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Rankor's Guide to DPS Assassin/Shadow PvP

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Classes > Shadow / Assassin
Rankor's Guide to DPS Assassin/Shadow PvP

RankorSSGS's Avatar

06.06.2013 , 07:28 PM | #1

Iíve wanted to write a guide for quite some time now, but only recently have I started to feel that I am good enough to be qualified. So this will be my attempt to pass on the things I have discovered that make me successful as a DPS Assassin/Shadow. The things I say in here will range from basic tips aimed at people just starting to play the class, to (hopefully) advanced strategies and tactics. You will see how I gear, how I spec, and everything else that I can think of. What you will not find is the end-all guide to be the absolute best DPS Assassin/Shadow ever. Iím not that person, and Iím not claiming to be. I do some things differently than other notable players such as Shinarika. Nevertheless, I hope that this will help some people out. For those of you that have read my previous posts in innumerable other threads, some of the information in this guide will contradict what Iíve previously stated, as my experiences and decisions have evolved over time. I will do my best to keep this guide as up to date as possible.


This guide is going to be written using Shadow terminology; I have included all the conversions to Assassin terminology below, as well as all abbreviations and other language I will be using.

Shadow Strike/Maul - SS
Clairvoyant Strike/Voltaic Slash - CS
Double Strike/Thrash Ė DS
Force Breach/Discharge - Breach
Low Slash - LS
Force Slow Ė FS
Force in Balance/Death Field - FiB
Force Stun/Electrocute
Spinning Kick/Spike - SK
Spinning Strike/Assassinate
Resilience/Force Shroud
Force Cloak Ė Vanish
Force Potency/Recklessness - Potency
Mind Maze/Mind Trap - Sap
Battle Readiness/Overcharge Saber
Mass Mind Control Ė AoE Taunt
Whirling Blow/Lacerate - WB
Mind Control - Taunt
Shadow Technique/Surging Charge
Force Speed Ė Sprint
Force Wave/Overload
Mind Snap/Jolt Ė Interrupt
Force Lift/Whirlwind
Telekinetic Throw/Force Lightning Ė TKT
Saber Strike
Phase Walk


This is how Iím planning to have my gear set up once Iím all finished with it. Details on gearing can be found in Shinarikaís video guide and associated thread. I personally run a tad heavier on the power/surge side of things, rather than crit/accuracy. My gear preference is something that is always evolving, and I am constantly mixing things up to extract every bit of performance from my gear that I possibly can. If you havenít ground out max affection with at least 1 of every companion type, and done all their conversations, then do it ASAP. This will give you a flat 1% buff to your accuracy, surge, crit, endurance, and healing received.



The standard full Infiltration build. Offers excellent burst, with no real setup. Also has respectable sustained damage.

But Rankor, why did you not take Talent X? Itís so awesome!!!! Well, hereís my reasoning for skipping the talents I did.

Vigor: Because our Force Regeneration rate is linear, unlike Troopers or Smugglers, it doesnít matter if we are at 50 Force, or 90 Force. Having a full Force bar is bad (more on this later) so this means that the extra 10 Force would really only have any effect whatsoever in our opener. Which still doesnít sound that bad. However, because we have Blackout running for all our openers, you should never have to worry about Force management. The Infiltration openers are fairly inexpensive in the first place, Blackout is just gravy. The 1 point for Vigor is far more useful elsewhere.

Subduing Techniques: I personally find that the default 6 second duration and 12 second cooldown is enough for me, the ability is always available when I need it. If however, you find your enemies particularly tricky to catch, or just want to drag as much utility as possible from the spec, then go ahead and put points here instead of Shadowy Veil.

Humbling Strike: Itís pretty simple, we didnít take Subduing Techniques, so we donít get this. I used to run this talent pre 2.0, and honestly it wasnít very noticeable anyway. Points better put elsewhere.

Nerve Wracking: 6% more damage is always nice, especially for your entire team, but the uptime on this talent is abysmally low. It was more useful in the tank tree.

Jedi Resistance and Expertise: These 2 both fall in the same category, useful but not the most useful. I find that the boost to Force Management from Psychokinesis is more helpful to me. It lets me use more damaging attacks with less Saber Strike, which means more damage. More damage than Expertise offers. 2% damage reduction from Jedi Resistance is good, but we are already one of the tougher melee DPS specs, and I believe we are sufficient without this talent.

I have 2 main opening rotations with this spec, the SK opener, and the non-SK opener.

The SK opener looks like this: SK > SS > Potency > Breach > Project.

The non-SK opener looks like this: Potency in stealth > Breach > Project > SS if procced on its own, LS > SS if not.

None of these rotations should ever be treated as absolute, particularly when facing other Shadows/Assassins. Resilience will really screw you up if you dump all this into it for zero damage. And always adapt, think about how the encounter is going to go. If you need to drop someone quickly, and are confident you can do it, then the outlined rotation should be your go to. If you think that the encounter is going to be dragged on, then use CS twice between Breach and Project. This does 2 things. First of all, it procs Circling Shadows, which makes Project cheaper, which means more Force for your sustained damage. Secondly, it builds an extra stack of Breaching Shadows, which means you can get your next Breach set up faster, another boost to sustained damage.

From here we go into our sustained damage rotation. Project is our most reliable big hitter, and the rotation is based around it. Project has a 6 second cooldown, which translates into 3 GCDís between Projects. To keep Circling Shadows up, you should use either CS, SS, Spinning Strike, or WB at least twice between Projects. And use CS for at least 1 of these, to keep the Clairvoyant buff up. This leaves one GCD for another ability. This gives you some breathing room, which you will need. Again, keep in mind that this is PvP, and weirdness happens. You will inevitably have to throw in stuns and other non-damage oriented abilities, which screw up the rotation. Fully charged Breaches can fill this extra GCD, or any utility. If nothing else is available, there is nothing wrong with a 3rd CS, or a Saber Strike to get some Force back. Infiltration works largely on a proc based system. Use Breach when you have 3 stacks, use SS when its proc is up, use Project when it is fully set up with Circling Shadows and Clairvoyance.


This is my preferred spec to play; it is an adaptation of the old Wakajinn hybrid from pre 2.0. Its burst is the best we can get, and can offer some AoE pressure thanks to FiB. Single target sustained damage is weaker than 5/36/5, but still sufficient. You could take the 2 points out of Technique Mastery and put them into Adjudication if you really wanted to. However, I find that the 2% Accuracy is far more beneficial. In the crazily unreliable world of PvP, you use DS far less often as filler than you might initially think, and I am increasingly finding Accuracy to be crucial.

Wait Rankor, you have some points in there that you said were bad!

In this spec, I skipped Shadowy Veil. I have enough points to get where I want to in the Infiltration tree without it, and being the least useful talent remaining, it gets dropped. I did pick Jedi Resistance back up. This spec integrates FiB, but unfortunately the entire second tier of Balance is useless to us. It becomes a matter of taking the least useless talents, and Jedi Resistance is better than anything in that second tier.

Again, we have the SK opener, and the non-SK opener.

SK opener: SK > SS > Potency > Breach > FiB > Project.

Non-SK opener: Potency in stealth > Breach > FiB > Project > SS if procced on its own, LS > SS if not.

In some ways, this spec is easier to manage than full Infiltration, because you do not have to pay attention to stacks of the CS buff, and outside of Potency, Breach is used rarely enough to not require constant attention. Shadow Technique can only proc once every 4.5 seconds, so to get 3 stacks, you are looking at 13.5 seconds between Breaches as the bare minimum. Of course, Shadow Techniqueís proc chance is a mere 25%, so you will be waiting even longer. No big deal if you forget about it for a short while.

The sustained damage rotation is fairly simple, and is dictated by what is available when. As with full Infiltration, use SS when procced, Breach at 3 stacks, and Project when you have 2 stacks of Circling Shadows, FiB off cooldown.


So now that weíve covered the standard rotations, we now get into some more specific tactics that you can use to maximise your damage output. Some of these are highly situational tactics, and learning when to do these, and when not to, is something that will only come with practice and experience. Iíve been playing this class since launch, and maining it since 1.3. Even after all this time, there are still things Iím learning, and things I can improve on. Nobody gets good overnight.

Getting the most out of Potency: Potency is our single biggest offensive ability. Understanding how to get the best use of it is perhaps the most important part of being successful as a DPS Shadow/Assassin. Potency is the reason that I order my rotations the way I do.

Breach should always be the 1st attack you use after Potency, for a couple reasons. The first reason is that it is our hardest hitting force attack, hitting hard and fast is what this class relies on. Secondly, this immediately gets rid of your 3 stacks of Breaching Shadows, eliminating any chance of overlap (more on this later.) Also, Breach has no cooldown, if you have stacks, you can use it. It will always be up for every single use of Potency. You will never have to wait for it to come off cooldown, like you might for Project or FiB. Last but not least, Breach is a single target attack that hits only once. You always know that Breach will never consume more than one Potency charge. Because of Upheaval, and FiB being AoE, both those attacks have a large chance to consume multiple charges. This means that you will not have enough charges for all your big hitters. In a perfect world, Potency charges are consumed by Breach, FiB if 2/31/13, and the main Project, with the second Project taking the 3rd charge as full Infiltration. This has all of your biggest hitters getting Potencyís benefits, giving you the largest possible amount of damage.

As 2/31/13, deciding whether to use FiB or Project first is situational. If you are only fighting one enemy, then use FiB first, because it is a single hit. Project comes last because of Upheaval; the second Project is weaker than FiB. But if you are facing many enemies grouped closely together, then use Project first. This is because FiB critting on multiple targets will consume multiple Potency charges. And while playing like a smasher might be fun, it impairs our single target damage, which is what this class does best. Having said that, you can do some things to cheat the system. For example, say that youíve used Potency, and hit your target with Breach. FiB is on cooldown, so you use Project. One of these doesnít crit, or Upheaval didnít proc. This means that you have 1 Potency charge left over. If FiB comes off cooldown now, you can drop it on a tight cluster of enemies. It has been my experience that a single Potency charge will affect any target it hits. Now you have crit multiple people with FiB, and only used one charge to do it, because you only had one left. Itís kind of like stealing an extra couple Potency charges.

Of course, this is not PvE, and we donít always get a perfect world. Sometimes you will have to waste a Potency charge on something like Force Stun, or Force Wave. Good judgement is key here, if the stun or whatever can wait until youíve gotten the best use from Potency, then wait it out. But if not, then use the stun. Getting a key stun or slow off is always more important than doing extra damage. Yes, this is a DPS guide, but playing the game objectively should always be the priority.

The most force for your Force: A full Force bar is bad, it means that you have the potential to be doing damage, but are not. If you have Force, use it. Donít Saber Strike at 70+ Force. If you are dropping someone quickly, and will be out of combat soon, dump as much damage as you can into them, because you will not need Force once they are dead, and you can recover Force in peace. This is why in my burst openers I use my initial Project without Circling Shadows. Because of Blackout, Force management is generally a non-issue for the opener.

SS without the proc: Generally a bad idea; if you are unsure whether or not to do this, then donít do it. However, if there has been a lull in the fighting, if you have been stunned for a while or something, and your Force bar is about to be full, then go for an unprocced SS as you reengage. Remember, full Force is wasted damage potential, so you might as well spend it on our hardest hitting attack. Also, unprocced SS can work as another execute. If it will kill your opponent, and you will be able to build your force back anyway, go for it. Especially against good healers, you have a split-second window to put them behind the respawn gate; a dead enemy is worth having to Saber Strike a bit. This is particularly noticeable in close Ancient Hypergate matches, where every single kill counts.

Project: Usually, you want to have all applicable buffs set up on every Project you use. Like I mentioned above, there are always exceptions. If you have lots of Force, Project with 1 or zero stacks of the Circling Shadows buff gets more damage out faster.

As a full Infiltration build, you have 2 Project buffs to watch, Circling Shadows, and Clairvoyance, the buff from CS. Circling Shadows is consumed by every Project, but Clairvoyance is not. This allows you to extract some more damage, with no cost to yourself, because Clairvoyance lasts a long time. For example, say that you have used CS twice, and fired off Project. Your target is in execute range, and you have a SS proc ready to go. You can use Spinning Strike, and your procced SS for the Circling Shadow buff, and you still have Clairvoyance from your last Project. Now you have a fully buffed Project, and you used 2 attacks that both do far more damage than CS does. Then use CS to refresh the buff for your 3rd Project.

As the 2/31/13 build, you do not have the Clairvoyance buff at all, so the only thing affecting Project is Circling Shadows. Again, if you can use SS and Spinning Strike to build this, then go for it, since they both do more damage than DS. Now you see why I previously stated that DS does not see as much use as you might think. Between SS, Spinning Strike, and any WBís that get thrown in to stop caps, Circling Shadows comes fairly easily. Combine this with all the stuns, roots, slows, and other abilities we use, and DS can start to fall off the map. Which is necessarily a bad thing, the point of DS is to build Circling Shadows, and be filler. If you need neither of those, then you donít need DS at the moment either.

Blackout: Knowing when to use this ability is crucial. Thanks to the buffs from 1.4, we get double use of this ability, 25% damage reduction, and +50% Force regeneration. This allows us to use Blackout as both an offensive and defensive cooldown. That boost to Force regeneration is great for continuing your assault, and can give you the sustained pressure you need to kill healers. If you get focused, it is a great tool for keeping you alive; 25% is quite huge for something that is available so often. The cooldown of this ability resets when you exit stealth, so you will have it at the beginning of every fight. Donít be afraid to use it generously.

Force Cloak: Again, another ability that is both offensive and defensive. Use it to escape heavy focus fire. If your foe has popped some major offensive cooldowns, or you can see a ranged class winding up to send a big hit your way, vanish and wait it out. Now theyíve wasted cooldowns with nothing to show for it, and you can laugh at them as you reengage uncontested. This ability puts you out of combat, which means that you can exit stealth and start channeling Meditation if you so desire. Also remember that this ability will take that crucial minute off of Potencyís cooldown, and Blackout will be available as well once you leave stealth. Now that we have Phase Walk, I find that I need to vanish less for my own survival, and I can use this ability offensively more often. Assuming itís been at least 15 seconds since you used Potency, vanishing will make it available again instantly. Vanish, pop Potency, and immediately reengage with your opening rotation. If your opponent is already weakened from your initial barrage, this is pretty much guaranteed to finish them off, unless they receive some serious healing.

This leads right into my next point: Healers. Our class excels at taking down healers. Now, exceptionally skilled healers will not die to any single DPS, unless you get a string of good luck, and they get a string of bad. This is why focus fire, and very quick burst damage is so important. Nevertheless, our class is better at it than most, so take advantage. Using your vanish at the right time can greatly increase your chances of making the kill. If you have been pressuring the healer for a while, there is a good chance that he has used most of his cooldowns. I recommend saving Force Cloak until they are low enough that you can kill them with 2 big hits. If you use vanish early, along with everything else, and the healer is alive, then you are not going to kill him. Save Force Cloak as that one last trick that pushes them over. Wear them down slowly, and if you get them to around 30% or so, then hard stun them with Force Stun, then vanish, Potency, and immediately open with Breach , and follow with Project or SS or Spinning Strike, anything that hits hard. It feels like a bit of a waste to pop so many cooldowns for the last little bit of their HP, but if you are fast enough, they wonít be able to react in time. Speed here is the absolute key, especially with multiple healers, you have mere seconds before they get healed back up, and the opportunity will be gone.

Donít overlap procs! Almost all of our big damage comes from procs or stacks in some way or another. Managing these to get the most out of them is highly important. This is where we get our priority list from. Breach is top priority, then SS, then FiB if applicable, then Project. Breaching Shadows are relatively difficult to obtain, especially as hybrids without CS. This means that when you do finally get 3 stacks, you want to use Breach ASAP, so that Shadow Technique doesnít proc again while you are already sitting at 3 stacks. Overlapping these at best causes you to have to wait another 4.5 seconds to start rebuilding, at worst, the target that wouldíve died to your 6k Breach is now healed to full. SS is next for the same reason, if youíve procced it from LS, and it reprocs from random chance, thatís a wasted proc that couldíve been a 8k SS. Naturally, donít LS with a SS proc already up, unless you really need the mezz immediately. This is prioritized behind Breach only because SS procs are generally easier to come by than Breaching Shadows. FiB has no procs or anything affecting it, only the 15 second cooldown. This is more than twice the Project cooldown. Project is up very quickly, and can be used last.

Wading, rather than diving into combat: Our class relies heavily on getting in and out of combat quickly. PotencyĎs cooldown finishes when combat ends, you can go into stealth for all its benefits, Blackout refreshes as well. To give you the best chance of leaving combat, try to put yourself in combat with as few people at once as possible. Focus on your single target damage, and try to kill them before switching. I am not advocating tunnel vision! There are always exceptions, there will be times when you will need to switch to another target, or use an AoE ability. These scenarios are unavoidable, and are not what Iím talking about. Iím talking about the situations where it costs you nothing to pick on targets one at a time. Playing like this, Iíve been able to get as many as 12 Potency charges in a single minute, because I would drop someone with 3, leave combat, reset Potency, drop the next guy with 3, and continue like this. Likely will not happen in games with good healers, but if you do regs a lot, you will find plenty of opportunities to take advantage of this.

Taunts: Use them. Generously and without remorse. Just because you are DPS, doesn't mean you can't taunt. Taunts help your team out, are free, and are off the GCD. No reason not to use them. You can use the AoE taunt to put nearby stealthers into combat, preventing them from sapping you. An invaluable trick when contesting the off node.

Well, thatís all Iíve got for now, hopefully this will help some of you out. I will continue to add to this guide as I think of more things to add. Keep practicing, and you can expect to start seeing numbers like this:
Please feel free to leave some feedback, tips, ideas, contributions, or anything else. Rankor signing out, May the Force be with You!

Xinika's Avatar

06.06.2013 , 07:30 PM | #2
These are the kind of posts these boards can use.
Assassin Representative
Aeonneta | Shinarika | Semjase
Guides - Videos - Action

RankorSSGS's Avatar

06.06.2013 , 07:31 PM | #3
Quote: Originally Posted by Xinika View Post
These are the kind of posts these boards can use.
Wow, you read fast And thanks, that means a lot coming from you.

MusicRider's Avatar

06.07.2013 , 09:14 AM | #4
Nice guide, and it surely helps and creates synergies with shinarika's guides and a couple others that have helped during my levelling. Being still lowbie there is a question that has been bothering me regarding inflitration rotation from stealth.
SK opener: SK > SS > Potency > Breach > FiB > Project.

Non-SK opener: Potency in stealth > Breach > FiB > Project > SS if procced on its own, LS > SS if not.
What about?
Potency in stealth > SK > Breach > SS > ... It seems to me that it is more beneficial as it provides synergy proc from breach for SS, but I also think that it is bad cause you might overlap the inflitration tacts proc? Can someone more experienced give some insight on this please? Thanks.

mmerry's Avatar

06.07.2013 , 09:26 AM | #5
Quote: Originally Posted by MusicRider View Post
Nice guide, and it surely helps and creates synergies with shinarika's guides and a couple others that have helped during my levelling. Being still lowbie there is a question that has been bothering me regarding inflitration rotation from stealth.

What about?
Potency in stealth > SK > Breach > SS > ... It seems to me that it is more beneficial as it provides synergy proc from breach for SS, but I also think that it is bad cause you might overlap the inflitration tacts proc? Can someone more experienced give some insight on this please? Thanks.
Spinning kick can eat a charge of Force Potency which is bad when you want to maximize your burst.

MusicRider's Avatar

06.07.2013 , 09:35 AM | #6
Quote: Originally Posted by mmerry View Post
Spinning kick can eat a charge of Force Potency which is bad when you want to maximize your burst.
Thanks didn't realise that SK is a force attack, always thought it was a melee one. Then what about:
SK > Potency > Breach > SS > ...

RankorSSGS's Avatar

06.07.2013 , 09:46 AM | #7
Quote: Originally Posted by MusicRider View Post
Thanks didn't realise that SK is a force attack, always thought it was a melee one. Then what about:
SK > Potency > Breach > SS > ...
This can work as well, and it comes down to whether or not you think that 9% crit to SS is worth risking a proc overlap. I do this rotation if I'm still waiting out the internal cooldown on the SS proc from a previous fight.

Yodawizard's Avatar

06.07.2013 , 11:07 AM | #8
Teh Raaaankeeer! Very nice post sir. Well written and I agree with almost all of it! (Which is a lot from me since I like arguing so much ). I have played 5/36/5 in ranked a decent amount since 2.0 and I find it goes well with AOE dmg from Snipers/Smashers and you can be the piece of the puzzle finishing things off with great burst. That being said I haven't see many of us in ranked yet unfortunately and I am usually node guarding (with the exception of voidstar attack rd).


Andar's Avatar

06.07.2013 , 12:56 PM | #9
+1 Nice job, couldn't have said any of it better myself.
I find 2/31/13 better for a main fight than full infil. One tiny thing I do differently is pick up Shadowy Veil over misdirection. I may have to tinker with switching it up.
Resilience / Po5
Hostile Takeover

RankorSSGS's Avatar

06.07.2013 , 01:14 PM | #10
Thanks guys, I appreciate all the kind words

@Yoda When my Shadow makes the move to Pot5, you and I will have to go on a crusade to get Infiltration into ranked games regularly. I'm looking forward to it!

@Andar I find that the speed increase is not really noticeable out of combat, but is invaluable in stealth. Stealth putting us at 85% speed hurts, and I find it very noticeable. As for the stealth level, I'm of the opinion that you can never have enough of it. It's crucial when playing hide and seek with stealthed node guards, since Blackout only lasts 6 seconds.