Getting to Know Melee Skill Trees in EiF

In today’s Friday Feature, we feature a write-up by long-time community member Randolo. In this article, Randolo goes into detail on the four different melee combat skill trees, outlining pros and cons to each, as well as some tips and tricks to make the most of the skills. Thank you Randolo!

Hello, my name is Randolo, I’ve been a member of Empire in Flames since Launch Day, playing off and on casually until taking a much more active role in the community over the past year or so. With the variety of players we have on Empire in Flames (EiF), I wanted to address some questions and constructive conversations I’ve seen popping up over the last few months in the general chat. To make things a bit clearer and assist newer players, I decided to take a thorough examination of all the unique iterations of Melee skill trees available in EiF, detailing their strengths, weaknesses, and some fun tips for each one.

Before we begin, let’s go over a few terms you should learn about Melee Combat on EiF and phrases we will use throughout this article. These universal tips should also prove helpful to you in any combat scenario.

  • Center of Being (CoB) is a defensive buff that every Melee Skill Tree can use. It’s an ability you can activate manually, or create a macro to ensure it’s constantly running and always in effect. CoB reduces the damage you take (efficacy skill mod divided by three, every melee tree has 60 efficacy, so 20% damage reduction) though you deal 25% less damage while it is active. You cannot activate CoB with another active melee buff known as Berserk.
  • Berserk is a more aggressive melee buff that increases damage output by 25% and provides an accuracy bonus, but reduces Melee and Ranged Defense by 50 and halves your secondary Defense. While Berserk is active on your character, you are immune to Intimidate – a state that would otherwise reduce your outgoing damage and reduce your secondary defense. If you activate Berserk while Intimidated, you can immediately clear the Intimidate state. While the trade off of more outgoing damage at the cost of being more susceptible to incoming damage may seem risky in some situations, you can reduce the Defense penalty and further enhance the accuracy bonuses by using Armor and/or Clothing attachments with the Berserk skill mod. Again, you will not be able to activate Berserk if you are already running CoB.
  • Toughness is a direct Melee damage reduction. One point of Toughness is 1% damage reduction incoming Melee Damage while wielding that particular weapon. For example, if you have 20 polearm Toughness, you receive a 20% damage reduction using any polearm weapon but that Toughness goes away if you pull out your pistol, carbine, one-handed sword, etc.

Another thing to keep in mind are standard location hit attacks. You have Body Hit, Leg Hit, and Head Hit, all of which have been modified to attack your target’s Health pool. Teras Kasi’s Leg and Head Hit are the only exceptions to this which each target an opponent’s Action and Mind, respectively. Bleed attacks still target their original respective pools as well, however, Fencer has quite a few additional bleeds that we’ll get into later.

You can increase your damage up to 5% by utilizing a total of +25 [Weapon] Damage mods from Skill Enhancing Attachments (also known as tapes or SEAs) and GCW Planetary Bonuses.  Teras Kasi Artists get this automatically as part of their unarmed damage skill as they level, automatically granting +25 to Unarmed Damage at Master. You will not benefit from any additional Unarmed Damage SEAs. 

Before we get into the specifics of each Melee Skill Tree, here is a brief overview of how they relate to one another in terms of Overall Damage Potential and Tanking Potential/Toughness. Our Melee Skill Trees are Fencer, Swordsman, Polearm, and Teras Kasi Artist (TKA).

Damage Capability

  1. Fencer
  2. Swordsman
  3. Pikeman
  4. Teras Kasi Artist

Tanking Capability

  1. Teras Kasi Artist
  2. Pikeman 
  3. Swordsman
  4. Fencer

Fencers have some of the best damage output of the game, but they take a significant amount of damage if they receive a hit and have to rely on Dodge to avoid incoming damage. Swordsman is second for potential damage output but is slightly tougher than Fencers. Pikeman does not deal as much damage as Swordsman and Fencer but its Toughness and sweeping area attacks are second to none, making them reliable tanks. Finally, we have Teras Kasi Artist, which does the least amount of overall damage but makes up for it by having the most significant tanking potential and access to all states. 

It is important to note that there are some specific use cases where Pikeman may be a better choice for tanking a particular fight than TKA, or Swords might be better to bring along than a Fencer. We will get into those specifics as we break down each tree; the above lists are a comprehensive overview of how they relate to damage potential and defensive potential.

Let’s jump right into it, and focus first on Fencer.

Fencer

First, we’ll begin with an overview of basic pros and cons before we go further into Fencer

Pros Cons
  • Highest DPS potential of any melee skill using bleeds
  • Possesses the highest Melee and Ranged Defense mods of any weapon skill.
  • Has access to Blind and Dizzy state abilities
  • Can use abilities that damage and applies bleeds to all Health, Action, and Mind pools
  • Utilizes Dodge, which can negate all incoming damage by causing incoming attacks to miss
  • Lowest Toughness of any of the melee skills (+5 at master)
  • Dependency on bleeds for much of their damage, which can be problematic with enemies immune to bleeds
  • Special attacks have high Action cost multipliers, making it potentially difficult to sustain if you’re not careful.

Digging Deeper into Fencer

Fencer is the glass cannon of melee Skills. Their defensive attribute is Dodge and Fencer is considered an absolute powerhouse of damage in the right hands. Additionally, Fencers have access to Blind and Dizzy ability States. With their Toughness being only 5 at Master, however, they are a high-risk, high reward skill set to play.

The key to a Fencer’s damage mostly comes from managing bleeds. They have four dedicated Health pool bleeds, four random pool bleeds, and two Action+Mind bleeds with all of them stacking together. The Body Hit 1+2 and Health Hit 1+2 all apply a Health bleed that stack together. The two Spin Attacks will bleed whichever of the three random pools they hit. Finally, you have the Scatter Hit 1+2 that deals Action/Mind bleeds. It can be a lot of micromanaging, but the payoff is well worth it – a skilled Fencer can shut down an opponent 1v1 by attacking and bleeding multiple pools, or help to drop NPC opponents faster. 

It is important to note that bleeds of the same type from multiple sources do not stack (so Health Hit 1+2 bleeds from multiple Fencers do not stack). When having multiple Fencers in a group the damage will still be outstanding, though the bleeds will only count from one Fencer. Paired up with a Pistoleer, however, you will be able to apply all the Fencer bleeds on top of the additional Pistol bleeds for some severe damage to your opponent. 

Fencers also have the most Melee and Ranged Defense out of any skill trees altogether, reaching 70 in total. They also have a bit more Defense vs. Posture Change (Down) than the others giving them a bit of an edge in that regard before tapes. Dodge is a great secondary Defense as well, completely negating incoming attacks when it fires off. Fencer Dodge acts independently from the Dodge gained by foods like Pikkata Pie, which will further increase the chances of being able to dance around your enemy while you serve them death by a thousand cuts. 

Important Fencer Tips and Tricks

It’s a good idea to set all of your bleeds on a single button or two by creating a macro. That way, rather than cycling through all of them on your keyboard or cluttering your toolbar, you can assign them a single location to make your life easier and leave the rest of your hotkeys open for additional selections you might want to use for single-targeting or other skills. 

You want to keep track of your bleeds and how long they’re going to remain on your opponent. Damage over Time (DoT) dealt by your bleeds is determined by the damage caused by the attack. Because of that, you may want to use a slower weapon with higher damage to ensure your bleeds hit extremely hard, especially because of how much Action it costs to use your special attacks. In addition, this makes Berserk important for Fencers so their bleed ticks hit harder.

It’s important to note that armor reduces the amount of bleed damage which means that if you’re battling a particularly annoying opponent, you may want to wait until their armor breaks to land the most bleeding damage. Focus on your other attacks that don’t bleed and wait for that armor to melt, then unload your various bleeds on them.

Transitioning away from the various bleeds, the Fencer’s skill tree possesses some of the best Melee and Ranged Defenses on EiF. As such, consider pairing them with specific trees from the Pistoleer and Rifleman to boost those numbers up even higher, especially with Pistoleer to ensure you’re stacking your Dodge Defenses.

Finally, out of all of the professions you can select on EiF, Fencer pairs exceedingly well with Bounty Hunter. The fire DoT from Torso Shot and Fire Knockdown are extremely good, along with another bleed to your tool chest in the form of Bleeding Shot. Underhand Shot will give a Fencer an AoE knockdown, allowing them to better manage multiple targets and quickly lay more bleeds and damage on several downed opponents. Dark Side Jedi is also a strong consideration with their  Force Choke and Force Lightning abilities, giving a Fencer even more skills that cause damage over time. Smugglers will also find a lot of extra utility paired which Fencer, and give access to more powerful single-target abilities in between bleeds.

 

Swordsman

Next, let’s discuss Swordsman. Before we dig into this one, here’s a breakdown of the skill’s Pros and Cons compared to the other four skills.

Pros Cons
  • Excellent single target and AoE damage
  • Counterattack completely negates incoming damage but also retaliates with an auto-attack 
  • Access to a separate single target and a cone AoE Intimidate
  • Swordsman specials have a slightly lower Action cost than some of the other skills.
  • Highest Damage Potential to Bleed Resistant Foes
  • Deals less damage than Fencer, but more than Pikeman and Teras Kasi in Single Target
  • Has lower accuracy at master than the other melee trees. (105 vs 130)
  • Lacks any other State attacks other than the area attack chain and regular hit chains applying Intimidate
  • 10 Toughness at master

Cracking Open Swordsman

Swordsman is the middle-ground melee skill. It won’t deal as much damage as a Fencer in most situations but has a much simpler skillset. They don’t have to stop their attack chains to apply an Intimidate since it’s part of their kit. If you don’t want to micromanage the bleeds of Fencer, Swordsman is your next highest DPS and is even more fantastic when paired up with a Fencer in group content. Since Fencer bleeds don’t stack from multiple sources, a good Swordsman will add more damage to your group than a second Fencer. 

The bulk of their single target damage comes from Head Hit 3, one of the highest damage multipliers for a melee attack that targets the Health Pool. The AoE Area Attack 3  and the single target Hit 3 (as well as their 1 and 2 versions) inflict Intimidate as part of their attacks, which helps Swordsman relieve some of the pressure off of tanks and doctors in a group, which is just great for everyone. 

As far as AoE damage, while they have access to the highest damage multiplier melee attack in the game, it is a cone and not a full 360-degree spin. The spin attacks in Swordsman are still good but lack the AoE Intimidate of the area attack specials and are slightly weaker than Pikeman’s spin attacks (more on that when we get to Pikeman). If you can angle your targets into a cone, then Swordsman will put out better AoE damage. Otherwise, Pikeman has more utility in that regard.

Regarding defenses, Swordsman can be difficult to approach. It has a +25 to Melee and +25 Ranged at master, and a strong focus on Defense vs. Intimidate compared to the other melee trees. It is a good balance of damage and defense, with 10 Toughness as opposed to the Fencer’s 5 Toughness. However, one of the main drawbacks is that it takes a lot of skill points investment to really make Swordsman well-rounded defensively due to some of the lesser State/Posture change or Knockdown Defenses. Swordsman also does not have any State attacks other than Intimidate in the hit and area attack lines, making this skill lack things like a Blind or Stun which can help defensively.

Important Swordsman Tips and Tricks

Berserk is your friend, but you’ll want to use +Berserk tapes mentioned above to help offset the negatives for the effect. Swordsman deals their damage in very large chunky hits as opposed to Fencer’s DoTs, so you will see the damage increase from berserk in a much more direct way.

Because the damage multipliers are a bit higher, it can be beneficial to go with a faster weapon for Swordsman to deal more sustained damage over time.

Unless you’re in a situation where you should not hit multiple enemies, I suggest using Area Attack 3 to apply Intimidate instead of Hit 3. Although Hit 3 will do more damage off the bat, Area Attack 3 is faster, still applies excellent damage, and is a cone Intimidate. 

With these things in Mind, Swordsman particularly benefits from the State attacks in Bounty Hunter, making them well-rounded and very dangerous damage dealers. Jedi of Light or Dark Side alignment also have high utility. While the Light Side assists a Swordsman defensively, the Dark Side provides the Swordsman a DoT with Choke and Lightning on top of their already impressive damage. Doctor is another useful pairing, as it will help the Swordsman be more durable and allow them to heal themselves and others if they find trouble or take a large spike of damage.

As far as other combat skills to compliment Swordsman, Rifleman pairs well regarding the ranged Defenses, and a ranged option for Mind bleeds to pair with Swordsman’s Mind bleeds. Carbineer can help stack and put Counterattack over the cap for Berserk/Intimidated situations, as well as providing ranged Blind, Dizzy, and Stun States. Piecemealing trees with State Defenses from multiple skill trees is also a very popular choice.

 

Pikeman

Next, we have Pikeman. One of the tankier melee skills, giving you a bit more room to act as the shield for your party during PvP and Instances. Let’s break down some of the Pros and Cons of this skill.

Pros Cons
  • Good single target damage with excellent AoE damage.
  • Spin attacks in Pikeman have an extended range of 10 meters and 12-meter range for the cone attacks, not the standard 8 meters. Single target pikeman specials also have increased range
  • EiF’s reworked Block has a higher chance to activate since it doesn’t completely negate damage. This causes an interesting tanking balance with TKA.
  • Access to Dizzy as part of the Hit 1-3 chain, and access to a cone Stun, and a 12 meter AoE Knockdown as well.
  • Access to Action bleed attacks
  • 20 Polearm Toughness at Master
  • Only 20 Melee and Ranged Defense at Master
  • Block is a double-edged sword, you will take less damage especially at the beginning of encounters/when battle fatigue is clear. However because it does not completely negate damage you will still take wounds and battle fatigue, making healing for longer fights more complicated
  • Single target damage falls behind Swordsman
  • 85 Block at master, less of the secondary Defense stat as other skill trees.

A Fun Spin on Pikeman

Pikeman boasts a 20 Toughness right off the bat, and with the changes to Block here on EiF, Pikeman is a very tough tank while still being a deadly melee combatant with their damaging abilities. They boast an increased range to their spin attacks along with having the best damage multipliers to their spin attacks, an area cone Stun, and a deadly 12-meter AoE Knockdown and Posture Down. 

Their standard Hit line of attacks also apply Dizzy. Their Leg Hit line (Health Pool target attack) is a powerful single-target attack as well, not as strong as the Swordsman’s, but still deadly and sustainable on its own. Depending on the situation and what kinds of AoE attacks are needed, Pikeman will have an easier time clearing out groups of enemies due to the increased range of their spin attacks and their wide AoE Knockdown. This makes Pikeman an AoE powerhouse and a solid single-target combatant.

Defensiveness is where Pikeman gets to be more enjoyable. As previously mentioned, they have 20 Polearm Toughness at Master Pikeman, making them more durable than Swordsman or Fencer. Things get more interesting when we look at how Block works as a secondary Defense. Dodge and Counterattack will ultimately negate damage when firing off. Block, however, does not; it reduces the damage taken by a significant amount. Because of this, Block was given an increased chance to fire off per point than the other secondary Defenses. 

Block will fire off more often, making the damage a Pikeman takes less, but wounds and battle fatigue still accumulate because the attack does not negate entirely. Pikeman also boasts a stronger Defense vs. Knockdown than the other trees, 75 rather than the standard 50, making it easier to build around not getting knocked down.

 

Important Pikeman Tips and Tricks

Leg Hit 3 is your bread and butter for a single target focusing on the Health pool. Spin Attack 2 is your best AoE damage. This breaks the mold of cone attacks, usually being more damage than a full AoE 360 attack.

While Pikeman starts with less Block than other skill trees get for their secondary Defense (85 vs. 100), taking the Ranged Def/Block line of Rifleman can push that much higher, making Pikeman even tankier and harder to put down

Professions that pair well with Pikeman are Doctor and Commando; Doctor enables a Pikeman to further sustain themselves in the heat of combat while Commando adds more Melee and Ranged Defenses to shrug off attacks and incoming damage.

 

Teras Kasi Artist

Last but certainly not least, we have the Teras Kasi Artist. Let’s dig into the tools they have available.

Pros Cons
  • Access to area Blind, Dizzy, and Stun in a small radius
  • Meditate gives a ton of utility, from curing wounds and DoT’s outside of combat to granting Power Boost, a great short term Health and Action buff. TKAs can also recover from incap with Force of Will.
  • 20 Unarmed Toughness at Master, putting it on the same flat mitigation ground as Pikeman
  • Defensive Acuity as a secondary Defense benefits all three secondary Defenses (since it can Dodge, Counterattack, or Block when it fires off).
  • Unarmed Combo Attacks hit all 3 HAM pools simultaneously. 
  • 45 Combat Equilibrium at master, which is difficult to obtain otherwise
  • Doesn’t have to find SEAs for +Unarmed Damage, saving slots for more defense or utility 
  • The least damage capabilities of any of the melee classes, which they make up for with utility and durability.
  • Lacks any bleed attacks for any pool
  • Spin attacks are slower than other spin attacks from other skill trees, as well as have a lower damage multiplier.

A tool for every situation

The TKA has a robust toolkit with an absolute defensive powerhouse to boot though it can find itself severely lacking in the damage department. However, what it lacks offensively in damage can be easily made up with States and offensive utility for almost any situation. TKA’s State attacks for Blind, Dizzy, and Stun hit in a six-meter radius around them, making them ideal for debuffing targets for a group. In addition, they have a Body Hit attack for targeting the Health pool, but it is slower and on the lower damage side of specials. Unarmed Combo 1 and 2 are also great ways to damage multiple pools on a target in PvP.

Defensively nothing quite beats out a TKA, making them a popular choice for tanks. . TKA has 20 Toughness at Master, putting it on the same flat mitigation line as Pikeman, although it’s their secondary Defense where the bulk of that tankiness comes in. Defensive Acuity is unique primarily because TKA is the tree and corresponding weapon set that uses it, and it cannot be acquired from any other Skill. TKA gets 115 of it within its tree (almost to the cap right without any other additions at master). When Defensive Acuity fires off, it will activate one of the other three secondaries (Dodge, Block, or Counterattack), making TKA take fewer wounds and battle fatigue over time than Pikeman and give it that defensive edge over Pikeman.

Another entertaining utility in TKA is Meditate, and one of the perks that come with it is Power Boost. Power Boost was a buff that would temporarily boost your HAM by half of your base Mind pool, which in vanilla SWG was solid, but not outstanding. With the considerable buff to base HAM here on EiF, the effect and usage of Power Boost is huge; it can be used before fighting an instance boss, high-level  PvE mob, or even temporarily stand-in for Doctor buffs as needed. . Force of Will is a great benefit as well, particularly in PvP, to get back up and continue to fight before your adversary can deathblow you.

With these, and the combination of State attacks, along with Power Boost, TKA takes the cake as the tankiest of the melee trees here on EiF. TKA also has a stronger focus on Defense Vs KD (75 at master) and 45 Combat Equilibrium, which is more than any of the other Melee Skill Trees, and a Healthy 50 to Melee and Ranged Defense.

Important Teras Kasi Artist Tips and Tricks

Creature Handler is very popular with TKA to make up for the Skill’s lack of DPS.  Although several State attacks overlap between the two, Smuggler pairs particularly well and gives the TKA access to Lucky Strike; a high damage and Intimidate ranged attack. A Darkside Jedi would give more damage to a TKA, while a Lightside Jedi would further enhance this Skill’s sustainability.

Since there is no other source for Defensive Acuity, once you’re comfortable with your Melee and Ranged Defenses, it’s recommended to focus on State Defenses or grab some Medic for additional self-healing (this is not necessary if you’re a Doctor).

A Special Note About Lightsabers

With the recent patch for Jedi, lightsabers got an interesting tweak when it comes to secondary defenses, if you happen to be a Jedi and wielding a lightsaber your secondary defense is now Ricochet. Ricochet functions just like Counterattack, but can give you cool blaster bolt deflection type animations (it is important to note it does not function like saber block).

It is still determined by whatever the relevant secondary Defense mod is (Dodge, Counterattack, Block, Defensive Acuity) but will function like Counterattack with a lightsaber. This can give a minor defensive edge to Jedi since it will make Block negate all damage and have the free attack if they’re in Melee range, same for Dodge and Defensive Acuity.

An Important Disclaimer

These are simply general overviews of the Melee Skill Trees, and by no means an end all be all. Remember – professions are what you do, and skills are how you do them. You may find that certain Melee Skills and Profession combinations work better for you than others, or have other builds outside of the broad recommendations here. So play around, find something you enjoy, and use this as an informational guide to overview the strengths and drawbacks. 

See you around the galaxy!

– Randolo

 

 

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