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Pool Power Challenge - play experience and testing


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This is mainly a post about me being surprised by things which are probably common knowledge. There's also some boring testing stuff at the end. TL:DR - pool power challenge characters are surprisingly playable, IO's are really good and apparently I'm a n00b.


AS mentioned earlier in a post mainly about Acrobatics (worth it, btw), I recently started a pool power challenge character. I've played it, mainly solo, up to level 36 and it's taught me a lot about the game which I might otherwise never have been motivated to find out.


The self-imposed "rules" of the challenge were simple. Take only those powers from your primary and secondary which you can't avoid (i.e. the mandatory picks at 1st and 2nd level). Everything else has to be a pool power. To make it a little more challenging, I decided that it had to be only the power choices open to you at level 1 - the T1 and T2 from the primary and T1 from the secondary - and that Epics weren't true pool powers, being tied to your archetype. You'll have taken all the pool power choices the game will let you have at level 47 though, so your level 49 pick can take from your primary, secondary or epic, as you wish.


I should note that there have been a lot of variants of this challenge over the years, some of them far tougher than this, some less so. This is just one way to do it.


The full current build is at the end of this post, but the short version is this: SJ/WP Scrapper, Fighting, Leaping, Concealment & Sorcery. 36 is just the mid levels, but I think I've played enough to have gained some sort of perspective (I meant to post this at 35, but levelled by accident). When I started the project, I decided that no tactic would be beneath me. If I had to level to 50 at -1/x1 with bosses turned off, so be it. P2W powers, Shivans and temp powers granted by mission arcs were all within bounds and I resolved to use them shamelessly.


So, what was it actually like in play?


The first 10 levels


Right out of the blocks it feels just like any other character. You're building an attack chain, nobody has decent defences and the archetypes aren't very differentiated. You're no different to anyone else in this level range. Mez is not yet a problem. Cheap P2W powers like the basic grenades and Plasmatic Taser are useful but not essential. Levelling is set to +0/x1 with solo bosses but not AV's.


11 - 20. Discoveries are made


Things start to get a little tougher. Most pool power attacks are melee, which forces you to live at close range. You notice your lack of defences during these levels, although mez is still not a big issue. Acrobatics at level 14 really helps, although you still have nothing to help against stuns. Sleep doesn't seem a big deal though, since you wake up the moment you take damage. I found myself leaning much harder on P2W powers to succeed.


All my attacks by default have a chance to either stun or knockdown. Cross Punch has both. I resolved to add KD and Stun procs to the powers that were missing them, so that every attack did double duty. Thanks to Yomo Kimyata for his ongoing Whizbang Potpourri Extravaganza of a Giveaway, He was kind enough to gift me with a much-needed 20M to help purchase the necessary IO's, which improved performance markedly. It was a bit of a revelation, actually.


That started me thinking though. Kinetic Combat provided the KD procs, but its set bonus also adds 3.75% s/l defence and 1.875% melee defence, plus some mez resistance. I started buying up more IO's to complete the sets and discovered that there was no way 20M was going to get me there. What now? I checked out a few guides to making money on the market using enhancement converters and decided to give it a whirl.


Revelation the second: Making money on the market is incredibly easy. Seriously, anyone can do it. Not billionaire rich, certainly, but the next time you need 10 or 20 million for a new IO set or unique, it is within your reach. I had honestly thought that this was some sort of high-risk activity only experts could do succesfully, but even a total beginner like me can do it.


IO's purchased and now packing some practical levels of defence, I finished off my teens with the Faultline arcs, EB's and all.


21-36. Hitting my stride


More of the same, really. I did more research into IO's (Gulbasaur's Instant Improvements guide was particularly useful), slotted Scirrocco's Dervish into Cross Punch and a bunch of uniques and procs into everything else.


I did Agent Watkins, First Ward, Night Ward, Field Agent Keith Nance etc. all without undue difficulty. I did use Shivans and temps for some of the EB's, but when your best attack is Cross Punch I think you deserve a little slack.


Damage output is low and things can take a while, but that's about the worst complaint.


To the test server! Finding my limits


I'd been soloing at +0/x1 and was finding things too easy. Even accidentally aggroing two spawns at once wasn't really threatening, so I decided to do some testing and see just how far the character could go.


I found an ideal mission for testing purposes in Colleen Nelson's arc, "Defeat Racco and recover Seed". It's against Council and has a mix of spawns with and without bosses, some spread out and some tightly packed, some +0 to the mission difficulty and some +1, and one fairly predictable double-spawn. There's a final Vampyre boss who respawns as a Warwolf at low health. Between each mission I nipped back to the hospital to load up a standard set of inspirations for each run.


I tested difficulty (-1 to +4) separately from team size (x1 to x8). When testing difficulty, team size was x1. When testing team size, difficulty was +0.




-1 to +2:  Easy mode. No special tactics required, very occasional use of insps and not much downtime between spawns.

+3:  Some use of insps or tactics (pulling, planned use of Misdirection or Enflame etc.) required for some spawns, but never both. Finished the mission comfortably.

+4:  Constant use of both insps and tactics to survive. Finished the mission, but felt marginal and could have gone either way.


Team size


x1 to x3:  Easy mode again. No special tactics, very occasional use of insps, little downtime.

x4:  Use of insps or tactics for maybe half the spawns.

x6:  Use of insps or tactics (not both) on ALL spawns.

x8:  Constant use of insps and tactics to survive. Again, starting to feel marginal, but more comfortable than +4/x1.


Frankly, this was a major surprise! The higher categories weren't comfortable, but they were certainly survivable, which was something I hadn't expected from a character like this.


Of course, that's with a character practically dripping with IO's. What if I'd still been relying on SO's? I copied the character over to test, respecced to move a few slots around and replaced all my hard-earned IO's with SO's.


Oh. My. Goodness. What a difference.




-1:  Easy mode. Bounce happily from spawn to spawn with barely a care in the world.

+0:  Some use of insps of tactics required. I didn't hit this level until +3 with IO's!

+1:  Use of insps OR tactics on all spawns.

+2:  Use of insps AND tactics on all spawns.

+3/+4:  Unsustainable. Despite using every trick I know, I was burning through insps faster than I could earn them.


Switching off bosses made this slightly easier. Things didn't become unsustainable until +4.


Team size


x1:  Some use of insps or tactics required on some spawns. See above.

x2:  Use of insps or tactical play on all spawns.

x3/x4:  Use of insps AND tactics on all spawns.

x6/x8:  Unsustainable. Burning through inspirations faster than I could generate them, despite best efforts.


Again, switching off bosses made things slightly easier, but not by much. Only the x3 category got a step easier, in fact.




IO sets, procs and globals make a huge difference to performance! With them, the character was barely breaking a sweat against challenges which were the absolute upper limit for the same character on SO's alone. This is not going to surprise the old hands at all, I know, but the difference was shocking to someone used to SO's as the standard.


Could this character get to 50 with only SO's? Yes, there's no doubt about that, but I might have to have skipped some content to do it and would have had to stick to the lowest difficulty settings. IO's made the character at least twice as powerful.


For reference, the version on live (with IO's) has apx. 34% s/l def, 26.6% melee def and 19% def vs everything else. The version on test (SO's) has just over 14% vs everything. There's also a massive difference in mez resistance, endurance usage and health recovery.



Hero Plan by Mids' Reborn : Hero Designer

Click this DataLink to open the build!

Pool Boy: Level 49 Magic Scrapper
Primary Power Set: Street Justice
Secondary Power Set: Willpower
Power Pool: Fighting
Power Pool: Leaping
Power Pool: Concealment
Power Pool: Sorcery

Hero Profile:
Level 1: Initial Strike -- KntCmb-Acc/Dmg:35(A), KntCmb-Dmg/EndRdx:35(3), KntCmb-Dmg/Rchg:35(3), KntCmb-Dmg/EndRdx/Rchg:35(5), KntCmb-Knock%:35(5)
Level 1: High Pain Tolerance -- Heal(A), Heal(7), Heal(7)
Level 2: Heavy Blow -- KntCmb-Acc/Dmg:35(A), KntCmb-Dmg/EndRdx:35(11), KntCmb-Dmg/Rchg:35(13), KntCmb-Dmg/EndRdx/Rchg:35(13), PndSlg-Stun%:30(15)
Level 4: Boxing -- KntCmb-Acc/Dmg:35(A), KntCmb-Dmg/EndRdx:35(23), KntCmb-Dmg/Rchg:35(25), KntCmb-Dmg/EndRdx/Rchg:35(25), KntCmb-Knock%:35(27)
Level 6: Kick -- KntCmb-Acc/Dmg:35(A), KntCmb-Dmg/EndRdx:35(27), KntCmb-Dmg/Rchg:35(29), KntCmb-Dmg/EndRdx/Rchg:35(29), PndSlg-Stun%:30(31)
Level 8: Combat Jumping -- Ksm-ToHit+:30(A)
Level 10: Super Jump -- Jump(A)
Level 12: Stealth -- LucoftheG-Def:36(A), LucoftheG-Def/Rchg+:36(31)
Level 14: Acrobatics -- EndRdx(A)
Level 16: Cross Punch -- ScrDrv-Acc/Dmg:36(A), ScrDrv-Dmg/EndRdx:36(31), ScrDrv-Dmg/Rchg:36(33), ScrDrv-Acc/Dmg/EndRdx:36(33)
Level 18: Weave -- LucoftheG-Def/Rchg+:36(A), LucoftheG-Def:36(33), DefBuff(34), DefBuff(34), EndRdx(34)
Level 20: Invisibility -- LucoftheG-Def/Rchg+:36(A)
Level 22: Mystic Flight -- Flight(A)
Level 24: Arcane Bolt -- Acc(A), Dmg(36), Dmg(36), Dmg(36)
Level 26: Rune of Protection -- RechRdx(A), RechRdx(37), RechRdx(37)
Level 28: Tough -- GldArm-3defTpProc:36(A), StdPrt-ResDam/Def+:30(37)
Level 30: Phase Shift -- RechRdx(A)
Level 32: Enflame -- Dmg(A)
Level 35: Misdirection -- Acc(A)
Level 38: [Empty]
Level 41: [Empty]
Level 44: [Empty]
Level 47: [Empty]
Level 49: [Empty]
Level 1: Brawl -- Empty(A)
Level 1: Critical Hit
Level 1: Sprint -- Empty(A)
Level 2: Rest -- Empty(A)
Level 2: Swift -- Empty(A)
Level 2: Health -- NmnCnv-Regen/Rcvry+:36(A), Mrc-Rcvry+:36(15), Prv-Absorb%:36(17), RgnTss-Regen+:30(17), Pnc-Heal/+End:36(19)
Level 2: Hurdle -- Empty(A)
Level 2: Stamina -- PrfShf-End%:36(A), PwrTrns-+Heal:36(19), EndMod(21), EndMod(21), EndMod(23)
Level 1: Combo Level 1
Level 1: Combo Level 2
Level 1: Combo Level 3



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