N7 Shadow Guide by EmptyBlade
Version 0.6, Last Updated 2012-08-19
Table of Contents
The N7 Shadow is an incredibly versatile and powerful character when played well. Out of all duration-specced infiltrators, she is the most capable of performing objectives and acting as a medic, while still being built for very high offensive capability. However, there are a large amount of things to learn to fully utilize the potential of this character. The purpose of this guide is to collect this information in one place.
I, of course, will often give my opinions and input on various playstyle choices for her. But, I will try to keep this separate from the parts of the guide that are factual information and techniques. By and large, I will try to avoid giving too much advice on how to play your Shadow, and leave that for you to figure out. My main goal is to put all of the obscure details of how the Shadow works in one place.
If you have any comments, suggestions, or questions, contact me at bdv2112 [AT] columbia [DOT] edu
A lot of people reading guides tend to skip over these kinds of sections and fast forward to the 'good stuff'. I mean, we all know what tactical cloak does, right? Well in this particular case, this section is the meat of the guide. The whole point is to explain the details of these skills so that players can use them with full knowledge of what they are doing. If you are bothering to read this guide at all, don't skip over this section.
Avoid enemy detection and boost your damage.
- Enemy Focus
- Detection Mechanics - All enemies maintain a list of players they are aware of, and choose one player to focus on out of that list based mostly on degree of detection (but possibly also taking into account things like ease of hitting them from their current location). If an enemy has no players on his list, he will periodically 'cheat' and automatically learn the location of a random player and target them. Beyond that, the detection value of each player is based on a combination of vision and sound mechanics, with heavier weight put on the vision side of things. They see within a cone and radius pointing in the direction they are facing, and will periodically do line-of-sight tests within that cone, putting any players they can see higher on their detection list based on range. In addition to vision-based detection, they can 'hear' sounds created by the player. Each player generates a 'sound' every time they do anything (including shooting, walking, running, etc.), and different enemies detect different sounds at varying ranges. Enemies also share information with nearby enemies. If you are cloaked and create a sound event behind one enemy, making him aware of you, then you can count on all the other nearby enemies suddenly becoming aware of you as well.
- Cloak Effect - Tactical cloak's main effect is a strong 'debuff' to your detection value. If an enemy is focused on you, and there is another player high on their detection list (most likely meaning within their vision cone and line-of-sight), then activating tactical cloak will usually be sufficient to cause them to change focus to that player. Otherwise, you will probably have to cloak and break line-of-sight to make them shift attention to someone somewhere else on the map. It is very important to be aware of enemy focus, because whether or not they are focused on you changes the properties of your other two powers; I will expand on this more later. In general, know that you can usually shift enemy focus to a nearby ally by cloaking, or to a further away ally by cloaking and breaking line-of-sight. If you are alone (either because you are soloing or all your friends died), then you cannot ever be 100% sure they won't be aware of you because of the enemy cheating mechanism. However, you can greatly improve your chances by being out of sight, cloaked, and out of sound range when you move.
- Damage Bonus - The cloak gives you a damage bonus on all attacks and powers used while it is up and for 2.5 seconds after it drops. This window is enough to cover both of the Shadow's other powers. In other words, if you have the Bonus Power evolution, you can get a damage bonus on two powers: once while staying in cloak and once right after exiting cloak. The damage bonus applies doubly to Shadow Strike. This is most likely a bug, but take it for what it is.
- Cooldown - Cloak's cooldown depends on how long you were cloaked. If you dropped it immediately after cloaking, it will be 3 seconds, and it will scale up to the stated in-game cooldown if you held cloak for its full duration. After the cloak drops (either because you attacked, the duration ran out, you finished reviving a teammate, or you manually cancelled it by pressing Y), its cooldown will start after a short delay. If you use another power during this delay, and that power's cooldown starts after your cloak cooldown does, then that power's cooldown will override the cloak cooldown. Note that both of the Shadow's other powers have faster cooldowns than cloak, so overriding the cloak cooldown is often beneficial.
- Charge weapons - If you use a charge weapon, then for purposes of breaking cloak you are considered to be attacking when you start charging, not when you release. This means you can start a charge, go into cloak while holding that charge, then release the shot in cloak and stay cloaked. This is particularly useful with the Acolyte pistol, which can strip shields off enemies allowing you to one-hit kill many of them with Shadow Strike and stay cloaked after the kill with Bonus Power. For whatever reason, this does not work with the Arc pistol, which will always decloak you when fired.
My build opinions
I would suggest taking duration, melee damage, and bonus power as your evolutions. As I said, Shadow is the best duration infiltrator there is, and doesn't need any more damage to easily handle all small enemies. Melee Damage affects her Shadow strike and is a key part of her killing output, whereas the alternative Recharge Speed is largely useless because when played correctly, the Shadow will rarely ever suffer a full cloak cooldown. Bonus power dramatically improves your survivability and ability to safely strike into otherwise dangerous situations with Shadow Strike.
Slash and send forth an electric wave to stagger and damage multiple enemies.
- Phases - This skill begins with a small wind up which does 30% damage to everyone touching you, then ends with a slash that sends forth an electric wave that hits for full damage in a large area in front of you and through cover and walls. It is possible to hit the same target with both portions of the attack depending on spacing. Both parts have a 50% damage bonus to shields and barriers. The windup portion of the attack is fully steerable, you can change directions and target different enemies during this time. The wave portion of the attack staggers most enemies, and knocks down anyone who is unprotected. Because of this, it is a powerful crowd-control tool. Its ability to hit through walls also allows you to keep attacking while you are recovering your shields.
- Cancels - Electric Slash can be cancelled at any time with melee, heavy melee, or roll. Cancelling the wave slash phase into heavy melee has the rather hilarious effect of decapitating enemies that were tossed by the wave in mid-air. If you cancel the windup phase, you will not get the cooldown of the attack, even if the windup hit someone. Furthermore, if you cancelled that phase with roll, it will not count as an attack for purposes of breaking Tactical Cloak. This allows you to finish off damaged enemies or set off tech bursts without ever leaving cloak.
- Bonuses - Electric Slash damage is affected by the following bonuses: all N7 Shadow power damage evolutions, all of its own damage evolutions except Detonate (which is bugged), Tactical Cloak damage bonuses, Power Amplifier equipment, and all gear that boosts 'Power damage' or 'Tech Power damage'.
- Enemy focus - If, when you start the attack, you have an enemy targetted who not focused on you (recall I mentioned earlier how important it is to understand tactical cloak and enemy awareness mechanics), then that enemy will be locked in place and unable to move or attack during the windup phase of this skill. They can still move and attack during the wave slash, but the opportunity for them to hit you is small.
- Stagger cancel - If you activate Electric Slash just as you are landing from a long drop, it will cancel the stagger of that drop and send you flying forward extremely far. This fast movement can be steered freely during the windup phase, and is useful for escaping, kiting enemies when soloing, getting to downed allies, and a multitude of other things. It does not make you drop the object if you are doing the delivery objective, making it very useful for that purpose on certain maps.
My build opinions
Take it only to rank 4 and spec that evolution into damage. The alternative, Radius, is not really necessary since Electric Slash is already generally large enough for what you need it to do. An extra evolution to get Recharge Speed would be nice, but there are lots of other things you need to spend points on. The Detonate evolution is currently bugged and does not work.
Teleport behind a target and hit them.
- Activation and targetting - This power can only be activated while you have an enemy targetted, and will teleport you behind that enemy (or in front if their back is obstructed) before delivering a very large single hit. It does not matter if there are obstructions between you and the target, all that matters is that you have a target, and that some space next to them is allowable for you to occupy. In other words, you cannot Shadow Strike an enemy that has not yet entered the playable area of the map. However, if an enemy moves to a non-playable area after you have already begun your Shadow Strike, you may follow them into it. For example, troopers rocket-booting into the upper areas in Ghost may bring you with them and allow you to get to normally unreachable areas. Regardless of enemy movement, once this attack comes out it will always hit if your target is still alive. This is useful when attacking dangerous moving enemies like a Banshee or Brute: you can time your strike so they will have moved away when you get there, but you will still hit them. Contrary to appearances and what you may think, you are neither invincible nor cloaked during this attack (unless you are actually doing it while cloaked).
- Damage - If you are following my build recommendations and have good mods and gear, you will be able to one-shot every enemy from cloak on Gold except bosses, Ravagers, Phantoms, Pyros, and Turrets. The latter three will go down to a single Shadow Strike if they have first been hit by an Acolyte shot. The Acolyte can be fired from cloak if you began charging before you cloaked, and is my primary recommended weapon. Acolyte shot and/or consumables will be required to keep one-shotting tougher enemies on Platinum. The Electric Damage rank 5 evolution adds a huge amount of damage over time, and is responsible for a lot of your one-hit kills, as long as you leave the enemy alone to die out.
- Bonuses - Shadow Strike damage is affected by the following bonuses: all Sword Mastery evolutions except evolution 6 (which is bugged), all N7 Shadow power damage evolutions, all of its own damage evolutions, all melee damage mods for weapons, twice by Tactical Cloak damage bonuses, once by Tactical Cloak melee damage bonus, Power Amplifier equipment, Strength Enhancer equipment, and all gear that boosts 'Melee damage', 'Power damage', or 'Tech Power damage'.
- Enemy focus - Like Electric Slash, if you use this on an enemy who is not focused on you, then they will be locked in place. Unlike Electric Slash, this effect lasts throughout the attack, giving Shadow Strike a 100% success rate on lone enemies who are not aware of you. If you've ever been hit out of your Shadow Strike by your target, or had a Guardian turn around to block it, then you could have avoided that by managing your target's awareness of you.
- Charge shots - If you are holding a charge shot, then it will automatically release right after the teleport, usually hitting your target. This is, however, very unreliable. You cannot aim your shot during teleport, and depending on positioning, it will sometimes miss your target. If you absolutely need that charge shot to hit before the Shadow Strike, it is better to aim it yourself beforehand than to rely on this method.
My build opinions
Take Damage, Electric Damage, and Shield Drain. Damage Protection is not really necessary: you should be aiming to use Shadow Strike only in situations where you will not get hit after you use it. Your ability to assess the situation and know when Shadow Strike is safe to use is a huge part of your skill as a Shadow. Recharge Speed is very nice, but Electric Damage even moreso. Electric Damage allows you to one shot a huge variety of enemies, and also sets up tech bursts. The final evolution is a little more flexible, both options are good but I think Shield Drain edges out as a winner because it allows you to spend more time in cloak and less time recharging shields from stray hits.
Passives and Equipment
While a bug, the power damage passives do currently improve Shadow Strike. Considering the number of more important bugs in the game, I do not expect them to fix this anytime soon if they do fix it at all. The melee damage passives also improve Shadow Strike, with the exception of the rank 6 passives which are bugged and only affect your actual melees contrary to the descriptions. Martial Artist both improves Shadow Strike, and is triggered by Shadow Strike. It will not, however, be triggered if something dies to the Electric Damage dot, only if they die immediately to Shadow Strike.
Power damage increases also refer to equipment, meaning Power Amplifier increases Shadow Strike damage. Shadow Strike counts as a Tech Power, and thus is improved by tech power damage increases, but not biotic ones.
My build opinions
Take both passives to rank 5, getting both power damage evolutions and both melee evolutions, to maximize the damage of your Shadow Strikes.
Gear is a tossup between Juggernaut Shield and Omni-Capacitors. Juggernaut Shield gives a 10% boost to your Shadow Strike and a large shield bonus. Omni-Capacitors gives that same damage boost, but also applies it to Electric Slash, while also speeding up your cooldowns. Faster cooldowns is another means of getting survivability, by getting you into cloak and moving on to your next target that much faster.
The most useful weapon amp is Strength Enhancer for the boost to Shadow Strike. I would not recommend taking the Pistol Rail Amp, Acolyte Shot already weakens everything it needs to by enough to get one-shot by Shadow Strike. In that case, you want it to leave some shields for you to drain. In my opinion, the best Armor Modules are Adrenaline, Power Amplifier, Power Efficiency, and Cyclonic. Ammo mods don't generally do much since you are not primarily a weapon class, however Disruptor ammo will allow you to set up tech bursts from cloak.
This is a collection of techniques that utilize or combine some of the properties I have described above to achieve more efficient performance for the Shadow.
Cloak Strike: If you haven't used your first bonus power shadow strike yet, use a shadow strike from cloak. If you've already used it, find a target while still cloaked, then manually decloak and immediately Shadow Strike. The reason for doing this is that you will cancel the cloak CD and get the faster shadow strike CD. If you just Shadow Strike again out of cloak, not only will you get the cloak CD, it will start late. You'll end up spending a lot more time visible.
Cloak Cancel: From cloak, manually decloak then immediately Electric Slash, and recloak afterwards. By using this technique, you turn the 3 second cloak CD into a much faster electric slash CD, allowing you to spend minimal time out of cloak. Because of this technique, a duration-spec can afford to spend the majority of the match running around in cloak while looking for suitable targets. If you are doing disable/enable objectives, use this just before you get to the objective so you can recloak when you start activating it. Note that a Shadow Strike that uses the Bonus Power can be used safely in a far wider variety of situations. So if you have used up your Bonus Power, and aren't currently fighting anyone, then strongly consider using this technique to reset your cloak.
Boosted Electric Slash Spam: Cloak, electric slash, manually decloak, electric slash, repeat. If you are in a situation where you need to spam electric slash (likely through a wall), using this technique produces the slashes just as fast while maintaining the cloak damage bonus on every single one. Only do normal Electric Slash Spam if you are hiding to regenerate your shields.
Electric Ambush: From cloak, manually decloak, electric slash, cancel the slash with heavy melee, recloak. This can kill most low level units outright, and will allow you to get back into cloak and look for your next target much faster than shadow strike. If the enemy is reasonably close to you, and you see one or two easy targets in a fairly safe area, then use this. Make sure you have an unaware enemy targetted from cloak to lock him in place and kill him off without getting interrupted.
Drain Strike: Before cloaking, charge your acolyte pistol shot and hold it while cloaked. Release at a target just before you attack with any of the above techniques (it won't decloak you). Use this to drain the shields/barriers of opponents that you will not otherwise be able to one-hit kill (like phantoms if you aren't using consumables). Also use this to make more enemies killable using the Electric Ambush technique.
Emergency Exit: While doing a disable/enable objective or reviving a downed friend, find a target in a safe area and spam Shadow Strike. Since your cloak always drops immediately after performing either of these tasks, this will get you to a safer location while cancelling your cloak CD. If there are no enemies around, spam Electric Slash instead to avoid the cloak CD anyway.
Hurricane Slash: When running off of any ledge that is high enough to make you stagger on landing, electric slash as you land. This will not only cancel the stagger, the Electric Slash will propel you a tremendous distance forward. This can be combined with other techniques such as Cloak Cancel to get your cloak back up, or Electric Ambush to attack someone at range.
Electric Cut: From cloak, Electric Slash right next to an electrified enemy, then cancel to roll before the wave comes out. This will cause them to tech burst, but will not drop your cloak and not use up your bonus power. You can use this to finish someone who has been hit by Shadow Strike with Electric Damage. You can also use it to get an easy tech burst on someone who has been hit by your Acolyte shot with disruptor ammo, while still allowing you to use a Bonus Power Shadow Strike on someone else afterwards.
General Play Comments
I said this guide was more of an information listing than a playstyle guide, so I will try to keep this brief, and just say a little bit about overall strategy.
If enemies are sparse (you're hunting stragglers, or you're in the early waves of Gold, or anywhere in Bronze and Silver), it is fairly safe to simply repeat Cloak Strike. If you happen to be near a lone straggler, use Electric Ambush so you can move onto your next target more quickly. Some enemies, like Centurions on Gold or higher, will need you to Acolyte shot them first. Some enemies, like Phantoms, will require that even for Shadow Strike. For this reason, you should always start up a charge before entering cloak. If you don't need it, great, just let it fly off into the background. You'll rarely, if ever, run out of ammo. When you do need it, you'll be glad you don't have to stop and charge it up.
In more crowded enemy situations, you can still often safely Shadow Strike as long as you are doing it with the cloak Bonus Power. Make sure you target an enemy that will immediately die, and who isn't in the center of the commotion. At this point, you will probably want to run somewhere out of sight and Cloak Cancel to regain your bonus power before Shadow Striking your next target. If things get really hairy, consider backing off to a safe area and using Boosted Electric Slash Spam through a wall.
When running utility functions (objectives, reviving, etc.) use Cloak Cancel liberally. Generally, being cloaked all the time keeps you off of enemies' radars and allows you to do your work unmolested. Do use Emergency Exit when reviving, but make sure if you are doing it with Shadow Strike that you haven't picked a target that will land you in more trouble.