Warning: This week's Behind the Mask column contains a spoilers for the plot of Vibora Bay, Champions Online's endgame zone.

After completing the Vibora Bay Crisis, you realize you've got a lot of work cut out for you. That sexy minx Valerian seduced you into playing into her hands, and you royally screwed up. Now it's time to get down to business, undo all the mess you made and make things right.

At the end of all the plots and careful unraveling of Therakiel's well-laid plans, there's still the big bad fallen angel himself. He's no pushover, and he still has the support of Vibora's gangs.

You've done all of Caliburn's errand-boy work so he can save the day -- better make sure he doesn't screw it up.

Therakiel's Temple is bar-none the hardest lair in the game. I must confess my lack of experience here; I have never done this lair on any difficulty except Elite. This mostly means that a lot of the difficult situations I talk about below will be dramatically easier on lower difficulty settings. Still, even without the Elite buff, I'm sure TT is pretty hard.

This week we'll be covering the run to the boss fights and some of the trash mechanics. Therakiel's Temple is a long and involved lair, and the mechanics are very different and quite fun.

The big rude awakening for me

The first time I rolled into TT, I was tanking, and I didn't really expect anything special. My tank is pretty much indestructible. I've talked a lot about the crazy things I've tanked on her, including multiple 5-man SL spawns, multiple Mega-D Overseers in Resistance, and solo Teliosaurus. When I waltzed into TT, I thought to myself, "I can take the prisoner room in Nemcon solo; I'll be just fine."

I was a bit surprised when my lifebar started moving. In fact, I nearly died in the first multiple-spawn pull and would have if not for Masterful Dodge. The last time I did TT (right before writing this article), I faceplanted three or four times in the first 15 minutes of the lair before I got used to things again.

Therakiel's trash mobs are the most dangerous in the game, period. A single Enforcer of any kind can seriously hurt even the toughest of heroes, and the large spawn pulls that generally happen can lead to wipes very quickly. Your overall strategy for dealing with this depends a lot on your team composition.

If you have the typical tank + healer with extras, a lot of your fights will depend on how well your tank + healer team can handle multiple Enforcers and small spawns. This can be determined pretty early on; if your team is not quite up to the task, be very careful and pull single spawns whenever possible by using a 100-foot single-target ranged power to pull enemies around a corner. TT will take a long time, but believe me, you'll be a lot safer. Your tank will need to block a lot, so a team of hybrids is better suited since the hybrids will almost certainly pull aggro.

If you have a lot of hybrids (that is, survivable DPS; see here for more details), you will want your hybrids to peel off the Enforcers with concentrated ST damage while your tank handles the rest of the aggro. This can be hard on your healer or on your hybrids, depending on how good they are.

Any other DPS heroes should focus on the Enforcers first. Although the small trash mobs can be a concern, the nature of multi-stacked IDF teams means that Villains and below aren't really dangerous.

Is it bad to assume Inertial Dampening Field in a TT team? I've been on quite a few TT teams post-F2P launch, and I've never been on a team that didn't have at least a second IDF (mine plus someone else's). Almost all of the teams I've been on have had three. A few have had more. Even a single IDF makes henchmen non-threats to your tank or hybrid hero.

Either way, it's very important that those Enforcers get spread to multiple characters who are self-sufficient. Skillful use of Active Defenses is incredibly valuable too; don't be afraid to use them as often as possible. Even if you're not a tank, keep some of the basic tanking principles in mind when you peel the Enforcers off.

And lastly, if you're a healer, be alert and aware at all times. The trash mob fights are extremely taxing on healer attention. In most encounters, healers can afford to DPS most of the time. TT is not a place where this is possible. Stay focused and ready to drop heals; TT is the most important time to have a support hero.

A light, a mirror, and an evil eye

This is the most tricky and unintuitive part of the lair for newcomers. At the start of the lair, you will want to pick up a Divine Mirror from Caliburn; slot it in your device tray and make sure it's somewhere that is easily accessible. You need to be able to activate the mirror reflexively for a boss fight later, and it makes the puzzles go faster.

Your goal with the mirror is to use light pillars (shown on the left) to empower a hero with the ability to deflect eye beams from Statues of Therakiel back at the statue, thus destroying it. In order to do this, one hero must stand in the light pillar, activate his mirror, and select an ally within 50 feet and line-of-sight. The light will jump to that hero, who must then activate his mirror and shine light on another ally, until you get an ally close enough to a Statue of Therakiel. Then, that ally shines his light on the statue with the mirror; if everyone does it right, the statue will be destroyed and you'll be able to progress.

Not all statues need to be destroyed (only some of them actually obstruct your path), but they do a lot of damage if you're fighting near them. I like destroying all of them anyway because Therakiel is a jerk, but most of the time, my teammates don't cooperate (because they actually want to get the lair done).

This puzzle is repeated a lot and in a lot of different ways; you'll need to split your team in some cases to get light to shine in the right places. However, if you're too lazy, a party member can just destroy the statues by being in melee range and blocking with Parry (make sure your team turns off IDF to speed things up). This is probably an exploit.

Dark and light; luminescence and shadow

The next fun light puzzle in TT involves buffs -- specifically, Heavenly Light and Infernal Radiance. You get Heavenly Light by standing in the gold aura of an angel statue and Infernal Radiance from standing in the purple aura of a demon statue. Each aura is pretty obvious; Heavenly Light is gold and Infernal Radiance is purple.

It gets more complicated, though: If you have the light buff, you cannot pass through angel auras. Likewise, if you have the dark buff, you cannot pass through demon auras. Finally, if you have the light buff and pass through a demon aura, you'll lose the light buff but won't get the dark buff. Predictably, the same is true in reverse: Passing through an angel statue with a dark buff cancels the dark buff and leaves you neutral.

This leads to some wild situations in which you have the dark buff, but need to pass through two demon statues, so you need to backtrack, find an angel statue, and get the light buff. Some puzzles involve shining a light from a part of the lair that is impassible due to statue auras through the auras to other party members, who then destroy the statue so everyone can advance. Unfortunately, the elegance of some of this is skewed by the Parry exploit, but it's fun to do it the "real way" even after repeated runs of the lair.

That's all we have time for this week -- stay tuned for next week and we'll tackle TT's boss fights!

When he's not touring the streets of Millennium City or rolling mooks in Vibora Bay, Patrick Mackey goes Behind the Mask to bring you the nitty-gritty of the superhero world every Thursday. Whether it's expert analysis of Champions Online's game mechanics or his chronicled hatred of roleplaying vampires, Patrick holds nothing back.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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