Why “Fluffy Bunnies”? Because just one fluffy bunny would not be terrifying enough! Besides, it creates fun messages. Enemies cry in terror at the approach of Fluffy Bunnies, and you can imagine how that goes in PvP. Anya would be proud.
After four Contemplations worth of squishies, I finally get to a melee character … who is also squishy. What is wrong with me? I know that comics are full of people in spandex, but we could use a bit of body armor out here!
For a change, this is a solo character. He zips through missions exceedingly quickly, so much so that I got bored at times. Superb single-target burst damage, marginal sustained damage, and no area effect attacks.
It feels odd to talk about his primary first, since the defining feature of damage dealers are their secondary pools. I never found Scrapper/Stalker or Blaster primaries all that interesting because they are just ways of doing damage. They all follow a pattern with a few toys tossed in, so just pick your favorite damage type and go. There is a bit more to it, but that will get you most of the way there. If you are advanced enough to know better, you are advanced enough to pay attention to the details.
That said, I should not have picked Martial Arts. I have a few characters who were made quickly on a whim, and my characters slots on my main server are few. I picked Martial Arts/Regeneration more or less at random, perhaps on a theme that sounded good at the moment (long since forgotten), and now I have a level-capped Stalker. It is obviously not so horrible that I could not play it, just somewhat under-performing relative to other attack sets.
I already mentioned one weakness: no AE attacks, in a game where AE is king. Martial Arts is all smashing damage, one of the most resisted types in the game. It no longer has the long animations that plagued the set in the early days of City of Heroes, which helps. Martial Arts has a few pieces of weak control, most of which I skipped.
As a Stalker, the heart of the primary is Build Up, Assassin Strike, Placate. Or, as it is called in this set, Focus Chi, Assassin’s Blow, Placate. Build Up plus Assassin Strike one-shots a lieutenant. The ideal Stalker PvE hunt would be an endless string of orange lieutenants with no resistance to his damage type. Assassin Strike, follow up with your biggest hit, wait for Hide to reset.
Placate is a fun power, “this is not the Stalker you are looking for.” It puts you back in Hide for a free critical or another Assassin Strike. Bonus, the target cannot attack you until you attack it (for a little while). Unfortunately, Placate has an animation time, and attacks that start during the animation still hit and can knock you out of hiding. I cannot tell you how many times I have been two-shotted in the time it took Fluffy Bunnies to wave his hand (paw(s?)?).
Martial Arts comes with a trinity of kicks, the bread and butter of the set. When I need to scrap instead of stalk, those are the attacks I use. They are your basic ways of kicking people: in the face, spinning, and jump kick. Assassin Strike, you see, does almost no damage unless you are hidden, so stick to the real kicks. There is also a big kick. I like it.
I mentioned weak control. There is some disorient and knockback in the kicks. Disorient is always nice, though it is unreliable at whatever% chance to stun. Knockback is sometimes useful, sometimes annoying. There are some targets that I want to keep on the ground, but others I do not want to send away from me. It is, however, great fun to defeat an enemy with a knockback attack. There is nothing like fighting on a rooftop and sending your foes’ bodies flying five stories to the streets below. The set also has a low-damage disorient and an immobilize kick; I skipped those as unnecessary. I do not need a short disorient, and few targets try (or survive) to run.
A sadness of the set is its improved sound effects. Assassin’s Blow, you see, looks a bit like a tummy rub. You wind up, center your chi, then whap the enemy in the vitals. When City of Villains launched, it had a tiny “tap” sound effect, like Brawl. Focus Chi, start the long animation, power up, and Eight-Fingered Gentle Tummy Rub of Death! Now it has the effects of an actual attack, not a running joke.
The rest of the sound effects are unreasonably good. They have that movie feel, where somehow a kick makes a sound like a sledgehammer crushing timber. This is completely unrealistic and completely satisfying. “Wha-pow!”
This is a very popular secondary, for Scrappers. Stalkers seem less attracted, and I understand why. One of the best powers was removed for Hide. The Scrapper version gets Quick Recovery, nigh-endless endurance. Oh well, Stalkers like to pause a few seconds between fights anyway, so that Hide can come back.
Stalkers also have squishy hit points. Regeneration is based on your total hit points, so Stalkers again get less from the set than Scrappers.
I keep mentioning Hide, because it is the other Stalker-defining power. You get an invisibility toggle at level 1. Congratulations, you are the rogue class. Stalkers do double damage from stealth and can use the Assassin Strike properly. It drops if you attack or get hit.
The goal is to swoop in, let loose with a flurry of destruction, then get away if you did not get them all on the first try. Each of the defensive sets has a way to help that. They help you absorb or dodge the blows so that you survive. Regeneration takes the opposite approach: no protection, but you can heal quickly and come back. If you can survive when an eight-foot-tall cyborg gives you both barrels, you will be fine in a matter of moments.
The heart of Regeneration is Integration. This is your status protection and improved regeneration. Take it the first level it becomes available, turn it on, and do not turn it off until level 50. I have seen Regens trying to play without this power, and they are all stupid. Stack this with the passive regeneration boost from Fast Healing and Health. More is always good.
You get active healing from Reconstruction and Dull Pain. Dull Pain increases your hit point cap, which means that you regenerate faster (since regeneration is based on a percent of our hit point total). With Reconstruction and no other powers, you can refill your hit points in 30 seconds, which is therefore your max downtime. Not bad.
The rest of the set is marginal. I like the passive power that reduces some physical damage and eliminates disorients. I sometimes like Instant Healing, even after a half-dozen rounds of nerfing. It is your panic button, one that refills your hit points very quickly. I turn it on to fight multiple bosses, and as long as they do not both hit me at once, I am fine.
I do not like Moment of Glory. The math on it just does not work out. I am better off using an inspiration or two, rather than having a power that can kill me. On the death front, Regeneration comes with a self-rez, of all things. The whole point is not to die in the first place. As I have said, that plan does not always work, but City of Villains has self-rez inspirations too, and that passive power prevents me from being disoriented. In the event of a KO, pop a light blue pill to stand back up, pop a dark blue pill to get some endurance, and I heal myself very quickly.
Regeneration is not bad, but it can be frustrating. You get hit, and there is nothing you can do about it. If the enemies’ attacks come in faster than you heal, you die. If they come in slower than you heal, you can fight forever with no problems. It is a binary set: either you are immortal or you die in 3 seconds.
One upside is that defense and resistance buffs are more common than regeneration buffs. You have the thing that is harder to get. Of course, most of us use healing rather than regeneration buffs, so in that sense you have the thing that is trivially everywhere.
A standard group of enemies is three minions. Focus Chi-Assassin’s Blow on the first one (dead). Before Focus Chi wears off, kick the next one 2-3 times (dead). Placate the third; Assassin’s Blow is ready again, so finish him off. Pad silently to the next group. By the time Hide resets, Focus Chi and Assassin’s Blow are back.
Fitness, because my toggles need Stamina and because Health boosts my regeneration rate even more.
Teleportation, because it gives Fluffy Bunnies vertical movement, and Recall Friend makes him the invisible taxi. You notice that I have many of those, too. I like to complete missions quickly and cleanly. On the villain side, a standard part of the respec trial is sending the Stalker ahead to teleport everyone to the end room, rather than fighting through a long dungeon.
Leadership, in case I ever PvP. Tactics improves perception, so I can see other Stalkers in Warburg. Assault gives me that little damage boost, maybe just enough for Assassin Strike to finish off the target in one hit. It also adds some team-friendliness.
Cap’n Mako is Fluffy Bunnies’s patron. That is still physical damage, but it gives him several tools. A ranged attack is handy, and it is a second knockback attack for when I need to keep an enemy on his back. The only way Fluffy Bunnies survives Elite Bosses is by reducing the number of times they can attack. A hold is obviously useful, particularly since Stalkers have a 20% chance to crit any held target. Finally, he gets a whirlpool that throws enemies around. More knockback, particularly valuable in those multiple-boss fights when you want to keep the other one busy for a while.
Check the newspaper for local villainy options. Take a mission that does not have a hostage. Enter with toggles on and run to the last room. Hit the boss as hard as you can, Placate him, take out his minion, then run off while Hide comes back. Go back and re-Assassinate the boss. Kick him in the face until he falls down. Clear the room as described above with three-minion spawns. Take the loot and go.
That takes just a few minutes, including travel time to the mission. It works so well that I quit the game in boredom for a while. I ran out of contacts in the late 30s, so I had nothing but newspaper missions available (and PvP missions, in retrospect). The grinding went smoothly, and I could see exactly how many more I needed to level. Then level again, and again to get the next set of contacts. The grindiness with no hope of relief led to despair.
Stalkers fit imperfectly in teams. They do the same job there: assassination. Pick the enemy who needs to die and make it happen. That is the minion who drains endurance, the lieutenant who heals or uses crowd control, or the biggest target. A pair of Stalkers is a fun team: simultaneous Assassin Strikes on a boss, and if he survives, the two follow-up attacks will solve that problem. I usually continue to scrap instead of sneaking off to wait for Hide. Few fights last all that long, so having burst rather than sustained damage is not too bad.
Other Build Notes
Accolades are handy for */Regeneration characters. The more hit points you have, the more hit points you regenerate. A Stalker’s low base hit points makes this all the more valuable, but all the less effective. Bonus hit points are again a percentage of your base, not a flat bonus.
On a */Regeneration Scrapper, I might also go for Tough and Weave, providing some resistance and defense. Quick Recovery makes those toggles easier to bear. As it is, I just have some defense enhancements in Hide and resistance to physical damage. I’m not scrapping anyway. Scrappers can also get Focused Accuracy for a perception boost, rather than Tactics at a cost of two powers.
If you are an anti-Stalker Stalker, Tactics is necessary, and you may also want Stealth/Invisibility for extra sneakiness, since they are also likely to have Tactics.
I find grouping difficult on this character, although perhaps “unrewarding” is the right term. I do not feel like Fluffy Bunnies contributes much to a team. He brings high burst single-target damage and an invisible taxi. If a group of enemies has one particularly problematic foe who needs to die before it notices us, I am your guy. Otherwise, you would be better off with a Brute or Corruptor on your team, or at least a Spines/* Stalker who has AE attacks. The leadership pool is something, I guess, and it buys a ticket for the Lord Recluse Strike Force.
The team style does not mesh well with his, either. Someone else will aggro the group while I am going in for my Assassin Strike, the enemies respond with a wave of AE attacks, and my Hide drops. I have good AE defense, but it fails often enough to be annoying. If that does not happen, I get to pop an Assassin Strike and de-cloak in the middle of a group of unhappy wizards. Hi guys! Did I mention that Stalkers are a low hit point class?
As a Stalker on a team, you face a choice: scrap or sneak. Scrapping means staying to fight after the Assassin Strike, which means poor DPS. Sneaking means doing nothing while waiting for Hide to return, which means no DPS with a chance of another boom. Some Stalkers solve this dilemma by soloing in-mission, meaning they run off to “scout” instead of doing anything helpful. Occasionally scouting is helpful, but they are mostly tourists. Or ghosting to the end of a mission to teleport people past all the trash, which can be valuable.
The other team value is that Fluffy Bunnies really benefits from buffs. A Corruptor with fire, ice, sonic, or force shields all reduce damage, which means less to heal and a lower chance of a one-shot. Dark, kinetic, poison, and radiation debuffs reduce incoming damage. Traps does a little of each. Fulcrum Shift just before an Assassin Strike is a beautiful thing, as are any of the enemy resistance debuffs. Speed Boost is a huge boost to scrapping because it makes Placate and Assassin Strike come back quickly, in addition to making up for the lack of Quick Recovery.
As a solo character, you could do much worse. Burst damage is all that matters when you choose the pace at which you fight. Explode in a flurry of violence, chat for the few moments it takes for everything to come back, then go assassinate some more fools. There is no other downtime to worry about.
Taking advantage of the lack of downtime, I frequently went with continuous action over gradual attrition. Take off running the instant you enter a mission, make it as clean an assassination as possible by taking out the boss and any witnesses, then teleport to the next one. Keep doing that until the repetition makes you ill.
Character Contemplations 1: Frosta
Character Contemplations 2: Zubon
Character Contemplations 3: Assimilation
Character Contemplations 4: De-Frosta
Character Contemplations 5: Fluffy Bunnies
Character Contemplations 6: Furious Badger
Character Contemplations 7: Sightblinder
Character Contemplations 8: Zapato Conqueso