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oldskool

Notes From the Trenches: A Year of Playing Sentinels

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Posted (edited)

It feels time to construct a thread to share some experiences about the AT after playing it for the better part of a year.  

When I first came to HC, probably right around this time, I wasn't sure exactly of what I wanted to play.  I created a bunch of ATs and recreated old characters.  I'm sure many of you understand.  I saw the Sentinel and it got me curious.  It was new, not many people knew anything about it, and it seemed like a challenge to play/build.  I had tried to play Dual Pistols a few times but it never worked out for me.  I didn't really care for it on Blasters (still don't) so I tried it on Corruptors/Defenders.  My support sets always felt too busy for me to really enjoy Dual Pistols.  Well, Sentinels come along and many of the armor sets are fairly hands off allowing me to fully focus on the attacks.  YAY!  

 

Right off the bat... 

 

I want to try to keep bias to a minimum.  Its not possible to fully remove my own bias, but unchecked bias helps absolutely no one.  Unchecked bias is a very common lens to view the Sentinel through.  

 

500lb Gorillas... 

 

Damage.  The Sentinel is a damage AT.  It isn't a tanker, it isn't an off-tank, nor is it a support set.  Its a damage AT.  Its a damage AT that incorporates some group support through its inherent but that is subject to change.  

When it comes to damage the Sentinel is often compared to entire ATs with little regard for any component pieces.  It is, possibly unfairly, compared to ATs in light of recent changes to those groups as well.  This is where the unchecked bias becomes a problem.  I think the disparities are blown way out of proportion.  I think that people's unchecked bias doesn't allow them to go past a certain point with the AT and then make sweeping comments about it as a whole.  Make no mistake, there is some truth in those arguments, but they can get distorted very quickly.  

 

Metrics... 

 

Let's note that Mids just isn't accurate for all things for just a moment.  When I just jumped into the game to check the info screen on one of my characters I noted a 43 damage difference between the game and the planner.  Doesn't sound like much, but this exacerbates the unchecked bias.  

Let's talk ranged damage scalars for just a moment.  

 

AT/Class  Scalar (ranged)
Blaster   1.125
Corruptor   0.75
Defender   0.65
Sentinel   0.95

 

When you step back and look at the numbers as they are it doesn't look so bad does it?  However, this isn't the full story either. 

 

Inherent Mechanics: An Ugly Monster of Unchecked Bias...

 

Corruptors, Defenders, and Blasters have inherents.  Corruptor Scourge grants an increasing chance to double damage when health goes below a threshold.  Defenders gain bonus damage while solo.  Blasters gain damage while attacking.  

The 3 ATs previously mentioned all have fairly straight forward inherents.  These make great sounding boards for arguments on effectiveness in a vacuum.  The Sentinel inherent is far more complicated than it needs to be.  It is confusing, sometimes counterproductive, removes a sense of player agency, and is difficult to quantify.  It is no wonder to me why some people dislike the AT or are adverse to playing it.  Opportunity as a mechanic is not easy to use nor is it easy to understand.  What's it do though? 

 

Opportunity will always impose a minor resistance and defense debuff on enemies struck by the Sentinel.  There is no thought or action required.  If you successfully hit, then the target gets a debuff pairing (-resistance and defense).  This effect does not stack from the caster and it can be resisted.  It will work alongside other sources of the same debuffs. So additional resistance or defense debuffing still build from the caster as normal.  Against most content this translates into more damage not only from the Sentinel but by teammates too.  Everyone gets to take advantage so the Sentinel functions like a Bard might from other games.  You multiply damage and no one ever recognizes your contribution.  

That's the passive portion of the inherent.  The activated portion is a separate mechanic and has multiple parts.  Confused?  Good, because this part may cross your eyes.  I'll try to keep at a 30,000ft level.  

 

Sentinels have a 3rd bar called "Opportunity".  Its a meter that functions like a Dominator's inherent "Domination".  Hell, when you fill the bar near max you glow... just like a Dominator.  Unlike the Dominator, this meter does not hit a "perma" status.  Some builds can create situations where Opportunity's meter mechanic feels more like a Brute's Fury.  ...Crap, I said I would try to keep this simple, but it just isn't.  

So all attacks have a specific amount of meter attached to it.  For example, all T1 attacks grant +8 meter to the bar.  This has been consistent across every single primary set I have tested.  T9 powers can grant 30+ meter.  Many of the single target attacks grant +13 meter.  Cones can generate 16-18 and TAoEs can range 18-20's.  The exact amount of meter generated is not uniform across the sets.  Generally, if an attack has a longer set of recharge and/or animation it will trend towards more meter.  For ease of use though, it is pretty consistent to observe all T1's as granting +8 and virtually all other single target attacks as granting +13 (includes the T2).  

At 90 meter the T1 and T2 attack choices will gain a ring.  The T1 power will always trigger "Offensive Opportunity".  The T2 power will always trigger "Defensive Opportunity".  There is a catch... You have to successfully hit first.  If you miss the attack Opportunity remains full until you successfully land attack or leave combat.  Technically, if you miss the chance to trigger the inherent's active mechanic you just continue to build meter until you spend it.  

What activing Opportunity does (general): 

 

Once triggered, Opportunity will last 15 seconds.  The effect below will last until the target is defeated.  The specific modes are independent of the target's state.  

 

Regardless of hitting the T1 or T2, the target struck will receive a -20% resistance debuff. This debuff can be resisted and it stacks with all other -resistance sources.  In other words, it is its own source.  This debuff allows all other teammate striking the target to gain a damage boost.  Bard complex, no one cares that they are doing upto 20% more damage and that you were the cause of it.  

 

Offensive Mode: 

 

This grants a proc-like effect that lasts for 15 seconds.  The effect applies to all attacks dealt during the duration.  The effect cannot be enhanced and functions off a percentage of your base damage.  So the weaker the attack the smaller the effect's hit.  AoE attacks can spread more damage during the duration.  

 

Defensive Mode: 

 

Its similar to Offensive Mode but applies a minor health and endurance restore for the same duration.  Once again, this is tied to all successful hits and can apply to AoE powers.  The game will directly tell you how much health you gain but the combat window will only say "you also gain some endurance".  You do in fact gain endurance.  The endurance feature is the strongest perk of this effect as endurance is a much smaller pool than health.  Even at low levels I have found the endurance restore to achieve a state of neutral drain.  That was tested without any endurance reduction in attacks or toggles.  The higher in level you get and the more end drain you apply the hard it is to maintain that equilibrium.  However, once you start modifying endurance spend in attacks and toggles, the perk starts to pay you BACK endurance spent.  The faster your recharge, the more frequently you hit, and the more frequently you hit successfully the more endurance you restore.  Crap on the healing effect all you want, but the endurance restore can be very powerful for an inherent if you bother to pay attention.  

 

Should you focus on one opportunity or both? 

 

That's a great question and it is impossible to answer in a vacuum.  Offensive Opportunity cannot be enhanced meaning that the more you push your own ED cap on damage modification the less it contributes.  Still, Offensive Opportunity is usually a positive DPS gain but it can be so relatively minor that you can skip it.  Just how good this effect becomes is very related to how good the carrier power is and whether or not it holds any significance to your attack cycle.  It is possible to net a tiny fraction (or sometimes even lose) of DPS triggering Offensive Opportunity by using a T1 power with no other enhancement beyond accuracy.  If you treat the T1 as a regular part of your routine, then the effect becomes just added damage.  Still, it isn't so significant that you stress about it.  Same goes for Defensive Opportunity.  Defensive Opportunity's strongest benefit is probably the endurance gain.  That can have noticeable effect during the entire leveling spectrum, but its contribution can drop off sharply with a well designed build.  Still, some secondaries do struggle with recovery and the T2 can benefit those (more on this later).  

 

My advice is this... run both the T1 and T2 to explore the options while leveling.  Worry less about it once you hit 50 and just use the best attack out of the two if you need to prune a pick/slots.  The strongest aspect of the activated inherent is that -20% resistance which is available in either mode.  

 

How to Use Opportunity Organically... 

 

Simply don't worry about it.  That's the easiest way to view it with a full build.  I spent an awful lot of time linking the animation, recharges, and meter values of the attacks I use in my characters.  I could tell you the average expected time in seconds it takes for my Dual Pistols Sentinel to hit 90% meter.  I've designed the attack sequence to include Opportunity without much thought on my part.  All I need is the muscle memory of what powers to click and that's it.  

Basically what I do is I tag the T1 or T2 at the end of my attack sequence.  I generally try to limit my attacks cycles to just one of the two, but not all primaries can or should do that.  If you would generally use a concept of T1 (or T2) -> T3 -> T1 (or T2) -> T4, just reverse it.  T4 -> T1 (or T2) -> T3 -> T1 (or T2).  Doing that will usually result in triggering Opportunity at the soonest moment without much worry.  Sometimes you'll miss and that sucks.  Still, if you try to trigger Opportunity as close to 90% of the meter as possible you can usually improve the overall uptime of the effect.  Once the duration ends you rebuild as fast as possible (more on this later).  You rinse and repeat.  

Why does the above work the way it does?  I've found that I can often achieve 90% meter by the time I hit that T3 power on the 3rd sweep of the routine.  This means that when the T1 (or T2 - these can be interchangeable for the purpose of this discussion) is used next it will automatically trigger the inherent once the target is hit.  If you run the reverse of the routine what happens is you often generate 90% opportunity during the use of the T1.  This will NOT trigger the inherent.  The T1 cannot be the power that gets you to 90%+ meter.  It has to come AFTER that condition.  If the T1 is the power that generates you're 90% meter condition, then the next attack will go beyond 100% (since it almost always grants +13 meter).  That delays the triggering of the Inherent by 1.188 to 2.64 (or higher) seconds.  I've almost always had positive DPS gains doing this but some primaries might not pull it off.  Still, it is worth exploring as an option.  You could also completely ignore this advice and do what you want.  

 

Opportunity, AoE, and the ATO... 

 

The previous commentary is focused on single target.  However, what about AoE?  This is a big can of worms.  There are a wide range of ways to build your Sentinel, but I'll still share some my findings on what works for me.  

 

I tend to prefer both ATOs in AoE powers. 

 

Superior Sentinel's Ward has good set bonuses, but the proc is total crap in difficult content.  The absorb shield it provides is affected by the purple patch and therefore its benefit is severely reduced.  I've see it proc for as little as +14 Absorb against +4 enemies.  I've seen it grant well over +1000 when I shot at a level 1 Hellion in Atlas Park at level 50.  Do not take this set for the proc.  However, the proc does check per target in AoEs.  I have not noticed it stacking with itself but it can have a high chance to go off in an AoE.  Its not great, but it is something.  

 

Superior Opportunity Strikes is also good for set bonuses.  The proc can be total crap in single target situations, but it can have potential in AoE.  The proc is similar to the Ward one.  It will check against enemies but doesn't appear to stack effect.  You can turn an AoE power from generating +18 opportunity to generating +37.5.  It can make your T9's grant you half a bar.  It can trigger again if activated against a large group and you get lucky.  The other night I had back to back procs.  My bar filled to max, I ran Opportunity, and when it ended I filled to max in a span of less than 10 seconds.  Many, many months ago, I saw someone talking about Sentinel opportunity working like being a ranged Brute.  They just kept filling their bar over and over.  AoE is how you do that.  

 

You could slot the Strikes set in any AoE you prefer or even a T9.  The full 6pc set has 100% recharge modification.  I have a Sentinel with this set in the T9.  That power has a 23 second cool down due to the set and global recharge (185%).  Hitting 10 targets with that power has a pretty good chance of granting significant meter.  Several other Sentinels I have run the set in their 10 target TAoEs and in teams I notice a significant uptime on Opportunity.  Pairing this strategy with taking the T1 to trigger Offensive Opportunity can allow a person to have significant uptime on the bonus damage.  Even if that damage effect is low, it still applies to all attacks.  

 

To recap, I tend to find that in fast moving group scenarios the Sentinel can potentially hammer out a lot of Opportunity use due to the above strategy.  Single target is far more difficult to optimize.  This is largely due to the Strikes ATO having a PPM value of 1 (the basic version) or a PPM value of 2 (superior) depending on version used.  I have only had success triggering that proc in very select powers within specific primaries.  For example, Sonic's Screech or Psionic Blast's Scramble Thoughts trend towards higher than proc chances than many other powers.  Slotting that ATO in a T1 power that has a 1 second animation plus 4 second recharge will likely land you around the default proc chance of 5%.  It may trigger so rarely in quickly available powers that you'd think it is totally useless.  For single target, I'd agree.  Try to find space in AoE if you bother with the proc or otherwise its value is pretty much garbage.  Most Sentinel primaries can easily rebuild opportunity meter within 13 seconds in their single target chains when considering higher states of recharge.  Even without that, you could potentially hit 50% uptime.  The longer your attack chains lag the greater the gap gets.  With AoE powers and the ATO the difference in uptime can be significantly less.  Food for thought.   

I've noted before that Sentinels aim to pick up a lot of pennies.  The pennies being bits of damage that are available in various forms to offset the perception of the AT being "low damage".  Playing with Opportunity uptime is one way to do that.  Its not the only way to do it, and can pair with others. 

Edited by oldskool
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Posted (edited)

A Damage Discussion Revisited... 

 

Before I go into rambling about damage vs the other ATs, I want to add some points of clarity.  This work is not intended to be a fanfest of my undying love of the Sentinel.  I recognize its flaws.  I've built more than a dozen of them.  I think I have a pretty solid grasp on what the AT does and doesn't do. 

 

Clarity point #1,  Sentinels can be total crap if you build it as if you were playing another AT.  Sentinels have some advantages all their own and if you decide to ignore it in favor of playing it differently, so be it.  But, please recognize when you treat the AT like garbage in build you get garbage outcomes.  This point is also true of any other AT in the game.  What's a bit different here is that you cannot roll your face on the keyboard as a Sentinel player and "win".  Its not like a Stalker or Scrapper that will just fart out damage regardless of what build you give it.  Sentinels can be accessible and easy to play but build decisions can get complex.  

 

Clarity point #2, Complaints on Sentinel damage do have some merit especially under the realm of point #1.  Also, note before that I recognize how cumbersome the Opportunity mechanic is.  I would really love to see some kind of change to simplify the AT to make it more accessible while improving it at the same time.  Still, players can work around the short comings of the AT if they'd like to learn how.  Its not nearly as bad as it is often made out to be.  

Clarity point #3, Argue points made from quoting Mids with caution.  Realize that the numbers tend to be off and verify in the game or ask someone that actually plays it.  Saying wild things like Sentinels do less than Defenders in damage isn't true at all times.  It may be conditionally true in certain circumstances, but even that can have some awfully blurry lines.  

 

Clarity point #4, All things considered, I do think it is a reasonable complaint that Sentinels may have an optimization ceiling that is much lower than several other ATs.  If you really like the Sentinel and wish to optimize it, then go for it!  Just know that other ATs can potentially get more out of the same investment.  That's an awfully big statement though.  It assumes a LOT about what every player seeks in there character or the content they enjoy playing.  As a general metric, I like to run +2/x8 content when solo.  Its not so difficult that enemies turn into bags of hit points while offering just enough reward to my time ratio.  Sentinels can handle +2/x8 content with a wide range of builds and run it fairly safe.  Running +4/x8 starts to get tricky as some Sentinels handle it easier or some may just totally falter.  Sentinels can solo taskforces and handle some AVs just like many other ATs can.  Its not so bad that you can't dabble in most of the content the game provides.  Just temper your expectations. 

 

Within #3 I'll compare my Dual Pistols Defender and Sentinel.  Defenders will hit 16 targets with Bullet Rain and Sentinels will hit 10.  Since the Defender hits more targets it must do more damage right?  Well, not necessarily.  There are a lot of factors to consider before we leap off the hyperbole ledge.  Both my characters run ATO sets in this power.  Neither character has a damage proc in this power.  It is as close to an apples to apples comparison one could hope for.  (Its not perfect, and it never can be)

In a solo situation with full Vigilance Bullet Rain does slightly more damage on my Defender than it would on my Sentinel.  This is also considering maximum target saturation for both ATs.  Its closer than it sounds though in real play.  What this means is my Sentinel is doing more damage per hit than the Defender is while the Defender hits more overall targets.  BUT WAIT, There is more.  My Defender has an AoE -resistance patch effect.  That will contribute to the Defender squeezing out some more damage.  My Defender has Soul Drain and fully saturated that can add around 400 more total damage.  My Defender's per shot damage is still less than the Sentinel but contributes more total damage across multiple targets. 

What I want to really stress in that paragraph is that the Defender above is a build.  It is a build that can potentially do more damage, overall, than the Sentinel running the same set in an AoE situation.  It completely ignores all other powers and potential Epics of the Sentinel.  This is why arguments in a vacuum are completely disingenuous.  If my Defender didn't have a -resistance power OR run Soul Drain it would not do significantly more damage than my Sentinel.  This also completely ignores that my Dual Pistols Sentinel runs Offensive Opportunity which improves my per target AoE damage.  

None of this is to suggest that Sentinel AoE is superior to any of the other ranged ATs.  Its not.  I can't make an argument in good faith that would suggest to you that Defenders, Corruptors, or Blasters can't do better AoE damage.  AoE matters a lot.  Clusters of weaker enemies are a large part of the game.  However, what I do hope the takeaway is, is that Sentinel AoE isn't that bad either.  Furthermore, the above example is assuming solo vs 16 targets.  In an actual test while solo full target saturation isn't always possible.  Its more guaranteed while teaming.  I can guarantee you my Sentinel can handle high target engagement better than my Defender in solo situations at the least.  My Defender needs to set things up in order to make rampant damage spam safe.  My Sentinel does not.  My Sentinel can just dive and go to town. In a team situation my Defender's damage drops by 30%.  Without full Vigilance + AoE -resistance + Full Soul Drain, or even full target saturation the Defender's overall AoE damage contribution plummets.  

On the completely opposite ends of that spectrum are the Corruptor and Blaster.  Corruptors generally get better and better in group AoE situations where their Scourge ticks can contribute more.  Blasters just do more AoE damage period.  In the case of Dual Pistols the higher base scalar plus Defiance contributes not only more damage per hit than the Sentinel but also greater overall coverage.  Still, my Sentinel can manage around 70%* of a Blaster's damage in AoE.  I'll take it. 

 

*[Edit: I shouldn't have put a percentage here.  It can easily be misconstrued and taken out of context. That's my fault. I had in my mind to compare a power vs power.  This is not a generalized all Sentinels do 70% of a Blaster's damage in all AoE situations.  This was a "my Sentinel in question was getting awfully close to the Blaster I made despite the advantages of being a Blaster".  I didn't design the Blaster to be weaker.  It had the same budget, similar slotting where applicable, but obviously different priorities due to how power pairings work.  I wanted to make as close to a range vs range comparison between the two as possible, and it can't be perfect.  That too is part of the problem in making such comparisons.  If I had used a melee-based secondary the damage results would skew sharper in favor of the Blaster.  Builds do in fact matter.  In situations where a Blaster can fully leverage maximum target caps plus cooldown-based damage buffs (i.e., Build-Up) the damage disparity can be more like a Sentinel doing upper 50 to low 60% (pure range vs range).  That's pretty much looking at raw powers in a vacuum without considering real play.  However, if you look at a power like Bullet Rain with similar enhancement between the two, the Sentinel is doing about 82% of a Blaster's damage with that specific power.  That remains true all the way to 10 targets.  In real play my Sentinel uses an additional AoE from the Epic pool that helps.  In reality, my Sentinel's powers do about 30 to 40 less damage than a Blaster's with similar slotting per shot before Incarnate choices.  In real play, my Sentinel requires no set up of enemies with CC in any way.  It can just dive in and handle business.  Not all Blasters can do that, but there are numerous builds that do.  Regardless, in real play the total time to take out enemy spawns with the Sentinel vs the Blaster was far closer than it seems.  This is due to enemies having finite hit points and how damage was spread between them.  On paper, it can be a very true statement to make as Sentinels doing 50% less damage, but in real gameplay the difference can be as little as a single use of a power.  So we're talking seconds worth of kill speed.  However, your mileage may vary.  Builds matter here and they matter enough that they can make these kinds of broad stroke comparisons awfully blurry and very misleading.] 

 

None of the above takes into account team support.  That's an entirely different strain of argument about what's better between Defenders or Corruptors.  There is no denying that a strong Defender or Corruptor bring a lot to the table beyond just damage.  Sentinels on the other hand are not completely empty handed due to how the inherent works.  Its just not the same scale. 

Single Target is a different animal.  Context matters and context matters a lot.  

 

My Sentinel builds often do more damage to single targets than a Defender or Corruptor build would with the same set.  Though there are some very very heavy caveats here and build choices absolutely matter.  Still, my general experience is that the Sentinel's single target damage is a strength of the AT.  Historically pure ranged damage options lacked for single target due to old snipe mechanics, but the Sentinel changes this.  Blaster comparisons can be total wild cards on single target due to the inclusion of early melee attacks which are usually far higher on DPA than ranged attacks.  A well thought out Blaster is a force of nature.  A well thought out Sentinel isn't that far behind. 

 

Look dear reader, I recognize that the Sentinel isn't going to blow away hordes of enemies in AoE.  There isn't a whole lot I can do to make them exceed any of the other Ranged-oriented ATs.  So I do not bother to build up the perceived weakness.  Instead, I often try to focus on improving single target because I find more bang for my buck improving that.  I'll explain why. 

 

Sentinels can have different attack cycles than Defenders/Corruptors/Blasters.  Sentinels just play differently.  They do not have a snipe but instead have some form of replacement power that fits  in the cycle all the time.  There is no need to figure out how much bonus to-hit you need in order to max out a snipe.  There is no need to run Tactics to gain that boost.  Sentinel snipe replacements are there and they just work all the time as is.  It is a remarkable boon to the AT that is so completely ignored and misunderstood it is mind blowing.  Now, the change recently to fast snipes did create a very large power spike, especially for Blasters, but Sentinel single target isn't a total loss.  Its more a strength of the AT than a detriment.  

 

I won't bore folks with dissecting another mock vacuum run of Defender single target vs Sentinel single target or any other AT.  Hopefully, you get the point.  

I've spent an awful lot of time talking about ranged ATs.  They are hands down the most commonly cited power set comparisons around.  What we don't often chat about is the melee ATs.  Sentinels have far more in common with ScrappersStalkers than they any other AT in the game.  Sentinels aren't just an armored Blaster.  They are also a ranged brawler.  

Melee damage historically had far better single target damage than it did AoE damage.  There have been exceptions to this since the game went live, but that was a general design decision.  Over time newer sets seem to break this rule and we can all blame popular demand for that.  Still, Sentinels trend towards a focus on single target.  Why else would they include new ranged ST attack options that bolster that method of damage while having reductions to their AoE?  Sentinels are not AoE-focused like Blasters.  

Does this mean Sentinels do more damage than Scrappers/Stalker?  Not usually.  Scrappers/Stalkers gain a lot more control over their critical rate through their ATOs and that contributes a lot of damage to both.  Sentinels have similarities to Stalkers in how their secondaries are designed and their general mitigation has a lot of parallels.  Sentinels have a lot of similarities to Scrapper in the care free nature of just offense.  Still, pure melee has had a large advantage in DPA for a long time and that hasn't changed.  

So while a Sentinel may not bring the single target pain train like any of the melees do.  It definitely has wider coverage on AoE.  Many melee AoE's have an 8ft radius.  Many of the Sentinel TAoE's have a 15ft radius.  Sentinel T9's can hit multiple targets within 20ft spheres while doing heavy damage.  There are 19 melee power sets.  So this is not a perfect comparison of the 13 power sets within Sentinels.  There will be winners and losers.  However, when speaking to general strengths, Sentinels offer some ease of use of hitting multiple targets as they run around.  The AT is not entirely dependent on foes being clustered into tight groupings to get maximum effect.  This too isn't as bad as it sounds in real play.  

 

Alternative Damage Sources... 

OK, enough with AT comparisons.  Comparisons like that can have so many holes that Swiss cheese gets jealous.  So try not to do it.  

So if Sentinels aren't total crap, what gives?  How does a min-max minded player tolerate just a plebeian AT?  If your really give a crap about doing damage you look at all the tools available.  Damage procs are a tool.  Damage procs can dramatically improve damage.  Not all Sentinel sets can take advantage of them, but the ones that don't also don't often need it.  You poo poo on the existence of procs at your own peril.  This method stacks with managing Opportunity uptime as the -resistance works with procs.  

Ok, a less intrusive method is the include of high DPA melee and mixing it up with the kids.  Sentinel Epic/Patron options have some really great side-grade attacks like Knockout Blow, Mind Probe, Midnight Grasp, or Havoc Punch.  Some of these have very long recharges and some don't.  Sentinels have a theme of weird lopsided functionality in the epics.  

You may see speak of the king, Dominate.  Char and Netherword Grasp are also good runners up due to their animations/cooldowns.  What works for these holds is their IO slotting properties, i.e., more procs.  These powers can often take a full set of slots of nothing but procs.  They'll often have chance to fire that it is as close to guaranteed as you can get.  Its significant damage if you want it.

 

So you'll see recommendations of stacking Melee + Proc Enabled Hold.  That method is a bit messier for the Opportunity management method.  However, this method couldn't care less about Opportunity as a mechanic.  The DPS addition of this combo while stacking on other procs in primary powers can be high enough to make you forget the inherent.  It is that strong.  

 

Alternatively, there is Tashibishi from Ninja Tools.  This just a renamed Caltrops.  If you like Caltrops, then you'll like this power.  Its the same functionality as you find elsewhere.  Much of the Ninja Tools is pretty 'meh', but caltrops if pure win if you've ever enjoyed using it before.  It does damage for its duration and it will proc when spawned (if slotted that way).  Its a good power with its default slot or several.  Its a highly underrated pick because it isn't as sexy as Mind Probe + Dominate and it makes things run away.  Still, it can be a nice alternative for the power and slot conscious. 

Edited by oldskool
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Posted (edited)

Primary Sets... 

 

Oh boy... its the sexy power time.  Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, thoses, thems, or theys, we're about to talk about the DAMAGE powers.  WOOOOOO!!!!  

 

The only powerset I have not messed around with in a test environment or live is Energy Blast.  That's it.  I've talked with others about it, and I get its fundamentals (I've played it before in other ATs).  So I'm going to toss some ideas about it, but that's not the same as expertise with it here.  

I've played, either in test or live, the following sets and some more than once: 

 

Archery (3 times)

Assault Rifle (4 times)

Beam Rifle (4 times)

Dark Blast (Twice... slacking)

Dual Pistols (4 times)

Electrical Blast (Once)

Fire Blast (Once)

Ice Blast (Once)

Psychic Blast (4 times)

Radiation Blast (Once)

Sonic Blast (Once) 

Water Blast (3 times)

 

Yes, that is 12 out of 13 sets.  

 

My current live favorites are Dual Pistols, Assault Rifle (I do love an underdog), Beam Rifle, and Water Blast.  I do not play these because they are the highest DPS characters I have.  They aren't.  I just genuinely love playing those characters more than the others.  

Quick run downs... GO!!!

 

Note 1: The following are my opinions.  I want to keep my views within the realm of the AT in question and not try to apples to apples compare outside of that.  So if you're scratching your head about why there aren't more direct comparisons, please read the other posts about such vacuum comparing.  The colors for the sets are purely fun and has nothing to do with any kind of quality ordering.  

 

Note 2: Since these are my opinions there will be some operational bias.  I've tried to be as objective as reasonable with the analysis.  I've played a few of these sets not only more than once with a different pairing but different build configurations too.  I'm taking an awful lot of time to share my thoughts, but I can respect disagreement.  

 

Archery 

 

I think Archery gets a bad rap.  It is understandable criticism due to how it all works.  Its still largely a perception issue when compared against sets within the AT vs outside the AT.  Within the Sentinel AT, Archery is honestly pretty good all things considered.  It can completely ignore the use of Snap Shot/Aimed Shot and focus just on Stunning Shot, Blazing Arrow, and Perfect Shot. Stunning Shot is that good. 

 

Pros: Fast attacks, always something available, better than it looks on paper

Cons: Lethal damage resistance can be a downer, lack of slot options to abuse procs, redraw annoyance when stepping out of the set (I'm not fond of weapons suddenly appearing on my characters, YMMV)

 

Assault Rifle 

 

Assault Rifle gets a bad rap too, and in general I agree with that.  Assault Rifle gets a lot of AoE swapped out for single target attacks.  Those attacks seem to be all over the place and it makes trying to build with it very tough.  I've settled on a build that uses AR and currently I love it.  I abuse the absolute hell out of recharge and procs to make the single target better than it typically trends.  Incinerator is a deceptive power.  Put the procs that it can take in it.  Worry not about its core recharge if you can manage it.  All you need is to get that sucker back on line within 4.224 seconds if you use Burst and Slug.  If you're a player that loves full sets vs frankenslotting for procs, then yes AR is likely going to disappoint you.  Still, it has multiple AoE options since it gets an "extra" in Flamethrower.  Flamethrower breaks the general mold of; cones unlock at level 2, TAoE unlocks by 12, and then variables.  Flamethrower subs in at 18 and it is quite strong even with its limited target caps.  

Pros: Shell casings on the ground and fire comes out your barrel. Gains Aim unlike other versions.  You can do some interesting things with procs in Buckshot/M30 Grenade, Incinerator, Burst, and Slug.  Disorienting Shot is an oddly strong T2 power can be a flexible addition to a build.  

Cons: Plan to bend over backwards to make it work.  Its fun if you do, but will likely be disappointing if you're unwilling to use procs.  Full Auto could use a quality of life pass on its long animation. Redraw annoyance when stepping out the set. 

 

Beam Rifle 

 

Beam Rifle is an odd duck, but it is a wonderful Sentinel set.  Its quite possibly the best version of it in the game from a general functionality stand point.  Beam Rifle swaps out its snipe for another AoE.  AoE is generally lackluster on other versions of Beam so the chaining attack it gets is a welcome addition.  Furthermore, this set plays with -resistance (and some other debuffing) in Piercing Beam.  Piercing Beam can handle another -resistance proc (12.5% from Annihilation).  All of that stacks with Opportunity to let you bypass more damage than it appears.  

 

Pros: Flexible build options, solid single target, unique mechanic, added AoE, and interplay with the inherent built in 

Cons: May not appear as strong on paper as it is in play, Cutting Beam is still a 'meh' power.  Sudden weapon redraw

 

Dark Blast (pure white because all black would be hard to read!)

 

Dark Blast is a solid all around set and I have very few complaints with it.  This is about as close as the AT gets to having a set with a Parry like ability.  The melee kids their +def attack and still get Dark Melee.  Sentinels just get Dark Blast with its stacking -5% to-hit debuff and the stupidly powerful Blackstar.  Blackstar on other ATs can have a far higher debuff but its base cooldown is longer.  A lot of Sentinel builds that go for high recharge can expect Blackstar to be available every 25 seconds (plus or minus 2 seconds).  The debuff lasts 20 seconds.  This means this power is granting a defensive debuff that lasts almost as long as the cooldown.  A 3-7 second downtime isn't that much and the damage it does is pretty standard Sentinel T9 nukage.  

 

Pros: Loads of positive changes to Umbral Torrent, solid attacks generally, even better attacks if using procs, and loads of to-hit debuffing 

Cons: Might feel weak if not pushing recharge and/or procs.  Life Drain kinda blows without damage procs.  

 

Dual Pistols 

 

I've grown to really enjoy Dual Pistols.  It is somewhat an odd set like Beam Rifle.  Dual Pistols never had a snipe to begin with and it never had Aim.  It only upgrades one power, Suppressive Fire, and that's about it.  It is one of the few sets in the entire AT that can be uniquely compared across all other variants as it is largely the same.  However, the change to Suppressive Fire defines Dual Pistols within the Sentinel.  Without the change to Suppressive Fire, Dual Pistols would be a carbon copy of every other AT.  With Suppressive as it is, Sentinel Dual Pistols has additional options.  I really don't care what AT you play.  Dual Pistols is one of, if not the, most flexible tool set in the game.  Very few sets have access to the wide range of attack chains that Dual Pistols is capable of, and the set can also change features of its effects.  Due the variable nature of the powers, Dual Pistols works incredibly well with damage procs.  That helps it pick up a lot of damage it may otherwise lack to some players.  Though in reality what Dual Pistols gives up in burst it more than makes up for in consistency and flexibility.  

 

Pros: Fun animations if you're into the movies inspired by them. Potentially fast animating single target and AoE attack cycles.  Potentially far higher damage than you'd expect with procs.

Cons: Hail of Bullets is a bit long on the animation but high on the cool factor.  Piercing Rounds can take a total backseat on Sentinels, it is skippable.  Lack of Aim means no options for quick bursts of +dmg which can disappoint some players.  The lack of aim makes the set feel weaker on Pylon tests than it really is.  Sudden Weapon redraw 

 

Electrical Blast 

 

Electrical Blast is another set where the Sentinel version may be one of the better variants.  The set offers some considerably strong single target (with the right build of course) and two AoEs that hit in a sphere (Ball Lightening and Short Circuit).  While one of those AoEs is PBAoE, it does break the routine of Cone + TAoE that many of the sets use.  I have very little complaints about Sentinel EB.  Its a very strong set within the context of the AT.  

 

Pros: Zapping Bolt and Tesla Cage are a lot stronger than they look.  Good AoE for the AT as a whole.  Some proc slotting capacity in Tesla Cage.  

Cons: Thunderous Blast is slow, but other than EB is a great set. 

 

Energy Blast 

 

Noted, I hadn't bothered to play EnB yet.  However, lets talk changes.  Energy Blast has a lot of single target options.  A lot.  More than you really need.  While some of the animations are bit long the set can still be a hard hitter.  Power Burst, Power Push, and Focused Power Bolt can take on at least 2 damage procs, and a global recharge proc.  While it can be hard to get all of the bonuses you may want while frankenslotting like this, you really only need to do it for these 3 powers.  They can be considerably stronger than they look when constructed in this manner.  I'd say that's a plus.  Nova being available faster is also a nice perk but otherwise EnB is kinda boring to me.  It fits the Ironman vibe so bad it hurts, but I don't play a character like that.  

 

Pros: Potential in using IOs to work around the sets faults.  The big hitters of the set are probably a lot better than they look.  Doesn't require as much back breaking as Assault Rifle to get it to work. 😉 

Cons: A lot of things to consider as work arounds like knockback, do you want to use procs, just how far do you take those procs, and somewhat disappointing AoE.

 

Fire Blast 

 

I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this one.  This is the dead horse everyone beats.  

 

Pros: Its Fire Blast, you know its good. 

Cons: It over shadows everything else because its Fire Blast. Can be endurance heavy.

 

Ice Blast 

 

Friends, I like Sentinel Ice Blast.  If you could throw virtual stones at me, you might just do that.  However, I'll explain why I like it.  Sentinel Ice Blast is different.  It changes up some powers and to some folks that is not in a good way.  However, I like that Ice plays differently.  Sentinels in general aren't that focused on whatever CC was in the attack in the first place.  So Ice follows suit and removes a hold (yikes!).  Still, Ice Blast is a proc carrier that few talk about.  It was also a highly regarded PvP set due to that Sleep power many people hate.  That purple placate proc in PvP does things that are mean.  So mean.  Still, for PvE, Ice Blast can be converted from what looks like a crappy blast set into something that hits like a truck.  Chilling Ray can also include at least 2 general damage procs.  Bitter Ice Blast can potentially take 3, and Bitter Freeze Ray can potentially take 4(!).  That's not include two purple damage procs.  Ice Blast is the set no one is talking about and maybe should be.  Its AoE options can feel a little limited with just Frost Breath (I like the alternate animation personally) and Ice Storm.  Ice Storm and Blizzard are decent places for the Sentinel ATOs, especially Opportunity Strikes.  Ice Storm, Blizzard, and even Rain of Fire/Rain of Arrows will check a chance to trigger that proc on summon.  It works, I've done it, and I highly recommend it.  

 

Pros: Waaaaay better with procs.  Decent secondary effects. Better options on AoE than it sounds.  

Cons: Can be a total crap build if you're not careful.  Changes to the powers may rub old players the wrong way without bothering to adapt.  Highly reliant on Ice Storm for good AoE coverage which has a long cool down.  Can get endurance heavy.

 

Psychic Blast 

 

Psychic Blast is a deceptive set.  Psi damage in general is wildly poo pooed on through the phenomenon of "common forum knowledge".  Common forum knowledge would tell that you just cannot do damage with Psi powers in the end game.  At least the hyperventilating arguments I have read would lead you to believe that is true.  It's not.  At most, the highest resistance of a robot minion is 60%.  Most Arachnos robots are 50%.  While it is true that many factions in the high end of the game have some resistance to psi, it is often in the realm of 20%.  Guess what, boo f*ing hoo.  Any smashing or lethal damage player had been dealing with 20% damage resistances long before level 40.  Cry me a river.  What Psychic Blast loses in whatever resistance it comes to, it more than makes up in brute force.  Scramble Thoughts was converted from a CC power to a mini-T9 selectable at level 26.  It is one of the few CC power conversions that was left in its tier and its damage reflects it.  So what if the animation is 3 seconds?  It hits like mini Psychic Wail at a single target.  This power is as close as the Sentinel gets to Energy Transfer and Screech in Sonic is pretty freaking close.  The AoE options of Psychic Scream and Tornado aren't nearly as impressive.  They're serviceable, but not great. 

 

Pros: Potentially high single target damage.  Potentially stupidly effective against AVs with no Psi resistance and bypasses the resistance in obnoxious powers like Unstoppable/Moment of Glory. 

Cons: Limited proc options, but doesn't really need them. AoE options are on the 'meh' end. 

 

Radiation Blast 

 

Rad Blast is honestly quite straight forward and it has a huge amount of potential.  Its as good as you invest in it, but boy when it hits its stride it can do some damage.  Rad has 3 AoE, one of those a PBAoE (YAY!! Set diversity!) and some pretty strong attacks in Cosmic Burst/Proton Stream.  Proton Volley will be missed, but Sentinel Rad is still pretty good.  Since inflicts -defense, it comes with a lot of slotting options to vastly improve its damage.  Again, if you're not fond of or willing to use procs or whatever other tools exists, then the is going to disappoint you.  However, if you want to explore various slotting options, then Rad Blast can be converted into a fairly strong set.  This is one of the few sets I prefer on Defenders, but the Sentinel version can be as decent as you make it.  

 

Pros: Lots of potential.  3 AoEs other than the T9.  Lots of -defense debuffing which is nice for your teammates.  Laser can shoot out your eyes.  

Cons: Its only as good as you invest in it, has a PBAoE T9 AND as a regular option which may turn off some players. 

 

Sonic Blast 

 

HARRRAAAAAAAWWWW!!! HOOOOOOOOOOOWL!!!! BLEEEEEEERG!!!!  

I used to love Sonic Blast.  Played a Sonic/Sonic Corruptor long ago.  I honestly can't stand it now. 😉 Still, Sonic has some changes worth talking about.  For starters, Sonic cones hit more targets than other Sentinel cones do (with few exceptions).  All the cones hit 10 targets.  Screech does damage.  No wait, scratch that.  Screech does a TON of damage.  Screech used to be that kid you hated on Saved by the Bell.  Well, not here.  Screech no longer has a damage rating of 8.  Screech does damage as if it were a mini-Dreadful Wail (well a high portion of it).  Screech can let you skip Shout and still do very respectable damage all while still lowering resistance values.  That's pretty awesome!  

 

Pros: Screech is the power you want to play Blackbolt, kinda... like if Blackbolt whispered "SCREECH". Still, Screech makes this set for Sentinels as well as the higher limit on the cones.  Otherwise, it would probably suck. 

Cons: The sounds are obnoxious.  Sometimes it is endearing, but other times not.  I just keep the sound off when playing it.  Cones.  You get a cone, you get a cone, you get a cone! Lack of proc options.  Can look weak, but the multiple resistance debuffs help on teams. 

 

Water Blast 

 

Never played this on live.  This set, kinda like Dual Pistols, was one of the sets I really really wanted to try.  Like Dual Pistols, I love it on the Sentinel.  Unfortunately, Water Blast doesn't change much on the Sentinel.  There was no snipe to replace and no CC power to convert.  So instead you get a swapped selection between Dehydrate and Whirlpool.  Big whoop.  BUT!!!  Water Blast retains higher than normal target caps across its powers.  So while many cones hit 6 targets, Steam Spray hits 10.  This puts Water Blast in tight competition with Fire Blast for AoE damage potential and gives it unique target caps for the AT like Sonic Blast.  That's not a bad deal.  On top of that Water Blast plays well with proc options.  Want to push stupid damage on AoE? Proc out some powers!  Want to improve single target?  Put some procs in powers!  Even without damage procs, Water Blast still does very good AoE.  Its single target is where it struggles, and that's common on all the ATs, but procs help.  Like Dual Pistols, this is one of the few sets where direct comparisons can happen.  I don't suggest going into those rabbit holes because all they do is turn into navel gazing exercises, but it could be done.  

 

Pros: Slotting potential!! I like powers with options! Great AoE on an AT where people bemoan its AoE.  
Cons: Single target damage is pretty weak without procs or focus on the Tidal mechanic to fire off Water Jet twice.  

 

 

 

 

Edited by oldskool
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Secondary Sets...

 

I was kidding when I said that the primary sets were the sexy sets.  On Sentinels, your choice of secondary and how you handle it contributes a lot to effectiveness of a build.  While folks love to chat about what sets do the most DPS, they may not be thinking about which secondaries allow that to happen.  

 

The Secondary sets are the unsung hero of the AT. Its the general reason you're probably interested in or playing a Sentinel, but it is the facet of build most casually tossed to the side.  Its like an assumption that having an armor set is going to carry you through.  Its there, its protecting you, and most of the time you don't need to micro manage it.  

At the time of this writing, not all secondaries are created equal.  Not all builds are created equal.  The decisions you make with your secondary can determine how you handle your primary.  The secondary sets are the yin to your yang.  Hopefully, my experiences will help you see where to put a balance, when to go all in on damage or go all in on defense.  I find it incredibly disheartening for so many posters to complain about the AT as a whole while leveraging the same tired build ideas.  Sentinels are a different kind of AT and perhaps building it as if it were some other AT isn't that productive.  Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't.  

Soft Capping and How to Break a Build (or Make it Amazing)... 

 

Let's chat about soft caps for a moment.  Soft capping is a hugely popular topic.  OMG, gotta hit 45%!!!  HOW DO I SOFTCAP ALL THE THINGS!!!!!!  

First off, soft capping to 45% defense is f*ing awesome.  It can make you practically unkillable.  It can also force you make decisions on slotting your primary that deprive it of possible damage options.  When you purposefully design your build in this manner you may get angry that you never die and things never die around you in a timely manner. 

 

Heavy investment into building mitigation plans through IOs can come at a damage additive cost.  You may scoff or brush this off, but its true.  Some Sentinel primaries have few, if any, additional proc options.  Those sets also trend towards being rather self sufficient without them.  Those are the kinds of primaries you want to pair up with build plans that abuse the stacking of all the Winter IO sets.  Fire Blast is a great example.  Fire Blast does fantastic damage all on its own and using full sets to raise defense is a smart decision.  

You may pick a set like Assault Rifle and wonder how is it even possible that I play it without tickling everything to death.  Its because I paired with a secondary that soft-caps with little extra help (Super Reflexes).  Due to this pairing, I have a number of slots that are not needed for defensive IOs.  Quickness grants me +20% global recharge which is also hugely important for realizing the attack chain I use.  The bonus slots turn away from defensive and recharge bonuses in favor of damage options.  That helps.  

I tend to think that common forum knowledge also has created an impression that if you're not always running +4/x8 that you are somehow doing it wrong.  This seems to instill a sense of fear into players that aren't that experienced with the game into thinking they absolutely have to close every mitigation gap possible with all tools on the table.  Quite frankly I wish that would stop.  It won't, but I can dream.  

The content you plan to take part in matters too.  Do you really need to build every single Sentinel secondary to be a brick house?  No.  You don't.  You really don't.  OK, you might if your intention is to try and complete all content in the game at +4/x8.  You need to be as durable as you possibly can be, but for some reason folks forget that you need to do damage too.  If you're not capable of doing high enough damage to chew through the amounts of health that +4 Bosses/EBs have, its going to be SLOOOOOOW. 

 

The longer it takes for you to defeat the enemies the more chances they have to hit you.  In this game you cannot guarantee you won't get struck.  It will happen, and sometimes bad luck will floor you.  That can happen if you soft-cap or not.  I'll let that sink in... 

 

Sometimes aiming to soft-cap one or more defense types is a wise choice.  Gimping your damage options for the sake of converting every secondary into a ghetto version of Super Reflexes is not always the best use of your resources.  Let that sink in too... 

 

Many of the Secondaries I am about to get into have multiple mitigation types.  They may have resistance and defense and healing.  They may have absorb shields, they may have more of one type of the mitigation than another.  Some are largely passive, some are highly active, and many are mixed. Having multiple mitigation types can be just as beneficial as having soft-cap defense.  Soft-capping is not a cure to all things, and sometimes it can be counter productive.  

Here are some milestones I like to hit when I can: 

 

20% defense, 32.5% defense, 45% defense, 59% defense.  

 

20% defense isn't that hard to get to on any set that has 0 defense already in it.  Sets like Fiery Aura, Regeneration, Radiation Armor, and Electric Armor.  This defense level still works with inspirations.  A small purple inspire moves you into the second milestone, and a bigger one moves you into soft-cap town.  You may need to take on pool powers like Weave, Maneuvers, and Hover/Combat jumping, but that's how it goes.  You either build up your defenses for solo or tone that difficulty down or you team up and let others close your gaps with their buffs.  There is no shame in having teammates buff you.

 

32.5% defense is a bit trickier to hit on the resist-only sets but is fairly reasonable on any thing else that is mixed type. Dark Armor can be a little tricky to reach this level, but it is possible.  I promise that since my Water/Dark hits this metric and she is more survivable than you'd think given the layers she has.  

 

45% defense is pretty easy to hit on Super Reflexes, Energy Aura, and Ninjutsu.  On everything else you need to stop and really think about the repercussions of the decision to hit this milestone.  Is it worth it to you?  Can your primary do enough damage without procs?  Are giving up any recharge?  If the defense trades don't significantly hurt your expected damage, then go for it!  If you're playing any of those primaries that can greatly benefit from damage procs, then proceed with caution.  You may still pull it off, but the build might be real tight on slots/sets.  

 

59% defense is an Incarnate goal but Sentinels often need to leave damage on the table to do this.  Its usually not worth it, but it can be possible with some pairings like Fire Blast and Super Reflexes.  Both sets are largely self sufficient and allow a player to push extreme levels of defense.  This will not be true for most other combinations.  

 

If you can live with running less difficult content like +2/x8 (or less, I suppose) than any combination can work.  Its only when you really want to push the hardest challenges solo without much reliance on inspirations, temp powers, or teammates that soft-capping starts to really matter.  I have multiple characters that handle different scales of difficulty. Some of those are Sentinels. Do not be so proud that you break your build to try to complete content you'll be disappointed in or even fail at.  Its not worth it. 

 

Quick comment on Alpha slots... 

 

Agility is almost never worth the investment on a Sentinel in my experience across all of the builds I have crafted over the past year.  Generally you are looking at roughly 2% more defense.  The recharge benefit can be easily obtained from Ageless Destiny, IO bonuses, or Hasten.  You may not even need that much recharge.  The endurance benefit can be largely a wash.  This one just doesn't do enough most of the time to warrant the materials.  Let all the other ATs decide on how to fit this in their build, but strongly consider passing on it for your Sentinel.  

Sentinels are often claimed to be weak on damage.  So why wouldn't you pursue any of the Alpha options that improve that perceived weakness vs chasing defense you may not even need?  Musculature Core, Radial, and Intuition Radial are very strong picks.  Generally, you shouldn't need any of the others for mitigation other than Cardiac.  Cardiac can be very worth while to use in some builds, but you'll be giving up some damage for defense.  

 

So, in most cases go for any of the +damage Alphas.  You can thank me later.  Cardiac can be a great alternative for quality of life, but ideally get your end under control some other way to pick up +dmg.  

 

Picking the Right Outfit for the Ball...

 

Despite how important secondaries truly can be, I want to keep this fairly short.  I'll give a quick overview of the set (focused, or mixed) and let you know if I found it worth soft-capping or not.  I'll point any shortcomings of the set to give you an idea on what to expect. 

 

Bio Armor 

 

Bio Armor is a mixed mitigation set using various passive defense and resistance combinations as well as active click healing powers including absorbs.  Bio Armor is quite strong all on its own.  It is very tough to softcap all of its categories without going all in on defensive IO bonuses.  I do not feel it is worth it do that with more primaries, but it is certainly possible. 

 

Dark Armor 

 

Dark Armor is a jack-of-all-trades style set.  It has a little bit of everything.  It completely lacks a T9 defense power and instead has a self revive as well as crowd control toggles.  Dark armor is as good as you invest into it.  It can also be tricky to difficult to hard cap certain resistances and also soft-cap defenses.  You can do it, but its going to have a price and it can get steep (in both powers, slots, and bonuses).  You can end up with a respectable mix of mitigation and even the CC toggles can be useful.  Enemies still like to run into melee and Oppressive Glooms stun stacks with a lot of different primaries.  This set does not have the ultra powerful Dark Regen and its passive recovery option (tied to the Dark Regen replacement) can run out quickly.  So endurance can be an issue but that depends a lot on your build.  

 

Electric Armor 

 

ElA leans heavy on the resistance side, but it does have some high regeneration potential.  End management isn't much of an issue and the set has some other bells and whistles.  Piling on more defense is always great, but you really don't need to break the build chasing 45% defense.  This is especially true if you pick up an immobilize from the Patrons/Epics to keep more dangerous foes away or if you wish to chase hover-blasting.  This holds true for every secondary in this list.  

 

Energy Aura 

 

EnA is a mixed type set that leans heavily on typed defense.  Should you soft-cap?  Yes.  There is little reason not to soft-cap an Energy Aura character.  You even get some resistance boosts in the set, and loads of endurance management.  Sentinel Energy Aura can be a very strong set.  Should you Incarnate soft-cap?  Probably not for most builds, but it can be possible to get there or very close to it. 

 

Fiery Aura 

 

Fiery Aura can be just as squishy as it is on any other AT but you don't have the benefit of the damage aura.  You do still get Burn and FA on Sentinels has a passive healing power as well as a clickable.  Its a bit better than other versions in that regard and especially so if you can lift its defense value out from the dirt.  Still, soft-capping defense can come at a very steep price and I generally haven't found it worth it to do that.  It can be a bit easier to focus just on melee or smashing/lethal defense to make Burn a bit safer to use.  Endurance benefit is still tied to Consume and Consume isn't that great.  Cardiac Core was a big benefit to me before T4 Ageless.  This set is s probably my least favorite option.  Its a very risky set and the reward isn't that high. 

 

Ice Armor 

 

Ice Armor is a mixed set.  It has a little bit of everything.  It does lack a lot of Fire and Cold defense.  That is easy to gain through IO sets though.  Can you soft-cap with Ice Armor? Yes, you can absolutely bring this to 44-45+% defense to multiple types.  Should you though?  Eh, maybe.  Depends on what you pair it with and just how important it is to you.  The T9, Icy Bastion, is pretty awesome and I've ran this with both 35% and 45% defense values.  The higher the defense you get the easier things are, but it wasn't hugely detrimental to ease off that number either.  Endurance management is not great.  The set itself isn't that expensive to run, but it doesn't have a nice passive option.  Instead endurance restore is linked to a cooldown power and its pretty underwhelming.  Icy Bastion will improve your recovery though so with enough leapfrogging of effects it is doable.  Its not a particularly exciting set to level.  Furthermore, Ice Armor includes more sources of +hit point than you can effectively use.  This makes one of the final powers a total dud if you have Hoarfrost on perma.  The absorb shield the set offers needs a serious review because the amount it generates is very low.  You can skip that power too as it isn't worth the slots.  Ideally that power functions like a modified version of the one that exists within the Blaster AT, but until then... pass.  Ice Armor is a decent set to run once you full complete it, but it is a labor of love to play.  I wouldn't fault anyone for never touching it in its current state.  Still, I like it better than Fiery Aura, and that's saying something. 

 

Invulnerability 

 

Invul is a mixed resistanced and typed defense set with heavy emphasis on smashing/lethal resistance. You gain bonus hit points and an endurance power. Yes, there is an endurance power in Sentinel Invul.  Its one of the better versions of the set, but losing out on the scaling Invincibility is a bummer.  Still, this is a strong all around set.  Can you soft-cap it? Yes.  Should you?  Probably not, unless your primary can handle it.  You can reasonably hardcap S/L resistance and reasonably hit high 20's to low 30's on defense.  You'll cap your hit points fairly easily too.  Invul is durable enough on its own that soft-capping is a nice to have but not critical factor.  

 

Ninjutsu 

 

Ninjutsu on Sentinels is a bit different from the Stalker version.  Its somewhat mixed in scope but includes a CC power that other sets don't get.  Can you soft-cap it?  Yes.  Should you?  Yes, doesn't matter the primary you run.  You can very high defense values and that is one of the strongest perks to the set.  On top of this you have a lot of control over you hit points and endurance through click powers.  You are stuck with a click Mezz protection but it is incredibly comprehensive and it stacks with itself.  Blinding Powder can be skipped or used for utility or its slotting options.  Its an underrated power but it isn't critical either.  Should you Incarnate soft-cap?  Probably not.  Ninjutsu's values are generally less than those of Super Reflexes making it more costly to get there.  Its possible to do it, but probably not ideal.  

 

Radiation Armor 

 

Rad Armor is like Bio Armor in that it can be considered a top of the line armor set... on many other ATs.  On Sentinels it is still really good.  Like Bio Armor and Fiery Aura, Rad brings more direct offensive aid.  Both Ground Zero and Meltdown are damage increasing powers.  There is no native defense in the set, but it doesn't really need it for most content.  You gain options for healing as well as damage with Meltdown also granting more resistance.  Any extra defense is always welcome but you don't need to break a build to softcap.

 

Regeneration 

 

Regen has a reputation in the melee ATs that can be all over the place.  You have fans of it, and you have those that hate it.  Sentinel Regeneration chances a few things and turns the set into a very strong secondary.  Second Wind works as both a revive if you fall or a scaling heal based on current health.  Instant Regeneration grants you a regenerating absorb shield that is far more handy in practice than it sounds.  Its not a lot of absorb but it will continually restore itself as long as the toggle runs.  Any defense one can add is always welcome, but soft-capping isn't necessary.  

 

Super Reflexes 

 

Sentinel Super Reflexes has some slight changes from the melee counterparts.  Most notable is the choice between Practiced Brawler and Master Brawler.  MB pushes mezz protection into the set's toggles and grants a strong absorb power.  Additionally there is a passive endurance power unlike other versions of the set.  Should you soft-cap it? Yes. Doesn't matter what you're using you should soft cap.  Should you Incarnate soft cap?  Probably not with most pairings, but it is certainly possible. This is one of the few secondaries that can allow it without too much risk of breaking a character for it. 

 

Willpower 

 

Willpower is the last set on the list.  Its a mixed type between typed defense, resistance, and regeneration.  It has a lot in common with Invulnerability in that regard.  Willpower can be a tricky set to deal with on Sentinels.  Its a jack-of-all-trades style set like Dark Armor, with some slight advantages, but it generally has no other means to handle damage. Its playstyle isn't that far off from the melee variants, but will feel risky in melee at times.  As a pure ranged build option it can be a reasonable with the potential for high levels of regeneration.  Should you soft-cap it?  Probably not.  You can push defenses into the high 20's to low 30's and that can work fairly well when combined with ranged damage.  

 

All of the sets above can enable any characters to deal the damage they need to being doing either solo or as part of a team.  The power sets with easy options to soft-cap trend towards all around play.  Sentinels are a lower hit point AT so defense-heavy sets tend to be some of the stronger options for handling universal content.  That shouldn't scare anyone off from playing a resistance heavy set.  If you can keep your distance on any Sentinel, then any of them can be quite survivable.  Enemy melee attacks often do more damage than their range options.  Many enemy types also have more melee options than ranged.  So not only is the damage per hit from a ranged attack less but their frequency of attack may be less.  You can hover out of range, hop around, immobilize enemies, or make them scatter.  Any one or combination of things can go a long way to surviving more challenging content.

 

Conclusions...

 

Sentinels may struggle for some players and there a lot of reasons that can contribute to this.  A review of the AT that puts them in a positive position within the community would be welcome.  Though the hyperbolic damage is probably already done.  There are still folks that think Stalkers play the same as they did on CoV release.  Sentinels will likely always have the reputation of being the lowest damage DPS AT and having lower damage than support sets.  That's not going to go away overnight with a patch.  That's the community's fault, and we all need to own that.  

If you've read all of this, thank you.  I'm very likely to take a break from posting in this subforum for a while.  I've just dumped all of my thoughts about the AT and its various sets into this one repository.  I pretty much have nothing else to say.  That said, I'm just a direct message away if anyone wishes to ask questions.  

 

Edited by oldskool
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A. This is brilliant stuff. Thanks for putting all this information out there.

B. THIS NEEDS TO BE AND STAY STICKIED!!

C. The two new TAoE enhancement sets that extend range are a boon to Sentinels. I always find myself trying to fire my attacks at the same range as my Blasters and it doesn't work. These sets help: my Archery Sentinel now has a 48 foot cone attack, which is very close to the 50 feet Blasters get. I wish there was an enhancement set that increases the number of targets that can be hit!

 

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Planning my 5th sentinel for after I get off work. Currently have the following Incarnate Sentinels: Rad/Rad, Elec/Fire, Water/Bio, AR/Regen.

 

I'm leaning towards DP/EnA for my next one. Completely sold on EnA, but debating internally over Dual Pistols, Energy Blast or Sonic.

 

Sentinels are pretty fun to be honest. This is a great breakdown on Sentinels.

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This post is a great piece of work, thanks very much.

 

(I've spent the past day or so putting some miles on my Beam/Invuln, my 3rd Sentinel overall.  Had a hoot with all of them so far.

 

Again, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

 

Generator

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@oldskool, thank you so much for doing this.  It's absolutely brilliant, and you should be commended for it.  Bravo!  Well done.

 

I also vote that this post be made STICKY!

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@Rathstar

Energy/Energy Blaster (50+3) on Everlasting

Energy/Temporal Blaster (50+3) on Excelsior

Energy/Willpower Sentinel (50+3) on Indomitable

Energy/Energy Sentinel (50+1) on Torchbearer

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I figure all of this is going to be obsolete when the Eye of Sauron focuses its gaze on fixing the AT.  There is also a lot of stuff I am overlooking with some of the powers in retrospect (plus loads of typos I need to fix).  There is a lot inconsistency with the Opportunity mechanic within various sets.  Some are really good at it, and others lack the same cheesy advantage.  Like some AoEs build better than others and some sets can pair both Opportunities at the same time.  Seems like some bugs and or oversights happened which makes universal recommendations very tough to do.  

I know some of you that read this know exactly what sets I'm talking about too.  😉 

 

Some of the secondaries have advantages I totally forgot like Durability in Invulnerability having a passive absorb.  Invul on Sentinels is awesome just like Super Reflexes and Regeneration.  

If the AT gets a big change, then I'll probably muster the energy to work on a second version.  Ugh! 

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1 minute ago, oldskool said:

I figure all of this is going to be obsolete when the Eye of Sauron focuses its gaze on fixing the AT.  There is also a lot of stuff I am overlooking with some of the powers in retrospect (plus loads of typos I need to fix).  There is a lot inconsistency with the Opportunity mechanic within various sets.  Some are really good at it, and others lack the same cheesy advantage.  Like some AoEs build better than others and some sets can pair both Opportunities at the same time.  Seems like some bugs and or oversights happened which makes universal recommendations very tough to do.  

I know some of you that read this know exactly what sets I'm talking about too.  😉 

 

Some of the secondaries have advantages I totally forgot like Durability in Invulnerability having a passive absorb.  Invul on Sentinels is awesome just like Super Reflexes and Regeneration.  

If the AT gets a big change, then I'll probably muster the energy to work on a second version.  Ugh! 

Don't sweat it: we'll give you at least a week to adjust to the changes before we start demanding rewrites. 😉

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@Rathstar

Energy/Energy Blaster (50+3) on Everlasting

Energy/Temporal Blaster (50+3) on Excelsior

Energy/Willpower Sentinel (50+3) on Indomitable

Energy/Energy Sentinel (50+1) on Torchbearer

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Posted (edited)

This is full of good stuff. I won't bother to quibble with the points I do disagree with and they are somewhat subjective really (ok, mostly). 

 

One thing I will say though, is that the fact that you say that sentinels are good at single target when you require massive proc leveraging to do it simply clarifies the situation that as a DPS class, sentinels lack their DPS. 

 

Also, the degree to which one has to build and play to leverage the inherent to be good (to the degree it can be good, which IMO is very limited) shows how short that inherent falls from the mark of being acceptable. 

 

My personal take on sentinels is leverage recharge as hard as possible on every build, and this will reap rewards. It will allow higher level powers to be up more to gain uptime for opportunity. It will allow you to pop your nuke every spawn (which again helps with opportunity). It will also allow your heals to pop more often, which is crucial for some of the secondaries. 

 

Oh, one quibble I will make, invulnerability isn't hard to softcap across everything but psionic and toxic. I have a heavily damage procced rad/invuln build which has capped l/s resistance as well as softcap to all but psi and toxic. It also has perma hasten. For the ITFs that I love to run, I would say it's my best sentinel. The trick is, since everyone dips into psi epic anyway, mind link can get you a decent boost of defense and is permanent at the recharge rates I suggest anyway. 

Edited by drbuzzard

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5 minutes ago, drbuzzard said:

One thing I will say though, is that the fact that you say that sentinels are good at single target when you require massive proc leveraging to do it simply clarifies the situation that as a DPS class, sentinels lack their DPS. 

 

Also, the degree to which one has to build and play to leverage the inherent to be good (to the degree it can be good, which IMO is very limited) shows how short that inherent falls from the mark of being acceptable.

These are both solid, and intended, takeaways.  

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You mentioned that some primaries (like archery) don't really need their t1's (except maybe for activating opportunity), but which primaries do you think should incorporate 1 or both t1's into their regular rotation and which should only use them to activate opportunity?

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1 hour ago, Hardboiled Hero said:

You mentioned that some primaries (like archery) don't really need their t1's (except maybe for activating opportunity), but which primaries do you think should incorporate 1 or both t1's into their regular rotation and which should only use them to activate opportunity?

Yes, there are some sets where I didn't feel as if focusing on the T1/T2 decision was all that paramount to the build.  There are a few cases where the T1 is noteworthy, and a few where the T2 is noteworthy.  I feel a need to make a few points first though: 

 

1) I do not think in absolutes.  

2) Fun is more important than numbers (to an extent). 

3) My decisions often involve my Secondary and how I slot it.  So it may not be entirely helpful to have a discussion like this in a vacuum without a build being considered.  

4) I'm probably going to say "It depends" an awful lot.  This is because of points #1 and #3 with at least a nod to #2.  

5) I'm not fond of having multiple powers like both T1 and T2 sitting around doing nothing.  So I'll often configure my build to slap one of those at the tail end to control Opportunity procs.  This is a build decision and it could be its own really long post.  

 

Other thought: One gripe I have with the Sentinel design is how it has an apparent removal of player agency.  There are times where I see folks say you have to take both the T1 and T2.  If there is one big takeaway, it is this; you don't need both the T1 and T2 in all builds.  They can be nice, but they aren't always mandatory.  The times where both are required to complete a full attack chain is far more limited in scope than when they're not.  Still, I'd love to see the AT become more accessible by removing any perception on the lack of player agency.  If people are convinced they have no real choice, then it makes the AT less accessible than it is.  That's poor design that could be corrected.  Freedom to build a hero/villain of your own design is part of the core to CoX.  Any perception that removes that principle isn't good in my opinion. 

 

Noteworthy T1's: 

 

Fire Blast - Flares 

Dual Pistols - Pistols 

Beam Rifle - Single Shot  

 

Flares and Pistols are decent attacks in their own right.  Single Shot has a debuff that makes it unique and as a power its OK.  You could potentially skip these depending on the build. (It depends is unfortunately a running theme).  For Example, Fire could potentially use Blaze - Fireball - Blazing Blast OR Flares can be weaved in as filler.  Pistols is a backbone of any Dual Pistols character I play, but I've seen successful builds run Dual Wield instead.  

Power sets where both the T1 and T2 might be part of the chain: 

 

Sonic Blast is pretty reliant on its T1 and T2.  Its no different for Sentinels.  You can sandwich those with Screech to good effect.  

Assault Rifle is a big old MAYBE.  This greatly depends on overall slotting and what is being done with a total build.  I'm currently running an attack chain without Disorienting Shot and it is turning out better than I expected.  That said, Disorienting Shot is a strangely powerful T2 power when looked at purely with full sets.  Assault Rifle can be needless complicated due to the weird implementation it has on Sentinels.  Still, I've grown to like it. 

Electrical Blast - this one can go either way.  Charged Bolts and Lightning Bolt can both be worth running or not.  Sorry but the answer is... it depends.  I'm currently running both since I am pushing procs in Zapping Bolt and Tesla Cage.  At one point Charged Bolts was a cleaner fit in my attack sequence due to its fast animation/cooldown vs Lightning Bolt.  I've since brought Lightning Bolt back into my build and changed some slotting around.  

Beam Rifle, Dark Blast, Energy Blast, and Ice Blast.  The T1/T2 combo can work with these OR you could go different directions.  

 

Power sets where you can potentially ignore, or reduce to limited use, the T1/T2 pick: 

 

Psychic Blast can potentially leap frog Will Dom - Scramble Thoughts - Will Dom until your enemies bleed from their ears.  TK Blast is a good T2.  One could even slip in Psionic Strike and ignore the T1/T2.  I don't have a glowing endorsement of Psi Strike, but it is possible. 

Ice Blast can potentially hammer out Chilling Ray + Bitter Ice Blast + Bitter Freeze Ray.  I proc Chilling Ray and Bitter Ice Blast.  I currently run some recharge reduction in Bitter Freeze Ray plus some procs to smooth out the chain.  Ice Bolt is pure filler and Opportunity trigger for my build.  So a build could go a few directions with Ice Blast.  

Archery can potentially pair down to just Stunning Shot, Blazing Arrow, and Perfect Shot.  If you're pushing enough recharge to make that happen, then Snap Shot isn't a bad choice for Offensive Opportunity as the DPA between Snap and Aimed Shot don't matter nearly as much as it does on another AT.  

Dark Blast can be very flexible.  Life Drain + Abyssal Gaze + Antumbral Beam is a possibility and it can work pretty well for a proc build.  The T1 Dark Blast can still be useful, and so can Gloom if running full sets (Gloom is slightly better than Life Drain with full sets).  

Energy Blast can be pretty flexible too.  There is no shortage of single target powers and many of them have roughly similar DPA.  The T1 and T2 could be dropped in favor of the other later powers if running the recharge to pull it off.  There is no shame in using Power Bolt or Power Blast.  

Beam Rifle can potentially focus on just Disintegrate, Lancer Shot, and Piercing Beam.  It can replace Piercing Beam with just Charged Shot or Single Shot OR both depending on total recharge.  Beam can be flexible.  

 

With Water Blast, Psychic Blast, and Radiation Blast their respective T1 powers could potentially be skipped and not missed.  If you can make room to trigger Offensive Opportunity, then great, but don't lose sleep skipping Neutrino Bolt, Aqua Bolt or Mental Blast.  

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Posted (edited)

My opinions are that Opportunity is utter garbage as it is. It should not be locked to any powers just like Tankers version used to be.

 

AoE nerf is way too much.

 

Damage is a little on the low side still and needs a little bump. Procs help but it is still quite low for a class with little to no utility. A scrapper/Stalker is way ahead in damage. 

 

Some activation times need looking at as some are unnecessarily long. But that is all ATs i would say.

 

The class has no useful purpose in the game whatsoever. They are fun but are not useful at all. Any other class would bring far more to the table.

 

Once the fun factor has worn off you are left with a very mediocre AT that is surpassed in damage by a lot of other ATs even a tanker probably with its increased targets and the Sentinels reduced targets. No amazing buffs/debuffs though some T9s bring some debuffs. Survival isn't the best as you need to pump everything into damage to make them close to being viable.

 

What they are good for is flying over the head of mobs that can't reach them and pew pewing them slowly whilst being very safe lol.

 

They need an overhaul.

Edited by Gobbledegook

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Oldskool, have you ever noticed if you take DP and Incendiary that you cannot get fire damage ticks when activating Offensive?  I mean on the actual activation, not during it...

 

...also why do we get quad 'VULNERABILITY!' messages when we do that


image.png.440bd3ba66421192ca1fb954c5d313c2.pngspacer.pngFlint Eastwood

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It seems overlooked, but Ninjitsu provides a 20% damage boost in Shinobi-Iri. So it can also be included in the list of secondaries that provide an offensive boost.

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12 minutes ago, underfyre said:

It seems overlooked, but Ninjitsu provides a 20% damage boost in Shinobi-Iri. So it can also be included in the list of secondaries that provide an offensive boost.

I've never been clear on that bonus.  It says "while stealthed" you get bonus damage.  Does that stay on all the time, or is it just the first hit from stealth?

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Posted (edited)
On 4/29/2020 at 9:16 AM, oldskool said:

Psychic Blast 

 

Psychic Blast is a deceptive set.  Psi damage in general is wildly poo pooed on through the phenomenon of "common forum knowledge".  Common forum knowledge would tell that you just cannot do damage with Psi powers in the end game.  At least the hyperventilating arguments I have read would lead you to believe that is true.  It's not.  At most, the highest resistance of a robot minion is 60%.  Most Arachnos robots are 50%.  While it is true that many factions in the high end of the game have some resistance to psi, it is often in the realm of 20%.  Guess what, boo f*ing hoo.  Any smashing or lethal damage player had been dealing with 20% damage resistances long before level 40.  Cry me a river. 

I actually really liked your opinion and the guide overall. Excellent work! It was very accurate and enjoyable, however I do want to make a *note* (in general about Lethal damage) here: Lethal damage makes up for it because (often) it is typed with -defense debuff which -> Achilles procs for -res, so what does resist it, Lethal will get the -res on its attacks to "even the playing field." Psi does not get this luxury unfortunately. Now I made a Psi Blaster, I agree with the overall thought that Psi is still viable, but I wouldn't recommend it. The Praetorian robot resistance to it that so often encountered with no ability to really -res hurts Psi. Once again though! Excellent work. 🙂

 

Something interesting people taking Psi may or may not find interesting (I actually learned this in PvP): Psi has by far the greatest capacity to overwhelm enemies with a surge of damage at once. How do you accomplish it? The chain is usually Will Dom (it travels so slow that you can actually abuse its slow travel rate to turn the damage into a massive spike) -> Char (travels moderately fast, but not the fastest) -> Telekinetic (casts almost instantly). This will (even on Sentinels) deal about 1,000+ damage to an enemy all at once. 

Edited by Zeraphia
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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Zeraphia said:

Lethal damage makes up for it because (often) it is typed with -defense debuff which -> Achilles procs for -res, so what does resist it, Lethal will get the -res on its attacks to "even the playing field."

That's a fine point if we'll assume that everyone taking any -defense power is also slotting Achilles' Heel Chance for Resistance Debuff.  If a Psychic Blast user wanted to help reduce that problem further, then they could also look into taking Weaken Resolve and load it procs.  So a Lethal set that happens to have a -defense power can have a potentially innate advantage in that it doesn't need to seek help elsewhere.  Psychic Blast needs to look elsewhere for that benefit which may limit their build choices (i.e., locking into a power pool they may not care for).  

Edited by oldskool
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Great stuff, this shouldn’t just be stickied but turned into a Guide and posted in Guides section.  

 

I’ve got several Sents, hit most of the stronger build combo’s listed here.  My only continued issues with the AT is lack of damage, procs notwithstanding.  And while I am happy to hear that Sents will (eventually) be addressed by the Devs, likely via a damage, aggro or damage/aggro buff, I’m also well aware that the Devs have mentioned that Procs are NOT working the way they intended (eg; ‘too strong’).  So I see Proc’ing out Sents today as a workaround to a fundamental issue.  And I’m betting you won’t see Sent damage changed/buffed without a corresponding nerf to something...possibly Proc PPM’s.

 

That of course is an entirely different topic and I’ll leave it for now.

 

Thanks again for great information.  For the record....the only Sent I currently feel is perfectly balanced for damage and durability as a melee-distance ranged damage dealer is a Fire/Rad/Fire, and that’s really because of Cages/FireSword Circle combo in addition to Inferno + Ground Zero.  All my others just feel far lacking in DPS and while they are sturdy things, they aren’t tanks nor scrappers, which really leaves them as kind of nothing more than crosshair painters on teams.

 

I do play them for theme though since the durability makes that more feasible.  

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2 hours ago, Crysis said:

Great stuff, this shouldn’t just be stickied but turned into a Guide and posted in Guides section.

I've been considering writing something a bit different for that subforum.  A kind of "How to Train Your Dragon" but with Sentinels.  I've been considering taking my rundown on Dual Pistols from the sticky in this subforum and making a broader scale guide across AT.  I've now played it at 50 across every AT, and I find there is enough nuance it plays differently per AT.  There are powers that interact differently with inherents or general AT wide modifiers.  

I'm not sure I have the energy to really bother with either at the moment.  I think I need to just take a break from the forums all together but this constant work from home status is making it tough to not take a peek when I have the chance. lol

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