UPDATE 12/29/17 : With the mercenary rotation, these specific troops are no longer available, although some players still have them. HOWEVER, the developers have added other newer mercenaries with similar mechanics (Frost Guardians) and will probably continue to do so. Any Guardian-type mercenary that goes to the hospital first and has a large amount of defense will work with the tactics below.
The new City Guardian mercenaries have proven exceptionally powerful and have a surprising number of uses. In this article for Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire, we take another look at these troops to help you utilize their full power both offensively and defensively.
City Guardian Overview
Before we dive into the strategy details, let’s do a quick overview of City Guardians themselves.
Found in the mercenary fighting pits, City Guardians have an eye-popping level of health and defense, at the cost of almost no offensive power. All of their stats can be boosted using various boost items and gear just as with normal troops, and Guardians boosted by excellent HP or Armor gear can be nightmares for attackers.
City Guardians on Defense
The most obvious use of City Guardians is on defense of an empire. This is what they are designed for: with their obscenely high health and armor and t0 status (they go to the hospital first), they’re meant as a powerful meatshield.
It doesn’t take too many City Guardians to stave off t4 and t5 assaults and rallies; a bare 10-20k (depending on gear and research!) will be able to absorb the shock of almost any solo and most rallies if your gear and defense research are up to snuff. Anything over your hospital limit is probably overkill, unless you’re keeping some spare for other uses in this article.
As in all defense or trapping scenarios, the better your gear and combat/defense research, the stronger these guys (and all of your troops) are going to be. You will want to back them up with a solid number of normal troops of your highest tier to eat incoming attacks though. You’ll also want to have both food items and gold ready to get them back in the fight ASAP if you are attacked.
One other benefit of Guardians for both traps and players attempting to defend themselves is that they allow you to potentially add attack gear to cause more casualties to attackers. Previous to City Guardians, unless you had some exceptional gold gear pieces, you were forced to prioritize Sentinel, Gunslinger or Undertaker. With Guardians, you have the ability to add Arbiter pieces at a much lower troop count. While most useful to rally traps, being able to make yourself more “spikey” to incoming troops is of use to all empires on defense.
Aside from this intended use though, City Guardians have proven to have a number of other game uses that are not so obvious.
City Guardians on Attack
I know what you’re thinking, City Guardians are expensive and die first if you send them out on attack. And they have no offensive power. While both of these points are absolutely true, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider sending some city guards along with certain attacks or rallies.
Remember from our Combat Attack and Combat Defense guides that casualties work the same way for an attacking force as on defense. And remember that a “win” is determined by the number of troops you lose versus an opponent, and that to lose your hero in a fight you have to lose all of your troops and lose the fight on casualties.
For these reasons, including City Guardians in dicey attacks can be a very powerful strategy. Yes, you will do slightly less damage by including 1-2k Guards in a solo, or that or more in a rally. But you will take way, way less casualties and drastically reduce the chances of losing your hero if you miscalculate.
Additionally, the protective effect of City Guardians can save your rally members a lot of troops. The Guards may be expensive, but t4 don’t grow on trees either and not all of your members may be able to afford sustained assaults all the time. Deploying some City Guards (perhaps collectively to spread out the cost) during rallies can greatly assist members who are powerful assets but still playing on a budget.
Obviously, given the cost of City Guardians, you should limit their uses in situations where they won’t go to a hospital, but this tactic should be considered in very tough fights.
Guardians in Crystal Fights
Update 12/16/17: The new Winter Mercenaries currently available in the Fighting Pits are designed specifically for knocking tough opponents out of a crystal or Titan.
Guardians have two uses on Crystal fights. The first and most obvious use is protecting the Crystal. A Crystal force stuffed with troops, a Sentinel-geared hero and some City Guardians is going to be MUCH harder to dislodge than without the City Guardians, forcing any attackers to sacrifice a very large number of troops (or their own Guardians, see below) to get your force out of the crystal. This can also be used in uneven battles if you can beat stronger enemies to the crystal
The second use of City Guardians in battles for the Crystal is on offense. Crystal fights are won based on troop number loss. What that means is, if you hit the crystal with a solo or rally and cause more casualties than you take, you dislodge the occupying force. So including some City Guardians with your rally against the Crystal will greatly increase your chances of taking the Crystal.
The third use of City Guardians in Crystal battles is for bouncing empires out of the Scar during a Crystal fight. Like the Crystal, a “win” or “loss” is determined entirely by how many troops you lose versus your opponent. So including Guardians in your attack force can result in an opponent being random-ported out of the Scar with much more ease, forcing them to waste an Advanced Port (if they have one) to come back and fight, as well as disrupting the enemy’s overall assault strategy.
Dealing With Guardians
The flip side of so much power and utility is that it sucks when that power and utility is used against you. For that reason, you need to know what to do when you encounter or suspect City Guardians.
First, if you encounter a player with City Guardians and are trying to solo them, stop. The best thing to do in this case is to walk the other way and find an easier target. This is especially true in KE or RvR.
If you can’t walk away for whatever reason, the next best case is to call for rally help if you can’t knock the guardians down fast enough to damage anything on the other side of them.
If this is a decently geared and researched trap who is online, even a full rally is going to have trouble depending on the relative levels of everyone involved. The best case here is to either include mech mercenaries in the rally or in solos timed to hit right before the rally does to knock down guardians and allow the rally to do max damage. Yes, mechas are expensive and you will lose a bunch of them, but you need power to knock those guardians down.
For rallies, a high level Prompto is preferred over Noctis, both for the Armor piercing, the rally time reduction and the rally attack and/or City Assault boosts. Including a handful of your own guardians in the rally will cover the difference between Prompto and Noctis in terms of the HP boost.
Strategies for dealing with guardians in the Crystal is similar although slightly easier depending on the number; the Guardians will just die when hit rather than going to a hospital, and unless someone is continually reining and speeding new ones into the Crystal the advantage can be overcome (albeit with some expense in troops).
Guardians and their uses have become a hot topic for player discussion, with both fans and detractors. Fans cite the multiple uses and heavy defensive nature, while detractors tend to be of the opinion that they are overpowered.
One thing worth thinking about as the game progresses is that Guardians, if they stick around, will be designed against. What I mean by that is since they are extremely potent on defense relative to their cost, future game updates are likely to take them into account. This may lead to difficult times for players who do not have Guardians handy as the game designers scale offensive troops or buffs.
Love them or hate them, Guardians are definitely powerful in the current metagame. I hope this article has shed some light on other uses and roles for them in addition to the intended use. If you yourself have come across other situations where they are useful, or have an opinion about the overall effectiveness of City Guardians, leave us a comment and let us know!
This article series covers all Mercenary Troops released in the game.