SWTOR 5.2 Deception Assassin PvE guide by Jaek
Intro to 5.2 Deception Assassin
I’m Jaek, an Aussie NiM raider on Harbinger who started playing SWTOR properly at the start of 2016 (4.0). I’m currently a member of <Kai Sith’ari>, and have been a member of raid teams in my current guild, <Dark Times>, and <Unzip Thud>, having cleared all 4.0 8-man content except Brontes/Dread Council NiM.
For this guide, I’ve tried to include as much of the rationale behind my writings as possible – so apologies for the length. For those who want a quick read, look to the bolded text or the TL;DR sections. I wanted this to be usable by players of all abilities/experience with the class, so feel free to take away what is useful to you.
Deception is an extremely durable and high-burst melee DPS specialisation which offers decent sustained damage and aoe. Changes in 5.0 to the spec are integrated into the guide.
I have updated this guide from 5.1 to better reflect how the spec is played without the stance bug.
Feel free to message me on Jaekmeow in game, or leave a comment below.
These are my own personal ratings, relative to what I believe are the capabilities of other classes in the game.
Single Target Damage: 8.5/10
With the addition of Reaping Strike, the Reaper’s Rush utility, and changes to the uptime of Dark Embrace and the cooldown of Force Cloak, Deception has received a strict damage increase from its levels in 4.0. So, the spec should be able to compete with/outperform Carnage, Fury, Hatred, Arsenal, Marksman, Concealment, and all Juggernaut, Powertech, and Sorceror specialisations in a single target parse.* Although it is one of the DPS specs with the weakest 10 metre+ damage in the game, its ability to close gaps quickly with Phantom Stride (with Reaper’s Rush), coupled with 5.0’s changes to Force Speed, have made Deception Assassins competitive with Snipers, Mercenaries and Marauders in almost any given raid encounter. It also has a reflect!
*This conflicts with several projected DPS metrics, but I would remind cynics that Deception is often undervalued. For example, Bant’s 4.0 DPS hypotheticals severely underestimated not only Deception (which would roughly equal Arsenal by the end of the year), but underestimated even the top parsing spec, Annihilation, by almost 10% (600 dps).
AoE Damage: 6/10
Compared to the spec’s single target damage/rotation, little depth exists in the AoE rotation/output for Deception. Lacerate does some nice damage, but due to the rotational need to use Maul to refresh Dark Embrace, Lacerate-only spam isn’t advisable. That said, this spec’s AoE output is slightly stronger in 5.0 due to the extended duration of Dark Embrace, but it pales in comparison to the potential damage of Hatred.
Burst Damage: 9.5/10
The only reason I wouldn’t rate Deception’s burst damage at 10/10 is due to the spec’s lack of an off-global-cooldown source of damage (e.g. Volatile Substance, Shoulder Cannon, Thermal Detonator). Yet, it has some of the most frequent burst windows of any class in-game due to the low cooldowns of Phantom Stride, Recklessness and Force Cloak, and the high frequency of Discharge and Maul.
With an innate, ‘permanent’ 24% damage reduction due to Entropic Field and Dark Embrace’s 100% uptime, combined with a 30% AoE damage reduction passives and a 30% damage reduction when stunned, there are many high-damage situations in which a skilled Deception Assassin mightn’t feel forced to deploy an additional tool to survive. Nevertheless, Deception is spoiled for choice in relation to their defensive cooldowns. With a self-heal in Overcharge Saber, the opportunity to use a medpac on-cooldown in a fight due to Force Cloak’s rotational use, the potential to run an insanely good 2-2.5 second 60% absorb on a 15-20 second cooldown, shared access to Deflection (50% melee and ranged defence), as well as enjoying the infamous ‘F**k Mechanics button’ in Force Shroud, Deception Assassins have comparable survivability to a Sniper (albeit offering far less raid-wide mitigation), and so are among the most durable characters that could be brought to a raid.
Raid Utility: 2.5/10 (passively); 7/10 (as an offtank)
Of the 3 taunt classes, Deception is most lacking with respect to utility directly provided to other raid members – sporting only a meager heal and 5% damage reduction to others with Assassin’s Shelter. However, due to the spec’s extreme passive durability and its myriad of defensive tools, Deception Assassins can temporarily serve as near-unkillable tanks in a pinch (depending on the type of incoming damage), and can also be used to absorb/nullify most mechanics or extreme instances of incoming damage with a brief and timely taunt to take aggro from the main tank (e.g. shrouding Thrasher NiM slams, or Sunder’s ‘End’ in NiM). With the addition of a Guard and their own threat-nullification through combat stealth, the utility Deception brings to a raid has never been higher.
Note: Stealth-rez is always a potentially invaluable tool for any raid group, but as Deception uses force cloak rotationally and almost on-cooldown, you would have to delay its use.
Execute Phase: 10/10
Assassins boast the strongest class-wide execution phase in the game (in relation to their OWN non-execution phase). Deception receives a strict 5% damage boost and the opportunity to use the high-damage and force-efficient Assassinate ability virtually on cooldown.
Deception Assassin has a fairly low skill floor, meaning it, like Arsenal Merc, is relatively accessible to a new player (unlike Annihilation Mara or IO Merc, for example). However, from my experience playing all DPS classes save Pyro PT at a NiM level/while clearing NiM at tier, I would argue that Deception is one of the most, if not the most, difficult spec in the game to play optimally (key word). This is because it is the spec in the game where randomness has the greatest effect on your rotation and moment to moment decision making, in conjunction with its limited range (4m) and high APM requirement (below Carnage and Annihilation only), and the minimally prescriptive nature of the rotation/priority system mid-fight. You should be assessing your buffs, positioning, and wagering the odds of your procs/tracking two different internal cooldowns, constantly. Moreover, the state of those buffs (i.e. Surging Charge) can change not merely every GCD but every HALF-gcd (due to the second hit of Voltaic Slash), which places an even greater demand for quick thinking on players (with lag).
Overall Raid-viability: 8.5/10. A very competitive DPS which is so durable I think of them as a 3rd tank, Deception is certainly capable of carrying in any progression group; but it demands practice, discipline, and quick thinking.
For these reasons, I’d argue Deception is competitive with Hatred (Grob’thok, Draxus, Dash’roode, Bestia, Torque) or superior to it (every other fight) for all 5.0 PvE content.
To see a good guide (which is no longer being updated) giving and ‘optimal’ gearing choices for each class and spec, visit Bant’s Optimal Stats For All 24 Disciplines, KoTET Edition forum post on the SWToR website at http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=847112
I’ve included his relevant gearing numbers to Deception. For reference, E means Enhancements or Left Side Pieces (Implants or Earpiece), C means Crystal, and A means Augments.
Iokath MK-5, iLevel 242:
8439 Endurance | 6536 Mastery (1xC) | 3694 Power
1742 Critical (6xE, 2xA, 1xC) | 1509 Alacrity (3xE, 9xA) | 743 Accuracy (1xE, 3xA, Stim)
Iokath MK-3, iLevel 240:
8106 Endurance | 6327 Mastery (2xC) | 3506 Power
1679 Critical (2xE, 11xA) | 1435 Alacrity (7xE) | 733 Accuracy (1xE, 3xA, Stim)
Eternal Commander MK-15, iLevel 236:
7962 Endurance | 6216 Mastery (1xA) | 3424 Power
1643 Critical (1xE, 12xA, 2xC) | 1400 Alacrity (7xE) | 736 Accuracy (2xE, 1xA, Stim)
Eternal Commander MK-13, iLevel 234:
7653 Endurance | 6128 Mastery (Stim) | 3337 Power
1434 Critical (13xA, 2xC) | 1236 Alacrity (6xE, 1xA) | 760 Accuracy (4xE)
Eternal Commander MK-3, iLevel 230:
7372 Endurance | 5901 Mastery (Stim) | 3183 Power
1447 Critical (7xE, 2xC) | 1152 Alacrity (12xA) | 735 Accuracy (3xE, 2xA)
Note: For a more general list of stat thresholds to keep in mind, I recommend aiming for 40-43% crit, at least 11% alacrity, and as minimally above 736 Accuracy rating as possible. Anything else can be put into Mastery (due to the bonus crit % it provides).
Relic choices should be Focussed Retribution and Serendipitous Assault; their benefits are multiplicative and are the most reliable increases to damage output of any relic choices.
As per usual, aim for the 6-piece Stalkers set bonus.
Note: Keep in mind that while there are certain guidelines and thresholds to keep in mind when gearing a dps, there is definite flexibility available and no player should ‘have’ to gear in exactly the same way. For example, the value of alacrity is reduced for a player who is not able to maintain a sufficiently high apm (actions per minute) and fluid execution of their rotation.
I will only be discussing the utilities I believe have any relevant benefit to standard PvE encounters; the remainder are best left to PvP. While in the first two tiers there is (for the most part) very little flexibility, in the final tier you are spoiled for choice, with many options I’d recommend.
|Reaper’s Rush: Phantom Stride grants Reaper’s Rush, allowing your next Assassinate to be used on any target, regardless of remaining health, within 10 seconds. If the target of your Phantom Stride is killed during that time, Phantom Stride’s cooldown is reset.||This should be taken on most, if not all, fights. It results in a strict DPS increase by enabling Assassinate, which has the added benefit of making your standard rotation more Force-efficient. Furthermore, it gives the potential for extremely efficient target swapping if used such that your Phantom Stride will be reset upon your target’s death (especially if it is used on a weak, short-living add). This gives an even GREATER DPS increase by enabling more 3-stack Discharges and windows for Assassinate.|
|Phasing Phantasm: Phantom Stride can be used when immobilized and purges movement-impairing effects when used. Additionally, Force Speed grants Phasing Phantasm, causing you to absorb 60% of all incoming damage for the duration of Force Speed.||Your 20 (or 15) second mobility tool becomes one of the strongest defensive cooldowns in the game with this utility. I recommend taking this on most fights since it significantly adds to the already high durability of Deception Assassins, enables them to serve as temporary off-tanks, and reduces the burden on healers in healing-intense circumstances. With Force Shroud, you may often find yourself asking ‘What are mechanics’ as much as Snipers.|
|Retaliatory Grip: Deflection grants Retaliatory Grip, reflecting 50% of all direct single target tech and Force damage back at the attacker. Retaliatory Grip lasts 12 seconds and does not absorb incoming damage.||The greedy, number fluffing utility (but hey, it’s not number fluffing if the boss dies faster!).This is a largely accurate guide (not written by me) as to what damage can and can’t be reflected, and what opportunities an Assassin has for reflectable damage that is unlikely to kill you. However, I recommend taking Phasing Phantasm over this unless the reflected damage is significant, or necessary to beat an Enrage timer.|
|Disjunction: Increases the durations of Force Shroud by 2 seconds and Force Speed by 0.5 seconds. Additionally, Force Speed slows all enemies within 5 meters by 75% for 2.5 seconds when activated.||Should generally be taken in conjunction with Phasing Phantasm (replace Reaper’s Rush) on extremely healing-intensive fights where the DPS loss is outweighed by the increase to durability. The additional duration of Force Shroud applies to Shroud of Madness. Can be used in place of Phasing Phantasm when it will negate any damage taken, and absorb isn’t necessary.|
Abilities and Rotations
Rotational Abilities and Important Passives
You should aim to always pre-cast lacerate twice, and stealth, before entering combat (meaning you open with Voltage, Induction, and Dark Embrace for more efficiency on your first Ball Lightning).
With that in mind, the most reliable opener I use with the stance bug is:
Pre-cast) Lacerate x2 + Stealth
-> Recklessness + Polybiotic Attack Adrenal + Discharge (you may use Force Cloak from this point)
-> Phantom Stride + Discharge
-> Overcharge Saber + Ball Lightning
-> Voltaic Slash
-> Ball Lightning
-> Recklessness + Discharge
-> Voltaic Slash
-> Ball Lightning
->Reaping Strike/Voltaic Slash (if Surging Charge is not on cd)
An image of this is below:
We use Overcharge Saber slightly after our adrenal as it gives 0 DPS benefit to Discharge, and so would waste up to 1.5 seconds of its duration if used with it. We use Phantom Stride during Recklessness for an extra 60% crit on one of our Discharges.
After the opener, you should follow the Priority System below.
Priority System for Rotation (TL:DR)
Due to the variance at the heart of Deception (that variance being a 50% chance to generate a stack of Surging charge on a melee hit per 6 seconds), even with the stance bug, there is no strict rotation a Deception Assassin should follow. Instead, we have a priority system (with some exceptions) that will allow you to maximise your damage output.
Here is the simplified version, but I’d encourage all readers to examine the detailed section below to understand the nuances behind the ‘perceived simplicity.
I’ve made a simple flowchart of this priority system indicating the generally appropriate next move, with red arrows for ‘No’ and green for ‘Yes’:
The long version.
1. 3-stack Discharge. Discharge is Deception’s biggest source of damage, consistently hardest hitting ability, and the core of the discipline. Due to its linearly-scaling damage but flat cost (1 gcd, 20 force), you only want to use this ability at 3 stacks of Static Charge as this results in the highest net-DPS and time/force efficiency. It is best to use Discharge as soon as you acquire 3 stacks; any later, and you risk delaying Ball Lightning, or wasting the next time you generate a stack since stacks are capped at 3. However, there is an exception to this! See the section below!
2. (As close to) 100% uptime on 2 stacks of Voltage is essential. This reduces the variance of your Discharge’s frequency as it guarantees that your Ball Lightning will generate a free charge of your stance, dealing extra internal damage and bringing you closer to using your Discharge. As Voltaic Slash is your lowest priority skill (besides Saber Strike/Low Slash), but maximising efficient generation of Static Charge is your second highest priority (with Ball Lightning), some moment-to-moment decision making is required to decide when Voltaic Slash/Lacerate should be used (factoring in current stacks of Surging Charge, and the cooldowns/availability of your other abilities).
2b. Induction uptime isn’t hard to maintain, as you will typically fall into a pattern where you will be using 2 of the 4 gcds of Ball Lightning’s cooldown for an ability which isn’t Saber Strike, Discharge, or Low Slash. However, it will fall off before your next Ball Lightning with the use of Recklessness and/or Phantom Stride, so keep it in mind in relation to your Force consumption (it can be worth delaying Ball Lightning for an Assassinate to build 1 stack of Induction if you are on extremely low Force).
3. Ball lightning. This is your second-highest priority skill, and should be used on-cooldown so long as you aren’t already capped at 3 stacks of Static Charge and have uptime on Voltage and, preferably, 2 stacks of Induction. It hits for a decent amount, looks cool as hell, and most importantly, nets a guaranteed 1 stacks of your stance which otherwise are generated randomly every 6 seconds.
3b. Assassinate isn’t available for a target over 30% hp unless Reaper’s Rush is taken/active, and you want to make use of your utility/this dps increase. It is worth delaying any skill except Discharge/Ball Lightning if your Surging Charge is off-cooldown to use Assassinate if the buff is about to time out. The trick is finding a way to use it so it doesn’t disrupt your on-cd use of Ball Lightning/Proccing Surging Charge/Maul windows, but not delaying so much that it ends up throwing out your rotation anyway.
3c. Maul under Duplicity can conventionally be delayed (since its cooldown is independent of its usage, at least theoretically by design). However, there is a key problem (or intended opportunity for skilled players to excel) with the design of Duplicity itself. As it has a 10 second internal cooldown but 15 second duration, I have observed after testing that if Maul is the first ability used to proc Duplicity after that 10 second cooldown expires, but Duplicity is already active, that first Duplicity buff will be consumed and another will not be granted, but Duplicity itself will be put back on cooldown. This means that, if Maul is delayed from Duplicity’s proc time by more than 10 seconds, you effectively ‘lose’ a Maul (either delaying Maul the next 5 seconds, making the last Duplicity a wasted proc; using another spell within those 5 seconds which will proc it but cause you to have wasted a Maul; or using Maul within those 5 seconds and precluding you from using Maul again for the next 10 seconds). There is an easy solution: aim to use Maul within 10 seconds of proccing Duplicity (this is two thirds of the way through the buff’s timer). This is roughly equivalent to 6 global cooldowns worth, meaning you want to use Maul (under Duplicity) within 6-7 global cooldowns of proccing it (depending on whether it was procced on cast, or with the second hit of Voltaic slash [see the next section below for more on half-gcd procs]).
3d. Dark Embrace’s 100% uptime is critical to 5.0 Deception’s Force ‘management,’ which is to say, very little active management at all. It has a long duration, and while you should ONLY be using Maul with Duplicity, you will/should still be using Maul frequently enough to maintain 100% uptime on this. Not a huge concern otherwise.
4. As Discharge is the core of your rotation and highest damaging ability, it is essential that you generate stacks of Static Charge as efficiently as possible. See the section below for more on optimal stacking. If it is triggered, it won’t trigger again for 4 gcds. Keep in mind that while Surging Charge has only a 50% chance per melee hit to activate, Voltaic Slash triggers TWO melee hits (having a 75% chance to trigger it), Saber Strike triggers THREE (having a ~88% chance to trigger it), and Lacerate counts as ONE melee hit per target hit. Considering how to maximise the probability that Static Charges are generated via melee hit every 6 seconds (or 4 global cooldowns) is essential to maximising your reliable dps/use of Discharge. As proccing Surging Charge via melee hit is not guaranteed, it holds a strictly lower priority than Ball Lightning (unless you want to gamble). We keep it lower than Maul when Duplicity is reaching 5 seconds remaining, and lower than Assassinate when Reaper’s Rush is about to expire, as both abilities CAN trigger Surging Charge, and losing the benefit of Maul every 10 seconds/Assassinate every 30 seconds is a greater DPS loss than the potential 1 gcd Surging Charge is delayed by. However, deciding to delay a Maul or Assassinate by 1 global cooldown and use Voltaic Slash or 3+ target Lacerate when Surging Charge is off cooldown increases the likelihood of generating Static Charges. This is one of the biggest differentiators between good and great Deception players: choosing when to delay Voltaic Slash/higher probability procs, when not to delay them, and how long to delay them for.
5. Reaping Strike (outside of the Execute/sub-30% window). This is your next-highest priority skill. At a low cost of 15 force, it deals much more damage than a 2-target Lacerate or Voltaic Slash. While it deals less damage and costs more than either Assassinate or Maul (under Duplicity), its static on-use cooldown means that in the general case, delaying its use results in a small net dps loss in comparison to delaying the use of Maul (which has a relatively long window to be used in), so long as step 4 is maintained above!) or Assassinate (within 10 seconds of Phantom Stride).
6. Maul (under Duplicity) with autocrit proc, assuming timing of Duplicity/Maul’s usage isn’t an issue. As the internal cooldown of Duplicity is independent of when Maul itself is activated, Maul’s use can be delayed. However, as Assassinate will consume your autocrit proc (from the Stalker’s 6-piece set bonus) for an inferior amount of critical damage, Maul under Duplicity AND autocrit has a higher priority than Assassinate. It is worth delaying Assassinate until you can next use Maul for the benefit to the crit damage when Auto-crit is activated, so long as the delay is not more than 4 gcds.
7. Assassinate is your next priority, and while its use can be delayed (like Maul) prior to the execute phase, aim to use it as close to on-cooldown as possible during the Execute/sub-30% window. This is a worthwhile consideration, but isn’t imperative, and can/should be delayed for an occasional Voltaic Slash/Ball Lightning. An exception is with Reaper’s Rush – where, if its duration is about to expire, it is worth using to make use of your utility choices.
8. Maul (under Duplicity) without autocrit proc. High damage, refreshes Dark Embrace, and extremely efficient, to a new Deception Assassin this might seem higher on the priority list. Yet, as written above, its internal cooldown is independent of its actual use, so it can be delayed after your abilities that do carry static cooldowns. It falls this low on the priority list assuming it has just been procced, and the aforementioned issue in step 4 isn’t a concern. TL;DR YOU DO NOT HAVE TO USE THIS AS SOON AS YOU SEE IT GLOW.
9. Reaping Strike during Execute. Reaping Strike falls in priority during the Execute phase (sub 30%) simply because of the time taken using your other abilities. Usually, 3 of every 6 seconds will be taken using Assassinate and Ball Lightning as close to on-cooldown as possible. Combined with the requirement to use that remaining time Discharging, and casting Maul and Voltaic Slash (to refresh Voltage), Deception just doesn’t have the luxury it usually does to cast Reaping Strike that often.
10. Voltaic Slash Fill. If, for whatever reason, you find yourself having more than 0-20 Force, and no other abilities to use, cast Voltaic Slash to fill up the time.
11. Saber Strike. In an ordinary single target situation, Saber Strike should not have to be used if Induction stacks are properly managed. Should you find yourself in a similar situation to that outlined in 9., and below 20 Force, Saber Strike is your next best option. In AoE situations, you will have to use this occasionally as Lacerate spam is quite Force intensive. There is a possibility (as yet untested by me) that mismanaging Induction stacks such that the need to use Saber Strike once every 2 minutes arises for the greater probability on Surging Charge may result in a DPS increase. It should be used not in place of an ability which grants Induction, as restoring extra Force only to be consumed by a Ball Lightning which has 1 less stack of Induction renders Saber Striking pointless in the first place.
12. Low Slash. This ability has no place in a standard single target rotation. It should only be used for its incapacitation effect (such as on a priority caster like the Interrogators in Dread Palace HM/NiM), or when unable to use any other ability for damage for at least 1 gcd due to being beyond 10 metres from the target (you should be able to close a gap of 20 metres within 1 gcd if under Force Speed).
Managing Surging Charge mid-fight
In the past, I have analogised playing AP PT to Deception (bear with me). This is because of the nature of Surging Charge’s internal cooldown (4 gcds), which should require you to essentially ‘count’ 4 gcds after its proc from a melee hit to decide when it is best to next use Voltaic Slash, Lacerate, or Saber Strike, to maximise the probability of its next proc (just like using Magnetic Burst for Rail Shot procs). However, this is slightly more complicated in the case of Deception for 2 reasons. The first is that there is only a 50% chance of proccing per hit, meaning that priority list above needs to be reconsidered virtually every global cooldown, especially as you approach the end of Surging Charge’s cooldown (it is not worth just assuming it will proc and using Voltaic Slash mindlessly every 4th gcd). The second reason it is more difficult than AP PT is that the cooldown of Surging Charge (when it triggers) doesn’t, and won’t necessarily, always occur on the beginning of a global cooldown. Why? Because Voltaic Slash’s second hit occurs mid-way through a GCD, and Voltaic Slash is the ability which will most commonly trigger Surging Charge (unlike all of your other melee hits which could proc this ability). I’ll elaborate on this more in a bit. Because of this, I consider that Deception’s rotation mid fight fits into one of two different categories, based around how you manage each proc of Surging Charge/when it occurs.
1. Surging Charge procs on the initial hit of a melee ability (i.e. Voltaic Slash’s first hit, or on the activation of any other melee ability).
This is where the similarity with AP PT exists, since, like AP PT, we count ‘1’ on the proc of our Surging Charge (when it occurs, presumably with a Voltaic Slash), and then allow ourselves 3 more abilities before we KNOW that we are able to proc Surging Charge via melee hit again.
If we don’t have a higher priority ability to use after those 3 abilities (i.e. Ball Lightning, Discharge at 3 stacks, Maul with Duplicity almost at 5 remaining seconds or Assassinate under Reaper’s Rush), we will use a melee ability hoping to proc Surging Charge again (presumably Voltaic Slash). Note that ANY melee ability can re-proc Surging Charge on that new ‘1’ (after the 3 spells), only that Voltaic Slash is the most likely to do so (excluding Saber Strike).
2. Surging Charge procs on the second hit of Voltaic Slash (this occurs semi-regularly).
This is where the similarity ends, since we can potentially have our proc occurring on the half-gcd. Because of this, the cooldown of Surging Charge will come up only halfway through the gcd of our 4th ability after the proc! This means that, if you want to be time efficient, you MUST use Voltaic Slash on that new ‘1’. However, if you do, you only have a 50% chance of triggering the proc since only ½ of Voltaic Slash’s hits will occur when Surging Charge can be activated!
Therefore, I suggest using a counting system in ‘5s’ for the second type of Surging Charge proc, where you can use Voltaic Slash on your fourth gcd but at a much lower priority than normal (use lower than almost every spell except Maul with at least 2 more gcds before Duplicity’s cooldown ends), and instead use Voltaic Slash as the 5th spell since at that time Voltaic Slash will have its usual 75% chance to trigger your stance.
Note: This exact same method of counting via half-gcd applies to tracking the internal cooldown of Maul (if it is procced on the second hit of Voltaic Slash, which it will be if you are playing with perfect APM).
Use of Offensive/Defensive Cooldowns
As with all PvE encounters, you should use your discretion and ‘raid awareness’ to decide if any abilities/cooldowns should be delayed/used abnormally. Here are just a few common exceptions to the above cooldown/priority list sections I haven’t yet covered.
- When to delay Discharge: When you hit 3 stacks of Static Charge, there is a single situation rotationally where Discharge can be delayed by 1 gcd to result in a net DPS gain overall. For this to occur, Ball Lightning must have 2 gcds left on its cooldown (meaning it was used to gain the second stack of Static Charge). Further, a melee hit was JUST used to proc Surging Charge, bringing you to 3 Static Charges. If, in this circumstance, Maul/Assassinate/Reaping Strike/2-3 target Lacerate is available, you can afford to delay Discharge for 1 gcd only. After your Discharge, your next spell should be Ball Lightning.
- When to delay Phantom Stride/use Phantom Stride or Recklessness with Static ChargesThis is more about raid awareness than anything else. Apart from delaying Phantom Stride by a few seconds to use with Recklessness every second usage, understanding when a fight demands tight burst windows is critical as an Assassin. This means that, should it be required of you to increase your output over a short span of time, you may have to Recklessness or Phantom Stride while Ball Lightning is on cooldown to bypass the RNG of Surging Charge’s melee procs and Discharge earlier
- Gap Closing/Use of Phantom Stride vs. Force Speed.Phantom Stride covers up to 30m semi-instantly – the next best option available to Assassins is Force Speed, which enables roughly 20*m-30m to be covered over 1.5 seconds, or 1 gcd. Sometimes, for maximum efficiency, you should delay your Phantom Stride and use it when needed to gap close – your goal is maximum uptime on your dps!If you don’t have Phantom Stride, or want to save it and FURTHER increase your dps efficiency, you should move using Force Speed. This opens a spot in your rotation which can only be filled by Low Slash unless you move preemptively and are able to cast Ball Lightning/Discharge as you close the distance to your target. Better yet, you can move immediately upon spell cast to arrive at your new target before the end of the gcd, meaning 0 downtime is required! This involves positioning and moving in a smart way.
To help illustrate this, I’ve inserted two simple diagrams. The triangle represents the current target, and the ball represents an Assassin. The star represents a new target the Assassin will have to quickly switch to, or a new position they will have to move to.
Here, we can see that, like a lot of players, the Assassin has positioned unthinkingly. They are well within the 4m range of their melee abilities, not to mention they have extended the distance they will have to travel on-target-swap. One force speed will not bridge the distance between them and their new target, so they will have downtime on their output. This is a bad Assassin player.
- Here, we can see that this Assassin is ‘behind’ the target and out of range of most cleaves, so they can still Maul effectively. They are on the very edge of their 4m range, minimising potential travel distance as they are on the closest possible point of that range to their new target. Not only that, but if the last spell cast before movement is Discharge or Ball Lightning, that Assassin may have already moved to their 10m range (since those abilities have a 10m range)! As soon as they cast their spell, they would start moving from 10m from their old target, instead of 2m, already in a straight line direction! With Force Speed, they will likely have no downtime, and won’t even have to Low Slash. This is a good Assassin player.These two examples illustrate an important limitation placed virtually only on melee characters: the need to position intentionally and carefully throughout a fight. You should be checking your distance from target periodically, and your position in relation to your target when movement is required, to minimise movement and maximise uptime and therefore your output! (Use your discretion when doing this, sometimes stacking behind targets is important for healers as an example).
Tinkering with Priority List for More DPS
In the context of play, mid-rotationally, there is an additional level of depth available to a few classes which enables a higher DPS output. Namely, where there exist more flexibility with respect to choice of spell, gcd for gcd, more depth exists (think Deception, AP PT) when you can rearrange the order of spell casts to maximally benefit from temporary buffs.
To understand this, you need to understand DPS from two pretty intuitive fronts. Further, you need to be able to play at a level where most movements, rotational tricks and key bindings are well-known to the point of muscle memory – you must pay active attention to Raid buff durations, and Relic procs, throughout the fight.
On the one hand, you have the ‘Instantaneous approach,’ which measures total DPS by gcd for gcd, leading to an overall average of Damage per second/Damage per 1.5 seconds (or gcds). This elevates the significance of DPS in the specific case.
On the other hand, you have the ‘Overall approach,’ which measures total DPS by total damage done over time. This prioritises understanding of DPS in the general case.
The ‘Overall approach’ is the traditional manner of understanding DPS and calculating rotations/priority systems for each class, due to the high frequency of DPS buffs in SWTOR (e.g. Relic Procs, Raid buffs). However, slightly playing around with these rotations/priority systems can result in an increase to DPS in the specific case, while not really lowering Overall DPS!
For example, when my relic proc may be about to expire, but my Surging Charge is off cooldown. To increase my net dps, I can decide to not delay my Maul by an extra gcd for a Voltaic Slash. This contradicts the priority system above in that it focusses on the instantaneous DPS gained by using a stronger ability when your stats are increased (DPS boosts are multiplicative). However, it yields an overall slightly higher DPS as the net DPS gained by using that Maul under a relic proc vs. a Voltaic Slash outweighs the net DPS lost by delaying Surging Charge by 1.5 seconds!
Being able to do/benefit from this act – i.e. calculating if an instantaneous DPS increase actually results in an overall DPS increase – is something few classes have the option of doing due to the incredibly prescriptive rotations they have to follow. But it is another area where Deception Assassins can dive into the depths of their specialisation and discover new ways to minorly increase damage output.
I only recommend this for Advanced players already highly familiar with the priority list above/the class as a whole, as the benefit is minor but the level of raid awareness and observation required is quite high.
Note: The main consideration for this light tinkering is whether or not to delay Voltaic Slash by 1 gcd, when under the effect of a relic proc/raid buff which is about to expire, and replace it with Reaping Strike, Maul or Assassinate.
Advice to (new) Raiders
I recommend watching Hayete’s PvE guide for some UI/playstyle tweaks.
Further, as Veldix said in his 5.0 Virulence PvE guide,
“You can be able to put out fantastic numbers on a dummy and easy bosses, but none of it matters if you can’t execute mechanics. To be a good raider, you need to put mechanics ahead of DPS. The key to being the best is being able to execute mechanics while maintaining great DPS. Learn to be aware of the things that are happening around you and prepare for mechanics in advance. Know when you need to move and be prepared to save a few abilities or pop defensives in advance.”
- Aim to know the capabilities of the players/classes in your raid, and the demands of all roles for each fight.
- Watch the ‘target of target’ to ensure you can pop defensives where necessary.
- Move pre-emptively rather than reactively, watch the positioning of yourself and the raiders around you, and anticipate mechanics as a priority.
- Learn to react to the unexpected with knockbacks, stuns, or taunts.
- Weave your rotation/priority system around those mechanics, as you would with your offensive and defensive cooldowns.
These are some of the skills demanded by more challenging content, especially for those who play a melee class. Master those, and you’ll have mastered most of raiding. Good luck 🙂
TL;DR: Numbers aren’t everything. Mechanics first. Be proactive.
Glor, for keeping me alive over everyone else (except on Dread Guards) and being my co-lead/Biochem Buddy/RP role model.
Yleenakhai, for convincing/showing me Deception was viable in 4.0 and inspiring me to use it on Brontes (RIP).
Pebble, for suggesting I write a guide in the first place.
Ubiqus, for reminding me to be calm and civil when I’m salty af.
Mac, Blas. For teaching me to tunnel less and theorycraft via discussion.
Jaymis and Veldix. For some of the structure/content in my guide.
Artorias, for the work he did in 4.0.
The Level 10 Combat Dummy on the Ziost Shadow, because who needs a ship for rotation practice.
Lastly, all of the members of Kai Sith’ari and everyone I’ve raided with in the past. You’re the ones who make this game worth playing.