Before I get into the actual topic of this post, I want to apologize to all my potential readers. I’ve been very bad lately about making posts, mainly because I’ve been playing Star Wars: The Old Republic almost nonstop since I got the game. So sorry readers, but I’m going to make it up to you, I swear!
First, a couple of notes about the game itself (I plan on doing a write up/review of the game at a later point):
I absolutely love the game, but it isn’t without its flaws. First a few good things:
- The Story, in true BioWare fashion, is incredibly well done. The attention to detail for all the various story lines (not just the class story lines, which were admittedly incredible) is incredibly refined.
- The combat is very dynamic and refreshing.
- SWTOR has the best leveling/questing I have experienced in an MMO. Leveling and questing is exciting, and even after I have played through most of the non class stories once, its still enjoyable thanks to the fact that you can play through the quests differently (My main, a level 50 bounty Hunter, was light side, and my alt, a level 12 Imperial Agent, is being played through as dark side
And of course, as I mentioned there are some flaws. Here are a few things that need some work
- The game gets quite laggy when you have a lot of different players on the screen
- Not many graphics options/settings for optimizing performance
- End game content is lacking a little bit
- World PVP is almost nonexistant, especially if playing on a low population server
PvPing as a Mercenary
For those who don’t know, Mercenary is one of the Advanced Classes of the Imperial Bounty Hunter class (which is mirrored by the Trooper on Republic side). Mercenary’s can specialize in either damage, or healing. I will be focusing on using the Arsenal spec, which is damage, but I will touch upon Body Gaurd, which is the healing spec.
Tracer Missile. Good spell to use, bad spell to spam
Arsenal specced Mercenaries are capable of putting out some insane damage! However, many novice Mercenaries don’t quite understand the class, and especially the role that the Mercenary’s main damaging attack, Tracer Missile, plays in a Mercenary’s spell rotation. If you happen to frequent the SWTOR forums, you have undoubtedly heard a lot of complaining about “Tracer Missile spam”. Tracer missile, for those who don’t know, is a spell with no cooldown, and solid damage. Many novice Mercenaries, for lack of experience, will end up simply spamming this spell over and over again. This can result in decent damage, but those who do this are easily shut down by a smart player, whether it be through going around corners to break line of sight (hereby referred to as LOS) or interrupting/silencing the Merc while tracer is being cast.
There are many reasons why simply spamming tracer missile is a bad idea. The main problem is simply that if you only spam tracer missile, you are really missing out on most of your damage. Tracer missile, while it has pretty good damage, is actually one of the lowest damaging spells of the Bounty Hunter, beating only missile blast, and explosive dart (and maybe another one or two that have slipped my mind). The second problem is that, while Tracer only costs 16 heat, spamming it is a great way of running out of heat (or rather, generating way too much) quickly.
Using Tracer missiles correctly, fortunately, is very straight forward. Tracer missile is essentially a set up spell. It sets a Merc up to do a lot of damage with their other spells, specially Heat Seeker Missile, Rail Shot, and Unload. Tracer Missile adds a debuff called Heat Signature to the target that reduces their armor by 4% per stack . This debuff stacks up to 5 times (which results in 20% armor reduction at 5 stacks. This stacks with High velocity Gas Cylinder, which results in 55% armor penetration!), and if you are fully specced into the arsenal tree, it adds two stacks of this debuff per hit of Tracer Missile. In addition, it also adds a buff (that similarly stacks up to 5 times) called Tracer Lock, which increases the damage of the next rail shot by 6% (so 30% rail shot damage increase at 5 Tracer Lock stacks). And in addition to all of this, Heat Seeker Missile gets its damage increased by 5% per heat signature on the target (so 25% increase at 5 stacks). But wait, theres more! Tracer missile (assuming your are fully specced into arsenal) also has a 30% chance to finish the cooldown of Unload, and increase the damage of the next unload by 25%.
As you can see, Tracer missile isn’t for spamming, but rather to be used as an opener for the rest of your skills! At most, you should shoot 5 tracer missiles at a target (To get the max stacks of Tracer Lock), and definitely not 5 in a row. One of the problems with Mercs is their lack of mobility, and sitting and shooting more tracer missiles than necessary doesn’t help.
My personal preference is to start of with an explosive dart, and then shoot a most 3 tracer missiles at a target to start off my rotation (this assumes, of course, that I don’t need to move around) followed immediately by a Heat Seeker Missile. This gives you he full 5 stacks Heat Signatures on your target, giving you the max Heat Seeker Missile damage. Under optimal conditions (optimal being that i’m no being harassed or focused, and can stand still) I will follow this up with an unload. Because of the 30% chance for the improved Unload (mentioned above) you have a 90% chance for your unload to do 25% more damage! Tracer missile has a 1.5 second cast time, and unload has a 3 second channel time (assuming you aren’t damaged, and don’t lose one of the unload damage ticks), so in total, you can do this combo in about 8-10 seconds (4.5 for tracers, 3 for unload, and the global cooldown for Heat Seeker Missile cast, which is an instant cast spell). This Combo can do some Insane damage. My Bounty Hunter has Full champion gear (with a couple pieces of Battlemaster gear) and his combo can do upwards of 15k damage on a squishy target if you get very lucky with crits! I’ve been able to essentially get a kill on low health/squishy enemies with this rotation. However, I can pull off about 7-10k damage fairly reliably if the target has low armor, 5-8k on a high armor/beefy target.
However, this assumes that I get lucky and have great positioning while being left alone (or focused by one or two enemy players) As I mentioned, mobility for a Arsenal specced Merc is a problem, especially in Huttball, where mobility rules! If I can’t pull off the unload after the 3 Tracer missiles and Heatseeker Missle, I will instead use rail shot. This allows me to still do some awesome damage (rail shot damage is increased by 15%, which isn’t the max increase, but is still quite good!) while having a lot more mobility.
Kite, Kite, Kite!
Another very important aspect of playing a Merc is being able to kite. For those who don’t know, kiting is basically running outside of melee range from a melee class, while still doing damage. Bounty Hunters have two knock back spells on fairly low cooldown. Rocket Punch and and Jet Boost. Jet Boost is the strongest push back, and will knock a player quite a ways away from you. The Rocket Punch push back is much shorter, but it also has a shorter cooldown. Using this spells correctly is crucial when trying to kite a melee enemy, especially a Jedi/Sith that have charge spells. One thing to remember is that Jedi/Sith can charge you twice in a very short amount of time. So you need to be prepared to use rocket punch right after Jet Boost if they end up recharging you after the initial Jet Boost.
Many Mercs simply don’t know how to counter melee who are in their face, especially if they recharge you after Jet Boost. Mercs do the most damage while standing still, but standing still against a melee will only result in interrupts and stuns, so you need to keep your distance. Here are a few tips for fighting melee as a Merc
- Don’t be afraid to use Energy Shield in a fight with a melee! Kolto Overload is also a great spell to use (especially in conjunction with Energy shield. I generally pop energy shield against a melee when I hit about 50-60% health.
- As I mentioned, always be prepared to rocket punch right after jet boost if the enemy charges you after a knock back.
- If they don’t or can’t charge you after the initial Jet Boost (if they are an Imperial Agent or Smuggler for example) hit them with tracers while they try to get close. I can generally get 2 tracer missiles in before a melee can get back to me if they are pushed back the full distance.
- If they DO re-charge immediately after being pushed back, and you rocket punch, most good melee will be able to interrupt a tracer before you can cast it because Rocket Punch doesn’t push back very far. I have found that using Unload rather than tracer after a Rocket Punch is a good way to get in some damage without having your tracer missle interrupted.
- Fake Cast! If they are all up in your Face, DO NOT CAST Tracer Missile outright. I like to cast Fusion missile instead to eat the interrupt, and follow that immediately by a tracer.
- Use your Instant casts! Starting off with an explosive dart against a melee, followed by rocket punch is pretty good burst, and a crit with one of these spells can lead to a nice burst without having to stand still.
- Don’t be afraid to use Power surge to turn a Tracer missile into an instant cast if you need to hit them with damage, or to turn Rapid scan into an instant heal if you are running low on health.
- Use your Environment to your benefit. This is especially true in Huttball, where you can push melee of the edges of the rafters, or into one of the hazards. Unfortunately this tip can be somewhat difficult to follow in The Civil War and Voidstar Warzones.
I spend the majority of my time PvPing as a damage spec Merc, but I do have quite a bit of experience as a Healer. Healing as a Merc can take some getting used to, but Healing Mercs are one of the best combat medics! A couple of tips and tricks that I’ve learned.
- If someone is getting focused hard, don’t be afraid to use Power Surge in combination with Rapid scan followed by an Emergency scan (the Instant heal spell) to give the person you are healing a boost.
- Super Charged Gas is a GREAT way of not only reducing your heat, but also being able to heal faster and for more, and is great for controlling your cooldowns. Don’t be afraid to use it! It has no cooldown, and getting 30 stacks for the spell is very easy if you are healing alot!
- When healing, try to heal your target with a healing scan followed by rapid scan instead of simply spamming rapid scan. Healing scan, when fully specced into Body Guard, not only reduces the heat cost of Rapid scan, but also increases the armor of your target.
- Don’t forget that Kolto Shell can only be deployed on ONE target. Choose this target wisely! I tend to put this on myself unless i’m healing a ball carrier in huttball, or a high priority ally in Civil War/Voidstar.
- Don’t be afraid to demand a guard from one of the tanks. Healers are one of the first people targeted by the enemy, and Guards not only let you last a lot longer, but is also somewhat of a deterrent to being attacked. Its extremely difficult to kill a healer while he/she is gaurded, especially if they are healing themselves
- Kolto Missile is a great heal, is instant cost, and Costs NO HEAT! Use it as much as possible! Its not only useful for AOE heals either, its a great way to heal yourself when you are being focused and on the run.
- Using rapid shots on an ally in between heals is a great way to manage your heat while keeping your players up!
- The targeting system can be a bit of a pain, so always target an ally via the Ops box, rather than clicking their actual character.
I plan on writing a much more comprehensive PvP guide on Mercs in the future, but this has some good tips and tricks that I’ve learned so far as a heavy PvPer. Hope this helps newer and veteran Mercs out!