SWTOR Flashpoints New Player’s Guide

SWTOR Flashpoints New Player’s Guide by spoe

Maybe a more appropriate title for the post would have been “A Basic Guide to Group Cooperative Play,” or something similar. Please read the introduction carefully so you understand exactly what the scope of this guide entails.

It is NOT a guide to specific flashpoints but a guide to general group behavioral mechanics common in MMO games. Besides, too much information for new players can be quite overwhelming.

After you get the basics of grouping down, I highly recommend looking at the SWTOR class forums for specific information for your class, as those guides will contain exclusive information for the class you play. If no such guide is available, check back regularly for one or do a google search to see what guides for your specific class are available.

These are SAFE strategies designed to help maximize success in group endeavors — basic information on how to control combat in small, manageable chunks suitable for newer players in the initial stages of learning a MMO game.

Veteran players might find some of this information a little too cautious. Please, however, keep in mind that the goal of this is to help NEW players learn the ropes. That’s all. Veteran players don’t need this information anyway. Additionally, this guide only contains “bare bones” information. It is not an all-inclusive guide designed to cover every aspect of MMO play.

Naturally, as the new player becomes more experienced, he may adjust from these tips. But in the beginning, these tips will provide any new player with a basic framework that might help prevent a wipe or two. It is a starting point for those who have no map at all, and is most certainly not meant to offend anyone. My aim is only to provide help for those who seek it.

Introduction —

I’ve grouped with what seems like a lot of new players to MMOs, so I thought I would put a guide up. This one focuses on just the basics–101 sort of stuff–that all new players should be familiar with in order to help ensure success in flashpoints.

This guide is general in nature and not meant to answer every question a new player might have. It is, essentially, a “basics only” guide to grouping; it covers several key ideas that have been common, in one form or another, across all or most of the MMOs I have played through the years. Key ideas that absolutely apply to this game just as much as they apply to other MMOs. For the veteran player, everything covered in this guide is second-nature stuff they don’t even have to think about anymore. They just do it.

This guide does NOT go deeply into the myriad of contingencies that can pop up on any given pull. There are simply too many things that CAN happen, and often do, and I didn’t want this guide to take up too much space. Besides, experience will be the best teacher in those cases.

I do hope new players find this information useful. If others would like to contribute their own tips, please feel free to do so. We all had to learn at one time, so let’s spread our wisdom to the newbies. If you have any questions, post them here or pop on over to Kathol Rift, Imperial side, and send a /tell to Vyle or Toro

Also, read the posts that follow this one; several contain additional information you will find very useful!!

Additionally, if you have issues with the terminology used in this guide, try a google search for “common MMO terms” or “common MMO language” and see what pops up. Here is one site that has a glossary of terms: http://mmoterms.com/full-mmorpg-terms-glossary

Point One: Kill Order — What Are Those Marks For?

Someone should be appointed to mark targets with the icons provided; it is a good practice to let the tank do this as they are often called on to be leaders. He must define what those marks mean before the first pull. Tanks and DPS should follow this order unless some special circumstance pops up. Write it down so you don’t forget.

Players with a crowd control ability (hereafter referred to as “CC”) will be assigned a target — never, ever, ever hit those targets until after the tank gets to them in the kill order (see “AoE Abilities and CC’d Targets” below for more information).

Repeatedly breaking CC targets is a good way to get kicked from the flashpoint (and later, from raids — and you don’t want that, as end-game content is usually some of the best content in the game, with challenging boss encounters and best-in-slot gear. If you develop a reputation as a “terribad player,” you won’t get invited to raids).

Here is an example using a three-pull scenario:

Your group consists of a Powertech tank, a sith sorcerer healer, a Mercenary DPS, and a Sith Marauder DPS. The tank assigns these marks: flame, crosshairs, and a lightning bolt. He assigns the sorcerer the lightning bolt for CC (using Whirlwind, a 60-second crowd control ability).

The tank should specify the order in which he will build threat on the targets; this order should remain constant through the entire flashpoint or raid. He decides flame first, crosshairs next, and lightning bolt last (as it will be the CC target, thus eliminating that target as an immediate threat).

In general , kill mobs based on their health, with the lowest health mobs getting ripped first. If they are equal mobs, health wise, it doesn’t matter. You kill weaker targets first because they die more quickly: a mob with 10 health and an instant-own, super-repeating blaster can do a lot of damage if he isn’t dealt with. Even worse, one with a crowd control or knockback ability can be particularly devastating to a group if he throws a party member into another group of mobs. A wipe is almost certain in those cases.

Since in this scenario the tank has to hold aggro on two targets (the flame and the crosshair), he will need to tab between the two targets to make sure he keeps himself high on the hate list (see note below). The DPS should remain on the flame until it is dead. There will be times on boss fights when you will have to switch back and forth between one mob and another due to the fight’s mechanics, but discussing that isn’t in the scope of this guide.

AoE Abilities and CC’d Targets — It is very important for both the tank and the dps NOT to use Area-of-Effect abilities (Death From Above, Overload, etc) when CC’d targets are nearby. Damage will break the CC early, which will likely cause at least one death in the best cases or a wipe in the worst. Controlling the pull should be everyone’s number one priority: breaking CCs is NOT controlling the pull. Inevitably, loose mobs will head toward the healer. If the healer dies, it’s over.

One way to make sure you don’t accidentally use an AoE ability when CC mobs are nearby is to separate your single-target and AoE abilities on your quickbar. I use the top row for single-target abilities and the bottom row for AoE abilities. Don’t forget to turn off companion AoE abilities as well!

What is a hate list? Mobs attack whichever target has acquired the most threat. In flashpoints–and especially in raid environments–this had better always be the tank, or someone (or the whole group) is most likely going to die. Tanks have abilities, whether innate or talented, that cause their attacks to generate increased threat even if they are not doing the most damage; however, they can be outpaced by reckless DPS and by healers who are having to work extra hard to keep up a sloppy group. This is never good. DPS should ALWAYS follow the assigned kill order no matter what the tank is doing. As noted above, he will be swapping between non-crowd-controlled targets to make sure he keeps hate on them. The DPS’s job is to make sure kills happen according to the kill order.

What to do when DPS isn’t following the kill order — If you have explained to the player and honestly tried your best to get him to follow the rules, but he continue to be reckless, stop healing him. Don’t spend resources on DPS who insist on doing their own thing or who think they are tanks. If they are new players, inform them. Tell them how it works. Refer them to this guide. If they still refuse to listen. Kick them from the group. As a healer trying to keep a tank alive on a boss fight, you won’t often have the resources to heal reckless players who cannot, for whatever reason, practice good strategy.

DPS will pull aggro from the tank from time to time; these things happen, and there is no sense getting in a fuss over it. If it happens a lot by the same person, he is a liability to your group and should be kicked if he isn’t willing to take advice on how to improve his game. The best teacher is to (1) tell him what he is doing wrong and (2) just let him die. A lot.

Players should keep always in mind that the kill order exists to ensure the tank is always the one taking damage. If a player deviates from the kill order, he will likely cause whatever mob he damages to direct his attacks toward that player, thus causing unnecessary stress on the healer (who will likely stop healing that player if such behaviors continue).

Tanks and DPS perform opposite roles: tanks take damage; DPS deals damage. Tanks are tough characters whose talents focus on avoiding and mitigating incoming damage; DPS are squishy characters whose talents focus on increasing the damage they do — they are not designed to take large amounts of damage like a tank is. If the DPS follows the kill order and the tank builds threat appropriately on mobs according to the kill order, the DPS will be able to unload on the target without having to worry about taking damage from the mob, thus ensuring a dead boss and the loot that follows.

How do I avoid being an “aggro magnet?” — in that “other” mmo, a mod was available that helped players keep track of the threat they were generating. As far as I know, no such tool exists yet for SWTOR. But, believe it or not, there was a time when that tool wasn’t available in the “other” mmo either. You just have to be a smart player. If you are following your rotation, for example, and you get a string of crits, it’s probably a good idea to lay off 3-5 seconds so your threat decreases. If you keep pounding away on a boss–this is especially true of DPS with high crit ratings–you will eventually pull aggro from the tank. Not good. It’s a matter of “feel” mostly. Try to be cognizant of the kind of damage you are doing, and pay close attention to your crits. If you start seeing a handful of big numbers in succession, back off. Let your hate decrease. Resume DPS.

What do I do if I actually DO pull aggro from the tank? Don’t panic. It happens from time to time. If you don’t get anything else from this guide, understand this: if you pull hate, RUN TO THE TANK. Do not run around in circles; do not run away. Run straight to the tank so he can taunt. If you get outside the tank’s taunt range, you’ll cause a wipe. If you pull aggro, you are probably going to die. Do your best to get to the tank before you do. Besides, there is always the chance that he can get the mob’s attention back before you hit zero health. Of course, it goes without saying that if you are already just a few meters from the tank, you don’t have to run to him because you are already there. Make sure, however, that you stop attacking. Do not continue to build threat on a mob if the tank is trying to take it back. One final note, you may have to inform the tank to use his taunt; he has a lot going on and may not notice if you are dying.

How much time should the tank get before I start firing away? The Five Second Rule should be followed. Tanks need time to generate the threat they need to hold the boss’s attention for the entirety of a fight. This is an old mantra that goes back a long time. Tanks don’t automatically front-load a lot of it in most cases. That’s what the venerable “Five Second Rule” is for. Give your tank five full seconds to establish himself on the hate list before engaging your DPS rotation. This is just a safe way to ensure DPS doesn’t take the hate away from the tank and end up wiping the group.

If you are that DPS who insists on opening fire before the tank gets there, don’t be surprised one of these days if a tank lets the mob run right to you before he taunts. You’re playing with fire. Tanks can sometimes be high-maintenance players, and they can get offended when people just “assume” they are going to save them. Besides that, it’s a matter of courtesy: the tank can’t do his job if you aren’t doing yours, and it isn’t his job to save you if you aren’t playing by the rules, nor is it the healers job to heal you if you are being careless.

As a Healer, should I stack heals on the tank as he is going in? No. Your heals generate aggro the same as DPS does. Healing aggro is substantial. If your tank is ticking with heals just as he hits the mob, he may not be able to outrace your healing aggro. Besides, it isn’t sound playing to waste resources on full health bars. On long boss fights, you’ll need every point of it most likely.

As a tank, should I lead with my taunt? No. That’s what the Five Second Rule is for. Your taunt has a cooldown that you have to learn to manage. Use your taunt for those times when someone does outrace your threat, pulling aggro from you to them. If you used your taunt, let the group know. It should key the DPS to back off a bit because someone is dangerously close to the tank’s hate threshold. If you find that in groups you are often having a terrible time holding aggro, do some research for your class to find out what the optimal threat rotation is for your class. Sometimes the optimal threat rotation and the optimal damage rotation are two different things. Good tanks–the kinds who lead raid groups–know the difference.

Point Two: Positioning — Where should I stand?

If you are a melee DPS, the answer is simple: behind the boss. Often, bosses have frontal cone mechanics that cause massive amounts of damage to those in front of him. The tank is equipped to handle this; the DPS is not. Cleave attacks, for example, can take out entire droves of squishy glass-cannons, so stay behind him just to be safe. Even if you know the boss doesn’t have a frontal cone attack (like a cleave), stand behind him anyway just to foster the second-nature necessity of staying behind the boss.

Additionally, the way avoidance usually works, most mobs cannot parry and/or block attacks from behind. A good rule of the thumb is to assume more hits will land from behind than they will from the front. As DPS, you want to do the most damage possible. Part of accomplishing this is NOT attacking from the front.

If you are ranged DPS, the answer is just as simple: not in the fire. Melee and Ranged DPS both have to worry about the many hazards that accompany boss fights. Often, this takes the form of Area of Effect abilities designed to take out players: fire, sludge, goo — anything that doesn’t normally belong in the area. If you notice ANYTHING that doesn’t normally belong, get out of it.

If you die because you “stood in the fire” once, that’s okay. It happens to the best of us. Someone will tell you not to stand in it. If you die in it twice, you’ll likely be kicked from the group. Do not finish your current attack. Move immediately. Healers aren’t going to heal you if you take damage from something that you clearly should have avoided. And it shows very poor taste to verbally assault your healer because he didn’t heal you. In fact, it’s a good idea not to tick the healer off at all.

If you are a tank, and you know the boss has a knockback mechanic, position your back to a stationary object in the room, even if it is a wall, so that you don’t go flying out of heal range. If the healer has to find you, you will likely die. If the tank dies, it’s over.

Point Three: Pulls — How Do We Get That Guy to Move?

Pulls make or break a group. Bad pulls happen, but there are things you can do to minimize them. In general, you should let the tank pull almost all of the time.

Line of Sight Pulls — a LoS pull involves the puller attacking the first mob in the kill order and then quickly disappearing behind a stationary object in the combat area, thus forcing the mobs to come to the puller.

Keep in mind that a tank who spends one attack on a mob to get the pull into position has NOT had sufficient time to build any significant threat. The Five Second Rule should not go into effect until after the tank positions the mobs the way he needs them and starts an active threat-building attack rotation on them. If you start firing on a mob after only one attack from a tank, you are certain to pull hate to yourself, which may compromise the controllability of the pull.

Ideally, just as the tank pulls, any controllers in the group should cast their CC so that those mobs stay as close to the mobs’ starting location as possible (unless, of course, a patrol walks by. If there are patrols in the area, you will have to CC them away from their starting location because your crowd control spell might aggro the patrol, thus causing him to enter the combat. If you know your CC spell doesn’t aggro additional mobs, that’s a different story. If you don’t know, assume it will, just to be safe).

Try to separate your crowd controlled mobs from the active mobs, as doing so frees up everyone to use Area of Effect attacks on the primary and secondary targets (after the Five Second Rule has elapsed, of course). Putting some distance between active and crowd controlled mobs also lessens the chance that someone will accidentally break the CC

Line of Sight pulls are designed to get ranged or melee mobs to come back to the group instead of forcing the group to go to the mobs. If you CAN LoS pull a group, it is generally better to do so for a variety of reasons. The most prominent of which is so that the group can avoid any knockback abilities that might aggro additional groups of mobs.

Another reason is that LoS pulls generally help groups avoid Patrols (commonly called “Pats”) that might be wandering in the area. Nothing hurts more than having a pat come by and join in the fray. Remember: control the battlefield.

Keep in mind that the way behind your group is absolutely clear; you have already killed the mobs that used to be there, and they aren’t re-spawning any time soon. There isn’t anything there but wide-open space. Because of this, groups should pull mobs back instead of going to them, especially when you are in an unfamiliar flashpoint. This is less important in flashpoints with known encounters, but in cases when groups are learning, it’s always safer to pulls mobs back to the group if only to avoid unforeseen dangers like patrols or knockback mechanics.

Point Four: Rolling on Loot

You should always know what your toon’s primary stats are. You can easily determine this by looking at your paper doll. Sorcerers need Willpower. Bounty Hunters need Aim. Warriors need Strength. If a piece of loot drops that does not have your primary stat on it, you should pass or greed roll always.

Never hit need on items not designed for your class AND spec. This is the fastest way to get kicked from a group. Other players will assume you have no idea what you are doing, and you’ll likely be called a variety of foul names. Find out what your primary stat is and only roll on gear that includes it. Gear that isn’t designed for you IS designed for someone else. Being a loot “ninja” is a fast way to get black-balled. So study up on your class.

Additionally, there are two types of item drops: Bind on Pickup (BoP) and Bind on Equip (BoE).

If you roll NEED on a BoE item, make sure you equip it right away. There is a certain amount of honesty that goes with rolling NEED on BoE items. You WILL get kicked from a group if you “ninja” an item, so please make sure before you roll NEED that the item is for your class.

The difference between the two is that BoE items can be placed on the Market or given away. BoP items can only be sold to vendors.

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1 Response

  1. Anonymous says:

    also wanted to add….. tanks often NEED mobs hitting them in order to generate focus (rage equivalent) to use their best abilities. If someone else pulls all the mobs tanks are at a disadvantage and lack sufficient focus to get the entire groups attention if their taunts are on cool down. Please let the tank pull so they can start taking damage and generating focus.

    ALSO – the jedi consular aoe stun will actually thow mobs and scatter them AWAY from the tank and make it harder to get them grouped up to receive the tanks aoe attack… so ya, these issues make it hard especially for guardian tanks who don't have many aoe abilities early on. Better to save that move for when you are assigned to take on adds so MT can focus on boss.

    I'm just saying this because my guardian tank is still low lvl (19) and doesn't yet have any aoe taunting abilities and just 1 aoe attack which once used then goes on cool down. People can do many things that make it very difficult to tank in my opinion.

    This is a great guide for groups. I'm going to be telling many people about it. thanks.

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