The Imperial Agent stands out from the other classes in Star Wars: The Old Republic on account of not having a direct basis of inspiration from the movies. Sith Warriors have Darth Vader, Smugglers have Han Solo, Bounty Hunters have Boba Fett and so forth. The freshness and originality of the Agent is counterbalanced by the fact that all but one disciplines across the two advanced classes are DPS specs - but make no mistake, there is still variety. The Marksmanship Sniper is one of the ranged DPS specs, and among the easiest to master.
Marksmanship isn't quite a 'burst DPS' spec like the highly mobile Virulence, or a damage-over-time spec like Engineering - it's a bit nebulous in this regard. It is mirrored by the Sharpshooter Gunslinger on the Republic side.
As we mentioned above, the Marksmanship Sniper is harder to define with a single word or phrase than other specs. When speaking about a burst DPS or a DoT spec you'll have a rough idea of what to expect, but Marksmanship doesn't quite fit any of these common descriptors, offering more of a consistent delivery of damage through the rotation with situational high impact area-of-effect damage with the right gearing.
Target swapping is where the Marksmanship Sniper excels above all others, allowing you to lay down a consistent stream of damage even if jumping from opponent to opponent without having to wait for DoTs to tick or relying on sustained status effects to proc their abilities. Marksmanship players will spend a lot of time in cover, making them one of the least mobile classes in the game, but plenty of abilities and utilities help counteract the potential vulnerability that you need to deal with as a result.
As of 6.3, Marksmanship comes out a lick below Virulence and Engineering in the most difficult scenarios, like the higher echelons of Ranked PvP or Master Mode Operations, but not to a degree that it becomes unviable. This is still a viable spec, but at higher levels of play you'll really need to know your rotations and be intimately familiar with the class in order to adapt to different situations. This is one of those cases where it's easy to learn, but hard to master.
That said, for all other content, the Marksmanship Sniper will hold their ground just as well as the other two Sniper disciplines - between a highly powerful AoE potential and outstanding target swapping, it may even be the best spec for solo content like story missions and heroics as well as quick Veteran Flashpoint runs with a few other players. Suppressive Fire will clear out groups of trash mobs in a single cast, and with the right Tactical item, Penetrating Blasts will also deal splash damage.
Let's take a look at how you can push your Marksmanship Sniper to the limit.
As always, your first job after hitting level 75 is to push up that Item Rating to 306. Before that happens, forget about fine tuning or optimizing your gear, and just push for that raw IR. The stat thresholds we're gunning for using mods and augments is Accuracy somewhere between 1,585 - 1,630 and Alacrity somewhere above 1,213. Everything else can just be dumped into Critical Rating with wanton disregard.
If you've hit IR 306 and you're ready to optimize your gear, it's time to get those set bonus pieces. If you don't want to gamble with RNG for loot drops, you can always buy the armors pieces from the Set Bonus & Tactical vendor on the fleet. The set bonus you want to get as a Marksmanship Sniper is Established Foothold.
Like most other sets, the actual bonuses top out at 6 pieces, allowing you to fill the 7th spot with a piece of Amplified Champion for that extra combat amplifier. Set bonuses are applied regardless of which exact pieces you have, so you are free to pick whichever slot for your AmpChamp piece.
Established Foothold grants the greatest effective DPS boost among the class specific armor sets. At 2 pieces, you get the standard 2% Mastery bonus. At 4 pieces, the cooldown of Entrench by 10 seconds with the added bonus of gaining 2 Energy for each second you are Entrenched. Peaking at 6 pieces, you build stacks of Entrenched Offense while Entrench is active, each of which increases damage by 3%. Keep in mind that this effect will automatically cease if you leave cover.
The 6 piece bonus directly benefits from the 4 piece bonus, as you'll be spending more time with Entrench active, and with an Energy recharge boost you'll be able to make better use of those damage buffs for the duration of Entrenched Offense. Additionally, that Energy recharge also takes care of resource management for you which is part of why the Marksmanship Sniper is one of the easier specs to play, and all the time spent with Entrench active will serve to reduce damage you incur.
The Relics you need to get are the Sha'tek Relic of Devastating Vengeance and the Sha'tek Relic of Primeval Fatesealer, though it's good to have a set of Sha'tek Relic of Serendipitous Assault and Sha'tek Relic of Focused Retribution on hand as well for capped content where stat thresholds are a bit different.
Marksmanship Snipers have a fairly easy time when it comes to Tacticals. Unlike some classes that might need up to three different ones depending on the situation, this spec can live off just the one - though there is a secondary Tactical you might want to take with you for some encounters. This means things aren't as clear cut as with the Carnage Marauder which absolutely needs Fanged God Form above all else, but it's also simpler than the Infiltration Shadow with its arsenal of three Tacticals.
What you need mainly as a Marksmanship Sniper is Agitating Energies, which gives your Corrosive Dart a major damage boost, and gets refreshed while also getting extra ticks on that DoT when using Followthrough and Penetrating Blast. This somewhat damages the spec's outstanding target swapping trait, but not to a great degree and the overwhelming damage increase makes it absolutely worth it.
We mentioned earlier how the Marksmanship Sniper can be an AoE heavy hitter, but situationally and not in a sustained manner. For your AoEs to really hit hard, you should keep a Refraction Point Tactical on you, which makes every Penetrating Blast and subsequent Followthrough to cause splash damage. Specific AoE heavy boss encounters, and trash-mob heavy solo activities will greatly benefit from this.
Weapon Expertise is the best choice for all of your combat amplifiers, as all of the Marksmanship Sniper's abilities deal Weapon damage aside of Corrosive Dart and Orbital Strike. Now, since Corrosive Dart is a central element of your rotation if you use Agitating Energies, it might be worth experimenting with a hybrid setup of Weapon Expertise and Tech Damage amplifiers, but generally speaking putting all your eggs in the same basket works best here as dividing those percentages will hurt your overall DPS. Tech damage also ceases to be as good a bet whenever you stich out to Refraction Point, and the Weapon Expertise bonus to all other attacks simply outweighs the Tech Damage benefits.
As is the case with most specs, there is some flexibility with what utilities you should be using for any kind of content. There are a few stinkers to avoid, like Snap Shot and Imperial Demarcation, but for the most part those stand out. Here we've collected a good baseline Utilities build that you can either stick to or just use as a jumping off point for customizing your own, but the point is you won't go wrong with these picks.
Something you should notice here is that a great deal of emphasis is placed on defensive utilities. The Marksmanship Sniper is not a squishy class per-se, but it definitely isn't topping any survivability charts and the vast majority of your defensive potential comes from clever Utility choices - aside of Entrench, of course.
- Ballistic Dampers: Entering cover grants 3 charges of Ballistic Dampers. Each charge absorbs 30% of the damage dealt by an incoming attack. This effect cannot occur more than once every 1.5 seconds and Ballistic Dampers can only be gained once every 6 seconds. Remember what we said about defensive utilities? This is a perfect example.
- Vital Regulators: While in cover, you heal for 2% of your total health every 3 seconds. Once again, perfect defensive, especially since you'll spend most of your time in cover anyway. You won't notice the benefits of this when you are leveling your character through story content, but the moment you hit PvP or raiding it will become apparent.
- Imperial Efficiency: Increases the damage dealt by Suppressive Fire by 25%. Contributes to your situational AoE wallop.
- Seek Cover: When Entrench ends or you leave cover while Entrench is active, you gain Seek Cover, which increases your movement speed by 50% and grants immunity to movement impairing effects for 6 seconds. The important part here is synergy with your reliance on Entrench due to the Set Bonus.
- Stroke of Genius: Activating Cover Pulse makes the next Snipe activate instantly and increases your chance to resist Force and tech attacks by 20% for 6 seconds. This is another good defensive Utility, and helps with cooldowns too.
- Reestablish Range: Countermeasures purges all movement-impairing effects when activated and grants Reestablish Range, increasing your movement speed by 75% for 6 seconds. Additionally, the final shot of Penetrating Blasts knocks the target back if they are within 10 meters. The movement speed boost helps with mobility, but be careful with that knockback effect, as it can be annoying in some cases (but funny in others).
- Pillbox Sniper: Reduces the cooldown of Entrench by 15 seconds and Cover Pulse knocks targets back an additional 5 meters. Absolutely necessary due to Entrench synergy.
- Siege Bunker: Reduces all AoE damage taken by 60% while Entrench is active. Again, Entrench synergy and a defensive effect!
- Deployed Shields: Reduces all damage taken while in cover by 5% and reduces the cooldown of Ballistic Shield by 30 seconds. This can be a life saver in the right situations, and further improves your survivability.
The Marksmanship Sniper needs to pay attention to some pre-casting in the opener phase of their rotation before moving into the main rotation. The main rotation is fairly easy and doesn't consist of many different elements, but there is some situational flexibility involved depending on your longer cooldowns. There's also a bit of a global cooldown gap in it which you'll either leave as it is or find creative ways to fill it that don't muck up your sequence.
Your opener will start with the suitably long-lasting Laze Target followed by an Orbital Strike pre-cast, which is handy because there is a 3 second delay between the ending of the cast and the first damage tick which actually begins combat, giving you time to get into cover before even the possibility of incurring damage presents itself.
- Laze Target
- Orbital Strike
- Enter Cover
- Corrosive Dart
- Penetrating Blast
- Sniper Volley
- Penetrating Blast
- Snipe or Countermeasures
- Snipe (2x if step 12 is Countermeasures)
- Switch to main
Here you are basically constantly repeating three sets of ability sequences after one another bookended by Followthroughs. This is also where the gaps come into play.
- Penetrating Blast
- Gap + Repeat until enemy at 30% health, at which switch to Finisher
The most prominent option for the gap in the rotation is to just... leave it alone. It isn't a significant enough span of time to truly impact your overall damage dealing. Cooldowns allowing, an Orbital Strike or Sniper Volley can be slotted in there.
The finisher rotation is the same as your main rotation with a fourth 'block' added to it due to the sub 30% health making Takedown possible.
- Penetrating Blast
- Gap + repeat until dead
Armed with this intel, you'll be perfectly equipped to carry out the mission of the Marksmanship Sniper and rid the galaxy of the Empire's enemies one shot at a time.