Mass Effect Legendary Edition Build Guide: Vanguard (Mass Effect 1)

In this Mass Effect Legendary Edition Build Guide I’m going to cover my Vanguard Build for Mass Effect 1, which is a Vanguard Build designed for close-range encounters. I’ll be sharing the best Talents to prioritize, what it means to choose the Shock Trooper Specialization for your Vanguard, the optimal Weapons, Armor, and Mods to equip, and the Squadmates to take with you on Missions and Assignments. If you’ve been looking for a way to optimally play as a Vanguard then this Guide is for you.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition Build Guide: Vanguard (Mass Effect 1)

The Vanguard Class specializes in dealing massive damage at point-blank range and sometimes, even killing enemies with just one shot thanks to their expertise in wielding a Shotgun. Meanwhile to inflict mid-range damage, they can opt to use a Pistol, as it provides decent accuracy and damage at this distance.

Shotgun Combat

What makes the Vanguard menacing, in addition to high Weapon Damage, is their Biotic Abilities. They can immobilize enemies by knocking them down and by suspending them up in the air with Throw and Lift. Additionally, the Vanguard’s resilience is commendable because they can equip Medium Armor like the Infiltrator, and they have access to Barrier, which further enhances their Shields.

The Shock Trooper Vanguard Build boosts your survivability even more by raising your HP and Shield Strength while reducing the recharge time of Adrenaline Burst, thereby allowing you to reuse any of your depleted Abilities as soon as possible. Your Barrier’s strength and duration are improved as well.

Vanguard Talents and Abilities (Mass Effect 1)

In this section, I’ll talk about the different Weapon, Combat and Biotic Talents and Abilities that you should focus on to make the most out of your Shock Trooper Vanguard Build. Note that the number of Talent Points I’ve allocated is based on reaching Level 50 in Mass Effect 1 Legendary Edition, or level 25 if you’re using the new Legendary mode.

Weapon Talents and Abilities

There are 2 Weapon Talents that you’ll have to put sufficient Talent Points into because these will help you tackle enemies depending on how near or far they are from you by increasing the accuracy of your shots and the damage you deal.


This Talent unlocks the Marksman Ability at Rank 3. The Marksman Ability increases the Pistol’s accuracy and damage, making it a necessary Weapon for the Vanguard when shooting enemies from a distance. This serves as a decent backup to the Shotgun, which is limited to close-range encounters.

I recommend immediately investing at least 4 Talent Points at earlier levels so you can eventually unlock the Shotguns Talent later. You can then follow through with 4 additional Talent Points at your discretion, making it a total of 8, in order to enhance the Pistol’s performance.

Shotguns Talent


Similar to the Pistol, this talent raises the Shotgun’s accuracy and damage. At Rank 4, you unlock the Carnage Ability, which inflicts deadly damage at point-blank range, thereby knocking enemies down and increasing the chances of performing one-shot kills. Furthermore, the Shotgun’s heat is dissipated upon use.

What’s cool about Carnage is when you rank it up, you lengthen the acceptable distance between you and your target that allows you to deal +200% explosive damage. This means that at Rank 12 with Master Carnage, you can shoot an enemy at most 3 meters away from you and still inflict more than double the damage.

Master Carnage Ability

With the Shotgun being the Vanguard’s main Weapon of choice, you’re able to hide behind cover, surprise targets, and eventually eliminate them quickly, all in one shot. This pairs exceptionally well with your Biotic Abilities because you can immobilize enemies when you’re caught in the thick of combat, giving you enough space to kill or to maneuver if need be.

As soon as you get access to the Shotguns Talent, you’ll have to invest as many points as you can, up to at least 8 if possible to unlock Advanced Carnage. Ideally, you’ll invest 12 Talent Points eventually in order to get maximum benefit.

Biotic Talents and Abilities

There are 4 Biotic Talents that you’ll have to put sufficient points into in order to take advantage of your crowd control capabilities. These are Throw, Lift, Warp and Barrier.


Throw is an amazing Biotic Talent because it allows you to hurl and to knock back enemies, thereby preventing them from attacking your Squad. Once immobilized, you can then go in for the kill. You can also guarantee the enemy’s death by flinging them off ledges. There are only some exceptions such as Geth Rocket Drones and Geth Armatures that are immune to the knock back effect due to their flying capabilities and heavy weights. Other than these, Throw is a very effective way to deal with clutch situations.

Throw Combat

Since the first three ranks of this Talent are available, you ought to invest points into it right from the very beginning. This is also useful at earlier levels when your Weapon Damage isn’t as strong as it should be. Ideally, you’ll unlock the Master Throw Ability at Rank 12 to double the impact damage you deal when hurling enemies away from you, but you can do this over the course of the game.


Lift makes you suspend affected enemies in the air for a period of time, rendering them vulnerable to your attacks while incapacitating them. At higher ranks, the time they remain floating is lengthened, raising the chances of either eliminating them as they hover above ground or shooting their allies down below. When the duration of this Talent expires, affected enemies will take fall damage.

You can activate Lift first in combination with Throw to efficiently kill your targets. Since Throw will have to reach Rank 7 to unlock Lift, you’ll be allocating points into this Talent midway into the game. This shouldn’t be a problem given that you have other relevant Biotic Abilities available for use. Ideally, it’s best to invest a total of 7 Talent Points into Lift, to gain access to Advanced Lift. This increases the Ability’s radius, impacting more enemies.


Warp drastically weakens Armor, making enemies susceptible to more damage, while draining their HP over time. This Talent even prevents them from restoring HP. Because of this, Warp is a very effective disabling Ability, allowing you to eliminate enemies quickly. I recommend investing 12 points into this Talent over the course of the game. At Rank 4, you also unlock Barrier, which I’ll discuss next.

Warp HUD


Barrier is a very useful buff that makes the Vanguard more durable especially in tight combat situations because this increases the amount of damage you can withstand before you start to lose HP. I suggest investing 7 Talent Points into Barrier to gain access to Advanced Barrier, which absorbs a ton of damage.

Barrier HUD

Combat Talents and Abilities

There are 3 Combat Talents that will make your Shock Trooper Vanguard Build highly resilient in close and mid-range combat. These are Assault Training, Tactical Armor, and Spectre Training. I’ll explain why these are essential and how they integrate well with your Build.

Assault Training

This Talent increases your Melee Damage more so than your Weapon Damage, which is important for your Build since you’re always near enemies. You can easily deal Melee Attacks since there’s now a dedicated button for it in the Legendary Edition.

What makes Assault Training essential is it grants you Adrenaline Burst, which fully refreshes your Abilities. Because of this, you can immediately use them for a second time, which comes in handy especially when you’re up against challenging enemies. Since Assault Training is available to you from the very beginning, I suggest putting points into it at earlier levels.

Adrenaline Burst Ability (Vanguard)

In total, it’s best to level this up to Rank 8 in order to unlock Advanced Adrenaline Burst. This reduces the recharge time of Adrenaline Burst itself in order to use it more frequently. You can use this in combination with any of your Abilities to employ crowd control measures or to improve your survivability.

Tactical Armor

This Talent makes you much more durable in combat by protecting you from incoming Melee and Weapon Damage, as well as Tech and Biotic Attacks. Its corresponding stats, namely damage reduction and Hardening, are increased every time you rank Tactical Armor up. At Rank 3, you unlock the Shield Boost Ability, which restores 30% of your depleted Shields per second. At Rank 8, which is what you’ll be aiming for, you gain access to the Advanced Shield Boost Ability to restore 40% of your Shields per second.

What makes this Talent better is it enables your Vanguard to equip Medium Armor at Rank 7. Medium Armor improves your durability and protection from all sources of damage. This coupled with Shield Boost and Barrier will make you very difficult to kill. The sooner you get this to Rank 7, the faster you can wear Medium Armor.

Spectre Training

This Talent can be unlocked after you become a Spectre when you complete a Citadel Mission within 2 hours of playing. Spectre Training makes your character stronger by raising the accuracy and damage you deal with Weapons, improves your Abilities, and raises your max HP.

What makes Spectre Training relevant is its Unity Ability, which lets you revive dead Squadmates. This is especially helpful when fighting challenging enemies when the chances of dying become higher. At Rank 6, which is enough for the Vanguard, you’ll be able to gain access to this Ability so you can restore a third of your downed Squad’s HP and half of their Shields, immediately protecting them from any form of damage.

Vanguard Spectre Training Unity Ability

Shock Trooper Specialization (Mass Effect 1)

In this section, I’m going to discuss the Unique Class Talent for this Build as well as its evolved form or Specialization upon completing a certain quest.

The Vanguard Class Talent boosts your Pistol and Shotgun Damage while improving your resistance to Biotic Attacks. You can only allot a maximum of 6 Talent Points into it. At Level 20 when you access the Galaxy Map, the Assignment UNC: Rogue VI on Luna will be given to you by Admiral Hackett. Upon completing this side quest, you will be able to choose between two Specializations, namely, Shock Trooper or Nemesis. Either Specialization will increase the rank of your Vanguard Class Talent from 6 to 12. Note that the Talent Points you may have allotted to your Class Talent prior to unlocking your Specialization will carry over and you’ll be receiving the same bonuses from Ranks 7 to 12.

Shock Trooper focuses on increasing your HP and damage protection. It also reduces the recharge times of both Barrier and Adrenaline Burst so you can use both Abilities more often. Conversely, Nemesis is better if you prefer to offensively deal with enemies using Warp and Lift, allowing you to quickly kill them from a farther distance than before. Between these two, I highly recommend taking Shock Trooper and raising its rank to 12 so you can improve your survivability and defense-related Abilities.

Shock Trooper Specialization


Every time Shepard explores the different clusters of the Galaxy, you’ll be asked to select 2 Squadmates or Companions to bring with you. In Mass Effect 1 Legendary Edition, there are a total of 6 to choose from, each with their own Combat, Tech and Biotic Specialties. Remember that their levels are the same as yours even for those who are left in the Normandy Ship. Since your Squadmates’ Talents are fewer than Shepard’s, they receive less Talent Points every time they level up.

Dr. Liara T’Soni

Despite your prowess in employing Biotic Abilities, it’s still better to bring Dr. Liara T’Soni who is a pure Biotic Specialist. You can recruit her after completing the Find Liara T’Soni Mission. Liara has additional AoE Biotic Abilities like Singularity that render enemies useless by clumping them in a vacuum in order to make them float. This goes great with Throw so you can kill most of them at once. She also has the Overload Ability, which damages a large portion of the enemy’s Shields.

Meeting Liara

Garrus Vakarian

In order to balance your need for additional firepower, you’ll need a durable Combat and Tech Specialist like Garrus Vakarian. You can recruit him after completing the Citadel: Garrus Mission.

Garrus has Tech Abilities such as Sabotage, Overload and Damping, which overheats Weapons, directly damages Shields, and disables enemies from using their Tech and Biotic Abilities, respectively. Additionally, their corresponding Talents allow you to unlock containers and hack security systems to obtain relevant gear and to gain extra XP. Furthermore, Garrus is also proficient with the Assault Rifle and Sniper Rifle, which is useful to inflict damage from a greater distance.

Meeting Garrus

Vanguard Weapons and Mods (Mass Effect 1)

For the Shock Trooper Vanguard Build, you should equip the Pistol and Shotgun Spectre Gear. To acquire these, you’ll need to unlock the “Rich Achievement” by having 1,000,000 credits and reaching Level 50, which are doable as long as you complete the majority of Assignments. If you don’t reach Level 50 but you get the Rich Achievement, you can still obtain lower versions of these Weapons, specifically HWMP VII and HMWSG VII, which are still far superior than the other Weapons in the game. You can buy Spectre Gear from the C-Sec or Alliance Requisition Officers located in the Citadel and the Normandy, respectively. Note that at the time of creating this guide, there is a bug that doesn’t make the Spectre Gear available for purchase at higher levels.


The best Pistol is the HMWP VII, which deals great damage more than any other Pistol that you’ll obtain from locked containers. Moreover, you can fire about 20+ shots before this Weapon overheats.

HMWP VII Spectre Gear


The best Shotgun is the HMWSG VII, which deals superior damage and has a very high accuracy rate, letting you one-shot multiple enemies at close range.

HMWSG VII Spectre Gear

Weapon Mods

For the Pistol and Shotgun Spectre Gear, you can add 2 Weapon Mods and 1 Ammo Mod each. With Weapon Mods, you can choose the Rail Extension VII, which significantly boosts your damage. Although it has a heat absorption penalty of about 20%, this becomes negligible at higher levels.

Rail Extension VII

For the Shotgun, I recommend the Kinetic Stabilizer VII because this increases the stability of your Weapon by 24% to aim better. Additionally, the Combat Scanner VII improves detection in combat since enemies will often jam your radar making it tough for you to spot their positions and total number.

For Ammo Mods, I suggest switching between Tungsten Rounds VII and Shredder Rounds VII, which deal extra 40% damage to Synthetics or robotic enemies and Organics or live enemies, respectively.

Tungsten Rounds VII

More often than not, you’ll be using Tungsten Rounds due to the high volume of Synthetics relative to Organics. Occasionally, you can also use Polonium Rounds VII because this inflicts high Toxic Damage and extra damage over time while preventing regeneration.

Grenade Launcher Mod

For the Grenade Launcher Mod, I highly recommend equipping High Explosive X because this maximizes the blast radius of your grenades, which is essential against enemies far away from you. Your Blast Damage and Weapons Force, or the force by which you can knock down enemies, also increases notably. You can also use this in combination with one of your Biotic Abilities as a finisher.

Vanguard Armor and Mods (Mass Effect 1)

When it comes to Armor, you can equip any Medium Armor as soon as your able. Any high version should do because this already increases your damage protection as opposed to wearing Light Armor.

The best Medium Armor to have is the Predator M X, which you can obtain by first purchasing the Armax Arsenal License from Expat in the Citadel’s Upper Markets. You can buy this Armor from the Alliance Requisition Officer if your Level is 50+. Note that Predator M X appears randomly in the merchant’s stock so it’s not a guaranteed purchase. Alternatively, you can acquire it from locked containers but the drop rate is low.

What’s great about Predator M X is that it has the highest Shields of all the Armor in the game and it also has adequate Damage and Tech/Biotic Protection. To raise your Tech/Biotic Protection even more, I suggest equipping 2 Energized Weave VII Mods. It also raises your Shield Recovery, thereby ensuring that your Shields are up almost all the time. This is a strong Medium Armor that boosts your survivability when hit with Combat, Tech and Biotic Attacks.

Energized Weave VII

Final Tips

When selecting your Pre-Service History and Psychological Profile during Character Creation, note that you can choose whatever you like since these only affect dialogue options and have no impact on your Build. Feel free to choose whatever suits the personality of the Shepard you wish to play.

Given that you’ll be facing different enemy types like Synthetics and Organics, remember to alternate your use of Ammo Mods, specifically Tungsten and Shredder Rounds VII to effectively eliminate them.

The weakness of Vanguards is their lack of Tech and additional Biotic Abilities to destroy Shields and to efficiently kill enemies. Because of this, you’ll need to utilize the strengths of your Squadmates like Liara in order to immobilize groups of targets and Garrus to strip them of their Armor. Furthermore, you can also rely on Garrus to inflict Weapon Damage from afar because of his Assault Rifle and Sniper Rifle training.

Lastly, make sure to equip higher versions of Weapons if you don’t have access to the best Spectre Gear yet because these will help your Build succeed. The following are good alternatives due to their high damage, Heatsink Capacity, and accuracy: Karpov VIII Pistol and Armageddon VII Shotgun.

Armageddon VII Shotgun

A good Armor option is the Mercenary VII because of its high Damage Protection and Shields. To raise your Tech/Biotic Protection, simply add 2 Energized Weave VII Mods. You can get this from locked containers plus your Combat Abilities should help a lot with your survivability.

Stay tuned for more Build Guides for Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, and be sure to check out the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition Wiki if you have questions about the game!


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