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Wildstar Leveling: Stalker DPS 1-25

24 Jul

I was originally going to write guides broken up into sections based on the PvP brackets, but now I’m leaning more towards just doing two different versions, which are 1-25 and 26-50. I might change my mind again at some point in the future, but for now that’s the plan moving forward.

In typical Psynister fashion, the the Medic that I was writing about in the previous leveling guide has already been deleted and rerolled, so it will be awhile before I get back to writing about Medic healing. However, since Stalker was my original main class (technically, Engineer was, but I deleted him too), I figured it was time to write about it instead. I also have some friends that have struggled with the Stalker in the teens and twenties, so I wanted to bump this one up in priority to help them out.

This guide will look at which spells to use, how and when to use them, and how to allocate your ability and AMP points to maximize your performance without having to learn a lot of math.

Playing a Stalker DPS
Stalker DPS is similar to playing the typical Rogue-like character in other MMO’s in many ways, but definitely different in some ways as well. If you’re coming here from another MMO such as WoW or Rift, the first major difference is that while Stalkers do spend their primary resource in a similar way (starts full, uses it up for burst) there is no combo point system that you’re building up. Instead, you’re going to unleash burst damage by spending that resource and then using weaker attacks as filler while you wait for the resource to refill.

Suit Power is the name of that resource I was just talking about. While there are some abilities that can restore Suit Power (SP), it primarily just refills itself over time. By default, Suit Power restores at a rate of 7 SP per 1 second

The second major difference is that Stealth can be used any time the cooldown is available. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of combat or not, if it’s off cooldown then you can use it. Stalkers do have some spells that benefit, generally in the form of bonus damage, from being used while behind a target or from stealth, but they’re not so gimped while being used otherwise that you want to avoid using them if you can’t stay behind your target (like when you’re leveling solo and the mobs auto-face you).

Stalkers have three versions of their innate ability, Nano Skin, which gives them access to bonus damage, extra mobility, or extra survivability. As a DPS Stalker, you’ll almost never use the survivability stance, as you’re mainly focused on killing all the things. We’ll talk about the stances in more detail in the next section.

Important Spells & Abilities
Wildstar spells come in three flavors: Assault, Support, and Utility. Assault spells are typically used for dealing damage, Support for healing or shield regeneration, and Utility is usually for things related crowd control (giving and receiving). There are times where spells end up in one category when they seem like they fit better in another, but generally speaking that’s how spells are lined up in Wildstar.

I’m not going to list every spell available to you in this level range, since you have all of your spells unlocked by level 31, instead I’m going to list the ones that I specifically think you should be using while on the path to level 25, even if you’re only going to use a certain spell until level 10 or so before moving to something else.

Note that the math here comes from JabbitHole.com, so if any of it’s wrong, talk to them about it.

Innate Ability (Nano Skin Stance):
One thing I wanted to note about stances, because I’ve seen it come up a lot in comments to videos I’ve watched, is that Innates can be keybound. By default, they have no keybind associated with them, so people think you always have to use the little UI toggle to change from one stance to another, or they’re asking for addons that let them do so easily. Personally, I bind my different stances to F2, F3, and F4 so that I can easily change from one to another as needed.

  • Nano Skin: Lethal: Increases Damage Dealt by 18% and decreases all Resistances by 5%. Attacks from Stealth have a 100% chance to land as a Critical Hit. Active: Enter Stealth, making you invisible to foes unless detected. Reduces Movement Speed by 20%. No cooldown while out of combat.
  • Nano Skin: Agile: Increases Dash Regeneration by 10%, Endurance by 10% and Lifesteal by 5%. Exiting Stealth in combat increases Movement Speed by 20% for 4.0s. Active: Enter Stealth, making you invisible to foes unless detected. No cooldown while out of combat.

Nano Skin: Lethal is the stance that you’re going to spend the vast majority of your time in because it provides a solid increase in damage, and guarantees a critical hit with whatever attack you use coming out of stealth. The guaranteed crit is one of the main reasons you’re using this, as it gives you control over when to proc abilities that require a crit in order for you to use them, and because crit damage is higher than normal damage, so it just makes sense.

Nano Skin: Agile is listed here primarily because it’s useful for getting around the map when you don’t have access to a mount. Also, if you’re feeling a bit squishy, the 5% life steal can make a difference. The mobility is really the main reason this is listed at all. It’s very useful for getting around the map in Walatiki Temple to chase mask carriers, get away from people trying to kill you, or for getting a quick mask steal. If combat is approaching though, switch to Lethal.

Assault:

  • Shred (1): Deal 9.66%AP +4.22*lvl physical damage 3 times to 5 foes.
  • Impale (2): Deal 72.2%AP +31.43*lvl physical damage, 80%AP +37.716*lvl if Behind or in Stealth, to 1 foe.
  • Analyze Weakness (4): Mark 5 foes for 15.0s. Dealing damage to a marked foe consumes the mark and deals 50.32%AP +21.88*lvl technology damage. Does not break Stealth.
  • Neutralize (13): Deal 57.5%AP +25*lvl technology damage to 5 foes. Suit Power cost is increased by 5 each time if used within 8.0s of the previous use. Stacks 6 times. If used from Stealth the cost is not increased.
  • Punish (15): Deal 54.55%AP +23.74*lvl physical damage to 5 foes and regenerate 30 Suit Power if below 35 Suit Power. Usable after landing a Critical Hit.
  • Concussive Kicks (24): Deal 38.64%AP +16.74*lvl physical damage twice to 1 foe.

Shred is your primary spam attack, which you’ll be using while other things are on cooldown or your suit power is low.

Impale is your primary single-target damage attack, which hits like a truck but also has a fairly steep suit power cost. It deals bonus damage when you use it from stealth or when you’re behind your target, so take advantage of positioning whenever you can. In early levels this will hit so hard that position doesn’t matter, but its best to develop good habits from the start.

Analyze Weakness is a nice debuff causes you to deal extra damage the first time you hit the target. You’ll destroy things with this when you first get it, but as you get higher in levels the bonus damage doesn’t really keep up. But, for the early stages it’s a great spell.

Neutralize is an incredible AoE damage spell that hits everything in a circle around you. It applies a stacking debuff on you that increases its suit power cost every time you cast it, but things are usually dead before you care. Just don’t go rushing into another fight if you still have the debuff on you.

Punish is another heavy hitter, but this one has the twist of only being able to cast it after you’ve scored a critical hit. In addition to its high damage, it also restores 30 suit power which can provide an additional Impale or 1-2 Neutralize casts after using it.

Concussive Kicks is a decent damaging spell that hits a single target. It’s mostly used because it has a low suit power cost so that when you fight single mobs you have something besides Shred to cast while you’re waiting for enough Suit Power to cast another Impale. In the lower levels you’ll kill just about everything with a triple-Impale, but the higher you get the less that’s going to be the case, so you’ll need this to help kick (get it?) it up a notch.

Support:
While Stalkers do have some really great Support skills, you won’t be using any of them for this spec, at any point in the leveling process. Leveling as a Stalker Tank is completely viable, and currently overpowered in PvP, but as that’s not the focus of this guide I will not be covering any of these spells here.

Utility:

  • Stagger (3): Deals 3.5%AP +3.5%SP +3*lvl physical damage 4 times and applies a Stun to 5 foes. Destroys 1 Interrupt Armor. Stun: Prevents any action for 2.5s.
  • False Retreat (6): 1st Press: Drop a marker at your position for 5.0s and leap backwards 15m. 2nd Press: Leap back to your marker, dealing 9.4%AP +9.4%SP +8.19*lvl physical damage and Knocking Down 5 foes within 8m. Destroys 1 Interrupt Armor. Knockdown: Prevents any action, except Dash, for 2.0s.
  • Pounce (9): Leap forward to the nearest foe and apply a Snare to 5 foes within 5m. Snare: Reduces Movement Speed by 25% for 4.0s. Additionally, grants a Swiftness increasing Movement Speed by 15%.
  • Tether Mine (13): Deploy a mine, lasting 30.0s, at the targeted location. The first foe that walks into the mine will be Tethered. Tether: Prevents moving more than 3.0m from the Tether object for 7.5s.
  • Tactical Retreat (15): Flip backward 6m, drop Threat, and activate Stealth. Prevents damage taken from breaking Stealth for 2.0s.

Stagger is a great spell that can stun/interrupt up to 5 targets at once. You’ll get access to it at level 3 and it will basically never leave your LAS bars from that time forward.

False Retreat has multiple uses. First, it’s a reverse blink that sends you back 15 meters from your current position. Second, it allows you to activate it again to blink back to the original location (within 5 seconds) to deal damage and knock down/interrupt all of the targets within the effect. It’s great for AoE interrupts, or for getting out of a sticky situation if you just use the first activation to blink back, then stealth and get the heck out of there.

Pounce is a blink spell that has some crowd control and mobility benefits to it as well. I used this a lot on my first Stalker, but over time I found that it’s really most useful in PvP but even then there are other spells to put on your LAS that are better. It’s still really nice to have, especially if you happen to have chosen the Explorer path, since it can help you get to some of those harder to reach places, but overall it’s just not necessary enough to keep it on my bars all the time. However, I do keep it on my secondary LAS so that I can switch to it anytime it’s needed.

Tether Mine is mostly a PvP ability, which is why I list it here even though I won’t be telling you to put it on your bars. In PvP it can provide some great value, especially at lower levels where its HP is actually high enough to make people waste some time killing it. In solo PvE it’s almost completely worthless, but in group PvE it has some occasional use. It attaches to a nearby mob and prevents them from moving more than a few meters away from the mine’s location. The reason that kind of sucks in PvE is because you’re a melee class, so it doesn’t matter to you whether a mob can move or not unless you’re trying to run for your life.

Tactical Retreat is similar to False Retreat as a reverse blink, except that it also puts you into stealth and drops all of your agro. For solo play, the threat dropping will result in you resetting combat, so you’ll survive but your targets will return to full health. It is a useful spell in PvP for obvious reasons, but it’s also useful in group PvE because it’s yet another way to obtain stealth to trigger another critical hit, and it’s a good thing that you’re dropping your threat.

Leveling a DPS Stalker
While you’re running around Nexus laying the smack down, gathering the whatsits, and blowing things up you need to know how to wield those awesome skills, right? In this section I’m going to talk about what kind of rotations you’re generally aiming for when it comes to killing things. This guide covers 25 levels worth of content, so obviously you’re not going to have access to all of your skills starting out, so I’m going to show these in terms of character level.

Remember, you’re using Nano Skin: Lethal the whole time, and whenever possible you should always initiate combat from stealth to benefit from the guaranteed crit that NS: Lethal gives you when attacking from stealth.

Single Target Questing Rotations
Levels 4-14: [Stealth], Analyze Weakness, Impale+Shred or Impale x2, (Stagger or False Retreat if you get a chance to interrupt)
At level 4, you’ll have a hard time finding anything that can survive the first Impale with Analyze Weakness already applied. If something does manage to survive, they won’t have much health at all (unless you missed or they deflected an attack) so a Shred will usually finish them off or you can toss another Impale in there if you want.

As you start to get closer to level 10 you’re going to find mobs living longer, and you’re going to run into more primes. When this starts to happen you really need to watch out for your enemies to cast spells that you can interrupt with Stagger and False Retreat. When you interrupt an NPC (not a player) you’ll see their health bar turn purple which indicates that they will receive 50% additional damage from all sources, allowing you to absolutely destroy them.

Levels 15-23: [Stealth], Impale, Punish, Impale x2, Shred spam (Stagger or False Retreat to interrupt)
Notice that Analyze Weakness is no longer part of our rotation. We remove it at level 15 because the amount of damage that it gives is no longer as appealing as it was at lower levels, and because our limited action set has more important spells to put in our limited number of slots.

At level 15 you gain access to Punish which is a high damage ability that can only be used after you land a critical hit. Since we’re using Nano Skin: Lethal, we get a guaranteed crit every time we attack from stealth, which means we can force Punish to proc. Otherwise, you’re going to keep right on doing what you’ve been doing.

If you face a mob that’s got really high health and isn’t dying to your simple rotation here, that’s when you use your Innate ability to enter stealth while in combat. Remember, unlike most other MMO’s, there’s nothing stopping you from entering stealth at any time except for the ability’s cooldown. So if it’s available and the mob has enough health to warrant another Impale crit, serve it up and follow it with another Punish.

Levels 24-25: [Stealth], Impale, Punish, Impale, Concussive Kicks, Impale x2, Shred spam (Stagger or False Retreat to interrupt)
Level 24 opens up the last ability we need in the Assault tree, which is Concussive Kicks. The main reason you want to use this ability is because it doesn’t use suit power, which means that you have some filler besides Shred when you don’t have enough power to cast Impale.

Multi-Target Questing Rotations
Levels 1-12 [Stealth], Analyze Weakness, Shred spam, (Stagger or False retreat if you get a chance to interrupt)
You also have the option here of opening up with Impale to try to finish off one of the targets quickly to reduce the amount of damage you take overall, it’s mostly up to you. Because we don’t have access to a really good multi-target attack yet, you want to make sure you’re applying Analyze Weakness as often as possible to get that bonus damage out to all of your targets.

If you see a red telegraph pop up on the ground (in PvE, not PvP), that’s when you use Stagger or False Retreat to interrupt the cast for 50% bonus damage on whichever target was stupid enough to cast a spell against you. Luckily, you won’t have to use this slow AoE rotation for very long, but those last few levels before 13 can certain seem long.

Levels 13-25 [Stealth], Neutralize, Punish, Neutralize x2, Stealth, Neutralize spam, (Stagger or False retreat to interrupt)
Notice that Analyze Weakness is no longer part of our rotation. We remove it at level 15 because the amount of damage that it gives is no longer as appealing as it was at lower levels, and because our limited action set has more important spells to put in our limited number of slots.

Neutralize is the biggest spell we’ve added here as it’s an incredible AoE spell. Neutralize gives you a stacking debuff that causes the spell’s suit power to increase every time you use it, which is its only drawback. On the bright side, most mobs will be dead before you care about the suit power cost. Just keep the cost in mind so that you don’t rush right into another group of mobs and find that you don’t have the suit power available to cast it. After you finish one group fight either wait a few seconds for the debuff to fall of, or look for a solo target to fight instead.

Some people prefer to cast a couple of Neutralize’s before casting Punish because Punish restores 30 suit power which helps to make up Neutralize’s increasing cost. Now that my Stalker is over level 30, I’m starting to do this as well, but while in my 20’s I didn’t find that necessary. But, I also had a leveling partner for the majority of that, so you may need to start that sooner than I did.

Killing things as a Stalker DPS/
The rotations section above pretty much covers the whole what to cast when side of things, but how about just playing it in general?

As a Stalker you need to remember that while your damage potential is pretty crazy, you’re also fairly squishy. Your high damage is there specifically to make up for that, but don’t get too cocky and then that you can fight a pair of primes by yourself. Chances are, you probably won’t be able to take on even a single prime by yourself in many cases until you’ve mastered your timing and cooldowns to the point that you can nail a Stealth-Impale-Punish every time the cooldowns line up.

You also want to keep in mind that you have access to two interrupts by level 6, which is the best of all classes. Use that to your advantage by interrupting NPC targets for bonus damage every chance you get. If the mobs are close to dying, then you don’t want to blow one of your interrupt cooldowns, but otherwise you definitely want to build that habit and get the muscle memory in place to do so at an early level so that you’re ready to use it when the time comes later on.

Also, don’t forget that Stealth can be cast in the middle of combat. Stalkers aren’t pretending to hide in the shadows like the RPG’s of old, you’re wearing a friggin’ suit full of nanotechnology here. Use it. Abuse it. Take advantage of those guaranteed critical hits.

Limited Ability Sets (LAS)

[NOTE: I left 5 ability points unspent in that link because where they should go depends on where you're at. If you're questing in a zone that has a lot of mobs packed together, then you want to spend all 5 of those points to get T4 Neutralize, but if you're facing a lot of big solo mobs then you want to drop Neutralize down to 2 points and bump Impale up to T4 instead. If there's a mix of both groups and solo mobs, then you'll need to make a judgement call on which of those two is harder for you to kill. If the solos are harder, T4 Impale, otherwise T4 Neutralize.]

The screenshot above shows how I have the bar set up at level 25, but of course you are free to move things around however you wish.

Level 4: Shred, Impale, Stagger, Analyze Weakness
Level 6: Shred, Impale, Stagger, Analyze Weakness, False Retreat
Level 9: Shred, Impale, Stagger, Analyze Weakness, False Retreat, Pounce
Level 13: Shred, Impale, Stagger, Analyze Weakness, Neutralize, False Retreat
Level 15: Shred, Impale, Stagger, Punish, Neutralize, False Retreat, Tactical Retreat
Level 24: Shred, Impale, Stagger, Punish, Neutralize, Concussive Kicks, False Retreat

For the most part, that’s what I suggest you run in just about every situation. If you want to make changes to it early on, Analyze Weakness is the best spell to take out.

At level 15 Tactical Retreat can be switched to something else, especially if you’re leveling solo. Since you drop threat when you use it, you’ll be resetting the mobs you face when you cast it, so it’s really only good for dropping combat if you’re about to get killed. It’s mostly for group leveling, dungeons, and PvP. In solo play, I would personally replace it with Pounce until Concussive Kicks opens up at level 24.

AMPs

Because prices for Skill AMPs vary from server to server, I’m trying to keep locked AMPs to a minimum in this guides. In fact, I’m only using one of them. You can get more damage by investing in some of the other AMPs in place of things like Armor Pierce or Strikethrough, if you have access to them. Just keep in mind that Brutality and Assault Power are what you want most.

Assault:
Assault Power III: Increases your Assault Power by 7.5%.
Critical Hit III: Increase your Critical Hit Chance by 6%.
Brutality Mastery: While above 70% health, gain an Empower. Empower: Increases Brutality by 30% of your current maximum.

Assault Power III is there strictly to increase your damage output. Critical Hit III does the same thing, but you’re also looking for crits to proc Punish, so it’s extra nice.

Brutality Mastery requires a Skill AMP item to unlock, and you might not have easy access to it. If you have it, great. If not, then I suggest you spend those 4 points in Critical Hit Severity III for another 12% increase to your crit damage, and the last point to bump Cooldowns to rank II for more cooldown reduction. If you’re feeling particularly squishy, you might want Maximum Shield Capacity III instead of the crit severity. Either one is fine.

Hybrid A/S:
Strikethrough III: Increases Strikethrough chance by 3%.
Lifesteal III: Increases Lifesteal by 6%.

Strikethrough is Wildstar’s version of Hit rating. The higher it is, the less likely you are to miss your attacks. Lifesteal heals you for a portion of the damage that you deal, so it adds to your survivability, which reduces your downtime, which improves your leveling experience.

Utility:
Cooldowns I: Increases cooldown reduction by 5%.

The cooldowns we’re talking about here are mostly your crowd control, Stagger and False Retreat. It impacts all of your cooldowns, of course, but Punish and Concussive Kicks both have an 8 second cooldown so the reduction doesn’t impact them as much as the others.

Hybrid A/U:
Armor Pierce III: Increases Armor Pierce by 6%.

Armor reduces the amount of damage that you take, so by piercing the armor you increase your damage.

Gearing Up Your Stalker DPS
The Stalker world revolves around your Assault Power stat, Brutality. Critical Hit Chance is another big one, which comes from Moxie, but a decent increase in Brutality beats a good increase in Crit any day.

Brutality (Assault Power) > Moxie (Crit Chance/Crit Severity) > Finesse (Crit Severity) > Grit > everything else

Your damage is based on your Assault Power score, not your Brutality itself, so if you find a new piece of gear that gives a Brutality loss but an overall Assault Power gain, then it’s still an upgrade.

You want Critical Hit Chance because crits deal more damage than non-crits, and because Punish requires a critical hit before it can be cast so the more often you crit the more often you get to use that big spell, thus the more damage you deal overall.

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Posted by on July 24, 2014 in Guide, Leveling, Melee, Stalker, Wildstar

 

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