Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sith Assassin Guide: Madness 101

Learn to Play Madness from Scratch

Madness Assassin on Command Throne

Free to Play has brought plenty of new players to SWTOR. If you've never played an Inquisitor as an Assassin before, this guide will get you up and running with a Madness spec. Starter guides for Deception and Darkness are forthcoming.

Did you just choose to be an Assassin before reading this? Your first question is probably where you get a double-bladed lightsaber. It's in a bag in your inventory after completing AC selection at level 10.


Madness is a sustained damage over time (DoT) specialization with heavy emphasis on ability synergy. You have a ramp-up time to get your buffs and DoTs up, and then other talents trigger off of those as you melee.

Stat Targets

SWTOR enforces a balancing act between stats to be effective. On your character's Melee stat breakdown, aim for:

  • Willpower is your primary stat. You can't get enough of it.
  • 97%-100% Accuracy
  • 30%+ Critical Chance
  • 75% Critical Multiplier (Surge)
  • Power, after reaching the previous criteria

To trigger procs like Raze, your Thrash needs to hit. Once your DoTs are up, you rely on melee attacks as filler abilities. Accuracy helps these attacks land more often.

75% Crit Multiplier is when the benefit you receive from each point of Surge Rating diminishes rapidly, making it less desirable.

Power increases all your damage done by a small amount. It does not reach a limit of severe diminishing returns, making it the go-to stat once you've hit the other stats' soft caps.

Recommended Builds

Full Madness (7/3/31) has always been my favorite for group PvE content. The downside is how poor its survivability is.

You have room to shift points around without significantly affecting your DPS. You may prefer a flat damage reduction to healing from DoT crits or sacrifice the small gain to Lightning Charge's proc in favor of bonus force regen from stealth.

Shockless is close in potential DPS to my preference, and it eliminates the use of Shock in the priority list below. It's easier to play and you'll rarely have a force shortage. You have even more room to choose the filler talents you want with this setup.

PvP (4/14/23) by Shin'arika is a hybrid build for PvP that gives you some survivability while amplifying your burst potential with an increased Maul critical damage multiplier. You drop Creeping Terror's long-range DoT to achieve this.

PvE DPS Priority List for Full Madness

  • While in Lightning Charge stance
  • Use Relic
  • Recklessness
  • Overcharge Saber
  • Death Field
  • Crushing Darkness if you have Raze
  • Refresh Discharge as needed
  • Assassinate when enemy is < 30% health
  • Refresh Creeping Terror as needed
  • Maul if you have Exploit Weakness
  • Shock if Unearthed Knowledge is down
  • Trash if your force is > 45
  • Otherwise, Saber Strike

Force Lightning is a tool for Madness to hit a target out of range when used with Recklessness. It isn't part of the priority list, and is at best a 1% decrease in DPS, so as you gain more abilities while leveling you'll cut back more and more on using Lightning.

You rely on Deathmarks from Death Field to restore your force at a sufficient rate. Shock is a huge force drain and should not be used every cooldown. At higher levels, when Shock grants Unearthed Knowledge, you'll only use it once every 20 seconds in a single-enemy encounter. Shock stuns standard enemies and makes them vulnerable to Tumult.

Is that a lot to keep track of?

If you're overwhelmed by the amount of buffs and debuffs you need to track, Tor Assistant may help. You can set audio cues to prompt you to use an ability at the appropriate time. If you respond better to sound than subtle animations and proc-watching, try it out.

AoE Capability

Lacerate is a fairly weak extremely close-range ability you can do area of effect (AoE) damage with.

Although Overload does decent damage, it also has a knockback component. Don't use Overload as an AoE in a group setting; you'll just push enemies out of the way of your friends' ground-targeted AoEs. In solo play, standard and strong targets knocked down by Overload are susceptible to Tumult.

Death Field hits 3 targets and makes them take more damage from DoTs. If the enemies you are fighting have a significant amount of health, pick out the ones that Death Field hit and continue a single-target rotation on them.

Defensive Cooldowns


Deflection increases your defense by 50% for 12 seconds. This means standard ranged and melee weapon-based attacks are less likely to hit you. As a squishy Madness spec, use it early and often to reduce incoming damage.

Force Shroud

Shroud cleanses harmful effects from you and makes you immune to Force and Tech attacks for 3 seconds. You can avoid many player abilities and some boss mechanics by timing this correctly.

Force Cloak

You vanish, dropping threat on enemies and leaving combat - at least in theory. The reality of it is you may remain in combat or your companion may maintain aggro on enemies, making Cloak a less than perfect escape route. You'll be more successful if you Shroud and Cloak together to ensure no debuffs or incoming damage break your undetectable state.

It is sometimes possible to remain out of combat long enough to revive a fallen player after Cloaking.

Recommended Companion Types

Use a tank companion to let you Maul freely from behind your target and maximize your damage output.

In cases where you don't think your tank will survive an encounter, use a healing companion. Your ship droid, 2V-R8 has weak healing abilities if necessary. When you meet your main healer companion, that will be your partner of choice for filling in on Heroics and other more difficult or longer fights.

DPS companions are most helpful when you first get them and if they happen to outgear your tank or healer. They aren't the best choice for a squishy spec because they don't compensate for your weaknesses.


Congratulations on choosing the Madness skill tree. It will serve you well once you get the hang of keeping your DoTs and buffs up. This guide will be updated as necessary in response to class changes. Keep an eye out for tips about the other Assassin specs soon.