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KBN's Guide to Combat Spec (or: how to sentinel tank)

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Classes > Sentinel / Marauder
KBN's Guide to Combat Spec (or: how to sentinel tank)

KeyboardNinja's Avatar


KeyboardNinja
07.08.2013 , 10:33 PM | #1
The full form of this guide is now mostly obsolete and has been replaced by a forum post that I threw together in an afternoon. Treat it as such. If I can get over my PTSD from the evisceration of Combat as a spec, I might flesh out this guide to be something real.

---

So I'm finally back from my trip and I got a chance to play around with new Combat a bit, though on a rather laggy connection and a toon that only has 180s. First off, I'd like to reiterate that I still believe the changes really suck and I'm very sad that they happened. With that out of the way…

Cooldown Drift

This is the most difficult skill check in this spec post-2.10. None of the cooldowns align. At all. One would want to align everything in the rotation along a cycle with a 10.5 second period. The following lists our major abilities and how they drift relative to Precision Slash.

A - indicates that it drifts back, while a + indicates that it drifts forward. Thus, a + is sort of ok, since we can make that ability line up by delaying it by the drift length. A - means that we cannot realign the ability without delaying Precision Slash itself. Delaying abilities to make them fall under Precision Slash is generally ok. Delaying Precision Slash is not ok. Thus, the + drifts are annoying but not problematic. The - drifts are severely problematic at various points.
  • Zealous Strike (-1.5s)
  • Master Strike (+1.5s)
  • Dispatch (-1.5s)
  • Cauterize (-3.5s)
  • Twin Saber Throw (+3s)
  • Blade Storm (+1.5s)

Zealous Strike is by far the worst offender here. The fact that it misaligns with Precision Slash by exactly 1 GCD is a real problem, since it means that every fifth Zealous Strike will come off cooldown during Precision Slash. This was a problem even with the old double-PS rotation, but it's more acute now since we only have four GCDs to build up enough focus for our next PS window (more on that in a second). The end result is that new Combat has a distinctly "Watchman-ish" flare, where the focus costs come crashing down around our ears once every few rotations.

Note that the above implies that you categorically must always put Master Strike inside of Precision Slash, and further implies that Master Strike must take priority over Blade Storm in such windows. Clipping Master Strike is a requirement, even under Zen. (sidebar for future investigation: this means that alacrity might actually have some value now)

Another implication of the above is that Dispatch should be mostly used on CD during the execute phase (regardless of proc status), except when Precision Slash has less than 2 seconds on the cooldown. In that case, delay Dispatch and use it in the first GCD of the window. The exception to that guideline is if PS has less than 2 seconds on its cooldown and Master Strike has less than 0.5 seconds and you have less than 24 stacks of Centering, in which case you should use Dispatch immediately since you won't be able to get it into the window. This does require some practice.

Focus Costs

In the old double-PS regime, we could actually predict our focus costs a bit better due to the reliable focus-builder GCD between windows and the longer rotation period. 7 focus was enough to get through any non-Zen double PS pair, and we could stick with that pretty reliably since Master Strike always went in the second window. With the more frequent PS, oddly, our focus costs have become less consistent but still potentially just as high as they were before.

Blade Storm goes in every single Precision Slash window. No exceptions. It does move around within the windows, but it will always be present somewhere. Thus, the only distinction between windows (absent Zen) is in the two remaining GCDs. I have broken down the focus costs of all valid windows below:
  • Master Strike (3 focus)
  • Dispatch (proc) > Twin Saber Throw (3 focus)
  • Dispatch (no proc) > Twin Saber Throw (5 focus)
  • Dispatch (proc) > Blade Rush (4 focus)
  • Dispatch (no proc) > Blade Rush (7 focus)
  • Blade Rush > Twin Saber Throw (5 focus)
  • Blade Rush > Blade Rush (7 focus)

All windows involve a focus refund of at least 1. The costs listed are the execution costs, meaning you need at least that much focus in your pool, even though you won't actually use all of it.

As you can see, the focus costs are pretty much the same as they used to be in the worst two cases (double-BR or Disp>BR). Every other window will involve a Twin Saber Throw, and every third window will involve a Master Strike (delaying TST). This means that, on average, you will see a "worst-case" window about 25-30% of the time, depending on RNG. That number climbs closer to 30% during the execute phase, since you're using your proc'd Dispatch outside of the PS window, uniformly increasing costs.

So, every 3-4 windows are expensive (7 focus) depending on HoJ RNG, while every fifth window happens without Zealous Strike. This means that every 15-20 windows, you will see an expensive window without being able to use Zealous Strike at any point before that window but after the previous one. This situation SUCKS. You basically end up having to Strike three out of your four filler GCDs, probably delaying Cauterize and maybe even not building Opportune Attack (depending on ataru RNG). The good news is that the previous window is guaranteed not to be expensive and guaranteed to have a Zealous Strike immediately prior, which means you can plan for this situation a bit in advance and save up some extra focus. Basically, the same thing you do in Watchman.

Zen pretty much uniformly increases PS window costs by 2 focus. There are exceptions to this (e.g. Master Strike > Blade Storm > Twin Saber Throw), but in general you should just plan on having one Strike more focus going into a PS window where Zen will be active. Thus, the worst-case scenario is a 9 focus window, which is hilariously expensive given that we need to build all of that focus in just four GCDs, potentially without being able to use Zealous Strike.

Managing your focus is the second-hardest thing about this spec. Since it is cooldown-dependent, and the cooldowns don't align, you could actually make a pretty compelling argument that it is the absolute hardest aspect of the spec.

Blade Rush

Correctly managing the Blade Rush buff is the last 100-150 DPS that separates a good parse from a fantastic parse. Blade Rush should be used in one of the two GCDs prior to Precision Slash, ideally in the very last one (but not mandatorially). Blade Rush should be used once every four GCDs at a minimum, but unfortunately that's not sustainable from a focus standpoint. You need to build a lot of focus between windows, and you need to get Cauterize on cooldown, and you don't always have Zealous Strike to help you out. The buff falls off sometimes and you simply can't avoid it.

Due to the more variable focus costs, Blade Rush seems to be used a bit less often than before. I guess that's sort of nice…

Oh, one thing to keep in mind here. Due to the misaligned CD on Zealous Strike, it is actually possible to hit a PS window during the execute phase without having Opportune Attack available. This can probably be avoided by using Blade Rush rather than Dispatch if you don't have OA. It can happen outside the execute phase as well if your expensive ZS-less window aligns with the cooldown on Cauterize (roughly once every 30-40 windows). Be careful. Opportune Attack is more important than keeping Cauterize or even Dispatch on CD.

Opener

I'm pretty sure the following is optimal:

Leap + Zen + Valorous > ZS > BR > Inspiration + Adrenal + [PS + MS > BS > Disp/TST] > Cauterize > BR > Strike > BR > ZS > [PS + BS > Disp/TST > BR]

You can use Blade Storm before Master Strike if you want to. I prefer to use Master Strike first so that the CD aligns more precisely with Precision Slash, thus making it slightly easier to use the second time it comes off CD. It doesn't make much of a difference though.

If you use the double Zen trick (e.g. for a dummy parse), you can delay your first activated Zen until after the first window, and Valorous gets paired with Inspiration rather than Zen.

APM

Due to Zen, our GCDs often drift out of alignment with the 10.5 second CD on Precision Slash. This isn't anything new. However, what is new is the fact that we don't have to worry about HoJ procing and eating a Precision Slash. This means that certain instances where we would hit the end of a GCD with about 0.2s on the cooldown of PS no longer result in a (slight) loss of APM. Previously, if we hit that situation and we had gotten an early HoJ proc in the previous double-PS window, the optimal response was to stand still for the 0.2s rather than risk an early proc. This resulted in a very slight loss of APM. Post-2.10, we don't delay anything. If PS has 0.2 seconds on it, we squeeze in another GCD and delay PS by 1.3 seconds as a result.

All of this means that the optimal dummy APM for this spec is probably around 50.3 (maybe 50.4).
Computer Programmer. Theory Crafter. Dilettante on The Ebon Hawk.
Tam (shadow tank) Tov-ren (commando healer) Aveo (combat sentinel) Nimri (df scoundrel)
Averith (hybrid sniper) Alish (lightning sorcerer) Aresham (jugg tank) Effek (ap powertech)

DrGun's Avatar


DrGun
07.08.2013 , 11:19 PM | #2
KBN, thanks for this; my first character was a combat sent; I've since rolled guardian and shadow tanks,and have enjoyed reading your tanking guides (over.... And over...). My sent is Watchman now, but This has inspired me to go back to combat and see if I can learn this.

Best to you and thanks again for your work for the community.

- Dr'daniel (sent; Shadowlands)
Deborana (shadow; Shadowlands)
Beredan (guardian; Red Eclipse)

((No idea how to do a cool sig ))

gunte's Avatar


gunte
07.09.2013 , 05:31 AM | #3
Can we see some dummy parses?
Aredun - Titans - The Red Eclipse EU
Glory is of no use to the dead.

Check out my youtube - http://www.youtube.com/user/gunte11/videos

Leafy_Bug's Avatar


Leafy_Bug
07.09.2013 , 05:56 AM | #4
I play 36 8 2 on my sentinel and recently experimented with 5 36 5 and the opening burst with inspiration+boundless ages+underworld seren+adrenal is around 6200 maybe more. For the first minute or two on the dummy you stay between 4500 and 3500 as most of your high hitters do not align nicely. You will continue to drop and stabilize at around 2700 or higher depending on gear and proficiency in the spec. I do 2850 atm in watchman with 2730 in combat. I prefer watchman but it seems to me that the majority of bosses benefit more from ludicrous burst damage specs. I mean, if at DG i get the doom and have to run through the pools, i lose 4 stacks of merciless and all the dots.

Snarkasms's Avatar


Snarkasms
07.09.2013 , 06:42 AM | #5
I haven't gotten there in NM, but surely you can spare a few seconds to get near somebody and merciless them to keep your four stacks rolling, can't you? Or is the doom timing so tight you can't waste it at all?

Ardarell_Solo's Avatar


Ardarell_Solo
07.09.2013 , 07:10 AM | #6
Quote: Originally Posted by Snarkasms View Post
I haven't gotten there in NM, but surely you can spare a few seconds to get near somebody and merciless them to keep your four stacks rolling, can't you? Or is the doom timing so tight you can't waste it at all?
Timing is not a problem, if your raid (especially yourself as melee dps) manages not to delete one sinlge green puddle (which is not very easy, I can tell you) so there are always 4 or more puddles to go to.

If that's accounted for, there's a small chance you can do it, if you're healers can spare the resources - which again is not very likely, as the encounter is very hard on them.
<- Doom has six stacks in NiM, deleting one of them in a puddle ticks for something like 3K uinprotected I think -> Before you start running, you need to pop Rebuke and Force Camouflage for damage reduction and ideally Transcendence so you can delete the stacks fast enough for Force Camouflage to stay up. If you attack Ciphas or Kelsara inbetween for Merciless stacks, you will lose the damage reduction of Force Camouflage - and you can rarely afford that (you also want to keep your medpack for the final phase (e.g. when adds spawn)).

TLDR: Works, if you've got a group that excels in movement and very good healers.
El'ethon (Sentinel) | Rickmyron (Gunslinger) | Alreegan (Sage)
Craeg (Scoundrel) | Dacs (Commando) | Vayus (Guardian)
<Taking the Jawas to Alderaan>
T3-M4

Threjyan's Avatar


Threjyan
07.09.2013 , 08:20 AM | #7
This is a very interesting thread.definitly. although i would like, if possíble, some advices.

I see there is almost no reference into stats, and a big parte of the game is to maximize our stats with excelence!

What i would like to know is what are the reasonable values for accuracy, crit and surge.

From what i read, accuraccy should be slightly over 100% and surge around the 70's. But reguarding the crit i see no referem e number.
I ask this cause i almost 72 fully geared with bónus, But yesterday i bought the weapons master earpiece that drops on trasher. And this led me to a somehow scary number of 18.66% buffed and stimezed on critical. But i am with almost with 960 bónus damage.

Só in the lights of this numbers can anyone point me a secure zone to be with critical?

Should i go back to the relic sold on vendors with comms that puts me back with 20.38% on crit?

The numbers are só hard to figure

I am combat btw
..The Path Of Excess Leads To The Tower Of Wisdom..

gunte's Avatar


gunte
07.09.2013 , 08:32 AM | #8
Quote: Originally Posted by Threjyan View Post
This is a very interesting thread.definitly. although i would like, if possíble, some advices.

I see there is almost no reference into stats, and a big parte of the game is to maximize our stats with excelence!

What i would like to know is what are the reasonable values for accuracy, crit and surge.

From what i read, accuraccy should be slightly over 100% and surge around the 70's. But reguarding the crit i see no referem e number.
I ask this cause i almost 72 fully geared with bónus, But yesterday i bought the weapons master earpiece that drops on trasher. And this led me to a somehow scary number of 18.66% buffed and stimezed on critical. But i am with almost with 960 bónus damage.

Só in the lights of this numbers can anyone point me a secure zone to be with critical?

Should i go back to the relic sold on vendors with comms that puts me back with 20.38% on crit?

The numbers are só hard to figure

I am combat btw
It says all you need to know about gearing.. 0 crit. 0 alacrity, accuracy to 100% rest surge. Augment with either strength or power.
Aredun - Titans - The Red Eclipse EU
Glory is of no use to the dead.

Check out my youtube - http://www.youtube.com/user/gunte11/videos

Threjyan's Avatar


Threjyan
07.09.2013 , 08:39 AM | #9
Sorry to be a bugger, But why critical=0?

I am linda noob in this, my best parsers sit around 2400 without adrenals, and i tried today 2 new parsers, and noticed almost no change in DPS...well maybe Less crits But in the overall they didnt change much..só i assume losing on crit doesnt make much of a diference...
..The Path Of Excess Leads To The Tower Of Wisdom..

gunte's Avatar


gunte
07.09.2013 , 08:49 AM | #10
Quote: Originally Posted by Threjyan View Post
Sorry to be a bugger, But why critical=0?

I am linda noob in this, my best parsers sit around 2400 without adrenals, and i tried today 2 new parsers, and noticed almost no change in DPS...well maybe Less crits But in the overall they didnt change much..só i assume losing on crit doesnt make much of a diference...
Every point spent in crit is a point NOT spent in power and at the current tiers of gear power is simply better than crit that is why you shouldn't have any crit. If you have a lot of crit on your gear you will notice a big chance changing it to all power.
Aredun - Titans - The Red Eclipse EU
Glory is of no use to the dead.

Check out my youtube - http://www.youtube.com/user/gunte11/videos