SWTOR Energy and the DPS Operative Discussion

SWTOR Energy and the DPS Operative Discussion by Sol

I would like to take a moment to look a bit deeper into the energy mechanic and subsequent implications it will have on our rotations. The reason for this is that with the introduction of a tiered system for energy regeneration, there comes a complete shift in focus that will be required by players who wish to maximise their DPS. If you take a look at the old model of the energy resource mechanic, say the rogue from WoW (most systems work exactly like this), all you are trying to do is keep as many abilities on CD as much as possible, in accordance to their priority. Don’t cap your energy was probably the only worry we previously had. The system employed by the Scoundrel/Operative is completely opposite. You are now trying to maintain the maximum amount of regeneration possible in addition to keeping as many abilities on CD as possible.

Gone are the days of spamming abilities just because they are lit up and ready to go. Now you’re going to have to judge the moment we use our abilities, and what order of importance they also have, at the same time. Now, just because abilities can be used, doesn’t mean they should be. Now, you need to take a deeper look at your situation and ask yourself one not so simple question:

Will using this ability at this point in time provide me with the greatest benefit?

This question is the new fundamental concept that overshadows all others for sustained DPS imo. You may say that this is a little drastic, however it’s based on a very simple equation: More energy = more abilities to use = more DPS. Start dropping the amount of energy you return and it won’t matter what abilities you have off CD, because you won’t be able to use them. Furthermore, because there are 5 levels of regeneration, a snowball effect is going to occur and the more you try to use everything on CD, the faster you’re going to wind up with no energy. With this in mind I took a different approach to designing a rotation. I started thinking ‘what is the point in which I need to stop worrying about which abilities to use, and start worrying about my energy regeneration?’

The answer was: much sooner than I anticipated. Keep in mind that as all of our attacks are instants, we only ever get the length of a global cooldown (1.5 seconds) to regenerate energy. Now consider that our cheapest ability is 15 energy (for Concealment), and our maximum amount of energy regeneration under Stim Boost is 9.75 energy (for Concealment). This leaves us with a shortfall of 5.25 energy, and that is in the top tier of regeneration only! Start pushing into lower tiers and the effect is obviously worse. Now we are not only concerned with abilities that provide damage per second, but also abilities that provide damage per energy.

Take laceration for Concealment specs for example. This ability requires and consumes Tactical Advantage so in effect it’s really saying that a Laceration also requires Shiv. Laceration can also proc Collateral Strike, an ability that does a low amount of damage and restores the TA buff. But Collateral Strike also needs Vital Shot in order for this to happen. So let’s start adding this up. Shiv (15) + Vital Shot (20) + Laceration (15) + Collateral Strike (0) = 50 energy. But wait, because Collateral Strike also re-applies TA, we can hit Laceration again, so let’s add another 15 on top of that for a total of 65 energy. Now let’s look at the approximate damage for these abilities. Laceration = 1400, Shiv = 1200, CS = 400, VS = 1200. So for that 65 energy we get:

    1,400*2 + 1,200 + 400 + 1,200 = 5,600 damage; and 5,600/65 = 86.15 damage per energy for this entire string of attacks.

Compare this to Acid Blade, which makes your next Backstab apply a heavy DoT and costs 15 energy. The approximate damage for Acid Blade is 1200 and Backstab is 1100, for a combined total of 2,300.

    1,200+1,100 = 2,300 2,300/15 = 153 damage per energy.

Acid Blade/Backstab is twice as efficient as Laceration, and if not for the 9 second CD would be chosen every time. But even with these efficient attacks, we’re still 5.25 energy short every GDC in the top tier (15-9.75 regen). This means that in order to make up this shortfall, we need look at attacks that are either free (our default attack), what CD’s we have at our disposal to provide regeneration above the normal level (Adrenaline Rush), or do we have access to times in the fight where we aren’t required to attack (during movement).

Two of these options are extremely situational; using CD’s and movement to help mitigate heavy energy usage. CD’s are generally on a high CD of 1.5-2 minutes and will only help you out marginally at best, and while movement may be present in most encounters, we are really addressing times when you are going to be on a single target for a decent length of time. So we’re left with our default attack to help even things up again. Taking this thought further, our default attack is going to be the single most important ability, as while it doesn’t hit very hard, it’s completely free making it’s damage per energy ratio 1:1.

This shift in thinking is the entire reason I decided to write this piece. Who the hell is going to place such large importance on the ability we get at level 1?! It wasn’t until several excellent discussions with other players in the forums that it really cemented for me the importance or not when to use my specials, but when to use my default ability. Now I ask myself the following question:

How can I use my abilities in such a way that I never drop too low on energy, and I never cap out wasting energy?

The answer was surprisingly simple. Don’t use abilities when my energy was below 90. This pushed Rifle Shot (the default ability) to the top of the priority the moment energy fell below 90. Don’t worry about if Backstab is off CD, or do I need Shiv to get another stack of TA. Rifle Shot, then worry about that stuff. This is the core foundation of the priorities that I have come up with and it is designed to ensure that you are always using your abilities in the most energy effective way for sustainability. The greatest test for players will be keeping their energy in the goldilocks zone whilst utilising that damaging abilities as much as possible. But remember, you will never be able to use your damaging abilities without energy!!

With this in mind, there is on instance where it is mathematically better to not Rifle Shot when below 90 energy and that is when reapplying Stim Boost. As stim boost does not actually provide energy every 1 second, but 3 clipping energy early is going to waste that last tick on the 45th second.

I have been shown that when reapplying Stim Boost that due to the fact that it ticks every 3 seconds, clipping this ability, will lose a tick, as shown in the example by suleria.

sulerai Wrote:You stim boost at 0 seconds
– refreshing stim boost at 44 seconds you will get ticks at 42 and 47 seconds.
You miss the tick at 45 seconds as you clipped it. You also have to keep refreshing stim boost earlier and earlier, slowly pushing back GCDs for DPS.
-refreshing stim boost at 46 seconds you get ticks at 42, 45 and 49 which has both more frequent ticks than the case above, and does not lead to a loss of GCDs

Due to this suleria recommended that you let Stim Boost fall off, Shiv first then apply Stim Boost at the 46th second. Mathematically (here are the calcs]), if the above scenario happened at 85 energy, it leads to a 0.32 difference in energy. My argument (which I still stand by) is:

Sol Wrote:I do agree however that significantly clipping Stim Boost is not worth it and as we aren’t going to be able to keep Shiv on CD, it increases the importance of NOT doing so. However I still don’t agree that very slightly clipping (final 3 secs) or slightly delaying (1.5 secs) a Stim Boost, in favour of keeping energy above 90 prior to using will be detrimental. The above example only showed a cost different of 0.32 energy. This simply isn’t enough to warrant changing things around from simple, to more complex. I’d much prefer to Shiv/Stim at 48 seconds and lose a tick, rather than have to change my shift of thinking regarding the foundation of the entire rotation (Use specials in order whilst trying to stay above 90 energy) all for approximately 0.32 energy gain each application of Stim Boost. I’m not saying mathematically you guys aren’t correct, you certainly are. I’m saying the cost/benefit ratio doesn’t make it worthwhile imo.

And that is the basis of my argument. In my opinion, Rifle Shot when below 90 energy is the golden rule by which we should be living for operative DPS. Keep it simple. We have enough to worry about with concerning ourselves with 0.32 energy every 45 seconds. Until such point that a significant enough advantage can be proved (such as with the Lethality spec where Stim Boost immediately returns 10 energy on use) by making things more complex, I will definitely be keeping things as they are. Ultimately the decision is yours though; I just wanted to lay both side of the story on the table and let you decide for yourself.

Special thanks go to suleria and Bnol. Their input was invaluable.

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