The Third Edge: 1.4 Balancing for Mercenaries / Commandos

The Third Edge is devoted to everything Bounty Hunter and Trooper. Our resident guru in the area, Jemima, knows her stuff and what she doesn’t know she knows where to find it. Drop Jemima a line if you have ideas for future columns!

The news of coming Mercenary/Commando changes in 1.4 has been out for a day or two now and as usual the ‘balancing’ is nothing if not contentious. To this end, I’ve put in my own two cents and assembled a few of SWTOR’s leading theory crafters in the world of all things Mercenary and Commando to give us their ideas, insights and predictions as to what these changes are going to mean for all of us.

The Expert Panel:

JEM plays Jet, a Valor Rank 73 Mercenary, as well as a Shield Tech Powertech on the Dalborra server and is GM of Aftermath, a leading 16-man progression guild.

KRIPT is one of the Dalborra server’s most renowned PvP Mercenaries and a member of Notorious Synergy.

AERRO is an Arsenal Mercenary and an officer of Chosen, a 16-man World Progression guild on Prophecy of the Five and is the author of the MMO Champion guide  ArsenalBountyHunterAreYOUDoingItRight?

Onto abilities:

Electro Dart and Cryo Grenade now have a 10-meter range

Jem says: This is a nerf. To be able to use our one and only stun we now need to be in melee range, and that’s exactly where we don’t want to be.

Kript says: This change was more for the Powertechs but has also affected Mercs / Commandos. BioWare should have noticed this and changed the range back to 30m for this AC.

Aerro says: If I looked at this without taking all things into consideration, this is most definitely a nerf. We may or may not have gained things to offset this nerf, but overall it is a nerf. Our utility in Huttball (Arsenal/Gunnery) already felt minimal.


Using a crowd control ability on an already controlled target now applies reasonable Resolve gain values by comparing the incoming control effect to the greatest of existing control effects. As a result of these Resolve changes, unorganized teams will no longer pay huge penalties for overlapping control effects at critical moments.


Jem says: Resolve won’t fill up as quickly allowing more and longer CC times. Fantastic if you’re the one dishing it out. Not so great if you’re the recipient. I think Bioware intended them to be Marauders/Sentinels, but I have a nagging suspicious we’re going to be an unintended casualty here. Beyond the universal 2-minute release from everything, most classes can free themselves from at least some forms of cc every 20-45 secs. Yet we can only Degauss once every 2 mins if talented.

Kript says: This is something I need to see for myself when 1.4 is out. Resolve has always been a touchy subject on the forums and I want to test this before making judgement.

Aerro says: In a way I am glad for this change. Even when queuing with 3 others, you get players on your team with poor CC knowledge that sometimes change the match for the worse. However, Mercs/Commandos are going to soon be on the low end of this change. Having Tracer as our primary, getting interrupted means running around in fear for what seems like forever. Adding in the CC changes means we will now run around in fear followed by being CC’d while we watch our friends die.


Mercenaries and Commandos now have a 30-meter interrupt, Disabling Shot. This ability interrupts the target’s current action and prevents that ability from being used for the next 4 seconds.

Jem says: Look, an interrupt is a good thing. Healers should no longer be able to kill us with the same speed a Marauder/Sentinel or Sniper/Gunslinger does and it’s a meaningful change for PvE. But I’ve been a long-time proponent of that fact that an interrupt was not going to be our panacea in PvP. Our dependency on Tracer Missile/Grav Round makes us a one-column temple. We need a way to stop being interrupted far more than we need a way to interrupt others.

Kript says: Well it’s about time, right? We have been asking for one on the forums for months and the amount of times I’ve been rejected from a raid group or rated WZ because of no interrupt is staggering. Good move BioWare.

Aerro says: I whole-heartedly agree with what Jem has stated. An interrupt being added to our skill list is definitely a nice PvE change, especially for those of you who raid in an 8-man environment. Having more interrupts readily available is a positive for this. As for PvP, our utility was to put the pressure on the healer or DPS and use melee as the interrupters. It may be a 12-second cooldown, but I would much rather have an ability that made Arsenal Mercs / Gunnery Commandos immune to interrupts for a select duration. Bodyguard Mercs / Combat Medics already have that with Energy/Combat Shield, so I much would rather have a talented form of that.


Afterburners / Concussive Force: Rocket Punch / Stockstrike now immobilises the target for 4 seconds instead of knocking it back. Damage caused after 2 seconds ends the effect.

Jem says: This was the change I was looking for – an immobilisation ability I can near on spam.  But I needed it IN ADDITION to the Rocket Punch knockback.

By my calculations I need around 24 seconds of casting time and 30 seconds total to kill an opponent with decent gear and a few abilities that mitigate or offset damage – like bubbles, heals and temporary immunity. Surely balance in PvP is giving me the potential to do that and then relying on my skill to achieve it? This change gives me about half that time and replaces a knock-back (which most classes can’t mitigate) with immobilise (which many can). It’s actually a big, fat nerf and it makes ledges in PvE HEAPS less fun.

Kript says: I’m against this move and I’ve gotten very heated on the forums about this. The knock-back has been a huge part of my play style. As a ranged class we need to keep our distance from a target and, yeah sure, we can run back, but other classes have something to close that gap, ranged can keep shooting, Powertech / Vanguards can pull us back and others can leap to us just  few seconds after.

I would have loved to have seen it changed to ‘Rocket punch knocks target back and roots target for 2 seconds’. BioWare have let Mercs down with this change.

Aerro says: I’m not quite sure why this change was even added. The suggestion forums exist for a reason (so I thought), and nowhere did I see this as one of the major suggestions offered by the community. A root is great, but not when our kiting abilities are already lack-lustre. Rocket Punch / Shockstrike was a great way to cut a few GCDs out of melee on you, but now it seems only useful if you’re *running*. Rather than give us more of a reason to run, I would appreciate something that stopped us from having to run, such as a knock-back that roots the target when talented.


The knock-back previously caused by this skill generated enough Resolve that it was actually detrimental to the Mercenary / Commando’s ability to further escape the attacker.

Jem says: Interesting. I wonder if an external factor forced them to switch to an immobilise rather than change the amount of resolve applied by knock-back.

Kript says: Was resolve the issue here? In PVP you want to time everything and when you knock them back you want to make sure your target isn’t coming back right away, by staying on high ground and knocking them off. Well then, resolve wasn’t an issue.

Aerro says: Generating half a resolve bar for a Rocket Punch knock-back was absurd to say the least. If it were cut in half or just removed, I think the community would have appreciated that more than having the new version. Again, more emphasis on Arsenal Mercs / Gunnery Commandos having to escape targets instead of ‘manage’ them.


Tracer Lock / Charged Barrel: Now each stack additionally reduces the activation time of your next Healing Scan / Advanced Medical Probe by 20% per stack.

Jem says: This one is my absolute favourite!! I would argue that if I can get 3 tracers off on the same guy and keep the stacks up I probably don’t need to instantly heal myself for less than a med pack. But, I didn’t think it was possible to link another thing to Tracer Missiles / Grav Rounds, let alone a heal, so well done there. Completely unexpected. [/sarcasm]

Kript says: This got me excited! A 3rd instant heal, if used right. A 5-stack takes no time to get up. Add that with a Power Surge / Tech Override heal and a WZ med pack we can get 10 -13k health back in no time at all. Some may think it’s a little OP, but I guess we will see.

Aerro says: After testing this on the PTS, I can say that I definitely love this change. I haven’t had a first look into its affects in PvP considering there were zero queues, but I can imagine that it is probably one of the greatest strengths of this patch. As for its usage in PvE, unless heals are seriously scarce, its most likely going to be avoided by those trying to maintain their highest DPS possible. It does get rid of your Tracer Lock stacks on use, so ‘wasting’ it on a heal will not only take away a GCD from your rotation, but also nerf your Rail Shot in the process.


Pinning Fire: This ability’s snare has been increased to 70%.

Jem says: I’ve never really noticed the effect of this in PvP, maybe the extra 20% slow will make a little difference but it’s only for 2 seconds, so I don’t think it’s going to be a game breaker.

Kript says: I personally don’t use Pinning Fire. I’ve felt the slow isn’t really needed in PVP because of too much open space and not a lot of room to kite.

Aerro says: This change does not seem like a buff, but more so a form of balancing. Expect to see little to no results from this change, so take this ‘buff’ lightly. The only benefit of this talent seems to be against melee… who aren’t after you. Most melee have a major gap closer, so slowing them down doesn’t change much, especially if their gap closer is a leap. It’s still a positive change so I’ll take it. It’s better than nothing, right?


Over to you: what are your thoughts on the 1.4 changes?

The Third Edge: Mercenary/Commando Interrupts & Utility

It’s always great to welcome a new writer on board, particularly one with the passion of Jemima Moore. She’ll actually be writing two columns – more on that soon. The Third Edge is devoted to everything Bounty Hunter and Trooper. As you’ll see from the article below, Jemima knows her stuff and what she doesn’t know she knows where to find it. Welcome Jem!

On March 23rd, Lead Combat Designer, George Zoeller lit a bonfire when he claimed that giving Mercenaries and Commandos an interrupt would, “increase their combat utility, especially in PvP, beyond what we are comfortable with.”

Since then I doubt few debates have raged more fiercely. Interrupts are useless against 50% of classes. Interrupts are essential for stopping burst and increasing survivability. Lack of an interrupt is the cause of TracerGravSpam. A well-named interrupt could be the next Pope.

So in this, the first edition of The Third Edge, I’d like to take the wahhhmbulance out of the argument and put Georg’s claim to the most judicial test of all – mathematics.

How much utility do Mercenaries and Commandos actually have? On a scale of 1 to 10 where do we rate compared to other classes? What’s an interrupt worth in terms of utility? And the question I think BurdoThePious should have asked – is giving us an interrupt going to stop most of us from sucking at PvP?

I have to admit, when I first approached this task I thought it would be easy – a simple 4-step process:

1) Define utility.
2) Determine which abilities fit the definition and group them into categories.
3) Allocate a point score to each of them.
4) Add up the numbers and see who has the most.

It turned out to be far, far more complicated than that. I did stick to that basic methodology, but as usual the devil is in the detail. Do I compare specific builds? What optional talents come into play? Is a stun better than a slow? What’s a longer lock-out worth compared to a shorter cool-down? What about when one ability can do three different things?

The task was behemoth and labyrinthine, but with optimism in my heart and a Prozac in my pocket,
I decided to compare 15 different common tank and dps trees (not builds) and included talents only from the bottom two rows of other trees.

Abilities were divided into categories and within each category I defined a baseline that would score 5 points.  A good example of this is in the Release category. Every advanced class has the ability to free themselves from all incapacitating effects once every 2 minutes – this the baseline worth 5 points. Additional points are added and subtracted based on modifiers like range, cast time, duration of effect, length of cool-down.

I made very few distinctions about whether one ability category held more value than another. Given any and all situations one can’t objectively make the claim that, say, a stun is better than a slow, so each ability category holds the same 5-point baseline with one exception – ‘special’ abilities or those tricks that are unique to one class or a few classes. Stealth is clearly more useful than Stealth Scan.  Group Stealth is cool and kooky but not as useful as a Combat Res. To give you an indication of the differential – Stealth is worth 10 points, Combat Res is worth 5 and Stealth Scan and Group Stealth are worth 4.

When it comes to modifiers – what’s a longer lock-out worth compared to a shorter cool-down – there’s a lot of room for debate and I hope there’s going to be! But the important thing to remember is that the same modifiers were applied to ALL classes and, for the most part, across all categories. So, even if you don’t agree with the reality of the numbers, at least everyone was tarred with the same brush.

A full list of baseline definitions, modifiers and my calculation sheets are available at the end of the article for all the seagulls to swarm over like a hot chip at the beach, but in the meantime and without further ado…

How do Mercenaries and Commandos rate in the utility stakes?

We’re 10! 10? C’mon I knew it was low… but 10? Operatives and Marauders have DOUBLE our utility and all four of the Bounty Hunter’s trees modelled place in the LAST six on the ladder.

The only category Mercs and Commando’s score highest in is the Arsenal Mercenary/Gunnery Commando specced into Afterburners/Concussive Force for knockbacks.

What good is that? If you’re not a Sniper, Gunslinger, Sorcerer, Sage at range; an Assassin, Shadow, Smuggler or Operative in stealth; or a Warrior or Knight in a window of immunity to movement impairing effects we’ll punt you across the map every 9 secs (or 13,500 damage taken @1500dps)! Watch out Galaxy – Boo-ya!! … not.

Alright, with the shaking of fists and indignance of scoring lower than a Jedi, on any scale, slowing fading it’s time to draw some objective conclusions. After all, this exercise was supposed to test Georg’s March 23 bombshell and shine a light on utility and interrupts as they pertain to PvP.

Mercenaries and Commandos score across less categories than most: we have no interrupt, no speed boost, pull, push or leap and we retain only baseline talents in the CC, Stun, Slow, Mitigation, Release and Cleanse categories. Our heals score the lowest of all advanced classes by a substantial amount. But more importantly the majority of our abilities are watered-down versions of things other classes can do more of or do better.

Electro Dart/Cryo Grenade  stuns for 4 secs, but Electrocute/Force Stun , Backhand/Hilt Strike and Debilitate/Dirty Kick all stun for 4 seconds and do damage as well.

Jet Boost/Concussion Charge gives an aoe knockback with slow but Sorcerers/Sages can knockback and immobilise.

Unload/Full Auto slows our targets for 3 secs with talents but a Marauder’s Ravage/Master Strike with talents immobilises AND they can perma-slow with two additional abilities.

On the other side of the coin…

Concealment Ops/Scrappers score highest and are commonly regarded as the pariahs of PvP. Powertechs/Vanguards are akin to gods in Ranked at the moment and they are dead last. They both score reasonably well in the interrupt category but Juggs/Guardians with 3 true interrupts lead that category are not generally considered to be formidable, terrifying or unstoppable in PvP. Even if we were given a 5 point baseline interrupt, it wouldn’t make a dent in that 60 point gap and if it did it wouldn’t make us Powertechs/Vanguards.

One can only conclude that the hero factor in PvP lies somewhere other than utility.

The kings of PvP: Powertechs and Vanguards, Marauders and Sentinels burst away unfettered by mobility issues and they scoff at interrupts no matter how many of them you have. PT/Vanguard dots and delayed explosions keep killing you even after they’re dead and Maras/Sentinels off-the-chart mitigation makes them close to immortal for us ‘Jedi Killers’.

Bestowing us an interrupt is not going overcome this problem but then nor is it going to upset class balance beyond all reckoning. It would be nice to have one in PvE but if it only works at 4m or 10m range like the rest them then that’s about as reverse on a lawn mower.

It’s claimed that Mercenaries and Commandos have some of the best burst in the game but we’re also one of the few Advanced Classes that relies heavily on casted damaged. Snipers and Gunslingers are immune to interrupts while in cover and Sorcerers/Sages have a stellar combination of mitigation and heals to keep them alive through a lock-out.

If we’re to truly become Jedi Killers, we need a way to protect our burst without asking Bioware to completely redesign the class. A decent window of immunity to movement impairing effects; better releases, speed boosts and leaps; improved damage mitigation or one of the better suggestions I’ve heard: Make Tracer Missiles/Grav Rounds instant cast but give it a cool-down.

I’d love to hear your ideas below.

As promised earlier, here are the full calculations in PDF format for you to digest or dissect: Advanced Class Utility Calculations