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...