Monday, 30 April 2012

PvP Tank Basics: Using Taunt Effectively

PvP Tank Basics is a series of articles in which I'll examine the baseline PvP tank abilities and discuss strategies for maximizing their effectiveness. I will keep these articles up to date, so that they can be referenced at any time by new PvP tanks. Today, we're looking at Taunt.

Taunt is a great way to cut down burst damage, which is one of the prime killers of healers in PvP combat. The ability itself is fairly simple:

InstantCooldown: 15s
 30 m
Taunts the target, forcing it to attack the Warrior for 6 seconds. Player targets deal 30% less damage when attacking anyone other than you. Lasts 6 seco

This ability is named Taunt for Jedi Guardians, also. For Sith Assassins and Jedi Shadows, it is called Mind Control. For Powertechs it is named Neural Dart, and for Vanguards it is called Neural Jolt. All these abilities function identically. You do not need to be in your "Defensive Stance" to use your Taunt ability (see the section below called "What if I'm not a tank?").

The ability is of course useless if used on someone who is attacking you. It has a fairly short cooldown, which means that you can (and should) use it often.

Taunt Priority

My priority for using taunt is as follows:

1. Any class capable of heavy burst damage who is currently attacking a healer. Good examples are Operatives/Scoundrels who have just opened on a healer; Marauders/Sentinels who have just charged a healer; Rage/Focus-specced Juggernauts/Guardians; Gunslingers/Snipers.

2. Any damage class attacking a healer. This is fairly self-explanatory. The less healing healers need to use on themselves to stay alive, the more they will be throwing on your team, including you.

3. Burst damage-capable enemies focus-firing friendly DPS. Again, self-explanatory. Give your healers a chance to save this person. There are better abilities to use in this situation, but if none of them were available and Taunt was, I'd at least use it.

4. Any enemy DPS focus-firing friendly DPS.

As a side note, never Taunt an enemy healer. They aren't doing damage, so the ability has no effect.

The Psychology of Taunt

Taunt only lasts 6 seconds, and few opponents will be perceptive enough to see that they've been taunted and switch to you. It does happen sometimes, so have those defensive cooldowns ready.

If Taunt is used at the right moment, it may demoralize an enemy and get them to switch targets, especially when combined with other abilities. A good example are Operatives/Scoundrels who open from stealth on a healer. If you taunt them, you are going to be reducing their burst damage significantly, and they may give up or vanish in an attempt to re-open. Burst damage is one of their primary strengths; you are drastically decreasing their effectiveness by taunting them and they don't have a great way to adapt to that.

What if I'm not a tank?

Not primarily a tank, but your advanced class has access to a taunt-like ability? No problem. I'd recommend you still use it.

If you are primarily dealing damage in PvP, you often find yourself attacking enemies who are attacking your healer. Obviously, enemy healers are the highest priority and there is little point to taunting a healer, but once they are defeated your enemies are often stuck to your healers.

Spend the global cooldown to throw your Taunt on one of them. Not only will you get free medals, but you'll  be helping your healer out. You may be primarily a damage dealer, but you can still save someone's life. I would argue that if you play an advanced class that has access to taunt, even if focused on damage, you should be taunting often. It is a unique and highly-effective part of your toolbox which often becomes forgotten. It is part of what separates a good DPS-specced Juggernaut/Powertech/Assassin from a great one.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

PvP Tank Basics: Using Guard Effectively

PvP Tank Basics is a series of articles in which I'll examine the baseline PvP tank abilities and discuss strategies for maximizing their effectiveness. I will keep these articles up to date, so that they can be referenced at any time by new PvP tanks. Today, we're looking at Guard.

Guard is a frequently misunderstood ability. While keeping it on a healer is a prudent strategy, it doesn't do anything for someone who isn't taking damage in PvP. Guard will almost always be your main source of Protection on the scoreboard at the end of a warzone if you are a dedicated PvP tank. It also allows your healers more time to react to incoming focus fire. Used appropriately and with healer support, it can turn the tide.

This means that the most effective way to use guard is to make sure that it is always redirecting damage to you. The only way to ensure this is to swap it as different members of your team are selected as targets. Do not be afraid to switch your Guard to someone new. The only possible exception to this is if you are the ball carrier in Huttball and do not wish to risk taking more damage.

Any advanced class with access to a tanking skill tree will learn Guard at level 14. From Torhead:

 30 m

While active, the guarded player takes 5% less damage and generates 25% less threat. In addition, so long as you remain within 15 meters of the guarded player, 50% of all incoming damage from enemy players is transferred back to you. Requires Soresu Form.

Regardless of your advanced class, Guard always requires that you use the "Defensive Stance"  for your advanced class (Soresu Form for Juggernauts and Guardians) in order to be able to use it; if you switch stances it will immediately be removed. There was talk in Beta that Guard let your guarded target use your damage reduction. This has since been proven to be false, however they do still get the flat 5% damage reduction bonus while guarded.

The most important thing to remember about Guard is that you must be within 15 meters of your Guarded target in order to intercept 50% of their incoming damage. If you overextend, you may be responsible for the guarded player's demise, especially in a heavy-pressure situation.

Guard Priority

Guard does a good job of making healing easier to handle for your team's healers. But who should you be guarding at any given point in time? My priority is as follows:

1. If one of my healers is being attacked, I put my guard on them until they are no longer in danger. This aspect of using Guard is often a judgement call. Look around for Ranged DPS that may still be focusing on your healer before you leave them alone. If possible, ask your healer if they are okay (voice communication is helpful here).

2. With my healer no longer in danger, I look at the health of those around me as I move into the thick of the fight. If I see someone is being focus-fired, I use guard on them immediately and, if available, Intercede to them or Force Charge to an enemy nearby so that they will be getting the benefit of my Guard as soon as possible (other ACs can substitute their own gap closers here). Very often, the enemy's focus fire target is a melee DPS on your team who has made themselves a threat by antagonizing the enemy's healers. If possible, call the enemy's focus fire target to your healers (again, voice communication helps) in case they are not yet aware of it.

3. While guarding the focus fire target, I continue to monitor our healer's health as I help support the DPS. Setting your healer as your focus target helps make this a lot easier. You need to enable this in Preferences and the keystroke is Alt+F by default. Your healer should also communicate with you, if possible, in the event that they are being attacked. That way, you know to go back to help them.

The Psychology of Guard

A lot of the time, DPS will continue to attack a guarded healer, either not noticing or not caring that they are doing only 50% of their normal damage to the healer. As a tank, this is what you want them to do. Even if your healer is only able to keep you and themselves alive, they are likely occupying the time of 3+ enemies who are not attacking other people on your team, and you are able to utilize your taunts to further decrease the damage. In other words, you are buying time for the rest of your team to kill them.

However, smart DPS will usually do one of three things to counter this:

1. They will switch to you, attempting to burn you down while the healer recovers from recent pressure. Since they are attacking you, you're taking full damage from their attacks and your taunts are useless. The exact threat this poses to you depends on the type of classes attacking you, but it's not usually a good situation. Here's where you use your defensive cooldowns. If possible, throw out stuns on your attackers to let your healer respond to the target switch. Keep your guard on your healer for the moment, in case they choose to switch back.

2. They will switch to another member of your team. This scenario is actually more favourable for you than the first one. Intercede to that target, swap your Guard to them, and utilize taunts and/or stuns to make the enemy's team difficult. Keep your eye on your healer; they may switch back once they realize you're responding to their pressure. Use this opportunity to throw out snares on the enemy in case they decide to switch back to your healer.

3. They will attempt to separate you from your healer. Not much you can do here besides use your gap closer to get back as soon as possible. This is possibly the worst scenario for you, depending on your healer's status when you get separated and on how much damage is being thrown at your healer in your absence.

We stand on guard for thee

Having read these tips, get out there and start supporting your allies on the field with Guard! It is, without a doubt, the most powerful ability tanks have in PvP to protect their allies. Using it well is the first step on your PvP tank journey. As always, any feedback is appreciated.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Q&A Analysis and Commentary: April 27th, 2012

So, the Q&A this week was informative enough that I feel it should be highlighted. Some of these answers have been given before (at the Guild Summit for example), but others are new. You can click the link above to go directly to the Q&A, but here is my summary and my comments:

Dual Spec will not be making it in for Patch 1.3.

That awkward moment when you realize you're not specced for healing, so you call a medical capsule immediately.

This is a disappointment, but I can live another patch without Dual Specialization. I know a lot of people in the community and in my guild will be upset by this one, but this is something that needs to be done correctly and thoroughly before it is added to the live client. This was probably the biggest thing to come out of the Q&A.

Character transfers will be available in early summer of this year.

Exciting news. Basically they will be allowing free transfers from high-pop servers to lower-pop ones first, and then after all of that is done they will open up paid transfers. This is good as it will allow players to re-assess the community of their server before forking over money for paid transfers. Kudos to Bioware for having this done so quickly.

Social gear will scale to your armor type automatically in Patch 1.3.

You can't tell just by looking, but she has a 23% chance to deflect and a military-grade shield generator.

This is exciting news for all those who do not wear Light Armor. What I would love to see in the future is some limited functionality to allow you to wear different kinds of modifiable armor (for example, there are some Light Armor legs that look a lot like Revan's robe, but I can't use them because they are Light and I am a tanking Juggernaut). As far as we know, this armor scaling feature will work only with Social gear - but I would love for them to expand it to all gear. Probably a pipe dream, though.

New species will be added sometime this year.

This cheerful looking guy could be the nail in my Chiss Operative's coffin.

No word on what kind of species we're talking here, but this is exciting. Hopefully they add extra character slots around the same time, because mine are already full. If they put Nautolan in, someone is going to be getting deleted.

Datacrons may be made Legacy-wide!

They are considering it, so this is not 100% guaranteed. I liked the datacron hunt thing, but a lot of people seem to dislike it based on the fact that it requires a time investment on mutiple characters. The stat bonuses individually are very minor, but they do add up. I'm interested to see where they go with this.

Update on Mr. Robot

"Query: Have you perused my updated analysis subroutines, meatbags?"

The fine folks over at Ask Mr. Robot have added a FAQ for their combat logging tool. The FAQ addresses common concerns and explains some of the new functionality added recently to the tool. I recommend checking this out if you are a user of the tool, as quite a few things have changed from the previous iteration.

In my previous article, I noted that there were a couple of improvements I'd like to see to the tool, but the most important was the ability to merge multiple combat logs at once. Thankfully, this has been addressed as of the 20th. In addition, users that are logged in can remove merged logs in the event of an error or if someone is attempting to mess with your data.

As the tool continues to improve, I will be updating accordingly. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to use it for merged logs since I last posted about it. Operations attendance in the guild has been down somewhat due to RL issues and an increased focus on PvP. I've been using it for DPS tests, as I acquired the Operations Dummy for my Legacy, but that doesn't require any merging.

Here's hoping that I can get into a group PvE situation soon so that I can give the merging a fresh shot. Perhaps a flashpoint is in order.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Maintaining Composure

I had a rather jarring experience the other day, and thought I should perhaps share it, because it taught me some things about myself.

I had queued up for warzones with three other guildmates. My guild doesn't have "tryouts" or anything, we just foster a culture of learning and support. That means there is no "skill" requirement to get into our guild, but if you want to get better, there are tons of people willing to help you do just that.

These guys that were in my party are some of the best in our guild, and I had no question in my mind that we would be doing a strong service to our team when we got into the warzone. 

When we got into Alderaan Civil War, I immediately saw our group was accompanied by another 4-person premade from a guild on our server. I won't name them here because, honestly, there's no point. I wasn't terribly familiar with them, but had played with them on a couple of occasions. Some experiences had been very positive, and some had not been. On Ventrilo, my fellow group members shared their thoughts about the guild in question.

Because I always try to communicate well, I asked if they could send two of their guys to left, the rest to mid. Their response: "No". They didn't offer any other advice, nor did they expand on why. As a result, I respectfully asked them what they thought we should do. 

One of them said, "We're going right and if any of you follow us we will leave and you can enjoy your loss".

I politely explained I was just trying to be helpful. They responded with "Stop trying to pretend you're good, you're in Section One."

I would be lying if I said this didn't make me angry. I don't (and never will) claim to be the best PvPer out there. What I do claim is that I do my best to play the objectives, support my team, and communicate. I also do my best to make sure that my guild members do the same, or are given the opportunity to learn how to do this. This person had not only insulted me, they had insulted my entire guild.

This is what I wanted to do.

"Gooooood, gooooood."

Instead, I responded with: "I'm sorry if you've had problems with my guild in the past. I'm trying to change stuff like that." To understand what I mean here, I'll remind you that there's no "skill requirement" for Section One. The guild has history dating back to Star Wars Galaxies, where they were known as a formidable force on the popular Bloodfin server. However, we also have people recruited in this game (including myself). We have people with varying degrees of commitment and time to dedicate to the game. Not everyone is playing at the same level. I'm working, as PvP Officer, to try to elevate everyone as high as they are willing to go.

Anyways, a funny thing happened when I was polite to this guy.

He absolutely backed off. He was still arrogant, and did not call for our help and ended up losing his precious flag on the right (although it was too late for the other team, also made up of two premades, so we still won), but he definitely backpedaled. I think maybe he realized how obtuse he sounded, or maybe someone in his group just decided to scold him.
I realize now that I could have freaked out, I could have told him that I've run into players from his guild who weren't great, but that I still tried to work with him in this warzone, strategize with him, and extend him the courtesy of anyone who was on my team. 

In the end, it wouldn't have been worth it. The guy obviously had no interest in being polite to anyone. I'm happy with the choice I made. 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Community Spotlight: Taugrim's MMO Blog

He knows his stuff, and he's happy to share it with you.

Welcome to another installment of a recurring feature on Thrown Gauntlet, the Community Spotlight. Each week I'll be looking at a site that supports the Star Wars: The Old Republic community, be it a blog, podcast, information database, or otherwise. My hope is to point people to other websites they may also enjoy and to bring the SW:TOR blogging community closer together. 

I debated holding off on spotlighting Taugrim's MMO Blog because, quite honestly, most SWTOR players (and MMO players, even) have at the very least heard of him. In the end, I figured that if there was a chance that I could introduce someone to his material, the post would be worth it.

Even (or perhaps especially) if you're new to PvP, you should check out his site. The information is valuable to both newcomers and veterans alike.

Taugrim exemplifies what is, for me, the spirit of community in PvP. I truly hope that this trend becomes the norm for the PvP community generally. He is trying to help those around him by informing them. He explains mechanics and answers questions from readers or those watching his stream. He promotes and encourages discussion about changes. He stays away from elitism and responds patiently to inquiries. In his own words:

That is what my Guides are all about: helping gamers raise their gameplay and learning from and with them in the process 

Basically, he's doing an immense service to the PvP community of whatever game he is involved in at the time.

His style is a far cry from many who PvP. We've all seen those other PvP videos - filled with 3 second snippets of massive crits set to overly-loud music. You know, the ones that don't teach you anything. Taugrim turns this formula on its head, normally streaming himself queuing for warzones alone, explaining what's happening as he plays, and answering questions between warzones. I always try to catch his stream when it's up, because I actually learn something about the class and spec he's playing.

In addition to his stream and explanatory videos, Taugrim maintains a series of guides for different PvP topics. These guides are always informative and well-researched, and you should check them out. He also often posts about design choices and recent PvP changes, which normally make for an excellent discussion.

On top of all of this, Taugrim still finds the time to co-host two different shows on

So check him out! He has tons of great stuff, and I guarantee you'll learn something.

Have a website you think I should look at, or that you think should be in the spotlight? Let me know at, or contact me on my Twitter account, @ThrownGauntlet. I'm always looking for new blogs, resources and fansites to review!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Burek on Galactic Public Radio!

I've had the great opportunity to speak about the Juggernaut advanced class on Galactic Public Radio alongside Porter. You can find the podcast here. I really like the way it turned out, and I hope you enjoy it!

Overall, I really enjoyed myself, though I was a bit nervous at first. You'd think doing commentary for a video guide would be similar to doing a podcast, but my commentary doesn't always come out correctly the first time, whereas I have to make sure it does for the podcast. It looks like I may get opportunities in the future to return to GPR to talk about the Juggernaut, which is very cool.

Porter is a really great host and he's actually looking for other class experts for future installments of the show (All Classes Considered). If you're a class expert, you can contact him at his twitter if you'd like to volunteer to help.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

In Defense of Expertise

I was listening to the TORWars Podcast #74 today and there was a discussion regarding expertise and whether or not it made sense to have a "PvP stat" in the game. Jeff, Deirdre and Brian seemed more or less on board with the idea of letting PvE gear function just as well as PvP gear in PvP scenarios. I really like TORWars and their podcast, but I think I need to step into the pro-expertise corner on this one.

For those readers who may not know what expertise is or how it works, it is a stat which appears only on PvP gear and increases damage, damage reduction, and healing in PvP only. Due to the recent changes in Patch 1.2, it is basically the best possible stat you can have in PvP.

I understand that it can be frustrating to have gear only work in specific scenarios, but I believe that a "PvP stat"-type system is the best solution for preserving balance. I also understand that many people object to it from a design standpoint, saying that it is clunky or that it wouldn't be necessary if class balance was truly perfected. I disagree.

It needn't necessarily take the same form as the one we have (you could make it more complicated, have PvP gear lack essential PvE stats, or have multiple PvP stats that do different things), but overall I believe that expertise offers the developers the best tools to balance PvP while continuing to offer exciting and engaging content in both PvP and in PvE without fear of ruining the prevailing order in both systems.

The problem of motivation

Vader does NOT need to find new ways to motivate them.
Before the Patch 1.2 changes were put into effect, making PvP gear even more effective in PvP, a curious thing was happening. Players who wanted to start doing Operations and Flashpoints were being told by their friends to start PvPing. Sound silly? To most people, it wasn't - because not only was it far easier to acquire PvP rewards, but they were almost as effective as their PvE counterparts. People tend to do whatever is easiest to complete goals, and in this case it was extremely easy to acquire PvP rewards when compared to assembling a group of people and then trying to do a Hard Mode Flashpoint.

Now, not everyone who wanted to do Operations also wanted to do PvP, so these people were left with a choice: do something you're not really interested or invested in for the easy gear, or spend a lot more time doing what you want, but which may or may not be effective and has no guaranteed reward for time invested.

If both sets of gear work equally well in both scenarios, we'll see pretty quickly that most people will feel pressured to take the quick and easy path which, with the current evolution of PvE content, will almost definitely be PvP, since winning is not a requirement and losing continuously, while slow, would likely still be faster than trying to PuG with an 8-person Explosive Conflict group. And again, even if it were faster to PuG EC, there is no guarantee that you get what you need.

Ultimately, the best choice should be to let players to what they love, and reward them by giving them better tools to continue doing it - not to do something else.

Not everyone can be Yoda-like and avoid the quick and easy path.

A controlled environment

Another thing that a PvP stat offers is the ability to make across the board adjustments to all classes in the areas of damage, damage reduction, and healing.

As of 1.2, these things all scale differently with expertise (eg. You get a larger damage bonus from expertise than you do a damage reduction or healing bonus), but Bioware has shown that they are not afraid to re-balance ratings to better accommodate the play experience of their subscribers. They currently have the ability to look at any of those three things via their metrics, decide that one of them needs to be adjusted, and then adjust it across the board. Now that's flexibility.

Ultimately, I wouldn't be surprised to eventually see an "expertise co-efficient" on abilities to change their effectiveness in PvP. We've already kind of seen this with all healing abilities (Trauma, for example), but I'm talking for specific abilities. Maybe particular abilities will be encouraged in PvP, and so they gain some bonus damage or healing in PvP. Maybe some abilities will have their potency toned down for PvP, but some of this penalty will be offset by expertise.

Palpatine calls for a PvP nerf to reactor shafts.
In "that other game", before their first expansion, the roles of the two were reversed - it was far easier to get top-tier PvE gear than PvP gear, but not having a PvP stat resulted in players literally being two-shot by players wearing top tier PvE epics with no way to balance it short of class changes (which honestly weren't the problem). PvE and PvP environments are different beasts that require their own balancing efforts. Getting rid of a PvP stat makes this task even harder, as values in PvP cannot easily be modified without changing core class mechanics, which will also change the character's ability in PvE.

To conclude

I believe that players should be doing what they want and getting rewarded appropriately for doing it. Clearing PvE content should not entitle you to top tier PvP gear, nor should achieving an amazing warzone rating allow you to breeze through PvE content. That they are separate isn't a bad thing! It's just more game to explore and experience.

Quick Notes: Patch 1.2.1

Patch 1.2.1 was applied to the live servers this morning and though the majority of the changes are bug fixes, there are a few points of interest:

- The cost of PvP consumables has been reduced to 10 commendations. In my opinion, this is a much-needed change. At 20 apiece previously they were overly expensive, but now if you get a big win you can buy some consumables and still save for that next piece of gear.

- Sniper and Gunslinger received 5% buffs to numerous damaging abilities. I had heard from others that the numbers for Snipers and Gunslingers were not looking too hot in comparison to other classes in PvE environments, so I welcome this change.

Corrected an issue that prevented players from adding offline players to their friends list. Not the first time I've seen this on patch notes, so we'll see if it's actually fixed this time. It seems like it is, at least, because I just did it successfully.

Helmets now work correctly when unifying colors on the character sheet. This is nice. Glad they got this fixed so quickly.

The full patch notes can be found here. Thanks to Eric (@Torkar1982) for the tip on the PvP Consumables.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Burek's PvP Tanking Guides, #2: Force Push (Knockback)

I am proud to announce the public release of my second PvP Tanking Guide, which focuses on using your knockback ability! This guide should be useful to many advanced classes, since almost all advanced classes have a knockback. Even if you don't have one, the video should show you how to make yourself a little harder to throw.

The guide aims to help players make more efficient use of their knockback. It uses freeze-frame explanations and play-by-play commentary to help viewers understand the decisions made in the video. I recommend viewing the video in 1080p or 720p in full screen mode for the best viewing experience.

I had a lot of fun making this video, and I hope it shows. I hope you enjoy it, and that some part of it is useful to you!

I'm always happy to accept feedback from any of my viewers. If you have a topic you'd like to see for a future video, please share it with me!

Georg Zoeller on Time To Kill (TTK) in PvP

You may have missed my previous post based on Taugrim's evaluation of the Patch 1.2 PvP changes. In it, I expressed (like Taugrim) that the recent changes to time to kill (or, TTK) in PvP were not positive. Since the patch, TTK has dropped quite substantially, which I feared might represent a shift away from Bioware's previous design philosophy of longer, tactical battles instead of the extremely bursty PvP in other MMOs.

It seems that my fears may have been misplaced. A post by Georg Zoeller on the official forums on Friday has clarified that they are aware that TTK is lower than intended and that they are monitoring the situation, though no changes besides the Tracer Missile/Grav Round bug fix were confirmed. 

He also explains that some of the TTK is caused by expertise disparity, since expertise has intentionally been buffed to be the single most important PvP stat. While I agree that expertise should be incredibly important for PvP to dissuade people from using PvE gear, I am afraid of the stat inflation this could cause. Ultimately though, Bioware has shown that they are not afraid to rebalance ratings in order to make the game work better, so I remain cautiously optimistic.

It also comforts me greatly that they have acknowledged that there is an issue, though their explanation is fairly vague beyond the expertise mention. Georg notes that "stacking debuffs are creating a real TTK issue", but there's no real example of what debuffs are stacking, whether or not this is a bug, and how exactly one could fix this if it isn't a bug.

At least we didn't get a confirmation that design goals had shifted and they were aiming for lower TTK - that really would have broken my resolve (see what I did there?). In all seriousness, this is reassuring news.

I've included the post below for your convenience; you can click to enlarge.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Communication wins games, Part 1

It wins games. Honestly.
If you've been in a PvP warzone with me, you've heard me say it - communication wins games. It sounds like a silly slogan or something that your high school basketball coach would say.

It is 100% true.

As rated warzones grow nearer (though how close they are exactly is still uncertain), I have been attempting to prep my guild for them. I've been appointed "PvP Officer", with the possibly-dubious honour of wrangling people into 4-person units and getting them to work together in preparation for eventual 8-person Rated Warzone groups. While my experience has been mostly positive, I have noted one thing that separates a good player from a great player. That thing is communication.

It is my experience that oftentimes the most valuable contribution you can make to your team is information. There have been games where my stats were not great, but the information I relayed to my team earned me multiple MVP votes.

I could probably write three or four articles on communication in warzones, but for this post I'll focus on what normally goes wrong with team communication and how to fix it. This could be your guild's warzone group, or it could be a pickup group. It could be via ops chat, or via a voice client like Ventrilo, Mumble or Teamspeak. Regardless, here is what normally goes wrong with communication:

1. No communication. Duh, right? This one is extremely easy to solve, but requires co-operation from your team.

  • If you're in a pickup group, do not be afraid to communicate.
  • Discuss strategy before the game starts (eg. "Drayn and myself will go left, everyone else mid, ok?"). If no one offers any answers, then dictate a strategy to your team that makes sense.
  • Look at your team composition - if multiple members are in the same guild, they will likely be trying to operate as a unit in the warzone. Plan accordingly.
  • Are you guarding a healer? Let them know, so they know to keep you alive. Are you a healer? Tell your team, so they know to peel for you and/or guard you.
  • Prompt your teammates for information. Let's say you've won the fight for the middle turret in Alderaan Civil War and you don't see any more enemies incoming. Where else are they likely to hit? Your other turret, obviously. Ask, "How is east flag?" and find out where your team needs to be.
  • Don't be afraid to prompt your team to do something (eg. "Call those incs, communication wins games", "Pass, I'm above you", "run ahead of me so I can throw it"). 

2. Late communication. You need to get into the habit of calling out information early - if you're wrong, you can always amend what you've said.

  • As soon as you see enemies approaching, the first thing you do is call it out to your team. If you are killed and afterwards type "there are two at east turret", you've waited too long. No one can possibly respond to your message in time to save the turret. You've given good information, but it was too late for anyone to use.
  • Similarly, if your side on Voidstar is being demolished, take the 1.5 seconds it takes to type "left help". I can assure you the extra GCD you lost will not have turned the tide for your team if you needed to call for help in the first place.
  • Did you just clear out your objective? Tell your team immediately (eg. "east turret clear"). Don't wait for someone to ask you. If you don't tell your team, they may continue sending players to help you, leaving another node undefended.

3. Inaccurate communication. Sometimes what you've said makes no sense or doesn't tell your team anything. Be precise.

  • State your position, amount of opposition, and urgency of situation. (eg. "2 inc east I am alone") Stay away from one word remarks that contain none of these (eg. "stealther". This doesn't tell your team anything meaningful).
  • Be as accurate as possible when calling numbers because other players on your team will make decisions based on your information. Do not exaggerate. Don't say "THEIR WHOLE TEAM IS AT EAST TURRET" if there are only 6 of them there.
  • Did you make a bad call? Did you say an objective was clear, but then two operatives appeared out of nowhere and introduced you to the pointy end of their vibroknives? Call this immediately. Your team will be making decisions based on this info, and they need to know you need help. And no, you won't be able to solo the two operatives.|

4. Meaningless communication. We've all done it. We've all sung "What is Love" into Ventrilo, or complained about a particular class in ops chat. It's best to know when to back down. I'm not saying "don't have fun", just know when to switch to the business at hand.

  • If someone is trying to talk in Ventrilo and you're not saying anything important, let them speak. If they don't start speaking again, prompt them to start or ask them what they just said.
  • Similarly, try not to spam ops chat about how Scoundrels are so OP, or about how you are eating pizza right now. People need to see important information, too.
  • If you're trying to relay important info via ops chat and there is a lot of chatter going on, consider sending the message twice: you can hit enter to open the chat prompt and then the up arrow key to populate the message you just sent. Hit enter again to send.

These are the basic mistakes that people make with regards to communication - hopefully you find these helpful and pass on these tips to your guild! As always, I welcome any feedback you may have.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Gear Selection: Tanking or DPS gear for PvP tanking?

A lot of people have asked me about how defensive stats work in PvP, and whether they are worth it if you want to tank in PvP. Here is a link to what is, in my opinion, the best explanation, from the wonderful Taugrim:

If you're not familiar with our defensive stats, here is a previous post of mine explaining what each of them does. I recommend you read that first, if you aren't familiar with them.

To summarize the information for you:

Attack Types:

There are four ATTACK TYPES: Melee, Ranged, Force and Tech.

You can only shield and defend against MELEE and RANGED attacks. Every class in the game has at least one Force or Tech attack.

Some classes are more reliant on Melee and Ranged attacks than others: for example, Immortal and Vengeance Juggernauts; Annihilation and Carnage Marauders; Marksmanship Snipers (and their Republic mirror classes).

Damage Types:

There are four DAMAGE TYPES: Elemental, Energy, Internal, and Kinetic.

The damage type does not determine if you can shield or defend against an attack, but armor reduces damage from Energy and Kinetic attacks. You can also, via skills, get Damage Reduction to specific types of damage.


Pros to wearing tanking gear:

  • Tanking stats may not be amazing in PvP, but they do have an impact, allowing you to stretch survivability to the maximum
  • Tanking gear has more Endurance anyways

Cons to wearing tanking gear:

  • Reduced damage output
  • Tanking stats (besides endurance of course) are completely useless against specific opponents, like sorcerers.
Class-specific Information:

Immortal Juggernauts and Defense Guardians received a sizeable single-target damage buff in 1.2 since they can now gain access to Single Saber Mastery in Soresu Form. They also can use Vicious Throw earlier (at 30% health instead of 20%). Because of this, DPS gear is really personal preference for Juggernauts who are tanking in PvP.

Currently, Assassins and Shadows can get away with wearing a lot of DPS gear while tanking because, more than any other tank, they can choose when and whom to engage. In addition, they are naturally the highest-damage single-target tank in the game. 

Powertechs and Vanguards can mix and match with a good deal of success, but again this is mostly personal preference.

My verdict:

Wearing actual tanking gear is worth it, if you want to make tanking your primary focus. It does give you a survivability edge.

If you're queuing solo all the time, you may do better in DPS gear.

Community Spotlight: Trooper Commando

That uniform is only regulation on Hutta. Maybe not even on Hutta, actually.
This is the first installment of what will be a recurring feature on Thrown Gauntlet. Each week I'll be looking at a site that supports the Star Wars: The Old Republic community, be it a blog, podcast, information database, or otherwise. My hope is to point people to other websites they may also enjoy and to bring the SW:TOR blogging community closer together.

Trooper Commando bills itself as "your guide to SWTOR end-game", and it is exactly that. There are many things that I enjoy about the site, but let me highlight a few for you.
  • The boss fight videos. Not only are they clear and easy to watch (check them out here), you get something in their accompanying article that I very much value, having led raids in the past: the 5-second recap. These guides are invaluable and I definitely recommend you take a look!
Every raid leader has done this, but usually you don't have it written down in front of you and it sounds a lot less coherent.

  • Timeliness of information. Accomp, the site's admin, is part of a raiding guild which recently was selected for guild testing on the PTS. This meant that he was able to provide guides to Explosive Conflict, the new raid, based on testing he had done with his guild. Having the information on Day 1 that the patch goes live makes the site an invaluable resource.
  • Dedication to improvement. Accomp is continually seeking ways to improve the site, asking for feedback and encouraging discussion. He's always willing to take feedback and integrate that into the site.

  • Contests! Accomp has a promotion going on right now where you could win a code for a Taun Fawn pet for doing nothing more than being a member and being active on the Trooper Commando website. Go check it out!
In summary - Trooper Commando is already a great resource for Operations guides and commentary, and should only improve. I highly recommend you check out the site for yourself and that you follow Accomp's twitter account, @troopercommando.

Have a website you think I should look at, or that you think should be in the spotlight? Let me know at, or let me know on my Twitter account, @ThrownGauntlet. I'm always looking for new blogs, resources and fansites to review!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

A look at Ask Mr. Robot's combat log feature

I finally got the chance to dive into the new operation last night. Check out these awesome guides by Trooper Commando if you're going to be diving in yourself. Had we made more progress, I'd probably be writing an article about the operation itself. That's the bad news - we didn't make it very far. It wasn't because of the guides, though.

Here's how to enable it in-game.
The good news is that, thanks to Ask Mr. Robot's new combat log tool, we were able to find out why. If you want to do this, you'll first need to enable combat logging from your preferences menu. Be advised that this can decrease system performance. I didn't notice any slowdown myself, but my system is fairly robust when compared to the system requirements.

Mr. Robot recommends that your entire operations group disable and then enable the in-game combat logging feature at the start of a raid to ensure that your timestamps more or less match up.

Once you're done the raid, you need to head to There, you'll be able to upload your combat log, which is stored in My Documents/Star Wars: The Old Republic/CombatLogs by default.

Once you've selected the log, it is crucial that you fill out the rest of the information it asks you for (character, server name, guild name, time zone) appropriately. We had an issue where one of our guild members uploaded the log but with the wrong time zone - as a result, Mr. Robot did not know that they were in combat at the same time as us, and the logs looked strange. If you have any issues, you can head to There is plenty of support available and you can even ask Mr. Robot directly if you still need help.

After that, Mr. Robot will look to see if similar logs have been uploaded by the rest of your raid. If so, you'll have the option to merge into those logs, so all the data will be in the same place.

Once everyone's uploaded and merged, you've got yourself an in-depth look at what happened in your raid.

Example log, courtesy of Ask Mr. Robot
I'm quite impressed with the detail and flexibility, and based on Mr. Robot's past track record I have no doubt that this feature will only become better with time.

The only issue I had was that we could only have one person merging at a time, which meant that it took a bit of time to get it done. Again, I have no doubts this will be addressed an improved, given time. UPDATE: I've received word from the official Mr. Robot twitter that the one-merge-at-a-time issue is being addressed already! Can't wait to test the new version!

Overall, a great start by Mr. Robot, and when more functionality is added and it is optimized for multiple merges, I bet it will be one of the go-to tools for SWTOR combat logging.

Friday, 13 April 2012

My custom Darth Revan appearance

Since all gear added in 1.2 (War Hero and Campaign gear) will carry the set bonus on the armoring slot, I decided I would begin work on a Darth Revan custom appearance.

I would be lying to you if I said I wasn't a Revan fanboy to a certain extent. When I logged on after Patch 1.2 was implemented and found that my Champion War Leader's Headgear was showing under the hood of the robe I had saved (Primeval Paragon's Body Armor), I emitted a squee born of the nerdiest kind of joy imaginable.

The helmet clips a bit, but it's still squee-worthy. This is the /inquisitor emote.

This is definitely still a work in progress and, as such, any input or tips on possible items to use is certainly appreciated. Please note that I am a Juggernaut, and I want this appearance to be functional, so medium and light armor are out of the question for me.

I'd also like to clarify that since most of this gear isn't craftable, you will not be able to take advantage of augment slots for the moment. Bioware has stated that we will be getting a way to add augment slots to existing gear in the future, so it doesn't hurt to start working on your set now.

Having said that, here is what I've used for the essential bits of the costume:

Head Slot: Champion War Leader's Headgear

In my estimation, this is the most Revan-like headpiece available. In fact, I think the model is actually the same as the one used for his actual mask in-game, it's just re-textured.

The Vindicator (DPS) version of the Champion helmet looks the same. Unfortunately, Champion items are no longer available, so you can't go get this one if you don't already have it. The Recuit War Leader's Headgear looks the same, but is not fully customizable.

Chest Slot: Primeval Paragon's Body Armor

Robes. Heavy armor. The two things don't converge as often as I would like, and so this item is the one being used. Having said that, it actually looks pretty close, although Revan's chest has what appear to be banded armor plates on it and this has a more "body armor" look to it.

Both this, and the DPS equivalent (Primeval Vindicator's Body Armor) are purchased with Corellia commendations. I prefer this version to the DPS equivalent, because the Vindicator's has a grey stripe down the back that looks strange and out of place.

Leg Slot: Sith Archon's Greaves

These are the most ornate-looking robe leg-slot item I could find. The bottom of Revan's robe is actually pretty plain-looking, except for the huge buckle (which will hopefully be implemented in some form or another as a belt eventually). By default they are red, but if you unify to chestpiece, they become black but with a red accent on the back and sides (see the image at the top of this post). You don't see the back and sides most of the time except when falling or jumping, due to the chestpiece I've used.

There are other items you could substitute here, but I found these worked the best. This, however, is a random world drop, so it may be difficult to come by. Check the GTN on your server, sometimes you can score them for cheap.

Leg Slot Special Mention: Prototype Sund Tech Chancery Legwraps

These aren't heavy armor and they aren't customizable, but I mention them because they are obviously patterned after Revan's lower robe section. I've included some screenshots of them so you can see what I mean. Hopefully we one day get a heavy armor customizable version.

Hands Slot: Sith Archon's Handgear

Finally found a glove slot that I don't hate. I'm using the Sith Archon's Handgear, color-matched to chest:

I think they're simple enough to work. They are red by default, so I couldn't leave them as-is. Revan's actual gloves are more bronze-colored, but they have a similar look (plate over the back of the hand). I'll keep my eyes open.

Feet Slot: Undecided

Revan is normally depicted wearing pretty unremarkable gloves and you don't usually see much of Revan's boots. For practical reasons, I'll be wearing short boots if possible with this outfit, as the Battlemaster boots clip through the robe when I run. The Sith Archon's boots are a possibility, but they don't color match very well.

Any tips here are appreciated!

Belt: Ugh.

If they would make a belt slot item that looked like the waist on Revan's robe, I'd be set:

Unfortunately, I'm not holding my breath. For the moment, customizable belts are also the exception, not the rule. A Jugg can dream, though.

For the moment, I'm using the Champion War Leader's Belt with unify to chest.

Weapon: Elegant Modified Lightsaber [Augmented], Red Lightsaber Crystal

                                                Revan saber.jpg

Above is a prop of Darth Revan's lightsaber. As you can see, it is very simple, and so I've used a simple hilt. It doesn't hurt that it has an augment slot in it. The schematic has a chance to drop from lockboxes and from Treasure Hunting, I believe. The only real reason to craft this weapon is in hopes of critting to get the augment slot - otherwise, it's just an orange shell.


Well, that's where I've gotten so far. If you have any tips on usable items or have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments!

My Reaction to Taugrim's View of Patch 1.2 PvP Changes

If you don't already check out Taugrim's stuff, I highly recommend you do. He has an made an extremely insightful post that I think is pretty much spot on regarding class balance in PvP in 1.2.

While I think the rest of Patch 1.2 is overwhelmingly positive, the class balance changes worry me. As pointed out by Taugrim, the "Time to Kill" (or TTK) has dropped substantially since the patch. The combination of healer nerfs, Sentinel/Marauder buffs (an extremely popular class now) and changes to Resilience and how it affects healing are, in my opinion, the likely culprits. Here's my comment over on Taugrim's blog:
I agree pretty much across the board. Time to kill is significantly shorter and it has a seriously negative impact on classes that aim to protect or heal others. I am still shocked that Sentinels/Marauders were buffed, and I wonder idly if the buffs to them are not partially responsible for the dramatic reduction in TTK. 
I can’t see how Bioware will let this stand, though, as it runs counter to what they had stated as their PvP goals before release. Unless, of course, those goals have changed.
I honestly do hope that Bioware re-evaluates these changes, but only time will tell. It would definitely be nice to know if they've decided to go in a different direction with PvP, though I seriously hope this isn't the case.

How are you finding PvP and, specfically, TTK in Patch 1.2?