Cover: The Compendium of Knowledgeses
The following collection of kwoledgeses and informationses was creating in an attempt to limit the constant re-creation of the same cover-related threads over and over again. But because each individual thread was continually buried, it was impossible for any new forum users to know! Because the game is now live, the following is based on my own experience, and the current build.
Note: This is a work in progress that has been imported from the old forums. I'm working on updating it with new information, play experience, expertise, and more.
Section 1: The basic mechanics
Cover is a mechanic exclusive to Smugglers and Imperial Agents. It is used by both Smuggler Advanced Classes and both Imperial Agent Advanced Classes, though with varying levels of dependency. Typically Gunslinger/Sniper is more reliant on cover. Though it can be re-assigned, the standard button to roll into cover is middle-mouse button, and the standard to crouch in place is ‘F’. Note that if no available natural cover (more on that later) is available, middle mouse will crouch you in place. When you log into the game, there will be “take cover” mapped to the ‘2’ key. Don’t use it! It is well known that there is a significant delay when it’s mapped to the quickbar, versus when the action is mapped through keymapping. Available cover points appear as ghost sillouettes 
. To roll into cover 
, press Middle-mouse Button (this key can also be re-assigned) 
. When in combat, the available cover points are automatically made visible 
There are three varieties of cover. The first variety, is natural cover. Low walls, rocks, stumps, rubble, and may also be known as the antithesis of Yahtzee's existence 
This variety gives full damage immunity to direct attacks (like blaster fire). However, AOE attacks (such as grenades) will still damage you. In addition, you will be granted immunity from charge attacks such as the Sith Warrior's Force Leap, or the Bounty Hunter's Rocket Charge. This means you will be able to get quite a few shots off at melee classes before they reach you.
You will receive this defensive cover bonus against enemies on the other side of cover in a cone of effect (designated by a green dot over their head). However, as soon as they flank you, they will deal full damage to you and be able to charge you. You can tell who you have the defensive bonus against by the little green shields above the enemies heads.
The second variety of cover, Portable Cover 
is cover that is created by Gunslingers/Snipers when they Cover In Place (automatic if they use Middle Mouse when there’s no natural cover available). While it used to only last for a limited time, I believe it lasts for around 10 minutes max, with a 1 second cooldown before it can be used again (to prevent exploiting of certain skill tree items), but is NOT tied to the global cooldown. And as opposed to natural cover, it only reduces
damage taken (it does not prevent it) by 20%. Portable Cover will still prevent the use of enemy charges. Though note that when peering out of cover to shoot, you will be vulnerable to direct fire
IMPORTANT NOTE!: Just because the green silhouette doesn’t appear around something that looks like it should give cover, it doesn’t mean it won’t give natural cover. Using Take Cover In Place behind it may in fact give you the full bonus! When in doubt, crouch!
The third version of Cover, really isn’t cover at all. The “poor man’s cover” or “Crouch”. While Gunslingers and Imperial Agents get Portable Cover to give them a defensive bonus when in the open, Scoundrels and Smugglers Pre-Level 10 have to make do with Crouch. It gives no defensive bonuses, but allows for you to use cover-based abilities. Just don’t except to last long when crouching in the middle of what looks to be a rave
As of patch 1.2 (4-12-12), you can now "Crouch" (or Portable Cover) whilst immobilized. They CANNOT however, roll into cover. This is good news, as anyone who has played a lot of Huttball knows: Your enemies can't leap to you (to get closer to the goal) if you're in cover. But as soon as you're immobilized, all bets are off. And Hunker Down doesn't last forever! So with 1.2, Smugglers can once again defend the pit ramps without fear! Hoorays! But to be clear, stuns (from what I've experienced) do in fact still take you out of cover. But roots (attacks that keep you in place) do not. It's a double-edged sword.
All three varieties of cover also allow for the use of special abilities that can only be used whilst in Cover 
. A few examples are Charged Burst, Sabotage Charge and Aimed Shot. Many of Gunslinger’s best abilities require it. Here is a list of them:
Charged Burst (1):
High damage attack, requires 2 seconds of build up. Very “spammable”.
Sabotage Charge (1):
Very high damage combo attack. Instant cast attack that when used, makes them vulnerable to a second attack which will blow the charge, doing a ton of damage. Long cooldown, but should be used as often as possible.
Aimed Shot (10):
High powered attack that can be combined with Smugglers’ Luck to guarantee a crit. Intermediate cooldown. Good stuff.
Pulse Detonator (16):
Knocks back targets around you and stuns them. Great versus those pesky melee’ers.
Hunker Down (20) :
Makes you immune to controlling effects for 20 secs (if you stay in cover). 1 Minute cooldown. Essentially gives you immunity 1/3 of the time.
Speed Shot (36):
High damage channeled ability.
Scrambling Field (42):
For 15 secs, increases defense of you and your allies within 10m, by 20%. The Gunslinger “equivalent” of “Smuggle”. Nothing says “I’m an asset to the group” like a defensive buff.
Defensive Bonuses via the Sharpshooter skill tree (Gunslinger):
Fully invested, increases defense by 20% for 6 secs when leaving cover.
Fully invested, when you roll into cover, you get 3 charges of dampers. Each damper will reduce the damage of an attack by 30%, but can only be used once every 1.5 secs. You can only gain new dampers every 6 secs (to prevent spamming cover for new dampers).
Fully invested, entering cover has a 100% chance of making Charged Burst an instant cast. Good stuff.
Foxhole: When in cover, you regain 1 extra energy per second. Really really good stuff.
Fully invested, this skill makes Quick Shot cost no energy after leaving cover (limit of 6 seconds after leaving cover). This has been changed since pre-1.2, when it used to make your next Charged Burst able to activate anytime (even out of cover).
Fully invested (2 points), this skill adds a 60% AOE damage reduction whilst using Hunker Down. I may or may not have giggled like a child when I learned about this. This adds a LOT of survivability to a Gunslinger. Fire? What fire? This is just a warm breeze!
When used in conjunction with abilities such as Dodge, Scrambling Field and Deflector Shield, a Smuggler can stay semi-invulnerable whilst in the fray for short periods of time (which is hopefully all we need). It used to be that with these defensive abilities, AOEs were always our silver bullet. But with this 2 point investment, we don't have one once we blow our cool downs. It's a must have for all sharpshooters. If you go full Sharpshooter and skip it, well.... *sigh*
Section 2: PvP/PvE Viability/Dependence
Cover is strewn about the game world, and is nearly everywhere 
. Even tables can be used as cover 
. You will generally not have a problem finding it, however it will be beneficial to know ahead of time where cover is, and to plan ahead. There may be gaps of "no man's land" where Smugglers have to rely on their own Portable Cover 
Cover, of course, is located in PvP zones as well 
In fact, the dev's have discussed the viability of Cover in PvP, and have said that it is very effective as a defensive mechanic (note that this quote discusses the Smugglers' mirror class, Imperial Agent, yet still applies to Smuggler mechanics):
An entrenched sniper guarding a choke point like a bridge on the Voidstar or objective in a Warzone is painful for most solo classes to deal with. If you get a sniper or gunslinger with cover spec set up in your flank during a battle and don't do something about it, expect the fight to be over quick.
In our last round of testing, I've seen a single Smuggler guarding a bridge wiping out four attackers trying to swarm him by sending them into the bottomless with a well timed cover pulse. Granted, they weren't exactly smart charging him head on, but these things happen when people get overconfident.
Of course, cover based classes are not suited for all roles equally (few classes are) and the cover gameplay is surely not for everyone, especially not people who just like to charge into the fray. Playing in our Alderaan Warzone for example, cover based classes are more likely to act as defenders than scouts and that requires patience and tactical movement to be successful. Charging head on into a Lightsaber wielding enemy is a very good way of getting a free speeder ride in these scenarios.
In my own experience, in setting up shop high in the rafters in Huttball is winsauce. Usually don’t even need natural cover. Just crouching down prevents glowbatters from charging you, and meanwhile you can blast the crap out of people from above, without them realizing it. Want proof? Watch this video from Taugrim
Zoeller also discussed how Smuggler combat would tend to favor cover or stealth rather than kiting, as kiting is particularly difficult against enemy players:
As far as kiting goes, it's not easy being a Smuggler. Not impossible, but it wouldn't be my class of choice for that, and here is why:
- Try kiting a Sith Warrior, who can force charge up to 30 meters and can throw their Lightsaber.
- Try kiting a Sith Inquisitor, who has powerful control effects and the ability to enter Force Speed for a few seconds, with greatly increased movement rate.
- Try kiting a Bounty Hunter, who may have the ability to use their jetpack to catch up to you or use a grappling hook as well as good range with their blaster rifle.
- Try kiting Imperial Agents why may have a sniper rifle with long range equal or better than your own.
There's certainly the option to make use of environment/line of sight and advanced players will find that for example Warriors can be made miserable by a Smuggler dodging around in their dead zone (out of melee range, not yet in Force Charge range), hitting hard with the scatter gun (15m range) - but kiting overall in our game isn't simple due to the wide range of utility all classes have.
In my own experience, Gunslingers have some kiting ability. The obvious bread n’ butter is Leg Shot. With expertise, can root’em for 5 secs (if you don’t damage them), on a 12 second cooldown. Not bad. Next up, Flashbang. Stun for up to 8 secs (if you don’t damage them), is an AOE, and fully invested has a 1 minute 15 second cooldown. Last but not least, good ‘ole Dirty Kick. Fully invested, stuns for 4 secs, with a cooldown of 30 seconds. But there’s nothing like kicking a Jedi (in huttball) in the nads. That’ll teach’em for all that boyscout dialogue in Flashpoints…
Section 3: Scoundrel versus Gunslinger
As mentioned earlier, the dependency and usage of Cover will vary with whether the Smuggler is a Scoundrel or Gunslinger. While both use it, Gunslinger is more geared towards Cover-use, though not necessarily all Gunslinger builds:
The Gunslinger has an entire tree dedicated to cover gameplay that is very, very competitive. It's not everyone's cup of tea though, so that's why there are multiple specs available that rely to varying degrees on cover.
It really depends on the spec you are running as a Gunslinger. Gunslingers are very nasty with cover once they are 'Entrenched', nothing to laugh at at all.
The run and gun thing is certainly possible as well. That's the nice thing about the skill trees, you have choices in playstyle.
Zoeller elaborates in the following quote on some of the cover-based abilities available to the different Advanced Classes:
All Smugglers have access to cover, but depending on Advanced Class and Skill set, cover plays a less or more important role for your gameplay.
A Gunslinger with lots of points in the Sniper tree will have made cover a core part of their combat routine, with abilities like 'Entrench' and 'Cover Pulse' improving the utility and protection their cover ability offers, while utilizing several 'cover only' abilities for heavy frontloaded damage. There's some interesting dynamics in this kind of setup as well, such as a skill that makes your next Snipe instant after rolling to cover...
A Scoundrel on the other hand will have fewer abilities that modify their cover mechanic and can be played in a way that does not rely on cover very much or at all. Their Stealth Field generator allows them to approach targets unseen and they have a decent arsenal of close to mid range scatter gun abilities and melee moves to round out their blaster capabilities.
Unlike the previously described Sniper (who values a very deliberate, planned approach to combat), the scattergun specced Scoundrel is much more about getting deep into the action, guns blazing...
In my experience, Cover is not a liability (unless you think of a gun as a reliability, because it requires ammo). It's an asset. With the addition of skill points, you can use natural cover for quasi-tanking ability versus ranged targets. In my experience, I can stay ahead of Champion level damage, so long as I've got a good barstool to hide behind. In groups, I'm consistently the last one alive. Once or twice even tanked two bosses in a heroic long enough for my mates to come in and save my butt. And this was after our tank got vaporized.
If you see anything not listed that should be noted, please let me know so I can update it! Send me a PM. Or carrier pigeon, whichever is more convenient.