Work in Progress.
Somewhat near 20-30% of stalker damage is in managing suitpower, buffs and debuffs. Even if you will have same impales/s and same other casts as other stalker, when you have same itemlevel and weapons, you still can do 20% less damage only because you had bad buffs uptime. This short guide is here to fix that problem.
Invisibility buffs and their uptime:
Do not use invisibility on CD to empower your Imaple with 100% crit, but time your inv-spells (Clone t4+, Innate and Tactical Retreat) until old buff is not faded out. This is very important, especially on the fight start. Here brief explanation why:
We read on red stance (Nanoskin: Lethal): After exiting stealth you gain 20% extra critical hit chance for 4 seoncds.
Who's Next amp states: Exiting stealth grants increased damage by 4% for 5 seconds.
Blood Rush amp saying: Exiting stealth grants 4% critical chance and critical severity for 6 seconds.
Here we see that I had all the above - 24% extra CH, 4% extra CSev and 4% extra damage for the first 30 seconds of the fight all the time, making my burst and starting DPS very high.
As you can imagine, having 24% extra CHit and 4% more damage is much better than just 3 critted Impales in a row.
To have good uptime, never use all invises on cooldown, but wait 5 seconds till last one had expired and then use next one. And always start combat stealthed, so you will have extra 5 seconds of buffs on the pull.
Be sure you are using "Hold Key for Continious Cast". It is in Controls part in ESC menu, be sure it is on, so you can just hold Impale and it will be autocasted with no delay. I saw few people not using it, so be sure use it!
First of all. With stance-dance AMP (Follow UP) you can swap stances without any loses.
This way you can always use tank stance (blue one, Nanoskin:Evasive) if you get some aoe or big hit (or if you not dpsing and just running around, betterto use this one).
To have +20% Critical hit buff and 100% next attackcritted you need to exit stealth in Nanoskin:Lethal (Red) stance. But all other time during invisibility (for example if you need to run) or during regular DPS sequence you can be in lifesteal stance (green one, Nanoskin:Agile, gives you +5% lifesteal and +10% movement speed in invisibility). This is really good for selfsustaining and having high vigor. Very useful in dungeons or when you soloing something. Good in situations when healer is far and you ned to recover some health. But be sure to use Red stance when you hitting out of invis.
AMP Follow Up: Switching stances grants you 3 suitpower every second for 6 seconds, can only occur once every 12 seconds. Swapping stances no longer removes suitpower.
Best way is to use stance dance during casting Preparation. So you do Preparation -> Swap to Green -> Swap to Red -> cancel Preparation. I am using mousewheel for swapping stances.
If you are not using Preparation, good way to use stance dance is during Punish animation/gcd. It is possible to use Preparation and stance dance during that as well. Can be used during clone/TR GCD as well.
But if your invisibility cooldowns are far away - you can just swap stance to green and stay in it up until next invisibility use. This way you will not waste extra half a second on the animation of swapping stances.
Other way is to use stance dance inside Cripple x3 cast. Or you can use Stance swap and instance Stagger (if you need to kicks something), this will cancel animation as well.
Other good way to use stance dance is during TR or Clone cast GCD.
Remember, that Red stance need to be active only when you are hitting from invis, so you can be in green stance when you don't have any invis cooldowns soon with no problem.
Assasin set and dps stops/movement:
You don't need to hit target to reduce CD with GA class set (pure Assasin). So on every dps stop or downtime, or when you are just running - use cripple/shred. For example Robomination midphase or Maelstrom Authority while using hook to swap platform. This way you will get your AW, Clone and Punish back much faster. Use preparation full cast and stance dance during downtimes as well, so you get full suitpower very fast.
Waller set ilvl 150 and dps:
Suitpower regen depends on your maximum suitpower. So it is possible to use 2/3 Waller Strikethrough rune in DPS spec to have extra 10 suitpower. It will help a lot in rotation without CK t4, mostly in convinience/fluid flow way than actual damage. It is minmaxing and will add only ~1% more DPS. More than 140 suitpower is not really helpful as well.
It can be done with Graverobber 2-power as well, but you will lose ~500 worth of stats. Both Waller and Graverobber is overkill, one of them should be enough.
Suitpower management and Enabler:
Enabler: Dropping below 25% suitpower grants 100% chance to regenerate 5 suitpower every 1s for 3s.
Battle Mastery: Droping below 30% suitpower grants 12% increased damage for 5 seconds. Can only occur once 15 seconds.
Punish t8: Using Punish while below 35 suitpower generates additional 15 suitpower.
So if you will be dumping suitpower to near 0 and only then using Punish (remember, it have cast time, so if you use it on 25 suitpower, most likely it will not proc things listed above) - you will have much more suitpower in general, so you will be doing more implaes as well.
Most common mistake here is using Cripple -> Punish. You should always use Cripple -> Impale x1 -> Punish to be sure you are always procing Enabler.
This will prevent you from procing Murder set extra times, when you don't need it. It is common mistake among stalkers, when they have 10-15 more procs of Murder than needed in 120 seconds. Every Murder proc comsumes 8 suitpower, so that is 80-120 suyitpower loss, or 3-4 extra Impales loss.
Analyze Weakness management:
Analyze Weakness has cooldown reset possibility in it, after killing enemy affected by it. Some bosses have adds, so you can prolong your AW (and +205 damage dealth) bonus for longer time. For example, on Robomination - you not doing AW on cooldown but you waiting 10 seconds until hands are spawned and are somewhat near half health and you are leaving one or two invisibilities (R and TR for example) not used as weill - then, when it about half health, you are using there Invis + AW on hand and boss. You have 20% more damage, hand dying and that resets your AW. So you going next hand and casting AW with invis there. This way you have another 5 seconds of +205 damage. And then this hand dies as well, again reseting your AW. You casting it on boss this time. So we get 15 seconds of +20% damage instead initial 5 if we haven't waited. Same counts for Asteroids and World Ender on Starmap for example. Or anchors on Mordechai. Or adds downstairs on Laveka (upstairs adds are not dying). And so on.
Best way to cast AW in general is from TR or Clone, as they have GCD's and it is hard to fail cast (unlike normal Innate, where Impale can be casted before your AW, if you have setup with big delay for abilities queue).
Few Clone things:
After using t8 clone sometimes it can be hard to cast impale again, so do not just hold Impale, press it few times and then hold. This is not happening with t7 or lower Clone.
If fight have few bosses or mobs, better to select target that is a bit far from you (by default press Tab to swap targets). CLones after summon will pounce to that target if it is in range. Pounce counted as additional hit and this pounce can be considered as interrupt (but only once per summon). It is not always interrupting if there 2 clones (most often one is interrupting and second is not, maybe they have some shared internal cooldown on kicks).
Selecting other target will help you as well on fights where your boss should not be interrupted (on Water + Logic, for example, you are dps-ing Logic, but have selected Water, so clones are on Water and not interrupting Logic).
For some weird reason, clone t7 or lower can consume your Disabler stack when it's kicking interruptable cast. However, t8 Clones never were consuming my Disabler. Not sure if i was just lucky or it is intended.
Clones will not kick some casts regardless. They will never kick DNA Siphon, for example (except if they are pouncing from far).
Maelstrom t8 and Clone t4:
Very good build for short fights, parse fights. Good for single target only. It lowering your mobility by a ton and on long fights (something near 90~100+ seconds) it do less damage than regular builds. Maelstrom is filling your downtimes, so you do not have those awkward moments with no suit-power and no Punish/Cripple active. You can drop Preparation and Stance Dance with this (still Prep and Stance Dance will increase your dps very slightly here), but better not. Try to cast Maelstrom from invis instead Impale. Rotation with this is pretty fluid (when you get used to Maelstrom cast time and GCD).
Clone t8 and CK t4:
Best DPS build for longer fights and in general. CK is removing only 2 seconds of cooldowns, but unlike GA set it works on all assault abilities, including Cripple. Because of that there are two kinds of rotations with it.
Getting extra CK t4 is increasing impales count by 7-10% on average. My maximum rotation was 130 impales in 120 seconds (or 1.08 swings per second) on PTR, but I still don't have extra t4 on live to test it out. In combat it will be much lower, but still near 1.03~1.05 or more. Few stalkers said it is possible to do up to 135-136 impales in 120 seconds with a bit speciic rotation. I had no time yet to test that. It is possible to get even more, something near 1.11 casts/s, but I never focused on doing its rotation.
Average normal rotation with extra t4 was next: Punish -> Cripple x1 -> Impales -> Punish -> Cripple x1 -> Impales -> Punish -> Cripple x1 -> Impales -> both Punish and Cripple on CD, so you waiting second or two, maybe doing preparation or stance dance -> repeat.
CK t4 fixes this situation. On the 4th circle, isntead waiting - you just cast CK. Good way is to run Cripple x1 twice and the CK, after that again Cripple x1 twice and CK once more, this rotation is much more smooth and better suitable for any downtimes you can have in fight, and you will always have one extra cripple up for any emergency or weird situations.
Other way is to go a bit changed good old smooth rotation i loved so much before Punish was changed. This way you just going Punish -> Impales -> Punish -> Cripple x2 -> Impales -> Punish -> Impales -> Punish -> CK (this will reduce Cripple CD as well) -> Impales -> repeat. Old rotation had CK x2 there, that is the only change. With this rotation you will have slightly less Impales overall, but your Clones and AW uptime will be 20-25% better. So damage overall should theoretically be better than from first variant, but i never tested that. Personally I will prefer this one just because I am old stalker and I like old rotation more (and it seems like this one is dealing more damage).
Remember, that when you have CK, you should do less Cripple casts than other stalkers, or you will be loosing Impales casts (I often see this mistake, when stalkers with CK have same or more cripples than stalkers without CK).
Clone t4 and CK t8:
This rotation was good when Assasin set was reducing all assault cooldowns by 1 second. So you had to do Cripple x3 cast for 3 seconds reduction and then CK x2 cast for 4 seconds reduction. That way you had almost always good uptime on everything.
However, nowadays Assasin set is giving 2 second reduction on Punish, Clone and AW. So there is no reason anymore for doing old way. Cripple in general is better than CK. It is more efficient to run Shred t0, Clone t8 and no CK at all than to run CK t8. You do not need to hit enemy with Cripple/Shred to reduce it for 2 seconds, while you need to hit the target with CK to get reduction. CK hits only 1 target, while Cripple hit 5 targets and slows/snares enemies. Cripple and CK have almost same damage on single target. Cripple GCD is shorter than CK GCD (I think by 0.25s or maybe 0.1s).
And the most important thing here. Why take extra t4 to CK to have 1 extra charge of CK, if your Cripple is doing the same with no investment? Much better to invest this extra t4 to something useful - like Stagger for kicks, or Clone for extra damage. Losing nothing by doing this, but gaining utility/damage.
Do not recommend this build.
MS t8 and CK t4, Clone t0:
You can use this for very very short fights, not longer than 30~ish seconds with only one target. CK is reducing Maelstrom cooldown, so you can use it 1-2 extra times. Your damage overall will suffer alot. You can even go CK t8 and Punish t4 (if you can manage your suitpower well and always cast Punish on 35 or less suitpower) for casting 2-3 Maelstroms in a row for insane burst damage. But if fight go over your initial invisibility buffs - you are screwed up and will do 0 damage. So use it wisely for parsewh*ring-only purposes. I think MS t8 + Clone t4 will deal more damage than this one in fight longer than 20-30 seconds.
MS t8 and CK t4, Punish t0:
As all Maelstorm builds, you can use this for short fights with only one target, this time it will work for fights up to 60-90ish seconds. CK is reducing Maelstrom cooldown, so you can use it few extra times. Your damage overall will suffer less than with previous build. Using Punish t0 at right moment can be tricky if you never played Stalker before class was changed. If there will be 2 or 3 targets, or if fight need many movement, if you need to do mechanics, if you need extra utility, or if fight is longer than 2+ minutes, this build will suffer a ton in compare to regular build. So again, only for parsing in parse raids.
Tanking with AW:
Nothing really to explain here. Raw +20% damage or 20%x2.75=55% more threat. Best way is to use it initially from invis on start of the fight, so you can have both Razor Disks and two buffed Frenzy during that damage/threat uptime. After recent AW bug-fix it is now possible to use this spell as tank in any composition, so stalkers now are not that weak at threat as they were before. Good way is to pair it with Razor Storm t4 extra threat generated buff (when you have extra t4) and use them at same time for some big numbers. If boss can not be taunted, you can go Nano Spike t4, it will do much less threat than aw+rs4, but it is still something (especially good if all dps in raid are high dps).