SWTOR Vanguard/PowerTech PvP Guide

You’ve just fired up Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) for the first time and are choosing your character.  You stumble across the Vanguard (PowerTech), an indomitable walking fortress of destruction.  You decide to play it only to find out it can be the most powerful class in the game.  Join me to unlock all the Vanguard’s potential in this SWTOR VG/PT Guide.

Vanguards are one of the best classes in the game.  Each skill tree is valuable and all are easy to play.  As a Vanguard, you have a lot of defensive abilities and a simple offensive rotation, making it easy to learn.  Once you’ve mastered it, you will be a walking powerhouse of destruction.  Stunning, bursting, pulling, being that player on the battlefield that no one wants to see.  Here’s my overall take on the class.

Positive / Negative list
+ Durability
+ Utility
+ Strong DPS (single target or area)
– Limited range
– No long mez

Table of Contents

Abilities & Uses
Shield Specialist (Tank)
Tactics (Area Damage)
Assault Specialist (Single Target Damage)
Combos

Abilities & Uses

Name

Level

Use

Battle Focus

Explosive Fuel (PowerTech)

50 A critical hit buff or offensive burst ability.  I use this near the start of every match, or when I’m full resolve and can get off an entire rotation.  Don’t save it, use it a lot!
Neural Surge

(Carbonize)

46 This is your area (AoE) crowd control (CC) ability or a hard stun.  I use this over my single target CC because of its low 45 second cool down.
Reserve Powercell

Thermal Sensor Override)

42 This is our free energy ability.  I usually use this with a high energy ability such as Mortar Volley or  Explosive Surge.
Stealth Scan 36 A placement ability that reveals players in  stealth.  You’ve got to be good at this, anticipate where stealthier are hidden, drop it before an operative runs away, make it a twitch reflex.
Adrenaline Rush

(Kolto Overload)

32 This is your last defensive cool down to stay alive.  A powerful self-heal that will activate when below 35%.  You can use it up to 60 seconds prior to dipping below health.  I generally use it when I know it’s going to come to that after I’ve med packed.
Diversion

(Chaff Flare)

30 By default, this ability reduces threat, but with certain talents can add defense rating for a short period.  Keep this ability accessible even if you don’t play Assault.
Sonic Round

(Sonic Missile)

30 Area taunt or damage reduction for other players.  Must use in a group or at the start of combat.  Can be used at long range too.
Hold the Line

(Hydraulic Overrides)

26 One of the most powerful abilities in the game, a 30% run speed increase with immunity to all movement impairing effects.  I almost always use this, especially right before a major DPS rotation or Pulse Cannon.
Explosive Surge

(Flame Sweep)

24 An area damage ability with high energy cost, though can do massive damage in talented.  If playing Tactics, this can generate your three stacks of Pulse Generate, so be sure to get those stacks prep’d before combat.
Harpoon

(Grapple)

22 VG’s pull up to 30m range.  It’s also an interrupt so be sure to save it for a casting class.  Can be used offensively (pulling healer to you) or defensively (pulling target off your healer)
High Energy Cell 20 Cell needed for Tactics (middle talent tree).
Riot Strike

(Quell)

18 Our interrupt that can be talented down to six seconds.
Neural Jolt

(Neural Dark)

16 Our single target taunt, be sure to use on opponents attacking your healer.
Guard 14 Guarding another player mitigates damage from them and is generally used on a healer or high dps class.  Make sure to swap as needed, don’t just throw it on the healer and run away.  You’ll need to keep close to your guarded target for it to take effect.
Ion Cell

(Ion Gas Cylinder)

14 Cell needed for Shield Specialist/tanking.  This is the only cell that will activate your shield, so don’t equip one without this activated.
Reactive Shield

(Energy Shield)

14 Our damage reduction defensive ability that can be talented to reduce every time you take damage.  I usually use this and an Warzone Adrenal in combination to start a fight.
Cryo Grenade

(Electro Dart)

12 Our single target CC which I save until a healer/dps class is low and stun to finish them off.
Ion Pulse

(Flame Burst)

10 Our standard low energy attack.  This is a major part of all the VG’s rotations so keep it somewhere you can hit it a lot.
Mortar Volley

(Death from Above)

10 A big AoE damage ability with high energy cost.  Make sure to use this when enemies are clumped up.  It’s also 30m range, so if rooted, you can use to put pressure on a target.
Tenacity

(Determination)

9 Our “trinket” or CC breaker.  I use early and often, generally when I have been mez’d or a long stun.
Pulse Cannon

(Flame Thrower)

8 Another strong area damage ability, though it’s the main focal point of the Tactics tree.
High Impact Bolt

(Rail Shot)

6 High burst weapon damage (white) ability that has 30m range.  Your target must be dot’d so it can be tricky to get to work.  This ability is centered around the Assault tree.
Sticky Grenade

(Explosive Dart)

5 A 30m range AoE damage ability that is typically used as opener.
Plasma Cell

(Combustible Gas Cylinder)

4 Cell activated for Assault talent tree.
Full Auto

(Unload)

3 This is a 30m ranged white damage ability.  I rarely use this only when a Shadow activates their Resilience and are immuned to Force/Tech damage.
Stockstrike

(Rocket Punch)

2 A great single target burst ability focused on both DPS trees.
Armor Proficiency: Heavy 1 Yes VGs get heavy armor and it looks cool!

Skill Tree Only Abilities

Name

Tree

Use

Riot Gas

(Oil Slick)

Shield Specialist (Defense) An AoE slow and reduces accuracy which makes players miss hits.  This is a must have ability for PvP tanking.
Storm

(Jet Charge)

Shield Specialist (Defense) The Tank leap which is good, though I don’t go high enough in the tanking tree to get it.
Energy Blast

(Heat Blast)

Shield Specialist (Defense) Your high priority tanking ability, once again I don’t go high enough to get this.
Gut

(Retractable Blade)

Tactics (Damage) Tactics’ major DoT that increases your damage dealt to that player.  Generally this is used first before going on a major rotation.
Fire Pulse

(Immolate)

Tactics (Damage) Heavy hitter in the Tactics tree with a 10m range.  Keep this on cool down as it procs a free stock strike.
Incendiary Round

(Incendiary Missile)

Assault Specialist (Damage) This is a high energy, long DotT.  There’s some debate about when to use this considering it will take a lot of your resources away.  Therefore, I don’t recommend this as a rotation starter.
Assault Plastique

(Thermal Detonator)

Assault Specialist (Damage) This is part of your big burst phase with a good DoT in addition.  Generally your second ability used on a target.

 

Shield Specialist (Tank)

+ Mobility
+ Utility
+ Massive shield absorb
– Minimal damage
– No AoE reduction running full tank

Overview – The full tanking tree of the Vanguard relies heavily on shield rating and absorb.  You have a leap to close the distance and DoTs to slow the enemy.  The problem with full tanking in PvP is the lack of AoE reduction that the middle tree provides.  Thus I play a hybrid DPS to prevent  AoE damage.

 Set Bonus: 2-piece Combat Medic (Hold the Line Reduction) and 2-piece Combat Tech (extra time on Carbonize)

Active Cell: Ion Cell

Key Abilities – Riot Gas | Ion Pulse.  Playing the hybrid, stealth detect will root targets and harpoon will immobilize them.  The whole build is centered around slowing the opponent.  Use taunts, slows, stuns, to limit DPS.  Throw a Riot Gas down at a choke point to hold position.  Use Ion Pulse to generate a Battering Ram proc for a free Stockstrike to prevent low energy.  Frequently use Hammer Shots in between rotations as it’s a solid slow and you’ll need to conserve energy.

 BuildsFull Tank Build and Hybrid Tank Build (listed as DPS)

GearFull Tank VG | Endurance > Absorption > Shield Rating (chance) > Defense > Main Stat

As a tank, I try to have as much of an HP pool as possible.  Secondary to that is absorb/shield rating as this determines how you mitigate damage for yourself and your guarded target.  Defense rating is less optimal as it only affects you, not your guarded target.

Rotation (Full Tank)-

  1. Storm (leap to close distance)
  2. Stockstrike (first stack of power screen)
  3. High Impact Bolt (second stack of power screen)
  4. Hammer Shot (third stack of power screen)
  5. Energy Blast
  • Make sure to keep up taunts on DPS opponents with Sonic Round (group) and Neural Jolt (group)

Rotation (Hybrid Tank)

  1. Sticky Grenade (while closing in)
  2. Hammer Shot (still closing)
  3. Gut
  4. Stockstrike
  5. High Impact Bolt
  6. Ion Pulse

Defensive Cool Downs

  1. Riot Gas (two or more together)
  2. Reactive Shield
  3. Adrenal
  4. Med Pack (around 50% if no healers)
  5. Adrenaline Rush (health below 30% or nearing)

Tactics (Area Damage)

+ Nearly indestructible
+ Incredible area damage
+ Great CC and utility
– Short range
– Reliant on procs

 Overview – This talent tree is my favorite and what I used to get up past 1700 solo rating.  It has massive damage reduction, huge area burst, and great utility.  To be successful, you need to play aggressively.  You need to be the one to charge into battle, use many cool downs, and pressure the team.

Set Bonus: 4-piece Combat Tech (extra CC time and higher critical chance on rocket punch)

 Active Cell: High Energy Cell

 Key Abilities – Pulse Cannon |  Rocket Punch.  You get your three stacks of Pulse Generator to enable your main AoE ability, Pulse Cannon.  Prep this attack by stunning the opponent and using Hold the Line to prevent knock-backs.  Next, peel back for a Mortar Volley to do massive damage over a short period.  This will cause enormous pressure on the other team, enabling you to take the advantage.  Just focus your damage on multiple targets regardless if they are tank/healer/dps, pressure the team that’s your job.

Builds – Full DPS Build  |  DPS in Ion Stance Build

Gear Tactics | Aim > Power > Surge >

  • Make sure to use a shield in Ion Stance with power/aim in the mod and enhancement because it will make a difference in your survivability.

With your gear, stack a lot of power/surge and Aim.  Our talents and set bonus give a lot of critical hit bonuses and a guaranteed critical.  Plus VG’s have an on demand critical hit ability, so I don’t use any critical rating pieces.  I also don’t use any accuracy as High Impact Bolt is really the only ability heavily affected by this stat.  Go with power/main stat relics for even more high burst and watch the numbers fly!

Rotation – Full DPS

Prior to combat, use Explosive Surge to generate three stacks of Pulse Generator.

  1. Sticky Grenade
  2. Hammer Shot
  3. Gut
  4. Fire Pulse
  5. Stockstrike
  6. High Impact Bolt
  7. Pulse Cannon

Defensive Cool Downs –

  1. Reactive Shield
  2. Adrenal
  3. Med Pack (around 50% if no healers)
  4. Adrenaline Rush (health below 30% or nearing)

Assault Specialist                                               (Single Target Damage)

+ Better range
+ High burst
+ Great CC
– Less survivability
– Little AoE damage

Overview – This talent tree centers on DoT damage and high burst with High Impact Bolt.  The tricky part is managing your energy and watching for the right time to load up the enemy.  You don’t want to charge in as if you were playing Tactics because you have less mitigation, but you need to be a front line player in order to be successful.  This spec has a lot of armor penetration so don’t be afraid to target a heavy armored class.

Set Bonus: 4-piece Eliminator (higher High Impact Bolt critical chance)

Active Cell: Plasma Cell

Key Abilities – Ion Pulse | Rail Shoot.  Your main damage dealing and energy regeneration comes from High Impact Bolt and using this as often as possible.  You have less survivability, but you have a buffed Adrenaline Rush so make sure to use that nearly 30% health.  Keep up the DoTs on the target (up to three) and watch the healer lag behind.  If the opponents are clumped up, use Explosive Surge to dot them all for major damage.

BuildFull DPS Build

GearAssault Specialist | Aim > Accuracy 95% melee > 25% Tech Critical Chance > Surge 70% > Power

This gear set relies more on accuracy and critical hit than the others.  Since High Impact Bolt is our most important ability, and it’s a weapon based attack, we’ll need more accuracy to prevent misses.  Moreover, we are not guaranteed to critical hit with this ability, so we should use a little bit of critical (around 200 points).  I also use the 29AX mods to increase my main stat and gain a little more critical.  Lastly, I use the critical relic instead of power for an extra proc’d chance to gain more critical hit.

Rotation

  1. Sticky Grenade while closing in
  2. Incendiary Round (long DoT)
  3. Assault Plastique (second DoT)
  4. High Impact Bolt (third DoT)
  5. Ion Pulse and/or Stock Strike (depending on range)
  6. High Impact Bolt

Defensive Cool Downs

  1. Reactive Shield
  2. Adrenal
  3. Med Pack (around 50% if no healers)
  4. Adrenaline Rush (health below 30% or nearing)

Combos

Here’s a general list of “combos” or abilities synced together that work well in certain situations.

“Rip N’ Grip” – Use on a caster at a distance to interrupt and get a jump on your rotation.  If you’re pulling a Sorc/Sage, don’t stun them right away until they’ve tried to speed away, then stun.  Now they have no escape and are vulnerable.

  • Harpoon > Cyro Grenade > Gut
  • (for a Sorc/Merc) Harpoon > Gut (as they speed off) > Cyro

Big Stacks – You’ll see a lot of VGs do this prior to combat, but you need to generate your three stacks for Pulse Cannon.   Any time you are nearing combat, or you have a breather in between rounds, keep these stacks generated.

  • Explosive Surge > Explosive Surge > Explosive Surge > Recuperate

Duke Nukem – You’ll need a buddy to pull this off, though quite impressive when done correctly.  At a choke point in a map, one player runs in and CC’s the group, followed up with a three stack Pulse Cannon.  The other player stands back and uses Mortar Volley.  Once those abilities are finished, each player swaps positions and uses the other ability (first player would peel back and use Mortar Volley, etc).  This is an absolutely devastating attack which you’ll see in some of my videos.

  • (1st player) Carbonize > Pulse Cannon > Peels back > Mortar Volley
  • (2nd Player) Mortar Volley > Runs close > Carbonize > Pulse Cannon

Rambo Run – This is my bread and butter entrance into an arena.  Usually people will tunnel the first target they see, so I make sure that’s me and I’m prepared.  If done on top of a taunt, while stunned, expect to take nearly zero damage.

  • Reactive Shield (25%) > Adrenal (25%) > Hold the Line

Pulse Volley – This is what I use when I don’t have a friend playing solo VG.  It’s the same concept as Duke Nukem, though harder to pull off without two CC’s.

  • Carbonize > Pulse Cannon > peel back > Mortar Volley

I hope this guide was useful.  Feel free to leave me any comments or suggestion!

Version

1.0 – Complete initial guide – on March 4, 2014

19 Comments

  1. LCS on March 23, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Tnx a lot for the guide. Iam a new player, and a PT too. And you helped me a lot to see the variants of those pvp specs.

  2. BJD on April 20, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Great guide!
    I have some questions concerning the situatiopn after patch 2.7
    My operative dps and smash marauder got nerfed out of warezones. Now I am mostly gearing my healer merc succesfully for arena, but after watching the guide I really want to play my PT more in pvp. My questions:
    I leveled in full tank spec, playing quite a lot of wz’s and think I can do the basics of pvp tanking and guard switching. The guide made me wanting to try Adv. Prototype/Tactics. But is this still that viable in arenas? Without smash, there is not much AoE and the Juggers that are really getting a problem to me have no real hard stun either and great mobility to conter a flamethrower. This seems like the big advantages of Tactics are gone. Would you recommend me gearing for Tactics oder staying tank?
    thank you!

    • Deltia on April 22, 2014 at 12:17 am

      Yes Prototype is still great. Without smash AoE I understand the concern, but think of all the Sorcs contantly casting deathfield (AoE), you get reduced CD on hold the line to chase down ranged, everytime you’re stunned 30% less damage. It’s the one melee class I think can hold up against all the sorcs. I say tactics by far, you can keep a set of tank gear use Ion cell and still be effective with slows and pulls. Give Proto a try and you’ll see how tanky it is in PvP.

      • BJD on May 16, 2014 at 4:30 pm

        I’m currently gearing for Proto, so playing regular warzones a lot. I have to admit I haven’t had so much fun in pvp for a long time!
        The only thing ruining games atm are these unkillable juggers… which are way too many.

    • Deltia on May 24, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      I do think it’s still viable though the Juggernauts got a ridiculous boost. For Tactics, high power/surge with low crit.

  3. Duggan on May 24, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    I was just wondering what the rotation was for assault specialist in Ion Stance. I see the rotation for full DPS, or is it the same ? Great guide! Thx

    • Duggan on May 24, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      Sorry I meant Tactics ! /shame

      • Deltia on May 24, 2014 at 4:53 pm

        Yea it’s pretty much the same trying to keep your absorb procs up. There’s a lot more Hammer Shoting to save energy and basically using abilities for utility rather than damage. Does that help?

        • Duggan on May 29, 2014 at 11:28 pm

          I believe so =D so recap:

          ION Cell, not High Energy or Plasma Cells
          and general rotation (as things change on the fly) is

          Sticky Grenade
          Hammer Shot
          Gut
          Fire Pulse
          Stockstrike
          High Impact Bolt
          Pulse Cannon
          Ion Pulse?

          Many Thanks !

          • Deltia on May 30, 2014 at 1:24 pm

            That’s right, but after that full rotation you’ll have to pop some energy reserves and maybe something else to maintain.

            Maybe throw in a hammer shot or two in between to keep energy management higher. Let me know if it works for you.



  4. Podad on July 11, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Hi Deltia,
    Just dusted off my Shield Spec VG the other day after a long hiatus (my main is a Merc Pyro/Arsenal depending on the situation), and I was getting bored with dailies, so I jumped into some PvP. I forgot how tough VG’s are to kill :), so I had some fun at first. Looking to expand on that…

    I found your guide while researching specs, etc, and it’s wonderful! One of the best I’ve ever seen in regards to VG. I do have one question of clarification and one other, if you will:

    In the shield spec hybrid you list above, do you still use tanking gear as opposed to dps gear? Based on the gear link, I think you do, but I wanted to be sure. I used a hybrid a long, long time ago, but I wasn’t too thrilled with it…all of my gear has tank attributes, and currently my dps is obviously low…so wondering if this hybrid may help me.

    My other question, and again, I think I know the answer, but want to confirm: on your Tactics build, you are maintaining a separate set of DPS gear, correct?

    Hope these questions make sense – Thanks again for the guide!

    • Deltia on July 11, 2014 at 5:19 pm

      Podad,

      Glad you like the guide and let me try to answer your questions.

      Regarding gear, what are you trying to do? If you want to live forever then tank gear. If you have a healer with you or another DPS then maybe DPS gear.

      On Tactics, I do have a full DPS set and a full tank set. It just depends on situation. If we don’t have a healer and the other team does, I’ll wear full tank. If we need DPS I’ll go that way.

      A hybrid tactics build with mostly DPS is a great hybrid that will put out decent damage, help the team, and survive. Let me know if I can help in any other way.

      Deltia

      • Podad on July 11, 2014 at 5:40 pm

        Thank you very much for the reply! You did answer my questions, so I appreciate that very much!

        What I’m trying to do is make sure I’m not a liability to my team while maximizing my potential – ie, by running tactics with tank gear or something similar

        So it appears that your situation determines your gear selection, and you do maintain 2 sets of gear – that was mainly what I was after.

        I have no PvP specced gear at this time, so before I jumped in and started buying things, I wanted to confirm what my needs are. I made a similar mistake with my Merc, so I didn’t want to repeat it 🙂

        BTW, I watched some of your videos, and I’m also on POT5 – I’m almost certain I’ve seen you around, even in WZ’s. Hope to run into you again sometime – Geejzo on Imp side, Podad on Pub side.

        Take care!

  5. mek107 on January 27, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Will this full tank work in 3.0 lv 60?

    • Deltia on January 27, 2015 at 8:19 pm

      I honestly don’t know since I don’t play or cover SWTOR anymore.

  6. mek107 on January 29, 2015 at 6:00 am

    Oh thx anyway then. Sad to hear you dont play anymore 🙂

  7. acra on May 23, 2015 at 8:16 am

    Hey Deltia!

    very good work with this guide! I started playing SWTOR just 6 month ago and I must say vguard/pwtech wasnt my priority to lvl up as I feel more comftble with stealthers and healers but after playing many wz and suddenly got wiped out by vguard couples playing front or 2nd line I realized about their power and thaught: ” oh man I need to know how to manage with (and against) this class or I will be crappy sh##t in pvp!!!”

    and this guide has not only shown me clearly how this class works buuuuut aaaaaalso it started getting me anxious to lvl my new vguard toon!!!!

    acra

  8. Mizar on May 26, 2017 at 7:32 am

    did this guide is still valid (3 years old) ? torhead is dead so when you have time please update guide and load builds on other website.

    • Deltia on May 26, 2017 at 5:39 pm

      No, I need to update them but it takes time.

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