When are shields worth it?

I’ve seen a lot of different view points on shields on the forum, and shields have changed a lot over time, especially recently. As someone who hasn’t played any content higher level than roguelikes in ultimate, and those only a little, I find it very difficult to parse what I read and decide when it would be worth it to take a shield as opposed to dual wield or a two-hander.

Just from a basic understanding of game mechanics, shields are very strong if you go all in on their defensive stats, particularly if you can eliminate block recovery. But that’s only possible now with a soldier that’s heavily devoted to defense and has overcapped shield training and overguard — with its transmuter.

But if you don’t go all in on shields, at what degree of investment do they become worth it? Would a sword and board shieldbreaker or sentinel be worth it over a similar dual wield version? Are shields only really good on non-warlord oath keepers if they go for physical damage (or can fully covert safeguard’s flat physical to their damage type)? Are shields worth it on mastery combos that don’t have support for them? My instinct was always that you needed to go all in on a shield for it to be worth the loss in damage, but that’s extremely difficult now, so I’m curious to hear the use cases for shields from veteran players.

Here’s the TL;DR - go HAM on shields, or forget about shields.

This is a game which rewards specialization. More often than not, taking an all or nothing approach when it comes to building your spec is the best way to go. Of course exceptions do exist (I myself love making hybrid builds), however, if you lack the know-how, I’d recommend staying away from it until you become more experienced.

To answer your question as holistically as I can, we need some context about shields. These metal turtle shells have 3 stats:

  • amount of damage blocked per successful block
  • chance of blocking
  • block recovery (you can think of this as a cooldown shields enter upon a successful block)

I’ve listed the above in ascending order of what I personally view to be most important when designing a shield spec. Here’s why.

Because shields can block ALL sources of damage (this even includes DOT!!! There is one exception however - that being on-floor effects like the acid pools you see in ugdenbog) , the smallest damage tick may send your shield into its “recovery” phase, rendering you vulnerable to a more devastating blow.

So regarding shield recovery, a general rule of thumb is to leave it at 70% if increasing it would gimp your build excessively, or to get it up to 100%.

Personally, I always opt for the latter because wtf is the point of gimping my DPS if I’m not going to be able to be the iron giant?

Regarding block chance, I find 70-80% to be extremely reliable.

EDIT: at 100% block chance and recovery, you can basically view shields as a permanent, mobile, roided out inquisitor seal


Shields are often a great choice for retalliation builds, as they add tons of retal. Or if you’re investing into block deeply (usually with Warlord build). Or both.
Shield block is good. However, you can benefit from it only if you build around it. Same could be said about DW too, btw.


Good call on retal. I overlooked it because it’s an area I’ve no interest in venturing into

This is the wisdom that informed my question, that shields need more or less complete devotion to be valuable. So if I wanted to build around oath keeper shield WPS, is the answer to go warlord or go home?

As far as I can tell, block recovery is exclusive to two shield components, shield maiden, the absolution relic, shield training and overguard. The best any non-soldier can manage is 38%, except with absolution, where they can get 73% with 50% up time. Soldiers can get 100% with very heavy investment and significant sacrifice in damage. According to what you say, shields are really only useful for soldiers (or retaliation builds, as BOG said, but I’m also not really interested in those). I’m not disputing that, I’m just asking for confirmation.

There are some other advantages of shields other than blocking or retaliation:
-Physical resistance: It comes in much higher numbers here than on any other slot.
-Obelisk of Menhir: This gives a whole lot of damage absorption on a constellation that otherwise also gives great defensive stats. It does take pretty significant sacrifices in damage for most builds to get it, though.
-Safeguard and oathkeeper WPS. Safeguard looks like it gives fairly solid stats, but not really worth investing in by itself, but the WPS look pretty good if your shield is increasing your defense in a measurable way.

Are none of those worth the loss in DPS?

The way I play pretty much any RPG is to read a lot of guides, but never follow any of them and always try to build weird, hybrid characters. It typically works well in less complicated genres that don’t reward specialization so heavily as ARPGs, but here it means spending a lot of time leveling characters that end up weak. That’s fine with me, since the leveling and learning is the main fun of the game, whereas I’d get bored of grinding end game content over and over pretty quickly.

Yes, you’re literally pigeonholed into Shieldmaiden and Obelisk of Menhir. The latter is just too good to ignore. The later is so good that i use it on NON-SHIELD build even. And its proc is tremendously powerful defensive-wise (and offensive-wise too, for retal builds). There are builds, that have enough offensive power anyways, but lack defences.

It’s hard to discuss these things in such broad strokes. We are discussing generalizations here.

Plenty of builds with shields work well without capping these shield stats - stronghold purifier comes to mind.

As for building around OK shield WPS, my guess is you’re going with the stoneguard set?

In which case, you’re a retal build moreso than a shield one

Worth mentioning too that it’s hard to answer this without looking at the whole build. Too many unknowns.

Okay, fair enough. I was hoping for a more broad strokes answer to help me decide on what kind of characters I want to build in general. I’ve thought about more than one sword and board character, but don’t know how important it is to invest in the shield. One archetype I’ve been thinking of is a righteous fury oathkeeper with some powerful supplementary ranged or DoT damage. Skill point demands on that seem incredibly tight (my first thoughts were physical with forcewave, then poison with DEE, then a fire shieldbreaker, and I was stretched to thin on all of them) so this is what I came up with.

This is obviously a very rough and incomplete sketch of what I’m hoping to do. The gear is just placeholder stuff, and I’m not super attached to the devotions either, mainly I want to see if a skill distribution like this will work.


Preface - I’m going to talk shop about what’s efficient, not about what’s fun.

Like fuck it. If you really want to do a shield WPS build, don’t let me stop you. Go crazy.

I’m also going to try to hold back specifics because it seems to me like you enjoy the process of discovery. And I can respect that. I went into GD completely blind, and only appeared on the forum when I managed to beat crucible naked for the first time. Was a bloody sloppy run though. Took me 25 minutes. :stuck_out_tongue:

But as it stands, your main damage is going to come from righteous fervor over everything else here. So my recommendation is to focus on that, not so much the shield WPS. If you can squeeze it in, great. If you can’t drop it.

Okay, I’ll take that into account. I think I’m going to just try and go with this and stop when either I can’t make it work, or I get bored with it and want to try something else.

I don’t mind hearing about specifics, by the way. I don’t like to play games blind. In fact, I love reading about expert’s builds, I just almost always take them as things I won’t strictly follow.

Thanks for the replies, by the way! Your posts here and elsewhere are extremely helpful and interesting.

Feel free to ask away. :slight_smile:

Sometimes you’re forced to take a shield if you want to use a set, such as with the Stronghold of the Legion set when you want to go 1-handed Ranged. In my opinion, I think this is a decent trade-off since you gain +skills/WPS/etc so it works out in the end.

Or sometimes a skill forces you to use a shield. Somethimes a shield serves a “stat stick”, as for this retaliation build, for example: https://www.grimtools.com/calc/pZrPylj2

Honest answer to the title question: never. Unless you’re hellbent on retaliation or Aegis of Menhir. I don’t know much about the former but can speak for the latter.

100% recovery, counterintuitively, won’t make you more tanky, at least not where it matters. To get there you must give up on so much dmg that it makes deep endgame enemies nigh immortal (serious, can’t kill Kuba at SR80 with Octavius tuned for 100% recovery with Armored and Shattered mutators, and invincible healer mobs become a thing around that level, too). In turn, the longer they live the denser debuffs stack, and eventually you die.

Another thing is sustain. Good luck stacking health regain to where it matters. I did classic adcth (life leech - the more dmg you deal the better you heal) on my Octaviuses, and it kinda works but… in all honestly you get more survivability on an SR set blademaster, a good binder with well executed active defense or those new vitality casters. I died much less in high shards and naked crucible on a SR set dervish (never died - awesome build) than on an Octavius warlord (did happen to die when I got greedy on Ascension and Overguard at once, and then counted on Stone Form and it didn’t proc). And most importantly it didn’t feel like my game got stuck at x0.2 replay speed.

Ironically, the best shield build I know is Stronghold purifier with zero shield stats, where the shield is just a prop to complete the set. Voidsoul is kinda weakly but fun but again - shield is just a set prop to use Aegis as a filler to Flames of Ignaffar.

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Didn’t nery’s warborn cadence WL do pretty well in SR? it was a S&B

It does pretty in SR, if you have the endurance to withstand painful slowness.

In Crucible was around 10-10:30 with 3 buffs 1 banner.

That seems reasonable. You’re trading speed and flashy damage for sheer stability. That is exactly what a shield build with high recovery is supposed to do IMO.

I mean, you could also probably do naked on that build pretty easily.

I tried it, don’t have enough damage to complete naked Crucible. :frowning:

Is it a lack of AoE?