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

Trooper update

This week’s update is the Trooper Progression Video.  The video starts off with a low level trooper in a standard looking cloth uniform with a backpack, charging into the action gunning down his helpless enemies. Right before the video fades to the first weapon and armor upgrade you can see orange rings rising up from the troopers to his waist – it looks like some sort of self buff. His first armor shown is very clone trooper looking, with a blue and white pattern, and it comes with a bigger gun!

The next scene is the Trooper once again charging into battle, but this time he shows off more abilities, He attacks three soldiers freezing the leader with a CryoBan grenade then blasting one with a burst of blaster fire, then runs to the next one and melees him. By now the leader has defrosted and he gets dealt a rifle grenade, blasting him off a cliff.

The next progression is for those who desire firepower and utility over survivability – enter The Commando.  The Commando’s gear isn’t much heavier looking than the second progression but has the helmet goggle combo from the Trooper’s Holonet page. He’s also packing  a blaster mini-gun like from the “Hope” trailer. This Commando is standing in an open field blasting away at enemies when a blaster bolt hits another Trooper standing beside him. The Commando moves his hand to the ear of his helmet and he emits what look like radio waves,then a a small droid floats down and heals the trooper that was shot. This clip is really showing off the Commando’s versatility to both dish out damage and help keep his squad on their feet in intense combat.

The final progression for the Commando is a very cool suit of armor that looks like a mix between a clone trooper and a Bounty Hunter, and yes for you  gun nuts this mini-gun is even bigger than the last. The commando is shown destroying some sort of console then walking into a hangar that has several soldiers and droids and a particularly large combat droid waiting to ambush the Commando. The Commando opens up on his enemies with full force sweeping from side to side as droids and men fall to the ground, and to finish off this small massacre he fires a large rifle grenade ( I would say Rifle Rocket ha ha) into the large combat droid destroying it with a fiery explosion.

Now the progression video switches to the other specialization for Troopers. The Vanguard a ranged tank or damage dealer with heavier armor and shielding capabilities, and some nice utilities of his own. The Vanguards progression starts out with a heavier looking armor and a blaster rifle with a side mag very reminiscent of the E-11 Blasters the Stormtroopers carried in the original trilogy. The Vanguard is being charged by what look to be Rakghouls, while they’re charging he taps on the side of his rifle activating the “blue ammo” ability, the animation is better looking and it seems to now add electric damage to the blaster bolts then transfers to more damage upon hitting the target. As the largest Rakghoul gets closer (but not too close) the Vanguard uses the Electric Shock ability at a much farther range than was previously shown and also has a better looking animation. The Vanguard and the other troopers are now in close combat, the Rakghouls are upon them, The Vanguard uses a new personal shield ability while the other soldiers around him fall, he taps some buttons on his wrist and activates the blast ability – we saw this in the Trooper’s class video, killing the remaining enemies.

The last set of progression gear the Vanguard is very cool like a mix between a Snowtrooper and a armored down Clone Trooper, with another new rifle. The Vanguard is walking on Hoth when he gets ambushed from a high cliff-side by two imperials, The trooper gets slammed with a few blaster bolts but takes out one of his targets quickly when a Jedi appears and takes out the other. The Vanguard then spots a Sith Inquisitor as she walks towards him then stealths, The Vanguard counters by using a new ability where several droids drop down and scan the area making the Inquisitor’s stealth kick off, leaving her in plain sight. The Inquisitor Force Lightnings the Jedi (Surprise! ) making quick work of one of her targets, but the Vanguard will not go down so easily, the Vanguard charges the Sith and melees her with a Vibro Knife knocking her to the ground then empties his clip into the downed Sith.

This was an excellent progression video, and it had a ton of great stuff, mostly what stood out to me was how with the Commando it seemed to be about damaging you enemies and healing/helping your allies, didn’t really see any crowd control from him. The Vanguards approach was to survive with weapon buffs, shields, and utility, like the AoE blast and the stealth hunting droids. I’ve known since I first started following the game my main character would be a Vanguard, because I like tanking but I’ve never gotten to range tank, or from the way things are looking have the versatility the Trooper offers. If all the classes progression videos are as good as the ones we’ve already seen I think this game could do huge things for the way MMOs are made and played.


For The Republic!