SWTOR 5.0 Infiltration Shadow PvE Guide by Jaek.
Intro to Infiltration Shadow
I’m Jaek, an Aussie NiM raider on Harbinger Imp-side who started playing SWTOR properly at the start of 2016 (4.0). I’m currently a member of <Kai Sith’ari>, and have been a member of raid teams in my current guild, <Dark Times>, and <Unzip Thud>, having cleared all 4.0 8-man content except Brontes/Dread Council NiM.
For this guide, I’ve tried to include as much of the rationale behind my writings as possible – so apologies for the length. For those who want a quick read, look to the bolded text or the TL;DR sections. I wanted this to be usable by players of all abilities/experience with the class, so feel free to take away what is useful to you.
Infiltration is an extremely durable and high-burst melee DPS specialisation which offers the highest sustained damage of any class in the game as of 15/1/17 (due to Bioware’s stance doubling bug). Changes in 5.0 to the spec are integrated into the guide.
Note: The stance doubling bug refers to any and all stances’ ‘outputs’ duplication. For Infiltration, this means that two independent Shadow Technique internal cooldowns exist simultaneously – which, among other benefits, causes Psychokinetic Blast to generate 2 Stacks of Shadow Technique’s passive with 2 Clairvoyance Stacks. This greatly increases the frequency of Force Breach rotationally (as well as the contribution Shadow Technique has to Infiltration’s total damage output).
Feel free to message me on Jaekmeow in game, or leave a comment below.
These are my own personal ratings, relative to what I believe are the capabilities of other classes in the game.
Single Target Damage: 10/10 (with bug); 8.5/10 (without bug)
As Infiltration stands to benefit most of all specs in the game from the stance doubling bug, its current single target dps is without equal. With the addition of Vaulting Slash, the Stalker’s Swiftness utility, and changes to the uptime of Shadow’s Respite and the cooldown of Force Cloak, Infiltration has received a strict damage increase from its levels in 4.0. So, even without the stance doubling bug, the spec should be able to compete with/outperform Combat, Concentration, Serenity, Gunnery, Sharpshooter, Scrapper, and all Guardian, Vanguard, and Sage specialisations in a single target parse.* Although it is one of the DPS specs with the weakest 10 metre+ damage in the game, its ability to close gaps quickly with Shadow Stride (with Stalker’s Swiftness), coupled with 5.0’s changes to Force Speed, have made Infiltration Shadows competitive with Gunslingers, Commandos and Sentinels in almost any given raid encounter. It also has a reflect!
*This conflicts with several projected DPS metrics, but I would remind cynics that Infiltration is often undervalued. For example, Bant’s 4.0 DPS hypotheticals severely underestimated not only Infiltration (which would roughly equal Gunnery by the end of the year), but underestimated even the top parsing spec, Watchman, by almost 10% (600 dps).
AoE Damage: 6/10
Compared to the spec’s single target damage/rotation, little depth exists in the AoE rotation/output for Infiltration. Whirling Blow does some nice damage, but due to the rotational need to use Shadow Strike to refresh Shadow’s Respite, Whirling Blow-only spam isn’t advisable. That said, this spec’s AoE output is slightly stronger in 5.0 due to the extended duration of Shadow’s Respite, but it pales in comparison to the potential damage of Serenity.
Burst Damage: 10/10 (with bug); 9.5/10 (without bug)
The only reason I wouldn’t rate Infiltration’s burst damage at 10/10 without the stance bug is due to the spec’s lack of an off-global-cooldown source of damage (e.g. Blood Boiler, Shoulder Cannon, Assault Plastique). Yet, it has some of the most frequent burst windows of any class in-game due to the low cooldowns of Shadow Stride, Force Potency and Force Cloak, and the high frequency of Force Breach and Shadow Strike.
With an innate, ‘permanent’ 24% damage reduction due to Kinetic Field and Shadow’s Respite’s 100% uptime, combined with TWO 30% AoE damage reduction passives and a 30% damage reduction when stunned, there are many high-damage situations in which a skilled Infiltration Shadow mightn’t feel forced to deploy an additional tool to survive. Nevertheless, Infiltration is spoiled for choice in relation to their defensive cooldowns. With a self-heal in Battle Readiness, the opportunity to use a medpac on-cooldown in a fight due to Force Cloak’s rotational use, the potential to run an insanely good 2-2.5 second 60% absorb on a 15-20 second cooldown, shared access to Deflection (50% melee and ranged defence), as well as enjoying the infamous ‘F**k Mechanics button’ in Resilience, Infiltration Shadows have comparable survivability to a Gunslinger (albeit offering far less raid-wide mitigation), and so are among the most durable characters that could be brought to a raid.
Raid Utility: 2.5/10 (passively); 7/10 (as an offtank)
Of the 3 taunt classes, Infiltration is most lacking with respect to utility directly provided to other raid members – sporting only a meager heal and 5% damage reduction to others with Shadow’s Shelter. However, due to the spec’s extreme passive durability and its myriad of defensive tools, Infiltration Shadows can temporarily serve as near-unkillable tanks in a pinch (depending on the type of incoming damage), and can also be used to absorb/nullify most mechanics or extreme instances of incoming damage with a brief and timely taunt to take aggro from the main tank (e.g. shrouding Thrasher NiM slams, or Sunder’s ‘End’ in NiM). With the addition of a Guard and their own threat-nullification through combat stealth, the utility Infiltration brings to a raid has never been higher.
Note: Stealth-rez is always a potentially invaluable tool for any raid group, but as Infiltration uses force cloak rotationally and almost on-cooldown, you would have to delay its use.
Execute Phase: 10/10
Shadows boast the strongest class-wide execution phase in the game (in relation to their OWN non-execution phase). Infiltration receives a strict 5% damage boost and the opportunity to use the high-damage and force-efficient Spinning Strike ability virtually on cooldown.
Overall Raid-viability: 8.5/10. A very competitive DPS which is so durable I think of them as a 3rd tank, Infiltration is certainly capable of carrying in any progression group.
For these reasons, I’d argue Infiltration is competitive with Serenity (Grob’thok, Draxus, Dash’roode, Bestia, Torque) or superior to it (every other fight) for all 5.0 PvE content.
To see a good guide (which is no longer being updated) giving exact and ‘optimal’ gearing choices for each class and spec, visit Bant’s Optimal Stats For All 24 Disciplines, KoTET Edition forum post on the SWToR website
I’ve included his relevant gearing numbers to Infiltration. For reference, E means Enhancements or Left Side Pieces (Implants or Earpiece), C means Crystal, and A means Augments.
Iokath MK-5, iLevel 242:
8439 Endurance | 6536 Mastery (1xC) | 3694 Power
1742 Critical (6xE, 2xA, 1xC) | 1509 Alacrity (3xE, 9xA) | 743 Accuracy (1xE, 3xA, Stim)
Iokath MK-3, iLevel 240:
8106 Endurance | 6327 Mastery (2xC) | 3506 Power
1679 Critical (2xE, 11xA) | 1435 Alacrity (7xE) | 733 Accuracy (1xE, 3xA, Stim)
Eternal Commander MK-15, iLevel 236:
7962 Endurance | 6216 Mastery (1xA) | 3424 Power
1643 Critical (1xE, 12xA, 2xC) | 1400 Alacrity (7xE) | 736 Accuracy (2xE, 1xA, Stim)
Eternal Commander MK-13, iLevel 234:
7653 Endurance | 6128 Mastery (Stim) | 3337 Power
1434 Critical (13xA, 2xC) | 1236 Alacrity (6xE, 1xA) | 760 Accuracy (4xE)
Eternal Commander MK-3, iLevel 230:
7372 Endurance | 5901 Mastery (Stim) | 3183 Power
1447 Critical (7xE, 2xC) | 1152 Alacrity (12xA) | 735 Accuracy (3xE, 2xA)
Note: For a more general list of stat thresholds to keep in mind, I recommend aiming for 40-43% crit, at least 11% alacrity, and as minimally above 736 Accuracy rating as possible. Anything else can be put into Mastery (due to the bonus crit % it provides).
Relic choices should be Focussed Retribution and Serendipitous Assault; their benefits are multiplicative and are the most reliable increases to damage output of any relic choices.
As per usual, aim for the 6-piece Stalkers set bonus.
Note: Keep in mind that while there are certain guidelines and thresholds to keep in mind when gearing a dps, there is definite flexibility available and no player should ‘have’ to gear in exactly the same way. For example, the value of alacrity is reduced for a player who is not able to maintain a sufficiently high apm (actions per minute) and fluid execution of their rotation.
I will only be discussing the utilities I believe have any relevant benefit to standard PvE encounters; the remainder are best left to PvP. While in the first two tiers there is (for the most part) very little flexibility, in the final tier you are spoiled for choice, with many options I’d recommend.
|Stalker’s Swiftness: Shadow Stride grants Stalker’s Swiftness, allowing your next Spinning Strike to be used on any target, regardless of remaining health, within 10 seconds. If the target of your Shadow Stride is killed during that time, Shadow Stride’s cooldown is reset.||This should be taken on most, if not all, fights. It results in a strict DPS increase by enabling Spinning Strike, which has the added benefit of making your standard rotation more Force-efficient. Furthermore, it gives the potential for extremely efficient target swapping if used such that your Shadow Stride will be reset upon your target’s death (especially if it is used on a weak, short-living add). This gives an even GREATER DPS increase by enabling more 3-stack Force Breaches and windows for Spinning Strike.|
|One with the Shadows: Shadow Stride can be used when immobilized and purges movement-impairing effects when used. Additionally, Force Speed grants One with the Shadows, causing you to absorb 60% of all incoming damage for the duration of Force Speed.||Your 20 (or 15) second mobility tool becomes one of the strongest defensive cooldowns in the game with this utility. I recommend taking this on most fights since it significantly adds to the already high durability of Infiltration Shadows, enables them to serve as temporary off-tanks, and reduces the burden on healers in healing-intense circumstances. With Resilience, you may often find yourself asking ‘What are mechanics’ as much as Snipers.|
|Avenging Grip: Deflection grants Avenging Grip, reflecting 50% of all direct single target tech and Force damage back at the attacker. Avenging Grip lasts 12 seconds and does not absorb incoming damage.||The greedy, number fluffing utility (but hey, it’s not number fluffing if the boss dies faster!).This is a largely accurate guide (not written by me) as to what damage can and can’t be reflected, and what opportunities a Shadow has for reflectable damage that is unlikely to kill you. However, I recommend taking One with the Shadows over this unless the reflected damage is significant, or necessary to beat an Enrage timer.|
|Mind Over Matter: Increases the durations of Resilience by 2 seconds and Force Speed by 0.5 seconds. Additionally, Force Speed slows all enemies within 5 meters by 75% for 2.5 seconds when activated.||Should generally be taken in conjunction with One with the Shadows (replace Stalker’s Swiftness) on extremely healing-intensive fights where the DPS loss is outweighed by the increase to durability. The additional duration of Resilience applies to Cloak of Resilience. Can be used in place of One with the Shadows when it will negate any damage taken, and absorb isn’t necessary.|
Abilities and Rotations
Rotational Abilities and Important Passives
You should aim to always pre-cast Whirling Blow twice, and stealth, before entering combat (meaning you open with Clairvoyance, Circling Shadows, and Shadow’s Respite for more efficiency).
With that in mind, the most reliable opener I use with the stance bug is:
(Pre-cast) Whirling Blow x2 + Stealth
-> Force Potency + Advanced Polybiotic Attack Adrenal + Force Breach (you may use Force Cloak from this point)
-> Shadow Stride + Force Breach
-> Battle Readiness + Psychokinetic Blast
-> Clairvoyant Strike
-> Shadow Strike (if 3-stack Force Breach isn’t available)/Force Breach
-> Shadow Strike (if Force Breach wasn’t previously used)
-> Psychokinetic Blast
-> Spinning Strike
-> Vaulting Slash (if 3-stack Force Breach isn’t available)
-> Force Breach
-> Force Potency + Force Breach
We use Battle Readiness slightly after our adrenal as it gives 0 DPS benefit to Force Breach, and so would waste up to 1.5 seconds of its duration if used with it. We use Shadow Stride during Force Potency for an extra 60% crit on one of our Force Breaches.
Without the stance bug, swap Psychokinetic Blast and Clairvoyant Strike on their first uses, and interweave any extra fill if necessary (under the Priority System).
After the opener, you should follow the Priority System below.
Priority System for Rotation (TL:DR)
Due to the variance at the heart of Infiltration (that variance being a 50% chance to generate a stack of Shadow Technique on a melee hit per 6 seconds), even with the stance bug, there is no strict rotation a Infiltration Shadow should follow. Instead, we have a priority system (with some exceptions) that will allow you to maximise your damage output.
Note: if you are unable to damage an enemy during combat, or are out of range for more than 1 gcd, use Whirling Blow once/twice to make sure Clairvoyance remains refreshed at 2 stacks for when you are next in melee range.
I’ve made a simple flowchart of this priority system indicating the generally appropriate next move, with red arrows for ‘No’ and green for ‘Yes’:
Priority System for Rotation (Extended, with Rationale)
The long version.
1. 3-stack Force Breach. Force Breach is Infiltration’s biggest source of damage, consistently hardest hitting ability, and the core of the discipline. Due to its linearly-scaling damage but flat cost (1 gcd, 20 force), you only want to use this ability at 3 stacks of Breaching Shadow as this results in the highest net-DPS and time/force efficiency. It is best to use Force Breach as soon as you acquire 3 stacks; any later, and you risk delaying Psychokinetic Blast, or wasting the next time you generate a stack since stacks are capped at 3.
1b. As Force Breach is the core of your rotation and highest damaging ability, it is essential that you generate stacks of Breaching Shadow as efficiently as possible. If it is triggered, it won’t trigger again for 4 gcds (excluding the bug). Keep in mind that while Shadow Technique has only a 50% chance per melee hit to activate, Clairvoyant Strike triggers TWO melee hits (having a 75% chance to trigger it), Saber Strike triggers THREE (having a ~88% chance to trigger it), and Whirling Blow counts as ONE melee hit per target hit. While this factors substantially more into Infiltration’s priority system when it isn’t affected by the current stance bug, considering how to maximise the probability that Breaching Shadows are generated via melee hit every 6 seconds (or 4 global cooldowns) is essential to maximising your reliable dps/use of Force Breach. There is little to no need to Saber Strike in a single target situation in 5.0 due to the changes to Infiltration’s passive force regen. However, deciding to delay a Shadow Strike or Spinning Strike by 1 global cooldown and use Clairvoyant Strike or 3+ target Whirling Blow when Shadow Technique is off cooldown increases the likelihood of generating Breaching Shadows. This is one of the biggest differentiators between good and great Infiltration players (or was in 4.0 at least).
2. (As close to) 100% uptime on 2 stacks of Clairvoyance is essential. This reduces the variance of your Force Breach’s frequency as it guarantees that your Psychokinetic Blast will generate a free charge of your stance, dealing extra internal damage and bringing you closer to using your Force Breach. As Clairvoyant Strike is your lowest priority skill (besides Saber Strike/Low Slash), but maximising efficient generation of Breaching Shadow is your second highest priority, some moment-to-moment decision making is required to decide when Clairvoyant Strike/Whirling Blow should be used (factoring in current stacks of Shadow Technique, and the cooldowns/availability of your other abilities).
2b. Circling Shadows uptime isn’t hard to maintain, as you will typically fall into a pattern where you will be using 2 of the 4 gcds of Psychokinetic Blast’s cooldown for an ability which isn’t Saber Strike, Force Breach, or Low Slash. However, it will fall off before your next Psychokinetic Blast with the use of Force Potency and/or Shadow Stride, so keep it in mind in relation to your Force consumption (it can be worth delaying Psychokinetic Blast for a Spinning Strike to build 1 stack of Circling Shadows if you are on extremely low Force).
3. Psychokinetic Blast. This is your second-highest priority skill, and should be used on-cooldown so long as you aren’t already capped at 3 stacks of Breaching Shadow and have uptime on Clairvoyance and, preferably, 2 stacks of Circling Shadows. It hits for a decent amount, looks cool as hell, and most importantly, nets a guaranteed 1 (or 2 with bug) stacks of your stance which otherwise are generated randomly every 6 seconds.
3b. Shadow’s Respite’s 100% uptime is critical to 5.0 Infiltration’s Force ‘management,’ which is to say, very little active management at all. It has a long duration, and while you should ONLY be using Shadow Strike with Infiltration Tactics, you will/should still be using Shadow Strike frequently enough to maintain 100% uptime on this. Not a huge concern otherwise.
4. Vaulting Slash (outside of the Execute/sub-30% window). This is your third-highest priority skill when Spinning Strike isn’t available for use on-cooldown. At a low cost of 15 force, it deals much more damage than a 2-target Whirling Blow or Clairvoyant Strike. While it deals less damage and costs more than either Spinning Strike or Shadow Strike (under Infiltration Tactics), its static on-use cooldown means that in the general case, delaying its use results in a small net dps loss in comparison to delaying the use of Shadow Strike (which has a relatively long window to be used in) or Spinning Strike (within 10 seconds of Shadow Stride).
5. Shadow Strike (under Infiltration Tactics) with autocrit proc. As the internal cooldown of Infiltration Tactics is independent of when Shadow Strike itself is activated, Shadow Strike’s use can be delayed. However, as Spinning Strike will consume your autocrit proc (from your 6-piece set bonus) for an inferior amount of critical damage, Shadow Strike under Infiltration Tactics AND autocrit has a higher priority than Spinning Strike.
6. Spinning Strike is your next priority, and while its use can be delayed (like Shadow Strike) prior to the execute phase, aim to use it as close to on-cooldown as possible during the Execute/sub-30% window. This is a worthwhile consideration, but isn’t imperative, and can/should be delayed for an occasional Clairvoyant Strike/Psychokinetic Blast. An exception is with Stalker’s Swiftness – where, if its duration is about to expire, it is worth using to make use of your utility choices.
7. Shadow Strike (under Infiltration Tactics) without autocrit proc. High damage, refreshes Shadow’s Respite, and extremely efficient, to a new Infiltration Shadow this might seem higher on the priority list. Yet, as written above, its internal cooldown is independent of its actual use, so it can be delayed after your abilities that do carry static cooldowns. TL;DR YOU DO NOT HAVE TO USE THIS AS SOON AS YOU SEE IT GLOW.
8. Vaulting Slash during Execute. Vaulting Slash falls in priority during the Execute phase (sub 30%) simply because of the time taken using your other abilities. Usually, 3 of every 6 seconds will be taken using Spinning Strike and Psychokinetic Blast as close to on-cooldown as possible. Combined with the requirement to use that remaining time Discharging, and casting Shadow Strike and Clairvoyant Strike (to refresh Clairvoyance), Infiltration just doesn’t have the luxury it usually does to cast Vaulting Slash that often.
9. Clairvoyant Strike Fill. If, for whatever reason, you find yourself having more than 0-20 Force, and no other abilities to use, cast Clairvoyant Strike to fill up the time.
10. Saber Strike. In an ordinary single target situation, Saber Strike should not have to be used if Circling Shadows stacks are properly managed. Should you find yourself in a similar situation to that outlined in 9., and below 20 Force, Saber Strike is your next best option. In AoE situations, you will have to use this occasionally as Whirling Blow spam is quite Force intensive.
11. Low Slash. This ability has no place in a standard single target rotation. It should only be used for its incapacitation effect (such as on a priority caster like the Interrogators in Dread Palace HM/NiM), or when unable to use any other ability for damage for at least 1 gcd due to being beyond 10 metres from the target.
12. Whirling Blow spam in the air. We use Whirling Blow to keep Clairvoyance refreshed/at 2 stacks, and if nothing else is available for 1 global cooldown, you might as well Whirling Blow should you have the Force to do so.
Use of Offensive/Defensive Cooldowns
As with all PvE encounters, you should use your discretion and ‘raid awareness’ to decide if any abilities/cooldowns should be delayed/used abnormally. Here are just a few common exceptions to the above cooldown/priority list sections I haven’t yet covered.
1. Force Breach can be slightly delayed IF: 1) your Psychokinetic Blast has more than 2 gcds left on its cooldown; 2) One tick of Shadow Technique was just proc’d to get your Breaching Shadows to 3. However, I would highly advise against delaying Force Breach under the current stance bug unless Clairvoyance or Stalker’s Swiftness are about to time out.
2. Shadow Stride can be used with active stacks of Breaching Shadow, or delayed to be used as a gap closer, or delayed to be activated in conjunction with other offensive cooldowns, should it be required of you (e.g. priority target needs to be killed ASAP, or an additional gap closer is more valuable than an immediate dps buff, or a small burst window is needed later).
Advice to (new) Raiders
I recommend watching Hayete’s PvE guide for some UI/playstyle tweaks.
Further, as Veldix said in his 5.0 Virulence PvE guide,
“You can be able to put out fantastic numbers on a dummy and easy bosses, but none of it matters if you can’t execute mechanics. To be a good raider, you need to put mechanics ahead of DPS. The key to being the best is being able to execute mechanics while maintaining great DPS. Learn to be aware of the things that are happening around you and prepare for mechanics in advance. Know when you need to move and be prepared to save a few abilities or pop defensives in advance.”
- Aim to know the capabilities of the players/classes in your raid, and the demands of all roles for each fight.
- Watch the ‘target of target’ to ensure you can pop defensives where necessary.
- Move pre-emptively rather than reactively, watch the positioning of yourself and the raiders around you, and anticipate mechanics as a priority.
- Learn to react to the unexpected with knockbacks, stuns, or taunts.
- Weave your rotation/priority system around those mechanics, as you would with your offensive and defensive cooldowns.
These are some of the skills demanded by more challenging content, especially for those who play a melee class. Master those, and you’ll have mastered most of raiding. Good luck 🙂
TL;DR: Numbers aren’t everything. Mechanics first. Be proactive.
Glor, for keeping me alive over everyone else (except on Dread Guards) and being my co-lead/Biochem Buddy/RP role model.
Yleenakhai, for convincing/showing me Deception was viable in 4.0 and inspiring me to use it on Brontes (RIP).
Pebble, for suggesting I write a guide in the first place.
Ubiqus, for reminding me to be calm and civil when I’m salty af.
Mac, Blas. For teaching me to tunnel less and theorycraft via discussion.
Jaymis and Veldix. For some of the structure/content in my guide.
Artorias, for the work he did in 4.0.
The Level 10 Combat Dummy on the Ziost Shadow, because who needs a ship for rotation practice.
Lastly, all of the members of Kai Sith’ari and everyone I’ve raided with in the past. You’re the ones who make this game worth playing.