The Shadow/Assassin Tanking Primer
In the right hands Shadow Tanks are highly regarded and some would argue the best tanks in the game for a majority of fights. Number crunchers and theory crafters will tell you that Shadow Tanks have the best overall mitigation but are the worst at dealing with spike damage. I have very marginal tanking experience so I'll be requiring input from others on this topic, so bear with me.
The Spec: http://swtor.askmrrobot.com/skills/shadow#1220322123212110223322-3-220
This is the spec I've settled on after doing some research on the SWTOR forums and this seems the best for Operations boss tanking. However, arguments could be made to incorporate Martial Prowess as a quality-of-life talent for use in HMFP's and such, some would also advocate the use of Celerity, but I don't find it worth the points lost in other areas.
Gearing and Set Bonuses
Nothing fancy here, for the most part the given end-game tanking sets are terribly optimized and try to incorporate Alacrity due to the new change to that stat, but it still sucks for us. However, the 2 and 4 piece PvE set bonuses are both very beneficial to us and there isn't any reason not to make use of them. The augments you want to use are going to vary depending on how the rest of your gear is optimized, but we will get to that in just a bit when we talk about stat allocation.
When talking about BiS relics from what I have read so far the proc healing relic is still our best relic and it is followed by the new proc defense relic, which can only be found as a random drop in operations. If you're wondering why the healing relic, well our self heals will proc the relic increasing our self healing thus increasing our 'mitigation'.
Alright, so with 2.0 stat formulas and stat weights got a major overhaul therefore our stat balances have all been changed. First of all I'm going to link you over to KBN's Ideal Tank Stat Distribution thread on the official SWTOR forums. That thread is loaded with great informational debate and theorizing, but at the very least you can look at the very first post which KBN keeps updated and you can see how you should, in theory, distribute your stat points.
For arguments sake I'm going to generalize and say that we're building a Shadow Tank to the Arkanian gear level. I'm also going to make a few more assumptions based on what I've read through some research and digging on the SWTOR forums. Using the B variants of the Shadow tanking mods so Reinforced Mod 30B and Robust Mod 30B at a full Arkanian Gear level you're going to end up with approximately 2000-2100 secondary stat points available to you to allocate as you see fit. For an explanation as to why Shadow Tanks may want to use B mods, look at this post here.
Anyway, knowing that we can't actively trade out Shield rating for anything useful, at the Arkanian gear level based on a quick build I did on AMR our shield rating is going to end up around 720, leaving us with approximately 1300 points to split between Defense Rating and Absorb Rating, and if we take a look at KBN's post for ideal stat distribution we'd see the following:
Now the nice thing about 2.0 is that with 14 Augments contributing 32 secondary stat points per augment you can freely reallocate 448 secondary stat points at any time, so searching for those gear pieces with the perfect Mods and Enhancements isn't really mandatory as long as you know how to properly distribute stat points via augments.
Understanding Tanking and Game Mechanics
With the way that Shadow Tank mitigation and cooldowns work it is critically important, more so than the other tanks, that we understand the types of damage that exist and our best counter to those various types of damage.
With 2.0 came a change to how shielding works, generically speaking prior to 2.0 you could only shield "White Damage", however in 2.0 Shielding is now also effective against "Yellow Damage" which typically is your Force/Tech damage. This is fantastic news for Shadow Tanks as fights that previously featured lots of non-shieldable F/T and I/E attacks hurt us greatly, fights such as Soa and TfB's Kephess. But now those attacks can be intercepted by our shield making it theoretically much easier on us, however seeing as how were were able to perform fine in those fights prior, to counter the new increased effectiveness of our shield they once again lowered our Armor rating. Our cooldowns are still among the best in the game and Battle Readiness got buffed and is even better now.
Cooldowns and Abilities
Resilience will mitigate 100% of all F/T damage during the 5 seconds it is active and with the talent points in Elusiveness it will come off cooldown every 45-50 seconds of active tanking. As if that wasn't enough it also purges you of any Debuffs or DoTs that are able to be purged by healers. Hands down the best cooldown in the game it can break so many boss mechanics it is laughable.
Deflection increases our Defense by 50% when you take into account that we are gearing for 20%+ this jumps our Defense Chance up to 70-80% which makes us practically invulnerable to M/R damage for 12 seconds. Although often overlooked because Resilience steals the spotlight, Deflection is arguably the second best defensive cooldown in the game behind Resilience. Better yet while most tank's primary cooldowns are 3 minutes Deflection's is only 2 minutes allowing for possibly three uses during boss encounters.
Kinetic Ward/Dark Ward
This ability should always be up and active when tanking and should be refreshed right before it is about to expire. The ability lasts 20 seconds and has a 15 second cooldown and more importantly is off of the GCD and does not cost Force. However, using it will interrupt a cast bar, such as that of Telekinetic Throw. In 2.0 this ability was changed from 8 to 15 stacks in an attempt to prevent it from being speed stripped off, however trash packs don't give a shit about your extra 7 stacks. You will also talent into being able to build 8 stacks of Kinetic Bulwark which will increase your Absorption by 4% so refreshing on cooldown is not always the best idea.
Battle Readiness/Overcharge Saber
Battle Readiness underwent some significant changes with 2.0, every spec now gets a 15% heal instantaneously, however Shadow Tanks also gain a straight 25% damage reduction when talented with Impact Control. This additional effect turns the ability into a fantastic defensive cooldown. This ability is on a 2 minute cooldown just like Deflection, and is a very effective cooldown to use when you know a period of burst damage is incoming that either cannot be mitigated by Deflection or Deflection is on cooldown.
Phase Walk/Phase Walk
Phase Walk is our new ability that we get at lvl 51. It's very interesting in the ways you can use it as a Tank, first of all when spec'd into Shadow's Shelter all healing done by those within 5 meters of the mark receive a 5% bonus to their heals. So if we know where our healers will be standing we can give them a 5% buff to their healing. We can also use the ability to escape possible high damage AoE's done by bosses. We need to be careful however to not inadvertently move a boss out of an intended location. Once again creativity and strategic thinking are going to determine if you are using this ability effectively or not. Further cementing the requirement of Shadow Tanks to be the smartest tanks in the game.
This is primarily an offensive cooldown that admittedly I do not use as much as I probably should. As Shadow Tanks you will ideally use this before a Harnessed Shadows Telekinetic Throw. Also of note, Telekinetic Throw has a 30m range with Force Potency.
Force Cloak/Force Cloak
A complete agro dump as it drops you out of combat and into stealth, obviously not a lot of use while actively tanking. However, don't underestimate its raid utility usage, not all Ops bosses require two active tanks, in the event someone dies you can drop out of combat and revive them. There are also certain boss mechanics that can be exploited with this ability, but I will leave that for later boss specific discussion.
Force Speed/Force Speed
Another fantastic cooldown of sorts, this is our gap closer, and with the points in Mind Over Matter it also removes snares and movement impairing effects.
Force Pull/Force Pull
"Grapples" a target and pulls them to you, all Ops bosses are immune to the pull, so the pull tends to be used to control positioning and group agro during trash pulls. However, as Shadow Tanks we have very limited abilities that can be used from range so if you want to start the initial pull of a boss fight from range, even if you don't pull the Ops boss to you, you can still use Force Pull to start the fight.
Mind Control and Mass Mind Control
These are your single and AoE taunts respectively, all tanks should know what a taunt is and what it does so I won't spend much time on this. Just keep in mind that in this game, taunts work by placing your threat at 110% of the top threat if you are in melee range and 130% if you are outside melee range.
Guard has a 30m range and whomever you Guard will take 5% less damage and generate 25% less threat. Also if the guarded player is within a 15m range of you, half of the damage they take will be transferred to you. In the PvE end-game Guard is primarily used to reduce the threat generated by other players to prevent them from pulling boss agro.
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