Instance protocol in SWTOR, and my switch from dps to healing and back


So it’s been a busy week or two in SWTOR. Aside from all the F2P news, I have been settling into the end game and spending more time chatting with my guild. This currently feels bittersweet, because although I am sure the conversion will bring in a lot of new players, it’s not clear whether that will translate into continuing enthusiasm for flashpoints and ops which will be behind the paywall of a subscription.

Anyhow, let me tell you about my character! The pics above show me on a datacron hunt, I’m wearing PvP gear because I was queueing for PvP while I was doing it. This works better than queueing for flashpoints because PvP drops you back into the world where you left it after your match. “The Deprogrammer” is a title that you get from completing the Directive 7 flashpoint; I get a kick from it as an ex-coder.

I have also been running at least one flashpoint a day using the group finder tool, and have been refining my dps spec and rotation.  Having spent some quality time with the guides, my dps is looking much better these days. I don’t really like specs where the optimal results come from NOT taking the top ability in that spec tree, but that is how Balance seems to work at the moment. The groups have generally all been great, even tempered, and friendly. Everyone says Hi when they zone in and Thanks at the end.

It isn’t all hearts and flowers, but the patience levels seem high compared with WoW (this is not a high bar, admittedly). In one run someone said they had to go answer the door and offered to leave as they weren’t sure how long it would take and the rest of the group were happy to sit around, chat, make tea etc for 10 mins while waiting. One phenomenon that I have seen is people who haven’t done much group content while levelling other than PvP and jump into hardmodes without really being aware of how PvE fights differ. It’s not a real issue, but you can tell by: tanks who don’t know they need to just tank the elites and let the dps CC/ kill the other mobs, tanks who can’t hold aggro on more than one mob at once, tanks who don’t notice when their healers are being beaten up, dps who don’t wait for the tank to pull or take aggro.

Note: you can’t actually tell if you have a PvP healer since PvP healing is actually pretty similar to PvE healing, and is also rather harder. There are subtleties like remembering to use your detaunt, but most groups won’t spot that.

I also thought it would be handy to practice healing, just in case that was ever useful. So I’ve also run a lot of flashpoints and warzones in a healing spec and have picked up some gear for that also. I find that once you have the hang of your healing spells and have sorted out quickbars, it is fairly straightforwards. I do find healing easier than dps, and people are also much nicer to healers (in general). However, I also find healing more boring except when things are going totally AWOL. I just don’t feel as engaged with the fights. So I’m mostly back in dps mode, switching to healing when I either want to PvP or the guild needs a spare healer.

The sage/ sorcerer, incidentally, is a great class that I enjoy very much. I love having CC, heals, AE, DoTs, and nukes all on the same class – and you actually have access to all of those abilities in both healing and dps specs. I also find that having played in both healing and dps roles, as well as doing some PvP, I’m much more confident switching the roles up. It feels very comfortable to drop some CC or AE dps even while healing, or throw a (weak) heal or shield in between dps if the group really needs it. Or in other words, it’s a nicely hybrid class. I do wonder why all classes cannot be this hybridised, and even a game like GW2 that has ditched the trinity still ends up with classes like Elementalist which has huge utility compared with – say – Thief.

I’ve also run a few Ops now with my guild, who are a really nice bunch and very welcoming. So my sage is now in full Columni gear with a sprinkling of Rakata and Black Hole (from dailies). It actually looks ok, although the hat is definitely an acquired taste.

Instance and Ops protocol

If you have played multiple MMOs, you will notice that they tend to have a lot of instance protocol in common. For example, it’s really common for people to say hello when they join a group and thanks or goodbye when they leave. People also often ask if its OK for them to roll need for offspec gear, and polite tanks may ask if it’s OK to skip bosses before they go ahead and do it.

The SWTOR Ops protocol that most made me smile is that because the game doesn’t have a built in ready check, raid leaders sometimes ask players to jump up and down to show that they are ready for the next pull. I thought it was a cool use of jumping (always a popular player pastime), and easier to spot who is afk than squinting through chat to see who hasn’t typed ‘OK’.

Is there any interesting instance or raid protocol that you’ve experienced in MMOs?

How I’m playing Protection in 4.0

I’ve been experimenting a bit with Protection in the current patch. We’re done with raiding until the expansion and my desire to tank in PUG raids is approximately zero, so I’ve been running a few heroics. (Also mad props to Ele who said, “Lets try some heroics” and queued us straight up for HoR. This is what we call the ‘in at the deep end’ approach.)

Summary: The sky is not falling. AE threat is down across the board for all tanks, but warriors play hasn’t changed greatly. It’s mostly a few tweaks rather than a complete overhaul. Plus you can get some pretty amazing numbers out of Shield Slam. I’m still adapting but definitely still finding it fun.

The only way I adapt to less AE threat is by apologising for poor threat in random instances. But I don’t mean it :) And in Cataclysm when mobs start hitting harder I’ll get back into marking and requesting CC.

Live by the shield, die by the shield

The protection spec is now very oriented towards shield type moves, with lots of boosts for shield block and shield slam. It is now possibly to get some insanely large shield slam crits, especially if you tank in dps gear which you can also do now that we get crit proof from talents. Tankspot has a shield slam bragging thread so I know I’m not the only one who’s dazzled by the big numbers! If you want to test this then wait for a Hold the Line Proc, hit Shield Block and any of your dps trinkets, and then Shield Slam.

Feedback from healers is that I’m easy to heal. Feedback from dps is gogogo. Feedback from me is that threat is more of an issue, but I’m not finding it a major deal except in special cases such as the event in HoS where there’s no real time to build rage up – I think with more practice in managing rage I’d handle this better.

My current spec and thoughts on talents

This is my current spec. (The goal of this spec is to generate huge shield slam crits.) Many of the talents I discuss below are still being discussed in the community at the moment.

Blood and Thunder: I’m not enthralled with this one. Rend doesn’t generate a lot of threat anyway, maybe this would work better for Arms specs or in a raid but trash mobs in instances don’t stay up that long and Thunderclap + Shockwave plus some cleaves and glyphed revenges will be better bang for your buck than slinging rend around.

Incite: Heroic Strike is no longer spammable (thank goodness) and I’m still getting the hang of how to manage rage, but I still think this is more useful than blood and thunder.

Hold the Line: Parry is now your very best friend. Shame it doesn’t work on spells.

Shield Mastery: Reduced timer on shield block is nice. The rest is a bonus. Bear in mind you now use glyph of shield wall to increase the cooldown and increase the amount absorbed.

Shield spec: Not really finding rage to be an issue but need to put the points somewhere.

Bastion of Defense: This is your new anti-crit ability. Compulsary.

Impending Victory: I tried it and wasn’t really impressed with the numbers. Sounds cooler than it is.

Vigilance: Probably mostly a raid talent now, to be put on off-tanks. I find it useful to stick on the most aggro-y dps in heroics at the moment and then make good use of all the free taunts.

Thunderstruck: Way better for AE threat than blood and thunder imo. Note that it stacks three times but you have to spam Thunderclap to do that.

Arms: Field Dressing — this is why healers find me fairly straightforwards to heal at the mo.

Fury: Cruelty — Moar shield slam crits!!

(Blood Craze will probably be ace for levelling and I may swap points from cruelty to blood craze when the expansion drops. Unless I decide to level in Arms spec, which seems really really fun atm from my first forays.)


Warrior glyphs are pretty lame and you won’t get a lot of choice.


Shield Slam (yay for more shield slam damage!)
Devastate (will be your main filler)

Heroic throw: Heroic throw applies a stack of sunder.
Shield wall: Shield wall cooldown increases by 2 mins but it reduces a lot more damage (60% instead of 40%)
Long charge: charge range increased
You might want to glyph for cleave for better AE threat. Thunderclap (increases range) is another possibility but I’ve avoided that because of issues with breaking CC.


Berserker rage: adds 5 rage whenever you use it. Handy for emergency rage generation

Battle/ Command/ Demo — increase range and duration of shouts. Pick whichever.

Warriors do however have the best named glyph in the game which is “glyph of bloody healing”, sadly it’s for fury though.

Rotation/ Priority

Very similar to usual except with less heroic strike. That is to say, protection uses a priority attack system and not a fixed rotation. I’m sure as we all get more practice we’ll get a feel for where it’s worth trying to fit HS in but generally use it when you have a full rage bar.

Shield Slam –> HS –> Revenge -> Devastate (single target)

Shockwave->Thunderclap-> Cleave (AE) (if you use blood and thunder you’ll want to weave rend in as well. Remember if you have thunderstruck you can stack the thunderclaps for more of a shockwave buff.)

Rage — shouts now give rage. Demo shout also still has some threat attached so you can shout and then charge for some starting rage. I like the berserker rage glyph for some extra emergency rage too.

Stats and Reforging: If you’re raiding it will probably be worth indulging in some reforging (if needed) to cap out expertise and hit. If you’re not, I wouldn’t bother, all the equipment will shortly be moot anyway. I haven’t done any reforging myself to gain extra mastery — not inclined to mutilate my gear until some number crunchers have worked out the optimal strategy first.

(You’ll notice that I have zero interest in gear optimisation but that I do quite enjoy experimenting with new talents and specs on my own. That’s my gameplay preference, and I’m glad for anyone who prefers things the other way around because I can steal their gear cribsheets later.)

[WoW] How to play your class in the 4.0 world

So it’s patch week, and this patch contains all the Cataclysm class changes. And if you’re wondering how to spec or glyph in this brave new world, plenty of bloggers have chipped in to help out.

Jaded Alt has a compilation of class guides here.

MMO Melting Pot has also gone through a similar exercise and picked out their favourite guides for each class and spec.

There have never really been many active DPS warrior bloggers so it’s not surprising that Arms/ Fury specs are not well represented in the lists. I imagine most Fury warriors will stick with Titan’s Grip (since they already have two 2-handed weapons) for now though.