First, I’m going to go out on a limb here and state openly that the Justicar, although popular, is not an overpowered class by any means. They’re reasonably tanky, have some group utility and do a fair job at supporting a single character. However, they have no way to break or prevent crowd control and are limited in the crowd control they can dish out. 21 points into the tree they gain access to their first Snare, 50% for 15s but costs 4% mana. 26 points in they can upgrade a 20s cooldown ability to a 2s stun (2 points for 100% reliability) and they can upgrade the snare to root (another 2 points for 100% reliability for a 3s root). Finally they get a PBAoE 8m interrupt unlocked at 32 points into the tree.
That’s all. A good ranged snare. A weak ranged stun. A PBAoE interrupt (let me know how often that’s useful). I’d also like to point out that 14 points of the tree are wasted on Block and shields. Initially I started down this path dumping points into block, getting my hands on badass shields. I was all into it. Then I realized that Block does not work like Block in any other game I played. Block, even with it’s low chance to occur only mitigates about 20% of the damage you take. 14 points of this soul dedicated to a part-time 20% mitigation at best? No thank you. Parry works as you would expect. A percentage of the time, you simply parry and take no damage. I’ll stick with that.
Building around the soul draining point hole that is Block benficial makes it something of a problem to get into those extremely deep abilities as well. 36 is as high as you can go without adding something to your Block rating, which is rough since at 38 you get a very nice self-absorb ability. Personally, I’m only planning 31 points into it and using the rest to pick up some passive abilities from Shaman and Warden.
The strengths of the Justicar, and also the popularity, come from it’s ease of use and solo-ability. Convictions are the combo point style of soul-unique ability. You build them up with normal attacks, and spend them on special abilities. Mostly, you build them up by hitting things in the face, and spend them on healing bits that you pass out like candy. Reparation is also a nice attractive ability. 10-25% of damage done is passed around to your group members and Salvation covers yourself for 5-10%. Smacking people in the face and healing, it’s like chocolate and peanut butter.
Also, you have the Miens, more buffs of course. Leadership boosts your HP/Armor/Threat for the tank oriented players, and Honor boosts your healing 50% and reduces threat by 50%. I wouldn’t mind seeing one of the block spec points removed to put a third Mien in there for a DPS oriented build, but that’s getting a little ahead of the game perhaps. Righteous Mandate, yet another buff, is one you toss on a buddy. When you’re at full HP, any heals applied to yourself are passed over to him instead. It also enables a powerful Conviction-based heal Doctrine of Righteousness. Either one will get you about 75% effectiveness for a role (tank or healer) but the rest of it will need to be made up in another soul.
Because of this I really wouldn’t call a defensive minded Justicar a “Tank”, but probably one of the better off-tanks. Middling DPS, weak group healing from Salvation/Reparation, an in-combat instant cast 100%hp rez, and the ability to pick up and drop aggro at the flip of a buff, and some good heals from abilities that tie into Righteous Mandate. If your main Tank is gibbed unexpectedly, a Justicar can pick up the heat for a few seconds, get the Tank back on his feet and potentially save a group from a wipe.
One last thing to look at is how the Justicar fits into the game. For leveling, it’s hard to refute that some sort of Justicar build will get you to 50 the fastest. I’ve soloed well over 95% of my quests, with only a few of the most epic ones needing a group. On top of that, I’ve been a little prone to running quests a couple levels higher than where I was at making the base mobs that much harder. Even invasions and rifts, provided there aren’t too many elites, are solo-able, so you’re more than able to collect up all those delicious planar goodies without having to bother anyone else for it. From 1-49 in open world PvE, the Justicar is a fine choice that you won’t be disappointed with.
Now whether or not the end-game Expert level dungeons have enough room for an off-tank when faster DPS is a highly valued commodity, time will only tell. There’s quite a few achievement unlocks that require instances to be run in a set amount of time, and I would imagine these timings come with greater rewards as well. Balancing a group out for maximum output is quickly going to force any dedicated Justicar to respec to a Nuking or Healing role instead. I’ve yet to see an instance where having that extra offtank to pick up adds or offer a few emergency heals looks like it will be necessary, at which point running additional DPS will undoubtedly be preferred. Hybrids, as usual, will be edged out for the more pure builds in any competitive situation.
Also, I’ve found that the Justicar build when it comes to the instanced PvP is pretty weak throughout the game. PvP is all about the burst damage or healing. Being a middle of the road class does nothing for your team. Sure, you last a little bit longer and can take care of yourself alright 1v1 or 1v2, but when it comes down to it any group with a semi-awake healer isn’t going to do much more than fart to absorb your damage output. The distinct lack of meaningful crowd control is also a rather severe detriment to their value and having no CC breaking abilities makes you something of a sitting duck out there. This again is a downside of being a hybrid role. You’re not enough tank, healer, or DPS to be effective in any of the three for a solid group.