Group Tactics Guide by sunspot01

Version: 1.00 | Updated: 08/02/04 | Printable Version

Group Tactics Primer for City of Heroes
Author - Doctor Enigma
Copyright 2004 Jonathan Sill
Date - July 28th 2004
Version - 1.00
Heroes on Victory Server:
Doctor Enigma - Mind/Empathy Controller
Sunspot - Fire/Energy Tank
Psychopomp - Kinetics/Electrical Defender
Lord Baltimore - Broadsword/Regen Scrapper
Spryte - Invincibility/Super Strength Tank

1. Version History: 

1.00 - Released 07/28/04

2. Table of Contents

1. Version History
2. Table of Contents
3. Introduction
4. Terms
5. Group Composition & Mission Selection
6. Group Tactics
7. Summary
8. Copyright

3. Introduction

The City of Heroes developers did a wonderful job making a fun, easy to play
game thatís full of balance.  All archetypes and power sets can succeed and 
contribute.  Spontaneous teams of strangers can take on villains and do very 
well without ever discussing tactics or responsibilities.  Other MMORPGs 
certainly have more challenging large group encounters than City of Heroes.  
I donít believe CoH has any multi-group challenges yet, but I believe they 
might in the future.

While the object of the game is to have fun, progression through the game 
is based on achieving experience and gaming levels.  This FAQ is meant only 
to help groups progress at a quicker rate by improving their tactics and 
teamwork.  Proliferation of standard tactics (wherever they are adopted from) 
across CoH will help pick-up groups, and the discussion of tactics within a 
supergroup or set of regular players, should help a great deal in keeping 
everyone on track.  This FAQ is meant more for regular groups of teammates, 
but (I hope) any player may benefit from reading it or considering itís 

By no means do I think I am the best player in CoH; I do have a history of 
online MMORPGs and I have an interest in efficiency and group tactics.  
Many may disagree with what Iíve written; thatís fine, this is only my 
opinion and Iíve seen many succeed with a multitude of methods.  But 
working out how your regular team/supergroup/task force will function will 
benefit (I hope) all involved.

I consider the key to regular progression in CoH is to understand that it 
is fundamentally based on level.  The level of the hero(es) and villain(s) 
affect both the experience received and effectiveness in every encounter.  
Balance the level of the encounters & your team against the time needed to 
defeat the mission/mobs and youíll do well.

4. Terms

Point Blank Area of Effect (PBAoE) - An AoE that affects enemies (or 
teammates, depending upon the nature of the power) in the immediate vicinity 
of the hero

Area of Effect (AoE) - A power that affects a spatial area, usually targeted 
on (and therefore centered around) a villain.

Taps - A power that requires a successful hit on a target to benefit; taking 
from the villain and giving to the hero or team (i.e. endurance, health, 
speed, etc...)

Archetype (AT) - your main character "class"; dictates what power sets you 
may choose from

Line of Sight (LoS) - powers can only effect what they can see.  In CoH, 
various things (including chain link fences) block line of sight.  An 
important concept to understand related to powers.

Range - the distance that that powers work up to (generally also LoS)

Villain - generic word for bad guy or opponent used for bosses, 
lieutenants, and mobs

Boss - the strongest and most empowered villain of the group, sometimes called
the "named"; typically have loads of hps and killing damage (think Pyro or 
Scorcher from the Hellion missions or Jawbreaker from the Skulls)

Lieutenant - a stronger than normal villain with a power or two (and killing 
potential) the rest of the villain group may not have (i.e. a Buckshot from 
the Hellions)

Mob - a standard villain, generally with both melee and range attack; a 
generic from the villain type

Runner - mobs that flee a fight for some reason; an AoE damage power, etc.. 
They are most likely to draw teammates that chase them into other groups of 
mobs, tankers can accidentally provoke a new group of mobs if they are focused
on a runner

Aggro - The state of having enemies attack.  Aggro is possessive, as in "Oh 
no, the Blasterís got Aggro!"  It is an important concept (especially as you 
go up in level) to understand and appreciate if you wish to stay out of debt.
Aggro should stay on the defensively powerful (i.e. tankers, scrappers, 
defenders, blasters, controllers in about that order) and off of the 
defensively weak.  Unmanaged aggro leads to defeats that cost teammates debt.

Taunt - the action of inciting a villain or group of villains to attack your 

Assist - the concept of selecting the same target as a teammate; helps manage 
aggro and defeat opponents more quickly.

5. Group Composition & Mission Selection

5.1 Forming a Group

The way to progress in CoH is to do enough damage to defeat a villain and not 
take enough damage to die while doing it, all while balancing the time it takes
to perform this function.  Pay attention to the level of hero you are inviting
to the group; forming the group of heroes of similar levels will keep 
everyoneís xp progression consistent.  Other than that, well played/designed
heroes can generally contribute in any group of appropriate level, but 
balancing offense, defense, and support power is always good.

5.2 Sidekicks

Sidekicking is a wonderful, wonderful aspect of CoH.  But there are a few 
things to remember when having a sidekick (or being a sidekick) on the team:

1. Sidekicks wonít be quite as effective; remember that they will lower level.
They wonít have as many powers.
2. Sidekicks should virtually never pull.  Theyíre a level or more below 
their mentor and will have problems if the group is taking on challenging 
3. Sidekicks should avoid getting aggro like the plague.
4. Sidekicks should be grateful to their mentors and team; they allow them to 
play in an area or with a team they wouldnít normally be able to handle or 
contribute to.  If their mentor is already on the low end of levels on the 
team, the sidekick is probably getting mega experience.

5.3 Archetype Responsibilities:

My opinions on the responsibilities of the various archetypes:

Blaster - range, support/melee damage
A blasters job is to do damage.  Theyíre very, very good at it.  Whether 
theyíre good at masses of villains or individuals depends on the individual 
blaster and how theyíve chosen powers and slotted them, although in general, 
theyíre pretty good at both.  Blasters are simple to play in groups; they 
just need to work with their group on HOW their group needs them to damage 
(i.e. to manage aggro).  Blasters can easily stress out their teammates 
unintentionally by taking too much damage and making teammates support them 
out of turn.  Blasters are focused on dealing damage.

Controller - control, buff
A controllers job is to manipulate the villains.  The best controllers 
coordinate timing and targets with their groups, especially with tanks and 
blasters.  They help immensely in situations where numbers could be 
overwhelming for the team size.  Controllers should be focused on controlling 
mobs (i.e. holds/stuns/etc...) and buffing teammates (in that order).

Defender - buff, range
A Defenders job is to affect the team and the villains, as well as throw in 
some damage.  Teams need to be aware of defender powers between fights (and
defenders need to pay attention to refreshing buffs between fights) to 
maximize their utility.  Defenders are a very flexible class.  They also need 
to explain how their powers work to their teammates (i.e. the PBAoE heal will 
not heal you if you are out of range or LoS) who may be clueless as to how 
they operate (their powers benefits are not as obvious as, say, a blasters).
Some defender powers work off of "taps", i.e. they need to hit an opponent in 
order to buff their group.  Defenders should be focused on keeping their 
pullers/tanks (i.e. those that are supposed to have aggro) alive, keeping 
other teammates alive, keeping buffs/debuffs active, and blasting opponents 
(in that order).

Scrapper - melee, defense
A scrappers job is to dole out melee damage, mostly focused on lieutenants 
and bosses.  They do great damage to anyone they face, but concentrating on 
lieutenants (who break holds and taunts more easily and have more powers than 
mobs) make them most useful in a team situation; they have enough defense to 
go toe to toe with them and enough melee damage to defeat lieutenants quickly.
Scrappers should be focused on dispatching foes.

Tanker - defense, melee
A tankers primary job is to control aggro by taking damage.  Keeping aggro off
of teammates allows teammates to do THEIR jobs safely.  Bosses are a good 
focus for taunts so the bosses arenít killing teammates.  A little 
recommendation: Tankers should have/get provoke, no questions asked, just do 
it if youíre going to group.  Also, be prepared mentally to pull.  Tankers 
should be focused on keeping aggro, keeping their defenses up, and doing 
damage (in that order).

5.4 Mission Selection

Select a mission with the intention of maximizing experience by selecting 
indoor missions from the highest-level teammate (if you think your team can 
handle the mission).  Mobs will generally be the level of the mission owner 
(although some missions are "front" or"rear" loaded with mobs of different 
levels "Lucky Pete" of the Lost, comes to mind as "front loaded").  Outdoor 
missions are fine, but can be completed by defeating villains of a level that 
donít provide any xp (i.e. a group of level 21s gets a mission to defeat 20 
Tsoo and does it in Steel Canyon instead of Talos Island).  There are, of 
course, many reasons to do lower level missions, Iím just recommending based 
on a desire for maxing xp.

6. Group Tactics

6.1 Why pay attention to your team tactics?

When you donít, youíre stressing out your fellow players.  If you start to get 
aggro out of turn, your team healer is looking to heal you specifically 
(perhaps instead of the hero whoís expecting his heal by right), your tank is 
looking to taunt whatever is hitting you, and your RUN caller is considering 
calling "RUN" when he/she shouldnít have to.  If youíre healing and your 
attention wanders, itís your teammates that die.  If you are supposed to 
buff and you forget to, your tank could be visiting the hospital needlessly 
because he thought he had a power (or was going to get a power) he didnít.  
Itís respect to your fellow players.

A few tips:
1. Pay attention.
2. Take AFKs between fights, BEFORE the next villain group is aggroed.  
Announce during the fight that you want to take a break after the current 
fight and make sure the puller responds affirmatively.
3. Communicate and remember that you are communicating online; so go the 
extra step to explain yourself or to phrase things clearly (for instance, in 
response to "Ready for the next fight?" does "gtg" mean "good to go" as in, 
"Iím ready for the next fight" or does it mean "got to go", as in, "Iím 
dumping your team before you jump into the next fight"; Iíve seen it used 
both ways).  Be forgiving if thereís miscommunication; it happens.

6.2 Be aware of your own powers

Pay attention to how your own powers work.  You might never have to know, 
because youíve been so effective in the past and while soloing, but be aware 
of it so you can project or detect how your powers affect someone elseís 
powers.  Some examples: anything breaks a sleep, even a taunt; knock-back 
can frustrate scrappers, certain AoE heals heal in a radius around the 
TARGET, not the hero.

Adapt your teams tactics based on level of the individuals involved as much 
as what powers someone has.

6.3 Preparation of Teams

To prepare a team for combat, you may want to review a handful of things prior 
to getting started.  Things like how certain powers work, whoís playing what 
role within the group, and what buffs are available.

6.3.1 Powers
Not everyone has played every AT, every power set, and certainly hasnít had 
every power.  Let people know, in clear, POLITE terms what you do and how you 
do it.  Be flexible with the group on what tactics you want to use.  For 
instance, not everyone knows that Controller need to hit a Boss twice to get 
them held properly.  Not everyone understands range and AoE heals.  Being 
clear on what your important powers do will be good for the team and raise 
awareness.  But donít monologue on how great you are either; no one likes a 

6.3.2 Roles
If you have a patient team, consider discussing and identifying the following 
roles within it:

Who is identifying targets?
One hero should be selecting which group of opponents to fight next.  99% of 
the time, itís the same as the puller, but sometimes a distinction should be 
made due to experience with the game, different powers that let some estimate 
forces better than the puller (think invisibility and scouting groups) or 
comfort level.

Who is pulling?
See below in 6.6.

Who is healing?
Iíve seen groups of 4 defenders, each able to heal, let the puller die each 
because they thought the other was going to do it.  Just be clear on whoís 
supposed to be healing, for everyoneís sake.

Who calls RUN?
Imagine the following text from six different teammates in the middle of 
combat coming across your screen:

"Crap crap crap, I need help over here."
"Did you see that embalmed blow up?"
"We need more defenders."
"Heal coming"

Do you run?  Or do you tough it out?  Was the :RUN: a stray button click?  Did
the "gotím" mean that player thinks the threat is over?  Is he even talking 
about the same threat?

Communicating during combat is difficult, confusing, and often necessarily 
brief.  Decisions need to be made quickly.  It can be pretty frustrating to 
die and notice half your team is gone because, in their opinion, the fight 
was out of hand and they decided to run without saying anything.  On the 
other hand, if one person panics unnecessarily, your team may miss out on 
the combat needlessly, if people listen to their cry of "RUN".  A combat is 
affected by many things; no one knows if the defender/healer is out of "Catch 
a Breath" or the tanker is out of "Respite".  In general it may be good to 
designate who calls "RUN" (i.e. who you should listen too).  Suggestions for 
designated "RUN" callers include the tank, the highest-level character, the 
leader type, or the most experienced player.  Good judgment is what is 
necessary for this roll.

6.4 Preparation for Combat

In preparation for a challenging combat, everyone should buff teammates each 
time (as endurance and recharge times allow).  Be especially careful to buff 
those that will be taking aggro (i.e. tanks and pullers).  Consider the 
type of opponents and make adjustments (i.e. if youíre fighting Murks of 
the Vahzilok - the ones that can knock you senseless, make sure your main 
tank has "Increase Density" but it may not be as needed if thereís no Murk).

Pullers should be aware of their teammates endurance and health by using the 
team box (over the chat box).  Be respectful of your team; pay attention to 
your own levels of health and endurance as well.

6.5 Opponent Selection

CoH is based on levels.  Opponents should be within 3 levels of the group 
average for best results.  A good rule is to start by selecting opponents of 
equivalent level and working upward in level until a comfort level is reached 
with the risk/reward/time ratio.  Iíve found that fighting villain groups 
around 1-2 levels higher than your team average makes for a good xp rate.  
Remember that the objective is to maximize xp over time; so finding a rate at 
which you can constantly (or close to constantly) fight and defeat enemies is 
a good thing.

6.6	Initiation of Combat/Pulling Advice

If there is ANY CHANCE the next opponent group might not be evident, announce 
your selection to the group.  They should be following your lead if your 
designated to select the opponents, but hey, stuff happens.

6.6.1	The Role of the Puller
The "puller" initiates combat with the enemy.  In doing so, they have these 
1. Taking initial aggro & staying alive
2. Centralizing the mobs
3. Whittling down the number of mobs (in certain situations)

If ending a break and starting up combat again, the puller should ALWAYS 
check if teammates are ready after a break.

6.6.2	Quantity of Pullers
ONE PULLER.  To phrase it differently: THERE SHOULD ONLY BE ONE PULLER.  A 
situation of multiple pullers is most dangerous in outdoor zones where the 
group can split accidentally (i.e. by turning two separate ways), but can 
also happen in an indoor mission if the group splits down different hallways.

6.6.3	Centralizing the mobs
Why centralize the mobs?  Multiple reasons:
1. It helps prevent the aggro of new mob groups by keeping them together and 
keeping AoEs from accidentally attracting a nearby group.
2. Powers all have aspects that will benefit from the centralization of mobs.
These aspects include:
a. Range - keeping them together helps teammates manage the range of their 
powers by keeping within proper distance
b. LoS -  keeping them together helps keep them in LoS for everyone, and, 
therefore, able to be affected by everyone
c. AoE/Cone Effects - keeping them together maximizes the number of mobs 
affected by AoE powers (like Provoke, or Rain of Fire, or a million other 
blaster powers)
d. AoE Taps - Tap buffs/heals that work off the target and help teammates 
will benefit by having your team members in the same area as the mobs (think 
tankers and scrappers and AoE tap heals like Transfusion)

How do you centralize the mobs?
1. Provoke/Taunt - Generally the best way to centralize mobs is to let the 
tanker start provoking right in the middle of them, it keeps them nice and 
tight for teammate AoEs, and theyíre attacking the right person.
2. AoE Holds - fire your power when theyíre nice and packed, and youíve got a 
group of villains ready for hell to unleash upon them.
3. Move the Mobs - get them to follow the puller around a corner where 
theyíll be nicely packed like a can of sardines, ready for AoE effects 
galore.  This is a very standard tactic, bringing mobs back to the group, 
in certain other MMORPGs (like EQ) but really isnít as necessary in CoH; it 
has itís place, though.  The important point is to recognize and use "choke
points" to your full advantage.

6.6.4 Methods of Pulling

My belief is that the method of pulling should be influenced heavily by the 
level of heroes involved.  A tank thatís 3 levels below the opponent is going 
to get killed if he pulls.  A Blaster thatís 2 levels above the average 
opponent is a better choice than a controller whoís 2 levels below.  Switch 
the situation (with the Blaster 2 levels below) and the Blaster will aggro 
half the group on his attempt.  Any class can pull, but these are my 
recommendations for pulling challenging groups with appropriately leveled 

1. Taunt - use of Provoke/Taunt is my favorite method for pulling.   Puts 
aggro on the teammate that can take it and keeps the mobs coming toward the 
tanker.  Centralizes them for AoE/Cones.
2. Snipe - one common method of pulling.  A nice method for whittling down 
numbers against oversized mob groups when you donít have a controller.
3. Control - higher level controller can do wonderful things and keep people 
4. Run Through - the default method of pulling, it can create a slightly 
messy result, but itís not a big deal IF youíre dealing with outclassed 

6.7 Target Selection advice for Combat
Remember, consider your level vs the level of opponents.  If youíre on 
the low side, be sure to assist so youíre not murdered, if not, hereís my 

6.7.1 Tankers target selection - Tanks should target:

1. Bosses - tankers should keep a boss focused on them until teammates can 
help kill it
2. Most centralized mob - helps to keep provoke focused on the greatest 
number of villains

6.7.2 Scrapper target selection - Scrappers should target:

1. Lieutenants - scrappers are great lieutenant killers; lieutenants are 
most likely to break agro, run from an AoE, and annoy the hell out of your 
team with powers (slows, holds, stuns, massive damage etc...)
2. Bosses - Your main tanker should hold the boss until scrappers can assist; 
Tanker will hold, Scrapper will kill.
3. Runners - those that escape tank agro, controller holds or blaster AoEs

6.7.3 Blaster target selection - Blasters should target:
1. Centralized mobs - for AoEs/Cone Effects - (assist the tanker for best 
aggro control)
2. Lieutenants - for individual powers - if you can one-shot, choose runners 
or lieutenants first; donít use tanker for assist; if you kill his taunted 
mob, or cause knockback on it, the Tankers provoke (and aggro) will suffer
3. Bosses - Your main tanker should hold the boss until blasters can assist; 
Tanker will hold, Blaster will kill
4. Mobs mobs mobs - you know what to do

6.7.4 Defender target selection
1. Know your powers and responsibilities - are you supposed to be healing in 
this group?  Blasting?  Youíre flexible, just be clear with your teammates as 
to what aspects you are emphasizing.
2. Know if your heal power is a PBAoE (Healing Aura, for example) or a 
target-based AoE tap (Transfusion, for example) and target accordingly.
3. Keep your tanks healthy; thatís the deal; they take all the aggro they 
can and your jobs to keep them alive
4. Blast whatever is aggroed to the tanker/held by the controller.

6.7.5 Controller target selection - Communicate with your tank, blaster, 
and other controllers re: when to Hold/Stun.
1. Getting mobs clustered together is of top priority
2. Runners - youíre a controller, control them

6.7.6	Sidekick target selection
2. Assist, assist, assist someone whoís supposed to have aggro (like a 
tank, or scrapper)
3. Stick with your mentor - itís YOUR responsibility to stay near them, not 
vice versa
4. Know how/when to back off - if things get over your head, retreat a bit, 
but keep your team informed if you do

7. Summary
Remember: itís just a game.  Have fun.  Be respectful of your teammates and 
fellow players; itís a smaller community than you think.  Some players may 
not play as often as you do, some may not care as much as you do.  Not all 
players are level based power-gamers; please know and respect that.  If you 
want to play only with efficient, power-gamers, be selective and respectful 
in your choice of teammates.

Group tactics are not necessary in CoH to succeed, only to maximize 
efficiency.  If youíre having trouble in the group beating villains of a 
certain level, try tactics, and if that fails, try lower level opponents.  
Not everyone has played MMORPGs, not everyone has played as much CoH as you 
have, not everyone agrees on the value of certain tactics.  I look forward to 
seeing how they grow and morph over the years as the game matures and new 
features are added.  Be responsible, respectful, and listen and you should 
have an enjoyable experience in Paragon City.

8. Copyright

This FAQ was solely intended for the public use on the www. It cannot be
reproduced, retransmitted, or re-written in any other form except by the notice
of the author.  Any violation of this code will result in strict penalty and 
high fines susceptible by law.  If this legal document is portrayed in any 
commercial use, you are therefore stricten under the code of law and will be
punished.  In full contrast, this document portrayed in the website found 
( is to be used and only used by the public itself and cannot 
be sold.  This FAQ is in no way possible to be plagerized, doing so 
not only damages the person you had intentionally forged,  but it also damages 
yourself in terms of self guilt or in terms of law, whether the punishment be 
civil or criminal law.