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[Guide] Assassin Tank Compendium

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Classes > Shadow / Assassin
[Guide] Assassin Tank Compendium

Alratan's Avatar

12.14.2011 , 03:06 AM | #1
Sith Assassin Darkness Tank Compendium

The base version of this document can always be found at, and is generally updated slightly more frequently and earlier than this document. The Jedi Shadow version can be found on the SW:TOR forum here.

This guide is aimed at PvE, especially end-game raiding, although some details (abilities and skill trees) may be of use to PvP as well.

I welcome any and all comments, criticism and discussion - especially on the formatting, as that's not my forté.

Table of Contents
[I. Skill Trees, Abilities and Rotation]
[I.a. Force and Focus]
[I.b. Skill Tree]
[I.c. Abilities]
[I.c.i. Tanking Abilities]
[I.c.ii. Situational Abilities]
[I.c.iii. Non-tanking Abilities]
[I.d. Ability Priority Order and Rotation]
[II. Stats, Gear, Consumables and Crew Skills]
[II.a. Stats]
[II.b. Gear]
[II.c. Consumables]
[II.d Crew skills]
[App. Credits]

Sith Assassins rely on a mix of self-buffs, self-heals, melee attacks and short-range force effects to tank, and wield a Double-Bladed Lightsaber, and are primarily inspired by Darth Maul from Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace.

I. Skill Trees, Abilities and Rotation

a) Force and Focus

Whilst Assassins will use the Force, they do not use it as a resource in the same ways as Jedi Sorcerers. Assassins use the Force as their general resource, which functions very much like a WoW Rogue's energy: Assassins will always have 100 maximum Force (or 110 with Blood of the Sith) and will regenerate at a flat rate which cannot be improved by gear (but can be by up to 30% from One with the Force).

The base rate of Force regeneration for Sith Inquisitors is 8/s. This means that a Darkness Assassin will typically regenerate at 10.4/s, with the +30% from One with the Force. This compares to 10 Energy per Second for WoW Rogues. For ease of calculation, this is 15.6 Focus every GCD. Additionally, every avoidance or shield will regenerate 2 force. With a base shield chance approaching 50% and avoidance of 16%, we can expect to regain at least 1 GCD's worth of force every minute assuming 1 attack every 2 seconds, or closer to 2 force every second if under attack from many targets.

b) Skill Tree

To my knowledge, the most up-to-date skill trees are located

The primary skill tree used by tanking Assassins is the Darkness tree, with some skills within the Balance tree providing valuable benefits. For PvE Raiding, which this compendium primarily covers at present, I currently recommend a 31/0/10 build. There are some caveats for this build, however, as it assumed that:
  • The extra health from Shroud of Darkness does not provide a noticeable benefit. This will be revised/reviewed depending on average incoming value, the difficulties of no crit immunity and threat issues.
  • The damage from Dark Charge over a fight is greatly less than the damage of Thrash and Lacerate.
  • The difference between the extra procs gained from Swelling Shadows and the extra proc opportunities gained from Swelling Shadows lost to the proc interval is not significant to make Electric Execution superior to Swelling Shadows.

If any of these are not true, some changes will be required. Shroud of Darkness and/or Electric Execution are the best bets for alternatives.

Other builds worth considering are more hybrid builds, 23/0/18 and 27/0/14. The trade-offs are:
  • Wither (+30% damage)
  • Force Lightning +75% damage + self-heal
  • 15% damage to Discharge
  • +3% damage to Dark Charge
  • Death Field (-50% cost)
  • Free, instant Crushing Darkness on melee crit
  • +50% crit damage on Thrash
  • Instant activation for Whirlwind and 2 second stun on early break

Without more firm figures on damage/threat out-puts, we can tell by eye that 31/0/10 has more survivability than 23/0/18 due to Wither (and, to an extent, Force Lightning and Harnessed Darkness).

The 23/0/18 build front-loads the threat far more, with Death Field dealing a larger amount of threat than a single Wither, and without needing to wait for several charges for Force Lightning. However, threat against single-targets likewise is far less due to the lack of Force Lightning.

The 23/0/18 build also has utility due to instant activation and stunning Whirlwind, although this is obviously of little use against bosses.27/0/14 is in between this, with the extra single-target threat survivability from Harnessed Darkness instead of Raze, but without the utility of Haunted Dreams.

From all this, it seems fair to say that the 23/0/18 build is most likely superior in Flashpoints and add-tanking (especially for picking them up), whilst 27/0/14 and 31/0/10 pull ahead on single-targets and bosses in operations, with the latter having the advantage in survivability-crucial environments. However, as the -5% damage debuff from Wither does stack from multiple Assassins, having more than one 31/0/10 is attractive.

Finally, entries in the Infiltration tree should not be taken for reasons described in the Stealth ability, below, and additional selections in Balance under the ability descriptions of other abilities, below.

c) Abilities

Below is a list of all Assassins abilities which will see frequent use during tanking. Those with only situational use or not used for tanking are at the end. Charges/Techniques other than Dark Charge will not be mentioned, as they are of no value whilst tanking.

c i.) Tanking Abilities

c ii.) Situational Abilities

c iii.) Non-tanking Abilities

d) Ability Priority Order and Rotation

Due to the low total Force amount, the Assassin rotation is based on a hierarchy of abilities which are off cooldown, have Focus available for its use and are required (see ability descriptions, above). It is assumed that Dark Charge will be kept up permanently. The only reason to drop Dark Charge will be to deliberately lose threat temporarily, such as during a tank swap, due to the threat boost of Dark Charge.

In order to keep proper (de)buffs up, Dark Ward should be used every 20 seconds or when there is only 1 charge left, Discharge every 18 seconds and Wither every 15 seconds, at minimum. This is reflected in the priority orders, below. When opening, please note that Dark Ward should probably be used before a pull. It should also be used before a Force Lightning, as whilst it is off the GCD, it will interrupt the channel.

If there is not enough Force to use an ability in the below priority orders at any point, use a Saber Strike in order to regenerate rather than moving to the next step. Care should also be taken that there will be available Force ready for steps 1-3, so that (de-)buffs are always up.

With regards to the specific use of Force Lightning, whilst they are mentioned in the priority order below so as to judge their relative tpGCD, the highly situational nature of the ability warrants further comment. It should only be used if remaining stationary for 3 seconds is not a problem, and it is recommended for use only if the healing is necessary or the Harnessed Darkness buff is about to drop. As we can expect a fps regeneration of up to 12.4 due to Lightning Reflexes, using Force Lightning if your force is over 92 may result in some wasted regeneration time.

Please note that all specs' abilities are referenced below. If you lack the relevant abilities/procs, skip the step. The basic rotation is the same in every case, and may have some components skipped if survivability is not at stake.

The Pull:
A pull can be achieved with DW, followed by a Recklessness and Force Lightning, or by Force Speed and Shock instead of FL before settling into the main rotation below.

Basic rotation:
1. Dark Ward iff <2 charges left or <1s duration
2. Wither iff 5% damage debuff is not applied to target
3. Discharge iff 5% accuracy debuff is not applied to target
4. Crushing Darkness iff Raze proc && (<82 force OR proc about to expire)
5. Assassinate iff target is at <= 30% health

One or two targets (make sure to tab target):

Three or four targets:

Five or more targets:

During a 1-2 targets rotation, remember that both Wither and Discharge have AoE components, so should be skipped if that would be problematic (e.g. breaking CC).

In addition to the above, Overcharge Saber should be used whenever the healing boost is needed, as should the other survivability/utility buffs such as Deflection, Force Shroud, Force Speed, and the taunts, Mind Control and Mass Mind Control. All of the skills in this paragraph are off the GCD.

Similarly, crowd control in the form of Overload, Electrocute and Spike may prove helpful for adds if they are a concern and cannot be effectively tanked.

Finally, as Recklessness does not incur GCD and has no focus cost, it should probably be used whenever it is off cooldown, unless there is a specific reason to save it (e.g. aggro wipe, adds). At present, Overcharge Saber can cause all 4 ticks of Force Lightning to crit.

II. Stats, Gear, Consumables and Crew Skills

a) Stats

The base stats of interest are Endurance, Strength and Willpower. I ignore Aim, Cunning and Presence as they are of no use to a raiding Assassin.
  • Endurance improves health, and is an auxiliary stat for Sith Inquisitors, increasing by 3.5 Endurance per level on average. Every point provides 10 health points, and every 5 points provides 1% health regeneration.
  • Strength improves melee attacks, and is an inferior stat for Sith Inquisitors, increasing by 0.9 Strength per level on average.
  • Willpower improve force attacks, and is the dominant stat for Sith Inquisitors, increasing by 4 Willpower per level.

It is unclear if a Sith Assassin will gain any benefit from bonus healing from Willpower to abilities such as Overcharge Saber and Dark Charge.

Further stats of interest are Absorption, Accuracy, Alacrity, Armor, Critical Chance, Defense, Shield and Surge. (Note: Armor Rating is an indication of the relative worth of an item, analogous to the item level/ilvl, not the amount of armor provided by the item.)

Note that the effectiveness of stats reduces as more of the stat is gained, so the relative weighting of stats changes depending on how much you currently have.
  • Absorption increases the % of damage improved by a successfully shielded/blocked attack, and is analogous to block value in World of WarCraft.
  • Accuracy is improved by Accuracy Rating, and determines the chance for our melee and force abilities to hit the enemy. After a certain breakpoint (when 100% hit is achieved), it instead reduces the likelihood of deflection and resists. If we do not have perfect Accuracy (which seems likely), then Accuracy Rating will be the most valuable stat on gear until we reach the breakpoint, as it reduces the possibility for our threat-generating attacks to have no effect due to not hitting the enemy.
  • Alacrity is analogous to Haste in World of WarCraft, reducing activation and channeling times. This stat will be of no value to us unless it also reduces the Global Cooldown (GCD), as all of our effects are instants. As the other effects have been stated explicitly and GCD reduction has not been, I have assumed that it does not do this (at present), although this will hopefully change. More information regarding Alacrity is not yet available.
  • Armor is a valuable stat, providing Kinetic and Energy damage reduction. Generally speaking, we will not need to focus on this, and will acquire it naturally by improving our gear. Due to Dark Charge, even small bonuses from Armor on gear will provide very large bonuses in the final Armor value Assassins have. Consequently, items with Armor which are not traditionally armor pieces, such as modifications, will be of greater benefit for Assassins than they will be for Juggernauts or Powertechs. Note that like Sorcerers, Sith Assassins wear Light Armor. They do not wear Medium Armor, despite some claims.
  • Critical Chance is the chance to score a critical strike, which improves the damage/healing of an ability by 50%, and is improved by Critical Rating and the dominant stat. Critical Chance is less useful for us than it might be for some other classes, as we have no abilities/buffs which depend on criticals for their activation, and thus Critical Chance merely provides a small amount of threat.
  • Defense increases our chance to parry/deflect melee/ranged attacks, and is analogous to parry in World of WarCraft and similar games.
  • Power increases damage dealt by the relevant prefix - Attack, Force or Tech. As we use a mixture of melee and force attacks, specific Power stats are of little use, but generic stats may be useful.
  • Shield increases our chance to shield/block attacks, and is analogous to block chance in World of WarCraft.
  • Surge increases the magnitude of critical effects, improving their extra damage/healing beyond +50%. Given that we are guaranteed crits for all uses of Shock, a high Surge rating is valuable for threat.

Our stat priority from gear is most likely along the following lines when it comes to threat, not taking relative item weighting/value and coefficients into account, nor the possible weighting of Accuracy Rating past the breakpoint:

Accuracy (until +10%) > Willpower > Power > Surge Rating > Critical Rating > Accuracy > Strength

For survivability, as all tanking gear comes with large amounts of Endurance by default, survivability is best gained with Absorption, Defence and Shield. The ratios to use vary depending on your overall budget of points to spread around, but it is recommended that a ratio of Defence:Absorb:Shield of 3:1:0 is used until you have roughly 650-700 points, at which point, a roughly 5:3:1 ratio should be used for continued upgrades.

b) Gear

Reserved for endgame gear lists. The stats weightings above are a guidance on what to look for in gear. This list is deliberately left slim at present due to the lack of reliable, non-travial information regarding gear at present.

The useful Harnesses will be Force Wielder harnesses, such as:
Mastercraft Force Wielder Armoring 25 - +61 Endurance, +57 Willpower

The useful Augments/Modulators will be Absorb, Fortitude, Redoubt or Shield for survivability, and Accuracy and Resolve for threat. Examples are:

Advanced Absorb Augment 25 - +34 Absorption
Advanced Fortitude Augment 25 - +34 Endurance
Advanced Redoubt Augment 25 - +34 Defense
Advanced Shield Augment 25 - +34 Shield
Advanced Accuracy Augment 25 - +34 Accuracy
Advanced Resolve Augment 25 - +34 Willpower

The useful Power Crystals will be Indestructible crystals, such as:
Advanced Purple Indestructible Crystal - +41 Endurance

The useful Lightsaber Hilts will be Endurance and Force Wielder hilts, such as:
Mastercraft Force Wielder Hilt 25 - +61 Endurance, +57 Willpower
Mastercraft Resolve Hilt 25 - +49 Endurance, +68 Willpower

The useful Overlays will be Aptitude, Reinforced and Robust. Examples are:
Mastercraft Aptitude Mod 25 - +32 Endurance, +53 Willpower, +41 Power
Mastercraft Reinforced Mod 25 - +32 Endurance, +53 Willpower, +41 Defense
Mastercraft Robust Mod 25 - +32 Endurance, +53 Willpower, +41 Absorption

There are a lot of Supports which may be useful, with Endurance and varying amounts of Absorb, Accuracy, Defence, Shield and Willpower. List:
Astute, Bastion, Bulwark, Cognizant, Immunity, Intuition, Kinetic, Lucid, Protection, Steadfast, Sturdiness and Vigilant.

c) Consumables

The consumables function similarly to other MMORPGs. There are Adrenals, which provide 15s buffs with a 180s cooldown), Stimulants, which provide a 120 minute buff and Medpacks, which restore health over 15s with a cooldown of 90s. Below are the suggested items for use by Assassin tanks.

The following 3 Rakata items are Bind on Pickup, meaning that you must be a Biochemist to use them:
Rakata Absorb Adrenal - Increases Armor by 1725 for 15 seconds. (Cooldown: 3 minutes)
Rakata Fortitude Stim - Increases Endurance by 136 and Defense by 56 for 120 minutes. Only one stimpack can be active at a time. This effect persists through defeat.
Rakata Medpack - Restores 5050 to 6175 health and an additional 2245 health over 15 seconds. (Cooldown: 90s)

These items are usable by anyone:
Exotech Absorb Adrenal - Increases Armor by 1675 for 15 seconds. (Cooldown: 3 minutes)
Exotech Fortitude Stim - Increases Endurance by 128 and Defense by 52 for 120 minutes. Only one stimpack can be active at a time. This effect persists through defeat.
Exotech Medpac - Restores 4875 to 5950 health and an additional 2165 health over 15 seconds. (Cooldown: 90s)

d) Crew Skills
Bear in mind that at present, there is a confusing mess of Bind on Equip and Bind on Pickup items amongst craftables, so it is not clear which ones are specific to those who made it or can be given to anyone.

The the most useful Crew Skills known would immediately seem to be Archaeology and either Artifice or Synthweaving. As only one crafting profession may be chosen, the decision between Artifice and Sythweaving will be heavily influenced by the end-game suitability of these crafting skills.

If Artifice is chosen, Treasure Hunting provides high-end craft materials, with Underworld Trading being beneficial for Synthweaving.

The unique items for Artifce are the Rakata versions below, compared to the non-exclusive Columni versions below them:

Rakata Relic of the Shrouded Crusader - Use: Increases Shield Rating and Absorb Rating by 235 for 20 seconds.
Rakata Relic of Imperiling Serenity - Use: Increases Defense Rating by 380 for 20 seconds.
Columi Relic of the Shrouded Crusader - Use: Increases Shield Rating and Absorb Rating by 220 for 20 seconds.
Columi Relic of Imperiling Serenity - Use: Increases Defense Rating by 355 for 20 seconds.

The unique items for Synthweaving are more difficult to establish at this time.

Alternatively, Bioanalysis and Biochem will be useful for those wishing access to the more powerful adrenals, stims and medpacks, with Diplomacy functioning to gain high-end craft materials.

Finally, Cybertech may allow access to specific mods.

Thanks go to the following people for providing insights and informationAnubis Black, bluekieran, Caketown, Draeveus, Gorodetski, Kitru, Kore, LagunaD, lpw, Masterkiller, metaspy, Pijinz, Piree, Pred, sanctified, Sennin and Sol.
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Sith Assassin/Jedi Shadow Tanking Compendium

mirdot's Avatar

12.14.2011 , 03:17 AM | #2
Sticky this thread.
Quote: Originally Posted by Patstone View Post
I promise (EA-grace-period-promise-type-promise)
Quote: Originally Posted by battlebug View Post
can you make sword in box light sword so sword come out when opened? then if sword is back after sword, use light saber on box, and saber will be boxed after sword is out.

agentbam's Avatar

12.14.2011 , 07:28 AM | #3
It deserves to be a Sticky!

Alratan's Avatar

12.16.2011 , 03:54 AM | #4
Thanks for the votes of confidence, but I think they're trying to limit the amount of stickies to just AstralFire's. I'm hoping to update priority orders and builds a bit this weekend, as I won't have the ability to be in-game anyway.
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Skitziblink's Avatar

12.16.2011 , 05:41 AM | #5
Sticky please

Alratan's Avatar

12.28.2011 , 09:06 AM | #6
I have now updated this with a radically improved rotation (thanks to Pininz and lgw), which is far more robust and deals with the relevant, different situations.
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theonepanda's Avatar

12.28.2011 , 09:29 AM | #7
The drain from death field is fairly worthless. It does not significantly increase survivability.

Wither is far greater still for aoe survivability, I would say more so than single target boss survivability.

Also while lacerate is good, for aoe spam, it may be worthwhile to shock at least enough to keep melee crit buff up. I dunno if anyone's modeled this yet, but it is something to consider.

Your rotation is a bit too simple.

Firstly, dark ward is off gcd and always available to use. Just remember to use it at 1 stack or 1 second.

A lot of assassin tanking is timing your buffs and procs, and Thrash is nowhere on your priority list.

IMO, thrash should be highest priority unless wither/discharge debuffs are not on target.

Raze should be 2nd when not in danger of force capping.

Afterwards, you should be spamming thrash until you get energize. Then, save energize and pool force by saber striking/discharge until

1. Melee crit buff is about to fall/has fallen and you will saber strike/thrash in the next gcd.
2. You are about to cap force.

This maximizes melee crit usage, which maximizes raze (if you have raze) and does not clip any energize procs.

This is also why introducing force lightning (instead of raze) into the rotation results in very clunky rotation that is easy to force cap or mistime buffs.

You want to be able to do as many thrashes as possible during a melee crit buff cycle, and this cuts into that as you will likely do it right after a shock (wasting up to 3 seconds worth of it, also lowering the chance that you will proc one with thrash before its gone).

Assassinate should be lower than thrash in priority if you do not have the melee crit buff.

None of those "stats of interest" should be stats of interest for an assassin tank until it is shown that you require accuracy to hold threat, or that you do not need maximum mitigation.

Feel free to use the approximation graphs from sith warrior, or the breakdowns I provided in my compendium. They are up to date with the formulas posted.

As all tanking gear comes with large amounts of Endurance by default, survivability is best gained by increasing Defence, Shield and Absorption roughly equally, with a priority of Defence > Shield > Absorption whenever making a single upgrade.
This is just plain wrong. Defense is added in far greater quantities than shield or absorb until a certain point, then absorb becomes better, and you will reach an inflection point where you divert some defense to shield.

"Roughly equally" is the WORST possible thing you can do, and will result in the least amount of mitigation.

The only variable to our survivability is accuracy. If accuracy is needed, simply subtract that amount from your "total available rating" and use that as the basis for your survivability rating decisions.

EDIT: gear wise, I'm fairly certain stacking endurance is not the way to go.

We already have an overabundance from mod/enhancements for tanking.

Furthermore, tank dps is significant and since we already lack (or should lack) all dps offstats, resolve hilts and armorings should be considered in place of force wielder.

Rammi's Avatar

12.28.2011 , 09:47 AM | #8
Quote: Originally Posted by theonepanda;845829

Furthermore, tank dps is significant and since we already lack (or should lack) all dps offstats, resolve hilts and armorings should be considered in place of force wielder.[/B]

I find this very surprising, is the tank really meant to do alot of dps, im not sure i understand the point here unless its for solo running.
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theonepanda's Avatar

12.28.2011 , 09:51 AM | #9
I do not know if they are "meant" to do a lot of dps.

They certainly DO do a lot of dps, and if you're thinking in terms of killing raid bosses, all DPS is important DPS.

Furthermore, the triumvirate of concerns for a tank are

1. Enough hp to survive a big hit.
2. Enough mitigation to make healing sustainable
3. Enough dps to hold threat.

1 should be met easily with endurance from mod/enhancements. If you really need the ~1k or so you get with force wielder, then by all means, use that instead.

2. Is what we are trying to maximize with all our offstats

3. Like WoW, I believe this to be a nonissue. It has not been an issue for me at least.

After the 3 main jobs of a tank, the rest is the same as dps, namely, maximizing it.

And so if you already meet 1., all swapping out Force Wielder for Resolve is a no brainer.

Having way more health than necessary does nothing for your raid.

Rammi's Avatar

12.28.2011 , 09:54 AM | #10
makes sense i guess,

I believe im over thinking it!! lol all my gear is the other way right now. lots of gear grinding to do so i can mix and match!
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