SWTOR Mechanics Basics: Understanding Critical Chance
Preface for 3.0: This article has been updated for 3.0. None of the concepts were changed, but the mentions of out-dated info, like skill trees, have been removed.
Critical Chance – commonly called crit – is one of the most misunderstood and over-simplified stats in SWTOR. Too often a single number or percentage is cited as the target crit level, such as 25%. This simplified answer obscures the relatively easy-to-understand true nature of Critical Chance, and prevents people from understanding exactly how they should gear their character. I will attempt to demystify Critical Chance and help educate on a better way to think about Critical Rating.
To start, Critical Chance and Critical Rating are not interchangeable terms; they do NOT mean the same thing. Using Crit is a non-specific term. To some it may mean Critical Chance to others it may mean Critical Rating. I will avoid its use going forward.
Let’s now define what Critical Chance is. It is the likelihood a successful attack or heal will provide increased effect. The magnitude of this increase is based on your Surge percentage. In simpler terms, critical hits or heals do more damage or restore more HP, respectively. In addition, there are many skills and abilities that synergize with critical hits or heals. This can result in increased Alacrity or resource generation as examples.
Critical Rating is specifically a secondary stat in the game. It is commonly found on Mods and Enhancements. It may be surprising to learn that it is a very small component of Critical Chance.
One more thing before we delve into the mechanics of Critical Chance. Each class has two Critical Chance percentages they should be mindful of. For Imperial Agents/Smugglers and Bounty Hunters/Troopers, it is your Ranged and Tech Critical Chance. For Sith Inquisitors/Jedi Consulars and Sith Warriors/Jedi Knights, it is your Melee and Force Critical Chance. (Another article will outline what these differences mean.)
To start, four general components comprise Critical Chance:
- Base Amount, which is a universal 5% given to all characters
- Percentage Boosts such as the Imperial Agent/Smuggler Class buff
- Relevant Primary Stat(s), such as Aim, Cunning, Strength & Willpower
- Critical Rating, while it was changed in 2.0 it isn’t as bad as you have been led to believe
Everyone’s base Critical Chance is 5%. You can see this by hovering over any of the Critical Chance percentages on your Character screen.
There are two universal and easy-to-get boosts to your Critical Chance by a set percentage. The Imperial Agent/ Smuggler class buff provides +5% Critical Chance. Plus, reaching max affection and completing the story quest for your rDPS companion will grant you +1% Critical Chance. (You can find a list of each class’s rDPS companion here.) Now, our new baseline for Critical Chance is 11% and this is before we have equipped any gear.
Many Discipline paths will have talents that increase some aspect of your critical chance. The boost may only be for a specific attack or heal, it may be for only Force/Tech Critical Chance, or it boost all Critical Chance.
This is the most complex element of Critical Chance, but also the most commonly overlooked. Each class has a requisite Primary stat or PriStat:
- Imperial Agent/Smuggler use Cunning
- Bounty Hunter/Trooper use Aim
- Sith Warrior/Jedi Knight use Strength
- Sith Inquisitor/Jedi Consular use Willpower
This PriStat affects the character’s Bonus Damage as well as Critical Chance.
Further each class may benefit from a less important PriStat. This will boost the Bonus Damage as well as Critical Chance for a specific type of attack or heal. These effects are:
- Aim boosts Ranged abilities
- Cunning boosts Tech abilities
- Strength boosts Melee abilities
- Willpower boosts Force abilities
That said, you should always and exclusively focus on the your character’s requisite PriStat when it comes to gear selection. The only less important PriStat you will ever want comes datacrons, which will cumulatively boost it by 50. Still, depending on your class and role you may not even benefit from the datacrons. For instance, a Sorc/Sage healer could increase their melee damage through Strength datacrons, but since all of their heals are Force abilities there would be no impact to their healing. (Other class oddities like this will be explored in another article.)
In most, if not all, situations you want to maximize your PriStat within your gear. The only notable exception is the unlettered Mods. Many of the endgame Mods available with commendations are the less favorable A variety. These have an overall lower stat budget than the unlettered equivalent. For example, a Deft Mod 34 is always superior to a Deft Mod 34A even though the A variety has higher PriStat.
There is a bit more to PriStat and Critical Chance, but first let me outline the final element of Critical Chance.
Critical Rating has been much maligned since 2.0 was released. People often cite the changes to its diminishing returns or DR as to why it is undesirable. This perspective is both right and wrong at the same time.
First off, there was a change to the Critical rating formula when 2.0 was released. Each point of critical rating became roughly half as effective as pre-2.0. Thus, the right perspective on Critical Rating has to due with the comparative value of available alternatives. Ignoring augments, the substitute for Critical Rating in gear is Power. Power was unaffected in 2.0 and continues to increase Bonus Damage by 0.23 per point for DPS and 0.17 for Heals. Thus, compared to its alternative, Critical Rating became less desirable since 2.0.
Next, the DR on Critical Rating is probably not at all what you think. Let’s first make sure we understand DR. Diminishing returns was a concept first analyzed by economists. The concept specifically dealt with the increased utility/benefit one derives from additional units. For example, if I were extremely thirsty I might really benefit from a bottle of water, perhaps I would benefit from a second bottle as well – although I wouldn’t benefit quite as much as from the first. Continuing on, I might benefit very little or not at all from a sixth bottle of water – I might instead benefit from a bathroom. The point being the first unit resulted in the greatest benefit while each successive unit resulted in less benefit.
This is the concept behind many of the stats in SWTOR, including Critical Rating. The truth is the DR of Critical Rating is very minor for initial amounts. The first 100 points of Critical Rating increase Critical Chance by 1.83% and the next 100 points increase Critical Chance by 1.71% – only 0.12% less. That is not what I would call a very significant diminishing return! (There will be another article delving deeper into the math behind all of the stats.)
Let me present this visually. The graph below shows the contribution each point Critical Rating makes to Critical Chance. As you can see, it appears relatively linear. Thus, the DR of Critical Rating is not so punishing given low amounts of Critical Rating.
So Why is X% Wrong?
The problem with a single simple target for Critical Chance is it does not allow for natural variation across builds nor does it clearly account for each element.Other issues with this are:
- Is the target for Melee/Ranged or Force/Tech?
- Does the class have a boost to PriStat?
- At which gear level is the target?
- What is the split between PriStat and Critical Rating?
You shouldn’t! You should think about Critical Rating. The other elements of Critical Chance should not be a factor when determining the ideal amount of Critical Rating.
Our baseline Critical Chance should be 11% inclusive of companion and class buffs. Next, you should be maximizing your PriStat. You are primarily doing this as it increases your Bonus Damage; the impact to Critical Chance is rarely a consideration. For example, you would always prefer a Reflex 34 armoring over a Reflex 31 armoring because it is more Aim. This increase in Aim also contributes slightly more to Critical Chance as well. Said another way, you would never not make this trade off because your Critical Chance was too high!
Thus, we only have to consider our Critical Rating. You may want 100 Critical Rating for ~2% more Critical Chance or 325 Critical Rating for ~6% more Critical Chance. The important thing is that you are now focused on the right way to think about Critical Chance and Critical Rating.
About the Author
Oofalong is a well known theorycrafter from <The Chandrian> guild on the of The Shadowlands server and has contributed immensely to both the theorycrafting community on the SWTOR official forums and previously on mmo-mechanics.com. He aspires to help others understand the game’s mechanics and bring civility to SWTOR forums everywhere.