I've noticed that some abilities don't seem to share cooldowns with each other. The various grenade abilities, for instance, and the Vanguard's Nova biotic. The Sentinel's Tech Armor also doesn't cause a cooldown to turn on (though it does to detonate).

Which abilities are off the shared cooldown? What about ammo powers?

  • I thought grenades were the only weird ones with cooldowns. Ammo powers don't have cooldowns, do they?
    – Ben Brocka
    Mar 9, 2012 at 22:26
  • @BenBrocka It's not much, but it's there. They don't cause a cooldown, but they respect it. Mar 9, 2012 at 22:30
  • Really? I'll have to test that when I get home. No powers when you're cooling down?
    – Ben Brocka
    Mar 9, 2012 at 22:35
  • @BenBrocka Pretty sure. Grenades, yes, change ammo, no. Mar 9, 2012 at 22:36
  • @Raven are either one of these answers sufficient to satisfy your question yet?
    – l I
    Mar 12, 2012 at 22:05

2 Answers 2


There's technically three types of powers in Mass Effect: Active Powers, Grenades and Passive Abilities.

Active powers a single Global Cooldown. A skill either activates the Global Cooldown or it doesn't. Skills that don't activate a cooldown are only limited by how quickly you can perform the action (the time it takes to switch ammo/throw a grenade).

Most powers listed as a base power here qualify as Active. These are your standard attacks and always cause a cooldown.

Passive powers are always active and don't have cooldowns, simple enough. Ammo powers are technically passive, and you can always switch ammo regardless of cooldown. Tech Armor is basically a passive power unless you detonate it.

Grenades don't use a cooldown either, and if something seems like an "active" power and it doesn't activate the cooldown, that's because it's technically a grenade. Proximity mines, Nova and Sentry Turrets are all technically grenades.

Nova has a "cooldown" that's actually based on your Biotic Barrier (the purple "shield" Vanguards have). You can't use Nova if your Biotic Barrier is empty, but it otherwise ignores cooldowns like a grenade.

  • what about Nova, is that a special case?
    – l I
    Mar 9, 2012 at 22:34
  • And the turrets? Mar 9, 2012 at 22:36
  • The Turret is technically a grenade and nova is based off your biotic barrier. Are there any other exceptions I should note? I'm looking through the Wiki
    – Ben Brocka
    Mar 9, 2012 at 22:37
  • Nova is technically a grenade as well, it's just that instead of drawing off your supply of grenades, it draws off of your barrier. Mar 9, 2012 at 22:40
  • 1
    @BenBrocka any further testing results? :)
    – l I
    Mar 12, 2012 at 22:07

Ammo Powers do not trigger a cooldown when activated, but cannot be activated when something else is on cooldown.

Fortification, Defense Matrix, and Tech Armor can be turned on without causing a cooldown, but activating their ability (+melee damage, shield restore, explosion) causes a cooldown.

Grenades and Nova are on their own separate cooldown class, and can be freely intermixed with powers. (Nova might require shields, though)

Sentry Turret and Combat Drone (engineer specials) share a cooldown with each other.

Finally, some highly evolved powers have a chance to proc a bonus power, where activating them will not cause a cooldown. (Examples: Tactical Cloak, Charge, etc.)

  • Are you sure about the first point? I could switch ammo fine on cooldown. Single player, Vanguard. I'll triple check tonight. I never did get to test Sentries because I haven't unlocked that class in multi.
    – Ben Brocka
    Mar 13, 2012 at 13:13

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