Playing With the Fire / Fire Blaster
My first character in City of Heroes, way back in June 2004, was an Electrical Blast/Electricity Manipulation Blaster. I'm not sure why, other than I think I thought it might be fun to ZAP! the bad guys. His name was Merrlinn or something dumb like that, and he didn't last very long. He maybe got to level five before I deleted him.
Shortly thereafter, after trying out a Tanker and not liking it, I made another Blaster. This time I went Fire Blast/Fire Manipulation. At the time, everyone was making Devices Blasters because of a "decimal error" in the Smoke Grenade power that made its "To Hit" debuff much stronger than it should have been (basically villains that you attacked wouldn't be able to hit the broad side of a barn). But I didn't know that, because that was before my involvement in the game's community in general and the official message boards in particular.
Even if I had known about the FOTM (flavor of the month), I doubt it would have changed anything. Concept was pretty important to me at the time, and still is. I wouldn't say that I'd be so adamant about concept that I'd be able to play a really weak powerset combination all the way to 50, but overall concept is much more important to me than what everyone else thinks is "uber." To name my new Blaster, I looked for two words relating to the two biggest aspects of the character - that he was a fire user and a hero, a guardian - that I could combine into a unique and fitting name. I ended up settling on Hellguard, and still like the ring of it over five years later.
Like most powerset combinations, playing a Fire/Fire Blaster over the years has had its share of ups and downs. Despite not being as safe as Fire/Devices with the Smoke Grenade bug, Fire/Fire did okay for me back in the day. Before Enhancement Diversification, it was typical to have five enhancement slots in each of your attacks devoted to damage. This was huge for Fire/Fire, since, unlike other Blaster primaries and secondaries, the Fire sets have no "secondary effect." The more damage you can pile on, the better. It wasn't uncommon for me to have taken out a large group of bad guys before the scrappers on my team could even get to them, or before my Radiation Defender friend could finish applying his debuffs. Most of this was no thanks to the Fire Manipulation secondary since, even though I'd taken it for concept reasons, I usually ignored most of its powers since they were really lackluster.
Before ED, you could six-slot Stamina for a fantastic endurance boost. Six-slotting Hover for flight speed so you could stay at a safe distance but still have good and fast mobility was something else I really liked for a while. I don't have a problem with Enhancement Diversification, but it was tough to lose some of the things that we had before it. Looking back, it's hard to see how they would have been able to introduce the fantastic Inventions system if they didn't implement ED, but out of all my characters I think my Fire/Fire Blaster suffered the most. I know Tanker players were deeply affected by the lesser resistances that their armors now offered, and Regeneration Scrappers used to play the "How am I getting nerfed now?" game every time there was a new issue, but for me, I really felt ED when it came to my Blaster. The loss of those extra damage enhancements, as well as the sudden reduction in endurance gain from a six-slotted Stamina, may seem like minor things, but it reduced my Blaster's effectiveness in ways that diversifying his enhancements just didn't help.
Things are much better now, of course. With the advent of the Invention system, and to a lesser degree, the new Defiance (a Blaster's inherent ability to gain more damage with each successive attack and to use lower level powers even when he would otherwise be incapacitated) and the buffs to Fire Manipulation, Hellguard is a lot stronger than he used to be.
Now that the stroll down memory lane is over, let's take a quick look at the powers of these flame-based sets.
- Flares. A minor damage power, it used to be a joke. With the buff to its animation time, and the fact that you can use it when slept, held, or stunned, it's now a staple power. It doesn't hurt that it's a quick damage builder with the new Defiance either.
- Fire Blast. A moderate damage power and a decent single-target attack that looks like you're throwing a baseball (of fire!) at enemies. Can also be used when slept, held, or stunned.
- Fire Ball. The first of many Area of Effect (AOE) powers, this one has a smashing damage component.
- Rain of Fire. You raise your hands and cause fire to rain down from the sky on a targeted area. Another power that didn't used to be selected all that often, it's become a lot better since they made it so its damage is affected by things like Build Up and Aim.
- Fire Breath. The other bread-and-butter AOE power of the set, this one is a cone that requires proper positioning for maximum effect. Part of the classic one-two punch of Fire Breath/Fire Ball.
- Aim. A self-buff power that increases your chance to hit and gives a good damage boost.
- Blaze. A high damage power that is short-range, although it now has longer range than it did originally, making it a bit safer to use.
- Blazing Bolt. An extreme damage attack, a lot of Fire Blasters skip this one to focus more on AOE damage. It's still a fun power though, and one I wouldn't be without.
- Inferno. An extreme damage blast of fire centered around you, this is a Fire Blaster's "nuke" power.
- Ring of Fire. Since it's the first power of the secondary, you have to take it, but it has its uses as an immobilization power. Also, it's another you can use while otherwise incapacitated.
- Fire Sword. A fiery sword appears in your hand to smite your enemies. It features good damage, but you obviously have to be in melee range to use it, so be careful.
- Combustion. A point-blank AOE (PBAOE) power that does moderate damage. It's one I usually skip when respeccing.
- Fire Sword Circle. The best of the PBAOEs of the secondary, this one has you spin around with your Fire Sword and strike all enemies close to you.
- Build Up. A staple power of most Blasters, Build Up gives you a huge damage boost and a smaller but still useful To Hit bonus.
- Blazing Aura. A minor damage-over-time (DOT) power that's pretty skippable.
- Consume. A great power for regaining endurance, this power does minor damage to nearby enemies and replenishes some of your endurance based on how many bad guys it hits.
- Burn. A situational power that does moderate DOT damage and frees you from being immobilized.
- Hot Feet. A PBAOE power that does minor DOT damage and slows down nearby foes.
As for the ancillary pools, I like Flame Mastery for concept reasons. Char gives you a nice foe hold, Fire Shield buffs you a bit with resistances to fire, cold, smashing, and lethal damage, and Rise of the Phoenix is a cool-looking self-resurrection power that has you rise in the midst of a fiery phoenix. RotP is my favorite power in the game, and I've been accused of being a bit too reckless just to use it.
Fire/Fire Blasters aren't the safest or even most damaging of Blasters, but for me it's a really fun combo that is all about concept. Oh, and burning your enemies. Sometimes slowly, while they watch helplessly. If you're looking to make a new Blaster, try out the combo. It's, well, a blast.