The Third Edge: Mercenary/Commando Interrupts & Utility

It’s always great to welcome a new writer on board, particularly one with the passion of Jemima Moore. She’ll actually be writing two columns – more on that soon. The Third Edge is devoted to everything Bounty Hunter and Trooper. As you’ll see from the article below, Jemima knows her stuff and what she doesn’t know she knows where to find it. Welcome Jem!

On March 23rd, Lead Combat Designer, George Zoeller lit a bonfire when he claimed that giving Mercenaries and Commandos an interrupt would, “increase their combat utility, especially in PvP, beyond what we are comfortable with.”

Since then I doubt few debates have raged more fiercely. Interrupts are useless against 50% of classes. Interrupts are essential for stopping burst and increasing survivability. Lack of an interrupt is the cause of TracerGravSpam. A well-named interrupt could be the next Pope.

So in this, the first edition of The Third Edge, I’d like to take the wahhhmbulance out of the argument and put Georg’s claim to the most judicial test of all – mathematics.

How much utility do Mercenaries and Commandos actually have? On a scale of 1 to 10 where do we rate compared to other classes? What’s an interrupt worth in terms of utility? And the question I think BurdoThePious should have asked – is giving us an interrupt going to stop most of us from sucking at PvP?

I have to admit, when I first approached this task I thought it would be easy – a simple 4-step process:

1) Define utility.
2) Determine which abilities fit the definition and group them into categories.
3) Allocate a point score to each of them.
4) Add up the numbers and see who has the most.

It turned out to be far, far more complicated than that. I did stick to that basic methodology, but as usual the devil is in the detail. Do I compare specific builds? What optional talents come into play? Is a stun better than a slow? What’s a longer lock-out worth compared to a shorter cool-down? What about when one ability can do three different things?

The task was behemoth and labyrinthine, but with optimism in my heart and a Prozac in my pocket,
I decided to compare 15 different common tank and dps trees (not builds) and included talents only from the bottom two rows of other trees.

Abilities were divided into categories and within each category I defined a baseline that would score 5 points.  A good example of this is in the Release category. Every advanced class has the ability to free themselves from all incapacitating effects once every 2 minutes – this the baseline worth 5 points. Additional points are added and subtracted based on modifiers like range, cast time, duration of effect, length of cool-down.

I made very few distinctions about whether one ability category held more value than another. Given any and all situations one can’t objectively make the claim that, say, a stun is better than a slow, so each ability category holds the same 5-point baseline with one exception – ‘special’ abilities or those tricks that are unique to one class or a few classes. Stealth is clearly more useful than Stealth Scan.  Group Stealth is cool and kooky but not as useful as a Combat Res. To give you an indication of the differential – Stealth is worth 10 points, Combat Res is worth 5 and Stealth Scan and Group Stealth are worth 4.

When it comes to modifiers – what’s a longer lock-out worth compared to a shorter cool-down – there’s a lot of room for debate and I hope there’s going to be! But the important thing to remember is that the same modifiers were applied to ALL classes and, for the most part, across all categories. So, even if you don’t agree with the reality of the numbers, at least everyone was tarred with the same brush.

A full list of baseline definitions, modifiers and my calculation sheets are available at the end of the article for all the seagulls to swarm over like a hot chip at the beach, but in the meantime and without further ado…

How do Mercenaries and Commandos rate in the utility stakes?

We’re 10! 10? C’mon I knew it was low… but 10? Operatives and Marauders have DOUBLE our utility and all four of the Bounty Hunter’s trees modelled place in the LAST six on the ladder.

The only category Mercs and Commando’s score highest in is the Arsenal Mercenary/Gunnery Commando specced into Afterburners/Concussive Force for knockbacks.

What good is that? If you’re not a Sniper, Gunslinger, Sorcerer, Sage at range; an Assassin, Shadow, Smuggler or Operative in stealth; or a Warrior or Knight in a window of immunity to movement impairing effects we’ll punt you across the map every 9 secs (or 13,500 damage taken @1500dps)! Watch out Galaxy – Boo-ya!! … not.

Alright, with the shaking of fists and indignance of scoring lower than a Jedi, on any scale, slowing fading it’s time to draw some objective conclusions. After all, this exercise was supposed to test Georg’s March 23 bombshell and shine a light on utility and interrupts as they pertain to PvP.

Mercenaries and Commandos score across less categories than most: we have no interrupt, no speed boost, pull, push or leap and we retain only baseline talents in the CC, Stun, Slow, Mitigation, Release and Cleanse categories. Our heals score the lowest of all advanced classes by a substantial amount. But more importantly the majority of our abilities are watered-down versions of things other classes can do more of or do better.

Electro Dart/Cryo Grenade  stuns for 4 secs, but Electrocute/Force Stun , Backhand/Hilt Strike and Debilitate/Dirty Kick all stun for 4 seconds and do damage as well.

Jet Boost/Concussion Charge gives an aoe knockback with slow but Sorcerers/Sages can knockback and immobilise.

Unload/Full Auto slows our targets for 3 secs with talents but a Marauder’s Ravage/Master Strike with talents immobilises AND they can perma-slow with two additional abilities.

On the other side of the coin…

Concealment Ops/Scrappers score highest and are commonly regarded as the pariahs of PvP. Powertechs/Vanguards are akin to gods in Ranked at the moment and they are dead last. They both score reasonably well in the interrupt category but Juggs/Guardians with 3 true interrupts lead that category are not generally considered to be formidable, terrifying or unstoppable in PvP. Even if we were given a 5 point baseline interrupt, it wouldn’t make a dent in that 60 point gap and if it did it wouldn’t make us Powertechs/Vanguards.

One can only conclude that the hero factor in PvP lies somewhere other than utility.

The kings of PvP: Powertechs and Vanguards, Marauders and Sentinels burst away unfettered by mobility issues and they scoff at interrupts no matter how many of them you have. PT/Vanguard dots and delayed explosions keep killing you even after they’re dead and Maras/Sentinels off-the-chart mitigation makes them close to immortal for us ‘Jedi Killers’.

Bestowing us an interrupt is not going overcome this problem but then nor is it going to upset class balance beyond all reckoning. It would be nice to have one in PvE but if it only works at 4m or 10m range like the rest them then that’s about as reverse on a lawn mower.

It’s claimed that Mercenaries and Commandos have some of the best burst in the game but we’re also one of the few Advanced Classes that relies heavily on casted damaged. Snipers and Gunslingers are immune to interrupts while in cover and Sorcerers/Sages have a stellar combination of mitigation and heals to keep them alive through a lock-out.

If we’re to truly become Jedi Killers, we need a way to protect our burst without asking Bioware to completely redesign the class. A decent window of immunity to movement impairing effects; better releases, speed boosts and leaps; improved damage mitigation or one of the better suggestions I’ve heard: Make Tracer Missiles/Grav Rounds instant cast but give it a cool-down.

I’d love to hear your ideas below.

As promised earlier, here are the full calculations in PDF format for you to digest or dissect: Advanced Class Utility Calculations


  1. Pretty good write-up.  One thing to remember too with making Tracer Missles/Grav Round instant with a cooldown, is that will increase mobility a lot.  Personally, I don’t have any problem with that, but BW might.  Just something to consider, and possibly another variable to include in your Utility Calculations.

  2. NotDoomchickenIswear says:

    Give mercs interrupts! DO IT NAO.

  3. Imo giving Mercs a flat-out shield against interrupts would be a bad idea. In PvE the thing that stops Mercs from being wrecking balls of destruction is the fact that they need to constantly move and therefore can’t sit there blasting away. if they got like a sniper shield they could do just that in PvP and since if their rotation can make Maras look like wet noodles, they’d be.. dare I say it, OP.

    Instead, let them deal with trying to maintain their rotation, give them some sort of difficulty, but also throw them a bone. Give them a new CD, maybe like every 30 seconds they can move while casting for 5 seconds or something. This gives them some ability to kite rather than sit there casting and hoping that x melee doesn’t just hit their interrupt key.

    That or reduce the damage done and heat/ammo cost from Tracer and make it instant cast. Though I dunno how badly removing the cast time of Tracer will change the rotation since I don’t have a Merc myself.

  4. Jem_Moore says:

    Both really good points, Torre and NCE. I’d love to be able to model damage, burst, mobility etc. to develop a similar picture for burst vs sustained. I fear a greater mathematical mind than mine might be required for that but could definitely make a start. Torre’s idea of a ‘mobility window’ sounds like a pretty good compromise because I think he’s right – it could be pretty OP.

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