The Storm Kings Thunder balance changes hit the Guardian Fighter class pretty hard with a few all-around nerfs. Both Into The Fray and burst damage, which made the tank a beast in PVE and PVP, have been toned down. With a little help of @dolrey, who contributed to the article, we dig into the changes and try to break down the implications for the class.
Into The Fray no longer overpowered
PVE had a massive problem on the tank front. GFs severely outperformed Paladins, making them the clear choice in endgame groups. The main issue was Into The Fray, specifically its synergy with Devoted Clerics. Not only could Guardian Fighters stack defense to enhance the ITF buff, but certain DC spells would add to it as well. The devs got rid of both problems by making ITF a flat buff.
The change to ITF was necessary, but I personally don’t like that Tide of Iron got nerfed as well. It no longer provides a team debuff, only one to the GF. In boss fights the power came with risks because it has a long animation and leaves the tank defenseless. So it had to be timed well and was a high reward skill-shot. The change essentially removes the power from group play.
The other notable change is the one to the Steel Defense. The devs reduced the damage immunity the class feature grants to 3.5 seconds, down from 6. This change is kind of connected to ITF and buffing builds, because it affects Tacticians the most. Because of Steel Defense Guardian Fighters had all the protection they needed across all feat paths. And since Tacticians generate Action Points at a higher rate, they could basically keep Steel Defense up constantly.
Tank classes move closer together in PVE
With the changes, Oathbound Paladins and Guardian Fighters are moving closer together in PVE. The GF probably is still the superior buffer, but the Paladin should be the more potent tank in Storm Kings Thunder. With the new Everfrost Damage, which is piercing damage and can only be mitigated by Everfrost Resistance, Hit Points gain significantly more weight. The Pally can gain a decent amount of temporary HPs while the GF is lacking a comparable source. It’s helping a bit though that Azures can be exchanged for Radiants now. GFs obviously no longer need to overstack defense.
No more one-shotting
ITF has also been an issue in PVP. It was part of a lethal rotation that enabled one-shotting opponents at will. The Guardian Fighter next to TRs were basically the only class that could kill in a 1v1 situation. The devs not only took away ITFs potency, but also nerfed a possible replacement in Knight’s Challenge and the main damage dealer and finisher Anvil of Doom. The one-shot capabilities of the class are therefore gone.
Other single target spells were widely buffed. Theoretically this means players now have more option in terms of DPS, but with the nerfs some could also just redefine their roles and return to defensive node holders. Some player might also try to build something around the buffed Steel Blitz and damage over time abilities.
I think the changes are responsible. For different reasons the GF ruled PVE and PVP and the devs brought the class back to earth. Guardian Fighters are still desirable in both game modes, but no longer the clear cut favorite over other options.
What’s your take on the tweaks? Share it in the comments below or visit the corresponding thread on our message board.