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At the Vanguard: Basic tips and tactics

Welcome to At The Vanguard, the column for the only Mass Effect: Universe class crazy enough to take a Krogan head on without heavy armor.

Sure, every class in Mass Effect is good, every class is balanced, every class has its good points and bad points. We've all heard that. But honestly, we all know that there's no class like the Vanguard. Where even a Soldier will hang back and use an assault rifle, or an Infiltrator will stay in cover and spend all day lining up a shot, a Vanguard will charge in, shotgun blazing, with no regard for life or limb. Sure, it's a risky business, but the priiiize ... I mean, we do good damage. This column's for everyone who wants to roll the most awesome class in ME:U, or for my Vanguard brothers and sisters who just want to brush up on their technique a bit. After the break, we'll take a look at some basic tips for playing your Vanguard to its full potential.

Choosing Your Race

While I'm a strong proponent of choosing whatever race strikes your fancy, it is true that some racials are better than others for the Vanguard class. In the interest of min-maxing, let's take a look at them.

A Krogan's charge would, at first glance, seem to be redundant with a Vanguard's Biotic Charge, but don't discount it straight off the bat. For one, it's on a seperate cooldown from Biotic Charge, so you can use it as a quick way to charge out when things get rough or to charge to your next enemy when Biotic Charge is on cooldown. While some also swear by the Krogan Assault Rifle talent, popular wisdom says that a Shotgun is all a Vanguard really needs. For those times when you absolutely must fight at range, you can just pull out a Heavy Pistol or an SMG.

A Quarian's racial Overload ends up being very useful to a Vanguard. Biotic Charge is much less effective against shielded enemies due to knockdown and damage resistance, but an Overload can momentarily remove a shield, giving you just enough time to charge in and unload a few shotgun blasts before the enemy recovers. Quarians' hacking skills make them great dungeon group members, too.

An Asari's +10% duration +3% damage biotic racial would at first seem a bit lackluster for the more melee-focused Vanguard, but it does have its advantages. +10% Duration on Pull makes you that much better at impromptu crowd control and adds a bit more oomph in your shockwave. Still, Krogan or Quarian is probably better for the more in-your-face Vanguards.

Human, Salarian and Drell racials are a bit less immediately useful to Vanguards, but you're really not gimping yourself by taking one of those races. Salarian cooldown reduction makes you a charging fool, while the Human and Drell skill bonuses make leveling a lot easier, especially if you max out Charge early. That said, I personally can't see why anyone would choose a race besides Quarian. Who the hell doesn't want to be like Kal'Reegar or Tali, except also with awesome biotics?

Basic Charging Methodology

The basic Charge Methodology is simple: Charge -> fire gun until your cooldown is up -> Charge again. You can be a passable Vanguard with this method. The Vanguards who take it to the next level, however, and become a true asset for their group will remember a few basic tips:

1. Always use a shotgun. Shotguns are terrible long range weapons, but their close range damage is unrivaled. You may be tempted to use an SMG for the ammo capacity, but you will do more damage overall with a Shotgun, even if you have to reload more often. Speaking of which, always make sure you have a fresh reload before you charge. There's nothing worse than charging and pulling the trigger, only to have nothing happen. It generally leads to some pretty horrible beatdowns, especially if you just Charged, say, a Heretic Destroyer or a Krogan Battlemaster.

2. Melee. Once you Charge, you should be punching the enemy in the face whenever your Shotgun is on cooldown. Since Patch 1.4, melee no longer resets weapon cooldowns, so you have no excuse not to be doing it. This is especially true if you've picked up the Strength Boost Pads from the Varren Alpha encounter in the Omega Junkyard dungeon. A high-speed bullet to the face is better damage, but a punch to the gut while your barrel cools down still hurts and will maximize your DPS.

3. Gear for Weapon Damage and Strength. Accuracy is less of a concern for us just because we do most of our shooting from close range, and Biotic Damage should also be pretty low on your list. Our Biotics are secondary to getting in an enemy's face and tearing things up. Armor and Stamina you should get as a matter of course while picking up other stats.

4. Choose your target wisely. Charging willy-nilly on any target you wish can lead to nothing but a quick death. It is true that Vanguards are a very high-risk class, but you can cut down on that risk with a little bit of smart playing. Charge a lone enemy so you don't take as much fire from other mobs. (The exception to this is if you're in an AE dungeon-clearing group and have the Area Charge talent.) Charge an enemy who's already near cover so you can immediately duck into cover if enemy fire is getting too hot.

6. If your shields are about to go down, save your charge until they do. Biotic Charge does replenish shields to a small degree, so it can the difference between life and death for you if you can pull off a charge while you're near death.

7. Use your Biotics. While a Vanguard won't waste too many talent points on boosting their Biotics, they can still be useful for basic crowd control, and an Improved Shockwave is good for taking out large groups of Husks and Varren. Just be aware of where the mobs land if they aren't immediately killed by it.

Playing Nice With Others

While a Vanguard is a solo-play powerhouse, even we need partners for dungeons and super-elite mobs. Luckily, we bring some decent group powers thanks to group ammo abilities and limited crowd control. Here are a few tips for maximizing your game when grouped:

1. If you have an Engineer in your party, the first thing you should be doing is asking for a shield repair module. For the most part, a good Charge Vanguard can use shield repair on charge to keep healed, but against elite mobs or in instances of heavy fire, especially if your Soldier or Sentinel can't quite keep aggro, you'll want that emergency save. If your shields are down and your charge is off cool down and you're pretty sure your Medic won't be able or willing to gel you in time, you'll be glad to have that module

2. Another thing to remember in groups is the fact that you do have Pull. In fact, if you're in a group, your first priority should likely be to spend Pull before you charge. Pull not only provides a great short term form of crowd control, but if you have a teammate with Warp, they can combo with you for massive explosion damage. Try to pull in a crowd so that a casted Warp will explode and hit the maximum amount of targets. As a side note here, be sure to warn when you're about to pull, so that your Sentinel or Adept can hit Warp at the opportune moment.

3. Choosing your target for Biotic Charge means even more in a good group. The solo charge advice above still applies, but there's one other thing to keep in mind: Biotic Charge will often cause nearby enemies to turn toward you. You can use this your advantage by charging an enemy in front your tank, allowing them to use Distract and immediately draw fire, or you can charge an enemy on the other side from your other DPS, freeing them up to leave cover themselves and attack. Vanguards are also excellent for clearing out trash. As a Vanguard, you can charge and kill minor adds swiftly and efficiently, allowing the rest of the DPS and the tank to focus on boss or elite mobs.

To Be Continued

That's all for this installment. Next week, we'll continue with a look at talent builds for maximizing your damage, choosing the right ammo, and some of the announced Vanguard changes for Patch 1.5. Until then, keep Charging forward.

Welcome to At The Vanguard, the weekly class column on the best Mass Effect Class, the Vanguard, where we discuss PuG etiquette and Illium Credit Voucher gear for the Vanguard, 5-man Tuchanka Brawl Pit gear for Chargers and Biotics,and basic Vanguard statistics and mechanics. You might also want to check all the other articles in our Vanguard category.

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