Lethality Operative DPS guide by Noire & Ethel

*Refresh page to show proper layout…*

Patch 2.5

Operatives are currently in the Top 5 of the Training dummy leaderboards tied closely with Snipers and Marauders for single target DPS.  This write-up made by Noire, Ethel with contributions from Invinc and KBN, aims to show some methods these players use to play the Lethality specialization

  1. 4044 DPS Mercenary
  2. 3829 DPS Sniper
  3. 3788 DPS Operative
  4. 3730 DPS Marauder

Note: Training dummy DPS is not indicative of performance in a raid.


  • Spec
  • MAX DPS Opener
  • Single target priority
  • Structure
  • AoE rotation
  • Parses
  • Rotation Video
  • Talents & Abilities
  • Cooldowns
  • Some tips on managing energy
  • Utility
  • Gearing
  • Others

by Noire (Aurum Gaming, The Harbinger) & Ethel (Domination, The Shadowlands)

Lethality is the shared tree between the Sniper and Operative, while the Sniper’s version of Lethality is a more ranged oriented spec the Operative’s version is more so melee with the ability to keep on the move.  Lethality is a damage-over-time spec with burst capability when played correctly. With the ability to hit multiple targets at once Lethality finds itself to be quite good in current raid situations. In addition to high area-of-effect damage, Lethality also brings a cleanse and a stealth rez to the table, which certainly will be handy when Nightmare is released.

It is a spec that requires excellent management of two resources:

  • Energy and
  • Tactical Advantage ta → fatality


Utility Lethality Spec - Kolto Injects can be used to pre-stack Tactical Advantage with this. Less reliance on Shiv on fights with Immune or downtime phases ( ie. Dread Master Calphayus, transition into Brontes and Styrak in The Dread Council fight, etc)

Mobility Lethality Spec - You move around slightly faster.


koltiinjection os stealth hiddenstrike  cd ep  shiv fatality   stimboost  shiv cloakingscreen hiddenstrike backstab

→ reapply DoTs → priority list; note:  If Fatality procs → 2 Culls, otherwise, 1 Cull.

Used in the 1:50 video. Having the early TA up before the first OS buffs it with the 2% dmg increase provided by TA.


os stealth hiddenstrike  shiv cd ep     shiv backstab stimboost   cloakingscreenhiddenstrike …

→ reapply DoTs → priority list


A few rules to note prior to the priority system… keep up one Tactical Advantage (Unless Shiv is one GCD away). Do not clip your DoTs and reapply them within one GCD of them falling off.  Do your best to keep your energy above 70 and below 85 to ensure maximum DPS.  If relic procs are up and you have the energy, spend all TA on Cull.

Tactical Advantage also provides a 2% damage increase and enables Execution range (sub 30% HP damage increase on targets).  It is important to always keep one stack of Tactical Advantage up on you at all times.

  1.  Corrosive Grenade
  2. cd Corrosive Dart
  3.  Cull (If you have 2 stacks of  ta from fatality Fatality; otherwise)
  4. shiv Shiv
  5.  Weakening Blast
  6.  Cull
  7. os Orbital Strike
  8. backstab Backstab
  9. rifleshot Rifle Shot 


Lethality Operative DPS revolves around the repeating pattern:

SHIV → GCD 1 → GCD 2 → GCD 3 → SHIV

while maintaining 1 stack of Tactical Advantage at all times.  There are instances where Shiv can be delayed which happens during Fatality Procs + WB with 1 GCD left on Shiv.  This is shown in Invinc’s & Orangeskye’s videos below.  

Some examples:

If Weakening Blast is up

shiv →  →  → GCD 3 → shiv

If Weakening Blast is up, it will ideally be used on GCD1, followed immediately by Cull. You must use at least one Cull during these GCDs, or two if Fatality proc’d. If Fatality, then you should use your first Cull early (either GCD1, or GCD2 if WB). Your second Cull can and should be delayed for energy reasons, unless you have WB up.

About Backstab

backstab Backstab is an energy light filler which can go into any of the 3 GCDs, but only if you’re above ~85 energy (and above ~90 if you put it in GCD3).

shiv →  →  → backstab → shiv

If Cloaking Screen is up

shiv →  → cloakingscreenhiddenstrike →  → shiv

This is massively energy negative so it’s best if you have Adrenaline Probe up or you get a Fatality proc (free Cull) with a Weakening Blast (no energy cost) available after your second Shiv.  I often delay the 2nd Shiv after this sequence just to avoid the energy drop, though it is possible if you get lucky on crits (Lethal Purpose regen) which helps you keep Shiv on CD and then just follow it up with a Rifle Shot before the resulting Cull if needed.

Caution: Using Cloaking Screen → Hidden Strike on cooldown  means taking away your Stealth Res utility in a fight!

If Orbital Strike is up and you have no energy cooldowns available

 shivfatality proc → cd os   shiv 

If Orbital Strike is off CD, it must be used in GCD 1+ GCD 2 with Weakening Blast filling GCD3 and Cull filling “GCD4 and 5″.  Thus, you can only use OS if you have Fatality and < 3 seconds on Weakening Blast.  Using Orbital Strike is guaranteed to delay your next Shiv by 2 GCDs. You must, thus, also have at least 7.5 seconds left on your dots.  Orbital Strike is commonly used in the sequence above.

There are some instances where Shiv is delayed by 1 GCD. Spending all your TA on Cull is only viable when you can sustain your energy regeneration which happens when you have a Fatality proc with Weakening Blast and Shiv coming back up.  You also need Shiv to be 1 GCD from coming off cooldown in order to reapply TA as soon as possible (for its % damage increase buff).

One big mistake you can do as a Lethality Operative is to let your TA fall off for more than 1 global cooldown

1:50 min video by Invinc / Carlenux <Hatred>


os →  →   → shiv or koltiinjection (for TA)

carbineburst (on Trash, otherwise save TA)


3788 DPS- Noire – Combat logged on the level 55 Operations Training Target MK-5 with 1 million health module and armor debuff module

3770 DPS - Invinc – AMR Profile - Combat logged on the level 55 Operations Training Target MK-5 with 1 million health module and armor debuff module

3690 DPS – Ethel – Combat logged on the level 55 Operations Training Target MK-5 with 1 million health module and armor debuff module



ta Tactical Advantage –  keep one stack up at all times unless Shiv is one GCD away.  Tactical Advantage also provides a 2% damage increase and enables your executions.   This is the center of Lethality DPS and one that you must manage carefully in order to get your highest DPS.  You can also use

koltiinjection Kolto Injects (talented) to proc a stack of Tactical Advantage during downtime and immunity phases.  Keep this in mind!

fatality Fatality - Shiv has a [20 / 40 / 60]% chance to trigger Fatality, which makes your next Cull regrant Tactical Advantage and cost no energy. This effect cannot occur more than once every 10 seconds.  Huge DPS due to the free Cull.

lethalpurpose Lethal Purpose - Reduces the cooldown of Adrenaline Probe by [15 / 30] seconds. In addition, critical hits with poison effects restore [1 / 2] energy.

 Cull - Your biggest damage ability. Use this to consume your 10 Weakening Blast stacks if possible. Make sure both Corrosive Grenade and Corrosive Dart are rolling on the target while using Cull as well. Critical hits of this ability will also regenerate energy.

 Weakening Blast - Hits for very little. The importance of this ability is the application of 10 stacks that buff all of your poisons and makes Cull hit hard. Keep on cooldown. This cooldown typically acts as a timer for your entire rotation. This ability also costs no energy and is therefore a free global cooldown of energy regeneration.

 Corrosive Grenade - Cheap on energy and your bread and butter aoe. It’s part of your single target rotation as well and has light burst on its initial hit. Use this to DoT up the room. Always keep this up.
cd Corrosive Dart - High energy cost. Single target use. Always keep this up.

shiv Shiv - A medium damage ability. Primary function is to grant Tactical Advantage and make Cull available. There is a 60% chance every 10 seconds to grant Fatality which makes your next Cull free and cost no Tactical Advantage. This means that Weakening Blast > Cull are two free global cooldowns of energy regeneration.

os Orbital Strike - Our only casted ability (3 seconds). Great as an opener, but it is important to be positioned well in using it. As we do not have a reliable gap closer, casting it far away from our intended single target can actually be a loss of dps. It is not intended for us the same way it is for Snipers. Certain fights can call for it more often, particularly ones with add phases, but be mindful of energy usage as it costs 30 on a successful cast. Best used after Fatality procs and before a WB. Use judiciously and pre-emptively because of its cast time and energy drain.

backstab Backstab – A mid-big hitter for very little energy. This is your single-target filler ability with a longer cooldown to complement Shiv. Use when everything else is on cooldown.

rifleshot Rifle Shot - Your basic attack and energy regenerator. Try and keep these to a minimum. Balance your energy to the high 70s early 80s with this after the heart of your rotation is on cooldown. If you are using this more than once in a row, there has been some energy mis-management along the way or poor RNG luck with Fatality procs. Use when running into range of your target to build energy for your rotation on mobile mechanics in encounters.


stimboost Stim Boost – Grants a small amount of energy (10), but grants alacrity (speed/haste) to your energy regeneration, attack speed, and GCDs. Also grants 1 Tactical Advantage. This is best used in higher damage output situations like before you are about to Cullx3 after Fatality and you have Relics proccing. Do not rely on this ability to save you if you are energy starved. It is meant to prevent starvation, not pull you out of an energy deficit hole.

ap Adrenaline Probe – Grants a large amount of energy. Use this at a maximum baseline of 40 energy. Any lower than that and you will be losing significant DPS to Rifle Shots. If, however, you are at something like 50 energy and have procced Fatality, use Weakening Blast, your free Cull to regenerate and if your Cull crits, you stand to gain even more energy back and may not have to use the Probe at all. Immediately following the use of Adrenaline Probe should be a tech damaging ability like Backstab as it is light on energy use and a loss of DPS if you do not.

 Adrenal - Save your Adrenal for the chunky, high damage output portion of your opener; that being right after your Weakening Blast and before your Culls. Using it while dotting your target up is generally a loss of precious buffed seconds.

evasion Evasion – 6 seconds of god mode. Does not respect the GCD and it also self-cleanses one harmful effect. Operatives accrue a lot of threat especially in an AoE environment, so it is helpful to have this ability close by. Use this first for cleansing yourself before Toxic Scan, so you can continue with your DPS rotation unaffected by the GCD.

shieldprobe Shield Probe – Handy because of its relatively short cooldown period of 30 seconds. It will absorb ‘moderate’ damage, so don’t expect it to save you through mechanics you are able to avoid.

countermeasures Countermeasures – A weak threat drop, but useful because of its lack of respect for the GCD. If you are not Guarded by tanks, it is wise to use this at some point during your opener, especially if you have used an Adrenal.


There are four stages of energy management, which are represented as “ticks” on your energy bar. At four “ticks” you have an energy regen rate of 6 energy per second. At three “ticks”  it’s 3.6 energy per second, and at one “tick” you have an energy regen rate of 2.4 energy per second.

Don’t be afraid to rifleshot Rifle Shot!  Never let yourself get below 60 energy (If you get below 60 make sure you have Adrenaline Probe or Stim Boost ready) , it’s an overall DPS loss and Lethality is sometimes difficult to manage energy for. stimboost Stim Boost is best used proactively after a series of Culls or in the middle of a burn phase.

Cycling stimboost Stim Boost and ap Adrenaline Probe appropriately is key to sustaining good dps especially on single targets.

fatality Fatality gives you a free Cull (no energy cost).  Using this with Weakening Blast (no energy cost) will allow you to squeeze Orbital Strike into your rotation without dipping your energy.


toxicscan Toxin Scan – Instant Energy: 10 Cooldown: 4.5s Range: 30 m. Cleanses a friendly target of up to 2 negative tech or physical effects.

Operatives bring great utility to Operations, naturally. We have Toxic Scan which is a cleanse of most harmful debuffs and DoTs, which helps out your healers a lot.  We also have the ability to ‘stealth-rez’.  Use Cloaking Screen, find your dead teammate and then resurrect them.

cloakingscreen Cloaking Screen → revive Revive

Note:  Wait until all of your dots have fallen off of your targets and that there is no incoming damage mechanics (typically AoE) before attempting this or you will immediately be taken back into combat and lose your ability to Stealth Res.

quickening Quickening - Increases the duration of your Evasion by 1 second and your effective stealth level by 2. In addition, when you activate Exfiltrate, you have a 30% chance to gain Quickening, which makes your next Kolto Infusion activate instantly, cost no energy, and not require or consume Tactical Advantage.  The heal is not really reliable in a raid situation but I think it’s still worth putting it out here.


Sample AMR Profile from Invinc

  • 5 Accuracy Enhancements (Advanced Initiative) (Implants/Earpieces count as well)
  • 5 Surge Enhancements (Advanced Adept) (Implants/Earpieces count as well)
  • Cunning Augments
    • Relic of Serendipitous Assault
    • Relic of Focused Retribution
    • Relic of Boundless Ages (this is a situational, on use, Relic decent for dotting up add-packs and burn phases on single targets)

Critical Rating is good.  Aim for approximately 200 Crit Rating in your gear but I do not recommend going over 230. Ideally, 1.5 pieces of crit gear. Crits help restore energy and will generally do more damage than Power alone. Encounters or parses with 38%+ critical chance in the end result will always parse higher than those lower despite the lower Crit % parse characters with higher Power Rating.

Quote: Originally Posted by KeyboardNinja View Post
A little bit of crit goes a LONG way. I can literally feel the difference between no crit and a single crit enhancement.

Quote: Originally Posted by Noire
Yes. Crit rating is important for Lethality Operatives. I am currently running 240 crit on this parse: 3739 DPS – 1 Million HP dummy with Armor debuff

Another great Operative I play with, Philosoraptor also from Aurum Gaming, is running even higher rating with BiS to great success. Crit is your friend.

Accuracy Rating should be as close to 110% as possible. There is no scenario in which sacrificing tech accuracy for power is a general dps gain. Missing a Shiv would be detrimental no matter how much Power you have.


1. Added Structure by Keyboardninja, and additional AMR profile, parses and rotation video from Invinc / Carlenux

2. Lethality Operative DPS guide by Noire & Ethel

2. Operative forums thread

  • Anon

    It is a remarkable parse, especially the last Orbital Strike RNG crits he got during his Execute phase. I don’t think he could ever duplicate it with this tier.

  • Bodhi

    Carl has recently reparsed on his operative and achieved 3858 dps
    (Combat logged on the level 55 Operations Training Target MK-5 with 1 million health module and armor debuff module)


    It’s a rather remarkable parse when you consider that he has surpassed the top sniper/gunslinger parses.

    • http://swtorboard.org Paowee

      That’s great! With his parse, Operatives parsers are now at #2 in the player leaderboards threat. Is his AMR currently up to date? I am seeing quite high critical % on his abilities (but this is true for every parse in the leaderboards. Thank you for the update Bodhi!

      • Bodhi

        I don’t know if his AMR is up to date, I can ask him tonight.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Paowee, you are missing a Shiv before the second set of Cull’s. If you use the rotation you have setup there, you go into negative TA.

    • http://swtorboard.org Paowee

      Hey Noire. Thanks and fixed. :)

  • Norblick

    It’s not the good image in AOE rotation.
    you put blackstab instead of shiv.

    • http://swtorboard.org/ Paowee

      Thanks! It’s the correct icon now.

  • Pingback: Lethality Operative guide is up! | swtorboard.org