Behind the Mask: Mind over matter

Champions Online
I have been hounded a bit lately for more coverage on the free aspects of Champions Online and the options available to free players. Fortunately, even before I wrote last week's article on the penultimate freeform tank, I was planning to cover the Mind archetype next.

The Mind is the Silver answer to a dedicated support character, and it is perhaps by accident that she is also the most interesting and powerful archetype in the game. She combines team support, healing, survivability, DPS, and self-sustainability into one neat package that is literally unrivaled by any other archetype, free or otherwise.

Unlike other archetypes, the Mind is too complex to be summarized by one article. She's an exceptionally varied creature with many options. Because the essential advantages in her build are pretty loose, she can get all of her key powers with a minimum of sacrifice. Hit the jump and I'll show you how playing the Mind is more like playing a freeform character and less like playing an archetype.

The Red Eyes of Madness

The Mind has a unique combination of synergies that I think are rather unexpected in an archetype. In fact, the syngergies are so unusual that I am almost certain they are accidental. She combines: In short, she combines numerous elements of solid freeform builds. Even as a Gold member, you're probably better off to pick her over a clunky freeform build. Additionally, you can take her build as a freeform template. For instance, by replacing the Mind's energy builder with Radiance and picking Celestial Conduit and Illumination early (dropping Ego Blast and the heal from the build), you can switch the Mind to using Celestial heals instead of Telepathy ones. From there, you can easily stick with the rest of the build and have a top-notch character with only a few tweaks.

In order to better show just how ridiculously good the Mind's build is, I want to contrast her with the Specialist, a Gold archetype that costs C-Store points. The Specialist has similar DPS, but because the Mind's damage is passive, she can block or heal while dealing her damage. The Specialist is nowhere near as survivable, lacking the critical Bountiful Chi Resurgence that is needed to make Lightning Reflexes good. The Mind also has crowd controls and team support, while the Specialist tacks on useless damage powers.

Champions Online screenshotIllusionary Blast

The Mind's damage is mostly passive. Her main attack for the majority of her levels is Ego Sprites, which applies an Ego damage DoT to up to five enemies in a sphere. It stacks up to two applications, has no cooldown, and is relatively inexpensive to use. It's the Mind's bread-and-butter damage. When she does not need to heal, she can use Mental Blast to back it up. Mental Blast is pretty bad, and it should not be ranked at all. Because Ego Sprites is her main damage, most players should rank it up to R3. The Slave Mentality advantage gives a very weak heal if the Ego Sprites are allowed to run their full course. Overall it is pretty terrible; get R3 instead.

You should make a habit of blocking instead of attacking while fighting, though. Simply apply Ego Sprites twice, block until it runs down, then apply again twice. This will let you defeat large enemy groups with minimal damage. If your health gets low, just heal yourself then get back to blocking.

The Mind gets her second key attack, Ego Storm, at level 32. You will want to get the Malevolent Manifestation advantage ASAP; this will let you activate Ego Storm and do other things at the same time. Ego Storm is incredibly powerful and deals tons of damage, plus its hold keeps foes from fighting back. Get the MM advantage and Rank 2 as well.

Her crowd controls are rather secondary and don't need advantage points. Ego Sleep is great for early levels and crowds of mobs. I recommend getting the Nailed to the Ground advantage on it for flying mobs (and players in PvP), but leave it at Rank 1.

Life and Spirit Stopping

The Mind's defensive attributes are her real secret. Her crowd controls can help bail teammates out of difficult situations; because she has three (Ego Sleep, Ego Hold, and Ego Storm), she can hold several tough enemies at once. This is particularly useful for Serpent Mages in the Serpent Lantern and prisoners in NemCon; most other encounters only have one dangerous enemy that can be held. Remember that Enforcers cannot generally be held.

There is no contest at all between her two heal choices. Empathic Healing is the clear winner for the majority of players. It provides up-front healing instead of Psionic Healing's 3-second charge time, and it heals a lot during that time. Empathic Healing also has a completely unique advantage; it can be maintained on yourself while you are moving and kiting. This is a fantastic advantage for PvP, since you can combine it with Acrobatics and Versatility to get out of bad situations while recovering from them at the same time. It cannot be maintained on teammates while you're moving, though.

Psionic Healing is not as good, due to its horrible charge time. However, it is free to tap and has a 100-foot range, making it passably good as a spam heal for flying heroes. Overall, though, Empathic Healing is better in every way; you'll want to keep allies within 50 feet to give them your aura anyway, so there's no real reason to need a 100-foot heal. Psi Healing is better on freeform characters who can pick both a short-ranged and long-ranged heal.

Although it comes very late, Mindful Reinforcement is among the best defensive tools in the game. Honestly, I prefer heals, but in the world of CO, you will come across tanks, and most of them are bad. MR helps protect allies without generating threat for you. If you trust your tank to hold aggro, though, healing is better.

Aura of Radiant Protection is among the best passives in the game and I will cover it in more detail at some point. However, for now I'll give you the really short version; it gives you the defense of about four stacks of Defiance all the time, and it gives the defense of two stacks of Defiance on all of your friends. Put simply, it makes you very hard to kill and adds quite a bit of survivability to most of your allies. Ironically, it performs poorly on Defiance heroes due to the diminishing returns on defense, but all other teammates will probably love this aura so much that they will want to give you sexual favors. Simply being in aura range all the time, even if you don't do anything else, is more contribution to most teams than most other archetypes provide.

Lunatic Stare Tuning

While the Mind is top level without anything else, the real icing on the cake is Telepathic Reverberation. It provides energy in a pretty wide variety of scenarios and is sort of complicated. I'll try to explain as best I can.
  • If a nearby enemy is held by a Telepathy power, he will grant you energy every few seconds.
  • Attacking a held or disoriented enemy with a Telepathy power will also grant you energy.
  • Energy gained from Telepathic Reverberation scales with Presence (the healer stat).
Telepathic Reverberation is easily my favorite secondary energy unlock in the game because it has the most synergistic flavor. There are several keys ways to trigger it:
  • Holding enemies with Ego Sleep gives you energy for every enemy held every few seconds.
  • Hitting enemies who are under Ego Sleep will break the sleep but grant you some energy. If you use Ego Sprites, it does not break the sleep, but it does still grant you energy.
  • After Ego Sleep breaks, it places a disorient on the enemy. Attacking the enemy while the disorient is present will grant bonus energy as well.
  • Ego Blast may disorient the foe; this is particularly true of fully charged blasts, which have a 100% chance. After the enemy is disoriented, further attacks generate energy for you.
  • Holding the enemy with Ego Hold does not grant you bonus energy (it is not a Telepathy power), but attacking the enemy while he is held will. Be advised that this is not recommended, as attacks reduce the strength of Ego Hold and you generally want it to last for its full duration.
  • Ego Storm generates energy automatically as it is a Telepathy power and a hold, so each enemy who is hit by Ego Storm is simultaneously held by a Telepathy power and hit by a Telepathy attack. Additional attacks, such as Ego Sprites, generate more energy but may break Ego Storm's hold.
  • An enemy held by teammates also generates energy when he's attacked.
  • Allies with Ego Storm or Ego Sleep will also generate you energy whenever they hold enemies with their powers.
  • Enemies disoriented by ally Heavy Weapons attacks or some other powers will also generate energy for you when attacked.
For the last entry, there are quite a few disorients in the game. Devastator heroes can really layer on Disorients, especially with Brimstone or Arc of Ruin. A great mid-level combo (after level 22 when you get Telepathic Reverb) is to combine the Dizzying Impact advantage from Pillar of Poz with your Telepathy attacks. Grimoires get Pillar of Poz at a very low level, so the advantage can help feed you energy if you team up with one regularly.

To be honest, I think the Mind archetype was a complete accident. It is simply way too good to be an archetype, let alone a free one. I've been challenged to do hard content on an archetype, since I obviously play absurdly overpowered freeform characters that make the game simple. If I were to ever take up such a challenge (and I probably will), the Mind would be my go-to Champion of choice.

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.