Champions Online – Building survivable DPS for Gravitar

Update 21st August 2014: Changed with new information from the forums and stat testing.

I was asked how to keep DPS alive in Gravitar, and after looking around for a bit, it looks like there’s a tactics guide but no building/gearing guide, so I’ll be covering that here.

Contents

  1. The Issues
  2. Stats and Specializations
  3. Passives
  4. Attacks
  5. Mitigation Powers
  6. Active Offenses
  7. Threat Wipes
  8. Healing Powers
  9. Travel Powers
  10. Gear
  11. Devices
  12. Framework

The Issues

The main issues to deal with in the Gravitar fight are:

  1. Physical Damage. She uses Kinetic Manipulation and Skarn’s doesn’t remove it anymore, so you’ll need a character that can withstand or avoid the crushing damage she throws out, and ideally uses attacks that can bypass her resists.
  2. Yellow Bubbles. They have the potential to one-shot all but the toughest characters through a block. You’ll need to either run from one fast enough, or be able to put out very strong defenses in short notice.
  3. Range. Point blank range is ground zero, because that’s where all the melees and dinosaurs are at, so that’s where a lot of bubbles are going to be too. Further out, her attacks go further than 100ft, but at least the only attacks you’ll need to defend against are the ones directed at you. Unless you’re standing right in front of or behind someone. Force Cascade will hit both of you because it has straight line AoE.
  4. Knocks. Getting knocked and then having Cascades flying at you is a very bad situation to be in. However, knocks can be good if, for example, you use a flight power and stay at 100ft away. A hit that knocks you away can cause further attacks on you to miss, and at the same time you don’t take knock damage.
  5. Healing. Don’t trust others to heal you. Not because they can’t be trusted, but if you’re far out, you’ll be hard to reach, and if you’re up close, your self-healing will help you stay alive.

In other words, expect to take damage. The closer you are and the more aggro you pull, the more damage you’ll take. Expect to get knocked too. And in the middle of all that you still need to do damage to her.

Stats and Specializations

In general, how I stat is I decide on an Energy Unlock and a Toggle first, and I almost always take Constitution for survivability and to feed Ego Surge‘s Nimble Mind advantage.

Constitution should be at least a secondary superstat. It gives you the HP buffer to take multiple hits back-to-back and come out alive. Apart from Constitution, there is no other easy way to get HP in this game. So unless you have a very good reason not to, Constitution should be a superstat. So that narrows the three superstats down to:

  • Energy Unlock Stat
  • Toggle Stat
  • Constitution

There’s exceptions of course. If the Energy Unlock is Supernatural Power, don’t superstat Recovery. Superstat Endurance instead. Some builds might also use Rush from a Dragon’s power and skip the unlock.

Also, The Energy Unlock stat might overlap with the Toggle Stat, or in the case of Spirit Reverberation, Constitution overlaps with Energy Unlock. That frees up the third superstat as a free pick, which opens the option of having that third superstat as a Primary Stat solely to access its Specialization tree. Some trees benefit other stats greatly, for example Primary Strength is great for high Constitution builds due to Juggernaut, and Primary Intelligence is great for high Dexterity builds due to Expertise. Conversely, Primary Presence doesn’t reward you much for having a lot of Presence.

For gearing, stat priorities in general would be:

  • Enough Constitution to feel comfortable – typically close to 200 for me, though many players go higher
  • As much into the Form stat as possible, since it gives both energy and damage
  • Teeny tiny amount into the third stat to get its benefits into diminishing returns. Typically that means the Armadillo secondaries or a Vigilante piece or a single mod, and maybe a Justice set bonus

 

With that in mind, the Primary stat tree choice should be one with specializations that benefit from having a high Form stat.

As for primary stat trees, here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Strength – Stupidly good survivability with Swole, as well as Juggernaut with moderate to high Constitution. Also helps with melee energy management via Physical Peak.
  • Dexterity – High DPS on bosses with Expose Weakness and stacking secondary stats will contribute greatly to DPS via Deadly Aim, but little defenses from specs. Avoid Brush it Off, it’s useless on Gravitar. For Dodge, Deflection in the Constitution tree is much more efficient than Quick Reflexes.
  • Constitution – Good knock resist and HP boosts but Strength is usually a better option unless going for a Dodge build.
  • Ego – Balance of DPS and survivability with Force of Will, Follow Through and Sixth Sense. Insight helps with energy management for ranged too.
  • Recovery – Very conditional stat, use only if you can guarantee 100% uptime on Supercharged and can make very good use of the crit chance e.g. Dragon’s Claw.
  • Endurance – Use if you use an Endurance-based Energy Unlock like Thermal/Wind/Ionic Reverb and have energy issues, but try as hard as you can to avoid taking Primary Endurance first. It gives decent surivability but loses out on a lot of DPS
  • Intelligence – Use with Expertise Spec and Secondary Dexterity for best results. Excellent stat for mid-budget builds with Legion’s Piercing but no Depleted Uranium core. Good for stacking Dex to high levels for crit chance. If not stacking Dex, take Dex close to 200 but not over.
  • Presence – Stupidly good survivability with Rank 3 Repurpose, Force of Will and full Justice gear, which typically gives over 80% Defense along with 66% healing. Synergy with Mental Storm via Vulnerability, or Crit-based abilities like Avenger Mastery using Moment of Glory. Expect 2.5k crit Convictions with Justice Gear in Ranged role(!).

For more detailed info on how the superstats perform, look at my stats testing spreadsheet.

For the other trees, the most straightforward choice is either Warden and Vindicator or Guardian and Vindicator for DPS characters. Take The Best Defense under Warden/Guardian and Aggressive Stance under Vindicator. This converts your Defense stat to Offense, then throws 20% of that back as Defense again, and continues to loop until both Offense and Defense reach very high levels. This combination is affectionately known as “Wardicator” or “Guardicator”.

Alternatively, Brawler has Setup, which can be used to create high damage rotations, for example, Viper’s Fangs (Setup) – Tiger’s Bite (Consumes Setup).

Avenger has Preemptive Strike, which does the same thing for rotations with a Blast. Avenger Mastery is also an attractive choice for Power Armor and high crit chance Blast builds.

Passives

Look for passives that offer extra survivability or healing. Aura of Primal Majesty with Wardicator/Guardicator and Primary StrengthEgo or Presence with relevant Defense specs gives a good mix of offense and defense.

Quarry used to be extremely good, but ever since the Dodge nerf, it lacks in defenses. It can create chart-topping DPS but runs into trouble if you don’t have a tank and/or healer to help handle aggro.

If you have a Two-Gun Mojo build, which I assume is intended for general content, consider Kinetic Manipulation for amazing defense against her. Keep in mind though, that Two-Gun Mojo and other ranged physical damage attacks won’t do the best damage against her either.

Other options to look at include Stormbringer which gives plenty of Crushing resistance while offering damage boosts to Cold and Electricity to bypass her defenses, and Shadow Form, which doesn’t give much direct survivability, but buffs threat and stealth so that less attacks come your way.

Other offensive passives are also usable, but will need some extra effort in shoring up defenses. “Extra effort” typically entails little more than Primary Strength or Presence, rotating two Active Defenses (usually Rank 1 Masterful Dodge and Rank 3 Unbreakable) and stacking around 10,000 HP.

Attacks

Decide on a favorite spammable single target and favorite spammable area of effect attack. Make sure they match with your passive, and Form toggle, and that it either triggers your Energy Unlock or has synergy with another power that you’ll be using to trigger it.

Can’t decide? Here’s a list of the most notable, easy to use single target DPS combos by powerset. Once that’s decided, just find a complementary Area of Effect:

  • Fire: Take Conflagration. Debuff with Fireball and its Unstable Accelerant advantage, as well as Fire Snake. Take Flashfire and Thermal Reverberation to provide energy for this combo if needed.
  • Lightning: Take Lightning Arc. Trigger Ions with Thunderstrike to increase its damage.
  • Force: You’re screwed on Gravitar :p Force Cascade is popular for general purpose but requires specific building not covered here.
  • Wind: You’re half-screwed :p Half of Typhoon is resisted and that’s the best pick in-set. Take Lightning Arc or Ice Blast or a physical melee attack if you have Stormbringer.
  • Ice: Take Ice Blast with Hard Frost and spaz the keybind on it till you get carpal tunnel (or use a macro). Debuff with Fire Snake. Consider Molecular Self-Assembly as an unlock.
  • Archery: You’re screwed :p Take a physical melee attack if you’re using Quarry.
  • Gadgeteering: Take Pulse Beam Rifle.
  • Munitions: You would be screwed, but Two-Gun Mojo has high base damage and 10% defense penetration. Sniper Rifle is a safe, if inefficient option. Assault Rifle less than optimal DPS but user-friendly and rather safe too.
  • Power Armor: Combine Tactical Missiles, Micro Munitions and Minigun. Take Avenger tree, get Avenger Mastery and maximize crit chance. You would be screwed but your raw damage is so high that it doesn’t matter.
  • Power Armor (melee): Spam Laser Sword with Warden Mastery
  • Dual Blades: Dragon’s Wrath. Apply Shredded with Viper’s Fangs or Shred if you want.
  • Fighting Claws: Dragon’s Claw. Debuff as above. Alternatively, take Brawler tree with Setup, apply Shredded with Viper’s Fangs and rupture with Tiger’s Bite.
  • Single Blade: Spam Reaper’s Caress to 10 Bleeds, Rupture with Reaper’s Embrace.
  • Unarmed: Borrow Haymaker from Might :p Failing that, Dragon Uppercut or Burning Chi Fist. Debuff with Rising Knee.
  • Telekinesis: Telekinetic Assault or Ego Weaponry or Ego Blade Breach. Debuff with Mental Storm. If you have room, throw in a rupture with Telekinetic Lance or Ego Blade Annihilation.
  • Telepathy: Take Ego Blast with Mind Opener and Telepathic Reverberation. Debuff with Mental Storm and spaz on Ego Blast till you get carpal tunnel (or use a macro)
  • Heavy Weapon: Annihilate. Debuff with Rising Knee or Demolish.
  • Earth: You’re screwed :p take a physical melee attack if you’re using Earth Form.
  • Might: Haymaker. Debuff with Rising Knee or Demolish.
  • Celestial: Doesn’t really have a good attack. Best it can do is is apply Fear using a Darkness power and tap spam Celestial Conduit.
  • Darkness: Doesn’t really have a good attack. Can try charged Shadow Blast with tapped Ebon Ruin using Avenger Mastery, high crit chance and Preemptive Strike (see video here), but DPS will be middling as proc detection is buggy with that combo.
  • Sorcery: Doesn’t really have a good attack. Can try Avenger Mastery, doing a full Skarn’s Bane maintain to proc the mastery then following up with an Eldritch Blast.
  • Bestial: Use Shred to debuff and bleed, then spam Massacre.
  • Infernal (melee): Use Fire Snake to debuff and spam Devour Essence.
  • Infernal (ranged): Use Avenger Mastery with high Crit Chance and Preemptive Strike, spam charged Infernal Blast followed by tapped Defile. debuff with Fire Snake.

For extra DPS, some attacks have damage is so far out of line compared to others that they will contribute to a DPS gain on just about any build. Builds using a relevant type passive or Quarry will see a greater gain. A common use for them is to trigger Molecular Self-Assembly. These attacks include:

  • Strafing Run (Gadgeteering): Low cooldown spike with damage in the mid 5-digits per use.
  • Rimefire (Fire): Moderate cooldown spike attack with damage in the low 5-digits per use.
  • Mental Storm (Telepathy): Popular debuff for Ego damage-based builds, but the DoT aspect does so much damage that other builds will see a DPS gain as well.

Mitigation Powers

Mitigation powers can help with handling her damage spikes, or make her incoming damage easier to manage.

Masterful Dodge is very useful for yellow bubbles. At the last one-third of her health, if you block a large blue bubble and it does no damage (i.e. it was a hold bubble), you get the option to drop your block, pop Masterful Dodge and block again. It guarantees a dodge + block on the incoming yellow bubble. Makes the fight a lot easier, especially if you use a slow travel power like Flight.

Unbreakable has been buffed since 2013. It is now very useful for handling her basic attacks like Geysers and chain Cascades. A common build technique is to gear heavily for cooldown reduction and rotate Masterful Dodge and Unbreakable.

Circle of Primal Dominion is a good source of damage resistance, knock resistance and supplementary healing. Very nice if you don’t move much and don’t use other circles.

Shadow of Doubt is a relatively new debuff that, once stacked, reduces Gravitar’s damage noticeably.

Ice Barrier can help reduce big spikes like yellow bubbles to more manageable levels while saving your Masterful Dodge cooldown. See my Stormbringer Tanking video at 3:04 for it in action. Note that, as the video title suggests, the passive I used was Stormbringer, so that helped bring damage down as well.

Active Offenses

As a DPS character, Active Offenses (AOs) are key to raising DPS. In the current meta, the highest DPS characters take two Active Offenses and rotate between them so that at least one AO is up at any given time. Of course, this comes at the cost of two power slots – one of which could have been used for survivability. A side bonus of AOs is that they can be used to break out of holds. It is advisable to take at least one active offense. A list of notable AOs follows:

Ego Surge with Nimble Mind advantage is the highest impact AO a character can take if they have a decent amount of Constitution – typically close to 200, although it is not uncommon for characters to take more, especially if they use Primary Strength and Juggernaut. If taking only one AO, this is usually the one to take. Expect a close to 30% increase in Critical Chance with 200ish Constitution.

Lock & Load is an alternative for characters with lower Constitution and/or need the cost discount. This is frequently the second Active Offense used in an offense-oriented build rotating AOs.

Imbue is another choice for second Active Offense for offense-oriented builds. It gives higher Crit Chance and some Severity, but lacks cost discount and doesn’t break out of holds.

Ascension is a popular choice of second Active Offense for characters that value survivability. It gives a burst of healing and a buff to heals to make a quick comeback after a burst of damage.

Threat Wipes

Threat wipes are good if your character can’t take the heat :p Definitely consider one if you’re not using a passive that can defend against her attacks well.

Smoke Bomb I’ve found to be fairly reliable at Rank 1, but sometimes she still hits me anyway

Palliate has an advantage that grants stealth, making it similar to Smoke Bomb, except with a heal.

Sigils of Radiant Sanctuary give a de facto threat wipe. It buffs your stealth, so she still aggros on you, but she tends to go after people she can see first before she comes for you.

Evasive Maneuvers gives a respectable boost to Dodge, along with an advantage that gives a chance to wipe threat. Post-Dodge nerf, Dodge chance is too low to rely on as a main defense mechanic for most characters, so take this more for the threat wipe than the Dodge boost.

Block Powers

As a DPS character, expect to block a lot. Whenever you see a blue bubble near you, just hit the block button. I also use blocks to slow my character down for positioning. The block powers that give extra defense are:

Telekinetic Shield gives extra resistance vs. physical damage.

Energy Shield and Parry have advantages that increase your resistance while attacking, although they may have conditions, e.g. melee-only, and the defense comes at the cost of some damage. Energy Shield also gives a little bit extra physical resist compared to other blocks.

Ebon Void with its advantage can withstand extended barrages from Gravitar very well.

Force Shield with Force Sheathe doesn’t give much extra defense, but is a notable choice for energy management.

Healing Powers

DPS characters should focus on fast, fire-and-forget heals so that they minimize the time they spend not doing damage. I recommend taking two to three heals, with one being Conviction.

Conviction is very good for healing back bursts of damage, especially with good crit or raw healing power from Primary Presence.

Bountiful Chi Resurgence with the Resurgent Reiki advantage is an excellent heal over time, provided she sends a lot of attacks your way and you dodge a lot of them.

Protection Field and Mindful Reinforcement are staples for a bubble build, although you’d have to be a pretty niche build like Mecha-Arisa to get good mileage out of bubbles without sacrificing DPS. Can be considered for Primary Presence with Justice Gear and Repurpose, but still not advisable for most DPS-oriented characters.

Rebuke and Empathic Healing are good if you need a burst of healing during Conviction’s downtime, and are fairly sure she won’t interrupt you.

Resurgence is a nice emergency button, but the Until Recognition heal is usually enough for that.

Ascension is also a nice emergency button as well.

For ranged DPS, Conviction is usually enough for the stray hits coming in. For good measure, I pair it with a no-cooldown heal like Empathic Healing, because she tends to knock me out of her range and I can use that window to heal. For melee, Way of the Warrior characters or characters that pull a lot of aggro, Conviction with Bountiful Chi Resurgence makes more sense, since she won’t give you the chance to hold your hands in the air to heal.

Additionally, a resurrection power is also helpful. While it’s possible to solo her, it is usually a slow and risky process, so most times it’s better to ensure other people are alive to share her damage.

Travel Powers

Rank 3 Athletics and Super Speed are good for running out bubbles, but will need to build for knock resist.

Rank 3 Flight is good for parking in the air at 100 feet, where there’s a much lower risk of eating attacks meant for someone else. Also negates the issue of knock damage.

Gear

There’s no hard and fast rule for Primary Defense. With Justice gear, Justice Fitness gives the best Effective HP, but Justice Agility gives slightly better mitigation, i.e. you’re slightly easier to heal, subject to luck. In general, Fitness is the safer option. Below Justice Fitness, get Heroic of Health and don’t bother with Legion.

The biggest favor you can probably do yourself is to get a Primary Utility with as much Cooldown Reduction as possible to minimize the downtime of Masterful Dodge. Get the other slots only if you have energy management issues – which should be solved by statting rather than gear.

Primary Offense depends on many variables. In as general terms as possible, this list will try to narrow down a good choice:

  • If you can get Justice gear, get Justice Agility
  • If you’re Primary Ego and using Ego to power Concentration, get Legion’s or Heroic Growth.
  • If you’re Primary Constitution and aching for HP, also get Legion’s or Heroic Growth.
  • If you have the budget for Legion and don’t have Dexterity Mastery, get Legion’s Piercing.
  • If you have the budget for Legion and have Dexterity Mastery, save it. Stick to Heroic Precision.
  • If you don’t have Dexterity Mastery and have significant (~200) Dexterity, get Heroic Piercing.
  • If you don’t fall into any of the above, get Heroic Precision.

For secondaries, the budget option is three pieces of Armadillo secondaries for 25% resistance. See my Secondary Gear Comparison for its effects on a character with an offensive passive. The difference isn’t quite 25%, but it’s very noticeable.

With a higher budget, purple secondaries, including Vigilante are also a good option. The Armadillo set doesn’t give Cooldown Reduction, so purples offer more insurance against spikes of damage, because you have less downtime between Masterful Dodges and a tighter Active Offense and Active Offense chaining rotation, for builds employing that.

Devices

No need to break the bank here. Servitor Serum is sold by Silver Champion Recognition vendors for 3 Recognition each, and has 3 charges. UNITY quests are pretty easy so it should be fairly trivial to stockpile these. Triumphant Recovery shot up in price since I wrote the guide so I can’t say it’s an economical option anymore.

The Until Recognition vendors also sell healing items on the cheap, and they’re very useful emergency heals.

If you’re rich, the Necrullitic Elixir device is good for a constant source of healing. It’s kind of like a mini-Bountiful Chi Resurgence. The Eruption device also makes you immune to all damage, but has only 50ft range.

Framework

Putting all these together, this is the general framework I would recommend for a DPS character built for Gravitar:

Powers:

  1. Energy Builder
  2. Passive
  3. Form
  4. Energy Unlock
  5. Block
  6. Active Offense
  7. Masterful Dodge
  8. Conviction or Bubble if bubble character
  9. Second heal
  10. Boss killer attack of choice
  11. DoT, debuff or buff that has synergy with the boss killer attack, passive and/or energy unlock to increase DPS.
  12. AoE attack for other content
  13. Last 2 powers are free picks. Consider extra Active Offenses or Active Defenses, threat wipes, mitigation powers or extra heals if those are needed. Consider a resurrection power if you’re a nice person. Consider Rebirth if you expect to die a lot. Otherwise, they’re completely free picks.

Travel Powers:

  • R3 Athletics or Super Speed to avoid yellow bubbles.
  • R3 Flight is alright, but for 100ft Ranged only

Stats:

  • Primary or Secondary Constitution and two other stats of choice

Specializations:

  1. Any stat tree
  2. Guardian or Warden: max Fortified Gear, Ruthless, The Best Defense, rest are free picks.
  3. Vindicator: max Merciless and Aggressive Stance, rest are free picks

Gear:

  1. Primary Offense: Whichever maximizes your DPS
  2. Primary Utility: Maximize cooldown reduction for Masterful Dodge
  3. Primary Defense: Personal preference.
  4. Secondaries: Armadillo set or purples that maximize cooldown reduction.

Devices:

  1. Until Recognition heal
  2. Servitor Serum
  3. Rest are free picks
Selphea
Selphea is a crazy MMO player who can never decide what to play and runs weird builds. But hey at least they work!