While the most difficult and often frustrating class, the Vanguard is arguably the most fun and rewarding. Here are some tips to keep it fast and fun.
The vanguard's signature ability and the real reason to play the class, charge is an incredibly powerful, and tactical, high risk/high reward ability. Charge launches your vanguard at and enemy you can see that is in a place you can reach. This is important to remember so that you don't try to charge a sniper on a ledge you can not reach and realize that you are now dead instead. Additionally, charge restores your barrier, the more points you have into charge the more your barrier is restored on use. This makes remembering who can and can not charge even more important. Once you begin to rely on charge to restore your barrier, if you try to charge an enemy that has gone behind cover so you can not see them and you are counting on that charge to keep you alive, you will soon be restarting.
The first thing you need to learn about using charge is that you need to know the battlefield. For this reason, the vanguard my not be the best choice for your first playthrough of Mass Effect 2 because you will not know how or where enemies spawn. Even after playing through the game, it is important to note where and how quickly enemies spawn while playing. Your best friend as a vanguard is your radar. Use it, know it, love it. Generally, you want to bring up your radar before every charge to check where your target is in relation to your other enemies. This continual checking of the radar will also alert you to newly spawned enemies or enemies approaching from outside of your sight lines. Do not rely exclusively on your radar, you must keep your eyes on your enemies. If you want to charge someone for fun and profit, first check to make sure that you can. Then check your radar for nearby enemies. After you know where all your enemies are, you'll want to make sure that if you charge a target, the rest of them will not just tear you up for leaving cover. If possible, strip that enemy of defenses before you charge so that they can be killed with one or maybe two well placed blows.
One of the skills you have to master in order to play the vanguard is a slightly different form of taking cover as the rest of the classes, you have to be able to move, kill someone, and take cover as soon as they go down. If you kill someone behind a barrier with a barrier between him and the other enemies, you can easily take cover there while you reload/recharge/check radar. The real test comes when you have no easy targets with lots of cover around them and you need to move in closer. You can learn to hop over cover after a kill to take cover on the opposite side from where they were. You can hide behind corners to avoid incoming fire. Taking cover as a vanguard is a skill learned and exercised on a case by case basis just as learning how to take cover is learned when you first play.
Stripping an enemy of their defenses is often necessary before you can charge without dying, especially in the early game. Before the vanguard has all of the best upgrades and weapons, you still have a pistol, an smg, and your squad's abilities. If you make your squad abilities manual use only and learn how to use them effectively, you can kill enemies very quickly. Having Miranda overload a shield, even if it doesn't go down all the way, makes charging that target much easier because you can often kill them before they can fight back after a charge. Similarly, having a squadmate warp a barrier or incinerate an armored enemy will increase your chances of a clean kill. If you are in a situation where you don't have the applicable squad abilities, or they are on long cooldowns, you can always break out the pistol for the armor or the smg for the shields.
An important note about charge; charge is a biotic ability so it has a lot of force behind it. When an enemy is protected by armor/barriers/shields this force merely causes a moment of knockback, but if they are unprotected, a charge can send them flying. There are pros and cons to both of these situations. If you charge an enemy in good cover that you want to maintain, having them fly away and chasing them after is a hassle, but if you are forced to charge more than one enemy, making one fly away while you can deal with the other is very attractive. Furthermore, enemies that are knocked off of ledges will often die automatically, so if you see an unshielded enemy loitering by the edge of a bridge, you can charge them off the side without having to even fight them.
When To Charge
- Once you know that the area is safe for a charge and you feel ready to.
- When you can flank a group of enemies by taking out a straggler.
- When there is cover you can get to after killing the target.
- When you need to refill your shield or you will be killed. This becomes an important defensive tactic on insanity. Make sure you still know what you are charging into.
- Late in the game it becomes much easier to and less dangerous to charge, so you can be more liberal and aggressive with its use.
Charge Is Not Your Only Ability
Many people think that vanguards can only charge, or that it is unvanguard-like to do anything else. Neither of these are the case, if the vanguard was only meant to charge that would be the only ability in their arsenal. It is very important to remember that vanguards are actually biotics, so they have powerful abilities that should not be overlooked.
Incendiary Ammo The principle vanguard ammo power, also the most powerful one that they can max out. A vanguard with Inferno Ammo can decimate armored and unprotected foes with ease, and it also provides a crowd control ability when it lights enemies on fire which is very important as a close range class.
Cryo Ammo Some people swear by this ability. They will max it out for squad cryo ammo and make sure their squad is using automatic weapons to freeze enemies in place. This helps survivability by keeping enemies off of you, and it increases your damage if you shoot a frozen enemy, but I prefer to spend my points elsewhere.
Shockwave This is a good ability below hardcore difficulty because your enemies will not have protections. Once you get to hardcore or insanity though, the only reason to have points in shockwave is to unlock pull.
Pull A strong biotic ability, pull makes the vanguard a more versatile class. If you can't bring the vanguard to the target, bring the target to the vanguard. There are two main applications for pull, the warp bomb and the husk. Biotics can set up combos when their abilities are chained together, so if you have a squad member with warp, you can pull an enemy and when the squadmate warps them, they detonate with explosive force. The difference in damage between using warp on an enemy or using a warp bomb on an enemy is staggering, and that is before you factor in the area of effect on detonating a biotic combo. When fighting husks, any ability which knocks them off their feet after they have no armor instantly kills them. Because of this, a vanguard can use the 3 second cooldown on pull and a pistol to dispatch swarms of husks with ease where before being staggered and overwhelmed was a real problem.
Assault Mastery This is the vanguard passive class bonus. Necessary for all classes, the vanguard places special importance on this for the cooldown reduction so that charge can be used more often in succession.
Bonus Ability You can choose a bonus ability from a squad member as your last ability and many have different and powerful applications. -AP Ammo: A fine ability, but redundant with the vanguard's inferno ammo. -Barrier: A defensive ability for those that feel they can not keep their vanguard alive. As a biotic ability, this benefits from Assault Mastery and biotic cooldown reduction upgrades. This ability is often thought redundant or made obsolete by the recharging from charge. -Dominate: The AI hacking for organics, this ability converts an enemy organic unit to fight for you for a short time. The 15 second cooldown that it causes makes the vanguard seem sluggish though and keeps you from being able to charge. -