Sunday, August 09, 2009

CoH - Stone Tank Build

For the first time in months, another build of my CoH characters. Like previous posts, this avatar is, well, still not completely slotted. I've got some changes to make. This posting though, is not at all like my other builds that I've put online.

One of the objectives I try to accomplish with my avatars is what I call practical builds. When I IO slot an avatar, I try to only use IO's that a casual player has a hope of getting. So I generally don't build avatars with expensive proc IO's or the extremely rare Purple IO sets. For the most part, whether or not the developers want to address this issue, an average player has no realistic chance of obtaining a full set of purple IO's.

For this avatar, I broke that rule. The avatar is my Stone / Mace tank. Now, I happen to be the opinion that in the current City of Heroes, players shouldn't make a stone tank unless they have the finances to IO slot their Stone Tank. The reason for this is that the Stone's final armor, Granite, has some serious penalties associated with it's use, which include a hefty debuff to global recharge speed, global attack strength, and global movement. Many of these debuffs can be dealt with by simply teaming up with other players. A Kinetics can erase the movement debuffs and recharge debuffs, and in mobs, erase the damage debuffs as well. An Empath or a Thermal Radiation can also ease the damage debuffs. However, in the current city of heroes, where a large number of players are AE leveled and have no practical game experience, it's not uncommon to be teaming with players that don't know how to use their buffs... although in all fairness, I am the one that has railed against Fire / Kinetics that never learned how to play kinetics to begin with.

Overcoming these stone armor debuffs without relying on teammates requires some of the most expensive and rare Invention Origin enhancement in the game. My build here ... is not going to work... for the vast majority of the player base. Obtaining the various IO's used to make this build required countless runs of Positron and Synapse Task Forces, and selling many merit obtained IO's for cash... and it still took me several months of saving to be able to make this build. I'd estimate that an average player might be able to duplicate this in about a year... maybe more.


So, why Stone Armor Anyways?


Well, Stone Armor is one of the best defensive armors in the game. At it's best, it's just about indestructible, capable of absorbing damage amounts that other armors can only dream of. That being said, Stone Armor is not a magic bullet in the game. While it's main penalty is the speed debuffs and damage debuffs in granite armor, for years the Stone set was the only Armor class to offer any defense against Psionics. However, this Psionic Protection comes from the Minerals power, which cannot be active at the same time as the Granite armor power.


My Goals for this Stone Armor build were thus two fold.
  • Erase the recharge penalty
  • Be useful in both armor sets, Granite and the other armors.


So why Mace?


Well, at first I had based the build off of my ice / mace for slotting. I knew what inventions the Mace set could accept, and I had an idea on what I could do with the IO's in the game. As time wore on and I learned more about how the game worked at it's base level, some of my Ice / Mace choices, well, missed the mark. Some of my slotting choices that I had in mind are still visible here in the stone armor, such as on Mud Pots.


Okay, lets start with a couple of overview picks. Here we can see that my love of franken-slotting continues. My apologies for the horizontal distortion. I normally play on a 16:10 wide-screen resolution, and the game itself doesn't handle scaling down to different aspect ratios very well.







Stone Armor Sets


Rock Armor: This is the basic smashing / lethal defense armor that stone tanks get. Here we can already see that it's defense value isn't actually that high. While I'm into Enhancement Diversification, otherwise known as ED, with my defense boost, I'm not even coming close to the 58% boost I had on my Ice Tank. This is because while my Ice had the franken-slotting of
  • defense : defense / endurance : defense / endurance : defense
my Stone armor has the fraken-slotting of
  • defense / endurance : defense / proc : defense / proc : defense / endurance


The reason for this particular franken-slotting is that the Gift of the Ancients set has a proc that boosts base run speed by 7.5%. and the Luck of the Gambler set has a proc that boosts base recharge speed by 7.5%. In City of Heroes you can have up to 5 of the same IO Buff before the effects stop stacking. So, I knew early on that I could get a 37.5% recharge boost (7.5% * 5) just on Luck of the Gambler alone. So I started saving up and buying LoTG with merits long before I ever actually made the Stone Tank as an avatar.

These particular proc boosts are based on the level of the player. If you are over the level of the enhancement, it will activate. If you go any further than three levels below the level of the enhancement, it will cease to proc.


Picking a level based enhancement proc for a certain level is known as Sweet-Spotting. The sweet spot for these level based procs when used against Granite armor is actually level 37. Level 37 is 3 levels higher than 34, which is the level cap for the Katie Hannon Task Force. At level 37 the procs will activate for the lowest level task force that a Stone Armor can use Granite In.

The reason I went with significantly lower level procs is that I had chosen the mace attack set, which is really, really, really slow to recharge. In order to be useful on the Sister Psyche Task Force, which caps at 25, the maximum level I could take for the recharge boost was level 28. I'll talk about the level 29 Gift of the Ancients run speeds later on.



Earths Embrace
: This power works much like Hoarfrost from the Ice tank I made. It's a buff that increases the player's maximum hit points. Hit points matter not just for how much damage you can take, but also because the regeneration rate of an avatar is determined by the number of hit points. The higher the base health, the more hit points one regenerates.


This power is incomplete. I still need to pick up a Numina's Healing / Endurance / Recharge to fill in the last slot. I'm also intending to drop a slot from the next power and put it here, and add in an additional Numina's Endurance / Recharge to boost the recharge speed. This should push the power closer to the ED capped 3minute recharge, and close to permanent outside of Granite armor.



Mud Pots
: Also known as what was I thinking. In my original plan for the build, I had intended to 5-slot all of my pbaoe powers with the Obliteration set. The Oblit is a great set, as it offers several fantastic buffs to damage, recharge, accuracy, and defense. Only... it's got a really, really, really big flaw. Oblits only offer one endurance discount, and it's in the quad-buff enhancement, so it's a really low endurance discount. That's a problem when Mud Pots is almost as endurance hungry as Focussed Accuracy, and there's no endurance recovery option available in the Stone or Mace sets.


My Alternative plan didn't really work either, but I'll get into that when we hit the Mace powers in the attack set.

For now, this slotting is going to change. What I intend to do is drop a slot back to Earths Embrace, two slot Mud Pots with the Cleaving Blow set for the small endurance recovery, and then fill in with two level 50 crafted endurance reduction IO's.



Rooted: This is the Stone armors first anti-mez power. It's also the power that too many stone tanks skip, and I quote, Because It's Too Slow. Rooted carries a high price for it's massive regeneration boost, and that's a dramatic loss in speed.


The Regenerative Tissue set offers an interesting proc, one that can be obtained at level 10, which offers a global regeneration boost. This proc is based on whether or not the power is active, so I put it in Rooted which I would be taking before the Health pool power.

As can be seen, the Regenerative Tissue set offers a 4% base running boost with just 2 procs. Unlike other healing sets, Regenerative Tissue does not offer a straight heal enhancement, so I went with it's maximum level healing / endurance enhancement. While I don't get the run boost in Sister Pysche, I do get it in Moonfire.


In order to press Rooted towards ED, I worked on obtaining the Numina Healing and Numina Healing / Endurance. As can be seen though, I didn't hit the ED cap, staying somewhere just below it.



Crystal Armor
: Okay, here we are back in the actual defense sets. Okay, while my Luck of the Gambler 7.5's stick to level 28 consistently, my Gift of the Ancients sort of meander around from 25 to 28. There's actually a simple reason for this. I wasn't paying attention.

While the 7.5 recharges are really expensive, and rare, the 7.5 run speeds are significantly less so. I paid somewhere around less than 2 million apiece in Wentworths... only... when I realized how cheap they were and that I had just wasted some 1000+ merits buying then from a merit vendor... I wasn't paying attention when I bid thinking something to the effect of I can use these on a friends stone brute when going rouge hits. So I picked up 4 level 29 procs instead of 28's.

The 25 on Granite was actually a drop during a low level TF.



Minerals
: The second most important armor next to Granite. For literal years, the Minerals power was the only Psionic Protection available to tanks. Players wanting to run the Challenge Shadow Shard content desperately needed a Stone with Minerals to handle the Wisps. Now though, with both the Dark Armor and Willpower sets available, too many Stones skip Minerals or don't figure out how to play with it.

Because Minerals was so important to the End Game Challenge content, it was one of the few powers that could almost be soft capped with Single Origin Enhancements after ED hit, and Psionic Defense could actually be soft capped with a pool power.



Granite: According to many Stone Tanks, Granite Armor is the magic bullet. Once you get it, nothing can touch you, you are the best thing there is for taking damage.

Em. Wrong. Yeah, Granite is a good Armor. It does offer a decent amount of defense to a wide range of powers, and some stellar resistance to a wide range of powers. That being said, it doesn't offer complete protection.

Yes, I could drop the defense / endurance enhancements and go with straight defense enhancements... but even if I hit the 58% boost that my ice tank has... my actual defense amount would go from 30.54% ... to 31.6%. I'd only gain 1% defense at best, use up more endurance, and it just didn't make sense.



By the same token, in boosting the resistances, if I dropped a defense power to boost resistance, the most I could get would be 49%~52% on a single slot... which only boost my resistances to 76% at best. Only if I took up 4 slots and hit 58% ED cap could I approach a 79% overall resistance. Yes, that's better than a fire tank. That's a lot better than a fire tank. That's invuln territory. But that means taking lower IO buffs, and loosing out on defense... a lot of defense.

So, for all practical purposes, with only 6 slots, there's no way to make Granite the all-powerful armor. So, I didn't. I went with the best combination of procs, endurance discounts, and boosts I could get that put me into ED.




Attack Sets

Once again, why mace? Well, I had several reasons for taking mace. I knew it was a high damage power-set. I knew that many powers could take Knockback IOs and one of the KB IO sets had a chance for plus recharge and an accuracy / endurance IO... so I could get a nice buff, not increase knockback... Until I actually tried that with a Willpower / Stone Melee build... and found that that the Chance for Recharge + was just that... a chance. It was nothing to rely on for a play build.

I also found out about the 5 Type Limit, where you can only have 5 of the same type of set boosts... regardless of whether or not those boosts came from different enhancement sets. The 5 type Limit is based on the actual buff. So, the 10% regeneration buff on Luck of the Gambler... is the same 10% Regeneration buff on Scirocco's Dervish. In my defenses alone, I already had 5 Luck of the Gambler 7.5's and 5 Luck of the Gambler Defense / Endurance enhancements, so I was capped on 10% regeneration buffs.

So, after rethinking the attack side, this is what I came up with:


Bash: The unskippable power. Every Mace Tank has to take this.


For my enhancements, for this and my next two melee powers, I went with the Crushing Impact set because it offered a recharge boost with 5 slots. In addition, Crushing Impact also offers a maximum health boost, although a small one.

I sweet spotted the IO's at level 44. I would still get the buffs on the Eden Trial, but I would be pushing into ED on the damage.



Pulverize:
Way back on my Ice / Mace I had skipped Pulverize and had taken Jawbreaker, which was a more powerful attack, although a bit slower. I went with pulverize because it was a quicker attack, which mattered more in granite armor.



Clobber
: Another power I skipped on my Ice / Mace... although now I intend to go back and fit it in. The 255 damage count is hard to overlook.



Taunt: A requirement on all tanks. Don't let anybody ever tell you that Tanks don't need taunt... and if you see a tank without taunt, quit the team. Trust me on this, I've got 20+ on Shields, Dark, and Invuln, 45 on Willpower, and 50 on Ice, Fire, and Stone.


For my slotting, I went with Pefect Zinger, which offers a recharge boost for only 4 slots. I've also hit the limit on the 10% recharge boost, so the 3 slot buff does nothing for this build.


PBAOE Attacks

Okay, taking a minute to talk here, since this is where things get really ugly. As mentioned earlier, many of my original plans for the attacks had fallen apart. The Obliteration Set didn't have enough endurance discounts to make slotting up 3 high-endurance powers... worth it. My slotting that I used on my level 50 spines / fire scrapper, which mixed 2 Scirocco's Dervish with 3 Oblits for a regen and damage boost... wasn't a good idea either since I had already capped on 10% regeneration. I'd have 6 slots pretty much offering no IO buffs, and with only a 12% damage boost overall if I had done up mud pots and my 3 mace attacks, I'd still be down on attacks in granite. Then, in order to properly support the heavy endurance drain on Mud - Pots and push my regeneration to practical limits, I was just running out of slots.

Then, I had an opportunity open up in my Epic Power Slots that was too good to pass up, but I needed some slots there.

So, I rethought my goals for the mace powers. I was in a position to completely erase the recharge debuff on my Granite armor. But to do so, I'd only be able to give 4 slots, on average, to each of the 3 PBAOE mace attacks.

So, my goals lined up in this order:
  • Push Damage into ED
  • Accuracy
  • Endurance
  • IO Buffs that would help

This, is what I came up with:

Whirling Mace: The first of the PBAOE's. I was able to push my overall damage to 95%, straight into ED. I also managed 47% on accuracy and endurance. I also wound up with a global boost to Energy / Negative energy defense, and a global recovery boost, albeit it a small one.


I got the buffs by combining a 3 slot Cleaving Blow with a 1 slot Multi-Strike. Ugly, but I had achieved my goals.


Shatter


Clobber:



Pool Powers

So, those are my attack sets. Now, for the pool powers. As before, the pool powers are used to fill in chinks in builds, and in the case of the Stone Tank, push it into the unkillable territory.

Recall Friend: All Stone tanks need to take the Teleport set. While I wish I had more slots for this power, I didn't.



Teleport
: The reason why Stone Armor needs to take teleport is that the anti-mez power Rooted, and the final armor Granite, don't stack with any other travel power. The Leaping and Super Speed travel boosts disable Rooted and Granite on activation. I never tried to take the Fly set with Stone. Stone's that don't take the Teleport power probably don't have a firm grasp over how their armors behave.



My slotting choice for Teleport was the Blessing of the Zephyr set... and not just because it offers some very good defense buffs. It was also because the Winters Gift proc didn't help against the recharge debuff on granite, or the speed decrease on rooted and granite. The KB protection IO also comes in handy when traveling around Paragon.



Swift: I think this is the only time I've double slotted swift on a non-flyer. The base run speed really helps out.



Health
: I often use Health as a platform for the Miracle and Numina procs. As it is an always on power, the buffs are also always on. Limited slotting means that I only have a 79% boost to it's regneration.


While I realize that Miracle +Recovery is expensive in Wentworths, it can be bought with around 240 merits. That's not really out of the range of a player that has done all of the Freedom Phalanx Task Forces.


By the same token, the Numina Proc is expensive if you go out and try to buy it with cash. Run real task forces and just buy it with merits.



Stamina:
One of my opinions in City of Heroes is that the Endurance System needs to be overhauled... completely. Even on archtypes with native endurance recoveries, like Willpower and Regeneration, players will still be feeling the sting of running out of endurance at the worst times. Even if you work on Invention sets that boost your recovery in every power, or increase your base recovery, Stamina never stops looking like a must-have power.



For my slotting I went with a crafted level 50 IO, a Performance Shifter Endurance, and the Performance Shifter Proc for a boost to my travel speeds.


Boxing: To be fair, I have ranted about how useless pool power attacks are. They should only if, and this is a very strong if, they cannot be skipped. While I was able to fit some slots in Boxing on my Ice / Mace for an IO buff, I just didn't have room here.


Tough: A lot of stone tanks will take the stone skin power because it offers smashing / lethal resistance, takes up no endurance, and can be had at an early level. Personally, stone skin is one of the most droppable powers in the stone armor set. Tough also works with granite armor, offers 3 times the amount of base resistance for the same attack types, and that becomes very important during high level play and my slotting choices for Granite.



My slotting choices on Tough consisted of the Aegis set for a run speed boost... and I still need an Aegis Resistance here...


And the Steadfast Protection proc with it's accompanying defense / endurance enhancement to help out with endurance consumption. The Proc is level based and caps at 30, which really is the sweet spot if you are trying to maximize's a power's resistance. While expensive in Wentworths, it's around 125 merits. Run real task forces for this proc.


Weave: I cannot emphasize enough how important Weave is to Defense based tanks. Yes, it's only a 7.9% boost if you cap the amount of defense, which I haven't... but it's very important. Here, once again, I'm using it as a platform for the LoTG and GoTA procs.


Epic Pyre Mastery

On all of my previous tanks, and on my scrapper, I worked very hard towards supporting Focused Accuracy. However, the change to FA a couple issues back rendered most of the slottings of FA next to useless. It doesn't matter how much you slot the To-Hit, the buff is going nowhere, and you still have a metric ton of endurance drain to deal with.

When I got to the higher levels and looked at which Epic Powers made sense, I started looking for ranged attacks that would support the Decimation or Entropic Chaos power sets which offered a recharge boost. I didn't want the Laser Beam Eyes power... just didn't make sense for my avatar... but then I realized I could get a debuff in the pyre mastery set, and slot up the hold, Char, with the Basilisks Gaze hold set... right up until I realized that Basilisks Gaze had a 7.5 recharge boost, which I was capped on, and not the 6.5 recharge boost that other newer buff IO sets had.

While I was trying to figure out what to do on my slotting, I got a purple Hecatomb drop... which... when crafted and sold... gave me enough money for an entire support Purple IO slot.


Ring of Fire: It's an immobilize. Little damage, but that wasn't why I took it.


Gravitational Anchor: I'm not meaning to be rude, but you'll either need to farm for months to buy this set in Wentworths, or get extremely lucky and get a purple drop that sells for over 300,000,000 if you start from Zero Cash. I wasn't starting from Zero, and this is the first time I've used a set of purples... but the recharge boost was just too good to pass up... even though it meant putting off slotting my Fire / TA controller and Willpower / Stone Melee Tank.


Melt Armor: Nobody expects the tank to debuff, and I've been over before... here or on Gamenikki, I forgot, just how bad this power is compared to it's controller cousin.


For slotting I went with Lady Greys Defense Debuff for the recovery and maximum health boosts, and for the sets 3 enhancements with recharges.



The Hard Final Numbers


Alright, so there's how I slotted, and how I intend to change that slotting in the near future. So hows the build actually play?

Well, for starters, with this slotting, I was largely able to tank a Doctor Quarterfield Task Force without using Granite, and no other defense or resists boost. Yes, we did have a Controller with Sonic Buff, but that controller had not taken either shield... a common occurrence among AE leveled players.

At level 47, I was able to drag generals out of the canyon on a level 50 invincible ITF. I went on an STF at 49, before I could slot the purples, and before I had slotted up Health and Rooted with the Numina IOs, I was almost at the point of being able to contain all 4 end AV's without external buffs. I actually should have taken a picture of that, but Cedega doesn't play nicely with screen-shots on ATi cards in full-screen mode.

With this slotting I was able to main tank an Eden Trial without granite... all the way up to the titan... at which point the sheer number of incoming enemies forced me into Granite.

So, I know this slotting works. I know, from a numerical standpoint, it's MoSTF capable. So, what are those numbers? Lets look.

Base Stats W/O Accolades or Armors On

Base


Movement / Damage Resistance


Defense / Debuff Resistance


Status Protection / Status Resistance


Base Stats: Non Granite Armor With Rooted

Base


Movement / Damage Resistance


Defense


Debuff Resist / Status Protection / Status Resist


Endurance Consumption With Mud Pots On
(lower right corner listing)


Base Stats: Granite Armor With Rooted and Mud Pots

Base


Movement / Damage Resistance


Defense


Debuff Resistance / Status Protection / Status Resistance


Base Stats: Granite Armor, Rooted, Mud Pots, Accolades, Earth's Embrace


There we go. My Stone tank build as it is, well, right now.
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