If there's one thing that's always bothered me about the archetypes in City of Heroes -- the vanilla game, that is -- it's that none of them has a name that's particularly evocative, even though there are tons of examples that each archetype can draw upon. Today's archetype is a perfect example, one that covers Superman, Colossus, Giant-Man, Captain Marvel, even certain incarnations of more variable characters like Iron Man. But the name "Tanker" fails to conjure up images of anything beyond a dry recitation of party roles.

Yes, this week we're discussing the third of four melee-heavy archetypes with the Tanker, as was hinted at the end of the last column. It's also the archetype closest to its two predecessors, coming with almost identical power selections in a slightly different order. But the Tanker's powers get prioritized in a very different way, so whether you're new to the game or just the class, let's take a look at how to make your Tanker as tanky as possible.

Tankers in a nutshell

The role of tanks has always had a certain bit of disconnect in fantasy games -- after all, very few fantastic adventures involve arguments over who should be taking damage and who should be healing -- but in the superheroic milieu it's a pretty established role. Almost every team has a member whose role seems to be to stand out in front and get hit in the face by a fist or missile or 747 in a nose dive then shrug off the damage aside from the tattered remnants of a costume. And that's the Tanker right there, the guy who gives the "bullets don't hurt me" speech right before the neighborhood mooks start filling the air with bullets.

Needless to say, Tankers tank. Not in the same fashion as Brutes, who manage to tank quite well while doing damage. Tankers are geared from the start to work as tanks, to present an immovable object to any and all irresistable forces. Their passive ability is even geared specifically toward tanking; all outgoing damage provides them extra threat and inspires enemies to target them first. But first and foremost, a Tanker is hard to kill, hence the fact that defensive powersets come first in selection and allow players to get more Resistance as a Tanker than anyone else.

Like other melee archetypes, Tankers have to live with a decided dearth of ranged attacks. There's also the simple fact that Tankers aren't quite as flashy as Scrappers or Blasters, since the class gets defensive powers early on but takes time to assemble any damage powers. Your reward for playing a Tanker well, of course, is that you're going to be more tanktacular than even a Brute, without that always-emptying Fury bar to harsh your buzz.

Primary sets

The primary sets for Tankers mostly cover the secondary sets of Brutes, Stalkers, and Scrappers. However, the sets have a very different role to play for the endurance-oriented Tanker, so they merit some different discussion.

Dark Armor: I was a bit ho-hum about this set for Scrappers, but it's better for Tankers. You mix in some Defense along with Resistance, and you get some Resistance to Psionic, which matters a lot. It still doesn't light me on fire, but that's because there's a different set for that.

Electric Armor: Still not a set I'm really thrilled about, especially since Power Surge feels like it's asking to get dropped if the fight lasts a moment too long. However, the set definitely has its fans, and it's not bad by any means. (There aren't many real loser sets out there.)

Fiery Aura: This set does light me on fire. Literally. It's not really a thematic set for Tankers, though, since you're essentially going full-on offense. Pairing it with Fiery Melee and going for a burn approach, if you'll pardon the pun, could work out.

Ice Armor: Defense, Resistance, a health buff, some damage ability, and a nice spreading of slow effects all around. This set is unique to Tankers, and it's pretty darn solid for what it is. The cost from running too many toggles is definitely worth considering, however.

Invulnerability: Remember all that stuff I'd said before about Invulnerability being a bit weaker for damage-oriented archetypes because it's all about survival? Yeah, you see where this is going.

Shield Defense: A great set for area farming, but also a pretty solid set for tanking as well. A fair bit of both Defense and Resistance is good, and there's a lot of nice area abilities, though you miss out on any sort of passive AoE damage.

Stone Armor, Willpower: Both pretty much covered from the Brute side -- Willpower is a bit weaker for Tankers and Stone Armor is a fair bit better, but they're solid sets that should serve well.

Secondary sets

Tankers get into the actual melee damage with the secondary sets available to them, most of which are functionally identical to Brute sets, albeit with slightly more focus on the tanking side of things. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and say that the Brute's take on these sets pretty much covers everything... except for the Tanker-specific set.

Battle Axe, Dark Melee, Dual Blades, Electrical Melee, Energy Melee, Fiery Melee, Kinetic Melee, Stone Melee, Super Strength, War Mace: Yes, pretty much the same as in the Brute lineup, except that you can replace "if tanking" with "when tanking." Stone Melee does get extra points for synergy with Stone Armor as a great tanking set.

Ice Melee: If this set had some stronger area damage to help you keep threat, it would be awesome, because it's loaded to the gills with slow effects that help mitigate incoming damage nicely. As it stands, the set is solid without being overpowered. You'll have to taunt and tab around a bit more, but that Recharge debuff keeps enemies from hitting you too rapidly.

As for me...

I've always really wanted to like Tankers a lot more than I do. There's nothing wrong with them, and I honestly think it's just the early grind -- the first 20 levels see you getting a bunch of defensive toggles but not much to actually do other than take hits. It's not until later levels that you start getting a lot of options, and by that point I have to admit I've usually lost interest.

But I still want to like Tankers a whole lot, because they're just plain fun. No other option can be quite as durable, not even a Dark Melee/Regeneration Scrapper. There's something awesome about being able to chain-pull packs of enemies in a mission without ever glancing at your health, because you're just plain untouchable. If you don't feel enough like a superhero, roll one up and start tanking your heart out. There's nothing like being an immovable object.

Feel free to let me know your own thoughts on the archetype in the comments or via mail to eliot@massively.com like always. Since we've moved away from a couple of my more frequently played archetypes to one that I'm a bit less of an expert on, I'm eager to hear what people think. (Of course, that's implying there's a time when I'm not.)

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.
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