Recently a fairly old thread in the Bioware forums was brought back to life from its ashes. It talks about a fairly unique Vanguard play style called the “Cryoguard.”
I have never been a big fan of Cryo Ammo ordue to the lack of guaranteed CC or damage. You’ll say, “Wait a minute, Cryo Ammo freezes targets, it is CC.” To which I’ll respond, “Yes, it does, but it doesn’t happen 100% of the time.” While one shot of Incendiary Ammo will always ignite a target and make it panic, Cryo Ammo night not always freeze it. Further most other ammo types work on more than just health, Disruptor works on shields and synthetics, Inferno and Amour-Piercing Ammo works on armour and health, Warp Ammo works on everything bar shields. Shredder and Cryo Ammo only work against health.
The beauty about a Vanguard though is that they usually will shoot with a shotgun. All shotguns aside from the Geth Plasma Shotgun fire 8 pellets each capable of trigger the freeze effect, which means you will get an almost guaranteed freeze. However I find Cryo Ammo is still lackluster until you are able to max it and get either Improved or Squad Cryo Ammo.
Why Would I Be a Cryoguard?
The Cryoguard is a very specific play style. The reason for you to go down that route is wanting to charge around without utilizing much “natural” cover by using the frozen targets as such. It also allows for damage mitigation since frozen sticks can’t shoot you and prevents chargers from reaching you. You want to charge them, not the other way around, since if you are not the one charging, chances are your shields are down. Remember that Charge will buff up your barrier/shields, however you want to call your kinetics, it doesn’t just close the gap between you and an enemy. Frozen enemies can also shatter when hit, but since they are likely to have low health by the time they are frozen, this secondary effect may or may not be useful. Further it is not guaranteed. Due to the nature of the proc, you also have to use fast firing weapons, preferably a fast firing shotgun that does less damage per shot. If you use a shotgun that almost one shots people, or kills them in 2, you aren’t likely to get freezes and you might as well just use some other ammo power that gives you some guaranteed damage such as Disruptor, Warp or Inferno. If you don’t like that kind low-damage-per-shot fast-firing shotgun then Cryoguard might not be for you.
The important thing to understand about Cryoguard is that if you do not get the freezes at the right time, then you might as well have not had the effect at all. I saw people posting videos of Cryoguards saying, “I got freezes left, right and center” and when I watched the, the enemies were being frozen when they were almost dead, they couldn’t be used as cover, etc. Like Day would say, “Just go kill them!” It would be more productive than freezing them at the last second and having to make sure they do die.
The Correct Setup
As I mentioned, you need to have a fast firing shotgun for the Cryo effect to trigger. The M-27 Scimitar is one of the best for the job. You do not want to use the Geth Plasma Shotgun (only 3 pellets and it’s “too powerful”) nor do you want to use the M-300 Claymore, which tends to almost one-shot things. So if you plan on doing an entire run as a Cryoguard when you get onto the disabled Collector Ship don’t bother picking up the Claymore, pick Assault Rifle training instead so you get an extra weapon to fall on when you run out of ammo. The M-22 Eviscerator is also not so good for Cryoguard. It does slightly more damage per shot than the Geth Assault Rifle (when uncharged) and it can kill enemies in 2 or 3 shots in some places, giving you little chance to utilise the freezes as they don’t proc often.
With the weapons sorted out, let’s talk about the Cryo Ammo skill itself. At level 4 it evolves in either the Improved Cryo Ammo or Squad Ammo. Improved Cryo Ammo causes a target to freeze more often than level 3 Cryo Ammo and for longer, i.e., 7 seconds rather than 5. Squad Ammo is a level 3 Cryo Ammo that gets applied to your entire squad, so you have 3 people with it, rather than 1. According to some forum post, if you hammer a single target with either, you’ll get almost the same chance of freezing someone. However Squad Cryo Ammo allows you to freeze more than one target, and even though you usually don’t have control over what enemies your squad is firing, it can be useful. I find I prefer Squad Cryo to Improved.
To show you how much the correct setup is important, I made two videos. The first one has me using the Eviscerator with only me using Cryo Ammo level 3. Pay attention to my annotations, you will see how frustrating and useless it was. In the second video I am using the Scimitar and Squad Cryo Ammo. The difference is huge, I get a lot more freezes, and even though a few of them are useless, a lot of them are actually useful. Once again pay attention to my annotations.
In other words Cryo Ammo is as good as many times as you can answer “Yes” to this question: “Was this freeze useful?”
First video with the Eviscerator and level 3 Cryo Ammo.
Second video with Squad Cryo Ammo and Scimitar.
Due mainly to the requirement of the Scimitar, I don’t like the Cryoguard. I prefer using something that gives me guaranteed damage over “could be useful freezes” and I prefer a shotgun that actually does damage. However once I swapped back to my usual Vanguard playstyle I did miss the Cryoguard style a little bit, I admit. While you need to always be aware of your surrounding as a Vanguard, otherwise you wind up charging in the middle of a crossfire, Cryoguard requires even more awareness. It’s, I guess, the “finesse play style,” if you can call “finesse” someone charging and shooting your face, over the “brute force” Vanguard. To me sometimes it’s more a matter of, “Death is the best CC” so I tend to prefer the latter play style. Cryoguard is viable and quite fun to play however.