Complete SWTOR Arsenal Mercenary 6.0+ 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 6.1.2
Welcome to my 6.0 guide as for Arsenal! Merc DPS in general, represents the middle ground between Sorcerer and Sniper DPS. They tend to be not quite as mobile as Sorc, but their mobility is vastly superior to Sniper. Defensively, they’re more similar to Sniper, offering strong damage mitigation that lasts for quite a while, though they aren’t quite as good as mitigating spike damage due to their more situational cheese ability. Arsenal continues to be in the middle-of-the-road when it comes to group utility. It provides the armor debuff, battle rez, and incredibly consistent performance (you won’t ever find a fight where Arsenal is bad). 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.
Arsenal offers exceptional target swapping capabilities and has a greater capacity to concentrate its burst than Marksman and Lightning, so Arsenal ends up being the most consistent in terms of its performance in burst situations, though Marksman and especially Lightning can do better under the right conditions.
Unfortunately, the benefits do stop there. Arsenal is a bit worse than Sorc and Sniper in terms of AoE. It’s just weaker and less sustainable, though it’s usually enough to get the job done. Most importantly, Arsenal just doesn’t have the sustained DPS to match any of the other DPS specs. As of 6.1.2, Arsenal is by far the lowest parsing spec in the game since the devs neglected to provide some sort of buff to compensate for the major nerfs to the Concentrated Fire set bonus. The spec is still viable for SM and HM raiding, though you will have to work much harder to pull the same amount of DPS as people playing other specs.
GEARING AND STATS PRIORITIES
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?
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 – +2.50% Armor Penetration (only applies to armorings and hilts/barrels). Almost all of the damage you deal is mitigated by armor, so this amplifier is the best. It’s also the second best amplifier for IO, behind Periodic Intensity, so you should be fine using this amplifier for both DPS specs. Weapon Expertise is also an okay secondary option if you’re a bit short on credits and happen to roll that first. Weapon Expertise performs about the same as Armor Penetration does for IO as well. If you plan on primarily playing IO, Periodic Intensity is fine for both specs thanks to the Primed Ignition tactical. To be clear, if you’re going to only play Arsenal, the Armor Penetration amplifier is definitely your best option.
- 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 – The new purple 286 augments (Advanced [type] Augment 74 + Augmentation Kit MK-11) are best-in-slot, 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. The blue 276 augments ([Type] Augment 73) 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. If you played in 5.0, your 228 augments (Advanced [type] Augment 45 + Augmentation Kit MK-10) are still valuable, more than even the old 236 or 240s! They contain roughly the same amount of tertiary stat as the new 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 new augments 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 15.38% – I reach this with 5 enhancements/implants/ear + 3 augments resulting in 2423 alacrity and 15.58% alacrity. Arsenal is able to go for the 15.38% alacrity threshold since it receives 3% alacrity from the High Velocity Gas Cylinder passive. This threshold enables you to have a 1.3 second global cooldown (GCD). I am currently working towards getting closer to 15.38% (2374 alacrity) using R-enhancements with more power and less alacrity.
- Critical gets the rest – I currently have 37.19% Critical chance from 2003 crit from 2 crystals, 3 enhancements/earpiece/implants and 9 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.
When you’re in sub-75 content, you may also consider switching to a 1.4s GCD build which requires that you have only 7.15% alacrity and transfer the rest to crit. 110% accuracy is still the first priority, but this helps to make the Primeval Fatesealer relic more valuable. You should be able to clear that content without having to bother with this though. Remember you won’t benefit from having 286/276 augments for those pieces of gear either.
(2) +2% Mastery
(4) Activating Power Shot, Tracer Missile, or Rapid Scan increases the critical chance of your next Power Shot, Tracer Missile, or Rapid Scan by 10%. Stacks up to 5 times.
(6) Dealing damage with Power Shot or Tracer Missile and healing with Rapid Scan grant a stack of Power Step, stacking up to 5 times. At 5 stacks, your next Power Shot, Tracer Missile, or Rapid Scan is more effective and generates no Heat.
This set offers slightly higher DPS than Concentrated Fire and is the recommended set. Unfortunately, you can’t purchase it from the tech fragment vendor, so your only ways of obtaining it are by having it drop from a boss or buy it off Kai Zykken. This set does require you to adjust your playstyle a little bit. When you know that you’re coming up on 5 stacks of Power Step, your 6th Tracer Missile will cost no Heat so you can push your Heat a bit harder and delay using Rapid Shots. If you aren’t good at getting the most out of your Heat, you may be better off sticking with Concentrated Fire.
Remember to build your stacks of Supercharge with Rapid Scan rather than Kolto Shot outside of combat so you can gain stacks from this set bonus.
(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 5 seconds.
(6) Activating Supercharged Gas makes your next Rail Shot, Mag Shot, or Emergency scan automatically critically hit or heal.
You should pick up this set off the tech fragment vendor; you’ll be using it until you get a full set of Apex Predator gear. This set is a little bit easier to use as well since it doesn’t require you to change your playstyle at all, unlike the Apex Predator set. It’s pretty simple, you just get Supercharged Gas more often and autocrits on Rail Shot.
Priming Shot causes its target to burn. Blazing Bots, Heatseeker Missiles, and Tracer Missile all tick its damage.
This is your default tactical item. It provides the greatest single-target DPS increase compared to the other Arsenal tacticals and is in general one of the strongest tactical items in the game. Unfortunately, the large damage increase comes in the form of a 12 second DoT, which significantly hampers Arsenal’s otherwise exceptional target swapping capabilities. It still does some damage as a DoT, but the bulk of it will come from the additional ticks from your abilities that cause it to tick, so if you have to target swap very frequently, it will be difficult to get as much of a benefit out of it. That said, the incredible DPS increase provided by this tactical means you’ll still use it in the vast majority of bosses. Primed Ignition also provides a great cornerstone around which you can structure the rest of your rotation by helping you to keep track of your Barrage proc, but I’ll talk more about that later on
Fusion Missile spreads your Tracer Missile’s Heat Signature to targets it damages as long as it damages at least one target already affected by your Heat Signature. Heatseeker Missiles fire additional missiles to nearby targets affected by your Heat Signature.
This is your AoE tactical item. This tactical does not cause Fusion Missile to also spread the armor debuff that Tracer Missile applies, but it does allow you to deal AoE damage rotationally. You should only use this tactical over Primed Ignition if you’re able to reliably hit 3 targets (1 primary and 2 additional targets) for the vast majority of the fight, though IO can provide superior AoE. I will cover this tactical in greater detail in the AoE section.
Dealing damage with Blazing Bolts increases the damage of your next Priming Shot by 25%. This effect stacks up to 4 times.
This tactical item makes Priming Shot as strong as Heatseeker Missiles and Rail Shot, but it’s significantly worse than Primed Ignition in terms of single-target sustained DPS. You’ll be doing at least 1500-2000 DPS less with this tactical, though it doesn’t come with any of the drawbacks of Primed Ignition either, so if you find yourself on a fight where you’re target swapping quite a lot or have a really short DPS check (sub 10 seconds), consider throwing on this tactical and seeing if your DPS increases.
- 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 Tracer Missile 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.
- Description: Increases the damage dealt by Sweeping Blasters by 25%.
- Recommendation: Almost always 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. If you get hit by Terrible Shout while Cursed, this is about the only thing that can protect you since only 1 of your DCDs works against that and it’s probably already on cooldown
- Description: Eliminates the Heat generated by Jet Boost, Concussion Missile, Cure, and Electro Dart.
- Recommendation: Take this on specific fights only. The only reason to consider taking this utility is because the other utilities in this tier are either terrible or incredibly situational. If you find yourself using at least one of these abilities consistently during a fight and you have a utility point to spare, this will help a little bit with your Heat management. Other utilities definitely take priority over this one though.
- 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: Always take this. You use Tracer Missile very frequently in Arsenal, so it’s exceedingly easy to maintain this 5% DR.
- 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 still deal about as much damage as your Rail Shot or Heatseeker Missiles. If you manage to get it to tick all 12 times, you’ll deal about as much damage as Electro Net
- 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 damage taken is pretty light, you may consider giving up Power Barrier since 5% DR isn’t all that much, or you might consider giving up Pyro Shield if you aren’t able to get too many ticks out of it. Assuming you get to activate Power Surge twice per Energy Shield (which will vary depending on the fight thanks to Energy Rebounder) and you would use Rapid Shots in that GCD instead, Power Overrides is better than Pyro Shield if you’re getting less than about 5 ticks of damage out of a single Energy Shield. You can see for an individual fight how much damage you’re getting out of Pyro Shield in StarParse.
- 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: Never take this. The 2 stacks of Supercharge are nice, but there are always better utilities to take in this tier. Maybe if it were in the Skillful tier it might get used on fights where you’re already using your knockback, but this utility isn’t enough to make it worthwhile to use Jet Boost for anything other than a knockback.
- 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. You should still avoid this utility even for parsing though if you have the Apex Predator set.
- 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. You use Blazing Bolts very frequently in Arsenal, so this makes you significantly more mobile.
Tag and Ba
- 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.
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.
Tracer Missile (Tech/Kinetic/Direct/Single Target/Casted)
This is the stronger of your two filler abilities and accounts for about 18% of your total damage output. Generally, it will be one of the first abilities you use on a new target. While it is technically a filler ability, Tracer Missile interacts in some way with almost every ability you use rotationally, and this greatly impacts when you use it. Tracer Missile has 4 procs and 2 debuffs associated with it that are relevant to your rotation:
- Heat Signature – This debuff counts as a DoT for the purposes of Rail Shot and increases the damage dealt by Heatseeker Missiles. Basically, your options are more limited as to what you can actually do to a target before you’ve hit them with a Tracer Missile, including not being able to deal damage with some of your most powerful abilities.
- Sunder – This is the armor debuff. While all DPS specs provide two debuffs that increase the recipient’s damage taken in some way, the armor debuff is usually the most powerful of the debuffs since a very significant proportion of all damage dealt by players is affected by armor. In addition, it also reduces armor by 20% as opposed to 5-10% like all the rest of the debuffs, so the debuff itself is stronger even if the proportion of abilities it affected were the same. This armor debuff represents a significant part of Arsenal’s raid utility. Most of the other debuffs are nice, but you really notice when you don’t have an armor debuff in the group. The only damage that ignores armor is Internal/Elemental damage, which tends to mostly be reserved for DoTs and a few other heavy-hitting attacks.
- Tracer Lock – 2 stacks of this buff are granted per use of Tracer Missile. Each stack increases the damage dealt by your next Rail Shot (or also Rapid Scan) by 6%. In addition, thanks to the Honed Lock discipline passive, Tracer Lock also increases the critical chance of your next Rail Shot (or Rapid Scan) by 3% per stack. This effect stacks up to 5 times, resulting in a 30% damage increase and 15% critical chance increase. The stack generation is weighted, so you need to do 3 Tracer Missiles to get all 5 Tracer Locks, but you’ll still have 80% of the effect if you mess up and only do 2 casts before using Rail Shot. If you deliberately use your Tracer Lock on Rapid Scan, I will personally hunt you down and destroy you if I ever find out. Your job is to DPS, not throw away your GCDs on healing! I might make an exception if all your DCDs and medpac are on cooldown and you will literally die if you don’t use Rapid Scan, but you better follow that up with the biggest tantrum of your life because unless that pull was going to be a wipe that you were trying to salvage, your healers and tanks weren’t doing their job and they need to hear about it! Tracer Lock is for Rail shot ONLY!
- Barrage – Tracer Missile (and Sweeping Blasters) finish the cooldown on Blazing Bolts. This effect cannot occur more than once every 8 seconds. This proc used to be quite challenging to keep track of because it doesn’t align nicely with any other ability. Thankfully, it’s now much easier thanks to the Primed Ignition tactical. I’ll get more into it later on when I talk about Blazing Bolts, but the basic idea is that when you use Primed Ignition, you want to have one Blazing Bolts available for use at the very beginning of the DoT and one available for use sometime after, so generally you’ll proc one right at the beginning or in the short downtime in between DoTs and then proc the second about halfway through the DoT.
- Apex Predator Critical Chance – Activating Tracer Missile increases the critical chance of your next Tracer Missile by 10%. Stacks up to 5 times (also applies to Rapid Scan and Power Shot). This critical chance increase comes from the Apex Predator 4-piece set bonus, so if you are using the Concentrated Fire set, this does not matter to you. Just like Power Step, this proc builds to 5 stacks and then the 6th one resets it. I have not gotten to try the set since it was on the PTS and don’t have a full set on live yet, so the behavior may have changed or I am misremembering. I will update this section when I obtain a full set.
- Apex Predator Power Step – Dealing damage with Tracer Missile grants a stack of Power Step, stacking up to 5 times. At 5 stacks, your next Tracer Missile is more effective and generates no Heat (also applies to Rapid Scan and Power Shot). This proc comes from the Apex Predator 6-piece set bonus, so if you are using the Concentrated Fire set, this does not matter to you. This proc builds to 5 stacks and then once you have 5 stacks, the 6th Tracer Missile is free and removes all the stacks. You have to make sure to factor this free GCD into your Heat management. For example, if you’re at 35 Heat, you don’t have to use Rapid Shots yet if your Tracer Missile is about to be free. If you don’t factor this into your Heat management, you will not benefit from this component of the set bonus’ capacity to increase your DPS and may end up doing less DPS than you would by just sticking with the Concentrated Fire set.
Blazing Bolts (Ranged/Energy/Direct/Single Target/Channeled)
This ability is one of your harder-hitting attacks, though it is slightly weaker than Rail Shot and Heatseeker Missiles in terms of per-GCD damage, but it accounts for about 26% of your total damage output. This is because you’ll be using it far more often than those two abilities since Tracer Missile procs Barrage, which finishes the cooldown on Blazing Bolts, so its effective cooldown is far shorter than those two abilities. Blazing Bolts is one of your cheaper rotational abilities, it only costs 10 Heat per GCD. This ability is responsible for about a third of your Primed Ignition DoT ticks, so this ability is very important to use at the right time and as often as possible. You might be asking, when exactly is the right time to use this ability? The answer is only use it if you can complete the channel before the Primed Ignition DoT falls off. If the DoT is not on the target or will fall off mid-channel, delay using Blazing Bolts until the beginning of the next DoT. It’s possible to get two uses of Blazing Bolts per DoT application. In order to accomplish this, you need to use the first Blazing Bolts within the first couple of GCDs and then have the second one procced and activated while there are still at least 2-3 seconds left before the DoT falls off.
In practice, the first Barrage proc will happen anywhere between the end of the previous DoT and the first GCD or two of the current application of the DoT. The earlier you proc the first use, the earlier you are able to proc the second use, though it will typically proc somewhere around the time that the DoT has about half its duration left. You can delay activating Blazing Bolts once it’s procced, though you need to activate it before Barrage can be procced again, provided the Primed Ignition DoT is up, of course. Priming Shot’s cooldown does not divide evenly into the rate limit of Blazing Bolts, so along with the fact that you also have other priorities, particularly Rail Shot, Heatseeker Missiles, and managing your Heat, when exactly you use it will fluctuate and occasionally you will only get a single Blazing Bolts during one application of the DoT. When this happens, your second use of Blazing Bolts on the next application will be pretty early, usually about halfway through the DoT. This is fine since you’ll be set up to get the first proc for the next application pretty early as well and will have no trouble activating the second use in time.
If you are already a master at proccing Blazing Bolts as often as possible, you probably won’t notice much of a difference in DPS and can continue to proc and use Blazing Bolts without considering the Primed Ignition DoT and play the spec as you did prior to 6.0. I don’t have perfect muscle memory with it and I don’t really see much of a change in terms of DPS, but I find it to be very helpful to use the DoT as a scaffolding for the rest of the rotation. This makes sense since you aren’t able to always proc Blazing Bolts on cooldown, so you won’t get as many uses in a given amount of time, but you will get more ticks of the DoT since some of them will be available to use when the DoT is not on the target, so the DPS balances out. If you are using Burning Bright, you will need to proc Blazing Bolts as often as possible, though you can still delay using it until it’s time to proc Barrage again. Blazing Bolts has 1 utility point associated with it that is relevant to your rotation:
- Thrill of the Hunt – Blazing Bolts (and Unload and Progressive Scan) can be activated while moving. This makes you significantly more mobile since you use this ability so much. It’s incredibly important to always take this utility point since you should never delay Blazing Bolts 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 you will struggle to continuously use it twice per Primed Ignition DoT application.
Rail Shot (Ranged/Energy/Direct/Single Target/Instant)
This ability is another of your hardest-hitting attacks and accounts for about 15% of your total damage output. In terms of normal hits, it does almost the same amount of damage as Heatseeker Missiles, though thanks to the autocrit from the Concentrated Fire set bonus, it contributes to a larger amount of damage. As I previously discussed, Tracer Missile interacts with this ability in a couple of key ways. First, the Heat Signature debuff counts as a DoT, fulfilling the requirement that Rail Shot can only be used against a target that is incapacitated or suffering from periodic damage. Second, Tracer Missile grants stacks of Tracer Lock, which increase the damage dealt by 30% and critical chance by 15% at 5 stacks.
You should only be using Rail Shot when you have 5 stacks of Tracer Lock due to these significant buffs, though it isn’t the end of the world if you accidentally use it at 4 stacks. Since Rail Shot is such a hard-hitting ability, you want to be using it on cooldown as often as possible. This means you need to make sure that you are getting your 5 Tracer Lock stacks before Rail Shot comes off cooldown, which can be a bit difficult to accomplish sometimes with all the other requirements you have to fulfill, like managing your Heat and activating your other high-priority abilities. Not wasting Tracer Lock stacks is the biggest reason to use Rail Shot first if you have both Heatseeker Missiles and Rail Shot off cooldown at the same time.
If you’re using the Concentrated Fire set, Rail Shot always has a higher priority during Supercharged Gas than Heatseeker Missiles since the increased damage provided by the autocrit gets compounded by the increased armor penetration from Supercharged Gas, giving you more flat damage. This extra damage isn’t a whole lot though, not enough to be worth delaying Rail Shot over. Rail Shot is also one of the best abilities to use outside of the Primed Ignition DoT window since Rail Shot doesn’t tick the DoT, so if you find yourself in a situation where you only have one GCD before Priming Shot comes off cooldown and both Heatseeker Missiles and Rail Shot available, it’s better to use Rail Shot first because it doesn’t tick the DoT while Heatseeker Missiles does. Rail Shot has 1 additional discipline passive associated with it that is relevant to your rotation:
- Terminal Velocity – The Heat generated by Rail Shot is reduced by 10. In addition, you vent 2 Heat every 1.5 seconds. Even without the additional venting every GCD, this passive brings the Heat cost of Rail Shot down to only 5 Heat, making it neutral in terms of Heat generation since you vent 5 Heat every second passively. You still should try not to use this ability while over 40 Heat, but it’s not nearly as bad as using one of your other abilities at that level.
Heatseeker Missiles (Tech/Kinetic/Direct/Single Target/Instant)
This ability is one of your hardest-hitting attacks and accounts for about 12% of your total damage output. Before you use Heatseeker Missiles on a target, you first need to make sure that you’ve applied a Heat Signature from Tracer Missile, since damage dealt by Heatseeker Missiles is increased by 25% when there is a Heat Signature on the target. There really isn’t much more to this ability, it just hits hard and you want to use it as often as possible. While Heatseeker Missiles hits slightly harder than Rail Shot, if you only have one GCD before you have to use Tracer Missile, it’s best to use Rail Shot first so that you don’t waste the stack of Tracer Lock, though if you can use them back to back, it’s better to use Heatseeker Missiles first. I’ll go over the Thermonuclear Fusion tactical item in my AoE Damage section later on. Heatseeker Missiles does not have any additional procs, debuffs, or discipline passives associated with it that I haven’t already mentioned.
Priming Shot (Ranged/Energy/Direct/Single-Target/Instant)
When paired with the damage provided by the DoT from the Primed Ignition tactical, Priming Shot is your most damaging GCD by a massive margin, contributing a whopping 23.7% of your overall damage output. Even with the burst tactical, Burning Bright, Priming Shot is still your hardest hitting rotational ability, though I’ll mostly be talking about Primed Ignition here. The DoT that Primed Ignition applies is so strong that the rest of the rotation is structured around getting the most out of it, though you should think of this as a benefit, not a drawback since it’s fairly difficult to do things optimally without this added structure because there’s nothing in the rotation that allows you to keep track of when you can proc Blazing Bolts. Since each tick of Blazing Bolts ticks the DoT, you want to make sure that you exclusively use Blazing Bolts while the DoT is active to maximize the number of ticks. Tracer Missile also ticks the DoT while Rapid Shots doesn’t, so it’s ideal to only use Rapid Shots in the 2 ish GCDs where the DoT is not active, thus providing a helpful framework for how often to use Rapid Shots since that isn’t always super clear either.
It’s also important to note that you should not be applying this to things that are about to die. You should also delay applying this if you are about to have to hit something else. Priming Shot has 1 proc and 1 discipline passive associated with it that is relevant to your rotation that I haven’t already mentioned:
- Tracer Beacon – This proc is granted by Priming Shot itself and makes your next Tracer Missile instant. Since Tracer Missile already has a 1.5 second cast time, this does not provide any tangible DPS increase since it’s still on the GCD, which also lasts 1.5 seconds, though it does allow you to use the ability while moving, which increases Arsenal’s mobility. Please make sure to consume this proc before activating Power Surge, or don’t activate Power Surge until after this proc has been consumed, because a single Tracer Missile will consume both procs. This is an unfortunate bug that exists for all procs like this. I really wish Priming Shot would just grant a charge of Power Surge instead since the only other thing you can even use this on in Arsenal is Fusion Missile and combining the two would eliminate this problem, but I digress.
- Ironsights – Priming Shot marks its target. Marked targets take 5% more damage from ranged weapon attacks. Also increases the damage dealt by Priming Shot as well as dart and missile attacks by 10%. The second effect doesn’t have any effect on the rotation, though it mentioned Priming Shot so I brought it up anyway. We just care about the ranged debuff. Unfortunately we get to add to the pile of things Arsenal does that aren’t very good. The ranged debuff is one of the least useful debuffs since the actual debuff it provides is fairly weak; it doesn’t affect a very significant portion of abilities and damage output in the game and outside of a couple of specs. That said, it does affect a little over 50% of Arsenal damage, so at least you will always get use out of it even if the rest of your group doesn’t.
Rapid Shots (Ranged/Energy/Direct/Single-Target/Instant)
This is your weak filler ability. Deals very little damage and accounts for only about 3% of your total damage output (it may be lower depending on which set bonus and rotation you’re using). You should only be using this ability to manage your Heat and as a last resort to use while moving. I do want to be clear here, you will be using this as your filler ability about 20% of the time simply because you generate too much Heat. It is still important to avoid using it as much as possible because it does significantly less damage than Tracer Missile, so you will lose a fair bit of DPS if you use it too often. The existence of this weak, free filler does mean that for short bursts, you are able to do more than your sustained DPS simply by omitting this ability entirely as your sustained DPS factors in that this ability must be used.
You should always use this Rapid Shots over Tracer Missile if your next ability would put you over 40 Heat when the attack goes off. For example, both Heatseeker Missiles and a casted Tracer Missile cost 15 Heat, but Heatseeker Missiles is instant, so the Heat is expended at the beginning of the GCD, while Tracer Missile expends Heat at the end of the cast/GCD, so there will be more time for more Heat to dissipate. It’s your responsibility to remember how much Heat each ability costs. That information can be found in the description for each ability, though I will provide a list here with a good rule of thumb for where your Heat should be below before using each ability:
- Rail Shot and Blazing Bolts – Below 35 Heat
- Tracer Missile (casted), Priming Shot, and Electro Net – Below 30 Heat
- Heatseeker Missiles, Tracer Missile (instant), and Fusion Missile (casted) – Below 25 Heat
You need to be watching your Heat when these abilities are about to come off cooldown so you aren’t delaying them. These numbers are also rough estimates, going over 40 Heat for a GCD isn’t the end of the world, though you should definitely avoid it as much as possible. Managing your Heat properly is one of the hardest parts about playing Arsenal. Your DPS will be low until you can get a feel for it. This ability does not have any additional procs, discipline passives, or utility points associated with it that are relevant to your rotation.
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.
Death from Above (Tech/Kinetic/Direct/AoE/Channeled)
This is your strongest AoE ability, though it has a fairly long cooldown, so you can’t spam it. This should be the first AoE ability you use unless the fight requires the Thermonuclear Fusion tactical. Death From Above’s damage per GCD surpasses the following abilities after the following number of targets are hit with one use of the ability:
- Rapid Shots : 1 target
- Tracer Missile, Blazing Bolts, Priming Shot: 2 targets
- Heatseeker Missiles, Rail Shot: 3 targets
Please note that Heatseeker Missiles and Rail Shot are both right on the cusp of only needing 2 targets. Rail Shot needs 3 on average, though it will work out that autocrits will require 3 targets while regular hits only require 2 targets. I have also not factored in Primed Ignition for Priming Shot since you may not be using that tactical in an AoE situation and you definitely won’t be causing as many DoT ticks when using frequent AoE. Sweeping Blasters’ damage per GCD surpasses the following abilities after the following number of targets are hit with one use of the ability:
Sweeping Blasters (Ranged/Energy/Direct/AoE/Channeled)
This is your spammable AoE. Even with the Boresights utility, this always deals less damage than Death from Above, though thanks to the Blazing Barrels discipline passive that increases Sweeping Blasters’ critical chance and critical damage, the damage lost is very small. This ability also costs slightly more than Death from Above, so you should never use this ability if Death from Above is off cooldown. Sweeping Blasters also procs Barrage, and you should definitely use Blazing Bolts each time it procs since it will help with managing Heat. Please remember to have the Boresights utility if you plan to use this ability at all in a given fight. Sweeping Blasters’ damage per GCD surpasses the following abilities after the following number of targets are hit with one use of the ability
- Rapid Shots : 1 target
- Tracer Missile, Blazing Bolts, Priming Shot: 2 targets
- Heatseeker Missiles, Rail Shot: 3 targets
Since this ability deals almost the same damage as Death from Above, it also surpasses your other abilities with the same number of targets.
Fusion Missile (Tech/Kinetic and Elemental/Direct and Periodic/AoE/Casted)
This ability always deals less damage and costs more Heat than Sweeping Blasters. The only time you should ever use it in Arsenal is if you have the Thermonuclear Fusion tactical equipped and even then only if you need to spread Heat Signature to additional targets. It does affect an 8m radius compared to only 5m for Death from Above and Sweeping Blasters, but since you can’t place it, this benefit is less valuable since you are often able to hit the same number of targets by placing the reticle for the AoE in a way that hits all of the targets.
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 cast Tracer Missile, just like other disciplines can do with their DoTs, but you are generating Heat to do this and the amount of damage is so low that it’s almost never going to make a difference in the outcome of the fight. Feel free to completely remove this ability from your bar.
Heatseeker Missiles w/ Thermonuclear Fusion
With the Thermonuclear Fusion Tactical, Heatseeker Missiles becomes your most damaging AoE ability. It’s important to make sure that this ability is being used on cooldown, provided that all relevant targets have Heat Signatures. Heatseeker Missiles deals damage to all nearby targets that are affected by Heat Signature. This is not a proc. Once the targets have Heat Signature, you do not need to use Fusion Missile unless you need to spread Heat Signature to new targets. You do not need to use Fusion Missile at all if you’ve already manually hit all relevant targets with Tracer Missile.
Please remember that Fusion Missile has an incredibly long animation and travel time, so it can take a moment for the Heat Signature to actually spread after the cast and GCD have ended. If you hard cast Fusion Missile and then immediately use Heatseeker Missiles, you may find that Heatseeker Missiles hit before Fusion Missile spreads the Heat Signatures, meaning you don’t get the AoE damage. In order to prevent this, either use Power Surge to make Fusion Missile instant or use another GCD in between Fusion Missile and Heatseeker Missiles if you’re hard casting Fusion Missile.
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 Tracer Missiles instead of Rapid Shots.
As we’ve already established, Rapid Shots deals a lot less damage than Tracer Missiles, so the parse that managed to replace 13 Rapid Shots with 13 Tracer Missiles 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 Tracer Missiles instead, even when this causes you to overheat, because you can use Vent Heat to come back down to sub-40 Heat. This ability should be used when you have about 75-85 Heat since you will immediately vent 45 thanks to the Improved Vents utility, which will instantly bring you down to about 30-40 Heat, returning you to the maximum Heat Dissipation Rate.
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 Blazing Bolts, Sweeping Blasters, and Death from Above while you are as 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. You need to make sure to use it below 40 Heat but as close to 40 so that you’re dissipating as much Heat as possible.
The biggest benefit of this “cooldown” is that it vents 10 Heat. The other effects only last 8 seconds and are incredibly weak. The 6% alacrity will only help to slightly reduce the cooldowns of your abilities and increase your Heat Dissipation Rate, but you’re certainly not going to get an extra ability in that window. The armor penetration is a little bit better, but still it’s a pretty small improvement. Use this as often as possible, though make sure you have it for any burst DPS checks and make sure you’re building Supercharge stacks when you can’t do any DPS. Please note that if you happen to be close to 40 Heat shortly before the burst DPS check, it may be better to use Supercharged Gas before you go over 40 Heat so your Heat Dissipation Rate is not reduced, rather than save it for the burst check.
There are several abilities that generate stacks of Supercharge, including Tracer Missile, 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 just free DPS you’re missing out on if you don’t do this. Make sure to use Rapid Scan if you have the Apex Predator set since that will also generate stacks from your set bonus. You can also use Kolto Shot in-combat during periods of downtime where you can’t DPS anything in order to generate extra stacks of Supercharge.
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 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 energy damage, so the increased armor penetration you get from Supercharged Gas will affect this ability, though I wouldn’t save it if I still needed to generate more than a stack or two. If you’re doing a burst DPS check or happen to have both abilities usable at the same time, apply Electro Net first, then Supercharged Gas because the first tick is the weakest and the last is the strongest.
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.
- Tracer Missile (pre-cast)
- Relic (sub-75)
- Supercharged Celerity (if applicable)
- Electro Net
- Supercharged Gas
- Priming Shot
- Heatseeker Missiles
- Blazing Bolts
- Tracer Missile
- Tracer Missile (should proc Blazing Bolts)
- Rail Shot
- Chaff Flare (for threat drop)
- Blazing Bolts
- Priority System
Arsenal’s opener is basically just following the priority system when you have all of your abilities available to you. I do want to point a few things out:
- This opener assumes that you are using the Primed Ignition tactical. If you aren’t, you’ll want to delay Priming Shot. If you’re using the Thermonuclear Fusion tactical, you just use Priming Shot immediately after Heatseeker Missiles instead. If you’re using the Burning Bright tactical, you’ll want to delay Priming Shot until after your first Blazing Bolts, which you can use immediately after Heatseeker Missiles.
- The second Tracer Missile after the first Blazing Bolts should proc your next Blazing Bolts, but it’s okay to delay it because it also gives you your 5th stack of Tracer Lock, which fully buffs the damage of the next Rail Shot and we want to get that on cooldown as soon as possible.
- Supercharged Celerity and the Primeval Fatesealer Relic are used prior to Electro Net so that the cooldown on Electro Net is reduced, but Supercharged Gas and the Adrenal are used afterwards because you’ll only be missing out on a tick of buffed damage while those abilities have the potential to buff a whole extra ability if they’re used after. Try to wait to activate them until the end of Electro Net’s GCD if you can.
- Chaff Flare is used there for the purpose of reducing your threat. Tanks have 12 seconds at the beginning of the fight where the boss is forced to attack them when using their single and AoE Taunts back to back. This assumes that tanks will be their taunts immediately, and that won’t be the case but exact timing will vary depending on which tank classes your group has and what fight you’re doing (tanks can’t always afford to use their Taunts like this), so this will give you a little bit of wiggle room. The taunt itself will likely fall off some time during your Blazing Bolts channel, but you can ask your tanks after how many GCDs they do their first Taunt and then wait that many GCDs after my recommended placement to use Chaff Flare as well, but this is a nice rule of thumb.
Single Target Priority
With Primed Ignition Tactical
- Priming Shot
- Blazing Bolts (only if there are about ~3 seconds left of Primed Ignition DoT or if it’s almost time to proc again)
- Tracer Missile (if you’re running late on proccing Blazing Bolts or Heat Signature isn’t applied)
- Heatseeker Missiles and Rail Shot (with 5 stacks of Tracer Lock)
- Electro Net
- Rapid Shots (if you have too much Heat or during GCDs when Tracer Missile doesn’t proc Blazing Bolts)
- Blazing Bolts (only if Primed Ignition DoT is up)
- Tracer Missile
This priority assumes that you are using the Primed Ignition tactical. In my opinion, it is much easier to execute in practice, even though it may look a little more confusing at first glance. Here are some additional notes and rationale about the priority:
- In the grand scheme of things, a few seconds delay on Electro Net isn’t going to reduce the number of uses you get during a fight, but delaying your other abilities by a few seconds will add up more quickly. It still is one of your most damaging abilities though, so you don’t want to delay it too long.
- Heatseeker Missiles and Rail Shot do about the same amount of damage, though if you want to be super duper optimal, Heatseeker Missiles does slightly more damage. However, you’ll get more damage out of an autocrit Rail Shot as the last GCD in a Supercharged Gas window than you will out of a Heatseeker Missiles, so it really depends on the situation regarding which one you use first. You’ll find the Tracer Lock proc to be in short supply sometimes, so if you only have 1 GCD to spare before you have to use Tracer Missile to proc Blazing Bolts because you’re running late, it’s better to use Rail Shot first there as well. Rail Shot is also cheaper to use, so if your Heat is high, it’s probably better to use Rail Shot first. If you don’t want to think about this stuff at all, you’re not gonna miss out on much DPS either way.
- Really the only things that need a Heat Signature are Heatseeker Missiles and Rail Shot, and while the armor debuff is nice to have, missing out on having it for a single ability will have less of an impact than delaying your abilities too much.
- If you have a choice between using Heatseeker Missiles/Rail Shot and Blazing Bolts and there’s only about 3 seconds left on the Primed Ignition DoT, you’ll deal slightly higher damage by using Blazing Bolts than you would if you delayed Blazing Bolts by a GCD and only got half of the ticks to trigger the DoT. Also, the alternative will be to delay Blazing Bolts for 3 more GCDs, until the next Primed Ignition DoT, which is far too long. At that point, you’ll have missed out on a whole Blazing Bolts proc, which is not a good idea.
- Priming Shot should be used on whatever you plan to be attacking for the next 12 seconds. If you’re about to switch, it’s okay to delay Priming Shot for a GCD or two until you switch, otherwise you should hold off on switching if you can at least until after your Blazing Bolts if possible.
- It’s important that you’re doing something in every single GCD. Don’t wait around to see if Blazing Bolts got procced (you need to be able to anticipate it, which takes practice) or if one of your abilities is about to come off cooldown. You will not get to use all of your abilities on cooldown. Some of them will be delayed. This is completely okay and it’s why this spec has a priority system and not a rotation.
- Due to the number of things that Tracer Missile does, you have to be opportunistic and preemptive with your Heat management, the fewer benefits you get out of Tracer Missile, the more important it becomes to use that GCD on Rapid Shots instead so you are able to use Tracer Missile on the the GCDs where it does the most without having to worry about overheating. Tracer Missile can do the following things:
- Generate Tracer Lock stacks
- Proc Blazing Bolts
- Tick Primed Ignition DoT
- Remember that fights do have downtime, so you usually won’t have to use as many Rapid Shots as you do on a dummy. You can push your Heat generation a bit harder on fights with frequent downtime since you won’t be generating any heat during those periods. Make sure you don’t go overboard though, you don’t want to still be overheated when the downtime ends.
This ability priority ensures that your most damaging abilities are being used as frequently as possible, it’s very important that you practice this on a dummy at least until you can do the rotation without having to constantly look at your bar. Make sure you understand and remember this priority because you do not get to do all of your abilities on cooldown in Arsenal, things will get delayed and that’s unavoidable. I will go into detail about each ability later on so that you can have a better understanding of how these abilities interact with each other and the discipline.
The key to being a great DPS is to be always DPSing. Using any damaging ability is better than just standing there not doing anything. Some DPS is better than zero DPS and if there is downtime during a fight, remember that you can precast things and build stacks of Supercharge with Kolto Shot. Even if you mess up, keep doing the rotation! Unless there’s a mechanic that prevents you from dealing damage or forces you to stop DPSing, you should not stop DPSing. If a tank is telling you to stop DPS or hold off for a few seconds because they can’t keep aggro, don’t listen to them, they’re the one that doesn’t know the proper way to keep aggro. Tell them to git gud, but maybe ask for a Guard and make sure you’re using your threat drop (Chaff Flare) appropriately.
Without Primed Ignition Tactical
- Tracer Missile (to proc Blazing Bolts)
- Blazing Bolts (if it’s almost time to proc again)
- Priming Shot (if using Burning Bright tactical)
- Rail Shot (with 5 stacks of Tracer Lock)
- Tracer Missile (if Heat Signature is not on the target)
- Heatseeker Missiles
- Priming Shot
- Rapid Shots (if you have too much heat)
- Blazing Bolts
- Tracer Missile
This priority assumes that you are not using Primed Ignition, so you’ll either be using Thermonuclear Fusion (which will modify the priority further when you have to AoE) or Burning Bright.
- The main goal is to proc Blazing Bolts as often as possible, though you can delay using it until 2 GCDs before trying to proc it again so you can continue to proc it on cooldown.
- Priming Shot’s priority changes depending on which tactical is being used. If Burning Bright is being used, it deals more damage than Heatseeker Missiles and Rail Shot, but not as much as it does with Primed Ignition. Without Burning Bright, it deals less damage than either of those abilities so it has a lower priority otherwise.
- Heat management remains the same. Use Rapid Shots if the next ability would push you over 40 Heat, otherwise use Tracer Missile.
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 and Power Barrier utility, you will have 57.57% damage reduction against Kinetic/Energy damage and 40% 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 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 to 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 Decoy Discipline Passive
Arsenal provides an additional defensive cooldown to Mercs called Decoy. Chaff Flare (your threat drop) grants 2 charges of Decoy. Each charge of Decoy absorbs 1 Force or Tech attack, lasts up to 10 seconds. Just like Responsive Safeguards, this ability completely absorbs all the damage of an attack, so you shouldn’t ever use any other DCD at the same time as this one and if you still take damage from an attack while this was active, then this did nothing and you should use it on something else.
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.
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 be reserving 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. Usually, Power Surge will be activated in order to make Tracer Missile instant so you can use it while moving, or on Fusion Missile if you’re using the Thermonuclear Fusion tactical. Make sure that you don’t have the Tracer Beacon proc from Priming Shot though if you plan to use this ability since a single Tracer Missile will consume both buffs simultaneously.
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. It does work for specs using the 1.3s GCD. Since it boosts alacrity for a short time, it also has the potential to mess up some specs that use fairly strict rotations since it can desynchronize their cooldowns, which may be dependent on each other. You won’t get to vent the 10 Heat either if you use this instead of Supercharged Gas. I would have a Merc healer use the raid buff or just not use it altogether unless your other DPS also happen to be playing Arsenal, Lightning, and Carnage.
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, 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 avoid using Rapid Scan if you have any stacks of Tracer Lock, 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 are 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 360 degree knockback. Due to its short range, it can be rather difficult to use against some mechanics, like the Chained Manifestations on Styrak NiM, but it does knock them pretty far away. Make sure to take the Afterburners utility if you have a spare point and plan to use your knockback during the fight. Also, please do not ruin everybody else’s day by using this ability for its AoE damage.
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, even over other ranged. 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.
This ability deals more damage than Rapid Shots, but less than Tracer Missile. The key benefit here is that it’s instant, allowing you to do deal damage while moving. It also does a small amount of AoE damage, but it isn’t ever worth using this ability for its AoE damage. Unfortunately, it costs 20 Heat and doesn’t generate a stack of Supercharge, so it’s never worth using for Arsenal. I really wish that it did generate Supercharge and cost 15 Heat so the only thing you’d be giving up is a little bit of damage when you have to move just like Shock for Sorcerers. Until they change it, the only time this ability should ever be used if you’re a Merc is if you’re playing the other DPS spec, Innovative Ordnance, and even then, they only use it when they get a proc when their DoTs tick on something that’s below 30% health.
A Note on Arsenal’s Viability
Let me be clear here folks, Arsenal is the worst DPS spec in the game by a significant margin. It’s not even close. At the time of writing, the stats on Parsely don’t tell the whole story since the leaderboards weren’t cleared with the most recent balance update. 6.1.2 was released on 6/24/2020, so any parse prior to that date does not represent the current state of the class. The actual current record is only 21.2k DPS, which is about 2k-3k DPS lower than the rest of the specs, which are all in the 23k-24k range. To put this into perspective, the other specs could use the old 228 augments instead of the new 286 ones and they’d still perform about the same as or better than an Arsenal Merc that is fully kitted out in the new 286 augments. It is possible that there are other parses from other players on the leaderboard that were not able to surpass their pre-6.1.2 records, but still surpass the current record, though this doesn’t change the fact that this nerf was substantial, you can’t just get rid of 10% crit chance and expect that numbers will remain the same.
In terms of AoE, Arsenal is also on the low end for ranged specs, even compared to the other ranged burst specs. They don’t have any rotational AoE abilities like Lightning Sorcerer and their AoE tactical doesn’t provide as much of a damage increase as Marksman Sniper’s does. Their dedicated AoE abilities also generate a lot of Heat so they can’t sustain it for very long, though it doesn’t really matter since it’s not all that strong anyway and their areas of effect are also smaller. Regardless, the DoTs specs provide better AoE, so if a fight requires it, you’ll generally need to switch to IO anyway.
Now, I want to reiterate that there are a few upsides to playing Arsenal. It still offers consistent and potent burst damage due to its incredible target swapping capabilities and longer cooldowns on burst abilities. Merc in general is also pretty capable in the defensive cooldown department, though it isn’t as strong as it is in PvP and compared to the other ranged specs, it’s not all that special. Perhaps the biggest benefit of all is the fact that this is one of the only two ranged specs that provide the Armor Debuff (Marksman is the other).
Sadly, these benefits are not nearly enough to make up for its frankly horrendous damage output. It’s extremely hard for me to recommend that anyone use Arsenal at the moment if sustained DPS matters at all during the fight, regardless of skill level or group composition. As I said in the intro, it should still be fine for SM and HM raiding, but you will have to work quite a bit harder than your peers. Hopefully Bioware will release a buff for it soon or it will continue to be a spec that almost no one plays, just like in 5.0.
Acknowledgements and Special Thanks
I want to thank Healthbars and Dexen for helping to review this guide. I also 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 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 now covered everything about the Sorcerers and Sages in SWTOR 6.0 PvE-wise and now the Arsenal and Gunnery specs of the Merc and Trooper classes.
I would like to thank him for his dedication to the community and for sharing his experience and knowledge to help all players, who are just starting their first character, trying the class and spec for the first time or are returning after a long break and need to catch up!
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.