In Mass Effect 2, I read the Vanguard - with the right specs and player skill - could completely dominate close quarters battle with the charge and shotgun/melee.

Is this still an effective strategy in ME3? Are there any disadvantages, especially on insane difficulty?

  • It should be noted that Mass Effect 2 Vanguard was not overpowered; it was just really really fun to play.
    – ILMTitan
    Commented Mar 9, 2012 at 18:19
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    How can you NOT play Vanguard effectively? :)
    – Zelda
    Commented Mar 9, 2012 at 19:21

7 Answers 7


A vanguard can be absolutely OP

My first character was a vanguard (imported Shep though, so I started at level 30). After using the advice of some answers in this question, I quickly became an unstoppable killing machine while playing hardcore difficulty. Here's what I did:

  1. I maxed out my biotic charge for the most single target damage I can get.
  2. I maxed out nova for the boost to power cooldown and increased radius/chance of not expending shields.
  3. I carry around the minimum weapons required to maintain 200% recharge rate.
  4. For the rest of my skills, it went into assault mastery and fitness, primarily focused on boosting power damage where I could and increasing barrier strength where I couldn't.
  5. For my armor, I wear the -30% power cooldown +30% power damage armor.

With this setup, I can literally none stop charge + nova until everything on the battlefield is dead. Balled up enemies don't even have time to blink before they are completely destroyed.

Against the special enemies, I tend to be a bit more careful and rely more on my allies for ranged damage, but generally for enemies such as a brute, instead of doing a Nova right after the charge (and thus leaving yourself vulnerable), I prefer to do a quick dodge to the left/right first.


yx.'s strategy is great for play on Hardcore/Silver difficulty, but for Gold/Insanity you'll want a more sane, long distance build.

You'll want to focus on staying alive and working at a moderate distance.

  • Biotic Charge; go for additional targets and 100% shield restoration. Biotic Charge is extremely dangerous in Insanity, so when you use it you want the enemies around you staggered and you want a full shield. I picked weapon damage over power damage too; you'll be using your weapons a lot more.
  • Fitness: Go for shields/health bonuses. Since Melee and Biotic Charge aren't ever going to be one hit kills in Insanity, you'll want to focus on staying power.
  • Shockwave: Go for distance. Shockwave is pretty useful as it penetrates cover. I find the Lift effect helpful against weak enemies (which I usually use it against) but quick recharge is more useful to spam it, especially against big targets. Note that Shockwave usually staggers big stuff like Atlases.
  • Nova: I never use this anymore. It's suicide in Insanity mode. Use your skill points elsewhere
  • Weapons: I personally carry a Geth Pulse Rifle, Locust SMG and Carnifex heavy pistol, which gives me a great range of firepower but keeps my power recharge speed at 200%
  • Cryo/Incindiary Ammo: Cryo ammo works well with slow-fire weapons, I use it on my Heavy Pistol. Go for a high freeze chance and duration to take targets out of the fight. For Incindiary, go for Explosive Burst, it whittles down health insanely fast with high-rat**e-of-fire weapons like the Geth Pulse Rifle.
  • Bonus Power**: Carnage is a great fit. Your skills are shortrange and aren't great against armor. Carnage is long range and shreds armor. Great against Brutes, Banshees, anything armored/unshielded you don't want to get close to.

I find myself keeping my distance behind cover, and I only use Charge in emergencies; use it to hit a target you can flee from to heal your Barrier. Focus on using your guns, and only use powers to supplement them; shockwave to stagger targets, Carnage to eat armor.

Focus on one target at a time, and make use of your squadmate's powers. I personally keep EDI and Garrus around and use their Overload skills mapped to hotkeys. This way I can immediately drop targets shields and remove their health quickly with weapons fire, or use Shockwave/Pull to weaken them for a final blow.

  • I don't agree. Just finished insanity difficulty with charge/nova Vanguard. It was way easier than soldier at hardcore. Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 7:27
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    Vanguards should not turtle. Charge first then think. Take energy drain as the bonus power, then you can finish insanity without any weapon at all which I'm gonna try next time. Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 7:31
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    charge/nova vanguard doesn't do well on gold multiplayer matches though, this is from personal experience. Its especially bad if there's a slight lag and you can't get that charge off after a nova
    – l I
    Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 12:49
  • I had a pretty easy time with Insanity the whole way through with this, though Charging + Melee like I used to always got me in trouble.
    – Zelda
    Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 13:30
  • @yx.: Charge/nova doesn't work as well in multiplayer because you can't pinball as easily without the skill wheel.
    – MBraedley
    Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 19:45

Lag is death in multiplayer. Especially when your power is ready to go and you're frantically hitting the hotkey and nothing is happening. So the more damage your opponents do, the worse lag can be. I agree that taking any shield or health bonuses, especially in silver or gold, is a good bet. I didn't put any skill into shockwave for multiplayer, but may seriously consider building a vanguard spec with shockwave for gold matches.


Yes, it's still effective. It's easy to die as a Vanguard because you often get close, but you learn what to do, what not to do and when to do it if you pay attention.

Charge is your bread and butter obviously, because it brings you in for shotgun and melee range while replenishing your barriers.

Following with the traditional shotgun to the face is always good but I went more biotic than soldier so I made sure to get the Asari Shotgun for weight reasons. It's not that high in damage ( but majority of my attacks are biotic) but it helps in a pinch.

The melee for Vanguards is outstanding and just screams powerhouse. If you have Fitness upgraded right, you can deal whopping amounts of damage.

Vanguard Nova adds a nice risky flavor to the Vanguard ( which is already risky) but makes up in the sheer amount of damage it can spew out in a short range.

So from these few skills I have listed you have the skeleton of my Vanguard style: Charge, roll awhile to avoid damage while cool down finishes( just a couple of seconds), either use Nova ( which depletes shields do don't do it if there's a very high enemy count around you) or heavy melee or do all three in succession to really roll some heads. The name of the game is movement. Stay moving (rolling, running) if you aren't attacking, that way you maximize your life span in close range.

Aside from that layout, I've got some pro tips to add icing on the cake for anyone still playing ME3 and wants to be a Vanguard Beast.

Pull is great because it can rip away guardian shields and leave enemies helpless to squad fire but it can also prime enemies for biotic explosions, which really fucks up anybody standing close by. So you can pull someone, use a charge to set the explosion off and bring you in to apply the basic strategy laid out above or if you don't want to get the close and you are at mid range use a shockwave.

Shockwave is fun to use because it can set off biotic explosions and go through walls, saving your health/shields and dealing some nice damage. Really useful to scatter crowds before you charge in to finish them off while their pants are down.

As for bonus powers I've experimented with a few:

Warp ammo is great simply for the fact that it wholeheartedly supports the Vanguard, biotic soldier play style. It boost weapon damage by a lot and does even more damage to enemies you have used pull on. Solid choice. Or just get Liara to give your squad a portion of hers. Works really well if you've got all biotics in your squad, complete massacre, especially if you tag team biotic explosions and what not.

If you do decide to play with your team in mind you can go for other bonus powers like Barrier. It does provide you with protection, but I've found it really doesn't matter if you are constantly moving and charging like I do. That, and it imposes a rather irritating cool down period that's not really worth what it does.

Lash is definitely fun, I've used it a bit but it makes pull feel redundant. They are not the same though. Lash can go through shields and barriers which is great for enemies like phantoms and marauders and can set enemies up for detonation but you gotta be really fast to set it off. Pull is better for setting up explosions. A downside is it make your character stand and take a lot of fire for a few seconds so it sort of violates my Vanguard philosophy.

Flare is the grand master of all offensive biotic abilities and so naturally it seems to go hand in hand with the Vanguard. It has a long cooldown, so make sure you stay light and have cooldown bonuses from armor and stuff. It works extremely well with pull and allows you to set off massive explosions at range and in cover. Best used to destroy large crowds and bosses before you zoom in to finish whatever happens to be left of them off.


Here are some situations you may be involved in:

  • Enemies in a row - first use Liara's Singularity or Javik's Dark Channel, then use Shockwave to blow 'em up.

  • Enemies around you - Nova and jump backwards.

  • Far away enemies - passive power (Singularity, Dark Channel, etc.) then alternate Nova and Charge.

In my opinion, you could use the Falcon with Inferno Ammo (it's like a grenade launcher!), put anti-armour ammo on Garrus or put warp ammo on Liara.


People over look reave, 40% damage reduction for you(and no penalty like defenses matrix and fortification), AOE biotic prime, cool down isn't bad with light weapons. reave, charge/nova (depending on range) heavy melee, nova. If it has anything more then health then heavy melee! They'll still be in range after the charge and you'll be halfway done with the punch before you can even see past the charge's burst. Guns: talon for CQC (barely going to use it though) m7 for ravagers harvesters and primes 198% cool down. (Guns are DLC but well worth it)

Platinum makes Insanity pretty sane.


One thing I haven't seen is people talking about charging and then using squad mates tech and biotic powers. Using charge and then spamming tech and biotic powers gives the vanguard a huge advantage because it prevents enemies from effectively attacking you when your most vulnerable right after a charge.

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