This is part five 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.
I want to try to make a ranked team but I have no experience. Where do I start?
In accordance to patch 4.0.3
In this fifth and last part of the series I will be going through advice from myself and the people I have interviewed in regards to what strategy to start out with as well as what classes to choose for each role. I will also go through some other basics such as how to set and use your focus target. Make sure to check out the list of team ranked streamers in the end of this article. If you have any questions regarding the terminology or anything else then please don’t hesitate to comment below or contact me here.
What strategy do we start with?
There are many different options revolving around the classes you are going to choose. That said, if we begin by zooming out and looking at the greater picture then we can start discussing strategy on a more general level. All classes have different specs which allow very different type of gameplay. The first question here becomes: Burst or pressure?
The Burst Approach
Hard swap is a term used to describe a team synchronizing their stuns, interrupts and their damage in a way that will allow them to swiftly burst an enemy target down while the enemy tank is incapacitated and unable to switch guard. It requires a lot of communication and synchronization between team members since the strategy revolves around creating a perfect moment to swap and burst a target. The hard swap tactic was discovered and mainly used for team ranked in older patches. The later patches introduced a shorter cooldown on breaker making this strategy less viable. Today you can still use a hard swap tactic but you need to adapt it to the current meta which is all about wearing the enemy healer down by splitting your damage on several targets. The way the hard swap has been adjusted to work in this patch is to go for constant kill pressure. Split damage and quick switches pressure the tank to focus more of their attention on guardswaps and positioning. CC’s are used to force defensive cooldowns and eventually lead to a kill. This type of strategy relies on all burst specs. Even your tank is likely to have to focus damage with you during the hard swaps to be able to get a kill since the sorcerer/sage heals are so strong at the moment. For inexperienced team ranked players this might not be the best way to go.
All players interviewed agreed that the best thing for new players is to start off with pressure comps (setups with focus on damage over time, i.e. DoT specs). This is because the strategy that comes with a burst comp can be straining to pull off even for experienced players who are not used to playing together. Burst classes and specs also have distinct weaknesses that can be exploited by more experienced players. In order for this to work your teamwork needs to be really sharp. Since effective communication in team ranked takes time to develop it is to your own advantage to start out with a composition that puts less strain on your communication and gives it room to improve.
The Pressure Approach
“For burst comps you need to be aware of the other team’s cooldowns and you need to communicate this to your team. For pressure comps it’s a lot about CCing the healer, knocking him back and saving each other. That’s why pressure comps are easier because you don’t need to create that perfect moment for the switch. You just need perfect microplay; using your CCs very efficiently, etc. That’s why it’s so good for new players with less experience. It gives them the time to work on their team synergy.” -Larsson
When it comes to pressure teams it’s all about splitting the damage. Only one player in the enemy team can be guarded at any one moment in time, so through splitting damage you can slowly wear everyone down until the healer can no longer keep up. Hard stuns and interrupts should be used to make the enemy healer’s life a living hell. Shut him down by communicating and synchronising stuns efficiently. Hard stuns should follow each other to maximise your pressure.
Note that if you have a five second hard stun on your team this should never be the first stun to use since it fills up the resolvebar on your target. Instead first stun the healer with a four second stun after which you follow up with the five second stun. Don’t waste time being uncoordinated or you will lose pressure. Another way to go about shutting down the healer in a pressure comp is by doing a 2x 8 second CC’s that break on damage instead. However I would advise new teams to go for the shorter hard stuns since it requires less coordination.
Spreading DoTs can usually be done most efficiently by first dotting the tank and spreading them to the other members from there. The tank is less in control over how he positions himself since the guard forces him to be the centre of his team a lot of the time. Beware however that this is less effective if the enemy team is using an assassin or shadow tank since the player can then purge the DoTs off himself before you have the time to spread them.
In this meta the easiest way to run a successful pressure team is by incorporating the double carbo into it. Unfortunately the DoT spec for powertechs and vanguards are not a valid option for team ranked in this patch. This means that a pressure team in this meta often consists of a mix of pressure and burst. More about this under “What DPS classes should we have?”.
What Tank should we have?
As mentioned in part two of this series the balance between an offensive and defensive playstyle is more difficult in this meta than the last. If you are new to the role of the tank in a team ranked setting it might be beneficial to start out with a Powertech/Vanguard tank. In my interview with Naid he pointed out that managing this balance between offensive and defensive play is easier on the PT than any other class. This is partly because when a PT is forced into a more defensive playstyle by the opposite team he can still output a lot of damage with his AoE abilities in between defensive ones. This makes managing targets less overwhelming since the PT’s damaging AoE ability do not require you to switch targets. Make sure to have a look through the tanking advice from part two in this series if you haven’t already.
What DPS classes should we have?
Well, let’s start by looking at what classes you will want to avoid. The DPS specs and classes I would advise against starting out with are as follows:
- Deception Assassin / Infiltration Shadow
- Pyrotech Powertech / Plasmatech Vanguard
- All Operatives / Scoundrel specs
- All Mercenary / Commando specs
- Lethality Sniper / Dirty Fighting Gunslinger
- Lightning Sorcerer / Telekinetics Sage
- Rage Juggernaut / Focus Guardian
As for burst specs not listed above I would advise against using these unless you have a team which is confident with hard swapping tactics in team ranked.
Giving advice in regards to what classes not to play is likely to cause a little controversy but nonetheless I would argue that these classes and specs are simply not viable for beginners in this meta. Even though you might have seen other more experienced teams be successful with an unconventional class or setup it does not mean that it is the best thing for you when you are starting out.
I recommend that you begin with one Powertech/Vanguard DPS and learn to double carbonize together with the tank. The best way to do this is to watch streams of people playing team ranked. For the second DPS I would advise choosing a DoT spec. Here you can choose any from the classes that are not on the list above. Make sure that it is a class that the player playing it is comfortable with. Sorcerer madness for an example is a viable option in this meta and also gives you an extra cleanse – but beware that since it’s a squishy class you need a relatively proactive healer to pull it off. Make sure to take the Mental Defense / Shapeless Spirit utility (giving you 30% damage reduction when stunned) if you’re set on a Sorc / Sage DPS.
Another option, if you don’t want to go for a DoT spec, is to go with the triple Powertech / Vanguard approach – two burst DPS and a tank. It’s a safe place to start since it’s a setup that is very forgiving to mistakes. The extra carbonize can be used defensively or just to finish a double carbo that was miscommunicated at first. I must mention that on some servers this setup will receive negative attention from other teams but personally I wouldn’t let this bother me. If you are completely new to team ranked then it’s better to start out stacking the odds in your favour and as you get more experienced you can try other more elaborate setups. You are most likely going to be losing a good few games before you can start winning regardless of composition anyway.
What Healer should we have?
This is really a no brainer since the current meta only really allow one healing class for teams who want to be competitive: Sorcerer/Sage. Once you’ve got your sage it’s more important to look at what utilities to use. Below you can see the utilities Dakaru use as an example.
Tier 1: Skillful Utilities
Pain Baerer / Empty Body
Humility / Sap Strength
Jedi Resistance / Sith Defiance
Tier 2: Masterful Utilities
Mind Ward / Corrupted flesh
Telekinetics Defence / Lightning Barrier
Tier 3: Heroic Utilities
Mental Defense / Shapeless Spirit
Kinetic Collapse / Backlash
This is only one example of a team ranked Sage/Sorc build. When it comes to your utilities it is something you yourself have to decide what is the best for you and your playstyle. For an example, other healers often use the Force Mobility utility.
Something the healer needs to be aware of is that he will be shut down a lot more in team ranked than he is used to in regs. To be competitive the healer must communicate to his team when he is being shut down with interrupts and/or stuns because it means his team members might need to use cooldowns to mitigate some burst. As a healer you also need to learn to be a stronger than ever support for your tank. As mentioned in previous parts of this series, tanking in team ranked is incredibly difficult to learn. Especially in the start it is important that you help your tank out as much as possible by having a fluid communication. Calmly call out targets together if needed.
“As a healer you’re communicating mostly with the tank so you can help and assist him with guarding and playing defensively. You’re his support. The tank can’t focus as much as you can on only playing defensively. With your aid it become easier for the tank not to zone out.” – Morvin
The Seven Deadly Sins of Team Ranked
- Using your cooldowns incorrectly!
“A mistake I see new team ranked players make is using their cooldowns wrong. Just throwing them away for nothing. That’s a really big mistake which I see a lot of people do. No one is going to die, but you use your breaker anyway. You should only use it to either save yourself, someone else or if you are 100% sure that you can kill someone if you break, but never just to do more DPS.” – Larsson
In regs we don’t get punished as severely for using cooldowns unnecessarily but team ranked is very unforgiving that way. It’s important therefore to not bring bad habits such as this over to team ranked because more experienced teams than yours will take advantage of it.
- Stacking! (and sometimes not stacking)
Most of the time, stacking is the worst of all the sins which will instantly provide you with a one way ticket to PvP hell. So unless you want to be stuck in the Eternity Vault forever and ever, don’t stack! Don’t make it easy for the other team to trap you in double carbonizes or spread DoTs on you. This said there are times when you should stack and times when you should not. For an example, if you are running a pressure comp against a melee burst comp then it can be a valid strategy to have your whole team, including your healer, stacking together. Why? Because it forces your opponents to stack as well if they want to do damage to you. This tips the odds of dealing the most damage in your team’s favour. Another example of when it can be good to, in this case temporarily stack, is if you are against a pressure team and you want your healer to pick up DoTs. This might be desirable in order to prevent the other team from mezzing your healer since DoTs will break soft stuns. Remember however that these are the rare exception to the rule. In most cases, you don’t want to stack!
- Playing solo ranked in team ranked
In my interview with Morvin his advice to new players is to remember that they are a part of a team. Sounds simple but many new players coming from regs or solo ranked seem to forget this. It doesn’t matter how pretty your numbers are if you can’t play as a team and get a kill.
- Not optimising your team as best you can
“Don’t be afraid of replacing bad players – not if you want to be competitive.” – Terrikus
If you want to play on a higher level and know you have the potential to then sometimes you might have to replace a member of your team to get there. I would caution you to be tactful in how you handle these sensitive situations. You don’t want to alienate someone you might need later on. With a small player base like ours it’s important to not underestimate having good relationships with a lot of players.
- Not communicating enough!
In my interview with Terrikus he points out that from what he has seen, the biggest and most common problem teams have today is lack of communication. Make sure to study the list of things that should be communicated in team ranked. This is one of the first things you must learn. Once you’ve done that we can start worrying about the next communication sin…
- Clogging up the communication channel
Optimise your communication by eliminating bad habits such as clogging up the communicating channel with noise. See part 3 of this series for more information.
Learn how to give constructive criticism. Alleviating your own frustration by raging at your team is always counterproductive. A way to avoid this happening is by remembering not to force tired or unhappy players to do team ranked when they are not in the right mood to play. See part 4 of this series for more information.
If you haven’t set this up already, let’s do so right now…
To keybind Focus Target:
- Press “esc”
- Go to “Preferences”
- Go to the tab called “key bindings” on the bottom of the window
- Here, under the category called “Targeting” you should find “Set Focus Target / Swap Focus Target”. Keybind this to something that suits you.
- To use this function, target someone and press your “Set Focus Target / Swap Focus Target” key.
Your focus target can now show up on your screen accompanied by this players castbar. This can be very useful to interrupt enemy healers in team ranked. Play around with the settings of your UI to set your focus target at a convenient place on your screen. Another useful function is the “Aquire Focus Target’s Target”.
To keybind “Aquire Focus Target’s Target”:
- Press “esc”
- Go to “Preferences”
- Go to the “key bindings” tab on the bottom of the window
- Here, under the category called “Targeting” you will find “Aquire Focus Target’s Target”. Keybind this to something that suits you.
- To use this function, apply your focus target to a player and press your “Aquire Focus Target’s Target” keybind.
This can be used for burst DPS to quickly focus damage. It can also make a tanks life a lot easier. If you are up against a burst comp then you as a tank can focus target the most dangerous of the enemy DPS players. By keybinding “Aquire Focus Target’s Target” you can then simply press your chosen key to switch to the player on your team that is being focused by your focus target.
Last but not least, the “Focus Target Modifier”.
To keybind “Focus Target Modifier”:
- Press “esc”
- Go to “Preferences”
- Go to the “key bindings” tab on the bottom of the window
- Here, under the “Targeting” category you will find “Focus Target Modifier”. Keybind this to something that suits you.
- To use this function, hold down your “Focus Target Modifier” key and you will be able to, for an example, cleanse or guard your focus target without actually switching targets.
Some healers like to use this function to quickly be able to cleanse their tank. How this works is that while you hold down your “Focus Target Modifier” key, any ability you use is immediately applied to your Focus Target. This makes target management a lot easier and quicker.
Streams to follow to study the art of team ranked!
Remember that watching streams is a good opportunity not just to observe what to do but what not to do. When a team you are watching loses try to understand why and learn from it. If you can learn the right way to play team ranked in theory first, then it will help you understand how to improve when you in practice need to refine your execution.
Below is a list of the people who have been interviewed by me for these articles who also stream team ranked. They have all agreed to answer any questions you might have about team ranked:
Jaqn’s stream – Jaq’n normally plays with the <Auspicious> team together with Zherio and Dakaru who were also interviewed. Questions to any of these players can be asked on this channel.
Terrikus stream – This stream is not currently broadcasting but will be soon, hopefully in time for season 7.
Some other channels that have streamed SWTOR team ranked this preseason but were not interviewed for this series are:
Roudy’s stream – Note that Roudy plays in the <Foxhound> team together with Naid and Morvin who were both featured in these articles