UPDATE (2012/07/03): I am well aware that the calculator links are broken. The problem is that the torhead calculator is broken – it lists the trees in the wrong order. I am not going to update the links until torhead fixes their calculator. With my full-time job and limited free time, I simply don’t have the time to workaround someone else’s bug.
This Guide provides in-depth information on the Bounty Hunter Powertech and Trooper Vanguard advanced classes (AC) in Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). This Guide has been updated for Patch 1.3.
The Powertech and Vanguard ACs are mirrors of one another: the ability tooltips and talent trees are identical. As such, I am covering both ACs together in one Guide.
For ease of reading, whenever mentioning a Powertech ability or talent I will also provide the Vanguard mirror in parentheses.
Please post your feedback, tips, and questions!
The first version of this Guide was posted on January 4, 2012. Here is the change log for recent revisions:
- July 01, 2012: updated for patch 1.3. Removed “Iron Fist” from the list of recommended builds
- April 27, 2012: fix spec links for PVE tank
- April 26, 2012: added links for 31/10/0 tank spec
- April 23, 2012: fixed typo about pull and root effects and Resolve
- Apr 18, 2012: added links to TheOpf’s post on Advanced Prototype (Tactics). Fixed typos. Updated gear tiers
Table of Contents
- Advanced Class Overview and Playstyle
- Talent Tree and Stance Overview
- Talent Tree Analysis
- Heat (Ammo) Mechanics
- Damage Mechanics
- Defense Mechanics
- Crowd Control and Debuff Mechanics
- Mobility and CC Counter Mechanics
- DPS Rotation
- Recommended Specs
- Stat Prioritization
- Gear Recommendations
- Narrated Gameplay Videos
- About the Author
1. Advanced Class Overview and Playstyle
Powertech (Vanguard) is the “can-tank” AC for the Bounty Hunter (Trooper) base class.
Players often ask which they should play: Powertech (Vanguard) or Mercenary (Commando).
You should roll Powertech (Vanguard) if:
- You are comfortable engaging in near-quarters (0-10m) combat
- You want to maximize your ability to control casters and healers with interrupts
- You want to have tools to close gaps to opponents and to increase your in-combat movement speed
- You want to tank in PVE and in PVP. By tanking in PVP, I mean that you want to be able to Guard a friendly target, which redirects 50% of the incoming damage from them to you, and be able to Taunt opponents to debuff their damage on your friendlies. With the changes in 1.3, please note that tank damage is down significantly in PVP
You should roll Mercenary (Commando) if:
- You want to be able to meaningfully heal yourself and your friendlies
- You want to beef up your 30m RDPS capability
- You want the option of playing a cast-time nuking spec, Arsenal (Gunnery)
- You prefer to have abilities that keep opponents at range (e.g. knockbacks)
I’m a huge fan of melee strafing, i.e. running circles around stationary targets to break their Line of Sight (LoS) to lower their offensive and defensive capability, and kite-strafing MDPS while I burn them down, so Powertech (Vanguard) fits my preferred playstyle.
2. Talent Tree and Stance Overview
The AC has 3 talent trees from left-to-right, 1 for tanking and 2 for DPS:
- Shield Tech (Shield Specialist): this is the tanking tree. As you’d expect, this is the tree to spec into for PVE tanking; there are talents that boost durability via Armor-based mitigation, flat mitigation, increased Shield Chance / Shield Absorption, etc. This tree provides utility in PVP including an in-combat charge, debuffs, a proc-snare effect, and buffs to our melee attack. The main downside to this tree is that your burst and sustained damage is significantly lower compared to the other 2 trees
- Advanced Prototype (Tactics): this DPS tree provides a passive movement buff, an on-demand movement buff that provides movement-related CC immunity, excellent short-range (0-10m) capability, increased Elemental and Internal damage, crit mechanics, passive Heat venting (Ammo regen), strong CC capability, and 2 snares. This tree lacks the durability of the tank tree and the ranged capability of the Pyrotech (Assault Specialist) tree
- Pyrotech (Assault Specialist): this DPS tree provides mechanics that revolve around a proc-reset for the cooldown of Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt) and strong Elemental Damage Over Time (DoT) damage and related damage buffs. This tree provides the strongest > 10m ranged capability of the trees, a spammable snare effect, high sustained damage, and excellent burst via the talent to reset the cooldown of Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt). The main downside to this tree is the lack of a charge / sprint
Before discussing the trees further, it’s important to understand the 3 “stances” that the AC can choose from. Each stances provide benefits that synergize with a particular talent tree:
- Ion Gas Cylinder (Ion Cell): this tanking stance provides increased threat, mitigation, and shield chance and a damage proc for ranged attacks. You must be using this stance to activate the Guard ability
- Energy Gas Cylinder (High Energy Cell): this DPS stance increases your Elemental and Internal damage, which are not mitigated by armor
- Combustible Gas Cylinder (Plasma Cell): this DPS stance provides a chance for ranged attacks to proc a 6-sec Elemental DoT
Note that unlike the other “can-tank” ACs, switching stances for Powertech (Vanguard) requires a 1.5 sec cast time. For the most part, you’ll spec for and use a particular stance.
3. Talent Tree Analysis
Instead of breaking down every talent, let me short-circuit that by explaining the talents you can pass or should pass on.
Shield Tech (Shield Specialist)
- Combust (Static Field) is must-have for PVE tanking. While the debuff is nice for PVP, this talent should be skipped for DPS specs
- Rebraced Armor is must-have for PVE tanking. For PVP, you can skip this talent as it buffs Armor, which only works for 2 of the 4 damage types
- Shield Vents (Shield Cycler) is must-have for PVE but for PVP 1/2 is fine given the internal cooldown and because Shield is a weak mechanic in PVP. See the Defense Mechanics section for the limitations of Shield
- Ablative Upgrades (Ceramic Plating) is should-have for PVE but should be skipped for PVP
- No Escape (Defensive Measures) can be skipped for PVE but is must-have for PVP
- Supercharged Ion Gas (Supercharged Ion Cell) is must-have for PVE (AOE threat), but can be skipped for PVP
- Ion Screen (Ion Shield) is must-have for PVE. Given the weakness of the Shield mechanic in PVP, this is a solid choice for PVP as well
- Jet Speed (Charge!) is must-have for PVP
- Empowered Tech (Counterattack) and Power Screen (Heat Screen) are must-have for PVE. For PVP tanks, only take these talents if you are trying to reach the 31-pt ability Energy Blast (Heat Blast)
Advanced Prototype (Tactics)
- Prototype Electric Surge (Containment Tactics) is not needed for PVE, but it’s solid for PVP prior to getting the AOE stun at 46. At 46+ for PVP, take your pick of this talent or Power Armor in the next tier
- Prototype Cylinders (Blaster Augs) is an excellent talent when running Energy Gas Cylinder (High Energy Cell) or Combustible Gas Cylinder (Plasma Cell) but is optional if you’re using Ion Gas Cylinder (Ion Cell)
- Power Armor is very good for PVE tanking. For PVP it’s a solid choice, as it provides 2% mitigation against all damage types
- If you are running Energy Gas Cylinder (High Energy Cell): the Pneumatic Boots (Battlefield Training) is must-have for PVP, and for PVE and PVP, Prototype Cylinder Ventilation (Cell Generator) is must-have
- Serrated Blades + Charged Gauntlets (Combat Tactics): this is a controversial choice for PVP. Serrated Blades only buffs the DoT portion of Retractable Blade (Gut) by 15%, so that’s a poor ROI for 3 talent points. Charged Gauntlets (Combat Tactics) is a good talent, but keep in mind that unless you spec 18 points into Pyrotech (Assault Specialist), you’re only going to be able to use Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt) at most once every 15 seconds. For this reason for a heavy Advanced Prototype (Tactics) build (i.e. > 23 points) I recommend skipping these talents
- Prototype Flame Thrower (Pulse Generator) is a must-have for PVP due to the 70% snare. As of patch 1.3, the snare effect is now working correctly for Vanguard
- Hamstring is worth the point if you invested up through Charged Gauntlets (Combat Tactics)
- Hydraulic Overrides (Hold the Line) is must-have for PVP but can be skipped for PVE
- Stabilized Armor (Shock Absorbers) is a decent talent for PVP but should be skipped for PVE
Pyrotech (Assault Specialist)
- Integrated Cardio Package (Soldier’s Endurance) is a good talent for PVE tanking. For PVP, if you are investing 18 points in the tree to get Prototype Particle Accelerator (Ionic Accelerator) talent but are not using Combustible Gas Cylinder (Plasma Cell), this talent makes sense to take so that you don’t waste talent points in Bursting Flame (Ionized Ignition)
- Gyroscopic Alignment Jets (Parallactic Combat Stims) should be skipped for PVE DPS. For PVP, it is a useful talent for managing Heat (Ammo)
- Infrared Sensors (Nightvision Scope) should be skipped for PVE. For PVP, this provides not only better Stealth San capability but also increased avoidance against Melee and Ranged attacks (but not against Force or Tech attacks)
- Degauss should be skipped for PVE. For PVP, Degauss adds a root/snare-breaking effect to Energy Shield (Reactive Shield) which is situationally useful. That being said, my experience is that Infrared Sensors (Nightvision Scope) provides better utility in PVP, so I take that talent over Degauss to open up the 4th tier of the tree
- Rapid Venting (Rapid Recharge) is valuable in PVE for sustained DPS in long boss fights. It is also a very good choice for PVP
- Energy Rebounder (Reflexive Shield) should be skipped for PVE but is useful for PVP. Given the internal cooldown, you get the most bang for your buck at 1 talent point. In a premade context with a pocket healer, you can pass on this talent
- You can skip Automated Defenses (Adrenaline Fueled)
- Thermal Detonator (Assault Plastique) should be taken for full 31+ builds. Keep in mind that this ability replaces the base Explosive Dart (Sticky Grenade) and they share the 15-sec cooldown
4. Heat (Ammo) Mechanics
The “mana” bar for the AC goes different directions depending on your faction but they are functionally equivalent:
- For Powertech, Heat builds up as you use abilities
- For Vanguard, Ammo cells are consumed as you use abilities
The most important thing to understand about our “mana” bar is that it depletes (regens) at a non-linear rate, where the less mana you have the slower it regenerates. This is a rather unique mechanic, and the implication is that if you spam mana-heavy abilities, you will bury yourself in a resource deficit. Therefore, you want to manage your ability use carefully.
To see the rates of heat venting (ammo regen), mouse over the >>>> mini-bar to the right of your resource bar while using abilities.
We have an on-demand ability on a base 2 min cooldown called Vent Heat (Recharge Cells) that will lower your heat (regen ammo).
At level 42, we get the ability Thermal Sensor Override (Reserve Powercell) that causes the next ability to not generate Heat (not consume Ammo). For maximum mana efficiency, activate TSO (RP) before a 25 Heat (3 Ammo) ability.
There are talents that boost your ability to vent Heat (regen Ammo) or reduce the cost of specific abilities:
- Shield Tech (Shield Specialist): Shield Vents (Shield Cycler) provides a chance to vent 8 Heat (regens 1 Ammo) when you shield an attack. The 31-pt ability is off the global cooldown and vents 8 Heat (regens 1 Ammo)
- Advanced Prototype (Tactics): Prototype Cylinder Ventilation (Cell Generator) vents 8 Heat (regens 1 Ammo) every 6 seconds and is awesome. Battering Ram (Flame Barrage) can make your next Rocket Punch (Stockstrike) free
- Pyrotech (Assault Specialist): this tree has two excellent mana tools that revolve around Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt). Superheated Rails (High Friction Bolts) halves the cost of Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt). Prototype Particle Accelerator (Ionic Accelerator) makes the next Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt) free. Gyroscopic Alignment Jets (Parallactic Combat Stims) vents 8 Heat (regens 1 Ammo) every time you are stunned, rooted, knocked down, or incapacitated
Post-Patch 1.2 Note for Pyrotech (Assault Specialist)
Prior to 1.2, to apply a burn effect on a target within 10 meters, it made sense to use Ion Pulse (Flame Burst) instead of Incendiary Round (Incendiary Missile), because Ion Pulse delivered more damage in a shorter timeframe, cost less mana, applied a snare effect, and could trigger the Accelerator talent to make the subsequent High Impact Bolt (Rail Shot) free.
However, in Patch 1.2, an internal 6-sec cooldown was added to the Accelerator talent, so you want to trigger the proc only when your High Impact Bolt (Rail Shot) has been used and is on cooldown. Remember, even if your High Impact Bolt (Rail Shot) is not on cooldown, by using Ion Pulse (Flame Burst) or Stockstrike (Rocket Punch), you can trigger the Accelerator talent.
Therefore, in some cases you may want to open on a target with Incendiary Round (Incendiary Missile) on your target instead of Ion Pulse (Flame Burst), despite the higher mana cost.
5. Damage Mechanics
The AC delivers a combination of the following damage types:
- Elemental damage
- Kinetic damage
- Weapon damage (always Energy AFAIK)
Elemental damage rocks because it is not mitigated by armor, and as our Elemental attacks are Tech-based, they are not Dodgeable nor Shieldable. If you’ve read my PVP Guides across games (e.g. WoW Prot Pally, WAR Swordmaster), I prefer “non-physical” damage types because they make targets feel equally squishy in terms of your damage output.
At level 10, the AC gets the core 10m ranged Elemental attack Flame Burst (Ion Pulse). Many of the talents in the non-tanking trees revolve around this ability, so we tend to deal our best single-target damage when within 10m of a target. The Pyrotech (Assault Specialist) tree provides strong Elemental DoT capability via Combustible Gas Cylinder (Plasma Cell) procs and Incendiary Missile (Incendiary Round).
As a Bounty Hunter (Trooper), we have two channeled AoE abilities: Death From Above (Mortar Volley) and Flame Thrower (Pulse Cannon). Flame Thrower (Pulse Cannon) is a 10m conal AoE which deals solid single-target damage, and you can rotate your character while channeling the ability the change the direction of the cone. FT (PC) is very effective against targets that are on a stationary object (e.g. a node) or are not moving. In Patch 1.2 FT (PC) when talented and stacked to 5 buffs also applies a 70% snare effect during the channel.
We have an excellent 30m ranged burst ability in Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt). This ability has a 15 sec cooldown, which can be reset via the Prototype Particle Accelerator (Ionic Accelerator) talent. The most important talents for buffing the damage on a RS (HIB) cast are the 60% armor penetration in the middle tree and the 30% armor penetration 12-pt talent in the right tree – and these armor penetration talents stack additively.
There is a delay before the damage from Explosive Dart (Sticky Grenade) triggers, but in PVP this is awesome as you’ll generate spike damage from the damage trigger plus other abilities.
At level 50 we get an on-demand buff ability called Explosive Fuel (Battle Focus) that boosts Ranged Crit Chance and Tech Crit Chance by 25% for 15 sec. EF (BF) and the on-demand buffs from Relics are off the GCD, and they stack together, so you can pop EF (BF) and a Relic to maximize your DPS and burst. Relics do share an internal cooldown so you can’t activate them together or chain them.
Per the class mechanics, there are a few abilities that you should be careful about using:
- Flame Sweep (Explosive Surge): this PBAoE ability has high “mana” cost and low damage output without talents in the tanking tree. For AoE damage situations, DFA (MV) and FT (PC) are typically better options in terms of damage. The use cases for this ability are for tank-spec’d players to debuff the damage of multiple opponents, to damage opponents trying to cap a flag, or to build up to 5 stacks of Prototype Flame Thrower (Pulse Generator). Also note that the range of the PBAoE is 5m, so your targets need to be near-melee range
- Missile Blast (Explosive Round): this instant-cast ranged AoE ability deals low damage relative to the high “mana” cost so don’t spam it. It is an effective tool for preventing a node cap, especially when you are closing the distance to multiple opponents capping a node.
- Unload (Full Auto): this is a channeled 3-sec ability. As discussed above, this is a highly-mobile spec that tends to be most effective when within 10m of your target. This ability is a long self-root and it can be interrupted. There is only 1 talent across all 3 trees that buffs this ability, and that’s in the Pyrotech (Assault Specialist) tree. The main use case where this ability makes sense is when you are at long-range from a target who will remain in your field-of-fire for 3 seconds and your Explosive Dart (Sticky Grenade) and Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt) are on cooldown
6. Defense Mechanics
Avoidance and Mitigation
This section is a sub-set of the information that I provided in a separate article, so check that article out for more detail than what is provided below.
Here are the terms defined:
- Avoidance: not being hit
- Mitigation: reducing damage taken when hit
First is a hit roll, accuracy versus defense, and if the attacker misses then no damage occurs. If the attacker rolled poorly enough to miss even discounting the target’s defense then a “Miss” result occurs. If he misses because of the defense then the result varies based on the attack type, the cover state of the target, and the target’s equipped weapons. All the possible results – Dodge, Parry, Deflect, Resist, Cover – are mathematically the same, but they can trigger different effects and are visualized in different ways.
If the attacker hits, then a second roll is made with the crit chance of the attacker versus the shield chance of the target. If a Crit or a Shield occurs then the damage is adjusted up or down (based on Surge/Absorb), and then it goes through to the armor and damage resistance. A critical can never be shielded, and an attacker with a high enough crit chance can push the target’s shield chance off the table. It shouldn’t be possible to get your passive crit chance high enough to start pushing off the target’s shield chance, but there are short-duration buffs that push these chances high enough to come into conflict.
There are 3 categories of Avoidance as captured in the Defence Chance tooltip:
- Melee Dodge: base of 5%, boosted by Defense, talents, and buffs
- Ranged Dodge: base of 5%, boosted by Defense, talents, and buffs
- Resistance: base of 0%, boosted by talents and buffs. This is against spells
There are several categories of Mitigation:
- Damage Reduction: provided by Armor against Energy and Kinetic damage, flat damage reduction via talents, Expertise, and the tanking stance, and a bubble in Energy Shield (Reactive Shield)
- Shield Chance / Shield Absorption: provided when you have a Shield offhand equipped and successfully Shield an attack that hit. The amount of damage mitigated (absorbed) is based on the offhand (e.g. 20%) and talents in the tanking tree
SWTOR’s Shield functions similarly to WoW’s Block or RIFT’s Block mechanic. The main difference is that in SWTOR you don’t have to keep oppponents in your frontal facing to Shield.
The important thing to understand are which types of attacks are Avoidable and Shieldable and which are not. There are 4 types of attacks: Force, Melee, Ranged, and Tech. Melee and Ranged types are Avoidable and Shieldable, whereas Force and Tech attacks are not. This is consistent with other games such as WoW and RIFT, where “spell” attacks are not dodgeable / parryable and not blockable. That being said, the main consideration for SWTOR is that all classes have either Force or Tech attacks. Therefore, you may not get as much mileage out of your Avoidance and Shield-related talents as you might expect. E.g. the melee stun and melee attack for the Imperial Agent (Smuggler) class are Tech and therefore given sufficient accuracy will always hit.
The AC has an on-demand mitigation bubble in Energy Shield (Reactive Shield), and the ability is off the GCD. This ability provides 25% mitigation against all damage types for 12 sec, so it’s important to activate it as soon as you start taking focus fire or you may die before the bubble expires.
You can reduce damage to friendlies, that is Protect them, by using Taunts and by Guarding them.
Taunts reduce the damage on debuffed opponents by 30% against anyone except you. The single-target Taunt is called Neural Dart (Neural Jolt) and the AOE Taunt is Sonic Missile (Sonic Round). Taunts are off the GCD so use them liberally.
SWTOR has thankfully implemented the Guard mechanic from WAR :)
Guard is a buff you can put on a friendly player when you’re in the tanking stance. Guard provides a flat 5% mitigation for the guarded friendly, and 50% of the incoming damage is redirected to you. This is an excellent tool for keeping your guarded target (e.g. a healer, flag carrier, etc) alive under focus fire.
The main catch with Guard is that you have to be in the tanking stance, and keep in mind the following:
- Unlike the other 2 tank AC mirrors, we can not switch stances instantly. We have a 1.5-sec cast time. As this AC relies heavily on a mobile playstyle and staying within 10m of your target in most situations, stopping to switch stances may not always be ideal
- If you invested talent points in the non-tanking stances, those talent points are not leveraged when you are in the tanking stance
Stealth detection is provided by the Stealth Scan ability, and it’s a terrific counter against an opponent who uses an in-combat stealth.
At level 32, we gain a mild Heal-over-Time (HoT) in Kolto Overload (Adrenaline Rush), which heals for 15% of the character’s maximum health. This ability is off the GCD.
For a detailed writeup on tanking, check out Gankstah’s excellent Tanking: A Primer thread on the SWTOR tanking forum.
7. Crowd Control and Debuff Mechanics
I recommend that you read my article, Understanding SWTOR’s Resolve Mechanic, so that you understand how Resolve works.
The AC as a variety of CC’s to work with regardless of spec:
- 30m range 4-sec stun in Electro Dart (Cryo Grenade) which has a 60 sec cooldown, 50 sec with Prototype Electro Surge (Containment Tactics)
- 30m range pull in Grapple (Harpoon) which has a 45 sec cooldown, 35 sec with Advanced Tools (Tactical Tools). You can add a 3-sec root effect with the tanking tree talent No Escape (Defensive Measures). Keep in mind the root effect does not build Resolve, but the pull builds 400 Resolve
- 4m range interrupt in Quell (Riot Strike) which has an 8-sec cooldown, 6 sec with Hitman (Frontline Defense). The interrupt locks the target out of using the interrupted spell for 4 sec. The interrupt is fantastic for shutting down healers and interrupting dangerous channeled abilities, and it’s off the GCD
- PBAoE 2.5-sec stun in Carbonize (Neural Surge) which has a 45-sec cooldown
In addition, there are tree-specific CC effects:
- 3-sec root effect and a ranged interrupt from the charge ability Jet Charge (Storm) in the tank tree
- 50% snare for 2 sec from the Neural Overload talent in the tank tree
- 30% snare for 6 sec from the Hamstring talent in the Advanced Prototype (Tactics) tree
- 70% snare on affected targets during the channel of Flame Thrower (Pulse Cannon) if you have the Prototype Flame Thrower (Pulse Generator) buff stacked to 5
- 50% snare for 2 sec from the Sweltering Heat talent in the Pyrotech (Assault Specialist) tree
The tank tree provides the following debuffs:
- a PBAoE debuff in Oil Slick (Smoke Grenade) that lowers Ranged and Melee Accuracy by 20% for 18 sec
- Flame Burst (Ion Pulse) and Flame Sweep (Explosive Surge) debuff the target’s damage by 4% for 15 sec
8. Mobility and CC Counter Mechanics
Mobility is king in PVP, even moreso given our 10m single-target mechanics and the design of the warzones, which have an emphasis on covering ground quickly.
There are talents that improve your mobility:
- Shield Tech (Shield Specialist) provides an in-combat charge called Jet Charge (Storm), which can be further talented to provide a 30% movement buff for 4 sec
- Advanced Prototype (Tactics) provides a passive 15% movement buff in Pneumatic Boots (Battlefield Training) and a 30% movement buff for 8 sec in Hydraulic Overrides (Hold the Line) that provides full immunity to movement-related CCs and knockbacks. You can use HO (HtL) as a CC breaker, and it has a relatively short 30-sec cooldown
When CC’d, we have the same base ability to break all CC effects in Tenacity (Determination) on a base 2-min cooldown that all classes get.
Aside from Tenacity, you can counter the following CC effects:
- Roots / snares / knockbacks with HO (HtL) and Jet Charge (Storm)
- Roots / snares with the Degauss talent for Energy Shield (Reactive Shield). The extent to which you can use this as a CC breaker depends on how many procs you get from Energy Rebounder (Reflexive Shield)
9. DPS Rotation
- Weave in Rapid Shots (Hammer Shot) as needed to keep your Heat low (Ammo high)
- Use Explosive Fuel (Battle Focus) as needed for the huge buff to Ranged and Tech Crit Chance
- Remember that we deliver our highest sustained single-target damage when <= 10m of our target, based on our class mechanics, so manage your distance to your target accordingly
In PVE against standard and weak mobs, Explosive Dart (Sticky Grenade) is a good damage + AOE knockdown, but remember that the AOE knockdown will disperse your targets.
If you are spec’d into Shield Tech (Shield Specialist), your Flame Sweep (Explosive Surge) is a good choice for PBAoE damage and debuffing your targets’ damage. The changes in 1.3 for the Flame Surge (Static Surge) talent now enable two mana-free casts of FS (ES) after using Jet Charge (Storm). In addition, Supercharged Ion Gas (Supercharged Ion Cylinder) provides AOE damage when using Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt).
Single-Target Rotation for 18+ in Pyrotech (Assault Specialist)
The #1 tip for maximizing your sustained and burst damage is using Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt) as often as possible. Therefore, when you are <= 10m to your target and Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt) is on cooldown, your priority is to proc a reset of its cooldown via Flame Burst (Ion Pulse) and Rocket Punch (Stockstrike).
- Apply a ranged DoT on your target. Due to the changes to the Prototype Particle Accelerator (Ionic Accelerator) talent in 1.2, you should use Flame Burst (Ion Pulse) to apply the DoT only if the Prototype Particle Accelerator (Ionic Accelerator) talent is on cooldown. Otherwise, apply the more expensive Incendiary Missile (Incendiary Round)
- Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt) – this will only cost a net of 8 Heat (1 Ammo) when the target is burning
- If you are > 10m from the target, Explosive Dart (Sticky Grenade) or the 31-pt replacement Thermal Detonator (Assault Plastique), otherwise use Flame Burst (Ion Pulse)
- Rocket Punch (Stockstrike) and Flame Burst (Ion Pulse) to try to proc the cooldown reset for Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt)
- If you get a cooldown reset for Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt), use it
- Rinse and repeat 4-6
Be very careful about spamming Incendiary Missile (Incendiary Round), as it is very expensive to cast.
I have played with 31-pt Pyrotech (Assault Specialist) specs, and while Thermal Detonator (Assault Plastique) is a good tool, after extensive testing in PVP and duels, I have come to the conclusion that TD (AP) should *not* be used in favor of FB (IP) or RP (SS) when Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt) is on cooldown, because RS (HIB) is king.
Single-Target Rotation for 31-pt Shield Tech (Shield Specialist)
Aside from Rocket Punch (Stockstrike), you want to use Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt) ASAP to get the 15-sec cooldown ticking.
Make sure to use Heat Blast (Energy Blast) for managing your mana, and as of 1.2 that ability is off the GCD so you can use it to provide some additional instant burst damage.
Aside from those abilities, here is the rotation:
- From range, Explosive Dart (Sticky Grenade)
- While closing to melee range, Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt) if possible, Rapid Shots (Hammer Shot) if not
- As soon as you close to melee range, Rocket Punch (Stockstrike) and when that’s on cooldown, Flame Burst (Ion Pulse) until you can Rocket Punch (Stockstrike) again
- Rinse and repeat
Single-Target Rotation for Advanced Prototype (Tactics) with < 18 points in Pyrotech (Assault Specialist)
Please see TheOpf’s post.
10. Recommended Specs
I intentionally put this section after all of the previous ones, to make sure you understand the mechanics of your class before copying someone else’s spec. Too often on the forums people ask for specs but don’t understand the mechanics and therefore how to play them correctly.
I cover several specs below in my narrated Spec Guide video, so check that out for more information.
Here is a list of some of the viable PVP specs from “left-to-right”:
- Tank: 31/10/0 Powertech (Vanguard) provides charge, Guard, solid melee capability, and excellent durability via passive mitigation. Limited ranged capability. In 1.2, Heat Blast (Energy Blast) was removed from the GCD. Empowered Tech (Counterattack) increases the chance to proc Shield Vents (Shield Cycler) and Flame Shield (Static Shield) to improve DPS
- TheOpf’s “NORS” (No Rail Shot): 8/31/2 Powertech (Vanguard): provides mobility, an emphasis on damage that ignores Armor, excellent CC capability, and passive mana management. For a comprehensive look at viable 8/31/2 specs, check out TheOpf’s thread on the BH forum.
- Run-and-Gun: 1/22/18 Powertech (Vanguard): blends the cooldown reset proc for Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt) with the in-combat sprint and short CC cooldowns of the middle tree. Oozo has created a series of videos on his blog for an almost identical 0/23/18 spec
- Controlled Burst DPS: 4/12/25 Powertech (Vanguard): blends high burst and sustained damage with max interrupt capability. This spec passes on Thermal Detonator (Assault Plastique), because within 10m TD (AP) competes with Rocket Punch (Stockstrike) and Flame Burst (Ion Pulse) for the GCD, and the latter abilities take priority due to their ability to reset the cooldown of Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt). Credit for this spec goes to Omegix, a kick-ass Vanguard on Ajunta Pall
- Full DPS: 4/6/31 Powertech (Vanguard): delivers the highest burst and sustained DPS for the AC at the cost of limited mobility. Fore more information, check out the blog article. There are many variants to this spec, e.g. 4/12/25, 5/5/31, 8/6/27, 8/8/25, etc.
Here is a list of some of the viable PVE specs from “left-to-right”:
- Main Tank: 31/7/3 Powertech (Vanguard): provides every Armor, Shield Chance, Shield Absorption, and 2% mitigation talent. Also delivers solid damage from Rocket Punch (Stockstrike) and Elemental attacks to boost threat generation
- DPS: 7/6/28 Powertech (Vanguard): delivers high sustained and burst damage with tools for managing your Heat (Ammo). The points in the 1st tier of the tree that boost Endurance are filler, as the other 3 options are talents more suited to PVP
11. Stat Prioritization
The “secondary” stats, with the exception of Power, have diminishing returns.
Check out tuskake’s post on the official forums for a chart and numbers. Here are the approximate “soft caps” for some of the secondary stats:
- Crit Rating: ~400
- Expertise: ~550
- Power: N/A, scales linearly
- Surge Rating: ~200 (chart for new scaling in 1.1.3)
Alacrity is similar to WoW’s Haste mechanic, and as the vast majority of your GCDs will be spent on instant-cast abilities, this stat is mostly wasted. Alacrity does shorten channeled ability cast times but all of our meaningful channeled abilities have significant cooldowns.
- Primary stats: Aim = Endurance, favor one over the other for damage vs time-to-live
- Secondary stats:
- DPS builds: Expertise > Power = Crit Rating > Surge Rating = Accuracy Rating
- Tank: Expertise > Defense Rating = Shield Rating > Power = Crit Rating > Surge Rating > Accuracy Rating
For specs with 18+ points in Pyrotech (Assault Spec), please note that Accuracy Rating is an important stat, and you should not replace what comes on PVP gear. You need that Accuracy to make sure your Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt) hits.
Expertise is useless in PVE.
- Primary stats: Endurance > Aim
- Secondary stats: Accuracy Rating (under Hit cap) > Shield Rating > Absorption Rating > Defense Rating > Power > Crit Rating > Surge Rating > Accuracy Rating (at/above Hit cap)
- Primary stats: Aim > Endurance
- Secondary stats: Accuracy Rating* (under Hit cap) > Power = Crit Rating > Surge Rating > Accuracy Rating (at/above Hit cap)
* Note: I have not tested yet to see whether Accuracy is worth stacking over the Hit cap to reduce your target’s defenses.
12. Gear Recommendations
There are 3 “tiers” of PVP gear
- Recruit: full set of purchasable blue gear for fresh 50 characters for ~320k credits
- Battlemaster: purchasable via normal Warzone commendations
- War Hero: purchaseable via Ranked Warzone commendations. The armor and weapon slots require that you trade-in the corresponding Battlemaster piece
There are 3 sets to consider for this AC (in alphabetical order) and their set bonuses:
- Combat Tech
- 2-pc: +0.5 seconds to duration of PBAoE stun, reduces CC breaker cooldown by 15 sec
- 4-pc: +15% Crit Chance to Rocket Punch (Stockstrike)
- 2-pc: N/A
- 4-pc: +15% Crit Chance to Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt)
- 2-pc: -1.5 second to cooldown for Heat Blast (Energy Blast) and Jet Charge (Storm)
- 4-pc: +5% damage while Guarding
Which 4-pc set bonus do you pursue? With Patch 1.3, the decision is simple and based on your primary tree:
- Shield Tech (Shield Specialist): Supercommando. Pre-1.3, I used to recommend swapping out the tank mods for DPS ones, but in 1.3, the style of play that makes sense for tanks is durable meatshield
- Advanced Prototype (Tactics): Combat Tech
- Pyrotech (Assault Specialist): Eliminator
Aside from the 4-pc set bonus, for a given slot take pieces based on the stat prioritization.
- If you are running the tanking stance, you can not Shield unless you have a Shield offhand equipped, so use a Shield offhand
- If you are not using the tanking stance, use a Generator offhand
13. Narrated Gameplay Videos
Writing Guides like this is part of what I contribute to the community. The other 2 major pieces of content that I provide are:
- Streaming live gameplay with commentary:
- Narrated videos on YouTube:
My narrated videos for this AC are included below in reverse-chronological order:
Avoiding False Accelerator Procs for Vanguard (Powertech) in SWTOR 1.2
In this video, I explain for Patch 1.2 how to avoid “false” procs for the Accelerator talent in the Assault Specialist (Pyrotech) tree for the Vanguard (Powertech) class.
4/6/31 All-Out DPS PVP Spec
This spec synergizes around the strong offensive capabilities of the Pyrotech (Assault Specialist) tree, in particular the mechanics for Rail Shot (High Impact Bolt) and Elemental damage.
Taugrim’s “Iron Fist” PVP Tank Spec (25/14/2)
I designed this spec after discerning the limitations of the Defense (avoidance) and Shield (block) mechanics for tanks in PVP. Mitigation is king in SWTOR; therefore the spec provides a significant amount of flat mitigation against all damage types.
The 4-pc Tech set bonus, Flame Shield (Static Shield) talent, and Flame Surge (Static Surge) talent synergize to generate a high frequency of high-damage Rocket Punch (Stockstrike) crits.
<3 this spec, it rocks :)
50 PVP Spec Guide
I discuss four PVP specs at level 50 in terms of their key talents, tradeoff decisions, and pros and cons.
Tips for Using the Ranged Pull Ability Grapple (Harpoon)
One of the best abilities of the AC is the ranged pull, which can be used to wreck enemy players and peel for friendlies.
Powertech PVP @ 20 as Advanced Prototype Spec in Huttball
In this PUG match I led all players with 273k damage, 51 kills, 23 killing blows, and 2 solo kills while using the tanking stance. Not that stats are the most important thing, but this gives you an idea of the offensive capability of the AC.
Vanguard PVP @ 14 as Tactics Spec in Alderaan
PUG match where I discuss the core class mechanics, match tactics, and combat tips.
14. About the Author
I’ve written Guides across multiple MMORPGs, including:
- RIFT Riftblade PVP Guide and M*A*S*H Melee Healer PVP Guide
- The stickied Protection Paladin Cataclysm PVP Guide on the WoW Pally forum. The copy of the Guide on my blog has ~1000 comments. During my time in Cataclysm, I was the only Prot Pally rated 2k+ in the 2v2 and 3v3 Arena brackets in my battlegroup
- Warhammer Online Swordmaster and Bright Wizard Guides and videos
- LOTRO Captain and Orc Reaver Guides and videos
GAMEBREAKER Host for “The Republic” SWTOR show: