03 Cover: Don’t Hate the Shield

IMPORTANT: Changes to this system have been frequent! It is my intention to outline the basics that have now been consistent through multiple builds.

The cover system continues to receive improvements to make it more intuitive to use and friendly for new players. Because many people have never used a mechanic like this in an MMO, learning to use cover can also be the single biggest “barrier to entry” for someone who wants to play Sniper.

Rest assured that the cover system is both functional and intuitive after you’ve spent some time with it. I don’t even think about planting it anymore, and looking for “natural” cover (green gumby points) is second nature to me while I’m approaching PvE opponents. It’s hard to talk about what cover can do for you and how it works without also describing the different types of cover and the ways to use them, so please forgive me if this next section is a little confusing.

First: Both the “Imperial Agent” base class and the “Sniper” Advanced Class have abilities that can only be used in cover. This means that you may see Operatives go into cover from time to time. Operative-specific abilities, however, tend not to have a cover requirement. By choosing to become a Sniper, you have also chosen to learn the cover system.

Your introduction to the cover system will be on Hutta, your Origin World (or Ord Mantell, for Gunslingers). At this point, you’ll only be able to either crouch in the open or take natural cover (i.e. by targeting an enemy, finding a green gumby point, and then hitting your “f” hotkey to roll into cover).

Cover Pre-10 and AC Selection


At this point, crouching in the open without any rock or item in front of you will give you no bonuses. This crouch functions purely as a tool to allow you to access your cover-only abilities when you may not be able to quickly find “natural” cover behind an object in the game world. For tutorial/design purposes, crouching in the open allows people to use more abilities (and simulates the use of portable cover) on their origin worlds.

Natural Cover

Taking cover in a “green gumby” point (what I refer to as natural cover), can give you several potential bonuses. First, you’ll get a 20% defense bonus against targets that are in your “cone of cover.” This is an area of roughly 45-60 degrees projected directly forward of your cover point. If you are crouched behind a rock, box, or other object that breaks your target’s line of sight, then you may also be able to completely negate standard ranged attacks (i.e. blaster fire, you’ll still get hit by thrown grenades). When this happens, you’ll see a red “cover” flytext message on your screen. 

Before level 10, all you need to know about using natural cover is how to find it and how to roll into it. Those steps are as follows:

1. Select target, either tabbing or with a mouseclick.

2. Scan for a green gumby point in your line of sight. It should appear between 5-10m in front of you. The “active” point you will roll into shows as a crouching figure, while other alternative points display as green triangles/arrows. Moving to the right or left of the “active” point can make one of these inactive green triangles expand into a gumby. Moving or re-orienting yourself is the fastest way to scan multiple points.

3. When you’ve found a position you like, hit “f” (the hotkey for “roll into cover”) or the “Take Cover” ability on your hotbar.

4. Your cover bar will roll over your normal hotbar. Configuring hotkeys and coming up with a standard system of in-cover and out-of-cover abilities takes practice. I’ll have more to say on how to use the cover bar (and how I organize my abilities) later in the guide. For now, just know that taking cover opens up a cover-specific hotbar. This bar will turn green when you are getting cover bonuses (i.e. a 20% defense increase, the potential to negate standard ranged damage if you are in natural cover) against your selected target.

Cover Post-10 and AC Selection

Portable Cover (i.e. the shield, replaces “Crouching” for Sniper and Gunslinger)

Access to the portable cover shield is granted at level 10, once you’ve chosen the Sniper AC. In this build, Operatives do not have access to portable cover. This may or may not change before launch.
Portable Cover is a versatile tool. In the current system, the “f” hotkey prefers to roll you into natural cover and will automatically place portable cover only when natural cover is not immediately available. The funny part is that natural cover points are not always in your line of sight! If the closest natural cover point is behind you and out of your field of vision, when you hit “f” you’ll actually roll backwards! This can be disconcerting for someone who expected to take portable cover, instead.

Thankfully, there’s a hotkey solution for this. Shift-F will allow you to “take cover in place” without the risk of rolling into a point you didn’t see. Shift-F is guaranteed to have you take cover without rolling. This alternative hotkey is good to use whenever you want to be precise in your placement of portable cover, or whenever there is a natural cover point nearby that, for whatever reason, you’d prefer not to use.

Portable cover will provide you with a 20% defense bonus against any targets in your forward “cone of cover.” An advanced use of portable cover is setting it up behind something like a box or other solid object (i.e. railings, debris, etc.) that breaks your target’s line of sight when you crouch. Portable cover set up in this way is effectively counted as natural cover. In this situation you can evade standard ranged attacks (i.e. get the red “cover” flytext message while crouching) without being in a “green gumby” point.

Your cover hotbar will continue to turn green when you are getting cover bonuses against your selected target. This bar is gray when not receiving those bonuses.

Choosing a Cover Point

Your best choice for cover as a Sniper is about 15-25m away from your intended targets, getting as many of them as possible within your imaginary “cone of cover” before you commit yourself to a fight. Melee opponents tend to run straight forward to attack you. Although melee attackers will sometimes make an attempt to flank you and ranged opponents may take cover on their own, it’s still a good idea to start most fights on your terms.

A checklist:

*Are there patrolling enemies nearby? If yes, take out the patroller first.

*Are other groups of enemies nearby? If yes, take a position immediately in front of the group you wish to dispatch first. Taking a position at too great of an angle will make it more likely for one group of opponents to link/aggro another.

*Can you get your back to a wall or set up in a corner? If yes, set up in a corner or on the edge of a room where it’s harder for enemies to flank you and easier to control potential links/adds. If no, a good natural cover point (like a spot on some stairs or near a railing) can accomplish the same thing. Doorways and corners are good places to set up so that you can see all of your potential attackers and funnel them into the “cone of cover” in front of you.

Leaving and Re-Entering Cover

You can hit any “motion” key (W, A, S, D) to leave cover. Which you use depends on which direction you want to move. Sometimes you’ll want to leave cover and hop back into cover to refresh specific cover-activated buffs (ballistic dampers come to mind!). Cover is now off the GCD, so you can set up cover again as soon as you leave it. There is now no downtime associated with setup.

Advanced Cover Tactics

“Cover-hopping” to refresh cover-specific buffs is one example. A marksman with ballistic dampers stays in cover until the three charges are used up, leaves cover (with the “defense screen” passive shield on), and then immediately goes back into cover with more charges of ballistic dampers. When fully talented, a charge of ballistic dampers will reduce the damage taken from an attack by 30%. This occurs up to three times per cover entrance.

You can also talent an instant-cast Snipe on entering cover. This talent can be used to kite enemies through an instance, using snares/roots (Leg Shot) and temporary stuns (like Flash Bang) to slow down your enemies while you continue to find cover points along a kiting path. Having ballistic dampers and defense screen also strengthens this strategy.

Cover Bonuses: REVIEW

*If your cover hotbar bar is gray: you are getting no bonuses from cover other than being able to use cover-only abilities.

*If your cover hotbar is green: you are getting a 20% defense bonus from cover against the selected target. This target is also in your cone of cover.

*If you break your opponent’s line of sight when you crouch: you can dodge standard ranged attacks, like blaster fire, and totally negate their damage. You can still be hit by grenades  and other types of AoE (anything with splash damage) as well as Force abilities (i.e. Telekinetic Throw, Force Lightning).

*Positional abilities (specifically leaps and pulls) do not work on you while you are in cover. You cannot even be targeted by them.

Organizing Hotbar Abilities

The cover hotbar is why I like to enable the bottom center quickslot (under UI preferences) as soon as I create a character that uses cover. Most cover-only abilities will default to installing themselves on your cover bar. But what to do with abilities you want to use both in cover and out of cover?
Basic principal for me is to put those “transitional” abilities on the bottom static hotbar. My defensive cooldowns go there, my buffs (like Laze Target) go there, my Escape and some basic interrupts (as well as Cover Pulse) go there. What’s tricky is placing damage abilities that can be used both in and out of cover.

One such example is Takedown. Takedown is a core Sniper ability that can be used either in cover and out of cover. You want it close to your main damage abilities and in a readily-accessible place whether you are in cover or out of cover. For me, that place is hotkey 5 on both the cover bar and the top out-of-cover bar. I never want to miss a chance to use Takedown, so I keep it in the same hotkey position consistent between cover bars.

Related abilities (Laze Target / Snipe) are organized according to the “one above, one below” principal so that I can keep track of the related cooldown.

Defensive abilities are grouped together so that I can similarly keep track of each cooldown at a glance.

Everyone has their own system, but I like keeping my most frequently used (or most reactive) abilities with low cooldowns on the right side of my hotbars. Situational abilities with long cooldowns tend to drift toward the left of my bars, again so that I have a better shot at reviewing and tracking those cooldowns at a glance.

My advice? Be patient when learning to use cover and don’t be afraid to reorganize your hotbars whenever you get new key abilities! What is an efficient use of space at level 20 should not bog you down when you get to 35, which shouldn’t stop you from rearranging again as you obtain core abilities at level 42 and 48. I frequently rearranged my abilities as I leveled (and I tend to rearrange them when I respec, too).

Additional comments, questions, and corrections can be emailed to: Fentanyl213@gmail.com

Permissions: This guide may be reproduced in whole or in part. If you do, please give me credit and link back to the original content either here on my blog (imperialsniper.com) or to my stream: http://twitch.tv./fentanyl213 Thanks!


  1. awesome guide...keep the good work up, will keep checking in for info.
    will probably contact you further for future tips prior to launch..on how you setup keybindings and hotbar(lefthanded IA here!!)

  2. Keybinding is a challenge. I use an N52. But I like to have my bars set up to match. Only having 2 action bars is a problem, and we seem to have more skills than buttons. I know it will just take time to figure out which ones to ignore, but there didn't seem like there were a lot of total throwaways

  3. Many thanks for your Insights and advice. Looking forward to your Engineer Spec thoughts.

  4. I had chosen Operative on my Beta weekend but it didnt have the playstyle i wanted, thanks for the live streaming, I see from that the Sniper is what i should have chosen.

    I was doing a similar thing with the hotbas, really helpful to have the below bar with the items used all the time.

  5. You can also take "cover in place" by right-clicking on the selected target.


Commenting? Thanks, I appreciate it! -Fen