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Rethinking the Spike Practice Meta

Silent Method

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Hey folks - for a couple weeks, I've been talking to a few people and getting some ideas together to brainstorm ways to reintroduce viability to some powersets and ATs that are currently outclassed by others.


This thread is:

  • Aimed at pick-up 6v6+ Arena, though it could have beneficial effects on both the growing organized team 8v8 Arena scene as well as zone PvP
  • Intended for brainstorming ideas that could make off-meta classes and powersets more viable, and more generally to discuss whether that's something people want to have happen at all


This thread is not:

  • An attempt to make all of these playstyles equal or viable (that's impossible)
  • A fully baked list of suggestions to make to the development staff; it's more of an early discussion starter
  • An authoritative list of what is fun. If making a playstyle viable also ruins the fun of the game, then it shouldn't be viable (e.g. long duration cages)
  • An exhaustive list. If anyone wants to contribute, please feel free. For my own part, I'll steer clear of addressing classes that are in my blind spot (e.g. I'm not a Mastermind expert)



If you'd like some background and have an evening to spend reading a wall of text, read on. If not, skip down to the next post for some specific suggestions.



What is the Spike Practice Meta?

Back in the days when the official 8v8 Arena ladder teams had enough active players to run internal 6v6+ matches almost every night, teams ran spike practice as an almost daily way to train targeting and evasion alike. The spike team loaded up on more "primary damage" than usual -- hero side, this included both blasters and sets like rad/psy defenders that had few responsibilities other than on-target debuffing and damage. The other team, the target team, would cast buffs and call targets too, but they didn't actually attack anyone; the goal was to act normally while building evasion skills against a heavy offense.


Because the spike team was so heavy on damage, it often lacked what were once considered essentials in 8v8 Arena play, e.g. kins, sonics, multiple empaths. This was fine for spike practice, but when it came time for 8v8 Arena play, no one ran teams with such heavy damage -- at least, not prior to i13 and the many changes that followed. They'd have been squishy without sonic or thermal buffs, slow without kinetics buffs, etc. Instead, speaking to hero-side, you'd see teams like this:




...usually with the 4-6 slots usually occupied by some combination of rad, sonic, kin, FF, or even more unusual sets in some cases. We can all agree we should never see the days of two long duration sonic cagers per team again, but it's worth considering what we do want to see in the metagame.


What is the situation now?

A wise man once said of i25, "Damage is king." Numerous PvP mode changes have rendered non-damage (which includes on-target debuffers like Poison), non-healing (which includes Emp and possibly Pain) functions largely -- though not entirely -- obsolete. In kickballs, I've experimented with a few sets oriented toward other purposes for the sake of proving out a suspicion: while buffs and disruption can do something in certain situations, you'd often be better off just dealing damage instead. Doing something other than primary damage or healing is mostly a source of frustration at the moment:


  • Frustration of teammates who'd rather have another damage class or healer (though it's worth keeping in mind that casual kickballs are where people have some freedom to test unusual sets in an 8v8 environment)
  • Frustration of opponents; getting disrupted just feels obnoxious and petty if disruption isn't justifiable as part of a winning strategy (there's a reason nobody enjoys playing against Grav/TA, even if they're likely to win against it)
  • Frustration of players like me who miss the days when tasks were more varied than they are now (lock/fire or fort/AB/heal). Just kidding, theorycraft like this is enjoyable for me regardless of whether the meta changes, and if the consensus favors a blast and heal metagame, I'm happy to hop on the bandwagon. But at least I can say I tried!


How will the ideas here change the meta?

I have no idea offhand. One of the most noticeable features of i25 PvP is the sheer amount of damage. Both buff coverage (shields, Clear Mind/Clarity, Speed Boost/IR, etc.) and mild amounts of disruption used to be essential parts of the 8v8 metagame. If more time and team slots were devoted to those activities because those activities became more inherently valuable, then the metagame might shift away from absurd amounts of damage. Why is that potentially a good thing? For starters, it makes rogue blasting less appealing, and it demands better coordination on spikes in order to secure kills. Metagame changes may also open the game up a wider variety of strategies and powersets/ATs, which could alleviate the frustrations noted above.


What if no one wants the meta to change?

As I've said above, that's fine. Unlike on Live -- remember Castle's Corner, anyone? -- we have a voice with a chance of actually being heard. After brainstorming, we might reach the conclusion that 6 damage 2 emp is a fine metagame. And just to be clear, none of this is to say that no one can win on suboptimal builds or classes; I've had both a lot of fun and reasonable success messing around on a suboptimal kin/psy so far. The point is more that even if you can win on an off-meta buff or disruption class... you'd probably have had a much better chance of winning on either an in-meta damage dealer or a healer, instead of having a similar chance but going about it in a different way.


Who are you?

I'm @Silent Method. I played on Live from Issue 4 though Issue 12, leaving shortly before i13. I knew or knew of pretty much everyone who took part in the Hero side ladder up until the time I left the game, and I'm happy to get to know anyone I didn't meet back then.


On the Test server, where my experience was almost entirely on Hero side, I was grateful that Old School Legends gave me a chance to play kin and blaster. Eventually I joined Justice for All League and played kin on a team that competed for, and for a few periods held, the top spot on the Hero 8v8 ladder during the height of its pre-i13 activity. Win or lose, those scrimmages and ladder matches remain some of the most fun I've ever had in gaming, and I'm happy to see even a handful of familiar faces from those times who are still here supporting the CoH community. On Live, I was originally from Pinnacle but spent most of my time on Infinity and Freedom. I regularly dueled on both an ice/rad controller and a spines/regen scrapper, and I won several large-scale 2v2 tournaments on both an ice/thermal corruptor and a fire/em blaster. I also badged. 🙃


I seriously doubt I'll play at that same level, between reflexes that I've noticed are slower and wife aggro that keeps me from farming and practicing as regularly as I'd like, but I still enjoy theorycrafting as much as ever. If you enjoy it as well, throw in some ideas.

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Idea Section


As a reminder, this thread is: aimed at pick-up 6v6+ Arena, though it could have beneficial effects on both the growing organized team 8v8 Arena scene and zone PvP.


All ideas suggested here would be PvP-specific -- perhaps even Arena-specific, if that ever becomes an option development-wise. If you have suggestions to add, or even any corrections on something I've gotten wrong, feel free to post.



RadiationPoisoning_EnervatingField.pngRadiation Emission

  • What's weak now? Nerfs to Enervating Field; generally outclassed by debuffing sets like Poison, though AM gives decent mez resistance which gives niche utility against teams that lead spikes with a mez
  • Possible changes:
    • Strengthen EF
    • Increase tether range (and possibly cast range) on RI / EF
    • Give Lingering Radiation a -Special or -Healing component (see below for notes on -Healing)


ThermalRadiation_Forge.pngThermal Radiation

  • What's weak now? DR / base resists render shields obsolete; Thaw also mostly obsolete. Outclassed as both a healer and debuffer in large team settings
  • Possible changes:
    • Broader changes to DR / base resists in order to make +res shields meaningful
    • Give Forge a greater differentiation from Fortitude
    • Buff Cauterize to occupy a middle ground between Heal Other and Absorb Pain


SonicDebuff_DebuffDamRes.pngSonic Resonance

  • What's weak now? DR / base resists render shields obsolete; Clarity also mostly obsolete. Outclassed as a debuffer
  • Possible changes:
    • Broader changes to DR / base resists in order to make +res shields meaningful
    • Possibly incorporate buffable psionic resistance somewhere
    • Buff Sonic Siphon and give it a faster / safer animation
    • Be careful about incentivizing a cage set too much. If the rest of the set becomes more attractive, controller cages could be reduced to 2 second duration


ForceField_ForceBolt.pngForce Field

  • What's weak now? Defense buffs are often not useful (DR, but was also true pre-DR with massive amounts of ToHit) or fun (RNG-based spikes are not fun); too Force Bolt-centric
  • Possible changes:
    • Broader changes to DR
    • Add special properties to bubble buffs, like the Res(Toxic) and Res(End Drain) that already exists, perhaps even to counter other mechanics in this suggestion list
    • Broader changes to knockback (e.g. this thread) to give KB more strategic tradeoffs (or, alternatively, make it easier to eliminate if the community doesn't find knockback healthy)



  • What's weak now? Lack of movement suppression makes Speed Boost and IR less valuable; free Stamina on all builds makes both SB and Transference less valuable
  • Possible changes:
    • Reimplement PvE-style movement suppression; this reintroduces the value in kiting IR on multiple damage dealers
    • Allow Inertial Reduction to essentially negate one application of Web Grenade (and similar) effects. This could require some tricky tuning of the -Jump Height numbers
    • Give Siphon Speed more -Jump, as a way to shift away from endurance disruption and toward movement disruption. Ice and grav controllers already can do this, but at the expense of damage
    • Give Transfusion -Healing (distinct from -Regen. See below)
    • Remove free Stamina haha just kidding


ColdDomination_Infrigidate.pngCold Domination

  • What's weak now? Outclassed by Poison; buffs are generally not that useful
  • Possible changes:
    • Potentially give Cold more of a niche as a damage debuffer by allowing Infrigidate to debuff more than just Fire damage (but max 1 application per target at a time)
    • Add some unique properties to buffs (+Res to psi on Frostwork) and/or debuffs
    • Add -Healing somewhere other than Benumb (not -Special; see notes below)


StormSummoning_Hurricane.pngStorm Summoning

  • What's weak now? Same as it ever was: heavily map-dependent and reliant on a coordinated team. The set as a whole offers little outside of Hurricane and random Freezing Rain tags
  • Possible changes:
    • Might be reasonably well balanced in a team; I'd have to see a storm team in action
    • Tweaks to make pets (e.g. Lightning Cloud) mobile and more reliable on larger maps
    • Give it a clear, achievable focus outside of Hurricane. Is it endurance drain? Is it def/res debuffs? Should O2 Boost get another valuable buff effect?


Archetypeicon_controller.pngControllers / Dominators

  • What's weak now? PvP mez changes. Especially harmful for 1v1s and zones, but in team settings the niche has shifted from definite mez harassment to questionable pre-spike mezzes (if your team isn't already spamming other mezzes like web grenades)
  • Possible changes:
    • Revisit PvP mez changes, consider some form of reversion to the old stacking system with tweaks for balancing



  • What's weak now? Generally outclassed in damage, which makes them disruption bots (Taunt for -range, and web grenades); easily kited
  • Possible changes:
    • Revisit PvP mez changes (indirect buff, as melee classes have both innate protection and tend to dish out some mezzes)
    • Reimplement PvE-style movement suppression
    • Reimplement toggle dropping, an ability melee sets used to have in PvP. It wasn't perfect, but it's a step in the direction of giving them a niche
    • Buff damage values or ranged potency (could have bad consequences for 1v1 or zones)
    • Be wary of making the set too attractive without changes to Taunt (e.g. something that can hit hard from range and spam hefty -range debuffs could be overtuned)
    • Be cognizant of Stalkers, which are in a better place than other Melee classes, when it comes to making sweeping Melee buffs


ElectricalBolt_ShortCircuit.pngGeneral disruption

  • What's weak now? Generally outclassed by just dealing damage
  • Possible changes:
    • Revisit PvP mez changes, consider some form of reversion to the old stacking system with tweaks for balancing
    • Endurance drain is annoying when it happens, but hard to follow up on. Consider either making it harder to achieve (if it's considered unhealthy) or more effective when it works (e.g. bottoming out on endurance applies a hefty unresisted -recovery debuff for 5-10 seconds)
    • Web grenade has exaggerated pros and cons. It inhibits mobility and has no direct counter, but it also interferes with spike mezzes and clues targets in to act more defensively
    • Non-web movement disruption is difficult to achieve and generally not worth the time; not sure if there are any easy buffs to make without having unintended consequences


Poison_WeakenAoE.pngWhat's strong?

  • This thread is mainly aimed at improving viability of underperforming sets, rather than tuning overperformers. That's a whole other discussion, though certainly Weaken is near the top of the list, with its low cooldown and its ability to affect outgoing healing and mez resistance
  • Related to that, I do have one suggestion for both Weaken and some of the other sets that I noted above: a separate -Healing effect that affects incoming healing only, while removing Weaken's effects on all healing. In other words, something to be used on a target that moderately reduces incoming heals, rather than something to permanently slap on the enemy Empaths. The devil is in the details with this one, though. To separate healing from the Power Boost / Inverse Power Boost (i.e. Weaken) effect would also limit the ability of empaths to crank up their healing with Power Boost, which may not be a desirable result. Weaken could be left at a fast cooldown but reworked into fewer specific debuffs rather than the all-encompassing -Special
Edited by Silent Method
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Something I've been working on. I may make a standalone post on it later.


Covering how the solutions within solve some of the problems you have presented:


Radiation Emission - The formula for offensive toggle suppression goes a small way to help this powerset.

Thermal Radiation -  The new values I give for resistance DR and Base Resists gives viabiltiy to Thermal +res shields.

Sonic Resonance  -  The new values I give for resistance DR and Base Resists gives viabiltiy to Sonic +res shields.

Force Field - The new values I give for defense DR gives viability to Forcefield +def shields, The new DR value for knockback enhancement strength I give reigns in Force Bolt.

Controllers / Dominators - The protection based system with abuse proofing I describe increases the viability of these archetypes.

Melee - The changes I give to melee ranges, melee run & jump speed DR values, and an "afterburner" effect after melee hits gives viability to melee.


Although I understand you wanted more "ballpark ideas" than specific suggestions, I think there is only a very narrow range of DR curve parameters which result in both +Res shields being viable, and stacking +Res set bonuses all the way to high heaven (on a blaster for example) not being viable. For this reason I wanted to share the exact solutions I came up with through my process of discovery as to what those parameters might be.


I believe that the change making +res shields functional alone would cause the pure spike meta to dissapate.


Edited by Alouu
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Alouu, this is awesome, and specifics are still welcome, especially for sliding scale changes (i.e. tweaking existing mechanics rather than removing them). I don't have a great way to integrate your suggestions into my post since they're anchored more to the game mechanics than specific sets, though I think your document speaks for itself and poses some great options -- some similar to and some different from what I pulled together.


A few quick thoughts I had:


  • I agree that changing knockback's DR curve accomplishes the goal of making it less extreme, but it will always be a "worst offender" mechanic, meaning everyone worries about Force Bolt and all the other powers get covered by it. And the solution is still "slot KB IOs" if Acrobatics is never made to be more beneficial than a KB IO by modifying the enhanceable portion of it, as I suggested in this thread. Not saying that's necessarily a better way, but just something to consider.
  • Randomized melee detoggle is something you don't favor in part because of the randomness, but having meaningful defense on squishies is much the same. In the old days, the least fun part of playing a kin/psy defender was rolling the dice every time I tried to hit a blaster who had nothing but Fortitude and Maneuvers. That is the one attribute where I'll defend the current DR setup: I don't think squishies should be able to accumulate ridiculous amounts of defense. That could probably also just be accomplished with a PvP hard cap (and frankly, a good chunk of DR could be replaced, and made less confusing to newcomers, with a hard cap).
  • The mez suggestion you make is interesting. I kind of liked the pre-i13 system on Live, but it'd be cool to explore other avenues like yours in practice.
  • Ditto for some of the melee suggestions. I think the -range on Taunt needs to be looked at, though, if melee becomes more useful as a whole.
  • We completely agree that resistance becoming meaningful again would both increase build diversity and reduce focus on the heavy damage meta.


Also, on a more general note, to reiterate some of the discussion going on in the Discord:


This list isn't intended to be an imminent set of suggestions to the developers. It's mainly for brainstorming, and can maybe -- eventually, if there's actual interest and capacity from the development crew -- be boiled down to a more concise set of suggestions someday. In the immediate future, some of these dynamics cannot be changed, while other broken / unfun mechanics or sets should be managed by culture and consensus, e.g. the Arena ban on Telekinesis.

Edited by Silent Method
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