SWTOR 5.6 Mercenary Bodyguard PvE Guide by Wakeñbake.
Intro to Mercenary Bodyguard
Overview of healing
To start with a bit of an outline of healing in general, this may seem unnecessary to state, but as a healer it’s your job to keep everyone in your team alive and help out with DPS wherever possible. Every team has its problems, and as a result you will inevitably run into unexpected damage going out and in some instances people dying to avoidable things. So as you progress as a healer and become more comfortable with your healing class, you should aim to be able to account for the inevitable human error that will occur on any number of boss encounters in a group, and try to squeeze in as much damage on the boss as you can between healing. It’s my experience that while doing Nightmare/Master mode progression, that you quite often run into a situation where either a tank or a DPS has made a mistake (lost agro, stood in a big red circle) and it’s your job to pick up the slack. So my aim in writing this guide is to help both beginner through to veteran bodyguard merc healers progress and be a valuable member of any story mode through to nightmare/master mode operations group.
Common acronyms used in this guide
- CD = cooldown
- DCD = defensive cooldown
- GCD = global cooldown
- HPS = healing per second
- HoT = heal over time
- DPS = damage per second
- AOE = area of effect
- PVE = player versus environment (essentially any encounter that is not player versus player)
- NiM/MM = Nightmare/Master mode
Bodyguard mercenary healing is, by far, my favorite class to play in this game. Bodyguard healers not only have extremely good burst healing (in response to both expected and unexpected spikes of damage), fair AOE healing and great heal DPS, but as of 5.0 merc now has 3 greatDCDs; Energy shield (heals for 40% of your health with trauma regulators utility) kolto overload (heals twice as fast, lasts 2 seconds longer and heals you to 60% with kolto surge utility), and responsive safeguards as our new reflect ability which absorbs all direct single target damage and heals you for 5% of your health for every attack absorbed. This combination makes bodyguard a more than viable healing class with great survivability in any PVE boss encounter in the game.
Briefly, to assess the value of each aspect of bodyguard healing I’ll break it into 5 categories; burst healing, AOE healing, sustained healing, survivability and heal DPS. In the 5.x operative healing guide for PVE that Mac wrote, he employed a very nice 3/3 system for comparative healing quality between the 3 healer classes, so I’m going to go ahead and steal that system from him and use it here (sorry Mac):
Burst healing: 3/3
Arguably the best single target burst healing class, and this is especially true post 5.3 and sorcerer healers have roaming mend healing reduced by 25%. Bodyguard merc healing is equipped with a potential ~30k single target heal ability (when it crits); healing scan. If you have supercharged gas ready to go and power surge off CD, this gigantic single target heal can be turned into an instant cast (double instant cast if you take the power surge utility) with no ability cooldown for as long as supercharged gas lasts. Not to mention the additional HoT of kolto shell if you have a full 7 stacks on your target.
AOE healing: 2/3
The AOE potential of bodyguard is pretty decent; Kolto missile and progressive scan are great AOE abilities, especially when all your group members have full stacks of kolto shells on them. The AOE healing output of bodyguardis significantly higher than sorcerer, but less than that of operative healers.
Sustained healing: 1/3
Honestly, merc healing in a sustained damage situation is not bad. But for the sake of comparison with operative and sorcerer healing, mercenary healing comes in last unfortunately.
Source: http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=847112 – shout out to Bant for doing the number crunching. I know these numbers are from 5.0, but even with the nerfs, sorcerers and mercs are still most likely about on par with each other so I’ve left merc healing with a 1/3 for sustained healing for now.
Heavy armor, 30% AOE damage reduction, heal for 40% HP with energy shield, 60% heal with kolto overload, a new reflect ability, and two great mobility cooldowns (rocket out/hydraulic override) makes mercenary by far the most survivable healer class currently.
Heal DPS (general): 2/3
As a merc you have a clear advantage for heal DPS over operative healers since all your DPS abilities are ranged, and the SWTOR developers have gone ahead and left us with electro net, unload and rail shot for some reason. Not to mention the AOE of death from above, fusion missile (AOE DoT) and sweeping blasters. However obviously there is a fight dependent nature of this advantage and in many situations operative and sorcerer heal DPS has the potential to be higher than a merc, for that reason, I’ve given merc a 2/3 for general DPS.
If you want to know more about optimum heal DPS, refer to the following link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByStipz9mZalU2tMQnFjby1BQmM/view
Note: this is just the 4.0 version made by Palydin, but it still holds true. Except of course mercs don’t have flamethrower anymore.
Defensive cooldowns (DCDs):
Passive abilities to be mindful of:
Disclaimer: Let’s clear one thing up, there is no such thing as a healer rotation, only ability priorities and your triage.
As a healer you will rarely have a situation where you can just ‘tunnel vision’ your abilities bar and go by a rotation of ability usage, rather, this is highly advised against. What you should be aiming to get the hang of is being aware of what abilities are on/off cooldown at any given time, while making quick decisions as to who needs healing the most (this will often be the tanks). In the following few paragraphs I will outline a few key concepts of merc healing, your heal ability priorities, and provide a rough guide of ability usage that can be employed to get the hang of both single target burst healing and AOE healing. Keep in mind these are just examples to go by as you start out; you will most likely come up with your own way of healing as you become more experienced and comfortable with bodyguard healing.
Key Concept 1: Kolto Shells
This is somewhat an area of preference/debate on the best way to go about managing your kolto shells. I know people who are self-proclaimed OCD on their kolto shells, i.e. keep their heat as low as possible so they can afford to keep refreshing kolto shells on cooldown. This is good in theory and it works well for story mode and hard/veteran mode content, but is rarely viable to keep shells on everyone in your group constantly at a NiM/MM level. This is mainly because you will be having to deal with more frequent, larger spikes of damage, during which, refreshing a kolto shell is not the most effective use of your abilities. However you should try to at very least:
- Keep shells on tanks 100% of the time (or try your best to)
- Refresh kolto shells on non-tank players (starting with yourself and melee DPS) during phases of low outgoing damage e.g. droids phase of Brontes NiM/MM to put shells on all group members going into 6 finger phase.
- Try not to refresh a kolto shell if it still has any more than 2-3 stacks left; this is a waste of heat. So try to only refresh kolto shell as it runs out.
Note: kolto shells are a very effective heal ability, and do wonders in high intensity AOE damage phases, so don’t neglect this ability, and try to squeeze them in wherever possible. For example, if all 7 stacks of a kolto shell are used, this heals for ~14,140 total without any criticals.This is huge, almost as much as a healing scan.
Key Concept 2: Stacks of Supercharge
Supercharge stacks are your most important ‘passive’ ability as a merc healer (see supercharge buff icon in the figure below). Supercharge stacks are where you gain 0.1% healing bonus for every stack, with 10 stacks being the maximum (therefore 1% healing bonus when at 10 stacks of supercharge). You gain 1 stack from every kolto shot and 2 stacks from every rapid scan used. 10 stacks of supercharge can be traded for the use of ‘supercharge gas’ ability, as described above, which effectively trades a 1% healing boost to a 5% healing boost for as long as supercharge gas lasts (12 seconds with set bonus) and vents 10 heat when activated. You should build up 10 stacks of supercharge before every fight.
I cannot stress enough how important supercharge has is as a heat management ability as well as a healing boost, and it should pretty much be used on cooldown in heal demanding situations for heat management + extra healing. So always try to keep an eye on your stacks of supercharge, because doing this will tell you:
- How soon do I have healing scan with no cooldown?
- Can I push my heat a little higher (e.g. afford an extra rapid scan) in anticipation of supercharge gas? If at 7+ stacks = yes; because a rapid scan + a kolto shot will put you at 10 stacks in effectively 1 GCD.
Ultimately, good management of supercharge stacks and timing your supercharge gas use is one of those things that really help you out in stressful situations.
Key Concept 3: Heat Management
- There are 3 levels of heat dissipation; fast (0-40 heat/%), moderate/slow (41-80 heat/%), and very slow (81-100 heat/%). Try and stay within the ‘fast’ range of heat dissipation (0-40 heat): this will result in more healing output per second over time. Having said this I know that this request is completely unrealistic especially in NiM/MM content, however you should still aim for this and try not to use vent heat.
- Kolto shots: Again, kolto shots are your main heat management ability; you should stick this ability in wherever possible to keep your heat low since a kolto shot that crits vents 2 heat. A good rule of thumb is to pair a kolto shot with a high heat generating ability such as rapid scan, progressive scan or kolto missile to keep your heat in check.
- Use supercharge gas for heat management: this is essentially the second most important heat management ability you have. As mentioned above this ability vents 10 heat once activated as well as increasing all healing done by 5% for the duration, making this an ideal ability to use on cooldown in heat/heal demanding situations.
- se thermal sensor overrides (TSO) to your advantage: Ideally use TSO only with progressive scan; this will be the best use for this ability. However if progressive scan is on cooldown and you are in danger of going over in heat management just use this on your next heat generating ability.
- Use vent heat – last resort: Use vent heat when you are completely screwed with heat management, which will happen quite a bit when learning to merc heal. This ability has a 2 minute cooldown, and if you go over in heat regularly, you will find yourself with way too much heat, vent heat on cooldown, and no other choice but to spam kolto shot and use emergency scan until back in the fast heat dissipation range; this is not a good spot to be in. (As you get more comfortable with merc healing vent heat can be used in heal demanding situations to push out more healing, however I would only recommend this for more experienced players).
Priorities and Rotation
Single target burst healing
Note: You can also PRECAST healing scan if it’s off cooldown, otherwise precast rapid scan. I have also left out progressive scan from this list for single target healing just for simplicity reasons, and often it’s a better idea to save progressive scan for healing 2-4 players due to the 13 second cooldown.
Single target burst “rotation” example:
10. Priority system
Note: if you don’t want to waste TSO on a simple single target heal rotation, just stick kolto shots after healing scans where applicable to keep your heat in the fast dissipation rate. Also,I will rarely use a healing adrenal for single target burst healing unless in dire situations. Healing adrenals are better used in AOE healing situations such as after a lightning field in NiM/MM dread guards.
Priorities (assuming effective on 3+ people):
AOE Filler abilities priority:
2. Kolto shot (extremely important in your AOE rotation for heat management = using this often allows kolto missile and progressive scan to be used on cooldown over a longer period of time without ruining your heat)
AOE “Rotation” example (basic):
14. Priority system…
AOE “Rotation” example to push higher HPS:
19. If vent heat is off CD: Ignore heat management and just use the priority system outlined above without the use of kolto shot; this will quickly ramp your heat up. Once your heat gets to ~60% (or ~90% if extra heat drop utility taken), pop vent heat. This allows you to push extra healing when you’re under pressure in extremely heal demanding AOE healing situations e.g. burn phase of the dread council & dragon burn phase of dread master styrak. Only do this once you’re more experienced at merc healing.
20. Priority system…
Additional Note: If you’re interested in how each of your heal abilities fairs up to your overall healing done in an encounter, check out some of my parsley.io logs:
- For a pretty general damage fight with a bit of AOE damage involved, check out Dread guards (NiM/MM) – http://parsely.io/parser/view/285933/0#healing-done
- For a somewhat pure AOE intensive fight have a look at Nefra who bars the way (NiM/MM) – http://parsely.io/parser/view/289401/0
Above I bring up the fact that power overrides is sometimes better served than energy rebounder. Depending on the type/frequency of damage going out in any particular fight, power overrides may be a better option. For instance, your healing scan has a channel time which is longer than 1 GCD (1.74 seconds @ 1827 alacrity) and by taking the double instant cast of power overrides and using it in a supercharge gas window, you are not only pushing your first healing scan forward by more than 1 GCD, your second instant cast healing scan will also save precious time on the following activation cast time (reducing it to 1 GCD). This utility also reduces the cooldown of power surge to ~40 seconds, therefore you’ll have this up for more or less every second supercharge gas window. I would never recommend taking any utility over stabilized armor or kolto surge, however there is credit to taking power override over energy rebounder in a number of situations (especially so if you are not taking the trauma regulators utility for energy shield).
General build 1/General build 2
- Take general build 1 if you just can’t stand to give up power override.
- Take general build 2 for increased general survivability.
Stats and Raid Supplies
|248 + full 236 new augments||8827||7136||4525||2094||1802||0|
Note: stats presented in the above table do not take into account the GCD rounding effect. To account for GCD rounding effect, trade Critical for Alacrity so as to have 1860+ alacrity.
Using 110% accuracy as a healer:
As Mac outlined in his operative guide, there are a number of fights in which you can sacrifice some mastery/crit/alac to get 110% accuracy. My two cents on the matter is to choose your boss fight wisely to do this on, and know your group. Do not do this unless you’re an experienced healer and have done the fight before, and you know your tanks/DPS are good and don’t take unnecessary damage. For example, for fights such as NiM/MM Raptus, there is quite a lot of room for extra DPS on the boss, and not very much damage going out, you can quite comfortably use 110% accuracy to help out.
|Augment||236||Advanced alacrity augment 46 / Superior critical augment 46||Alacrity/Critical|
|Stim||228||Advanced polybiotic versatile stim||Mastery|
|Barrel||248||Advanced versatile barrel 52 (offhand and mainhand)||Mastery|
|Color crystal||136||Advanced eviscerating crystal||Critical|
|Mod||248||Advanced lethal mod 52||Mastery/Power|
|Enhancement||248||Advanced quick savant enhancement 52/ Advanced adept enhancement 52||Alacrity/Critical|
|Armoring||248||Advanced versatile armoring 52||Mastery|
|Earpiece||248||Gemini mk-5 quick savant device/ Gemini mk-5 adept device||Alacrity/Critical|
|Implant||248||Gemini mk-5 quick savant package/ Gemini mk-5 adept package||Alacrity/Critical|
|Relic||248||Gemini mk-5 relic of serendipitous assault||Power grant|
|Relic||248||Gemini mk-5 relic of focused retribution||Mastery grant|
|2-piece||Activating a healing ability has a 15% chance to grant Combat Medic’s Critical Bonus which causes your next Rapid Scan or Medical Probe to be a critical. This effect can only occur once every 30 seconds.|
|4-piece||While in Combat Cylinder or Combat Support Cell the duration of Supercharged Gas and Supercharged Cells is increased by 4 seconds.|
|6-piece||Reduces the cooldown of Healing Scan or Advanced Medical Probe by 1.5 seconds.|
Essential raid items
|Item||Item roll level||Name||Main stat|
|Adrenal||102||Advanced polybiotic triage adrenal/ Advanced polybiotic efficacy adrenal||tech power/ alacrity|
|Medpac||102||Advanced polybiotic medpac||health|
|Grenade||92||Advanced v-9 pyro grenade||damage|
User Interface and Key Binding
Please have all your healing abilities key bound. There is no credit to clicking your healing abilities as every time you change target you’ll have to click the raid frame, then go back to your abilities bar to click your heal; that is an absolute waste of time and focus which could be better spent on raid awareness. Below are a few tips:
- Use the numbers 1-5, numbers 6+ are a bit of a stretch for your hand if you have a standardsized keyboard.
- I use key bindings which suit your thumb position e.g. the letter V is bound to emergency scan, and B to healing scan.
- Shift keys are also a good option for binding if you run out of keys which seem viable.
- Always have group window set to ops-window (this option is in; preferences > user interface > Operations Frames > Use Operations Frames as Group Frames). For operations, I keep my frames at the default location, however some people prefer to move it to between their abilities bar for ease of use. This is just a preference thing.
- It helps to fiddle with the height and width of your raid frame health bars to make them extra big and visible so you don’t have any excuses for not seeing someone’s health chunk down (go to; system > interface editor > click on the operations frame > fiddle with settings). Some people like to have health bar details up to see exact health and % of each player constantly; up to you.
- I like to make all player BUFFs as small as they go; you don’t really need to see these.
- Make all player De-BUFFs substantially larger than default, but don’t make them so big that they clutter up your raid frame; see the figure below of NiM/MM Dread Council, notice the size of the ‘deathmark’ debuffs for an example of how large I have mine.
- Never have ‘show only removable debuffs’ checked. A lot of removable debuffs are registered by the game as ‘not removable’. For example, essence corruption in first phase HM revan. Moreover, keeping track of any other not cleansable debuffs the group has on them helps to give you an idea of the type of damage that they may/will be taking as a result.
Focus target/target of target
- Focus target is very useful and should be enabled (see ‘focus target’ figure below). To do this, go to; system > interface editor > locate and select the focus target window (should be a red window) > check enable. As a healer having the boss focus targeted allows you to see what abilities he is casting. This can help substantially with healing if you are not familiar with the timing of damage from the boss in a fight. Furthermore, you can enlarge the scale of your focus target’s cast bar in user interface to be more visible (see ‘focus target cast bar’ figure below).
- Target of target is another important function you should have enabled, this allows you to see who the boss (or whoever your target is) has targeted. This helps tell you who you should be targeting to heal more often. Similarly to focus target, to do this go to; system > interface editor > locate and select the target of target window (should be a red window) > check enable.
Focus target figure
Focus target cast bar figure
Target of target figure
- Know your group, I can’t stress this enough. If you know how your group plays and the ability level of each of your group members, this may help you pre-empt any kind of unexpected/abnormally large chunks of damage that player may take as a result of their playstyle or fault. For example:
- Is there a new tank/DPS?
- Does the tank know this fight/when to use cooldowns?
- Who usually stands in AOE?
- All said and done, in writing this guide I aimed to pass on my experience/knowledge, but this only goes so far in-game. The best way to progress as a healer is to play hours and hours of healing in your class to get used to the feel of your healing abilities, become familiar with your user interface, and get more comfortable with the class overall.
First of all, shout-out to NeNiMel who’s 4.0 merc heal guide gave a great base for this 5.0 guide. Also shout-out to Glor, Mon, Macand Auro for reviewing this guide for me. I’d also like to thankeveryone I’ve raided with over the last 2 years or so, who have been supportive of me as I was introduced to my first NiM/MM content and helped me learn and grow as a healer and a raider overall.
And finally, extra special thanks to Dulfy for hosting this guide. I feel very privileged to be able to contribute to her awesome work over the years on Dulfy.net, where she has provided a platform for the SWTOR (and other MMO) community to share knowledge and skills with those who seek it.
About the author:
I go by the name of Wakeñbake. I started raiding mid-to-late 4.0, so I’m fairly new to NiM/MM raiding. I play on the Harbinger server, however you probably won’t see me log in much these days as work has somewhat consumed most of my life, but I still raid once or twice a week. I do also play sorcerer and operative healing classes however I’m most experienced in/passionate about Merc healing. Finally, please don’t hesitate to use the comments section to ask questions and/or point out any errors I may have made or overlooked; I’m fairly busy throughout the week but I’ll try my best to reply to all comments ASAP.