Like Junkies Nation on Facebook Follow Junkies Nation on Twitter Subscribe to the Junkies Nation RSS Feed

The Imperial Agent – Operative

By on Dec 14, 2011 at 9:00 am, in Article, FORCE Exclusives, Guides, SWTOR  |  Comments: 17 comments

Imperial Agent Guide


Hello all, my name is Elicas and I will be writing about the Imperial Agent class, as someone mostly interested in end game PvE. There will be some PvP writing, but it will not be a focus of my articles.

This piece details my impressions of leveling and playing an Imperial Agent, from the point of view of someone playing the Medicine and Lethality trees, I will not be playing Concealment at any point in the near future. This article, and subsequent articles, will have absolutely no mention whatsoever of the story, outside of which planets you recieve your companions (excluding hidden companions, find those yourself!). I’m not here to spoil peoples evenings giving the game away.

The Imperial Agent is a suave, seductive and deadly force within the Empires ranks. Recruited and trained to carry out the most sensitive and dangerous of the Empires missions, they utilise their proffessional perfection to get the job done. At level 10 they can choose to specialise in either the Sniper advanced class, or the Operative advanced class, which is the focus of this article.

1 – Class Acronyms
2 – Class Defining Abilities
3 – The Medicine Tree
3a – PvE
3b – PvP
4 – Lethality DPS
4a – PvE
4b – PvP
5 – Companions
6 – Crew Skills

1 – Class Acronyms

Every class has it’s acronyms, and the following are the most commonly used within the IA community.

IA – Imperial Agent!
TA – Tactical Advantage
AP – Adrenaline Probe
SB – Stim Boost
RPS – Regen Per Second
KI – Kolto Injection
KP – Kolto Probe
SP – Surgical Probe
RN – Recuparative Nanotech
CG – Corrosive Grenade
WB – Weakening Blast
CD – Cooldown/Corrosive Dart (context depending)
RS – Rifle Shot
DS – Diagnostic Scan
OS – Overload Shot
FB – Flash Bang
CB – Carbine Burst

2 – Class Defining Abilities

The IA, as well as their counter class the Republic Smuggler, have several class distinct abiilities. The most prominent of these is the cover mechanic, the ability to roll/crouch in cover and gain a moderate amount of defense and extra abilities, while sacrificing mobility. When and where to enter cover will be a very large part of the learning curve for IA’s at each encounter in the game.

This system works according to your current hostile target. Should you have no target selected you will use portable cover instead. Note that you cannot roll into cover when you have a friendly target. When you have a hostile target, green silhouettes will appear that show you the positions you are able to roll into relative to your targets position.

The IA also has portable cover, though only the Sniper AC receives the funky looking portable laser screen. Operatives instead just crouch in place, the same as during levels 1-10.

The second major part of playing the IA is resource management, namely energy starvation and regeneration. This resource depletes as abilities are used, but regenerates at different rates according to how much energy you currently have.

Energy Regeneration works at a variable rate dependant on your current total energy.

Current Energy = 80 – 100 = 5 RPS
Current Energy = 60-80 = 4 RPS
Current Energy = 40 – 60 = 3 RPS
Current Energy = 20-40 = 2.5 RPS
Current Energy = 0 – 20 = 2 RPS

To play at the maximum potential throughput of the class, you need to try and keep above 60 energy when you can, using both Stim Boost and Adrenaline Probe to keep your energy up.

Adrenaline Probe is a cooldown ability that returns 50 energy over 3 seconds. It is a clutch ability that should ideally be saved for when you have to use excessive energy during either a burn phase (dps) or when you need to put out an extreme amount of healing throughput. It has a 120 second cooldown, allowing it to be used multiple times in longer fights.

Stim Boost consumes a Tactical Advantage proc to return 3 energy every 3 seconds for 45 seconds, this buff should be kept up in any fight lasting 45 seconds or longer. In small trash pack pulls, this buff can be safely left off, unless you do not need to use TA to heal. If you’re not needing to heal, use your TA to keep this buff up between trash packs. While SB is active, your energy regen becomes;

Current Energy = 80 – 100 = 6 RPS
Current Energy = 60-80 = 5 RPS
Current Energy = 40 – 60 = 4 RPS
Current Energy = 20-40 = 3.5 RPS
Current Energy = 0 – 20 = 3 RPS

The differences between keeping your energy at a good RPS level and keeping it the lowest RPS level are massive. Let’s have a quick look at the math behind this.

Agent A keeps his energy above 60 for the entire duration of a ten minute fight, while maintaining SB. This gives him the following;

Current Energy = > 60 = 5RPS
5RPS x 600 seconds = 3000 energy to spend on costed abilities.

Agent B likes to do as much as possible when fighting, he spams his abilities to try and burst as much as possible. He keeps his energy below 20 for the entire duration of a ten minute fight and doesn’t keep on top of his SB buff. This gives him the following;

Current Energy = < 20 = 2RPS 2RPS x 600 seconds = 1200 energy to spend on damage abilities In real terms, Agent A has 2.5 times more energy to spend than Agent B. Resource managment will be an incredibly important part of playing an IA, easily differentiating the really good IA players from the average.

3 – The Medicine Tree

To really shine as an IA healer, resource management is absolutely critical. Unlike when you are dpsing, there are very few situations where you can blow your energy to frontload healing and reap any kind of result other than being out of energy. Medics can only heal damage that our group members have received after all. Of course, keeping that energy level up will yield a higher throughput in the end after all, by simple way of giving you more energy to actually sepnd on healing. Though it might seem like your not necessarily casting as much, you will in fact be doing much more if you can keep your energy level around ~60.

Stim Boost is an absolutely critical ability for healing, with 2 points in the Incisive Action skill we will be gaining TA from our base heal. The simplest way to get this buff up and running is to cast a heal just before the combat pull and keep SB ticking away for the duration of the fight, refreshing as needed.

Another important resource management ability is the fully skilled up Diagnostic Scan. Fully skilled at level 26, this ability returns energy to you every time it crits. With a base crit chance of 35% before you add your crit gear (24% skill, 5% crit from our class buff and 6% from 3 points in the Lethality skill), with an IA easily capable of sitting at around 50% crit chance for this skill. This effectively means you can ‘weave’ this ability between your heals to keep your energy level high.

At level 30 you can receive the Surgical Probe skill if you have gone far enough into the medicine tree, which uses a TA to cast an instant 0 energy cost heal, further increasing your ability to heal for protracted periods without running out of energy. With your Kolto Injection giving TA, a 30% chance for your Kolto Probe ticks to give a TA and Surgical Probe giving a TA when used on a person with less than 30% health (when skilled appropriately in the medicine tree), an IA has the potential to continuously pump out instant zero cost heals.

3a – PvE

Spec 1
Current PvE Spec 31/3/7

The primary stats for healing IA’s at the moment are Cunning, Endurance and Presence.

  • Cunning improves Tech attacks, and is the dominant stat for Imperial Agents, increasing by around 4 Cunning per level on average. Endurance improves health, and is more of a support stat for Imperial Agents, increasing by 3.5
  • Endurance per level on average. Every point provides 10 health points, and every 5 points provides 1% health regeneration.
  • Presence improves Companions, and is an important stat for Imperial Agents, as we rely quite extensively on our companions during leveling and solo play. providing 3.5 Presence per level on average. Every 1 point provides 2 health points to Companions, and every 20 points provides a 2% bonus to Companions’ damage.

For damage calculations, every 10 points in a stat provides 1 bonus damage to the appropriate type, and every 140 points provides 1% crit chance to the appropriate type. However, the dominant stat of a class provides this bonus to all abilities, so a Imperial Agent, and therefore a Operative, gains both bonus melee damage, tech damage & healing and crit chance from Cunning. This makes stacking cunning a legitimate choice for new IA’s learning the class.

The secondary stats of interest for healing IA’s are Alacrity, Critical Chance and Surge.

  • Alacrity is comparable to Haste in World of Warcraft, reducing activation and channelling times. This stat is of reduced value, as it does not affect our energy regen. It should never be discounted however, as reduced heal cast times are never a bad thing.
  • Critical Chance is the chance to score a critical strike, which improves the damage/healing of an ability by 50%, and is improved by Critical Rating and the classes dominant stat. It seems reasonable that we will want quite a lot of crit until we can get Diagnostic Scan to 100% crit chance, if that is a possibility. (currently unknown)
  •  Surge increases the magnitude of critical effects, improving their extra damage/healing beyond +50%. Given that we will stack crit this will also be an important stat to us, as surge and crit will scale very well with each other. It’s important to note, that this doesn’t seem to affect Diagnostic Scan in any way, the energy returned from critical hits always remaining 2.

Our stat priority from gear is most likely along the following lines, bearing in mind things such as mods can be used to increase the viability of certain gear by boosting deficient stats in an item with more mod slots.

This can make gearing at end game an involved process.

Cunning > Alacrity > Crit >= Surge > Power > Endurance

Currently, using your TA to cast SP when a target is under 30% health, thus returning to you the TA, is the best way to heal your group when not receiving massive amounts of group wide AoE dps. This further helps us to keep our energy levels high. My basic healing priority list in Flashpoint healing goes like this.

SP Tank if under 30% health > SB > KP dps under 50% health > KI Tank > SP DPS under 30% health > Diagnostic Scan if under 60 energy > AP if under 40 energy.

Now, obviously this can’t be used in every situation, as healing is a fluid beast, but it gives you a rough outline of how I process thoughts when healing.

3b – PvP

Imperial Agent PVP spec

Current PvP Spec: 33/8/0

This spec utilises our mobility to keep in the back to mid lines of battle, healing our team. Our main damage in this spec is done by CD and RS, but as we’re a healer dps should not be our main focus. Throwing a CD up on the main target, say the enemy player with the ball in Huttball for example, should never be discounted however.

This spec completely ignores DS. This is due to the fact that while useful for energy regen, it is too easily interrupted when we are usually one of the main focusses of enemy dps. Sedatives has been taken, so liberal use of Sleep Dart should be made. Note that the -50% damage debuff starts from when the sleep is broken, not at the end of the sleep. This means you can sleep someone and then start dpsing them immediately. It becomes a very useful 1v1 ability for escape as well, as any Jedi breaking out and then force leaping after you will be at 50% less damage. Add our 20% move speed to Evasion and the static -2% damage taken and we become a moderately durable healer, when we’re not focussed by more than 2 or more dps.

In a PvP environment, we need to prioritise our heals differently. In PvE I spoke about how important energy conservation would be. While still important in PvP, there is a different way we can go about healing. We still want to use our first TA to keep SB up and ticking over, however, we can now start spreading out our KP on multiple targets to proc lot’s of TA. Now, this will drain energy, so how do we maintain our energy levels?

By using all of those TA’s on SP when a target is under 30%, which gives us another TA. This is a free to use spell basically, as long as the recipient is under 30% health. Now obviously, if someone is being burst down by 2 or more dps this isn’t going to keep them alive for long, but in general PvP where you are not having to focus on someone specific, it is a more than sufficient way of keeping your team topped off. For most dps classes at level 50, a well geared IA can heal for around 40% of their health bar with one KP and one SP.

In a PvP environment, stat priority on our gear takes on a whole new slant. We still need to be prioritising Cunning, but survival stats and obviously the PvP stat expertise. This would make our stat priority list as follows;

Cunning > Expertise > Endurance > Alacrity > Crit >= Surge > Power

Unfortunately for PvP i cannot really give a healing priority list, as every PvP fight is different.

4 – Lethality DPS

The Lethality DPS tree for Operatives is currently in a strange place in my opinion. The subject is rather devisive on the forums, with people both pro and anti Lethality. Lethality is a heavily DoT dependant spec that requires good management of DoT’s and Debuffs as well as TA to maximise DPS. The devisive issue with Lethality is that many of it’s blaster abilities have a 10m range, allowing the IA to get into close cover and start dishing out the damage by getting their DoT’s rolling and then using Snipe as filler. However, one of our main abilities and arguably the main ability of the Lethality tree, Cull, requires a TA in order to activate. Lethality Operatives have three ways of gaining TA for cull, either using Hidden Strike from stealth or Shiv in melee, thus giving up on using cover or being a purely ranged class, or using the Medicine spec skill and casting the occaisional Kolto Injection. Currently, from a pure dps perspective, staying in melee range and using Shiv is the best option.

4a – PvE

Imperial Agent PVE spec

Current PvE Spec: 3/7/31

A major part of playing an effective Lethality Operative is again resource management, however, we have one less thing to our advantage here than when we are healing, there is no equivalent to Diagnostic Scan to return energy. This means sensible use of our SB and AP is critical to maintain a high enough amount of energy to maintain a solid rotation.

One thing where DPS does have an advantage over healing however, is the burn phase of a fight. This means that the Operative can spend all their energy on dps abilities without having to worry about regen for the last few seconds of a fight, spending the full ~60 energy on your hardest hitting abilities to ‘burn’ the enemy down fast. This can also be combined with AP, when you spend energy down to about ~30, hit AP and keep burning as your energy regens. Doing this should give you a full 10-15 seconds of burst at the end of the fight.

One thing I have noted in many other guides is that Precision Intruments is nearly always taken for a 2/2 skill cost. However, if we maintain good energy regen then there are much better talents available to us. In the build above you can add 2 points to Precision Instruments if you wanted to make your energy regen more forgiving.

There is no strict rotation involved for Lethality Operatives, as we operate from a priority list. This list starts with our debuffs, and works down to our damage abilities. Keeping our DoT’s ticking on target will be the best way to maintain good dps as a Lethality Operative. Our priority list is something along the lines of;

Shiv for TA > SB > CD/CG > WB > Cull > OS > RS if at

In an AoE situation, substitute Carbine Burst for Cull.

As a dps operative we can afford to drop to slightly lower levels of regeneration, the 4 RPS of holding at 40-60 energy is more than sufficient to maintain this priority list without it being a strain for energy. The reason for prioritising our DoTs over Cull and WB is that our Lethal Purpose talent allows us to regain 2 energy per DoT critical tick, allowing us to use more abilities. Thus, maintaining DoT coverage will eventually equal out as higher dps overall compared to letting DoT’s drop off trying to squeeze in an extra OS/RS.

4b – PvP

In pvp, I’ve had some success using Kolto Injection and playing a close ranged dps, with some off healing support. This can be especially useful in a Warzone like Huttball, where you can drop heals on the carrier, while DoTing the opposing team.

Imperialo Agent PVp spec

Current PvP Spec: 7/3/31

In this build, Cull takes much more of a back-seat. This is due to the fact I play this spec as more of a debuffing DoTing off healer, than as a straight up dps class. Basically I CG and CD everything I can, relying on our high crit chance for energy regen from Lethal Purpose. CG is talented to give 100% chance of 30% reduced movement speed, always useful in a PvP environment, especially when it can hit 3 targets at once.

I generally keep my DoT’s up on everything within range, and use KI sparingly on anyone desperate for it to maintain TA and therefore my SB buff. I then try to use FB to reduce the effectiveness of enemies that are clumped up, before spending my TA’s on CB.

While I don’t get many killing blows, I generally get many, many assists from my slows and debuffs, very high damage, spread out over many people, and middle of the pack healing. While I can’t claim to have ever won a Warzone by my own contribution alone, I dare say a well played Lethality Operative can be of more use in a good team than nearly any other class.

5 – Companions

Agents receive many different varied and interesting companion characters. We receive a good selection of healers, dps and tank companions that should allow us to cherry pick the right companion for the job. Below I shall list which companions we can get, where we get them (but not how to get them) their specialities and any crew skill bonuses they might have.

Kaliyo Djannis – Hutta
Combat Style: Ranged Tank
Armour: Medium Armour
Weapon Type: Pistol and a Shield Generator.
Special: Plasma Round
Starting Kit: Grenade Kit
Crew Skills: +10 Armstech Efficiency, +2 Underworld Trading Critical
Gifts Loved: Military Gear, Underworld Information, and Luxury Gifts

2V-R8 – X-70B Phantom
2V-R8 is the Droid that comes with your personal ship, the X-70B Phantom. He is a non-combat companion, than can only craft and do missions. The 2V-R8 are the standard on all Sith Empire ships, all ship companion Droids look like this one for all Empire classes.

Vector Hyllis – Aldaraan
Combat Style: Melee DPS
Armour: Medium
Weapon type: Vibrostaff
Special: AOE Swipe Taunt
Starting Kit: Ground Slam, Shockwave
Crew Skills: +5 Bioanalysis Efficiency, +5 Diplomacy Critical

Doctor Lokin – Taris
Combat Style: Healer(Human Form)/Melee Tank(Rakghoul Form)
Armour: Light
Weapon type: Vibrosword and Shield Generator
Special: Tank Transformation Mode; Rakghoul
Starting Kit: Ground Slam
Crew Skills: +15 Biochem Efficiency, +10 Research Efficiency

Ensign Raina Temple – Quesh
Combat Style: Ranged Healer
Armour: Medium
Weapon type: Pistol and Shield Generator
Starting Kit: Medical Pack Kit
Crew Skills: +10 Scavenging Efficiency, +2 Armourmech Critical

Scorpio – Belsavis
Combat Style: Ranged DPS
Armor: Heavy
Weapon type: Blaster Pistol & Shield generator
Starting Kit: Shield kit
Crew Skills: +5 Bioanalysis, +5 Diplomacy Critical

6 – Crew Skills

Professions for the IA comes down to a choice in your playstyle. There are four main crafting professions that work well with the IA. These are:

  • Armourmech – Crafting of Medium/Heavy armour for non force users.
  • Armstech – Crafting of Blaster Rifles and Pistols, as well as Weapon Mods.
  • Biochem – Consumables and Implants.
  • Cybertech – Droid components and Armour Mods.

Certain resource collection skills work well with each of the above. Each crafting crew skill has a gathering skill and a mission skill that compliments it. Each crafting skill has a skill that is labelled as ‘primary’. This means they will gather the items most useful for that crafting skill. Each crafting skill has the possibility of having a secondary skill. Secondary skills gather items that can be used to level the main crafting skill, but aren’t necessarily only for that crafting skill.

  • Armourmech – Scavenging primary and Underworld Trading secondary.
  • Armstech – Scavenging primary and Investigation secondary.
  • Biochem – Bioanalysis primary and Diplomacy secondary.
  • Cybertech – Scavenging primary and Underworld Trading secondary.

Personally, as a high-end PvE raider, I will be choosing Biochem in addition to Bioanalysis and Diplomacy. This allows me to use Scorpio and Vector Hyllis for Diplomacy missions utilising their +5 critical Diplomacy Bonus, which gives them a +5% chance of finding something rare. It also allows me to use Doctor Lokin for my Biochem crafting, as he has +15 Biochem Efficiency. This gives him a +15% speed bonus when doing Biochem crafting.

  • Lightning

    Thanks for the info!
    Just curious, why did not you include the Concealment spec? I’m looking at this in relation to Scoundrel mirror class which I’ll play, and Scrapper looks to be quite popular.
    Also, what do you think about healer solo levelling? Is it painful and slow, or playable? The opinions look to be divided…

    • chris cain

      I dislike Concealment spec, so I wont write about it, as my articles are somewhat biased against it. Leveling as a healer is fine.

      • MCstabbi

        Concealment is by far the best spec for pvp. A post would be nice.

        • Zeke0zero

          I’m running concealment spec as well because of the damage and my playstyle. IMO if you are going to write a class guide then include all the info, not just what you are interested in. I do love the detail you’ve put into here but I’m specifically searching for Ranged DPS operative VS Melee DPS operative comparison.

  • Josh Leinwar

    Regarding the Medicine pvp spec. Take those two points out of Imperial Brew and put them in Lethality, then take a point of Med Shield and max out Lethality with it. Then it will be a good spec. Imperial Brew and Med Shield are both overrated.

    • chris cain

      Personal preference, I prefer the stealth and speed buff over the 6% crit.

  • Guest

    Ahh, I’m a sniper and happily blowing things up, so the specs do me no good here.  I was looking for some good potential pvp sniper specs, though.  Anything other than medic side leanings, in the works? :)

  • 123456789

    This guide is good but would be far more readable without the acronyms. It’s not that hard to just say “tactical advantage” or “surgical probe”, which would make it more accessible.

  • John

    I disagree about the importance of alacrity.  I think crit/surge are much more important for an operative healer.  Crit/surge beat out power primarily because of our 30% crit bonus on our main heal and aoe hot from talents.

  • Dsa

    Ensign Raina Temple is not a ranged healer, she is ranged dps with dual blaster pistols and you get her from Hoth not Quesh.

  • MCstabbi

    Where is concealment? 

  • Guest

    Your companion descriptions are wrong. Lokin uses pistols and vibroknife. Rakghoul form is melee dps. Raina uses dual blasters. Scorpio is a melee tank using vibro (aim) swords and shield gen

  • Agent Naaru

    As we are well aware this is a guide for Ops i was curious, is Ops better over all Dps than sniper ?.Only reason why i ask i choose sniper but i regret it cause Ops look like way more fun and higher skill base play style.Plus you cannot reroll and choose your style (which i find absolutly stupid) so did i fail on my sniper pick ?

    • NoDoze

      Only if you want a more diverse play style (Operatives do require a lot more micromanagement and finesse) did you make a mistake picking Sniper. However, as far as pure dps output, I would say Snipers are right up there with Operatives. Whether or not they are better is really subjective. That is decided by the player, and the gear.

  • Lostntherocknroll

    I’m having a bit of an issue really /i realize this is sad but i cant figure out what tier to use with my lethality spec. My typical spec is medic so im in that gear when i switch. When i decided to go to lethality to let a fellow guildie get some healing exp i got used to my rotation and is fun so obviously i figured i should pick up some gear specifically for it….. then i got lost in the set bonus’ trying to figure out which really made sense. Should i be using backstab? 

  • Beckie Triano

    this needs to be updated for 2.0 and up please.

  • The Sniper

    Dr. Lokin is a damage dealer in Rakghoul Form, not a tank. He uses his claws, no vibrosword. Ensign Temple is found on Hoth, not Quesh, and is Ranged DPS with duel pistols. SCORPIO is a Melee Tank & carries an electro staff.