The Watchman Sentinel
A properly played Watchman Sentinel is capable of excellent damage output and in conjunction with a large number of defensive cooldowns and small, but non-trivial, group heals, provides a welcome addition to any Operations group.
In this post, I will discuss some of the basics of the class, as well as describe keys for optimizing viability in an operations scenario.
Above is a link to the spec that I use.
Gearing and Stats
Both the 2-piece and the 4-piece set bonus are useful and worth getting, especially now that the 4-piece includes a damage increase after Zen usage.
The following are generic guidelines and the "best" upgrade for you will always depend on your current gear and overall stats.
You want to aim for ~400 Accuracy Rating (395), ~400 Surge (395), 0 Critical Rating and as much Power as you can stack. The idea is to get your Accuracy up to a level that you have 110% acuracy on Force Attacks (100% Melee). Beyond this, there is almost no benenit to your DPS as you will never miss (other than occasionally with off-hand attacks, but that cannot really be helped) and stacking Surge should be a focus. Despite what BioWare intended with their stat re-balancing, Alacrity is a complete waste for Knights.
For Relics, the current BiS are Underworld Relic of Serendipitous Assault and Underworld Relic of Boundless Ages . The Underworld relics only drop from Ops bosses.
Until you have these tokens, Arkanian Boundless Ages and Dread Guard Relic of Elemental Transcendence are best. Yes, that Dread Guard relic is not a typo. It has a higher base power than the Arkanian version!
Also, if for whatever reason, you can't get a Serendipitous Assault relic and would prefer a proc damage relic, at the Arkanian/Underworld tier, you need to go with Dark Radiance. For whatever reason, BioWare switched the force/tech designation between tier 1 and tier 2.
Every piece of gear should be augmented with Advanced Might Augment 28 . Any piece of gear that is not augmented is effective 2 tiers behind stats wise. There is very little difference between main stat and power augments for Sentinels with math showing that the main stat have a very, very, very slight edge when you factor in the crit coming from the Strength.
Rotation and Abilities
The key to Watchman DPS is constant uptime. A huge amount of our DPS comes from two stacking buffs: Juyo Form and Merciless.
Juyo form stacks up to 6 and is refreshed with each melee attack. With 6 stacks, it gives us 12% extra damage.
Merciless stacks up to 4 times and is refreshed with each Merciless Slash. It is extremely important that this buff be maintained at 4 stacks, as it reduces the cooldown on our highest damaging attack to only 6 seconds. More Merciless Slashes = More DPS. It is that simple.
Overload Saber + Force Leap: You pretty much always want to use these abilities in conjunction with each other. They have the same CD length. Once is focus generator, the other is a focus spender. Keeping Overload Saber on CD is essential for maximum DPS.
Opener: Force Leap + Overload Saber -> Zealous Strike -> Cauterize -> Merciless Slash -> Master Strike -> Force Camo (but only if needed)
Note: Twin Saber Throw might appear ideal as an opener, but it is not. Maximizing your burn uptime is one of the keys to Watchman and thus getting into melee range ASAP is key. That being said, in cases where you need to wait for a boss to be positioned or whatever, by all means, open with TST.
After this opener, you go straight into a priority system of focus spenders:
Merciless Slash if Merciless CD is about to expire
Merciless Slash (if CD on Merciless buff > 6 seconds)
Master Strike (as long as channel will not cause Merciless buff to expire and you have >2 sec on CD of higher priority abilities)
Twin Saber Throw
You also want to use a priority system for focus gainers:
Force Leap with every Overload Saber (which you hit first depends on how close to Focus Cap you are)
Zealous Strike if <6 focus
Strike if <8 focus
If you have 8 or more focus, you should not be using a focus gainer. By doing so, you are giving up DPS.
Note: Dispatch can only be used once a target is under 30% health. Once a target is under 30% health, the only thing more important than Dispatch are keeping your buffs and burns up.
When it comes to optimizing Watchman DPS, resource management is paramount. You will know when you are doing it correctly when you almost never have maximum focus but always have enough focus to use Merciless Slash on cooldown. With the reduction to Merciless Slash CD with the 4th stack of Merciless and the introduction of Twin Saber Throw, there should be even fewer Strike and Slash attacks occuring as part of your normal rotation relative to pre 2.0.
Centering and Zen: Another critical component of Watchman DPS is Zen uptime. Zen can be popped by converting 30 stacks of centering. While Zen is active, every burn has a 100% crit chance... this is huge damage!
Valorous Call can be used to instantly generate 30 stacks of centering. Its best use will depend on the fight. In same cases, you will want to use it for a super burst, i.e. Inspiration into Valorous Call into Zen or for raid utility purposes such as Inspiration or Transcendence at a specific time.
Inspiration: This ability will increase damage and healing for everyone in your party by 10% for 15 seconds. This is huge! It has a 5 minute cooldown, which means that when to use it depends on the fight. For short fights (i.e. less than 5 minutes) it is generally best to hold inspiration until you have 30 stacks of centering and then initiate a super burst. In longer fights, you will most likely want to use Inspiration early so that it can come off cooldown and be used again in the fight.
More Power! / How Not to Die... Using Cooldowns!
Effective cooldown use is one of the things that I think really helps people get to the next level. Any time that you are missing out on clicking a CD, you are missing out on an opportunity to help the team!
When uses CDs, it is important to note that they will interrupt channeled abilities, so don't hit your relic/adrenal during Master Strike!
Relics and Adrenals (especially if Biochem) should be used as often as possible. You will get the most out of your relic/adrenal if you hit it in conjucntion with Zen and OS (i.e. maximize your burns). In some cases, you will want to save your relic usage for a particular burn phase. Another thing to keep in mind with offensive CD use is that you need to keep in mind where you are in a fight. There is no use in hitting a cooldown just before or during a phase where a boss is invulnerable, can't be attacked, just jumped to other side of the room and you need to move to him. You want to use your offensive CDs when they will do the most benefit for you!
Just as best use of offensive CDs requires knowledge of a fight, so does best use of defensive CDs. There are many times when you will take unavoidable damage and you should ALWAYS have a CD available for these times.
Rebuke has a short recharge time and mitigates 10% of incoming damage. Note: With changes in 2.0, this damage reduction only occurs for direct damage attacks, making this CD less effective than it was in the past. This is a great one to use in cases where you need to keep attacking while taking damage. I frequently use Saber Ward in conjunction with rebuke, as it will mitigate 25% of force/tech damage, which encompasses most unavoidable damage thrown out by operations bosses.
Force Camo is both a threat dump and a defensive CD. At the start of a fight, you will generally need/want to dump after your opener. After that, you should hopefully not have aggro issues, especially in fights involving tank taunt swaps. This means that you can save Force Camo for mitigation of damage and the slight speed buff. Note that Force Camo breaks / dissipates when you deal damage, meaning that the ideal situations to mitigate damage via Force Camo are when you need to move and aren't necessarily doing damage, such as running through green circles to clear Doom in the HCK fight.
Finally, we have Guarded by the Force. This ability will essentially make you invulnerable to damage for 6 seconds at the cost of 50% of your current health. It is only useful in 2 situations 1) where you know you are going to take damage >50% of your current health or 2) when you hit an enrage and are trying to whittle off the last 2% of boss health with both tanks down and the Boss headed straight for you!
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