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AstralFire
12.13.2011 , 06:59 AM | #2
BALANCE SHADOWS

"The Force is my ally, and a powerful ally it is."

Playstyle: Periodic damage, self-healing; versatile range.
Technique: Force Technique
PvE Builds: Standard (7/3/31)
PvP Builds: Survivability (7/2/32), Upheaval (5/0/31+5), Balance Stab (0/10/31)
Which spec should I pick?: For PvE, there is only one choice up there. For PvP, I recommend Survivability, which deals a good amount of AoE pressure damage, can solo annoy at nodes best, and has a strong and easy single target damage. Upheaval is the more traditional Balance PvP and - with 4pForce Master - allows for the best kiting. The last has the highest burst damage available to Balance, but is the hardest to play.

Overview of Recent Changes:
Spoiler


The Balance Shadow is the only Melee/Range hybrid out of all six Jedi specializations; obviously, Madness Assassins hold the same distinction among their kin. It's notable for being the only type of Jedi Shadow that doesn't want to hurl a big rock or piece of scrap metal at someone every single possible cooldown; as you can see, it uses the largest range of completely unique skills as part of its damage rotation.

It's also unbelievably complicated to play compared to the other Shadow specs in PvE; maximizing your damage as a Balance Shadow involves very careful proc watching, managing your Force carefully, timing your cooldowns and a constant game of positioning. If you're familiar with the Wrath of the Lich King simplified feral druid DPS flowchart, it's like that. Especially if you do the Mad-Deception build, which is higher damage than the Standard, but is extremely complicated to play and monitor. By contrast, it's also probably the easiest Shadow specialization in PvP, as several moves are reserved for situational moments or used on CD rather than at specific times to maximize DPS. And no Shadow Strike.

ABILITY OVERVIEW

Priority List (Standard):
1. Force in Balance (Even single target, every CD)
2. Project (If Twin Disciplines is not active, or about to expire)
3. Spinning Strike (Target at 30% health or less)
4. Shadow Strike (Find Weakness, behind target)
5. Mind Crush (Force Strike buff, preferentially on an unafflicted target)
6. Sever Force (On a target not currently afflicted, or about to expire)
7. Force Breach (every CD)
8. Double Strike
9. Saber Strike (Conserving Force)
Double Strike: You have the strongest Double Strike of all three specializations, and it's worth noting that your Double Strike is better for you than Project.

Spinning Kick: This ability is most notable in PvP; it causes less than half a bar of resolve. Do not open with this ability at the start of the fight, but save it to disorient the opponent after vanishing with Force Cloak, particularly if the opponent is in mid-activation of a non-instant ability. You can also use Spinning Kick to buy you time to set up for a Shadow Strike backstab.

Force in Balance: Use it on cooldown. It deals a lot of armor-bypassing damage and heals a moderate amount on each usage. Force Suppression allows it to return Force to you, but you will always lose more Force than you gain on a cast unless you're using a Force Striked Mind Crush. It's particularly effective for breaking enemy attempts at capturing an objective - you can use it to blast someone around a corner - but beware its three person target cap.

Force Breach: In Force Technique, it's your strongest damage DoT, and a basic part of your cycle. In Combat Technique, it functions like a cheaper (20 cost versus 30 cost) and weaker version of Slow Time that bypasses standard armor-based damage reduction. It has double the cooldown length, and deals less damage even against heavily armored targets. -5% accuracy is also a significantly weaker debuff than -5% damage in PvP, though it's the other way around in PvE. It's useful and necessary, but not very fun or compelling. Reserve it for cap breaking or very large crowds.

Sever Force: In PvE, you simply use this ability on rotation - note that its cooldown is much shorter than its duration, so be careful of over-early reapplication. In PvP, its thirty meter range is your best friend; it can be used to stop opponents for two seconds, and does not respect Resolve; a well-timed Sever Force handles most of your anti-kiting needs and when well-timed, can kill a ball carrier over a fire pit, or prevent successful enemy capture of a point until you're able to return from the dead. However, if you suspect that you will need to use Force Lift on a target soon, do not use this ability on that target.

Force Stun: It has a much longer CD than Spinning Kick, but is also a much longer stun. In PvP, when used on kill targets it should be reserved for targets who are already near their maximum resolve bar. It's also very handy to use on non-kill targets, of course, to prevent enemy ranged artillery and healers from freecasting. In PvE, it should be used similarly to Spinning Kick.

Force Lift: The primary incapacitate basically gives the opponent a full grey resolve bar from nothing. If the target has any grey on their resolve bar prior to casting, they will get a white resolve bar, granting them CC immunity until the bar drains completely. Any damage will break a Lift, but you will then get a secondary two-second stun. If the target did not already have a white resolve bar, this second stun will trigger and give them one. All in all, Lift is a risky and situational ability and I only recommend using it in PvP on a target you have no intention of killing or can guarantee that you will kill in 2-3 global cooldowns. In PvE, its benefits are slim.

Resilience: Any ability that doesn't deal 'weapon damage' in its description is affected by this ability. Use it together with Force Cloak to make a successful escape, use it offensively when you anticipate a cast, use it to remove all healer-removable enemy effects on you... It's on a short cooldown and grants you five seconds of near-immunity. It's particularly useful for running the ball in Huttball, or surviving boss damage traps like those on the final boss of Athiss or Eternity Vault. Resilience is not affected by nor causes a global cooldown. Jedi Knights and Scoundrels have some immobilizes and snares which Resilience does not grant immunity to.

Force Cloak: Obviously, a very useful defensive escape tool - but you cannot be healed while in it. You can use it offensively to lead into a Spinning Kick when it's absolutely vital.

Battle Readiness: The additional damage increase is fairly large - it can easily pan out to an additional 2000 damage while it's active, by itself - and gets even larger when timed with other cooldowns. Use it early, use it often. This ability does not respect the global cooldown.

Deflection: Amazing survivability CD in PvE. The 2 minute cooldown is short enough that you can use it multiple times in long boss fights like in operations: once early on, once in the middle, and then once towards the end. Most boss fights of any kind will allow at least two uses if the first is cycled early, so don't be too shy about saving it. In PvP, it's of limited function; it will provide a decent survivability bonus against specializations that rely heavily on weapon damage, such as the Infiltration Shadow, Sentinels and some Gunslingers; it is of less useless against those that primarily rely on tech or force damage, such as the Commando, and completely useless against a Sage. This ability does not respect the global cooldown.

Force Potency: Force in Balance and Telekinetic Throw are your best candidates to maximize the damage done by this ability, especially since in unison they allow you to briefly fight from well beyond the 10 meter range. Project benefits very little for a Balance Shadow.

Telekinetic Throw: Most situations where you think you might want to use Project, use Telekinetic Throw instead unless you absolutely need to keep moving, need to refresh Twin Disciplines, or are not likely to get at least one second of channel time with this ability. It is more efficient for damage and can never accidentally consume two Potency charges.

Project: Ideally, you should only use Project with Potency or when Twin Disciplines is about to fade. It's Force inefficient and hard to set up with your slow regeneration rate. In PvP, Project should be reserved for dealing with opponents when attempting to kite or gap close - the damage added by Twin Disciplines is unfortunately minor for PvP, as you need very high and consistent melee range uptime to make good use of it.

Mind Crush: Only when Force Strike is active. Instant, no-cost Mind Crushes will give you a significant amount of burst, as well as regen from Force Suppression charges. The only bad part is that you'll have to watch your buff bar closely as there is no easily noticed visual indicator of this somewhat rarely activated ability.

Whirling Blow: This move is terrible and should only be used when you can guarantee you'll strike at least four targets, or if you like spinning in place like a pretty ballerina. In PvP, it can also be useful for preventing objective caps, but watch out for the Force Cost.

Force of Will: Your CC breaker as a Jedi Consular. In PvE, just use it any time you're stunned for more than a second. Your speed should be used for breaking immobilizes and snares instead. In PvP, try to reserve it for when you have a white bar of resolve, unless you absolutely need to break an objective cap by the enemy or something.

Force Speed:You can do it every 30 seconds, and it increases speed enough to basically ignore most snares (though not immobilizations.) Use it judiciously to avoid hazards (like in Hard Mode Directive 7), sprint right through hazards (in Huttball, but this is risky even when paired with Resilience), close gaps, etc.

Mind Control/Mass Mind Control: PvE, their usage is simple: don't. You're not a tank. In PvP, refer to the Kinetic Shadow overview.

Force Wave: There's about a 0.5s delay in activation on this ability, which can make prediction hard unless paired with a target who is already immobile. Force Wave is also the weakest KB in the game, with the least momentum behind it. Aside from the obvious 'knock someone into hazards or down cliffs' component of all knockback abilities, Force Wave should be used judiciously to some breathing room in PvP, such as immediately before a Cloak.

GEARING

As with all Consulars, Willpower is your primary stat, and you use both physical and Force abilities. Your gear priority in PvE and PvP is identical; you want Critical Rating and Surge Rating until the diminishing returns get too high. (Usually around 400 each.) Around 5% accuracy from gear is useful - much more and you are subject to diminishing returns that reduce the value of the gear. Your adrenals and active-use relics will prefer to be Surge Rating and Power so that they can be used in conjunction with your Potency. In PvP, Expertise Rating will be your single most important statistic.

The problem is gearsets. You can simply use the Stalker sets for PvE, but for PvP, you will want to use modified Force-Master item sets, taking out the Alacrity bonuses for Accuracy instead. The 2 piece bonus is immense. Depending on whether you use Project kiting regularly or prefer to slow to melee range more often, you may stick with Force-Master for the 4 piece bonus, or switch to Stalker for its 2 piece bonus.


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SHADOW COMPANIONS

To assist you in your missions, you'll build a small team of helpers over time. While they will remain with you regardless of how you treat them, making sure that they like you is important; a companion who likes and respects you will craft faster and perform skill missions more successfully. To avoid accidental spoilers, each companion is listed in a dropdown beneath their planet.

TYTHON
Spoiler


CORUSCANT
Spoiler


NAR SHADDAA
Spoiler


BALMORRA
Spoiler


HOTH
Spoiler


BELSAVIS
Spoiler


SECRET COMPANION
Spoiler



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EQUIPPING A SHADOW

Handling your way across your starter world of Tython as a Jedi Consular should be pretty simple, for the most part. However, your masters and lessons do not really explain a lot about gearing, and I feel that it is useful to have a reference list available here. If you're looking for specific gearing instructions per specialization, look back at the final paragraph for each specialization instead. This is general information.

All characters use one primary ability score of Aim, Cunning, Strength or Willpower. All four of these abilities has a specialized purpose. Aim will only increase your ranged damage and critical chance, Cunning will only increase your tech damage and critical chance, Strength will only increase your melee damage and critical chance, and Willpower will only increase your Force damage and critical chance. Normally, anyway.

Each base class has a different primary ability score. A primary ability score equally improves both of the damage vectors which your class will use. Through the Force, all things are possible; Willpower is the primary score for Consulars and Inquisitors, and grants both Melee Damage and Force Damage, as a result. This holds true for the Shadow and Assassin advanced classes, but the Sage and Sorcerer advanced classes uniquely lose this dual benefit.

Presence measures your ability to inspire, lead, and guide your companions. A higher presence score will increase your companion's health, damage and healing. Companions take up the party slot of a player, but are less effective than a player; if you intend to do a lot of content which requires full or nearly full groups, it's not wise to invest much into presence.

Endurance, simply enough, improves one's raw health.

Secondary stats are available, which add more complexity to the matter.

Absorption Rating: Increases the amount of damage blocked by a successful shield reaction. More rating is required to achieve the same percentage bonus at higher character levels.

Accuracy Rating: Grants additional hit, and then reduces the opponent's defense once past 100%. More rating is required to achieve the same percentage bonus at higher character levels. Generally not a very good stat for Shadows.

Alacrity Rating: A secondary stat which improves the speed of activation time for non-instant abilities. It does not affect the Global Cooldown for instant abilities. More rating is required to achieve the same percentage bonus at higher character levels.

Critical Rating: Improves the chance of a critical hit. More rating is required to achieve the same percentage bonus at higher character levels.

Defense Rating: Improves the chance of a avoiding an attack. More rating is required to achieve the same percentage bonus at higher character levels.

Expertise Rating: Increases damage and healing done, and reduces damage taken, but only in PvP. A maximum of 20% effectiveness. More rating is required to achieve the same percentage bonus at higher character levels.

Force Power: A secondary stat which improves Force Ability damage and healing only.

Power: A secondary stat which improves damage and healing from all sources.

Shield Rating: Increases the chance that a shield reaction is triggered against an attack. More rating is required to achieve the same percentage bonus at higher character levels.

Surge Rating: Improves the effect of a critical hit. Base Surge is +50%. More rating is required to achieve the same percentage bonus at higher character levels.

Tech Power: A secondary stat which improves Tech Ability damage and healing only.


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CREW SKILLS

Money can get you everything.

Those of you coming from World of Warcraft post-Classic are familiar with the skill layout of that game, where every single craft skill had to have a mechanically advantageous thing that it 'owned' (each of them being roughly as good as the others). Several of the crafting skills in that game effectively were worthless to anyone besides the wielder, to boot.

That is not how this game works, mechanically. Every single crew skill mechanical perk originates from the fact that you're getting the benefit cheaper or earlier than someone who does not have your craft skill. For example, anyone can use medpacks; only a Biochem producer can get a reusable medpack, which costs more to craft but will never get used up. You do not need to be an artificer to upgrade your lightsaber; artificers make the upgrades, you just buy them and insert them into the lightsaber yourself. Etc. The other thing is that all of the crafting skills have some sort of aesthetic option which is unique to them, and these are among the rare bind-on-pickup items that cannot be given to anyone else.

Therefore, there are three approaches to take when choosing your Crew Skill layout: Do I want to get something that will save me money on a reusable I want a lot of, do I want to get something that will make me a lot of money, or do I want to get something that will give me a unique visual perk? It cannot be stressed enough that crafting of any kind while leveling up will only be of limited use; you will always end up ahead in credits while leveling by not crafting anything. It becomes a question of time and money spent now, versus time and money spent later to either level up your own craft skill or constantly purchasing everything you need.

To make your decision, you need to have a good grasp of what can be made by each craft skill. You have access to three crew skills per character; a maximum of one may be a craft skill, and it's recommended that the other two be a gathering skill and a mission skill which support that craft skill. Everything is oriented around the crafting skills; mission skills provide a nice little bit of flavor, but are essentially a second gathering skill oriented around the rarer materials that cannot be obtained through direct gathering.

It's important to note that you will not automatically get all of the important recipes for Craft Skills from the skill itself, even by reverse-engineering; you will need to get some of these schematics from the Galactic Trade Network. It's also important to note that you will always lose money by sending crew members to do missions, as the point is more to raise your skill and gain materials while not being out in the field yourself. If it was strictly superior to self-gathering, no one would ever do it.

I'll go over each of the Crew Skills in brief - each section will contain the Crew Skill's codex entry, followed by my input.

CRAFTING SKILLS
You may only have one of these skills on your character. If you take one of these, it is your most important skill. As noted above, once you get to endgame, you are not getting unique mechanical perks from what you make via these skills; you're just getting it cheaper, easier, prettier, faster, or reusable. For leveling content, they do create some unique stuff for lower levels, so rich rerollers will make purchases from dedicated crafters a lot.

Spoiler


GATHERING SKILLS
Gathering skills are skills which you or your companion may employ in the field, when you see an appropriate resource. They supply the basic materials used in crafting skills. You may send your companions on gathering missions which cost money, but provide you with skill-point appropriate resources. There is a chance for your companion to fail when deployed on missions (I believe it is related to their affection), but it will always give you a skill point even if they fail. Out of your maximum of three crew skills, all three may be gathering skills.

Spoiler


MISSION SKILLS
Mission skills function identical to Gathering skills which cannot be personally collected; you need your companion to do them. They provide the rare resources used in crafting skills as well as providing a host of other benefits, such as giving you companion gifts to raise their affection, rare schematics, and sometimes rare equipment. Out of your maximum of three crew skills, all three may be mission skills.

Spoiler


If you read all that and are confused still - or didn't read all of that, because it's a lot to chew through, that's okay. You just want the bottom line on which three crew skills I recommend, right? I've arranged them into sets of three based on what your main selling market is.

PvE Endgame: Synthweaving, Artifice, Treasure Hunting
PvP Endgame: Biochem, Bioanalysis, Diplomacy == Cybertech, Scavenging, Underworld Trading
Self-Leveling: Biochem, Bioanalysis, Diplomacy == Cybertech, Scavenging, Underworld Trading >> Artifice, Archaeology, Treasure-Hunting
Simple Money-Making: Pick any three: Slicing, Investigation, Diplomacy, Bioanalysis, Scavenging, Biochem

Do not pick: Armstech


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JEDI SHADOW

You've failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.