Thursday, September 11, 2014

Path of Exile: 'Tanking'

I often find myself grouped with Tom and Sceadeau to do maps when I'm playing Path of Exile. Tom plays a variety of characters that mostly seem to do cast spells at range. Sceadeau plays a crazy flameblast character that needs to stand perfectly still for a short period of time and then everything on the screen dies. My first character this time around was an ice shot crit ranger that worked great alone but was practically worthless in the group. She revolved around getting killing blows to earn frenzy charges and to keep blood rage running and I simply couldn't do that when Tom would kill more than half of the enemies if it was the two of us and Sceadeau would kill everything with any amount of health with the three of us. But the three of us were pretty squishy, especially Sceadeau, so I wanted a new character that could tank for them.

I've done a lot of tanking in my day. Especially in World of Warcraft where I was the primary tank for most raids my entire time playing the game. On a warrior, on a druid, on a death knight... If there was damage to be taken I was there front and center. Tanking as a role made sense in games like that since they have a controllable way to manage who an enemy attacks and the gear is all designed for that role to exist. Tanking in Path of Exile doesn't make much sense at all. There's one ability in the game that can force an enemy to attack you but it's got a short range, a short duration, a long cooldown, and won't stop all the crazy chaining/piercing/area damage that actually gets people killed. It also won't do squat against damage reflection which is the primary way Sceadeau dies.

Basically every character needs to be tough enough to tank. Sceadeau ended up solving the problem by starting a new character using the same spell but using a really good piece of armour and a couple different defensive spells to be tougher on his own. Great for him! But bad for me in terms of having a character that does anything.

I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about how to help tank even with no actual way to be a full on tank. Everyone needs to be tough enough to survive normal situations but are there things that can be done to help out in other situations? The way I see it there are 3 things you can do to 'tank'.
  • Bring extra bodies to limit the odds any given attack hits one of your friends.
  • Make your friends tougher with auras.
  • Make the enemies worse with curses/stuns/freezes.
Having extra bodies like zombies and skeletons around helps mitigate some of the damage from chains and leaping dudes. It won't help against poison on the ground or discharge or things like that. Extra bodies feels like it probably makes the average case easier to deal with but the really crazy stuff like rogue exiles and hard map bosses are going to be hard because they use area abilities and make the minions worthless. Still a useful thing to have around I think, and I am tempted to make a summoner again, but I don't think it'll actually help too much on really scary things.

Auras is interesting because you can give up to 4 to maximum resist of an element by running the right aura. Taking someone from 75 to 79 resist is a pretty big deal (it cuts out 16% of the damage they take) and it's very easy to imagine a 16% damage reduction being the difference between someone living and dying. It's even better if they're running the right elemental defense flask because then you could be taking them from 85 to 89 resist and preventing almost 27% of their incoming damage. If there's a fight with a scary element then running the right aura is a big help. But on the flip side it's such a huge help that it's entirely possible everyone should just be doing that for themselves regardless? There are other auras that can help too, with giving extra armour or evasion or energy shield or life regen. There are so many of them that running them all seems hard, but getting a couple people who run a bunch of them is probably pretty useful. Especially when someone is killing all the enemies in one spell it feels like a thing that can help.

They revamped curses in this expansion such that not just anyone can use a curse at optimal power. Someone who really goes all in on cursing will be a lot better at it than a random Jo. Even with no points into making curses better a high level enfeeble will knock off 28% of the damage done by the enemies in addition to lowering their accuracy and crit chance. If you spec for it you can tack on a temporal chains curse to knock off 28% of their speed (movement, casting, and attacking). Get the right gear and you can throw on a variety of other curses to make the enemies take more damage or give out charges or life leech. People will undoubtedly bicker over the 'right' curses to put up and sometimes enemies can be immune to curses but it's pretty clear to me that if an enemy can be cursed then someone who puts a focus onto cursing will be a big help to the group.

This is probably why my summoner last time around felt so good. Lots of extra bodies and I took every curse node and almost all the aura nodes. I also brought other things as well with all the magic find and the culling strike. Man, that character was good!

My character right now that I play in groups put a bunch of points into shocking so I tend to make relevant enemies take 50% more damage. Note that that's more damage, not increased damage, so it is a straight 1.5x multiplier on damage done. I feel like that's pretty useful. It would probably be better coming from someone who did actual damage too, but it's still something. Sceadeau has me thinking about taking elemental equilibrium so the enemies lose 50% of their fire and cold resist in exchange for getting 50% lightning resist. I'm not sure if that would keep me from shocking or not (shock duration is based on damage done so I can't do no damage and keep it up) but in some cases taking an enemy from 75% fire resist to 25% fire resist is tripling the damage done so it could be a fair trade regardless...

I'm also trying to get a lot of auras up but I'm finding even though I have a lot of nodes I can't run more than 3 auras. A few more levels and I get the last couple aura nodes so maybe that will help. I am running the purity of fire to help mitigate reflected fire damage though and a pretty significant evasion buff.

The reason my character does no damage is I ran all over the tree getting defensive nodes. I'm personally pretty tanky since I can't be crit and my evasion is armour and I have a massive arctic armour self buff. I feel pretty tough in general, and I do feel like the shocking means I'm not dead weight in a group. But my goal was to be a tank and that just didn't happen. Oh well!


Tom said...

There's also endurance charges and conduit. I did that last league with Ground Slam - Stun - Endurance charge on melee stun. I don't remember if party members got 3 charges or the 7 that I was getting though.

Nick Page said...

That's true, and can be quite useful. You only get the number you can have naturally though. Basically whenever someone with conduit earns a charge they proc an event that gives everyone around them a charge as if they'd earned one in a normal way. So the maximum, duration, and extra effects are all based on what the other person has in their sphere grid.