There are quite a few controversial powers in Champions Online, such as Inertial Dampening Field or Dragon's Wrath, but there are no more controversial mechanics in CO than the Enrage and Focus mechanics. Both of these buffs provide tremendous bonuses to offense for very little opportunity cost. Focus provides a damage bonus to melee attacks which scales with DEX, while Enrage provides a damage bonus to all attacks which scales with STR.

Focus is often scrutinized more heavily than Enrage, simply because DEX is a better stat than STR. However, because Enrage can be applied to ranged attacks, it has more potential for abuse. Focus is limited to melee attacks -- although some builds use ranged attacks to build Focus with Form of the Tempest, these builds inevitably close distance and strike with Dragon's Wrath, Dragon's Claws, or Ego Blade Breach.

This week, we're going to look at Enrage -- ways to build and maintain it, and ideal ways to use it.

Strength is bad, but....

I've mentioned many times that Strength is a bad stat. It was nerfed even further in the most recent patch on Live; ranged knockback strength is now associated with Ego, rather than Strength. Even before this relatively minor nerf, STR was the red-headed stepchild of stats, only outdone in worthlessness by EGO. Only strange PvP knockback builds that relied on falling damage really wanted STR for its own benefit; other builds preferred other stats, like INT, CON, or PRE that actually do useful things.

Enrage changes all this, and many builds have desired STR just to boost the power of Enrage. In fact, it's the most common reason to stat STR. This is simply because Enrage (and Focus) are that powerful. A fully enraged character gains over 100% more bonus damage if his STR is high enough. That's over double the damage bonus of a Rank 1 offensive passive.

Because Enrage is such an explosive damage bonus, it's very popular. Enrage also scales with CON, but in a different way; CON increases the duration of Enrage, allowing characters to go longer without using Enrage-maintaining attacks. It also lets certain tricks occur, like permanently maintaining the Enrage buff without using Enrage attacks. As I've said in many previous articles, CON is ridiculously good. I recommend statting it on every character, even if it is not a superstat. Of all of my characters, over half are super CON.

Getting and maintaining Enrage

In order to get the most out of Enrage, you'll want to charge up your Enrage stacks to 8 as soon as possible. If you have the Defiance passive, one of the easiest ways to get a few stacks is to use the Enrage power. It gives you one stack of Enrage, plus another for every two stacks of Defiance you have. You do need to build stacks of Defiance up, so it may take 6-12 seconds of combat (depending on your rank of Defiance) before your hero has built enough up to get the maximum benefit. The Enrage power also works great as a between-battles maintenance power, since it's a self-buff and can be fired without a target.

Roomsweeper
is considered by many to be the perennial Enrage builder. It deals a moderate amount of melee crushing damage and knocks enemies away. It has a very large chance to Enrage you, especially if it hits multiple enemies. In fact, it can grant up to five stacks of Enrage if it hits a full load of enemies. The downside to Roomsweeper is that it scatters mobs everywhere. Most allies will hate you if you use it in teams. I don't recommend it except in PvP builds, but it's very popular and most Might players use it. A good alternative is Havoc Stomp, which builds less Enrage but does much more more damage. It also knocks up rather than back, unless it's fully charged.

A more sensible choice for Enrage building is Cleave. Each swing of Cleave gives a 25% chance to build Enrage, while the third chop gives a 50% chance to add a stack. This is furthered even more because Cleave's chance to build Enrage is doubled if it hits a Disoriented target. You can really play up on this chance by using fast powers that apply Disorient. The most popular is Brimstone, but Pillar of Poz and Ego Sleep also provide fast, guaranteed ways to get guaranteed Disorient (Brimstone is only 50%).

Skewer is another Heavy Weapons trick that builds and maintains Enrage well. It builds Enrage if fully charged. If it only hits one enemy, it merely maintains your Enrage stacks, but it has a relatively quick 1.5 second animation when fully charged. It's not as good as Cleave overall at building stacks of Enrage, but it doesn't require Disorient, which can make a big difference.

Another power that I feel is worth mentioning is Clobber. The Might energy builder is one of the weakest overall; it has no bonus effect by default. The Onslaught advantage changes this, though, giving Clobber a 10% chance to maintain Enrage on each hit. 10% seems low, but if you have a 30 second Enrage and do 10 energy builder hits during those 30 seconds, you have over 66% chance to maintain Enrage. With 20 hits, that chance is 87%. Because each attack only takes 1/3 of a second, and most characters will be using their energy builder a bit anyway, this chance to maintain really adds up. It's worth noting that Onslaught used to be bugged, but it was fixed in a recent patch.

One of the most effective ways of building Enrage quickly is the Unbreakable active defense. Unbreakable grants a stack of Enrage every time its user is struck while the defense is active. This can quickly generate a full load of Enrage in PvE when surrounded by mobs. I often use Unbreakable right at the start of a battle just to get Enrage, instead of waiting until I need a breather. This strategy can be dangerous, since it triggers my Active Defense cooldown, but...

If you're only looking to maintain Enrage, Eruption is a good choice. It maintains Enrage simply by hitting your opponent. It's probably one of the best Enrage maintenance tools. Howl is also a great power for maintaining Enrage, as it can be used outside of combat.

Although there are quite a few other options, most of them are inferior to the Might and Heavy Weapons options (with the exception of Howl and Unbreakable).

Taking advantage of the rage

It's pretty easy to take advantage of Enrage. Just pick powers that deal damage! In all seriousness though, Enrage's damage buff is so huge that you can do some crazy things with it.
  • Imbue: Because you're likely to have high CON, you can mix Imbue with Enrage for some truly monstrous crits.
  • Aggressor: The damage bonus from Aggressor multiplies on Enrage. It practically begs to be used with powers like Havoc Stomp and Eruption. Other forms, like Aspect of the Bestial, work great with Enrage, too.
  • Bestial Fury: You can use this to bleed your opponent, then Bite them to maintain Enrage. While you're Enraged, Bestial Fury's bleed chance increases, allowing you to spam Bites for more damage. You can use another Enrage attack to start the loop or build more stacks of Enrage.
  • Aura of Primal Majesty: Anything that raises STR and CON must be great for Enrage, and AoPM raises them greatly. It also benefits raging teammates, so even if you're not focused on Enrage, you can benefit allies who are.
  • Although Imbue works great with STR/CON builds, any sort of crits multiply on Enrage as well. Weird STR/EGO builds (very possible with the most recent patch) can crit pretty explosively.
Enrage is a ridiculously powerful tool. Take Cleave on a level 1 character and you'll see what I mean; at higher levels it's easy to maintain Enrage and feel completely godly.

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.
Ask Massively: Early access pre-order hooray edition