BioWare announced the planned combat style balance changes for SWTOR 7.1.1. This article focuses on the Assassin and Shadow and analyzes what impact the proposed tweaks will have on your gameplay!

All three Assassin / Shadow disciplines technically received balance changes, though the changes were mostly focused on adjusting the viability of different DPS builds, particularly with regard to tactical items.

Hatred and Serenity

Announced 7.1.1 Changes

  • Changed the Two Time Trouble tactical so that it can no longer tick from Saber Strike damage.
  • Fulguration / Rebounding Force now restores 5 Force when Lightning Charge / Force Technique deals damage, up from 3.
  • Increased the damage bonus given by Pervasive Death / Pervasive Balance to Death Field / Force in Balance from 10% to 15%.
  • Hungering Force / Longing Force now additionally grants a critical hit damage bonus of 5%.
  • Increased lifesteal amount from Severing Slash / Cleaving Cut from 25% to 50%

Source: SWTOR Forums.

Analysis

Hatred will remain a strong choice after these changes, though double Death Field / Force in Balance (Deadly Field / Balancing Field ability tree buff) will almost certainly no longer be viable for sustained DPS because Death Field / Force in Balance just costs too much Force to spam it that often without being able to lean on exclusively using Saber Strike as the filler.

Right now, you barely have enough Force to do the double Death Field rotation with only Saber Strike as the filler. As soon as you start having to incorporate Assassinate / Spinning Strike sub-30%, things get dicey; and Lacerate / Whirling Blow is almost entirely out of the question. Thrash / Double Strike will not be possible as a filler.

Without those potential 3 ticks of Creeping Terror / Sever Force from Two Time Trouble, Saber Strike can’t compete with Thrash / Double Strike in terms of damage output which will bring the overall sustained DPS down.

Thrash / Double Strike deals almost twice as much weapon damage as Saber Strike and still has a chance to tick Creeping Terror / Sever Force twice. You’ll be able to afford to activate it often with Death Focus / Serene Balance or all the time Hungering Force / Longing Force.

While we can’t test these changes on the PTS, BioWare is basically just invalidating an unintended build here without touching too much else.

If you want to see how Hatred / Serenity will work in 7.1.1, check out the builds I’ve explained in my Hatred and Serenity guides.

From my testing, I predict that both builds will be in the 28k range with 330 gear and mostly gold augs, which is definitely in line with what most other mDPS are actually doing these days.

The Death Focus / Serene Balance + Maliciousness / Hallowing build will likely deal slightly more DPS but feature a more challenging rotation since you’ll probably have to alternate Thrash / Double Strike with Saber Strike while Pervasive Death / Pervasive Balance + Hungering Force / Longing Force will likely deal less DPS, but allow you to exclusively use Thrash / Double Strike.

In addition, since the damage provided by the Two Time Trouble tactical will be nerfed, the Quick Escalation and Severance Pay tacticals will become more viable alternatives, though Two Time Trouble will still likely offer the highest sustained DPS.

Recommendations for BioWare

I think these changes to Hatred / Serenity are pretty fair, though I will miss being able to exclusively use Saber Strike. The only things I’d like to see from BioWare are other QoL changes to the discipline.

Eradication Ray and Destruction Ray: QoL Improvements

I’d love to see the Eradication Ray / Destruction Ray ability tree buff get some love to make it synergize better with Severance Pay and Pervasive Death / Pervasive Balance by adding the following effects to Eradication Ray / Destruction Ray:

  • Dealing damage with Eradicate / Squelch refunds some Force. This would make Force management less cumbersome while doing solo content and make it possible to stick with Pervasive Death Pervasive Balance + Eradication Ray / Destruction Ray for entire FPs instead of having to switch builds for bosses. This would also make the passive feel more visceral as players can watch their Force meter go up as the DoT ticks.
  • Eradicate / Squelch slows all enemies within 5m of the target by 75% for 2.5s. This effect is the same that is offered by Force Magnetism. It would allow Eradication Ray / Destruction Ray to synergize more strongly with Severance Pay by giving Hatred / Serenity another brief slow that rewards high APM. It would also make the ability feel more visceral and help the discipline’s performance in PvP.

With these changes, Eradication Ray / Destruction Ray would have the following effect: Eradicate Squelch now deals all of its periodic damage over 1s, regenerates [X] Force whenever it deals damage, and slows all enemies within 5m of the target by 75% for 2.5s.

Quick Escalation Consistency

Quick Escalation is a cool tactical, but it’s too inconsistent, especially when its main benefit is survivability. I would greatly prefer if the effect could be tweaked to offer a higher critical chance per stack of Hungering Blade, but perhaps reduce the maximum number of stacks. An alternative option could be to just make it so the tactical also allows Leeching Strike / Serenity Strike to benefit from and consume Recklessness.

Deception and Infiltration

Announced 7.1.1 Changes

  • The damage done by the Awakened Flame tactical has been increased by 10%.
  • Changed Severing Slash / Cleaving Cut to additionally grant damage reduction per target hit (Darkness / Kinetic Combat’s current Severing Slash / Cleaving Cut effect seems to be getting moved to Deception / Infiltration’s version).
  • Redesigned “May Cause Injury” Tactical to grant the AOE version of Discharge more often. It now reads: Gaining a stack of Voltage / Clairvoyance causes your next Discharge / Force Breach to arc to multiple targets.

Analysis

The 10% buff to Awakened Flame will result in an approximate DPS increase of 375, which will serve to slightly narrow the several thousand DPS gap between it and the more challenging Blade of the Elements build. It’s hard to say for sure without being able to test on the PTS, but I believe the difference in DPS between the 2 Deception / Infiltration builds will be greater than the difference between all the Hatred / Serenity builds in terms of single-target sustained DPS.

The changes related to May Cause Injury don’t make a whole lot of sense next to the tweak to Severing Slash / Cleaving Cut. May Cause Injury will be easier to use, but if BioWare wants more players to use Severing Slash / Cleaving Cut (and it seems they do since they’re buffing it), why would they make it so that the ability can no longer trigger AoE Discharge / Force Breach?

Recommendations for BioWare

Discharge / Force Breach and The Awakened Flame

It’s reasonable that the Blade of Elements build should deal more damage since it’s a much more challenging rotation, but I don’t think the difference should be quite so big as it will likely remain several thousand DPS.

In order to remedy this, Awakened Flame should have the following additional effect: “Dealing damage with a fully charged Discharge / Force Breach refreshes the duration of this periodic damaging effect and ticks its damage.”

This would enable higher uptime on the DoT, resulting in a narrower gap between the 2 builds while further emphasizing the correct approach with this tactical is to prioritize a fully charged Discharge / Force Breach over Ball Lightning / Psychokinetic Blast. This tweak would add about 850 DPS (maybe a little less) and incorporates the 10% boost for this portion of the effect, meaning the full changes would result in a DPS increase of approximately 1,200.

Synergy Between Penetrating Slash and Lightning Critical / Critical Augur

I’d like to see stronger synergy between Penetrating Slash and Lightning Critical / Critical Augur by making Penetrating Slash have the following additional effect: Activating Recklessness / Force Potency finishes the active cooldown on Reaping Strike / Vaulting Slash. This would make it so you don’t have to worry so much about timing Recklessness / Force Potency in order to combine with your strongest melee attack.

Voltage and Clairvoyance: QoL Improvements

With 7.0, Voltage and Clairvoyance have become a lot more tedious to maintain thanks to the Voltaic Slash / Clairvoyant Strike ability tree choice, new Blade of the Elements build, and Shadowcraft. I’d like to see the following QoL improvements:

  • Voltage / Clairvoyance now boosts critical chance by 5% per stack and Voltaic Engine / Vision Engine makes it so each stack of Voltage / Clairvoyance boosts your critical chance by an additional 5%. In other words, half of the effect provided by Voltaic Engine / Vision Engine would be migrated to base Voltage / Clairvoyance, creating a far more balanced and flexible level 39 choice without impacting the maximum DPS potential of the discipline.
  • Saber Conduit / Profundity now also makes activating Severing Slash / Cleaving Cut build a stack of Voltage / Clairvoyance (just like it already does for Lacerate / Whirling Blow). This change is essential to making it so players can still use Severing Slash / Cleaving Cut with the May Cause Injury tactical.
  • The Voltaic Engine / Vision Engine and Voltaic Defense / Visionary Defense ability tree buffs for Voltaic Slash / Clairvoyant Strike now grant their buffs whenever a stack of Voltage / Clairvoyance is generated, regardless of which ability that generated them. Turning off the crit chance and DR when you use Lacerate / Whirling Blow (or hopefully also Severing Slash / Cleaving Cut) is absolutely ridiculous. I get that the ability tree buffs are meant to affect the ability directly, but Voltage / Clairvoyance has always been an intrinsic part of Voltaic Slash / Clairvoyant Strike, so I think it’s fine.
  • Reckless Voltage / Potent Perception now instead reduces the cooldown of Recklessness / Force Potency by 2s whenever a stack of Voltage / Clairvoyance is generated. This change makes Reckless Voltage / Potent Perception behave more similarly to the other Voltaic Slash / Clairvoyant Strike ability tree buffs while enabling Reckless Voltage / Potent Perception to potentially be a superior option in situations with a lot of downtime or where frequent burst is required.
  • Lightning Engine / Far Sight Instruments now increases the duration of Voltage / Clairvoyance by 5s in addition to its other effects. I think this change would make the Blade of the Elements rotation more fluid by letting players not have to worry quite so much about maintaining Voltage / Clairvoyance without making things too easy for the other builds.
  • Shadowcraft now also makes it so that activating Phantom Stride / Shadow Stride from stealth generates 2 stacks of Voltage / Clairvoyance. This change would enable solo players to actually benefit from the buffs provided by the Voltaic Slash / Clairvoyant Strike choice and make it so everyone using Shadowcraft doesn’t have to worry so much about building 2 stacks of Voltage / Clairvoyance before entering combat.

The result of all these changes is that Voltage / Clairvoyance would be less cumbersome to deal with than it’s become with 7.0 without actually strengthening the discipline.

I don’t think these changes are nearly as essential compared to other issues that other specs are currently experiencing, so I can’t say that making these QoL improvements is necessarily a good use of BioWare unless they fix other major issues including:

  1. Greatly narrowing the spread for single-target damage output between rDPS and mDPS.
  2. Improving the survivability of Assassin / Shadow tanks to match what the other tank disciplines can live through. (UPDATE: A tank balance pass is planned)
  3. Fixing the Innovative Particle Accelerator / Ionic Accelerator and Speed to Burn / Blazing Celerity procs for Innovative Ordnance / Assault Specialist.
  4. Making both the new hard-cast static rotation and the old priority system both equally viable for Lightning / Telekinetics.

Darkness and Kinetic Combat

Announced 7.1.1 Change

  • Changed the Severing Slash / Cleaving Cut effect for Darkness / Kinetic Combat to root its target for 2 seconds, followed by a 3s slow. Severing Slash no longer grants damage reduction.

UPDATE: BioWare announced on the forums that they will be walking back this change due to player feedback.

Analysis

I think most players would agree that this change seems random, at least at first glance, and not what Assassin / Shadow tanks needed. Upon closer inspection, I think the change to Severing Slash / Cleaving Cut is more about making the ability a more viable choice, at least for DPS specs where it has to compete with Force Shroud / Resilience.

As BioWare indicated in a post on the forums has opted to give Severing Slash / Cleaving Cut survivability that is more appropriate for solo content compared to Force Shroud / Resilience and in order to accomplish that, they opted to migrate the DR effect from the tank discipline to Deception / Infiltration.

Given that high damage attacks worth using Force Shroud / Resilience on are so rare, I believe they accomplished this goal. Unfortunately, I don’t think Severing Slash / Cleaving Cut will be taken for tanks since Overload / Force Wave offers a root that lasts up to 5s and has a much larger AoE. The small amount of extra damage and shorter cooldown are pretty irrelevant, especially considering that Wither / Slow Time performs a similar function.

I think it would be more interesting to give Assassin / Shadow tanks an effect similar to Carbonize / Neural Surge for Severing Slash / Cleaving Cut (alongside a considerable cooldown duration increase, of course). That said, such a change would have major balance implications in both PvP and PvE, so I can see why BioWare may have deliberately given tanks a garbage choice. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time they tried to sweep a problem ability under the rug with these new ability tree choices *cough* Supercharged Celerity *cough*.

Recommendations for BioWare

Assassin / Shadow tanks really need a survivability boost such that their performance matches that of Juggernaut / Guardian and Powertech / Vanguard tanks. Right now, Assassins / Shadows really just can’t survive for as long as the other tanks. They need an additional DCD or changes to existing DCDs like duration extensions or cooldown reductions.

Significantly lowering the cooldown on Overcharge Saber / Battle Readiness would also improve tank survivability and help to make it a more viable choice for the DPS specs. The Assassin / Shadow tank tactical items and legendary implants are pretty underutilized too; they present a great opportunity to offer much stronger defensive buffs.

One of the tanks on my raid team advocates for a tweak to Recklessness / Force Potency’s DCD effect to increase Shield Chance instead of Absorb in order to provide more reliable mitigation. She also misses the longer Force Shroud / Resilience that Assassins / Shadows used to have with the Disjunction / Mind Over Matter utility. It’s not great for DPS to have access to a longer duration on Force Shroud / Resilience in PvP, but I think it would be okay for just tanks to have it.

Author Lokzmir
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Categories SWTOR News
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