SWTOR Assassin/Shadow PvP Guide

You’ve always wanted to be the sneaky Assassin, harassing opponents while seamlessly moving in and out of combat.  Assassin or Shadow class in Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) is the perfect class for you.  Whether you’re  relying on stealth to enter combat, or bursting an opponent to death, even teleporting to safety, the Assassin is one of the strongest and most fun classes to play.  This PvP guide will go over my build (Dark Maul), gear optimizing, and offensive/defensive priorities to help you become the King of Stealth.

Overview

Screenshot_2014-03-20_13_00_33_483767

The Empire Assassins, or Sins (Republic Shadow) is arguably the best stealth class in the game.  They have great utility with a variety of stuns and taunts, while providing exceptional burst damage on command.  They are fun to play but challenging to master.

+ Burst Damage
+ King of utility
+ Tank or DPS effectively
– Minimal range
– Squishy (easy to kill)

Table of Contents

Roles and Responsibilities
Abilities
Talent Build
Offensive Strategies
Defensive Strategies
Other Builds
Stat Priority
Itemizing (Gearing)
Combos
Version

Roles and Responsibilities

As a Sin, your sole purpose is to hinder the opposition.  We do this by controlling players, like zapping enemies prior to combat (eight second mez/stun), knocking opponents off ledges, picking off low health players, and in general, causing chaos.  My general strategy is to identify the opposition’s best player, and completely shut them down.

If I’m doing my job correctly, they will not be able to cast, do much damage, or heal.  I will make their life hell with slows, stuns, knock-backs, and damage.  This will take time to learn as Sins are very situational dependent, but the end result can be devastating for the opposing team. Let’s go over some of the Sin’s abilities and how I use them.

Abilities

Name

Level

Use

Republic – Phase Walk

Empire – (Phase Walk)

*if only one title, then same

51

Our teleporter that can be used up to 60 meters away.  Key to success is setting this up prior to engagement.  If you’re getting focused, you can use this while stunned or near death.

Battle Readiness

(Overcharge Saber)

50

Acts as both an offensive and defensive buff.  I pop this early defensively, and reserve it offensively for a kill.

Spinning Kick

(Spike)

42

Our in stealth opener that can be used out of stealth in tank tree.  This is a must to open with this because it procs our Duplicity.

Resilience

(Force Shroud)

36

This is our number one defensive Cool Down (CD) and Crowd Control (CC) immunity (though not all).  If you’re loaded up on DOTS, use this.  If you need to stealth out of combat fast, use this.  If you’re opening up on someone and don’t want to get stunned, use this.  

Spinning Strike

(Assassinate)

32

Our finishing ability that should be used on CD below 30% health.

Mass Mind Control

30

Our area taunt that should be used almost always on cool down.  This has a huge range and can literally win games.

Whirling Blow

(Lacerate)

26

Our area damage ability that has a high force cost and rarely used.  I do use it on a door being capped, or a way to knock someone out of stealth, but that’s about it.

Deflection

24

Another powerful defensive CD that should be used in the “oh crap” situations as it has a two minute cool down.

Blackout

22

Increases stealth detection and has some interesting talented mechanics.  Can be an on demand damage reduction, Force regen and can rest after exiting stealth.

Force Cloak

22

Our immediate cloak that can be used during combat.  I do this when I want to proc another ability or use it in a combination to zap someone.

Force Slow

22

Our only default slow that can be purged easily (one of the classes downsides).

Mind Maze

(Mind Trap)

20

Our out of combat mez or stun for eight seconds.  Can only be used on one target, typically I will do this to a caster prior to combat starting.

Mind Snap

(Jolt)

18

Our interrupt, with set bonus can be used at 15 meters (major difference).

Force Speed

16

Our bread and butter escape or follow ability used to break roots (once spec’d).  

Mind Control

16

Single target taunt which should be used on top DPS opponent.

Combat Technique

(Dark Charge)

14

Our Charge/Technique enabling guard and shield generator.

Guard

14

Our protection ability soaking up damage from another player (typically healer or high priority DPS).

Mind Crush

(Crushing Darkness)

14

A hard hitting damage over time ability that I use after stunning an opponent for four seconds.  Has a long cast time so rarely do I use this unless dueling.

Force Breach

(Discharge)

12

Our ability that depends on our Charge/Technique.  In Dark Charge acts as an accuracy debuff, while in Surging Charge acts as a hard hitting single target burst ability.

Force Technique

(Lighting Charge)

10

Our Charge/Technique with the right tree DPS though I’ve literally never used this as it’s arguably one of the worst DPS trees in the game.

Shadow Strike

(Maul)

10

This is our major burst damage ability that relies heavily on procs regardless of spec.  It’s also a white damage ability which can be good or bad situational dependent.

Stealth

10

Oh yea, we get stealth.

Double-Bladed Lightsaber

10

And the only class the with a double bladed light saber too!

Force of Will

(Unbreakable Will)

9

Our CC breaker that I use early and often.

Force Potency

(Recklessness)

8

Our critical hit buff which makes something nearly an auto crit.  Many combos with this I’ll write about later.

Force Stun

(Electrocute)

6

Our basic four second stun that I use on CD.

Force Lift

(Whirlwind)

4

Our eight second mez.  This is tricky to use because it can be interrupted.  Generally I’ll cast it on a ranged target not focusing on me because it is 30 meter range.

Force Wave

(Overload)

3

Our punt or knock-back ability with a low CD.  I use this often, as a peel, offensively, or even as an interrupt.  

Telekinetic Throw

(Force Lightning)

2

Our channeled ability that is extremely important for tanking.  Combined with Force Potency/Recklessness for a 30 meter attack.

Armor Proficiency: Light

1

We are a clothy (light) armor class unfortunately.  But hey, it looks cool!

Double Strike

(Thrash)

1

Generally a good ability that procs a lot of different things.  More on this later.

Project

(Shock)

1

An important ability that can be used at 10 meters.  I generally use this on cool down depending on my build.

Saber Strike

1

Our free auto attack ability that I use when energy is low.

Shadow Technique

(Surging Charge)

1

The main middle tree DPS Charge/Technique.

Talent Tree Only Abilities

Name

Tree

Comment

Sever Force

(Creeping Terror)

Balance

(Madness)

I good root but I have little experience with as I don’t play the right tree.

Force in Balance

(Death Field)

Balance

(Madness)

An awesome AoE damage ability giving Assassin 30 meter range.

Clairvoyant Strike

(Voltaic Slash)

Infiltration

(Deception)

I typically stay away from this ability as Thrash or Double Strike do a similar  job.

Low Slash

Infiltration

(Deception)

Our key ability to proc’ing Duplicity or controlling targets.

Kinetic Ward

(Dark Ward)

Kinetic Combat

(Darkness)

A great tanking buff that increases shield chance, off the GCD and no energy, constantly keep this up.

Force Pull

Kinetic Combat

(Darkness)

A super control ability that acts as an interrupt too.  Use this offensively and defensively to help control targets and limit mobility.

Slow Time

(Wither)

Kinetic Combat

(Darkness)

A powerful AoE damage reduction ability.  Generally this should be used on CD as a full tank.

Talent Build

Dark Maul – 12/31/3
+ Mobility
+ On demand burst
+ DPS or tank effectively
– Minimal range
– Harder resource management

Overview – Dark Maul is one of the most popular builds to play and can be very effective because you can play as DPS or tank just by switching Charges/Techniques.  There are many variations to this build, but overall, this is the main build I recommend for solo rated.  You have to be cognizant of your resources, but you can provide the team with amazing burst, speed, and stuns.

Set Bonus: 4-piece Stalker (range on interrupt and slow / extra charge of Force Potency/Recklessness and a reduced cool down)

Active Technique/Charge: Dark charge for tanking; Surging charge for DPS.  I make my decision based on the possibility of healing.  If our team has an off healer or a full healer, typically I play tank.  Otherwise stick to DPS (85% of the time I use Surging).

Key Abilities – Low Slash | Maul(Shadow Strike) | Shock(Project).  Playing a hybrid build like this puts you in a unique situation.  As a tank, your key offensive abilities are Maul and Shock, while DPS relies on Maul and Discharge.  Regardless of your stance, make sure you’re doing everything you can to control targets.  Constantly use Low Slash on players not only to proc your Duplicity/Infiltration Tactics, but also to stun and frustrate them.  Use your Force Slow on cool down for players that can’t run away easily (Operative/Scoundrel).  And also start off the fight on an unsuspecting target.

Offensive Strategies

foltest attacking

Impose Weakness is our key ability allowing Low Slash and Spike/Spinning Kick to automatically proc Duplicity, giving an increase damage and cost reduction to Maul/Shadow Strike.  It’s on a 10 second timer, so you’ll have to keep a mental clock.  Best way to do this is enable cool down text, after you use Low Slash (15 second CD), once that timer is around 5 seconds, you should be able to enable another proc.

Another important DPS rotation is our Discharge and understanding that you need 3 stacks of Static Barrier/Breaching Shadow  before use to get maximum DPS.  Remember, this class is about burst not sustained damage.  You’ll have to save up your stacks and procs for the right time to finish an opponent.  Typically what I do after my opener is harass healers until I have a couple of procs ready (Duplicity / Static Charge x3 / Induction x2).  I’ll then mez the healer with a whirlwind and open up on a DPS trying to finish them within 10 seconds.  Focus on burst, striking the opponent at opportune times.

With that being said, our other major on demand burst  comes from Electric Ambush/Potent Shadows refreshing our 3 Static Charge Stacks and reducing the CD on Recklessness.  This basically enables Sins to use my Force Cloak offensively rather than defensively.  After my initial opener, if I need to finish the target, I’ll Force Cloak, giving me 3 Static Charge stacks and 3 more 60% critical increase chances on Force attacks (Shock, Discharge).  So really in the first 30 seconds of the fight, you’ll either utterly destroy something, or need to sit back and wait for another burst phase.

Lastly, make sure to use Force Shroud a lot.  I use this offensively when I’m opening up on someone in a crowd or an inexperienced player that will try to CC me immediately.  In a group, I’ll use this right away to get their attention and make them waste a lot of their initial DPS hitting me with little or no effect.  Finally, If I’m going in for the kill and can’t be interrupted for a burst phase, I’ll use this to finish a target.

My main opener is pretty scripted:
Recklessness as I’m moving in > Spike (auto proc Duplicity) > Maul > Discharge > Shock > Low Slash > Maul

If that hasn’t killed the target:
Force Cloak > Recklessness > Spike > Discharge (Maul may no proc yet) > Shock (10 seconds should be up) > Low Slash > Maul

Once those openers are up, I generally go into a priority of abilities rather than a stagnate rotation.

  • Maul w/ Duplicity proc
  • Discharge w/ 3 Static Charges procs
  • Shock w/ 2 Induction procs (Surging Charge)
  • Shock w/ Energize proc (Dark Charge)
  • Low Slash as primary proc generator
  • Thrash to generate procs
  • Saber Strike when energy is low

Defensive Strategies

shroud

Our main defensive CD is Force Shroud which prevents  Yellow damage (Force/Tech) and provides some CC immunity.  I’ll use this defensively against heavy dot classes as it instantly removes almost all debuffs.  I’ll also use this in combination with Force Cloak to rinse myself of dots, go invisible, and remove myself from combat.  You can even hide and heal up, then rejoin the fight later.

The Darkswell/Masked Assault talent gives our Blackout an out of combat Dark Embrace or 25% damage reduction.  Combine this with an Adrenal for major damage reduction.

While Force Cloak is an obvious defensive CD, it’s important to make sure you have zero dots, otherwise a dot ticking can break you out of stealth.  It’s best to pair Cloak with Force Shroud for a nearly perfect get away.

Our other two defenses are Overcharge Saber (self-heal and 25% damage reduction when talented) and Deflection defense boost for 12 seconds.  I generally use Overcharge Saber very early in the fight and combine it with a WZ Med Pack if under real pressure.  If you combine both, that’s a 45% self-heal thus making it most effective to use around 50% health.  I use Deflection generally as a last resort trying to avoid white damage classes such as a Sniper/Gunslinger or Vengeance Juggernaut, etc.

Finally our major underutilized defensive ability: Phase Walk.  This is a very tricky ability to use properly.  First, you need to be within 60 meters to teleport.  Second, you need time to place.  I typically Force Speed out of the spawn, and place this behind some crate or near the general fighting area.  The key part about using this ability is you can Phase out while stunned.  So even if all my defensive CDs are up, I know as a last resort I can leave the area while getting focused.  I often times use this during the first part of battle.  I’ll “Rambo” in, pop Force Shroud and get the other teams attention.  Meanwhile my team is raining down destruction on them.  Once they all start attacking me, I Phase out leaving them clueless.  Try these combinations and see for yourself, it can be devastating.

  • Force Shroud (Yellow Damage)
  • Blackout (extra 25% in middle tree)
  • Warzone Adrenal (if initiating combat in group)
  • Force Cloak w/ Force Shroud
  • Overcharge Saber w/ Warzone Med Pack (extra 25% in left tree)
  • Deflection (White Damage)
  • Phase Walk (with Force Shroud if possible)

Other Builds

NOTE: I play many other specs and builds which I will organize and write about later.  Some are listed below.

Maul Field –  (2/31/13) – Major DPS with little mobility.

23s – 23/23/0 – Listed as a DPS but plays like a powerful tank though minimal damage.

Under Pressure – 5/36/5 – Typical deception build for controlling single targets, though suffers from mobility problems.

Face Tank – 36/5/5 – Great tank build which has tons of stuns and control, but can lack for survivability in PvP compared to a Juggernaut/Guardian.

Stat Priority

mrrobotfoltest

DPS Builds (Dark Maul) – Power > Willpower > Surge

Assassins and Shadows have no main state bonus in our talents, thus making the power stat a more viable option, in my opinion.  I stick to this simple formula because it’s worked for me.  You can run accuracy in case you don’t want to miss a Maul, but even if you do miss that or a Discharge, your proc will still be up so I find little reason to waste it.

I also don’t use any critical because we have our 60% boost up nearly at all times during our burst phase.  So it seems pointless to focus on this stat as well.

Hybrid (23s and other Specs) – Power > Willpower > Surge >Endurance

The only difference here is having a little more Endurance.

Full Tank – Endurance > Shield Absorb > Shield Rating > Power

Pretty obvious here, stack tons of endurance for a huge health pool.  Secondarily, you want a lot of shield and absorb to save your guarded target.

Itemizing (Gearing)

gear

DPS Builds (use with the following builds)

Dark Maul, Maul Field, and Under Pressure

I use Overkill or power augments because we don’t have a main stat bonus.  In my opinion, the extra bonus damage outweighs the tiny amount of critical chance gained. Stick with power/main stat relics because we have a lot of critical hit on demand via Recklessness and our Recklessness rest via Electric Ambush. I go with the 29X Mods over the 29AX for maximum damage gains.
Though we use a Focus as our primary off-hand, make sure to keep a shield handy in case we need to guard someone.  Also put power/surge mods into that piece as well. Ears/implants go with power/surge all the way.

Hybrid Tank (used with the following builds)23s or Face Tank for added DPS

Focused on talented shield build with high hp, power/surge.

Full Tank (used with the following builds) All really, if you have to guard someone with strong DPS

Max shield absorb/rating for full tank

Combos

Here’s a general list of “combos” or abilities synced together that work well in certain situations.

Combat Zap (any spec) – Can be used in a duel to mez a target though hard to pull off.
Force Shroud > Force Cloak > Mind Trap

Deuces (any spec) – Use to vanish out of combat.
Force Shroud > Force Cloak

Rambo Sprint – Used to get everyone’s attention.
Typical Opener  combined with > Force Shroud > Adrenal > Phase       Walk after being focused

Ride the Wind (any spec) – Use after a CC break to completely lock someone down (make sure no resolve).
Electrocute > Whirlwind

Rip & Grip (23s or Face Tank) – Use this up to 30m on to help a friendly getting pressure.
Force Pull > Low Slash (23s) or > Spinning Kick (Face Tank)

Version

1.0 – March 21, 2014

25 Comments

  1. Inox on March 21, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    accuracy rating is useless on pvp. Noone is runing with any points of it. surge is much better!

    • Deltia on March 21, 2014 at 9:40 pm

      Totally agree.

  2. Bertrand on March 24, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Hi Deltia again a great guide, one of our guild’s assassins is looking it to it.

    Do you think you will be doing a healers guide anytime soon ? Notably the smuggler/agent one !

    • Deltia on March 24, 2014 at 12:48 pm

      Hey thanks again Bertrand.

      Yea I have one youtube video of me healing for almost 2 million with Partisan gear on, but I’m trying to level Commando/Sorc to see what happens after 2.7. Because the healing game will change a lot with that (Ops nerfed).

      After that I can work on it though. I’ll try to get a guide for each class though it will take a while for me to do one considering I want to be very very good at it. So thanks, and I’ll work on it.

  3. Bertrand on March 24, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    Do you mean the operative healer is being nerfed ? Is so can you explain how ?

    • Sir Popinjay the III on March 24, 2014 at 6:16 pm

      You will no longer be able to spam surgical probe on players sub 35%. This changes tactics not only in survivability of the op herself (self spam sub 35%) but also how frequently you are spamming surgical probe around a wz while keeping at least 1 TA up at all times.
      This is probably a good change to pull healing operatives closer in line with the other healers in the game, though I feel that a simple revision to kolto probes (making them cost more energy) would have been a solid change also. Operative healers don’t have enough problems with energy management currently making it lower skill cap and “spammy” than it should be.

    • Deltia on March 25, 2014 at 12:07 am

      Basically what Sir Popinjay the III said but here’s my original response.

      Yea they are getting nerfed and the other healing classes getting a buff (Commandos/Mercs getting tech override or free cast ability CD reduced and uninterruptable after bubble for Sage/Sorcs).

      What OPS/Scoundrel’s have over these classes is a HoT that refreshes if the target is 30% or less. You’re Tactical Advantage or your Upper Hand which allows you to do a instant heal on the move, will refresh if on a below 30% target; meaning you can spam heal one target indefinitely.

      OPS are the best because they can heal on the move without being interrupted. The other classes are catching up to this and will be on par with the rest.

      Basically the classes are getting closer to each other in performance in PvP.

      I still think it will be #1 ops, #2 mercs, #3sages.

      Ops – instant heals with limited casting

      Mercs – Heavy armor and good shell on multiple targets

      Sages – Major top tier heal is a puddle but must be stationary thus great for PvE, bad for PvP since everyone is moving around.

  4. Herman on April 6, 2014 at 7:32 am

    Hi, im trying to improve in PvP, i have a question about what you write: “Assassins and Shadows have no main state bonus in our talents, thus making the power stat a more viable option”

    So you stack power–willpower-surge for the dps build, but isn’t willpower the main stat for the sith assassin?, or is that just for PvE?

    greetings.

    • Deltia on April 6, 2014 at 11:53 am

      Great questions. Willpower is the main stat for the Sin. What I look at is the benefit to bonus damage (higher with power) vs. the benefit of extra critical chance (Main stat – Willpower). Since there’s no bonus base percentage to main stat, and we get a on demand 60% critical buff, I see more benefit in using power for larger hits.

  5. Herman on April 7, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    OK thx, i’ll go try this out !

    greetz

  6. Mayday on May 23, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Sorry for the slight necro here and dont even know if you care to answer such a question….

    While leveling, which tree in the 12/31/3 build do you suggest “maxing” first?

    • Deltia on May 24, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      Middle to be honest.

  7. Ninja on May 24, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Salut, all.

    I just wanted to clarify something really quick about one of the rotations you listed (Recklessness > Spike > Maul > Discharge > Shock > Low Slash > Maul).

    I can see your reasoning behind it and by no means do I think it’s a bad rotation or a useless one, but I don’t think it’s necessarily as optimized as it could be. Little known fact is that Spike actually DOES consume a charge of Recklessness. Personally, I would hate to consume a charge of Recklessness on Spike, especially when I can throw another shock to consume it instead for higher burst output because shock has a pretty low CD. If I can build my discharge stacks in time, even better.

    Moving forward, I would argue that Discharging would be better than Mauling after Spike IF you are not running Dark Maul. If you’re running Under Pressure or Maul Field (AKA Walkagen), I would rotate Discharge and Maul to give Maul a higher chance of critting due to Exploitive Strikes in the madness tree, which increases your melee abilities (Maul) chance to crit by roughly 9% AFTER a successful Force crit (Discharge, Shock).

    So, my argument for a rotation would be Spike > Recklessness > Discharge > Maul > Shock > Low Slash > Maul.

    An argument can be made that you want to get that Maul off since you can only use it from behind the target and you don’t want them to turn around to prevent you from doing it after the control from Spike ends. However, my response to that would be that I have no issue getting that Maul off with the rotation I listed previously. Remember that you are facing other people. That, combined with the game’s mechanics, gives you ample time to get off both that Discharge and Maul before they can turn their character all the way around. I have also, frequently, successfully pulled off Low Slash > Crushing Darkness > Maul before my opponent can turn around, despite Low Slash breaking on damage from the Crushing Darkness. Again, this is dependent on NOT playing Dark Maul or full Madness.

    • Ninja on May 24, 2014 at 9:30 am

      Sorry, one addendum here. I also realize there’s a 10-second wait period to get Duplicity after using Spike if you want to proc it with Low Slash, and ten seconds will not have passed (if left to freely do damage, which is usually not the case) with the rotation I suggested by the time you get to the Low Slash + Maul portion after the first Maul. I would mention that I am throwing a couple of thrashes in there usually after my first shock in order to reduce the Force cost of my next shock after its CD is up, which I know seems like a more drawn out and less burst-efficient way to do things, but it actually works very well and buys you enough time to get that second Duplicity proc with Low Slash. You may even get a normal Duplicity proc with the Thrashes, which means you could, ideally, see this type of situation/rotation (only using Maul with Duplicity proc): Spike > Recklessness > Discharge > Maul (Duplicity + Exploitive Strikes procs) > Shock > Thrash > Thrash > Maul (Duplicity from Thrashes, separate limit from Duplicity given by Spike and/or Low Slash) > Low Slash > Crushing Darkness (if dueling or not being focused) > Maul (Duplicity from Low Slash) > Shock (consuming that third charge of Recklessness that I didn’t waste with Spike).

      Keep in mind that the second Shock I threw in there may have to be thrown in a little sooner if the CD is up so the timer on that third Recklessness charge doesn’t run out, making you waste a charge. That’s no bueno.

      • Deltia on May 24, 2014 at 5:07 pm

        Great points.

  8. Allan on September 7, 2014 at 1:02 am

    I agree with your Power Augments argument, But did I miss where Crit Chance should be? I’ve heard everything from no crit chance at all to 23%. Ive had a hard time with this……Comments anyone?

    • Deltia on September 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm

      Are you playing straight DPS or tank? Basically you’ll have an auto crit playing Dark Maul so limited crit. If not, sweet spot is usually around 25% Force Crit.

      • Allan on September 8, 2014 at 1:16 am

        I don’t want to sound like a Noob, but this is my first MMO. Im an Elite Warlord, so Ive been around the block.
        Im a 45 year old disabled vet that basically spends to much time and thinking of how to be better.
        Im currently a 7/36/3 all power Augs. I agree that Power is better than Willpower Augs,
        I use to play 5/36/5 all the time…..
        Im currently at 22.72% crit
        I use to think with auto crit and recklessness I didn’t need much more crit than that.
        BUT! im just a old guy that’s still learning….
        ANY advice is appreciated

        • Allan on September 8, 2014 at 1:24 am

          Id like to also add…Im 99% PVP. Im full ranked that’s been Min/MAX
          Im fully stacked Power and Surge, my Ear and implants are crit. If I need a extra piece for more crit or Power I have extra mods and enhancements (30x) laying around to swap.

          While im on the topic…has anyone heard when the next tier of PVP gear is coming out?

          • Allan on September 8, 2014 at 1:31 am

            BTW, love this Forum…..hard to get good advice



          • Deltia on September 8, 2014 at 3:02 pm

            That I don’t know but it’ll be some time most likely. Sounds like you got a good handle on your gear and setup. Glad you enjoy this site thanks!



  9. Allan on September 10, 2014 at 1:08 am

    Deltia, do you have a email address that I can ask some questions off line?

  10. Ryan on November 19, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Is it me or is the youtube video broken?

    • Deltia on November 19, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      Should be working.

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