Biochem: Verdict (Required for Pure DPS)

You heard it here first. If you're a class that can't fill a role other than DPS, you need to be using Biochem in order to maximize your output. The Rakata reusables are just too good not to get and no pure DPS endgame raider should be without them. It might take you some time to get them (the only way to get the required materials is to do Hardmode Flashpoints and Normal/Hard Operations), but I have all of them and I can tell you from experience that they're worth it.

Rakata Attack Adrenal
Rakata Skill Stim
Rakata Medpac

I rest my case.

Power Rating

I realized I hadn't been making this clear enough: power rating improves the base damage of all your abilities.

What does this mean for critical hits? Power rating increases the base damage that critical hit calculations (with surge) take into account. Power basically makes all of your damage better across the board. However, you hit massive diminishing returns when you attempt to stack stats in any way on your gear.

How is this applicable to Sniper? Well, I don't recommend stacking stats at any point, but I do love temporarily stacking power rating (relic + adrenal) in order to do massive amounts of normal and crit damage. What stims and adrenals allow you to do is get very close to the power cap. At that point, your crit/surge ratings come into play (scaled off your new base damage) and you end up hitting like an absolute truck.

Basically you want to use the Field Tech gear that BWA has designed for you and stack power rating from consumables and relics on top of that.

How does it work in practice? Ask the people I just triple-killed with Orbital Strike.

Crit Rating vs. Power

I see this question all the time. Read on for an outline of the common arguments in favor of each rating and a glimpse of my perspective on this important aspect of Sniper gameplay.


What should I do when I'm not in cover?

Reader question from Stephen, reprinted with permission:
I'm currently a lvl 31 gunslinger and usually when I'm not in cover (chasing someone - pvp) my attacks that I use so far are Flurry of Bolts and Quick Shot (if my Leg Shot is on cooldown). Is it appropriate?

Any more suggestions for when I'm not in cover?

 NB: For Snipers, those abilities are Rifle Shot and Overload Shot.

Answer: Mostly I use any debuffs that aren't on cooldown. Think about adding Flash Bang / Flash Grenade. These are AoE 8-second stuns with a 30m range and can give you time to set up in cover again. You can use Takedown / Quickdraw as well (these finishers can be used out of cover). If someone runs away, I usually pick a different target in range. I consider making someone run away as "mission accomplished."

A funny trick is putting an Explosive Probe / Sabotage Charge on someone right before they run away (most people run between 40-30% health) and then detonating it with  Overload Shot / Quick Shot or Rifle Shot / Flurry of Bolts and finishing them off.

The Preferences Tab and You

SW:TOR has launched with a "Preferences" tab that includes many interesting ways to change both your game's internal functionality and the User Interface. I change many of these settings as soon as I first log in or create a new character. More after the break.

Marksman/Lethality Hybrid (16/2/23)

So I hit 50 Sniper and tried this 16/2/23 build.

Result: I don't recommend it. It's extremely energy intensive. Read after the cut for the full analysis.


The Foundry (Early Access Note)

Just a quick note to let you know that the last boss of the Foundry has the potential to bug. I'm not yet sure what caused it for my group, but I figured you guys would want to know.

The "Mysterious Jedi" you fight at the end of the Flashpoint casts a shield that is supposed to "pop" toward the very end of encounter (think less than 7% health remaining). Our boss stayed shielded and nothing we did could get the shield to engage properly. I discussed the bug with a few guildies and it's possible that we pushed through the phase so fast that the graphic effects that were supposed to occur (a burst of lightning) locked up and didn't play.

Unfortunately, that meant the shield stayed up as well! We fought the boss at about 4% health for something like ten minutes while we tried to figure out the special gimmick.

Turns out we should have just jumped over the railings, re-entered the Flashpoint, and tried again. The fight played out correctly on the second try.

Biochem (Early Access Note)

I've been leveling with Biochem as my "crafting" crew skill of choice. I am currently ~280 (out of 400) and I've found the stims, medpacks, and implants to be very useful.

The only drawback I've been observing is that it can be hard to find things you want to craft "at level" when you get there, and you may not be able to find enough materials in the open world to keep yourself fully supplied. Although sending your companions on gathering missions can compensate for the material dropoff (i.e. if you're leveling very fast), it will cost both money and time. Snipers and Imperial Agents in general can be at a slight disadvantage because they don't get their next "real" companion until Alderaan.

Biochem has been a worthy and useful leveling skill thusfar. Even your normal "green" crafted items will be better than most of what you can buy from vendors.

Additional Note: Building your companion's affection means that they'll complete crew skills tasks faster and get better results. It's a fairly noticeable bonus at higher levels (250+/400).


Natural Cover (Early Access Note)

This is a quick note to tell you about something I've observed on the origin/capital worlds. Some "natural" cover points seem to think you're still moving when you drop into them (your charged abilities, like Snipe, will be spontaneously and mysteriously interrupted time and again, and your character may look like it's "twitching" in place). I'm not sure this is exactly what's happening, but it looks like a familiar issue I've seen in the past.

Temporary fix: Get out of the green cover point and hit "Shift-F" to take portable cover in place. You can set it up behind natural cover if you need to.

If you see your channeled "Snipe" getting interrupted, don't try to keep recasting. Just go straight to portable cover. It'll save some time.

Edit: Please note that this is affecting only a handful of specific natural cover points, not all natural cover points. If you find a "bugged" one just take a moment to Shift-F into portable cover in place (or crouch, if you haven't gotten your AC yet).


Leveling Tips

A few people asked for Sniper leveling tips. It's simpler than you might think.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments section of this post if you encounter a bug, problem, or other roadblock while you're leveling. I'll be periodically checking this post throughout Early Access.

Alternative Leveling Build for Alternative Playstyles

This post is for people who may not want to play the Sniper as a ranged single-target DPS like I do. It is based totally in personal preference. This build will make no sense for someone who wants to stay at range and time their hard-hitting abilities.

It will make a lot of sense, however, to/for someone who doesn't mind getting into melee range and using Fragmentation Grenade to AoE down a pack of standards. AoE can be fun, but Frag Grenade is a largely impractical ability to use if you are playing Sniper like I do and want to use the rotations I've previously outlined in my general guide.


Weekly Outlook

I have enough disparate requests for information that I figured I'd better start keeping people updated on my plans (and the status of their questions).

NB: I now own "imperialsniper.com." That domain redirects here to the blog. I'd appreciate you using the shorter link in referrals and credits. It may also be worth updating your bookmarks (though you can still get here using the old url).

Update: TORhead has been changing links to their skill/talent calculator. My build links are now updated to reflect the new urls. (Thanks, Frank!)

07 Engineering

Summary: I consider Engineering to be the most durable and cooldown-dependent Sniper spec. Read more for details.


Public Service Announcement: TORhead's tooltip numbers

Update: Received confirmation from Cody at TORhead that they'll be adding a disclaimer. I commend their professionalism (and look forward to continuing to use their database/tooltips).

TORhead's tooltip numbers are (currently) flatly inaccurate representations of the damage your abilities will do as a level 50 Sniper. Do not use their damage estimates either to theorycraft or attempt to justify a talent build. If you see anyone using these numbers where Sniper is concerned, stop them!

TORhead calculations currently do not account for buffs to basic damage, crit rating, surge rating, and other facts of life that have a large impact on Sniper damage at level 50. They are no good for you and have faint basis in reality.

Edit: Added some "overestimates." Snipe is not as good as TORhead has it calculated.


Building a Lethality/Engineering Hybrid is a Bad Idea: Here's Why

I did not expect this to become so popular a topic among Snipers on the TOR forums. The suggested build is usually some variation of 2/18/21 (with more points in Lethality, to take Cull).

The real problem is that this build does look so attractive on paper.

The people building it aren't totally off-base about "good abilities" to use, either. Cull, Interrogation Probe, Corrosive Grenade, Corrosive Dart, and Explosive Probe (with Cluster Bombs) are all strong abilities. They just happen to be the most expensive abilities in both trees (none of them costs less than 20 energy and Cull costs a whopping 30). All of them also have front-loaded energy costs. As much as I'd like a hybrid build to be viable, there's just no way to balance this kind of rotation in order to have enough energy to do good, consistent damage without being constantly out of energy (aka: it's non-viable).

This build could potentially work with EMP Discharge (though, at that point, you're probably better off being a pure Engineering spec). The real kiss of death is trying to use Lethal Purpose as a primary energy regeneration talent (you only have two abilities that count as poison damage, even as Lethality). It's not worth much even if you're being optimistic about your DoT crit rate.


06 Marksmanship

I consider Marksmanship to be a strong candidate for leveling and the most straightforward spec to play. It is viable in both PvP and PvE.

Edit: I just finished tooltip-linking this section to make reading a bit less tedious (and hopefully easier for players new to the class). Enjoy.