Updated Mon, Nov 08, 2010 by gunky
One part inevitable force, one part immovable object, the stalwart Guardian is the heavy tank of the Lord of the Rings Online. With heavy armor and stout shield, the Guardian stands on the front line of every fight, roaring his defiance into the face of his enemies and refusing to buckle under crushing blows that would fell so many others.
In a group, he is a protector of his fellows, putting the safety of others ahead of his own and keeping the enemy focused on his actions rather than the actions of his comrades. In solo play, he is a juggernaut of brute force, bowling through any obstacle that stands in his way. In PvMP, the Guardian can charge headlong into an enemy raid, with a better chance than most of getting all the way through to the other side.
The Guardian class is available to every race. At lower levels, race plays a more significant role in the overall effectiveness of the class. Dwarves, with their innate resilience and strength, racial buffs from traits and higher in-combat morale and power regeneration, are a natural choice for the class. However, at the highest levels, no single race has a distinct advantage over any other.
Depending on the role, Guardians are all about soaking up damage or dishing it out. Either way, Strength and Vitality are crucial.
A "sword-and-board" Guardian will want the best heavy shield available to him, and a solid one-handed weapon. The shield will soak up a portion of incoming damage and enable a few extra threat-generating skills, and make for more effective tanking at the cost of DPS. An "overpower" Guardian will forego the shield in favor of a higher-damage two-handed weapon. With the two-hander, he will be hit more often, but his damage output will be significantly increased.
Guardians typically have more morale than any other class, receiving a larger bonus for high Vitality scores than most other classes. Morale is king, and Guardians generally equip and trait for the highest possible number. Also important is the ability to shrug off damage by boosting Melee, Ranged and/or Tactical Defense through virtues, traits and gear. Bearing the brunt of the enemies' assaults is the Guardian's job, and the more damage of any type he can effectively ignore, the longer he can perform that job.
Playing a Guardian effectively, particularly in groups, can be very challenging. In smaller groups, the Guardian can often get away with being a bit lazy, but raids require stricter attention to detail, and this task can be a bit overwhelming for some people. When tanking for a large group, there are more group members to potentially steal the Guardian's hard-won aggro, and often more very dangerous enemies to keep more tightly controlled. When Guardians fail to do their jobs properly, groups wipe, and the pressure to perform can be much higher for Guardians than for flightly Hunters or megalomaniacal Champions and Wardens.
Tanking comes at a cost to DPS, and DPS comes at a cost to tanking ability. The Guardian must usually choose one or the other and stick with that role until his situation changes. And unlike some other classes, changing from one mode to the other often requires a change of gear - swapping out the greatsword to axe and shield, for example - so this means carrying two sets of gear... or at least two main weapons plus a shield. This can make things interesting when leveling legendary items at later levels, as space on the LI panel can feel a bit limited compared to other classes who only need one main weapon and one class item.
Power consumption for Guardians is high-average, but they do have a few ways to keep power consumption more or less in check through traits and skill use. DPS is also around average, though running in Overpower bumps this up to high-average. However, the strength of the class is not necessarily measured in DPS, but in its ability to survive unaided for much longer than most other classes.
Even with the popularity of newer, flashier tank-type classes, the Guardian is still high on the list of player favorites. They are rugged and dependable enough to star in their own pickup truck commercials narrated by Sam Elliot, and they are invaluable for running endgame group content. They are one of the easiest classes to get into at low levels because of their survivability, and this aspect does not diminish over time.