Team Ranked in SWTOR: Part 2 – Healing, tanking and dealing damage in Team Ranked

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This is part two of my “Team Ranked in SWTOR: Player Perspective and Insights” series of articles. The content of this series is divided into five parts which will be released successively over the next few weeks leading up to the start of season 7. Thank you to all of the players interviewed (full list in the link above) and to all of the streamers who have unknowingly helped me write this article.

Healing, tanking and dealing damage in Team Ranked
In accordance to patch 4.0.3


 

The role of a tank
SWTOR has a unique guard mechanic which allows tanks to have a significant impact in PvP. Ignoring a good tank, as is done in many other games, can make getting a kill close to impossible. This guard mechanic is what gives the tank so much power but also a heavy responsibility. Every single guard swap has the potential to save a life or condemn one. This is what makes the role an essential part of any team yet the number of players wanting to tank for team ranked are few. The latest changes to the meta has forced the tanks into an even more offensive role since the sage healers are so powerful. It is the one role where the player needs to be very aware of both the offensive strategy and the defensive status of his team. The DPS and healer can get away with having more of a tunnel-vision mindset to getting that kill or keeping everyone alive, but a tank cannot. This balance between a defensive and offensive playstyle is something that new tanks are often overwhelmed by.

“My team decided to go with an aggressive strategy with mostly dps gear on the tank.  Due to the strength of sorc healers in the current meta too many games were going to acid and we were losing interest. A win after multiple acid rounds does not feel much more rewarding than a loss. By going with aggressive gear and strategy, rounds tend to end a lot more quickly. While using this strategy I rely more on my team members to notify me of imminent threats so I can focus on offensive pressure. It’s important to discuss with your teammates what you expect from them and what they can expect from you before you even enter the arena. You want to surprise your opponents, not your teammates.” – Jaq’n

Like Jaq’n you might feel that in order to have kill pressure in this patch you have to give up some defensive play. This has consequences for the tank playstyle. One of these consequences is that positioning for the tank has become more difficult since where you are on the map determines the effectiveness of your different options to play defensively or offensively. In some ways tanking in team ranked is the most challenging role yet many feel it’s also the least rewarding since a tank’s skill is hard to measure in numbers. Though the effects of a good tank is obvious to all those who play with him, the servers often lack them since it requires a very specific type of personality to get a sense of gratification from it.

Naid from the <FOXHOUND> ranked team tells me in his interview that he enjoys tanking in SWTOR unlike other games where the role is less important. In regards to finding the balance between offensive and defensive tanking, Naid is one of the few players who are really comfortable. For this reason I would recommend new tanks to watch him play if given the chance. Some tanks thrive when forced into a defensive role.  Others play at their best when required to play offensively. From what I have seen so far Naid appears to be the best tank around in SWTOR at the moment when it comes to bridging these two mindsets.  He does this in a seemingly effortless way; unfazed by having to adapt to a new playstyle without notice. 

 

Practical advice to tanking in team ranked

“I think tanking in regs is really boring so if you don’t like tanking in regs it doesn’t mean you don’t like tanking in Team Ranked. It’s completely different. In regs your guards aren’t as vital. Tanking in team ranked takes a lot more attention, you need to watch health bars and watch out for every movement. For me I actually also listen to the sounds so I can hear the ambush being cast or I can hear the thermal detonator being about to go off and then I will look for that buff or debuff in case I missed it. In regs you get bored because what’s the point. It’s not challenging in the same way.” – Gladias

Tanking against Carbonize
“What’s most important for the tank is to know when and who to guard from burst damage after the double carbonize. For an example when I know that these two friendly targets are about to take burst damage. That’s when you need the communication of the team to be good and you need to be aware of the buffs and debuffs as a tank. I then make a judgment as to who I will guard depending on not only the players health but also if one of them has a defensive cooldown active and the other doesn’t. In this scenario I will almost always prioritize the player without the defensive cooldown protecting them from the burst.” – Gladias

 

Naid’s PT tank advice for Team Ranked for new players:

  • When starting out try to focus on guard swapping while spamming your AOE heal debuff and slow (flamesweep).  CCs and guard are your top priorities.
  • Apply your focus target on the most dangerous DPS and use the “switch to focus target’s target”  in order to switch guard quickly.
  • Try to pull the healer into carbonize every 45 seconds and combine it with an oil slick. This is a good move to open every match with.
  • Communicate your AOE taunt with your teammates to not risk overlapping and wasting them at the same time
  • To increase uptime for heat screen when you’re under heavy pressure, make sure to use your  auto attack, rocket punch and railshot to build stacks. Autoattack can help to maximise uptime but you will lose alot of offensive pressure.
  • Try to avoid the enemy team’s dot spread with hydraulic override if you can but always be aware of the guard range on your guarded target.
  • Never use too many defensive cds at once. Try to rotate them starting with explosive fuel, then shield. Save your medpack, adrenal and kolto overload for emergency. Never use kolto overload and medpack at the same time. Don’t forget to drop your guard if you’re getting low and your healer is struggling to keep you up.
  • To deal with an enemy team’s split target damage, guard the first target and peel for the second target with taunts, jump roots and slows.
  • If your team is on the offensive, switch between unguarded targets. Do not underestimate the pressure tanks can do on unguarded targets.
  • If the enemy healer is not stacking with his team then make sure to rotate on him in order to keep the heal debuff and slow up. Only do this when you want to pressure the healer and not when someone on your team is intending to mezz him.
  • Communicate your interrupts and hardstuns with your teammates to pressure casters – establish a rotation between your teammates and use the interrupts on cd
  • Learn what CCs your teammates can cleanse and call for a cleanse when you get mezzed.
  • Most important don’t give up. Try watching some streams of the top teams, it will help a lot. Practice guard switch and survivability in solo ranked.

 

Gear guide for tanks in the current meta:

  • Offhand shield with high endurance power mods and enhancements
  • Mastery stim
  • Tank earpiece and implants
  • Dps relics
  • Fortitude augments (high endurance)
  • Tank set bonus armoring and high endurance and power mods and enhancements on every piece

Naid

 

Healers

Healing in Team Ranked is more than just a number’s game. The main things we will be discussing in this part of the article is positioning, efficient use of cleanses, stuns and interrupts as well as general survivability – all whilst dealing with high pressure from competent opponents.

“What have I learnt about healing in team ranked? That it is about more than just HPS. I learnt that position and well timed cc’s can change the outcome of a poor game and result in a win.” –  Morvin

Playstyle
In the beginning healers can get away with a tunnel-vision playstyle. This makes it one of the easier roles to get into coming from regs. However, as you progress and you start wanting to be the best that you can be your healer is going to have to raise his eyes up and see beyond the ops frame and it’s healthbars. A healer who is known to be excellent at doing just this is Morvin. With his experience from both healing and tanking Morvin’s strength is his attention to detail and adaptability to his team. This said there are different playstyles within the healing role that can all be successful.

For the sake of full disclosure let’s look at another playstyle. Having made his reputation back in the days of 8v8 ranked leading his team <Nostrum Dolus>; Dakaru has recently started playing arena ranked on TOFN. He is currently playing in the <Auspicious> team where he heals on his Sage called Sacratae. If you for an example compare Morvin with Dakaru (disclaimer: I intend to compare the playstyles, not the players) then it’s fairly easy to see that they are very different in the way that they play their class. Whilst Morvin’s strength is his awareness of the bigger picture Dakaru’s strength is his intense focus. He gets away with sometimes healing through a tunnel-vision mindset because he knows when he needs to snap out of it again. This playstyle gives an edge when it comes to efficiency in the healing role and the raw HPS output. The strengths presented by the two players are also what can become weaknesses if one is not careful. What playstyle is preferable depends on the player himself, but it also depends heavily on what kind of team the healer plays with. For new players however I would personally recommend watching someone like Morvin who is very experienced in arena ranked. As new to team ranked tunnel-vision healing will come natural to you already; what you now need to understand are the other aspects of your role.


Positioning
“What I considered the most difficult thing to do as a healer, is to be able to maintain a position close but not too close to my tank while under pressure without taking unnecessary damage and dropping too much efficiency in healing. Depending on what composition I am facing, I adapt my position  by using my surrounding to LoS range or to kite melee around my tank in a circle, this make it convenient for him to keep up the pressure and guard swap without having to run all over the place to find me.”Morvin

Jaq’n also speaks of the importance of understanding how to position yourself as a healer in team ranked. He points out that it is very important for the healer to know when to line of sight the pull, and when to be in line of sight to be able to heal. He says: “I have seen many healers try not to line of sight at all, as well as healers that spend so much time line of sighting that their team members have to burn defensive cooldowns like madmen to stay alive.

Efficient use of cleanses, stuns and interrupts
Dealing with pressure becomes much easier with experience since this gives you the ability to analyse your opponents and your teammates moves and predict what will happen next. For an example if you are against a hard switching burst team you will know to be ready with your cleanse and never waste a gcd.

In my interview with Myzran he says: “I would advise new healers in team ranked to use focus target modifier and target group member button for cleansing or interrupting. Also they shouldn’t forget to use their stuns and CCs to help their team offensively.”

Focus Target Modifier allows the healer to use an ability on an other player without the need of acquiring the player as target. This is done just by holding the Modifier key while using the ability. “It’s extremely helpful in situations where fast reaction is required”, says Myzran. “During a match, my Focus Target is usually on the enemy healer. It makes it a lot easier to interrupt them. I can also see what healing abilities they are casting or channeling thanks to Focus Target Castbar. I can then interrupt them without the need of targeting them first. It saves time. An additional interrupt from healer (especially if it’s a 30 meters range class like the Sorcerer) is extremely helpful.  Same goes with stunning or CCing. I can use all my abilities that are used to control enemy healer in a much more effective way with Focus Target. Third, I can easily check buffs and debuffs of my Focus Target and thanks to that provide information to my team, e.g. about guard, used cooldowns etc.”

Alternatively the healer can use Focus Target Modifier for cleansing the tank. Setting your tank as your Focused Target makes it possible to cleanse him without targeting him first which again saves precious time. Myzran explains that he prefers to use it on the enemy healer and instead uses Target Group Member key binding.

“Healers should remember that they can offer their teams a lot more than only hps. Healer’s stuns should be used on cooldown, either for offensive purposes (e.g. stunning enemy healers or targets that are going to be bursted down) or defense (stunning enemy dpsers to shut down their damage). Healer’s CC can also be used in the same way, though the use of it is more situational and difficult for sorcerers if they play without insta lift talent.” – Myzran

 

Advice for DPS in team ranked

“The main difference between DPSing in regs and DPSing in team ranked is that it is incredibly unlikely you will be able to kill anyone on your own in team ranked. This means that any and all damage you put out should be coordinated with your team.” – Jaq’n

In my interview with Jaq’n he emphasises the importance of being aware of the type of damage your setup and class deals and how to use your damage as effectively as possible. In a burst setup for an example he cautions new players against staying on a target if they pop major defensive cooldowns or receive guard.

“By swiftly switching to the target of the other dps on your team, you create a natural and unexpected burst moment. In any setup a large portion of the potential kills are dependant on the sustainable damage done outside of the big cc/burst moments. The trick is to know when to stick on your target and when the switch is beneficial. This will be very difficult at the start and will take time to learn. As a result I would recommend a pressure comp if you are starting out.” – Jaq’n

A pressure set up will be splitting or using AOE damage most of the time. As a result, kills come from shutting down the enemy healer and exhausting their defensive cooldowns. In my interview with Gerikke he speaks of the significance for a DPS to not underestimate understanding their class and rotation. When asked what makes the difference between a good DPS and a great DPS he says:

“If you want to be a beast DPS, you have to have that right mentality to go for the kill. It’s about always looking for every opportunity to deal damage while still playing intelligently. You also need to be aware of your energy, heat, rage or force usage to be able to optimise that damage.” – Gerikke

Zherio from the <Auspicious> ranked team is known for his competence as a DPS in ranked. He’s especially known for playing the Sentinel class. When asked what advice he would give to new players to the class and to team ranked he answers:

“Don’t use your cooldowns recklessly. In team ranked transcendence and other mobility focused cooldowns need to be used intelligently. If you’re against a certain setup that has some movement impairment then you need to use your transcendence to counter that. By the time the enemy has their slow back you would normally have your transcendence back. If you’re against a team that is about to switch on you make sure you have cloak or undying rage and ideally your breaker of course. You have a lot of cooldowns to work with as a sentinel. The important thing for new players is simply to learn to use those cooldowns correctly. That’s the same as any class really. The hardest thing with the sent is probably that you can be shut down quite a lot. The PT tanks oil slick can be a difficult thing for a sentinel to counter. If you don’t have leap or if your target is out of range for the leap you could just be wasting time just walking until you can actually do damage again. Sometimes it is hard to avoid as a sentinel. But that’s why you need to try to keep some cooldowns like transcendence, predation, blade blitz or mad dash available for those situations. You need to get out of the situation and get back at your target as quickly as possible.”

 

 

If you have any questions, suggestions or tips feel free to express them below! Next up we will be looking at the third part in the series exploring effective communication in team ranked.

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