Complete SWTOR Innovative Ordnance 6.0 Mercenary Guide (Damage, PvE only), suitable for both beginner players and more advanced and experienced veterans, who seek to improve their performance! Written for VULKK.com by Endonae (Satele Shan server)
UP TO DATE FOR PATCH 6.1.4
Table of contents
Welcome to my 6.0 guide as for Innovative Ordnance! The most notable thing about IO is its ridiculously strict and unforgiving heat management. You really can’t deviate from or mess up the rotation much at all or you will overheat and your DPS will drop like a rock. IO helps to compensate for this by making other aspects of the game a little bit easier.
IO mercs have vastly superior mobility compared to the other ranged DoT specs so that you don’t wreck your rotation just because you have to move and if needed, you can do your full rotation while moving, though you will take a small hit to your DPS. Target swapping is incredibly easy for IO as well since you don’t have any preliminary abilities to apply and you just keep chugging along in your rotation.
IO is also incredibly consistent in terms of performance. Since the entire rotation is only 15 seconds, IO is often a strong contender for almost all burst DPS checks in the game, and if the burst check is shorter, you can just do half of the rotation. If you’re looking for a spec where you only have to learn a single rotation and that’s it, IO is the spec for you.
Defensively, IO offers strong damage mitigation that lasts for quite a while, though it isn’t quite as good as mitigating spike damage due to their more situational cheese ability. Innovative Ordnance is a pretty average when it comes to group utility. It provides the internal/elemental debuff, battle rez, and an easy to use DoT spread for AoE. You may notice that I didn’t mention the raid buff, and I’ll talk more about that later, but in short, it usually doesn’t do anything and can actually be harmful.
How can I do as much damage as possible each GCD (global cooldown, 1.5 second duration before you can activate another ability) given the constraints of the fight? Which ability do I use right now that will provide me the most DPS? How can I maximize my uptime? If I’m not activating an ability right now, why not? Can I finish this cast before I need to move? What happens if I don’t have time to finish a cast before moving? Can the healers deal with it without too much stress?
Check out the SWTOR Damage Types and Damage Mitigation guide by Endonae.
Regardng Damage over Time Abilities (DoTs)
DoTs are not special abilities that let you deal damage when you can’t target the boss with new attacks. Throwing your DoTs on right before you become unable to attack the boss does not result in a DPS increase over an ability that deals the same amount of damage immediately because you’re still spending a GCD to cast the DoT. I think it’s most helpful to conceptualize DoTs compared to direct damage abilities (regular non-DoT/non-Periodic abilities) by imagining them as dealing all of their damage hitting at the end of their duration instead of being spread evenly throughout, or at least that’s when you’ll get the amount of damage listed on the packaging. Prior to that point, you’ll be getting less damage out of each GCD equal to the damage dealt per tick times the number of ticks that were left. This is why clipping your DoTs (reapplying them before they’ve expired) is generally considered a bad thing. When you clip your DoTs, you make the last GCD where you applied your DoTs retroactively deal less damage.
In general, DoTs are worse than abilities that deal the same amount of damage immediately because the boss could become immune or enraged or something by the time all of that damage will hit. For this reason, DoTs tend to deal a bit more damage than direct damage abilities and tend to deal Internal/Elemental damage more often so they ignore armor. DoT specs have traditionally been capable of dealing more DPS than burst specs and usually have some sort of sub-30% HP execute window where DoT damage is increased. This helps to compensate for those targets dying before the DoT has finished ticking, though on targets that die quickly, this damage bonus isn’t enough to make it worth reapplying DoTs and makes it no different from clipping your DoTs. The sub-30% damage increase becomes more than just an equalizing effect on bosses since they usually last multiple DoT applications (and often several minutes) below 30% health, allowing enough time for DPS to actually increase. If DoTs have just fallen off of your target and you know it will die before the DoT completes all of its ticks, you should not reapply them to that target and either use one of your direct damage abilities (usually filler) or apply your DoTs to another target. Unless an enemy needs to die ASAP, it’s usually okay to switch targets preemptively since the vast majority of your damage contribution will be over in this situation. If you do decide to switch targets before the enemy dies, make sure you verify that the enemy actually died soon after you switched, sometimes the rest of your group might have the same idea and you’re left with an add wandering around with 1% HP left.
Gearing and Stats Priorities
I’m not going to get into which specific versions of enhancements and such to use. The tiny stat variations from using something like an R-3 versus an R-4 aren’t worth the trouble and a single extra random crit, lag spike, or mid-fight sneeze will completely overshadow any difference in DPS you could possibly observe from an extra few points of power. Generally, the unlettered stuff is pretty close to optimal if it isn’t outright followed by R and AR mods. If you want to be fully BiS, you can start swapping out some of the unlettered enhancements for R variants in order to not waste a single point when going past a threshold, though I wouldn’t waste too much time doing this if I were you.
- Armorings/Hilt – Superior Versatile Armoring/Hilt 80 (should have 471 Mastery, 409 Endurance)
- Mods – Superior Lethal Mod 80R-2, R-3, and R-5 are the best, though you’ll get a lot more of the unlettered version, which is only ever slightly worse. As long as the sum of Mastery and Power is above 725 with Endurance being the lowest stat of the 3, you have a good mod that you should keep.
- Enhancements – The best enhancements are the ones where Endurance is the lowest stat of the three and the sum of the other two (Power and Tertiary) is 744 or higher. The unlettered +285 Endurance, +313 Power, +431 tertiary stat are a great base and once you surpass your stat targets, you can start swapping them out for the R-variants that have more Power than tertiary stat. The best word corresponding to BiS for each tertiary stat is:
- Accuracy = Initiative
- Alacrity = Nimble or Quick Savant (must include Quick, regular Savant is bad)
- DPS Mods = Lethal
- DPS Armoring/Hilt = Versatile
- Critical = Adept
- Implant/Ear – Sha’Tek brand MK-19
- Relics – Sha’Tek brand MK-19
- Level 75 content: Sha’Tek Relic of Focused Retribution and Sha’Tek Relic of Devastating Vengeance
- Sub-level 75 content: Sha’Tek Relic of Primeval Fatesealer (it’s a clicky so put it on your bar) and Sha’Tek Relic of Devastating Vengeance
- Since Mercenary has the Advanced Targeting Passive, which increases their critical damage dealt by 10%, I have found that the Devastating Vengeance relic tends to perform better in level 75 content than the Sha’Tek Relic of Serendipitous Assault. It isn’t a huge difference though, and it will make your damage output a bit more inconsistent since attacks either crit or they don’t while Power works for all attacks. If you would prefer greater consistency, the Sha’Tek Relic of Serendipitous Assault is a great option as well for level 75 content, though I think you’ll see slightly higher numbers with Devastating Vengeance.
- Stim – Advanced Kyrprax Proficient Stim
- Medpac – Advanced Kyrprax Medpac
- Level 75 content: Advanced Kyrprax Attack Adrenal
- Sub-level 75 content: Advanced Kyrprax Critical Adrenal
- The critical adrenal is less consistent, but performs very similarly, so if you don’t want to keep switching between the two, it’s fine to use the Advanced Kyrprax Critical Adrenal in level 75 content as well. Consistency is a bit more important here though than it is for the relic since you’ll often be using the Adrenal for DPS checks where you really can’t afford to be unlucky.
- Amplifiers – +2.20% Periodic Intensity (only applies to armorings and hilts/barrels). This amplifier will provide the greatest increase to your DPS. Since Arsenal requires a completely different set bonus, you don’t have to worry about finding the best amplifier for both specs.
- Crystals – Eviscerating. This is a little more important now than it’s been in the past because the War Hero and Hawkeye crystals don’t do anything in sub-75 content.
- Augments – As of 6.1.4, we now have a whopping 4 tiers of augments to deal with. Unlike past expansions, augments are now about how much you want to spend. Almost everyone should buy the blue 276 augments because they provide the greatest bang for the buck. If you have a ton of credits and are doing MM Dxun or Ranked PvP, you may consider going for the purple 286 augments instead, but they are completely unnecessary for anything less.
- Gold 300 augments (Superior [type] Augment 77 + Augmentation Kit 11). These are the brand new augments that were released in 6.1.4. They are overall best-in-slot and will provide a noticeable DPS increase, but they are even more ridiculously expensive than the purple 286 augments. You do not need them. All content in the game can be cleared without them, so you’re basically just buying jewelry. They are not worth the credits and in my personal opinion, BioWare should not have released them at all.
- Purple 286 augments (Advanced [type] Augment 74 + Augmentation Kit MK-11) are one step lower, however they are incredibly expensive, so I would only recommend getting them for your main and only if you have a bunch of extra credits burning a hole in your pocket.
- Blue 276 augments ([Type] Augment 73 + Augmentation Kit Mk-11) provide about 88% of the benefit for about 6% of the cost of the purple 286 augments. They do still require the MK-11 kits, but it’s really hard to justify using the 286 augments unless you or your group really needs that small stat increase to slightly boost your numbers. Since those MK-11 kits are still a bit expensive, I recommend only augmenting the final pieces of your gear, so 306 left side, MH/OH, and set bonus pieces. Almost everyone should get this tier of augments.
- Purple 228 augments (Advanced [type] Augment 45 + Augmentation Kit MK-10) from 5.0 are still valuable, more than even the old 236 or 240s! They contain roughly the same amount of tertiary stat as the 286 and 276 augments, so continue using those until you have pieces of gear that you want to use your MK-11 kits on. These old 228 augments are also all you’ll need for any of the gear you’ll be using for level 70 content because Power and Endurance are capped, so the 2 really don’t provide any noticeable benefit in non level 75 content.
- Accuracy to 110.00% – I reach this with 3 accuracy enhancements/implants/ear + 1 augment + Advanced Kyrprax Proficient Stim, resulting in 1652 accuracy, equivalent to 110.29%. This is the most important stat to reach its threshold because attacks that miss deal 0 damage and no other stats matter if that happens. You need 110% accuracy and not just 100% because bosses have a 10% chance to dodge/resist player attacks and any percentage over 100% reduces this chance. Because my accuracy is on my implants/ear, I am unable to optimize it to get closer to 110.00%.
- Alacrity to 7.15% – I reach this with 3 enhancements, resulting in 1276 alacrity, equivalent to 7.47%. This threshold enables you to have a 1.4 second global cooldown (GCD). This stat has the second priority because you do not get the full benefit of the stat unless you are at one of the thresholds, though it’s still less important than accuracy because your attacks still need to hit. If you plan to switch between IO and Arsenal, I recommend that you get a second set of blaster pistols along with 1 other left-side piece of gear for the augment since that will be the cheapest way to make sure your stats are as optimized as possible. Put alacrity enhancements and augments in the set for Arsenal and crit in the IO set.
- Critical gets the rest – I currently have 41.88% critical chance from 3109 crit from 2 crystals, 4 enhancements/earpiece/implants and 13 augments. This stat is the lowest priority because it does not have a threshold associated with it like the other two tertiary stats. Since you always want as much crit as you can get and you never need to optimize it down like you do with Accuracy and Alacrity, it is best to have your implants/ear be critical since they provide the same stat ratio as unlettered enhancements.
(2) +2% Mastery
(4) Damaging an enemy or healing an ally has a 10% chance to generate a stack of Supercharge. Cannot occur more than once every 5seconds.
(6) Activating Supercharged Gas makes your next Rail Shot, Mag Shot, or Emergency scan automatically critically hit or heal.
This is the only set you should use for IO. You can pick it up off the tech fragment vendor. This set is the best for IO because it synergizes very well with your default tactical item and makes it easier to maintain the Incisive Critical proc that increases your critical chance by 10% for 10 seconds whenever you gain a stack of Supercharge. It also helps you vent more heat by giving you Supercharged Gas more often, and heat is in very short supply for IO.
The duration of Innovative Ordnance’s Supercharged Gas and Supercharged Burn are doubled and their effectiveness is improved.
This is your default tactical item. It provides the greatest single-target DPS increase compared to the other IO tacticals and synergizes very well with the Concentrated Fire set bonus since it allows you to get Supercharged Gas more often, so you’ll end up having about 70% uptime on it. Supercharged Burn becomes incredibly strong with this tactical as well, becoming one your most damaging abilities.
Sweeping Blasters and Death From Above refresh and tick your Incendiary Missile burn and Serrated Shot bleed. This effect can only occur once every 2.5 seconds.
This is your AoE tactical item. It makes it so that each full channel of your AoE abilities will tick both of your DoTs twice. You should only use this tactical over Energized Charges if your DoT spread damage without this tactical is insufficient and you find yourself using Sweeping Blasters and Death From Above frequently throughout the fight, though please remember that single target DPS checks generally take priority. Continuous Fire doesn’t provide quite as much of an AoE damage increase as some of the other AoE damage tacticals out there that other specs have access to, but it does come with a rather rare trait. Unlike most other AoE tacticals, Continuous Fire does help to noticeably increase single target DPS, though not as much as Energized Charges. In order to do this, you do need to use a different rotation that replaces Power Shots and your DoT applications with Sweeping Blasters and Death From Above. I will cover this tactical in far greater detail in its own section later on.
- Description: Reduces the cooldown of Jet Boost by 5 seconds, Rocket out by 3 seconds, and Determination by 30 seconds.
- Recommendation: Take this on specific fights only. This utility should only be taken if you consistently find yourself wanting to use one of the abilities but it was still on cooldown and you would have been able to use it at that time if you had taken this utility.
- Description: Missile Blast immobilizes the target for 4 seconds. Direct damage caused after 2 seconds ends the effect. This effect can only occur once every 8 seconds. In addition, Jet Boost’s knockback effect is stronger and pushes enemies 4 meters further away.
- Recommendation: Take this on specific fights only. The Missile Blast root is useless, but the knockback strength increase can be helpful on a few fights where you have to use your knockback, like the lightsabers on Revan HM and the Lightning Manifestations on Styrak NiM.
Gyroscopic Alignment Jets
- Description: You vent 20 Heat when stunned, immobilized, knocked down, or otherwise incapacitated. Additionally, your next Tech ability deals 10% extra damage or healing.
- Recommendation: Take this on specific fights only. My recommendation is a little misleading here, you should definitely take this utility if you can benefit from it at all, but a lot of fights don’t have anything that triggers the effects, so it’s completely useless most of the time. On fights where it does trigger, it is easily the best utility in this tier because it vents enough Heat for an extra Power Shot and then some along with increasing your damage dealt!
- Description: Vent Heat now vents an additional 15 Heat and grants 10% alacrity for 6 seconds.
- Recommendation: Always take this. Improved Vents is the only utility in this tier that is always useful. This utility lets you vent an extra GCD’s worth of Heat, which is always welcome. The extra alacrity barely doesn’t last long enough to allow you to do an additional ability during those 6 seconds, but it will help you vent a tiny bit more Heat passively. This alacrity boost also helps to slightly reduce the cooldown of your abilities, especially ones with long cooldowns like Electro Net, which has its cooldown reduced by about 5 seconds when used during this window, though that will rarely be enough to make a difference. Still, this is a DPS increase and the other utilities in this tier are not nearly as consistently useful. Please note that the alacrity can mess up your Innovative Particle Accelerator (IPA) proc, so make sure you only use Vent Heat immediately after proccing Mag Shot with Power Shot.
- Description: Increases the damage dealt by Sweeping Blasters by 25%.
- Recommendation: Sometimes take this. Boresights is one of the default utilities in this tier simply because there isn’t much else that is more consistently useful. If a fight doesn’t have anything that you need to use for Sweeping Blasters, there’s no reason to take this, but if you use Sweeping Blasters at all, you should definitely take this.
- Description: Power Shot and Tracer Missile reduce the movement speed of targets they damage by 40% for 9 seconds. In addition, the slowing effect applied by Kolto Residue lasts an additional 3 seconds.
- Recommendation: Never take this. Almost everything that matters is immune to being slowed, so there’s no point in taking this ever.
- Description: Increases your steal detection level by 3, increases your melee and ranged defense by 3%, and reduces the cooldown of Stealth Scan by 5 seconds. Additionally, when you activate cure on yourself, all periodic damage taken is reduced by 30% for 12 seconds.
- Recommendation: Take this on specific fights only. The only tangible benefit of this utility is the periodic damage reduction, though you need to spend a GCD in order to get that damage reduction, which means this utility should only be taken and used if you will die if you don’t use it. The only fight I know of that has this sort of situation is Monolith HM when you get hit by Terrible Shout while Cursed, this is about the only thing that can protect you.
- Description: Eliminates the Heat generated by Jet Boost, Concussion Missile, Cure, and Electro Dart.
- Recommendation: Sometimes take this. If you’re using any of the abilities, you should definitely take this utility and it’s mandatory if you’re taking Jet Rebounder. This utility along with Jet Rebounder make Jet Boost a superior ability to Rapid Shots.
- Description: Power Shot, Tracer Missile, and Rapid Scan generate a Power Barrier that increases damage reduction by 1% for up to 15 seconds. Stacks up to 5 times.
- Recommendation: Sometimes take this. The effect is very nice, but in IO, it can be difficult to maintain since sometimes you are only using Power Shot once every 15 seconds. Generally you’ll only be taking this if you can’t use Jet Rebounder and don’t need Power Overrides.
- Description: Increases the duration of Hydraulic Overrides by 4 seconds.
- Recommendation: Take this on specific fights only. The only time you’d maybe want to take this is if there’s some mechanic you’re trying to cheese with the CC immunity from Hydraulic Overrides that’s difficult to time since the additional 4 seconds gives you a larger window. Unless there’s a specific mechanic that you can cheese that happens between every 7-10 seconds (enabling you to cheese it twice), you really shouldn’t even take this utility for more than a couple of pulls while you learn the timing. Don’t take this if you just want a longer movement speed boost, there are very few instances in the game where you have to move for more than 6 seconds at a time and a 35% movement speed increase isn’t all that helpful for getting you there faster. There are far better utilities to take.
- Description: When activated, your Energy Shield ignites in a blaze, scorching attackers for elemental damage when they deal direct damage to you. This effect cannot occur more than once each second.
- Recommendation: Almost always take this. Pyro Shield provides you with free damage that’s off the GCD! As a DPS, what more could you want? This utility can tick up to 12 times in 1 energy shield, but so long as you only get 6 ticks, you’ll deal about as much damage as Thermal Detonator or Unload. If you manage to get it to tick all 12 times, you’ll deal about as much damage as Mag Shot!
- Description: Energy Shield now further decreases ability activation pushback by 30%, increases all healing received by 20%, and makes you immune to interrupts.
- Recommendation: Never take this. While the effects of this utility are nice, there are always better utilities to take in this tier.
- Description: When you take damage, the active cooldown of Energy Shield is reduced by 3 seconds. This effect cannot occur more than once every 1.5 seconds. In addition, when taking damage, you have a 20% chance to emit an Energy Redoubt, which lasts up to 6 seconds and absorbs 4118 damage. This effect cannot occur more than once every 10 seconds.
- Recommendation: Always take this. The Energy Shield cooldown reduction component of this utility synergizes very well with the Pyro Shield and Trauma Regulator utilities, enabling you to receive even greater protection from and deal more damage with Energy Shield. In fights with tons of ticking damage, you will find that this utility significantly reduces the cooldown of Energy Shield. The damage absorption is really just a nice bonus.
- Description: Reduces the cooldowns of Concussion Missile and Power Surge by 15 seconds each. In addition, Power Surge grants a second charge, making your next two abilities with an activation time activate instantly.
- Recommendation: Take this on specific fights only. Power Overrides is a nice utility that can help to make you more mobile, but unfortunately, it has some pretty steep competition from the other utilities in this tier. If you find yourself wanting to use Serrated Shot but have to delay using it to move because Power Surge is on cooldown, take this utility over Power Barrier.
- Description: Activating Jet Boost generates 2 stacks of Supercharge and heals you and up to 7 other allies within 8 meters for ~3124 health. In addition, Jet Boost deals 30% more damage and reduces its active cooldown by 1 second when you take damage. This cannot occur more than once every second.
- Recommendation: Sometimes take this. The reason to take this is because the 2 Supercharge Stacks provide a noticeable DPS increase over Rapid Shots when paired with the Heat Damping utility. The problems is that it’s on the knockback, and you can cause major problems for other players if you knock something back that you aren’t supposed to. If you won’t knock back anything you’re not supposed to, definitely take this utility over Power Barrier and Power Overrides. I will cover this utility and Jet Boost in greater detail later on.
- Description: Reduces the cooldowns of Cure and Disabling Shot by 3 seconds. In addition, you build up to 10 stacks of Supercharge over the course of using Recharge and Reload. This effect cannot occur more than once every 30 seconds.
- Recommendation: Never take this. You can always build stacks of Supercharge outside of combat using Rapid Scan and Kolto Shot and 3 second cooldown reductions on those abilities isn’t enough to make this utility worth taking. If you’re parsing on the dummy, this utility can be nice since you’ll build stacks of Supercharge faster than you would with those abilities and won’t proc your relics, but you shouldn’t ever take this for an actual fight
- Description: While Energy Shield is active, you generate a stack of Trauma Regulators each time you receive direct damage. Stacks up to 10 times. When Energy Shield expires, each stack of Trauma Regulators instantly heals you for 4% of your maximum health.
- Recommendation: Take this on specific fights only. The healing provided by Trauma Regulators is higher and more frequent than the healing provided by the Kolto Surge utility, especially with Energy Rebounder. Take this utility over Kolto Surge if you can reliably get all 10 stacks. I’ll cover this in greater detail in my Defensive Cooldowns and Mobility section.
- Description: Rocket Out generates Smoke Screen when used, keeping you from being leapt to or pulled and making you immune to interrupts and ability activation pushback for the next 4 seconds. In addition, taking melee or Tech damage within 4 seconds of previously using Rocket Out refreshes its cooldown. These effects cannot occur more than once every 40 seconds.
- Recommendation: Never take this. The other utilities you have to take are far more important and immunities against being leapt to or pulled are inconsistent at best.
- Description: Kolto Overload Triggers at, and can heal you up to, 60% of your maximum health. Additionally, Kolto Overload lasts 2 seconds longer and heals for twice as much each time it restores health.
- Recommendation: Almost always take this. Kolto Surge provides an incredible boost to Kolto Overload and while the healing isn’t quite as much as what you can get with Trauma Regulators, it’s far more reliable. Don’t take this if you can fully benefit from Trauma Regulators or if the fight doesn’t have any hits where the higher health will prevent you from dying while the regular ability won’t be enough. I’ll cover this in greater detail in my Defensive Cooldowns and Mobility section.
- Description: Activating Supercharged Gas increases your defense by 15% and grants immunity to interrupts for 8 seconds. In addition, your endurance is increased by 3% and all healing received is increased by 3%.
- Recommendation: Never take this. The effects aren’t terrible, but there will always be vastly superior defensive utilities to take in this tier.
- Description: Reduces damage taken from area effects by 30%. Additionally, while stunned, you take 30% less damage from all sources.
- Recommendation: Always take this. The vast majority of damage dealt by bosses in raids is considered AoE damage, even if it doesn’t look like it. Reducing all that damage by 30% is invaluable on every single class.
- Description: Stealth Scan grants Battlefield Protocols, increasing the damage or healing dealt by your next non-channeled direct damage or healing ability by 20%. For each target revealed from stealth, you generate an additional charge of Battlefield Protocols. This effect stacks up to 5 times and lasts for up to 10 seconds.
- Recommendation: Never take this. Even if there were enough enemies where you could actually reliably benefit from this utility at all, it still costs a GCD to activate Stealth Scan, so at best you’re only getting that GCD back if you manage to somehow reveal 5 enemies.
Thrill of the Hunt
- Description: Allows Unload, Blazing Bolts, and Progressive Scan to be activated while moving.
- Recommendation: Always take this. Unload is one of your most damaging abilities and procs Mag Shot, your rotation can easily get ruined if you’re not able to use this on cooldown, so you want to make sure you can use it while moving.
Tag and Bag
- Description: Hindering a target with Electro Net grants Tag and Bag, increasing your Alacrity by 15% for 9 seconds. Additionally, Supercharged Gas reduces the cooldown of Kolto Overload by 5 seconds.
- Recommendation: Never take this. Most enemies you’ll encounter during bosses are immune to being Hindered, so you will usually not receive the alacrity boost when you activate Electro Net and any enemies without immunity won’t be worth using Electro Net on anyway. The Kolto Overload effect is nice, but there will always be better defensive utilities to take in this tier.
Default Utilities Setup
Abilities, Priorities and Rotations
Single Target Rotational Abilities, Attributes and Important Procs
Please have the game open while reading the remainder of this guide. I will not be writing out tooltip descriptions for abilities and I will only be writing out the components of discipline passives that directly relate to the ability and rotation. This forces you to read through what everything does so that you can understand what all of your passives and abilities do as well as locate these abilities in-game. Make sure you place all of these abilities on your bar in an order that makes sense to you.
Mag Shot (Ranged/Energy/Direct/Single Target/Instant)
This ability is your single most damaging GCD, it accounts for 20% of your total damage output. The rest of your rotation is structured in part around being able to use this ability as often as possible. I also want to note that this ability hits twice, so when you’re looking at StarParse, the ability damage only represents a single hit. You have to roll over the ability to see its per-activation damage output. Mag Shot has 4 procs that are relevant to your rotation:
- Innovative Particle Accelerator (IPA) – Power Shot, Unload, and Sweeping Blasters finish the cooldown on Mag Shot and make the next Mag Shot generate no heat. Cannot occur more than once every 7.5 seconds. The existence of this proc is single-handedly responsible for making IO so ridiculously unstable and susceptible to getting ruined by small disruptions or sudden alacrity boosts and it’s extra unfortunate that all they would need to do to solve this problem would be to change it so IPA procs off of Thermal Detonator and Unload without the rate limit instead, though until that happens, we have to work with what we’re given. IPA has to be procced as often as possible, which means you will be able to use Mag Shot twice per cycle. I do also want to note that it still costs only 15 heat without IPA, so if this ability happens to be off cooldown without the proc, it takes the highest priority as a filler ability. Generally, this will only happen during the opener or after some downtime.
- Superheated Shot – Mag Shot ignores 30% of the target’s armor, always triggers Combustible Gas Cylinder, and if Mag Shot is used against a burning target, you vent 5 heat. Your target should always be burning since Incendiary Missile and the burning DoT from Combustible Gas Cylinder should always be on the target. IPA and Superheated Shot make Mag Shot free and vent 5 heat, making the ability not only important as a damaging ability, but also as a tool for helping to keep your Heat down.
- Speed to Burn – Dealing damage with Mag Shot grants Speed to Burn, which makes your next Serrated Shot or Power Shot (or Rapid Scan) activate instantly. Cannot occur more than once every 15 seconds. This effect will only be able to trigger with every other Mag Shot, so you’ll only be able to use it once per cycle. Typically, this will only be used with the Power Shot that procs Mag Shot since it enables you to use that Power Shot while moving, so it won’t be vulnerable to interruption so it can’t ruin your rotation.
- Concentrated Fire 6-Piece Set Bonus – Activating Supercharged Gas makes your next Mag Shot (or Emergency Scan) automatically critically hit. As if Supercharged Gas didn’t already do enough for the spec, it also gives you an autocrit to your most damaging ability!
Incendiary Missile (Tech/Elemental/Periodic/Single Target/Instant)
This is the first of your two main DoTs and accounts for about 10% of your total damage output. Since it accounts for such a high amount of your damage output, it should have 100% uptime. The most notable feature of this DoT is that it is instant, so it can always be used while moving. Incendiary Missile has 1 discipline passive, 1 debuff, and 1 ability associated with it that are relevant to your rotation:
- Relentless Ordnance – Periodic damage dealt is increased by 30% on targets below 30% max health. This includes damage dealt by Incendiary Missile, Serrated Shot, Combustible Gas Cylinder, Supercharged Burn, Early Ignition, and Electro Net. About 48% of your damage dealt is considered periodic, so this is a massive increase to your damage dealt.
- Sweltering Heat – Incendiary Missile provides the internal/elemental damage debuff. This is the second most valuable DPS debuff in the game because almost every single spec deals some kind of internal/elemental damage.
- Supercharged Gas – Supercharged Burn applies to the next target you use a ranged attack on that is burning from your Incendiary Missile. This will probably not be relevant very often, but it’s important to know when target swapping since you don’t reapply your DoTs immediately like you often do for other DoT specs but you do tend to use Supercharged Gas as often as possible. Hold off on using Supercharged Gas if your current target doesn’t have Incendiary Missile until you can apply it to your current target or switch back to whatever does have the DoT right before doing your next ranged attack and activate Supercharged Gas so that target gets Supercharged Burn.
Serrated Shot (Tech/Internal/Periodic/Single Target/Casted)
This is the second of your two main DoTs and just like Incendiary Missile, it accounts for about 10% of your total damage output and for this reason should also have 100% uptime. Serrated Shot and Incendiary Missile deal nearly identical damage, though their damage types are slightly different. The most notable difference between the two is that Serrated Shot is a casted ability. Serrated Shot has 1 discipline passive and 1 debuff associated with it.
- Flaming Wound – Your elemental (fire) attacks deal 3% more damage to bleeding targets. Basically, this DoT makes the rest of your DoTs deal slightly more damage, so it’s important that you have 100% uptime on Serrated Shot so that you maintain this damage boost.
- Ordnance Expert – Serrated Shot provides the ranged debuff. Unfortunately, the ranged debuff is arguably one of the worst DPS debuffs. You’ll still get some use out of it in IO, but all of the other specs that would greatly benefit from this debuff already provide it themselves and the ones that still deal ranged damage but don’t provide it only deal a very small amount of ranged damage, generally through a weak filler.
Unload (Ranged/Energy/Direct/Single Target/Channeled)
This ability is on par with your other non-filler abilities though your DoTs and Mag Shot are still slightly stronger. Unload accounts for about 14% of your total damage output. The one thing that is important to remember is that IPA will only proc off of Unload when it is activated, so if IPA becomes available after you’ve already activated the ability, you’ll have to wait until the channel ends and then cast Power Shot to get the proc, so your rotation will get ruined if you aren’t careful. If you’re not sure whether or not IPA will be up in time, throw in an extra filler ability prior to using Unload. There isn’t really much more to say about the actual ability, it’s just a channeled attack that deals a fair bit of damage and should be used on cooldown. Unload has 1 utility point associated with it that is relevant to your rotation:
- Thrill of the Hunt – Unload can be activated while moving. This helps to make you more mobile. It’s incredibly important to always take this utility point since you should never delay Unload just because you have to move. If you don’t take it, your DPS will plummet because you don’t have too many other abilities you can use while moving and may end up having to delay proccing IPA if you are unable to proc the first one off of Power Shot.
Thermal Detonator (Tech/Kinetic/Direct/Single Target/Instant)
Thermal Detonator is in kind of a weird spot when it comes to damage output, though it still accounts for about 9% of your total damage output. Some people see it as being the weakest of your rotational abilities while others think of it as the strongest of your fillers and can therefore be skipped for one cycle to help manage your heat and it is possible to do this since Thermal Detonator doesn’t do anything else for your rotation other than being more damaging than Power Shot. Let me be clear, you definitely should try your best to use it on cooldown. If you ever have to use Rapid Shots instead, you messed up. You need to have a good enough handle on your rotation and managing your heat that you can use this ability on cooldown consistently because you will lose DPS if you have to skip it.
Thermal Detonator is also a bit strange as an ability because it isn’t a DoT, but it does have a 3 second delay before the damage actually goes out. This is important to keep in mind because you don’t want to use it if the target is about to die because you might not get to deal damage before it actually goes out. Thermal Detonator has 1 proc associated with it that is relevant to your rotation:
- Early Ignition – Mag Shot and Power Shot cause targets with a primed Thermal Detonator to combust early. In addition, when Thermal Detonator combusts, it deals a small amount of additional burn damage over 6 seconds. I have written the description of the discipline passive more clearly than it is represented in-game, where it implies that you have to cause it to combust early in order to get the additional burn damage when this is not the case. I do also want to point out that there will always be some delay before combustion even with this proc because Thermal Detonator is applied to the target at the beginning of the GCD so even if Mag Shot is your very next ability, it will still be on the target for about 1.5 seconds before the damage goes out, so you still have to pay attention when using this ability against enemies that are about to die.
Power Shot (Ranged/Energy/Direct/Single-Target/Casted)
Power Shot is your strong filler while Rapid Shots is your weak filler. While Power Shots does account for about 8% of your total damage output, it is still far weaker than the rest of your rotational abilities. Due to the amount of Heat generated by your other abilities, this will generally only be used as a filler when you have Vent Heat or Thermal Sensor Override available, or if you happen to have very little Heat as a result of downtime. Since the damage difference between Power Shot and Rapid Shots is so small, you can forego using Power Shot as a filler ability and it will only have a small impact on your overall DPS. Power Shot has 1 proc associated with it that is relevant to your rotation that I haven’t already mentioned:
- Surging Shots – Dealing periodic damage grants 1 stack of Surging Shots, increasing the damage dealt by your next Power Shot or Sweeping Blasters by 1%. Stacks up to 10 times. These stacks usually build fairly quickly, but the damage increase of an individual stack is too weak to care about, so you should use Power Shot when appropriate and ignore how many stacks of this you have.
Rapid Shots (Ranged/Energy/Direct/Single-Target/Instant)
This is your weak filler ability. Deals very little damage and accounts for only about 2% of your total damage output, though you will still be using it pretty frequently since your rotational abilities generate so much Heat. Since it is instant, it can be used while moving. Rapid Shots has one class passive that is associated with it that is relevant to your rotation:
- Combustible Gas Cylinder – Ranged weapon attacks have a 30% chance to deal additional elemental damage over 6 seconds. Cannot occur more than once per second. You won’t ever do anything specifically for the purpose of applying this DoT, but it should have very high uptime and you’ll see it in StarParse as one of the Burning debuffs. I just wanted to mention it since it will account for about 8% of your overall damage dealt.
Jet Boost (Tech/Elemental/Direct/AoE/Instant)
This is your 360 degree knockback. Due to its short range, it can be more difficult to use than other knockbacks against some mechanics, like the Chained Manifestations on Styrak NiM, but it does knock them pretty far away. In IO, it is valuable to use rotationally with both the Jet Rebounder and Heat Damping utilities as a replacement for Rapid Shots. The most important part of the Jet Rebounder utility is that it causes Jet Boost to generate 2 stacks of Supercharge and given how strong Supercharged Gas is in IO, this is very valuable. The other effects of the utility are nice, but the 2 stacks of Supercharge are why we consider using this ability at all rotationally. Hold off on using Jet Boost if you have 9 stacks of Supercharge since you’ll waste one of them. Use Rapid Shots or Power Shot instead. The Heat Damping utility makes Jet Boost free to use, just like Rapid Shots. Using this ability results in a noticeable DPS increase even if you can’t actually deal damage with the knockback, though it is still ideal to deal damage with the knockback whenever possible. Do not use Jet Boost if it will ever cause something to be knocked back that is not supposed to be knocked back.
Missile Blast (Tech/Kinetic/Direct/AoE/Instant)
This ability description will be a bit different from the others because Missile Blast is an absolutely horrible ability in any of the specs unless you have the Volatile Warhead proc. Without the proc, it deals very little damage and costs way too much heat to ever be worth using, so I am going to explain the proc now because it only makes sense to ever use it when you have said proc. Volatile Warhead makes it so that dealing periodic damage to a target with less than 30% health grants Volatile Warhead, which reduces the heat generated by your next Missile Blast by 10 and increases the damage it deals by 75%. Cannot occur more than once every 15 seconds.
This proc makes Missile Blast deal more damage and cost less Heat than Power Shot, so when the boss’ health is sub 30%, it will replace your filler Power Shot. You will need to change how you manage your heat though. Normally, you use your Rapid Shots when you don’t have Vent Heat or Thermal Sensor Override available and then only use Power Shot when they are available. With Volatile Warhead, you always want to have 1 of your fillers be Missile Blast and the other be Rapid Shots. You do need to make sure that your Heat is pretty low before Volatile Warhead starts proccing or you can overheat very easily and your heat management cooldowns need to be used on cooldown to keep your heat low enough.
If you aren’t prepared with your heat when the boss goes sub-30%, you need to hold off on using Missile Blast or you will overheat. You also need to be careful about watching how much time is left on the proc because Missile Blast’s travel time is quite slow and the proc isn’t consumed until you actually deal damage with the ability. There aren’t too many things in SWTOR that are more soul-crushing than watching the Volatile Warhead proc fall off while the missile is still soaring through the air. When this happens, it means you just threw 20 heat out the window to deal very little damage. Make sure that you don’t use Missile Blast if the proc will fall off in the next GCD.
Since Volatile Warhead triggers when a DoT ticks on something that has less than 30% health, you’ll end up getting the proc a lot more often on fights with a bunch of adds, especially when you get to DoT spread, so make sure you don’t waste the proc. Just use it in place of a Power Shot.
Finally, I want to point out that Volatile Warhead does not make Missile Blast grant a stack of Supercharge and since Supercharged Burn deals such a ridiculous amount of damage, it is a DPS increase to forego using Missile Blast entirely if you can manage to get an extra Supercharged Gas before the fight is over. Since you’re still limited by Heat, the boss needs to have quite a lot of health for this to work. If you manage to do 15 Missile Blasts over the course of the fight, which will take a little under 4 minutes, you would also have been able to do 10 Power Shots, which would give you your extra Supercharged Gas. Honestly, I’m not sure that such a fight exists, but be sure to keep an eye on StarParse just in case. In addition, if the boss is really close to dying and you are really close to getting another Supercharged Gas but might miss out because of Missile Blast, it’s okay to use Power Shot instead.
Single Target Rotation and Opener
I’m going to start this section by going over the rotation since everything else you’ll be doing is basically just the rotation with some fillers that will be slightly different from what you’re normally using. Due to the strictness of the rotation with regards to heat management, proccing IPA, and using everything on cooldown, when swapping targets, all you do is keep going with wherever you’re at in the rotation. Do not interrupt your rotation to reapply your DoTs.
- Incendiary Missile
- Serrated Shot
- Filler (first)
- Unload (procs IPA)
- Filler (second)
- Thermal Detonator
- Mag Shot (procs Speed to Burn)
- Power Shot (instant, procs IPA)
- Mag Shot
Here are some explanations about the main rotation:
- The vast majority of the time, your fillers will be Power Shot, Rapid Shots, and Jet Boost (if you’re using Jet Rebounder).
- The actual order of the abilities doesn’t matter all that much so long as you have 100% uptime on Incendiary Missile and Serrated Shot, are proccing IPA on cooldown, and using Unload and Thermal Detonator on cooldown. There are a couple of variants out there, so don’t feel pressured to switch to this one if your rotation still meets those requirements.
- The benefits of doing Thermal Detonator > Mag Shot > Power Shot > Mag Shot is that it gives you 6 seconds of burst. You can actually start the rotation from Thermal Detonator if you like and IPA will still work properly, though this is unwise in the opener because it’s harder for the tanks to keep aggro and wastes time on Supercharged Gas.
- A lot of players like to use Serrated Shot and then Incendiary Missile because it allows you to precast Serrated Shot. The DPS increase from doing this is incredibly small and comes with a significant drawback for the rest of the fight because of when exactly Heat is generated. For casted abilities, Heat is generated at the end of the cast while for instant abilities, Heat is generated at the beginning of the GCD (as soon as you press the button), so when you use Serrated Shot followed by Incendiary Missile, you end up generating 30 Heat all at once. Since you’re supposed to push the envelope with regards to Heat generation, if you’re still over 10 Heat by the time that the cast on Serrated Shot finishes, you will go over 40 Heat, so you’ll only passively vent 4 Heat rather than 5. In addition, this gives you a longer uninterrupted window where you can move freely by putting Incendiary Missile next to your burst.
- If the first filler is Power Shot, it can proc IPA rather than Unload. This is desirable when using Vent Heat, but I’ll cover that later on in greater detail. It also helps you keep IPA synchronized with the beginning of the Unload channel since IPA only procs at the beginning of the channel.
- The most important thing in the rotation is to make sure that you are proccing IPA on time. So long as you don’t do anything that will mess up the timing, you can do whatever you need to for the sake of mechanics until it’s time to proc IPA again and then at that point, you just need to be mindful of when you do end up proccing it (so knowing that Power Shot, Unload, and Sweeping Blasters will proc it) and know that once that happens, you either need to get back to doing the rotation or keep very precise track of when IPA will be available again.
- It’s very important that your APM is consistent. It can be tempting to wait like a half second so you passively vent 5 Heat so your next ability doesn’t put you over 40, but this will end up causing more problems with future IPA procs.
- Unprocced Mag Shot
- Electro Net (only during Supercharged Gas)
- Missile Blast (only with Volatile Warhead)
- Power Shot (if Heat cooldown is available or below 15 heat)
- Jet Boost (only if using Jet Rebounder)
- Rapid Shots
This does make the rotation seem a bit more complicated than I may have led you to believe in the guide, but I assure you that it’s much simpler than it seems since most of the time you will only be choosing between a couple of abilities.
- As I already mentioned, the vast majority of the time, you’ll only be choosing between Power Shot and Jet Boost/Rapid Shots, which will be dependent on your Heat. If you have below 10 – 15 Heat or have Vent Heat/Thermal Sensor Override, use Power Shot. Otherwise use Jet Boost/Rapid Shots. When in doubt, be conservative with your Heat and use Rapid Shots. Keep your APM consistent.
- Unprocced Mag Shot really only ever comes up in the very beginning of the fight or after long periods of downtime and it’s not the end of the world if you miss it. On dummy parses, this literally never happens, so you’ll still do fine if you never do this and while you’re still working on the spec, you will probably be better off ignoring it entirely.
- There is an alternate style of doing your fillers that works better for dummy parses than it does in actual raids, though you’ll basically end up doing it when the boss’ health is sub-30%. Basically, you can always do 1 Power Shot and 1 Rapid Shot/Jet Boost for your first and second fillers and use Vent Heat/Thermal Sensor Override mostly on cooldown and it will work. This style doesn’t work when you need to do burst damage or when there is any sort of downtime.
- Remember that in fights with frequent downtime, you can and should try to be more aggressive with using Power Shot over Rapid Shots because you will have time to passively vent your Heat during that downtime.
- Sub-30, Power Shot as a filler just about entirely gets replaced by Missile Blast with the Volatile Warhead proc. Make sure your Heat is fairly low when you transition to sub-30 since you will probably Overheat as you transition to the sub-30 style.
- Jet Boost should only get used if you’re taking Jet Rebounder and Heat Dampeners and are not going to cause any problems with your knockback whatsoever. Whenever you are using Jet Boost, it should always be used over Rapid Shots if it’s off cooldown, but Power Shot should always be used over Jet Boost if your Heat is in a good spot.
- While you’re learning, it’s okay to completely forego using Power Shot. You won’t lose very much DPS at all and this will make it so you don’t have to manage your heat until the boss’ health goes below 30% and you have to start using Missile Blast.
- Primeval Fatesealer Relic (if applicable)
- Incendiary Missile + Supercharged Gas
- Serrated Shot
- Mag Shot
- Unload (procs IPA)
- Electro Net
- Thermal Detonator
- Mag Shot
- Power Shot (procs IPA)
- Mag Shot
You may notice that your opener is mostly the same as your regular rotation. The biggest difference is that the abilities you’ll use for fillers won’t come up quite as often as what you’ll normally use. Here are a couple of comments about it:
- That first Mag Shot will generally be unprocced, though if you want to try really hard, you can use Sweeping Blasters prior to pulling so that first Mag Shot is free, though you have an incredibly small window since you have to wait 3 seconds after proccing it before you can pull, otherwise you won’t be able to proc it as part of your rotation.
- Mag Shot has to be used prior to proccing IPA with Unload, otherwise you won’t get to use it. There is still more than enough time left on Supercharged Gas to affect the full duration of Electro Net.
- The Primeval Fatesealer relic should be used prior to applying your DoTs so that their duration is reduced so you don’t end up clipping them later. Make sure you aren’t wasting active time on the relic before pulling. Remember this is only applicable if you are in scaled/sub 75 content.
- It really doesn’t matter when exactly you use your Adrenal. You can use it prior to applying your DoTs if you want. It’s unavoidable that you will have to apply your DoTs once while the Adrenal is up since all of them will last 15 seconds.
- Supercharged Gas should be used in the same GCD as Incendiary Missile and ideally pressed after you activate Incendiary Missile, but it doesn’t make a huge difference. The point is to have the boosted periodic damage on these initial DoT ticks but not waste active time just like with the Primeval Fatesealer relic.
Vent Heat/Thermal Sensor Override Rotation
- Incendiary Missile
- Serrated Shot
- Power Shot (must proc Mag Shot if using Vent Heat)
- ( Vent Heat or Thermal Sensor Override)
- (extra filler if using Vent Heat)
- Power Shot / Filler
- (extra filler if using Vent Heat)
- Thermal Detonator
- Mag Shot
- Power Shot (procs Mag Shot)
- ( Vent Heat)
- Mag Shot
Here are a few explanations for what to do when using one of your Heat cooldowns:
- Vent Heat should always be used immediately after you proc IPA. I have indicated the two spots it can be used.
- Thermal Sensor Override should only be used immediately before Unload (though it can also be used before one of your other 3 second channels if needed). Make sure to wait until after Power Shot has dealt damage or you may accidentally consume Thermal Sensor Override on Power Shot instead of Unload.
- Use an extra filler before the next time you proc IPA after using Vent Heat. If you don’t do this, the extra alacrity will mess up the timing for IPA and you’ll often end up not proccing it. This doesn’t always happen, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- The first slot that is normally a filler must be used on Power Shot so you can have that proc IPA rather than Unload.
- Be mindful of the 10 extra Heat vented by Supercharged Gas. The second filler slot in this rotation as well as the first filler slot in the next cycle will be determined by your precise amount of Heat when you activate Vent Heat or Thermal Sensor Override. Avoid dropping to 0 heat.
High Heat/Easy Rotation
- Incendiary Missile
- Serrated Shot
- Rapid Shots / Jet Boost
- Rapid Shots / Jet Boost
- Thermal Detonator
- Mag Shot
- Power Shot
- Mag Shot
When you can’t afford to use Power Shot, just use Rapid Shots/Jet Boost in both filler slots. You’ll probably be doing this most often, though sometimes one of the Rapid Shots/Jet Boost will be replaced by an Electro Net. If you’re really struggling with managing the Heat, or if you feel it’s too distracting, you really won’t lose very much DPS to just completely forego using Power Shot in your rotation and just do this all the time.
- Incendiary Missile
- Serrated Shot
- Missile Blast w/ Volatile Warhead or Rapid Shots / Jet Boost
- Rapid Shots / Jet Boost or Missile Blast w/ Volatile Warhead
- Thermal Detonator
- Mag Shot
- Power Shot
- Mag Shot
As the boss transitions to being sub-30% HP, make sure your heat is very low and maybe hold onto Thermal Sensor Override as you transition to using Missile Blast w/ Volatile Warhead for one of your fillers and Rapid Shots/Jet Boost for the other.
All offensive cooldowns should be used as frequently as possible under the conditions stated here or if it needs to be saved for a DPS check/burst window, but don’t start delaying it for that until you see that you have to.
Repeat after me: “Vent Heat is an offensive cooldown, not something I save and only use when I mess up my rotation and overheat.” It may be a bit strange since it isn’t as straightforward as some of the other offensive cooldowns are, but rest assured that it is still an offensive cooldown. If you’re a bit confused, let’s imagine that you have two parses that are identical in every way but one: the only difference is that in one parse, you used Vent Heat 3 times, which let you use 13 extra Power Shots instead of Rapid Shots.
As we’ve already established, Rapid Shots deals a lot less damage than Power Shots, so the parse that managed to replace 13 Rapid Shots with 13 Power Shots will have higher DPS because it got to use the higher-damaging ability more often. This applies in burst situations as well, because as soon as a burst DPS check happens, you stop using Rapid Shots at all and use Power Shots instead, even when this causes you to overheat, because you can use Vent Heat to come back down to sub-40 Heat. It’s a bit tricky to get the maximum benefit from this ability, especially in IO, since you want to return to the maximum Heat Dissipation Rate, but at the same time, you don’t want to go over 40 Heat with your next ability or go down to 0 Heat either since in both scenarios, you’d be wasting Heat. Your goal is to get as close to 0 Heat as possible without hitting 0. Luckily, this is pretty easy to control with the number of Power Shots you use.
Since sudden short bursts of alacrity cause problems for IO and the Improved Vents utility provides such a short burst of alacrity (if only it provided critical chance or critical damage instead), the only time Vent Heat can be used safely is immediately after proccing Mag Shot, either right after using Power Shot that comes immediately before Unload, or with the Power Shot in between the Mag Shots. Which spot you use it in depends on roughly how much Heat you have at that specific point in the rotation. You don’t want to use it if you have less than 65 Heat and if you’re close to 65 Heat, you will probably need to do an extra Power Shot. In addition, just so you don’t have to worry at all about messing up IPA, I like to put in an extra filler ability before proccing the next IPA since sometimes the alacrity still causes problems. The filler can still adhere to the normal filler priority. If you’re in danger of hitting 0 heat, use a Power Shot, otherwise use Rapid Shot/Jet Boost.
Thermal Sensor Override
This ability is just a mini-version of Vent Heat, which means it’s also an offensive cooldown, just like Vent Heat. It is best used on one of your 3 second channel abilities like Unload, Sweeping Blasters, and Death from Above while you are close to, but still below 40 Heat. It’s important to use this on an ability that has a 3 second channel since it leverages your passive Heat dissipation to provide an additional GCD where you aren’t generating any Heat, meaning you’ll dissipate more Heat overall. Ideally, you should have between 30 and 40 Heat when Unload is activated, but that can be a bit difficult to do in IO, so try your best. It’s okay if you end up overshooting and start Unload when you’re at 40-45 heat, though you’ll probably need to use an extra Rapid Shots/Jet Boost later on. Similarly, it’s also okay if you dip into the very high 20s, just make sure that you do a Power Shot as your filler after Unload, and maybe make it instant with Power Surge if you can so you don’t waste any passive Heat dissipation.
Unlike Arsenal, Supercharged Gas is ridiculously strong in IO. It vents 10 Heat, increases periodic damage dealt by 10%, gives an autocrit to your next Mag Shot (thanks to the Concentrated Fire set bonus) and most importantly, provides the Supercharged Burn DoT, which is your most damaging ability by far. In one of my parses, it accounted for a whopping 13.8% of my total damage dealt despite using it only 11 times, this is of course because it deals so much damage. For me, each use averaged over 81k damage per use, though if you use Periodic Intensity amps (I have Armor Penetration), you can expect even more. As a result of all this, it’s incredibly important to use this ability as soon as it becomes available so you can gain all of these effects as often as possible.
There are several abilities that generate stacks of Supercharge, including Power Shot, Rapid Shots, Rapid Scan, and Kolto Shot. It’s important that you generate 10 stacks of Supercharge prior to combat using either Kolto Shot or Rapid Scan. It’s a ton of free DPS you’re missing out on if you don’t do this. You can and should also use Kolto Shot in-combat during periods of downtime where you can’t DPS anything in order to generate extra stacks of Supercharge. In addition, whenever you gain a stack of Supercharge, you gain the Incisive Critical buff which increases your critical chance by 10% for 10 seconds, though this can only occur once every 10 seconds.
Electro Net (Tech/Energy/Periodic/Single-Target/Instant)
While this ability isn’t technically an offensive cooldown since it’s still on the GCD, you should still think of it as one since it does a pretty high amount of damage. Against non-player enemies, builds up to 5 stacks that each increase the damage taken by Electro Net by 20% (100% total) and these stacks apply over the first 5 seconds after application automatically and are not dependent on whether or not the target moves, unlike in PvP. This stacking mechanic makes it a bit unclear how much damage you’re actually dealing with the ability. According to StarParse, the ability does a little over 50k damage, which is a fair bit higher than what most of your other abilities can do. Since it is still an attack, make sure you aren’t wasting this extra damage on an add. It also deals periodic damage, so the periodic damage boost you get from Supercharged Gas will affect this ability. Since you have such high uptime on Supercharged Gas thanks to Energized Charges and the Concentrated Fire set bonus, it’s okay to wait a little bit to use this until you can apply it while Supercharged Gas is active, though don’t wait more than a full cycle since the damage boost is still small.
The Adrenal is a really simple cooldown. There isn’t really anything to say about it. Just like everything else, make sure to have it available for DPS checks and otherwise use it on cooldown. Try to pair it with Electro Net, though don’t delay either ability for very long in order to do this. Remember, you should use the Advanced Kyrprax Attack Adrenal in level 75 content and Advanced Kyrprax Critical Adrenal in non-level 75 content.
Sha’Tek Relic of Primeval Fatesealer
This relic is unfortunately the only viable alternative for use in sub-level 75 content alongside the Sha’Tek Relic of Devastating Vengeance because the standard Focused Retribution and Serendipitous Assault relics are useless because Mastery and Power are capped. It should be used on cooldown because it is not affected by Alacrity like Recklessness and the Adrenal are. It should also be saved for burst phases and DPS checks if they exist in a given fight.
The formula for determining how much damage an AoE ability does per GCD such that it can be compared to single target abilities is: (Damage Dealt/Number of GCDs) x Number of Enemies. An AoE ability’s place in the priority is as high as it can be until it reaches a single target ability that deals more damage than the AoE will deal to all enemies in the GCD. AoE damage is considered fluff if the adds do not need to die or if you are otherwise shirking your main responsibilities to deal more damage to adds. It’s pretty easy to tell what is and isn’t fluff, don’t be greedy and don’t hurt your group’s chances of beating the boss. Mercenaries in general have far more AoE abilities than they really need, but I’ll be going over all of them in this section. Some of them you will use, some of them you won’t. When you use the Continuous Fire tactical, you’ll also use a different rotation, even when there isn’t anything to AoE.
Fusion Missile (Tech/Kinetic and Elemental/Direct and Periodic/AoE/Casted)
This ability is your primary DoT spread. If there are other enemies out that need to die, this takes the highest priority in your filler slot and should be used on cooldown. Thanks to the Power Barrels discipline passive, the Heat cost is reduced to 15 and its cooldown is reduced to only 15 seconds, making it as expensive as a Power Shot and usable once per cycle. Only use your other AoE abilities if this DoT spread is insufficient. When the boss is sub-30% and/or during Supercharged Gas, Fusion Missile also deals slightly more damage than Power Shot against single targets since the DoT component gets buffed by both, though you will still always want to use Power Shot so long as you have Energized Charges equipped since Fusion Missile does not generate a stack of Supercharge.
Death from Above (Tech/Kinetic/Direct/AoE/Channeled)
This is your strongest direct AoE ability, though it has a fairly long cooldown, so you can’t spam it. If Fusion Missile’s DoT spread is insufficient to take care of the adds or if you really want to fluff, you can use this ability instead of your second filler and Thermal Detonator (it will deal more damage if there are at least 2 targets). Be mindful that Death from Above costs 30 Heat over the duration of the channel, which is equivalent to using Power Shot for the second filler slot along with Thermal Detonator in the normal single-target rotation, so you will likely need to use a Heat cooldown if you use this ability.
Sweeping Blasters (Ranged/Energy/Direct/AoE/Channeled)
This is your spammable AoE. Even with the Boresights utility, this always deals less damage and costs more heat than Death from Above, so you should never use this ability if Death from Above is off cooldown, though be sure to take the Boresights utility if you plan to use this ability at all during a given fight. Sweeping Blasters also benefits from Surging Shots and can proc IPA. If you find yourself needing to use this ability more than once or twice in a given fight, you should probably take the Continuous Fire tactical.
Explosive Dart (Tech/Kinetic/Direct/AoE/Instant)
This is easily one of the worst abilities in the entire game. I suppose since it’s instant, you can also use it while moving, but AoE is never so urgent that you can’t just wait to use an actually damaging ability once you stop moving. The most useful part of this ability is the 3 second delay before the damage goes out, though that makes it less useful for AoE purposes. Basically, if an enemy is temporarily immune to taking damage (like Operator IX Black Obtuse shield), you can technically use this 3 seconds before the immunity ends and then apply your DoTs, but you are generating Heat to do this and the amount of damage is only barely more than Rapid Shots. It does also spread your DoTs, so if you miss a few with Fusion Missile, you can use this in your second filler slot if you want, but otherwise feel free to completely remove this ability from your bar.
Continuous Fire Tactical
The Continuous Fire tactical is unlike most other classes’ AoE tacticals because it actually works fairly well for single target DPS as well as AoE whereas most other classes’ AoE tacticals do absolutely nothing to increase single target DPS. It is worth noting though that this comes at a cost: you won’t reach the same crazy AoE numbers that other specs offer.
There are several reasons why Continuous Fire increases single target DPS substantially over not using a tactical at all is twofold:
- Power Shot and Rapid Shots deal very little damage compared to the rest of your rotation, meanwhile Death from Above is competitive with Power Shot even at 1 target in terms of DPS. The biggest reason it isn’t used is because there isn’t space for two GCDs in a row in the rotation. Sweeping Blasters isn’t too far behind either though it does cost more Heat, so the fact that they get to refresh and tick your DoTs twice over the course of the channel (once per GCD) easily pushes them over the edge.
- Sweeping Blasters works the same way as Power Shot in terms of proccing IPA and benefitting from Surging Shots.
- Two whole GCDs are freed up by not having to reapply your DoTs. This is really where the biggest flat damage increase comes from. Very little damage is dealt by Serrated Shot and Incendiary Missile upon application, so you get two whole extra GCDs now that can actually be used to deal damage.
- The fact that Sweeping Blasters doesn’t generate a stack of Supercharge is not nearly as relevant because half of the power of Supercharged Gas in the normal rotation relies on you equipping the Energized Charges tactical, which you have to give up to use Continuous Fire.
Continuous Fire Rotation
- Unload (proc IPA)
- Mag Shot
- Thermal Detonator
- Filler 1
- Sweeping Blasters (proc IPA)
- Mag Shot
- Filler 2
- Filler 3
- Fusion Missile (AoE only)
- Death from Above (Filler 2&3 Only)
- Electro Net
- Missile Blast w/ Volatile Warheat proc
- Sweeping Blasters (if below 10 heat)
- Rapid Shots
Here are some explanations for why this rotation is used:
- Just like the standard single-target rotation, this one is structured around being able to proc IPA as often as possible. In this rotation, IPA will be procced exclusively by Unload and Sweeping Blasters. This gives more room for AoE abilities.
- Thermal Detonator can technically be skipped or delayed in case more AoE is needed, so you’d do Sweeping Blasters instead of Thermal Detonator and Filler 1, though that won’t usually be necessary since you’ll usually be saving Filler 1 for Fusion Missile since Continuous Fire only refreshes your DoTs on existing targets, it doesn’t spread them to new ones.
- Death from Above should only be used during Filler 2 and 3. You will be able to do it every 3 cycles. Make sure your Heat is below 10.
- Remember, Death from Above does not proc IPA, so it’s important that you only use Sweeping Blasters in slot 5.
- With the Continuous Fire tactical, Sweeping Blasters always deals more damage than Power Shot, so Power Shot is never used if you have that tactical equipped.
- It’s a bit harder to manage your Heat precisely due to the additional channeling that you will be doing. Unless you’re doing Fusion Missile, Filler 1 will usually be Rapid Shots
Defensive Cooldowns and Mobility
Mercs are often thought of as having 3 health bars thanks to their incredibly potent and long-lasting defensive cooldowns. This reputation originates from PvP, though it unfortunately doesn’t translate to PvE quite as well. Don’t get me wrong, Merc DCDs are still quite strong and last for a while, but they aren’t without their weaknesses.
This is your most reliable defensive cooldown. It will mitigate all damage that can be mitigated because it provides flat damage reduction. Along with your armor, you will have 52.57% damage reduction against Kinetic/Energy damage and 35% damage reduction against Internal/Elemental damage. Thanks in part due to its long duration, Energy Shield is best when trying to mitigate damage that you’re supposed to be taking, though you’re not going to be able to cheese anything with this ability. Thankfully, you have other DCDs to cheese with. Energy Shield has 3 utility points that are relevant to its usage:
- Trauma Regulators – While Energy Shield is active, you generate a stack of Trauma Regulators each time you receive direct damage. Stacks up to 10 times. When Energy Shield expires, each stack of Trauma Regulators instantly heals you for 4% of your maximum health. You should always take this utility over Kolto Surge when you’re able to consistently get the 10 stacks of Trauma Regulators, but otherwise use Kolto Surge instead. Please note that you can get the heal immediately by right-clicking off Energy Shield before it expires naturally, though you will lose the damage reduction. This utility is stronger than Kolto Surge because it provides more healing more often. Kolto Surge only causes Kolto Overload to heal you for an extra 25%, while you can get 40% healing from each use of Trauma Regulators. While Kolto Overload does sustain you for 10 seconds, Energy Shield only has a 2 minute cooldown (or even less with Energy Rebounder) while Kolto Overload has a 3 minute cooldown.
- Pyro Shield – When activated, your Energy Shield ignites in a blaze, scorching attackers for elemental damage when they deal direct damage to you. This effect cannot occur more than once each second. Since your primary job as a DPS is to deal damage, this utility will often determine when Energy Shield gets used. You’ll still have your other defensive cooldowns for the other stuff. Please remember that if you die, you deal 0 DPS, so if there’s some sort of attack that you need a defensive cooldown for and only Energy Shield works, you have to save Energy Shield for that attack.
- Energy Rebounder – When you take damage, the active cooldown of Energy Shield is reduced by 3 seconds. This effect cannot occur more than once every 1.5 seconds. In addition, when taking damage, you have a 20% chance to emit an Energy Redoubt, which lasts up to 6 seconds and absorbs 4118 damage. This effect cannot occur more than once every 10 seconds. The component here that we’re interested in is the cooldown reduction on Energy Shield. If you’re constantly taking damage such that the cooldown reduction is happening as often as possible, Energy Shield can have a cooldown of only 40 seconds, meaning you can have up to 30% uptime on all of these effects!
Kolto Overload’s greatest strength is in its ability to reliably keep you alive through constant damage, generally the kind you’ll find in burn phases, as well as damage that you know will be coming soon but don’t know exactly when. Very few other DCDs in the game can do this as well as Kolto Overload. It does come with a drawback though, Kolto Overload is also one of the worst DCDs in the game at helping you to mitigate big hits since it provides its mitigation through healing, which requires you to take the damage and survive. This ability isn’t going to do a thing if an attack takes away the final 36% of your health. Kolto Overload has one utility point associated with it that is relevant to its usage:
- Kolto Surge – Kolto Overload triggers at, and can heal you up to, 60% of your maximum health. Additionally, Kolto Overload lasts 2 seconds longer and heals for twice as much each time it restores health. This utility is pretty straightforward, it makes Kolto Overload last a little bit longer and, more importantly, makes it heal you up to 60% health, enabling you to mitigate big hits that you otherwise couldn’t. Now it is important to note that Kolto Surge is useless if you’re getting hit by attacks that deal damage greater than 60% of your max health, though many other DCDs will struggle to deal with such big hits on their own as well. In this sort of situation, it’s okay to pair it with Energy Shield, though you should avoid using the two together if Kolto Overload will be sufficient on its own. Kolto Surge also makes it much worse to preemptively activate Kolto Overload, so you generally want to wait until after you get hit if you can before activating it instead of relying on the Health Monitor since a defensive cooldown isn’t always needed if you only drop down to 60% HP.
Responsive Safeguards is one of the best DCDs in the game. It absorbs all the damage, heals you, and reflects half of the damage back at the attacker. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work on everything; it only works on direct, single-target damage, so it won’t do anything against DoTs and AoE damage, though remember that in raids, damage types don’t always match their appearance. Since this ability does completely absorb the damage you take, Responsive Safeguards should never be used at the same time as another defensive cooldown. You’ll either take no damage or all of it. if you take any amount of damage, this DCD did absolutely nothing and you just wasted it. The one exception to this is if you’ll be taking incredibly little damage and can afford to use Energy Shield exclusively for Pyro Shield damage as well.
Since most damage you’ll be taking in raids is AoE damage, there aren’t too many attacks that this works on and there are many fights where this isn’t usable at all. This isn’t a major problem though since you can almost always survive while only using Kolto Overload, Energy Shield, and Chaff Flare. Since it’s so often useless against damage you’re meant to take, it’s best to seek out attacks that you can reflect with this ability in order to deal extra damage. Just like Pyro Shield, it’s free, extra DPS, so there’s no reason not to. This ability does not have any utility points or discipline passives associated with it.
Chaff Flare and the Degauss Discipline Passive
IO has a discipline passive that provides you with an additional defensive cooldown. Chaff Flare (your threat drop) grants Degauss, which increases your defense (and resist) chance by 35% against all attack types for 6 seconds. Defense chance refers to your chance to take 0 damage by dodging a melee/ranged attack or resisting a force/tech attack (though the defense rating stat only increases your chance to dodge melee/ranged attacks). Unless you really, really need to make sure that you take as little damage as possible, this DCD should generally only be used on its own since if it works, your other defensives won’t have done anything. It works best against frequent, ticking damage since you’re likely to dodge/resist about 35-40% of them, which isn’t any different than if you had 35-40% damage reduction.
Don’t save it for a rainy day because today is that rainy day! Unless you get hit by a one-shot mechanic (which you shouldn’t), you should never let yourself die while your Medpac is still available and you certainly should never try to use one of your heals before using your Medpac. If everyone’s health is getting low or there’s a heal check in the current phase, do not hesitate to use your Medpac if you can take full benefit of the health provided or need to be above a certain health level to survive an imminent mechanic. If you think Medpacs are too expensive, it’s time to get Biochem on one of your alts or even better, your raiding toon so that you can make your own or get reusables.
This is the cleanse for the Mercs. Generally the healers are responsible for dealing with most of the cleanses, though there are a few instances where the DPS should help, like on Dread Council with Tyrans’ Death Mark. Before you use this on yourself, make sure that you don’t get Pyro Shield ticks off of it and try to avoid using this as your cleanse, a lot of the cleanses that DPS are responsible for can be removed with an ability that is off the GCD like the CC break or Hydraulic Overrides. Be sure to take the Heat Damping utility if you have to use this ability frequently and if possible, try to use Cure in a spot where it won’t be disruptive to your rotation, like in place of a filler or in between cycles.
The movement speed boost provided by this ability is rather small for Mercenaries, so it’s far more useful for its CC immunity, which allows you to cheese mechanics and prevent yourself from getting interrupted. If you’re thinking in terms of interrupts, so long as you don’t get stunned, this ability will generally prevent you from being moved or interrupted. You should prioritize using Rocket Out if you have to move, but don’t hesitate to use this ability as well to help you get back into range even faster, provided you aren’t saving it for a mechanic. It also tends to be better for movement than Rocket Out if the whole group is moving with the boss since you can still deal damage during this ability while each use of Rocket Out costs a GCD.
Rather than getting a new ability in 6.0, Mercs got a second charge of Rocket Out. Unlike other, similar abilities like the Agent’s Roll and Mad Dash, you do not gain any sort of damage mitigation during this ability, so it can only be used for mobility. Rocket Out does cost a GCD to use, so you should avoid using this if you can safely get where you need to go without using it. This means you should reserve it for moving long distances and getting out of fairly large circles. Do not use Rocket Out if you only need to take a step or two to get out of a circle.
It is possible to use Rocket Out to move forward by doing some fancy maneuvering with rotating your character. If you plan to regularly play Mercenary, you need to get good at this because it’s your only real mobility tool for long distances. If you somehow end up a mile away from the boss, you have to be able to get back ASAP, and you need to be able to move forward using this ability to do that. The key is to start walking in the direction you want to go and then quickly rotate your camera and character 180 degrees using your mouse (holding right click), then as soon as you finish rotating, activate your ability and rotate back during the animation. Other people may comment with different methods, I know there are a few ways to do it, but that’s what I do. Regardless of your method, it needs to be muscle memory. You can practice while running back to the boss after a wipe.
This ability makes your next ability with a cast time instant, allowing it to be used on the move. It does not provide a tangible DPS increase when used on abilities that have a 1.5 second cast time because the GCD is also 1.5 seconds long, so you don’t save any time by using it on those abilities. It does provide a DPS increase when used on abilities that have a cast time longer than 1.5 seconds, like Concussion Missile. Since you lose very little DPS from using Rapid Shots over Power Shot, this ability is best used to make Serrated Shot or Fusion Missile instant in case you have to move. It can also be useful if you end up using one of your Heat cooldowns a little early to make a filler Power Shot instant.
Additional Raid Utility
I have already covered some aspects of Arsenal’s raid utility, like the armor debuff, burst, and target swapping. Here I will cover the rest of it.
Mercs unfortunately have the worst raid buff by far. Specs that use the 1.4s GCD (which is all specs besides Arsenal, Lightning, and Carnage) do not actually get to use an extra ability during this window because the alacrity increase isn’t significant enough, though it does work for specs using the 1.3s GCD. Since it boosts alacrity for a short time, it also very likely to mess up your rotation, which completely negates the DPS increase that this is supposed to provide. Combine this with the fact that Supercharged Gas is incredibly strong for IO, you should never use this ability and other Mercs in your group should also refrain from using this ability while you are playing IO.
This is a battle rez. Often, if somebody dies, the healers have a lot on their plate and you should attempt to use this as soon as you see the text appear on your screen. Make sure you’re standing in a safe location and if multiple people are dead, check with the raid lead if you aren’t sure who to revive. Use this to revive someone who died on a trash mob if you want to troll your team.
Your three off-healing abilities are Kolto Shot, Emergency Scan, and Rapid Scan. If you ever have to use these for the purpose of healing, something has clearly gone wrong with the fight, or someone is not pulling their weight and you should complain to the raid lead and make a big scene about having to off-heal. This game is designed around each role being able to fully perform all of its duties without the need for another off-role’s help. You should not ever off-heal yourself unless you think you will literally die if you do not receive healing right now and the pull is still salvageable and the same goes for healing someone else.
If there is downtime though where you can’t do anything else at all, it’s okay to heal yourself with Emergency Scan (make sure you can get down to 0 Heat though) and Kolto Shot, but really make sure there’s nothing you can do at all that would increase your damage output first. Besides it being not your job, a lot of bosses have fairly tight enrage timers, so if you’re having to waste your precious GCDs helping out another role because they can’t deal with what they should be fully capable of dealing with, you’re gonna end up wiping to an enraged boss later anyway. I would like to be clear that building stacks of Supercharge outside of the fight or during downtime is encouraged. I would not consider that to be off-healing though since the purpose is not to gain health.
Crowd Control and Other Notable Abilities
There are only a handful of instances in operations where CC is required, so I will briefly go over what the Merc has at their disposal.
This is your hard stun, meaning it does not break on damage. In PvE, this will generally only be used for specific mechanics since most things you’d care about stunning are immune. Be sure to pay attention when something is stunnable though, because that often means you’re intended to stun it.
This is your interrupt. Mercenaries get the honor of having the interrupt with the longest cooldown in the game at 24 seconds! This usually isn’t a huge problem, there are really only a couple instances in the whole game that require a shorter cooldown and generally a melee DPS takes that over other ranged classes. If you really want to be a clicker, I highly recommend you at least keybind this ability or you will have trouble with some of the shorter casts that need to be interrupted.
This is your mez, a CC ability that breaks on damage. Usually if you’re using this in-combat, you will want to use it very soon after the enemy spawns, though usually healers are assigned this responsibility when possible. This is also one of the better abilities to use with Power Surge since it goes from being a 2 second cast to instant, meaning it’s only a GCD, so you won’t lose as much DPS that way.
This ability does nothing in PvE. Even though some adds can use stealth, they don’t ever respect this. It costs a GCD to use anyway.
This is your CC break. Use it when you get CC’d.
Acknowledgements and Special Thanks
I want to thank my raid team, Time Turners, for your invaluable feedback on this guide. I’ve had an amazing time over the years and can’t wait to see what’s in store for the years to come.
About this Guide
I would like to note that my actual raiding experience is significantly less with this class than it is with my main class, Sith Sorcerer, so a lot of the knowledge contained within this guide comes from theory and dummy parses rather than from experience in actual raids. To be clear, I can still play this spec at a nightmare level and have cleared some NiM raids with it, but I don’t actively raid with this spec on any team.
About the Author
Endonae began nightmare raiding in 4.0 and is an avid decorator. He also leads a raid team that has been around since late 1.0 and currently resides in <Lightning Masters> on Satele Shan. It has slowly worked its way up from getting lost in the lava caves on the way to Gharj in EV SM to completing timed runs in nightmare. If you have a question, feel free to message me on Discord, my name is Endonae#3332.
Endonae has proven himself to be invaluable for the SWTOR community, especially for the 6.0+ era. I have been working with him for quite some time now and his numerous guides on the Sorcerer, Sage, Commando, Mercenary and more coming soon are an incredibly valuable addition to the SWTOR 6.0 Class Guides list here on VULKK.com!
If you are skilled with a Class and Discipline that has not yet been covered with a guide on VULKK (SWTOR 6.0 Class Guides list), and you want to provide one for the Community, contact me via email or wherever you see Vulkk present. I share on Facebook and Twitter whenever a new guide is available or will soon be ready.