SWTOR 5.0 Darkness Assassin PvP guide by Kre’a.
Intro to 5.0 Darkness Assassin
Darkness Assassin is the Tanking Discipline for the Assassin advanced class. Out of the three Tanks available in PvP, Darkness has the highest single target burst as well as the most potential utility in a PvP environment. Your goal as Darkness will be to mitigate as much of your team’s incoming damage as possible and redirect it to yourself. Do you want to actively save your teammates while dealing out some pretty good damage as well? If so, Darkness is the Discipline for you.
- Single Target DPS: 7
- AoE Damage: 6
- Group Utility: 8
- Difficulty: 9
- RNG Dependent: Yes
- Burst: 7
- Sub 30% Talent or Ability Buffs: Yes
Gearing & Stat Priority
- Accuracy: 0
- Alacrity: 0
- Critical Rating: All tertiary stats should go into Critical Rating
- Power: All Secondary stats should be put into Power (Lethal Mod 45B)
- Defense: 630
- Shield: 0
- Absorb: 924
- Relics: Serendipitous Assault &Focused Retribution
- Set Bonus: 6-Piece Survivor’s Set
- Augments: Fortitude Augments (Endurance)
I want to preface this section by saying, the gearing specifications are the ones that I personally use in Solo Ranked, Group Ranked and Regular Warzones. I have found that this gear gives the best balance between damage mitigation as well as offensive damage output. The earpiece I use is Bulwark Device and the implants in use are Bulwark Package. I have chosen to use these implants and earpiece because they give more Endurance than DPSImplants/Earpieces do and they also help bump up your Tank stats just slightly to help with what little damage can be mitigated. DPS Relics help with your damage output, but they are also the only relics that have endurance on them naturally, as the Tanking relics give Mastery instead of Endurance.
I do not put any points into Shield rating because this Discipline has a skill that increases your shield chance by 18% and it has 100% uptime. I would rather use those points to gain more damage. The armorings should all be from the Survivor’s set bonus. The hilt can be from either a Stalker’s main hand weapon or a Survivor’s main hand weapon. Tank stats in 5.0 are still less than optimal compared to DPS stats, so you will only be using 3 pieces of tank gear (1 Earpiece + 2 implants) and all of you other pieces of gear should be High Endurance, Low Secondary/Tertiary DPS enhancements and modifications. The only exception to this should be your armorings, which should be the tanking set bonus armorings.
As with all Disciplines, there are many viable options for utilities. I am going to provide the utilities that I personally use in Unranked Warzones, Solo Ranked Warzones and Group Ranked Warzones. I have chosen utilities that will give me a good mixture of survivability, group utility, and offensive output.
Explanation: Electric bindings is a great peeling tool for the Tanking Discipline. Shapeless Spirit is a good utility to take to reduce damage taken while stunned, since you will be running high endurance DPS gear with very little mitigation. This will help you when you are being Tank tunneled.
|Fade – Reduces the cooldown of Force Cloak by 45 seconds and extends its duration by 5 seconds.|
Explanation: With the buff to Fade, we are now able to have access to even more Force Cloaks, which in turn means more access to Force Shrouds. Force Shroud is the bread and butter skill of this Discipline, so being able to use it more often will always be of great benefit to the specs survivability.
|Haunted Dreams – If your Whirlwind breaks early from damage, the target is stunned for 2 seconds. In addition, Whirlwind activates instantly.|
|Shroud of Madness – Activating Force Cloak grants 2 seconds of Force Shroud.|
Explanation: The most beneficial utility in this tier is Haunted Dreams. It allows you to set up a lot of great plays, especially when used in conjunction with Phantom Stride and Force Pull. Having Whirlwind as an instant cast is core to the utility of the Darkness Discipline and you are only gimping your utility as a Tank without it. Shroud of Madness is more useful in 5.0 than it was in 4.0, simply because of the buff to the Fade utility, allowing for more uses of Force Cloak per warzone.
Explanation: At first I thought very little of Renewing Darkness, until I considered the utility a bit more. Essentially, when you stealth out you heal 4% of your max health for every 2 seconds you’re in stealth, for 10 seconds. So this is basically a 20% heal. But then you heal an additional 20% after you leave stealth while these stacks of Renewing Darkness are still up, so that makes this utility a 40% heal, every 1 minute 15 seconds with the Fade utility. This is actually really good, since this makes your Force Cloak equivalent to a better version of a Warzone Medpac. This is also good because you no longer have to drop guard and go somewhere to try to heal to full in order to benefit from this heal. Overall, this is a good utility.
Phasing Phantasm is just a great utility in 5.0 for all Assassin specs. 60% reduced damage while popping Force Speed is already great, but having this utility on a tank, where we gear for damage instead of mitigation is just a godsend. All tanks should be taking this utility.
Some will note that I do not advocate Retaliatory Grip for tanks, despite it reflecting the full 100% damage instead of the 50% that DPS specs get. This is because as a tank, if you’re doing your job correctly, you really shouldn’t ever be getting focused. And if you are getting focused and your team is any good, the enemy team will be well on their way to losing the game. There are only very specific circumstances where tank tunneling is a beneficial strategy to winning, but with the addition to a 15 second 60% damage reduction in Force speed, tank tunneling an Assassin will be a huge mistake. So we don’t actually need to reflect any damage since we really shouldn’t be taking any direct damage. Most of the damage that we take will be from Guard or AoE.
Abilities and Rotation
First and foremost, the most important aspect to successfully Tanking in PvP is to perfect your Guard Swaps and peeling. Keeping your team alive always comes first, doing damage is always secondary to that. Second, with majority of your GCDs being spent on peeling abilities or guard swaps, there is little room for an ‘actual’ structured rotation. With that being said, here is a generic Tank rotation to generate the most DPS and procs as possible in the shortest time frame:
Start from stealth to build 4 stacks of Dark Protection.
Shock > Wither > Discharge > Thrash/Lacerate > Maul > Recklessness + Shock > Depredating Volts > Start back at Shock.
This is a very basic rotation. In practice, your actual rotation will vary depending on what procs you get. For example, sometimes you will reset your Shock by getting an Energize proc after using Thrash/Lacerate. In this case, you will want to use Shock and then go straight into Depredating Volts, pushing your Maul back since it has a long internal cooldown before you can proc Conspirator’s Cloak again (10 second internal cooldown). If you can, try to only use Discharge when it is proc’d and does 75% more damage or if you need to reapply the ‘Unsteady’ debuff to an enemy, otherwise, always use Lacerate in its place, as it puts up a very valuable Trauma debuff on the enemy. Only ever use Maul when it is buffed with Conspirator’s Cloak, as spamming it otherwise will starve you of Force. Darkness is a spec that really lacks a structured rotation and is all about procs. When you consider the fact that a large majority of your GCDs will be spent swapping guard or peeling, your rotation becomes even less important.
Guard swapping is the most important aspect of Tanking in a PvP environment. Use all of your tools available to you in order to swap guard efficiently and effectively.
Focus Target – Using this, you can set up a hot key to ‘Acquire Focus Target’s Target’ in order to immediately swap to whoever your Focus Target is and guard them immediately. To get the most out of this, you will want to put the enemy with the highest DPS potential on the enemy team as your Focus Target. In a Team Ranked scenario, more often than not, my Focus Target will be the Healer so that I can use Focus Target Modifier to interrupt the Healer’s heals without ever targeting them.
Here is a quick video on Focus Target modifier.
Acquire Target’s Target Keybind – This keybind is good to immediately pick up the target of whoever you have targeted. For example, I target an enemy Marauder. I see his target switch from myself to my teammate. I press the hotkey to acquire his target and immediately swap guard. Now all of the burst that the enemy throws onto that target will be mitigated by 50%.
Acquire Focus Target’s Target – As explained above, this is used to pick up the target of your Focus target, allowing for easy guard swaps.
Focus target Modifier: This is used to use abilities on your focus target, without ever targeting that player.
Here is a guide on how to set up and use Focus Target Modifier:
Darkness is known for its wide array of utility and potential combos that can be pulled off to secure a kill. Here are a few:
1) Force Speed away from the fight > Force Pull the enemy Tank> Whirlwind the Tank>Phantom Stride back to the fight.
This Isolates the enemy Tank and allows your team to burst any target of their choosing since they won’t have access to guard. This combo takes about 3-4 GCDs or 4.5-6 seconds to execute.
2) Electrocute your target > Phantom Stride to a group of enemies on one of your team mates > Throw a grenade >Force Pull original target.
This keeps your original target CC’d on the spot while peeling for another teammate and incapacitating the enemy. This entire combo can be achieved in only 2 GCDs, or 3 seconds.
3) Run off the edge of tier 2 of a map (Makeb Arena Bridge, Orbital Catwalk) > Force Pull enemyTank> Whirlwind them > Phantom Stride back to an enemy on tier 2.
This will once again isolate the Tank and depending on the type of Tank, prevent them from getting back to the fight to guard a target for an extended period of time.
4) Overload a Tank to root them > Force Pull an enemy DPS or Healer away from the Tank> Burst them down.
This keeps the Tank rooted for 5 seconds while pulling their guarded target outside of the 15m Guard range, allowing for maximum burst to be achieved on this target while the Tank is rooted and cannot get back into guard range.
This section will show you key locations on each map to use for line of sight as well as locations where you want to force fights to happen.
This map is one of the best for an Assassin player. Try to initiate the fight by getting a stealth knockdown on as many enemies as possible. Force the fight up on the catwalk and use your knock back to force imbalanced fights for the enemy. If you’re under focus fire, jump down and If the enemy chases you, Phantom Stride back up and you have now forced a 3v4 in favor of your team.
Makeb Mesa Arena
The red circles indicate common locations that a ranged or even melee class will run to kite you or to escape being focused by your team. Make sure to force fights around certain choke points that allow you to Line of sight.
If you are being focused, you will want to jump down off of the bridge to the ground level. If you jump at the appropriate time (about 50-60% HP range) your enemy will 8 times out of 10 attempt to chase you down for the kill. This is when you will use Phantom Stride to an enemy to teleport you back on top of the bridge. This creates an extremely favorable position for your team, as you have now secluded 1 or more of the enemy team on the ground level, forcing their team to fight a 3v4 or even 2v4 if more than one person chases you down.
You will want to communicate with your team that you want to force the fight on the bridge. Initiate the fight by properly timing your knock back to knock as many off of the bridge as possible, creating an imbalanced fight for the enemy team, and giving you the advantage as now, whoever was knocked down will have to use movement increasing effects to try to re-engage into the fight, effectively wasting their time and reducing the overall damage your team will take. If you can help it, always try to force the fight up top. The only exception to this is in Tank/Heal/2 DPS matches, as attempting to fight up is just a waste of time. In Heal/3 DPS matches, you will still want to fight on the bridge, even more so, because if you can knock the healer down, you put yourself at a very large advantage towards winning the round.
Red squares indicate offensive positions to potentially cut off a running enemy. This map plain sucks for Assassin players. It is the widest open of the 4 maps, and as such, is terrible to play on when you are facing a multitude of ranged DPS classes because it makes it difficult to Line of Sight. There are a few LoS objects, but they are situated in such a way that you will not be able to always continue to DPS while LoS’ing. The best thing you can do in a map such as this is to wait for the enemy team to engage on your terms, by simply waiting around a LoS object and attempting to attack from behind it. This strategy actually works well if the enemy team has at least 1 melee DPS, as they will be forced into the center of your team, allowing you to both DPS the Melee enemy while simultaneously LoS’ing the ranged DPS. With practice, this becomes easier.
The green indicates locations that are generally safe to heal to full from. This map is really good for Hatred players. The small size of the map forces fights to be in one centralized location, which is optimal for DoT spreading. There is also a large sum of LoS objects for kiting purposes. A small trick that many don’t utilize is using the outer edge of the pit to LoS players who are on the top of the ledge of the pit. The angle is just slight enough that players will be unable to see you if you hug the wall inside of the pit, effectively allowing you to LoS ranged classes with ease. Make sure that as a melee DPS, you do not find yourself DPSing your target with your back to the pit, as you will inevitably be knocked in, which is a hassle considering there is only 1 focal way to escape the pit and get back to the fight, depending on which side of the arena you are playing on.
This map is terrible for melee players in general. The map is very buggy, so when you attempt to Phantom Stride or use any type of leaping ability to get to the upper level, sometimes you will clip through the boardwalk and just rubberband back to your original location. If you can help it, try not to use leap/teleport type of abilities on this map, as it will only hurt you more than help you.
5.0 Meta Analysis
With a new expansion comes a new meta and 5.0 has definitely changed up the meta game for PvP. In this section, I aim to highlight each of the advanced classes and describe what the changes to these classes mean for Assassin players. In summarization, I will compile a Tier list of which classes and disciplines perform better than others in PvP. This analysis caters to the Solo Ranked community and not Regular Warzones, since all classes are more or less balanced in regs. T
The tiers are as follows:
- Tier 1: Well optimized class or discipline with extremely efficient and overwhelming ability and utility synergies that makes losing to this class feel helpless and unfair
- Tier 2: Competitive classes and disciplines that have a few slight weaknesses (Easily kited, no self-healing, etc); can still beat Tier 1 classes but requires skill to do so.
- Tier 3: Classes or disciplines that are extremely fun to play but are not competitive for the average user. Usually requires extreme knowledge of the class or disciplines limitations and boundaries to excel and beat higher tier classes. These classes and disciplines fill a very niche roll.
- Innovative Ordnance Mercenary
- Arsenal Mercenary
- Darkness Assassin
- Corruption Sorcerer
Explanation: IO and Arsenal Merc find themselves in Tier 1 as of the 5.0.1. Both of these specs have access to some utilities that synergize completely with the playstyle of the class and that augment the glaring weaknesses that the class had in all prior expansions. What specifically makes these classes Tier 1 worthy is the fact that they have access to immense amounts of damage and burst, while simultaneously having access to some of the best defensive cooldowns in the game. As an example of the insane synergy in their utilities, they can take both Power shield and Energy Rebounder as well as Trauma Regulators. For those of you who don’t know what these abilities do, here’s a description:
Power Shield: Energy Shield now further decreases ability activation pushback by 30%, increases all healing received by 20% and makes you immune to interrupts.
Energy Rebounder: When you take damage, the active cooldown of Energy Shield is reduced by 3 seconds. This effect cannot occur more than once every 1.5 seconds. In addition, when taking damage, you have a 20% chance to emit an Energy Redoubt, which absorbs a low amount of damage and lasts 6 seconds. This effect cannot occur more than once every 10 seconds.
Trauma Regulators: While Energy Shield is active, you generate a stack of Trauma Regulators each time you receive direct damage. Stacks up to 15 times. When Energy Shield expires, each stack of Trauma Regulators instantly heals you for 5% of your maximum health.
Mercenaries are using Energy Shield when they are being tunneled and specifically while they are full on resolve (immune to further CC for 10-16 seconds). This makes them uninterruptable for the duration of Energy Shield, which is 12 seconds, allowing them to free fire at will. On top of this, because they are full resolve, you cannot CC them to stop them, and if you hit them, you will lower the cooldown of their Energy Shield in conjunction with healing them up to 75% of their max health when the shield ends. You cannot simply kill a good merc while this shield is up because they can preemptively end the shield by right clicking the buff on their bar, which will heal them for however many stacks they have available. This means the only way to escape this is by running away for 12 seconds. These utilities synergize extremely well with their playstyle of ‘run and gun’ since they are essentially a more mobile version of the Sniper class, and they augment the main weakness that Mercenaries had, which was the fact that they lacked defensive cooldowns. Combine these utilities and Energy Shield with their new ability, Responsive Safeguards (absorbs all damage, reflects 50% of it, and is usuable while stunned), and their insane damage, and finally their Electro-net, and you will see why Mercenaries are a Tier 1 class.
Corruption Sorcerer are considered the Tier 1 healer this patch because of the fact that Sorcerers received some nice new healing tools and because of the fact that this meta has shifted away from pressure damage comps (DoTs/cleave) to burst damage comps. Operatives shined previously in the pressure meta, but Sorcerers have always been considered the kings of burst healing, and the shift in the meta has caused Corruption Sorcerer viability to rise to Tier 1 status.
Darkness Assassins are the Tier 1 tanks for this current patch. They received some insane new defensive cooldowns in the form of Phasing Phantasm (Force Speed reduces damage taken by 60%) and Retaliatory Grip (Deflection reflects 100% of damage taken). They also received some great team buffs in the form of their updated passive ability, Mounting Darkness, which makes Deflection give out an AoEdebuff to all Force and Tech damage by 15% on the enemy team. All of these new utilities and abilities synergize extremely well in making Darkness Assassins a lot tankier than they were in previous expansions, enough so that they have now surpassed Powertech tanks in competitive viability, pushing them down to Tier 2 and moving this spec up to Tier 1.
- Marksman Sniper
- Virulence Sniper
- Carnage Marauder
- Fury Marauder
- Concealment Operative
- Deception Assassin
- Hatred Assassin
- Madness Sorcerer
- Vengeance Juggernaut
- Rage Juggernaut
- Advanced Prototype Powertech
- Medicine Operative
- Shield Tech Powertech
Explanation: All of the classes that are in this list are here because they are very competitive specs that feel fair and balanced to play against, unlike their Tier 1 counterparts which feel unfair and almost oppressive to face. These specs perform well in a ranked environment because they all have either a large window for burst, or have extremely reliable damage (sustained damage). The reason that these disciplines are considered Tier 2 is because they all have very specific weaknesses that can hinder the success of the spec.
There are too many specs in this list to go through them all, but as an example, Concealment Operatives have reliable and high burst windows and excel at killing a single target, but are extremely weak at AoE and lack team fight presence. Medicine Operative excels at AoE healing but are considered subpar when it comes to single target healing a target that is being bursted down. Carnage Marauder has an amazing burst window and can even lock down a single target with their new Gore ability, but they are very susceptible to being kited, shutting down their single target burst entirely. The list goes on, but the point is that disciplines in this tier have obvious weakness that can be played around, and feel balanced as far as playing them and counterplaying them goes.
- Annihilation Marauder
- Lightning Sorcerer
- Engineering Sniper
- Lethality Operative
- Bodyguard Mercenary
- Immortal Juggernaut
- Pyro Powertech
Explanation: These classes or disciplines are simply too niche to fit anywhere in the meta. They are only really used in a specific composition (such as in team ranked) and only really shine when they have specific teammates to back them up. All of these disciplines need to be supported by teammates in order to perform well or they require extreme knowledge of your classes limitations and boundaries to do well. In fact, many of the specs in this tier will require an immense amount of effort to utilize them, but will only ever yield average to below average results for the effort spent, which makes using these specs feel ‘worthless’ or like a waste of time. This is not to say that these specs cannot be good, it simply means that it takes more effort to make them good, which isn’t good enough when it comes to solo ranked.
So what does this mean as an Assassin player? We have access to one Tier 1 discipline and two Tier 2 disciplines, so the class as a whole remains competitive. With the abundance of Tier 1 disciplines in play at the moment, I would highly recommend playing Darkness Assassin if you are only interested in climbing the ladder effortlessly, but Hatred and Deception are equally viable to climb with, although they require a bit more effort and very careful use of defensive cooldowns due to the large amount of Mercenaries running around. Good luck and happy climbing!
About the Author
Hey guys, I’m Kre’a! I’ve mained an Assassin/Shadow for about 3 years now. In season 4, I achieved 2931 ELO, placing me as Rank #2 overall across all advanced classes and Rank #1 for the Shadow/Assassin advanced class. In season 6 I was Rank #3 for the Shadow/Assassin advanced class. You can check me out at Twitch.tv/Kreea.