Thursday, 20 June 2013

Tanking Writhing Horror Nightmare as a Shadow

I can't help but write about this. As I mentioned in the previous post, Shadows are reportedly being excluded from progression because of their inability to immediately leap/charge to the boss. This, of course, is not the case of top guilds, where Shadow/Assassin tanks still have their place in the progression group.

So, having no leap/charge is taxing? Not at all. When tanking Writhing Horror, turn your camera angle (max zoom out) so that you see the boss only and yourself behind it. This way, once the boss buries, you can easily see the red circle on the ground marking the spot where the boss is going to emerge next. Use Force Speed to get there quickly and tadaaa, it's a win. If you react quickly enough, you will be there even sooner than leapers or, at least, you won't be trailing behind. If you're lucky and the boss emerges close enough, there will be no AoE spit. If it is far away, there will be one spit. Rarely, there might be two spits before you reach the boss but that is usually because you don't Force Speed soon enough or you simply didn't see the circle in time. The spit, however, causes no issue (hits for 2.5-3k) unless some players are already very low on hp - that usually occurs during red pool/Jealous Male phases.

Below 20% though, when you decide to burn the boss and tanks are not switching anymore (not to spawn the little adds so that you don't need to have anyone wasting time positioning themselves into the red circle and occasionally getting stuck too far away from the boss to dps/heal), it is better to have a Guardian/Vanguard tank the boss until she dies and a Shadow doing the kiting/gathering job. Shadow can Resilience the green debuff you get from Twisted Spawns, they can kite effectively because of Force Speed and they can even Force Cloak and retaunt the adds once again to gain some additional time before the boss dies.

Cooldown management on this fight is essential as there is a thin line between being a capable tank and a spiky burden.

When you start tanking the boss by pulling, focus on building threat for the first 10 seconds and then pop Deflection. The boss hits with melee attacks that hurt when not mitigated (12-13k). There is also and elemental/internal attack the boss does which always comes after she spits at someone to apply the cleanseable debuff. So when you see her spitting the debuff, pop Resilience to resist the sequence of elemental/internal damage. After Deflection is out, Resilience has been used and you start taking some serious beating again, pop Battle Readiness. After Battle Readiness expires, switch is about to come very soon and your job tanking the boss is finished for now.

When you start tanking the boss by switching, pop Deflection 3-5 seconds after taunting. Everything else is the same. You just want to get the first cooldown running faster because healers' attention is now split between you, the tank tanking Jealous Male and the person stood in the red circle, whereas when you pull, there is no one else to heal other than the main tank).

There is no reason to wait with cooldowns until you get the 'oh shit' situation when you drop below 50% hp. This fight is demanding on healers and you need to mitigate as much damage as possible to make it easier on them. You will have both Deflection and Battle Readiness ready for the next time you tank the boss and you want to use both cooldowns every time you tank the boss to minimise the damage taken. Surprisingly, the logs will tell you that you are taking approximately the same amount of damage as a Guardian or Vanguard when you use your cooldowns appropriately.

Last but not least, deploy Phase Walk as often as you can - in the middle of the 'flower triangle'. The best time to deploy it first is when you start the fight (before or during the pull). During the fight, don't waste time running around placing it while you tank, of course. Deploy it when it's off cooldown and when you are done with tanking the Jealous Male. No reason to use it for your own escape until the burn phase where it might help you to kite the adds longer.

The fight is fun as a Shadow and if done properly, the group won't suffer from having a Shadow tank. However, when Shadows react slowly or don't use their cooldowns at the right time, the damage they take will become unmanageable and they will end up being hated.

As always, any comments and constructive criticism is much appreciated and welcome. The next post will be about the role of tanks as DPSers. Until then...

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Spectre of the Past

Today, after quite some time, the second of the couple posts about future/past takes turn. In the original post, I have outlined what Shadows were to become (tanks with best survivability - I will talk about that in my next post). Let me now have a look at what our class has gone through since its birth.

Launch - tank with light armour, eh? Shadow's tanking competence had been questioned for quite some time and only capable players (casting aside all the prejudice) carried on playing Shadows as tanks. However, after several moths people realized how op shadows were when played properly and boom, the nerf was about to come. Self-healing was simply way too good and had to be reduced. But not just self-healing got targeted by the downgrade - armour as well. I remember many people fabricating a theory by then that 'Shadows were never meant to be proper tanks and should always be considered only as emergency off-tanks or dps'.

Funny thing is that back then, Shadows were far from being on par with Commandos or Sentinels in terms of dps which would make them (according to the theory) absolutely useless. I even remember some people explicitly saying that people had 'fucked up' when they had decided to roll a Shadow Consular.

But is this truly a spectre of the past? 2.0 out there for a while now, Shadow dps still considered incompetent in its entirety (at least for some serious progression) and now even Shadow tanks are looked at as rather a casual tanking class. Some decide to exclude Shadow tanks from TFB nightmare progression because they don't have a proper gap closer (see Limited Mobility?). That is, in my opinion, ridiculously stupid. If any Shadow tank has issues with getting to the first boss (emerging where he/she/it wants) fast enough, it is not the class - the player is just bad at playing a Shadow tank.

Spikiness on the other hand, that is something we can't do much about. There are however two different things which are sometimes not looked at separately:
1) Default spikiness, meaning the amount of damage shadows are bound to take when they don't shield or parry/deflect/dodge. Some bosses simply hit too hard and when the only mitigation is damage reduction based on Armor Rating, god (healers) help us.
2) Overall damage taken, reflecting the amount of damage effectively mitigated using cooldowns. This is something instrumental and it is up to players themselves to maximize the effectiveness of their cooldowns. Learning what type of damage comes with each particular attack, when are those instances of damage occurring - all that plays a huge role in determining whether the Shadow tank takes insane damage or mitigates as much as possible.

Simply put, not knowing the fight and using cooldowns only in 'oh shit' situations while on a Shadow tank is bound to be a failure nowadays.

The default spikiness is currently a big issue and is very demanding. Unless played very competently, Shadows are ineffective compared to cooldown-loaded Guardians and passively defending Vanguards. Guardians - hate me for saying this out loud if you like - are now overpowered due to the amount of cooldowns they possess. They don't require particularly high skill to be played in order to be efficient and in hands of competent people, they are outstanding. Vanguards don't have that many cooldowns but they have high armour and their stat priority (Defense and Shield rating) doesn't make them that much RNG, and thus, fairly less spiky than Shadows. To put it bluntly, if Guardians or Vanguards don't have their cooldowns and get unlucky with mitigation, it is no end of the world. If Shadow doesn't have a cooldown and gets unlucky, they usually eat dirt.

But to summarize, all this grief makes Shadows challenging and therefore very fun to play. People are usually surprised to see a Shadow doing well - particularly as a dps class. Tanks are still quite common among players but are currently stigmatized. No wonder though, with the amount of Shadow tanks who don't care much about min-maxing at all, I can easily see where the common attitude comes from.

The next post will now arrive much sooner along with the revision of several older posts which will be updated to reflect changes that took place with the level cap increase. Until then...

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A milestone

As all of us are aware, too many new things with the 'expansion' make us all busy, the same applies to me and my blog.

I have promised another post called 'Spectre of the Past' which I have enough material for with 2.0 being out for a week now. It will be summarizing what we have gone through so it won't be mapping our current situation - it is rather going to be a 'look back'.

But before I post that sentimental piece of text, I am going to update some previous posts to reflect all the changes which came with the new level cap and certain adjustments regarding our skill tree.

Last but not least, I am planning to write something about Alacrity and how useful/useless it is for us considering it infects quite a few of our tier pieces. Until then...

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Visions of the Future

So. This is the first of two posts based on the upcoming change. This one, called Visions of the Future (Star Wars readers are of course familiar with this title), will deal with what is to come in the near future. The second, named Spectre of the Past, will look back at things that have been there with us from the launch and will discuss what will be preserved and what will vanish for good.

The huge (in terms of changes) patch 2.0 is knocking on the door and we, players, face the same problem as always when such thing occurs. Ever since the patch hit the PTS, everything lost most of its value and things have gone quiet on the live servers because of two reasons. First, people are curious about the upcoming changes and transfer/copy all their characters to PTS while severely neglecting their playtime on the Live servers. Second, because of the upcoming change of high-end gear, commendations, crafting materials etc, people have lost the will to chase anything but credits or reputation - which are the only two things preserving their value when the 2.0 patch goes live. I believe it was a good move to introduce reputation just before releasing the 2.0 patch on the PTS. How effective it is in keeping players still logging on Live servers is another question. Not much in my opinion.

What about us, Shadow tanks? From the recent reports done by several people who are busy with numbers on the PTS, our value is increasing. From the perspective of average players who have tried some of the new Hard Mode Flashpoints, the situation is 'ridiculous'. I belong to the group of people who briefly checked the PTS for the changes that have been made, but can't be bothered to spend hours of playing in order to experience the new content and learn all the changes to be 'ready when it hits live'. So far, from what I have seen, the spike damage has rapidly increased on the trash pulls which could be an issue for tanks who are not used to using their cooldowns in Flashpoints. I personally haven't experienced the new Operation Scum & Villainy or any old Operation tuned for level 55 so I won't talk about them because what you hear is usually far from the actual reality. In terms of survivability in general, there has been a table putting Shadows 10% above Guardians and Vanguards based on numbers (I'm not providing the link, but it can be found on the SW:TOR official PTS forum). Also, the new ops has been marked by many as easy and forgiving even on Hard Mode difficulty. Those players are definitely not the average players, but it can't be that 'ridiculous' if the most challenging content feels easy and forgiving for some people.

There will be a few factors affecting our tanking capabilities (threat, survivability) in 2.0: some harder to measure such as class competence, knowledge of basic principles, personal learning curve, competence of the whole group; some easier to measure such as skill points distribution or gear. I will make no conclusions or judgements until 2.0 goes Live. Spectre of the Past is going to be the next post. Until then...

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


Here comes the promised post about defense stats breakdown. Below, I take every single defensive stat and describe all parts it consists of. It may feel obvious and descriptive - yes it is. Yet, it might be helpful to see what plays the role in composing our defense in its complexity.

All the stats below are based on the assumption Combat Technique is active and on this (more or less) BiS geared character sheet.

Damage Reduction

Armor Rating 6307
- provides 36.87% Kinetic/Energy Damage Reduction

Kinetic 40.87%
from Armor 36.87%
from Skills/Buffs 4.00%
* affected by: Jedi Resistance 2%, (4) Tier Set Bonus 2%
Energy 40.87%
from Armor 36.87%
from Skills/Buffs 4.00%
* affected by: Jedi Resistance 2%, (4) Tier Set Bonus 2%
Internal 23.00%
- from Skills/Buffs 23.00%
* affected by: Technique Mastery 9%, Force Valor 10%, Jedi Resistance 2%, (4) Tier Set Bonus 2%
Elemental 23.00%
from Skills/Buffs 23.00%
* affected by: Technique Mastery 9%, Force Valor 10%, Jedi Resistance 2%, (4) Tier Set Bonus 2%

Defense Chance 32.06%
Basic 10.00%
from Defense Rating (622) 16.06%
from Skills/Buffs 6.00%
affected by: Double-bladed Saber Defense 4%, Shadowsight 2%

Shield Chance 46.56% + 20% (Kinetic Ward 15%, (2) Tier Set Bonus 5%)
- from Shield Generator 5.00%
- from Shield Rating (600) 26.56%
- from Skills/Buffs 15.00%
affected by: Combat Technique

Shield Absorption 62.79%
- from Shield Generator 20.00%
- from Absorption Rating (666) 38.79%
- from Skills/Buffs 4.00%
affected by: Impact Control

This post serves as a summary and will be progressively updated to reflected all the changes time will bring.

* Note that the values of Defense Chance, Shield Chance and Shield Absorption do not have to be precisely the same. I am using this distribution based on my personal experience and preference. However, having roughly 30%/65%/60% should be the aim.


Next post will be on the importance of self-healing in connection with the health pool.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Xenoanalyst II as a Shadow? Yes please.

After idling a bit (thanks to school), I am back and today I will take a brief look at the 'Relics of the Gree' event boss Xenoanalyst II.

You can easily kill the boss in story mode while only having one tank. No Thermal Tolerance debuff -> no tank switch needed. Also, the adds that spawn do not hit hard and are easy to be tanked in one spot without any cooldown. In hard mode, two tanks are necessary to deal with the Thermal Tolerance debuff and Terentatek adds.

So who is the best tank to tank Xenoanalyst II? The answer is, of course, a Shadow! Resilience is once again the key ability. If you time it properly after getting the first stack of the Thermal Tolerance debuff, you will effectively resist 6 stacks out of 10 leaving you with only 4 stacks after the channel is finished. First, your healers don't need to 'omg-heal' you throughout the channel. Second, you *only* get 80% damage taken increased debuff which allows you to tank one of the Terentateks quite safely when it comes to the second add phase where four of those big dudes spawn. However, when Xeno drops below 20% and starts spamming his execution ability, it is probably best to vanish to drop aggro for some time. The stacks won't be gone and guess what the boss did after attacking our other tank? He turned to me and I went splat in one hit - 28k. I believe the execution targeting isn't arbitrary and respects the aggro table since it was first one tank, then me, then our highest dps, then another dps. I don't have any real evidence yet, but the execution seems to work as 'hit and wipe aggro' ability.

At the end of the day, this fight is pretty straightforward and requires no exceptional skills or gear. Well optimized Black Hole tier should be more than enough to take on this boss in hard mode. Having a Shadow tank just neutralizes the most lethal mechanic ;-)

Will post more regularly now, until then...

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Is it Kitru(e) or False?

Today, I was browsing through SW:TOR official site forums and a thread called 'Guardian or Shadow' caught my eye. The original poster of the thread is asking whether he should roll a Guardian or a Shadow for PvP tanking, which is not entirely relevant to my blog. However, a guy named Kitru (active forum viewers will be familiar with this name) replied to this guy several times and I'm particularly interested in sharing the following lines that were included in Kitru's summary of the tanking classes in PvE.

'Guardians have the worst threat and damage of all of the tanks. Shadows have the best damage and threat of all of the tanks. VGs are in the middle.

All of the tanks have pretty much the same survivability when played proficiently. When played poorly, a Shadow has the worst survivability, a Guardian is in the middle, and a VG has the best. When played proficiently, they're all pretty much the same. When played *well*, Shadows are the best, Guardians are in the middle, and VGs have the worst (though it's still perfectly serviceable for everything endgame).

Guardians are, pretty much, universally agreed to be the hardest tanks to learn to play proficiently while VGs are the, de facto, simplest tank outright; Shadows are somewhere in the middle. When trying to play the class at the absolute top tier of performance, Shadows are the hardest, Guardians just below, and VGs are still pretty much the same (this stems from Shadows having a lot of active mitigation and attack interaction with their attack priority whereas Guardians and VGs are pretty much static once you've learned how to play them, not to mention the power and specificity of Shadow CDs compared to the general applicability of Guardian and VG CDs).'

I have decided to share Kitru's opinion because mine is pretty much the same. I'm not saying Vanguards are not good tanks (at the top tier performance) even though Kitru's post is kind of suggesting that idea. I only believe they come with some sort of a safety belt - they don't let you become disastrous even if you handle them poorly, which takes its toll in the sense of not giving you much flexibility in terms of improving your performance either.

I also agree with the threat generation as I have already mentioned earlier in one of my posts. Not that it matters much further during the fight, only the initial seconds are tricky in this game and Jedi Guardians definitely are the worst at this, simply because their attacks rely on Accuracy way more than those of Shadows or Vanguards.

I am not sure to which extent I agree with the statement about Guardians being the hardest tanks to learn. I played a Guardian tank since launch (3 months), so I wouldn't call myself an experienced Guardian tank, but I do have some experience with that class and particularly its tanking tree. Yet, I admit that back then, it felt nice and easy to tank as a Guardian and I didn't notice any issues with either threat generation or survivability. However, after rolling a Shadow tank and switching my Guardian to a dps for several months, things apparently changed. A couple patches have come and when I tried tanking on my Guardian recently, it was...a letdown. I certainly see where all the Guardian love for hybrid specs comes from. I didn't like the range restrictions, limited mobility, and especially my main threat generation attacks not landing on the target! I am talking about a pure defense tree here by the way, haven't tried tanking with the hybrid spec. Anyway, I think I'll stick to tanking on my Shadow for a while.

My last comment will be on damage reduction/prevention cooldowns, which I believe is the main reason for the classification of tank difficulty mentioned above. I don't find mashing your keyboard (exaggeration) in order to get enough abilities out and hold the aggro difficult, no matter which tank you're on. I know that abilities differ for each class, but the range of useful abilities for that purpose is not wide so you can hardly mess it up. Cooldowns are a different story though. Vanguards have one cooldown Reactive Shield for all types of attacks/damage, so they don't need to worry about which type of damage they get hit by. Guardians are in a similar situation: two cooldowns, Warding Call and Saber Ward with the latter being especially effective because of the short invulnerability it grants upon popping. I am not including Enure, since it's not a mitigation cooldown, same as Adrenaline Rush - but both these cooldowns are helpful and can be matched with Shadow's self-healing ability. Shadows currently have the best defensive cooldown in game Resilience, which can prevent huge spikes of damage if timed properly: second boss in TFB hard mode - the big explosion during the first phase, TFB Kephess's electric debuff during the first phase, Kephess's red circle landing in the second phase, Terror's spit in the second phase etc. It is that good, because SW:TOR developers love to make all the huge spike damage a Tech type. The other cooldown Deflection then creates the whole package of having cooldowns against all the attack types.

So this should be all for now. I'm quoting to show that I'm not the only one with these opinions. As always, feel free to share your opinion on the matter, every input is much appreciated. Hopefully, the post about Defense is coming next. Until then...

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Skills and Gear

As requested by Mish in one of the comments, this post will take a look at the best possible skill distribution along with the current (patch 1.6) optimal gear focus. My opinion is based on my personal experience playing a Jedi Shadow tank so if you disagree or have some interesting insights, I'll be happy to hear it.

Here is the link to the skill tree and gear overview.

Ask Mr. Robot

I have some notes concerning the site calculations. First, the defense chance is not accurate because the 4% bonus from Double-bladed Saber Defense is not included in the calculation. Second, the final health pool (with the Exotech stim and Trooper buff) is below 26k while my Shadow in-game sits above 26k with even slightly worse gear than presented here.

Skill tree

The skill distribution is 34/0/7. There is obviously no reason to pick anything from the Infiltration skills. As for Kinetic Combat skills, there is no reason to miss any skill but Applied Force and Nerve Wracking. Those two are completely irrelevant to PvE and should be avoided. All the above mentioned is pretty much given, the only interesting question may arise with Balance skills. The very bottom row is again obvious, but what then? There are two points remaining and the decision lies between Upheaval and Psychokinesis. My personal choice is both points to Psychokinesis because it helps me better manage my Force and create a more consistent threat generating rotation, which is especially important in the beginning of the boss fight. Tanks in the end-game content face a difficult task doing enough spike threat in order to hold the boss while bloodthirsty dps go all out. And trust me, Shadows are still the best at this. I don't really see any reason to pick Upheaval over Psychokinesis, yet, some people prefer to do so.

I personally don't feel there is much that could be done differently, at least not skill-wise. Gear is a slightly different matter, but that was already covered in my previous post about Mitigation. As always, feel free to comment. Next post should be the already promised Defense stats breakdown, until then...