Operations are teamwork-based missions available for high level characters in Star Wars: The Old Republic. In this video I’m going to be going through everything you need to know about joining your first operation, from how to prepare and gear up to how to actually find a group to join.
2022 Update VIDEO: Note, the video is slightly out of date – the new required level for operations is Level 80 and need basic level 80 gear.
What are Operations?
Operations are SWTOR’s main piece of endgame group content, and are only available players who are subscribed to the game, and all of them are for level 80 or higher. They’re meant to be played with either 8 or 16 players, and require a lot more combat skill and cooperation than most other content in the game. In return, they have great rewards when it comes to gear, and they have some of the most interesting and complex fights in the game. Players enjoy operations for many reasons – some players are in them for the rewards, but many raiders enjoy ops for the challenge of the fights and for the social aspect of working with a team and making progress together.
Preparing for Your First Operation
Because operations require so much teamwork, operations are also some of the most intimidating content to get into. If you don’t know where to look, it can be hard to find an operations group to join, and if you do join a group, there’s a chance both you and your team might be frustrated if you aren’t going in prepared. The good news is there’s a lot you can do on your own time to prepare yourself for raiding, including understanding the basics of your gear, practicing your rotation and combat priority system, and by becoming very familiar with your abilities.
The most common misconception players have who are looking to start playing operations is that you need a lot of gear, or you need to be fully geared, before playing your first operation. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! There are three difficulty modes available for most Operations: Story mode, Veteran mode, and Master Mode. While the two more difficult modes require gear and a certain level of skill, story mode is specifically set up in the game so that players can jump into them as soon as they hit level 80 and are wearing basic level 80 gear, regardless of their gear score. This is taken care of with a mechanic called Bolster – in story mode Operations, the game will automatically boost your gear up to match the minimum level of gear expected for that operation!
Level 80 Gear: Once you hit level 80, you can pick up a basic set of level 80 gear pretty quickly, which is more than enough for Story Mode operations. Basic Level 80 Gear Guide (scroll down that guide for even more info about Solo gearing) When you do buy your full set for the first time, buy the “yellow colored” earpiece and two implants.Basic Level 80 Gear Guide
Apart from going in with a good attitude, understanding your class and your abilities will be the biggest factor in your success when it comes to running operations. You don’t need to be a top-tier elite player by any means, but knowing what your abilities are and what they look like on your bars can make an amazing difference in how to play combat in the game, and can make all types of group combat way more fun.
There are five main types of abilities you should be able to identify before you go into Operations, or any other type of more difficult group content:
- Attack Abilities
- Defensive Abilities
- Movement & Speed
Although every class has around 30 clickable abilities, you don’t need to memorize every single one when you are first getting started learning your class. Instead, it’s more useful to identify a few of the most useful ones, and then group together your attack abilities and separately your defensive abilities, so when it’s time to attack you can at least hit buttons that do damage, and when you’re getting hurt you can at least hit buttons that will heal or defend you in an emergency. For your first operation, I would also highly recommend to figure out which of your abilities is your Interrupt, where your 4-second stun is, and what your special movement or speed ability is that varies by class.
The good news is I have two great sets of guides I can point you towards, with each one being tailored for your class.
I don’t even know which of my abilities are which:
Swtorista’s Basic Class Guides
I know basically what my abilities are, and want to learn how to play my class better:
Merlyn’s Class Guides
How to Join an Ops Group
Once you’ve got those two things down, I would say you’re ready-enough to start running story mode operations! Now here comes the hard part – how do you actually find a group to run with? As mentioned before, operations are for 8-person or 16-perosn groups, and they can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours on average, even in story mode. Due to the high teamwork and time commitment required for operations, players are often very picky about who they let into their operation groups.
Most players who are forming an operation will first ask friends if they want to come, then ask guild mates or have some type of sign-up system, then ask in other social circles, and only then will they open up invites to any random players in chat, and only as a last resort allow players to join their group through the group finder. So let’s go over all these methods to help you find your way into your first operation!
The group finder is the tool in-game that allows players to join a wait list for operations. Once 8 people join the waitlist, as long as there is enough of the correct recommended roles, the group finder will shove all eight of those people into a semi-random operation together. To join the group finder, press the icon of three little people near your minimap, choose “Group” from the tabs at the top, choose the role or roles you want to play as from the dropdown, check “Operations” in the checkbox list, and then you can press the green Join Queue button at the bottom.
Now here’s the catch – while many players run operations, very few use the group finder. This is because there’s no way to guarantee what type of player you’ll be getting – the player may be a fresh level 80 who just found the button and pressed it for fun, but hasn’t even figured out how to do anything but press their 1 key to attack yet. It also doesn’t guarantee the player understands Operations are something that can take over an hour, or that the player is interested in communicating or talking about tactics when things go wrong.
The next place players look for more operations group members is through General Chat on the Republic or Imperial Fleet. For players who aren’t interested in joining a guild, this will be the best spot to try and find an Operations group.
Players looking for more group members usually post a cryptic message made up of short-hand and acronyms that will look something like this:
As a player who is looking to join a group, you are looking for messages that contain “LFM” (looking for more), “LF” (looking for) “LF1M” (looking for 1 more, or any other number), “GF” (group finder) and sometimes “LFG” (looking for group, though that might be another player looking to join a group).
“SM” means “story mode” which is what you’re looking for, avoid any groups that say they are forming up for “vet”, “nim” or “mm” as those are the harder difficulty.
“DPS” means they are looking for a damage type player, “H” or “Heals” means they need a healer, and “T” or “Tank” means they want a tanking character.
The other terms in that short-hand message usually refer to which operation they are trying to run. Sometimes groups will be trying to run the operations that are highlighted on the operation-of-the-week box, while other times they are just looking to run a specific operation for fun.
If you need help with the Acronyms I’ve got a full Acronyms guide up!
Players asking in chat are usually looking for players who are a little more familiar with the game, so make sure to check in with the player advertising their operations group to see if it’s ok for a newer player to join or not. You can message the group leader by clicking on their name in chat. Something like, “Hey I’m new to level 80, I’m a DPS, may I join?” is more than enough – don’t be offended if someone says no, it just means they are looking to put together a quick and easy run rather than a learning run which can sometimes take up to twice as long.
In addition to general chat, you can also join your server’s special operations chat channels. These are where players advertise they are looking for more players, but who don’t want to post in general chat. Type these to join them, they are per-character: /cjoin allies on Star Forge, /cjoin endgame on Satele Shan, or /cjoin lfg on Darth Malgus. Group leaders in these chat channels are usually looking for players with a bit of experience, so make sure to check in with the group leader who is posting their ops first if you are new.
Join a Guild
Joining a guild is by far the best and most welcoming way to play your first operation. This is because if you run an operation through group finder and general chat, the players you play with will not expect to ever see you again after the operation is over, which can sometimes invite players to be harsher, as there are less social consequences for their behavior down the road. If you run with a guild, the players you run with will be still be in your guild with tomorrow, so they’re more likely to be kinder, more patient, and more willing to invest in teaching you so you can help with operations in the future, and if they’re especially nasty they might get kicked out of the guild.
The downside of joining a guild is that some guilds require a bit of investment on your part – for example, you maybe need to apply to join, or maybe need to meet a minimum gear requirement, or maybe need to pre-sign-up for a raid to ensure yourself a spot. All guilds have different goals and expectations, so make sure to not join a guild that requires a ton of investment if you plan on only playing a couple times a month. If you are playing on a more regular basis, guilds are also one of the best ways to meet other players in the game, in addition to gaining access to guild-only operation runs.
To find your perfect guild, I created a tool a few years ago called the SWTOR Guild Finder that’s still going strong, you can search by your server, faction and then you can use the filters to select guilds that do Operations. You can visit the SWTOR Guild finder at swtorfancommunity.com/guilds
In addition to those methods, you can also join an online chat program called Discord. The service is free, and any players interested in running operations should absolutely make an account as it has become the de-facto way to communicate for players out-of-game for both text chat and voice chat. Over the years players have set up multiple player-run channels and groups, many of which focus on putting together operations groups.
I’ve create a whole guide about how to use Discord if this is a route you want to take, including a list of potential discord servers you can join that might be looking for additional players for their groups.
Just like in General Chat, players will often post an acronym or short-hand of what they are looking for.
Etiquette when Joining an Operation
Once you’ve gotten into a raid group, there’s a few things you should keep in mind!
- Find out about loot rules early
- Don’t rush in to boss rights or trash fights
- Pay attention for ready checks before bosses
- If the raid leader has a different strategy than you’ve seen before, be open to trying it out
- Ask questions in chat if you are confused
- Patience & Understanding are key
Some groups will invite you to a Discord voice chat so you can at least listen in, you won’t need to download anything, you’ll just need to make a free account. If you choose to also speak with your microphone, you should keep these in mind:
- Use Push to Talk if there is background noise in your house
- Use Headphones over Speakers, to reduce extra noise
- Be quiet when the raid leader is explaining fight
When it comes to etiquette, that suggested rules could go on for days… but in the end, each group is different, and the best way to find out is to ask in chat!
I hope this extensive guide gave you the information you needed to get started in operations in Star Wars: The Old Republic!