Virulence | Dirty Fighting
Virulence is the sniper's Damage over time discipline. Its rotation revolves around 100% uptime on its 2 main DoT abilities, with only some minor variation to the rotational patterns outlined below. It has relatively few abilities to use compared to its counterparts. I feel engineering is easier to play and rewards the player with a higher DPS ceiling from a less complex static rotation. While Virulence does not change much block to block, it is the more complex of the 3 options. In 7.3 all sniper specs gained access to a self-heal utility that can essentially heal the sniper back to full in 60" so long as they stay in cover. This addition makes the sniper an even more alluring spec to pick for operations. If taking constant damage throughout a fight, they can easily put up 5-6k hps.
Gearing up for Virulence
Below are the gear selections, legendary implants, tactical and skill point choices I recommend for this class.
Set yourself up for your rotation by using these abilities as your opener before the main pattern begins
This is a simple version of the main rotation I put together. There are farms more complicated builds that provide a net DPS gain, but are 50 abilities in sequence.
As per the main rotation above, the spec's rotation boils down into a bit of a floating pattern. 4 abilities and then Cull. Which fillers we choose as these four abilities revolves around when DoTs will need to be refreshed and when weakening blast is coming off of cool down. Below is the base pattern to follow.
As Laze Target comes off cool down, use it to buff your next Cull. It is a long duration buff and off the GCD, so pop it as it becomes available to keep its cool down active and as short as possible. Target acquired will give you a stack of Laze Target every time you use it as well. As such, use it on cool down to get as many buffed culls as possible.
Well, that's convenient
Corrosive Grenade, our AoE long burn DoT, also acts as the DoT spread ability for Vital shot, our other long burn DoTs. Both Dots have the ability to be used on command, so DoT spreading to waves of incoming Adds is very easy for this class.
Virulence's Defensive Abilities
The Sniper Class enjoys some very strong defensive abilities that support its very static nature. Often it can ignore moving out of danger circles and use a defensive ability, or combination of abilities, to avoid taking a large amount of damage. Many of the sniper's defenses can be reset as well for rapid use. This can make the class extremely mobile and resilient. In the absence of self-heals and the ability to self-cleanse harmful afflictions, knowing your tool kit here will save you from taking damage and keep the focus of the healers on the tanks.
Ballistic Shield is kind of like the sniper's raid buff. It deploys a cover shield 10 m around the sniper. Anyone inside receives 20% less damage for 10". This can be a HUGE raid wide defensive ability when planned strategically.
Diversion is first in our tool kit, though its use in operations is somewhat limited. Diversion reduces the target's accuracy by 45% and removes enemies from cover (other snipers). This effect does not work against operation bosses. This is very nifty to use in PvP against other snipers trying to take advantage of cover. They rarely realize that they have been exposed and it's a lot of fun to allow your friends to be able to leap to, interrupt and/or stun someone who thinks they are safe. But that is PvP...in PvE they will help against trash and in one boss fight in particular, thrasher, they can be used to expose the sniper on the upper level from cover.
Entrench reduces AoE damage by 60% (virtually all ops bosses damage is AoE damage type). This is the basic one we use to mitigate enormous amounts of damage. It last forever and can be reset through Meticulous preparation. I prefer to use imperial preparation with this to get entrench back off cool down, but more so to go ahead and get the cool down of imperial preparation resetting.
This one doesn't do much, but it's worth hitting with another defensive ability. Using Entrench, Meticulous Preparation and Shield probe with your ballistic dampeners up makes you take very little damage from very big hits. Shield probes give a 15% DR for 6".
This is what makes our defensives so good. They all have relatively short cool downs, but with the ability, Countermeasures, Shield probe, Cover Pulse (not really a defensive) and entrench are all reset. With the over prepared skill point, this also gives us a 15% damage reduction for 15" as well.
(Optional) This is my personal favorite. This lowers your threat, but if you choose the Evasive Maneuvers passive as your level 27 skill tree choice, this ability goes to a new level of amazing defensive. When used, you gain a 200% increase chance to dodge Melee and Ranged attacks. It also reduces damage that you take from force and tech attacks by 75% for 3". Our choices for Virulence make taking this a DPS loss, so we usually must go without it. When you need to stay alive, this is the ticket. This is better than many tank defensive cool downs and reminds me of the shadow's resilience ability. Oh, and yeah, of course, Meticulous preparation resets it.
This one gets us around the battlefield fast. Similar to the smuggler's scamper or guardian's blade blitz, Covered Escape rolls us forward 18 meters. While we are rolling, we have a 100% to dodge attacks. Making this ability all about timing the role of a one shot to "cheese it" (Doom from dread guards, for example). It's a skill that once mastered will make you invincible. Countermeasures will reset the cool down of Covered Escape. Meticulous preparation will reset the cool down of countermeasures. Making it very possible, use the following combination for multiple covered escapes in sequence.
There is nothing I can think of that you would want this many rolls in a row for, but it is of note that it will work.
Ok, last defensive ability here (what a list!). Ballistic Dampers must be chosen at level 51, but it's the only viable option, making it an easy choice for a very strong defensive. You will want to keep an eye on this one on your buff bar. As a sniper it is easy to stay stationary, but with ballistic dampers you want to move around a little to keep resetting them. Each charge of ballistic dampers absorbs 30% of an incoming attack. You get 3 charges each time you enter cover, with a 6" cool down on their use. So keep an eye on them. When they consume on damage, and it has been at least 4-5 GCDs (ability activations or 6"), exit cover and get back into cover to reapply them. Between Ballistic Dampers and your other Defensive abilities, you are invincible.
So, there you have it, snipers have quite the list of defensive abilities to choose from. Ballistic Dampers, entrench and using Meticulous Preparation is a great defensive combo for ignoring a very high damaging attack. It is fun to push the limits of just how much damage you can ignore with your defensive tool kit as a sniper. I have found in the new R-4 Operation that (outside of stalker phases) I can just sit still and eat 4-5 of the watch dog's missile circles when using my defensives properly in burn. It can be helpful to know when you can use your defenses and stay in place to get that channel of series of shots off to keep your damage output high. The sniper is a very stationary class at times, and with this support tool kit you can take full advantage of keeping your uptime in a fight.
This is a new passive at level 64 introduced in 7.3. We have to give up meticulous preparation as a defensive ability (and the reduced cool down), but it is a worthy sacrifice and one every sniper should be taking for operations content. The average DPS at end game is a bit north of 400k HP. 3% HP every 2" comes out to around 12,000 every 2" or 6000 heals per second. That's 360k HP in 1 minute. If the sniper is taking constant damage throughout the fight, they can easily self-heal matching a watchman sentinel's frame wide heals. Keep in mind, adding these additional self-heals is going to build more threat. Keep a watch-out in the first 10-20" of a fight to make sure that you are not grabbing primary threat of a boss.
Legendary Implants and Tactical
Exploited weakness is our go to tactical for virulence. It makes Lethal shot a DoT ability as well as its direct damage as well as a strong buff to weakening blast. For our Legendary implants, Improved Targeting and Locked and Loaded seem to be the consensus for best in slot. I have not picked up Improved targeting to test it vs Energy regulators, as energy regulators are needed on the other sniper specs to help with energy management.