Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I play a Marksmanship Imperial Agent Sniper in The Old Republic, and it has a very interesting rotation. It has a ton of abilities, but at the same time it's very structured.  It's not the "John Madden" craziness of old-school feral cats, but it does feel significantly more complex than most class rotations.

The Marksmanship Sniper rotation follows a 4 GCD cycle:
A - F - X - X
  1. The heart of the rotation is F. F is the ability Followthrough, which has a 6 second cooldown, and must be activated by using another ability first. Following this pattern means Followthrough is always available right when it comes off cooldown.
  2. A is the ability which activates Followthrough:
    1. Ambush with proc. The proc reduces the cast time to 1 GCD. Ambush has a 12s cooldown.
    2. Snipe. A basic ability that costs Focus
  3. X-X has two possibilities:
    1. One 2-GCD ability:
      1. Series of Shots. Has a 12s cooldown.
      2. Orbital Strike. Technically an AoE ability, but does really good damage and costs a lot of focus. 45s cooldown.
    2. Two 1-GCD abilities. Choose from the following list:
      1. Takedown. Execute ability only available at low health.
      2. Corrosive Dart. Damage-over-Time.
      3. Explosive Probe. 30s cooldown.
      4. Scatter shot. Puts an armor reduction debuff on the boss.
      5. Snipe. Can use if you have excess focus.
      6. Rifle Shot. The basic auto-attack that does not cost focus.
Edit: Heh, in the next patch, Takedown moves from the X column to the A column.

It's a complicated rotation, but you can see that is is heavily structured. It's not just a priority list.

The other wrinkle is that a sniper must manage focus, and focus regenerates faster the more you have of it. So you do have to manage your focus a bit. For the most part, I find it's not an issue except when you use Orbital Strike.

So that's 10 abilities that get worked into the regular rotation. There's also 3 offensive cooldowns, about 5 defensive cooldowns, and an interrupt and an incapacitate which is sometimes used.

The Old Republic really has issues with ability bloat.

Now, you can simplify this a fair bit. Drop Explosive Probe and Corrosive Dart and don't bother with Orbital Strike for single-target. That brings it down to 7 abilities for a fairly minor dps loss, and pretty much takes energy management off the table. It also allows you to stay out at a greater distance, as all the remaining abilities have a slightly longer range.

Now is it a good idea to have rotations this complicated? Honestly, I rather think that this is is too complex. I  generally prefer rotations with about 5 abilities. One of the other points to note is that The Old Republic doesn't have an auto-attack, so you have to fill every empty GCD with Rifle Shot. There's no such thing as a free GCD for you to do something else.

But then this is balanced by not being quite as strict with performance requirements as heroic raiding in WoW is. I would say that The Old Republic difficulty tops out in mid-heroic WoW, and has nothing like the killer end bosses of WoW (H-Lich King, H-Ragnaros, etc.)

What is your ideal rotation? Do you prefer structure, or a strict priority list? How many abilities do you want? Do you want to watch timers, to keep up debuffs? How much free space should there be? Do you want to keep track of a resource, or just go off cooldowns? What class in what game would you say has the best rotation?

Or do you just want 1-button Cataclysm arcane mage or Burning Crusade warlock spam?


  1. I'm really enjoying TSW NM dungeons - the rotations are very simple but the bosses require a good bit of attention. I like the shift away from complex rotations because it allows the designers to give the bosses crazy-ass abilities and mechanics that force you to be right on the edge of survival the whole fight. Shifting your attention away from your own abilities makes for more variety IMO. Keeping up 5xbuilder, 2xfinisher while dodging, avoiding bad, kiting adds and watching the boss for buffs/reflects/aggro drops is challenging without being as repetitive as any complex rotation/priority system ends up being.

  2. It depends how complex the bosses are and how much you have to watch the environment during boss fights.

    If the fights are complex, then I'd rather have a simpler rotation (especially if I am tanking also). I think I'd be with you on number of abilities too - I have small hands so there's a practical issue there as well from reaching around the keyboard.

  3. What is your ideal rotation? Do you prefer structure, or a strict priority list? How many abilities do you want? Do you want to watch timers, to keep up debuffs? How much free space should there be? Do you want to keep track of a resource, or just go off cooldowns? What class in what game would you say has the best rotation?

    Or do you just want 1-button Cataclysm arcane mage or Burning Crusade warlock spam?

    When I play a healer, I prefer to have a complex system, with lots of cooldowns, procs and shiny stuff to track.

    When I play a damage dealer, I prefer 1- or 2-button spam (be it Arcane Blasts, Mind Spikes, Shadowbolts or Tracer Missiles).

  4. One thing I've noticed is that you're not penalized for ignoring certain abilities in a rotation like you are with WoW.

    For example, there's the Smuggler's Quick Shot. Nice idea, but it sucks a lot of juice for not that much in return. It doesn't make sense to put it in a rotation, but in a pinch, it works fine.

    Given that I started playing MMOs with the Wrath version of the Ret Pally, I grew accustomed to the whack-a-mole approach of hitting whatever procced first. An actual rotation, like what you see in other classes, didn't come later. I prefer the "rotations" that I see in TOR, wherein I'm given the leeway to make a decision based on what makes sense for me. The only thing that I have a priority on is CC-ing; if that's available --and needed-- that gets moved to the top of the line.

  5. Rotations being made complicated just for the sake of being complicated enrage me. They aren't fun.

  6. I would love to see more gameplay similar to the Tera Lancer. You have to keep up your guard and then attack when there are openings, and you never really watch your UI for cooldowns. The fun part is that you have the decision to take a risk which will pay off with more threat or damage, but if you take that risk at the wrong time you take damage. It brings your focus up to the action and not skill icons.

    I can imagine that system with a DPS spec where you have to react to the envrionment and the boss. By missing something, perhaps you die, or your dps suffers, but if you are good you can really squeeze in a lot of extra damage.

  7. I'm with Valanna. I prefer a smaller set of abilities that let you concentrate on the fight. Tera Lancer tanking does this: you are sneaking 2-4 abilities in between blocks, while focusing intensely on the fight in front of you.

    WoW is often too engineered. You are focusing on multiple abilities/CDs/procs, and boss-timers, rather than the actual battle. I've tanked fights in my ret gear because my camera is so far back, and I have so little care about the part of the screen where my character is.

    I also agree with SWTOR ability bloat. It's just about OK for a non-optimised DPS rotation, but I can't imagine PvP when you need to use all these abilities.

    If I wanted to use so many buttons, I'd play the piano....

  8. I actually find the Marksman Sniper rotation very simple, and I have it as a two cycle rotation:

    Cycle 1: Series of Shots -> Ambush (SoS almost always procs Reactive Shot, deals a ton of damage, is basically Energy-free over the cast time, and with the last patch has a mirrored cooldown with Ambush) -> Followthrough -> Scatter Shot -> Corrosive Dart (to get my debuffs up right away)

    Cycle 2: Snipe -> Followthrough -> (Any two other abilities, as per the situation, cooldowns, or energy level).

    In general, cycle 1 is the higher cost one, which allows cycle 2 to help recover in preparation for returning to cycle 1.

    With this pattern set up on my bars/n52, I find it pretty easy to work through it, so it ends up being just as easy as my old Warlock rotations.

  9. Don't hate on Arcane mages. I like mashing one button and doing better DPS than 90% of the player base in LFR :)