I’m currently at level 24, so I have about 4 levels experience of vanguard tanking, all under Divine Crusader. And I must say that I’m pleased, since not only have I done mostly EH under all circumstances but also EE in pugs.
There’s currently 4 ways to tank, the 2 weapon/2 handed half tank with a heavy investment in DPS (like Kensei) and less so in Stalwart (or as Pally Knight of the Chalice or Defender). I call them half tank since there’s little or no real investment in AC other than basic from armor, but with some investment in things that add PRR and perhaps even armor agility and such. The onus is naturally on DPS but also with a slight addition to survivability. This is just like with MOTU when you could add defensive capabilities while adding mostly DPS, that was later (and one of those ‘huh’ things) so that tanking, or related defensive stands required shield – making half tanking more of a all or nothing proposition). Half tanking as such is more about adding more innate abilities in a dps tree with even possibly the capstone (for people like me who doesn’t mix and max with a lot of splashes).
The second is the DPS tank, this would be Sword and Board – with heavy Kensei and Vanguard or Stalwart (or similar with Pally). The idea is here to add as much ‘firepower’ to the DPS side, while still offering some defensive stuff. This should most likely involve mostly Kensei (up to tier 5) with Vanguard as heavy second for as much shield bash as possible.
I’m currently doing the third option, Vanguard Fighter Tank, with heavy investment in Vanguard up to tier 5 and then capstone and the rest in Stalwart except enough to get the tactical DC from Kensei and some points for heavy blades. For the human race tree I add enough for the first ability (strength) and then 10% heal amp.
I play the Vanguard tank as a tactical DPS build – where stun and trips negate threats and stun adds extra DPS to weapon. It’s effective; Stun and Trip works in EE, perhaps not all the way to 28, but with enough investment in it (destiny legendary twist) and the MOTU seal with Vertigo (for trip) and whatever for stunning, it connects enough times to be effective. Especially stuns – here there’s 2 chances – stunning strike and stunning shield. Cleaves comes from Cleave, greater cleave and the Divine Crusader Strike down witch is a melee Smite Cleave.
Add to that Consecration, with both healing for allies and holy and fire damage (including bane damage) for critters. The Vanguard Shield Smash provides an excellent quick and destructive hit, about 300-800 (dependent on crit on stun) as a follow up to successful stuns. And with all the doublestrikes and shield bashes it’s a good normal 100+ hits with 200-500 crits dependent on weapon. It might not seem like that much considering that others can get in good 1k or even more hits, but with the natural amount of procs it’s still enough to be high up in kills. Noted, kills is not a good measurement of how great a build is, but it gives a general idea about kill speed and more then so efficiency to finish the job. As such I managed to do a EH Devils Assault and win the kill score against 3 other melee builds, which included 2 weapon fighting and 2 handed fighting. The key it seemed was a good use of many different cleaves for multiple targets including shield procs as well as stuns and shield bash on single targets.
And it was not entirely un effective in EE – not the top DPS and kill there since there were others with some really impressive DPS (like when I ran with a Swashbuckler build that went through stuff like a grenade launcher).
Now the 4th build option would be a pure tank, with less onus on DPS and Vanguard, with tier 5 Stalwart/Defender with capstone. The key here is LOTS of HP and defense (including PRR and MRR) with okay amount of DPS but with a serious tilt towards taking little or no damage.
In a way I think the Vanguard tank is a happy medium. The experience I had was seriously gratifying in quests where I had struggled before but now felt confident enough about the defense and DPS. Like Rift in Demonweb. This gets REALLY intense on EE with tons of stuff storming in – it can certainly be a pain for a healer and when I first played it as a tank back in the days (and with similar gear like now) it was quite a different experience. Especially since there was no MRR, so all type of ‘magic’ spell damage hit like trucks and the PRR was not as effective (not to mention AC practically worthless). I spent more time desperate self healing and running in circles aggroing while the rest really did most of the heavy lifting.
With this build I stood the ground, sure I took damage, but it was manageable with less gluts of heavy incoming damage (spells) and a more effective way of negating damage through trips and stuns. Plus the extra dps from Shield bashes helps, making it less about taking aggro and surviving and more about taking hits but dishing it right back.
And consecrated ground is a good way of adding survivability. It’s less about DPS and more keeping your HP from getting overwhelmed in the thick of things.
The second show was EE Belly – another intense (in spots) throwdown against hordes. Once more the damage was manageable especially against the snake stuff (almost died from first getting held and then was about 5% HP left before getting free and hit me with a cocoon).
And once more the additional DPS and survivability was a key, with 2 ways of effective stuns and a fairly high end improved trip.
These were two quests in the past were tanking just didn’t feel satisfying, now I could get into the middle and cleave, thrown down a consecrated ground and survive through it while putting down enough hurt. And that’s important since the key isn’t just to survive hits, it’s to neutralize the critters and not just be the damage sponge while others do most of the work.
And 25 there will be a few more good things added; Epic Black Dragon Armor for DPS (with helmet), the collar for alacrity and a better shield. Then at 26 I have a stored Haunted hall shield; purple Knight. That one adds a good source of DPS and 10 con – that’s not bad at all. I very much look forward to using that to best effect.
And of course at 28 my tier 2 Shadowscale heavy armor with DR 30. That will be useful – I’d love to see if all of that makes tanking as efficient at level 28 as it has been up to this point. I know that there comes a point where the difficulty outstrips the effect of destinies and enhancement and there’s still some basic bonus from gear but will it be enough to be as smooth at 28 as it is now. We’ll see.