SWTOR 5.0 Kinetic Combat Shadow PvE Guide by Numy
Intro to Kinetic Combat Shadow
Note: this guide is updated to 5.1.
Since not much has changed since 4.0, I’ve based this guide on the 4.0 guide written by Aelanis, as nearly everything he says there still applies (there are a few changes, and many new things, which I’ll be adding in this guide).
In this guide I’ll do my best to be helpful to new and experienced players alike. For this reason, I start off each section with a short version for new players, or anyone who’s too lazy to read a multipage guide. Please note that what I say in the short version is not the only way of doing things, it’s just what I consider to be the simplest.
Kinetic Combat is one of the 3 tank specs in SWTOR. Shadows are special as a tank, for having low armor. Because of this, some people believed shadow tanks to be weak, but since update 2.0, shadow tanks have been completely viable, and since 5.0 we’re utterly and completely overpowered.
We have the lowest Damage taken Per Second (DtPS), the highest potential threat per Second (TPS), and defensive CDs which allow us to ignore some mechanics that would otherwise one-shot other tank classes.
Shadow tanks are one of those classes that are easy to learn, but hard to master. It’s not hard to become decently skilled, but excellence requires more dedication than other tank classes. At the same time, this dedication is more rewarding.
- Single target TPS: 9
- AoE threat: 8
- Group utility: 8
- Difficulty: 8
- RNG dependent: Slightly
- Burst: 7
- 30% hp finisher talent or ability buffs: Yes
Note: with the addition to reflect, we have potentially the highest dps possible, at least for tanks. But this depends on the boss fight, and your healers; more on this later.
- Very easy AoE and single target instant/’snap’ threat
- Insanely strong survivability
- 60% damage absorption every 15 seconds, this will remove all predictable spikes
- If needed you can do massive damage with reflect
- There’s a choice between mobility and survivability
- There’s only a rare few abilities with 30m range
- Phasewalk has been taken away from Shadows, removing a lot of our mobility
- Other tanks will hate you for being so overpowered
Tank Gear and Mitigation
Note, this section applies to all tank classes.
There are 5 stats important to tanks (in no particular order):
1. Endurance (gives Health)
2. Armor Rating (gives Damage Reduction)
3. Defense (gives Defense Chance)
4. Shield (gives Shield Chance)
5. Absorb (gives Shield Absorption)
Health (comes from Endurance) is the amount of damage you can sustain without dying. When a tank dies the fight is no longer under control, which is different from a dps or healer dying. It’s important to ensure that your health pool is large enough that your healers can keep up with the largest damage spikes in a given fight. In addition, some fights have mechanics that will prevent healing (e.g. due to range or debuffs). It’s important that your health pool is large enough to survive then as well. Note that shadows gain +5% endurance from the Shadow’s Training and Mental Fortitude passives.
Damage Reduction (comes from Armor Rating, which depends on your Armorings and gear type, e.g. light armor for Shadows) gives you a passive damage reduction for each damage type:
Energy/Kinetic damage (most non-periodic damage is energy/kinetic) and
Internal/Elemental damage (generally speaking, DoT damage is internal/elemental; melee/ranged attacks are never internal/elemental)
Damage Reduction granted by Armor Rating only reduces the damage you take from Energy/Kinetic damage.
Defense Chance (comes from Defense Rating) gives you a chance to completely avoid taking damage. Defense Rating only gives Defense Chance for melee/ranged damage, and none for force/tech damage. Generally speaking, melee/ranged damage is basic attacks, force/tech damage is special attacks.
Note, while you’re stunned or knocked down, your Defense Chance is 0%.
Shield Chance (comes from Shield Rating) gives you a chance to reduce the damage you take from energy/kinetic damage.
Shield Absorption (comes from Absorb Rating) gives you the amount of damage that is reduced when you shield an attack.
The 2-roll system
This game uses something called the ‘2-roll system’, the game uses this to calculate the damage you deal/receive (if any).
Note, some parts of this explanation is mostly or only applicable to PvP combat.
1st roll: when you take damage, the game first determines whether or not you dodge/parry/resist the damage. This is done by comparing the attacker’s accuracy and the receiver’s defense. Your Defense Chance basically reduces the attacker’s accuracy.
2nd roll: if you do take damage, the game determines if you shield the attack or not, and if the attack is a crit. An attack is either shielded, a crit, or a normal hit; an attack can never be both shielded and a critical hit. If the attacker’s crit chance + receiver’s shield chance is above 100%, the extra shield chance is ignored. This means your shield is useless against ‘auto-crits’. Crit VS shield is only a consideration in PvP however.
After all that, your Damage Reduction is applied, and the resulting damage amount is removed from your health. If you get below 0 health, you die (fun fact, at 0 health you will still live).
Note, any buff that ‘reduces damage taken’, applies to ‘pre-mitigation’ damage taken; for this reason reduced damage taken is worse than Damage Reduction. This is confusing for most people due to the similar wording. For further explanation, check the end of the Theorycrafting section.
Theorycrafting and DtPS Calculation
The main consideration for determining the effectiveness of your stats, and the stat combination you should go for, is the ‘damage profile’ of a fight.
Theorycrafter Bant, uses four different profiles:
- Average Damage Profile: 50% MRKE / 35% FTKE / 15% FTIE
- High M/R Damage Profile: 70% MRKE / 20% FTKE / 10% FTIE
- Low M/R, High I/E Damage Profile: 30% MRKE / 20% FTKE / 50% FTIE
- Low M/R Damage Profile: 30% MRKE / 50% FTKE / 20% FTIE
All with 10000 pre-mitigation DtPS
Expected passive DtPS calculation
You can calculate the expected passive (meaning you ignore all of your abilities) DtPS with the following formula (credits to Bant, KeyBoardNinja and Dipstik):
[DtPS] = [Mitigation] x ( [Premittigation DtPS] x [Reduce Incoming Damage] – [Absorb Shield Per Second] )
This means your Damage taken Per Second is first reduced by Reduced Damage Taken effects and Absorb Shields. After that, your Mitigation is applied.
Mitigation is calculated with the following formula:
[MRKE %] x ( 1 – [M/R Debuff] ) x (1 – ( [Defense Chance] – [Basic Attack %] x 0.1 – [Debuff Accuracy] ) ) x (1 – [Shield Chance] x [Absorb %] ) x ( 1 – [Damage Reduction] )
+ [FTKE %] x (1 – [Debuff Force/Tech] ) x ( 1 – [Resist] ) x (1 – [Shield Chance] x [Absorb %] ) x ( 1 – [Damage Reduction] )
+ [FTIE %] x ( 1 – [Debuff Force/Tech] ) x ( 1 – [Resist] ) x ( 1 – [Internal Damage Reduction] )
MRKE (Melee/Ranged Kinetic/Energy) damage is reduced by your Defense Chance, your Shield/Absorb rating and Kinetic/Elemental Damage Reduction.
FTKE (Force/Tech Kinetic/Energy) damage is reduced by your Resist Chance (2% chance unless Resilience is active), your Shield/Absorb rating and Kinetic/Elemental Damage Reduction.
FTIE (Force/Tech Internal/Elemental) damage is reduced by your Resist Chance, your Shield/Absorb rating and Internal/Elemental Damage Reduction (24% by default).
Using these formulas you can calculate the theoretical best gear combinations.
Note that formulas only give an indication of the mitigation you’ll have in reality, it only tells part of the story.
What the theorycrafting tells us
Basically, M/R damage gets reduced the most, since all of your defensive stats reduce the damage you take from it. F/T kinetic/energy damage is the 2nd most reduced damage. F/T internal/elemental ignores all of your defensive stats from gear.
Since you cannot use your gear to mitigate internal/elemental damage, you can ignore it for your gearing. The question then is how much Defense you should have. This depends on the fight; fights with a lot of melee/ranged damage benefit more from Defense than other fights. In gearing I personally use the above mentioned Average Damage Profile.
DR VS reduced damage taken
As mentioned above, reduced damage taken is less effective than Damage Reduction. This is however only true for buffs you get; reduced damage taken is still better than Damage Reduction you get from your stats (because that only reduces kinetic/energy damage).
To illustrate the difference between reduced damage taken (RDT) and Damage Reduction (DR), you can look at this very basic example.
Let’s say your passive DR is 10%, you take 10000 pre-mitigation DtPS, and you receive either 50% RDT or DR:
DtPS with only passive DR = 0.9 * (10000 * 1) = 9000
DtPS with RDT = 0.9 * (10000 * 0.5) = 4500
DtPS with DR = (0.9 – 0.5) * (10000 * 1) = 4000
This is only true if you already have a passive DR to start with (which is always the case).
Note, it’s never as simple as this, and you never actually get to pick between DR and RDT; but I think it’s important to realize that there is in fact a difference.
All of this theorycrafting assumes that you’re constantly taking a flat amount of damage. In reality, you will have moments where you take close to no damage, and you might get random (or predictable) spikes that take most of your health away. Knowing how your stats work is the first step, next you have to decide how you want to apply this knowledge. There are two decisions for you to make regarding Endurance and Shield Chance, more on those in the next section.
Gearing Stat Priority
- Armorings: resistive armoring (with 6-piece set bonus)
- Mods: warding mod B (high endurance, low defense)
- Enhancements: bastion and bulwark (medium endurance, medium defense and high shield/absorb)
- Augments: shield and absorb
- Relics: Reactive Warding and Shield Amplification or Shrouded Crusader (Shrouded Crusader is better if you’re using it effectively)
For enhancements (ear/implants also count as enhancements): 5 shield and 5 absorb.
For augments: 9 shield, and 5 absorb
*This will give you about 2000 shield, and 1500 absorb in 240 gear.
There are a few different philosophies when it comes to gearing, this applies to all tanks, and even more so to shadow tanks.
There are two decisions for you to make.
Mitigation VS endurance:
More mitigation is theoretically better; but high endurance will make it easier to survive damage spikes. This is a personal choice, but most tanks will go for a middle ground. The main thing to consider here is that tank gear from command crates and tokens have a lot of defense, which can be safely traded for endurance. Trading away shield or absorb for additional endurance is less favourable.
High VS medium shield chance:
The idea of going with high shield chance is to try to even out the damage spikes as much as possible. Taking high shield chance will mean you lose absorb. Basically you’ll shield more often, but the shielding isn’t as strong. There’s a theoretical middle ground, which is what theorycrafters will give you. Some tanks however prefer to use high shield chance.
I haven’t tested this out enough to have a strong opinion myself.
For both these choices the difference will be subtle. Asking your healers what they’d prefer is always a good idea.
Most common setup:
- Armorings: resistive armoring (with 6-piece set bonus)
- Mods: warding mod B (high endurance, low defense)
- Enhancements: immunity and sturdiness (low end, high def and high shield/absorb) or bastion and bulwark (medium end, medium def and high shield/absorb)
- Augments: shield and absorb
Using Bant’s optimized stats spreadsheet, you should have close to a 50/50 split on shield and absorb rating. However, if you’re going for the high shield chance method of gearing, you should go with about 70/30 split on shield and absorb rating.
Note that Vigilant and Steadfast enhancements are available to push your endurance higher still. However, I personally advise against them since they trade shield/absorb for endurance, instead of only trading defense for endurance.
According to my rather basic theorycrafting, at 240 rating Bulwark/Bastion enhancements give shadows about 3.7k hp more than Sturdiness/Immunity, and the trade-off for this is an extra 19 expected DtPS. In other words, in exchange for a tiny bit of extra healing averaged over a whole fight, healers will have a reasonable increase in breathing space when spike damage hits. By comparison, Vigilant/Steadfast would give 6.8k hp in exchange for 50 extra expected DtPS.)
In my opinion, taking higher endurance is easily worth it, but again, ask your healers for their preference as well.
Same goes for mods, but for mods the trade-off is even more favourable: at 240 rating, the gain is about 5.7k hp when using 9 B-mods, with an increase of 15 expected DtPS.
In an average gear of 240 you can expect to have around 120k hp. The maximum hp achievable in 5.0 without losing augments is ~135k.
Most tanks take Reactive Warding relics, for the 2nd relic there are multiple options:
- Shrouded Crusader; this is theoretically the best relic, and also what I personally prefer to use on all my tanks, if you know where to use it, it’s simply yet another defensive CD that you can use.
Note that you should only wear this relic if you’re actually going to use it.
- Shield Amplification; this is the best non-clicky relic; the downside is that it’s only effective when you’re actually shielding attacks.
- DPS relics (Focused Retribution and Serendipitous Assault); this is purely for the extra endurance, and the small dps boost is also nice.
- Fortunate Redoubt; this relic is considered useless by most people, but it works, and some tanks still use it. The reason most don’t want it, is because we already have a very high amount of defense in our gear, and defense only works against melee/ranged damage.
Note that crafted Shield Amplification relics are currently the only tank relics with endurance on them (except for the old 220 MK-26 relics).
If you’re using Shrouded Crusader, the best usage generally speaking is anywhere where you’re shielding attacks, or where Deflection also works. Using it in combination with Force Potency makes it even stronger. The proper usage of Deflection is explained further on in this guide.
Note, due to the fact that Absorb shields don’t stack properly, it’s unwise to use the Reactive Warding relic when you have a sage healer. It’s better to use any other relic at all, including dps relics.
Extra note on endurance from relics:
Unfortunately only one tanking relic with endurance got added in 5.0, which is Shield Amplification. If you assume the damage taken to be constant and without spikes, then this relic is undeniably the best. But the issue I have with this relic is that the duration is rather short, and you have no control over when it procs. If you’re using the clicky relic you can use it when you need it the most.
In 4.0 we had access to endurance on our tanking relics, through crafting (Exarch relic MK-26). These relics are still available, and after some ‘napkin math’ I’d say they’re still pretty good. The 220 Reactive Warding relic MK-26, compared to the crafted 240 version gives you 2k more hp, with the trade-off being 41 extra expected DtPS, for Shrouded Crusader the trade-off is theoretically even lower (16 DtPS), though if used effectively it might still be better to stick to the 240 relic.
For those interested, this is the spreadsheet I used to calculate the numbers. In this spreadsheet I’m assuming my own stats in 240 gear, I also assume a 100% uptime on Kinetic Ward (which is perfectly achievable); I ignore all other abilities.
For relics, I average out the stats combining the stats with and without the relic active. This is not a very good method, but it’s the best I can do.
Important note: the numbers given here are simply an indication, they will be different in reality.
- (2) Slow Time/Wither increases DR by 2% for three seconds.
- (4) Slow Time/Wither reduces the CD of taunts by two seconds. This is pretty underwhelming, but can be useful to achieve a 3 taunt rotation in your opener with an 18 second duration of taunt on the boss. Otherwise, not terribly useful.
- (6) The duration of Deflection is increased by 3 seconds and its cooldown is reduced by 10 seconds. It’s pretty nifty.
There is no reason not to take the 6-piece set bonus, even if it means using lower grade armorings.
I’ll first list all utilities, then I’ll give a general setup, which is good enough for most content.
Reduces the cooldown of Mind Snap by 2 seconds, Force of Will by 30 seconds, and Force Speed by 5 seconds.
Must have, for the CD reduction on Force Speed. Some fights also become easier when you have the CD reduction on your CC breaker.
PvP utility, don’t take it
There are only a few fights where this is good. On other fights this is a bad utility to take
Nice for trash and for AoE damage, take it if there’s nothing better
Only 2 uses I can think of: PvP and styrak NiM; don’t take this anywhere else
PvP utility, don’t take it
Very situational utility, good for specific fights where you want to stealth out or when combined with Cloak of Resilience
You can take this if you have trouble with mobility. It’s better to learn to live without this utility though
Only useful for a very limited number of fights. I’d not take it
Not all that epic, you can use it for the DR if you have nothing better
Useless for tanks
I personally wouldn’t take this, if you want more mobility, use Misdirection instead
PvP utility, don’t take it
Cloak of Resilience
If you know how to use it, it’s a very nice utility; consider it as another Resilience. “taunt after stealth you pleb!” – Damian 2016
Only useful for a limited number of fights (most notably Revan HM/vet)
Not bad if you’re in need of a mobility increase. If you ignore your rotation, you’re able to have the speed buff permanently.
Note, this utility is currently bugged; you don’t need to put a point into it to get the effect.
It’s hard to live without this once you get used to it; but it’s only good for a limited number of fights
PvP utility, useless in operations except for rare situations (for example, Revanite Commanders)
Mind Over Matter
Good utility, use either this, or Avenging Grip. Note that this also increases the duration of the resilience granted by Cloak of Resilience.
Bad utility, don’t take it
Very mediocre utility, don’t take it
Other utilities are much better, don’t take it
One with the Shadows
This is one of the things that make shadow tanks completely and utterly overpowered; take this in every single fight, not taking this utility is the worst thing you could do; no defensive utility in this game is as strong as this one.
Note, this utility is slightly bugged, the duration of the buff is 2.5 seconds, regardless of whether or not you’re specced into Mind Over Matter
It’s a 12 second reflect; the only downside is that you’ll still take damage from the attacks you reflect; more on reflect later.
Use either this or Mind Over Matter, depending on the fight and your personal preference
All fights and all content require a different setup for you to perform optimally. A rather general setup I personally use is this:
Most of these utilities are oriented towards PvP and non NiM content; but you can use this setup on nearly any NiM fight as well.
Many shadow tanks will probably disagree with this setup, and they’d be right. This is simply what I personally like to use. If you use this, on most fights you’ll do fine.
Abilities and Rotation
High threat abilities
Sorted from highest to lowest threat
|1. Mind Control (CD 15s, reduced by Slow Time, if using 4p set bonus)
Your single target taunt, forces your target to attack you for 6 seconds, and gives you threat equal to the threat of the old target +10% when you’re in melee (<4m) range, and +30% when you’re outside melee range.
Together with Force Pull this is your only ranged ability
|2. Mass Mind Control (CD 45s, reduced by Slow Time, if using 4p set bonus)
Your AoE taunt, all enemies within 15 meters of your location gets a buff which forces them to attack you for 6 seconds, and gives you threat equal to the threat of the old target +10% when you’re in melee (<4m) range, and +30% when you’re outside melee range.
|3. Force Pull (CD 45s)
Does very high threat, but has a minimum range of 10 meters; also is your only ranged ability apart from Mind Control
|4. Cascading Debris (CD 6s)
Only with 3 stacks of Harnessed Shadows (when it’s glowing); these stacks are built by using Slow Time or Project. In reality this ability is used about every 10s, but it’s slightly RNG dependent. Builds up to 4 stacks of Shadow Protection (1% damage reduction for each stack)
|5. Slow Time (CD 10s)
Another AoE threat builder; damages up to 8 targets; also applies a 5% melee/range damage debuff (“Weakened” lasts 45s, does not stack with other shadow or vanguard tanks).
|6. Force Breach (CD 10s)
Only deals high threat if it’s glowing (+75% dmg), which happens after shielding/resisting/parrying an attack; deals its damage to 8 targets; also applies a 5% melee/range accuracy debuff (“Unsteady” lasts 45s, does not stack with other shadow or guardian tanks).
|7. Project (CD 6s, cd is reset with Particle Acceleration)
Single target threat builder, autocrit when glowing. Particle Acceleration causes your CD to reset, and makes your next project an autocrit; you get Particle Acceleration with Double Strike, Shadow Strike and Whirling Blow (30% chance) and it lasts for 10s.
Other rotational abilities
|1. Saber Strike
Thanks to your Shadow’s Training passive Saber Strike restores 1 Force each time it damages an enemy, but it is a very weak ability. Only ever use it if you don’t have enough force for anything else (should only ever happen if you’re not tanking for a long time).
|2. Double Strike
Your bread and butter filler, if you have nothing else, then use this. Thanks to your Bombardment passive it inflicts Trauma (healing received reduced by 20% for 6s). This is only a consideration for bosses with self-heals.
|3. Shadow Strike, aka backstab
This is affected by the Shadow Wrap buff, which can be granted by Double Strike, Whirling Blow, Spinning Strike, or Shadow Stride at most once every 10 seconds. Shadow Wrap reduces the force cost by 50% and allows you to use this ability even if you’re standing in front of your target; without this buff you can only use it from behind the target. Use this instead of Double Strike whenever possible (but avoid getting too low on force)
|4. Spinning Strike
Your ‘finisher’, only usable when your target is below 30% hp. Use this instead of Double Strike and Shadow Strike
5. Whirling Blow
Your AoE filler, does increased damage if specced into Lambaste utility. Also deals +15% damage to Unsteady targets thanks to your Psychokinesis passive.
I’ll first go over the tooltips of a few notable passives, as they basically dictate your rotation and priority system.
The armor rating granted is increased by 20% by another passive (Elusiveness), giving a total of 150% extra armor rating.
An additional passive (Technique Mastery) grants 10% internal/elemental DR.
Cooldown: 15s (Kinetic Bastion reduces this to 10s)
Erects a kinetic ward with 15 charges that increases your shield chance by 15% for 20 seconds. Each time you successfully shield, Kinetic Ward loses 1 charge. Does not break Stealth.
Since the cooldown is (usually) shorter than the duration and this buff should always be up, I consider this passive mitigation.
Consuming a charge of Kinetic Ward increases shield absorption by 1%. Stacks up to 8 times. This effect lasts for 20 seconds or until Kinetic Ward is reactivated.
To maximise the benefit from this passive, Kinetic Ward should be refreshed as late as possible without it falling off.
The cooldown of Kinetic Ward is reduced by 5 seconds, the shield chance it provides is increased by an additional 3%, and shielding an attack while it is active has a 20% chance to restore a charge and increase its active duration by 1 second. In addition, Kinetic Bulwark can build 2 additional stacks.
Increases the effectiveness of Kinetic Ward and Kinetic Bulwark
Project and Slow Time grant Harnessed Shadows, which makes the next Cascading Debris used uninterruptible and immune to pushback. In addition, each stack increases the damage dealt by your next Cascading Debris by 25%. Stacks up to 3 times. At 3 stacks, each tick of Cascading Debris grants Shadow Protection, which increases damage reduction by 1%. Shadow Protection stacks up to 4 times and lasts 12 seconds.
Proper execution of the rotation should ensure you always have 4 stacks of Shadow Protection.
Note that leaving stealth immediately grants you 4 stacks of Shadow Protection due to the Shadow Wrap passive. This is why you should always start every fight from stealth.
Duration: 20s or after the stacks run out (increased by 1s every time you shield an attack, up to 34s)
Every time you shield an attack you gain a stack of Kinetic Bulwark. Each stack grants you +1% absorb. Since these stacks are removed when you refresh Kinetic Ward, you should refresh it the very moment it’s about to drop off. To make this easier for yourself, you can use Star Parse to give yourself a reminder to refresh it.
Open up SP, click on Timers -> settings; you will find a window like this:
Fill in the fields as I have here, pick a sound reminder, and change the volume if needed (the small slider changes volume). Then click Save as new. You’ll have to do the same for Dark Ward if you’re playing assassin.
Then click on Timers again, and click on the timer(s) that you just created, to enable them. Make sure you’re Parsing, then go in-game, and test out if it works. (Simply use Kinetic Ward, and click off the buff; you should hear the sound alert with a small delay)
If you use SP for the sound reminder, you should remember that hearing it is (most likely) a sign you’ve made a mistake by failing to refresh Kinetic Ward early enough and therefore need to refresh it ASAP. As you practise you can test yourself by learning to refresh Kinetic Ward just in time so that you avoid triggering the timer and hearing the sound. It can also happen that you take so many attacks that Kinetic Ward falls off before the cooldown is over, but this is unusual on anything other than trash.
Note however that relying on SP timers will make your Kinetic Ward usage ever so slightly imperfect; you should still try to watch your buff bar and refresh your Kinetic Ward just as it falls off.
As the rotation hasn’t changed from 4.0, I reproduce the 4.0 guide here for ease of reference.
Maximum Threat Opener (no new 4-piece set bonus)
1. Force Pull – this ability generates over a ton of threat, and is your best immediate option, bar none. Proceed to Shadow Stride into range off the GCD (bosses are physics immune, so pull won’t bring them to you)
3. Slow Time + Mind Control (taunt immediately after Slow Time)
5. Double Strike
7. Cascading Debris under Force Potency (use Force Potency here if you didn’t use it on the previous global. Immediately use Mass Mind Control afterwards.
8. Shadow Strike (Double Strike if you haven’t had a Particle Acceleration proc yet)
10. Slow Time
11. Double Strike (Shadow Strike if you haven’t used it yet) and taunt again when it comes off of cooldown to ensure you maintain threat.
This rotation has a brief (2 GCD window) where you can lose top threat on the boss to burst dps, but is the best you can do without the new 4-piece set bonus.
Maximum Threat Opener (with 4-piece set bonus); also known as ‘Triple Taunt Rotation’
1. Force Pull
2. Project + Mind Control
3. Slow Time
5. Double Strike
7. Cascading Debris under Force Potency (use Force Potency here if you haven’t yet)
8. Shadow Strike (Double Strike if you haven’t had a Particle Acceleration proc yet)
10. Slow Time + Mind Control
While you don’t have your threat from Cascading Debris under your second taunt (and multiplied again under your third) you have 18 straight seconds of taunt on the boss with no gaps, and without help from your second tank, who is free to then use their high threat rotation with their triple taunt rotation.
This is what people call “triple taunt rotation”, and all tanks should know how it works.
Again, this is the same as in 4.0.
5. If you need to proc Particle Acceleration to get your 3rd stack of Harnessed Shadows, to prevent your Shadow Protection from dropping
5c. Double Strike (triggers Particle Acceleration)
6. Force Breach (for threat and damage, also keeps the Unsteady debuff running)
7. Shadow Strike (with Shadow Wrap buff, also triggers Particle Acceleration)
8. Double Strike (triggers Particle Acceleration)
9. Saber Strike (< 35 Force with Project or Slow Time coming off of cooldown)
I deviate from the 4.0 guide with my placement of Force Breach in the priority list. This is because I prioritize survivability above all; this priority system is built around maximizing usage of Cascading Debris, in order to keep Shadow Protection up at all times.
AoE Rotation & Ability Priorities
2. Slow Time
3. Force Breach
4. Project (with Particle Acceleration and at < 3 stacks Harnessed Shadows)
5. Whirling Blow
6. AoE taunt if you lose aggro on too many
Make sure to use Force Pull and Force Wave to group enemies up on AoE pulls/phases so that they can be more effectively killed.
Shadow tanks have a number of tools at their disposal. I’ll first go over each ability; afterwards I’ll go over all ops fights for tips for specific bosses.
In no particular order:
Reflect is a toy that used to be completely exclusive to guardians. But since 5.0, shadows (as well as commandos and scoundrels) have gained access to something similar to Saber Reflect. For shadows, (similar to scoundrels) we have reflect tied to an existing defensive cooldown: Deflection; and we’re required to spend a legendary utility point, on Avenging Grip (again, this is similar to scoundrels).
“Deflection grants Avenging Grip, reflecting 50% (or 100% for the Kinetic Combat discipline) of all direct single target tech and Force damage back at the attacker. Avenging Grip lasts for 12 seconds and does not absorb incoming damage.”
In short, we will deal all direct single target Tech and Force damage we receive back to the attacker. Please remember that shadow reflect does not make you immune to damage (unlike guardians and commandos).
Note, if you use Resilience at the same time as Deflection with Avenging Grip, you will not reflect any damage, since resisted damage is never reflected.
For shadows as well as scoundrels, reflect is purely to increase your damage output, and it has no defensive capabilities whatsoever. You should be very careful in using reflect; some people prefer not using reflect at all, or only on unavoidable damage; but I’m personally open-minded about it.
You need to know a few things before you should even consider reflecting anything:
- Know what you can reflect. Don’t be one of those people who run into random fire, thinking they’ll just reflect all the damage, and then die without doing any damage.
- Know what you can survive. Even if you know you can reflect something; if you die because of it, it’s not worth it. Always have a finger on your Resilience in case you get to a dangerous amount of hp.
- Warn your healers, or even your whole group, what you will be doing. If you’re going to take a lot of damage, warn your healers. DO NOT go into anything painful if you see that healers are struggling.
- Know when you should not reflect. If you will need to use Deflection for some other mechanic in the fight, do not use Deflection to reflect.
In short, stay safe, take no risks.
If you do it properly, you can do insane amounts of damage, while taking very little damage yourself. It’s even possible for tanks to outdps a dps player.
To help you with knowing what you can reflect, I’ve compiled a list of all boss fights, with general tips on how you can reflect. You can find it here. This is a work in progress, and also includes tips for the other reflecting classes.
Tanking & How to Improve
Similar to the 4.0 guide, I’ll refer to a well written section by Milas, in the 3.0 vanguard guide. Don’t follow any gearing or rotational advice in there (since it’s heavily outdated), but the general tanking information in there is better than anything I would write.
The 5.0 vanguard tank guide by Yam’unun also has an excellent general tanking section (scroll down to Advice on Tanking in General).
Specific Boss Tips
As mentioned in the Tanking and You & How to improve section, you should know the encounters like a book. To help you with learning the fights, and what to use where, I’ve compiled a long list of tips, for each boss fight. Please note that you should know the general fight mechanics before reading these tips; as I’m assuming you know them.
Annihilation Droid XRR-3
This is a simple fight, and only requires 1 tank; it’s best to face the boss with your back facing towards the sides of the door and taunt while you’re still flying during the knockback. Use Force Speed for the AoE stun (Shockwave); and Deflection during the AoE damage phase (Missile Salvo). You can use Resilience against flame dots.
You can take Shadow’s Shelter utility here, and AoE taunt while the group is stacked up for Missile Salvo.
Use Resilience or Force Speed for Pounce (there is no cast; you can see it from the boss jumping up, after a red text announcing it). Keep the boss at least 10 meters away from the ranged group.
You can stealth out after starting the fight; then after every wave you’ll be able to use out of combat health regen. Note, having guard on someone who’s in combat might put you back in combat, even after the add wave died.
Respeccing to dps is the best way to go. If you’re using Deflection, make sure to keep your distance (there can’t be any other bosses in your golden circle of Deflection love). Placing a guard on a group member is safe. After you killed your own target you can use one attack against another target, and if you use Force Cloak you can use yet another attack.
Use Resilience or Force Speed when taking an orb, or on Energy Sphere Detonation. Be careful using Shadow Stride on the jumping phase. You might fall off the platform. Not moving while you use Shadow Stride tend to keep me safe
This boss can’t be tanked, task yourself with paying attention to the mechanics (killing the red piggies in time). You can also try to keep guard on whoever currently has aggro of the boss (using a keybind for acquire focus target’s target is very useful here).
Jarg & Sorno
Keep them next to each other. Use Resilience to cleanse yourself, and Deflection if you can’t interrupt unload.
Keep your back against the forcefield in the back, and use Whirling Blow when the adds spawn. Use Deflection or Force Speed when the boss starts a Frenzy.
G4-B3 Heavy Fabricator Droid
When solotanking, use Deflection when there’s about 15 seconds left on your armor debuff. If lucky, this will let you drop your stacks back to 0, and give your healer(s) some breathing space. You should do this only at 10 stacks.
Resilience can be used to safely stand in flaming oil, use Force Speed on the boss’ cleaves. Deflection is good for reflecting the Burning Oil with burst healing, or against his basic attack. If you’re reflecting the Burning Oil, use defensive cooldowns like Battle Readiness, Adrenals, Force Speed and medpacks.
Zorn & Toth
You can solo tank Zorn in vet/master mode by cycling through your defensives.
Use Resilience to ignore fearful for a few seconds (you can even keep attacking the boss while you have Resilience), stealth out Resilience + taunt lets you ignore fearful even longer. If needed, use Force Speed, Battle Readiness, tanking Adrenal and/or a medpack to survive fearful. Use Deflection when Zorn starts casting Sonic Paralysis.
Firebrand & Stormcaller
Note: unless your dps is rather low, you might not have Force Cloak off cooldown for the 2nd Incinerate Armor, even if you’re using the Fade utility. You can either tank-swap or use Deflection to survive the Incinerate Armor debuff.
If you’re not interrupting cleave, use Force Speed on that. Use Resilience to cleanse yourself.
When tanking Kephess, you can use Resilience to avoid taking damage from the red circle, and the dot. Use Deflection on the basic attacks.
Terror from Beyond
The Writhing Horror
On vet/master mode you can avoid spawning Foul Offspring adds by stealthing out before your stacks of the Incubation debuff run out when taking the Jealous Male. Note that you can’t taunt boss back after stealthing out due to "Recently Implanted" debuff. Avoiding all Foul Offspring spawns like this with 2 shadow tanks can ease the dps check on master mode. Try to predict when the boss will use its force/tech attacks (which is about every 6 seconds), to Resilience. Make sure to have Shadow Stride available when the boss burrows to avoid getting Angry Spittle on the raid. Save your defensive cooldowns for the burn phase.
You can use Resilience to cleanse all dot effects from yourself, which is especially helpful if you’re tanking the adds in the burn phase.
Use Resilience to ignore Lightning Field. You can also use Resilience to ignore Force Leech for a few seconds. Use Deflection against basic attacks.
Use Deflection, Force Speed, and if necessary Battle Readiness when tanking the two large Regulator adds in Orange and Yellow phases. If you’re tasked with channeling, and you have aggro of any adds, simply stealth out, and channel.
You can force the boss to cast Color Deletion on you, by taunting about a second or two after he drops his “Black Obtuse” immunity shield. Tell your co-tank to taunt any time you lose aggro (which might happen often, due to mechanics). Tank-swap on add spawns by aoe taunting adds then offtank taunting the boss. Deflection is also your most effective cooldown in the Operator phase.
Kephess the Undying
Try avoid moving the boss immediately after it gets stunned, since the dps will lose uptime on the boss while the boss is taking extra damage.
You can use Force Cloak if you have an orb, make sure the orb is gone before you get back out of stealth. The prefered method however is to destroy your orb by running into the blue circle when you get the “overcharge” debuff from the boss, save your Force Cloak for emergencies. Just make sure you have aggro on the boss if you have an orb (Kephess puts a debuff on the tank right before and after he uses Laser Blast).
The Terror from Beyond
Use Resilience or Force Speed immediately if tentacles get enraged. You can mitigate the damage from the adds by walking into them with Force Speed. When doing this make sure there isn’t anyone close to you, or they will also get damaged by the adds. In story/vet mode, Resilience also works to ignore damage from the adds exploding.
Inside the hypergate the boss uses different attacks depending where her target stands. The boss uses a melee attack (“Monsterous Swipe”, best countered by Deflection) on platforms 10, 12, and 14 in this diagram. Everywhere else the boss uses force attacks (Tail Whip, Devastating Slam, or Phasic Spittle). Due to how your mitigation works, standing on platforms 10, 12 and 14 will result in the lowest amount of DtPS.
Scum and Villainy
All melee attacks, with sole exception of Groundshatter (360 knockback) – use Deflection often.
On master mode, Shadow’s Shelter can help mitigate raid damage taken from Howling Sandstorm and Groundshatter in the burn phase.
All tech attacks, except “Kick” and basic attack. Huge Grenade is tech on veteran mode, but special (undefendable) damage on master mode.
Use Force Speed just before the huge grenade explodes on you (hover your mouse over the debuff to see the timer). On vet you can alternatively use Resilience to completely ignore the damage. You can use Resilience to ignore damage from adds. Use Deflection during the AoE and burn phases.
You can solotank this boss even on NiM/master difficulty, by using the Sturdiness utility, and using Deflection just before you get stunned (to avoid the stun), use your stunbreaker for the next stun. The stun happens shortly after the adds are gathered at the boss.
All force/tech attacks, except Thrasher’s basic attack and the Snipers’ attacks.
Use Deflection against snipers to become close to immune to them. Use Resilience to ignore hits from the Demolitionist or from the boss itself. There’s a big cleave hit just before the boss uses his knockback, you can use Force Speed here. About halfway through the fight, Thrasher starts using Force/Tech attacks relatively often, try to predict it, to Resilience it.
Mixed attack types.
Use Deflection on Unload (city) or Terminate (Chief). You can use Resilience to cleanse the Bleeding DoT from the Pack Hunters in Blue Team and the Burning DoTs from Pyroguards in Green and Gold Teams, additionally you can use Resilience to resist fire, and the Heat Beam. Use Force Speed on any big attack (especially Terminate).Alternatively, you can use the pipe on the right of the boss to LoS (Line of Sight) the Terminate cast. Doing this prevents the boss from using his basic attacks, and he won’t use his special attacks as often. This is mostly helpful in case of enrage.
Olok the Shadow
Mixed attack types.
Use Resilience against Lacerate, his melee basic attack. Use Deflection against Snipe, his ranged basic attack (simply move away from the boss to force him to use his ranged attacks). You can also use Resilience to cleanse off the Sticky Grenade.
Use Deflection against the basic attack from all warlords except for Sunder. Use Resilience against Sunder’s attacks if you can’t get out of his 4m range. Force Speed with Egress utility can cleanse the green Corrosive Grenade and Super Concentrated Riot Control Gel DoT from Captain Horic in the first phase in NiM/master. You can force Vilus Garr to stab you, by being the closest person to him just before he starts his Stabbing Spree. Use a cooldown if needed (all of them work). The Mental Defense utility gives shadows an advantage here.
Additionally, correct timing of Deflection with the Sturdiness utility can prevent the stun. If Garr’s stun is prevented, he will continue to finish his Stabbing Spree channel, but he won’t do any damage (this is the case with all classes with stun immunity, like Gunslingers, Troopers with Hold the Line and Vigilance Guardians).
Dread Master Styrak
When you’re shielding the raid from the Kell Dragon’s "Spines" spinning ball channel in the first phase, use Deflection to parry all damage. On master mode when the channel ends the lingering uncleansable Toxic Spine DoT will begin to tick — use Resilience to resist all damage. Use Resilience or Force Speed against Styrak’s Thundering Blast and against his Force Lightning (on master mode: including the raidwide Overcharged explosion at the end).
During the burn phase chain taunts and defensives in between Styrak’s stuns and coordinate with your co-tank. Styrak’s Force Charge and Saber Throw knockback is a melee/ranged attack so Deflection is best. You can use Resilience against Power of the Master.
Use Deflection against its basic attacks. Resilience to cleanse the dot.
All Draxus’ direct attacks can be ignored with Deflection. Use Resilience against adds and to cleanse dots. Use Force Speed if you’re taking a kick from Dismantlers. Use Force Cloak or Resilience to avoid getting the debuff from the Dismantler kick. For optimal use you can keep both dismantlers on you. By rotating Resilience and Force Cloak you can take two kicks in a row. Use Force Speed or Resilience for mitigating Thundering Blast from the Guardians
Use Deflection against his basic attacks, Resilience against all other attacks.
Use Deflection against his basic attacks, the little red circles, and the adds. Resilience against all other attacks (especially Chest Laser), or to cleanse yourself.
Dread Master Brontes
Use Deflection against the tentacles (Hands) at the start. Use Deflection against Kephess. When tanking Brontes, use Resilience during her casts.
Effectively using Resilience can allow you to solotank Brontes. Simply let yourself take 4 to 8 stacks (depending on the healer’s skill), then use Resilience during the next cast to avoid taking stacks. You can also stealth out just as she starts channeling; remember to taunt back directly afterwards. Using Force Speed during her channel is also very useful.
During the finger phase, you can use Resilience to resist the damage from both the Hands and the Fingers, Force Speed also helps mitigating this damage. As demonstrated in this video, it’s possible to completely avoid taking damage from the Hands, this doesn’t work in the first phase though. To do this, you have to stand still (close to the hand, I tend to stand just inside the targeting circle), don’t use any ability, and press your jump right as the Hand starts to pull back in order to slam you. After that you can use attacks until just before it starts to slam you again. Practise makes perfect, and remember to taunt so that you don’t lose aggro. Orbs should never get through your watchful eye, but if any of them do, you can use Force Pull or any other controlling ability to stop the orbs from killing your group.
You can take Force Wake utility to root the Energy Spheres in the burn phase once your hand is dead. In this way you can group them up as they spawn, then aoe taunt in order to resilience more than one at a time.
Use Resilience or Force Speed against Pulverize (this is an attack from Dread Monsters, and is used as its first attack, and then later during the fight as well).
Use Resilience or Force Speed to mitigate Thundering Blast; this cast is very short though, so be sure to have your finger over Resilience anytime you’re at low health. Use Deflection against his basic attack, or use Deflection to reduce the damage from Thundering Blast if you notice your group is taking a cleave.
Use Deflection against his basic attacks. Resilience is good for cleansing the dot on the 1st future phase; you can also use Resilience there to ignore the periodic damage from the tree (good if you notice your healer is struggling).
If you’re taking the boss in the 3rd future phase, simply wait after going into the portal, and don’t attack the boss. The boss will stand still and won’t damage you. Make sure to move to the altars before relics are placed however (either ask your group to call when they’re out of the past phase, or check their progress on your minimap).
This boss has a lot of hard hitting abilities that you can avoid with Resilience. None of them have a cast however, making it tricky to use your defensives optimally. For the challenge you can use Force Speed, Resilience and Cloak of Resilience to mitigate the damage (if you use Cloak, make sure you don’t have guard on anyone, unless they’re also stealthing out; after the challenge you can simply use out of combat regen).
Use Deflection on his basic attacks. Use Resilience or Force Speed on all other attacks, especially the big purple circle/cone (Force Execution). Shortly after Force Execution, and also shortly after knocking a tank up in the air, Raptus tends to use Driving Thrust, for which you should use Resilience, Force Speed or an Adrenal, unless you’re close to full health. Tank-swapping here is also a good alternative.
Note, the old tactic of standing with your back against the tanking crystal is no longer valid, since you’ll either get knocked through the crystal, or if you get inside the crystal you die.
Use Deflection against the basic attack from any boss. Use Resilience against special attacks. When tanking Calphayus, he’ll sometimes summon crystals to knock into you, this has a telltale animation, that’s when you can use Resilience or Force Speed to mitigate the damage. In emergencies you can use Resilience to cleanse your own Death Mark (in the 1st and 3rd phases), you must not rely on this though, and you should only use it as a last resort. Remember that Force Cloak with Cloak of Resilience utility also works for that.
Use Resilience and Force Speed during the burn phase. Use Deflection here to reduce the damage taken for the whole group (if there’s another shadow tank in the group, make sure you don’t use it at the same time).
Use Deflection against the basic attacks from both the boss and the adds. Use Resilience or Force Speed when adds jump to you after taunting. Use Force Speed or Resilience when Sparky prepares to Brutalize you, to reduce the damage.
Use Force Speed or Resilience against Exonium Carts, and Force Speed or Deflection against Shotgun Blast and Scatter Blaster. Use Deflection against basic attacks, and adds. You can avoid the barrel mechanic, by using Slow Time and Force Breach to take aggro of the adds, if needed also use Mass Mind Control (AoE taunt) and Deflection. Then simply place blue circles on the adds during Mass Barrage.
If you start on the boss, use Force Speed or Resilience immediately when floor vents spawn, this will mitigate a large amount of damage, making the healers love you. Use Resilience or Force Speed to mitigate damage from Shoots Lasers and Tamper Deterrent Devices (aka turrets). Use Deflection on the Torque’s attacks, this will also make you near immune if you get the Sick of You debuff, without your co-tank noticing; you can also use Force Cloak or kite Torque, both of these options are suboptimal though.
Master & Blaster
In 5.0, this boss became a lot easier for shadow tanks to survive.
Deflection only works against attacks from Blaster. If you’re tanking Master, you can volunteer to taunt Blaster during Rain of Pain, and use Deflection there. Or you can use Deflection to reduce the damage Master does during Overpowered Ion Cutter, or his basic attacks (Fire Wheel of Death does very little damage, even so, try avoid it if possible). Additionally, you can use Resilience or Force Speed to mitigate damage from Resonant Explosive Probes (aka mines, especially important if you get more than one mine on you), Master’s basic attacks, or Overpowered Ion Cutter. You can also use Force Cloak to interrupt the cast of Overpowered Ion Cutter; if you do this I advise you to interrupt the 2nd/4th/6th beam.
Resilience/Force Cloak are also useful for resisting the damage during the burn phase. Be careful not to use Resilience just before Ravager Electro-Pulse Nova in veteran difficulty, or you will die. It’s also important that you do not have egress utility for this fight.
If needed you can use Force Cloak to interrupt the Nova cast on Blaster as well, to delay the knockback, this is especially useful if you pushed Master too early, and no longer have the debuff to keep you safe.
You can use Deflection against all basic attacks. Resilience and Force Speed are good for mitigating damage from Deck Guns and Mouse Droids. Force Speed is also good for mitigating damage from Ruugar’s Cull attack.
Temple of Sacrifice
You can use Resilience or Force Speed to mitigate damage from the red circle (Spear Throw), keep adds inside it, so they take damage and get knocked down. You can use Deflection on all basic attacks.
When tanking unit 1, use Force Speed (or Resilience) to mitigate damage from Mega Blast. You can also use Resilience to avoid damage from Rapid Fire and Gravity Missile. You can use Deflection when you have both walkers on you, or during Rain of Missiles (raidwide AoE damage).
You can use Deflection to avoid damage from Devastation (aka the cross), or you can use it when tanking the boss (the adds will do less damage while inside the golden circle from Deflection). You can use Resilience to ignore the damage taken from adds. Egress is a useful utility, to be able to hide behind rocks, even if there’s still adds alive in veteran difficulty. You can use Deflection to avoid damage from Rage Storm for a few seconds, Resilience can be used to avoid damage from the knockback at the end of Rage Storm. Quite often during the start of add waves, the boss will leap on a random player and deals high damage, this random player can include you as a tank, it’s wise to use Force Speed at that time if your health isn’t topped off.
You can use Deflection against all basic attacks, from all adds and bosses (including Tracer Missile from Deron). Lambaste utility (increases Whirling Blow damage) is great for keeping aggro and killing the adds. You can use Resilience or Force Speed to mitigate the damage from Kurse’s Soaring Smash.
You can take the Containment utility to instantly cc distant adds such as Mandalorian Revanites when they’re channeling Death from Above on the raid.
For this fight you might want to pick a different utility setup. Sturdiness and Egress are both very good utilities to have; Avenging Grip is good in case your group’s dps isn’t high enough.
For the Impel mechanic (the red beam) you have a few different tools that allow you to ignore it. Note: impel will still destroy pillars if you’re facing towards them, even if you’re immune to the knockback; so make sure to keep your back towards an open space.
You can use Deflection with Sturdiness to ignore Impel (make sure you don’t use Deflection too early, since the immunity to the knockback only lasts 6 seconds). Additionally, you can use Force Cloak just before the casts finishes. Be careful not to use it too early or too late. Spam you single target taunt (Mind Control) to get the boss back asap. Don’t rely on your AoE taunt, since Revan will be immune to taunts during his Impel casts, which lasts even if you interrupt it with Force Cloak.
You can use Resilience to avoid taking damage and stacks from Trail of Agony. This means you can let two or three circles drop beneath you without moving and remain in range to damage revan and receive healing a little longer.
During the HK phase, you can use Deflection with Avenging Grip to help kill the Meatbag Entropy Enhancer if you have aggro of it, and the dps failed to kill it in time. You can also use Force Speed or Resilience to mitigate the damage.
Force Speed can also be used to mitigate the damage from Grenades, but not the knockdown. Resilience will remove the grenade, and place a red circle under your feet, be careful not to place it in inconvenient spots.
During the 3rd floor, if you’re at any point forced to have your back towards Revan (which you should avoid at all costs), you can use Force Speed or an Adrenal to mitigate the damage. Deflection and Resilience won’t save you.
I’m Numedain from the Red Eclipse server, though most people know me simply as Numy. You can find me sitting in <whatever> most of the time. And I’ve been playing SWTOR since just before FTP launched.
Shadow tank has been one of my favorite classes, ever since I created my first one years ago. Apart from Shadow tanks, I also like to play my Telekinetic sage (R.I.P.), and I enjoy playing all other classes as well.
Unfortunately, due to lack of time, I was only able to start Nightmare raiding in 3.0. But since then, and also in 4.0, I’ve killed all Nightmare bosses, all of them as a shadow tank, but also on other classes and roles. And in 5.0 I’m continuing to kill NiM bosses all over again.
Thanks to my friends who’ve proofread this guide, I couldn’t have done this without them. Special thanks to Culoph, for his amazing feedback, he helped make this guide become as good as I can make it, I can’t thank him enough. Thanks to MissBengtsson, for always keeping me alive, even when I’m bored and eating fire; she also gave me some useful feedback on this guide, and is a lovely person overall. Thanks to my brother, Macewindy, for disagreeing with me on most things, which forces me to reconsider why I’m doing something. Thanks to Maxx for his constant nagging to get me to finish this guide, for his feedback, and for always being there to take the blame whenever I mess up. Thanks to Damiah for being a pleb, who pushes me to be the best I can be. And thanks for the raiding community on the Red Eclipse, for carrying me, and telling me to “git gud”.
Thanks to Dulfy for hosting this guide.