I’ve had a little time to experiment with the way a Scoundrel heals since my Smuggler Huggler is my main. I haven’t sat down and researched any theorycrafting on spec, rotation, or even gearing, and I’m not a raid healer or a dungeon healer. These are just points I’ve come up with that I thought were notable that might help someone else just starting out or struggling with SWTOR healing.
The Healing Arsenal
When you spec into Scoundrel at level 10, you start out with a standard 2.5-second heal, Underworld Medicine, which you can reduce to a 2-second activation time through talents. At 12, you’ll be picking up Diagnostic Scan, which doesn’t really shine until level 26. Not long after, at level 14, you’re able to pick up Kolto Pack, a slightly smaller heal than Underworld Medicine with a 1.5-second activation.
The rest of your healing abilities will come through talents, starting with picking up a stackable HoT, Slow-release Medpac, at level 20. Then at level 30, you can pick up Emergency Medpac, a small heal with instant activation and no energy cost. Finally, at level 40, you should have enough talents invested in the Sawbones tree to grab Kolto Cloud, an instant AoE HoT. Of course, these levels assume that you talent in such a way that you get the abilities as early as possible.
Must Have Talents
With regard to healing, I feel there are a few Must Have Talents that really develop the Smuggler into a true healer.
Exploratory Surgery – This talent is important for both effects it grants. Of course it’s very helpful to reduce the activation time of your main heal, Underworld Medicine, but, more importantly, this talent also causes Underworld Medicine to grant Upper Hand. Many of the Smuggler’s heals, like Kolto Pack and Emergency Medpac, cannot be cast without at least one stack of Upper Hand. Without this talent, Upper Hand could only be granted through defeating an opponent or using Blaster Whip or Shoot First.
Keep Cool – By taking this talent, you’re basically taking a 2-minute cooldown Get Out of Jail Free card. If your energy drops too low in the heat of battle, but you still need to heal immediately, every time this ability is up, you can earn a free 16 energy that you desperately need and increase your energy regeneration to keep you healing.
Patient Studies – You might look at this talent and scoff at it. Diagnostic Scan is a tiny, channeled HoT. When you first get it, it might seem completely useless. The important thing to note, however, is that it has no energy cost. That’s free healing. This talent, and its required predecessor, Prognosis: Critical, make Diagnostic Scan one of your most useful utility tools. Suddenly you have a small HoT that regenerates your energy.
Medpac Mastery – Any way you can keep yourself under the effect of Upper Hand is awesome. This talent coupled with Patient Studies can keep you healing in a low-spike-damage situation almost indefinitely. When dealing with spike damage, it can help keep Emergency Medpac and Kolto Pack available to you. Remember, those heals can only be used through exploiting Upper Hand.
Emergent Emergencies – This is another talent that improves Upper Hand. If you’re desperately spamming Emergency Medpac when someone’s below 30% health, this can definitely be helpful. Keep in mind, though, that it’s a very small heal. This strategy can be helpful while you work out how to transition to other tools at your disposal.
Beyond these key choices, you can pick and choose what works for your playstyle and goals. Bedside Manner, Healing Hand, and Homegrown Pharmacology are great choicse, of course. Someone who makes frequent use of Tranquilizer might be interested in the Sedatives talent. PvP-oriented players might find Anatomy Lessons, Scar Tissue, Scramble, or Med Screen useful from the Sawbones tree.
From the Scrapper tree, most healers should consider taking Survivor’s Scars. PvPers might be interested in working toward Brawler’s Grit. The Dirty Fighting tree has some interesting, accessible tools, like Black Market Mods and No Holds Barred that would both be a boon to healers. PvPers might find something useful in Dirty Escape or Flash Powder.
If you’re coming from another MMO with a more-traditional, mana-based healing style, learning to maintain your energy can be one of the hardest parts of Smuggler healing. It can be really easy to slip into the wrong mindset and find yourself completely out of energy after an increase in enemy damage you weren’t expecting. My mantra while playing has become, “Proactive, not reactive.” If I’m out of energy, I have a few tools to get back in the game, but once they’re gone, they’re gone. Ideally, Smuggler healers need to keep their energy as high as possible, even while keeping the group alive.
The Smuggler energy bar follows the law of “The more energy you have, the faster it regens.” You can see what regen level you’re at by the set of four arrows to the right of your energy bar. When they’re all lit up, you’re doing great. If none are lit up, you’d better start hitting your energy cooldowns as soon as you can. Ideally, you don’t want your energy to drop below three arrows. Experiment with this. Reading about it is much different than seeing and feeling the energy regen difference.
This is where Diagnostic Scan (once improved by talents) becomes your best friend. If there are moments when a two-stack of Slow-release Medpac is keeping your tank’s health at a comfortable level, adding in Diagnostic Scan offers you the chance for unexpected energy bursts from crits. There are times, however, when you need to be healing your virtual heiny off and stopping to channel Diagnostic Scan just isn’t going to cut it.
Pugnacity, which increases your energy regen rate by 3 every 3 seconds for 45 seconds, is another ability that you should be using as often as possible; Pugnacity will feel most useful when your regen level is lower, but even when it doesn’t feel as useful, it’s allowing you to heal more than you would otherwise be able.
In addition to Pugnacity, every two minutes you have Cool Head. When improved by talents, Cool Head grants you an instant 16 energy in addition to recovering 50 energy over 3 seconds. This basically fills your energy bar, rapidly getting you back to that extreme regen level you want to be at. If you’ve emptied your energy bar out of sheer desperation, do not be afraid to use Cool Head. Remember, the life you save could be your tank’s!
“Proactive, not reactive.” If you can keep your energy level higher while you have the chance and keep it there, you’ll do better in the long run. Don’t be afraid to use all the tools at your disposal. Also, do not be afraid to leave your damage dealers and yourself down health. If you find yourself taking damage, make use of the free Defense Screen or Dodge instead of wasting energy on a heal.
One of the best things you can do to reduce your energy consumption is make use of your crowd control. As a Scoundrel, you have the capacity to take one Droid and one non-Droid totally out of the battle. If you and your group can avoid breaking those two crowd controls, that’s two less mobs beating on or shooting at your tank.
Finally, Upper Hand grants you so much utility that it’s important to be aware of the times you don’t have any stacks of it to exploit. Kolto Pack, though a smaller heal than Underworld Medicine, can sometimes mean the difference between dropping into a lower energy regen level. Emergency Medpac, also exploiting a stack of Upper Hand, is a completely free, instant heal that is very small. Knowing the healing tools you have available can set you up for proactive energy management.
The most important thing you can do is practice. Try to avoid overhealing and experiment with which spells are most effective in which situations. Not all battles play out the same, so a set rotation is not something that you can just blindly stick to.