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 [Outdated] Vanguard Tanking Guide

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Pinkie Pie
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PostSubject: [Outdated] Vanguard Tanking Guide   Sat Dec 15, 2012 5:17 pm

Pinkie’s Wicked Awesome Guide to Badass Vanguard Tanking

This is my personal guide to tanking as a Vanguard (or Powertech) in The Old Republic. This guide has two sections. The first is a guide to tanking in general, and the second is a guide to Vanguard tanks specifically. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions on either this guide or Vanguard tanking in general, feel free to contact me in game, through the forums, or on our Mumble server.

Tanking 101

At its core, a tank character in an MMORPG must do two things. First, they must act like complete attention whores, keeping enemies focused on them instead of their teammates. Secondly, the tank must take as little damage as possible from these attacks, so that their body doesn’t achieve the consistency of oatmeal. Fame is a harsh mistress. Depending on how much of a dick the enemy is, there may be other things a tank must do, but these two are always the most important.

Threat Mechanics

The most important thing a tank must know is how to hold threat. “Threat” is a measurable quantity of how much an enemy is infuriated by your existence. Unlike damage or healing, the numerical value of an enemy’s threat cannot be seen in the game.

Basics of Threat

The simplest way to generate threat is to damage the enemy, because nothing gets someone’s attention like smacking them upside the face. Under normal circumstances, one point of damage generates one point of threat for that particular enemy. All tank classes have a “stance,” which is an ability which remains active at all times. All tank stances increase the threat they generate by 100%, presumably by causing their weapons to insult the target’s mother with every attack. This means that tanks generate two points of threat for each point of damage they do. Healing also generates threat, but at a rate of 50% for all nearby enemies, because enemies are retarded like that. So each point of healing they do generates only a half of a point of threat, but for all nearby enemies. All healers have access to skills that can further reduce the threat they generate.

In general, an enemy will attack the character that has made enough of a nuisance of themselves to generate the highest threat. However, an enemy will only switch targets once a character has generated 130% of the threat of the current target. So if an enemy is attacking a tank with 100 threat, they will not switch targets until another character reaches 130 threat. Like real people, they are too lazy to change what they are doing until they absolutely have to. An exception to this is that for characters at extremely close ranges (even closer than melee), this threshold drops to 110%. Even lazy people will do things if they don’t have to move.

Tank Threat Tools

If a tank can’t kick the enemy’s ass hard enough to maintain the highest threat even with their stance, they still have several ways to trick the enemy into thinking that they’re important. All tanks have abilities labeled “high threat.” These abilities will generate more base threat than the damage they do, probably by making the enemy incredibly itchy. Tanks can also put a “guard” on other players. A guarded player takes 5% less damage and generates 25% less threat, ensuring that they don’t steal your precious spotlight. It is recommended that you guard the highest damaging member of your party, with a preference to melee fighters. There is a common misconception that guard should be used on healers, but people who say this are dumb, because nobody gives a crap about healers. DPS classes generate more threat, and are more likely to take damage as well, so guarding them is sort of a backhanded compliment. Another misconception is that the guarded player must remain within 15 meters to receive these benefits. Literate people know that this 15 meter restriction only applies to an additional effect that is only applicable in PvP, which will be discussed later if you haven’t gotten bored with this guide by then.

The most important tool a tank has to keep threat is their “taunts,” where you do your best to make the enemy feel inadequate so that they seek retribution. All tanks have two taunts: a single target taunt on a 15 second cooldown, and a multiple target taunt on a 45 second cooldown. When a taunt is used on an enemy, two things happen. First, the enemy is forced to attack the tank for 6 seconds until they’ve soothed their bruised ego, and they cannot attack any other player during that time. Second, the tank’s threat is automatically set to 130% of the previous highest threat. Note that the taunting tank is no exception. If a tank taunts when he is already being targeted, then they will add 30% to their own threat. It may therefore be useful for tanks to taunt their target before they lose threat, rather than after, so you can look them in the eye when you question their sexual orientation.

Mitigating Damage

The second most important thing a tank must do is reduce the amount of damage they take when being attacked so that their organs stay mostly inside their body. This is done through a combination of special gear, mechanics in their skill tree, and being a badass motherfucker.

Damage Reduction

The simplest way to reduce damage taken is wearing strong armor. (Duh.) All tank stances increase the armor rating provided by the character’s gear. Armor reduces the damage taken from energy and kinetic damage types, but does nothing to reduce elemental and internal damage. In other words, it can protect your balls from being punched, but not from being lit on fire. Most tanks also have other ways to reduce the various damage types from either their stance or skill tree.

The Two-Roll System

Another way to mitigate damage is to dodge, parry, or shield an attack, like a boss. When an attack is made against the tank, the game makes a random “dice roll.” There is a percentage chance that the enemy will miss the attack, and there is a chance that the tank will dodge or parry the attack, because nothing is more entertaining than watching statistics play out. The miss chance depends on the accuracy rating of the enemy, and the dodge/parry chance depends on the defense rating of the tank. If any of these things occur, then the attack misses like a drunken frat boy at a urinal, doing no damage. (Note: dodge and parry are functionally identical; the only difference is whether or not the character has a glowstick or a real weapon.)

If the attack is not missed, dodged, or parried, the game makes a second “dice roll.” For this roll, there is a chance that the tank will shield the attack, and a chance that the attack will be a critical hit. The shield chance depends on the shield rating of the tank, and the critical hit chance depends on the critical rating of the enemy. If the attack is shielded, then the attack does less damage than normal, the amount which depends on the tank’s absorb rating. If the attack critically hits, it does more damage than normal, the amount of which depends on the enemy’s surge rating.

BOOBIES!

That was to wake you up from your math-induced coma.

It is important for all tanks to have all three of defense, shield, and absorb rating, but each kind of tank may need different amounts of each because we’re all unique in our own special way. All characters can dodge or parry attacks, but a character must be holding a shield generator in their offhand weapon slot in order to shield attacks. Why they carry it in their hand is beyond me.

A character can only dodge, parry, or shield melee or ranged attacks. Force and tech attacks cannot be dodged, parried, or shielded, because magic. However, force and tech attacks can be “resisted.” Resistance works the same way as dodging or parrying, but the chance is 0% by default and it cannot be increased by defense rating. So yea, good luck with that. Note that attack type is not the same thing as the damage type mentioned in the previous section, despite what some dumbasses might tell you.

PvP

Tanking in Player-versus-Player encounters is quite different than in Player-versus-Environment situations. By which I mean it sucks. Since you are fighting other players, there is no threat system to determine who the enemies attack. For this reason, several of the tank’s abilities function differently in PvP. Taunts, instead of forcing the enemy to attack you, reduce the damage dealt by the target to any player other than you. So you will have to rely on the chat function to irritate your enemies. Since taunts require no resources and are off the global cooldown, these should be used as often as possible to reduce the damage done to teammates. In PvP, guarded players who remain in 15 meters of the tank guarding them have half of the damage they receive transferred to the tank instead. (See, I told you I would talk about it.) It is generally best to guard healers in PvP, because they’re pansies who fold like a house of cards, but it is often useful to switch it around during fights to whoever is taking the most damage.

One easy mistake to make as a tank in PvP is to wear tank gear, because fuck logic. Tank gear is not very useful in PvP, for two reasons. First, at least half the attacks done by players in PvP are tech and force attacks, which cannot be dodged, parried, or shielded. Second, damage received through a guarded player also cannot be dodged, parried, or shielded, regardless of attack type. Bioware’s own PvP designers claim that you are supposed to be able to shield attacks through guard, but have done precisely jack shit to fix it even though it has not been the case since launch. Since armor rating is the same for all the gear within each advanced class, it is much more useful to wear DPS gear for the extra boost in damage. The one exception is the offhand, which should still be a shield generator, as you might as well keep something to separate you from those DPS plebeians.

The Vanguard Tank

There are three kinds of tanks in the Republic faction of The Old Republic: Guardians, Shadows, and Vanguards (the awesome ones). Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, but overall, they are equally capable of performing their jobs (except for Vanguards, who are the best). This section of the guide is specifically for tanking as a Vanguard (because they’re the most awesome).

Strengths and Weaknesses

For Vanguards, the major strengths and weaknesses of their tanking capabilities are as follows.

Strengths:
High passive mitigation. Most of the of a Vanguard’s ability to reduce their damage taken persists at all times. For example, the Vanguard has the strongest armor of any tank class. They are also less reliant on activating abilities to mitigate damage than the other tank classes. They don’t even have to do anything; they can just stand there and take it like real men. This means that the damage they take is more consistent, and therefore easier to heal. (Not that they need it.)
Ranged abilities. The Vanguard has more ranged abilities than the other two tank classes, presumably because need to get near the enemy in order to feel less lonely. A Vanguard can readily attack a target from a distance if needed.
Weaknesses:
Poor Defensive Abilities. All tanks have abilities that can significantly reduce the damage they receive for a short period of time. For the Vanguard, these abilities are not nearly as potent as they are for other tank classes, because they are so badass that they don’t need them.
Vulnerability to Certain Attacks. Since they are so reliant on passive mitigation, such as armor and shields, they are particularly vulnerable to enemies using attacks and damage that can bypass those defenses, like the pathetic cheaters that they are.

Skill Tree

The basic skill point distribution for a Vanguard tank can be found HERE. This represents the set of skills that all non-dumbass tanks in PvE should have. The three leftover points are flexible as to how they can be spent. You can either spend those points in Soldier’s Endurance to increase your max health, or you can spend them on skills to increase your damage. I recommend growing some chest hair and increasing your damage, using the distribution found HERE. For PvP, you might find it useful to put points into Neural Overload or Defensive Measures in order to get the enemy to hold still while you murder them.

Ammo Management

The resource used by all Troopers is ammo, often also referred to as energy cells. The name “energy cells” makes more sense out of the fact that hitting the enemy with your gun consumes them, but only slightly. The trooper starts with a maximum of 12 ammo. The amount of ammo your character has automatically regenerates over time. However, the rate at which it regenerates depends on how much ammo you currently have. When your ammo level is 8-12, it regenerates at a rate of 0.6 ammo per second. When your ammo level is 3-7, it drops to 0.36 ammo per second, and at 0-2 it drops to 0.24. Before another math coma sets in, this just means you to keep your ammo level above 7 at all times. You should only drop below that level if you have another way to restore it, or you just really need that guy’s stupid face to just die already, damn it!

Troopers have two abilities they can use to restore or conserve ammo. The first is Regenerate Cells. This ability restores 6 ammo over 3 seconds. This is very useful for bringing you back up above 7 ammo if you happen to drop below it while spacing out by thinking about classic board games. The second ability is Reserve Power Cell. It makes your next ability activate with no ammo cost, making it like some sort of reusable coupon. It is recommended that you use this in conjunction with Pulse Cannon or Mortar Volley, as they are your most badass (and therefore expensive) abilities.

Vanguard tanks have two additional ways to generate additional ammo. First, the “Shield Cycler” skill makes it so shielding an attack has a 50% chance to generate 1 ammo. As long as an enemy is attacking you, this will happen automatically. Like I said, you’re so awesome you don’t have to do anything. Second, the “Energy Blast” attack at the top of the skill tree generates 1 ammo when used. I’m still trying to figure out the in-universe rationalization for that one.

Abilities

Primary Rotation Abilities

The following are the abilities used in the primary rotation of a Vanguard tank. Unless otherwise noted, these abilities should be used whenever they are off cooldown, provided you pay attention to your ammo and don’t get distracted by the cancellation of a classic video game based print publication.

Stockstrike: This is the hardest single hitting ability in your arsenal, because everyone knows the butt end of a rifle is the most dangerous one. The “Static Shield” skill makes it so shielding an attack has a 50% chance to finish its cooldown, so keep an eye on it. With the “Ion Overload” skill, it also activates Ion Cell on the target, doing extra damage and allowing the use of High Impact Bolt.

High Impact Bolt: This ability hits for reasonably high damage, and with the “Supercharged Ion Cell” skill, it also activates Ion Cell on the target and any enemies near it. Note that Ion Cell will not damage nearby enemies who are incapacitated, but there are still some situations where this “splash” damage can be a liability. Seriously dipshit, stop killing the shield generator.

Ion Pulse: This attack has no cooldown, and is your filler attack when other abilities are on cooldown, provided you have ammo to spare. Using it puts the “Power Screen” buff on yourself, which increases your absorption by 2% and stacks up to 4 times. It also puts the “Static Field” debuff on your target, which reduces its damage by 5%. Both of these should be kept on at all times. Okay, so I lied, you do have to do something to keep up mitigation, bite me.

Energy Blast: This attack restores one ammo, rather than consuming any, so use it as often as possible. Alright, seriously, how the hell does that make sense? You shoot energy and that gives somehow gives you more energy? Keep in mind that this ability is off the global cooldown, and activates Power Screen.

Pulse Cannon: This attack damages enemies in a cone in front of you. It is often overlooked by tanks, which is weird, because it’s a GODDAMN CONE OF LIGHTNING. It costs 3 ammo, so be careful when you use it, and use Reserve Power Cell before activating it as often as you can.

Hammer Shot: This attack is free but weak, so only use it when your ammo gets too low so it can regenerate. At least you get to see and hear your blaster fire for once, right?

Ion Cell: This is your tank “stance.” It increases your armor rating by 60%, increases the threat you generate by 100%, and decreases the damage you take by 5%. It also grants your ranged attacks a 15% chance to do additional energy damage. This ability should be active at all times while tanking. Those who forget to use it will be subjected to immediate and severe derision in a manner similar to Nelson Muntz.

Situational Abilities

These abilities are not necessarily to be used whenever they are off cooldown. They may instead be used in specific situations look cool. Proper use of these abilities requires know what the hell is going on in the current fight.

Mortar Volley: This ability is a very powerful area of effect attack. It will hit a maximum of 5 enemies at once, because apparently explosions can’t multitask well. It will also knock any standard enemies that it hits on their asses. Due to its one minute long cooldown, you may want to save it for larger groups of enemies, or situations when quicker damage is needed. If there is no reason to save it, then just fire off that sucker whenever it is off cooldown. Despite the fact that it has a minimum range, its area is big enough to hit enemies in melee range in front of you.

Battle Focus: This is off the global cooldown, and increases your critical hit chance by 25% for 15 seconds, making you more likely to hit like a truck. It is extremely useful for quickly generating threat at the beginning of a boss fight when those DPS peasants are hitting their hardest as well. It may be prudent to save this ability for when rapid “burst” damage is needed on an enemy. If the fight does not require such burst damage, then stop dicking around and just use it when you can.

Storm: Activating this ability causes you to leap to your target, damaging them, interrupting them, immobilizing them for 3 seconds, and making them shit their pants in terror at the sight of a heavily armored soldier defying gravity by literally running through midair like one of Santa’s reindeer. This is extremely useful for closing the gap to your enemy, switching enemies in certain boss fights, and ripping holes in the fabric of reality. Using Storm grants you two stacks of the “Static Surge” buff, each of which makes your next Explosive Surge free of ammo cost.

Explosive Surge: This makes you explode, which damages up to 5 enemies within 5 meters of you, and puts the Static Field damage debuff on each enemy hit. Since it costs 3 ammo to activate, it should only be used if you are surrounded by a lot of enemies, or if you have stacks of Static Surge. Since it has no cooldown, yes, you can explode twice. After using Storm, stagger your two free Explosive Surges between other abilities in order to better assist ammo regeneration.

Harpoon: This pulls the enemy to your location, and generates a high amount of threat by playing into the enemy’s love/fear of bondage. It is useful for keeping enemies off of vulnerable teammates, and grouping enemies together for area of effect damage. The size of the target doesn’t matter, so you can pull targets dozens of times your size. The ability uses one hand so you can flip off Sir Isaac Newton with the other. Since it generates a high amount of threat, but cannot be used in melee range, it is very useful to start a boss fight by using harpoon. Even if the boss is immune to the pull effect (Newton bribed them), the high threat effect still applies, giving you a good head start on threat generation.

Riot Strike: This interrupts the enemy’s current action by slapping them in a very sissy-like fashion. The enemy becomes so embarrassed at the humiliation they just suffered that they are unable to perform that action again for 4 seconds. It is very important to know what abilities to interrupt and when before going into certain fights. Since use of this ability requires good reflexes, it is recommended that it be bound to your most accessible button available. You know what they say, keep you pimp hand strong.

Neural Jolt: This is your basic single target taunt. For more information on taunts, you should have been paying attention when I talked about it earlier, moron.

Sonic Round: This is your area taunt. It is unique among tanks, because it affects the target and all enemies close to the target. For other tanks, their area taunt affects all enemies close to the tank. Again, this is most likely due to their crippling loneliness. Take care when using this that you do not taunt the wrong enemy.

Cryo Grenade: This stuns the target for 4 seconds, rendering them unable to act. This is useful for buying time and trapping people in fire, because we haven’t screwed physics enough until we light frozen people on fire. Keep in mind that certain enemies are immune to stuns, as are other players with full resolve.

Neural Surge: This stuns all enemies within 8 meters of you for 2.5 seconds. It is best used for keeping larger groups of weak enemies under control and amusing yourself by making them look brain damaged.

Ranged Abilities

One of the many awesome advantages of a Vanguard tank is the ability to attack at range if necessary. Make sure you are aware of the range of each of your abilities. For example: High Impact Bolt, Mortar Volley, and Hammer Shot all have a 30 meter range. The following abilities also have a 30 meter range, but should only be used if you are forced to stay at a distance from your target.

Sticky Grenade: This grenade attaches to the enemy, and explodes a few seconds later. Standard enemies will panic while it is attached, looking like a bad imitation of a seizure. When the grenade explodes, nearby standard enemies will be damaged and knocked down. This makes it useful for controlling large groups of weaker enemies who can’t handle silly things like military grade explosives.

Full Auto: This deals weapon damage over a 3 second channel. Standard enemies are stunned for the duration. It pretty much sucks total ass.

Defensive Abilities

These abilities are used to reduce the amount of damage you take for a short period of time. These should be saved for particularly hard portions of fights or emergencies when your healer is being a twit. All of them are off the global cooldown.

Smoke Grenade: This reduces the melee and ranged accuracy of any enemies near you by 20% for 18 seconds (20 with set bonus). This ability does not affect force and tech attacks, so its usefulness varies by the enemy being fought. (On a related note, fuck you Soa.) Since the cooldown is only one minute, you may want to use it regularly rather than saving it for emergencies. Also, since it affects the enemy rather than you, it remains useful even if you the enemy is giving you the silent treatment.

Reactive Shield: This is your strongest defensive tool for keeping most of your blood. It reduces all damage received by 25% for 12 seconds (15 with set bonus), which adds to existing damage reduction. With a two minute cooldown, this should be saved for the toughest moments in fights.

Adrenaline Rush: This ability heals you for 15% of you maximum health over 10 seconds after striking a dramatic pose. It also has a two minute cooldown, but is not quite as potent as Reactive Shield. The biggest advantage of this ability is that it can be used in conjunction with other defensive abilities without just doing the same thing or being redundant.

Activated Relics: Vanguard tanks should purchase a “Shrouded Crusader” relic from the daily vendor or another player. This relic is a wearable item, but can be activated like an ability. It increases your shield and absorb ratings for a short period of time, with a two minute cooldown. Apparently modern shield generators are backwards compatible with thousand year old relics. Keep in mind that, much like Smoke Grenade, this is only useful against melee and ranged attacks, as force and tech attacks cannot be shielded. (Did I mention that Soa can eat a bowl of dicks?)

Gearing

In order to properly protect yourself from damage, you will need proper gear. You can’t all run around naked all the time, unless you are a British man in a funny hat. Fellow guild member Shinjiro has already constructed a comprehensive gear guide, which can be found HERE. His guide explains how to progress through the various gear levels in The Old Republic’s “elder game.” Yes, Bioware refers to level 50 content as “elder,” which explains why they treat it with such neglect. This guide will focus on how to get the most out of your gear once you have it. Although you can start modifying your gear right away, I recommend that you wait until you start getting Campaign and Black Hole gear before you do so, since everything that comes before it is garbage for itemization.

The first thing you want to look at is defensive stats: defense rating, shield rating, and absorb rating. For Vanguards, these ratings are most effective in the ratio 1/2/2, respectively. This means that for each point of defense rating, you should have 2 points each of both shield and absorb rating. Keep in mind that this ratio is a general guideline, even though I’m sure plenty of OCD freaks are going to lose sleep over getting it perfect anyway. The reason why shield and absorb are favored by Vanguards is because many of their skills focus on improving shielding, and shielding attacks can even increase their damage through the skills Static Shield and Shield Cycler. Also the tree is called Shield Specialist, so if you haven’t gotten the hint yet, please stop eating paint chips.

Two things you should try to avoid are accuracy and excess endurance. Accuracy should be avoided entirely, as it is completely and utterly useless to a tank. Bioware designers realized this when making Campaign gear, but then then suffered some sort of head trauma before making Dread Guard gear. Endurance is useful, but most mods and enhancements force you to choose between higher endurance, and both higher aim and defensive stats. Aim is needed to hold threat, and defensive stats are needed to reduce damage, so both are more important than endurance. The previously mentioned brain damage has affected how common endurance heavy mods are as well.

In addition to changing out mods and enhancements, you can improve your gear by augmenting it. To do so, you need an augment kit to put an augment slot on the piece of gear, and you need an augment to fill that slot. I can make augment kits as well as augments with shield rating, absorb rating, or aim. If you wish for me to make you any of these things, read the thread posted HERE. I’ll get around to it when I feel like it, and bribery is highly encouraged.

Final Thoughts

If you really want to be a good tank, stop being a pussy and just do it. Every fight is different, and I’m not going to explain every single enemy in the game, because I’ve got shit to do. You’re never going to become as awesome as me sitting there reading this. In fact, why the hell ARE you still reading this? Blahblahblahblahblahblahareyougoneyet? Ugh fine, if you still want help, let me know and I’d be happy kick you into the meat grinder.


Disclaimer: this guide is the product of extreme boredom, I'm not normally this interesting.

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Last edited by Pinkie Pie on Sat Dec 15, 2012 6:45 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: [Outdated] Vanguard Tanking Guide   Sat Dec 15, 2012 6:09 pm

Good to know that your unnecessarily thorough explanations carry over into writing.
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PostSubject: Re: [Outdated] Vanguard Tanking Guide   Sat Dec 15, 2012 8:29 pm

You don't only need the shield generator offhand but also the tanking stance to be able to shield.

Forgot to mention in PvP section: players can also crit attacks as opposed to PvE mobs which makes the chance at shielding lower.

You accidently put Vanguards instead of Shadows as best tank.

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PostSubject: Re: [Outdated] Vanguard Tanking Guide   Sat Dec 15, 2012 9:55 pm

crazyBE wrote:
You don't only need the shield generator offhand but also the tanking stance to be able to shield.
Technically you don't need a tank stance to shield, it just greatly improves the chance
crazyBE wrote:
Forgot to mention in PvP section: players can also crit attacks as opposed to PvE mobs which makes the chance at shielding lower.
Why would I mention this a second time for PvP when it doesn't work any differently?

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PostSubject: Re: [Outdated] Vanguard Tanking Guide   Sat Dec 15, 2012 10:01 pm

crazyBE wrote:

You accidently put Vanguards instead of Shadows as best tank.



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PostSubject: Re: [Outdated] Vanguard Tanking Guide   Sun Dec 16, 2012 4:48 pm

Pinkie Pie wrote:
crazyBE wrote:
You don't only need the shield generator offhand but also the tanking stance to be able to shield.
Technically you don't need a tank stance to shield, it just greatly improves the chance
crazyBE wrote:
Forgot to mention in PvP section: players can also crit attacks as opposed to PvE mobs which makes the chance at shielding lower.
Why would I mention this a second time for PvP when it doesn't work any differently?

You are correct, I thought I read in the ability description of the stances somewhere 'activates your Shield Generator' but I seem to be mistaken.
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PostSubject: Re: [Outdated] Vanguard Tanking Guide   Mon Dec 17, 2012 9:38 pm

I have also noticed that incoming damage comes in two colours (both a different hue of red). Do you know what those signify? My guess is T/F vs M/R but dunno.

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PostSubject: Re: [Outdated] Vanguard Tanking Guide   Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:02 pm

Derpy wrote:
I have also noticed that incoming damage comes in two colours (both a different hue of red). Do you know what those signify? My guess is T/F vs M/R but dunno.
That is correct.

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PostSubject: Re: [Outdated] Vanguard Tanking Guide   Tue Dec 18, 2012 5:02 am

Pinkie Pie wrote:
Derpy wrote:
I have also noticed that incoming damage comes in two colours (both a different hue of red). Do you know what those signify? My guess is T/F vs M/R but dunno.
That is correct.

And do you know hich one is which? I.e. dark red and the faded red, again I presume that the dark is T/F.

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