Dec 19, 2011

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Fully Operational: The Super Mega Ultimo DPS AC Guide (Warriors and Knights)

“Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!” — There is no better example of damage in the Star Wars galaxy than the scene attached to that quote. Each week in Fully Operational, join Kray as he takes a look at the damage dealing role in Star Wars: The Old Republic. And yes, we’ll blow up a planet if we get the chance.

Wow. WOW. Guys and gals, it’s finally here. My Marauder is level 22 right now, due to the fact that I keep having to “work” to make “money” so I can pay “rent.” It all seems like some stupid fad to me, but they keep giving me paychecks so I’ll keep surfing Reddit from the office. Anyway, joking aside, I’ve got a gigantic present for you today in honor of the impending launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic! Below you’ll find a general guide including spec concepts, playstyles, and rough skill priority lists for the first set of Advanced Classes in the wonderful world of TOR.

I am going to give a disclaimer here, I’ll be writing these posts from an Empire perspective due to me knowing those skillsets the best, but you’ll see a link at the top of each AC with a convenient ‘mirror terminology list’ from our buddies over at sithwarrior.com. Check it out, and be sure to browse them for specific theorycrafting info! A disclaimer, though, I’m going to be linking specs that are purely focused towards damaging abilities.

Yes, some survivability or utility is given up typically, but this is a DPS column, and I expect everyone to ignore their own safety in order to obliterate things. I am not the end-all-be-all of DPS gurus on the internet, I can and will be wrong about certain things, so please correct me if you see something off!

Yes, this sign exists, and it's on my way home from work.

Before we start, a few housekeeping things. First, this song is awesome. Feel free to put it on repeat while you read. Second, here’s a table of contents for you. Click to be taken away to your wildest dreams.

Coming soon!

  • Sith Sorcerer / Jedi Sage
  • Sith Assassin / Jedi Shadow
  • Bounty Hunter – Powertech / Trooper – Vanguard
  • Bounty Hunter – Mercenary / Trooper – Commando
  • Imperial Agent – Sniper / Smuggler – Gunslinger
  • Imperial Agent – Operative / Smuggler – Scoundrel

Juggernaut / Guardian

Schwoom! Zeeooom! Ksssh!

AC Mirror Terminology List Here

Ah, Juggernauts and Guardians. These guys are the Darth Vaders and Obi-Wans of the universe, choosing to wield a single lightsaber and either a shield or a focus in their offhand. As a rule, you’re going to see this AC taking advantage of it’s tanking offspec to use a ton of high survivability emergency buttons and some strong AoE. These guys wear heavy armor focusing on Strength as their main stat, which increases their melee and force damage output.

Aside from the obvious defensive buttons that you get with a tank-enabled AC, some other abilities you’re looking to get to differentiate you from other Warriors/Knights are things like Sundering Assault, a stacking armor debuff, Enrage, a short cooldown that gives you 6 rage for free, and Saber Throw, a ranged Rage builder. Juggernauts/Guardians have 2 talent trees dedicated to DPS.

Vengeance / Vigilance

Spec: 2/32/7

Ah, the Vengeance tree. Here you see some of the strongest melee AoE in the game, matched possibly by the other Juggernaut spec Rage. There are 3 signature abilities that Vengeance gets. Shien Form is the lightsaber form specific to the tree, increasing damage by a hefty amount while generating a ton of rage through refunds and procs. Impale is a strong single target attack that can be talented to proc an auto-crit Force Scream, given a DoT, and a chance to reset the cooldown of Ravage. The top talent of Vengeance is Shatter, a super strong ability only useable on a Sundered target, with a hefty DoT component as well.

You see some great synergy in this tree with DoTs and procs, and I think it’s one of the better designed specs in the game. Almost every ability you have has a chance to proc something or is heavily modified by the talents you choose, such as the 30% increased Smash which, further up the tree, becomes completely free.

Due to the nature of Shien form and the Juggernaut ability Enrage, this spec becomes all about rage management, making sure you don’t cap out on resources through procs or abilities. Though multiple components of Vengeance dps consist of DoT effects, those effects are really more about free damage than any sort of spec-defining concept — there’s really no benefit to those DoTs other than the fact that they hurt stuff.

Priority wise, you’ll be alternating between Impale and Shatter, weaving in Force Screams in between to take advantage of the crit buff they provide. Thanks to the chance these attacks have to reset the cooldown of Ravage, a large portion of your damage will come from this 3-second channeled ability.

If standing in place for too long isn’t your thing, you might want to look elsewhere. Vengeance has the possibility to perform poorly on high movement fights due to this fact. Expect very strong AoE from the talent Decimate combined with Ruin.

Rage / Focus

Spec: 0/10/31

The Rage/Focus tree is the shared tree you’ll find among all Warriors and Knights respectively. Rather than focus on the saber combat that the rest of the specs work with, Rage and Focus strike a balance between the force attacks and the melee attacks available to your character. Here we have undoubtedly the top AoE spec for melee characters, and you’ll soon see why.

The first ability learned in the tree is Obliterate, a 10m range charge attack that hits very hard. From there, a smattering of talents that improve the default Warrior/Knight saber form Shii-Cho are to be found, bringing it in line with the special forms granted by other trees. Finally, at the very top of the tree, is Force Crush, a DoT effect that works like a mix of Chains of Ice and Living Bomb from World of Warcraft; it applies an increasing slow effect, combined with a DoT, that explodes at the end of it’s duration.

The reason I speak so highly of the AoE available in this tree are the talents Shockwave and Dominate. One causes you to get a stacking buff on your main AoE attack Smash, and the other causes it to autocrit. This combined with the inherent 30% bonus Juggernauts and Guardians get to Smash damage means that you’ll be hitting extremely hard, and relatively frequently.

For your priority it’s a pretty simple list of using Force Choke and Force Crush to stack up Shockwave, then Obliterate or Force Charge to get an autocrit, and unleash it all with a giganto-fantastico Smash. Yes, you’ll almost certainly be using this AoE ability in single-target situations. There are a few talents in the tree that prop up Vicious Slash, but it’s really only used as a basic filler.

Without a ton of math available right now, I can’t quite say whether or not the channeled attack Ravage will be used as a Rage Juggernaut, but I would imagine so. In addition to high mobility with both Force Charge -and- Obliterate, Rage gets the advantage of having a powerful and cheap Force Scream, meaning that this spec is by far one of the most versatile for melee DPS.

Marauder / Sentinel

Are they in space? I think they're in space.

AC Mirror Terminology List Here

Do you like lightsabers? Because these guys, these guys like lightsabers. Marauders and Sentinels are the only AC in the game that has the ability to dual wield lightsabers, and it shows in their class design — this AC has 3 separate specs all dedicated to DPS. While other classes get AC-specific abilities like healing or tanking utilities, almost everything the Marauder/Sentinel gets is some sort of DPS boost or group utility.

Whether it’s a DoT effect like Rupture, a CC like Disable Droid, an in-combat vanish like Force Camouflage, or a healing debuff attack like Deadly Throw, you can do a lot as a dual wielder.

One thing worth mentioning is the unique mechanic inherent to these ACs – Fury and Centering (Empire/Republic respectively). Each time you gain a killing blow on an enemy or use an attack that requires Rage/Focus, you’ll build up stacks of Fury or Centering. Though Fury has no benefit on it’s own, at the maximum of 30 stacks you can unleash the stack into a number of different effects, such as a group wide movement/defense buff, a self-DPS buff, or even a Bloodlust-like effect that increases everyone’s damage for a short time.

Annihilation / Watchman

Spec: 31/7/3

The Annihilation spec is the DoT focused spec for Marauders. Here you’ll see some strong damage over time effects and a ton of synergy in the tree to make using them useful and fun. In line with the theme of the tree, the first new ability you’ll acquire is Deadly Saber, an attack off of the global cooldown that lets your next 3 melee attacks apply a stacking DoT.

The only other new ability you’ll get is Annihilate, an incredibly cool attack that hits hard and actually reduces its own cooldown. In the theme of Juyo Form, the spec’s chosen saber form, the Annihilation tree is all about ramping up to insane damage after sticking on a target for a few seconds.

DoTs are incredibly fun for this spec, proccing things like extra Rage and self heals. In addition to the DoT-reliance, you’ll see a few talents that modify Force Charge to have no minimum range and a shortened cooldown! This essentially turns it into an in-combat Rage builder, allowing you to squeeze out extra attacks due to the talented 4 Rage the attack generates.

Another easily overlooked talent is Short Fuse, which pretty much doubles the amount of Fury you’ll build every time you use a Rage-spender ability. The self-buff that Juyo Form gets through the Fury-using skill Berserk gives all your bleeds a 100% crit chance for a short amount of time and the ability to heal your entire party with those bleed crits. Whazam!

Annihilation is all about cooldown management and ensuring your DoTs have maximum uptime. Annihilate and Vicious Slash become your go-to filler attacks, both of which have a chance to reset the cooldown on your heavy hitting DoT Rupture. As you build up stacks of Juyo Form and reduce the cooldown of Annihilate down to it’s minimum, things can get pretty hectic, but fun.

One big thing to keep in mind is to ensure that all your DoTs are off cooldown when you have enough Fury to Berserk, getting the maximum punch out of this fantastic self buff. Due to it’s DoT nature, Annihilation won’t suffer too badly on movement fights, but they need to be able to hit something every 15 seconds at the least, lest their Annihilator buff fall off. Unfortunately, aside from one measly talent reducing the Rage cost and cooldown of Smash and Sweeping Slash, Annihilation has almost no AoE to speak of. Sad panda.

Carnage / Combat

Spec: 5/33/3

I don’t think there is any tree more aptly named than Carnage/Combat, because, well, you create a ton of carnage through combat. This spec is all about hitting hard and most of all hitting fast. Throughout the tree you’ll see a ton of proc attacks and bonuses based off of those procs; Carnage is all about making attacks with both lightsabers as often as possible.

The form this tree gets is the deadly Ataru Form, which gives bonus to Accuracy (which, if you remember, converts to armor penetration at over 100%) and a chance for every melee attack to trigger an Ataru Form strike with your offhand saber!

The first new ability you get is the Ataru Form mentioned about 5 seconds ago, followed by about 47 talents that all prop up those automatic attacks and make it absolutely awesome when they proc. A couple tiers higher is a neat ability Gore which does a good amount of damage and grants 100% armor penetration for a short window of time — think Colossus Smash from World of Warcraft. Using this ability with the top tier attack Massacre is a truly painful combo, as Massacre hits for damage, automatically procs an Ataru strike, and increases the proc chance for Ataru Form for, you guessed it, 6 seconds.

If it wasn’t blatantly obvious, Carnage/Combat is all about lining up an extreme amount of heavy attacks. Ataru Form is the central pillar of the tree, granting things like extra rage, increased movement speed, autocrit Force Screams, and 10% damage buffs to your attacks. WOO!

As far as rotation goes, you’ll be wanting to line up Gore and Massacre as much as possible followed by a few other melee attacks and finally topped off by an autocrit Force Scream. This creates insane amounts of burst followed by periods of relative downtime filled with Vicious Slash and whatever other attacks you have off cooldown.

You’re going to want to keep a steady eye on your buffs, though, to take advantage of the proc from Execute, which makes your next attack do 10% more damage. Movement is actually not that detrimental to a spec like this — as long as you’re near an enemy every time your Gore and Massacre are off cooldown, you’re still going to be doing high DPS.

AoE, on the other hand, suffers from the same fate Annihilation, meaning that they get one measly talent to prop up their Smash and Sweeping Slash.

Rage / Focus

Spec: 5/5/31

I’ve already gone over this tree above in the Juggernaut section, so I’ll just take the time here to explain the differences between how the ACs work.

First off, the benefits from the Berserk ability are pretty fantastic. We already know that the Rage/Focus tree has some incredibly strong AoE, and you may be crying about the fact that you don’t get the fancy 30% buff to Smash that Juggernauts get, but that’s balanced out by your single target attacks being strong (hitting with both sabers) and the Shii-Cho effect from Berserk.

Berserk grants the next 6 Vicious Slashes you execute are completely free, and hit an additional target. Holy cow! I’m not going to lie, my main is a Rage Marauder, and this effect is absolutely amazing for groups and single target.

Additionally, you’ll see a shortened cooldown and reduced rage cost for Smash, which is certainly beneficial. Aside from that, the tree plays very similarly to Juggernauts/Guardians, as it should. Shared trees are shared for a reason — they’re similar!

I’m going to be honest, I had originally planned on making this article contain every spec at once, but the article is quite long and, frankly, it’s getting a bit ridiculous. In order to deliver you, my loyal followers, higher quality content I decided to split it up into 4 sections to give myself some time to experiment with classes, specs, and spreadsheets. Be on the lookout for the next installment soon! And if you’re looking to hear me talk about sandwiches and sunrises, check out my twitter @kraybaybay!


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