’ next attacks cause burning. (This disables your Justice for 30 seconds.)
- Courage—Every 30 seconds you are granted Aegis, blocking the next attack. Use this skill to apply Aegis to all nearby allies. (This disables your Courage for 120 seconds.)
- Resolve—You regenerate health. Use this skill to remove conditions and apply Regeneration to all nearby allies. (This disables your Resolve for 120 seconds.)
The trick will of course be in when you choose to activate a virtue for the whole party, and when you want to be more selfish and keep the more frequent buffs for yourself. The virtue of Justice will give the Guardian a strong pressure mechanic to frequently apply some strong degeneration to a target, but when toggled onto the party it can provide some instant party-wide pressure, or create a large amount of degen on one target all at once due to the way conditions stack. Likewise, Aegis and Resolve will give the Guardian staying power, but with proper timing, granting them to allies can save lives at the right moment.
Like the Warrior, my only main concern is that people will see this profession and think of Paladins tanking in other games. From reports, the Guardian actually has a far smaller HP pool than the warrior and makes up for it with passive regeneration and protective skills. Balance-wise, they seem like a really interesting mix of support and DPS, with a few elements of control like blinds and immobilizes. Their virtues present an interesting trade-off to keep in mind, though I worry that the long cooldown after you grant the virtue to the party will be too long in practice. I feel that the Guardian will have a high skill ceiling for performing at its optimal level and will be much more challenging to truly master than some of the other professions, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing!
Why this profession is for you
If you like a profession that is a mixture of martial power and magic, then this will likely be the profession for you. Guardians have a strong degree of hybridization built into most of their skills, and their animations are undeniably magical and beautiful. If you like thinking about different ways to utilize one skill, this profession offers a myriad of multi-level tactical skills that can be used more offensively or defensively, and the virtues illustrate this concept even further. If you like proactive damage prevention, the Guardian also has a ton of protection effects that it can dish out to allies, much like a spiritual successor to the Prot Monk in GW1.