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Behind the Mask: Focusing on characteristics

Patrick Mackey

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I wrote an article about Champions Online's gear mechanics. That article kind of assumes a few things about how much you know about stats. Unfortunately, it doesn't go into great detail about what exactly stats do, or what are the best choices for your character.

In other articles, I've made suggestions such as "stick with your passive" and "get END, REC, and CON, because they're good." Admittedly, there will be some of that here too. However, the focus this week will be on the best ways to make use of other stats, particularly STR, DEX, EGO, and PRE.

I'll try to keep things simple. You don't need a lecture on exactly how Enrage works to know it makes STR a good stat. If you're having trouble with the stat system and the previous article on loot, this is your lucky day.

Might makes right

The first characteristic I'm going to talk about is STR. Why pick strength? A lot of players are really in love with the idea of having a super-strong hero. If you want to take super-strength as a characteristic, you should take some things into consideration.

  • The melee damage bonus. You don't need a lot of STR to get the maximum bonus to melee attacks. If you're a melee-focused character, you only need a bit of gear to get the 80 STR needed to max out your melee damage. Don't feel obligated to get high STR just because you wield two katanas.
  • Knockback strength and resistance. The benefit to knockback strength with high STR is very real. In PvE this can be a detriment, as sending foes flying forces you to chase them down. The bonus to knockback resistance is a little strange, though. Knockback resistance only decreases the chance your character will be thrown off her feet. It doesn't reduce the impact of knockback attacks.
  • Enrage. In this case, I'm not talking about the power itself. I'm talking about Enrage stacks granted both by the Enrage power and by many other powers, particularly in the Might powerset. High STR makes Enrage do amazing damage. If you're gearing for high STR, you should probably use Enrage. If you're using Enrage, you should definitely have high STR.
  • Invulnerability or Unstoppable. These two passives are the best reason to take STR as a superstat. Unstoppable gives both bonus damage and damage reduction, while Invulnerability just gives a lot of damage reduction. Both are great uses for STR. Because STR is an offensive stat, Invulnerability is sort of counter-intuitive; it forces you into Protector or Guardian roles, rather than the offensive-focused Brawler role.
If you're not benefiting from these aspects of STR -- especially Enrage or the passive powers -- you should probably try to fit those into your build, or pick a different superstat. STR is kind of a limited stat and doesn't accomplish as much as some of the other stats do.

A steady hand and an iron will

Dexterity is an interesting stat, thanks to the Super Power Pack. DEX increases critical hit chance for all characters, but if your character is focused on DEX, he's got a lot of quirky mechanics to benefit from. The main two power groups that benefit from DEX are Martial Arts and Munitions. EGO is a strange stat with few reasons to select it, other than for its synergy with DEX. Telekinesis does benefit from EGO, as the Id Blades attacks increase in damage with high EGO.
  • DEX and EGO are a couple. DEX increases the volume of critical hits, while EGO increases the magnitude of critical hits. In general, you do not want to have one without the other. A large volume of low-intensity critical hits is fairly weak, and infrequent but powerful crits are even worse.
  • While DEX and EGO are offensive stats, their direct impact on offense is lower than an energy-management stat like END. It'd be really nice if DEX affected critical hits more, and base critical chance and severity were a bit higher, to make statting for DEX or EGO more valuable.
  • DEX impacts most powers that affect dodge rate. This makes DEX doubly effective if you select dodge powers such as Lightning Reflexes or Way of the Enlightened Warrior.
  • DEX also benefits characters who select a martial arts "Focus" power, adding both an energy return mechanic and extra damage. Any one of these powers alone is reason enough to select DEX as a superstat, as the energy benefits are amazing and the damage boost is equal to Enrage.
  • DEX also boosts the likelihood of getting energy back via Killer Instinct. EGO boosts the magnitude of the energy return, which tends to force Munitions heroes into DEX/EGO stats. Because Killer Instinct only grants energy once every four seconds, having a super-high crit rate isn't really needed. Around 20-30% is more than enough to maximize KI's benefit with most Munitions powers.
  • EGO boosts the energy a hero gains from blocking enemy attacks. Not many characters actually make use of this, so it is more of a nice reward for having a crit-based character.
  • As I mentioned above, Id Blades of all kinds are boosted by EGO. Ego Form gives a damage boost to mentalist attacks and enables the use of Id Blades attacks. Using Ego Form with Id Blades gives two separate damage boosts that multiply on each other. Why not add DEX and get in some critical hits to multiply your damage further?
  • Personal Force Field's regeneration rate is boosted by EGO. This is somewhat unfortunate for PFF, since END and EGO do not work well together, but PFF requires that a player use both of them.
DEX and EGO are best used in ways that compensate for other stats. DEX tends to preclude the use of REC-enhancing gear, while EGO tends to prevent a hero from equipping END- or INT-increasing items. Thus, the best way to use DEX and EGO is to find ways such as Killer Instinct or Focus that grant energy benefits to help compensate for the loss of energy stats. Another good way to keep your energy high with a critical focus is to use Force Shield's advantage to fill your hero's energy bar whenever she is struck. High EGO increases the energy return from Force Sheathe, leading to a near-limitless supply of energy.

Charisma is a dump stat

Nobody likes PRE. It's a stat for roleplayers. Presence is supposed to indicate how attractive and likable your character is. Of course, no roleplayer cares whether your PRE is high or not. Most roleplayers use a player's ability to engage in charming conversation as a way of determining the character's actual charisma. Is this metagaming? I'm not sure.

Joking aside, PRE is the "healer" stat. Most people completely ignore it, because only healers use it. This is a huge mistake! PRE is great for self-heals too. Because Presence scales linearly with its benefit, it tends to give horrible boosts to heals at low levels and massive boosts to heals in the later game. If you were to call PRE useless at lower levels, I honestly wouldn't blame you.

The impact of PRE at higher levels is massive, though. If you're building a tank-focused character, having high PRE in addition to a tank stat (DEX for Lightning Reflexes tanks, STR for Invulnerability tanks, and CON for Defiance tanks) dramatically increases the impact of self-healing. I've included some sweet pictures for comparison purposes below. On the left, we see a character with moderately high PRE (around 150). On the right, we have a character with very low PRE. The costs are a little different, since the character on the left also has high INT, but that doesn't affect the heal numbers.

PRE also increases the threat you generate in Protector role and decrease the threat generated in other roles. However, because threat is so wonky, I don't think it quite works that way in practice. Hopefully the devs revisit this mechanic sometime later.

Lastly, PRE benefits a few things like Fiery Form. Fire characters will definitely want to load up with high PRE just to get the energy return benefits from Thermal Reverberation, while Telepaths may or may not. Ego Storm combined with Telepathic Reverberation provides a self-sustaining energy source, and Mindful Reinforcement is one of the best defensive powers in the game (if a bit costly).

Overall, PRE is a great investment if you already have a defensive focus. It is still quite possible to build offensive builds that focus on PRE too, such as the Fire and Telepathy suggestions above.

The weak face off versus the power four

Choosing one of these four stats over the powerful END, CON, INT, and REC stats can be a difficult decision. END is an amazing stat for any character to superstat. If you're not sure, remember that the above four stats are limited in their use, while END, CON, REC, and INT are valuable on almost any character.

Until next time, stay super!

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