Wednesday, February 29, 2012

#SWTOR - Jedi Shadow Balance Primer

Some might call this a "guide," but I prefer the term "primer." I don't really want to tell you how to play, or say that this is the only way to play. The point is to share what I've discovered through research and playing that should get you in the ballpark. I definitely reserve the right to be wrong, or learn more in the future, but for now, this is what I've rounded up on the Shadow Balance Build.

The Strengths
  • Versatile Range
  • Challenging Rotation (lots of buttons to press!)
  • A great ranged AoE attack
  • A sweet 2 second ranged root (awesome in PvP)
  • Solid self-healing abilities
The Spec
I made a post about my spec a little while ago. I'm mostly going to copy that into here to make this a one stop shop. I have no idea if it's "right" for any one particular facet of the game, but it has served me and my chosen play style very well. I rolled a Consular with the intention of going Shadow Balance. It was advertised as a sort of hybrid melee/range, battlemage-type playstyle. Oh, and it had DoTs. Perfect for me.

The spec I worked out has (I believe) the following focuses: damage dealing, DoTs, self-healing, and force powers. Basically, every talent in the balance tree works toward those goals enough that I didn't angst-out along the way. Then, I picked up a few in the Kinetic Combat tree that seemed to help the abilities I was using more of at that point.

I ended up with a 10/0/31 spec. Here's a screenie of it:
The two talents I chose not to take in the Balance tree were Pinning Resolve and Mind Ward. The first adds an additional force lift target and reduces force stun. The second decreases the damage you take from DoTs. Since this was primarily a damage dealing spec, it wasn't hard to pass on Mind Ward. As for the CC's, I was happy picking up the instant cast lift later and just having to tread lightly around one target.

In the Kinetic Combat tree I took Technique Mastery for the obvious damage improvement. Applied Force was also a good choice, as I use Double Strike a lot. Expertise was easy (a straight damage buff), which left me a bit of a decision with the last two points. I could have probably gone with something defensive (such as the straight endurance buff), but instead I opted to take Elusiveness, primarily for the drop to Force Speed. Even when not in combat, I like to spam that button, so it seemed like a talent that I'd get a lot of use out of, even if it wasn't a damage buff.

I opted not to go with any of the Infiltration talents because I didn't see them as being very useful for me. I don't use Shadow Strike a lot. I've never like backstab abilities. They're great when you know for sure that you're going to be able to move behind a target, but in PvP and in a lot of the pulls (even with bosses), I felt like I ended up tanking a lot, even if it was just adds. The other abilities didn't seem to buff damage all that much. Some lower cooldowns and others are defensive, but not seemed exciting. (Except for Misdirection. The speed boost was enticing, but not having to lock in first tier crap).

The Rotation
I s till cling to the term "rotation." I don't know why. Nothing about my balance 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.
    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 Force in Balance, 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.

    In PvP, I almost always open up from range, throwing out a FiB and then using Sever Force to root my target as I run in. Once I get in 10m range, I'll start dancing in and out, using Project and Force Breach, weaving Double Strikes and finishing with a Spinning Strike. If getting in melee proves difficult, that's when I use Telekinetic Throw to great effect. I also try to buff it to 40m and use it at range. Really, as balance spec, you have a ton of utility and can keep pressure up from any distance. I've found it a lot of fun.

    Tumult, Spinning Strike, and Shadow Strike all seem to hit hard, but they need a certain setup (and Tumult you can't use in PvP). 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.

    If I were to list a rough order that I typically use, it would go something like this (keep in mind, I'm generally PvP'ing most of the time now):
    1. Force in Balance
    2. Sever Force
    3. Project
    4. Force Breach
    5. Double Strike
    6. Spinning Strike (whenever low enough)
    7. Mind Crush (if free)
    8. Telekinetic Throw (with force potency)
    9. Whirling Blow (to get people off objectives)
    10. Force Stun and other CC (Force lift or slow) as needed (follow up with a Tumult if in PvE)
    11. When all else fails: Saber Strike
    I also use Force Speed. A lot. Even when doing nothing. Seriously, it has speed in it. Literally.

    The Stats
    I've done a limited amount of research, and the priority hardly seems clear. Still, there are some easy ones. Willpower, for instance, is hands down our best stat. Also, for PvP, Expertise is the bee's knees. And Endurance is never a bad stat, though it pretty much just naturally comes on all gear. After that it gets a bit foggy.

    Crit and Surge are solid choices for a Balance Shadow, but they just nerfed Surge. Power is good, since we use a lot of force. Same with Force Power. I'm not so sure about Accuracy. Our force powers hit 100% pretty much by default, and that's pretty much everything. Still, over 100% is suppose to increase your effectiveness, though I don't think it's enough to warrant a whole lot of thought. As such, my priority looks like this:

    Willpower >> Crit,Power,FP > Surge >> Accuracy

    Wrap Up
    That's it for this primer. I hope it gets you in the ballpark. I'm having a blasty on my balance shadow, and simply love the play style. In fact, I'm off to go play (probably huttball) right now.

    As always, tips and feedback are most welcome.


    1. Glad to find this... I spec'd balance shadow after reading the trees and deciding based on my play style, and then I started looking online for any tips for playing her. Only to find that the Balance tree has been universally panned for PvP.

      I don't think that's fair. At level 40, my shadow is a playmaker in PvP. With three AOEs, tanking abilities for last minute protection, and DOTs for everyone in sight, her ball carrier always gets through, her door is always cleared of enemies, and - oh, what? You thought you were gonna be able to ninja that turret? Sorry, you're dead and I'm invisible again.

      Stats-wise, she's not always top damage in PvP, but that's a conscious decision on my part, as to be honest she's just so good at playing the game that I take the win over the damage stats.

    2. Awesome! I've not been able to play in a while now, but it's good to know that others are enjoying the playstyle. Like you said, I made a conscious decision to sacrifice some damage for utility and just plain fun. I'm totally cool with playing a "role" on a team and not topping the charts... so long as we win. :-)