Sunday, October 9, 2011

Guardian Skill Trees, Abilities, and Rotations! This is gonna be a long one

99 topics but a beta invite ain't one
What I have for you this week everyone is a whole lot of speculation. We are going to discuss leaked things, things that may contain spoilers for, but is not limited to, playstyle directions, skill choice, ability usage and threat thresholds. We are also going to delve into how the Skills present in our Defense(Guardian) skill tree can tell us how you can expect to play optimally when release comes around and we're all shiny level 50s!

Without further ado I think it is time for us to do some beta necropsy from a recent build, if you do not wish to spoil any information about the game or it's prospective skill tree choices or playstyle choices, DO NOT CONTINUE TO READ PAST THIS POINT


Skill Trees!
Oh what do we have here ladies and gentlement? Oh some viewtiful skill trees!? I think so! Note, a few of the pictures are different from the others, I needed to seek out the true skills due to some typos!

Defense Tree
Tier 1

  • Victory Rush(Passive, 2 ranks)

  • Dust Storm(Passive, 2 ranks)

  • Wind Force(Passive, 3 ranks)

Tier 2
  • Guard Stance(Passive, 3 ranks)

  • Lunge(Passive, 2 ranks)

  • Solidified Force(Passive, 2 ranks)
Tier 3
  • Barricade(Passive, 3 ranks)
  • Hilt Strike(Focus cost: 3, Instant attack, Cooldown: 60 seconds, 1 rank)

  • Resolute(Passive, 2 ranks)

  • Pacification(Passive, 3 ranks)

Tier 4
  • Shield Specialization(Passive, 2 ranks)

  • Courage(Passive, 2 ranks) 
  • Command(Passive, 2 ranks)

Tier 5
  • Stasis Mastery(Passive, 1 rank)

  • Endure(Instant cast, Cooldown 180 seconds)

  • Force Clap(Passive, 1 rank)

  • Energy Rush(Passive, 2 ranks)

Tier 6
  • Inner Peace(Passive, 2 ranks)

  • Cyclonic Sweeps(Passive, 3 ranks)

Tier 7
  • Warding Call(Focus cost: 5, Instant cast, Cooldown: 180 seconds, 1 rank)

Focus Tree
(This is where I have chosen to put my other points after the defense tree, for this article that is what I will put out)

Tier 1
  • Master Focus(Passive, 2 ranks)

  • Insight(Passive, 3 ranks)

Tier 2

  • Second Wind(Passive, 2 ranks)

  • Force Training(Passive, 1 rank)

Important Abilities with these skills in mind
(These abilities were transcribed from their Sith Juggernaut counterparts, both ACs have identical mirror abilities and skill trees).

Sundering Strike
Cooldown: 4.5s
Strikes the target for weapon damage, and reduces the targets armor by 4% for ? seconds. Stacks up to 5 times. 

Soresu Form
Enter a defensive lightsaber form, reduces all damage taken by 6%, increasing armor rating by 60% and increasing all threat generated by 50%. Soresu Form also increases shield chance by 20%. While active, taking damage builds 1 focus, but all "assualt(not correct term for Guardians)" abilities generate 1 less focus. This effect cannot occur more than once every 6 seconds. 

Instant, Focus cost: 2, Cooldown 6s, Range: 4m
Riposte against the target for 147-167 weapon damage. Riposte can only be used after a successful melee or ranged defense and does not respect the global cooldown(R-E-S-P-E-C-T, global cooldown you don't know about me). Cannot miss or be parried or dodged.

Force Leap
Cooldown: 15s
Range: 10-30m
Jumps to a distant target, dealing 129-147 damage with the main hand weapon, immobilizing the target for 2 seconds, and interrupting the target's current action. Builds 3 focus. Cannot be used against targets in cover.

Force Sweep
Instant, Focus cost: 3, Cooldown: 15s
Sweeps up to 5 nearby enemies for 174-201 kinetic damage. Also stuns weak and standard enemies for 1.5 seconds. 

Blade Storm
Instant, Focus cost: 4, Cooldown: 12s, Range 15m
Blasts the target with a force-enhanced scream, dealing 246-273 kinetic damage. In addition, standard and weak enemies are stunned and deafened for 4 seconds(Sith Warrior description which is incorrect in the wording but mechanics are similar). 

Instant, Cooldown: 2 mins
Breaks you free of all incapacitating effects. 

Force Stasis
Channeled: 3s, Cooldown: 1 min, Range 15m
Places the target in stasis, crushing and stunning it while the ability is channeled and dealing 117 kinetic damage every second. Builds 1 focus per second. 

Cyclone Slash
Instant, Focus cost: 3, Range: 4m
Slashes up to 5 enemies in front of you for 322-356 weapon damage each. Attacks with both lightsabers if dual weilding. 

Freezing Storm
Focus cost: 2
Freezes nearby foes, reducing their movement speed by 50% for X seconds

Challenging Call
Instant, Cooldown: 45 secs, Range: 15m
Taunts all enemies within 15 meters, forcing them to attack the Jedi for ? seconds. Player targets deal 30% less damage when attacking anyone other than you. Lasts ? seconds, and does not respect the global cooldown. 

Saber Ward
Cooldown: ?, Focus Cost: ?
Increases Parry and Deflect by 50% for ? seconds

I think that's it for really needed abilities in order to talk about talent choices and playstyle implications and the overall worthfullness in raid encounters and boss encounters. 

The Build
So here we are. We want to put in at least 31 points in Defense to get our major cooldown, 40% damage reduction ability, Warding Call. This is the following build I would prefer for PvE (Flashpoints and Operations) that will involve tanking both bosses(hard hitting single mobs), and trash/adds(lighter hitting mobs that need to be kept under area of effect control by the tank.

Tier 1
Victory Rush (2/2)
Dust Storm (2/2
Wind Force(2/3)

Tier 2
Guard Stance(3/3)
Solidified Force(0/2)

Tier 3
Hilt Strike(1/1)

Tier 4
Shield Specialization(2/2)

Tier 5
Stasis Mastery(1/1)
Force Clap(1/1)
Energy Rush(2/2)

Tier 6
Cyclonic Sweeps(3/3)
Inner Peace(0/2)

Tier 7
Warding Call(1/1)


Tier 1
Master Focus(2/2)

Tier 2
Second Wind(2/2)
Force Training(1/1)

But what does it all mean FTEN!?!?!
Ok, what we have here is a whole lot of information and not a whole of of sense to be made, here's the breakdown and key points. 
Good points:
  • Blade Storm on cooldown when tanking(multiple talents for +damage/+crit and a heal on top of that)
  • Resolve cooldown reduction + 10% max HP heal on demand
  • Reasonable Passive Mitigations taken.
  • Force sweep to keep accuracy debuff up on the boss/mobs. 
  • Force Stasis becomes at least a Focus build ability if the boss is immune to the effect(3 focus over 3 seconds). 
  • Hilt Strike on cooldown. This is a high threat ability with talents affecting it's cost and damage. This one will keep you ahead of those good crazy dps. 
  • Endure is your emergency cooldown along with Resolute with this build. Use this before Resolute in order to get a larger heal off and make you that much more difficult to put into the Medical Pavillion. 
  • Saber Ward cooldown reduction. I don't know the cooldown of it, so we're going to have to wait to figure out how good it is. More than likely a long cooldown with the ability being so potent as an added 50% avoidance. 
Bad Points and Questions: 
  • No "Inner Peace" skill taken. We don't know how prevalent Elemental and Internal damage is going to be at high levels, so until we do, this is a situational at best talent, if you're ever tanking something that doesn't do these, it's worth nothing. 
  • Lots and Lots of things to keep on cooldown. 
    • We will want to use Force sweep, Cyclone Slash, and Sundering Strike as well due to the skill point propping up their strength.
    • Not many worthwhile tanking choices after the first 31 in Defense. 
This bring about another discussion, Active models of Mitigation and difficult playstyles. 

Now I am well versed in active mitigation. You keep X ability on cooldown and boss won't kill you, think shield block or holy shield in Vanilla/TBC WoW. You either have these things on cooldown all the time or you get hit by a Bus riding a meteor getting pushed towards earth by a supernova. Do we have a real active mitigation model here? The answer is clearly no. We have the standard tank cooldowns, a heal, a damage reducer, an HP increaser, and an avoidance buff. I would not call these active mitigation design. It doesn't look to me like bosses will have times where you absolutely have to have a buff up due to the long cooldown  on these life-saving abilities. 

The skills and abilities also point out the Guardian rotation is going to have some spaces in it. Many of the elements we see here have great than 10 second cooldowns. So here we go, streaming adds encounter? What do we do?

  1. Force Leap if not on cooldown and have range(12s CD).
  2. Force Sweep to get initial aggro and accuracy debuff up(15s CD).
  3. Blade Storm for additional aggro and small heal(12s CD).
  4. Cyclone Slash, no idea about the CD atm. 
That gives us 4 GCDs in a row, so a minimum of 6 seconds. That means we're only halfway to our first CD coming back up. So once we establish aggro on the adds, we might find we have more adds appearing on the battleground. Maybe there will be add waves which have sub-12 second spawn timers. Maybe adds waves will take longer than 6 seconds(4 GCDs) to fully spawn. Now the former idea of short spawn timers is definitely out of the question. That's far too quick to burn anything really and in the first few tiers of operations/flashpoints we will just be getting our feet wet. 

What about a standard boss encounter being single tanked? You're move hot shot!
  1. Hilt Strike- Get that CD(ugh 60 seconds) rolling and establish 'initial aggro.' This should enable your dps characters to begin killing it as soon as it lands(provided you hit it). 
  2. Sundering Strike- Will let you do more damage and more threat more quickly, and the rest of your group.
  3. Force Sweep- Accuracy debuff is needed while tanking Bosses, unless the boss is immune.
  4. Blade Storm- 3% heal. 
  5. Sundering Strike again.
  6. Riposte if up.

Blade Storm No Matter What!?
Now does it bother me that we will be using Blade storm on both single target and add packs? It does. I have to use a multi-hit skill no matter what on cooldown while tanking just to increase my survivability? Obviously I'll live. A button press is a button press and the end goal(killing the big bad guys) justifies the means(pressing whatever necessary). It's not just Blade Storm. Force Sweep also has to have it's debuff applied to anything that can have it up. Does two button presses bother me. YEAH! IT DOES! 

Sure I might be able to grasp these concepts very quickly and the implications of Bioware's intuitive design into how encounters and flashpoints will have to be balanced around them being used. I know Bioware knows I know how to use these. So they're going to know, they have to make it so I'm not absurdly easy to keep up, so guess who's going to hit for a ton to make healers work? Bosses. Get all that? 

Here is what I do know will happen. Bioware is going to iterate these skills. There is no way a player who is new to this whole 'mmo-tanking' thing is going to be able to grasp these concepts easily. They might get that they need to hit their Blade Storm every time it's off cooldown and they do not have full HP, but they won't know why they do, or maybe they will. The average player can not keep a great rotation up in many MMOs. They're difficult things.

I am completely astonished after studying this and the build. We will be able to aoe tank like a Boss(Pronounced Tyrannosaurus Rex) however. We have those rotations above that shows us even with the few skills we know, we can still get the job done. The few skills that I outlined above are as many tools as any tank in other games. Though of course there are some longer cooldowns in there, which will dictate importance of using the skills at the right time. 

One thing I can say for sure though, the one truth we've discovered through this circumlocute, probably-innacurate, dribble; This is going to be fun

Thanks everyone and check in next Sunday for our next installment!!!

1 comment:

  1. Force Leap if not on cooldown and have range(12s CD).
    Force Sweep to get initial aggro and accuracy debuff up(15s CD).
    Blade Storm for additional aggro and small heal(12s CD).
    Cyclone Slash, no idea about the CD atm.

    Are you saying you will do this all in a row?

    ability 1 gives you +3 focus
    ability 2 costs you -3 focus
    ability 3 costs you -3 focus.

    Assuming you are starting the fight with 0 focus you are going to have to weave force creating abilities into that.

    Per my reading so far getting hit doesn't generate focus, only abilities do.

    Great blog btw.