Darkness Assassin Tanking

Tanking is never an easy job in any game or at any level. I’ve had a few friends ask me when my tank was going to create an article and give his view points on tanking in Star Wars the Old Republic. Well here it is! This is an article that my tank worked on to discuss Assassin tanking up to level 38 in SWTOR.

His background also comes from tanking in World of Warcraft. He was our main tank for our raiding, our farming old content, his solo farming old content and always for our 5 mans. He doesn’t know how to do anything else but tank pretty much! So let’s jump in and have him talk about Assassin tanking! Please remember that the abilities listed here are for a level 38, not level 50. I promise he will do an updated post once we get to 50 to cover the differences and the changes since this post.

My Impressions

The Sith Assassin is a very exciting and unique tank. Wearing light armor is something that confused me at first. However, at level 14 when you learn “Dark Charge” it increases your armor % and your self heals and threat nicely. At that point is when I felt like I could properly tank.

I have heard many say that Assassins are only important as an off-tank. I have a Sith Warrior Juggernaut, and I have to say that the Assassin is just as strong.

The damage output of the Assassin is very impressive, and so are the self healing abilities. Assassins have few defensive cool-downs, but the self healing abilities make up for that.

While playing this class, you will want to keep track of your buffs, and debuffs closely, and keep your abilities in a way that is easy to access.

Abilities

Stealth: You receive this ability at level 10 and it enters you in a stealth mode, making your movements difficult to detect but slowing movement speed to 85% of normal. Your companion will not react to enemy attacks while in stealth. Most hostile actions prematurely end the effect. Cannot be used in combat.

This is helpful to use when starting a pull, however it is not necessary. If you start a pull in stealth you can get closer to apply some other abilities that will give you some nice AoE threat.

Maul: You receive this ability at level 10 and it deals 818-929 weapon damage to a single target. Only usable from behind the target. Requires a double-bladed lightsaber. This is an instant cast and costs 50 Force.

You can use this coming out of stealth or anytime when you are behind the target. However, as a tank I rarely use this ability since the majority of the time my target is in front of me.

Lightning Charge: You receive this ability at level 10 and it charges your lightsaber with lightning, giving your attacks a 50% chance to deal 65 energy damage. This effect cannot occur more than once every 1.5 seconds. Requires a double-bladed lightsaber. Does not break Stealth. It is an instant cast and costs 100 Force.

This is the dps Charge, and you shouldn’t be using this as a tank.

Discharge: You receive this ability at level 12 and it unleashes your current lightsaber charge upon the target, applying an effect based on your current charge. Only usable with a charged lightsaber. Requires a double-bladed lightsaber. Lightning Charge: Deals 858 periodic energy damage over 18 seconds. Dark Charge: Strikes up to 5 nearby enemies, dealing 236-289 internal damage and decreasing the targets’ accuracy by 5% for the next 18 seconds. Surging Charge: Deals 537-585 internal damage. It is an instant cast, costs 20 Force and has a cooldown of 15 seconds.

This is one of the most important abilities that you receive as a tank. You want to start every pull with it at my level. The debuff to your target’s accuracy is helpful for avoidance.

Dark Charge: You receive this ability at level 14 and it charges your lightsaber with dark energy, giving your attacks a 50% chance to drain life force from the target, dealing 60 internal damage and healing you for 212. This effect cannot occur more than once every 4.5 seconds. Increases your armor rating by 150%, shield chance by 15% and threat generation by 50%. While active, melee bonus damage is reduced by 5%. Requires a double-bladed lightsaber. Does not break Stealth. It is an instant cast and costs 100 Force.

As a tank you will want this Charge active at all times. You can only have one Charge active at a time.  When talented into it will increase the chance your Dark Charge will apply it’s effects by 15%.

Guard: You receive this ability at level 14 and it guards the target while it remains within 15 meters. While active, the target takes 5% less damage and generates 25% less threat. In addition, 50% of all incoming damage from enemy players is transferred back to you.

This ability is extremely helpful, it can be used on a healer pulling threat or a dps. It never hurts to have this on someone in your group.

Mind Control: You receive this ability at level 16 and it controls the mind of the target, forcing it to attack you for 6 seconds. Player targets deal 30% less damage when attacking anyone other than you. Lasts 6 seconds. It is an instant cast and has a cooldown of 15 seconds.

This is your single target taunt and can be helpful if a mob is spread out or if a group member is being attack. Please keep in mind line of sight pulls do not work in Star Wars the Old Republic the same as in other MMOs, so this ability will be helpful to grab the groups attention if they are spread out.

Mind Trap: You receive this ability at level 20 and it traps the target’s mind, leaving it bewildered and unable to act for 60 seconds. Damage will break the effect prematurely. This ability is only usable in stealth mode and cannot be used against a target in combat. Only one target can be incapacitated at any given time. Cannot be used on droids. This is an instant cast and costs 50 Force.

This is an excellent crowd control technique to use, it is very powerful. As long as it’s not broken by damage it’s very reliable.

Dark Ward: You receive this ability at level 20 and it surrounds you in a dark ward with 8 charges that increases your shield chance by 15% for 20 seconds. Each time you successfully shield, Dark Ward loses 1 charge. Does not break Stealth. It is an instant cast, costs 10 Force and has a cooldown of 12 seconds.

Apply this every pull and always refresh when it falls off.

Lacerate: You receive this ability at level 26 and it deals 25-293 weapon damage to all nearby targets. It is an instant cast and costs 40 Force.

This isn’t as important as other attacks, but you can throw it out there as an AoE attack.

Force Pull: You receive this ability at level 30 and it uses the Force to draw the target in, instantly pulling it to your location and generating a high amount of threat. Does not work against targets in cover. This is an instant cast, costs no Force and has a cooldown of 45 seconds.

Save this for the “oh-shit” moments when a target gets loose.

Mass Mind Control: You receive this ability at level 30 and it forces all enemies within 15 meters to attack you for 1 second. Player targets deal 30% less damage when attacking anyone other than you. It lasts 6 seconds. This is an instant cast, costs no Force and has a cooldown of 45 seconds.

This is a very nice and important AoE taunt.

Assassinate: You receive this ability at level 32 and it attempts to assassinate the target, dealing 1056-1201 point weapon damage. Only usable on targets at or below 30% max health. It is an instant case, costs 25 Force and has a cooldown of 6 seconds.

This is a good finishing move. It does a nice amount of damage … and has a great animation.

Cooldowns

Unbreakable Will : You receive this ability at level 9 and it summons the unbreakable will of the Sith, immediately freeing you of all incapacitating and movement-impairing effects.  It is an instant cast, cost no Force and has a 2 minute cooldown.

Blackout: You receive this ability at level 22 and it increases your stealth by 15 for 8 seconds. Only usable in stealth mode. This is an instant cast, costs no Force and has a 1 minute cooldown.

Force Cloak: You receive this ability at level 22 and it uses the Force to vanish from sight, immediately exiting combat and entering stealth mode. For 10 seconds, you become virtually undetectable, but all healing done and received is decreased by 100%. This is an instant cast, costs no Force and has a cooldown of 3 minutes.

Deflection: You receive this ability at level 24 and it increases your ranged and melee defenses by 50% for 12 seconds. Requires a melee weapon. It is an instant cast, costs no Force and has a cooldown of 2 minutes.

Force Shroud: You receive this ability at level 36 and it removes all hostile removable effects and increases your chance to resist Force and tech attacks by 100% for 3 seconds. Does not break Stealth. This is an instant cast, no Force cost and has a cooldown of 1 minute.

Putting It To Use

Always have “Darkness Charge” and “Mark of Power” active and apply “Dark Ward” before every pull and keep it refreshed at all times. Most of the time I start a pull in “Stealth” to get closer to my mob and apply my debuffs quickly. Attack with “Discharge” to apply the accuracy debuff to all targets and use “Shock”.

“Shock” will give you a proc called “Harnessed Darkness” At 3 stacks of “Harnessed Darkness”, the Assassin can use “Force Lightning” for a nice self heal. At 3 stacks of “Harnessed Darkness”, you can use the “Forced Lightning” ability to heal yourself.  The entire channeled duration of the cast is immune to interrupt, and the assassin will heal 3% of his or her maximum health per tic of the “Force Lightning”.  You can access “Harnessed Darkness” through your talent tree at level 35.

Spam “Thrash” when it is ready, and when you have the Force Energy. With the talent point put into “Energize” in tier 3 of the Darkness tree, using “Thrash” can reset the cooldown on “Shock” and cast it again quickly. This means you can get “Harnessed Darkness” x3 quicker.

Obviously, you will be using other melee abilities to maintain threat. Also, use “Saber Strike” when needed, or when “Thrash” is not available to regenerate Force Energy.

Other helpful hints:

– I have found “Force Speed” a very important ability to keep handy, also. It helps to close the ground on a target and snap aggro quickly.

– Use your interrupts to help your healers (and yourself)

– My “Tab” key has become more important in SWToR to quickly switch targets to apply a “Shock” etc.

Wither

I am very excited to receive “Wither” at 40. “Wither” causes up to 5 targets to wither under the Force. Dealing damage to the targets, and decreasing the damage the targets deal by 5% and slowing movement speed by 30%. It generates a lot of threat, and will become the priority ability in the pull. Obviously, keep this in rotation to keep those debuffs on the targets. “Wither” will also give you a stack of “Harnessed Darkness”, the same as “Shock”.

Tips on Managing Force

I haven’t come across a time when I get very low on Force, however if you do struggle with Force management you can use “Saber Strike”. It will give you a nice return and help you build it back up.

Talent Tree Choices

Let’s look at some of the Darkness talent tree choices you can make up to level 38 that will help you tank.

Tier 1

Lightning Reflexes: Whenever you successfully shield, parry or deflect an attack you recover 2% of your total Force. This effect cannot occur more than once a second. In addition, your melee and ranged defense is increased by 4%.

Charge Mastery: Improves the effect of your lightsaber charges while they’re active: Lightning Charge: Increases critical hit chance by 3% and the damage dealt by Lightning Charge by 18%. Dark Charge: Increases the internal and elemental resistance by 9%. Surging Charge: Your attacks ignore 9% of your target’s armor.

Thrashing Blades: Increases the damage dealt by Thrash, Lacerate and Voltaic Slash by 3%.

Tier 2

Shroud of Darkness: Increases total Endurance by 3%.

Lightning Recovery: Reduces the cooldown of Force Speed by 5 seconds and Force Shroud by 7.5 seconds.

Swelling Shadows: Increases the chance your Dark Charge applies its effects by 15%.

Tier 3

Disjunction: Activating Force Speed now removes all movement-impairing effects, and your Force Shroud now lasts 2 seconds longer.

Energize: While Dark Charge is active, damage dealt by Thrash, Lacerate, and Assassinate has a 30% chance to finish the cooldown on Shock and make your next Shock a critical hit. Energized Shocks that consume a charge of Recklessness deal an additional 50% critical damage.

Dark Ward: Surrounds you in a dark ward with 8 charges that increases your shield chance by 15% for 20 seconds. Each time you successfully shield, Dark Ward loses 1 charge. Does not break Stealth.

Premonition: Increases your stealth detection level by 2 and defense by 2%.

Tier 4

Hollow: Increases your shield absorption by 4%. In addition, when you activate Overcharge Saber while Dark Charge is active, you instantly heal for 10% of your total health.

Blood of Sith: Increases the rate at which your Force regenerates by 30%.

Tier 5

Electrify: Increases the threat and damage dealt by Shock by 15%.

Eye of the Storm: Increases armor by 20% and allows Spike to be used while out of stealth mode.

Force Pull: Uses the Force to draw the target in, instantly pulling it to your location and generating a high amount of threat. Does not work against targets in cover.

Tier 6

Harnessed Darkness: Shock and Wither have a 100% chance to grant Harnessed Darkness, which makes the next Force Lightning used uninterruptible and immune to pushback. In addition, each stack increases the damage dealt by your next Force Lightning by 25%. Stacks up to 3 times. At 3 stacks, each tick of Force Lightning heals you for 3% of your maximum health.

Mounting Darkness: Increases the damage dealt by Dark Charge’s Discharge by 10% and Wither by 20%.

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