Playing a Sage/Sorcerer
For the most part, playing a Sage/Sorc is much like playing a spell caster in any other MMO. In the world of SWTOR, they’re the only real spell casters in the game. While you can get a caster feel from some of the ranged classes (Trooper, Smuggler, Bounty Hunter, Imp. Agent) most of what they do doesn’t really feel like casting, at least not to me, unless you’re playing their healing spec.
Concerning Sage/Sorc DPS, there are two primary trees available to you and they each have their own feel. The Telekinetics/Lightning tree is the turret casting tree, where you’ll spend the majority of your time remaining stationary while you simply turn left or right as needed while you spam-cast your spells. You do have some spells that you can use on the move, but you’ll have a loss of overall DPS if you use them without needing to move. The Balance/Madness tree relies on damage over time (DoT) effects and channeled spells for the majority of it’s damage and is much more mobile as most of the spells you’ll use in those trees are instant cast either by design or thanks to talent-based procs.
When you reach level 10 and take your advanced class of Sage/Sorcerer there’s going to be a complete change in how you handle combat. Out of all of the classes and advanced classes, the Sage/Sorc AC has the largest shift in playstyle because you’ve just spent 10 levels killing things primarily with melee attacks with some occasional spells thrown in (maybe) and now you’re never going to use another melee attack again. Some players do play low level Consulars/Inquisitors trying to focus on spell casting, but since both of your damaging spells have cooldowns you’re really better of just beating things up in melee.
In addition to the switch from melee to casting you’re also going to notice that your spells now actually have a decent range on them. Telekinetic Throw(Force Lightning) jumps up to 30 meters by default as does Project(Shock), and your new spam-cast spell, Disturbance(Lightning Strike), is a 30 meter cast as well. You also get to quintuple your Force pool from 100 to 500, and your primary crowd control spell Force Lift(Whirlwind) goes from an 8 second duration up to 60 seconds. All of these changes combine to make one heck of a shift in playstyle, so you’ll want to find a few things to kill to get a feel for your new life as a real caster.
Important Spells & Abilities
I’ll break this section into two level groupings. I’m going to leave out numeric values since I have no trustworthy source to get the numbers relative to level 20. Hopefully the database sites out there can grow and develop soon so that we have a reliable source at least equal to what Wowhead is for WoW. Numbers in parenthesis after spell names reflect the level at which those spells become available, and spells with (1) are all spells that you start with.
The first group is level 1-9 which is your pre-Advanced Class levels where you’re a combination of both of your AC’s minus all of the cool effects that define the AC’s. The second group is levels 10-20, covering primarily the Sage/Sorc AC though there are some pure Consular/Inquisitor spells that open in that bracket as well.
CLASS BUFFS & REFILL
Force Valor/Mark of Power (1): Increases the target’s Strength, Aim, Willpower and Cunning by 5% and internal and elemental damage reduction by 10% for 60 minutes. If the target is a party member, all other party members are also affected.
Meditation/Seethe (1): Allows you to pause and meditate to restore your health and Force. Damage causes the effect to end prematurely. Cannot be used during combat.
Force Valor is your class buff, and one that you should always have active. Every class has a version of this, though not all classes buff the same stats (the Trooper buffs Endurance for example).
Meditation is the replacement for food and drink in SWTOR. It’s basically the means by which you refill your health and Force bars after combat.
Saber Strike/Saber Strike (1): Deals weapon damage spread across a flurry of 3 attacks.
Double Strike/Thrash (1): Strikes the target twice. Each hit deals weapon damage.
Project/Shock (1): Throws debris at the target, dealing kinetic damage. Standard and weak targets are additionally stunned for 3 seconds.
Telekinetic Throw/Force Lightning (2): Hurls a volley of debris at the target, dealing kinetic damage and slowing movement speed by 50%. Standard and weak targets are immobilized for the duration.
Force Wave/Overload (3): Deals kinetic damage and knocks back all enemies within 8 meters. Standard and weak enemies are additionally knocked down for 3 seconds.
Force Lift/Whirlwind (4): Lifts the target helplessly into the air, preventing all action for up to 8 seconds. Non-player, non-standard and non-weak targets heal rapidly while lifted out of harm’s way. Damage will break the effect prematurely.
Force Stun/Electrocute (6): Deals kinetic damage and stuns the target for 4 seconds.
Force Potency/Recklessness (8): Grants 2 charges of Force Potency, which increases the Force critical chance of your direct attacks and heals by 60% and increases the range of Telekinetic Throw to 30 meters. Each time a direct Force ability critically hits or you activate Telekinetic Throw, you lose 1 charge. Lasts 20 seconds.
Force of Will/Unbreakable Will (9): Demonstrates your force of will, immediately freeing you of all incapacitating and movement-impairing effects.
Saber Strike, Double Strike and Project are your starting offensive spells and what you’ll be using primarily to kill things up to level 10. Saber Strike restores Force while Double Strike and Project both spend it. The two melee strikes are all you need to reach level 10, though you’ll never touch them again once you get your advanced class (AC). Project will remain on your bars, as it will be useful for the Telekinetics/Lightning tree and surprisingly good for Balance/Madness.
Telekinetic Throw is one of your bread and butter spells regardless of which of the DPS trees you decide to focus on. For Telekinetics/Lightning this spell is best used when other talents proc to speed up the channel time, while for Balance/Madness this becomes your primary filler spell used to proc instant casts. Force Wave is a combination of area of effect (AoE) damage and crowd control as it knocks most targets back and weaker targets are knocked prone all together. This spell works great as an interrupt because of its knockback as well, and at low levels the damage it deals is good enough that it’s useful as a finisher spell for groups too.
Force Lift is a somewhat weak crowd control (CC) spell when you first get it with only an 8 second duration, but when you choose your advanced class it bumps up to 60 seconds and becomes significantly more useful. The Balance/Madness tree has multiple talents that improve its effect as well, including making it instant cast, modifying it to become a stun when broken early, and having it affect up to 3 targets instead of only 1. Force Stun is another of our CC spells, applying an instant 4 second stun. In some ways this is the more useful CC, especially for Telek./Lightning because it’s instant, and it deals damage in addition to the stun, not to mention Force Lift breaks on damage where Force Stun does not. When comparing this to Force Lift don’t weigh them too much one against another, consider them each their own tool with their own uses. Force Lift is best used before combat begins for example, where Force Stun is more useful mid-combat.
Force Potency is a short term buff that from 1-10 is most useful in my opinion for extending the short range of Telekinetic Throw(Force Lightning), with its increased crit chance just a nice side effect since most of 1-10 is done via melee attacks. Once you take your advanced class the range on Telek. Throw is increased to 30 meters by default so it becomes strictly a crit buff (and a good one at that).
Force of Will is your final spell for the 1-9 bracket and it’s your CC breaker. You do face more CC from non-player characters/monsters in SWTOR than in most other MMO’s, but the primary use for this is still very much PvP related. As someone who enjoys player vs. player (PvP) combat I love that they give us our CC breaker so early.
Benevolence/Dark Heal (10): Heals a friendly target. (fast cast, small heal)
Disturbance/Lightning Strike (10): Fires a blast of telekinetic energy at the target, dealing kinetic damage.
Deliverance/Dark Infusion (12): Heals a friendly target. (long cast, big heal)
Force Armor/Static Barrier (14): Surrounds the target in a Force shield that absorbs a high amount of damage and lasts 30 seconds. Protected targets become Force-Imbalanced and cannot benefit from Force Armor again for 20 seconds.
Mind Crush/Crushing Darkness (14): Crushes the target’s mind with the Force, instantly dealing kinetic damage and additional kinetic damage over 6 seconds.
Channel the Force/Channel the Force (15): Summons the Force to aid you and your companion, immediately finishing the cooldown on Force Stun and restoring 2% of maximum health every 3 seconds. Requires an active companion. Lasts 1 minute.
Weaken Mind/Affliction (16): Weakens the target’s mind, dealing internal damage over 15 seconds.
Force Speed/Force Speed (16): Increases your movement speed by 150% for 2 seconds. Does not break stealth.
Mind Snap/Jolt (18): Interrupts the target’s current action and prevents that ability from being used for 4 seconds.
Noble Sacrifice/Consumption (20): Sacrifices 15% of your maximum health to restore 8% of your maximum Force. Each time this ability is used, your Force regeneration rate is reduced by 25% for the next 10 seconds. Stacks up to 4 times.
Benevolence is our first heal, and it’s kinda lacking. It has a short cast time which is great, but it costs 50 Force and heals for a relatively small amount. Deliverance is our second heal and while it takes twice as long to cast (3 seconds) and costs 5 more Force the heal is significantly stronger. If you’re in dire need of a heal then Benevolence can get you out of trouble, but Deliverance is significantly stronger if you can handle waiting just a second and a half longer.
Disturbance is your main spam-cast spell once you have your advanced class. It has a fairly short cast time, no cooldown, and deals respectable damage. If you go for the Telek./Lightning tree then this is your primary spell, where Balance/Madness will switch to using it mostly on talent procs once they get to level 20-21. Mind Crush is a damage over time (DoT) spell that has a cast time and a cool down. In this level range you’ll mostly use this to pull mobs with big heal pools or on bosses, but it becomes more important later on.
Force Armor is a bubble which absorbs all damage while it’s active. The amount that it can absorb is based on your level. It’s a great addition to your spell book and one that I frequently use right before a pull or in mid-combat for myself or party members as needed. Force Speed is another great all around Consular/Inquisitor spell, this time as a speed increase. In player vs. environment/everything (PvE) this spell isn’t terribly useful in terms of combat, while in player vs. player (PvP) it’s amazing. I use this spell all the time. If it’s on cooldown and I have any intention of running from one point to another, I’m doing it.
Channel the Force is an odd spell to me. It resets the cooldown on Force Stun and puts a heal over time effect on you and (I think) your companion, which is great, but it’s only usable when you have a companion out. It’s good for those times where you’re soloing something and having a rough time or when you’re in a small group because you have to have a companion out in order to cast it. For me, because it’s only usable when I have a companion and I almost never use my companions for combat, I forget this thing exists 99% of the time. For me it just seems like it’s an incredibly useful spell that can’t be used in groups which makes me want to be used to not having it so that I don’t come to rely on it when/if I ever raid or when I’m doing PvP.
Weaken Mind is another DoT spell, but this one has no cooldown and no cast time making it very easy to spam all of the targets in combat, and both DPS specs will want to use this on any targets that are likely to live for more than just a few seconds.
Mind Snap is our interrupt, used to stop pretty much any/every ability that has a cast time or a channel. At low levels I usually interrupt damage spells from my opponents, but once you get to around Alderaan (mid to upper 20s) and higher you start to run into mobs that use healing so I save it for them. From 1-20 using it isn’t all that important, but interrupting spells is a great habit to get into early on.
And last but certainly not least we have Nobel Sacrifice which converts 15% of your life into 8% of your Force. At low levels I wouldn’t advise you to use this very often. If you need the Force, then you need the Force, but if you’re hurting that bad for resources then you probably don’t have the health to spare either.
Leveling a Sage/Sorcerer
Now that you know more than you probably ever wanted to know about all of your spells and such, let’s take a look at how you actually play with Sage/Sorcerer.
Consular 1-10 Weak Mob Rotation: Double Strike, Saber Strike or Double Strike x2-3
Inquisitor 1-10 Weak Mob Rotation: Thrash, Saber Strike or Thrash x2-3
Alternate 1-10 Rotation: Double Strike or Saber Strike on all targets, Force Wave
When you’re first starting out you can kill almost everything with Double Strike + Saber Strike assuming DS doesn’t kill them outright. For tougher mobs, Double Strike x2-3 will finish most of them off. If you find that you still need to do a little bit more damage, I suggest Force Wave as your finisher to deal some AoE damage.
You can use your spells if you want to, it’s alright to start off combat with Telekinetic Throw if you’d like. On the one hand, Telek. Throw does really good damage and often times you’ll kill your first target using this by itself. However, you’ll actually kill things faster if you just rush in and open a can of melee.
The Alternate rotation is another method of playing at low levels, which is using a single melee attack on each target in the group followed by a Force Wave. Doing this will kill just about every weak mob in the starting planet, and the ones that don’t die should fall to a single attack after Force Wave.
Telekinetics 10-20 Weak Mobs: Telekinetic Wave, Disturbance, Telekinetic Throw, Disturbance x2, Telek. Throw
Lightning 10-20 Weak Mobs: Chain Lightning, Lightning Strike, Force Lightning, Lightning Strike x2, Force Lightning
Balance 10-20 Weak Mobs: Disturbance, Force in Balance, Telekinetic Throw, Project, Disturbance, Telekinetic Throw
Madness 10-20 Weak Mobs: Lightning Strike, Death Field, Force Lightning, Shock, Lightning Strike, Force Lightning
When you first start trying our your advanced class rotating through Telekinetic Throw, Disturbance x2, and then repeat will destroy everything in your path. If you need a little extra safeguard for the fight feel free to start off with Force Armor and/or Force Lift before you start with the damage spells. If you’re going to start combat with a CC effect like Force Lift you usually want to target the strongest enemy with it so that you can kill off the weaklings first and then go back for the tough guy. If you do, go ahead and take the time to heal yourself up if needed after you’ve killed the weak ones before you break your CC on the big guy. You have the full 60 second duration to heal or regenerate your Force points, so you might as well take advantage of that.
If mobs get low on health and you don’t want to waste a cast time on them, finish them off with either Project, Force Wave or Telekinetic Throw, or you can use your melee abilities if you haven’t taken them off of your bars yet.
Telekinetics 10-20 Elites: Telekinetic Wave, Mind Crush, Weaken Mind, Disturbance, Telekinetic Throw, Disturbance x2
Lightning 10-20 Elites: Chain Lightning, Crushing Darkness, Affliction, Lightning Strike, Force Lightning, Lightning Strike x2
Balance 10-20 Elites: Mind Crush, Weaken Mind, Force in Balance, Telekinetic Throw, Disturbance x2
Madness 10-20 Elites: Crushing Darkness, Affliction, Death Field, Force Lightning, Lightning Strike x2
When you’re facing elites you want to make sure you put your DoT spells to use, and using them to pull is a safe and easy way to do that. If you’re facing several strong opponents then you might want to pull with Force Lift instead, or use Force Lift after Mind Crush. Just make sure you don’t use Mind Crush on the target you plan to CC or else the DoT effect will break your CC early.
After you have established your DoT’s and used any CC that you need, you can fall back into the rotation you use on the weak mobs that I listed above. As your DoT’s expire from running their full duration reapplying them may or may not be necessary depending on how much health they have left. If you see that they’re going to die in the next 3-5 seconds you don’t need to bother reapplying, but if they still have more than 25% of their health or so, go ahead and recast Weaken Mind if nothing else.
Any time you need to move, for whatever reason, that’s when you want to utilize Project(Shock). As Balance/Madness you have a good chance to double-Project(Shock) for extra damage which makes it a good option even when you don’t necessarily need to move, especially if there are weak mobs who will be stunned by the effect as well.
Talent Spec: 20 Balance/Madness Tree
|Sage: Balance||Sorcerer: Madness|
|Torhead: Balance||Torhead: Madness|
Balance/Madness is a fairly new tree for me, having switched in just the last week or so from Telekinetics/Lightning. I really fell in love with this tree after level 25, but I’ve had a blast with it on a new Sage as well.
What I like most about this tree is that it puts a stronger focus on instant casts and channeled spells which allows you to be more mobile (something I like for PvP) and making it easier to bounce around on targets when you see that one of them is just one hit away from dying so you can toss an instant spell at them and then switch back to your initial target instead of having to finish your current cast time, switch to them for another cast time, and then switch back.
The instant cast nature of the spec along with the procs that you’ll eventually get from channeling Telekinetic Throw(Force Lightning) make this spec feel much more aggressive an in control of the battle compared to the Telekinetics/Lightning tree. It also allows you to solo more content by making it easier and more viable for you to abuse the Line of Sight (LoS) technique to kill Strong+ or higher level mobs.
In the descriptions below, the spell names in the open refer to the Sage ability and the names in (parenthesis) refer to the Sorcerer-equivalent ability.
Empowered Throw/Calcify 3/3:
Increases the damage dealt by Telekinetic Throw(Force Lightning) by 12%.
Will of the Jedi/Will of the Sith 2/2:
Increases total Willpower by 6%.
Upheaval/Chain Shock 3/3:
When you activate Project(Shock), you have a 45% chance to activate a second Project(Shock), dealing 50% of normal damage.
Critical Kinesis/Disintegration 2/2:
Increases the critical chance of Telekinetic Throw(Force Lightning) and Disturbance(Lightning Strike) by 10%.
Force in Balance/Death Field 1/1:
Deals internal damage to up to 3 targets within 8 meters of the targeted area and heals you for 22 per affected target.
Empowered Throw and Will of the Jedi are both great talents for the first tier, and I generally alternate putting points into them while I level so that I get some benefit from both at the same time. Telekinetic Throw is your main spam spell with this spec, or rather it will be when you reach level 21 (see Force in Balance below).
Upheaval is one of my favorite talents as a Sage, purely from a “check out how freaking amazing I am” perspective as I launch two large chunks of terrain at your face. It also helps to make this spell actually worth casting as its damage is otherwise much less than any of your other spells. For folks who don’t like this talent, Pinning Resolve is a solid replacement as it makes your Force Lift(Whirlwind) hit up to 3 targets at once instead of 1.
Critical Kinesis is the second talent I like to take on tier 2 of this tree for the extra crit. I personally go for Upheaval first strictly because I like to make Project more viable in low level PvP, but Critical Kinesis is a great talent for both PvE and PvP, so take them in whichever order you prefer.
Force in Balance is my priority talent for level 20 because it’s a fantastic AoE spell. It deals great damage, is instant cast, and it targets an area rather than an enemy so it can be used to fish people out of stealth or to hit people who are out of your line of sight. However, this third tier is also where you get Telekinetic Balance/Madness which removes the cooldown from Telekinetic Throw(Force Lightning), allowing it to become your spam spell. Being able to spam TT/FL isn’t crucial just yet because we’re missing other key talents due to our level, but that will change very soon. Between these two talents, the one you do not take at level 20 should be taken at level 21 as they’re both fantastic talents.
Talent Spec: 20 Telekinetic/Lightning Tree
|Sage: Telekinetics||Sorcerer: Lightning|
|Torhead: Telekinetics||Torhead: Lightning|
This is the spec that I started out with on my Sage/Sorcs, and it served me very well. This is the tree that I was using when I first started soloing Heroic 4 quests without even using with my companions.
This tree gives you a feel of the more traditional caster, standing in the back spamming cast time spells for stacking buffs and unleashing channeled spells for better damage. This tree is great for being able to maintain a high rate of spell casting without having to sacrifice performance.
In the descriptions below, the names refer to the Sage ability and the names in (parenthesis) refer to the Sorcerer-equivalent ability.
Clamoring Force/Convection 3/3:
Increases the damage dealt by Disturbance(Lightning Strike), Mind Crush(Crushing Darkness), Telekinetic Wave(Chain Lightning), and Turbulence(Thundering Blast) by 6%.
Inner Strength/Electric Induction 3/3:
Reduces the Force cost of Force attacks and healing abilities by 9%.
Reduces the pushback suffered while activating Disturbance(Lightning Strike), Telekinetic Wave(Chain Lightning) and Turbulence(Thundering Blast) by 70%. In addition, Disturbance(Lightning Strike) has a 100% chance to increase your Force regeneration rate by 10% for 10 seconds. Stacks up to 3 times.
Disturb Mind/Exsanguinate 2/2:
Increases the duration of Weaken Mind(Affliction) by 6 seconds.
Telekinetic Wave/Chain Lightning 1/1:
Sends a wave of telekinetic energy/lightning that deals kinetic damage to up to 5 targets within 8 meters of the primary target.
Clamoring Force is a simple damage increase which just so happens to buff virtually every spell you’re going to use frequently. Inner Strength reduces your Force costs which allows you to cast more spells for longer periods of time. I like to put points into Inner Strength over Mental Longevity (+50/100 Force) because over time that 9% reduction of cost adds up to be way more than a simple boost to my total Force. I also suggest you only put 2 points into Mental Longevity to start off with and then put the third point in at level 19 since you shouldn’t have too many problems with Force management at this level. Eventually, you’ll have points in both Inner Strength and Mental Longevity you just don’t need both at this level.
Concentration is a talent that I would normally ignore because the nature of casters is to stay out of situations where you would suffer pushback in the first place, but they also added a Force regeneration feature to it which makes this much more appealing. Keeping three stacks of Concentration up at all times really helps your longevity in a big fight. Disturb Mind increases the duration of your instant-cast DoT spell by 6 seconds which in turn means it deals more damage. Disturb Mind isn’t too critical for Telekinetics/Lightning for this level range but it will be pretty soon. If you want to spend these points elsewhere, Mind’s Eye(Lightning Spire) is a good choice for one point, and the other I would put in Mental Longevity(Reserves).
Telekinetic Wave is a cast time AoE that is centered on an enemy target, making it somewhat more limited in its use because of targeting, but still a great addition to your caster toolbelt since your only AoE option without it is your dinky pushback. As you continue to gain levels you’ll unlock other talents that just keep making this spell cooler.
When you’re looking for new gear to increase your performance you want to make sure you’re always looking at your primary stat first. Sage/Sorcs rely primarily on Willpower for performance, so big boosts in Willpower are always a good thing.
Your secondary stat depends on your spec and what level you are. In the 1-20 level range the only secondary attributes you’re likely to find in large supply is Power (increases damage/healing) and Critical Rating (Crit), and lucky for us those are both appealing stats. Power is a guaranteed performance increase where Crit is good when you score a critical hit and worthless when you don’t making it a bit more hit and miss but potentially stronger when it does happen. I personally lean a bit more towards Crit than Power for the Sage because we have talents that proc additional effects based on getting critical hits with some of our spells.
Other secondary stats that are good include Accuracy (chance to hit) and Alacrity (haste, or the speed at which you cast your spells) though both of those are pretty hard to find in this level range. You won’t find enough gear with these stats on them in this level range for them to really matter, so if you happen to come across one you might as well use it, but don’t worry about hunting them down or trying to reach certain amounts in this level range. If you find it you find it, if you don’t you don’t.
The simplest way to keep yourself on top of the gearing game is to use gear that accepts mods and then craft or purchase mods as you level to keep it up to date. Modification items (mods) can be purchased on worlds beyond the starting worlds for either credits or commendations, or they can be crafted by the Artifice and Cybertech crew skills (as such you can often find them cheap on the Global Trade Network (GTN) as well).
And just to be clear, you will always and forever wear Light Armor and nothing more.
Crew Skills & You
Since I see the question of Crew Skills (professions) come up a lot whether it’s in game, on the blog, or on twitter, I decided I would go ahead and include a quick section for that with this post as well. The most important thing with professions in any game is that you take what’s appealing to you. It doesn’t matter whether it’s appealing because it’s the best thing out there or because you think it has a cool name, so long as it appeals to you in one way or another.
That being said, let’s take a look at the crew skills that have something to offer a Sage/Sorc.
Artifice: One of your best options as it allows you to craft three mods that you can use for your gear (Crystal, Hilt, Enhancement) and it allows you to craft your own off-hand items. Off hands are pretty easy to find as drops and the occasional quest reward, but being able to craft them gives you more control over which stats you get and allows for more frequent upgrades.
Biochem: A fantastic profession for every class, allows you to craft healing medpacs, long term buff stims, and short duration buff adrenals. Also allows you to craft Implants for level 21+ which is an often hard to fill slot while leveling (even more so because you have two implant slots to fill).
Cybertech: Another solid option, allows the crafting of Armoring and Mod modifications as well as Earpieces which can also be hard to find while leveling. Also allows you to craft explosives that deal targetable area of effect damage and include additional damaging debuffs or crowd control effects on the targets within the area.
Synthweaving: An appealing, but somewhat disappointing, crew skill that allows you to craft armor pieces for Force-users. While you can get some patterns for modable gear, the majority of your recipes will pale in comparison to modable gear of an equal level unless you’re willing to spend the credits/materials to craft blue quality or higher pieces which even then could be replaced by modable gear with better stats within a few levels. Synth offers nothing other than armor pieces, making it one of the least versatile and least useful crew skills available.
Diplomacy: Diplomacy is a pure mission skill, and offers very little to your class directly. The reason why I mention it is because all Diplomacy missions have a Light/Dark component to them which allows you to build your Light/Dark points faster than anything else. If you want to maximize your Light/Dark standing and do it quickly, then Diplomacy is the key.
Slicing: Slicing is a gathering/mission skill and is similar to Diplomacy in that it offers nothing specifically Sage/Sorc-related. What Slicing does offer is a cheap and easy way to have all the credits you’ll ever need. Just be sure that you don’t judge it by the first or second tier’s mission results and that you never waste your time/credits running missions above tier 5.