Kinetic Combat | Darkness
Kinetic Combat is the Shadow's Tank Spec and perhaps my favorite spec in the game. Shadow tanks have a button for everything. We play more of a match game against incoming damage hitting our defensives to match the incoming damage types instead of relying on increased damage reduction (guardians) or shielding attacks (vanguards). This can make us a bit "squishier" than the other tank specs, but knowledge of our class's strengths can make us the far superior damage soakers. Force cloak for example can break boss channels that would inflect massive damage on a vanguard or guardian, our resilience defensive makes us take NO damage from a myriad of Force/Tech based attacks. Strong shadow players will learn how to evade taking damage all together, rather than trying to take "less" by mitigating it. I would say it's the most advanced tank spec of the three.
Gearing up for Kinetic Combat
Below are the gear selections, legendary implants, tactical and skill point choices I recommend for this class.
Getting Ready for a Fight
We have to be ready before we pull a boss, there are several steps to follow that will develop a good tanking regimen
Always be in stealth when you pull the boss. This will give you stacks of shadow protection as you decloak and begin the fight. This extra Damage Reduction is important and should always be the first step when you are preparing yourself for battle.
Using guard effectively will help keep the boss's threat on you and your teammates alive. In Flash points, we typically guard the healer to keep them safe from mobs. In operations, we give it to the top DPS player. You should get a sense of who is the strongest dps player of your group and guard them. They take reduced damage and will build less threat regardless of how close they are to you. You can help the healers as well. Consider swapping your guard to a player that is taking damage/low on health.
Initiate a READY CHECK - This can be done simply by typing " /rc " into the chat box. Always make sure your group is ready before you pull.
Once you have confirmed the Check is Green
Raise your Kinetic Ward. This is your primary Defensive that must be up 100% of the time. Kinetic Ward provides you with an increase to your shield chance of 18%. As you shield attacks, its 15 charges will count down. It will collapse after all charges have depleted or after 20". It is on a 10" ability cool down so keeping it up should never be an issue, however, there are bonuses to having it collapse on its own depending on which passive you have selected.
3 - 2 - 1 - GO!
Always provide a Consistent and reliable Countdown to the pull. Your DPS and Healer classes may have "wind up" abilities they are channeling or building stacks. They will rely on you to help them provide the best openers they can. Snipers for instance like to precast orbital strikes. Sages enjoy preprocing their abilities and so forth. You will earn the respect of your team quickly by consistently providing a countdown they can time out. Make it the same every time and build repetition.
Always open with Force Pull from range. This ability builds very high threat and will get you out of the gate and off to a good start.
Use your gap closer to enter melee range and begin your attacks. The gap closer will also proc your abilities and allow you to use higher threat and damage dealing attacks in your opener.
Navigating the Shadow's Abilities
Kinetic combat is a bit different from a dps spec. Like its counterparts (shield spec and defense) our goal is to use our abilities in such a way that we build a higher amount of threat vs our dps players. To do this, we need to prioritize those high threat abilities. Similar to both other tank specs, we have a little "mini rotation" we use. However, unlike the other specs, only the final ability we use in that rotation provides us a defensive benefit and only if we proc it correctly. This can make it a bit harder to increase our defensive stat vs the one hit buttons of the other tank specs. I will discuss the abilities below and then put that into a "rotation"
Slow time is a high threat AoE ability. It should be fired on cooldown and counts towards the goal of proc'ing C. Debris. Target deals 5% less melee/Ranged Damage.
Ideally this should always be proc'd by one of your melee attacks, but sometimes we do just have to hit it. When proc'd I call it an accelerated project or amplified shock.
These abilities build stacks of Harnessed Shadows, when you get to 3 charges Cascading Debris will light up. Your goal in every mini rotation is to use these 2 abilities to cause this to happen.
This is our signature ability and should only be used when proc'd by 3 charges of harnessed shadows. Successfully channeling it will build 4 stacks of shadow protection (+4% DR for 12"). Note that if you cast it before it procs you will not get the shadow protection. Proc'd C. Debris does more damage as well = more threat. This ability is TOP priority when glowing
Only use this if it's proc'd. Using it "raw" will drain a lot of force. Shadow Stride will proc this (from the pull) as will your other melee abilities. Keep in mind, you can use shadow stride in melee range. Shadow Strike can proc project.
Force breach only procs as you shield, parry or deflect attacks (so pretty much as long as something is attacking you.) It’s a priority filler when proc'd and does outstanding AoE threat Generation. A Slow Time + Force Breach opener will keep a mob on you while you build harnessed shadow charges.
This is our main filler ability. It has a chance to proc both Shadow Strike and Project. If it proc's both, ALWAYS use project first.
The ability takes priority over double strike if/when it lights up. Shadow Stride will proc this ability, and it will become active (unproc'd) at sub 30% boss HP. It, like double strike, can proc shadow strike and project.
Whirling Blow can be used in place of double strike in AoE situations and will increase your chances of proccing your other abilities. It also deals bonus damage to targets effected by force breach and can be further buffed in the skill tree. It is a must-use replacement in AoE fights.
Note that your basic attack, saber strike, does not proc anything. There will be situations where you have to throw in some saber strikes to rebuild your force. As the shadow tank is attacked, it builds force. IF you are off tanking and acting as a dps while your cotank is tanking, you will find yourself out of force very quickly. There are also bosses that do not use melee attacks against you, such as Brontes in the Kephess phase. This makes it very, very difficult to "parse" a training dummy and get a full feel for the rotations and mini patterns of the shadow tank. For the best training, do flash points and work your skills out against easy bosses, such as in hammer station. You get a nice mix of AoE and single target, as well as experience with defensives.
Accelerated Project/Amplified Shock
Project/Shock make up the backbone of how we build out the Kinetic Combat Shadow's Rotation and sets it wildly apart from the other tank specs. Project/Shock in itself is a pretty bland low damage ability that will do very little for a tank class. Project/Shock build our stacks of harnessed shadows. Between it and slow time/wither we need to get to 3 stacks as quickly as possible for our cascading debris/depredating volts to proc.
Our melee attacks have a chance to proc Project/Shock enhancing the ability into "Accelerated Projects" or "Amplified Shocks". The patterns below are the main highlights of how to get your Projects accelerating.
RNG PATTERN 1
This is a pretty lucky pattern. Here double strike proc'd shadow strike, but not project, but when we hit shadow strike it lit up project for us.
RNG PATTERN 2
This is a really lucky pattern, having double strike light up project and shadow strike and shadow strike lights up project. We can build 2 charges of harnessed shadows very quickly this way.
RNG PATTERN 3
Sometimes nothing will proc from a double strike, if that happens, hit it AGAIN (maybe harder this time)
RNG PATTERN 4
Sometimes you get really unlucky, and nothing happens on a second activation of double strike, if that happens go for 3! If after three attempts, nothing happens, I usually just hit a normal project and restart.
After each of these mini rotations finish, check your priorities, if slow time is back up, hit it before starting a new mini rotation. Force Breach can also be inserted in between these mini rotations. And keep in mind the goal is to fire Cascading Debris, so as soon as you accomplish that task, fire away and start back over building charges with your mini rotations.
Kinetic Combat Opener
The difficult part of shadow is the RNG nature of proccing Project. It's not as simple as the other tank specs in just hit x > y > z. Each mini rotation ends with a Proc'd Cascading Debris. Sometimes it takes a bit longer, sometimes RNG is on your side, and you can get there very quickly. Other times we just give up on proccing Project all together and just smash it to reach the goal. There is no right answer, the trick is to know when you have the time to keep trying to proc project and when you just need to move on. Below is a best-case scenario. Keep in mind, it's based on a chance.
Use Battle Readiness in your opener if you will not need it as a Defensive early in the fight.
This is an example of a best-case opener, it rarely happens this way, but sometimes we get lucky. Typically, we are throwing in a bunch of low priority melee fillers to proc our higher priority abilities. Keep in mind that just because I have something listed as high priority does not mean to hit it on Cool down. It's only high priority if its glowing (proc'd). You can just "hit it" but you will lack the benefit of bonus damage, bonus protection and burn force.
Kinetic Combat "Rotation"
Below are 3 examples of the Shadow's Rotational Patterns. The RNG patterns above have been condensed for visualization purposes.
Note that if you get Pattern 2, it gives you 2 proc'd projects, so a second attempt at an RNG pattern will not be needed. We hope for pattern 2 every time.
Pattern 1 - 1 slow time - 2 accelerated projects
Pattern 2 - 1 slow time - 2 projects, but the RNG pattern to proc project/shock resulted in 2 proc'd projects (RNG Pattern 2 from above)
Pattern 3 - All Projects quickly proc'd and we got 3 in before slow time refreshed
Getting project to proc is 90% of the Kinetic Combat's rotation. Effectively, you want to use Slow Time on Cool down and while it is cycling, use your melee attacks to proc project. Each cycle of proccing cascading debris will involve either 1 slow time and two projects, 2 slow times and 1 project or 3 projects (if you are really, really lucky). Force breach should be thrown in as you can. As your Melee abilities have a "Chance" to proc project and shadow strike, RNG enters heavily into the Shadow's continued rotation. Remember, you will need to repeat the above patterns 1–2 times along with slow time to proc cascading debris.
Kinetic Combat Defensive Abilities
Your ward increases your shield change by 18%. As a shadow, we have to keep refreshing this ability to keep our shield chance high. Allowing the buff to expire gives us extra perks, but is hard to do as the cool down is so low. Try to resist spamming it and allow the charges to reduce to collapse it, then fire it again.
Using Kinetic ward correctly and only refreshing it when its charges collapse (to damage) will apply one of the following benefits based on your choice of passive at level 39. See more about these options below.
Gloom Ward will get your AoE taunt coming back from cool down faster every time a charge of kinetic ward is consumed. Pick this in fights where you need to be able to AoE taunt more often.
When it collapses, it will deal some damage and reset the cool down of slow time and force breach.
I consider this the weakest of the 3 options and only pick this one when I need my AoE taunt up more frequently.
Dusk Ward gets your cloak back off of cool down faster. Each time Kinetic ward loses a stack, Force Cloaks cool down recharges faster. Handy when you need force cloak back faster.
This also adds an extra defensive into Kinetic ward and can be very helpful but cannot be reliably timed. The 20% accuracy reduction is essentially a 20% Defense chance for 6". That is HUGE.
Twilight Ward. Without contest, my favorite. I use this one much more than the other 2. Force Potency is an outstanding Defensive and Offensive ability. Reducing the cool down of an ability that increase our shield absorb by 30% for 20" is massive. Force Potency has a very low base cool down of 1"25". Shaving off seconds from the clock to get this back up is a massive help in many fights where cloaks and AoE taunts are not needed. Getting the bonus charge of force potency when Kinetic ward collapse is supreme.
Resilience is the first of our match game abilities, we use this against force/tech damage types. There are tacticals that extend the time beyond its 3" duration. This ability completely resists force/tech damage, but will do nothing for kinetic/energy damage. Also, a self-cleanse.
Deflection increases your Defense chance against Melee/Ranged attack types. Keep in mind it's only a 50% increase which probably lands us around 75-80% with our tank stats meaning damage will still come through. Does nothing for
Internal/Elemental attack types.
This ability provides us a 15% self-heal and well as a 1% self-heal as our "techniques" proc (I have always read this as using the glowy buttons). We also gain a 25% Damage Reduction. I routinely pair this with force potency for an exceptional mitigation.
In fights where we need every defensive we have; force potency cannot be used as an offensive cool down. As a tank, using this gives us a 30% increase to shield absorb for 20". It's pretty powerful in concert with battle readiness and/or deflection. Do not pair it with Resilience.
With this one, we have to give up a pretty significant dps increase in the level 27 skill choices for a defensive that will increase our DR by 10% for 6". Spinning kick has a base CD of around 20" meaning that ideally 30% of the time we will gain a 10% DR. It's hard to give up the extra damage and taunt time energized project offers, so I largely wouldn't recommend taking unless you need the extra DR.
This is the one where the shadow shines. We can use cloak of resilience passive @ level 73 to give us 2" of resilience when we use this for extra resilience in fights. The more interesting use to is to break boss channels. Say ole Fire Brand (tank in EC) is going to incinerate your armor. Nope! *Force cloaks out*. This makes 2 cloaks a very useful tactical. Remember to have a taunt on Cool down to taunt immediately after using force cloak to keep threat.
Must haves in any tank's arsenal. The shield adrenal absorbs 30% of damage up to 84261 in a 15" window. 2-minute cool down. If you do not need this as a defensive, consider using the Crit Adrenal for extra damage (I typically use one in my opener with battle readiness)
The Admiral's Rule on Taunting
Your Taunt should be used when you need to multiply your threat ahead of the DPS. It's situational and can happen at different times depending on DPS composition/Experience Level. As a Novice Tank, Taunt Before Shadow Stride. As you get a better feel for the role, try delaying your Taunt after Several ability activations/channels to max your threat multiplication.
Taunting on CD will help you build threat, but is not necessary to hold threat on your target, unless your gear/skill level is low and the dps's gear/skill level is high. Again, the "Goal" is to hold the threat. Taunts will help, but using a taunt as a crutch can often leave your taunt on CD when it is needed.
Works same as Mind Control but effects all targets w/n 15 m of you. A common Strategy for single target fights is to "Mind Control" use a few abilities" Mass Mind Control" use a few abilities and then "Mind Control" Again as a "Triple Taunt". Sure Fire way to be the top threat
The best and most effective way of taunting is to get a feel for each group you play with in trash mob pulls, moving up to bosses. If you notice that you are losing threat to your target after only a few GCDs, Taunt sooner. If you go 4+ GCDs and dps has not pulled your target off of you, you know you can give it a few more GCDs and Taunt to multiply. On Bosses, this will give you an idea of how aggressively you need to taunt. Being able to save taunts helps you to control the fight (changes in phase, adds spawning ect.) Remember, ALWAYS have your Mass Mind Control (AoE Taunt) up when you know adds are about to spawn. If you are new to the fight, adapt from mistakes. Try to dps fights first to get a sense of the flow before taking on the role as a tank. The tank leads the flow of the battle. If you are going in blind, be ready to react by having taunts available as much as possible.
I consider both of these to be pretty useless, but they are your options for "tank" stats. For most story content, you will not need the tank stats to survive. You can 100% go with dps implants and have more benefit from the extra damage and force potency uses imo. The Ballistic Immunity seems to be pretty situational. When the game wants you to get knocked back, it's going to happen. So do not be surprised if you pop deflect, and it does not work.
This pairing is the DPS legendary implants for both of the DPS shadow specs. They are completely useable on the tank spec and will increase your damage (more threat) at the expense of some mitigation stats (defense shield/absorb), which is completely fine for most story content. If you hit a fight, and you're struggling to keep HP, swap them out. I would otherwise recommend these.
I get asked frequently which tactical should a shadow tank get. It's a hard question to answer. Shadows have a wide array of tacticals available to them. I have listed them in the order I would recommend collecting them, though the first two are equally important in my opinion. For Hard Mode + Ops fights, you will want them all.
This tactical I use for a wide array of boss encounters. Basically, any fight that involves high amounts of Force/Tech damage, this can be handy. With Kinetic Ward at a full 15 stacks, you will extend Resilience by 3.75", more than doubling its duration. Extending a defensive cool down that increase's force/tech resistance up to 200% to over 6" is HUGE in most fights with large amounts of force/tech damage going out. Remember that this eats your shield screen provided by Kinetic ward (18% shield chance). Be ready to reactive it quickly when using Resilience.
The Shadow's ability to stealth in combat gives it another HUGE defensive ability. Some boss channels will be interrupted by this action and canceled all together. It is worth experimenting boss to boss. If they are hitting you with high damage channeled attacks, try using your battle cloak. Remember to RETAUNT immediately upon cloaking out, so you do not lose threat. Having a second charge of cloak will increase the frequency of how often you can avoid these high damage attacks.
Resilience is a strong defensive against force/tech attacks. Why not share it with a less than fortunate friend? Remember too that resilience is a self-cleanse for you. Nasty DoT like mass affliction killing you and your Vanguard friend. Why not help them out? This little tactical has several uses in Ops boss fights. If you don't need one of your others, help your team out with this if applicable.
The new ward of the continuum with 7.2. This tactical received a nice rework that actually makes sense for the shadow. It is still not a top pick, but for fights where resilience is not needed it can be advantageous.
This one will help our kinetic ward collapse as well (few charges) allowing us to take advantage of the additional benefits we gain from our choice at the level 39. This is probably more useful than the increased defense chance.
This tactical comes into use in add heavy engagements where you can consistently hit many adds. Nice for those crazy trash pulls, or bosses like Dxun's 2nd and 3rd encounter. Bestia, things like that. Outside that style of fighting, stick to one of the others. **With the 7.3.1 update this tactical has been renamed Tome of Exar Kun and now includes a damage reduction as well as the shield absorb increase.
Life Warden is one I rarely use, but it is worth noting. When none of the other tacticals look to serve a purpose, slip this one on and you have a HUGE emergency self-heal. It has a long cool down though, if you are wiping a lot in a prog, swap it out for a next pull if it's not going to be up.
Skill Points/Load Outs
Below are three loadouts I use for some common situations I encounter as a shadow tank. There are uses for most options in the skill trees. Try experiments for each boss fight
General Single Boss Fights
If you need more Cloak outs in a fight, swap to Gloom/Dusk Ward at level 39.
If you need freed from roots (Underlurker, Sunder tanking) choose Force Phase at level 64.
If you are dealing with large add waves, or trash pulls, use chained cascade/volts at level 23.