Power use, Squad Selection, and combat tactics
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The Vanguard is the biotic combat specialist. Armed with Shotgun and SMG this class is designed to put out a lot of punishment in close quarters battle (CQB).
Your class power is Biotic Charge. Fully leveled up this ability allows you to instantly teleport across the battlefield, refills your biotic barrier to full strength AND can even slow down time! Combined with a short cool-down timer and this should be your first skill to max and most used in combat.
How to make the most of your Biotic Charge:
First things first... before you go charging off into enemy ranks, set up your teammates into good cover so they won't try to run after you through a blaze of gunfire.
Second is to pick your target. This is heavily situational but some key things to look out for are:
- Enemies with a deadly drop off behind them and their defenses down. Like throw this will launch the enemy off the ledge and send them plummeting to their death.
Enemies who are on the fringe of the combat zone, behind most other enemies. This will set you up behind the enemy forces, pinching them in a crossfire between you and your squad mates you left behind.
High value targets that, left alone, will cause problems for your teams (enemy biotics and engineers who will be causing problems) Be aware however that their defenses will keep them from flying back from your impact. However, even protected, you will stagger them, and with time slowed down, a freshly recharged barrier, and a shotgun or SMG in hand you can usually finish them off and find cover before being subjected to too much enemy fire.
Besides charging into combat, Biotic Charge can be used as a quick escape, or even just a barrier refreshing ability. If you're hurt and enemy are closing in on you, a well executed charge can spirit you away from danger (provided there is an enemy farther away), or just refresh your barrier while staggering the enemy for a second allowing you and your teammates a crucial opening to lay some serious firepower on them.
When NOT to charge: Don't charge into fully protected YMIR mechs or boss type enemies. The stagger duration isn't enough to kill them before your time dilation wheres off, they recover, and quickly blast through your fresh new barrier... especially on harder difficulties.
Also, don't charge the moment enemies come into a battle zone... let them spread out and see where they go. Depending on enemy defenses and difficulty level, you can probably only drop 2-3 basic enemies (including the one you charged) before your time dilation wears off and you're subjected to focused enemy fire.
So what about the other abilities?
Pull is a useful control power that you can have squad members with Warp combo with. Additionally if you take Warp Ammo as your bonus power, or have Jack with Squad warp ammo, enemies under effect of pull will take additional damage making them quick and easy to finish off. Typically the Area version is preferred over the heavy pull variant.
Shockwave is a wonder at disrupting groups of enemies, even behind cover. Even with their defenses up, a Shockwave will force them up out of their cover for a moment that you can use to your advantage. Against unprotected Husks... it's an unequaled killer.
Incendiary ammo is your primary ammo power which helps burn through enemy armor and flesh. Unless you replace
Cryo Ammo is of middling use... On the Carnifex heavy pistol it's seemingly guaranteed to proc, however like most control powers, it only affects unprotected enemies who can be easily controlled via Pull field, Shockwave, or often simply killed just as quick with incendiary fire. For this reason I find this power largely skippable.
For your bonus power, you have a couple really good choices. For starters, ignore any barrier/shield boost power. Your charge fully restores your biotic barrier on a MUCH shorter cooldown. Instead look to compensate for the Vanguards weakness against shields or barriers.
Reave is a great power as it not only does double damage to barriers, but it can also be used as a control and heal power. It's also biotic so will benefit from the biotic upgrades you should be focusing on.
On the other hand, Energy Drain gives you an overload like ability to tackle shields. I expect it would recharge your barrier given you have no shield, but I haven't actually tested this. Primarily because SMG's get 50% bonus damage to shields, and shields don't tend to last long anyways. I also tend to favor a couple squad mates with Overload.
Alternatively you can take Disruptor ammo to deal with shields. The nice thing about disruptor ammo is it won't interfere with your power cool-down meter mid fight, and you can set up your SMG to deal with shields and synthetics, while your shotgun and heavy pistol have fire for flesh and armor
An interesting option that is often overlooked is Warp ammo. Most people see they have inferno ammo and pass on warp ammo as it's nearly redundant... nearly. However Warp ammo helps you deal with barriers as well as offers good synergy with your pull field power. If you take Warp, you can skip both Incendiary ammo and Cryo, making it easier and faster to max out your skills. If you go for a second playthrough however, you may want to have another place to dump points into.
The choice between these 4 powers is largely dependent upon your preferred squad makeup. If you always have at least 1 overload squadmate, you'll find you don't often have much difficulty with shields. Barriers, on the other hand, I find I need at least 2 in the squad capable of dealing heavy damage to. Warp Ammo can count as 1 of your Barrier destroying methods, but you should also always have at least 1, if not 2, warp/reave abilities available to use. If you make heavy use of Miranda, your bonus power selection is purely up to personal preference and who you might like as a 3rd squad member, since she covers the base of protection removal that you need.
Squad make up can (and should) vary a lot from mission to mission. Pay attention to mission briefings and commentary from EDI on what to expect so you can outfit yourself properly. Against Krogan and Vorcha, fire and warp are your best friend. James, Grunt, Miranda, Moradin, and Thane are all good choices. Against Blue Suns you'll need less to deal with armor, and more with Shields and sometimes barriers (Asari Blue Suns).
They'll also often use a few AI on their fire teams. It may be prudent on these missions to have 2x overload available... or at least someone with Disruptor ammo and another with overload, but you can't neglect having a warp or reave available for the barriers either.
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