Thursday, January 12, 2012

#SWTOR - Balance Shadow Rotation

I still cling to the term "rotation." I don't know why. Nothing about my Shadow play is really cyclical. It just seems smoother than "priority system." Rotation sounds like it takes skill. Priority system sounds more like something you program into an android. And androids don't poop, and should be destroyed.

Anyway, I'm a bit over halfway to cap on my Shadow, and I'm feel like I'm finally starting to get comfortable with the rotation, as it were. I really enjoy the playstyle, and it's exactly what I expected. I chose Balance because I wanted a character that could mix it up close range, but not be useless further away. The Balance playstyle provides a good balance (derp) between the two. I have some strong ranged attacks, and I have strong melee attacks.

At level 39, I believe I've gotten most of the major abilities. If I were to prioritize what seems to be my hardest hitting abilities, it would go something like this:
  1. Spinning Strike
  2. Tumult
  3. Shadow Strike
  4. Force in Balance (AoE)
  5. Project
  6. Double Strike
  7. Whirling Blow (AoE)
  8. Telekinetic Throw (Channeled)
  9. Mind Crush (DoT)
  10. Force Breach (DoT)
Mind you, I'm ranking only based on "hardest hitting single target in an instant." Bioware has said that in an effort to make combat feel more epic, they've tried to make it where you're almost always facing multiple assailants. Even most bosses usually have some sort of ancillary target. I think, therefore, that the design favors burst damage quite a bit.

Even so, DoTs are useful to the Balance Shadow. They provide a measure of healing, and will do significant damage in longer living targets. Thus, just because they're at the bottom, doesn't mean they're not useful.

I find myself using a different pattern of skills depending on the situation. For a group with all normal enemies (non-elites), I'm likely to lead off with a FiB, follow up with a Whirling Blow, and then finish off single enemies with a combination of Spinning Strike, Project, or Double Strike (when SpSt is on cooldown).

For a group with, say, an elite and a non-elite, I will often Mind Maze the elite, and then single target the non. I generally lead off with a Project, then stun, Tumult, and finish with a SpSt. Then, I'll work behind the controlled target, use Shadow Strike to break the stun, and continue with a Project, Force Breach, and FiB. Then, I generally alternate Double Strike and the standard attack, watching my cooldowns. If I crit in melee, I'll get a free, instant Mind Crush, and I'll throw that. I try to use Project and FiB every time they're off CD. Then, as soon as the target drops below 30% health, I'll weave in as many Spinning Strikes as I can.

I find myself rarely using Telekinetic Throw. Unless something is at range, or I'm trying to kite, my fingers are usually finding other keys first. I like to keep Force Breach rolling, which basically means casting it whenever it's off CD. Mind Crush I only use when I get instant pops. If I find myself behind the target, I'll use Shadow Strike when I can.

Tumult, Spinning Strike, and Shadow Strike all seem to hit hard, but they need a certain setup. FiB hits hard, but sometimes you have to be careful about AoE, and I find it somewhat cumbersome to point and click with the mouse. I sort of wish I could just click it twice and have it center on me automatically.

Right now, I'm stacking Willpower, Crit, Surge, and Accuracy as my four major stats. Willpower is the primary, Crit secondary. Surge helps Crit, and I'm just getting to the point where I'm seeing it and Accuracy on gear. Accuracy means I won't miss, though without much of it I'm sitting at 90% melee and 100% force abilities. I'm not sure how. Going over 100% doesn't hurt, though, as it will cause the abilities to ignore some armor. So generally I'm prioritizing thus: Willpower > Crit > Surge > Accuracy. Though I think I'm going to try to get my melee accuracy closer to 100% (putting it above Surge in the interim).

This is how I'm playing my Shadow. It may not be right. I've not done a whole lot of research. It's just what feels effective to me. Feel free to point me to any articles that you think tell how to do it "better" or anything like that. I'm always willing to learn. Or, if this helps you but you have a question or two, feel free to leave that in comments as well. I'll try to answer as best I can.

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