I Love My Companions, But Are They Good For Me?

(Quick Update: In honor of the always derptastic philosophy I follow of post first, research shit later, I did find this thread on the SWTOR forums just this morning that has actually been very helpful. Jedi Sage – Balance vs Telekinetic)


First off, let me start by clarifying I am speaking only in relation to ME and MY companions and how they may or may not be affecting MY gameplay. This is not an observation about Bioware, other people and their companions, or companions in general. What I am having an issue with, basically, is me. Allow me to explain.

Quick Background

The Old Republic is only the second MMO I’ve ever played a minute of; World of Warcraft was my first. As a resto druid healer, I had it pretty easy when running content. For one thing, I really only ran causal raids on farm night or alt night. For another, because I just followed along at the back of the pack and mostly stood farther away from the boss than anyone else, I didn’t have to pay as much attention to the raid leader’s instructions about which off-tank should grab what add or where the pools of fire around the boss are that the melee dps need to watch for. All I really needed to know was who was tanking and whether I was going to be healing the tank or healing the raid. Then when the fight started I healed by clicking on Healbot or Vuhdo (I have a history with both). For the most part, I didn’t have to focus a target, I didn’t have to watch for interrupts. Other than a bit of moving with w,a,s,d I didn’t really have to touch the keyboard too much. I have a 5 button mouse and had my healing add-on setup to throw about 10 different spells as long as I used a modifier key.

I’ll be honest, this basically made me lazy. When my friends started advancing towards serious raiding, I let them pass me by because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to contribute the way they would need me to contribute. I felt that way because I knew I had been lazy and I didn’t “know” my class all that well, I just happened to know how to use my mouse to spam wild growth and rejuv. I tried to correct this by rolling a new Worgen druid and leveling her up so that I could pay closer attention to the details. But there was some unfortunate drama going on around that time and I just never put my heart into it after that. Oh woe is me.

So now you know I am a fail WoW player. But I’m in a new game and I can be a new player. I am now determined to be a serious raider and I’ve switched my main role from heals to caster dps. There are no add-ons to lean on and make me lazy. It’s all on me. I HAVE to actually learn my class and know exactly what spell to throw and why I’m throwing it.

My Issue

Here I am in a new game, putting on my serious face and trying my hardest to remain focused and informed. Reading guides, blog posts, forums and any other resource necessary to try and gain some insight into how to play my Jedi Consular to her greatest potential. Unfortunately, information is limited since all of us are equally new. But there is information out there and I’m soaking it all in. Or at least I think I am. I hope I am. I’m reading it, there’s that.

What I’m starting to realize about myself is that having a companion there to tank for me (or heal, as the case may be) isn’t really helping me learn how to maximize my dps. I mean, I am not solely responsible for how a mob dies so how do I know if I’m killing him the most efficient way? Even if I put Qyzen away and have Tharan follow me around to heal me I’m still cheating. I don’t have to be as aware of standing in the fire because Tharan’s there to heal me. And not only is he healing me, he’s also dps’ing with his blaster and he’s got his holowhore dancing in front of the mob and helping me out with a stun. WHAT AM I LEARNING HERE? This is why I said in the intro that the issue is me; because this companion system is pure genius as far as helping you level. And don’t get me started on the crew skills thing. BRILLIANT!

But with no type of combat meter or combat log (which are supposedly coming at some point) I have no way of knowing if I’m doing okay or not. I am not a theorycrafter and in fact, math generally gives me a headache and causes me to lose interest completely, so I usually try to avoid it if at all possible. Not all nerds are math nerds, who knew?

What I do know is that there are fights with elites that I sometimes wipe on 3 or 4 times. And I’m panicked that indicates a problem. To make matters worse, I got so frustrated this weekend with an elite fight that I noticed myself just simply button-mashing by my 3rd attempt. WTF? How am I going to raid with people that I actually care about if I’m a button-masher? I do have a rotation of sorts that I use consistently, though I have no way of knowing if it’s the best rotation. Based on my personal understanding of my spells and talent points, I think it is. But after becoming frustrated with wiping, I apparently threw my rotation right out the window and that’s something I cannot afford to make a habit. Yes, change my rotation if it’s not working. Tweak it and move spells around here and there to improve. But start button-mashing? NOOOOOOOooooooo.

So The Question Is…

The question is: Is having a companion do a chunk of the work for me impacting how effective I will be when raiding? I’m in a guild with experienced raiders who made solid progression in WoW. They aren’t elitist jerks and I’m not scared of them, but that doesn’t mean I expect them to keep me around if I’m not pulling my weight. This is just as serious to me as it is to them.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying companions are bad for the game or detrimental to raiding in any way. I’m not even saying they’re detrimental to me. I’m saying I need to figure out a way to make sure I’m doing all the damage I should be doing. To make matters worse, I’m caught up in the “trying to get to level 50” mentality. Several guildies have passed me in leveling and the ones that haven’t are very close to me AND have alts that are a decent level too. I have to put that aside and concentrate on not letting myself rush through just because I feel competitive. There’s no point in getting to level cap if I’m doing everything wrong while there.

A Possible Solution?

I’ve been thinking (worrying) about this for quite some time and I’ve finally decided it’s time for less thinking and more action. This week I’m going to spend some time backtracking a level or two and attacking some elites without using a companion. If I die I’ll try to switch my rotation up a bit and see what the difference is. It’s a rudimentary way of going about it, but I can’t think of any better solution. If I find that I am able to beat them without too much trouble, I’ll find an elite the next level up and try it again.

I’m curious if anyone else out there has these same type of concerns. I am also more than willing to take advice on how to prevent button-mashing and to learn of any tricks of the trade that will help me find the best rotation for me and maximize my dps. I am currently a level 44 Jedi Consular Sage following the Balance tree. Like an idiot, I am writing this post away from the pc I play SWTOR on and I forgot to capture a screenshot of my current talents. I believe the image below is an accurate recreation though. Just during the process of recreating it online, I can already see where a few points might be wasted. I will definitely be working on resetting my tree this week.

If you’re choosing the Balance tree like I am, let me know how your points compare to mine and why you chose them. I would also love to know what rotation you generally use so I can see how it compares to mine. I am open to criticism. I need to get this right. I realize I need to play my character according to my style and what I’m comfortable with; I don’t want someone to hand me a cookie-cutter build and do all the work for me. But I welcome any feedback.

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Posted on January 30, 2012, in SWTOR and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. I probably won’t be on again in any significant way until Thursday or Friday, but I would be happy to run some heroics on Voss or some FPs (we may need to pug one or two) to get a little more practice in. Plus, there will be plenty of Hard Mode FPs before we start Ops. That should get you some good training.

    Fighting elites as ranged dps without a companion seems a little ouchy. πŸ™‚

  2. Thanks, Yngwe. I will take you up on that offer if we’re both online at the same time. I actually have taken Friday off for a vacation day, so I should be around and able to play as late as I want to.

  3. Unfortunately, I don’t have any perfect advice for you. I think that the way SWTOR is designed with the companion characters actually makes it hardest on leveling DPS to “learn” their class fully. Having taken a Sage Seer up to 50 and working on a tanky Shadow (mid-20s now) the companion character and the multiple strengths of enemies makes it so that you do actually learn how to properly use your tanking or healing abilities. Not that there weren’t problems as a high-level healer, since boss enemies start to require that you have them targeted for fast interrupting…

    Anyway, I think the thing to do is to group up whenever you can (it will be better when you hit 50 and bunches of us start dragging you into daily groups and flashpoints). Part of the problem for DPS is that all but the elite enemies still drop so fast to you and your companion that you don’t get a chance to figure out how to determine ability priorities. Going up against a champion-type enemy in heroic 2s and 4s will give you a better chance to work through your abilities, as well as learning to remember to use your big cooldowns.

  4. Yes, I am definitely looking forward to being able to group with you guys more and learn from you.

    Also, I really didn’t intend for this post to come off as me being a whiner which I think it may have accidentally done. It’s just something that I’ve been noticing more and more. Using a companion to tank just leaves me running around & surviving and it’s not teaching me anything.

    However, in honor of the always derptastic philosophy I follow of blog post first, research shit later… I did find this thread on the SWTOR forums about 30 minutes ago that has actually been very helpful. http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=181832

  5. One thing you could do, if you’ve got a friend or two who are willing to help, is go tackle a Heroic 4 quest for which you’re slightly over level. Have one friend tank the mobs, have the other friend heal you (obviously they’ll need to have the right roles available for this), and have you do all the DPS. Just time how long it takes you to kill each elite (or champion if elites die too fast) and you can try a different rotation on each one.

  6. Oh, I also meant to say that one thing you might be able to try is to run with Theran and make a point of tackling some elites, but bring up Theran’s full companion bar and uncheck all of his damage-dealing abilities. That way, he’ll just heal you and you’ll be shouldering all DPS responsibility. Still maybe not ideal, but an option for when you’re playing solo and not able to get into a group with us.

  7. Kris, I’ve got one heck of a reply for you here. I get kind of carried away when I’m explaining things (which is why I have my own blog to do just that), but I can help in this case so I’d like to.

    I can agree with you to some extent that companions are sort of an easy button. They aren’t quite as valuable as having another player (generally speaking), but they can really make a lot of the content significantly easier than it would have been otherwise, especially if you’ve taken the time and effort to keep your companions geared up.

    I solved that problem for myself by soloing heroic quests without a companion at all. I’m 100% certain than PvP helps me with that too as I fight to find ways to survive in daunting situations and figure out ways to maximize my CC usage when I’m out numbered to focus one target down as quickly as possible and then move on to another. Other things you learn in PvP such as using Line of Sight are incredibly useful for soloing as well, though that particular trick won’t necessarily help you in your end game raiding.

    —Concerning Spec—
    There’s a few changes I would make to your spec for sure. I’ll list them by tier (T1, T2, etc) with 1 being at the bottom and 7 at the top.

    T1: Drop the point in Jedi Resistance, your bubble and your heals should suffice or else your screwed anyway.
    T2*: Focused Insight is only useful if you’re applying DoT’s to several targets at once. Against a single target the healing is so minimal that it’s a waste. Critical Kinesis is where those 2 points should go instead (+10% crit on Telekinetic Throw & Disturbance).
    T3: See T4 below.
    T4: Mind Ward is crap. It’s not bad in some PvP situations, but it’s so incredibly situational that the points are wasted. Put the points from it into Psychic Barrier (T3) instead.
    T5: Force Suppression, which you skipped, is one of the primary keys to the Balance spec. DoT’s are one of your largest damage contributions so you definitely do not want to pass this talent up. Drain Thoughts and Assertion are both good and both should be maxed.
    T6: see below
    T7: see below

    *T2: Concerning T2, while you’re leveling Pinning Resolve is really useful in PvE situations. However, once you reach max level and begin raiding this talent loses almost all of its value, so at level 50 you’ll want to move these points back into Focused Insight to make the job of your healers easier. Even though the healing isn’t that great, it’s at least somewhat useful in raiding where Pinning Resolve is not.

    There are two options you have for viable talent specs focused on the Balance tree. One goes all the way up to the last talent in Balance and another gives up the last few talents in Balance for the sake of getting deeper into the Telekinetics tree which will increase AoE damage in particular.

    Full Balance: 0/13/28
    Balance + Telekinetic Wave: 0/10/31

    The Full Balance spec is better on single targets like most boss fights, while the Balance + T.Wave is superior in AoE situations and for questing. The second spec utilizes Balance’s Presence of Mind proc to get instant Telekinetic Wave casts with a 20% damage bonus.

    —Concerning Rotation—
    There are three keys to your damage as Balance – DoT’s, Project, and Telekinetic Wave. DoT’s are pretty crucial to your damage, and the Force Suppression talent gives your Force In Balance AoE a debuff that makes them so strong. So using Force In Balance is the first key, making it priority number 1. Once that debuff has been established you need to get your DoT’s active (Weaken Mind and Mind Crush). Once those are established it’s time for your filler which is Project and Telekinetic Throw.

    Instead of a literal rotation, you work off of a priority list:

    1. Force in Balance (for the increased DoT damage debuff)
    2. Weaken Mind (instant DoT, long duration)
    3a. Sever Force (only if you went with the Full Balance spec)
    3b. Telekinetic Throw (only if you went with the Balance + TWave spec and have a Psychic Projection proc)
    4. Mind Crush (especially if you have a Presence of Mind proc to make it instant)
    5a. Telekinetic Wave (only if you went Balance + TWave, and only if you have Pressence of Mind proc)
    6. Project
    7. Telekinetic Wave

    So, if Force in Balance is not on cooldown, cast it. Then, if Weaken Mind isn’t active, cast it. The next step depends on your spec as only full Balance gets Sever Force and Telekinetic Throw only gets this high on the priority list if you are using the Balance + TWave spec and have a Psychic Projection proc which makes your Telekinetic Throw tick twice as fast (deals full damage in half the time).

    From there you cast Mind Crush, especially if you have a Presence of Mind proc to make it an instant cast. If you use the Balance + TWave spec then your Presence of Mind procs should be used for Telekinetic Wave casts when it’s not on cooldown and you’re in an AoE situation.

    Next up is Project for some nice, instant burst. And then Telekinetic Throw is your filler spell when all other priorities are met, primarily to generate more Presence of Mind procs so that you can get even more instant cast Mind Crushes and/or Telekinetic Waves.

    If you want to look at it in terms of rotation then it will look something like this:

    Force in Balance > Weaken Mind > Sever Force [full balance] > Project > Telekinetic Wave [Balance + TWave] > (Telekinetic Throw if you have a Psychic Projection proc) > (Mind Crush or Telekinetic Wave if you have a Presence of Mind proc)

    You also want to spread your DoT’s around if you’re not going to use Crowd Control. Your spec gives you an instant cast Force Lift and allows it to affect multiple targets as long as they’re weak enough, and breaking your CC with damage will stun them for 2 seconds. If you use your CC and all other targets are dead then you want to break your CC with the following rotation:

    Weaken Mind > Mind Crush (if not on cooldown) > Force in Balance > Project > Telekinetic Wave > return to rotation above

    Weaken Mind doesn’t deal initial damage so it doesn’t break your CC right away, you’re getting a free cast basically. Mind Crush does deal damage when it’s applied so it will break the CC and trigger a 2 second stun. Force in Balance applies the debuff that strengthens your DoT’s and the target will no longer be stunned. Project is next because it’s higher priority but also because a lot of mobs will use an attack right after the stun wears off that will cut into your Telekinetic Throw channel, so it’s a bit of a buffer for you really. And then you finish it off with Telekinetic Throw and then fall back into your normal rotation.

  8. It looks like I copied my links in there wrong:

    Full Balance (0/10/31): http://www.torhead.com/skill-calc#600hZf00MZcMfRsMkrfz.1
    Balance + TWave (0/13/28): http://www.torhead.com/skill-calc#600Zfzr0dZcMfRsMkrc.1

  9. Thanks for all the wonderful info Psyn. I do read your blog, but there are just times when I need someone to grab a red crayon and spell shit out for me. I was already planning on moving my points around because I noticed this morning as I was writing this post that I really wasn’t choosing the best options in my tree. That’s what happens when you use the skill calculator at level 10 to map out all your points … and then never bother to look at it again and instead decide to randomly stick each new talent point in a spot with the prettiest icon. πŸ˜›

    That isn’t exactly what I did, but it’s pretty damn close. Luckily I know me well enough to realize I needed to just stop trying to fake it and ask for the red crayon drawing. I can see by your list of priority spells that I did have most of that figured right. There are a couple of things there I was doing in reverse order, but for the most part I was using the dots fairly effectively.

    My only question is, just for clarification, are your recommendations above based on participating in pvp? Because other than wanting to check out hutball in a casual way, I am not intending to pvp with Kris. So I want to make sure I’m focusing on a viable raiding build.

    And unfortunately, I really must go to bed now and I have plans this evening that require me to be away from my pc (/shudder) so I won’t get a chance to work on this and give you any type of real response until Tuesday night or Wednesday morning most likely. But I will certainly let you know what I end up tweaking and what type of difference I notice.

    • No, both of the specs that I mentioned are geared towards PvE. Right now the Balance + TWave spec is considered by many to the the highest multi-target DPS spec in the game.

      I believe there’s a Telekinetics build that’s said to be the top boss spec not so much because it has higher damage but because it mixes the right talents from Telek and Balance to essentially have an infinite supply of Force thanks to procs that increase regen and procs that grant force-free casts.

      You can probably find the information on those in the SWTOR forums, under Class > Consular > Sage. I think someone has a Handbook post written that gives great details on the class and specs for both PvE and PvP.

  10. May I just point out that you’re too hard on yourself? Mostly about your performance in WoW, but nobody is expecting you to come out of the gate perfect in SWTOR either. I mean, by all means, make the effort, find a rotation that works, and get your talents the way they should be — that’s basics and people who don’t do that much get kicked in the crotch by Romily (it’s what she does) but once you’ve done that you don’t have to stress over numbers yet!

  11. I’d say relax and enjoy the game, of course I don’t know your guild’s ethos but you rushing leveling isn’t going to help your long term enjoyment of the game nor your performance in raiding.

    As for companions I have found them helpful actually – it’s early exposure to the trinity as it exists in the game. Also the game was balanced around people having companions with them so it’s probably not that feasible to solo unless you’re a tank spec. I’ve found playing my healer Sage with his tank companion to be a good mix, plus I have a good range of CC abilities that I can practice using either before starting fights or during to keep situations under control. That translates well directly into flashpoints I’ve found in terms of smooth runs.

    Since we’re different specs I can’t really comment on the build you have though.

  12. Hi there! well I think that what you plan to do (solo lower level elites without a companion) a good plan in understanding your class πŸ™‚ However the most important thing is to never panic when your health is low. This exacerbates problems because you might end up pressing a button that is detrimental to your dps and thus allowing the monster to live longer than it should.

    The next thing is to probably read up on your class abilities a bit as well πŸ™‚ for example a sage has a few defensive cds. You have force armor (short 20s cd that absorbs a bit of damage), you have channel the force (long 20min cd but very OP, only usable with companions). Then you have the following spells which help stun, slow or immobilize enemies Force Stun (1 min 4s stun), Force Lift (1 min CC spell), Project (stuns enemies, 20s cd) and then the awesome Force wave (20s cd point blank AOE). Finally an important utility spell Force Speed ( 30s cd 2s 150% speed increase)

    By looking at the range of spells, we can think of a extremely quick and dirty way to fight an elite. Pop Force armor before pull, pull using project to see if it’s stunnable. (Most elites are not, but some are!) Go through your simple spell rotation (Force in balance, MOAR DOTS, yada yada) Remember to not Panic! If the boss channels a Big damage spell, Line of sight him around the nearest pillar and then cast your healing spells. If he can be pushed back use Force wave to push him back and then ‘RUN AWAY LITTLE GIRL RUN AWAY!’ XD

    And as a Sage, remember you can still cast healing spells on yourself πŸ˜‰ But you have to use resources more carefully than in WOW. Hope my tips help πŸ™‚

  13. The only thing I can think to say about the companions gimping you aspect is that you have to remember that you’re never alone while raiding. Soloing mobs isn’t a bad idea if you need to learn how to kite or something, but it almost seems more beneficial to something like PVP. In a raid you’re never going to (or at least, you shouldn’t be) tanking the mob you’re blowing away with your sweet deeps; and presumably, if you do stand in fire, your healers should be healing you. If anything having a tanking companion would be good for you because if the enemy is focused on your companion and not you, you can work through your rotation without the “oh god, stuff is hitting me, must run must run!”. (That’s how it works in my head in theory, anyways. I play healers, but when I’m leveling with friends I’ve kind of figured out a rotation to use for dps because inevitably stuff isn’t hitting me.)

    I can’t help you with your rotation or the momentary panics (I get that way in pvp, so I can sympathize), but I can say you will probably turn out awesome because you have a great willingness and desire to learn. πŸ™‚ Usually the sucky people are the ones who are complacent and don’t bother trying to better themselves. Just don’t be too hard on yourself!

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