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What Is A TankMage? From Pen and Paper to City of Heroes

Posted by vajuras Sunday May 4 2008 at 9:33AM
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I noticed a lot of confusion all around forums and my recent blog what a "TankMage" really is. What a darn shame man this concept has been around since Pen & Paper predating Ultima Online and Meridian 59.

So time for a history lesson... In MUDs, TankMages were a combination of different Classes. Here is what one MUD in particular allowed players to do:

You would have all the basic Primary Classes available like a traditional Diku-MUD:





Okay where things got interesting players could assign in which area they wanted to specialize like so:

Rogue 10%

Mage 60%

Warrior 20%

Priest 10%

So, you essentially took 100 points skill point cap and distributed this over the various disciplines. That was one way to arrive at a TankMage.

The other format was give players a pool of skill points and as they grind out the skill points you allow them to distribute their skill points into the desired areas. But the more you invested into a skill, the more diminishing returns resulted.

Before all that we had GURPS and HERO systems (Champions Online will use HERO system). They also used the Skill Point system, allowing players to distribute skill-points into their desired areas.

MMOs that were Tank-Magey were Ultima Online, Meridian 59, Asheron's Call, and City of Heroes. I will focus on City of heroes because that's a current MMO. What they did was interesting. Right before release at E3, Jack (CEO) decided to drastically simplify the game and changed it from a skill-based system into a Class based system. See, their fanbase they attracted were players from Everquest 1 (EQ). EQ players expect simple, clear Class based systems. So this is what Cryptic did. They got rid of their diverse skill-based system and went Class based route. However, unlike EQ2 and their ilk, City of Heroes was very freeform allowing players to combine powersets to create their own superhero. City of Heroes was very, very much like EQ we even had XP Debt penalty (for a small time in PVP there was XP debt penalty as well if another player blasted you off a building that was hella funny)

So you have Rogue (Stalker), Tank (Tanker), Mage (Blaster) in CoX games however you can pick a generic new archetype they introduced called Defender (Hero side / blue) or Corrupter (Villian / red). Also, they allowed players to grab powers from a generic pool. This allowed a Tanker for example to grab a long range eye beam skill so he can be like Superman. So common powers any hero should have like Teleport, Superspeed, Superjump, punches, kicks, etc were all available in the common pool. Lastly, they placed a 'power cap' in which forced players to limit their builds. The original intent though was that Defender was supposed to be a support type. Their buffs wouldn't benefit themselves but rather other players. They are not supposed to be big damage dealers either. Corrupters (Villian side) was supposed to be a Damage primary (Mage) and Priest/Buffer secondary (Priest).

How did players turn this into a TankMage- an all powerful entity? Read on.....

So here we have different types of TankMages. Everyone has their own specialties. There were some types of Defender that could heal really well (Empaths). There were other types that could Debuff really awesome. There were other Classes of Defenders that were excellent at both worlds (Debuff, Healing, etc). So within an Archetype, you see players could mix powersets to develop their favorite hero.

Somewhere along the line. Players discovered they could 'overlap' buffs. I dont know when this was introduced. Maybe this feature always existed. But via overlapping buffs these young supermen discovered they could push their fellow squishies into *GodHood*. See, CoX games have a cap for resistances and such. So take a Sonic/Bubble Defender. Some of his buffs was already making this squishy a mini-tank to begin with. Now add another Bubble Defender to the team and there- we got crazy overlap. Now add in a Kinetics defender in which can keep your mana regen (STamina its called in CoX). Now we got that whole covered. Add in an Empath Defender now we got crazy heals and even more mana. Add in a Radiation Defender now we got crazy debuffs and even more heals and more damage output. If you get a chance try to find an SG vs SG PVP film on youtube. You will literally see players sit there and overlap buffs on each for a few minutes before they start fighting lol. This is how PVE worked too.

TankMages were born. Defenders could cover each other's holes and buff each other through the roof!

Now, I covered blue side but I was a Villian primarily. So red side we had Corrupters. However, the Devs gave our Corrupters some powers from defender side. TankMage born. To make things even more tasty, we had great AOE. But there was a problem....

Corrupters were weaker then blues (Defenders). Corrupters were supposed to be Damage dealers however the Devs made Defenders so damn good us Corrupters were being *outdamaged* by them. You could take a Sonic/Rad Corrutper and do a Rad/Sonic Defender comparison. Defender side was doing more damage. Add to that- Defenders got better 'epic' level powers. Add to that, Defenders got crazy bonuses in PVP. Villains got decimated in PVP.

So, what drove me away from City of Heroes ultimately was the PVP balance between Hero and Villian. However, I still highly recommend that title was fun times man. For endgame encounter I kid you not we took only 1 Brute (Tank type) and 7 Corrupters. That was most optimal but we could bring 8-Corrupters if we had too. We had it all worked out as a Science and we had endgame content on farm status

Was this boring? Hell no we still had clearly defined roles you see and more tactical options opened up because everyone could essentially 'don armor'. We had Corrupters hovering to reduce aggro, snares (Snowstorms) to slowdown mobs, and everyone was long range so we could kite. Was great times and good fun. But as you see- this caused some serious envy amongst the other Classes because they got 'optional' slots in some groups. Not saying Masterminds or the other Class types are not good but just telling it how I experienced things for over a year when I played (pre-Invention). I was there pre-ED and long after post-ed.

Hopefully soon they will release Champions Online which will be even more Tank-Magey because its based on HERO system. Until then you can try City of Heroes



1. Wasn't it boring to have a Team of TankMages?

You obviously didnt play City of Heroes. Just because you were a Defender didnt mean we all had the same build. There are many types of Tankmages in that game. Solo, you might not be a true TankMage. What turned you into one was being 'buffed' by a fellow hero in which turned you into an effective TankMage.


2. In World of Warcraft they have Shaman is that a TankMage? It can heal, toss bolts, and even self rez like Jesus!

I played that Class in World of Warcraft for a long time. Fun times. But to be a really good TankMage you need to have the best buffs in the game I would say. This way you can buff another player and essentially "give him armor" so he can Tank. In World of Warcraft my Shaman couldnt take much punishment. But a Druid....... When you have a TankMage on your hands you will know because you can slice up any encounter with them. You are all the same 'Class'. So if you see a raid full of Druids takedown raid instances you know you have a TankMage on your hands.

That's the key- if a Class is so diverse they can overlap buffs and reduce the need for other Classes


3. Didn't this suck for the other Classes?

In City of Heroes players considered it a challenge to take a one Class 8-man through an instance. Part of the fun was optimizing our team distribution and figuring what mix of powersets could do it. I saw All 8-Dominator teams popup to do endgame instances. Not sure if they made it. Dont think they did but they tried! You also had All 8-Mastermind groups try.

The key to making a Class diverse enough to become a true TankMage is have powerful support. That is #1. Next, have decent damage potential. But if we can buff that like we did in CoX games then you might have a true TankMage.


4. Wasn't the TankMage imbalanced?

Not really. Solo, no one was a complete TankMage. But with a buff from a fellow Corrupter/Defender, you could become a true TankMage. Since all endgame content is done with teams- this is how TankMages popped up. However, I would admit some Solo builds were pretty TankMagey though like Ice/Rad build using an Epic power that gave them great shields

Melf_Himself writes:

Ok I get what you mean by TankMages now. I never played UO/AC/CoX, but I have some experience with overlapping, partywide, long duration buffs from playing Guild Wars. Please tell me if what I'm about to say doesn't apply to UO/AC/CoX for some reason.

In Guild Wars, buffs like that were considered really bad for the game, because they allowed people to "reach godhood" in a passive way, ie you just cast and forget kind of thing. This doesn't take any skill in terms of timing, you just use your skills on recharge. This makes the team really hard to take down, even if the other team is really good.

Now if the system were different, ie short duration, limited target, powerful buffs that you can't keep up even close to all the time, it's a different ball game, and lots of skill comes into play. ie I see some warrior is about to pound my friend, I'll give my friend max armor for 5 seconds to give him time to get out of there. Not.... I'll give my whole party max armor for 20 seconds... etc

The definition of a balanced game for me is one where multiple builds are equally viable at a range of skill levels. What I mean is, if a team of 7 TankMages and 1 Brute is really effective and even noobs can play it, but there's a different team make-up that is just as powerful but only if played by the top players, those aren't balanced options. People are always better off choosing the TankMage team, since there's way more room for making errors.

So, I don't have a problem with this TankMage concept per se, it just shouldn't make the game any easier than the other viable builds, or the game can't be called balanced.


Sun May 04 2008 6:48PM Report
Kurai3 writes:

Well, like the author wrote, there are alot of different builds, and alot of different ways to do it. Each character type is good on it's own, an every class has at least something to add to a team, I think part of what the author is trying to get across is that there are AWESOME team building tactics for CoH and there are, a good team setup is unstoppable, and there are a huge number of good team setups.


On a side note I've always heard of Corrupters being way better in PvP situations... Then again, Eh.

Mon May 05 2008 12:27AM Report
Melf_Himself writes:

There's a difference between "good" for PvE and "good" for PvP though. I mean, I agree it can be just plain good fun to be unstoppable in PvE... but it wrecks the game if it happens in PvP.

Mon May 05 2008 1:09AM Report
vajuras writes:

city of Heroes is a unique title because the developers have told us directly they dont believe in min/max per se. They believe in creating your favorite hero based on concept. Players sort of roleplay and pursue badges even though it often has no impact on their character. I acquired a few myself (wasnt a dedicated badger tho)

You can try the game out they have a free trial. You will see teams that have a great diverse mix of players.

I was telling from point of virew of my old guild in which helped level up an army of corrupters for PVP. like any other mmo, in city of heroes range is considered pretty supreme for PVP



Mon May 05 2008 12:49PM Report
vajuras writes:

"Now if the system were different, ie short duration, limited target, powerful buffs that you can't keep up even close to all the time, it's a different ball game, and lots of skill comes into play. ie I see some warrior is about to pound my friend, I'll give my friend max armor for 5 seconds to give him time to get out of there. Not.... I'll give my whole party max armor for 20 seconds... etc"

There all kinds of different buffs but they are all limited duration. It takes skill to buff because everyone moves at speed of light in CoX so you gotta coordinate on vent when to meet and where to rebuff

Mon May 05 2008 12:51PM Report writes:
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