SWTOR Sith Assassin Darkness Tank Guide
SWTOR Sith Assassin Darkness Tank Guide by AstralFire
Playstyle: High threat defender; melee with some ranged moves.
Mode: Dark Charge
PvE Builds: Standard (31/0/10), Madness Variant (25/0/16)
PvP Builds: PvP Harnessed Shadows (27/14/0), Hybrid Madness (23/0/18), Hybrid Stealth (22/19/0), Shock Spam (22/12/7)
0. Saber Strike (Out of Force)
1. Dark Ward (1 charge or about to expire)
2. Discharge (Every time it’s up)
3. Wither (5 seconds after cooldown ends) or Death Field (every CD)
4. Force Lightning (3 stacks of Harnessed Darkness)
5. Assassinate (Target at 30% health or less)
6. Crushing Darkness (Raze buff)
7. Shock (Energize buff) or Lacerate (2 or more enemies)
I’m sorry, but every time I say ‘Darkness Assassin,’ I can’t help but think of My Immortal. The fanfic, not the song. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, good for you. Keep it that way.
Welcome to our tanking tree. The Darkness Assassin is the most offense-oriented of the three tank styles available in the Old Republic. We possess a mix of battlefield control, mobility and range that makes the playstyle a blast. The bulk of its survivability is defined by its high blocking chance, while it has moderate avoidance, stable mitigation, and the unique ability among tanks to self-heal. Though its armor seems initially low, Dark Charge and several of its specialized skill brings the class armor values on par with the Sith Juggernaut, and it has superior damage reduction for Elemental and Internal damage, the two types not covered by armor.
The heal granted by Dark Charge’s passive bonus is minor, and typically functions more like mitigation than damage; you won’t even notice your health crawl up. However, Overcharge Saber can be modified into an instant self-heal as well as greatly improving the healing generated by this passive.
In addition to the unique ability to self-heal, the Darkness Assassin is easily the highest damage of any defender specialization in the game, tied with the Kinetic Shadow. AoE threat is not an issue after obtaining your primary area attack, Lacerate, and as awkward as ranged tanking can be in PvE, the Assassin still handles these situations with more aplomb than the Guardian ever can hope to.
Personally speaking, I found the default User Interface to be lacking as a Tankasin; most of my time is spent checking the lower bar to watch multiple cooldowns, expiring buffs, whether or not Energize had activated, the range of a selected target, as well as estimating how much of my Force Points I had remaining in order to execute the next move. This is not good, as ranged tanking – which the Assassin will be doing a lot of – is very complicated. Fun, but complicated. Some of these issues will go with time; as you get into a steady rhythm, you won’t have to look at the bar so often to predict how soon you can use your next attack.
There are two builds presently available for Tankasins in Player-versus-Environment content: the Standard (31/0/10), and the Madness Variant (25/0/16). The Standard will likely prove superior to the Madness Variant for difficult group content, due to the psuedo-mitigation provided by Wither, as well as the additional 12% healing provided by Force Lightning through Harnessed Darkness. Note that the first 6% of the heal, along with half of the damage, occurs during the very first second of the ability; if you have to move, your Force Lightning will not be wasted, and the ability does significant damage. Even so, the Madness Variant has significant benefits which should be discussed.
Most notably, ranged tanking is a pain. The Standard only has one ability at greater than 10m range: Force Pull. Force Pull is not a move that you use to start a fight, that is what stealth is for. Instead, Force Pull is to allow you to bring one enemy closer so that you can use your death spam AoEs easier. If you have multiple enemies wielding ranged attacks, however, this can prove inadequate; this is not a game that often allows for the ‘pull around a corner’ strategy tanks would use to deal with this in the past, due to slightly smarter enemy AI. It is true that Recklessness has a (clumsy) range increase built into it for Force Lightning, but your Force Lightning can be easily interrupted. Even if you have Harnessed Darkness up, the power is still cancelled by movement, and you can only do this twice every 90 seconds; it is not an adequate solution.
This is where the Madness Variant comes in. Death Field is a location-targeted AoE attack with a 30m range, that also comes with the benefit of moderate self-healing. While it is limited in the number of targets that it can affect, at 3, Lacerate is quite spammable. Additionally, even within the 10m range, the variant is considerably more capable; Raze allows Crushing Darkness to avoid the difficulty of using Shock: the high Force cost.
Of note, the Madness Variant build is extremely close to the PvP version of the same build, and you can do an alright job tanking with the PvP version, as it picks up an extra 30m stun in return for a minimal loss in self-healing.
As a warning note, if you’re planning on PvPing at low levels, I recommend doing it as Deception. Darkness and Madness suck before 20, and respecialization is cheap your first several times.
Player-versus-Player on a tank is different in this game than in World of Warcraft, which you may be accustomed to. Mind Control and Mass Mind Control are your taunts; when used, they reduce the target’s outgoing damage by 30% for 6 seconds unless they attack you. Useful tools to prevent incoming damage on an ally, and you usually do not have to worry about an immediate backlash, because it’s nearly impossible to point out who delivered the taunt. Guarding is another story – Guarding allows you to share your HP pool with another player, which subjects you to taking more impact from Area of Effect abilities, but can make killing your partner an absolute pain. Due to a Darkness Assassin’s unique ability to break slowing effects with Force Speed, Tankasins make good partners for a huttball carrier – they can Guard the target, push and pull enemies into firewalls and off ledges, and also run the ball very effectively themselves.
Unique to the Assassin is the ability to both Guard a target and hide in stealth until attacked, allowing them to perform an effective defender duo with a healer, or part of an offensive ninja trio on enemy objectives in Alderaan and Voidstar. It’s always advisable to open in stealth if possible, in order to Mind Trap potential targets.
Another peculiar strength of the Darkness Assassin in PvP is the ability to use Spike out of Stealth. This may seem like a mediocre ability – it’s a 2s stun, and induces a 1.5s global cooldown. Well, think again. It is actually a knockdown, and not an incapacitate effect. There is no ability in the game which can break someone out of a knockdown – they have to recover normally. While it is a tricky ability to use, a well-timed Spike is guarantee of 2 seconds where there is absolutely nothing the target can do, no matter what, as long as their resolve bar is not overcharged.
As you may’ve noticed, the questionable PvP value of the top of this tree has led to a lot of potential different builds. Widely stated, the many builds are splintered around these key points: Harnessed Shadows, Force Slow, Circling Shadows, Find Weakness, Upheaval, Force in Balance, Containment and Force Strike. There are many notable skills in each of these PvP builds, but those are the most central ones.
Harnessed Darkness (go to the PvE segment for a quick look at it) is cumbersome to properly build up, but results in an extremely high spike damage/slow/self-heal that is one of the ultimate expressions of force power, and it is only ever paired with Induction for easier Shock activations. Knowing when to save a Harnessed Darkness in conjunction with Recklessness can be crucial to victory. Force Slow allows the Tankasin to be a more effective harasser, especially against an opponent with cleanse support. Induction makes casting Shock a simpler task, requiring less prediction, and improves the burst off of Exploit Weakness. Exploit Weakness sharply raises your burst output; a single Maul under its effect can deal double the damage of your Thrash, even moreso under a critical.
Due to the weakness of Guarding a target and then having you both get blasted by AoEs, it may be advisable for a defensively-playing Hybrid Stealth to drop the two points in Static Cling or Fade and opt instead for Entropic Field, which reduces your incoming AoE damage by 30%. It’s ordinarily not worth it at all, but as many AoE attacks in the game are balanced around hitting two or more targets (rather than three or more), Entropic Field can prevent you from dropping too fast.
Chain Shock randomly improves the burst off of Shock a significant amount, and Death Field allows you to finish off runners or break multiple capture attempts simultaneously in a Warzone. Haunted Dreams pairs with Death Field as an answer to runners, allowing the short-ranged Tankasin to control enemies on a whim, at the cost of filling their resolve bar. Finally, Raze in a Darkness build partially makes up for the awkwardness associated with using Shock without Induction by adding a second source of 10m range burst damage, this one free of cost, though with backloaded periodic damage.
As with all Inquisitors, Willpower is your primary stat, and you use both physical and Force abilities, so you would rather take the Power statistic rather than Force Power. Alacrity will increase the speed of your Force Lightning attacks, but it is not something you should try to do; it has no other benefit to you. You will obviously want to build up defensive statistics – Absorption, Shield Rating, Defense and Endurance. Absorption and Shield Rating will provide the biggest bang for your buck. The hardcap on bonus for Shield Rating is around +50% chance – you’ll experience diminishing returns well before then, but it gives you a wide margin to reach for.
This is important, because the Sith Assassin has the least amount of survivability cooldowns relative to other specs, but has a significant advantage in how often it shields, thanks to Dark Ward. (Note also that a shielded attack cannot be a critical. This could mean that the Tankasin is vulnerable to auto-crit abilities, or could also theoretically reduce the critical chance of a received attack, if the chance is not 100% but the sum of shield chance + critical chance is greater than 100%.)
Because Dark Ward has a limited number of charges available, a higher avoidance chance will increase its longevity, as well. Therefore, the type of encounters we face will direct the next most important survivability statistic. If we constantly see high-end content with multiple enemies which require tanking, there will be a strong lean – a higher avoidance chance will reduce the number of charges eaten up on Dark Ward, improving your AoE tankability. If, instead, the Shadow is constantly facing a limited number of attacks, armor and absorption rating will take precedence.
Endurance is of low priority at current itemization schemes, because the endurance multiplier in the Darkness tree is so low.
Offensively, the Darkness Assassin wants Surge Rating, to take full advantage of auto-critical Shocks. Critical Strike rating should be a non-priority for gearing.
In PvP, Expertise Rating will be your single most important statistic. Accuracy Rating will also come into consideration; while you previously could only miss with your basic Saber Strike attack, every class has a minimum of 5% defense, and tanks can have much more. I would strongly consider getting at least 10% accuracy, to make sure that you do not miss with a vital Crowd Control or interrupt against enemy Jedi Sages and Sith Sorcerers, who have a base defense of 10%.