Gaining Balance

5.3 is around the corner and if you've been paying attention to the SWtOR Roadmap and especially the DevTracker you will be aware that Class Balance will begin another phase with this patch. Eight Disciplines were announced as being updated to fall more in line with where the Developers wanted each of them to be, with the promise that they will get around to other specs eventually. These were just the eight which needed the most attention.

Immediately, however, there was a slight discrepancy. The Roadmap announced that Scoundrels (forewarning at this point: all of my personal thoughts on these changes will be from a Republic player's perspective) would be seeing changes in 5.3 alongside Vanguards, Commandos, Sages, Shadows, and Gunslingers, but when the specific Disciplines were listed, there were no Scoundrels to be seen. They're probably going to be the 'main' focus of 5.4.

The eight Disciplines that will be changed are as follows:
  • Serenity
  • Gunnery
  • Plasmatech
  • Seer
  • Dirty Fighting
  • Balance
  • Assault Specialist
  • Saboteur
Along the way, Eric also posted a really long post about "how Class Balance happens", which detailed exactly what they categorised the different Disciplines as and where they wanted each of them to be. It also revealed that no Utilities were being adjusted this time around; these changes were only affecting the offensive potential. I do question their logic of listing Dirty Fighting as the Quasi-Sustained spec for Ranged DPS, however; I would honestly have thought this would apply most to Saboteur. 

I'm aware that this isn't the first time BioWare have detailed exactly what their views on the different Classes are, but I always appreciate it being done all the same, since even if I don't always agree with a certain perspective it's (mostly) always interesting to read another's point of view. 

Anyway, on with the list.



Jedi Shadow DPS is something which I haven't really experienced for a very long time, and I only concentrated on Infiltration. I have never even touched Serenity, even back when it was called Balance, so I'm very ill-placed to offer my thoughts on the changes to the Discipline as a whole since I don't know how exactly it operates 'fully' at the moment.

However, these changes do look decent. 
  • Increased Force Suppression's periodic damage boost from 10% to 15%
  • Increased Rebounding Force's damage bonus for Sever Force from 10% to 15%
  • Rebounding Force restores 3 Force (down from 5) when Force Technique deals damage
  • Increased Aching Mind's low health damage bonus from 15% to 30%
  • In addition to its previous effects, Serene Poise now restores 4 Force for each of your damaging periodic effects on a target damaged by your Serenity Strike
  • Clarified the tooltip for Force Focus 
If these changes mean that Shadow has another viable PvE spec, then this is wonderful news for the Class. It should also provide a nice boost to their PvP effectiveness, although I imagine that Infiltration will still remain the 'advised' spec here.

I'm keeping this one deliberately brief to avoid saying something stupid due to my own inexperience with this spec.



Gunnery, if not Commando in general, has been in a very interesting place since 5.0. This spec's damage potential remained pretty much exactly the same as in 4.0 due to the only Discipline changes being reorganisations due to Armour-Piercing Cell being added as the Level 12 Passive, so this nerf is in many regards the longest due. 

What has changed drastically since 5.0 has been the defensive potential for the Class. They gained two powerful Utilities (a max. 75% HP heal on Reactive Shield and a far-quicker Adrenaline Rush which heals them to 70%) and a generic reflect ability which not only reflected damage but healed them for 5% HP with every rebound. This basically allowed for Gunnery - previously the walking definition of a "glass cannon" - to deal a tremendous amount of damage practically unimpeded in PvP, since they could recover far quicker than they could previously.

This, combined with the absolute simplicity of the spec's rotation, quickly led to an outcry to nerf the class and an onset of "Flavour-of-the-Monthers", as what happens with practically every Class Balance change. 

With this in mind, the Gunnery changes do look to be making an attempt to cull the amount of Commandos that run around in PvP. Whilst their defensives are largely going to be the same (although Decoy is losing three charges, which will make a small difference), their offensive potential's been absolutely neutered. 
  • Boltstorm deals 4.89% less damage and costs 20 energy cells (up from 16)
  • Curtain of Fire no longer increases the damage dealt by Boltstorm, but still finishes its active cooldown
  • Rotary Cannon no longer improves Full Auto
  • The critical damage bonus provided by Deadly Cannon is now 15% (down from 30%)
  • Decoy now has 2 charges (down from 5)
I will say that I am actually quite pleased that the 15% reduction for the Critical bonus is finally being implemented; this is a change which had previously affected the other burst specs (and until 5.3 - apart from Telekinetics, Scrapper, and Sharpshooter - this was down to 10%!) whilst Commando got off scot-free. 

The offensive reduction's going to yield interesting results for those who played the Class in PvE environments. Whilst Assault and Gunnery have been relatively close in boss fights thanks to the versatility of Gunnery, this is going to put Assault as the 'advised' spec, similar to what happened with Gunslingers when Sharpshooter got nerfed. I'm interested in seeing how this affects matters should it generally be 'advised' for Commando players, both veteran and newcomer, to focus on Assault in PvE, since whilst Gunnery is seen as the easiest spec to learn, Assault is seen as one of the hardest specs to learn.

On the other hand, I'm okay with Gunnery actually requiring a bit more skill to play now, thanks mainly to the ammo increase for Boltstorm. It should hopefully lessen the difficulty gap between Gunnery and every other spec by a very small margin, since Commandos will need to be more conservative with the abilities that they use from now on rather than practically being able to afford going all-out.

So, yeah, this nerf is big both in PvP and in PvE. I imagine that due to the defensive abilities and utilities the spec will still be fairly populous in PvP, but we shall see what we shall see.



This is another Class with whom I don't have a lot of experience, so again I'll try and keep this brief.

Vanguards are in a rather precarious place at the moment, especially in PvP. Whilst their offensive potential is somewhat-decent their defensive potential is really letting them down, which is unfortunate given their designation as a Tank Class. I'm sure several of you reading this post have been in a PvP Arena where your team calls out "focus the PT/VG". 

With the changes coming to Plasmatech, it looks like we have the next "glass cannon" spec.
  • Increased the Ion Squall (should be Wave, surely? - Cal) damage bonus given by Pulse Generator from 20% to 50%
  • Reduced the burn damage of Incendiary Round by 10%
  • In addition to its previous effects, Rain of Fire now increases the damage dealt by Incendiary Round by 10%
  • Increased the critical damage bonus given by Plasmatic Assault from 10% to 15%
The 30% increase of Pulse Generator is immense, especially since Ion Wave will also be receiving a 5% Critical damage increase as part of Plasmatic Assault, so if this thing crits now in 5.3 it's going to be massive

We'll probably start seeing a lot more Vanguard DPS in PvE courtesy of these changes. Their PvP effectiveness will probably increase ever-so-slightly as well, but that's only if they can stay alive for long enough to do anything.



Oh, Sage healing, why are they never satisfied with you? This is about the fourth or fifth change this spec will be seeing in about three years and they keep on finding ways to nerf it in some way. 

These changes don't just affect abilities given to Seer Sages, they also affect Sages on the whole:
  • Reduced the amount of healing done by Benevolence by 4.86%
  • Increased the base Force cost of Rejuvenate from 40 to 50 and the amount of healing done by its initial heal by 10.59%, but reduced the amount of healing done by its heal-over-time by 14.29%
  • Reduced the amount of damage absorbed by Force Armor by 5.3%
As someone who dabbles in a fair amount of PvP my eye is immediately drawn to the Force Armour change, since this means that if the Sage has the bubble-stun it will now pop far quicker, which is something of a blessing for Ranged players but a potential nightmare for Melee players. These changes will also mean that the self-heal potential for DPS players will be slightly worse, but not by that much.

Onto the actual Seer changes.
  • Increased the base Force cost of Deliverance from 45 to 50 and the amount of healing it does by 3.38%
  • Reduced the amount of healing done by Healing Trance by 8.74%
  • Reduced the amount of healing done by Salvation by 10%
  • Increased the base Force cost of Wandering Mend from 65 to 70 and reduced the amount of healing it does by 25.22%
  • Conveyance now reduces the activation time of Deliverance by 0.25 seconds (down from 0.5 seconds) and the Force cost of Salvation by 20% (down from 30%); all other Conveyance effects remain unchanged
  • Reduced the amount of healing done by Renewal by 14.29%
  • Erudite Mender no longer increases the healing done by Wandering Mend by 5%, but still reduces its Force cost
  • Reduced the healing done by Soothing Protection by 5.3%
  • Force Warden now makes Healing Trance channel 10% faster (down from 20%)
Some big hits here. Healing Trance and Salvation both getting a ~10% reduction is painful enough, but Wandering Mend basically getting a 30% reduction is huge. This is seemingly intended to make Wandering Mend an emergency-use ability rather than being a central part of the healer's rotation, although again due to my own inexperience with Sage Healing I don't want to comment on whether or not that will actually be a feasible alternative use for this ability with this change.

I imagine that in a few patches' time they will once again change Sage healing. These changes do look substantial enough to tide them over for a while, though...


Dirty Fighting

Ah, now things enter home territory. If you've been aware of which characters I play you would probably be aware that in Operations I main a Gunslinger, and a Dirty Fighting one to boot. So finally, after quite a few instances of "eh, I'll shy away from commenting on x", I can finally come to discuss changes on a familiar level.
  • Wounding Shots deals 25% less damage
  • Hemorrhaging Blast deals 11% more damage, costs 5 energy, and is no longer triggered by weapon damage from Wounding Shots
  • Increased Dirty Blast weapon damage by 13% and reduced its bleed damage by 35%
  • Bloody Mayhem deals 20% more damage
  • In addition to its previous effects, Dirty Shot now also reduces the energy cost of Quickdraw by 3
Right, then, where to start?

Wounding Shots itself is a fairly low-hitting ability to begin with - most of its damage comes from it causing the DoTs to activate - so a 25% reduction isn't as much as it would initially seem. Hemorrhaging Blast costing energy now is unfortunate but can be adjusted around, and it no longer triggering off Wounding Shots is definitely going to pack a nasty punch for our DPS potential. Dirty Blast having a less-effective bleed I think was inevitable given that it practically dictated the 'cycle' of the rotation (whenever Hemorrhaging Blast is applied the cycle immediately afterwards involves three/four Dirty Blasts), and Bloody Mayhem is such a tiny aspect of our DPS output that 20% here will mean very little. Finally, Quickdraw costing three less energy is very welcome even if it is cancelled out by the 5-energy cost of Hemorrhaging Blast. 

So on the whole, this is definitely going to leave a bruise on Dirty Fighting, which is appropriate given that the spec involves bleeds. Not particularly looking forward to the Hemorrhaging Blast changes in particular.

Somewhat amusingly, both myself and my guild's other main Gunslinger both misinterpreted the final line of the changes. We both misread "Dirty Shot" - the Passive Ability which gives Wounding Shots an 80% chance to allow us to use Quickdraw on a target regardless of HP - as "Dirty Blast", leading us to the far-too-hopeful conclusion that we'd essentially get a Quickdraw which costed substantially less energy after a period of spamming Dirty Blast. 

Goes to show what happens when you focus on the Republic aspects of the changes rather than the Imperial aspects. Lethal Takedown is much harder to misinterpret! On the other hand, I think the reason why this confusion happened on my part is partly because the Imperial equivalent of Dirty Blast is Lethal Shot.



As Balance is probably my second-favourite spec behind Vigilance, I was very curious to see the Balance changes once the Serenity changes were announced. Not only did they look quite substantive but they also increased the Force Regeneration aspect of the spec quite considerably. Balance suffers from an extremely Force-negative rotation which pretty much nullifies anyone playing the spec if a fight goes on for long enough.

So, following on from Serenity's fantastic changes, Balance received...
  • Changed Force Suppression's periodic damage boost from 10% to 15%
  • Mind's Eye now gives Force Serenity a 30% damage bonus (up from 25%) when damaging targets suffering from Weaken Mind
... a very small gift. 

Of all the changes happening this patch, the Balance changes are the ones I find most disappointing, simply because it doesn't really fix that much about the spec. Yes, it's wonderful to have 5% extra damage to these two aspects (which will also mean more self-heals for Balance. Hmmmm.), but the rotation will still suffer in the long term.

Eric did later come out and say that the team was looking at adjusting the Force-negative aspect of the rotation, but any potential change would likely not be released until after 5.3. 

Shame, really. 


Assault Specialist

So we've seen the changes to the glass cannon spec of Commandos, now it's time to look at the changes coming to the rarely-seen-due-to-Gunnery's-simplicity alternative, Assault.

Assault is largely only played in PvE. You may get the odd Commando who tries to use it in PvP, but Gunnery will still outperform it due to Burst being "the way to go" to negate Healers. Even so it's still a relative rarity because Gunnery is just so much more simple. Would the changes help matters, or only make things worse?
  • Reduced the critical damage bonus given by Assault Trooper from 30% to 15%
  • Reduced the burn damage of Incendiary Round by 10%
  • Reduced the bleed damage of Serrated Bolt by 12%
A bit of both, really. Whilst the damage has clearly been reduced by quite some way, nothing quite as severe as the changes to Boltstorm for Gunnery has managed to work its way into Assault's changes. This means that Assault will still play exactly the same way as before with no need to compensate for ammo increases, allowing those who are already experienced with Assault to play it as they would normally. This will also be helpful for players who learn from guides, since there will be next-to-no need to change any of the Assault guides. 

Again, this is another instance where the 30% Critical bonus damage ability change was missed, so I'm pleased to see it be brought down to a level which is (ever-so-slightly) consistent with several other specs. 

I imagine that, even with Gunnery being slightly more complicated and performing substantially worse than it used to be this time around, Assault will still be the rarer-seen of the specs. Time shall tell, though.



If ever there's a spec which is regarded as the 'worst' spec to fight against in PvP, it's Saboteur. Not because of its damage potential - although it can do very well - but because of just how debilitating it is. Incendiary Grenade is currently an eight-meter circle of fire which can be placed down at any time, slows people within it by 70%, and most controversially, interrupts people capping objective points in PvP.

There has been a lot of clamouring for the PvP potential of Saboteur to be reduced, and rightly so in my opinion, and BioWare have done just that.
  • Reduced the damage of Incendiary Grenade by approximately 10% and reduced the effectiveness of its slowing effect to 50% (down from 70%)
  • Reduced Contingency Charges given by Insurrection from 2 to 1
  • Increased energy generation on exploding Contingency Charges given by Insurrection from 5 to 6
  • Reduced Blazing Speed damage by 20%
  • Added Quickdraw to Hot Shot, yielding a Blazing Speed stack from using Quickdraw
Additionally, Incendiary Grenade will no longer interrupt people from capturing a point in PvP.

Whilst the Grenade's circle is still massive and can be placed down at any opportunity, the reduced slow and damage will certainly be welcome, never mind the additional benefit of it no longer preventing caps! 

Otherwise, in PvE, the spec doesn't look like it will be changing that much. Energy regeneration - despite the claim that Saboteurs are "swimming in energy" - will not be changing that much at all, and Blazing Speed is hardly the most important mainstay of the rotation, although Quickdraw now granting a stack of it will doubtless help with the uptime thereof.

So on the whole this nerf is probably the most 'balanced'; it reduces its PvP effectiveness without absolutely murdering its PvE potential. 


Some of these changes are going to be interesting to contend with. I'm interested in seeing how many groups who run their "optimal" groups with several big hitters like Gunnery Commandos and Dirty Fighting Gunslingers adapt as a result of them. I imagine they'll probably cope just fine but you just know that somewhere out there there will be groups and members overreacting, writing off a Class as useless when somebody who knows a nerfed Class well will be able to coax all sorts of numbers out of it.

I hope to see an influx of Serenity Shadows and Plasmatech Vanguards in PvE as a result of their really quite decent buffs, and I especially hope to see Balance getting the Force changes it deserves eventually.

I'm curious to see which Classes are chosen next. I joked earlier that Scoundrels would become the main focus of 5.4, but then we don't really know where the remaining specs fit in comparison to where they want them to be. They focused on the Classes which were most out-of-line with where they want them to be with this patch, so anything done in the near future will be nowhere near as big. They'll probably adjust the now-erroneous 10% Critical damage bonus to be more in line with the new 15% norm, which will help Sharpshooter Gunslingers and Telekinetic Sages out ever-so-slightly, but beyond that I don't want to hazard any guesses whatsoever. 

Still, I'm interested in seeing how things develop, particularly when it comes to their looking at Utilities.

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