A Mild-Mannered Reporter: In the case of Scrappers

We're in a small lull for City of Heroes at the moment, and truth be told it's well-deserved. After several months of invasions, updates, previews of the upcoming issues and so forth... it's nice to finally have a chance to just lean back and breathe a little bit. Of course, said breathing will involve a fair bit of superpowered antics, but as involved as that might be for the characters, the players don't have to be constantly looking to the future.

So while we technically should be working through the Incarnate System, the odds are better than even that we'll all be rolling alts over the holiday season. We play City of Heroes; alts are in our blood. So in a move that can only have been brought on by an almost criminal overdose of liquor, I've decided to start taking a look at the powersets of the archetypes, starting with the alt-friendly Scrapper. This should be of benefit to those who have never played a Scrapper, including players who are starting the game for the first time and who by definition haven't tried one before.

Scrappers in a nutshell

Snikt snikt bub berserker snikt snikt. Yeah, that's about the size of it.

For those of you who have missed out on one of the most hideously overused characters in comics, Scrappers are all about melee damage. Their primary sets are oriented toward heavy damage once they get into melee range, and their secondaries are oriented toward keeping themselves alive while dealing a little more damage if at all possible. The balance makes Scrappers a good pick for soloing, as the class is pretty self-reliant.

To balance all of that out, however, there's the simple problem of range. Namely, you don't have any of it. You have to be able to get to your target and beat the stuffing out of him with your own two hands or spines or swords or whatever. Some of the APPs and PPPs will give you a smidge of ranged ability, but when someone bolts for the hills, odds are good you'll have to give chase. This makes Combat Jumping a very attractive power for most Scrappers.

In groups, you will be expected to deal damage and possibly act as an off-tank in certain task forces. While it's possible to construct a Scrapper oriented toward tanking, it's far from the norm -- and most of the powersets suited to doing so can be found for Tankers and Brutes alike.

Primary sets

As with most archetypes, there are commonalities among the sets, with every set having a choice between two starting attacks, one slightly stronger and slower, the other faster and weaker. There's also a taunt at level 12 in each set, but as mentioned the odds are good you won't be picking it up unless you have space to spare.

Broad Sword / Katana: These are the exact same powerset. OK, not precisely the same powerset, but the actual powers are nearly identical. The only real difference is that Katanas hit faster and weaker. In every other respect, the sets are functionally identical. You've got a little AoE capability via a cone attack and a point-blank spin attack as well as Build Up and an attack to boost your defense. Tagged with an added effect of defense reduction, these sets are solid -- neither outstanding nor terrible.

Claws: There's no subtlety to clawing up your target, but there is a remarkably low-level area attack and two high-end cone abilities as well as Focus for a slight bit of ranged power. Claw attacks are also pretty economical in terms of recharge and endurance, marred only by the lack of any real secondary effect. It's a solid set, possibly a bit better for groups than a sword-wielding option.

Dark Melee: I hate grouping! I want to be self-sufficient! All right, it's not like Dark Melee has no utility in a group, as Shadow Maul is pretty useful (and duplicated by Sands of Mu!), but it has two other area attacks that are both mostly self-buffs. That being said, Siphon Life and the self-buffs make it ideal for a soloing Scrapper.

Dual Blades: This is a rough set to judge, since a lot of its strength comes from combo attacks. You have four different combo attacks based on the set of powers you use in sequence, along with the powers themselves to consider. The set has some great variety and (speaking personally) is a lot of fun to play, but juggling combo attacks means you don't always have a lot of power right where you need it. That being said, the Vital Strike and Sweep combos do not use any of the same powers and give you an area DoT plus knockdown, so it's worth considering.

Electrical Melee: I love grouping! I want to be a living bomb! A longstanding favorite for farming Scrappers, this set has several area powers as well as the charmingly dangerous Chain Induction to keep damaging everything when your AoEs are on cooldown. Also, you can use Lightning Rod to close distance if needed, keeping you mobile and dangerous.

Fiery Melee: There's nothing terribly special about this set outside of what you'd expect: it deals damage, it has an AoE and a power with which you set people on fire. It's the sort of thing you pick as a thematically appropriate set for a character, not because it has some special function.

Kinetic Melee: Power Siphon is the marquee ability of this set, but since it's not a toggle, it winds up not being quite the showstopper you might expect. However, you do get two almost-ranged abilities in Repulsing Torrent and Focused Burst, both of which can stop runners or help close the distance. And Power Siphon is pretty cool while it's running. The set isn't perfect, but it's a fun ride.

Martial Arts: See also Fiery Melee, with extra points for animations and more Disorient effects. Functionally, it's a thematic set.

Spines: I love grouping! I want to be a living bomb! And we're living in a time before Issue 16! Spines is notable for having a constant passive AoE damage toggle as well as a very early area burst, making it a fine powerset for players who want to group up and slaughter large enemy crowds with impunity. Functionally, it occupies a very similar niche to Electrical Melee, although that niche has been a bit more compromised since the proliferation of the aforementioned set.

Secondary sets

As mentioned, the Scrapper secondaries are generally defensive in nature. Most start out with a group of Resistance toggles and a minor AoE toggle, but there are exceptions. It's better to highlight the elements that are going to be most interesting to a Scrapper.

Dark Armor: Eh. In theory I like the idea of making a Scrapper a mobile mini-Controller through toggled powers, but in reality there are actual Controllers who do the job better and with more panache -- and with powers more potent than Oppressive Gloom or Cloak of Fear. It's a neat set, but lacks a strong focus or a good argument in its favor.

Electric Armor: Another set best taken for thematic reasons. Lightning Reflexes is a nice bonus, but the fact is that the functions of Energize and Power Sink are better served in other sets, and most of the other abilities are just straight resistance buffs. It's not bad, just nothing spectacular.

Fiery Aura: Not so bad as a general-purpose secondary. You have some damage options, some recovery options, a minor endurance buff, and a self-rez. The main weaknesses are simply the lack of a strong focus and the fact that it's best coupled with the middle-of-the-road Fiery Melee. But there's certainly nothing wrong with it.

Invulnerability: Lackluster as a Scrapper, since the powers are all strictly passive defenses that have been hit reasonably hard with the nerfbat over the years. You're more vulnerable than the name might imply, and there are better options if you want to be hard to kill when solo.

Regeneration: I hate grouping! I want to be my own healer! Regeneration is pretty weak in a group, as its only real buff is via Quick Recovery -- but that more-or-less limited font of Endurance does give you a lot of options. Solo, it makes you exceedingly hard to kill, with a lot of reactive heals and some minor resistance buffs. A great choice for solo players or alts who might not get much group time.

Shield Defense: This powerset has kind of evolved into being a preferred set for grouping Scrappers for two reasons. One, while it isn't compatible with several sets, it is compatible with the AoE-heavy Electrical Melee and Spines. Two, it has some very damage-oriented powers, including the range-closing Shield Charge. If you're looking for the "best" set for grouping, this is probably it.

Super Reflexes: There's nothing offensive in it, yet this set is not a bad choice by any means, because it's unique. Unlike other sets that boost resistance, this boosts defense, meaning that you suddenly find yourself surrounded by enemies that can't touch you. As a result, you can wade through an awful lot of damage without worrying, even though you won't stand out in the same ways as other sets.

Willpower: A bit more group-friendly than Regeneration in that you have fewer heals but more options for resisting damage while retaining Quick Recovery. Rise to the Challenge is also a nice buff solo or in groups. If you're willing to take a little less healing in exchange for a little more active defense, this is a fine pick.

As for me...

I like Scrappers. My first character in the game was a Scrapper, and though that character has long since been banished to the land of wind and ghosts, the affection remains. It's a flexible archetype, and while there are "optimal" builds (EM/SD, for instance), choosing something sub-optimal isn't going to result in a massive disadvantage until you start comparing yourself line-by-line to the more dangerous examples of the archetype.

That being said, you do sometimes feel a little less vital in groups compared to the Blasters and Corruptors raining death at range. But you can always go solo an Elite Boss to make yourself feel better.

Next week, it's time to return to the Mission Architect pool with some new arcs and my thoughts on same. (Incidentally, if you've submitted an arc that was featured last time, I'm curious to know if it's been getting any more runs of late.) As always, thoughts can be shared via comments or mail to eliot@massively.com.

By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre unveils his secret identity in Paragon City and the Rogue Isles every Wednesday. Filled with all the news that's fit to analyze and all the muck that's fit to rake, this look at City of Heroes analyzes everything from the game's connection to its four-color roots to the latest changes in the game's mechanics.

This article was originally published on Massively.