After playing over 100 Player vs. Player (PvP) warzone (WZ) matches in Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR), you start thinking to yourself, “I’m ready for a new challenge.” You have a solid group of players who have been successful in unranked PvP matches and believe that they are ready for the next step in PvP evolution. You rally the troops for an eight man pre-made group to try your first ranked (rated) warzone (WZ) match, only to get destroyed by the other team. You soon realize that there’s much more to forming a great cohesive team of eight players than meets the eye.
This sounds like a scenario I encountered nearly five months ago. We formed a guild with a singular vision: to become a top-tier ranked WZ team. We quickly realized this wasn’t going to be easy. Most ranked teams have great chemistry, are fully geared, and have played together for the better part of the entire life-cycle of the game. I’ve been a part of successful and unsuccessful ranked teams and have experienced bitter defeat and the thrill of victory. The purpose of this article is to provide insight into how to become a successful, fun and enjoyable ranked WZ team.
Please note that this guide provides suggestions only, and is not intended to be the definitive guide on how to play/run a ranked WZ team. Moreover, with the imminent of Game Update 2.0 and the Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion, PvP will change drastically. In general, many strategies and scenarios work; I’d love to hear what you and your teams do to be successful, so please leave a comment.
Some Questions to Ask Yourself
Running an effective ranked WZ team can be challenging, frustrating and time-consuming. It can also be one of the most rewarding experiences the game has to offer. To know that your team is among the best in Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) is tremendously satisfying. However, there’s a steep “learning tax”, meaning it takes a long time to become the best and doesn’t happen overnight. Before you start thinking about running ranked consistently, here are some questions to think about:
• What are your goals?
• Is your team willing to lose repeatedly?
• Are your members willing to listen to constructive criticism?
• Do you have a strong leader that people will follow?
• Are you and your team willing to commit over a long period of time to get better?
The first question is probably the most important. What is your end goal? Do you want to be the best ranked team? Do you merely want to try it and be consistent? Formulating the exact point that you want to obtain will give you something to aim for. Even if you don’t reach it right away, or ever, your team, and the members, have to respect the vision laid out for them.
Get the Right People
Leadership guru Jim Collins laid out one of the best teamwork analogies in existence in his book Good to Great. Collins describes a team or organization as a bus, and that in order to be successful, you need the right people on your bus or in your organization. Moreover, you need to get the wrong people off your bus/team.
You’re going to lose matches; everyone does. Do you have the people on your team that are willing to accept that? Is your team willing to accept criticism and not point fingers, but instead find out how to improve? You can teach skill, but you can’t teach attitude. Therefore, in my opinion, team chemistry is the second most important aspect of building a ranked WZ team.
Before learning advanced strategies, we must know the basics of ranked PvP.
- Gear – Most people in our team have full Elite War Hero or nearly full. This isn’t necessary to run ranked WZs, but full War Hero is a necessity. If you don’t at least have this level of gear, you’ll be hurting your team significantly.
- Consumables – Always be prepared for ranked by consuming an Exotech Stim prior to the match. We take the non-reusable Cybertech Grenade, V-1 Sesmic, so that everyone can have an extra stun. Moreover, always have plenty of WZ Medpacs/Adrenals on you.
- Expertise – This stat is highly debated. I currently run about 1,200 on my DPS (Damage Per Second) Juggernaut, and 1,300 to 1,390 on my tank. The idea is that you’ll do more damage, healing, or damage reduction against someone with less expertise than you. However, there is a sharp diminishing return curve around 1,200 expertise stats. Generally, most ranked teams run with higher expertise considering most people will have very high level gear. (Note that Expertise will become a non-issue with Game Update 2.0, as all PvP gear will give the same level of Expertise; that is, wearing any tier of PvP gear will automatically provide the Expertise cap.)
- Voice-Over-IP Service (VOIP) – Everyone should always be on a voice program, regardless of whether they can talk or not. Generally there’s one leader calling overall map strategies and adjusting player positions, while a target caller is making sure the DPS are focused on killing certain targets.
- Focus Fire – SWTOR has a keybind that allows players to instantly target another player with the click of a button. Having all the DPS focused like a laser beam on one target is critical to taking down targets. Overall, it’s nearly impossible for two healers (or more) to keep someone alive while taking damage from four DPS simultaneously.
- Target Markers – Use a target marking system for your priority targets in case the focus target caller goes down. We use a simple priority system based on traffic light colors: green (saber) is always the top priority target, yellow (star) is second priority after saber goes down, and red (flame) is third priority. If your focus target caller is dead or disabled, everyone should know who to attack in what order.
- After Action Reports – After every match, you should scour the data to see what your strengths and weaknesses are. If you’re not doing enough DPS, maybe switch out a player or character type. See what the other team is doing well and adapt on the fly. Be careful not to call people out individually over the group. Either whisper them or make a general statement that could apply to everyone.
Note: I’ve made an addendum at the bottom of this guide regarding current class design, which will be changing with Game Update 2.0. I think most roles (DPS, Tank, Healer) will stay the same, the ideal classes may have shifted.
Most of the strategies teams run are nearly identical. There are great guides out there on individual maps and detailed analysis of seemingly every possible situation. However, I’d say 90% of ranked WZ matches are decided in the first two minutes. Therefore, I’ll provide you with sample strategies at the outset of the match that can help you gain the advantage. Once a well-coordinated team gets an upper hand, it’s usually very hard to come back.
- Ancient Hypergate – Most of the capture node strategies are almost identical. We always send just our Shadow to capture our node (pylon) while the rest of the team goes to the middle. The most important part of this map is getting into the middle the fastest. We do this by utilizing the Sentinel’s increased speed via Transcendence at the beginning. Once we reach the center, our entire team sticks together like a ball and pushes the team towards the edge of the center, and start laying down AoE damage on the entrance (choke point).If your team can push inside and start taking out targets, you’re pretty much going to win the initial fight. If you are winning, roughly after the initial minute the center area starts to clear out. Most teams grab orbs and run to the pylon to increase their multiplier. If executed properly, you can have a 300 to 100 lead going into round two, without trying to capture a node or any advanced tactics.
- Novare Coast – We send our Shadow tank to protect our node (West or East) and everyone else goes south. The entire match hinges on the initial fight and who can eliminate the first target. Generally, if our Vanguard gets their pull (harpoon) off, and we eliminate the first target, we can push forward and capture the node. Once this is done, we rotate one person to our initial node for protection and wait out the game.
- Voidstar – When attacking, it’s nothing fancy: everyone to one side. Considering the other team has to play 7 vs. 8, your team should almost always get the first door within a minute or so if you have the proper DPS. Focus fire, pulling, and timing CCs are critical to getting the first door down.Once the bomb has been planted and exploded, we do massive slows, CCs, and knockbacks and DO NOT kill opponents. Usually if you time everything just right, you can get on a “run-away.” Meaning the other team cannot catch up to the node you’re on and you can get the core within a two minutes.Defense is very simple; drop one stealthier left and one stealthier right and call targets. If you’re playing a superior team, generally the stealth friendly plays “safety.” Meaning, they don’t come out of stealth and wait for the last second to save the door. Either way, speed, communication and knowing who has to rotate is the key.
- Huttball – This map is all about positioning and controlling the center. Our Guardian and Shadow tanks are the main ball carriers, with the Sage running ahead for pulls, and most or all of the DPS stay in the center area protecting the ball. If we can’t get the ball first, sometimes we let the other team score just to hold center. Once in position, we can toss to a Guardian, who leaps to an opponent, who’s then pulled by a Sage for near instant scores. If the Shadow is in the end-zone, we just drop into the pit, friendly leap, and score all over again. Either way, whoever controls the middle usually wins.
- Alderaan – We do 2/6/0 or 2/2/4 (depending on class makeup). Shadow goes to our node (nearest node) with one DPS running interference, preventing the other team from disrupting our cap. Depending on whether we have a combat Sentinel, we will either all go middle (if we do not have a combat Sentinel) or send a tank/healer to middle to stall, while the rest of the team goes to their node and interrupts capture. Once we capture both nodes, we have two people stay at each, while everyone else roams from node to node clearing the enemies.
Whether this is your introduction into ranked WZs or you are a pro, I hoped you enjoyed this article. The two most important aspects of running a successful ranked team have nothing to do with gear, stats or expertise. It’s about combining a singular vision with passion, fun and determination. I’ve been on both the winning and losing side of this battle and can honestly say the best teams are those who are passionate about PvP and look inward for what they can do to benefit the team.
If you’re looking for more fun, come visit me on the east coast Prophecy of the Five PvP server, Empire faction, character name Deltia.
Here are some general strategies regarding class design. Keep in mind that these will change once Game Update 2.0 hits, but the basic premise of class make-up will probably remained unchanged.
1. Bubble Sage (Sorcerer) – Spec 24/17/0 – Group Stuns/AoE (Area of Effect) healing/Speed
2. Full healing Scoundrel (Operative) – Spec 31/3/7 – Single Target Healing/Stealth/Hard to kill
The Sage healer (bubble) provides shielding for friendly players while also providing area or AoE healing. The Scoundrel’s job is to provide instant healing to low health targets. Healers usually play in the back of the map and are protected by one or more tanks. If an enemy DPS player over extends to try and take out a healer, our DPS all focus down that target until the healers are clear.
1. Hybrid Shadow (Assassin) – Spec 23/1/17 – Instant CC (crowd control)/Speed/Stealth
2. Guardian (Juggernaut) – Spec 18/23/0 – UnCCable/AoE Slows/Friendly Leap
Shadow tanks are the best-equipped class for watching and controlling a node. They have stealth, decent damage, and can hold a node against a large volume of players until help can arrive. The Guardian tank swaps guards and taunts to keep both of the healers (or main DPS) from dying. Guardians make an ideal tank in ranked PvP because their defense chance increases. Moreover, the Guardian friendly leap ability combined with taunt provides 50% damage reduction for a small amount of time.
1. Smash Guardian (Juggernaut) – Spec 2/8/31 – AoE damage
2. Combat spec’d Sentinel (Marauder) – Spec 5/34/2 – Speed/defense/Armor penetration
3. Assault Spec/Pyro Vanguard (Powertech) – Spec 4/6/31 – Range/DoT Damage/Pull
4. Saboteur Gunslinger (Sniper) – Spec 7/31/3 – Range/DoT Damage/Roots
In regular WZ matches, DPS usually focused on healers (or they are supposed to). However, our ranked team focuses our damage dealers on their main damage dealer, then tank, then healer. We also change targets if someone is guarded and also change targets when someone is below 30% health. If our team properly uses focus fire, the above combination provides so much burst, that one target cannot survive the initial attack.
The Guardian’s role is to provide as much AoE damage as possible while still focusing on our primary target. The Combat Sentinel usually focuses on the primary target, or attacks the tank because of their rooting ability and armor penetration while providing Transcendence as much as possible (defense buff is a life saver). The Vanguard’s role is to call targets and use their pull ability on cooldown (as much as possible) to force the priority target away from their healer/guard and allowing the team to destroy them quickly. The Gunslinger is either attacking healers in the back, focusing on the primary target, or taking down the tank when health is low.