Dark or Light

City of Heroes - A Guide to Archetypes – Pt. 1

Michael Bitton Posted:
Guides 0

Last week we offered up some handy tips to get started in City of Heroes, but another area that can often be confusing for new players is the game’s many Archetype choices. Archetypes in City of Heroes are similar in some ways to classes in other games, but due to the freedom CoH offers, it’s best to think of them as a sort of framework for what powers you’ll have available to you.

Each of the game’s fourteen Archetypes are unique even in cases where they share the same sets of powers. While a Blaster might share the same primary power sets with a Corruptor, their unique mechanics and damage scaling are entirely different. For example, a Corruptor selecting Fire Blast would only deal ~75% of the damage a Blaster would with the same powers.

Let’s break a couple down today.


Inherent Power – Defiance: The Blaster’s Defiance mechanic allows it to fire off its first two powers in its primary powerset as well as its first power in its secondary powerset even while affected by crowd control. Defiance also grants the Blaster a stacking damage buff when using abilities that lasts for a couple of seconds.

Primary Powerset: Ranged Attack

Secondary Powerset: Support

The Blaster is best thought of as your traditional ranged glass cannon character. Though it does have access to extremely powerful melee attacks, a Blaster would put itself at considerable risk trying to focus on them. Some players do decide to focus on melee attacks nonetheless and the community refers to them as “Blappers”.

This Archetype is tough to solo as its best strategy is simply to kill things before they can kill you. And they will kill you if you bite off more than you can chew. If you intend to solo on a Blaster, it may be best to look into powersets that offer you a degree of extra control to be able to better manage hairy situations.  Primary sets such as Ice, Electric and Dark Blast offer powerful debuffs as secondary effects and even hard crowd control options.


Inherent Power – Vigilance: Vigilance grants the Defender player an Endurance discount depending on how damaged their teammates are. The inherent also offers the Defender a damage bonus based on team size and current level.

Primary Powerset: Buff

Secondary Powerset: Ranged Attack

The Defender, a ranged Archetype, is for players who want to focus primarily on supporting their teammates. While the Archetype may have access to the same ranged attacks a Blaster does in its secondary sets, they only deal ~65% damage when compared to a Blaster using the same powers. What the Defender gets in trade is the strongest buffs and debuffs in the game. Whether you’re debuffing enemy accuracy with Dark Miasma or running Tactics from the Leadership power pool to buff your teammates, you’ll get the most out of these effects.

I don’t recommend playing the Defender at all if you are a solo player. The Defender is for players who want to play in groups.


Inherent – Critical Hit: A Scrapper’s Critical Hit mechanic is straightforward. A Scrapper has a 5% chance to land a critical hit for double damage against targets Minion class or below and a 10% chance against targets above Minion class.

Primary Powerset: Melee Attack

Secondary Powerset: Defense

The Scrapper is the go-to Archetype for players looking to do melee damage in City of Heroes. It’s a simple and straightforward Archetype with consistent damage and solid defenses. It’s generally hard to go wrong with most combinations of powersets here, but like anything else, look for synergies you can take advantage of. Dark Melee debuffs enemy accuracy with every attack making it a great pair for Defense-based secondary sets such as Super Reflexes.

The Scrapper is one of the game’s best solo Archetypes.


Inherent – Containment: Controllers deal bonus damage to targets affected by their crowd control effects. Controllers also have a chance to “crit” their CC powers, giving them a stronger effect on their target.

Primary Powerset: Control

Secondary Powerset: Buff

Something fairly unique to City of Heroes is the ability to focus on crowd control as your main style of play. As its name would imply, the Controller does just that. There are many ways to control enemies in City of Heroes, there are methods such as soft control, which includes knocking enemies to the ground or back a few feet. But there are also harder control effects such as Holds which render targets completely incapable of taking any actions at all. The Controller excels at all forms of crowd control, but Holds are its bread and butter. If you want to completely lock down the battlefield, the Controller may be your Archetype.

While we’re discussing the Controller, let’s briefly explain how crowd control works in City of Heroes. The simplest way to understand it is to know that every target has a certain level of status protection and in order to apply a crowd control effect to that target, your outgoing CC must exceed the target’s protection level. For example, a Boss rank enemy has a protection rating of 3. A Controller’s crowd control effects are all Magnitude 3, meaning that you’d need to cast your Hold (or other CC) power twice on a Boss before the first one’s inactive effect wears off for it to actually take.

You can also get lucky and crit on your crowd control as a Controller (the flytext 'Overpower' will appear on your screen), adding a bonus Magnitude of 1 (for a total of four), exceeding the status protection of the boss and affecting it immediately.

Additionally, the Controller has access to the Defender’s Buff powersets as a secondary powerset, making it an excellent team support character that can bring both crowd control and buffs/debuffs to a team.

With the right build, Controllers are also capable of dealing incredible damage. The classic Fire Control/Kinetics Controller is one of the game’s best farming builds.

Like the Defender, the Controller is generally a better team-oriented Archetype. It can solo, but it does this better at later levels or with certain primary powersets.


Inherent – Gauntlet: Gauntlet adds an AoE taunt effect to all of a Tanker’s attacks and auras. Tankers also have a chance to “Bruise” a target, reducing their damage resistance by 20%.

Primary Powerset: Defense

Secondary Powerset: Melee Damage

Like the Controller, it’s all in the name. The Tanker is for players who want to hold aggro and protect their teammates. While the Tanker may have access to Scrapper melee damage sets, it only deals ~65% as much damage as a Scrapper, but it’s significantly hardier and does a much better job at holding aggro due to its Gauntlet inherent.

The Tanker can solo, but it will do so slowly given its typically low damage potential.

That’s it for part one of our guide to Archetypes! Next week we’ll take a look at the Archetypes added to the game with the City of Villains expansion in 2005.


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB