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Smuggler Beginner’s Guide - Star Wars The Old Republic

Learn the basics of the Smuggler class and vital combat strategies to get going quickly.

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Welcome to Ord Mantell, fellow Smugglers. Ready to shoot first and ask questions later? Excellent. First things, first. Let's figure out how to make the most out of your time on Ord Mantell, the starting planet for the Smuggler class.

For the purposes of this guide, I will assume you found your way here because you've already decided the Smuggler class is a perfect fit. I'll also assume that you have a handle on the basic controls in Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). There will be some user interface options and keybinds that I'll go over, but they will be specific to the Smuggler. I also will steer clear of any storyline spoilers, because discovering SWTOR's story should be left up to you!

Starting Out: Choosing a Side

First of all, let's talk Dark Side and Light Side alignments. While leveling and completing story missions, you'll gain opportunities to choose between certain conversation options and change your course of action depending on those dialog choices. The dialog wheel is your voice here, and by default, Light Side (blue) and Dark Side (red) choices are easily visible.

The choices you make dictate your overall alignment, which in turn influence the way other non-player characters (NPCs) feel about you, the way your Companions feel about you (through affection), and allow you to purchase special items. Alignment also can impact future conversation options for both your class story and Companion stories. If you do end up choosing a wrong dialog option, it's possible to hit "ESC" to completely exit a conversation and give it another go.

Realistically speaking, you have three options when it comes to choosing a side. The first option is to decide on a whim as you play along, choosing whichever dialog choice makes the most sense. This is how many players start out in the game, and I recommend it the first time, because it's a great way to get immersed in the story. There is a user interface (UI) option to turn off the alignment hints on dialog choices ("ESC" -> "Preferences" -> "User Interface" -> "Conversation" -> "Show Conversation Alignment Gain"), which gives you some interesting roleplay options if that's your cup of tea.

There is a downside, however, if your character ends up balanced between both sides. Players are able to purchase items while leveling once they pass certain tiers of Dark and Light points (Dark I, II, etc.). If they remain neutral, it's harder to purchase those items due to being split across both alignments. You are, of course, free to deviate from either side, but keep in mind that you may find yourself short on alignment points eventually.

If you're aiming for a pure side, one option is to make your Smuggler ruled by his/her own passions, refuse to follow the "good guy" rule and lean toward the Dark Side. This option plays through quite fun as a Smuggler, since the Smuggler story takes some interesting turns. Dark Side dialog options tend to be more humorous, although some Companions, including your first Companion, Corso Riggs, are very Light-influenced. Alternatively, Smugglers can also decide to behave for the greater good and become a Republic hero. In the meantime, saving puppies can be fun, right? It's also amusing to play a Light Side Smuggler, because many NPCs come across quite surprised.

Starting Out: Start Thinking About Your Advance Class Options

As you may very well be aware, there are two different advanced classes for the Smuggler that play dramatically different: Gunslinger and Scoundrel. You can't swap between the two once you choose an advanced class. Luckily, this decision doesn't have to be made until you reach the Fleet for the first time, so you have the entire starting planet to mull the decision over.

Gunslingers focus on keeping a safe distance from enemies, and dispatch foes with the help of dual blaster pistols. They are safest behind cover and deal large amounts of damage. Scoundrels are a little more mobile, and do best up close to enemies (also known as in melee range) or healing. They are also able to stealth and sneak around unnoticed, which allows them to pick their battles.

You'll get a taste of some of the most important abilities from each of the advanced classes while leveling on Ord Mantell. Since the two play so differently, I'd suggest trying out both ranged and melee combat when you have enough abilities to do so, and figure out which style you enjoy the most.

Trying Out Combat

Player video walks you through character setup and levels 1-3 on Ord Mantell.  Also addresses some initial user interface customizations

Upon just starting out at level 1, you'll want to utilize all of your abilities and get a feel for which to use when. Each class gets a special buff that they should always keep on themselves and their party members. Smugglers get Lucky Shots, which lasts an hour and increases Critical Hit Chance. Critical Hits are great, since they do more damage than normal hits, so keep that up at all times. Sprint, if you have it available (as a free-to-play player, you won't get it until level 15 unfortunately), is also a must-have that increases your movement speed while not in combat. Sprint is a toggle, which means you'll be able to place it on and it will stay on unless you remove it.

Take Cover!

Take Cover is your Smuggler-specific ability that can be used to take less damage while dealing ranged damage. While running around Ord Mantell, click on an enemy and you'll see green, holographic-looking outlines of your character crouched behind rocks, crates, buildings and other places that would make great points of cover during a real blaster fight. If you hit "Take Cover" near one of those spots while in a area with enemies, you'll automatically roll into a safe, crouched position in that spot.

Take Cover doesn't remove all damage, but it reduces normal ranged damage by 50%, which is useful for these beginning levels, especially on Ord Mantell, where most enemies fire blasters. You can tell if an enemy is affected by this 50% damage reduction by looking above its head or nameplate (a little bar that let you easily view a mob's health). Nameplates can be turned on by going into "ESC" -> "Preferences" -> "Nameplates". A green, shield-looking icon will appear above a mob's head if the Take Cover damage reduction bonus is in effect.

While using Take Cover, you'll also gain access to special abilities, and your quickbar will automatically shift into a special bar for those abilities (this can be turned off in the game's Preferences menu). Take Cover can be used out in the open in order to gain access to these abilities, but you won't get the defensive bonus when doing so. If you're looking to be a Gunslinger, you'll gain more abilities to fill up the Cover bar, but for now you just have two abilities: Charged Burst and Sabotage Charge.

The best way to initiate combat during these early levels is by finding a safe place to use "Take Cover" some distance from enemies (often known as mobs), firing a Sabotage Charge into the group you're looking to kill and immediately following up with a Charged Burst on the most powerful enemy. In most cases, the most powerful enemies on Ord Mantell are the large droids or humanoids.

Enemy (Mob) Types

You can also tell which are the most dangerous by looking at the colored border around the enemy's information frame that pops up when you click on it (also known as targeting).

  • Mobs with silver and gold-bordered enemy frames are Champion mobs, are extremely dangerous and will most likely need a group. World bosses and Flashpoint bosses are Champion mobs.
  • Elite mobs have gold borders and take a bit of work to get down, but can sometimes be soloed.
  • Strong mobs have silver borders and more health than Standard mobs, which have no special border.

After firing off Charged Burst, Sabotage Charge should go off, and the strongest enemy will either be dead or close to dead. This will give you time to finish off the mobs with either Charged Burst or a couple shots of Flurry of Bolts, which is your baseline ranged "auto attack" that doesn't cost energy. Flurry of Bolts can be used while on the run, which helps make escaping nearby enemies easier.

After defeating groups of enemies, especially if the battle took off a decent chunk of your health, make sure to use Recuperate when needed. Recuperate regains your health and your energy back as long as it is channeled and you remain out of combat, which is the best way to ensure you are at full health for the next fight.

How Energy Works

Speaking of energy, let's talk a bit about what it is exactly. Energy is the resource your abilities use. Most of your higher-damaging attacks use a decent amount of energy, so it's not always possible to continuously spam your highest-damage attacks. When you run out of energy completely, you're unable to use any special attacks until it's replenished. Flurry of Bolts makes a great filler for this reason.

Energy does naturally return over time. The rate of recovery varies depending on your state of combat and your level of energy. The more energy you have, the faster you restore lost energy. This makes it important to keep an eye on your energy and vary the types of attacks you use in order to keep energy regeneration high. This isn't overly important on Ord Mantell, but later on it will be. Using Recuperate in between fights also helps.

Learning Abilities

As you gain levels while completing missions and defeating enemies, you'll be able to purchase new abilities from Smuggler trainers. The first Smuggler trainer is located in Fort Garnik, which you'll get sent to after finishing a couple quests in the immediate starting area. At level 2, you'll get a hard-hitting melee ability called Blaster Whip, which may not seem entirely useful, but the damage it deals is not bad. It's also a staple for Scoundrels.

At level 3, you'll gain access to a handy area-of-effect (AoE) ability that also knocks enemies down-- Thermal Grenade. Due to the Smuggler's lack of general AoE at this level, Thermal Grenade is extremely useful, and I'd suggest using it every time you are able to do so. You don't need to use Take Cover to use this ability, which makes it ideal at all ranges, and since it casts instantly, it's great to use on the run. The area-of-effect circle of Thermal Grenade is generally just large enough to cover a group of mobs.

Level 4 is fun. You'll get the iconic Smuggler ability called Dirty Kick, which is exactly what it sounds like-- a close-ranged kick to the groin that delivers a nasty stun effect and deals damage. Around this level, if you generally prefer getting up close and personal with the bad guys, it's possible to start experimenting with more of a Scoundrel playstyle. Start in cover, fire off some ranged abilities, close in while chucking a Thermal Grenade into the fray, toss in a Dirty Kick and a Blaster Whip and by that time, you'll probably be able to toss another grenade.

Here's a breakdown of other abilities you have to look forward to, complete with brief descriptions:

  • Level 5: Vital Shot - A ranged shot that deals damage over time (DoT). Great for mobs that have a large amount of health.
  • Level 6: Flash Grenade - AoE blind which causes enemies to be unable to act for 8 seconds. This is good if you accidentally aggro more than one pack of enemies and need to try and escape.
  • Level 8: Quick Shot - Semi-ranged ability that fires a single shot off that does decent damage. Good for using while running up to an enemy or as filler.
  • Level 9: Escape - This is your escape ability to use when caught in a stun, blind or otherwise impairing state.

At level 10, you'll wrap up Ord Mantell and head on out to the Fleet, which is where you'll be able to choose an advanced class, explore the talent trees and gain new abilities and new gameplay options, including the option to join up for your first Flashpoint, which is SWTOR's 4-man group content. You'll also be able to pick Crew Skills, which let you craft better gear and other items to make adventuring a whole lot easier.

General Combat and Companion Tips

  • Experiment with how you start and finish off fights until you find a style that suits you well.
  • If you find yourself dangerously low in health during battle, make sure to use a Medpac. Drag and click a stack from your inventory ("I") to a quickbar for easy access.
  • If you accidentally anger too many enemies, it's possible to run away and cause them to reset (often called "leashing"). This is sometimes the best way to survive a fight you know you can't win.
  • Get in the habit of planning out each fight before you run in. Figure out which enemy will be your priority, where a good spot to use Take Cover would be and ensure there are no nearby patrolling mobs that may make the fight more difficult.
  • Don't forget about Stims! These buff a stat for an hour, which can help quite a bit while leveling. Ideally, you'll want Stims with Cunning.
  • As you get close to level 10, you may find you can do away with Take Cover entirely if you enjoy being more mobile.

At around level 7-8 during the story missions, you'll gain your first companion, Corso Riggs, who is a ranged tank and will hold the attention of enemies while you fire away, chuck grenades and whack enemies with your blaster. He's an important part of the Smuggler's storyline, can be romanced by female Smugglers and will randomly chatter, accept gifts and be easily swayed by all things involving saving prisoners and obeying the Republic military.

Having him as a meat shield helps tremendously. Send him into combat before you engage by pressing the fist-shaped icon on Corso's miniature quickbar located on the left-hand side of the screen. "CTRL-1" also works. This miniature quickbar is also where you can manually toggle your Companion's attacks or turn them off completely.

Advanced Combat: Heroic Missions and Corso Riggs

Once you have Corso Riggs by your side, you're free to solo the Heroic missions on Ord Mantell. Before grabbing him, it's also possible to join a group of players completing the quests. The Heroic missions are identifiable by the little "[Heroic 2+]" note appearing in your quest log (which "L" brings up). Two or more players are suggested for these quests, but Companions can generally be included in these suggested numbers. I'd suggest waiting to do them until you get Corso, simply because it makes them so much easier.

Level 8 walkthrough including getting Corso Riggs around the 11:30 video mark

Corso has a Distract ability, which attracts the attention of mobs, and a Jet Pack ability that allows him to fight up close. Abilities can be turned off completely by right-clicking on an ability in the Companion quickbar (which can be expanded by clicking the little "+" button). If there is a green square in the upper right-hand corner, it will be automatically used during combat. By default, his abilities will fire off automatically as they become available.

While running the Heroic missions, have Corso engage first and hold the attention of the mobs while you damage them. Be smart about using AoE effects around him, however, because sometimes they will cause the mobs to turn to you instead of your tanking Companion.

Advanced Combat: Key Bindings

While leveling, it's important to keep ability keyboard controls (also known as key bindings) in mind. By default, your main quickbar fills up fairly quickly, so you'll want to start placing abilities that you don't use as often on a second quickbar (free-to-play players have access to two total).

The main quickbar lists numbers "1"-"0", "-" and "=" on the keyboard as key bindings, but I'd strongly recommend experimenting with alternative keyboard layouts for these abilities, simply because it's difficult for most people to hit "7"-"0", "-" and "=" with one hand (remember, your second hand's usually on the mouse). SWTOR also has a ton of abilities. By going into "ESC" -> "Preferences" and changing over to the "Key Bindings" window shown below the main frame, you can experiment with other keyboard selections that work for you.

A good tutorial on how to set up key bindings for commonly used actions

"1"-"5" work well for abilities you use all of the time. I like to rebind the rest to easy to reach keys such as "Z", "X", "C", "F" and "G", but there are many options for key bindings. "CTRL", "SHIFT" and "ALT" modifies work well also (SHIFT-C for example). As far as Smuggler-specific key bindings go, I tend to keep my stuns, healing abilities such as Medpacs and main damage abilities on my main quickbar. I always keep my stun as "3" for example, and when I switch to my Sith Warrior, that key binding is shared.

Leveling, Gear and Credits

While leveling, it's important to prioritize purchasing new abilities and new levels of abilities. Every time you're able to see your trainer, you should make sure you do so. In Fort Garnik, there are a few vendors who sell green-quality medium armor, which is what Smugglers wear. You can purchase some of this gear if you find yourself with extra Credits, but it isn't necessary. Instead, I'd recommend saving up your Credits and going after the Commendation chestpiece, which is also found on a vendor at the Fort.

Gaining Credits

Credits come naturally in SWTOR, and you shouldn't need to spend extra time farming them, but if you'd like to, humanoid mobs are going to be your best bet. Make sure to sell all grey items and unwanted white gear when you come across Stim and gear vendors. Unwanted green gear can also be safely vendored at these early levels.


Planetary Commendations are obtainable by completing the Heroic quests and off random mobs in the area. These currency items are shared between all of the leveling planets, and the gear purchased with them is some of the best available. If you're unable to find the eight Commendations needed to purchase the chestpiece, I wouldn't worry about it too much. The gear you get from completing quests and found off random mobs is generally decent enough for getting through Ord Mantell. It's also not a bad idea to save your Planetary Commendations for filling in gear gaps during later levels.

Gear and Stat Priority

Gear-wise, focus on Cunning and Endurance. Cunning is where your damage comes from, as well as your healing if you're aiming to be a Scoundrel healer. Endurance will help you survive a little longer when caught in rough spots. Your priority for now should always be Cunning. For weapons, you'll want a handy blaster pistol by your side at all times. Corso Riggs, as a Trooper-type Companion, uses heavy armor and utilizes Aim and Endurance. As a tank, he generally does well with Endurance-heavy items, but Aim increases his damage. He uses blaster rifles.


Leveling in SWTOR is fairly simple, and there are multiple routes to choose while doing so. I find it most efficient to stick to story missions wherever possible, and complete side missions in clumps that are near the story missions. Make sure to check the surrounding area for new missions before starting off to a new location. Mission NPCs are sometimes nearby.

While exploring, it's also possible to find datacrons and lore objects that give extra experience. Datacrons give permanent stat boosts, which are handy, but sometimes difficult to find. These should be discovered if possible, but not prioritized, since it's easy to come back at later levels and grab them then.

Grouping with Other Players

Due to SWTOR's Heroic mission and Flashpoints system, I'd suggest grouping up with other players whenever possible. Group content is important in the game, and it's enjoyable to complete missions with other players due to the various conversation options available. Grouping up is also a great way to make new friends.

While grouping at these early levels, make sure to keep an eye on Corso if he is going to be serving as the group's tank. Have him engage first. If you have three or more players in your party that are nearby, the game will automatically start to disable your ability to summon Companions. At three players, which Companion gets chosen is random. At four players, all Companions become disabled.

In a group of four players, make sure to let players with heavier armor engage in combat first. For Ord Mantell, this will be Trooper players. Smugglers can survive for a little while if need be, but Troopers can take a few more hits than we can. Concentrate on dealing the most damage you can and sticking with your fellow players. Teamwork is important while grouping, so remember to be considerate and communicative. If ever in doubt, don't be afraid to ask questions!

Final Notes

Star Wars: The Old Republic is a fantastic game the first time through, so my strongest piece of advice for any aspiring, galaxy-traveling Smuggler would be to have fun, enjoy the story and take your time exploring every aspect of the game!

Helpful Videos

Ord Mantell Datacrons

Where to find the datacrons and Matrix shards on Ord Mantell

Complete Walkthrough of Ord Mantell

Character creation and levels 1-3

Levels 3-4

Levels 4-6

Level 6

Levels 6-7

Levels 7-8

Level 8

Doing the Heroic missions

Levels 9-10

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