Behind the Mask: Scarlet Weather Rhapsody

Champions Online released two powersets recently, and I finally got time to sit down and crunch numbers on the new Wind powers. Wind has been live for a few weeks now, and the Squall archetype uses its powers to push enemies around the battlefield and rock the damage charts.

Wind has been one of the most frequently requested powersets since Heavy Weapons hit the game, and I was excited to play around with the set. Does the Wind powerset meet the expectations players had for it? This week on Behind the Mask, I set out to find the answer to that question.

Lately, I have been unimpressed with the powerset reworks and new powers. Most of the reworks have reskinned versions of old powers with a few new mechanics. In many cases, such as the Infernal rework, these new mechanics lead to lots of cool interactions. However, reskinning powers and adding different quirks to them leads to boring, Mortal Kombat-style balancing where everything feels too similar. I really don't like that kind of balance.

My initial look at Wind gave me the same feeling right from the start. It has a Snow Storm clone, a Fire Breath clone, and a Gigabolt clone. I felt that the repel mechanics in the set didn't really scream "fun." There's only so many interesting things one can do with a powerset built around blowing enemies back and forth.

River Mist changes PvE

Repel is one of those mechanics that seems to be focused around PvP. I'll get to my PvP findings in a bit, but Repel has a lot of coolness that could be really good for PvE.

Rather than knocking enemies around and rendering them temporarily able to fight, Repel pushes enemies subtly in a direction. Your opponents can still fight, and most foes will be able to close the distance gained by Repel fairly easily unless you also apply slows. As a keep-away mechanism, Repel is sort of useless.

However, Repel can be fantastic when used to herd mobs. Hurricane is a really strong tank power that repels enemies who are closer than 15 feet away from you. It has Challenging Strikes and a substantial 30-foot PBAoE radius, allowing it to taunt large groups without aggroing extra mobs. The best part is that you can move while maintaining it. This lets a tank push the mobs together while circling the spawn, generating lots of threat and making the spawn easier to manage. Hurricane isn't a great primary taunt, since the repel is not so great when you're in the middle of the spawn. However, I found it quite useful for herding groups of mobs together.

Wind Breath can be used for the same purpose. It repels enemies to about 20-30 feet away from you, so you can circle the spawn and use it to push enemies while also applying Challenging Strikes. If you're not a tank, you can still use this to herd foes closer to your tank to make them easier to taunt.

Herding mobs into AoE is also great. Combining Wind's repel with AoE maintains like Wind's own Whirlwind, Electricity's Lightning Storm or Ice's Snow Storm lets your team members get the most out of their AoE damage. If you're solo, you can even use pets like Arctic Beast or Ritual of Ebon Summoning to AoE while you clump mobs together. Although you can use it to herd mobs and then follow up with Lightning Storm while you're solo, it's not really practical as herding takes quite a bit of time and you do reasonable damage with Hurricane or Wind Breath already. It could be nice if you have some hands-free AoE damage like Ego Storm or pets as previously mentioned.

Blue Skies add more flexibility

One of the things I found very interesting was the Stormbringer passive. It's a fairly standard Avenger passive that boosts ranged damage. The interesting elements come from the fact that Stormbringer boosts Cold, Electric, and Crushing damage. Unlike other forms that boost a category, Stormbringer allows you to combine a number of different powersets for a larger pool of possibilities.

The most obvious choices include combining Ice and Electric powers with Stormbringer. This was not really viable before; Electric Form boosts energy damage (Electric, Sonic, and Particle), while Ice Form boosts elemental damage (Ice, Fire, and Toxic). It is still possible to create an Aura of Primal Majesty, Aura of Ebon Destruction or Quarry build that combines the weather elements, but Stormbringer gives more damage than either of those options (Primal Rage builds notwithstanding).

Combining Ice and Electric together with Wind makes building for the elemental Tier 4 power, Energy Storm, a reasonable and practical option. Although you should probably still get at least one power that can apply Clinging Flames, getting all of the elemental debuffs in one build makes Energy Storm builds much more plausible. Because Energy Storm is a rather interesting power all on its own, this makes for a lot of fun opportunities for a Stormbringer.

Stormbringer also buffs Crushing damage, and that lets you really add some diversity. Adding unarmed Martial Arts attacks or super-strength Might and Heavy Weapons attacks are all reasonable choices. The most appropriate use of this boost besides the Wind powers themselves are the various Crushing blasts in Force and most notably Force Cascade. Because building Force brings you closer to Energy Storm, this also can be a key element of an Energy Storm build. You can apply Chill, Negative Ions, and Clinging Flames before consuming them with Energy Storm's Consume Energy, then unleash a powerful Force Cascade. This is a very powerful synergy that Stormbringer makes possible.

Unfortunately I can't say the same of the Wind Reverberation, a lackluster energy unlock that grants meager energy benefits whenever you attempt to Repel an enemy. The energy bonuses aren't that bad on their own, but the passive can proc only once every three seconds, which greatly hinders Wind's energy management. If you're very focused on Wind, it might be fine, but I personally recommend that Freeform Stormbringers use electric powers and Ionic Reverberation as their main source of energy. You can even add an advantage to Hurricane that gives Negative Ions to enemies, letting you consume it with electric powers for more energy. You may also want to use Shatter from Ice for extra energy and damage if you apply Chill to enemies (with the same Hurricane advantage).

Lastly, I'd like to cover Stagger. It's a slow and a damage resistance debuff that is applied by some Wind powers, and it can be useful in boss fights to boost ally DPS. The debuff is small (2% per stack, up to 6% total) so it is really not that big of a deal. However, if you're using Typhoon for its very high damage, you can add to your team's overall damage a bit if your target is Disoriented. As I've mentioned in my Heavy Weapons coverage, Disorient is a great debuff, and this is just one more reason why your team should keep it up on any tough foes. Wind has a few options to apply Disorient, but many other powersets do as well. If you'd like to apply Stagger consistently, you might want to check out powers like Ego Sleep, Pillar of Poz (with Dizzying Impact) or many of the Heavy Weapons powers to keep Disorient up.

Diamond Dust isn't so hot in PvP

Wind could be interesting in PvP; Typhoon in particular deals a lot of damage. I also thought that the combination of Repel, Stagger, and Chill would be extremely debilitating for anyone trying to get close.

Unfortunately, the large proliferation of IDF reduces the double hits of Wind quite a bit more than they would against a comparable Electric build. The slows could be effective, but I found Stagger to be lackluster even against an opponent with no travel powers. Combining Chill and Stagger still performed poorly against an opponent with Acrobatics and Versatility. Repel in general does not work if your opponent is farther away than about 30 feet, which gives fast-moving melee opponents only 20 feet to close before they can hit you. Thirty feet is also well within the range of gap-closing lunge attacks, which reduces Repel's usefulness to being moderately annoying outside of PvE.

Overall, Wind in PvP is mainly restricted to Typhoon, which deals very nice damage. Because it deals damage in two packets, it is doubly affected by Invulnerability and IDF. However, its base damage is very high and can be used to achieve some respectable burst damage. Additionally, if your target is Disoriented, it applies Stagger, which boosts your subsequent damage a little. Unfortunately, Typhoon spiking is overall inferior to Defile, Telekinetic Lance, Ebon Ruin, Force Cascade or Sniper Rifle (with Eagle Rifle) spiking.

My overall impressions of Wind are kind of blah. It's very homogenous, and most of the stuff it adds isn't very game-changing. However, Repel does add a new dimension to PvE that could be fun if it catches on. I feel that people will look at Wind and wonder what makes it worth choosing over Ice or Electricity.

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.