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A Pretty Good Guide on Leveling with IOs and IO Sets

Yomo Kimyata

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[In memoriam for @Robotech_Master]

A lot of people like to rush their characters to level 50 and beyond before slotting their meticulously crafted Mid’s build.  Some of them don’t even slot an enhancement until they hit 50!  This guide is probably not for those people.

I’ve been playing a with a leveling strategy that I’m terming “Early Blooming.”  With this strategy, I’m slotting attuned IOs and IO sets as soon as possible for maximum effectiveness and raising difficulty settings early and often.  As I level, I use unslotters and respecs with reckless abandon, and the results are pretty impressive.  The purpose of this guide is not to tell you how to do this, but rather to reinforce what IOs are most useful at surprisingly early levels.  If you have lots of funds, and you prefer playing “slow” content to rushing xp, take a gander at some of my ruminations.  Hopefully, you may find some of them useful or *gasp* enlightening!  As always, this is merely what I have found to work for me, your mileage may vary.

I will target attuned IOs, both sets and procs, based on what level they are available, and how useful I find them.  I use attuned so that I don’t have to bother worrying about their effectiveness scaling up as I level.  If I miss one of your favorites, it’s probably because I don’t personally, for example, find % to stun procs useful.  [EDIT:  I’ve come around a bit on this.  There are some interesting oddball uses for some but that’s probably another guide.]. Or maybe I just missed it – sing out if you think others may find it useful!  For Early Blooming, I find myself focusing on procs of all shapes and sizes (actually, they are all the same size and shape…), and certain set bonuses (endurance, accuracy, recharge, defense) that enhance performance, especially in the sub-30 levels, to incredible levels.  Some of these enhancements will get swapped out over time.  Note:  I assume that all set IOs are purchased attuned, including procs.  I realize that attuned procs are not generally superior to non-attuned procs.  However, I find them more aesthetically appealing.  In case you were not aware, every set IO is bucketed in the AH as both a levelled IO and as an attuned IO, so you can buy either for the same price.  It is also possible, even easy, to sell a levelled IO on one character and buy the same IO in attuned form on another character. 

If you are light on funds, use this guide to prioritize the most important IOs, because swapping out IOs as you level can become pricy.  If inf is no object, pick up some unslotters, maybe some respec recipes, and have at it!  I list approximate costs as of the time of writing, but you may certainly be able to buy them at higher or lower costs.  DISCLAIMER:  you do not need a lot of funds to enjoy or be successful in this game.  Full stop.  If you want a lot of funds, however, there are many resources to help you on your quest – check out some of the guides in the Guides section, go to the Market section and poke around, read about my give away in my signature. 

A quick note on procs:  damage procs scale by level of the character, not by level of the proc.  Effect procs (like -res) do not scale.  Most, but not all, procs will behave the same whether or not they are attuned.  Personally, I use attuned, but again, that’s personal preference.  EDIT: see level 47 for some notable exceptions.

You can find all this information either in-game or at https://hcwiki.cityofheroes.dev/wiki/Enhancement_Sets

Level 1 – P2W enhancements:

The P2W vendor offers five different free enhancements; all are D/R/proc, you can slot them starting at level 1, and they are effective through level 20.  Each is unique, so although you can get multiple copies of each one, you can only slot one and you cannot sell them to vendors.  I usually forget about these, and the next level hurdle comes quick enough that I never miss them, but they are a great way to augment your very early game.

[EDIT] Level 2 – SOs:

Now that SOs have been made available at level 5, low level characters have received an incredible amount of enhancement.  A +3 Training Origin enhancement would have added +9.6% to a Schedule A aspect like damage.  Now you can slot a +3 Single Origin enhancement and get +38.3%.  At level 2.  That's ridiculously overpowered, but that's how the powers-that-be want it.  Plus, there is now an easy upgrade button where you can upgrade all your slotted SOs to +3 every level for a bunch of inf.  I usually upgrade every level, but I like spending money.  Just don't let it drop below -3.

As a result, on a pure aspect enhancement basis, you are going to get more bang for the buck slotting SOs until invention origins get high enough in level.  Exactly when really depends on your preferences.  If it's a drag to remember to upgrade every level, put in attuned IOs as soon as you can.  If you are looking for pure aspect enhancement, then switching over to sets around 30-35 makes sense.  But if the set bonuses you are seeking are important (like +recharge) then earlier is better than later.  I usually start making the shift at the 17 to 32 levels.  A good shortcut I look at is when will I get better accuracy from using a set instead of using a +3 SO.

Level 7 – Level 10 sets:

There are a number of sets that become available at level 10, including all of the PvP sets.  Generally this means you can begin slotting them at level 7, although this is not always the case (see Level 10 entries).  There are plenty of extremely useful procs and uniques, and some good sets with attractive bonuses that will make your life easier, (almost) right out of the gate.

Very useful procs:

Panacea Chance for +Hit Points/Endurance (Healing) unique:  Pop this one into Health at level 7 and never look back.  You may want to add more procs to Health later, but this one will prove useful your entire career.  Current cost: ~10mm.

Kismet +to hit (listed as Accuracy) (Defense) unique:  I find this to be critical for early game play, since without accuracy bonuses early on it is extremely frustrating to keep missing with a very small number of attacks only to have the streak breaker activate on Brawl.  If you don’t have an early power that slots Defense, consider picking Combat Jumping or Hover and respec out of it later if you must.  You can also unslot this proc later when you have more accuracy.  Current cost:  3-4mm. [EDIT:  over time, I've embraced holding on to this one.  If you don't have a lot of (or even any) to-hit debuff resistance, then a pack of Agony Mages can really ruin your day.]

Steadfast Protection Resistance/Defense (Resist Damage) unique:  If you have a resist damage power, you should have this slotted somewhere.  You can always get Tough from the Fighting pool, but that could be a while away.  Offers +3% defense to all as well as scaling resist damage by level, so an attuned will scale up with you as you level.  Current cost:  4-5mm.

Gladiator’s Armor Teleportation Protection/+Defense (Resist Damage) unique:  You should have this one slotted as well somewhere if you have a resist damage power.  Current cost:  ~10mm.

Shield Wall Teleportation Protection/+Resist (Defense) unique:  Another must-slot, good for your entire career.  Current cost:  ~10mm.

Achilles’ Heel Chance for Resistance Debuff (Defense Debuff):  My bias comes through here – I will slot -res procs until the cows come home.  This effect does not stack, so having multiple copies (or someone else’s proc triggering) will only reset the duration.  Current cost:  3-5mm.

Fury of the Gladiator Chance for -Res (PBAoE) unique:  The cows have not come home yet.  Current cost: 9-10mm.

Karma KB Protection (Defense) / Steadfast Protection KB Protection (Resist Damage) / Blessing of the Zephyr KB Protection (Universal Travel):  These all provide 4 points of knockback protection.  Even for characters that will eventually get -KB powers, these are all useful to slot temporarily at low levels.  Current costs: 2-3mm/3-4mm/2-3mm.

Call To Arms +Pet Defense (Recharge Intensive Pets) unique:  Grants a defense bonus to a Mastermind’s pets within radius.  One of six very useful Mastermind procs.


Useful procs:

Theft of Essence +endurance (Accurate Healing) unique:  Very useful as a blue bar refiller, especially for AoE heals/attacks, but not for every character.  2-3mm.

Impervious Skin +Regeneration / +Mez Resist (Resist Damage) unique:  I’ve never used it myself, but some people swear by it.  3-5mm.

Regenerative Tissue +Regeneration (Healing) unique:  Always nice to have if you can spare an extra slot in Health, but not critical.  3-5mm.

Winter’s Gift Slow Resistance (Universal Travel) unique:  I find it kind of niche, but definitely has a purpose.  1-2mm.  [EDIT:  I use this a lot more than I used to.  I hate missing, running out of endurance, and having my recharge debuffed.]

[EDIT]  Energy Manipulator % for Stun(8 second, mag 2)  (Endurance Modification):  Remember I said I've shifted gears on stuns?  This is a must-slot in any AoE endurance power that affects mobs, since the proc rate will be close to if not at max levels.  Autohit powers should auto stun minions.  Fun!


Damage procs: 

There’s a whole slew of them, some better than others.  Remember that their damage scales up in level, so it’ll be a lot more apparent when they trigger at higher levels.  In no particular order:

Gladiator’s Strike (Melee) Smashing, 8-10mm

Eradication (PBAoE) Energy, 3-5mm

Gladiator’s Javelin (Ranged) Toxic, 8-10mm

Javelin Volley (Targeted AoE) Lethal, 8-10mm

Cacophony (Confuse) Energy, 1mm

Neuronic Shutdown (Hold) Psionic, 3-5mm

Gladiator’s Net (Hold) Lethal, 8-10mm

Explosive Strike (Knockback) Smashing, 1-2mm

Shield Breaker (Accurate Defense Debuff) Lethal, 3-5mm

Cloud Senses (Accurate To Hit Debuff) Negative Energy, 3-5mm

Impeded Swiftness (Slow) Smashing, 3-5mm


Useful sets:

Basilisk’s Gaze (Holds):  The 4-slot recharge bonus is always useful, and getting 4 slots for a hold power is pretty feasible early on, especially for a support character.  For a lot of powers, this could easily be the endgame IO set.  But I also find it really useful to start a “support” character with a ST hold power with this, and then swap out to a ranged damage set later on.  2-5mm/piece.

Call to Arms (Recharge Intensive Pets):  Recharge time bonus at 4 slots, and a nice S/L res bonus at 5.  Or just frankenslot early on and swap out to attuned Expedient Reinforcements later.  2-4mm/piece.

Regenerative Tissue (Healing):  This is kind of a stretch, but you get recharge bonus at 5 slots.  You can use this as a cheap and/or short-term solution for a 5- or 6- slotted heal power that will eventually use Panacea or Preventative Medicine. 1-2mm/piece except proc.

Panacea (Healing):  I like this as the gold standard for a healing power worthy of 5 slots.  But it ain’t cheap to 5-slot it. ~10mm+.

Kismet (Defense):  5 slots get you a small recharge bonus, and you could use this as a holding set for a future upgrade to Red Fortune, Reactive Defenses, or LotG. 2-4mm/piece.

Impervious Skin (Resist Damage):  5 slots to recharge bonus, which is the only recharge bonus you are going to get out of a resist damage set outside of PvP. 2-4mm/piece.

Cloud Senses (Accurate To Hit Debuff):  Great set for a 4 slot recharge bonus, and enough flexibility to go after recharge, to hit debuff, accuracy, or a really nice proc.  I use this one a lot. 2-5mm/piece.

Cleaving Blow (PBAoE) / Air Burst (Targeted AoE):  Ok, ok, these are not great sets with great bonuses.  But they do run from level 10 to 50, so if you pop in an attuned IO, you don’t have to swap it out until you want to replace it with something better.  And they are dirt cheap. <1mm/piece.

Shield Wall (Defense) / Gladiator’s Armor (Resist Damage):  I also generally think of these as holding sets with decent bonuses, but usually not as useful as whatever I want to swap in there later.  They are expensive holding sets though, just like all PvP sets. 8-10mm/piece.


Level 10 – Attuned Sets

In this case, I’m referring to the sets that *only* come in attuned form:  ATOs, Winter-Os, and Universal Damage (Overwhelming Force).  When they say these are level 10 sets, they mean level 10.  None of this +3 to your level nonsense.  On the plus side, they scale so you never need to move them.

ATOs:  I won’t go through each AT, but they are generally worth slotting at some point, although some sets are markedly better than others.  Some are must-haves (like the Stalker procs).  Some are meh (I’m looking at you Dominators, with your mez modification rather than damage).  When looking at set bonuses, check the 2- and 3-slot bonuses in case you want to split the set between two powers.  Example:  I will almost always split Scrappers' Strike 3 and 3 between two powers, since I find the defense bonuses to be well worth it.  I will usually put in bids on these as soon as I get out the training missions as long as I have money on hand.  Generally 8-10mm each, with some sets going higher on tight supply.

Winter-Os:  I don’t *LOVE* winter-os, but they can be nice, especially when catalyzed at level 50.  If you are a fire farmer, yeah, of course they are mandatory.  But I generally find a better, cheaper solution for these sets with few exceptions.  And I never use the procs.  For my melee characters, I will usually try to work in an Avalanche or a Blistering Cold because I love me some melee defense bonuses.  I still haven’t slotted an Entomb and I’m not sure how or why I would.  Call it 20-23mm a pop.  [EDIT:  one thing I love more and more is the slow/recharge debuff resistance in sets that comes as soon as 2 piece bonus.]

Overwhelming Force:  The set bonuses are, well, ok.  But what makes this set for me is twofold:  you can slot it in any damaging power, and the proc is ridiculously amusing.  It has a straight 20% chance (no PPM) to cause knockdown upon activation and it works up to bosses (I don’t know offhand if it works on EBs or AVs, but I don’t think so).  [EDIT:  Just because it says so in the description doesn't mean it is true.  According to City of Data, it's actually a 2.5PPM proc.)  It also changes knockback to knockdown AND it adds damage to the power.  If you have the funds and you don’t slot this somewhere, ANYWHERE, in your build, you just plain don’t have a sense of humor.  Since it’s not a PPM, put in in an aura or any fast recharging AoE attack and it will still go off 20% of the time.  [EDIT:  this is wrong, wrong, wrong, but it still does go off a bunch!]  It’s brilliant.  It’s just brilliant.  10mm+.


Level 12 – Adding Stealth

There’s not a lot that comes into play at level 15 other than travel sets, which I consider to be a stealth delivery system.  Much like I consider escargot to be a garlic butter delivery system.  Mmmm, snails!


Useful procs:

Edict of the Master +Defense Bonus for Pets (Pet Damage) unique:  Another of the Mastermind must-haves (IMO). 1-2mm.

Impervium Armor +Psionic Resistance (Resist Damage):  Very useful to plug some psi holes if you have the room.  NOT unique.  3-4mm.

Celerity +Stealth (Running) unique, Unbounded Leap +Stealth (Leaping) unique, Freebird +Stealth (Flight) unique, TimeSpace Manipulation +Stealth (Teleport) unique:  Since you can slot Celerity in Sprint, I consider that to be pretty much a must-have, but you have other options for other travel powers.  Or go unstealthed!  It’s all good.  1-2mm.


Useful sets:

Impervium Armor:  It’s not the greatest in the world, but when levelling up, it’s nice to have some help with the blue bar.  2 slots get you +recovery and 4 slots get you +endurance.  2-4mm/piece.

Reactive Armor:  I've come around on this one, because its set bonuses are slightly better for typed defenses (like smashing and lethal) than positional defenses (like melee).  2-4mm/piece.


Level 17/18 – The Turning Point

Oh, how I love dinging 17.  There is so much savory IO goodness available at level 20 and 21, and thanks to a bug they all come to you at 17.  With the exception of the new Endurance Modification sets, all sets that are *supposed* to start at level 21 are bugged when in attuned form and are available earlier than they are supposed to be.  So you can slot a Performance Shifter proc at 17 if it is attuned, but you can’t slot a levelled version until 18 (since the lowest levelled version is level 21).  But wait, there’s more!  Some of these level 21 attuned sets are *really* bugged, and you can slot some of them as low as level 7!  However, I don’t see much usefulness in that, so I’m not listing them here.  I will mark these bugged sets with an asterisk in case they get fixed, but it doesn’t seem to be high on the priority list.

Very useful procs:

Miracle +Recovery (Healing) unique:  If I don’t already have a Panacea proc in Health, I add a Miracle at 17.  Or put another slot in Health.  Blue bar is the best bar!  4-5mm.  Note:  the display in the AH is often bugged for this item.  If the price looks really high, it’s probably the bug.

Performance Shifter % for +Endurance* (Endurance Modification):  This also gets slotted ASAP into Stamina.  This is not a unique, so feel free to pop one in other recovery powers.  3-5mm.

Reactive Defenses Scaling Damage Resist (Defense) unique:  Another “must-have” in my opinion.  In general, if I have a defense mule power like Combat Jumping or Hover, I will 3-slot it with this, Shield Wall +res, and a Luck of the Gambler 7.5%.  [EDIT: now I four slot it, with a Kismet Accuracy as well.]  3-5mm.

Gaussian’s Chance for Buildup* (To Hit Buff) unique:  It’s not in every one of my builds, but it’s in a lot of them.  2-3mm.

Force Feedback Chance for Recharge* (Knockback):  This is a delicious proc, and I slot it early and often.  When I take the Fighting pool, I will take Kick and 1-slot it with this.  It’s great when you throw in a random kick now and then and BAM you get +100% recharge bonus for 5 seconds.  Not unique.  2-3mm.

Annihilation Chance for -Res (Targeted AoE):  I still love me some -res.  I particularly like this one in an epic pool power for melee characters, since the base recharge is usually long enough that it will proc on many/most of the targets.  2-3mm.


Useful procs:

Preventive Medicine +Absorb (Healing) unique:  Always a good one to have, and it works well in even an active power since you don’t need to use the power for the proc to activate.  3-5mm.

Unbreakable Guard +Max HP (Resist Damage) unique:  I like this set a lot, since I am enamored with melee defense on melee characters.  If I have multiple sets that can 4-slot resist damage, I’ll pick the one that adds the least to my overall numbers and put this proc in there instead of the D/R or the D/E/R.  2-4mm.


Damage procs:

Positron’s Blast (Targeted AoE), Energy, 1-2mm.

Malaise’s Illusions (Confuse), Psionic, 1-2mm.

Glimpse of the Abyss (Fear), Psionic, 1-2mm.

Ghost Widow’s Embrace (Hold), Psionic, 1-2mm.

Trap of the Hunter (Immobilize), Lethal, 1-2mm.

Perfect Zinger* (Taunt), Psionic, 1-2mm.

Touch of Lady Gray* (Defense Debuff), Negative Energy, 1-2mm.


Useful sets:

Kinetic Combat (Melee):  Oh yeah!  You want to 4-slot it (skip the KB proc) for the S/L and melee defense, but a touch of F/C resistance and some health doesn’t hurt at all.  Sometimes I’ll ride this pony all the way to level 50, but generally I’ll add a slot or two to frankenslot it.  2-4mm/piece.

Multi Strike (PBAoE) / Scirocco’s Dervish (PBAoE):  Generally I use ATOs for PBAoEs instead, but these aren’t bad sets and they will run you all the way to 50.  Multi Strike adds some resistance for the first four slots then a little defense, while the Dervish is a more multi-faceted set.  Good for frankenslotting.  1-2mm/piece.

Entropic Chaos (Ranged):  I’ve been trying to make this a thing since before fetch was a thing.  The 5-slot recharge bonus is great, and the procs with occasional heals are ok.  The only real downside is that Decimation, an arguably better set, is available in another five levels.  But if you have the cash, do it – they are cheap!  1-2mm/piece.

Positron’s Blast (Targeted AoE):  The stats on this set really aren’t great, but the bonuses are good and I find myself either 2-slotting it for faster recovery or (usually) 5-slotting it for recharge.  Good proc (energy) as well.  Cheap at 1-2mm/piece.

Preventative Medicine (Healing):  When 6-slotted, you get a large (8.75%) recharge bonus as well as resistance and help with endurance and health.  Also, you’re generally good to go with this from level 17 onward and every once in a while add another slot to the power until you hit 6.  2-4mm/piece.

Reactive Defenses (Defense):  Almost identical bonuses to Preventative Medicine.  Only problem is that in order to get the 6-slot recharge bonus, you have to give up the ability to slot a LotG recharge.  2-4mm/piece.

Unbreakable Guard (Resist Damage):  Generally, my favorite Res set.  Four slots gets you melee defense, but only two get you an endurance discount.  2-4mm/piece.

Malaise’s Illusions (Confuse):  If you use a Confuse power, get it to 5-slots early (6 if you can spare it) and you won’t need to touch it again until/unless you go purple. 1-2mm/piece.

Glimpse of the Abyss (Fear):  I don’t see a lot of people using Fear, and honestly when I use a Fear set I use Cloud Senses if the power takes To Hit Debuff sets.  But +health, accuracy, and recharge time all add up to make it a decent set.  1-2mm/piece.

Stupefy (Stun):  Stun sets as a whole could use some help in my opinion, but Stupefy is the tallest midget in the bunch.  Recovery, health, and recharge time with 5 slots, and you can replace it with Absolute Amazement at level 50.  1-2mm/piece.

Mocking Beratement (Taunt):  If you can put in 6-slots, you get a really nice 7.5% recharge bonus with resistance and defense.  I generally can’t spare the slots, but have slotted this once or twice.  1-2mm/piece.

Perfect Zinger (Taunt):  Lesser recharge bonus with only four slots, but the proc is always a nice thing to have.  1-2mm/piece.

Adjusted Targeting (To Hit Buff):  Five slots is probably a lot to dedicate to this, but it gets you 5% recharge and some accuracy.  Six slots will add S/L res to the pos/neg energy res you get with 3 slots.  1-2 mm/piece.

Gaussian’s (To Hit Buff):  I will generally either just slot the proc or find out a way to get 6 slots for defense across the board and some other nice stats.  2-4mm/piece.

Dampened Spirits/Dark Watcher’s Despair (To Hit Debuff):  To be honest, I’m just including these for the recharge bonuses.  I can’t recall ever having personally slotted either of these sets.  1-2mm/piece.


Level 18 – New Endurance Modification Sets (and Sudden Acceleration)!

Useful procs:

Power Transfer Chance for Self-Heal (Endurance Modification):  Not much to say here – no personal experience with them but I traded the heck out of them when they first came out.  Not unique.  2-5mm.

Synapse’s Shock End Mod / Run Speed (Endurance Modification) unique:  A split use proc that will offer higher endurance mod at higher levels, so get it attuned.  2-4mm.

Sudden Acceleration Knockback to Knockdown (Knockback):  I missed this the first time through, so I apologize.  I tend to embrace knockback!  But knockdown is a good thing.


Useful sets:

Power Transfer / Synapse’s Shock (Endurance Modification):  Good recharge bonus at 6-slots and 5-slots respectively.  You could put Preemptive Optimization in the running too, but generally I’ll go with Synapse’s.  1-5mm/piece.

Sudden Acceleration (Knockback):  If you are *really* in the mood for some knockdowniness, this set has good to great bonuses all the way to 6, which gets you recharge.  That means no damage.  

Synapse's Shock (Endurance Modification):  Three slots gets you slow resistance, and I've come to appreciate that.  Five slots gets you +6.25% recharge as well!


Level 22 – LotG and Friends

Extremely useful procs:

Luck of the Gambler 7.5% Recharge (Defense):  If you want recharge, slot up to five of them.  The Rule of Five is separate from these and 7.5% recharge bonuses from other sets, so you could conceivably get up to five of each.  This will probably be slotted in every single character you have.  5-7mm.


Useful procs:

Sovereign Right +Resistance (Pet Damage):  Another Mastermind special! 1-3mm.

Aegis +Psionic resistance / +mez resistance (Resist Damage) unique:  I don’t use this one often, but when I do it’s in a one slot power like Unstoppable.  1-2mm.


Damage procs:

Touch of Death (Melee) Negative Energy.  2-4mm.


Useful sets:

Luck of the Gambler (Defense):  Some decent overall stats, but nothing mind blowing.  4-slots get you some nice accuracy and 5-slots some S/L res.  For me, I usually figure I *have* to have the proc and then the rest of the bonuses are just gravy, but I rarely 5-slot it.  4-6mm / piece.

Touch of Death (Melee):  I’d like this set better if it didn’t cap at 40.  6-slots will get you a really nice melee defense bonus to go with some resist, and the proc is negative energy which is nice.  2-4mm/piece.

Decimation (Ranged Damage):  Alas poor Entropic Chaos, we barely knew ye.  5-slots gets you your 6.25% recharge with better stats than EC.  I skip the proc.  2-4mm/piece.

Red Fortune (Defense):  If you can give up some of the recharge of LotG, Red Fortune has better survival bonuses including ranged defense at 6 slots and 5% recharge at 5 slots.  It’s gotten more expensive lately.  3-4mm/piece.

Aegis (Resist Damage):  This set was all the rage last year when people were building their fire farmers, but it’s pretty darn cheap nowadays.  Res and defensive bonuses.  1-3mm/piece.


Level 27 – The Home Stretch

From here on out, most of the good short-term stuff has already been stirred into the batter, but there are still a few gems coming available. 

Useful procs: 

Numina’s Convalescence +Recovery / +Regeneration (Healing) unique:  Another useful proc for the blue bar.  If you are still having endurance issues, drop another slot into Health or another healing passive and pop this bad boy in there.  I usually don’t have room for it in my final build.  3-5mm.

Expedient Reinforcement Resist Bonus (Recharge Intensive Pets) unique:  The last of the pet specials.  I generally work all six into my Mastermind builds.  1-3mm.

Lockdown Change for +2 Mag Hold (Holds):  Sometimes I use this; sometimes not.  1-2mm.


Damage procs:

Mako’s Bite (Melee) Lethal, 1-2mm

Obliteration (PBAoE) Smashing, 2-5mm

Bombardment (Targeted AoE) Fire, 1-3mm

Touch of the Nictus (Accurate Healing) Negative Energy, 1-3mm


Useful sets:

Crushing Impact (Melee) and Thunderstrike (Ranged Damage):  Lest you think this entire guide is a cleverly designed marketing piece intended to get you to blow your budget on my inventory, here are the budget pieces!  Useful, but not stellar, and the price is right.  <1mm/piece

Mako’s Bite (Melee):  The resistance is cake, but the icing is the ranged defense with the 6th slot.  I don’t use this often, but I like it when I do.  1-3mm/piece.

Obliteration (PBaoE):  More melee defense please.  The stats aren’t killer (not enough endurance reduction for things like damage auras) but the bonuses are nice.  Recharge and melee defense available at 5 and 6 slots respectively, and even the resistance bonus at 2 is nice.  2-5mm/piece.

Bombardment (Targeted AoE):  This was a nice addition to the set world.  It’s not crazy good, but Positron’s Blast isn’t the be all end all either.  The real value here is that its recharge bonus is 5%, so if you already have 5x 6.25% from, say, Decimation and Positron’s Blast, there’s some nice diversification.  Plus, a fire proc is useful.  1-3mm/piece.

Expedient Reinforcement (Recharge Intensive Pets):  Now’s the time to swap out your Call to Arms (except the proc) for Expedient Reinforcement, since you get the same recharge bonus and now your base stats can continue to level past 30 with the attuned IO.  You can make the same argument for all the other sets that have one that ends at 30 and one that starts at 30, but most of the set bonuses are superior for the lower level version.  For example:  I’ll keep my attuned Cloud Senses rather than upgrade them to attuned Siphon Insight because I prefer the set bonuses to the stats.  In fact, at endgame I often swap out my attuned Cloud Senses for level 30 versions and then boost them to +5.  But that’s because I’m rich, RICH!  Muahahahaha!


Level 32 – Sting, Stang, Stung

The only thing to come into play at level 35 is Sting of the Manticore.  It’s a good snipe set if you want a good snipe set, and it has good bonuses and a toxic damage proc.  1-3mm/piece


Level 47 – Hammy and Non-Attuned PvP IOs

Although there ARE some Hami-Os available before level 50, in general I don’t spend any time thinking about them until I ding 47.  I don’t have a lot of end game builds with Hami-Os but they are good for frankenslotting if you have a lot of disposable income.  Also don’t forget you can combine them up to level 50++ for better stats (slottable at 49).  Costs vary widely, but “expensive”.

EDIT:  I apologize for taking so long to address something about attuned/ non-attuned IOs.  PvP and purple IOs have something in common.  They allow set bonuses and attribute modification all the way down.  With purples this doesn’t matter much since you don’t slot them until 50.  But you will benefit at level 47 if you replace your non-proc attuned PvP IOs with level 50 boosted +5 PvP IOs.  Example: say you’ve been leveling up with three Attuned PvP AoE melee (gladiator something something), the -res io, A/D, and A/d/E.  Now, at 47 or when I get to it, I will unslot the attuned A/D and A/D/E (which are acting as lvl 47) and slot 50s of those two and boost them to +5.  Now those two are acting like lvl 55 IOs at level 47, and will act as +5 IOs even if you exemplar down to level 7.  There’s no point in replacing the proc though. 

So, now if I have any non-proc PvP IOs that are attuned, I will replace them with lvl 50s and boost them to +5.  You are almost certainly in some sort of ED range at this point, but a fraction of a point of enhancement is still something!


Level 50 – Endgame

There's actually a huge step up in power at level 50, and that has nothing to do with incarnate powers.

Upgrading ATOs with a Catalyst at level 50 will change them to Superior.  This has two effects:  set bonuses are a lot better; and procs are better (either in terms of increased effects or increased PPM).  Do this at level 50 ASAP.

Similarly, upgrading Winter Os at level 50 will change them to Superior as well, and the effects are similar to ATOs in terms of bonuses and procs.


Let me know if I got anything wrong and I’ll be happy to amend this guide. 

Thanks for listening and happy hunting!

Edited by Yomo Kimyata
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I agree with everything here, and I think it's worth stressing the main point: RESPECS EXIST, USE THEM!

I often fall into a habit where I start building towards my endgame build right away, and don't think about what I need "right now", and sometimes gimp myself in early/mid levels because I'm taking prereq pool powers instead of filling out my attack chain or taking teammate buffs. This makes leveling even more of a chore!

So lesson learned: Don't be afraid to take a power you need RIGHT NOW, and as an aside, don't hesitate to slot a proc or set that's useful RIGHT NOW, just because it's not in your endgame build plan. You can always respec out later, and either sell anything you no longer need, or save it for an alt (I have 5 SG storage bin full of "hand me down" IOs!)

And this guide offers a great blueprint for doing just that. Well done, @Yomo Kimyata!

The only thing I would add, is to remember to run DFB/DIB. Not to skip early levels, but they give boosts (Acc/Dam/End/and Def, I think?) that last either for a week, or until level 20/30 respectively. Also, they drop SOs, which you can vendor for a pretty penny (assuming you don't just slot them!) Now yeah, if you do them all 4 times for all the boosts, you're gonna level up pretty quick, but in general I find it a good idea to give your build some breathing room and make life a little easier!

Edited by EmperorSteele
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On 10/16/2020 at 11:34 AM, Yomo Kimyata said:

Level 17/18 – The Turning Point

 Some of these level 21 attuned sets are *really* bugged, and you can slot some of them as low as level 7!  However, I don’t see much usefulness in that, so I’m not listing them here.  I will mark these bugged sets with an asterisk in case they get fixed, but it doesn’t seem to be high on the priority list.

For the folks that don't know: Until they fix it, (if?) you can slot an attuned perf shifter end mod IO at level 7. You can't slot the +end IO, but you can slot the regular end mod. 

Yomo - love the way you think. 

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Great guide and layout!


I find myself intentionally using basic IOs until level 20 because I end up destroying things too fast and I like a challenge when soloing. Can't argue with the awesomeness of set bonuses and procs though! 

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  • 3 months later

I definitely start putting sets on characters by 20-25 range, and what makes it even more economical is that some sets like Positron's Blast and Decimation that work on a lot of characters but are likely to get swapped out in an end game build can go in the base bin to go on another leveling character.  I have Posi Blast sets that have been on 3-4 characters now.  Kinetic Combat is another example if you run a lot of melee, good Smash/lethal defense with 4 slots, handy at low levels when you don't have many slots. 


One other note on the Stupefy set, which got dissed a bit above, it is one of the rare sets that has both a very decent recharge bonus (6.25%) AND ranged defense (3.75% I think) in the same set.  Most other sets only do one or the other.  My main complaint with it is that getting the defense requires slotting a knockback proc, and I'm not a fan of unreliable knockback.  

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19 hours ago, Scientist said:

One other note on the Stupefy set, which got dissed a bit above, it is one of the rare sets that has both a very decent recharge bonus (6.25%) AND ranged defense (3.75% I think) in the same set.  Most other sets only do one or the other.  My main complaint with it is that getting the defense requires slotting a knockback proc, and I'm not a fan of unreliable knockback.  

Yes, indeed I did.  Stupefy is a good bonus set, and if it were, say, melee damage, it would be spectacular.  I'm afraid I'm a bit down on the stun mechanic in the game.  

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Hey, new player here, just re-discovered CoH, and i'm having a rough time. looking through the forum I haven't found a "New Player" guide yet. All these acronyms are still foreign to me. Is there a guild like what you wrote for new players?

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11 hours ago, Cariosis said:

Hey, new player here, just re-discovered CoH, and i'm having a rough time. looking through the forum I haven't found a "New Player" guide yet. All these acronyms are still foreign to me. Is there a guild like what you wrote for new players?

Welcome home!  Try this, and feel free to send me tells at @Yomo in game and I’ll try to help out where I can:




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Also, now that SOs are available so early, they really do make things easy in your early levels.


My standard SO slotting (opinions may vary) for a damage power are:  1x accuracy, 1x damage, 1x end reduction, 1x damage, 1x recharge, 1x damage in that order.  

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  • 2 weeks later

Awesome and very useful guide.  Two comments:

1) The P2W enhs are still useful beyond level 20.  What they lose above lvl 20 are the procs.  To be clear, for example let's take "Clockwork Efficiency: Damage/Recharge/Chance for Energy Damage"  If you slot this at levels above 20, you'll still get the benefit of the damage and recharge (but no proc).  This is easy to see in the enhancement window.  Simply place it in a power when you're above 20 and you'll see the damage/recharge benefit.  They are still pretty good for quite a number of levels, as they give you 16.7% of both damage and recharge.  That makes them roughly comparable to the value of a lvl 30 IO (a lvl 30 damage IO provides 34.8% damage, and a lvl 30 recharge IO provides 34.8 recharge reduction.  So 2 of the P2W enhs together are nearly the benefit of using 1 each of lvl 30 damage and recharge IOs).  Beyond lvl 30 they aren't as good as up to date IOs but then again, considering they are free, they aren't bad fillers.


2) level caps on attuned IOs also seem to be broken.  That is, an attuned IO that claims to cap out at say lvl 30 still continues to scale up all the way to level 50.  For example, as a lvl 50, if you view an attuned "Triage: Healing/Absorb/Recharge" (which is supposed to cap at 30) - it will show a benefit of 26.5% of both healing and recharge, which is the same as say Numina's at lvl 50.  I've verified this with equipped set IOs, such as an attuned "Neuronic Shutdown: End/Hold" - which gives me the equivalent benefit of a lvl 50 set IO.  This would seem to be a bug as the text clearly claims the benefit should be capped, but as far as I can tell, you get the full scaled benefit up to 50. Turns out this is incorrect.  The bug is in the display of the IO, where it does suggest it will provide a 26.5% improvement (for example for Triage), but the actual improvement is scaled down as the text indicates.



Edited by dynafireca
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  • 4 months later

Thank you for this.  Much of it was news to me.  I tend to build my characters in three phases.  Level until 30 where I shift to IO, then level to 50 picking up Set IO's that will stay (most if not all show up in your guide) and finally the level 50 now it gets real build.  This is why Builds I see in the various threads are at best "someday" builds and I wish more people would post leveling builds.  But this guide helps enormously because of your points at levels before 30.  I have some real thinking to do.

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  • Yomo Kimyata changed the title to A Pretty Good Guide on Leveling with IOs and IO Sets
  • 1 month later

Awesome guide, thanks Yomo, even in 2022 for this grumpy old bastard gamer! 😄

I notice you still talk about travel powers as if they are only available from level 14, but HC changed that to level 4...? Just a minor observation mate ;).

Game over man, game over!

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  • 2 weeks later
On 10/13/2022 at 6:57 PM, Nostromo21 said:

Awesome guide, thanks Yomo, even in 2022 for this grumpy old bastard gamer! 😄

I notice you still talk about travel powers as if they are only available from level 14, but HC changed that to level 4...? Just a minor observation mate ;).

You can get travel powers earlier, but you can’t slot a Celerity et al Stealth IO until 12.  The bottleneck is not when you can get the travel power; it is that the four main travel sets don’t start until 15.


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43 minutes ago, Snarky said:

I did not see the set Kinetic Combat listed.  I personally do not use or like them but they were THE quick and dirty way to get S/L defense on melee builds back in the day.  Sure a lot of peeps still build that way.


Open your eyes, blood sucker!


Useful sets:

Kinetic Combat (Melee):  Oh yeah!  You want to 4-slot it (skip the KB proc) for the S/L and melee defense, but a touch of F/C resistance and some health doesn’t hurt at all.  Sometimes I’ll ride this pony all the way to level 50, but generally I’ll add a slot or two to frankenslot it.  2-4mm/piece.

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  • 3 weeks later

OK, this is probably a dumb question, but that's what forums are for, right???


I've read lots of places that enhancements with a proc, put into an auto power, just give the bonus all of the time. Can that really be true? Take the Numina +Regen/+Recovery proc, which is supposed to last for 120 seconds. It seems too good to be true that putting it into an auto power means you just get that bonus all of the time.  Am I being too skeptical?

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3 hours ago, Ambidexter said:

Am I being too skeptical?


No, you're not. Asking questions is good. 


Here's how it works:

Auto powers aren't static. They are basically like toggles in that they roll their effects over time; you just don't see that and they can't be turned on and off (except with the specific power that turns all other powers on or off).


Each time the auto power activates, it has a chance to proc the power slotted there.


So let's take your example of the Numina Proc and slot it into our good friend Health. As you can see from the linked page, Health activates every 10 seconds. Numina is guaranteed to proc at least 3 times a minute, but lasts for 2 minutes. You're reapplying Numina's proc bonus to yourself, which will never wear off because it lasts so long and will just keep reapplying itself.


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