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How not to Visit the Hospital - Layered Resilience in COH


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Building a character for resilience in CoH is not a straight line affair.  Too great a focus on a single tool to enhance survival can lead to disappointing results – as can, ironically, too great a dissipation of that focus.  Many a /regen character throughout the history of CoH complained of existing in a binary HP state, unharmed or dead.  The SR Scrapper dances unopposed through opponents until an unlucky few die rolls take him from full to dead.  A pure-resist tank without heals or other options slowly crumbles under a wave of attackers – unless a stack of holds and debuffs, none of which miss our pure resist friend, overcome his mez prot, crush his endurance, flatline his recharge, or otherwise work together to overwhelm him.

Nothing alone is perfect.


So how do the various layers interact, what is the value of each layer, how is it gotten, and what are its performance limits?



Every even-con generic minion starts out with a 50% chance to hit you with its attacks.  Each point of defense up to 45% reduces that chance.  Thus 25% defense we get hit half as often, and with 45% defense, we get hit 1/10 as often.  Some attackers will be more accurate (targeting drones, higher level, higher ‘class’), but those accuracy bonuses apply to whatever % chance to hit is left AFTER your defense.  So 45% is as good as it gets, and will almost always cut the number of hits by 10. 

Take note:  Assuming you start from 0, spending the resources to get to 25% defense cuts your damage incoming by half.  Now that you’ve come this far, a mere further 20% will cut that half by x5 more.  So its often worthwhile to ‘go big or go home’, though theres a case to be made for stopping at 32.5% - this costs less build resources, and lets you hit softcap for the price of a small purple, or for being on almost any team.

Defense comes in two types, positional and damage typed.  Each incoming attack almost always carries a ‘vector’ (Melee, Ranged, AOE) AND at least one type (Fire, Energy, Lethal, etc).  Your best Defense is the one that applies.



1.) Everyone can get to 45%, at least in theory.

2.) Defense doesn’t just prevent damage, it prevents whatever comes along with that damage (debuff, mezz, etc)

3.) When in doubt, Positional defense is better than Typed defense.  Its very hard to get typed defense to cover all 8 types – there are only 3 positions!



1.) Defense relies on dice rolls.  Sometimes the dice hate you.

2.) Most powersets that give heavy defense give little else – especially if they give typed defense.

3.) Defense debuffs are fairly common.  This can lead to cascade failure when ONE guy gets lucky, and hits you with his 1-in-20 SMG shot that carries a -5% defense debuff.  Now your at 40%, and two guys hit you… now your at 30%, so the next FIVE hit you.  And your gone.  Some sets have resistance to defense debuffs, which can help, as can going over the 45% cap if you can afford to, so as to have a buffer.  I still like to carry a few purples.



1.) Buffs from friends, or even better buffs that buff your whole party.  Buffs in CoH are far more powerful, usually, than self-effecting powers.  If your reading this, your probably playing a Tank/Brute/Scrapper/Sentinel, but don’t overlook how tough anyone with the right buff set and a cunning plan can be.

2.) Self-Buffs from your defensive powerset.  Remember that Positional Defense is better than typed – but – the positional defense sets frequently don’t give as much heal/resist/etc. as the typed defense sets.

3.) IOs – Set Bonuses and Uniques.  Two IOs carry flat DEF buffs that apply to all types and positions.  They should be standard on anyone who cares even a little bit about Defense.  Beyond this, note that set bonuses OFTEN favor positional defense over typed (There is a lot of Ranged Defense in the Thunderstrike set, popular among Blasters and now Sentinels) and its not uncommon to see a set give 2.5% Defense (Position) and 1.25% Defense (Type A and Type B).



Resistance is straightforward, as a % damage reduction to incoming attacks.  Most ATs can reach at most 75% resistance, while Tanks and Brutes can reach 90%.  At 75% defense, you take ¼ the damage you otherwise would have.  At 90%, you take 1/10th.  So like Defense, resistance is very much a ‘some good, more much better’ affair.



1.) No dice rolls required.  Resistance is there, its always there, it always applies.

2.) Resistance debuffs from foes are rare.

3.) Good to bring your own – resistance BUFFS are also harder to come by.



1.) Many attacks carry another effect along with them.  An End drain, a slow, a status effect.  These can quickly stack to become crippling, if all you have is Resistance.

2.) You will still get hit, a lot.  If you don’t have a good self-heal or really hefty regeneration, you can be worn down.

3.) It is basically impossible to get 75% (much less 90%!) to ALL damage types, and most resistance based sets tend to have large holes (most classically psi resist on the Invuln set – it also has a psi defense hole, as well)



1.) External or team buffs, as in defense.  Note that resistance buff are less common than defense buffs, and resistance inspirations give less resistance than defense buffs do defense.

2.) Defensive Powersets – note that most powersets that give a mix of resist and defense have holes in their resistance, and no powerset alone will get you to the highest level of resistance.  If you want to see 75%, much less 90%, you will be going heavy in IOs

3.) IO Bonuses and Set Bonuses.  Like Defense, there are unique IOs that give +RES.  You probably want them if you want resistance at all.  Set bonuses for resistance also exist, but give (relatively) less resistance than defense sets give defense – because of the much higher resist cap, and greater number of damage types, IOs wont make up as much ground on resist as they will on defense.  If you plan on being serious about resistances, you WILL have to get a lot from your powers.



Less discussion here.  You die when you run out of hit points.  More hit points is a linear bonus to your time to live under fire.  Hit points are largely determined by Archetype, though some powersets have powers that give a bonus to hit points, and IO sets may provide further bonuses.  Adding hit points has a much more linear effect on survival than adding DEF and RES – so should be prioritized only AFTER your getting the DEF and RES levels you planned on.  Sacrificing the last 5% of Melee Defense or the last 10% of Smashing/Lethal Resistance for an additional few % of HP is a bad investment.

Caveat to the above – what hit points CAN buy you is time.  If the damage is coming in through a hole in your resistances, or you’ve flat gotten unlucky, extra hit points can be the difference between parsing the log to try to figure out why you died, and hammering a pre-set line of candy to stand you back up (I tend to have a line that consists of a breakfree, a large green, and some large purples on my F1 key.  Whenever I have a heart-attack moment, I fast-tap line 1.  This gives me enough time to cast further self heals or take other measures)



Healing is weird. Healing is like extra hit points that you don’t have right now, but will have as time passes (health regeneration), as animations finish (heals being cast), and as cooldowns finish (staring at a recharging heal as your HP flash in the red).

Healing is unusual in its survival behavior.  If your incoming healing per second (from regen, or over time from heals) is greater than the damage that is making it through layer 1 and 2, then you live forever.  If its less, you don’t – and you probably die pretty quickly.  A large pile of innate regeneration gives a buffer, and a self-heal can go a long way to keeping you safe (I recommend topping off, rather than waiting for emergencies).



1.) Healing cares not where the damage came from, it just makes it go away.

2.) Some attacks may not carry a damage type, or one you don’t have coverage on.  A very rare few (one?) lacks a positional component.  Healing doesn’t care about that either.



1.) Often (large groups, AVs, etc) damage comes in so fast and heavy that healing ALONE cant keep up, or that flat kills you in the time it takes to realize you are taking damage.  A LOT of Regen Scrappers died this way upon a time – and a careless Bioarmor does so just as easily now, when it bites off more than it can chew.

2.) As with Resistance, debuffs still come in – and there are even (though rare) debuffs to your regeneration or healing received. 



1.) Powersets.  A self-heal is a strong selling point in any power set, and some sets provide a large constant self-healing (notably Regen, Bio, WP).  If a not-traditionally-defensive powerset provides a self heal (notably Dark Melee), this can be a large benefit to whatever it is paired with.

2.) Pool Powers – notably ‘Aid Self’.  While imperfect and requiring two power selections, it’s a self heal when some days you cannot get one any other way.

3.) IOs – various IO sets offer a bonus to Regen, usually in the first two pieces.  Its not enough to sell me on a set, or to send me hunting for them, but they can be very good to have.



Debuffs also increase survival.  Some sets slow enemies, others decrease their damage or endurance.  Control always helps.  A debuffing defender can make a blaster more survivable against a mob than an unsupported tank would be.  Situational awareness can be key – there are debuffs (TARGETED) that amount to ‘you are going to die shortly’, and mobs (Sappers, certain Carnies) that may be a lethal threat to your character.  Be aware of those things.  Also remember that ‘paying attention’ is a finite resource – a character whose survival is based on always clicking the right buttons at the right moment is a player with less mental resources to pay attention to the whole situation.  Know your attention budget and mental energy level.



If you have 2000 HP, and no defenses, 20 attacks, each dealing 200 damage per shot, likely kill you in the opening salvo – they probably do 2000 between them – 10 shots hit, 200 damage each.

If you have 45% defense to that incoming damage vector or damage type, on average 1 shot hits, you take 200 damage, and life goes on.  Mind you, unluck can end you here.

If you had instead 90% resistance to that damage type, you instead get hit 10 times, but only for 200 damage.  Life again goes on, and unluck is less of an issue – but you did get hit 10 times.  If those attacks carry an END drain, you probably hate your life.

If you have BOTH – well, now we are off to the races.  20 attacks.  1 hits.  It does 1/10th the damage – 20 points.  At this point your walking away from the keyboard to make a sandwich.

If you have high innate regeneration, you can probably go from ‘make a quick bio break’ to ‘cook dinner for 5’.  A good self heal will let you have that same dinner for 5, as long as you put it on auto.  And a giant pile of Hit Points makes sure that even if somehow EVERYTHING GOES WRONG, you have time to hit your emergency buttons and recover the situation.



Nothing is free.  You only get 1 primary and 1 secondary power set, only so many slots.  Only so many IOs and bonuses.  Only so many pool selections.  You cannot make a character that’s softcapped defense to all positions, maximum resist to all types, with a huge pile of hit points, constant regeneration, and clickie emergency buttons.  And that’s a good thing.

Further, as discussed, the first two categories have INCREASING returns up to cap.  If you have the choice of having 90% Resistance and 0 Defense, or having 50% Resistance and 25% Defense – 90% resistance cuts your incoming damage by a factor of 10.  The mix of SOME resist and SOME defense only cuts it by a factor of 4.  So pick one (likely DEF) and go with it.



Given that we want as many layers as we can for survival, but that we get an increasing Return on Investment up to cap, what do we build, and why?  If we choose a ‘single type’ power set, such as Regen (for healing), Dark Armor (for Resists), or Superreflexes (for Defense), the set will get us to caps, or at least very good values, with at most a visit into the pool powers and SOs.  In an SOs only world, a pure set can look very good, due to that ‘increasing return on investment).

But we don’t live in an SOs only world, and a pure set will have trouble creating a second layer out of IOs and Pool Powers.  This is because there are only so many bonuses available, and the further you go chasing them, the less return on your slots.  There are only so many 5% Defense -Ranged IO sets – trying to softcap ranged defense on a Regen Sentinel is doable, but painful.  Trying to softcap all is a fools errand, without something to start with.

Therefore, your best bet (if all you care about is surviving!) is to find a set that offers multiple layers, so you can -efficiently- build onto those layers.


Case 1:  Invuln

Invuln is an old and somewhat creaky set in modern play.  But what it does offer is a broad swath of DEF and RES powers, and a large (if slow) self heal.  Invuln is a solid basis for a VERY tough tank, as you can softcap its resistance to smashing/lethal, while still having high resistance to most damage types, and softcap its defense to almost all damage types, as well.  Its large HP bonus from Dull Pain (also a long cooldown but powerful self heal) rounds out the set.  Pairs well with an additional heal (Dark Melee is popular here).


Case 2:  Willpower/Bioarmor

These are treated together as they are both mixed sets.  While requiring more investment to pursue softcaps than Invuln, above, both also provide heavy regeneration, and in the case of Bioarmor a series of clicky emergency buttons. 


Care 3:  Ninjutsu

Will reach positional softcaps in a relatively straightforward manner.  Carries a self heal.  Will never softcap any damage type resistance, so will be in that regard more fragile than case 1 and 2, but its POSITIONAL rather than typed defense means it has less ‘sudden surprise wrong bad guy’ moments than the above two cases.  SR may be treated similarly.


Case 4:  Shield

Mix of Resistance and Positional Defense.  Requires a large investment, because these are low values compared to above – but the fact that the defense is positional has all the same value as in Ninjitsu, and very high resist (at least to S/L, with tough) is also possible.  Though not as resilient a base as case 1 and 2, it lacks the holes, and provides other benefits (Damage buff, AOE).  Will probably want to pick up a self-heal of some kind (Dark Melee, Medicine Pool, etc.) to supplement its lower values.  Note it also buffs its defense from nearby teammates.


Case 5:  Sentinels/Blasters

Mentioned here because of the relative ease of capping a single type of positional defense, ranged, coupled with the fact that generally mob melee attacks hit harder than ranged ones, means that Blasters can be with IOs and pool defenses surprisingly survivable, and that in many instances my Sentinel laughs at content that my leveling Scrapper or Brute hated.



Surviving the foes in PvE COH is a matter of combining multiple layers of resilience.  One is well served to pick one and maximize it (the author recommends soft capping DEF as the first step), and then shoring up as much as possible or needed in additional areas.  Each area offers increasing returns as it closes on its cap, with little value for further investment beyond that cap, but at an increasing cost in powers/slots/sets as one increases investment.  This will inform powerset choices.

The above should not be construed as a ‘what you should play’ guide, but to further understanding of how the parts work together so you can make the best choices for the powerset you love, or love the powerset that fits your chosen play goals. 


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Great Justice - Invuln/Energy Melee Tank

Ann Atomic - Radiation/Super Strength Tank

Elecutrix - Electric Blast/Super Reflexes Sentinel

Ramayael - Titan Weapons/Bio Scrapper

C'len - Spines/Bio Brute

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Case 6: Time Defender


Farsight gives a lot of defense to everything, if you combine this with either Power Build Up (Power Mastery) or Power Boost (Soul Mastery) the buff will persist for the entire duration of Farsight meaning that you've got 31.8% defense to all. Adding in some set bonuses and a few pool powers (such as Combat Jumping and Maneuvers) makes it relatively easy to hit the softcap. You don't have much in the way of resistances (just S/L) but you do have a nice heal to keep your health up.

Defender Smash!

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Case 6: Time Defender


Farsight gives a lot of defense to everything, if you combine this with either Power Build Up (Power Mastery) or Power Boost (Soul Mastery) the buff will persist for the entire duration of Farsight meaning that you've got 31.8% defense to all. Adding in some set bonuses and a few pool powers (such as Combat Jumping and Maneuvers) makes it relatively easy to hit the softcap. You don't have much in the way of resistances (just S/L) but you do have a nice heal to keep your health up.


A great additional example, and a great commentary on the ludicrous power of buffs in CoH (Ive got a power thats better than your whole power set!).


"don’t overlook how tough anyone with the right buff set and a cunning plan can be."


Honestly, if the game were still being developed, Time would probably get a balance pass.  :)  But it isn't, so the tankmagecleric is definitely go. :)

Great Justice - Invuln/Energy Melee Tank

Ann Atomic - Radiation/Super Strength Tank

Elecutrix - Electric Blast/Super Reflexes Sentinel

Ramayael - Titan Weapons/Bio Scrapper

C'len - Spines/Bio Brute

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Honestly, if the game were still being developed, Time would probably get a balance pass.  :)  But it isn't, so the tankmagecleric is definitely go. :)

Time isn't really that OP compared to other support powersets, the real problem is that support characters should never have gotten Power Boost in it's current form.


When Power Boost was originally created for Blasters the intent was to allow them to buff their debuffs and controls. However due to how the game works letting it boost debuffs meant that it also boosted buffs. This wasn't a big deal for blasters but was a much bigger deal when it got ported to support ATs since it could boost the effect of long-duration click buffs. Now for a long time the only sets that really benefited from this were Force Field and Empathy (Cold Domination doesn't benefit because it's defense shield also buff resistance but that's complicated) so it didn't really matter since they were lower tier sets. Other sets could use it to get a nice temporary boost but nothing long term.


But then Time came along and you've suddenly got a very powerful set that gets a huge boost from Power Boost at which point you can look back and say "yeah Power Boost for support ATs should probably only boost their controls". Or you could go for the easier nerf and just block Farsight from benefiting from external buffs and debuffs.

Defender Smash!

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It's a start.



The best -- and most work-intensive -- determination of your 'resilience' is a measurement of TTL or TTD, Time To Live or Time Til Defeat.  I'll flesh this out below, but I think the names alone give some guidance when looking at what else I have to say.



Four other layers of resilience exist.  The first, easiest, is "offensive debuff."  -Tohit is identical to Defense, and -DMG is multiplicative with +Res.  Debuffs are less valuable than their buff counterparts because many of them are significantly resisted.  The second soft control; anything that delays or interrupts an opponent's attack chain, like KD or -Rech.  This multiplies your mitigation by the amount of time you can delay incoming attacks; if you can force enemies to attack half as often, you live twice as long with the same amount of mitigation.  The third is hard control.  If enemies are held, stunned, terrorized, or confused, they generally cannot deal damage at all.  The fourth, of course, is defeating enemies.  It might seem to go without saying, but this is often left out of discussions of mitigation.  If you can reduce an enemy spawn by 1/2, you've already doubled your survivability.


There are no "pure" sets.  SR and Regen both include resistance layers, and Dark Armor includes defense, -tohit, and healing.  It's a mistake to ignore these.  SR, often touted as the purest of "pure" single-layer sets, gets +1.5% resist all for every % of health they are below 50.  This means that your average SR scrapper running a reasonably slotted Tough is at the resist cap for S/L damage at 10% health even with no IO sets whatsoever, something none of the elemental Aura sets can do at any % of health.


Hit points buy you more than just buffer space.  All regeneration and healing works on a % of your total health.  If you heal 10% of your health every second and have 1000 maxhp, you mitigate 100 damage per second.  Against 100 damage/s, you'll never go down; against 200 damage/s, you'll survive 10s, and against 300 damage/s, you'll survive for 5s.  Without changing your regen bonus at all, having 2000 maxhp means you'll live indefinitely at 200 damage/s and for 20s -- four times as long as before -- at 300 damage/s.  This single interaction is why so many people feel so much better with Willpower than with other sets that mitigate a higher % of absolute damage.


Time to Live is obviously the underlying factor in all of these, and it's a huge pain to calculate but far more important than any individual metric.  The simplest version of calculating TTL is against some number of identical attacks; say, one attack every three seconds that does 40 lethal damage.


Normal health regeneration is 5% every 12s.  A level 50 blaster with nothing (1606hp) will live forever against a same-level minion that attacks once every three seconds to deal 40 damage a hit.  This is because half of those attacks will miss, and the remaining damage, about 6.67 damage a second, is less than the blaster heals, about 6.69 damage a second.  Against two of those they'd live for two minutes.  Including Health with, say, a single L50 healing IO, and adding the 20% accolade maxhp bonuses available, though, they'd live for over four times as long... and that's without even 'doing' anything.  Factoring in Resistance or Defense works pretty simply here as well; halve the number of attacks that hit by adding 25% Defense, and that doubles.


And of course if it takes the blaster about 1.5 minutes (for some reason) to defeat each enemy, the first blaster dies before finishing the fight, and the second blaster doesn't.


More complex TTL calculations include multiple types of incoming attack analyzed against different amounts of resistance, how much enemy attacks can be disrupted, and how quickly each enemy is defeated.  This takes a spreadsheet, but it can be worthwhile for players on either extreme edge of mitigation (very tanky or not at all tanky). 

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No-Set Builds: Tanker Scrapper Brute Stalker

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I am a fan of unconventional mitigation. 


As an example, my current second-main project, a bio/spines tanker, plans to slot two Pacing of the Turtle buttons in all of the powers that take it, an acc/slow and the Chance for -Recharge Slow proc, which will be added at the minimum level for the power itself.  Just picked up Quills yesterday, so it was first; that's where it does the most good.  In 2012 I had a spines/WP scrapper that did this and became quite tough; she was my purple farmer and Roman wall worker.  She put it in everything that took it, including Caltrops, which was her first line get out of trouble button.  The mitigation it offers is real, though obviously it won't show up in Mids'. 


Likewise, Heraclea (mach II, Inv/DM rather than SS) will use a similar proc from the Dark Watcher's Despair set in most of her Dark Melee attacks.  If your attacks have any debuff component look to the sets that support it consistently.  If your attack set is Radiation Melee, for instance, you can add a (level 20!) proc that adds -resistance to all of your attacks.  Look to Frankenslot these procs with other sets you want, and know what ones are available for the attacks you can use.


My use of this stuff was also conditioned by my experience of the 2012 economy.  Very simply, these recipes are not in strong demand.  Most everyone wants the main positional damage sets in their attacks, and does not deliberately try to slot up the exotic elements.  Likewise, in 2012 the most easy to get Kinetic Combat piece was the Knockdown proc.  When I used that cheesefest I always include it; everything else but that would need to be bought with merits, but that one could be bought with inf.  And it added valuable mitigation, rather like a randomized version of Air Superiority. 

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I would like to point out that there is also a vitally important form of mitigation that you have completely ignored... One not neccessarily reliant upon teammates.




While Ice Melee is not the best DPS set in the game, slowing incoming enemy attacks gives a HUGE boost to the survivability of sets like Reflexes and energy.


And after playing an ice tanker for 5 years (Before shutdown), I can tell you that that massive attack slow from your aoe is the REASON it is the best tanker in the game. It is non-positional... if they are within melee (Or short range) their damage is cut by 50% or more. It doesn't matter whether it is ranged, melee, or aoe. It doesn't matter what type it is... And it STACKS with the outstanding defense provided by the ice defense set as well as the fairly decent resist and heals.

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each powerset has a different hole in def/res. for willpower, its a toxic defense hole and a toxic/dark/energy resist hole.


the reason tough+weave is so amazing... is thats two more powers to slot def and res IO sets!


you do need to grab the right global IOs. steadfast protection and gladiators armor (oth resistance sets) each have a +3% defense buff, and its global. shield wall(defense set) has a +5% resist(all). you can shove a healing IO set proc into your inherent fitness as well.


your total health impacts your regeneration, which is a %, so +health helps twice that way.



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