Last Updated: 5/31/21
Table of Contents
About the Class
Darkness is the Assassin’s tank discipline. Of the three tank classes (Assassin, Juggernaut, Powertech), Assassin has arguably the most complex rotation due to the need to manage Dark Ward charges to maximize shield absorption and prioritizing DPS abilities to ensure full uptime of Shadow Protection stacks. With that said, their rotation is not overly complex. When played optimally, Assassins have the highest “burst mitigation” though are more prone to squishiness than their fellow tanks. However, for players that can skillfully use the Assassin’s incredibly powerful kit of defensive abilities, Assassins are the undisputed best tank class in the game currently.
Utility and Mobility
Assassins have strong utility. They can guard and taunt, they have a 4 second hard stun (Electrocute), an 8 second soft stun (Force Lift), an additional 2 second hard stun (Spike), Force Slow, tank classes can pull certain targets for positioning, all classes have Overload as a knockback, and they can apply melee/ranged accuracy and damage debuffs as well as a healing received debuff to targets.
Regarding mobility, Assassins have very strong mobility when needed. With one exception, all of their abilities are instant and can be used on the move. The exception is Depredating Volts, which Darkness uses in their rotation but can be used on the move. Assassins have a gap closer (Phantom Stride, though it is buggy when not on level terrain) and Darkness tanks have a pull ability, and Force Speed provides a great mobility boost on a very short cooldown (15 seconds with utility).
Assassins have the best survivability of any class in the game. They enjoy the largest and most powerful selection of defensive cooldowns, of which the most powerful are on a relatively short cooldown. Force Shroud can be used on a 1 minute cooldown to mitigate virtually all Force/Tech damage (and nearly all big hitting abilities in operations are Force/Tech) and/or to self-cleanse. With utilities, Force Cloak can be used every 1:15 to provide a shorter duration Force Shroud. Given these abilities (and more), Assassins are the best tanks due to their ability to cheese big hitting mechanics, and Assassin DPS players are the best emergency tanks for the same reason.
Role in Operations
Darkness should always be employed in situations that maximize the benefit provided by their defensive cooldowns (Force Shroud and Force Speed, primarily, though Deflection is very powerful in certain situations). Most of the time, this means they should be the main tank or if there are multiple bosses they should take the one more prone to predictable burst damage.
6.0 Impact on Discipline
Assassin was arguably the strongest overall class in the 5.x update cycle, so it’s not too surprising that it could only go down (somewhat) from there. Great options at both burst and sustained DPS, really strong DWT utility and defensives making them the best “emergency tank”, a very strong class in PVP, and boasting by far the best tank discipline in the game at that time, they had it all.
In the 6.0 cycle (6.1 as of this writing), Assassin has come down somewhat in the rankings. It is unclear where they will settle as we move further through the patch cycle, though early indications were that the DPS disciplines were somewhat underpowered and have received some slight buffs.
The biggest changes to the class relate primarily to the tweak to Phasing Phantasm utility. Prior to 6.0 this provided very frequent 60% damage absorption via Force Speed, making a 2.5s 60% absorb buff available every 15s (that is 20% uptime, which was crazy...and awesome). In 6.0 and moving forward, this utility is worthless for tanks and only provides a 25% buff for DPS.
As for Darkness tanking, the most notable change is the above-mentioned nerf to Force Speed as a defensive. This change alone drops the discipline back down to a level much more comparable with Juggernaut Immortal and Powertech Shield Tech. With regards to set bonus and tactical options, Assassin is similarly situated to other tank disciplines in that it has set bonus options that provide some benefit (but not a lot) and a mix of decent tactical options that provide helpful flexibility on some fights but lacking any overpowered options like some DPS and healer disciplines.
Early in the 6.0 content cycle, it appears that tanking balance will be much better as it was pre-5.0. As for Darkness, it should resemble its role prior to 5.0 as a tank discipline well suited to certain fights and especially good at tanking burst damage mechanics.
I usually take some combination of the following Utilities, though the optimal combination can change from fight to fight. As of 6.0, the tiers have been reorganized.
You must take 3 to advanced to Masterful.
Shapeless Spirit - As Darkness, reduces all damage taken while stunned by 30%. As Deception and Hatred, reduces the damage taken from area attacks by 30%.
Should always be taken by DPS players, as nearly every PVE encounter has some form of AoE damage. The utility is somewhat more situational for tanks as stuns are not always present. As a tank, I typically swap between this utility and taking Lambaste when this utility is not needed.
Lambaste - Increases the damage done by Lacerate by 25%.
A situational utility that can be helpful in increasing AoE DPS. I commonly take this utility as a Darkness tank as it lacks really strong AoE outside Wither.
Avoidance - Reduces the cooldown of Jolt by 2 seconds, Unbreakable Will by 30 seconds, and Force Speed for 5 seconds.
Previously a must-take in 5.X, this utility is much more situational due to the nerf to Phasing Phantasm in 6.0. I find myself typically choosing between this utility and Assassin’s Shelter as to whether a slight AoE group mitigation buff or increased uptime on mobility/interrupt/stun-breaker is more useful on a fight-by-fight basis.
Assassin’s Shelter - Mass Mind Control provides Assassin’s Shelter to all allies within range, excluding yourself, reducing the damage they take by 5% for the next 6 seconds and healing them for a small amount over the duration.
This utility can provide a marginal mitigation boost and AoE heal. The benefit it provides is minimal, so I only recommend considering in fight where there is heavy sustained AoE damage and where Force Cloak’s use for a more frequent mini-Force Shroud is unlikely to be helpful.
Electric Bindings - Overload unbalances its targets, immobilizing them for 5 seconds. Direct damage dealt after 2 seconds ends the effect prematurely.
Highly situational. This utility has limited applications in Hard and Nightmare Mode operations on several specific fights (e.g., Styrak Nightmare, Tyth Hard/Nightmare).
You must take 6 between Heroic and Masterful.
Audacity - Reduces the cooldown of Overload by 2.5 seconds and Recklessness grants 1 additional charge when activated.
Should always be taken by DPS players as it provides a strict DPS increase. Is not quite as mandatory for tanks though still increases DPS, though can and should be exchanged for another utility where mitigation (Assassin’s Shelter) or movement (Obfuscation) is more useful.
Fade - Reduces the cooldown of Force Cloak by 45 seconds and extends its duration by 5 seconds.
I usually take this utility along with Force Shroud in the Heroic tier. When combined, I effectively gain a second (though slightly shorter) use of Force Shroud on nearly the same cooldown. When used skillfully, this adds another very powerful defensive ability to the Assassin’s kit.
Obfuscation - Increases your movement speed by 15%.
Not a super helpful utility but one I sometimes take in fights with lots of transition. I usually find Avoidance and/or Disjunction provide plenty of mobility through increased duration and uptime on Force Speed though.
Emersion - Force Speed grants Emersion, removing all movement-impairing effects and granting immunity to them for the duration.
A very situational utility for PVE (though amazing for PVP) and should only be taken on fights where it will be useful to avoid slows (e.g. Underlurker Hard Mode).
Dark Stability - Activating Deflection grants 6 seconds of immunity to stun, sleep, lift, and incapacitating effects.
A highly situational utility, it should only be taken by advanced players who can benefit from it in specific circumstances. For example, on the Titan 6 fight in Scum & Villainy, this utility can be utilized to enable a Assassin to solo-tank the fight by using Deflection to avoid every other root.
A maximum of 3 utilities
Shroud of Madness - Activating Force Cloak grants 2 seconds of Force Shroud.
I find this utility incredibly useful for tanks and DPS. Since Force Shroud functions as a self-cleanse, this gives Assassins an additional self-cleanse every 2 minutes (1:15 if taking the Fade utility). If taking Fade, this nearly doubles the availability of Force Shroud (which has a 1 minute cooldown). If tanking, Force Cloak can be used to cheese certain mechanics, though care must be taken to avoid a big hit swapping to another player if timed poorly and ensuring that a taunt is available and used immediately to regain aggro. Particularly for DPS players, this utility can be used to help increase the success rate of stealth rez attempts, since the self-cleanse of Force Shroud should avoid being pulled into combat by a ticking DoT.
Reaper’s Rush - Phantom Stride grants Reaper’s Rush, allowing your next Assassinate to be used on any target, regardless of remaining health. Reaper’s Rush lasts for 10 seconds. Also, if the target of your Phantom Stride is killed within 10 seconds of using Phantom Stride, Phantom Stride’s cooldown is reset.
I always take this utility as a DPS player as it provides a strict DPS increase by enabling more frequent use of Assassinate. For Deception players, it provides an even larger DPS boost due to proccing a full stack Discharge. If I am playing Darkness, I frequently choose between this utility and either Disjunction or Retaliatory Grip depending on whether more mitigation is needed or more DPS (and if so, which DPS utility will provide greater benefit).
Disjunction - Increases the duration of Force Shroud by 2 seconds and Force Speed by 0.5 seconds. Also, Force Speed slows all enemies within 5 meters by 75% for 2.5 seconds when activated.
This utility should be taken by all tanks but generally should not be taken by DPS unless dealing with a very damage intensive fight (thus prioritizing mitigation over DPS boosting utilities). The extra 2 seconds of Force Shroud increases from 3 to 5 seconds which can be enormously useful on some fights (e.g., tanking Master’s Ion Cutter attack in the Ravagers / Master & Blaster encounter).
Retaliatory Grip - Deflection grants Retaliatory Grip, reflecting 50% (or 100% for the Darkness discipline) of all direct single target tech and Force damage back at the attacker. Retaliatory Grip lasts for 12 seconds and does not absorb incoming damage.
The Assassin’s reflect ability is useful but is overall one of the most limited reflects as it (1) reflects the least damage (as little as 50% for DPS specs); and (2) it does not mitigate any damage. It is also notable that it does not reflect melee/ranged single target damage unlike most reflects (though due to the defense buff from Deflection, most melee/ranged single target attacks will be dodged anyway and thus wouldn’t be eligible for reflection). This can be useful in situations where DPS checks are troublesome or in progression, though in general I prefer other utilities for all specs.
Phasing Phantasm - Phantom Stride can be used while immobilized and purges movement-impairing effects when used. Also, Force Speed grants Phasing Phantasm, which increases the players Force regeneration rate by 10 for the duration of Force Speed.
Mentioned here as a reminder that this utility was nerfed in 6.0. As currently constituted, it has extremely limited utility and its sole use would be for a tank in an off-tank role. Assassin tanks have the worst passive energy generation when not being actively attacked, so this utility should enable higher off-tank DPS. That said, I view its benefits as extremely marginal and prefer mobility or mitigation buffs in this tier and never take this utility anymore.
Example Utility Build
Here is what I run for most encounters, though I frequently take other situational utilities for specific fights.
Dark Charge - Gives melee attacks a 50% chance to deal internal damage and generate additional threat. Reduces all damage dealt by 10% but increases armor rating by 130%, shield chance by 15%, threat generation by 150%, and accuracy by 10%.
This passive is effectively the “tank stance” that boosts mitigation and threat generation, guarantees 100% accuracy, and reduces DPS to discourage “skank tanking”.
Torment - The effects of your Discharge ability are modified, and Discharge causes its targets to become unsteady for 45 seconds. Unsteady targets have their melee and ranged accuracy reduced by 5%. In addition, Lacerate deals 15% more damage to Unsteady targets.
This passive applies an accuracy debuff and provides a boost to AoE damage. Tanks should always try to use Discharge early in an add pull or add phase of an operation to ensure the boost to Lacerate is active on all targets affected.
Electrify - Shock deals 20% more damage and consumes 15 less Force, and Thrash and Lacerate inflict their targets with Trauma, which reduces the healing received from all sources by 20% for 6 seconds.
This passive helps buff Shock to make it a core element of Darkness DPS (whereas Shock is not used in the Deception or Hatred rotations) and provides the Trauma debuff. The Trauma debuff is not that useful in PVE content except in very rare circumstances, however.
Dark Bulwark - Consuming a charge of Dark Ward increases shield absorption by 1%. Stacks up to 8 times. This effect lasts for 20 seconds or until Dark Ward is reactivated.
This passive provides for an increase in Dark Ward’s usefulness based on player skill. Dark Ward already provides a 15% shield chance increase, and its 20 second duration is double its 10 second cooldown. As such, it can be reactivated very quickly but generally should not be in order to maximize the boost to shield absorption by this utility. Skilled tanks will watch the Dark Ward buff on their bar and wait to reactivate it until it has 1-2s until expiration to maximize the period of time that the shield absorption buff is active. Given current gear levels, skillful use of Dark Ward can increase your overall effective mitigation by an extra 1-2%.
Energize - Damage dealt by Thrash, Maul, Lacerate and Assassinate has a 30% chance to finish the cooldown on Shock and make your next Shock a critical hit. Accelerated Shocks that consume a charge of Recklessness deal an additional 50% critical damage.
This passive provides for accelerated use of Shock. Due to Shock being one of only two abilities to generate Harnessed Darkness and the proc boosting its damage, it should generally be used immediately when procced unless already at 3 stacks of Harnessed Darkness (in which case Depredating Volts should be channelled then the procced Shock should be used).
Lightning Reflexes - Increases your melee and ranged defense by 4%. Also, whenever you successfully shield, parry, or deflect an attack, you recover 2% of your total Force and increase the damage dealt by your next Discharge by 75%. This effect cannot occur more than once a second and does not stack.
This passive provides for a boost to mitigation and energy regeneration but is most notable for the proc to buff Discharge. Discharge can be used as a filler when it is procced by this passive ability though it still does not take priority over most other core abilities. In an AoE situation, a procced Discharge should be used frequently.
Mounting Darkness- Deflection grants Mounting Darkness, causing all enemies within 8 meters to deal 15% less Force and tech damage. This effect lasts for the duration of Deflection. Also, damage dealt by Discharge and Wither is increased by 20%.
This passive is notable for its change to the Deflection defensive cooldown. A Assassin tank who positions themselves near an enemy dealing AoE damage can use Deflection as an AoE defensive cooldown for Force/Tech damage. It is worth noting Deflection normally only increases ranged and melee defense, so in fights with minimal ranged/melee damage this buff provides a more useful feature for this defensive cooldown.
Harnessed Darkness - Shock and Wither grant Harnessed Darkness, which makes the next Depredating Volts used uninterruptible and immune to pushback. Also, each stack increases the damage dealt by your next Depredating Volts by 15%. Stacks up to 3 times. At 3 stacks, each tick of Depredating Volts grants Shadow Protection, which increases damage reduction by 1%. Shadow Protection stacks up to 4 times and lasts 12 seconds.
Along with Dark Bulwark, this passive is the other key passive ability of the Darkness discipline. The most important part of the ability rotation is using Shock and Wither whenever available (on cooldown and whenever Shock procs) in order to use Depredating Volts as often as possible to ensure maximum uptime on 4 stacks of Shadow Protection (and the 4% buff to damage reduction). It is worth noting that using Depredating Volts with 3 stacks of Harnessed Darkness will refresh stacks of Shadow Protection if they have not expired, so if used in a timely fashion only one tick is necessary to ensure uptime. Depredating Volts should only be used with 3 stacks of Harnessed Darkness (and thus glowing).
Lightning Recovery - Increases the amount of Force recovered by Lightning Reflexes by 100%. Also, when you shield, parry, or deflect an attack, the active cooldown of Force Shroud is reduced by 1 second. This effect cannot occur more than once a second.
A very powerful passive ability that further increases the uptime of Force Shroud.
Conspirator's Cloak - Exiting stealth instantly grants 4 stacks of Shadow Protection. In addition, Thrash, Lacerate, Assassinate, and Phantom Stride grant Conspirator's Cloak, which makes your next Maul consume 50% less Force and deal damage as if you are behind the target regardless of your actual positioning. This effect cannot occur more than once every 10 seconds.
This passive impacts the opener and rotation in several ways. First, a Assassin tank should always begin combat in stealth so that they begin combat with 4 stacks of Shadow Protection and the 4% buff to damage reduction. Second, before entering stealth to pull the boss, use Lacerate to proc Conspirator's Cloak. This enables Maul to be used in the opener to maximize DPS (and hopefully avoid losing aggro). During downtime in a fight, a tank can use Lacerate again to proc Maul (and if not otherwise needed, can use Force Cloak to re-enter stealth to get 4 stacks of Shadow Protection up when re-engaging). During combat, this passive also means that Maul should be prioritized when procced above any abilities other than Wither, Shock or Depredating Volts with 3 stacks of Harnessed Shadows.
Premonition - Increases your Stealth detection level by 5, defense by 2%, and shield absorption by 4%. Also, when you activate Overcharged Saber, damage reduction is increased by 25% for the duration.
The tooltip for Overcharged Saber does not describe the 25% damage reduction boost from this passive, so it is worthwhile to note that Overcharged Saber does provide a damage reduction boost in addition to its self-healing and damage increasing boosts.
Shroud of Darkness - Increases damage reduction and Endurance by 2% and allows for Spike to be used out of Stealth mode. Also, activating Recklessness grants 30% shield absorption for 20 seconds.
This passive is notable for making Recklessness a defensive cooldown. Granted that a 30% shield absorption buff is not as useful as other buffs, as it only helps if you are shielding attacks. That said, a 20 second duration is sufficiently long to ensure some absorption should be taking place.
Dark Bastion - The cooldown of Dark Ward is reduced by 5 seconds, the shield chance it provides is increased by an additional 3%, and shielding an attack while it is active has a 20% chance to restore a charge and increase its active duration by 1 second. Also, Dark Bulwark can build 2 additional stacks.
This passive buffs Dark Ward but also provides an RNG element that makes it less predictable in terms of when it should be refreshed. Normally it has a 20 second duration, though with this passive could be extended significantly with good luck.
Gearing in 6.0
Gearing Stat Allocation
For Darkness Assassin, I gear as follows:
Set Bonus: Efficient Termination (I have a Saber Master set also but ET is better for Veteran/Master Mode progression since it is more effective at mitigating spike damage)
Tactical: I swap between Shroud of a Shadow (fights with high duration Force/Tech damage mechanics), Two Cloaks (fights where I need lots of cheese) or Friend of the Force (helping cleanse PTs or Snipers) as needed
Amplifiers: I usually mix a variety of gold defensive amplifiers
Mods: Unlettered Warding Mods (I would swap to Warding B Mods if running Master Mode Dxun)
Relics: Relics of Avoidance & Shield Matrix (I prefer the extra raw tertiary stats)
For Darkness Assassin, I allocate my tertiary stats as follows for full mitigation. My primary goal is to divide my tertiary stats such that Shield is 1,000-1,500 points higher than Absorb.
Accuracy: None (tanks have 110% accuracy as a tank discipline)
Shield: At least 4,000 (I gear for spike damage mitigation so Shield > Absorb)
Absorb: Up to 3,000 (I gear for spike damage mitigation so Shield > Absorb)
For Darkness Assassin, I allocate my tertiary stats as follows for offensive gearing. My preference is to gear Alacrity to reach a 1.4 second cooldown, since it is a more consistent DPS increase and has some secondary benefits for increased uptime of some passive mitigation skills. I then target a minimum of mitigation stats and push the balance into Critical.
Accuracy: None (tanks have 110% accuracy as a tank discipline)
Alacrity: 1,350 (450 is fine if running the Zeal Guild Perk that provides +5% Alacrity)
Critical: Around 2,000 or more (I put the balance of my stat budget into Critical after hitting the other targets)
Shield: At least 2,500
Absorb: At least 1,000
Increased drop rate from conquest crates.
(2) +2% Endurance
(4) Spike's stun and slow effects last for an additional second.
(6) Using Spike grants you 10% damage reduction for 6 seconds.
The discussion about Efficient Termination mostly comes down to whether it should be taken over Saber Master. See the lengthy discussion above about how Saber Master is a better set bonus than it may first appear, and in very selective instances where fights have lots of adds that the tank can help kill can occasionally become an extremely powerful set bonus.
Efficient Termination appears designed as a PVP set bonus. An incremental 10% buff to damage reduction for 6 seconds but on a low 20s cooldown is nice but not crazy powerful in PVE content, but in PVP content being able to buff DR through an opponent’s burst window can be hugely powerful (in addition to a nice duration extension on a stun/slow effect).
For PVE, the set bonus has some neat applications such as giving Assassin tanks yet another defensive cooldown and one to replace Force Speed, though admittedly a MUCH weaker one than Force Speed in 5.x.
The key to understanding the draw to this set bonus is its purpose being to mitigate spike damage. In any situation where damage taken is fairly steady, I feel confident Saber Master will come out as the superior choice due to its higher DR buff (25% v. 10%) and the effect of its self heal despite only having only having around half the uptime (15% v. 30% for this set).
However, the main concern for tanks is not average mitigation but mitigating spike damage. Assuming the team executes mechanics and healers are appropriately skilled, even high average damage taken should not be a concern. Huge one-off spikes of damage are very dangerous and the key factors for nearly all encounters where tanking is exceptionally difficult (e.g., Raptus, Master/Blaster, etc.)
For example, let’s assume that the tank is about to take a 200k hit of Force/Tech damage and the tank has a 40% defense chance, 40% damage resistance pre-cooldown, 65% shield chance and 55% absorption. A non-tank taking the hit for a tank-mechanic like this would die without an extremely strong defensive ability, but even for the tank it is concerning if they are not near full health. In this example, the tank’s damage can range from 54,000 if they shield the attack to 120,000 if they do not. For a tank with around 170-180k max health at sub-75 content, that hit can be for more than half their health bar and could easily kill a tank in a stressful situation. Made even worse, some fights feature big hits on a fairly frequent basis so you can’t use major cooldowns each time or they may require using them for other mechanics. A great example is Master/Blaster where a Assassin tank should be using Shroud and their cloak to cheese the Ion Cutter and not to mitigate Master’s heavy hitting base attacks.
With Efficient Termination and assume Spike is used before the hit, the damage range is 45,000 to 100,000. The max end is still pretty high but the set bonus guaranteed a significant reduction in the maximum possible damage. Before the healers needed to keep the tank about 70% consistently to avoid the risk of a one shot, and now they only need to keep the tank consistently above 55% to be out of the danger zone. That difference may not seem huge but can often be the difference between a kill and a wipe in progression and Hard/Nightmare Mode encounters. It reduces the margin for error for mechanics that are likely to kill a tank.
Impact on Rotation: Spike should be substituted in the rotation frequently in advance of predictable spike damage or as close to on cooldown as possible to maximize uptime of its 10% damage reduction buff.
When to Take: Is a viable option to take for all encounters assuming the player will consistently use Spike to apply its 10% damage reduction buff. The better the player is at using it selectively to mitigate spike damage when other defensives are not available, the most powerful it will be as a burst mitigation option versus Saber Master. When used optimally it is a significantly better option than Saber Master, albeit with a the need for skillful timing to proc its defensive buff.
Increased drop rate from conquest crates.
(2) +2% Endurance
(4) Reduces the cooldown of Overcharge Saber by 20 seconds.
(6) Killing an enemy during Overcharge Saber refreshes the duration of Overcharge Saber. Can occur up to 5 times during one Overcharge Saber.
Saber Master feels to me like the “safe” choice when it comes to Assassin tank set bonus options. Death Knell is a primarily DPS-focused set bonus that has some mitigation benefits, which makes sense since it really isn’t intended for tanks anyway. Efficient Termination plays very much to the Assassin tank playstyle by adding yet another low cooldown defensive cooldown via Spike, but requires careful management of another ability and balancing its use effectively to maximize its benefit. In contrast, Saber Master provides a nice buff to a great multi-purpose cooldown, even though it’s 6-piece set bonus leaves a LOT to be desired based on its requirement that the PLAYER kill an enemy rather than the TEAM killing an enemy.
So before thinking about the set bonus impact, how strong is Overcharge Saber as a defensive cooldown? It provides a +25% increase to damage resistance (DR), heals you for 15% of maximum health and increases the chance to trigger Surging Charge by 25% and provides a small self heal each time it triggers.
Assassin has a base chance to trigger combat techniques of 50%, though with a double bladed saber most attacks tick twice per activation so have an effective activation chance of 75% or higher. This buff should increase the chance of triggering to 94% per ability activation or higher, which buffs damage and should provide a noticeable increase to the overall self healing provided by the cooldown. It is important to note that only melee attacks can trigger a technique, so force abilities like Wither or Shock do not count for this feature. Given a typical rotation, I would generally expect to trigger this self heal 3-4 times per use of the cooldown and my rough experience indicates that cumulative self healing can account for around half the healing of the up front initial heal, or around 7-10% and bringing the overall healing of the cooldown up to around 25% from a base of 15% initial self healing.
So let’s try and put this together to evaluate Overcharge Saber in terms of its net impact to reduce the damage taken in combat. If we assume a tank is taking consistent damage of 20,000 melee/ranged damage per second with a 40% defense chance, 40% damage resistance from armor/buffs, 65% shield chance and 55% absorb chance prior to cooldowns, then they should be taking around 4,600 DTPS. If that damage is affected by Overcharge Saber to buff their damage resistance from 40% up to 65%, then the result becomes 2,700 DTPS (a 41% decrease in damage taken). If we assume the damage is Force/Tech (so not generally able to defend), the numbers go from 7,700 to 4,500 (a similar % change but larger aggregate change).
In addition, the heal seems to do from 15-25% of total healing from the base heal and follow-on heals from melee attacks triggering combat technique. That healing for a base health level of around 170k health in sub-75 content leads to HPS or 25.5k - 42.5k. Over a 15s duration, that translates to mitigation-through-healing of around 2,800 DTPS.
Taken together, this means over a 30s window that Overcharge Saber can mitigate nearly half the damage a tank should be taking. The first 15s of damage pre-cooldown only needs some healing then can be partially offset by the self healing cooldown while the cooldown itself effectively mitigates over 40% of the damage ultimately taken net of mitigation. Really quite nice.
So we know Overcharge is a neat cooldown, but how much does it help us to shave 20s off its cooldown? The ability normally has a 2 minute / 120s cooldown, so reducing it by 20s increases its uptime by 20%. Ignoring the 6-piece set bonus’s potential to refresh the duration, we can get 15s of uptime every 100s or 15% uptime (versus 15s of uptime every 120s or 12.5% uptime).
Is the 6-piece set bonus any good? Well no not really. It requires the PLAYER to kill an enemy during its rotation to refresh the duration. Given a typical team of 8 players with 1-2 tanks and 4-5 DPS doing far more damage than the tanks, it is unlikely that the tank can reliably get kills and is very inconsistent. That is slightly offset by its 15s duration giving a decent amount of time to get at least one kill.
The potential to refresh its duration 5 times is mouth-watering, though, as it could mean a theoretical maximum duration PER USE of 90s. With the 4-piece set bonus its cooldown is only 100s so that means a theoretical maximum uptime of 90%, though in practice no operations provide that opportunity and refreshing it once is about as much as can be realistically hoped for (providing 15-30s of duration and 15-30% uptime on a 100s cooldown, which is still quite nice).
Impact on Rotation: No impact on ability rotation. Overcharge Saber should be used as often as possible to mitigate steady damage and for any Force/Tech damage if Dark Shroud is not available.
When to Take: Can be taken for all situations if the player wants to prioritize overall average mitigation and Efficient Termination is not taken.
Increased drop rate from conquest crates.
(2) +2% Mastery
(4) The cooldown of Recklessness is reduced by 15 seconds. Whenever you consume a charge of Recklessness you gain a stack of Reckless Critical, making your next Maul, Assassinate or Leeching Strike critically hit. Stacks up to 3 times.
(6) Whenever you consume a charge of Recklessness you gain a stack of Reckless Slaughter, increasing melee damage done by 10% for 30 seconds. Stacks up to 3 times.
Death Knell presents the “DPS option” for tank gearing sets as it offers the only notable buff to tank DPS while still presenting some benefit to mitigation.
Recklessness normally has a cooldown of 90 seconds and provides 1 charge (2 w/ utility) that buff critical chance +60% with a charge removed after each critical hit. Thanks to the Shroud of Darkness passive ability, it also provides +30% shield absorption for 20 seconds.
As far as buffing DPS, the set is an obvious winner compared to Saber Master or Efficient Termination. Saber Master provides a nominal DPS increase due to the effects of Overcharge Saber but are much smaller in comparison. Efficient Termination provides no DPS increase. Death Knell’s 4-piece provides greater uptime of a one-ability +60% crit buff and frequent auto-crits for Maul or Assassinate, while the 6-piece provides periodic +10-20% melee damage buffs. When it comes to trying to hold aggro through Firefall hits, this is a decent option.
But how about mitigation? Here Death Knell provides some benefits but overall much weaker than the other two set bonus options. Assuming Recklessness is used nearly on cooldown, it normally would have 22% uptime (20s duration / 90s cooldown) before the set bonus and 27% uptime after (20s duration / 75s cooldown).
How strong is the buff? I normally have a base shield chance of around 64% and absorb chance of around 55% with Dark Ward active prior to any buff to shield absorption due to consuming stacks of Dark Ward (so absorption should fluctuate between 55% and 63%). Activating Recklessness buffs my base absorption to 85% (and up to 93% as stacks are consumed by shielding attacks). Ignoring defense chance’s impact, this means every 2 out of 3 attacks we go from taking 37-45% damage (pre-DR) to 7-15% damage. So, the buff is really nice in that for 20s it should increase your effective DR on shieldable attacks to the point where you should take very little damage outside of unshielded attacks.
The downside to this set bonus is that it provides a relatively marginal buff to uptime and that the DR buff is dependent on RNG to successfully shield attacks in the first place. If we assume the average boss encounter is 6 minutes of active combat (ignoring downtime) then the 4-piece set bonus means we can use Recklessness maybe one extra time and go from 1:40 minutes of cumulative uptime on the +30% absorption buff to 2 minutes. It’s better than nothing but not really that strong. Further discounting its mitigation benefit is the dependency on RNG. Sure, overall the odds will play out but on a fight by fight basis it is less predictable than the rock-solid consistency of buffs to overall DR (damage reduction) provided by Saber Master and Efficient Termination.
Impact on Rotation: No change overall. I would suggest making frequent use of Recklessness as your go-to defensive cooldown as often as possible to take full advantage of the reduced cooldown and DPS benefits.
When to Take: When taking a DPS-focused tank set is preferred to help hit DPS checks or clear burn phases, and when the team’s healers can handle the tank taking slightly higher damage. It might also be optimal for fights where the tank takes lots of steady melee/ranged damage, where alternating Recklessness and Deflection can enable the tank to go for sustained 12-20s stretches of taking little to no damage (e.g., Draxus) and making it easy for the healers to catch up.
Increased drop rate from The Nature of Progress Operation on Master Mode Difficulty, and has a small chance from Unidentified items on the Spoils of War vendors.
(2) +2% Endurance
(4) Deflection grants ballistic immunity for 6 seconds, giving you immunity to movement impairing effects, knockdowns, and physics.
(6) Increases elemental, internal, kinetic and energy damage reduction by 3%.
The new Ballast Point set bonus added in patch 6.1.2 is only available in Master Mode Dxun Nature of Progress, so will be tough to track down. If you can do so, it provides yet another interesting option for tanks.
Impact on Rotation:
No impact as the set bonus DR buff is passive. Deflection should now be considered a physics cooldown as well so the timing of its use should change accordingly on a fight to fight basis.
When to Take:
I do not recommend the new Ballast Point set bonus. Unless the four piece buff to Deflection makes it able to cheese physics mechanics that no other ability can mitigate, such as the exploding aberrations on third floor of Revan HM, then we are really just talking about whether a 3% flat DR buff is better than the spike damage mitigation provided by other set bonuses. I think 3% DR is nice but tanks rarely die from sustained damage, so I much more highly value spike DR through more/better cooldowns via other sets. Ironically, I think Ballast Point would be a nice set bonus for newer tanks since it is entirely passive (versus Efficient Termination that requires a lot of active management to maximize its DR benefit). The set's exclusivity to MM Dxun is the icing on the cake that makes me say "nice but no thanks" to this set.
Shroud of a Shadow
Increased drop rate from Onderon and Mek'sha daily missions.
Using Force Shroud while Dark Ward is active consumes Dark Ward and extends the duration of Force Shroud by 0.25 seconds for each Dark Ward stack consumed.
Force Shroud has a base duration of 3s and can be extended to 5s via the Disjunction utility. We will assume that utility is being taken as a further buff to Force Shroud, as it complements this tactical and should be taken in any situations where this tactical might be a preferred choice. It has a cooldown of 60s but can be reduced by the Lightning Recovery passive ability, which reduces the cooldown by 1s every time you shield, parry or deflect an attack and can be applied up to once per second. All of this means Force Shroud normally has a 5s duration with a cooldown ranging from 60s to 30s depending on the frequency of proccing Lightning Recovery. If the defensive is used on cooldown to mitigate as much Force/Tech damage as possible and assuming the incoming damage is steady, then a Assassin tank can have between 8% and 20% uptime on a complete immunity to Force/Tech damage. Pretty good!!
Enter this tactical. Dark Ward can receive up to 15 stacks prior to any being consumed by shielding attacks, so the tactical can add up to 3.75 seconds of duration. This nearly doubles the duration of Force Shroud from 5s to as much as 8.75s and increases the range of uptime from 15% to 29%!!! Given that the majority of heavy damage can be mitigated by Force Shroud, this potentially represents an amazingly powerful buff in situations where it is useful.
So now that we have clearly illustrated how powerful it can be in certain circumstances, what are the downsides? These primarily relate to (1) Force Shroud is often used to mitigate one-GCD burst damage spikes not steady ongoing damage so the extra duration is not helpful; (2) Force Shroud does not mitigate melee/ranged damage so losing your Dark Ward buff to shield chance can make it a notable nerf to mitigation; and (3) the situations where it is beneficial are too situational to make it worth purchasing if you don’t get it from a loot drop or crate.
For #1, I agree that its impact is greatly diluted for fights with relatively low steady Force/Tech damage to the tank outside of individual high burst damage spikes. In those cases, I would argue the Assassin tactical options are pretty terrible though so there really isn’t a “good” option. Friend of the Force won’t help you since sharing Force Shroud with someone else is unlikely to be helpful if it isn’t even helping you. Two Cloaks is similarly likely to be unhelpful if its Force Shroud effect does not have use. Ward of the Continuum might be preferable for its defense buff but a +3% defense chance is not really noticeable anyway. Ancient Tome of Wrath on single target would at least provide a low duration absorption buff but again that is really weak.
In cases where the tank is receiving steady moderate Force/Tech damage in addition to heavy spike damage that can be mitigated with Force Shroud, I would argue that Shroud of a Shadow does not provide a huge benefit but is still likely optimal. Nearly 4s of extra immunity to Force/Tech damage is still 2-3 GCDs for healers they can use to catch up on tank healing, spare some heals for DPS or recover energy.
For #2, I agree that losing Dark Ward is the main thing you need to watch when using this tactical. Hitting Force Shroud while taking melee/ranged damage is generally a bad idea anyway, but in instances where you need to do it to mitigate other incoming Force/Tech damage or to cleanse a debuff then getting 3.75s of extra duration in exchange for losing 18% shield chance is a bad idea.
I usually approach this in two ways depending on the situation. In instances where I am steadily shielding attacks and consuming stacks of Dark Ward I will usually refresh Dark Ward immediately before using Force Shroud. I only do so when I know I won’t be taking melee/ranged damage. When I will be taking melee/ranged damage, I refresh Dark Ward around in advance so that it is off cooldown when I use Force Shroud and can be immediately re-applied. The second choice can reduce the extent to which the duration buff is applied but is a good choice to avoid taking extra melee/ranged damage. It is worth noting that defense chance applies to melee/ranged but not to Force/Tech, so if the incoming damage is fairly balanced between the two I lean towards maximizing my mitigation of Force/Tech even if it means a few seconds of extra vulnerability to melee/ranged since my Defense chance can help with that (and big hitters that can kill you are rarely melee/ranged attacks anyway).
Lastly, I do not view the tactical as super situational mostly due to the lack of any other good options. Two Cloaks is nice for certain fights to get an extra cleanse or on a few specific fights for interrupting mechanics, but otherwise is only about getting an extra 2s of Force Shroud and is overshadowed (heh) by this tactical anyway. Friend of the Force is undeniably very powerful in certain fights but not on others. Everything else is very marginal between Ward of the Continuum and Ancient Tome of Wrath. As I said above, an extra nearly 4s of Force/Tech immunity is a nice buffer for healing and providing a “quiet zone” of tank damage on many fights. Force/Tech damage is very common so even if the mitigation for steady damage is less attractive than mitigating very high damage spike abilities it is still more impactful that most other options in most other circumstances.
It is also worth noting that the extra duration can provide a helpful “buffer” for some mechanics. For example, predicting huge spike damage from Raptus can be done but with some margin for error, so an extra 3-4s to make sure you resist that damage is awesome. Similarly, with the extra duration you can resist ALL of the damage from Master’s Ion Cutter attack, rather than the normal approach of using other defensives for the first 10 stacks then hitting Force Shroud to cheese the last 10.
Impact on Rotation:
Whenever you anticipate using Force Shroud, make sure to it is being used with as many stacks of Dark Ward as possible. I usually try to refresh Dark Ward right before Force Shroud to guarantee maximum duration. The only exception is fights where I know I will be taking melee/ranged damage (i.e., damage not mitigated by Force Shroud) in which case I will try to refresh Dark Ward 5-8 seconds before using Force Shroud, such that I still have most stacks up but can immediately re-apply Dark Ward or re-apply it within a few seconds to maintain uptime on the shield/absorption buffs that apply to any melee/ranged damage.
When to Take:
I really like this tactical and use it as my default whenever I do not need to take Two Cloaks to get an extra cleanse / cheese early in a fight or need to take Friend of the Force to help out a teammate with mitigating burst damage or cleanses. It’s benefit is greatly reduced for 1 GCD spike damage since the extra duration does not help with the spike damage, but for fights with heavy continuous damage the extra duration can have a meaningful benefit to helping healers keep up with damage.
Increased drop rate from PVP.
Force Cloak has 2 charges.
Analysis: The Assassin combat stealth is a very handy tool as with utility it provides a short duration Shroud, provides a second self-cleanse, can be used to interrupt certain boss casts, can be used to enable multiple uses of medpacs and in emergencies can be used to facilitate a stealth revive. It is very handy on a variety of fights, though worth emphasizing that it generally will be suboptimal on most fights for the full duration. As such, make sure you are able to quickly swap tacticals while out of combat via the stealth for a better mitigation-focused tactical item.
Impact on Rotation: No impact on rotation. The tactical provides additional early uptime on a second low-duration Shroud defensive cooldown via utility.
When to Take: This tactical is a fairly popular choice to begin a combat encounter. As long as the player has another tactical on their quickbar, they can use this tactical to gain “free” extra cloak and while out of combat via stealth they can quickly swap tacticals to another one.
I find this tactical as very helpful on any fights with an extra cloak would be useful. The best example that springs to mind is on the Master/Blaster encounter. For the tank holding Master, the cloak is super helpful to interrupt the Ion Cutter channel and prevent accumulation of stacks. Shroud can be used but is much more dangerous since the tank still accumulates stacks from the channel.
Friend of the Force
Increased drop rate from Onderon and Mek'sha daily missions.
Force Shroud also applies to any ally you are guarding.
Analysis: Force Shroud is an amazing ability to cheese damage and also serves as a self-cleanse. This tactical provides a neat way to effectively double the benefit of this ability by sharing it with another player. Since the ability functions as a cleanse, the tactical makes it a double cleanse that is super helpful for Sniper or Powertech players that do not have a self cleanse ability.
Impact on Rotation: In advance of any big hit mechanics or DoT mechanics for which you intend to use Force Shroud, make sure to apply your guard to the appropriate player in advance.
When to Take: I suggest taking in any situations where (1) there are very large burst damage mechanics that apply to other players that can be mitigated by Force Shroud; or (2) any fights with demanding DoT/cleanse mechanics where the team composition includes one or more Sniper or Powertech players who are unable to cleanse themselves. Some examples include TFB Dreadguards (can use to help another player cheese Doom damage), DF Draxus (additional cleanse if Mass Affliction goes off), DF Brontes (use to help another player cheese an orb or let tank+player cheese two orbs at once, or to protect a player targeted by Brontes in burn phase while taunts are on cooldown), DP Bestia (help a player mitigate damage from red circle damage), DP Tyrans (briefly guard a fellow tank to help cheese thundering blast damage), DP Calphayus (additional double cleanse if DoT goes off during first past phase), DP Council (enable cleanse of Death Mark), Ravagers Torque (cheese damage from various sources), Ravagers Master/Blaster (various damage mechanics), and so on.
Ward of the Continuum
Increased drop rate from operations.
Dark Ward gains 5 additional stacks and parrying, deflecting or resisting an attack while it is active increases defense chance by 1%. This effect stacks up to 3 times and lasts for 20 seconds or until Dark Ward is reactivated.
This tactical sounds better than it is. A +3% defense chance is cool and all, but defense chance only applies against melee/ranged attacks and does not help mitigate any Force/Tech attacks. As the majority of heavy hitting / potential tank-killing mechanics are Force/Tech, the mitigation buff is really weak.
The additional 5 ward stacks is also nice but not helpful in practice. It can be useful in fights where there are lots of adds attacking you. In those situations, you frequently have to refresh Dark Ward before it expires due to using up all stacks from shielding damage. Adding 5 more stacks makes it easier to delay refreshing longer and maintain greater uptime on the absorption buff before resetting it. Unfortunately, the +5 stacks does not help with absorption as the +1% absorption buff per stack used is capped at 8.
If the developers had tweaked this tactical to also increase the cap on absorption buffs per stack consumed by 5 as well, then this would likely be the BiS tactical by enabling a guaranteed nearly-full-uptime +3% defense chance and potentially +5% absorption.
Impact on Rotation: No change, though the tactical may enable less frequent refresh of ward on certain fights.
When to Take: Take only for very add-heavy fights, and probably not even then.
Ancient Tome of Wrath
Increased drop rate from flashpoints.
Wither generates Redirected Wrath stacks for every enemy it hits, increasing your Shield Absorption by 2% per stack for 5 seconds.
Analysis: This tactical sounds nice but is not that great as a means to improve damage mitigation in AoE situations. A 5 second boost to absorption of 2% per enemy affected is very weak. It is exceptionally rare to affect more than 3-4 enemies at once and even then only occasionally. Whereas other tanks can receive buffs to damage resistance and ones that typically last for a longer duration, getting 2-8% extra absorption for 5 seconds is very weak because it depends on successfully shielding an attack and that the damage taken will be of a shieldable type. With only a 5s duration, there is a decent chance that the buff does not mean any additional damage mitigation.
Impact on Rotation: No impact, tanks should be using Wither on cooldown anyway.
When to Take: Not recommended. There is perhaps a small argument that the tactical should be taken on a few fights with many many adds such as Hive Queen, Dxun Holding Pens and Dxun Control Center, since there will nearly always be multiple adds up and the tank should be getting very high uptime on an 8-10% or higher absorption buff. However, I usually find other options are more useful.
Aural Resistance (or Armor Penetration for offensive gearing)
Amplifiers for tanks are difficult because the amplifier options each only protect against one type of damage (periodic, AoE, Force, Tech, etc.). There is no definitive best answer but since nearly every fight contains some or multiple AoE damage mechanics that Aural Resistance is the best option for providing some mitigation benefit on every fight.
A less optimal strategy that I usually employ is to try and have a mix of defensive amplifiers and keep whichever ones I get gold/purple first. That usually means I have a mix of 2-3% extra DR on nearly every type of damage, which to me feels more impactful than 9% more DR on AoE damage since the biggest hitting abilities usually are Force/Tech/Weapon/DoT damage rather than Aoe (as usually the HUGE AoE hits can be moved out of or are predictable to use a defensive).
Another option is to eschew mitigation amplifiers and build for DPS, in which case armor Penetration is a clear winner as nearly all attacks deal Kinetic/Energy damage.
Severing Slash (20 Force, 12s cooldown, 5m range) NEW IN 6.0 - Strikes targets in a cone, dealing weapon damage and slowing their movement speed by 50% for 3 seconds.
New ability for 6.0, it will have minimal use in PVE content.
Saber Strike (no cooldown) - Basic attack.
Free filler ability, it should only be used very infrequently when main tanking an encounter, and somewhat often when off-tanking.
Force Pull (45s cooldown, range 10-30m) - Pulls target to your location and generates high threat.
Your pull ability. It should not be used as a DPS specialization except when there is a need to position targets for AOE damage (e.g., pulling Caustic adds near boss in Hive Queen encounter). With a legendary utility, Force Pull becomes a free filler that does more damage than Saber Strike, though to use it requires backing out of melee range.
Phantom Stride (30s cooldown, range 30m) - Teleports to your target and increases your movement speed by 75% for 3 seconds.
Assassin’s gap closer and with a utility can be used to proc Assassinate. Be wary of using Phantom Stride when elevation changes are relevant, as it can bug and leave you in a weird position or even kill you (e.g., I have died several times using Phantom Stride to get onto the tanks in the Firebrand & Stormcaller encounter in the Explosive Conflict operation).
Wither (20 Force, 10s cooldown, range 10m) - Deals high kinetic damage to up to 8 targets, slows movement speed by 30% for 10 seconds, and weakening all affected targets for 45 seconds (deals 5% less melee and ranged damage). This ability generates a high amount of threat.
Assassin tank’s highest threat ability that also deals good damage and applies a useful debuff. Should be used on cooldown. Generates a stack of Harnessed Darkness.
Shock (25 Force, 6s cooldown, range 10m) - Throws debris at the target, dealing high kinetic damage.
The second key ability after Wither, Shock should be used on cooldown. It can be procced to reset its cooldown and also generates a stack of Harnessed Darkness.
Depredating Volts (40 Force, channeled over 3s, 6s cooldown, range 10m) - Deals high kinetic damage to the target. Slows the movement speed of the target by 50%. This ability can be channeled while moving.
Should only be used with 3 stacks of Harnessed Darkness (generated by Wither and Shock), as doing so provides a 45% DPS buff and a full channel will provide 4 stacks of Shadow Protection and a 4% damage reduction increase. With 3 stacks of Harnessed Darkness, Depredating Volts is the highest DPS ability for Darkness.
Assassinate (20 Force, 6s cooldown) - Issues a subduing strike, dealing high weapon damage. Only usable on targets at or below 30% max health.
The Assassin’s execute ability, it can also be procced by Phantom Stride (with utility) while above 30% health. Assassinate is not a high priority when procced as long as it is used before the proc expires. Once the boss is below 30%, Assassinate should be the top priority after Wither, Shock, and buffed Depredating Volts. Due to the strength of Assassinate, Assassins have the strongest proportional damage increase in the execute range when played optimally.
Maul (40 Force, no cooldown) - Deals high weapon damage to a single target if used from behind the target or medium damage otherwise.
Maul is a very expensive filler outside of when it is procced by Conspirator's Cloak passive ability. When Maul is glowing, it only costs 20 Force and the positioning requirement is waived. Maul should always be used relatively soon when procced and should only be used infrequently otherwise (i.e., if capped on Force then one used of an unprocced Maul may be acceptable). Overuse of Maul can ruin a rotation due to its high Force cost.
Discharge (20 Force, 10s cooldown, 10m range) - Strikes up to 8 nearby enemies, dealing low internal damage and generating a high amount of threat.
Discharge is normally only useful early in a pull to apply a 5% accuracy debuff via the Torment passive ability. However, anytime it is procced and glowing as a result of the Lightning Reflexes passive ability, it takes a much higher priority. Between it dealing internal damage (bypassing boss armor and therefore dealing around 50% more damage than the tooltip states), getting a damage buff from the passive ability, and having a high threat multiplier, it becomes an excellent damage dealing ability and threat generator. In AoE situations, it is the best threat generator after Wither.
Thrash (20 Force, no cooldown) - Strikes the target twice dealing medium damage.
Shadow’s spammable filler ability. Thrash is most noteworthy since each hit has a chance to proc a buffed Shock. Thrash will be used fairly often in a typical rotation but care should be taken to limit its use when below 40% Force.
Lacerate (20 Force, no cooldown) - Deals low weapon damage to up to 8 targets within 5 meters.
Assassin’s spammable AoE filler ability. Can be buffed 25% with a utility and deals 15% more damage to targets affected by Discharge. It has very little use in single target rotations other than it can be used pre fight or during movement/downtime phases to proc Conspirator's Cloak to buff Maul.
(Pre-fight) Stealth - Ensures that combat begins with 4 stacks of Shadow Protection
Force Pull - Best initial threat builder and can be used at range
Phantom Stride OFF GCD - Used as a gap closer and with the Reaper’s Rush utility to proc Assassinate
Wither - High damage threat builder and generates 1 stack of Harnessed Darkness
Shock - High damage threat builder and generates 1 stack of Harnessed Darkness
Discharge (If procced and glowing) - Used here only if glowing to generate aggro and apply the accuracy debuff
Thrash (If Discharge used previous GCD, otherwise #6 and #7 are reversed)
Recklessness OFF GCD - If Shock was procced by Thrash, use here to ensure a stack is used on Shock under the effects of Energize. Otherwise delay until Shock is procced.
Mind Control (TAUNT) OFF GCD - Due to the use of Thrash as a low threat builder, this is the point where losing aggro to high burst DPS is possible, so Taunt is used to guarantee aggro. If boss mechanics are such that even momentarily losing aggro would result in a wipe, use Taunt after Discharge if used first or after Shock if Discharge did not proc initially. In this case, move up other taunts by 1-2 GCDs accordingly.
Shock (should have procced Conspirator's Cloak and be glowing) - Shock when procced is a guaranteed critical hit, gets 50% extra critical damage from Recklessness, and has a high threat multiplier. If not procced then use Thrash > Shock.
Depredating Volts (should be glowing with 3 stacks of Harnessed Shadows) - Highest damage ability and generates high threat.
Wither - Should be off CD at this point, used on CD to maximize generation of Harnessed Darkness.
Assassinate (If taking Reaper’s Rush utility) - Highest damage filler ability and if taking Audacity utility (grants an extra charge to Recklessness), this is the best filler to use it on as it deals more damage than any abilities other than buffed Shock and buffed Depredating Volts.
Maul Using the Conspirator's Cloak proc
Mass Mind Control (AOE TAUNT) OFF GCD - This first taunt should have carried us to this point in the rotation without losing aggro. After the previous GCD, we start to spam Thrash and are much more in danger of losing aggro. The AoE taunt should be used here unless it will cause issues with mechanics (like pulling a second boss from the other tank) to guarantee aggro until your single taunt is off cooldown.
(Continue general rotation priority)
The Darkness Assassin rotation revolves around (1) using Wither and Shock to generate stacks of Harnessed Darkness; (2) using Depredating Volts at 3 stacks of Harnessed Darkness when it deals buffed damage and generates up to 4 stacks of Shadow Protection (+4% damage reduction); and (3) managing filler abilities effectively between Assassinate, Maul, Thrash, Lacerate, and Saber Strike. Related to this rotation is also monitoring Dark Ward to refresh it immediately before its expiration to maximize its mitigation benefits.
With respect to fillers, Assassinate should be procced via Phantom Stride and used during its proc window. Maul should be used when procced to have a reduced cost and may be used very infrequently when at a high level of Force. Discharge may also be used when procced as it deals much greater damage. Lastly Thrash should be used when no other fillers are available and as Force allows, otherwise Saber Strike should be used to regenerate energy.
Depredating Volts when glowing (3 stacks of Harnessed Darkness) - to maximize DPS and maintain 4 stacks of Shadow Protection (+4% DR).
Wither - Highest priority ability for damage, threat and to generate 1 stack of Harnessed Darkness
Shock - Used on cooldown to build stacks of Harnessed Darkness.
Assassinate or Maul (glowing) or Thrash - only when needed to proc Energize every 10s to reset CD on Shock and make it an auto crit.
Discharge (when glowing) - Used as a threat builder and to apply the accuracy debuff, if debuff is already applied then it can be ignored for higher damage abilities
Assassinate (sub 30% or after use of Phantom Stride) - High damage ability
Maul (glowing w/ Conspirator's Cloak proc) - High damage ability when procced
Thrash (>40 Force) - Can burn off extra energy via filler but be careful not to go so low on Force that higher priority abilities must be delayed
Saber Strike (<40 Force)
Combined with effective use of your AoE taunt, Guardians should be capable of really strong AoE DPS and easily hold aggro in most situations.
Wither - Your strongest AoE ability and is also critical to mitigation.
Discharge when glowing - When glowing its buffed damage is better than Lacerate and builds significantly more threat.
Lacerate - Your spammable filler whenever the first two abilities are on cooldown.
Rotation Tips & Tricks
Try to time Recklessness for when you have a procced Shock available. The procced Shock is a guaranteed crit and as such will get a big crit boost from Force Potency / Recklessness. Ideally you would also use a Assassinate (procced from Phantom Stride or sub-30%) for the second charge.
Be careful about when and how often to use Maul and Thrash. Maul should generally only be used when it is procced by Conspirator's Cloak (glowing) as it costs half the energy and ignores the positional requirement to deal maximum damage. An extra Maul can be slipped in once in a while, but doing so can wreck you energy if you are not careful. You should use Thrash often as a filler, since it has the best chance to proc Shock (60% chance due to two attacks versus 30% for Maul, Lacerate and Assassinate). That said, it is better to use 1-2 Saber Strikes to ensure you have enough Force to bigger hitters when you know they will all come up in a few GCDs.
Get familiar with watching Dark Ward and Shadow Protection buffs. Those are the key to your average mitigation in terms of (1) knowing when Dark Ward is about to expire and refreshing it (as too early wastes mitigation and too late leaves you with much less shield chance); and (2) making sure you are keeping 100% uptime (or as close to it as the fight allows) for Shadow Protection.
Be very aware of your defensive cooldowns below. Assassins have a much wider range of defensive abilities than other tanks though two of the most powerful (Force Shroud and Deflection) are very specific as to which attacks they will successfully mitigate.
Dark Ward (shieldable damage) - It is a bit of a stretch to call Dark Ward a defensive cooldown since it should always be active. Dark Ward increases your shield chance by 15% for its duration and also grants 15 charges. Each time you successfully shield an attack, you consume a charge. Due to the Dark Bulwark and Dark Bastion passive abilities, each time you consume a charge you get +1% shield absorption up to a maximum of 10%. This boost is lost when Dark Ward expires or is re-activated. As such, it is key to wait until just before Dark Ward expires to reactive it, as doing so maximizes the shield absorption buff.
Force Shroud (Force/Tech damage) - 1 minute cooldown. Force Shroud purges all removable effects (aka self-cleanse of all debuffs, not just 2 per cleanse like normal) and increases the chance to resist Force and tech attacks by 200% for 3 seconds (5 with utility). Force Shroud is an amazing defensive as it provides complete immunity to most heavy hitting mechanics in PVE content. It has a very low cooldown and can be reduced further by successfully shielding attacks. Should be saved for heavy hitting mechanics to cheese the damage, otherwise should be used nearly on cooldown.
Force Cloak (Force/Tech damage, certain interruptible channels) - 2 minute cooldown (1:15 with utility). Force Cloak is the Assassin’s combat stealth. It is notable as taking the Shroud of Madness utility will also grant 2 seconds of Force Shroud when stealthing out. This provides a second self cleanse on a low cooldown and can be used situationally to cheese mechanics and break certain casts. A great example is the Master & Blaster encounter in the Ravagers operation, where using Force Cloak during the Ion Cutter channel will interrupt the cast and prevent any further stacks being added. Great care should be taken as to the timing of using Force Cloak (to ensure a big hitting ability doesn’t swap to a DPS or healer) and the boss should be immediately taunted to regain aggro.
Overcharged Saber (all damage) - 2 minute cooldown and 15s duration. Overcharged Saber does a little of everything, providing 25% damage reduction, immediate healing of 15%, increasing damage of Surging Charge by 50%, increasing the chance to trigger its effects by 25% and healing some each time it triggers. I recommend using for sustained phases of Force/Tech damage, where Force Shroud will be useful but their short duration will not provide as much benefit.
Deflection (ranged/melee damage OR heavy sustained AoE Force/Tech damage) - 2 minute cooldown and 12 second duration. Increases ranged and melee defense by 50%. Due to the Pulsating Force / Mounting Darkness passive ability, Deflection also causes all enemies within 8 meters to deal 15% less Force and Tech damage. This defensive ability should be used to mitigate ranged/melee damage primarily, as the 50% buff combined with native tank defense should add up to a very high chance to dodge. A great example is tanking Master in the Master & Blaster encounter in the Ravagers operation. Master’s regular attacks deal very high damage but are ranged so Deflection can mitigate a lot of damage. In fights with minimal ranged/melee but very high Force/Tech AoE (e.g., Dread Council fight in Dread Palace operation, final burn phase), Deflection can be used as a very strong AoE defensive. Combining this defensive with the Sniper shield provides amazing group AoE damage mitigation.
Recklessness (shieldable damage) - 1:30 minute cooldown and 20s duration. The Shroud of Darkness passive ability causes Recklessness to grant 30% shield absorption for 20 seconds after activating, in addition to its normal charges (1 normally, 2 with utility) that boost critical chance. This makes Recklessness a defensive cooldown though not as strong due to the need to successfully shield to benefit from it. I suggest generally using on cooldown to maximize its uptime, with the caveat that care should be taken to avoid using it too early during downtime to avoid wasting its defensive benefits.
Adrenal (various) - Use the best available tanking adrenal, which will absorb 30% of incoming damage up to a certain limit. Lasts 15s and a 3 minute cooldown. Most fights last between 5-7 minutes, so in difficult fights try to time an adrenal as an additional defensive cooldown early in the fight so you can use it twice. While Assassins already have a lot of defensives, more are never a bad thing.
Shrouded Crusader Relic (all damage except elemental/internal) - Provides a buff to Shield and Absorb stats for 20s depending on item level. Not a common choice for Assassin tanks given their long list of defensive abilities but is still a viable choice. Combining the Shrouded Crusader relic (and in particular its buff to shield chance) with Recklessness provides synergy that makes each more effective (i.e., should boost absorption rate to 85-100% for any shielded attacks depending on gear and how many Dark Ward charges are buffing absorption rate).
How to use your taunts
The biggest difference between a skilled tank and an unskilled tank is their use of Taunts. A skilled tank will nearly always have a taunt available if needed and doesn’t rely on taunts to maintain aggro on the boss, whereas an unskilled tank will frequently lose aggro and say “my taunt is on cooldown!!” leading to a DPS or healer getting killed.
Use Taunt in your opener. Your opener should be focused on building maximum threat. When used optimally, you should NOT need a taunt to hold aggro in the opener. However, using a single target Taunt after your heavy hitters should help give you cushion. The single taunt has a short cooldown and few Ops require target swaps in the first 20 seconds, so in almost every case using Taunt in your opener is a best practice.
Use Taunt as the first ability in your opener. Taunt has two functions: (1) forces target to target you for 6 seconds; and (2) boosts you to the top of the Threat table plus a small cushion. Using Taunt to pull grants virtually no aggro at all, so the only benefit is it makes the Boss target you for 6 seconds. Since you should be using your heavy hitters up front, this makes you much more likely to lose aggro 10-15 seconds into the pull. NEVER USE YOUR TAUNT TO PULL. Sorry, that can’t be stressed enough. Optimally, you should use your taunt around 10-15 seconds into the pull when your heavy threat abilities are on cooldown and you start using lesser abilities. This will give you extra Threat and cushion, carrying you until your threat builders come off cooldown. After 2 sequences of threat building, you should generally be in good shape from a Threat perspective.
Taunt whenever you lose Aggro. This is simple and should be easily tracked via Target of Target. If you are tanking a boss and they swap to a DPS, Taunt immediately and call it out in voice chat to remind the DPS players so they can use a threat drop ability.
Taunt on cooldown. As long as you can maintain Aggro on the boss, you should try to conserve Taunts. Many fights require tank swaps and having a single Taunt can be great to help control adds. The worst thing that can happen is to need a Taunt and it be on cooldown.
Remind DPS to let Tank pull. It’s fine to remind people that tanks should pull first. This enables you to grab initial Aggro and flow into your threat building abilities to maintain Aggro on the boss. A DPS pulling early can mess that up and cause a group wipe. On PUG’s, I will give one or two reminders then the next time I will let the DPS die on a trash pull to remind them. Don’t do that to guild members, but if you’re having issues do let an officer or the Op leader know and they will deal with the situation.
Communicate when you Taunt. DPS should be using threat drop abilities on cooldown, but communicating when you Taunt is a good reminder. It is also very helpful for the second tank so they know what you’re doing and don’t accidentally taunt at the same time.
Complain about DPS losing aggro or ask them to “go slow on DPS”. DPS should always be trying to do maximum DPS. Period. The classes are balanced such that tanks should be able to maintain aggro on the boss without using a Taunt. Combined with a single Taunt and an AoE taunt, there is no excuse for an experienced tank to need DPS to hold back. That said, I would make an exception for gearing runs where a new tank with poor gear is running with over-geared DPS players.
Other Tips and Tricks
Use Target of Target. This enables you to see who is targeted. If you lose aggro, you will see it when the boss swaps to a DPS or a healer. You can then Taunt back immediately instead of waiting for them to complain, die, or take massive damage.
Use Guard effectively. You should guard the highest DPS. Period. You should not guard the healer. Their heals build inconsequential threat on any enemy who is taking damage. The only way a healer should pull aggro is on adds not taking any damage. Depending on the fight, responsibility for those adds should fall on the off-tank or assigned DPS.
Tips to using Shadow / Assassin tank defensive abilities
EV Annihilation Droid XRR-3 - Deflection for Missile Salvo (sustained AoE damage phase), Force Shroud for fire DoTs, can use Shadow’s Shelter utility for Missile Salvo and particularly burn phase at end of fight
EV Gharj - Force Shroud for Pounce (jump AoE)
EV Pylons - Defensives not needed
EV Infernal Council - Can use Deflection is VERY careful to avoid clipping anyone else
EV Soa - Force Shroud for orbs or Energy Sphere Detonation
KP Bonethrasher - use Force Shroud if you get pounded and may take damage
KP Jarg & Sorno - Force Shroud to self-cleanse, Deflection for Unload
KP Foreman Crusher - Deflection for Frenzy
KP G4-B3 Heavy Fabricator Droid - if solo tanking try to use Deflection when at 10 stacks with 15 or less seconds left on the stacks as with good luck you should avoid any damage and the stacks will expire
KP Karagga - Force Shroud when standing in burning oil, Force Speed on cleaves, use Deflection either for basic attacks or to reflect standing in fire (if doing so, use Overcharged Saber /medpacks/adrenals to mitigate damage since Assassin reflect doesn’t mitigate damage)
EC Zorn & Toth - Can use Force Shroud Shroud to avoid Fearful damage (can stealth + taunt to further mitigate), Deflection during Sonic Paralysis
EC Firebrand & Stormcaller - Can use Force Cloak to force Incinerate (Firebrand) to go to someone else
EC Colonel Vorgath (minefield) - use Force Shroud or Force Cloak (+ Taunt for tanks) to cleanse DoTs
EC Kephess - Force Shroud to mitigate damage from red circle and DoT, Deflection for basic attacks
TFB Writhing Horror - Force Cloak for main tank when Jealous Male spawns to avoid any adds spawning, Force Shroud or Force Cloak to cleanse DoTs
TFB Dread Guards - Force Shroud for Lightning Field and mitigating Force Leech damage, Deflection for basic attacks
TFB Operator IX - Deflection or Overcharged Saber when tanking Regulators, if you are channeling and gets adds can use Force Cloak to drop aggro, Deflection is best defensive during Operator IX phase, can also use taunt 1-2s after shield goes down to force color deletion cast on you
TFB Kephess - Force Shroud for most attacks
TFB Terror from Beyond - Use Force Shroud if tentacles enrage, can use Force Shroud to eat damage from exploding adds, during phase 2 can use Deflection if tanking on lower platforms (boss attacks are melee) or Force Shroud if tanking on upper platforms (boss attacks for Force), Force Shroud to mitigate Scream and Deflection are best defensives during Furious Tantrum
S&V Dash’roode - Deflection for boss attacks, Overcharged Saber for sandstorm damage
S&V Titan 6 - Can use Force Shroud for huge grenade mechanic (on vet mode), boss attacks are mostly Force/Tech so everything other than Deflection works, if taking the proper utility can use Deflection to avoid every other stun (thus enabling solo tanking of boss)
S&V Thrasher - Deflection works great against Snipers, Force Shroud for Demolitionist or boss attacks
S&V Operations Chief - In city can use Force Shroud to cleanse DoTs from green/gold/blue adds, Deflection on Chief Terminate ability
S&V Olok the Shadow - In melee range use Force Shroud, outside of melee range use Deflection
S&V Cartel Warlords - Deflection works against basic attacks of everyone except Sunder, can use Force Speed (w/ utility) to cleanse DoTs from Horic in NiM
S&V Styrak - Deflection during Kell Dragon spinning spine attack, Force Shroud to resist DoT damage (NiM), Force Shroud to resist Thundering Blast and Force Lightning from Styrak, during burn phase use Force Shroud for Power of the Master and Deflection for Force Charge and Saber Throw
DF Nefra - Deflection for basic attacks, Force Shroud or Force Cloak (+ taunt if tank) to cleanse DoT
DF Draxus - Deflection for boss basic attacks, Force Shroud to avoid exploding add damage and cleanse DoTs, Force Shroud or Force Cloak will avoid getting debuff from Dismantlers, use Force Shroud for Guardian Thundering Blast
DF Grob’thok - Deflection works against basic attacks, Force Shroud against any activated abilities
DF Corruptor Zero - Deflection should be used against basic attacks, adds, and small red circles, use Force Shroud for big attacks from boss and to self-cleanse (if no tech cleanse is available)
DF Brontes - Deflection for tentacle adds and Kephess, Force Shroud during Brontes casts, use Force Shroud during Brontes Arcing Assault to avoid damage and taking stacks (causing them to fall off before next set), can use Force Cloak + Taunt to do this as well, use Taunt + Force Shroud + Phantom Stride or Force Cloak + Taunt + Phantom Stride to take orb damage for a DPS player when transitioning to clockwork phase, Force Shroud during finger phase to mitigate damage
DP Bestia - Force Shroud for Dread Monsters, can use Force Shroud or Force Cloak + Taunt at the end of Bestia’s Dread Strike channel to avoid taking stacks (can be used to solo-tank her in HM/NiM)
DP Tyrans - Force Shroud for Thundering Blast, Deflection for basic attacks or if group will take cleave damage from Thundering Blast
DP Calphayus - Deflection against boss basic attacks, Force Shroud or Force Cloak to cleanse DoTs in 1st future phase, if taking relic use Force Cloak and Rocket Boots to move faster
DP Raptus - Deflection on basic attacks, Force Shroud on any big attacks (though usually no cast times so difficult to predict), Force Shroud for Driving Thrust (typically happens shortly after Force Execution, after a knock-up, and shortly after portal phases)
DP Dread Council - Deflection against basic attacks and Force Shroud against special attacks, Resilience / Force Shroud or Force Cloak to cleanse Death Mark (try only to use in emergencies), Deflection during Brontes + Styrak ghost phase, Force Shroud during final burn phase, Deflection is also great during burn phase for the 15% group-wide damage reduction
Ravagers Sparky - Deflection against all basic attacks, Force Shroud when taunting adds to jump to you, Force Shroud for Brutalize
Ravagers Bulo - Force Shroud for Exonium Carts or Deflection for Shotgun Blast and Scatter Blaster
Ravagers Torque - Force Shroud when fire circles spawn to avoid damage, Force Shroud to mitigate damage from Shoots Lasers or turrets, Deflection on boss basic attacks (especially useful if you are solo tanking during Sick of You debuff)
Ravagers Master & Blaster - Deflection is very useful against Blaster attacks (can even taunt Blaster during Rain of Pain and use Deflection to help other tank if not using against Master), can use Deflection for its 15% force/tech debuff on Master during Ion Cutter or basic attacks (though need him in range), Force Shroud for probes, Master’s basic attacks or Ion Cutter, can use Force Cloak to interrupt cast of Ion Cutter (make sure to re-taunt if a tank), Force Shroud and Force Cloak are great for resisting damage during burn phase only be careful not to cleanse charged buff as that will lead to being killed by Electro-Pulse Nova attack, can use Force Cloak to interrupt Electro-Pulsa Nova cast in burn phase
Ravagers Coratanni & Ruugar - Deflection against all basic attacks, Force Shroud are great for deck guns, mouse droids, Ruugar’s Cull attack, and exploding mines
ToS Malaphar - Force Shroud for Spear attack, Deflection against basic attacks
ToS Sword Squadron - Force Shroud for most mechanics, Deflection is great for Unit 1 tank when tanking both walkers
ToS Underlurker - Deflection reduces damage from Devastation or can be used during add phases (if adds are within the AoE circle), Force Shroud to mitigate knockback at end of Rage Storm, Deflection can help mitigate damage from Rage Storm for a few seconds to get to safety
ToS Revanite Commanders - Deflection against all basic attacks, Force Shroud for Kurse’s smash attack
ToS Revan - Deflection (w/ Sturdiness utility) can ignore Impale knockback, Force Shroud to resist damage from Heave and Overcharged Sabers, Force Shroud to avoid damage/stacks from Trail of Agony (best used at the beginning when it is easiest to get stacks), Deflection w/ reflect can help kill Meatbag Entropy Enhancer, Force Speed (w/ Egress) to avoid Leg Shot slow during Killshot, Force Shroud or Force Cloak to cleanse/drop grenades