SWTOR 5.0 Darkness Assassin PvE Guide by Mostly Harmless.
Intro to 5.0 Darkness Assassin
Tanks’ role in PvE is keeping self as main target of boss and/or adds as needed and repositioning them, and eating their direct damage due to highest survivability in a raid team, as well as participating in some mechanics. While it’s important, role’s input in successful kill is relatively low, and vast majority of said input comes from the mere fact of having the tank at all. Tanks’ dps is negligible, sustainability without healers is nonexistent, and utility in dealing with mechanics is often below that of DPS disciplines. All of that makes tanks’ performance one least important factor in a boss clearance, with certain edge cases where what tank does actually matters. Didn’t scare you off and you’re still reading? Good, you might be worth something.
Please keep in mind that focus of this guide is high end PvE. That includes Veteran and Master mode operations, as well as, possibly, Master Uprisings when they will be released. Veteran mode Flashpoints and Uprisings aren’t worth bothering toying around (and most of the time they are better done without proper tank even), and leveling as Darkness is utterly horrible due to most toolset being unavailable until later levels (your lack of cooldowns severely punishes healer on trash pulls in flashpoints until you are level 64).
Darkness is one of the 3 tanking disciplines in SWTOR. It can offer less boring rotation, worst mitigation when you are alt tabbed to reddit, a lot of drama regarding gearing methods and more cheese than whole Switzerland. Sintanks are characterized by highest dependance on gear (both tier and stat distribution), buff uptime and precise cooldown usage. While best can yawn through hardest encounters with fancy DTPS numbers, less competent ones will cause much more wipes, heart attacks and broken keyboards.
As of now (patch 5.0.1a) assassins are undisputed kings at PvE tanking. Outrageous bugs as well as short-sighted balance tweaks leave a lot of space for theorycrafting topics, like, can powertechs be anything but meat shields between boss and raid group, do juggernauts still count as tanks and at what item level battle prowess of sintanks exceeds that of the Greek Gods.
NB: while sins are miles ahead of other two and I can’t be bothered to type anything but “juggernauts aren’t tanks” in chat when I play the game, it is worth to note that all three classes are viable and, while you’ll be gimped by using jugg/pt, you won’t find any content impossible to clear, moreover, you won’t find any content that is particularly hard to clear. Again, tanks don’t matter as much as one might think. Some mechanics are much easier to do on jugg/pt, too (but it doesn’t mean that those encounters will be easier for your group).
- Threat generation: sufficient.
- Single target dps: decent.
- AoE dps: decent.
- Snap threat: both single and aoe are decent.
- Mitigation: absurdly high.
- “Spikiness”: short answer is no. Long answer is yes.
- RNG dependence: only for people that think Neil Armstrong never step on Moon.
- Cooldowns: plenty.
- Signature ability: Force Shroud.
- Mobility: sufficient.
- Raid utility: great.
- Edginess: over the top.
Difficulty: commonly overestimated.
If you think those are vague and not helpful at all then you share my opinion on them. You might also grow to share my opinion about any numerical ratings being utterly useless, as well.
- Base classes are removed from the game, which means you start playing Master Race at level 1. Doesn’t make you any more tanky though.
- Phase Walk is removed, which is a major troll potential loss. Compensated by Phantom Stride still trolling you, and Force Speed cooldown being reduced back to original 20 seconds (15 with proper utility).
- New passive at level 64 making Deflection reduce FPS and all Tech/Force damage dealt by enemies in 15m range by 15% for the duration, making it way less depressing. One of the few group utilities along with GREEN SHIELD that need not to be announced because performance drop and huge ugly aura are impossible to miss.
- Cleared some trash in utilities via merging with already neat ones, as well as new utilities — utilities, acquired over the years of dealing with “OP” sorcs and operatives, utilities, that make sintank a nightmare for people like ops bosses.
- Stances are removed as activation abilities and instead moved to invisible passives. Adequate source of memes. You haven’t seen anything son if you never were kicked from a group for not having tank stance on.
- Blackout is removed and its buff is now always active.
- Crushing Darkness is removed, sad, because it had its niche for pre-casting in some situations. Not a huge deal, though.
Double Stance Bug
As a side effect from “removal” of stances, their passive bonuses are not applied properly. Or applied twice. This seems to vary on character to character basis, but, unlike bug with Deception’s stance, Darkness one seems very consistent: it’s either not applying buffs, or applying it twice; changing discipline reliably puts all numbers where they should be, but bug returns after relogging or changing instance. What “double stance” gives you:
- Extra 10% damage reduction, all types;
- Extra 15% shield chance (as it’s %% increase, doesn’t conflict with diminishing returns on gear);
- Extra threat (it is now tripled instead of doubling);
- Even more threat and damage from extra stance procs on melee hits (this one is pretty small though).
What to do with it? Nothing special, just follow your better judgement. If you don’t consider this undoubtedly beneficial bug “unfair”, feel free to (it’s not like you need to do anything for it to happen). If you do, it’s fixed by simply changing discipline to dps and back. Just keep in mind that you are bound to be affected by bug in non-world PvP as it’s instances prevent changing discipline.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Tank Needs
Physiological — Staying alive, not dying to spike damage (ie having gear and using cooldowns at those points) or void zones.
Safety — generating sufficient threat on boss to never lose aggro, not cleaving raid and repositioning boss as needed.
Love/belonging — helping with as many mechanics as possible for a tank, providing maximum utility for your team. If raid has to move only to avoid random voidzones and such, and dps spend most of the time in dummy parsing mode, you are doing it right.
Esteem — maximizing own dps output, minimizing dtps. Go together because maximum dps requires sacrifice of mitigation via gear. But even without changes in gearing a lot can be achieved, by learning timings on boss attacks for better cooldown usage, knowing when stuns/knockbacks come to not get Volts interrupted, properly rotating skills to not waste gcds while running across field, even just synching Wither with it’s 2% DR with big hits like Pulverize on Bestia.
Self-actualization — theorycrafting, control, minimization of communications. As you shift from progression to farm you encounter less and less unconventional situations, and get used to your co-tank more. As such, all swaps interrupts and whatnot are learned by heart and executed without additional communication, leaving voice chat free for actually important stuff like friendly banter and singing God Save the Queen.
Mitigation and Threat
How Mitigation Works
SW:ToR has formidably logical and sane damage type && mitigation system. All attacks are 2-type system, and every time something hits something 2-roll mitigation check occurs.
Attack type: can be either Melee/Ranged, or Force/Tech. While there are quite some differences in certain cases, from assassin tank point of view, melee and ranged attacks directed at us behave exactly same 100% of the time, obviously rifle shot is ranged and saber swing is melee but it’s just flavour making no difference. Same with Force/Tech, essentially same thing. Difference between Melee/Ranged (MR) and Force/Tech (FT) is big, though. Simplifying, one can say that MR are “weapon” attacks, while FT are “special” attacks.
Damage type: can be either Kinetic/Energy (KE) or Internal/Elemental (IE). Behaviour same as with attack type: pairs are different, but just a matter of flavour within pairs.
FT attacks can be either KE, or IE, while MR attacks are always KE.
Two-roll mitigation system works like that:
- First roll: check if attack hits. Accuracy vs Defense roll for MR attacks, Special accuracy vs Resist for FT attacks.
- If you have any reflect effect, it happens after defense/resist check, only if attack passes. You cannot reflect what you have resisted, unless resist is caused by reflect ability.
- Second roll: check if attack crits. Critical chance vs Shield chance (if Crit + Shield is over 100%, Shield is effectively reduced by their delta).
- All multiplicative bonuses are applied at this step, all damage buffs and debuffs, armour, shield and crit multipliers.
- On final step, absorb shields come in effect if any are present, further reducing damage.
NB: parry/dodge/deflect are all just flavour text notifying about successful (for tank) defense vs accuracy check.
NB: defense chance on MR attacks is ignored while you are incapacitated (any stun/sleep/etc effect), but chance to hit is still checked as accuracy vs 0% defense.
Damage Types and Your Mitigation
Assassins, much more than juggs and powertechs, are dependant on proper ability usage. This includes following rotation to keep Dark Protection stacks and maintain debuffs on enemies; manage Dark Ward and Bulwark; balancing Force Speed usage to maximize its defensive capabilities while always having it available for mobility when needed. Key to proper usage of other defensive cooldowns is knowledge of encounters — you simply cannot use stuff effectively if you don’t know when damage comes from, and what damage type that stuff is.
Dark Ward is integral part of sintank rotation. Upon activation you get 15 stacks (which are disguised by the name “Dark Ward”) that last 20 seconds. As long as you keep at least one stack remaining your shield chance is increased by static 18% (they are additive to your chance before Dark Ward and do not interfere with diminishing returns on Shield Rating from gear in any way). Each time you shield an attack you lose one stack (note that bonus shield chance remains same!), and you get a stack of Dark Bulwark, each boosting your absorb chance by 1% (again, static boost that is not interfering with your gear and w/e); additionally, there’s a 20% chance stack will be refunded and Ward’s duration will increase by 1 second (you still get Bulwark stack if applicable). All that defines Ward usage:
Uptime should be 100%, no exceptions.
You should strive to refresh it the moment it would fall off naturally.
Sometimes (big add pack incoming) it might be beneficial to refresh Ward early so by the time you run out of stacks it’s off cooldown.
NB: Be aware of how many hits bosses do with each attack. 1 stack of Ward is fine for one swing. 1 stack of Ward is not fine for attacks that is split into 13 simultaneous hits.
Overall, Dark Ward alone can be a basis for a pretty neat book that P. Jackson will easily turn into a movie trilogy.
Force Speed deserves mention here due to it’s ludicrously low cooldown (15s with utility). With Phasing Phantasm utility it grants 60% multiplicative damage reduction, for up to 2.5s. As such, you’d want to use it as close to cd as possible, while trying to fit to biggest incoming hits and saving for actually mobility issues when needed.
Deflection is a more specialized skill. For 12s duration (15 with 6p set bonus) your MR defense is increased by 50%, which renders you virtually immune to MR damage. Additionally, all enemies within 15m range have all their FT damage reduced by 15% for duration. 120s cooldown (110 with 6p set). When used for defense, pop it proactively as big attack or set of attacks happens if at risk of being close to oneshotted, otherwise wait until you drop to 50% hp or below — you won’t die to MR attacks while under deflection, and popping it early will mean healers will waste their casts on you. 15% FT damage reduction is miserable as personal cooldown unless you have nothing else left and there’s no MR damage (hello, Brontes, my old ex (what?)), but is terrific as group cooldown during some burn phases (Dread Masters burn, Kell Dragon burn, etc). Obviously don’t rely on having it up for raid if there’s a chance you’ll need it as panic button.
Force Shroud is our bread and butter, and probably discipline defining skill. Utterly negates all Force/Tech damage for duration, prevents most “side effects” like DoTs and knockbacks from applying. Also clears most DoTs and other debuffs that are already on you. With most “special” attacks in PvE being Force/Tech Shroud is an ultimate “I don’t want to do this mechanic” button. Use it to counter mechanics or block biggest hits; if none are present just try to maximize usage throughout fight when taking any FT damage.
Lasts 3 seconds (5 with utility), cooldown is 60s but is reduced by 1s every time you shield, defend or resist an attack (but cannot happen more often than once per 1.5s). It means that Shroud’s effective cooldown is about 40s when constantly taking damage.
Overcharge Saber is more universal. With 120s cooldown, this skill will immediately heal you for 15% of your maximum hp, and will make your Dark Charge procs happen at each hit for 15s duration, and heal you for a small amount (however, heal doesn’t happen more often than once per gcd). This is nice and all that, but the thing is: it also increases all your damage reduction by an additive 25%. To put it into perspective: when under double stance bug, those 25% boost your KE damage reduction equally to multiplicative 60% that Force Speed provides!
Try not to use it when at full hp, but don’t make a huge deal about it.
Recklessness provides 30% extra absorb chance. 20s duration, 90s cooldown (75s with dps 4p set). This defensive sucks a bit, because shield is RNG, and as such not completely reliable. Therefore don’t use it to counter single big hits; Recklessness shines on a series of smaller hits, and works on virtually everything (FT/IE attacks are unaffected, obviously).
Additionally it gives 2 stacks of Recklessness buff, which increase critical chance of your direct Force abilities by 60%, one stack is consumed with each successful critical hit. This is a mediocre burst increase.
Taunts and Threat
Taunts in SWTOR have two effects: they change your threat towards target, and they fixate target on you for a short duration.
Threat change is different from many MMOs: it doesn’t give you a boost to threat generation, instead, it takes highest current threat on enemy you are taunting, and then adds 10% to it if you stay in melee range (<4m), otherwise threat is boosted by whopping 30%. Threat is boosted even if you are already at the top of threat table. Conclusion: you want to be “ranged” when taunting.
NB: distance for determining if you’re melee or ranged for taunts is counted from geometric center of target, while range meter in your UI shows distance to edge of hitbox, which is sometimes bigger, and rest of the time much bigger. Some bosses have such huge as..hitboxes, you are considered “ranged” even when UI shows 0m to target.
Fixate effect lasts 6 seconds, it prevents target from changing target no matter what, lost aggro, mechanic, doesn’t matter. There are very few exceptions in operations where bosses pretty much ignore taunts and still cast stuff on random targets but even then taunt actually makes them reliably target tank for ~2 seconds. All single target and area taunts in game cause 6 second fixate.
As asssassin, your taunt abilities are Mind Control (single target, 15s cooldown) and Mass Mind Control (area, 15m range from player, 45s cooldown). If you have tank 4p set, cooldown of both is reduced by 2s every time you activate Wither.
- Avoidance and Phasing Phantasm are huge survivability boost, you spec into them, and you never put those two points into anything else.
- Fade, Shapeless Spirit, Shroud of Madness, Disjunction are to be picked pretty much all the time with some minor exceptions (like not picking SS on fights with 0 AoE).
- Lambaste, Retaliatory Grip, Audacity provide dps boost, but at a cost of not picking survivability or mobility utilities. Lambaste is go-to option because trash pulls.
- Utility utilities (what?). All of them are situational, none are universal. Refer to strategies and experience to learn if any of them is usable for mechanics you need to overcome (when bored: if you can force yourself into a situation that will require those utilities to overcome mechanics).
- For mobility you want to pick between Insulation, Speed Surge and Obfuscation, up to two of them depending primarily on personal preference. Not picking any hurts as you can’t use Force Speed for mobility reliably.
Gearing and MinMaxing
Tl;dr: back in old days when players still could find vendors we had a freedom to pick and choose with gear, but in current meta you have no choice but to stick to whatever RNG boxes throw at you. As long as it’s tank stats, it’s good, more bad stats is better than less good stats, shield is better than absorb, defense is garbage, endurance is incredibly good for “progression”, it’s okay to drop set bonus if you upgrade rating of them by 8, feel free to swap to power mods as your gear level gets to 236 or higher.
Best DPS gearing (or sufficiently close to best) can be determined mathematically. Healers don’t have static rotation and most are cool people who seem to be okay with certain obligatory minimal amounts and rest stat pool being distributed according to personal taste. Tanks, however, are a special snowflakes, many having their own opinion. Debates are hotter than Anakin right after duel on Malaphar, theorycrafters resort to logic, mathematics, headachingly looking equations, statistics, category theory, quantum theory, Murphy’s law and, often, lack of actual field experience.
Axiom 0: KotET is garbage
This is not about chapters and story as whole since they are out of the scope of this guide and are 100% about personal taste. However. Class balance, both PvP and PvE, is garbage, quality control is garbage, rehashed PvE “content” tuning is garbage, loot system is garbage. Right now one to acknowledge is loot system — it’s RNG, it’s not fair, not predictable and has no single reason to exist but here we are. With that in mind, all and any gearing recommendations given in the present guide are more of a goals than strict necessities since you might not be able to acquire it ever. In worst case scenario one will have to resort to crafted 240s and nothing else. However, Bioware promised to look into rng garbage they created and add conventional tokens to bosses. There’s a Trump/Obama joke somewhere there, but I don’t like being political so just go and kill Saresh.
Axiom 1: healing is overtuned
Very mediocre healers are capable of pulling necessary average numbers required for any encounter currently present in the game. What defines good, great and exceptional healers are off dps capabilities, dealing with burst phases, and, most of all, fixing other’s fuck ups while being blamed for them. Sufficient HP pool and proper cooldown usage help them with that.
Axiom 2: tank relics’ best property is an augment slot
All tank-specific relics’ procs are abysmal. They are so poor, even if you forget to use your clickable ones and your rng never procs you won’t notice the difference. They have virtually 0 impact on spike survivability, and it’s not like performance is sustain is amazing — DTPS difference provided never exceeds double digits. While it is still important to minmax them for best benefit for situation/playstyle, it is vital to understand that relics are single least important gear piece on your character.
Survivor’s if you can get it (thanks, Bioware!). High level armorings without set have extra endurance and armour, which makes them more valuable than lower tier set ones. Reducing spike is more important than holding on worst set currently present in the game. As an option for Progression Action Hero, you can use Assassin dps set bonus, which reduces cooldown of Recklessness (ironically, it can be a bigger survivability boost than tank set on some specific encounters) and gives you autocrit on Maul. It will reduce your HP significantly, however. 186 armorings are still worth using until you get 230-something 6-piece, but then only good to keep in inventory and, every now and then, link them in chat to show newbies what a real set bonus looks like.
NB: game snapshots your set when you activate Dark Ward. If you unequip it with it up, you get to keep extra 5% for as long as stacks of Ward do not fall off. Feels like cheating, but if you stick to Survivor, that’s only way to have a set that actually does something. Seriously, try this out nobody’s gonna judge you and you’ll get tired of this after an evening or two anyway.
Trivia: taunt reduction. Some players not diseased with knowledge of mechanics in ops might presume that -2 seconds to cooldown of taunts come into play somewhere. Sadly, they don’t as game simply doesn’t have a single encounter requiring it. All but 11 bosses were released before that set existed, and rest were never really re-tuned for anything new.
Defense is technically pretty cool. Amount of MR damage is severely underestimated by most (because two thirds of it is usually completely negated by defense). It also serves as another layer of spike prevention. However, defense as gear stat is horrible. Gain per point is mediocre at start, and diminishing returns are draconic. And it’s frigging everywhere. Half way to highest item levels and you’ll have too much of it. Defense augments are out of question. Trading defense for power is actually beneficial, because you’ll barely notice much loss.
Mathematically, best damage taken numbers are when shield and absorb percentages are equal (absorb being variable complicates it a bit, but using averages works for napkin math). In reality, absorb is a fluff stat, all it does is makes already good situation (shielded attack) better, while shield increases amount of good situations. In other words, when you stack “too much” shield, you take more damage, but you take less spikes. Tanks don’t die to lack of healing (see Axiom 1), but they often die to spikes. It makes for a really easy choice to go ham on stacking shield ignoring absorb after getting a certain amount of it (at least 1000 is mandatory, because low diminishing returns and you get just so much absorb percentage from those rating points). Only other thing killing tanks aside from spike is someone’s failure at mechanics, but you can’t gear in any way to fix most of those anyway.
Another layer of spike prevention. Mods with B suffix, Bulwark/Bastion enhancements, Mk-4 ear && implants trade a little bit of mitigation (defense, mostly, which is garbage anyway) for a hefty amount of endurance. Minimal viable hp pool is one allowing tank to survive any amount of unmitigated damage that happens within 2-3 seconds from “unpredictable” attacks (read: when you won’t have defensive cooldown up intentionally). In other words, if bosses “autoattack” can hit you for half hp, you want more endurance. Extra hp over that will rarely help to survive sudden spikes and most of the time will be a dead weight. However, it will still be extremely valuable for progression (what?), because it naturally increases your time-to-kill (moreso than mitigation oriented gear), allowing healers to ignore you for some time to patch up other people in raid because someone missed important interrupt or failed miserably at something else. The more comfortable your group gets with encounter, the less important endurance becomes.
As mentioned above, tank ones are trash. If you want priority, here it is (just exclude dps ones if you are going for strictly mitigation build):
Focused Retribution > Serendipitous Assault > Shrouded Crusader > Reactive Warding (read note to not shoot yourself in the foot) > Devastating Vengeance > Boundless Ages > Shield Amplification >= Fortunate Redoubt
Important: Reactive Warding relic is used only and exclusively if you don’t have sorcerer healer in group and your sorcerer dps if present aren’t bubbling tanks. Absorb shields in the game don’t stack, instead, they override each other. Static Barrier put on you by sorcerer immediately replaces microbubble from RW relic, and RW relic proc will delete any present Barrier on you. Static Barrier, being more than twice as powerful as RW bubble, easily renders relic useless due to way over acceptable chance of effects overriding (you can’t control proc and, trust me, you do not want to tell your healer not to bubble you just because your bullshit relic procced). Mathematically, Reactive Warding can be worse than an empty slot.
Shrouded Crusader is hands down best tank relic out there, providing small albeit useful mitigation boost, serving as mini-cooldown. Extra benefit comes from beautiful synergy with Recklessness, boosting your shield && absorb to sick numbers, making two sub-par RNG-relying cooldown into one divine RNG-relying-but-who-cares-look-at-my-ninety-percent-shield cooldown.
Shield Amplification and Fortunate Redoubt are similar, providing miniscule survivability boost. SA is numerically better on any encounter that isn’t mostly melee/ranged damage, while FR adds a tiny bit to spike mitigation.
Focused Retribution is slightly better than Serendipitous Assault thanks to tanks not hitting diminishing returns on crit from mastery as much as dps do now. Devastating Vengeance and Boundless Ages are strictly weaker, though can still be preferred over tank ones should you want endurance on relics.
Hotswap: as sintank you have unique ability to change gear mid fight with Force Cloak which can be invaluable on some fights with tight dps checks (best example is old guy Styrak, you can go full dps gear on start and easily swap to tank when he casts Conjure Kell Dragon, giving you mitigation for only phases where it matters).
On Gearing Overall
Gear is least important quality of tank, and expansions did very poor job at addressing it, only making it less significant. Gear does very little to mitigate damage (for the record, difference between maximum hp and maximum mitigation builds was about 30% in 4.0), and any changes you do won’t be easily seen in logs or felt by you and healers. On the other side, focusing on endurance+shield makes significant difference in spike frequency. Worth noting that you won’t be experiencing any serious spikes in story and veteran content, so you may as well prioritize “proper” stat weights.
NB: common argument against is that it “taxes healers more”, which is bullshit. See Axiom 1. If your healers have hard time keeping sufficient hps to keep you up, they just aren’t pressing their buttons, that’s all. They are trash, and they won’t be able to deal with spikes either. So by going with mitigation build you’ll just have group wiping due to their incompetence in dealing with spikes and not providing enough throughput, instead of just throughput problems. You won’t clear much beyound Veteran with trash healers, no matter what you do, no matter gear or skills.
NB: of course, there’s always a possibility that it’s you who is the problem. Just remember that no matter what, if healers say that you take too much damage, it’s never about your gear. They may be bad, you may be bad, you may be not using cooldowns. No gear won’t make easily noticeable difference in damage taken. But it will for spike damage.
- Survivor’s set armorings.
- Advanced Warding mods with B suffix.
- Immunity and Sturdiness enhancements.
- Shield and Absorb augments.
- Shrouded Crusader and Shield Amplification relics.
- Shield to Absorb rating 60%/40%.
- Serendipitous Assault and Focused Retribution relics.
- Survivor’s set armorings.
- Advanced Warding mods, without letter suffixes.
- Immunity and Sturdiness enhancements.
- Shield and Absorb augments.
- Shrouded Crusader and Shield Amplification relics.
- Shield to Absorb rating 45%/55%.
Storymode Tragic Hero
Same as one above, but with absorb rating 198 non-lettered mods.
- Survivor’s set armorings.
- Advanced Warding mods, with B suffix.
- Bulwark and Bastion enhancements.
- Shield and Absorb augments.
- Shrouded Crusader and Focused Retribution relics.
- Shield to Absorb rating 65%/35%.
Progression Action Hero
- Survivor’s or Stalker’s set armorings (6p Stalker preferred).
- Unlettered Lethal mods.
- Bulwark and Bastion enhancements.
- Mastery/power stim.
- Power or crit adrenal (power is more reliable, but crit will work, too, if for some reason you can only use them).
Abilities and Rotation
Assassins have the most fluid and logical rotation among 3 tank disciplines. Buffs and dependencies are transparent and RNG component, while unreliable, doesn’t affect mitigation and, most importantly, is never unexpected (comparing to Powertech’s Rocket Punch procs).
- You can keep your main buffs by spending just over 3 GCDs over 15 seconds. Optimum is keeping those skills usage close to cooldown, with rotation length of 10.5..12 seconds.
- Each tank has 2 debuffs that he can keep on boss 100% time. One of ours is built into rotation, other is on 10 second cd and nearly always available on single target.
- All four skills that are used for main and minor buffs uptime have 10 meter range, freeing you from necessity for standing in melee range should you need to keep distance for whatever reason.
- Powerful single and area snap threat abilities.
- And, most importantly, unrelenting badassdom.
Shock -> Wither -> Melee -> Filler -> Shock -> Melee -> Depredating Volts
Filler priority: (Skip if melee attack procced Shock) > Discharge (only if debuff on boss is about to fall off) > Maul (procced) > Thrash > Saber Strike (shouldn’t ever need unless taking no damage for force regeneration procs)
Melee: Maul > Thrash > Saber Strike
AoE filler priority: Discharge > Lacerate
On big trash pulls it’s viable to ignore mitigation and go with priority Wither > Discharge > Lacerate, dropping everything else from rotation.
Execute rotation (target at sub 30% HP):
Assassinate -> Shock -> Wither -> Maul -> Assassinate -> Shock -> Depredating Volts
Replace one in 4 Mauls with Discharge for execute rotation.
NB: you can delay Depredating Volts by 3-4.5 seconds depending on if it’s 10.5 or 12s cycle. While you don’t want to (dps loss), it’s beneficial when there’s a chance of it being interrupted, as it’s even bigger dps loss. Use filler priority. You’ll also want to delay Volts because of Force Speed, Dark Ward or pretty much any defensive (but Speed and Ward are main offenders due to being cast frequently). All of those need to be timed precisely, and you don’t want to interrupt your own Volts, so watch out for how your skills align. If they don’t conflict, keep rotation up. If they do, move Volts slightly further, to activate it after Ward or whatever. Or you may move Volts before melee filler for that cycle, and use melee before first Shock in next cycle. Pushing Volts forward is beneficial since it doesn’t affect dps, while delaying does.
Force Pull + [Phantom Stride] -> Shock + [Mind Control] -> Wither -> Discharge -> Maul -> [Recklessness] -> Shock + [Mass Mind Control] -> Thrash -> Depredating Volts
Drop Force Pull until Bioware fixes double stance bug because right now you can pull aggro just by /slap-ing it.
Procs and Buffs
Harnessed Darkness — you get stack off each Shock and Wither activation. Increases damage of Depredating Volts by 25% per stack, makes in uninterruptable, and at 3 stacks generates Dark Protection. Rotation designed around generating 3 stacks for each Volts activation, aligning for beautiful 10.5 or 12 second cycle (roughly equal split). UI will helpfully highlight your Volts once you have 3 stacks, too
Dark Protection — generated and refreshed by each tick of Volts (see above). Up to 4 stacks, each gives 1% additive damage reduction (all types). Very easy to keep up, since generic rotation cycle is 12s, and Protection lasts 12s (but since each tick of Volts refreshes it, it’s effectively 15s). You also gain 4 stacks upon exiting Stealth, which makes Force Cloak an emergency “gain 4 stacks” skill in case you lose buff.
Energize — procs off Thrash, Lacerate, Maul, Assassinate hitting target (Thrash does 2 hits, Lacerate hits every enemy in range). Resets cooldown of Shock and increases critical chance of next Shock by 100%. Hilarious synergy with Recklessness, because when stack of it is consumed on Energized Shock, you have a +160% net crit chance increase, and then extra +50% to total damage. If you follow rotation from this guide, you don’t have to bother about Energize at all, you only want to spam melee to proc it for Recklessness in burn phases, otherwise it will just naturally happen and won’t affect stuff.
Conspirator’s Cloak — procs off Thrash, Assassinate, Lacerate, Phantom Stride. 100% chance, but 10s “cooldown” between procs. Allows you to use Maul while face-to-face to target, and reduces cost by 50%. Doesn’t affect survivability a tiny bit, you use procced Maul instead of Thrash for dps gain.
Lighting Reflexes — procs off any mitigation (shield, resist, defend). Increases damage of next Discharge by 75%. You’ll have it up for every Discharge unless you are not actively tanking. Still doesn’t make Discharge viable for single target aside from keeping debuff on boss. This proc is also responsible for our extra Force generation — each time you mitigate (again, any type), you regenerate 4 Force. It means that unless boss has extremely long swing timer (like Nefra), you won’t need Saber Strike (but if you’ll remove it from your quickbar, thousands of perfectionists across the globe will pout in disgust).
Trauma — reduces healing taken by target, procced off Thrash and Lacerate. Only important on Brontes in PvE. We have an edge over powertech and juggernaut tanks, because ours just needs to hit the target (read: successful accuracy roll), while theirs need to do damage on target (read: mitigation that counts as “absorb”, like Brontes shield or sorc’s bubble, prevent their Trauma from being applied).
Don’t wait for Energize. Your Dark Protection will fall off if you do that, and dps increase is miserable because you delay Depredating Volts. Do farm proc if burst phase is incoming in <5s.
Never waste a GCD. Petty damage is more than no damage. Even if you somehow out of Force, don’t just stand there like a corpse with bugged physics, use Saber Strike! When need to move, plan to always be activating something, shift skills a bit if needed and do some extra melee fillers so you can enjoy gap-less 10m range for a while later.
Dealing damage is your job, but not your priority. As small as it is, your dps output still contributes to the kill, and it’s better be high. Push it as high as possible without sacrificing survivability, and then even more if healers are comfortable with it.
Threat is binary. If you aren’t in a threat of losing aggro, you don’t need more threat. It won’t hurt, but it won’t benefit anyone either. Always prefer to do more damage over more threat when you can handle it. If you can get away by dropping Force Pull and opening with damaging abilities, just do it.
Sometimes you can even ask PT dps to “tank” for first 15 seconds, exploiting Pyro Shield and his opening burst. Aggro boost for you, damage boost for the group, if both of you are okay with that (healers probably aren’t, but nobody’s asking). Please don’t confuse “PT dps” with Pyrotech.
As have been mentioned before, all our mandatory skills are usable at 10m range, and we don’t have to stay in place for anything. While it already grants pretty damn good mobility potential, often tank needs more — to swiftly reposition boss, run out of voidzone, sprint to other corner of the map because co-tank decided it will be funny to die and boss is already molesting healers. For that we have three different utilities, one for constant +15% speed, and two for spike speed increase, bigger, but with 50% or lower uptime. All are good and typically are picked based off personal experience and sometimes fight specifics. Now, onto on-demand mobility stuff.
“He cannot hit what he cannot see.”
Kreia, KotOR 2
Omni-tool. Depending on fight and utilities selected it provides a wide arrange of applications. It’s really hard to waste a Cloak, there’s virtually always a benefit to it.
- Medpac reset. Well, technically not reset because cooldown is still in place — but you always drop combat with Cloak (even if for one clock cycle of server), and therefore once-per-combat limit is bypassed. Stealthing close to CD for medpac is nothing short of hps fluff in current meta, point here is giving multiple uses to one of your panic buttons — you rarely have to think twice when popping medpac as sintank (of course, if we ignore the fact that over 98% medpacs are used even without first thought and then immediately regretted of).
- Combat rez. There’s a whole section dedicated to that. Great utility of sintanks.
- Gear swap. Particularly, changing between dps and tank gear on phase transitions when it’s beneficial. It’s probably never really beneficial, except for Styrak.
- Extra Shroud via Shroud of Madness utility. If you say you don’t need extra Shroud, you’re just a powertech with dualsaber masquerading as real tank.
- Interrupt. Any casts on you will be interrupted and started anew (and, if you’re fast with taunt, again on you), channels will be broken. Bosses are immune to regular interrupts, but bosses are not immune to sintanks.
- Repair mid combat. Sintanks are so forgiving to mistakes, you can even pull the boss with broken gear.
- Teleport to stronghold. When pugs are just too bad to endure.
- Repair funds evasion.
Assassins have a decent set of control skills, moreso with select utilities. However, whole matter is pretty much irrelevant in PvE, all you need is participation in interrupt rotations, some stuns thrown at rare stunnable mobs, and occasional cc on trash packs. In most cases, however, your go-to strategy will be to stack everything in one place and keep killing it until it dies from it. Melee mobs will run to you, ranged should be pulled and/or pushed, and most dangerous are countered with stuns and interrupts.
Important Notes and Advices
Ability to bypass in-combat revive debuff is another argument for bringing only tank class able to do that. Force Cloak puts you out of combat, allowing, among other fun activities, to revive a teammate, but there are a number of factors limiting utility of this.
- Revive cooldown: assassin is not a healing class (even when specced Hatred) and has a 15-minute on revive ability. There is exactly one fight (Styrak) where you will realistically have chance to revive twice (arguably also Coratanni/Ruugar, if you are kind of group that waits 5-10-15 minutes for all buffs between bosses).
- Force Cloak cooldown: Cloak is a multi-purpose tool and you might not have it available at the moment.
- Ability to stay out of combat: a lot of stuff can pull you back in fight against your will, and you can’t even stack will power now.
- And, finally there just might be something more important going on. Maybe boss is about to die anyway, maybe your interrupt is needed right now. Or, you know, maybe there is NO ONE ELSE TO TANK THE BOSS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.
Since I am a wikiholic, here’s another list, for stuff that is going to pull you into combat that you should be aware of (and how to, to a certain extent, control).
- Inflicting direct damage to anything hostile. DoTs by design aren’t supposed to, but, sometimes, they do. Luckily, you ain’t have any on abilities. Advice: don’t attack enemies (duh), don’t cloak after using pyro grenade.
- Adds spawning. Everyone present in instance gets 1 (one) threat towards each, and that pulls you in combat instantly. Know timers of those, or just Cloak right after new wave spawned.
- Taking damage from anything hostile. Both DoT and direct, but not environmental (even if environment is hostile). Advice: DoTs will be cleansed by Shroud (you have utility for Cloak to give you Shroud, right?), and there won’t be direct damage because nothing is going to target you. Cleaves are SEP. If they are not, you aren’t swearing aggressively enough at them. It only leaves “ticking” raidwide damage to be aware of and there’s not much you can do about it: if gaps between ticks are big enough to squeeze rez, do it; also it might be possible to time Cloak properly for next tick to be under Shroud (resisted attacks don’t pull you in combat).
- Some friendly abilities, namely: Static Barrier (by sorcerer), Extricate (by sorcerer), Roaming Mend when/if it bounces off you (by sorcerer). There might be some pattern to it but I cannot seem to grasp it. I also believe (but cannot prove) that Translocate pulls into combat. However, if your co-tank has time to use it, your group probably isn’t in immediate need of that dead guy either.
While most is totally up for personal preference, there are a few features that your UI must implement.
- Target of target. Pretty obvious, you want to know target of boss, helps to notice aggro loss by you or your co-tank, whom random-targeted abilities aimed at and so on.
- Target cast bar in focus. It’s not WoW, you don’t have an addon to yell at you on every half-step boss makes. You do not want to have to shift focus from middle of screen to look at it.
- Focus target and it’s cast bar, in focus or close to. For something that isn’t currently tanked by you, or your co-tank to watch for debuffs and whatnot.
- Your HP and buff bar in focus. Refreshing Dark Ward appropriately, using panic buttons when you fall low. There’s no excuse for being low at those, and if you die with reasoning “I wasn’t looking at my hp bar”, you are an idiot.
- Cooldown numbers. Still not sure why it’s not on by default.
- Ops frame close to focus, debuffs should be clearly visible on it. You want to use defensives when healers are visibly under stress.
Death is binary. Your utmost priority is staying alive. No matter what way you achieve that, no matter what your damage taken numbers are, as long as you are alive you can continue doing your job. Only when that is settled you can think on the ways to improve.
Don’t stick camera to your character’s butt no matter how cute it is. Bigger distance gives you better overview so you can actually see that voidzone that spawned right behind the one you are standing in already, so you can actually decide where to run. And give you a better overview where you’ll get knocked back. And whom you might cleave. Also, from distance, outfits of your teammates don’t look as tasteless and ugly.
Don’t backpedal. You have to on Revan and Ruugar. You can in any situation when you aren’t in a hurry and repositioning boss for something that will happen in half an hour. Most of the time repositioning is too urgent to waste time, so turn sideways and strafe, don’t backpedal.
Unused taunts don’t enlarge your e-peen. If literally nothing can happen in next 15 seconds that will require a taunt (tank swap/new enemy spawning), use it. It’s free, it’s off-gcd, there’s no reason not to. There might be no reason to use it either (read: pretty much always past initial 30 seconds), but better safe than sorry. After all, there’s always chance of DC, and there honestly ain’t that many things that will make your team respect you as tank as you keeping actively tanking until end of the fight even after you DC.
Healers aren’t gods, they are whiny little babies that can’t read your mind. Stay in their range, and warn them when going out of it while taking damage (and probably pop a defensive as well).
You can save healers a few gcds by announcing defensives you use — while irrelevant most of the time, in pure M/R phases Deflection makes you literally immortal for 12-15 seconds. If healer is aware he can push out quite a bit damage during that window (excellent example is Defiler on Dread Master Calphayus).
You are not alone. Let your healers know if big spike is incoming and you don’t have reliable defensive for it. Also warn if healers know fight too well and you are cancelling the
Apocalypsespike with Shroud.
Don’t run in straight line. Client and server are extremely lazy at synchronizing your position, but you can force it by jumping, fully stopping, or changing direction. Without taking care about synchs yourself, you’ll often find yourself in situations where you are hit by void zones after escaping them, and being shot while out of range of shooter. Jump out of void-zones hollywood-style, and when running, tap your strafe buttons few times per second. It has negligible impact on your speed, but keeps your character where you see it on screen. If you have Parkinson’s, just run by holding both mouse buttons and don’t worry bout synchs.
Do PvP as Darkness. Stress of being tank tunneled, quick target swapping, smart interrupting, maximizing dps output when in constant need of moving and being stunned/knocked back on cd, maximizing burst when needed — there’s a lot of experience that can come from PvP.
Don’t overthink stuff. The best tactics is the one that has least chance of failure, and that chance increases with each variable. Simple tactics are generally superior to complex ones. Obviously, it doesn’t hold true if you cleared stuff on 3 (or even 4…) different on-level tiers and most fun you have with the game is reading pity excuse for a guides such as this one. In that case, go for the most complex plan you can possibly think of.
Don’t waste time playing Sherlock about why you wiped. If it cannot be easily figured out during walk of shame back to the boss, it’s not worth it. Unless a wipe with same pattern repeats again later — then you try your best to catch the problem. Any odd scenarios are better studied after the raid, not during it, you want to know why you died, you want to prevent it in the future, but if it didn’t screw you up on most pulls, it’s not going to screw you up on most upcoming pulls and simply isn’t worth the time spent during raid — not only yours, but others’ as well.
Own up your mistakes. You’ll make them, like anyone else. Talk as soon as you realize, your co-tank, healers or maybe even those useless dps can salvage the situation. If not, teammates will at least know what went wrong so they don’t have to bother figuring out
Phantom Stride Reference Sheet
To get the result of Phantom Stride usage you are to roll a d20 dice and look up result here
20: RNG gods smile upon you, and your character is teleported to target.
19: your character is teleported to target, but doesn’t stop and continues motion until stopped by a solid object.
18: your character is teleported to target, but falls under textures.
17: your character gets stuck half way in first obstacle that is poking from ground by a few inches.
16: your character gets stuck half way in second obstacle that is poking from ground by a few inches.
15: your character gets past solid object that’s an inch too short to LoS you, but get’s stuck in obstacle that is poking from ground by a few inches.
14: your character gets teleported straight to level lower than target’s.
13: your character gets teleported straight to level higher than target’s.
12: your character gets stuck right in place, and can’t move until speed buff expires.
11: your character gets stuck right in place, but gets teleported after speed buff expires.
10: your character gets stuck right in place, but gets teleported after speed buff expires. Now you’re stuck half way.
9: nothing happens, but your character gets teleported as soon as you start moving.
8: nothing happens. When you try to move, it happens again.
7: your character does a backflip, but there’s no animation of it because you’re stuck in place.
6: nothing happens, but when you try to jump, character falls below textures down to Hell, wishing he had a BFG 9000.
5: nothing happens. You try to run to target, but character is teleported back as soon as speed buff expires.
4: nothing happens. You try to run to target, but character is teleported forward as soon as speed buff expires. You fall off a cliff.
3: your character gets teleported but gets stuck there. Trying to move makes your client disconnect.
2: nothing happens.
1: you are teleported to target, thrown 2 miles into the air, fall down and get kicked out of instance.
Who You Are To Tell Me How to Play
I am Mostly Harmless, somewhat famous on Red Eclipse server thanks to no life pugging during 3.0 and whatnot. My best accomplishments were in 4.x cycle, where I spent majority of time raiding with <No One Important Died> (officer as in meme/erp/comic relief in officer chat, and also raidlead (for two days)) and, later, <Badassitude>, with whom I cleared pretty much everything excluding Hateful and Dragonslayer.
If you have any questions or suggestions, you have a chance of finding me in game, I spend pretty much all time on Main Character (TRE imp side). As a better alternative, my battle.net tag is Mostly#2755.
First of all I want to thank boredom as biggest inspiration for this guide.
Also, my eternal gratitude to:
- Bioware, for providing many cool memes. Pity they make better memes than they make MMOs.
- Nom/Ironballs, for constant pressure and critique, forcing me to learn and become better even when I got utterly bored and disappointed in the game.
- Rhia, best tank and ERP buddy I had in this game. Stop stealing credits from guildbank, please.
- All of <No One Important Died> and <Badassitude>, for awesome raiding atmosphere when almost all real raiding guilds left the game.
- Narwhal/Nico, for letting me link my Underlurker cheevo.
- Fafa, GM of <Disciples of Babylon>, for being a perpetual moral compass for all of us in hard times. I understood the corruption of my ways and ripped spacebar off my keyboard.
- All my sorc comrades that healed to full and made bosses pay after everyone else died.
- And, finally, thanks to Keanu Reeves for being only man currently alive that is gonna see new ops in two centuries.
No HK units were harmed during creation of this guide.