Watchman | Annihilation
Watchman is the Sentinel's DoT spec and offers the Operations Group quite a bit in Raid Utility. The Watchman Sentinel has the most raid utility of any spec in the game. The class performs its primary function very well, parsing Dps above many other specs. It has a raid wide buff in Inspiration that increases raid dps and a second raid buff that can be used every 30" that gives the team increased movement speed and defense. Using Zen heals the raid frame that the Watchman is in. Watchmen Sentinels are like having a third healer, doing typically about half the output of a normal heal class. Couple all of this in with the spec's ability to DoT spread and have some outstanding defensives make it a very desirable addition to any raid team. I have some experience with Watchman, but am by no means an expert. Below, I will share what I have learned about the spec to give you a good place to start with building your Watchman Tool Kit.
Gearing up for Watchman
Below are the gear selections, legendary implants, tactical and skill point choices I recommend for this class.
Sentinels require more prefight prework vs other specs to start at their maximum potential. They require at least two tacticals, one for prefight and one for the actual fight, making them have a somewhat higher barrier to entry to perform well. Be sure to get a feel for how your raid team is doing its pulls to react to when you need to prep. The worst thing that can happen is to have the wrong tactical in from someone accidentally pulling the boss or not giving a countdown/ready check. Get to know your group and if you find they are face pulling everything, play it safe and keep your primary tactical in.
Step 1: Build 30 stacks of Centering. Activate your out of combat health regen and build 30 stacks of centering.
Step 2: Swap out your tactical to hidden power and activate force camo. This will begin to build your focus, be sure to swap back to cauterized coronary (you can do this immediately after hitting force camo) to be sure you are ready for pull. Note that you can put your tacticals on your Quick bars for ease of swapping.
Modified Step 2 (Optional) - Swap to Defel Spliced Genes Tactical before putting spiteful Saber back in for the pull and hit Transcendence prepull to reset your Force Camouflage if you need that defensive cool down early in the pull.
Force leap becomes more optional vs the Guardian's requirement for it. You should already have a full focus bar from using Hidden power, however, Force Leap is usually the fastest way to get into combat, so I still recommend starting with it.
Abilities to Understand
Watchman does not have a rotational string of abilities that we can form into blocks and patterns. The Spec revolves around a priority system, but some of it can be made into a structure of sorts. I will discuss some abilities in some detail, then string them together into an opener.
Understanding how Zen Functions for the watchman is key to playing the spec. Zen works differently for each of the three Sentinel Specs. For the Watchman, Zen synergizes with our DoTs, making Six DoT ticks will Crit and heal your group for 1% of their max Hp. It is important that we have our DoTs ticking to take advantage of Zen. Zen Requires Centering. Centering is gained by activating abilities that consume Force/Deal Damage. While Zen is active, we cannot stack Centering.
This makes our Rotational goal as follows for the Watchman Spec: Use Zen for DoTs to use the Six stacks of Zen as quickly as possible, so we can work on building centering again. Build Centering, activate Zen repeat.
Merciless Slash is the main reason we do not have a fixed rotation. This ability will float for our first several "rotations" then become much more fixed and predictable. Each time we use Merciless Slash, the cool down of its next activation is reduced by 1.5" (1 GCD). Merciless Slash is one of our highest priority abilities and should be used as it comes off of Cool Down.
With the Spiteful Saber tactical Cauterize becomes our fire and forget DoT. I find Cauterize much harder to forget about vs other Fire and Forget DoTs due to its very short burn time. Cauterize burns for 9". This only gives us 6 GCDs to refresh it. Luckily, we have several abilities that will refresh it, and the first up is our Spam fill, "Slash". As long as we remember to use slash at least once out of every 6 GCDs Cauterize will not fall off. The main issue I found with keeping it on and not having to reapply it was boss downtime. Take the First boss of EV for example. If we get knocked away, we cannot always just come back and resume where we left off in our rotation. We may need to slash first to refresh Cauterize, ect. This is an important DoT to track, as letting it fall of is a DPS loss.
This ability is off the GCD and will give us 3 Charges that last for 15 seconds. Each time we use a melee ability, we consume a charge and add a stack of "Burning" to our target, dealing DoT damage for 6". The effect is refreshed each time we consume a stack (use a melee ability) to add an additional stack of burning onto our Target (up to 3). As such, the ability should be used immediately as it resets.
I look at force melt as our Main DoT and what I largely base my "rotation" on. Force Melt builds focus and applies a burn to your target. Dealing high damage for 9 seconds. This is where we want Zen. Right before we hit Force Melt, we want to hit Zen to get the maximum punishment out of our DoTs. My goal is as follows: Always Hit Zen right before Force Melt, build enough centering to have Zen back up before Force Melt comes off of cool down (12 seconds). This makes the "Rotation" more of a race. Can you build enough centering to get Zen back in time for Force Melt? It can be a struggle at times, but I do delay Force Melt if Zen is not Ready.
Ok, here we go now. The goal of the opener is to get our DoTs up, merciless slash as a priority and using our offensive cool downs like Zen to set up the "rotation".
Filler after Force Melt
We will need 1 filler after force melt before we begin the priority system sequence. Twin Saber Throw is our best dps out of the three, followed by blade barrage, but we can use zealous strike here if focus is low. None of these abilities will build centering, so they are best used here while zen is active, as we cannot build zen while zen is active.
Priority System Sequence
Choose your next ability by what is available to use. The priority system is always overridden by Zen becoming active, in which jump to the Zen Active Window Sequence.
Zen Active Window
As soon as Zen activates, we jump into this sequence to refresh force melt. We need to have generated enough stacks of centering from our priority sequence so that Zen is lighting up just as force melt is resetting. Delaying Force melt waiting on Zen to activate will be a DPS loss.
Back to the Priority Sequence
The Sentinel is a bit unique as it has 2 "Raid Buffs" Inspiration to the left is the traditional raid buff giving 10% damage for 10". It requires 30 stacks of centering, making it a choice between Zen or Inspiration off the break.
This unique raid buff is on a 30-second cool down and requires selection from the skill tree. Transcendence gives the raid an 80% speed increase, 10% damage reduction and cleanses movement impairing effects. I use this on cool down even if I am not moving for most fights. Save for movement in movement heavy fights.
Watchman's Defensive Abilities
Last for 12", this ability gives us a 50% chance to dodge Melee/Ranged damage and a 25% Damage reduction to Force/Tech attacks. It is on a 3-minute cooldown. It's a strong defensive, but its long cooldown means you will most likely only get to use it once in a fight. I save it for emergencies, mostly.
This is our self-cleanse, threat drop and a 50% DR all wrapped up into one ability. Note that dealing damage ends the effects of Force Camo Early.
This is a staple of the Sentinel. Rebuke reduces the damage you take by 20%, so it fits in as a defensive cool down. However, it also reflects damage back to the attacker. A common strategy for sentinels is to "stand in stupid" as long as the healers can handle it. Say we stand in a spit puddle of Writhing Horror, for instance. Pop rebuke and reflect that damage back to the boss. As we take damage, we extend the duration of rebuke up to 30". With our selections from the skill tree, rebuke becomes a very short fused cool down. Matching its use (assuming we can continuously take a light amount of damage consistently in a fight) with our choice for a permanent 30% AoE DR and the concentration sentinel quickly becomes able to soak an impressive amount of damage while reflecting a notable amount back at the boss. It's a good practice to get into using rebuke not just on cooldown, but when you know you can take light - moderate amounts of damage without stressing the fight.
A short cool down (35") defensive or movement ability. Blade Blitz can take some practice to know where you are going to end up. You can use this to completely ignore (100% defense chance) high hitting damage types (doom on Dread Guards). It has a lot of utility once you master it.
This is our other choice (if not taking blade blitz). A 99% Damage Reduction for 6" has the potential to soak an impressive amount of damage. Keep in mind that a 99% DR still lets 1% through, so a mechanic like Doom listed above that hits for 136 million damage will kill you through, guarded by the Force.
Legendary Implant and Tactical(s) Discussion
The three Different Sentinel Specs each need a different Legendary implant and tactical. You will see some cross over between them and some cross over between Sentinel's and Guardians. The Legendary Implants are shared with the other Sentinel Specs.