Leader’s Lament – Raiding in the Buff

For the vast majority of current MMO players, World of Warcraft was their first dance with large scale PVE content. Perhaps it was a server first Molten Core clear (“Whoa, check out these ugly ass Judgement Pants that dropped off Garr, what the hell guys!?”) or maybe it was just a casual Friday night Karazhan run with some random people. The cries of “Bloodlust now! Where’s the Bloodlust? Is the damn shaman AFK?” ring throughout the collective memory of the game, forever reminding us of the various mechanics that went hand in hand with raiding in WoW. Sometimes I still wake up in a cold sweat with images of the spreadsheet I used to use to ensure every…single…buff was present in my raid.

Raiding in WoW set the stage for endgame content in nearly every MMO to follow, for better or for worse. Some games deviate more from it than others, but no matter where you are, the specter of Blizzard’s behemoth is there, especially in the minds of players. It’s your job as an operation leader to harness this prior knowledge (to use fancy teacher lingo) and mold it into the mindset of SWTOR.  This time around, we’ll be looking at how the buff system has been simplified by SWTOR and how to ensure you bring and use all of them.

Depending on your timeframe, WoW’s buff system ranged from relatively simple to more complex than 2nd edition AD&D. At release, the job of most Paladins was buffing the entire 40 man group with a 5min buff that would be near expiration once the entire cycle was complete. Group dynamics were entirely based on party-only buffs like Windfury Totem and raid leaders would occasionally have to swap party layouts on the fly in order to maximize efficiency.

Thankfully SWTOR has done away with the vast majority of this, distilling the buff mechanics down to a choice few active buffs and only four passive buffs. Each class brings a unique buff, each of which is greatly useful to an op team. Additionally, with patch 1.2, as long as you’ve completed Act 2 of the class story with a class in your Legacy, you can buff their unique class buff. No more having to invite that poorly geared Shadow for the 5% to primary stats buff, now you can just pressure your group to finish leveling their Consulars.

Additionally, there are only a handful of specific buffs to worry about. The system isn’t perfect yet, as some of the buffs are useful enough to nearly require the presence of a specific Advanced Class on certain fights, but it’s much less of a headache than WoW is. Here are the different specific buffs you’ll want to make sure you bring:

Jedi Sentinel / Sith Marauder – DPS cooldown, party healing, movement speed buff

Gunslinger / Sniper – Damage reduction shield

Commando / Mercenary – Armor buff, reactive shield, battle rez

Jedi Sage / Sith Sorcerer – Damage absorption shield, armor buff, battle rez, friendly pull

Vanguard / Powertech – Enemy pull

Scoundrel / Operative – Battle rez, party stealth

Jedi Sentinel / Sith Marauder

Inspiration / Bloodlust – 15% increased damage / healing for 15 seconds, 5 minute CD. PARTY ONLY!

One of the few buffs that requires active management, this is a great tool for helping with burn phases or simply increasing your damage overall. It’s important to note though that this is a party only, so make sure to keep all your DPS grouped together whenever possible to maximize the effect of this. For the vast majority of fights, this isn’t a problem (In my 8man tend to put my 2 tanks and 2 healers in one group, 4 DPS in the other.) but when the fights require long-distance switching, such as the Tanks in Denova, it can be more difficult to manage.

I generally like to call for this buff on CD during most fights, making sure to only use it when the DPS can have a solid 15 seconds of burn time. Good times are right after a transition on Gharj, during the right nozzle burn on HM Fabricator, or during a Bomber spawn on Warlord Kephess.

Zen / Berserk (Watchmen / Annihilation spec only) – Bleed damage heals party for 1% max health each tick. Lasts 6 ticks. PARTY ONLY!

While the amount of passive healing done by this isn’t spectacular, it can help during heavy AOE phases if the player saves its usage for them. Again, another reason to ensure that your DPS party is centered around a JS / SM.

One note about this ability, using it during the Infernal Council has been known to cause issues that can trigger the “assisting other players” debuff in strange ways. Remind your player to avoid using it during that fight.

Transcendence / Predation – Increases movement speed by 50% and ranged defense by 10% for the party for 10 sec. PARTY ONLY!

Another powerful ability if managed correctly, correct usage of this hasn’t proven vital in any of the current content, but may come into play down the line. This could be used to assist with the 30% transition on Soa, as there’s always one player who BARELY makes it to the other edge.

Gunslinger / Sniper

Scrambling Field / Ballistic Shield – Reduces damage taken by 20% for all allies within a 10m range around the player while they’re in cover. Lasts 15 sec, 3 minute CD.

This one is amazing, especially for an op leader. A direct reduction to damage for the whole group is amazing when used properly, especially with such a short cooldown. Anytime you’re worried about the amount of damage you’ll be taking, you can use this to practically nullify a previously terrifying fight against damage. The key here is to ensure that all your players are stacked up in melee range to maximize the effect of the ability. The visual effect is obvious enough that people should be able to realize if they’re in the shield or not.

This ability is a lifesaver anytime, but some specific places it comes in useful are the final 10% of XXR, during the heavy AOE screams on Toth and Zorn, or directly following a bad Mouse Droid phase on Karagaa. The extra buffer can help your healers catch up and get everybody topped off.

Commando / Mercenary

Armor Screen / Reactive Armor (Combat Medic / Bodyguard spec only) ­– Increases armor by 10% for 9 sec.

This is just gravy when it comes to the tank healing potential of these classes. There isn’t much to say about this one other than keep it up as often as possible. As a leader, make sure your Commando / Mercenary is healing your tank primarily to ensure maximum uptime of this buff.

Trauma Probe / Kolto Shell (Combat Medic / Bodyguard spec only) – Applies a buff with 10 charges that lasts 5 minutes. Each time the target takes damage, one charge is consumed and the target is healed. Only occurs every 3 second and can only be applied to one target at a time.

Another useful buff for Commando / Mercenary tank healing. While not required, this helps smooth out tank damage by providing a reactive heal whenever damage is taken. Big hits get smaller and small hits are completely pushed off the chart. Great to have if you can swing it, but currently not required for any content.

Emergency Medical Probe / Onboard AED – Resurrects a downed ally in combat. Can only be used once every 5 minutes.

Your bread and butter battle rez. Very useful but can be provided by a wide range of classes, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about where you get it from. Remember that targets come back with barely any health, so be ready to heal then the second they land and try to avoid rezing during a phase that includes AoE damage.

Vanguard / Powertech

Harpoon / Grapple – Pulls the target toward the player, causing a high amount of threat. 45 second CD.

While not a buff per-se, this is a vital ability for most op leaders. It allows you to control the setup of the battlefield, ensuring that your targets are always close to your DPS. In the vast majority of cases this isn’t that big of a deal, but it can prove immensely useful in certain places, such as the Bombers on Warlord Kephess. If one spawns on the opposite side of the room from your group, you can use this ability to pull them towards you, eliminating all the wasted DPS time that would’ve been spent running all the way over there.

Jedi Sage / Sith Sorcerer

Force Shield / Static Barrier – Surrounds the target in a shield that absorbs damage. Places a debuff on the target that prevents them from being shielded again for 20 seconds. 4.5 second CD.

Another amazing ability when used properly, this gives you a significant amount of breathing room during fights that involve lots of random burst damage. If somebody is going to take an unavoidable massive chunk of damage, this can help smooth that out and give your healers more time to react. Since all Sages / Sorcerers can use it as well, you don’t have to distract your healer to get it done either.

Great places to use this are exploding the balls during NiM Soa, Bonethrasher’s Frenzy, or the focus of Colonel Vorgath.

Force Shelter / Reconstruct (Seer / Corruption spec only)– Increases the target’s armor by 10% for 12 seconds.

Similar to the Commando / Mercenary ability, this is a great tool for assisting in tank healing, but the style of the Sage / Sorcerer healer tends more towards AOE healing, which makes this a useful tool for spreading this buff around the group. It does allow some flexibility in ensuring that you have this important buff though, as the Scoundrel / Operative healer doesn’t provide it, so as long as you have one of the two healers that give this buff, you’ll be fine.

Revival / Reincarnation – Resurrects a downed ally in combat. Can only be used once every 5 minutes.

Your bread and butter battle rez. Very useful but can be provided by a wide range of classes, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about where you get it from. Remember that targets come back with barely any health, so be ready to heal then the second they land and try to avoid rezing during a phase that includes AOE damage.

Rescue / Extrication – Pulls a party member to your location and lowers their threat. 60 second CD. PARTY ONLY!

Similar to Harpoon / Grapple, this ability isn’t 100% required by any encounter, but allows you to think more outside the box in terms of mechanics. If you’ve got a Gunslinger who just can’t get out of cover in time, you can use this to save their bacon before it gets cooked crispy by standing in the fire. In a fight like Fabricator, you can use this to pull DPS up to the puzzle level if they get knocked down by an errant mine or sticky grenade. Tank out of position on the Tanks in Denova? Holler out your favorite Mortal Kombat quote and get them where they need to be.

Scoundrel / Imperial Agent

Heartrigger Patch / Resuscitation Probe – Resurrects a downed ally in combat. Can only be used once every 5 minutes.

Your bread and butter battle rez. Very useful but can be provided by a wide range of classes, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about where you get it from. Remember that targets come back with barely any health, so be ready to heal then the second they land and try to avoid rezing during a phase that includes AoE damage.

Smuggle / Infiltrate – Puts you and your party into stealth for 15 seconds. Cannot be used in combat.

So far, this ability hasn’t shown itself to be much more than a party trick, but the future may have more in store. Hopefully one day we’ll actually be able to make use of this outside of slowing people down while running back from a wipe.

For the most part, it’s hard to end up missing any of the above buffs unless you’re doing some serious class stacking  (Seriously guys, 4 Jedi Guardians signed up tonight?). Thankfully, the pure DPS advanced classes get a lot of love when it comes to buffs, providing the most useful of the set alongside impressive damage dealing capability. As long as you bring one of each and a Sage or Sorcerer, you’ll have all the important bases covered.

In the future, we may see the buff system expanded even more to require every single advanced class, but for now Bioware is playing nice and letting us have our way with most compositions. Now, who wants to organize an all Trooper Eternity Vault run!?

Wait…more Consular loot? Seriously?

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