Bolster and Relics in PvP

Bolster and Relics in PvP

Update (2018-09-07): As of game update 5.9.2, “Wind Crystal relics will now be bolstered properly”, meaning they are no longer comparable to relics with a 248 item rating.


Bolster is a mechanic in SWTOR that, among other things, adjusts the item rating of equipped gear. Item rating indicates how powerful a piece of gear is. As a character levels up, they are able equip gear with higher item rating.

Bolster is intended to bring undergeared characters closer to parity with better geared characters in PvP scenarios.

When bolstered, either by entering a warzone/arena instance or using the Bolsterizer (added in patch 2.7.1) in the training areas on the Ziost Shadow (Imperial Fleet) and Gav Daragon (Republic Fleet), you are granted the Bolster buff.


Bolster: Your base stats, gear stats, effective Discipline Path skills, ability ranks, dps, armor and combat level have all been increased.

As of game update 5.5, Bolster in warzones and arenas increases the item rating of your gear to 242 (up from 238). The maximum item rating is currently 248.

Note on Expertise

Prior to game update 5.0, PvP gear was differentiated from PvE gear by the inclusion of the Expertise stat. Expertise did three things:

  • increased damage dealt to players,
  • decreased damage received by players and
  • increased healing done to players.

At any given time, the highest tier of PvE gear had a higher item rating than the highest tier of PvP gear. However, it was not generally worth equipping in PvP because the absence of Expertise outweighed the benefits of its higher stats.


The mathematics behind Bolster are not entirely clear. While, broadly speaking, it does a good job of equalising characters’ stats, it has a history of quirky behaviour. Certain pieces of gear bolster better or worse than others.

Presently, the Wind Crystal Relic of Serendipitous Assault, Focused Retribution and Ephemeral Mending are bolstering much better than would be expected, exceeding relics with 242 item rating. Surprisingly, these are level 10 relics which add 12 Mastery and 3 Power and have procs that cannot be triggered in PvP areas.

How do they compare to the GEMINI MK-5 Relic of Serendipitous Assault, Focused Retribution and Devastating Vengeance, each of which has an item rating of 248?

The following table shows how a bolstered character’s total stats vary when equipping Wind Crystal and GEMINI MK-5 relics; all other equipped gear remains the same. The values are only representative and may vary between characters.


GEMINI MK-5 Relic (×2)

Wind Crystal Relic (×2)














Critical Rating




Alacrity Rating





30% chance to grant 1221 stat for 6 seconds every 20 seconds (per relic).

It will not trigger inside of PvP areas.


The Wind Crystal relics give slightly less Power and Critical Rating than the GEMINI MK-5 relics but much more Mastery. Still, the GEMINI MK-5 relics have a powerful RNG proc to account for: a 30% chance to grant 1221 Mastery, Power or Critical Rating for 6 seconds on a 20-second rate limit.

Let’s do some maths to determine which relics give you the best bang for your buck. The first step is to determine the average stat increase from the GEMINI MK-5 relic procs:

  1. 6 seconds out of every 20 seconds is a theoretical maximum uptime of 30%
  2. 1221 stat × 0.3 ≈ 366.3 average stat increase per relic (mastery, power or critical rating)
  3. 366 × 2 relics = roughly 733 average stat increase

There are a number of factors affecting proc uptime, which will typically vary from 25–30%. Melee DPS, whose time on target tends to be lower, will see lower average uptimes. HoT-based classes like Medicine Operatives or DoT-based DPS specs like Madness Sorcerers will see higher average uptimes. Essentially, the higher your output (abilities per minute or APM), the greater your chance of triggering the GEMINI MK-5 relics’ effects and so the greater their uptime.

Assuming near-perfect uptime, the GEMINI MK-5 relics edge out the Wind Crystal relics. However, it’s a close-run thing.

  • Wind Crystal relics provide a lot of upfront stats; the GEMINI MK-5s offer higher burst potential but lower sustained output. I.e., while your average output in both cases will be similar, there will be spikes and dips in your output with the GEMINI MK-5s and it will be flatter with the Wind Crystal relics.
  • Wind Crystal relics provide roughly 3,000 more HP, owing to their extra END. In PvP, that added survivability is an important consideration.
  • In terms of parsing, they are on an almost equal footing: the GEMINI MK-5s are slightly better.
  • It is worth noting that the multipliers (or coefficients) of Mastery and Power are slightly higher for bonus damage than bonus healing. I.e., damage dealers benefit marginally more per point in Power and Mastery than healers.
  • We’ve established that your output governs the GEMINI MK-5 relics’ proc uptime. Very roughly, the GEMINI MK-5 relics pull ahead of the Wind Crystal relics at about 27% proc uptime. For those interested, I’ll go through the back-of-the-envelope calculation below:

Suppose we take the sum of the values in the final column of the table above (excluding END):

747 - 16 - 66 = 665

That is, the Wind Crystal relics provide 665 more raw offensive stats than the GEMINI MK-5 relics. Mastery, Power and Critical Rating aren’t equivalent but it’s a close enough approximation for our purposes.

Let’s set the right-hand side of the equation in step 2, above (proc × uptime = average stat increase), equal to this value of 665; let 𝑥 represent the unknown uptime:

2442𝑥 = 665

Rearrange to find the uptime, 𝑥:

𝑥 = 665 ÷ 2442
   ≈ 0.27


What is the takeaway? When under the effects of Bolster, Wind Crystal and GEMINI MK-5 relics are very comparable. Thus, for PvP, I recommend you use Wind Crystal relics until you obtain GEMINI MK-5 relics.

Further Reading

  • For a more thorough treatment of stat weightings, etc., see Bant’s most recent thread on optimal gearing in 5.0.
  • While a little outdated, back in 2014, Tait Watson had the combat team produce a guide to Bolster.
  • Around 5.0, Hottie published the results of her testing to find the optimal item modifications. While it hasn’t been updated for the most recent tiers of gear, it makes for interesting reading.


Thanks to Hottie for collaborating with me on the writing of this article and to doc for his input and suggestions.

Medicine Operative: PvP Guide by Hottie (5.6)

Medicine Operative: PvP Guide by Hottie (5.6)

Alacrity and the Global Cooldown

Alacrity and the Global Cooldown