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Balance Shadow PvE Guide by MKnightRider

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Classes > Shadow / Assassin
Balance Shadow PvE Guide by MKnightRider

MKnightRider's Avatar

06.18.2014 , 04:14 PM | #1
Last Updated: 8/4/14

I have made a copy of this guide using the Assassin terms. Here is a link to that version.

Now that 2.8 is here and this spec actually kicks ***, I figured it would be a good time to finally finish my guide. I hope it helps both players who are new to the spec and veterans alike.

Just to note, I am no theory crafter or crazy mathematician, I don't have any hard numbers saying that one gear setup or rotation is better. I just have my own experience working with many different combinations of gear, specs, rotations, and raid fights and feedback and tips from other players. Any feedback is welcomed; I want to keep advancing this spec as far as it can go.

Terms and Abbreviations
  • Force in Balance (FiB) - Death Field
  • Mind Crush (MC) - Crushing Darkness
  • Sever Force (SF) - Creeping Terror
  • Force Breach (FB) - Discharge
  • Spinning Strike (SS) - Assassinate
  • Double Strike (DS) - Thrash
  • Saber Strike (ST)
  • Project (PR) - Shock
  • Telekinetic Throw (TKT) - Force Lightning
  • Whirling Blow (WB) - Lacerate
  • Force Wave (FW) - Overload
  • Force Strike (FST) - Raze (proc for free MC)
  • Force Potency (FP) - Recklessness
  • Battle Readiness (BR) - Overcharge Saber
  • Force Cloak (FC)
  • Force Speed (FS)

Spec is 8/2/36. However, there can be a couple slight point variations in the Infiltration and Balance trees. I linked the one I use the most. You can also move the two points in Shadow's Respite over to Celerity for shorter CD on FS and your interrupt. Where those two points go is totally dependent on the situation. Like for Raptus I take Celerity because you don't want to use FC; Nefra I take Shadow's Respite because who needs FS anyways.

With the 2.8 changes to Mental Defense, this skill becomes very useful and in my opinion should always be taken. The only other skill points I would move around is putting points into Mind Ward instead of Jedi Resistance. If a fight has DoT damage then that is worth giving up 2% overall DR. If you ever need both of these (16 man fights I'm looking at you), you can always pull the point out of Lambaste and one point from Expertise.

Here is my AMR profile for Balance which I try to update fairly often. Until I get full Dread Master gear, I may run with a little more crit than what I recommend/want, just know that my goal is 284 no matter what my AMR shows.

I did a decent amount of testing on the PTS to figure out where crit should be and what I found was that for Dread Master gear crit should be somewhere between 280-300. I personally am shooting for 284 which I will reach with a crit/acc implant, one mod, and one enhancement. If you want to run a little more, you could go up to about 350-360 max and still average out to similar numbers, but I wouldn't go any higher. For lesser tiers of gear I would drop about 25 off the range I gave above. So Dread Forged = 255-275, Kell Dragon = 230-250, etc.

Preferred amount is 440, which can be reached with 4 Dread Master enhancements/implants/earpiece and one accuracy augment. I do this personally, and while I don't have any solid numbers I feel it is the best way to reach optimal accuracy. You could always run 5 pieces of accuracy but you lose surge which is very helpful to our spec. For Dread Forged gear you can also run 4 accuracy pieces but you will have to run 2 accuracy augments. For any tier lower than DF it's better to run 5 pieces of accuracy and no accuracy augments.

Should be willpower all around, unless you do what I mentioned above, then 13 willpower augments and 1 accuracy if in DM gear, or 12 willpower and 2 accuracy if in DF gear.

Serendipitous Assault and Focused Retribution.

Set Bonus
The 4-piece Stalker PvE set bonus is important for this spec. The 15% extra crit to DS from the set bonus along with the extra 9% melee crit from Force Synergy paired with 50% extra surge on DS makes it a very valuable move. This used to be a more powerful set bonus pre-2.8, but it is still very important to this spec.

Move Priority/Rotation
There are two ways to play this spec. I will label them the "DoT Focus" and "Priority" methods.

DoT Focus Method
This is the method I am most used to and what I prefer. In this method you keep your reapplication of FB and SF static and a higher priority than reapplying MC. Now you might think that reapplying MC should always be priority, but the truth is as long as you aren't holding a FST proc long enough that you don't use it and lose it to proccing FST again (which should NEVER happen anyways, barring any downtime), you will still be using MC just as much as you would if you prioritized MC. But the good thing about this method is you have better uptime on FB and SF and they get to eat more Force Suppression charges, and it helps with reapplication on targets because the GCD after a DoT falls off is when you reapply that DoT.

So the main focus of this method is reapplying FB and SF right away and keeping 3 GCDs between those two DoTs. The only thing that will break the 3 GCD separation is SS in the execute which has more priority at that point. In fact, because SS takes priority and will definitely break the 3 GCD separation, this method reverts to just a straight priority during the execute and moves MC up the priority.

The priority will look like this:
  1. FiB on CD
  2. SS when <30%
  3. MC when <30%
  4. FB (or SF)
  5. SF (or FB)
  6. MC when >30%
  7. MA (Melee Attack), which is: ST if below 30 force>SS>DS

I listed FB and SF in opposing spots in the priority list because if you want to you can do SF first and then FB. However, it will mean that you don't get a FST proc as early as possible and it also means you get one less tick of SF using a Force Suppression charge at the beginning, and SF does more damage than FB does.

For actual fights, my opener is this:
FP,FB-->Adrenal,BR,FiB-->MA-->MC-->SF then follow priority

For parsing I use a slightly different opener that doesn't use the 3 GCD spread right at the beginning to maximize use of the adrenal at the beginning. It looks like this:

FP,Hardcast MC-->FB-->Adrenal,BR,FiB-->SF-->MA-->MC-->MAx4-->MC-->MA-->FiB-->FB-->MA-->MC-->MA-->SF then follow priority

For a longer look at this rotation, Aelanis has done a much better job than me at explaining it so I will quote him on that:
Quote: Originally Posted by Aelanis View Post
...Force in Balance has a 15 second cooldown and Force Strike has a 7.5 second internal cooldown (a half mutiple of 15 seconds), while Force Breach and Sever Force both have 18 second durations. That means that if you look at the Balance "rotataion" in a 15 second block, FB and SF fall back 2 spaces each rotation. Example:

FiB > FB > MC > MA > MA > SF > MA > MC > MA > MA
FiB > MA > MC > FB > MA > MA > MA > MC > SF > MA
FiB > MA > MC > MA > MA > FB > MA > MC > MA > SF

If you look at it as an 18 second rotation, however, it's Force in Balance and Mind Crush that shift positions. Example:

FiB > FB > MA > MC > MA > SF > MA > MA > MC > MA > FiB > MA
MA > FB > MC > MA > MA > SF > MC > MA > FiB > MA > MC > MA
MA > FB > MA > MC > MA > SF > FiB > MA > MC > MA > MA > MA

Note: this is with MC at a lower priority than the other dots and Force in Balance, so its position doesn't shift as smoothly as Force in Balance's does. Also, in the first example, if there had been a MA before the first MC, we would have seen it interfere with the other dots and FiB and have to shift there, too.
Also, leto_cleon made a google spreadsheet to analyze my personal rotation for a couple of my top parses, I figured I'd link it too since it is very detailed and might help understand the DoT Focus method more. Here is the thread that he started when he made the spreadsheet.

Video of me using the DoT Focus method.

Priority Method
The only difference in this method is it always prioritizes MC reapplication instead of the rigid FB and SF reapplication. This means it can be a little harder to follow in an actual fight but this priority does flow perfectly into the execute phase and is exactly what you end up doing in the DoT Focus method during the execute anyways.

Priority is this:
  1. FiB on CD
  2. SS when <30%
  3. MC
  4. FB (or SF)
  5. SF (or FB)
  6. MA (Melee Attack), which is: ST if below 30 force>SS>DS

Openers will be the same as the other method, the differences show up when you get to the second DoT applications and later.

Video of me using the Priority method.

Some Things to Note
Using Saber Strike

When NOT to apply your DoTs

Force Wave does damage?

Wait, we use Project? And Telekinetic Throw?

AoE abilities, lol

Getting the most of Force Potency

Personal Records
Accompanying Video

Infiltration (Pre-2.10) 5/36/5

Hybrid 4/18/24

Current Operation Fights
* = clipped to when boss died

Nefra: 8M
Draxus: 8M
Grob'thok: 8M*
C-Zero: 8M
Brontes: 8M*

Bestia: 8M - 16M
Tyrans: 8M - 16M
Calphayus: 8M - 16M
Raptus: 16M
Council: 8M

Shameless Plug
If you feel like giving me free cartel coins, here is my referral link.

MKnightRider's Avatar

06.18.2014 , 04:15 PM | #2
I'll work on making one with Assassin terms for that forum also, I just wanted to get this posted.

a-n-i-k-i's Avatar

06.18.2014 , 04:50 PM | #3
Great ! Thanks !!
I come from an ancestral religious movement that believes in something else, we embrace the Force but we pray a God, an entity that is complementary to the Force.
When our prayers get fulfilled, we are strong, we are above the world, we are touched by grace, us, the people with the saberstaff. RNG is my God.
- Ketupa (PvE dps shadow)

IInox's Avatar

06.18.2014 , 04:56 PM | #4
oh yeah man, oh yeah!

i waited it for so long even if on pts i u gave me most of the infos with some posts/pms.

Nice work!

About the FP'ed FiB, even with one stack all FiB's targets get the +60% crit chance from FP..I saw this many times doing it on PvP, and I've never seen FiB eating more than 1 stacks! o.O


It would be a nice idea putting a video at dummy just to show the rotation some players understand easily with videos.

I will add this guide to my compendium as i asked you to give ita bit more views! and also it completes my guide aswell


MKnightRider's Avatar

06.18.2014 , 05:35 PM | #5
Quote: Originally Posted by IInox View Post
oh yeah man, oh yeah!

i waited it for so long even if on pts i u gave me most of the infos with some posts/pms.

Nice work!

About the FP'ed FiB, even with one stack all FiB's targets get the +60% crit chance from FP..I saw this many times doing it on PvP, and I've never seen FiB eating more than 1 stacks! o.O


It would be a nice idea putting a video at dummy just to show the rotation some players understand easily with videos.

I will add this guide to my compendium as i asked you to give ita bit more views! and also it completes my guide aswell

FiB can use up both stacks of FP, I've seen it happen many times.

And I'll add a video for sure, just need to make one.

IInox's Avatar

06.18.2014 , 05:50 PM | #6
k never seen so :S

nice! ty

Aelanis's Avatar

06.18.2014 , 06:10 PM | #7
Awesome guide. You may want to get in touch with Dulfy about getting it copied to their website, since they haven't updated their Balance/Madness guide to 2.8 yet, and I know Evolixe wrote their Deception/Infiltration guide. Just make sure they put your name on it.

That said, I have a few pieces of feedback:

1) When you start discussing your opening rotation, you start using the MA abbreviation without ever stating that it means Melee Attack. You might want to add that to your nomenclature section, to avoid confusion for new players who might look through all their abilities and not find something that resembles it (or worse, guess incorrectly at what it means and use something really out there in its place).

2) You may want to warn against using Telekinetic Throw in most circumstances. I've seen people using it before both in Balance and Infiltration, and with the temporary typo on the dev's part when they first posted the 2.8 Balance changes, people might think that it got a buff for Shadows. Just a misconception you might want to stomp out early.

3) I can confirm a couple of things you've assumed: a) 4 enhancements/implants/earpiece and 1 augment for accuracy is indeed optimal at Dread Master level, you trade 32 main stat (without the extra boost most classes get) for over 100 surge, which is great with our high melee crit chances. b) Spinning Strike is indeed the second highest priority move in execute, over everything but Force In Balance. I can link you to the post where I show the math for it if you want. c) It wasn't me that did the next bit of math, but Civilie has done said math that shows that <300 critical rating is optimal for Balance now. It makes sense, with the massive jump in how much of our damage Spinning Strike is, but I feel being able to back things up with the math is nice. You may want to ask him for his work.

All in all, a well written guide, thank you for putting the time into writing it.
Dulfy Guides: Hatred, Serenity, Darkness, Kinetic Combat
Ellendra - Death MarkExit Area - Theraton
The Shadowlands

leto_cleon's Avatar

06.18.2014 , 06:46 PM | #8
Hey, MKnightRider, I'm not sure if this would be helpful, but I made a spreadsheet that breaks down your parse by each Force in Balance and tracks abilities used and the (corresponding) procs that occur. I also tracked the approximate number of GCDs between each Crush Spirit, Force Strike procs and each Force Breach and Sever Force re-application. At the most basic level it shows what is being done between the 10 GCDs of each Force in Balance.

I found it helped me to re-learn the rotation by spacing out the use of Force Breach and Sever Force.

Here's the link: (and my corresponding thread

Whojoo's Avatar

06.19.2014 , 12:16 AM | #9
Thanks for the guide, very helpfull

I've got a little question about FB and SF reapplication. In the priority (-and sub 30%) rotation, do you try to maintain the 3GCD seperation or are there sitations that you do less than the 3GCD difference? I guess that more than 3GCD is also possible with the priorities.

Again thanks for the guide, is a good read

EDIT: I am wondering what is a prefered option. 5DF accuracy pieces or 4 with 2 accuracy augments.
Same question with using non-commendation UW accuracy pieces. 5 + 2 augments a good choice?
The Red Eclipse
Republic Enforcers Suddenly Taken Over

invertioN's Avatar

06.19.2014 , 01:50 AM | #10
Good job MK, I'm also happy you put 2 methods for playing the spec because personally I prefer the "priority method". It just flows really nice and I don't think its hard to follow
Adixia, Red Eclipse EU