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    Pick-Up-Group Guide by Dao Jones

    Version: 1.0 | Updated: 09/01/06 | Printable Version | Search This Guide

    Dao Jones’ Guide to Building a Successful Pick-up Group in City of Heroes
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    v1.0, September 2006
    
    
    I.   Introduction
    
    II.  The Archetypes
    
    III. The Psychology of Teammate Selection
    
    IV.  Putting It All Together
    
    V.   Closing Comments/Disclaimer/About the Author/Other Related Mumbo-Jumbo
    
    
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    I. Introduction
    ---------------
    
    You hear it all the time, right? “Man, the other day I was with this pug and we
    got teamwiped in the first fight.” Or “I was playing with these noobs
    yesterday: the Tank didn’t go in first, the Blaster pulled with Fireball, and
    the Defender left his area heal on auto and went afk”. All the time, across all
    games and all genres, there is no in-game element more frustrating to good
    players than the pick-up group. No one likes them, and bad pugs are probably
    one of the top five causes people list when they give up on playing a game.
    
    But unless you play with a large, well-coordinated super group or have a
    sizeable collection of in-game or real-life friends that all play at the same
    time, sooner or later you’re going to have to type those three little letters
    that can potentially ruin your entire gaming day: “lft”.
    
    However – you needn’t fear any longer. While the strategy of building
    successful pugs is a combination of patience, psychology and luck, it is not a
    science beyond the grasp of the casual gamer. Herein I will lay out my
    methodology for successful teambuilding.
    
    What this guide assumes:
    
    1. You are familiar with the game. I am not writing this for the new player.
    Frankly, as a new player you’ve still got a whole lot of screwing up to do.
    It’s okay – we’ve all been there. So get out there and do everything wrong
    while we’ll still forgive you for it. I will cover some basic game information
    in the guide, but I otherwise expect that you have an understanding of the
    basic mechanics, ATs, phraseology and dynamics of City of Heroes.
    
    2. You are not playing with your super-group, a group of friends, or friendly
    players with whom you have a history. In those circumstances, many of the
    deficiencies inherent to PuGs go away. With well-coordinated teams, a Scrapper
    can be a Tank, a Defender can be a Blaster, and a Controller can be a god.
    This guide assumes it’s 3am, you’re bored, and you can’t find anyone on your
    /friend list to do a mission with.
    
    3. You take everything I say with a grain of salt. I’m not here to tell you
    the “only” way to run a pick-up group. I’m not telling you you’ll fail
    miserably if you don’t see things my way. But I will offer this: I am
    considered successful by almost everyone I’ve gamed with at putting together
    not just functional, but great pick-up groups that play like well-oiled
    machines. And this is how I succeed at doing that. So while my methods aren’t
    the only way, they are definitely one way.
    
    4. You are not an idiot. It bears stating that, if you are one of those people
    with a Claws/Regen Wolverine-clone Scrapper named “xWeppin X LoGaNx” or an ‘as
    naked as costume options allow’ female avatar with the “chest” option pushed as
    far to the right as your sweaty one-handed mouse fumbling can get it, then this
    is not the guide for you. Please click the “back” button on your browser, and
    choose another topic. But only click “back” once! Click it too many times and
    you’ll end up on the Furry/Hentai/Plushie/Google-search-for-“Naruto+fanfic
    +homoerotic” page you were on before coming here.
    
    
    ------------------
    II. The Archetypes
    ------------------
    
    Before I get into the “how to choose the teammate that’s right for you” portion
    of this little guide, I’d like to first discuss (and possibly dismiss) some
    common misperceptions about the various ATs. Many people will disagree with my
    conclusions. Many will call me an idiot, or a noob, or a nub, or possibly
    nubsauce, nubtard, nubtacular, or claim I need a “nubendectomy”. I suggest to
    the disagreeing reader that A) they write their own guide, and B) the word
    “nubsauce” makes me laugh, so that one’s okay.
    
    As a simple introduction, understand that every AT in CoH breaks down into one
    of two basic roles: Damage, and Damage Mitigation. Sure, there’s plenty of
    crossover, but at the heart of the AT they have this role designed into their
    powersets. When I discuss characters I will define their basic role. Understand
    that these descriptions are not absolutes. I’ve seen Defenders built with only
    a few powers from their primary, and Scrappers (like Dark Melee/Dark Armor)
    that bring a lot of control and debuffing to their role as damage-dealers. But
    as a rule of thumb, a player picking a mix from their primary and secondary in
    a given AT will fall into this generic capacity on a team.
    
    I will also rate the importance of the ATs to a team in order from 1-5, with
    one being “don’t leave home without one”, and 5 being “helpful, but not
    necessary”. Understand that these ratings do not reflect their usefulness
    overall, but merely their value to teams as *I* build my teams, so your
    mileage may vary. Again, I’m sure I’ll garner massive disagreement from a
    select few elitists, but as repeatedly stated: this is my guide, so hah!
    
    
    Blasters (5/5):
    
    The role of the Blaster is pretty uncomplicated in a group. They inflict
    damage, and are therefore “Damage” teammates. They inflict lots of it. But
    beyond that, Blasters enjoy the widest range of AoE attacks available in the
    game. They may not be the only AoE damage-dealers you can choose from, but
    given their powersets it’s more common to find high-octane AoE damage in a
    Blaster than anywhere else. When I look for a Blaster to add to my parties,
    this is specifically what I’m shopping for. Single-target damage is nice, but
    AoE damage is more crucial. I rank them last in effectiveness because, for the
    most part, they only offer one element to a team (damage), are more fragile
    than the other damage teammate (Scrappers), and have few “party-friendly” tools
    to aid others with. But I generally reserve three spots on a team for “damage”,
    and one or two of those are usually Blasters.
    
    Controllers (1/5):
    
    I generally consider the Controller to be the most crucial addition to any PuG
    I assemble. They are the first I recruit, and in my ideal team build I prefer
    to have at least three in a party of eight. Why do I favor them so much?
    Simple: they offer a huge range of value for any size team. Their basic role
    is “Damage Mitigation”, because most Controllers have a strong mix of
    single-target and AoE Holds, Immobilizes, and other useful tools that keep
    enemies from hurting you as well as they want to. Remember: an enemy sleeping/
    held/feared/confused is not an enemy pounding on you. Also, Controller
    secondaries are Defender primaries, with a bit less juice. Granted, a Defender
    can heal/buff/debuff better than a Controller can, but a Defender cannot also
    lockdown enemies and deal out respectable damage while doing so. And how do
    Controllers deal “respectable” damage? Simple: Containment. Their inherent
    allows them to deal double damage against any target immobilized, slept, or
    held, *even when this condition is done by someone else*. So any time, for any
    reason you have an enemy with one of those conditions, the Controller is
    dealing double damage. And when you have FOUR Controllers synergizing off each
    other… let’s just say the results are pretty freakin’ sweet. They hurt, they
    heal, they debuff, and they lockdown foes. Controllers are a team’s best friend.
    
    Defenders (2/5):
    
    Defenders, as Damage Mitigation, are always an asset. I rate them highly
    because their presence in a party is always felt. From an Empathy Defender’s
    heals, to a Radiation Defender’s massive enemy debuffs, you’ll never go wrong
    adding a Defender to your team. But note that I said “a” Defender, not “many
    Defenders”. Truthfully, in a PuG one Defender is more than sufficient if you
    follow my team-building philosophy. The team’s Defender supplements the
    Controller’s weaknesses by being a full-time supporter. Controllers can heal,
    debuff and buff, but they also have other things to do, and pre-level 38 they
    will not have the full toolbox at their disposal. This is where Defenders
    step up. They can Resurrect others as early as level 6, their Leadership pool
    powers are more potent than anyone else’s, and since their primary powersets
    are, well, primary, they will generally make it their focus. However, their
    secondary set is less useful, simply because it does not really inflict enough
    damage compared to your other teammate choices to allow them to stand as
    damage dealers effectively. People will tell you that the most dangerous team
    out there is a team of 8 Defenders; I’ll say that you try doing that in a
    pick-up group and you’ll get four Emps, three Kins and one Dark/Dark all
    laying face down blaming each other for “bad heals”.
    
    One consideration about Defenders, and *please* get this through your head: not
    all Defenders are healers! Furthermore, healing is not even the most useful
    thing a Defender does. Consider a Radiation Debuffer versus an Empathy Healer:
    while the Emp can repair damage as it happens, the Rad (with Radiation
    Infection, Enervating Field, Lingering Radiation, etc.) can reduce or even
    prevent that damage from ever occurring. Sure, healing is always nice, but I’ll
    say the same thing here that I said in my Guild Wars guide on Monks: a good
    team does not need a healer. When I drive, I’d rather have a solid car, good
    seatbelts and fast airbags that keep me from getting hurt than speedy access to
    a paramedic who may be able to sew me back together when I launch through the
    window of my beat-up 1980s jalopy.
    
    Scrappers (4/5):
    
    Scrappers are the other “Damage” set, and despite their low priority they are
    always useful to have in a group. They generally have the highest single-target
    damage output in the game, and unlike Blasters they are fairly tough and
    require less maintenance than other ATs might. My one area of concern with
    Scrappers is that, as the premiere soloist AT, too many Scrappers approach the
    group game the same way they do the solo game; obviously, this approach tends
    to get parties killed. When recruiting, this is the AT I tend to scrutinize
    the most, and I’m *very* cautious about which Scrappers I’ll invite into my
    parties. Other than that there isn’t much to say about Scrappers. They do one
    thing, and they do it well. Frankly, I like to have no more than one or two
    Scrappers in an eight-player team, but I always like to have at least one.
    
    Tankers (3/5):
    
    If you’ve spent any time reading on the official Tanker forums, you’ve likely
    come away with a perception that Tankers are useless, dead ATs with no value
    to add to a group. They are weak, valueless XP-drains that should be
    universally shunned from parties ever since they were nerfed past usability.
    
    If you believe this, I’m sorry. If you know better but still claim this,
    you’re a moron.
    
    Tanks, first off, are not Damage ATs – they are Damage Mitigation. And while
    it is true that a well-honed team can probably survive without one, having a
    Tank along for the ride makes life infinitely easier. If you’ve read this far,
    you’ll note that my team at this point will probably have 2-3 Controllers and
    1 Defender. Now, while this team has all the necessary tools for protection and
    damage, they are faced with one initial problem: who takes the first hit? Well,
    that’s one of the reasons you have a Tanker. Controller fans will argue that
    they can lockdown mobs and prevent that first alpha from taking place, but
    frankly, that’s not a guarantee. I’ve seen even 3-4 Controllers toss out their
    AoE holds and immobilizes and catch only half a spawn. And those area holds
    don’t last forever. And holds don’t gather spawns into a nice, tightly-packed
    little ball in the first place. And when things go wrong (and they *will* go
    wrong in a PuG), a Tank can hold the line and take the stress off other
    teammates and maybe buy enough time to course-correct. All those “ands” make
    my point. Tanks serve an excellent role in a pug: they are the AT of second
    chances and mistake compensation. And in a group with eight strangers of
    differing levels of expertise, that’s too much value to pass up. In an eight
    player group, I always try to have one Tank. (And since my main is a Tank,
    it’s usually me).
    
    Kheldians (special):
    
    Peacebringers/Warshades occupy a somewhat special role in PuGs. Because they
    are relatively uncommon compared to the other character types I don’t rate
    them. They are definitely “Damage” ATs, but they bring special caveats with
    their recruitment. First and foremost, let me dispel a myth: just because a
    player has a Kheldian, *do not* assume they are “good players”. I’ve played
    with some terrible, terrible Khelds, who either have no idea what they’re
    doing, or assume that because they have a Kheldian they automatically know more
    about the game than anyone else. Both of these types of players should get the
    boot. A second caveat is that, with a Kheld on a team you will *always* get a
    Nictus/Dark-Energy attacker somewhere in the mission. While this is not
    normally a problem to a well-prepared team, I’ve seen whole groups fold when
    they aggroed a spawn with a DE attacker they were unprepared for, or got
    swarmed by a Cyst. Also note that since these special enemies are more
    dangerous to a Kheld than to anyone else you need to be careful to protect the
    Kheldian from this enemy’s attacks. Lastly, understand that a Kheldian gets
    differing power boosts depending on the composition of your group. I don’t
    know hard numbers offhand, but they get passive offensive buffs from classes
    like Scrappers, and defensive buffs from classes like Defenders.
    
    
    -----------------------------------------
    III. The Psychology of Teammate Selection
    -----------------------------------------
    
    This is probably going to be the most vague section of the guide, because most
    often what I rely on for recruiting heroes is gut instinct. However, I have a
    few rules I almost always adhere to, and following them will definitely give
    you the edge when building your team. Now, I'll say this again because it
    bears repeating: these rules are not absolute. There are always exceptions to
    everything I say here. Heck, I occasionally take blind invites, myself. But
    when in doubt, these rules serve as a good "rule of thumb" for the beginner.
    
    1. NO BLIND INVITES! I can't stress how important this is to building a good
    team. It is the rare good player that accepts blind invites, and by inviting
    someone without chatting first you essentially take a gamble on who you're
    getting. *Always* send them a tell first, and in that tell offer them some
    sort of explanation as to what you're recruiting for, i.e.: "/t SomeGuy, Hey -
    I'm putting together a level 12-14 Frostfire mish. Want in?"
    
    2. Judge a book by its cover. Yep. You read that right. In a world where you
    can be and look like whatever you want, the choices people make about their
    names and avatars says alot obout them. The first thing I look at is the name.
    People with clever, humorous, or eye-catching names almost always get an
    invite. People with names that are ripped off from movies, comic books or
    popular culture always get passed over. Frankly, if you weren't creative
    enough to think up your own name, then I doubt you're smart enough to play at
    the level I want you to play. NEVER invite *anyone* into your group if they
    take their inspiration from Dragonball, Lord of the Rings, or any Final
    Fantasy game. (Unless it's FF9, because that was probably the least popular
    of the series, so anyone using a name from there gets points for uniqueness.)
    
    3. Patience is a virtue. It may take several minutes to build the team you'll
    want to play with. If other teammates get antsy, let them leave. If they don't
    have the patience to wait three minutes for you to recruit a solid team, then
    they probably don't have the patience to let the team rest when needed. You're
    better off without them.
    
    4. Talk. Yep - talk. If you're a socially maladjusted introvert you may not
    have what it takes to be a good team leader. An excellent way to gauge a
    player's ability is to frankly read how they type. Generally, more "mature"
    players type with proper English, have a decent sense of humor, or at least
    exhibit some social grace. And these are the people you want on your team. In
    my experience here and in countless other online games, time and time again
    I find that I can draw an almost direct correlation between how well a player
    types, and how well they play.
    
    Well, that was pretty short and sweet. Sheesh.
    
    
    ---------------------------
    IV. Putting It All Together
    ---------------------------
    
    Okay! You’ve got your team, you’ve got your mission, and you’re ready to get
    cracking. With a well-balanced team you have an excellent chance at success no
    matter what you do, but here are a few easy tips that will place your success
    out of the “a little luck will get us through” category and into the realm of
    “just call us Task Force Eight-Cans-of-Beatdown”.
    
    - Consider the build. When I put together a team of eight, my ideal players
    are 3 Controllers, 1 Defender, 1 Tank, and 3 Blasters/Scrappers. This is not
    based on some random allotment, but strategic team needs. You have, with this
    build, the following:
    
    3 Dedicated damage dealers (Blasters/Scrappers)
    2-5 tougher players (Tanker and Scrappers)
    4 Healers, debuffers and/or buffers (Defender/Controllers)
    3-5 Sources of Containment (for the Controllers to synergize off)
    4 Sources of direct party damage mitigation (Tanker/Controllers)
    
    Every role in the team is duplicated, and you have redundant defense, which is
    critical in the event that someone falls in combat. I've seen far too many
    teams fail because their only source of protection/healing died early in the
    fight, or their sole strong damage source ran off to pursue a single kill.
    With the team diversified like this, you could lose any four of them and have
    a reasonable expectation of recovering to victory.
    
    - Pick a team leader. This is usually the person (i.e. “you”) that assembled
    the team, but sometimes you’ll find a very knowledgeable player or someone more
    familiar with a given mission than you. A good team rallies behind one leader,
    and that leader makes sure his/her team is taken care of. Once the team leader
    is chosen, respect the choice, and let them lead. If someone else wants to lead
    when your current leader is doing fine, let them go make their own team.
    
    - Chose a designated “puller” before the mission start! I’ve seen this
    confusion wipe countless teams. Pick ONE person who will handle all of the
    long-range pulling, and make sure they’re comfortable with the choice.
    (Pullers, remember: targeting Bosses or Lieutenants will often pull the whole
    spawn down on you, and passive/debuffing pulls like Twilight Grasp have a lower
    risk of aggroing the whole spawn than a damaging attack.
    
    - DO NOT BE AFRAID TO KICK PEOPLE! I know *way* too many team leaders who seem
    to be deathly afraid of using the “kick” button. Are you *that* afraid of
    people not liking you? Some people might say that kicking someone can be bad for
    team morale. I say to you: what’s worse for team morale? Kicking an idiot
    who keeps getting everyone killed, or letting one player’s constant idiocy/bad
    playing ruin the experience for everyone else? Sometimes you’ll misjudge
    someone. When that time comes, for the good of everyone else you *need* to be
    able to clean house. Aggroing multiple spawns? Boot. Went afk for five minutes
    without telling anyone? Boot. Keeps running off solo, splitting the party and
    getting people killed? Boot! Constantly disrupts the team by arguing,
    badmouthing someone else or shows an almost painful ignorance as to how to use
    their powers? BOOT! Believe me, although your teammates may not say anything,
    they’re secretly thanking you.
    
    - It’s not a race, it’s a journey. Let your party rest as needed between
    fights. Before aggroing a spawn, ask if everyone is ready. Let the Tank go in
    first if you’re not pulling at range. Keep an eye on your fellow players’
    health bars, and help them out if you see their green go red.
    
    - If you have players who run targeted toggles, make sure people are aware of
    that up front. Nothing irritates a debuffer more than constantly having to
    recast an anchored debuff because everyone sees that green bubbling aura around
    an enemy as a giant “kick me” sign.
    
    - Trust your teammates. I know this is hard to do in a pug, but if you built it
    right then you should feel relatively safe playing with them. If you see your
    health start to drop take protective measures, but don’t hightail it out of the
    fight – that can cause a chain-reaction of party splitting and people dying.
    Besides, in a good team debt goes away pretty fast.  =)
    
    - For Blasters: watch your AoE attacks. If you’re not careful, you’ll bring
    extra spawns into the fight. Try to stay by the Defenders/Controllers: their
    area heals are their quickest method of healing, and not having to chase you
    down saves them a lot of time. Also, watch your knockback attacks.
    
    - For Controllers: you are not a damage dealer. Your first responsibility is
    keeping mobs off your teammates. If you see an enemy running for a squishy,
    toss something on it. Also, don’t neglect your secondaries in combat. In a good
    team, players are taking more dispersed damage than spike damage (i.e.:
    everyone is taking small amounts of damage rather than one or two players
    taking a lot of damage quickly). This sort of damage is excellently mitigated
    with your smaller heals (if you have them). Likewise, your buffs/debuffs are a
    valuable part of your team contribution.
    
    - For Defenders: HEALS PLZ! Nah, just kidding. But don't neglect your primary.
    If you wanted to make a Blaster, you should have rolled a Blaster. If you're
    one of those people that says "I can play whatever character I want", then I
    agree wholeheartedly with you - but if I need a debuffer/healer/buffer on my
    team and you have nothing but one weak heal and a bunch of weaker secondary
    attacks, don't be surprised when you get the boot. Also, if you have a slightly
    non-standard build (i.e. Trick Arrow, no heals Rad/Kin, etc) you should
    mention this up front. I usually check the skills of whomever I'm recruiting,
    but not everyone is that thorough, and it may lead people to expect something
    out of you that you can't give them.
    
    - For Scrappers: you are not playing solo. Just because you can refill your
    health and endurance bars in ten seconds doesn't mean anyone else can. And
    just because you can thrive while surrounded by enemies doesn't mean the guy
    next to you can. Follow the lead of the group; don't lead the attack (unless
    you are filling in for a Tank), and *don't* run off alone to get in that last
    kill! You may aggro another mob, and there are probably closer enemies you
    could arrest that would help out your weaker allies.
    
    - For Tankers: even if you are not the team leader, you are the team backbone.
    Act like it. When the battle is joined, your place is not dancing around the
    edges. Get your ass knee-deep in the fight. And, like the Controller, you are
    not there to arrest enemies and deal damage. Your first purpose is to keep
    everything's attention on yourself and *off* the squishy types. This means
    you need to pay attention in the fight *and* on your allies' health bars. If
    you see someone start to drop you should scan around and see if they need your
    help. And when everything goes wrong and the team needs to run, you should be
    the last one out. Accept this: playing a Tanker in a group means playing more
    responsibly. Your teammates are assuming you are there for them if they need
    you. If you just want to run around and kill stuff, go make a Scrapper.
    
    And that's it! Hopefully, if you followed some of my suggestions, and you have
    a good head on your shoulders, you should be out there arresting villains and
    having a good time doing it. With a little patience, thoughtfulness, and just
    a bit of lucky recruiting, playing with the dreaded pick-up groups can be as
    much fun as teaming with your friends or super group.
    
    
    -------------------------
    V. Closing Comments, etc.
    -------------------------
    
    Ultimately, the best tool you have at your disposal to avoid bad groups is your
    own common sense. Pay attention as you play to what sort of players you enjoy
    working with, and which kind you don't. I've essentially built an entire guide
    based around my own experiences in this game and others, but it unfortunately
    suffers in that it is not colored by your own personal influences. You may find
    that you enjoy an entirely different playstyle than I do, and if that's the
    case then the sort of people I'd want on my teams are not those you'd want on
    yours. But, hopefully, something I've written will offer you at least some
    direction from which to work from.
    
    As to who I am, my internet handle is Dao Jones. That's also my in-game name on
    City of Heroes, and in every online game I've played (except where I needed an
    underscore, as in 'Dao_Jones'). I've been playing online games since the days
    of turn-based BBS ASCII/text games. I'm in my 30s, and yes, I do have a normal
    life outside of computer gaming, thank you very much. I've written a few other
    guides, including a character creation guide for Morrowind, and a Monk FAQ for
    Guild Wars (I think it was actually the first one on the web, although I now
    see that there are a bucketload of Monk guides floating around). Unlike many
    other FAQ/guide writers I'm pretty receptive to reader email; however, I always
    establish ground rules for people who want to email me with a comment:
    
    1. Use proper grammar/spelling. If I have to decipher what you're trying to
    tell me, I'll probably resort to using my special decoder ring, which I
    activate by pressing the "delete" key in my mail browser.
    
    2. Ask me a comment related to the guide I wrote. Is this a "build the best
    Spines/Regen Scrapper" guide? No? Then don't ask me how to build a Spines/Regen
    Scrapper, okay?
    
    3. DO NOT add me to your email lists or chain letters. I will have you hunted
    down and brutally murdered. I'm Italian - I can get that sort of thing done.
    
    4. I'm adding a special rule to this guide: I will only respond to emails with
    the word "lugnut" as the title header. This proves to me that you actually
    read this section.
    
    5. No, I will not join your super group. No, I do not want to be added to your
    friends list. No, I will not add you to mine. Yes, I might want to team with
    you, but unless you conform to the restrictions I've outlined above, don't
    count on it.
    
    Having said all that, my email address is dao_jones(at)hotmail.com. If you want
    to argue with me about anything I've written here, or flame me for being an
    idiot, you can expect that I'll ignore you. Or sell your email address to
    spammers. Probably both. Otherwise, I'd be happy to hear from you.
    
    Lastly, the disclaimer. Nothing written here is a challenge or intended
    infringement upon any property, intellectual or otherwise, owned by anyone who
    owns anything having to do with this game, other games, or life in general. If
    you for some reason want to repost or reuse all or part of my FAQ I'd
    appreciate an email ahead of time to ask permission. I'd also like to be
    attributed as the original author.
    
    Alright - that's a wrap. Not get out there, get teamed up, and go do some good!
    
    
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