Wednesday, September 02, 2009

CoH: How I would "fix" Dark Armor and Fire Aura

This is more or less based on a half rant I posted in the CoH forums. After having tested my own electrical armor tank, and talked with other elec armor scrappers and tanks, I became rather incensed over the addition of the power to the Hero Archtypes. The reason for my anger is that in actual play, the Electric Armor was as good as the mixed defense / resist armors. A couple of Elec Armor tanks that had leveled to 50 stated that they were able to survive on the Cimeroran Wall (a location in Cimerora with multiple mobs of 50+ enemy critters) without having to utilize either the Tough or Weave pool powers. As I compared the new electrical armor powers to the existing dark armor and fire aura power sets, my own anger grew, culminating in a rant that Fire was censored when compared to electric. After having a few days to settle down and ponder the matter, I think I know exactly what ticks me off about the addition of electrical armor, and I think I know why it's clearly heads and shoulders above the other resist sets available for tanks. When Floyd Grubb talked about the addition of electrical armor, this is what he said:
The original plan was just to proliferate Electric Armor and to use this opportunity to make some survivability adjustments to the set at the same time
Survivability. That's what set Electric Armor apart from Fire or Dark.

So, with the idea of survivability in mind... exactly what would I do to fix the errors that I see in the Fire Aura and Dark Armor sets?

Well, lets first of all define what those errors are.
For Dark, my issues with the set are the inclusion of Cloak of Darkness and Cloak of Fear. Cloak of Darkness includes a +stealth component coupled with a minor defense. However, it doesn't do a thing to drop a Tank's threat level, which when coupled with the inherent gauntlet, leaves it one of the most pointless stealth powers in the game. Even worse, Cloak of Darkness often interferes with aggro control, and it's not uncommon for other players to be able to strip aggro away from my dark tanks.

Cloak of Fear contains a minor fear and it's supposed to leave enemies standing helpless. Only... it doesn't actually work. In my own actual play, Cloak of Fear worked fine on stuff that conned at a higher level. When fighting equal levels, enemies were more likely to take off running than stand still and cower. The larger problem is that Cloak of Fear's method of operation allows feared enemies to attack if attacked... and as a dark tank, it's a safe bet that the aoe damage Death Shroud is running at all times to help maintain aggro. Thematically then, the dark powers, when ported from the scrapper set with no changes, resulted in one of the worst aggro holding sets in the game. I've made the direct comment that whoever ported the power over gave no actual thought to making Dark a tanking power set.
For Fire Aura, the problems are a bit older in nature.
Before Issue 5 and Enhancement Diversification hit, Fire Aura was considered to be one of the best tanking sets available. In addition to having massive damage output on it's own, Fire Auras could get really high resists to a wider range of powers by maximum slotting their resist powers. When Enhancement Diversification hit though, the Fire Aura resists were never rebalanced against the new power caps. The result was a tanking set that had no native defenses and primary damage resist levels on par with Invuln armor Scrappers. As I see it, in over 10 issues, none of the development staff appear to have taken an in-depth look at the Fire Aura power set... even when porting the Aura to scrappers. It really seems that somebody keeps declining to actually look at what the power set accomplished... or didn't accomplish.

The specific problems with Fire Aura pretty much are as follows:.

The Burn power had a +fear attached, one of the highest fear causing powers in the game. To put this in perspective, my Illusion controller's Spectral Terror pet has a terrorize of magnitude 3. The Cloak of Fear on my dark tanks has a terrorize magnitude of 2. My Mastermind with Dark Miasma has Fearsome Stare which generates a terrorize of magnitude 3. On both my Fire Aura Tank, and Fire Aura Scrapper, burn carries a terrorize magnitude of 50. When the change was made, the addition of such a massive amount of fear to the power was intended to force Fire Aura Tanks to play with controllers who could keep enemies from running away. In practical play though, burn rapidly turned into a power that just about every fire tank said skip. As a power, burn interfered with aggro control, and even if you had a controller that could keep bosses locked down, such did little good against Giant Monster or AV class opponents.

Burn isn't the only issue Fire Aura has. There's also the temperature protection power, which boosts resistance to fire and cold damage. As I showed over on Gamenikki, the power brings almost nothing to a properly slotted fire tank or fire scrapper.

The final issue with Fire Aura isn't actually an issue. I love fiery embrace... but unless the player also takes fire melee, it's almost pointless. Fiery Embrace can basically be described as a build up that lacks the to-hit buff, uses more endurance, takes longer to recharge, and can't be slotted with any IO's. When making my Spines / Fire scrapper I just couldn't justify fitting Fiery Embrace into the build. When I did my archery / fire blaster though, I had no problems justifying both Aim and Build Up.

Okay, if you've been reading me for any length of time, you've probably heard most of this before, and what you really want to know is... what exactly would I do to fix what I see as problems? Well, everytime I've brought up the subject before, I've danced around the topic suggesting that certain powers need to be junked and replaced entirely. I'm not so sure that's an answer though. I think I can suggest fixes to the issues with Dark Armor and Fire Aura while staying true to the themes of each.

To fix Dark Tanks, this is what I would do.
I would drop the +stealth on Cloak of Darkness, boost the base defense rating to 10%, and add a defense debuff resistance of about 20% with the power text something along the lines of this: you wrap yourself in the shadows of darkness, leaving enemies puzzled as to where you are. When slotting the new Cloak of Darkness into ED this would give Dark Armor around 15% to 17% native defense, about on par with what a badly slotted invuln scrapper can manage in a mob.

I would drop the +fearon Cloak of Fear and boost the To Hit debuff to around 15% base, changing the power text to something along the lines of: Shadow Upon Shadow, Distraction upon Distraction. This Power causes enemies to wonder where they are aiming. Thematically, the new power, Cloak of Shadows, stays in the realm of Dark Armor. In realistic gameplay, a stronger defense coupled with a stronger to-hit should enable dark armors to spend more time in a fight. In addition, the status effects that serve the scrapper archtype well, but interfere with the job of a tank, are done away with.

One of the changes I'm not suggesting is raising the resist values. The problems with Dark armor are generally caused by status effects that interupt their ability to contain a mob. With a mob contained, even at level 20, my own darks were able to heal for 1000+ hit points off as little as 4 different enemies. I've had the pleasure of watching level 50 dark tanks top off heals for 3k+. The Dark Armor's propensity for taking more damage with lower resists is also mitigated with a higher native defense and a higher native to-hit debuff.
To fixFire Tanks, this is what I would do.
Dropthe fear on burn. Just get rid of it entirely. Rather, standardize burn with other fire abilities such as bonfire. Add in a minor stacking knockback effect. The idea is to baseline the knockback against a con-white minion as it approaches 50% health.

Now since I'm not in possession of a temp power to check enemy base specs, I'm having to do this off the cuff. My fire tank;s Greater Fire Sword can remove about half the health of a con-white scientist in PI with damage values of -131 / -91. The -131 / -91 50% health values seemed to be fairly consistent across minions from Malta, Nemesis, and Carnival of Shadow. So, I can extrapolate that the average minion health is somewhere around 450 hp. (131+91 = 222 * 2 = 444).

At level 50, burn does 51 ticks of 3.34 damage for 10 seconds, for an average n-boosted total damage of around 166 points. With the damage approaching ED that would be about 320 points of damage (166*2 = 332 :: 95% ~ 320).With rough estimation, this means that a con-white minion would be approaching 50% damage around the 37th tick or so of damage. (320 / 51 ~ 6 :: 225 / 6 ~ 37.5) The idea is that as the damage approaches the 220 damage mark, the knockback amount builds up and flings the minion away. As NPC's continue to remain in Burn, the knockback amount continues to build up, till lieutenants, then bosses, get kicked away.

This modification fits into the themes of the other fire powers on other archtypes. Also, as the mez effect is a knockback, gauntlet and aggro aren't actively interfered with. Fire Tanks can once again bring the burn power toaffect against larger mobs while gaining a bit of useful mitigation.

The second change I would make is to Temperature Protection. I'd boost the speed resist values to be on par with the Electrical Armor Resists, and boost the Cold resist, while dropping the Fire Resist Values. I'm thinking 15% Fire Resist, 15% Cold Resist, 40% speed resists.

This is followed up by a change to power that actually works alright as is, Healing Flames. One of the advantages Electrical Armor carries is that it's new Energize Power contains a regeneration boost that can put it's regen rate in the territory of the Willpower and Stone sets.

What I would do is halve the amount of Regeneration afforded to Fire Aura, and halve the amount of Endurance discount, and disable stacking. This would give Fire Tanks a 50% Regeneration rate boost and a 20% endurance iscount everytime Healing Flame's ticks off. As is now on my Fire Tank, I'm often put between the choice of staying alive, or taunting, and that's after over a billion in influence spent on IO sets.

The thematic idea is that coupled with the extra resistance to slows, Fire Tanks are in a better position to get their attacks off on a regular basis. Electric Armor still retains it's destinctive advantage of a power set with better endurance management, a higher possible in-fight regeneration value, and native speedups. The final change I would make is to bring Fire Armor resists up to part with Electrical Resists at 35% base resistance. There's no real thematic idea here other than that the base resists should have been raised when Fire Aura was ported to scrappers.
Fire Scrappers (and Brutes) a bit harder to... fix.
To use the dark armor set as a comparison, one of the problems is that thematically many of the status effects for Dark Scrappers work on scrappers since they buy time to do damage, then get out of the way. With Fire Scrappers, I'm not exactly sure if the massive magnitude of fear on burn is actually that bad of an idea. Thematically, most of the scrapper armors have an I'm in Trouble Tier 9 power. The Tier 9 Fire Aura scrapper power is Rise of The Phoenix which is more of a "I got over my head again" power.

While converting the fear on burn to a stacking knockback would fit thematically with the rest of the fire power-sets, would it really fit the scrapper theme? I think I would go ahead with the change anyways. However, I'd do an inverse of what normally is done when comparing Scrapper / Brute armors to Tank armors.

Traditionally, each Scrapper / Brute effect is down 30% compared to a tank equivelent. For the Scrapper / Brute burn I'd raise the knockback stacking rate. Again, basing this against the level 50 numbers from earlier, I determined that the knockback stacking should overcome a con-white minion around the 37th damage tick. For Scrappers, I'd take about 30% off that number, so that minions would fly off around the 24th damage tick.

The second change I would make is to increase the base resists from 22.5% to 27.5%. Like the change on Fire Aura for tanks, this is a boost of 5% and brings the resistances up in line with other resistance armor types.

The third change I would make is to modify Healing Flames again. For scrappers, I would give them values 30% under that of the Fire Tank variant. So where a Tank would have a 50% Regen Increase and a 20% endurance discount, a scrapper would have a 33% regen boost and a 13% endurance discount. As brutes have a higher HP cap, there would be a slight difference here as I'd give them a 25% Regen boost and a 10% Endurance discount.

The final change would once again be to Temperature Protection, bringing the fire and cold resists to 10% each, and boosting the resists to 30%.
Thematically, I think each of the suggest changes better fits the avatar's purpose. At the same time, while the sets are buffed, they aren't buffed to the point of clearly being better than another particular set. The fire Aura set retains it's ability to deal out more damage than other armor sets, but on tanks, it's no longer a distant second cousin with scrapper resist values. For Tanks, Dark armor becomes a set that can hold aggro, while still acting as a status effect AOE platform.