peal's heals – a swtor blog

surgical probe is my new favorite thing
April 24, 2012, 4:24 pm
Filed under: gameplay, pvp | Tags: , , , ,

I don’t really have a good excuse for it, but I haven’t done a whole lot of research for theory-crafting my healers. And for a while there wasn’t much information out there. But now, there’s no excuse.

A few things I’ve learned:

1. Surgical Probe is actually awesome. My first instinct was that SP doesn’t heal for a whole lot – in terms of straight HPS there are better spells. But that wasn’t taking account for utility. Instant cast and no energy make this spell awesome, coupled with free TA refresh on targets less than 30%? This is pretty great, especially if you’ve got hots ticking on said target. Mobility is pretty darn important in warzones.

2. Surge is sadly lacking in battlemaster gear-for most classes. I realized at the beginning of the weekend I had no surge (literally), and that even continuing my upgrades, I was still on the path to zero surge. So instead of picking up a belt (which I got yesterday) I picked up the two earpieces that have Surge first. It helped a little. A healthy amount of crit and surge help a lot more than more tech power, in my biased experiences.

3. I found this link for Sang’s Operative Healer PvP guide and was surprised at how much I didn’t know. Okay, okay. For utility I was actually doing alright with my escape, dispels and stuns (You can dispel Flash Bang on other players!). But for actual healing I was a noob. For instance, stacking 2 Kolto Probes on everyone in sight is overkill and a waste of Energy. I was doing 2 by default and since I read this, I’ve been making a point to do 1 on everyone taking any damage, and going to 2 when I was being forced to kite and people had gone below half health. Between this change and using more SP, my Energy bar is a lot fuller… and I’m still doing about as much healing as before. In some cases more (though it’s so situational it’s hard to tell, Voidstar heals should not look like Huttball heals. PS I hate Voidstar).

4. I changed specs from Recuperative Nanotechnology to going a bit further into the Lethality tree for Improved Stunination (Slip Away) and Combat Stims. The extra energy helps a bit, especially now that I’m getting used to the TA proc sound.


from the searchbox
April 20, 2012, 12:00 pm
Filed under: for fun, pvp, strategy | Tags: , , ,

Here’s some search terms people used recently and stumbled across my blog.

1. Best crew skills for operative medic? I personally like Cybertech. Once you get 50 and have 400, you can make reusable bombs. Having a third stun is really nice even if it’s a short one. Otherwise, BioChem gives you a perma-stim, Armstech gives you… Umm… Let’s just say I was really disappointed with Armstech. So, um, how about that Cybertech? Yeah!

2. Operatives are overpowered healing. What? Okay, everyone’s entitled to their opinion and I’ve pretty sure I’ve made mine abundantly clear: Nerf Bounty Hunters, and nerf them now! Sorcs, too. *grumble grumble* Though, in fairness I don’t know if this searcher was looking for PVP or PVE information. With no meters in PVE I’ve healed alongside Mercs, Sorcs, and other Operatives. I could always tell when the person behind the character was good, regardless of class played. I’d say a good player makes any class look overpowered.

3. SWTOR instants interrupted. I’m pretty sure this is impossible, though I imagine that when things get really laggy it can look like you either interrupted someone’s instant (though really the game registered it as the spell coming after/before??) Or someone interrupts you while casting an instant but again, the game registers it as the spell before it.

4. Kolto Probe two tanks. The neat thing about Kolto Probe is that even though it only stacks to two, you can stack it to two on any number of players. As long as you can find a way to remain in range of both tanks, you can Probe both of them to your heart’s content. I wrote about how much I loved Probe a few weeks ago, but here’s the quote to explain how to roll:

…after experimenting I realized I was wrong. It does roll. So long as you cast 2 before the first Probe wears out, and continue to cast 1 Probe before all Probes fade, the hot will continue ticking at 2-Probe strength. The duration on the tooltip represents the timer of the most-recently-cast Probe.

5. Mercenary or Sorcerer. I have little experience with Mercenaries. And while I’m inclined to say “sorcerer, duh!”, my real answer should be: why not make both and play around with them to get a feel for which you like better? Your playstyle might heavily favor one or the other. Or maybe you’ll just like the Merc’s attitude better. I know I do!

6. Killing Operative healers 1.2. Oh, boy. See, when I’m the one getting killed I think “wow, this guy has it so easy. I’m squishy and seriously, Force Lightning took 90% of my life and how is that not broken??” but once in a blue moon I’ve been able to survive and seem very hard to kill. Like against some melee and sometimes against snipers (when there’s a playground for me to LoS in). Pretty much, interrupt and stun as you can, don’t let them get away. And seriously (this is totally inflammatory but hey, this is a healing blog) if you can’t kill an operative healer, you’re not trying hard enough.

the operative healer’s warzone survival guide
April 17, 2012, 5:26 pm
Filed under: gameplay, pvp, strategy | Tags: , , ,

I’m totally unqualified to write this article! Hurray!

1. Gear does help, some. Having 13k HP is infinitely better than 9 or 10k. Crits are amazing. So if you’re leveling, keep your orange gear modded with recent stuff to make sure you have comparable HP to the guys you’re playing against. I’ve seen -some- Operative DPS prioritize Endurance over Cunning (Patron Mod over Skill Mod, basically) and they still can wreck the charts. BUT. Said DPS also don’t worry about the ball or the ball handler. They go for easy kills. But if you’re frustrated with being an easy kill, why not switch around your gear a bit? Credits are cheap.

2. Stealth is awesome but it has weaknesses. One of my favorite things about Operative healing is that I get to choose where to fight. That’s powerful and awesome. But. Sometimes enemies can see you – some can spec for it but even those without talents for stealth-seeing can notice you, and sometimes even from max range. I’ve been popped out of stealth at 30 yards by a Merc after using Super-Sneak. I don’t understand and I was certainly frustrated, but the lesson I’ve learned is that Stealth isn’t perfect. Don’t try to sneak through a group of 5 enemies unless you’re actually going to fight them. When I notice someone stealthing near me, I can’t help but pop them out, just because. It’s irresistable and fun, so don’t tempt your enemy.

3. There are two games you can play in Warzones. One of them is heal all the players, the other is Huttball. Or Defend the turrets. Or Guard the bunker. As Operatives, we’re terrible ball carriers. And by ourselves, we’re not assaulting blast doors. But. We’re pretty great at sneaking up with another player. One of my favorite things to do is attack a turret guarded by one enemy and stay stealthed until my partner absolutely needs a heal. By the time the enemy realizes he’s outnumbered, it’s too late. And same with guarding. I know, being stealthed and staying at a node that doesn’t get attacked is boring and sometimes I hear healers qqing that they shouldn’t be guarding, they should be healing. Um, no. You just want the most healing done so you get more MVP votes. But now we get plenty of points for defending and what do you care more about – winning the match or winning the meters?

4. Currently (and let’s hope this gets fixed) you only get points and valor IF AND ONLY IF you get five or more awards in a match (update: It’s three. Thanks, Shintar!). When you win, this is easy. When you’re losing, not so much. You may need to do a mix of guarding your sole turret and attacking other turrets to get enough awards to win commendations. Otherwise, it’s a double-whammy of losing loseyness: no points and no win.

5. Speaking of winning and losing, you can have a good team, do everything right… and still lose. Sometimes some asshole on the other team will put a mark on your head and it will be the personal mission of four of their players to kill you the moment you pop out of stealth. Other times the enemy will just seem ten times faster than you and be one step ahead of your brilliant plans. Still others, you’ll raise your fist in the sky and say “how can that bounty hunter heal for so much even though we killed him 12 times?!”. I don’t have answers for that, friend.

6. As operative healers, we have a mite less utility than our sorcerer and merc counterparts. But don’t let that dishearten you. Sure, they can stun/interrupt/cc at range and have a full arsenal of spells they can cast (at range) and we don’t. At heart, Operative is a melee class so our utility only shines in close quarters, which many times we don’t want to be. But then when that sorc get focused down and you decide the other bunker is the place to be, well, Vanish gets the job done. It’s faster than running back from the graveyard.

Situational Awareness: So important it gets its own list

SA1: Your place in the world. Obviously, don’t stand in shit. But there’s more, so much more! Where are you in relation to the other team, your teammates? Fight near turrets/bunkers but be aware of LoS obstacles keeping you from healing. What does the field look like? Where will you be the most likely to heal in peace? I like to keep a pillar handy and/or stand at a far edge so that the other team’s ranged DPS approaching from their graveyard won’t be in range unless they specifically gun for me.

SA2: Not just who’s in range, but who isn’t. Because if 6 of your team are fighting 2 enemies here, that means you’re about to lose something big somewhere else. And sometimes, it’s just gotta be you who gives up all that juicy potential healing to haul ass and help out elsewhere.

SA3: Typing and healing at the same time is a pain but it’s a necessary evil. If no one else is communicating, get the ball rolling. How’s mid? NW is clear. They’re going East. INC OMFG HELP S NOW I’M A HEALER SQUISHY. Splat. Players are more likely to help people who lead. Though, in all fairness I’m terrible at calling doors in Voidstar. I can’t remember which is which, and saying “help other door” isn’t terribly effective.

SA4: Who’s your enemy focusing? That friendly needs a lot of heals. The sniper in the back at half-health who they’re ignoring to focus your other healer? Slap a hot on the sniper and spam heals on your partner-in-healing like there’s no tomorrow. They’re gonna need it.

SA5: What are your enemies? I hate to be all “this and this are overpowered now” but different enemies call for different strategies. A sniper sniping you from max range is easy to avoid by either stepping back a few yards or sliding behind a rock. And sometimes you get lucky-a ranged DPS will switch targets rather than chase you. If you’ve got a melee on ya, well, you probably don’t want to just stand there and take it. You want to kite and kite some more and when they do catch up, dole out stuns as needed to buy space and hot-ticking time. Oh, and once you know there are two stealthies on the other team, you may as well pretend they’re about to gank you at any moment. Because they are.

SA6: What are your teammates? A tank-specced assassin takes much less damage than a sorcerer. Healing next to another healer also changes the dynamics, the kinds of spells you can use, and how you manage your energy. And sometimes you have to make hard choices: if I have to heal one person at the risk of losing another, who do I keep? It takes a lot of PvP to learn intuitively how to make these kinds of decisions, and many times the answer isn’t ever clear.

SA7: Some areas in warzones are prime targets for AOE-fests. The blast doors in Voidstar. Turrets and bunkers. If you aren’t trying to claim something right away, stay near but not in those areas and avoid some damage. Likewise, don’t get buddy-buddy with your teammates. One AoE stun on both healers can hurt the team, and when you both try to move out of the Orbital Strike, you’re both doing less healing.

SA8: How much time is left in the match? Sometimes it’s better to waste 30 seconds than it is to try to go for one last score. When there’s less than a minute left in Huttball and we’re winning, my team often will drag the ball into our pit. Why? Because at that point, controlling the ball is more important than another score. Same with the final countdown in Voidstar – with 20 or 15 seconds left on the clock, it doesn’t matter if you’re the only person going against 5 players. All you need to do is keep all of them from arming a bomb and then they don’t get the door at all. And is it really worth stressing if the enemy takes a turret when they have 10 defense left and you have 240? Enjoy your win.

SA9: Cooldowns. What do you have left in the fight to use? What will be coming up again and about how soon will it be ready? Proper cooldown management can be difference between OOE and “haha, sucker, you can’t stop me!”. Don’t just think about healing cooldowns, either. Explosive Probe is great burst damage and our stuns can turn the tide in a fight. Oh, and relics! I’m a relic-noob and I would probably heal more if I remembered to use them, like, ever. Same with stims and medpacs, though I only use them when I see it making a clear difference in the fight.

How do you survive in warzones?

the nerf bat swingeth

So… how do you like the changes?

1. The new warzone is a lot of fun. I like the push/pull way of holding bunkers and turrets. The all-or-nothingness of Voidstar and Civil War (you either plant the bomb or get interrupted) works… but it’s nice that even a few seconds of channeling control does something for the team–and the fact that more people clicking is a much faster channel! It’s smooth and fun.

The map is also a good size. Sometimes when I’m stealthed I feel like it takes forever to get from one to the other but it’s not. You can see your teammates (and the enemy) all across the map. And any complaints I have about traveling are from my seething jealousy of Force Speed, that’s all.

2. I missed the memo and thought we’d get some things we haven’t gotten yet, like auto-group-keeping between warzones and 8-man queues. But that’s alright. As much as it’s annoying to reform your group between each, there are much worse things.

3. The new UI is neat. I’m still holding out for some healer-friendly changes but we got a few neat toys you may want to play around with. You can enable target of target by going into UI editor–there’s a couple of red boxes near the mini-map. Clicking and then clicking enable (kinda sounds like I should have taken a screenshot of this, eh?) will show your target’s target. This is less important to me now than it was while I was still learning the game; it seems I’ve gotten used to not having it. But it’s still nice. The narrow red bar near the target’s target is the target’s target’s cast bar (say that three times fast!). Also handy.

4. Still really wish offensive/healing spells had a reflexive targeting quality like you could set them up in WoW. Like, if you healed the boss it healed the boss’s target. Or even if you could heal a target you didn’t have targeted. Because it’s really annoying to interrupt people while healing. Possible, but annoying.

5. Had a blast last night PvPing. That was all we did now that our points max out at 2k. It’s crazy that when we ding 50 we’ll have access to Battle Master gear. It’s pretty expensive, but it should be. There’s still a bit of grinding to get a full set, just much less of a grind than there used to be. But I’m glad that Bioware seems to be interesting in doing a tiered leveling system–once new shiny gear is introduced, the old new-shiny is made highly accessible. Because seriously, new level 50s have enough going against them without having to do a separate grind for each tier of gear.

6. The change to allow medics up to 3 stacks of Tactical Advantage ended up being a much bigger, better change than I’d initially thought. It’s a lot more on-the-move healing flexibility, for one, and Energy is a lot easier to manage. When I only had 2 stacks, I ended up wasting so many TA points. With up to 3, less get wasted and there’s more to spend more often it seems.

7. I miss our giggling already – but – there is a silver lining to the storm cloud that is the giggle-nerf. When we get TA procs via Kolto Probe, there is a sound. If I had to describe it, I’d call it a clank noise, something like a wrench tightening a bolt with sudden finality. But better yet, why not hop on your Operative and spam some Probes until you get used to what it sounds like yourself? To me, it’s louder and more obvious than a free Consumption proc on my Sorcerer (I had a hard time training myself to listen for that one, it’s too quiet IMHO). We do have an audio cue to help manage our TA it’s just not a fun cue anymore.

8. May or may not get 50 tonight. We’re level 49 and enjoying it. For the Empire!

why you don’t want to play an agent
April 10, 2012, 4:12 pm
Filed under: for fun, pvp | Tags: , , , , ,

I have this embarrassing confession to make…

I prefer warzone groups that have exactly two Imperial Agents: me and Apparation.

There are a few exceptions, of course, but at the same time I see other snipers and operatives and think “sheesh, if only we had this many Sorcerers instead.”

And I could trot out some wonderful-sounding excuses like “well, Agents are hard to play properly” or “bounty hunters and inquisitors are just so gosh-darned good right now” but the long and short of it is, there’s this preconception that Agents are the weakest class.

If I’m being honest with myself, they are.

5 Reasons Not to Play an Agent in PVP

1. All the other kids in the playground (er, players in the warzone) groan when you hop into their game. No really, you could have rolled a mercenary or a sorcerer and everybody knows it. At least you can be bad and still do a decent job if you play the overpowered classes.

2. No freaking closing ability. Seriously, when we start talking about awesome movement utility the Agent gets left in the dust. Force speed is ridiculously amazing and that’s not all: Sorcerers also get Extrication (think life grip) for double the ball-carrying speed action. Then Powertechs get grapple, Warriors can Charge and Juggernauts can Intercede. So why do Operatives (a melee-only class) get… nothing?

3. While we’re ranting about what Agent’s don’t have, I should mention this other minor thing… KNOCKBACKS. Inquisitor’s Overload is awesome. Sure, it’s self-based but some can talent it to stun and man that stun always lasts forever when you’re on the receiving end. And whatever that thing that Bounty Hunters can do like all the freaking time- yeah, I hate that. Stupid bounty hunters.

4. See that Merc over there, spamming Tracer Missle like there’s no tomorrow? And that Sorcerer throwing out lightning? Sustained burst is not for you, Agent. You get to cast a whole three abilities (slight hyperbole warning) and then you can run around waiting for your energy to come back. Enjoy!

5. Speaking of sustained burst, a sorcerer healer has a lot of different offensive abilities they can use to keep busy when no healing is needed. Sure, their Lightning and all isn’t quite as powerful as going with a DPS spec, but they can still do a whole rotation of things and have some Force to spare for healing. I can’t speak for Mercs but considering some of the damage and healing done in warzones by Mercs I’d say they can stay busy, too. Not so with the Agent. Our Operative arsenal is pretty pathetic (you have to spec into the other DPS trees to get more key abilities) and not-at-all sustainable if we want to heal, too. Let’s face it, Overload Shot just costs too much for what it does. And that’s about all we have when Shiv and Backstab are down.

Fortunately, there are some good reasons to play an Agent in PVP:

1. You are the only healer who can stealth. So when those jerks on the other team put a giant flame target on your head (it’ll happen), you can actually get to the brawl and help your team before you get ganked. There’s also the chance you’ll survive, too, since you’re always with a group. Being able to choose your fights is priceless.

2. Sorcerers aren’t the only ones who can have fun on ledges, picking players off one by one. Snipers can, too. And cover makes you immune to Grapple and a couple other movement devices.

3. Agents are the minority. Which means playing an agent, you’ll round out the group. And here’s this other potential benefit: your other team may have less experience playing against you than they do Sorcerers and Sages. Seriously. Even as a healer with pathetic damage output, I’m able to solo players who don’t understand how Operative healers work (killing a n00b DPS is highly satisfying, give it a try) (and if two people are dead-set on killing me anyways, I try to lure them away from the rest of their team as far as possible and leave them in the wrong pit for maximum travel-time wastage. Most the time they really think I’m trying to flee and chase me all the way).

4. So maybe we don’t get cool toys like the other kids but you know what we get? Hots. And as much as I really think Probes should stack higher than 2, being able to spread them out over the group (watching the energy bar, mind you!) makes for some awesome zerg parties. Being able to move while I’m spreading the love is pretty great, too, so I can position myself to pillar-hump once some Merc thinks he has a shot of killing me. Dream on, dude. I got instants to spare.

5. Us Agents are patient folk. In 1.2, guess who’s getting nerfed? That’s right… everyone BUT Agents. As much as I think Agents (mostly Operatives, can’t speak for Snipers) don’t have all the utility we need, we’re being watched and I’m certain developers will keep nerfing and buffing till we have a shot at staying competitive.

6. The healing and damage done metric can be overrated. Sure, I’d do a hell of a lot more dps or healing as a Sorc or a Merc. I’m sure of it (and I’ve played Sorc to know). But at the end of the day, winning a warzone takes more than that. Fighting in the middle nets you good numbers but does it matter if the enemy claims the other two turrets or if the other team has the ball near the goalline? Any player sacrifices “numbers” to be in the right spot at the right time. It is trickier for Operatives because our interrupt, stun, and group CC are all melee-only, but with Stealth/Vanish we have a shot at getting to the ball, the turret, wherever we want to be, to do the most good. Not the most healing.

7. Our gear is so sweet. See that sissy running around in a robe frayed with purple fuzzies and feathers? Or that dude who thinks wearing a tin can is awesome? Not so, dear Agents (Scoundrels, too). We got style in spades… and the coolest sunglasses.

8. Oh, and the Agent storyline is the best. That is all.

kolto graffiti: enjoy your probe
February 9, 2012, 8:07 pm
Filed under: for fun, gameplay | Tags: , , ,

I’ve heard a couple of times in general chat that Operatives are “hot-based healers” and at first I wanted to disagree. Call me a WoW noob, but when you say hots, I think druids. And Operatives only have one hot; as do Sorcerers.

And yet… Kolto Probe is 8 kinds of awesome. It is a vital part of Operative healing. It’s a different kind of hot than any I’ve seen before and when I tried to describe it to my pocket tank I realized… It’s not easy to explain all of the things that Kolto Probe does for the healer and the person it heals.

Here’s the tooltip:

Kolto Probe
Energy: 15
Range: 30 m
Summons a droid that heals a friendly target for X over 18 seconds. Stacks up to 2 times.

Sounds simple… But here’s the misleading part: You can cast Probe 3 (and more) times on a player, and 3 Probes hover around them. It looks like they are getting the benefit of Probe 3 times, but the number ticking over their head is limited to 2 Probes.

I had previously believed it doesn’t roll, but after experimenting I realized I was wrong. It does roll. So long as you cast 2 before the first Probe wears out, and continue to cast 1 Probe before all Probes fade, the hot will continue ticking at 2-Probe strength. The duration on the tooltip represents the timer of the most-recently-cast Probe.

lean, mean and green

For the Operative, Kolto Probes have the chance to proc Tactical Advantage, a secondary energy source that gives the Operative more spells to cast, one that costs no Energy, and one that costs some Energy, and a self-buff that gives Energy back over time. All are pretty important to make sure the Operative doesn’t run low on Energy.

I’d say that when I run myself out of Energy, it’s because I’d let all my Probes fade. Keeping them going on the tank ensures I have at least one TA proc every few seconds.

I have a feeling I’ll learn by doing once my raid team is doing Operations on a regular basis, but 18 seconds is a hard rhythm to learn.

And yet, I love the Probe. It’s a great spell, it’s fundamental to Operative healing, and there’s no other hot like it. Besides, it’s a tiny glowing probe spraying green gunk on your target. That’s just awesome.

first thoughts on classes

In my about page, I poke fun at my blog name because I didn’t know what to name it and my first character (Peal, in this case) is often not the one I end up with long term.

It took less than two months for that to happen. I’m a little sad about it because I really love the sorcerer. I love bubbles, Force Speed, hots, channeled heals, being a Force user, being Sith, shooting Lightning, the whole Inquisitor thing. It’s awesome.

That’s not to say that I don’t love Operatives. I do, oh yes. When I cast Kolto Injection (healing dart) on myself, the graphic actually shows me stabbing a dart into my own thigh. And after 17 levels and four days of flashpoints, my diabolical giggling hasn’t gotten old. Better yet, it creeps out the guildies. I love that.

For fun, I spammed some heals on myself and jotted some notes down to compare my healers. And I do mean “for fun” because they have different gear levels (my Sorcerer is worse geared already) and because I don’t feel like I understand Operative as well as I understand Sorcerer.

An example: For the longest time I had assumed that Kolto Infusion (the single target direct heal that costs both Tactical Advantage and energy) was my big heal. It’s a nice heal, but it’s not my big heal. Infusion is great because it’s cheaper, it’s fast, and it’s a moderate-sized heal.

My best heals (in terms of amount healed for time spent casting) are still the ones that cost Energy. The stuff that costs TA is great but when the stuff hits the fan… I’ll want to use Injection and Probes. At first blush, my thoughts are that Operatives are less constrained by cast times. I can burst like nobody’s business, but I absolutely cannot sustain it, and I don’t think that Operatives are designed to ever sustain.

However, in all the encounters I’ve seen so far, sustained burstiness is not required. The fights are dynamic with lulls and pinch points.

I should stop rambling and do a bullet list, huh?

Sorcerer – Pros

  • Sorcs are boss AoE healers. Revivification is just amazing.
  • Force Speed. Oh, man.
  • So many spells to cast. I love toolkit healing
  • Bubble. Seriously, bubble.
  • Gear itemization prioritizes power/ala over crit/surge so base heals are more powerful, reliable
  • Force management works like mana in other games, so the paradigm is a familiar one
  • Synergy comes naturally from using variety of spells
  • Sorcerers are SITH.

Sorcerer – Cons

  • Best heals on cooldown/constrained by debuff.
  • Slow-ass cast times on spammable heals
  • Everybody loves the reliable healer. But who wants to be the reliable healer? Also, with no logs I think many non-Sorcs will underestimate how powerful bubbles are.
  • Sorcerers are a popular class, may have to share gear and compete for Sorc healer spots in the Ops team

Operatives – Pros

  • Nothing is on cooldown
  • OMG the crits. I crit a lot, I crit for so much.
  • Any lull in the fight will fill up Energy bar again
  • Fast cast times
  • Strong single target heals
  • The hot is sooo freaking good
  • Energy cooldown every 2 minutes. That’s a lot of burst potential

Operatives – Cons

  • Little spell selection until TA procs extra choices
  • RNG with TA procs can be a fickle mistress. Synergy relies primarily on rolling one spell
  • With no spells on cooldown, it’s up to the player to moderate Energy consumption
  • Diagnostic Scan (free heal) is still pretty wimpy and I use it only as filler/for extra energy
  • Not critting kinda sucks.
  • No in-combat speed buff

Tomorrow my guild gets into our first Operation. I am very, very excited.