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PvE Levelling Build guide

Darkscis's Avatar

01.22.2013 , 11:19 PM | #1
Hi Guys, welcome to my guide in progress. Before I get started theres a few things I want to say;

I’m new to SWTOR, I’ve been playing for about 2 weeks however I have been gaming for nearly 23 years and playing mmo’s for more than 12 (starting with Everquest). That said, one thing that always annoys me when starting a new game and checking the class forums is that there is always end game spec guides, or levelling guides written by level 50’s trying to remember how they levelled that give you a full end level spec but NEVER tell you where to start or what to use your first few points on and focus on stats that you just do not have at that level range (like abundance of crit).

Even worse are the multitudes of posts that just say “go Deception until about 25, then switch”. Well…..why? The entire 2nd row of the Deception tree does absolutely nothing for your dps between levels 15-20 which is when you get it. Sure, for 2 points you can lower the cool down on discharge by 3 seconds, but for those same 2 points you can get rid of the cool down completely in the Madness tree. Seeing as your only options at that stage are lightning charge or dark charge and your only companion is a tank, why do you want to be in dark charge pulling aggro off him? If you’re using lightning charge anyway, why would you not take Crackling Charge from Madness?

To that end, this guide is going to be a level by level “where do I spend my point” guide. Please take note that this is my opinion only, and what has worked 100% for me. It is also a purely pve levelling guide, and most likely will not work in pvp at all. If you play on a pvp server, it may not be suitable.

So that said, a few points;
  1. I am a subscriber, I get unlimited free re-specs. This guide will take advantage of that. If you are f2p and don’t want to spend money on re-specs then…..just go Deception until 25ish then re-spec if you want. I will however try to limit them as best I can.
  2. Thrash is your primary attack. Love it, hate it, whatever…..get used to it. You’re going to be pressing that Thrash button more than you play with yourself.
  3. I use lightning/surging charge in the beginning as dark charge just rips aggro off Khem which leads to us getting hurt. At 30 we re-spec to Darkness and switch to Dark Charge at all times after that.
  4. The companion of choice until level 30 is Khem. Once we re-spec at 30 and get Andronikos we change to using him. At around about 36-40 you will pick up Ashara depending on how quick/slow you are levelling. I chose to stick with Andronikos during this period but you can change if you want, it won't make a huge amount of difference.
  5. To restore Khem’s health, dismiss him and then instantly re-summon him. Downtime between packs of mobs = 3.5 seconds.
  6. Levelling speed is all about aoe damage. 90% of the time while levelling you will be fighting packs of 2/3/4 mobs, with only the occasional single strong or elite. Therefore, I focus on doing as much damage to as many mobs at once as possible. Burst damage means nothing in levelling, that’s for pvp. Single target sustained dps means nothing in levelling, that’s for flashpoints.
  7. This guide will only go up to level 40. At 40 you get access to the 31 point talents in each tree and have more than enough points and experience to try whatever spec you want, so go nuts.

So many guides are full of stat and gear optimization for end game and you should definitely look at those when you get there. I think it goes without saying, but just in case, I will include a little section here for levelling.

Q: What should I wear?
A: Who cares? Wear whatever looks good, provided it has more endurance and more willpower than the piece of gear it’s replacing. If you put it on and it looks like arse, put your old stuff back on. You’re levelling, it doesn’t matter. That piece of gear is going to be replaced in 2 hours anyway.

Here’s the important part. I will post links to builds for each 5 level gap, and a description of which talent to take in what order, and my reasoning behind it. I will also try to include a brief “what skills to use” for each section.


Point order: Duplicity, Thrashing Blades, Crackling Charge, Crackling Charge, Thrashing Blades.

Ok, we made it. We have picked Assassin as our AC and have a fresh skill point. Where should it go? Well, let’s see what skills we have. We have lightning charge (our 1 and only option at this point), Maul (fun but expensive!) and our Inquisitor stuff. Not a lot to work with. So let’s take a look at the talents. We don’t have discharge yet or much crit, so the Madness tree is useless. Darkness has Thrashing Blades which increases our primary skill, looking better. Deception however, has the 1 point wonder talent, Duplicity. Maul is essentially backstab from any other mmo, it does a lot of damage, can only be done from behind and costs a tonne of force. This gives us the chance to use it for 25% of it’s cost which is fantastic. From my experience, 1 point in it is more than enough for it to proc almost every fight.

At 11, we still have the same skill set, so the only sensible choice is Thrashing Blades to increase the damage we do with Thrash. At 12, we get discharge and it finally makes sense to take Crackling Charge. It halves the cooldown and gives us some extra damage over time. No sense not eliminating the cooldown altogether at 13, and then finishing up Thrash at 14.

What skills to use:

There isn’t a lot of options here, you basically Thrash, Thrash, Thrash, Thrash and Thrash again. Shock is extremely expensive force wise, as is Maul. The minute you see that Duplicity proc however, you want to Maul asap. If you can’t be bothered running to a mob, by all means Shock/Force Lightning him – it doesn’t matter too much. The fights will be over pretty quick. Once you get to 12 you can start opening up with Discharge, followed by Thrash. Once the cooldown wears off, select one of the other mobs and Discharge him, then go back to the one you were killing before. At 13, feel free to discharge all of the mobs before focusing on one, Khem will keep aggro.

L15-19 or

Point order: Charge Mastery, Charge Mastery, Charge Mastery, Duplicity, Duplicity or Exploitive Strikes, Exploitive Strikes, Exploitive Strikes, Torment, Torment.

You have 2 choices here and they don’t really matter – we are doing a re-spec at 20 anyway. Option 1 gives you 3% crit and a bit more damage on lightning charge procs. Option 2 gives you cheaper Thrash and Shock, and the odd chance of a 9% melee crit buff after your Force attacks crit. This looks better on paper than it does in practice though, because you still have a very low crit chance at this level of the game. Pick whatever you feel like, if you find yourself wanting to use Shock and Force Lightning more so that you look truly awesome, go for option 2. If you want to see more big numbers from Maul, go with option 1.

What skills to use:

We still don’t have much difference here, we have Dark Charge now but I already covered that. We also got Crushing Darkness, but that has a cast time and takes too long. Continue as you were before, Discharge everything and Thrash, throw in some Shock and Lightning here and there for the awesome sound effects.


Re-spec: Duplicity, Duplicity, Duplicity, Dark Embrace, Dark Embrace, Recirculation, Recirculation, Obfuscation, Obfuscation, Obfuscation, Surging Charge.

Point Order: Induction, Induction, Thrashing Blades*, Thrashing Blades*

Our first re-spec, and our first chance to hit 3rd tier skills. Let’s take a look.
Darkness – Well, we can get Energize which gives us a guaranteed Shock crit… but we need to use Dark Charge which is going to pull aggro off Khem and he is still our only choice as companion at the moment. The rest is all defensive and why would we need those when we have Khem tanking?
Madness – Our first opportunity to take Death Field, yummy! But it cost’s 50 Force, same as Maul. We already don’t use Maul without Duplicity because it’s too expensive, why would we want another expensive skill?
Deception – Surging Charge! 25% chance for more direct damage, every 1.5s. No more mucking around with Lightning Charge’s DoT when we have nothing else helping it. Here we go.

What skills to use:

Throw Surging Charge on, and keep doing what we were doing before, Thrash! Still nothing new attack wise, but we do get our escape tools which is great. Start in stealth so that when you come out you get extra force regen from Dark Embrace. I generally open up with Maul from stealth (yes, without Duplicity – we have extra Force regen anyway!) followed by a Discharge, then Thrash. Once you get Induction you can start throwing in a Shock every time you have 2 stacks. In other words, at 22 it looked like this for me: Stealth – Maul – Discharge – Thrash – Thrash – Shock. Throw in Maul whenever Duplicity procs as usual and Discharge whenever it is on cooldown. You are burning down single mobs very quickly now, packs are still annoying because you have to kill them one by one but at least it doesn’t take forever. The final 2 points I have marked with an * because they are optional. Again, we are doing a re-spec at 25 anyway so it doesn’t really matter. I choose Thrashing Blades because Thrash is still our primary attack, but you can easily take Darkswell and Deceptive Power if you feel like you need more damage reduction or Force regen.


Re-Spec: Exploitive Strikes, Exploitive Strikes, Exploitive Strikes, Crackling Charge, Crackling Charge, Torment, Torment, Chain Shock, Chain Shock, Chain Shock, Death Field, Fanaticism, Fanaticism, Claws of Decay, Claws of Decay, Raze.

Point Order: Duplicity, Thrashing Blades, Thrashing Blades, Charge Mastery.

Our second re-spec and our chance to hit the 4th tier talents. Darkness and Deception 4th tier all seem to be about force regen or non-dps skill cooldown reductions. I never had any dramas with Force up to this stage, unless trying to spam Shock. Stuff dies so quick using Shock seems a waste anyway. Madness however, gives us Raze. Instant cast, free Crushing Darkness? Yes please. Now we are getting somewhere!

This is where we start to separate from the Deception and Darkness crew. Does Deception have better single target damage? Probably, although not by much. Does Darkness survive better? Certainly, but we still have Khem to tank and we still have Force Cloak when we are in trouble so who cares? What can we do? We can decimate packs of trash mobs in record time, and seeing as they are the majority of what we are fighting, that gives us the edge!

What skills to use:

The way I see it is, we want all the trash mobs in the pack taking damage at the same time, so they all die together. Does it take more work than killing them one by one like Deception? Sure, but our reward for the effort is much quicker clearing. So to that end, I run straight in and drop a Death Field in the middle of the pack. As I am running in I select one mob and send Khem in. After the Death Field I select a different mob and Discharge him, putting the Lightning Charge DoT on him. Finally, I select the 3rd guy, Discharge him as well and start to Thrash. We now have DoTs on all 3 mobs (counting Khem as a DoT here). Soon as you get your first Raze proc, switch back to that 1st guy you Discharged (not the one Khem is fighting) and throw Crushing Darkness on him, then back to your guy and continue Thrashing. If you get another Raze, throw it on him – but in my experience everything is already dead before you do anyway. Your guy will die after a couple more Thrash’s, Khem’s guy will die, and the last guy will be so low that either Khem will charge and kill him, or you can throw a quick Shock to finish him off. Pack is dead, and you are likely waiting on Death Fields cooldown before charging the next pack because you finished them off so quick. Once you level and pick up Duplicity you can start mixing in Maul again.

This spec by no means lacks on single targets either (Strongs or Elites that you run across). The goal is to burn these down before Khem dies, or if he does, before you do. I have easily handled all Class quests and normal quests that involve elites. The basic aim is to keep Discharge going, Crushing Darkness whenever Raze procs and Maul whenever Duplicity procs. Thrash at other times, use Shock as a Force burner if you find it getting high (which often happens if you get a good string of Raze and Duplicity procs). You will, however, need to pick and choose your battles carefully in elite areas. I can comfortably finish off Heroic 2+ quests if I can find single elites, or groups of 2 (you can Mind Trap one) but others you will have no chance. It’s ok, it’s not the aim of this build – by this stage you have enough points to go full Darkness or Deception if that is what you want to do anyway.


Re-Spec: Exploitive Strikes, Exploitive Strikes, Exploitive Strikes, Sith Defiance, Sith Defiance, Torment, Torment, Chain Shock, Chain Shock, Chain Shock, Death Field, Fanaticism, Fanaticism, Lightning Reflexes, Lightning Reflexes, Thrashing Blades, Thrashing Blades, Charge Mastery, Electric Execution, Electric Execution, Electric Execution.

Point Order: Lightning Recovery, Lightning Recovery, Energize, Claws of Decay.

Third re-spec time and some minor changes in the talent points, but some major changes in gameplay. First off, we now have Tumult, and at 32 we get Assassinate. More importantly, if you have been doing your class quests it is around this time that we have Andronikos join our crew. Our third crew member (if counting the ships droid) and our first real dps guy; Khem does ok but he is really better suited as a tank. Now the big change here is that Andronikos has two modes, single target and AoE and skills to help with both, but he can’t tank worth a damn. That means two things for us; Firstly, if we want to use him WE need to tank and secondly, he can bring his AoE game to the table to help us take down the packs of trash even quicker. Why not use this spec earlier? Mainly because we don’t have Andronikos yet so finishing off packs with Lightning Discharge and letting Khem tank is the way to go and minorly because I am trying to limit the amount of re-specs for the f2p players. If you want to re-spec as soon as you get Andronikos feel free but we also don’t have the points necessary to pick up Energize until level 33 anyway.

If you have been following my specs so far you will know that Death Field almost wipes out all the weak mobs in one shot (often does if it crits) and by the time you finished throwing Lightning Discharge on everything most was dead before you even needed to instant-cast Crushing Darkness. So I started thinking, well if Andronikos can finish off the weak and normal mobs with an AoE or two, then we don’t need to tab target and DoT everything. Even better is that Darkness Charge’s Discharge is an AoE as well! So what we end up with here is a spec that AoE’s things down rapidly while being able to tank for Andronikos.

The alternatives as I saw them were Deathmark in the Madness tree for extra DoT damage or Deception for Low Slash and Static Charges. Deathmark looks great, but stuff was already dying before the Death Field cool down had finished, so why would we need to kill even quicker if we only had to wait on that anyway. You also need to spend 4 points somewhere to unlock it, and nothing we could spend on helped our dps in any way. Instant Whirlwind looks ok, but we are AoE’ing everything so we don’t need crowd control, and we have escape tools already. Deception, again, seems to excel at killing single targets very quickly, meaning we need to burn down trash one by one which is just painfully annoying when you are levelling. Low Slash incapacitates for 4 seconds, but why do we want the mob standing around for 4s when we could just kill him. It does do good damage, but again, it’s single target.

What skills to use:

Compared to the last section, play style for this bit seems really easy! Put Andronikos on the correct mode (AoE for trash packs, Single target for Elites) and charge in, dropping a Death Field followed by a Discharge. You want to be targeting the Strong if the pack includes one. Now you can start to Thrash and Shock while Andronikos finishes off the rest with his AoE. Alternatively, you can also use Lacerate to mop up the weak and normal as well, then Thrash and Shock the strong guy. Once you get Energize things really heat up, you will be throwing a lot of guaranteed critical Shocks, which all have a chance of activating a second Shock. You may notice we have left Duplicity out of the build now. This is because we are using Dark Charge so we are tanking and our opportunities of being behind the mobs are not going to be a lot. You can run behind them and Maul when they are Shocked (Normal/Weak) or Electrocuted (Strong) but in those cases you may as well just use Tumult. The weak and normal’s won’t last long enough for getting a Maul in to matter, and the Strong’s can only be incapacitated by Electrocute anyway, which has a cool down longer than Tumult so it works out fine. Energized Shocks become your priority, followed by Thrash/Assassinate.


Point Order: Claws of Decay, Dark Embrace, Dark Embrace, Duplicity, Charge Mastery.

This level bracket is all about building on from what we had in the previous section. You will probably have noticed that we start running into some force issues using Shock a lot more, so we finish off our Thrash crit damage and then take Dark Embrace to deal with that. We finish up with Duplicity so that we can throw out the odd Maul here and there. I continued to use Andronikos even after getting Ashara because he excels at aoe.

What skills to use:

The only major difference in this section is that after getting Dark Embrace you want to start all encounters in stealth. Other than that play style does not change. Stealth - Death Field - Discharge - Thrash/Assassinate, Shock when Energize procs. If you see Duplicity proc you can Electrocute the Strong you are hitting and run behind for a quick Maul, or switch targets to something not attacking you (if Dark Charge Discharge missed one and its targetting Andronikos etc). Enjoy the easy trip to 40 where you can either continue building on this spec, or re-spec to take one of the 31 point talents.

TamrielShax's Avatar

01.25.2013 , 12:58 PM | #2
Hey, thanks a LOT for your effort creating this guide It's been very useful to me

Darkscis's Avatar

01.27.2013 , 06:15 PM | #3
Quote: Originally Posted by TamrielShax View Post
Hey, thanks a LOT for your effort creating this guide It's been very useful to me
I'm glad it's helping at least one person! Just updated the 30-34 section. I'm currently 37 so I should be able to finish the guide today.

Darkscis's Avatar

01.28.2013 , 11:31 PM | #4
Level 35-39 section done and guide is complete. I certainly never found the spot where Deception simply killed packs of trash quicker than I did. I tried it many, many times throughout my leveling and not once did I feel like I was clearing fast at all. I can't even count the amount of times that I started a fight right next to another Assassin who was already fighting a pack, and mine were dead before he even finished chasing them around one by one. I even received a few tells from people asking what spec I used because I simply cleared so much quicker than they did.

Enjoy your leveling post 40 fellow Assassins, maybe now that we can get Voltaic Slash these Deception fan-boys will be proven true, but I sincerely believe that Deception is a pvp/pve endgame spec - and not at all a fast leveling spec. I am not in any way trashing Deception or it's followers, I just believe there is much stronger leveling ones and that's what this guide is all about.

If anyone leveling is interested, feel free to PM me to find out what I think works best from 40 to 49, I'm going to be trying a lot of different specs again (including full Deception - don't worry!).

otterscrubber's Avatar

01.29.2013 , 09:48 AM | #5
Thanks, I was looking at going all Madness, but your advice seems to be solid here. I am only lvl 37 at the moment but found what you had to say useful and will give it a try. What do you think about using Ashara rather than Andronikus? I just wanted to use her for style reasons, would you change spec or charge options in that case?

Also why Lightning Reflexes in the darkness tree? That does not help with AE damage and does very very little from what I can tell. It seems like a waste, can you explain that particular choice?
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Darkscis's Avatar

01.29.2013 , 06:08 PM | #6
Quote: Originally Posted by otterscrubber View Post
Thanks, I was looking at going all Madness, but your advice seems to be solid here. I am only lvl 37 at the moment but found what you had to say useful and will give it a try. What do you think about using Ashara rather than Andronikus? I just wanted to use her for style reasons, would you change spec or charge options in that case?

Also why Lightning Reflexes in the darkness tree? That does not help with AE damage and does very very little from what I can tell. It seems like a waste, can you explain that particular choice?
Well, at the end of the day it's a game so if you prefer to use Ashara then by all means, use Ashara. I just switched to her at 40 (now 42) because I went full darkness and once geared she is amasing. She does have an aoe, so it shouldn't matter too much you may just find you need to chase the odd mob a little bit more. I doubt it will make a serious difference though.

As for Lightning Reflexes, once you start using Shock a lot more with Energize you will find yourself quite often very Force starved. The points had to go somewhere in the tree to progress further up the tiers and I felt that the force recovery from the parry and deflections (which is not insignificant at all) was more useful than the extra 6% internal and elemental defense. I just didn't run into those types of attacks enough to feel it warranted in a non-tanking (flashpoint) situation.

The other thing I will suggest after switching to Dark Charge is to get a decent orange focus and an orange shield generator and put the offensive mods from the focus into the shield gen. You lose out on a little bit of power from not having the focus but you gain the chance to shield and absorb attacks which will help a bit. If you do this, pick up Dark Ward just after you get Energize. Sadly, I didn't think of this until 40 when I had switched to full Darkness.

LumberingGiant's Avatar

01.29.2013 , 07:56 PM | #7
Love the guide. Also love clearing trash mobs in nothing flat. One question, do you stick with Khem as your companion for the whole leveling process?

Darkscis's Avatar

01.29.2013 , 08:27 PM | #8
Quote: Originally Posted by LumberingGiant View Post
Love the guide. Also love clearing trash mobs in nothing flat. One question, do you stick with Khem as your companion for the whole leveling process?
Great! At level 30 when I re-spec to Darkness I switch to Andronikos. Buy him a decent pair of blasters from the GTN and go to town. I updated the original post (the important points section) to more clearly reflect this.

citann's Avatar

02.08.2013 , 10:05 PM | #9
THANK YOU for making this guide! One question though...Since I will be wearing mostly orange gear, which mods/armor should i be using? Is it better to go with more endurance or willpower or a combo of both kinds of mods/armor?

Darkscis's Avatar

02.10.2013 , 07:03 AM | #10
Quote: Originally Posted by citann View Post
THANK YOU for making this guide! One question though...Since I will be wearing mostly orange gear, which mods/armor should i be using? Is it better to go with more endurance or willpower or a combo of both kinds of mods/armor?
I went full Resolve armouring/mods (the willpower higher than endurance ones). The quicker things die, the less damage they can do to you