Cunning Ambitions: Gunslingers as Team Players

It’s with enormous pleasure we introduce another new column at TOROZ. Cunning Ambitions is dedicated to everything Smuggler and Imperial Agent. It’s a double pleasure introducing this column, as its writer, Kate DiBella, has broken the drought of female writers. Welcome Kate!

Hello everyone, and welcome to the first instalment of Cunning Ambitions – your resource for all that’s Smuggler/Imperial Agent!

According to the most recent stats, Smugglers and Agents are the least popular classes in SWTOR. Of those that do exist I’d be willing to bet that a good majority are alts, and not the main characters of their players. The reasons for this are many and varied, but hopefully I can try to enroll a few more to our sparse ranks through this column. With the launch of SWTOR locally only a week ago, many of you may even see the smuggler as a good class to try out, at least until those much-delayed server transfers come through. 😉

Today, I’m going to talk about a specific Smuggler advanced class: the Gunslinger.

Solo vs. Party Gunslinger

Playing solo as a Gunslinger is great fun, and really suits the ‘feel’ of the character – the lone ranger on a quest for glory and riches, that they’d rather not have to share.  Armed with twin blasters, medium-weight armour, a superior attitude and a trusty agro-magnet companion, you can take on just about anything level-appropriate out in the main universe.   However, to fully experience all that SWTOR has to offer, you’re going to need to team up with other players to take on most of the Heroics, Flashpoints, and Operations (henceforth referred to as “group quests”, for brevity’s sake).

Playing in a team requires a very different mentality to playing solo for the Gunslinger.  Where before, you might have thrown in Thermal Grenades and Sweeping Gunfire throughout the battle (I certainly do, especially the grenades :D), you now have to be a lot more careful about what you hit, and when.

There’s no ‘I’ in Team

The number one consideration (and this is not restricted to Gunslingers) is communication. It is absolutely essential that you establish the roles of everyone in the group before you embark upon the meaty parts of the quest.  You need to decide who is tanking, who is healing, and who will be dealing the damage (DPS). As a gunslinger, you are primarily ranged-DPS, though you can also act as an off-tank (more on that later) in emergencies.

Also important to determine at this stage, is who has what Crowd Control (CC) abilities.  Yours is Slice Droid, and as the name suggests, it only works on droids.  Like all CC abilities, it will incapacitate one enemy for 60 seconds; any damage (splash or direct) will cause it to end early.  Not all group quests feature enemy droids, but there are enough that this can be quite handy.

Once roles are determined, it’s time to get started.  While things may vary dependant upon the classes present in the group and the preferences of each player, there is typically a common sequence I like to follow:

(This strategy assumes that a healer, a tank, a melee DPS and myself make up the group)

– I position myself at a distance where Thermal Grenade and Vital Shot become lit up in my shortcut bar, preferably behind natural cover, but otherwise my Cover Screen will do.

– Usually, those with relevant CCs will pick their targets (ones near the edges are best; ones that are pre-determined and marked are even better) and start using them.

– While those are warming up, the tank will run/leap to the strongest remaining target and use their aggro-pulling moves to get the attacks hitting them.

– As soon as those two things happen, I send a Vital Shot at whatever is attacking the tank directly, then switch to start wailing on the weaker and ranged enemies.

– As soon as they are dropped, I focus on whatever the melee DPS is fighting, then take out the CC’d enemies.

– Rinse. Repeat.

In a group like this, it should be the ranged DPS’ job to get rid of as many of the weaker/ranged opponents as quickly as possible.  Often, when ranged enemies are involved, this can mean that the Gunslinger will draw their fire away from the tank.  Don’t panic!  This is what you’re made for.  Remember how I mentioned off-tanking?  Well, you’ve got a host of tricks up those sneaky, smuggling sleeves.

Early on in the game, Ballistic Dampers will be your greatest defence.  These give you 3 enemy poundings that cause 30% less damage, and they’re triggered by entering cover.  Keep an eye on the amount you have left, and where possible exit-and-re-enter cover to reset them when you run out.  Dodge, Defense Screen and Hunker Down can also protect you should you happen to draw the fire of something beyond what you can handle. If this happens, and the tank is still alive, the best and funniest (I think) skill in the game, Surrender, can be used.  This is exactly what you see Smuggler-trainers doing in town – when they throw up their hands and coins go scattering everywhere.  It drops your threat, and should hopefully send the unwanted enemy back at the tank.

If not…it’s Dirty Kick and Blaster Whip time; and a prayer to the gods of Smuggling might not hurt, either!

This is one type of strategy out of many that I’m sure exist, but it’s an example of a few of the useful things a ‘slinger can do as part of a team.

Top Tips

  • Communication, communication, communication!  Seriously, I can’t stress this enough, especially once you hit level 30. You can’t just rush blindly into most party areas like a bull out of a gate, or your whole group will be slaughtered.
  • Your Skill tree will have a lot to do with your success, even though it may not seem like it does early on.  For DPS, you’ll want to mostly stack points into Sharpshooter especially Cover Screen, Steady Shots and Ballistic Dampers (don’t bother with Percussive Shot, Sharp Aim, and Trip Shot), a few points can go into Streetwise skills, and you really only need Black Market Mods and No Holds Barred from Dirty Fighting (though Mortal Wound and Open Wound could be of use, if you have the points to spare and use Vital Shot a lot).
  • The ideal cover is natural (whether rock/crate/etc.) but the cover mechanics can be finicky until you are used to them.  The best thing you can do is to set ‘Take Cover in Place’ to something more useful than the default of Shift+F  (I reversed the bindings for take cover and take cover in place, they are found in Preferences>Key Bindings>Targeting).  If you have time to set up before a big fight, roll to a decent natural cover position, then take a step back.  Enter ‘take cover in place’, which will bring up your cover screen, now you have the added protection of natural cover, with the bonuses of your cover screen (you did invest in those Ballistic Dampers, right?).
  • Keep an eye on your Energy.  Below 60, it is slower to recover, so try to space out your energy-using skills early in a fight with regular bouts of ‘Flurry of Bolts’.
  • Always upgrade to weapons, mods and armour that improve: 1. Armour, 2. Cunning and 3. Endurance.
  •  Keep an eye on your healer; if they die, everyone dies.  If you see them coming under fire, start attacking whatever is hitting them and draw the fire onto yourself.  It’s easier for a healer to worry about healing you and the tank, than having to also try to protect themselves in the mix.
  • Thermal Grenades and other Area of Effect (AoE) attacks, fun as they are, have no place in most group quests.  They usually end up drawing far too much aggression from the enemies, and can drop crowd control abilities early.  Save them for the end of a battle, or for soloing.

Most of the above I have found through my own research, gameplay and trial and error.  I do not yet have a level 50 Gunslinger, and am in no hurry to get there (fun is in the journey, not the destination, after all).  However, I do hope I can be of some help, especially to those new to the class, or a little unsure how to play them.  I had very little help when I began, and even something as simple as explaining what on earth a CC was and how it affected me would have been great.

Feel free to comment if you have any questions, comments, or constructive criticism about what I’ve said.  Also, please let me know if there’s anything you want me to cover in the future, I’ll try to do my best to accommodate.

Thanks for reading, and stay sneaky! 😉


  1. Rick Duff says

    Nice first post Kate, I have a Imp Agent Sniper that I am currently levelling as an alt.. so I will be tuning into your wise words often…

    Welcome to the team!

  2. Interesting read. I briefly tried a smuggler but didn’t click with the cover mechanic. Have been considering an agent for the story…

    • Kate DiBella says

      Yeah, cover takes a bit of getting used to (hmm, maybe that can be next week’s article).  Now I get frustrated when pressing F on my alts doesn’t make them enter cover…especially the ranged ones like Bounty Hunters!

  3. Actually I find “Percussive Shot” fantastic for buying an extra few seconds in both PvE (solo and group) and PvP (fantastic in Huttball, although doesn’t trigger if enemy’s resolve bar is full, of course!).  For those unaware, it adds a knockback effect to Aimed Shot.

    If you’re particularly tricky, you can position yourself to knock an enemy over an edge.  If you’re offtanking (or have gathered too much aggro) and are confident in your timing, try the following:

    Tag your enemy with Vital Shot and Flourish Shot, drop Freighter Flyby 5 yards from you as the enemy approaches, start Aimed Shot, which will hit just as your enemy is on you, and knocks them back into the  Freighter Flyby AoE.  If you need more time, hit illegal mods just before charging Aimed Shot.  Massive damage done, and you haven’t had to use your soft CC’s (flash grenade, etc..)