If you were blindsided by the Smuggler advanced class choice presented to you at level 10, you may have struggled to adjust to your new abilities and playstyle. Let's say you chose to be a Scoundrel, maybe to try healing at some point. You were running around Ord Mantell for 10 levels, dodging behind cover and flinging Sabotage Charges all over the place and now you have stealth, too. But you can't use stealth and cover at the same time. You'll never Back Blast from cover and you can't fire a Charged Shot from stealth. Bioware is tearing you in two!
While the end goal might be to heal as a Sawbones for endgame, who wants to level as a healer? I know I would rather endure the consequences of beating a wookiee at dejarik! (Yes, I'm trying to make this as nerdy as I possibly can.) You have two DPS skill trees to choose from: Scrapper and Dirty Fighting. While Dirty Fighting, with its bleed bolstering and energy regen, has a lot of appeal for the long boss fights of endgame pve, it can't compare to the pure awesomeness that is an ability named "Sucker Punch." More seriously, this early in the life of the game, the Scrapper skill tree seems to be one of the more developed, cohesive combat systems. The scrapper has incredible burst potential, a dash of survivability sprinkled throughout the tree, and a sort of cherry on top in the form of Flechette Round. Like a smuggler sundae.
So, if you've come this far and decided to be a Scrapper, you need to understand one thing: you are now a melee class. Say goodbye to little green kneeling men, say goodbye to Sabotage Charge, say goodbye to hiding behind things while Corso harpoon shots all of the wrong mobs. Your new job is to sneak up behind baddies while your companion distracts them, shoot them in the back, kick them in the spacejunk, and finish them off with a powerful right hook.
Let's take a look at the skill tree, filled with the points I recommend for a leveling/pvp build (since it's nice to take a break from missions with a game of Huttball). Follow along here.
Here is my rationale for taking each. I will proceed in the order I think you should spend your points.
Element of Surprise: Critting on your opener (Back Blast early, Shoot First when you get it) is a huge part of your burst ability. Hopefully you'll be getting off more than a few Back Blasts as well, considering your stuns/incapacitates in PvP or your companion tanking while leveling.
Browbeater: More burst post-opener via Flechette Round and a bit of a kick to Vital Shot if the fight drags out. Helps with Strong/Elite mobs and Flashpoint bosses while leveling.
Sneaky: Be prepared to fall in love with run speed increases if you haven't already. The stealth level does help quite a bit in PvP.
Scrappy: More damage for some key abilities.
Sucker Punch: The ability that makes the Scrapper tree go. Your finisher, so to speak. Boosted by...
Flying Fists: Burst, burst, burst. ~30% more damage on your first Sucker Punch. Also keys an effect in the next tier.
Sawed Off: Makes Back Blast free, allowing you to use it as soon as it is off cooldown. Frees you up for more quick shots, etc. This is also a boon on longer fights where you can become energy starved.
Surprise Comeback: A bit of longevity in PvP and a chain-pull enabler when leveling. You should have Pugnacity up anyways.
Round Two: Regranting Upper Hand means more Sucker Punches (burst! Sensing a theme?), reapplying Pugnacity, or giving yourself a quicker heal as the case may call for.
Stopping Power: Great utility. Use it to escape, kite, or reposition yourself for a Back Blast.
At this point, you need to spend one more point to reach the next tier. Fight or Flight is underwhelming, so go back the the second tier for one point in Brawler's Gift (more HP) or Shifty-Eyed (defense and stealth detection). It's up to you; I recommend them both eventually.
Flee the Scene: Being able to get back into stealth for more frequent openers is great. Disappearing Act is somewhat wonky in its effectiveness; try to remove any DOTs before use. The speed is great for escapes or catching Huttball carriers.
Here you're faced with another choice, with three points needed to reach the next tier. Turn the Tables is such a small, situational benefit for three skill points. It supposedly works with Flechette Round, so if you're dead-set on maximum burst, that may be your best bet. Personally, I'll take the longevity offered by Brawler's Gift and Shifty-Eyed instead. As soon as you can move to the next tier, do so.
Underdog: More energy through Pugnacity and heaps of burst when using Back Blast and Shoot First. Points well spent.
K.O.: Control post-opener allowing you to freely execute a flurry of attacks. Three seconds is just enough time to earn you two successive blows.
Flechette Round: Mwahahahahahaha.
You have 10 more points to spend at level 50. You have a good deal of choice here. Personally, I enjoy the extra damage of No Holds Barred and Holdout Defense in the Dirty Fighting tree, leading into the unbelievably cool utility of Dirty Escape. Exploratory Surgery in the Sawbones tree gives you Upper Hand when you need it, along with quick heals while your enemy is stunned/incapacitated. I throw the last point in Shifty-Eyed.
Other decent post-Scrapper options include Flash Powder, Bedside Manner, Keep Cool, and Scar Tissue.
Generally, my strategy is to open with a Flechette Round-loaded Shoot First, get off a Back Blast, Blaster Whip, Sucker Punch, and Sucker Punch/Pugnacity if you proc Round Two (depending on if it's a quick 1v1 or a longer fight). From there, you can use your controls, i.e. Dirty Kick, to use Back Blast again or heal, and finish off your opponents with Quick Shot and Blaster Whip/Sucker Punch combos.
As you can see, the Scrapper skill tree is pretty cohesive, leading to some killer burst combos. I hope this little guide helps! Feel free to provide feedback or ask any questions you may have. More strategies to come!
[First screenshot courtesy of torwars.com.]