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Playing without Playing / Dispelling the Phantasm

Playing without Playing

The weekend went fast. They say "time flies when you're having fun." But I'm more inclined to believe a more accurate observation is, "time flies when you're not paying attention to it." Or, if you want to be a real stickler for detail, "if you're not watching the time, why the hell should it surprise you that you lost track of it?!"

Old saying are both easy and fun to butcher for their logical fallacies.

Anyway, this weekend went way too fast. I spent it playing City of Heroes, but now I wonder if I was playing it at all, as I wasn't paying attention to the present. If I wasn't paying attention to the present, what was I paying attention to?

Here's how it happened: I was continually jumping between two City of Heroes characters with a classic case of "grass is greener" syndrome going on. When I was playing Psi-Caster (a Illusion/Storm Controller) I was focused on how he wasn't doing as much damage as the Nanites (a Spines/Dark Armor Scrapper). When I was playing Nanites, I was focused on how he wasn't quite as flexible as Psi-Caster. With those two together back to back, and it's no wonder I didn't notice time flying: My focus was never on enjoying where I was at right now, it was instead on trying to get something.

It's almost fascinating how this mental snafu took root, and that's why my "alt-a-holicism" made the cut into this Blog entry.

Dispelling the Phantasm

At least I managed to get level 32 with Psi-Caster. Level 32 is a nifty thing for a City of Heroes character because at that point I can choose to take the 9th and last power out of my primary set. As the Primary power pool is balanced to be the most powerful of all the pools (33% more than the Secondary power pool) then this is often the most powerful power your hero gets.

I was suitably crestfallen to discover that my most powerful power was, on the surface, powerless.

The Illusion Controller's level 32 power is the Phantasm, a ghostly giant hero that can throw a cone-shaped attack and summon a decoy of itself that has much the same powers. I had heard that Phantasms were good damage dealers but, in practice, I've found that damage is sub-par. The cone attack was decent but it was too stupid to use it well. The summoned decoy's damage, being completely illusionary, healed back entirely promptly after it was delivered. I could do more damage with my level 1 "Spectral Wounds" power than the Phantasm could on its best day.

I eventually discovered that the decoy was the real benefit of having a Phantasm around. The decoy has a minor taunting aura, meaning that nearby foes will prefer to attack it, but is invulnerable to damage. Thus, the decoy can cause a great deal of damage to simply vanish. Unlike the Phantom Army, which has a similar capability, I can keep my Phantasm out constantly and it's pretty good about summoning a decoy. In the end, the advantage of the Phantasm is primarily a defensive power.

Well, so much for the Phantasm preventing me from dwelling on how the Nanites outperforms Psi-Caster damage-wise. I really shouldn't have been surprised as, of the five standard Archetypes, Scrappers are damage dealers second only to Blasters. Controllers, I'm learning, are quite deliberately the least damaging of them all.

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