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The Vanguard Guide: I got a shotgun!

Mass Effect 2 eGuide by Raymond T. Kuhn II

The Vanguard, Deadly Up Close, Shotgun Specialist, The in-your-face ace! But there is more to being a Vanguard then charging.

Firstly one must know about the basics.

When someone picks to play a Vanguard they are mostly looking for a high risk, high reward play-style as advertized by the classes description. What can you do? What is your weaknesses? More importantly, How can I become an unmitigated badass?

This guide will talk about the abilities and play-style of the Vanguard. I will start with a rundown of the Vanguard's basic abilities and follow it up by a little rundown of the bonus powers.

  1. Vanguard Abilities.
  2. Bonus Powers.
  3. Strategies.
  4. Choosing Abilities and Powers.

  1. Vanguard Abilities.

Charge - The Vanguard's call, the primary ability of the class. Charge allows you to cover a vast distance instantly and knock back the enemy you have targeted. In addition it recharges a portion of your shields.

At lvl 4 you get to choose between Heavy Charge and Area Charge. Heavy Charge gives you a tiny burst of slow motion when you reach your target as well as extra knock back. In addition it also fully recharges your shields to 100% Area Charge has less direct knock-back force to the target then heavy charge but allows you to knock back not only the target but any mobs standing close to the target.

Shockwave (Requires Rank 2 in Charge) - You launch a string of concussive blasts in a narrow path in front of you, violently knocking targets aside. This is an amazing technique against many mobs in the game, group charging you? A murder of Husks? Throw this into their midst targeting their middlemost back group member and it will scatter them apart, making it the quintessential divide and conquer move. It is also a great move for enemies in cover as it will throw them out of cover, even shielded foes will be forced to stand for a moment.

At lvl 4 you get to choose between Heavy Shockwave and Improved Shockwave. Heavy Shockwave increases the raw knock back power of your line increasing damage on those it hits and throwing them farther. Good for higher damage on small groups. Improved Shockwave increases the width of your Shockwave Path allowing you to hit more targets. It is a dramatically wider line allowing you to hit entire enemy groups at once. This is better for large or 'scattered' attacking mobs.

Pull (Requires Rank 2 in Shockwave.) - Levitate your target off of the ground lifting them into the air. Also this pulls the target towards you. If you target someone and aim to the side it will pull them to the side, or if you aim above them it will lift them up. This allows you to pull targets out of cover.

At lvl 4 you get to choose between Heavy Pull and Pull Field. Heavy Pull increases the duration of your levitation. Good for pulling an enemy out of a fight for a good twelve seconds. Pull Field adds a small Area of Effect to your pull allowing you to Levitate multiple close standing enemies. However that Area of Effect is pretty small. Still close gathered mobs running practically on top of each other is common and it's a good way to deal with multiple opponents.

Assault Mastery - The Passive Skill of a Vanguard, it reduces Power Reacharge Time, Increases Health and Weapon Damage. Lastly it increases your Paragon/Renegade Points as well as the Rate at which you gain them. These passive skills are always in effect and are vastly useful for both damage and survivability.

At lvl 4 you get to choose between Destroyer and Champion. Destroyer gets a bonus to Weapon Damage above the normal increasing your Gunfire Damage. It also gives a bonus to the damage dealt by your powers to enemies. Champion gets a farther reduction in recharge time for your powers, increases their durration as well as giving the full bonus to Renegade/Paragon.

Ammo Powers.

Incendiary Ammo - Burns a target for bonus damage over several seconds. Good Against Armor, also causes undefended enemies to panic. This power is given to all Vanguards with 1 point present. This ammo is a strategically safe bet. This ammo doesn't do as well against shields and biotic barriers. However augmented to a gun that is good against those two it makes the gun able to rip through all three relatively quickly.

At lvl 4 you get to choose between Inferno Ammo and Squad Incendiary Ammo. Inferno Ammo increases the damage bonus to max as well as adds a small AOE catching enemies near your burning target on fire as well. Squad Incendiary Ammo grants Incendiary Ammo to all squad members without an ammo power of their own active.

Cryo Ammo (Requires Incendiary Ammo 2)- This grants your ammunition a chance to freeze Unshielded enemies in place. The higher damage the gun the higher the freeze chance. Higher ranks freeze longer. The duration is short and higher ranks allow longer freezing. Frozen enemies are also more vulnerable to damage and shatter when they die. A good strategy is to freeze an enemy then charge them.

At lvl 4 you get to choose between Improved Cryo Ammo and Squad Cryo Ammo. Improved Cryo Ammo provides the longest freeze time as well as a higher chance of freezing the target. Squad Cryo Ammo grants Cryo Ammo to your squad members without an active ammo power of their own.


  1. Bonus Powers.

Once you gain a companion's loyalty in their loyalty missions you unlock the potential of Bonus Powers. Abilities that they grant that you can use regardless of your class.

There are Three Catagories of Bonus Power. Ammo Powers, Protection Powers, Grenades and Abilities.

Ammo Powers are potent ammunition types unique to the companion who's loyalty you earned.

Protection Powers are extra barriers or 'Overshields' if you are familiar with the concept in many First Person Shooters.

Grenades are thrown in the middle of groups and cause a wide AOE effect.

Abilities directly target an enemy and apply their effect.

First off is the Ammo Powers.

Armor Piercing Ammo (Requires Archangel Loyalty)- Provides a massive damage bonus against Armor and Health. Similar to Inferno Ammo however with no burning. Larger Health Damage but doesn't stop regeneration.

At lvl 4 you get to pick between Tungsten Ammo and Squad Armor Piercing Ammo. Tungsten Ammo gets a large bonus to damage. Squad Armor Piercing Ammo grants Armor Piercing Ammo to all squad members without an ammo power of their own active.

Warp Ammo (Requires Jack Loyalty)- Provides a damage bonus to Barriers, Armor and Health. A good all around Ammo Power for removing a guns limitations against a certain type of armor (Except Shields). However the bonus to damage is relatively low meaning while you won't have many things to stop your guns you won't be pounding extra damage.

At lvl 4 you get to pick between Heavy Warp Ammo and Squad Warp Ammo. Heavy Warp Ammo increases the damage caused by your Warp Ammo. Squad Warp Ammo grants Warp Ammo to all squad members without an ammo power of their own active.

Shredder Ammo (Requires Thane Loyalty): Provides a truly massive damage bonus against unshielded enemies. Amazing for mobs of unshielded enemies, again such as husks. However it doesn't provide ANY bonus against shields, armors or barriers. This makes it almost useless at higher game difficulty levels.

At lvl 4 you get to pick between Heavy Shredder Ammo and Squad Shredder Ammo. Heavy Shredder Ammo brings the damage bonus up to max. Squad Shredder Ammo grants Shredder Ammo to all squad members without an ammo power of their own active.

Second is Protection Powers.

Fortification (Requires Grunt Loyalty)- Grants you 60 seconds of ARMOR over your shields. This is good against rapid fire weapons. This is a good power to activate before charging into a group.

At lvl 4 you get to select between Improved Fortification and Heavy Fortification. Improved Fortification increases the Duration of the Power to 180 seconds. But considering the power only has a 12 second cooldown it's a waste of 4 points. Heavy Fortification grants a full 100% boost in armor in essence granting you 2x your defenses before your enemies get to your health.

Barrier (Requires Jacob's Loyalty)- Grants 60 seconds of BARRIER over your shields, This Barrier is good against most weapons fire but is weak to Biotics. The Barrier Power also has no activation animation meaning it can be used while stunned. A good life saver in a pinch. On a side note since this is a Biotic Power, it is affected by your Assault Specialist and it's cooldown is reduced. This makes it the best of the Protection Powers. It is also benefited by Biotic Power Research done on the Ship.

At lvl 4 you can choose between Heavy Barrier and Improved Barrier. Heavy Barrier grants a full 100% boost in Barrier in essence granting you 2x your defenses before your enemies get to your health. Improved Barrier increases the Duration of the Power to 180 seconds. But considering the power only has a 12 second cooldown it's a waste of 4 points.

Geth Shield Boost (Requires Legion Loyalty)- Grants you 60 seconds of SHIELD over your shields. This is good against Slow Firing Weapons. This is a good power to activate before charging into a group. Geth Shield Boost receives a bonus from 'Tech Power Upgrade' Research made on your ship.

At lvl 4 you can choose between Heavy Geth Shield Boost and Improved Geth Shield Boost. Heavy Geth Shield Boost grants a full 100% boost in Shields in essence granting you 2x your defenses before your enemies get to your health. Improved Geth Shield Boost increases the Duration of the Power to 180 seconds. But considering the power only has a 12 second cooldown it's a waste of 4 points.

Third is Grenades.

Inferno Grenade (Reqires Zaeed Loyalty)- Lobs a Grenade that detonates 3 seconds after contact bathing the Area of Effect with fire. This causes massive damage to armor and health and stops regeneration similar to Inferno Ammo. More potent however. WARNING: Can effect Squadmates.

At Lvl 4 you can choose between Heavy Inferno Grenade and Inferno Blast Grenade. Heavy Inferno Grenade grants the full direct damage bonus. Inferno Blast Grenade increases the Area of Effect and allows it to affect two extra targets.

Flashbang Grenade (Requires Kasumi Loyalty)- Lobs a Flashbang Grenade which detonates after 3 seconds. This explosion blinds enemies, overheats weapons and causes a delay in enemy Cooldowns. This also incapacitates most targets. This makes it a massively powerful Crowd Control Ability.

At lvl 4 you get to choose between Frag Grenade and Improved Flashbang Grenade. Frag Grenade Dramatically increases the damage done by the Flashbang Grenade turning it into a damaging attack as well as a disabling move. Improved Flashbang Grenade increases the stun duration of the grenade and gives it a wider Area of Effect. This gives a 6 seconds Cooldown for a 6 Second stun. With Assault Mastery that's even shorter allowing the Grenades to be used to lock down the battlefield.

Last is Abilities.

Slam (Requires Miranda Loyalty)- Lifts the Opponent up then Violently Slam them down for massive damage. A good Vanguard Ability. When used with pull it can cause the target to Bounce for extra damage and when used on a target frozen with Cryo Ammo it can cause the target to Shatter quite easily.

At lvl 4 you can choose between Heavy Slam and Crippling Slam. Heavy Slam increases the damage of the slam to maximum. Crippling slam forgoes the max damage of the slam to add an 8 second stun to the opponent. Considering you have a 3 seconds cool down with this it means you can stun up to 3 opponents at a time with this.

Neural Shock (Requires Mordin Loyalty)- Incapacitates Opponent organic targets (Humans, Krogans, Asari, etc.) for several seconds. Higher ranks for longer stun.

At lvl 4 you get to choose between Heavy Neural Shock and Neural Shockwave. Heavy Neural Shock gives the longest stun duration. Neural Shockwave allows Neural Shock to hit multiple opponents in an AOE.

Reave (Requires Samara Loyalty)- Reave hits your opponent with a powerful Drain that does 2x its base damage against Biotic Barriers and Armor. When hitting a targets health directly it will drain their health over several seconds and heal your own health. It is an extremely powerful ability that allows a Vanguard's to bypass most barriers instantly. On top of all of that the power Duration Bonuses of Assault Specialist directly increase the damage of Reave by making it last longer.

At lvl 4 you can choose between Heavy Reave and Area Reave. Heavy Reave Increases Damage, and Duration. Area Reave allows you to hit all targets that are close together at once.

Dominate (Requires Morinth Loyalty)- Dominates an organic target causing it to turn against it's allies and attack them as well as putting up a Biotic Barrier around the target for the duration of the possession. (Doesn't work on robots and non-organics.)

At lvl 4 you can choose between Enhanced Domination and Group Domination. Enhanced Domination provides you the longest possession Durration as well as the most powerful Biotic Barrier around the target allowing for the possessed target to deal more damage before going down. Group Domination allows you to possess a group of enemies causing all within the range to turn on any undominated enemies.

Energy Drain (Requires Tali Loyalty)- Over a tiny area of effect you can divert energy from Enemy Shields and Robots to your own shields. This does double damage against shields and allows you to 'Overcharge' your own shields temporarily. This technique's fallback is that it does no damage to enemy health.

At lvl 4 you can choose between Heavy Energy Drain and Area Drain. Heavy Energy Drain maxes out the damage done by Energy Drain. (With double damage to shields this can take out almost any shield in the game in one hit and overcharge your own dramatically.) Area Drain increases the Area of Effect of the Energy Train allowing it to hit multiple targets.


  1. Stratigies

Now this is the part I know you really came here for. Strategy and Survival. Tactics and Tactless Bludgeoning.

First of all Vanguards have a good range of tactics. Most of them are painful to the enemy and involve you getting up in someones business. But before diving you need to make sure you land in just the right spot.

Firstly let's address Loadout. You will want a verity of guns and abilities that can rip through all forms of barriers. Each gun has a form of defense it is good against. Find the mix that gives you versatility and the firing format you are most comfortable with.

With the ability to later on pick a bonus Non-Class Weapon this can only increase your versatility. But is not important to the strategies aforementioned as Vanguards on base have the tools they need. However I would advise getting a ranged weapon to close weaknesses.

Tactics of the Charge: The Bull in a Tea Shop.

If you've played Massive Multiplayer characters who have a charge ability then your first instinct is to charge into a mob of enemies and bull rush your way through to a hopeful victory. But wait that isn't the way Mass Effect works, guns hurt like hell and no matter how much health you have standing in the middle of gunfire is never a good idea.

You gotta know who to target. When to charge. Where to charge. But more importantly when to hold back.

Firstly you will want to pick the enemy that will give you the best angle to open fire on his buddies quickly if he has them. Secondly you will want to whittle down any shields and armors before you charge a group.

Situation 1: A group of enemies, 2 with shields and/or armor.

First thing you wanna do from cover is pick a weapon that is good for shields, armor, or barriers. Then aim out and attack the armored enemies. Take down their defenses, then take out your shotgun. Throw out a shockwave (If you have it.) to stumble the group, then when your Charge is ready, charge in. If you have Heavy Charge then you will be at full shields and have a few seconds of slow motion with which to take out your enemies.

Instead of taking out the enemy you charged aim to the side and take out the enemies around you first. The guy you hit will still have to get up to fight you, meaning he's out of it for a few seconds while you can use the apex of your charge to take down his buddies and isolate him.

Situation 2: Husk Zerg Rush. Husks are coming, lots of them. There are two good strategies I find works. First and easiest requires you have Shockwave. You basically aim as they come in and Shockwave em sending them flying and occasionally spray bullets at them with an SMG to make sure they stay down if the Shockwave doesn't outright kill them. If you have pull you can levitate groups into the air as well. Second Strategy for if you don't have Shockwave is to take out a shotgun and backpeddle from the mob while cutting down their lines. When you run out of space charge the one on the back sprint away a few feet, wheel around and repeat. If you have a boosted charge this should keep your shields up and the peddling should keep you mobile.

Situation 3: You are being attacked by a boss, the strategy here is to remain in cover and cut their barriers down, charging in and moving out quickly to cover to keep yourself from getting pinned down. Remember your charge won't send a boss flying unless all their barriers are down. This largely depends on the boss and the situation.

Situation 4: You are under fire from a large enemy group. Other enemies are running around to flank your position and leave you no cover. This situation is best handled by looking around the terrain for new cover. Often it will be behind the enemies firing at you. Normally a no go, but days like that are the reason you picked a Vanguard. Target the Gunner farthest away from yourself, closest to your new cover, wait till the flanking mobs are almost on you, then charge him. Shoot the guy with your shotgun and quickly run to your new cover. The flanking team will have to weave their way across the terrain to get to you again. In the mean time you can keep whittling down the fire team. Repeating this strategy as needed.

Situation 5: You got a strong melee opponent like a Krogan charging in. Remain calm, pull out your shot gun, shoot the Krogan repeatedly. If he takes out your shields, charge him or refresh your barriers with another power you have. If you don't have anything to recharge your shields then back-peddle and hope your have some other power to keep you alive in Melee. If he has a buddy in the distance that can give you precious time, charge that buddy. Remember shields down is a bad day for you. If the charging enemy has a fire team backing him then revert to the strategy used in Situation 4.

Situation 6: Powerful Ranged Bosses. These guys are the pits in many ways. They have Barriers, Shields, ETC to make it so it takes a ton of ammo of any sort to take them down. Examples include Scions and Praetorians as well as a few others. They are slow, have powerful ranged attacks and can dish out mean damage up close. Scions are particularly nasty with a Shockwave that not only takes down your shields, but keeps it from recharging for several seconds. The strategy with these bosses is to maintain cover and use abilities and weapons that focus on taking down each layer of the proverbial onion. Often these are end level bosses (Except Scions) meaning Ammo Conservation isn't much of a concern.

These are the six basic situations you will find yourself in. Remember that flexibility, thoughtfulness a calm application of tender loving shotgun spray can see you through most anything.


  1. Choosing Abilities and Powers.

A properly built Vanguard is a walking death machine. A badass extreme who can take down any foe of any size without a team as backup. The Appeal of a Vanguard is the gift of sheer potency and in your face badassery.

But what sets one Vanguard aside from another is the way they are built. What powers they have and what strategic assembly goes into them.

There are several thoughts on how to build a Vanguard, many people say to focus on their specialization and give them the most up close punch imaginable.

An example of this means amping up charge, going with a potent Ammo power, getting a Barrier Power.

4 Incendiary Ammo 4 Charge 4 Shockwave 1 Pull 4 Assault Mastery 4 Barrier Bonus Weapon: The Powerful Shotgun

It is by all means a valid build it gives good anti mob capability, it amplifies the strengths of a Vanguard and provides good survivability with the Barrier.

However you will still have your range weakness and certain bosses on harder difficulty will be all but impossible without specialized team members. It is worth the trade off to many as it is an easy to use build.

Second Example is a breaker, This Vanguard focuses on making enemies vulnerable to damage and then snapping them like twigs. It uses the charge much like using a burning hot hammer on an ice block.

2 Incendiary Ammo 4 Cryo Ammo 4 Charge 3 Shockwave 3 Pull 3 Assault Mastery 4 Slam Bonus Weapon: The Powerful Shotgun

This is potent because you freeze an enemy then slam them down, or you freeze the target, hit it with pull then charge it. It shatters most basic enemies and has a potent and satisfying crunch to the play style. It is weaker in basic damaged as this is a specialized approach. The passive damage isn't as good and Cryo Ammo isn't always effective.

The Third Example is a Crowd Control Master. This build requires Kasumi.

The focus of this build is paralyzing a battlefield. Keeping enemies up, afloat, frozen or otherwise unable to fight back while you and your squad eat them away and you charge around without having to worry about too much fire.

2 Incendiary Ammo 4 Cryo Ammo 2 Charge 2 Shockwave 4 Pull 4 Assault Mastery 4 Flashbang Grenade Bonus Weapon: Assault Rifle

This is a great build for keeping the battlefield under your control but it leaves a couple of points unspent at lvl 30 and bosses are immune to crowd control. On higher difficulties this can make battles a pain as you aren't specced to hurt but more paralyze and move around the battleground.

The Last Example is my own build. It is based around the principle of eliminating weaknesses.

It is a powerful spec that deals good damage and rips down barriers with absurd efficiency. It also provides great maneuverability. Finally it eliminates the range weakness. Allowing you to devastate from afar, from point blank and anywhere in between.

1 Incendiary Ammo 4 Charge (Heavy Charge) 4 Shockwave (Improved Shockwave) 4 Pull (Area Pull) 4 Assault Mastery (Champion) 4 Reave (Heavy Reave) Bonus Weapon: Sniper Rifle

This build's weakness is it's lack of ammo damage a tiny weakness as any number squad powers can make up for it and even the basic rank of Incendiary Ammo causes panic. However as this build was made to close off the big weaknesses of the Vanguard Class there is nothing massive that an NPC could exploit.

Of the 4 specs I tested and made, this one does the best solo and on Harder Difficulty levels.

6 comments for this Mass Effect 2 user guide

  • Comment by Raymond T. Kuhn II

    My guide is finally up. Feel free to leave comments, advice. 'CONSTRUCTIVE' criticism is also welcomed.

    Oct. 22, 2013, 10:30 a.m.
  • Comment by Raymond T. Kuhn II

    I like the way Vanguard plays in Mass Effect 3. I'm not sure I like the new Perma-damagable health. It makes our already risky style even riskier making charger a bigger gamble then ever. However with less weapons you get a faster cooldown. The new attack Nova seems like a bad idea in any sense of the word. A standing attack that drops your shields. Mass Effect 3 looks great, and as ever, Vanguard all the way!

    Oct. 22, 2013, 10:30 a.m.
  • Comment by Raymond T. Kuhn II

    Shamelessly: I bump this thread.

    Oct. 22, 2013, 10:30 a.m.
  • Comment by Raymond T. Kuhn II

    Today I was thinking, perhaps you were wondering in my guide what I think on situations where you Cannot charge. Such as an opponent on another ledge you can't go to. Perhaps with a charging group flanking you, your squad is down, you got no Medigel. If you have no charge it's a bad shot. With your group down, it's even worse. By no charge I mean the basic level that doesn't restore much shields. Basically you take out your ammo power that works on the armor of the people charging you and you move around trying to track pillars and objects to keep between you and the fire squad. If you have a shield restoring charge my advice is charge as frequently as possible, trying to keep opponents off balanced until you have dealt with the charging group. Lastly since you can't charge the team on the other ledge, and likely to cause the glorious you trouble, they are using rockets or some other crazy shat! Duck back into cover, and if you have it use shockwave and pull along with your pistol of choice or extra chosen weapon from the collector ship provided it isn't a shotgun. The biotic powers won't send a shielded foe flying but will rip chunks out of shielding and armor. Not big chunks but bonus damage when you have no one flanking you is better then no damage. Lastly in situations like this a bonus power like Reave is amazing. Grenades are likely not gonna go that distance. Again, I haven't spent much time playing the grenade range measuring game. If you have a power like reave, use it in place of the shockwave and pull on shielded foes. Pull is best used near ledges, for obvious long drop sudden stop reasons.

    Oct. 22, 2013, 10:30 a.m.
  • Comment by Raymond T. Kuhn II

    Roses are red, Violets are Blue, I've got a shotgun and so do you!

    Oct. 22, 2013, 10:30 a.m.
  • Comment by R3D STAR

    Now THIS is what I'm talking about. GREAT guide, Raymond!

    Oct. 22, 2013, 10:30 a.m.
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