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  Enforcer guide
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    PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:36 am 
Leetissimo!
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Guide to Successful Enforcer Play

Howdy, I've recently started playing my fourth enforcer, and while still at low level it's been a real hoot.

My previous enforcer experience includes:

1. Noobasmurf (200/30/65ish)
2. Ultragoombah (85/9/21)
3. Eltankjoo (220/30/70)

So I know my way around enforcers, or so I thought - but it turns out I had some learning to do so I'll document a bit of my findings within this thread. All of the previous enforcers I've played are Atrox, so I decided to mix things up and try Solitus, mainly because this enforcer is for PVM and I know it'll be a breeze doing alphas on a Soli. Yes, it'll take a small hit to HP but 1k HP at endgame isn't a make or break for me. As well, stuff like getting a 2s nano tick, easily getting the nanoskills for endgame nanos and keeping gauntlet gear out of OE without a problem will make up for it.

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail on this guide, but I will outline first of all what makes an enforcer successful in each levelling range, and what the average player might want to focus on in order to achieve that success.

Broadly speaking, the enforcer is a tank, in AO currently, and for a very long time, they have been the tank of choice, they have the highest natural HP, the best tools for generating single target and multiple target aggression, and have some of the best tools in game to mitigate damage.

Enforcers nano tools for tanking broadly fall into three categories:
* absorbs (damage mitigation)
* taunts and heals
* shield boosters and max HP buffs

That said, there are a slew of other tools at an enforcers disposal to generate agg, mitigate damage, heal damage and boost damage done in a few different methods, as well as some PVP type tools which I won't talk about here.

Items of interest that should be purchased immediately:
* nanos up to level 50ish if you can afford them, any general nanos you didn't get in arete.
* Aggression enhancer. Purchase from your basic store. The real purpose of this tool is for pulling. Since the patch where taunts no longer do 1 damage, this item essentially bypasses all social aggro problems by individually taunting but the mob doesn't let his buddies know he's annoyed at you. bonus! 40m range to boot!
* stims/heal kits

Title Level 1

Getting started. At low levels there really isn't a lot to say, enforcers don't need to "tank" they just need to be able to deal enough damage to kill a mob, tanking is hardly even a consideration here - stim kits, sit kits will always provide more than enough healing post/during fight to survive unless you really choose your fights badly.

The only thing a low level enforcer needs is a weapon, and to sink IP into body development, weapon/special skills, first aid and treatment

A good weapon will be more than enough to keep an enforcer cruising through the levels, especially if he has a team with him, or has some external buffs (keeper's and soldiers work well for this since large add dmg buffs only take 1 NCU and last for 5 minutes, easily enough time to kill several mobs)

Good weapon choices for TL1/2 include:
* dual baseball bats from starter area (1HB)
* howling skull from TOTW (1HB)
* phase blades from TOTW (1HE)
* Nervejolters from SoM (1HE)
* fear forged blades from SoM (piercing)
* Martial arts (don't need a weapon but can use FFB's)
* 2HE weapons - from starter area, nascense, or AI swords of low QL
* scythe of legionnaire (2HE)
* Stygian Desolator (2HE)
* Neleb Battlerod (2HB)
* any of the subway illegally modified OFAB weaps (needs LE expansion) (notably, these can be equipped simply with a 131 buff and a comp weapon skill, but will go OE for a while)

Good armour choices for TL1 are:

* sundance armor from arete
* newcomers armour (can't go wrong here, and levels with you)
* med suit

Basically, the modus operandi is: equip weapon, bash anything that moves - not too difficult.

Title Level 2 (25-50)

At TL2 for the first 20 levels or so you can really just carry on from TL1 but around level 20 or so you'll really be feeling the pinch for using small weapons so if you reach level 25 and you haven't yet upgraded your weapons it will be high time to do so. Getting a bit of help from org or an alt to run you through SoM or totw can pay off in spades - getting a decent weapon early on will provide you with fast damage, and much less time feeling strained while levelling. Equipped a decent weapon such as a neleb battlerod around level 25 will last well into TL3 if you aren't too fussy.

At TL2 you really want to start upgrading your armour to something other than a med suit if that's what you're wearing, start your first implants, get a 3 slot belt on bare minimum, and collect some highly useful armour pieces from TOTW, such as an exarch cloak (superior AC's, equipable at 21 without other reqs). If you got newcomer armour from Arete, stick that on as the AC's really will make a big difference over the next 100 levels or so - especially since you can level it in breaks in combat.

At TL2 you can start IPing critical nanoskills such as SI/PM (to 60ish to use composites), BM/MC to use critical enforcer nanos (but really isn't needed until you start on nasc hecks), and MM for max HP buffs - again, not needed until later really.

Tl2 is still about bashing as fast as you can with as much damage adding gear as possible. nano ring from TOTW paired with a platinum ring, as well as touch of the gripper and rockcrusher gauntlets and barrow strength will stack on damage nicely and make some serious increases especially if you didn't make a big effort twinking on a weap.

You can tackle tougher mobs in the 25-40 level range in the Crip cave (nasc) as well as the crip cave dungeons. these will keep XP capped per kill, which means you don't need to be equipping IQ rings to boost XP for some time yet. Playing with a decent team with everyone using decent weapons will result in a lot of fast kills and fast XP.

Towards the higher end of Tl2, you really want to be starting to use your mongo to heal yourself during fights, keeping agg off smaller/weaker players, and potentially casting an absorb shield between fights to limit damage taken.

Some big changes are just around the corner:

At the end of TL2, when you ding level 50, the VERY first thing you want to do is finish the research line Brawler Sense 2. http://auno.org/ao/perk.php?saveid=89627

This gives you the proc "Shrug off hits" which raises a 280 point absorb shield (it's an offensive proc, so it fires on landed hits). Shrug off hits is the BEST defensive proc to use for a long time. With 18.7 the proc was changed to stack with other absorbs, and because it refreshes often in combat, it means that you don't have to spend time/nano casting absorbs if you're whacking away successfully on something - but doing so between fights can really help a lot. While I don't advocate never casting absorb shields (I highly recommend it), it is a slow drawn out affair at low levels and you might not have a lot of IP for nano init. Thus, use this proc to raise shields for regular fighting and recast shields between fights. Later on you'll need to get nano init up high enough that you can insta cast absorbs (or closest to) during combat as this will become one of the most useful damage mitigation measures available.

This single proc changes the entire game for enforcers at low levels. In PVM with most mobs cycling damage types it means that you can absorb sometimes up to nearly a thousand points of damage before it breaking... but usually it refreshes before then anyway, so you basically go from eating ALL damage in PVM to eating almost NO damage in PVM.

How in the f*ck right? But ya, just get it, put it on your hotbar, and use it religiously. It's a fantastic proc up to about level 100, and even higher if you intend on saving IP on nano init and want to do a more evades oriented setup (I don't recommend this until level 200ish when you can actually achieve reasonable evades with 300 Ofab, fully upgraded green hud 3, predator buffs and big chunks of AAD in symbiants etc.)

Once you get that proc then "tanking" and damage mitigation start going hand in hand, and survival rate will increase dramatically. At this point, the importance of sorb shields should start to become clear.

To save on nano init IP and nano in combat, you can use the lowest absorb shield (provides 280 layers) which stacks with the proc, and also has a faster cast time, plus low nanocost.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ____
" I Don't Like That Man. I Must Get To Know Him Better." -Abraham Lincoln


Last edited by noobas on Tue Aug 12, 2014 2:31 am, edited 3 times in total.

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  Re: Enforcer guide
    PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:37 am 
Leetissimo!
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Title Level 3

TL3 is really a fantastic time for enforcers, there are some amazing tools that open up, the game is fast and there are a bevy of weapons to choose from that basically put enforcers at the top of the DPS range, the top of the tank range and have some of the best opportunities to start being a team player, i.e. the crux that holds a team together.

Early on in game, it's hard to be dependent on other players, since so many other players kinda slack off, especially since you can blaze through the low levels with an OST and NT, but honestly, this is some of the most fun in game around level 50-100. It's a veritable playground for enforcers, and to just blast through while AFKing really is a tragedy.

At 50 you should have got your brawler sense 2 proc "shrug off hits" researched. If you have you're well on your way to becoming a good tank for TL3.

You can, with a bit of work get a 6 slot belt equipped, and, if you can find one, a low enough viral compiler to start knocking down your cast times.

I have never in the entire time I've played AO, IPed nano init on any combat prof, but this time I decided to try active tanking instead of passive tanking. I didn't IP NI until around level 75, but I would have done it sooner had I realized how effective it is.

So, my IP basically looks like this:
mostly maxed all base abilities
maxed weapon/brawl/fast attack
most maxed multi melee
high body dev
high evade close
high runspeed
high first aid, high treat, medium high comp lit
those are all the skills that are like: you can't play the game if you don't do this

But then comes the DARK blue skills: nanoskills and nano init.

The trick for TL3 is first, not to spend any more than you absolutely have to in nanoskills, since they are so retardedly expensive that it can ruin your toon if you over IP.

there are only 2 nanos you really need to use in combat, so, everything else you can get a 131/CI/mochams, swap stuff for, but realistically you only really need to be careful on SI and MM. Ok that said, here is the nanos you *want* to use at TL3:

Mongo Bash: http://auno.org/ao/db.php?id=100200 (cheap+easy)
Shock absorber: http://auno.org/ao/db.php?id=117683 (cheap+easy)
(Optionally a fear here can provide a lot of respite for a short period if you pull 1 mob too many, a single target fear can stick a mob into 'non attack mode' for up to 53 seconds)
(http://auno.org/ao/db.php?id=121133) if you are keen on using a fear.

The TRICK.... is sorting out how fast you can cast shock absorber.
here is a rough guideline: with 1k nano init you can definitely (I know from experience) insta cast fortify: (http://auno.org/ao/db.php?id=117685) at full agg. So, somewhere in the 700-800 nano init range the time to cast shock absorber should be very small.

You don't need to insta cast it, I was chain casting even when it was a 2-3s cast, it was still worth it. But if I'd known to IP nano init, it would have got me tanking even better, faster while keeping the DPS up.

AGG vs DEF

Enforcers (and maybe advy) are probably the only class that has a reasonable opportunity to use both settings effectively. In general, there aren't any classes that can really afford to go DEF early in game due to lack of inits, but then again, it's difficult to setup with enough defence (evades+AAD) that it really is beneficial anyway, so most players just play more AGGish anyway until about level 100 at which point some profs with fast weapons can actually get 1/1 with the bar somewhat DEFish.

The reality is, for enforcers that if you intend on tanking, and you want to "actively" tank, that you should play full AGG. It generates more agg, it reduces IP expenditures on non-essential skills, and it increases your active damage mitigation ability significantly.

So may now is a good time to discuss ACTIVE vs PASSIVE damage mitigation.

Damage mitigation methods

Enforcers will generally bear the brunt of a mobs aggression - this is their role. As a result, enforcers really need to have methods to deal with that aggression which inevitably lead to damage taken and potentially debuffing the enforcer.

So, lets talk about damage mitigation. There are many different forms of damage mitigation, and there are several different kinds of mitigation as I will discuss here and they range from completely passive to active, to cycling, to AGG-DEF based, to blockers, to offensive nano, to defensive nano, to combat active and the list goes on.

First of all we need to talk about PASSIVE mitigation, passive mitigation is what happens without you even knowing that it's occurring.

* AC's (Armour Class) - armour class reduces damage done directly. 10AC's reduce the corresponding incoming damage by 1 point. 1000 melee AC's reduce incoming damage by 100 melee damage. Armour class is the most passive type of mitigation with sole exception of not being in combat.
* Evades 1 - primary evasion skills aren't actually evasion, they are crit avoidance. Basic skills in evasion result in non-chain crits. Mobs can always crit, but, with low evasion skills (very low) they will crit you continuously.
* Evades 2 - evasion is less passive than AC's because the game provides a log of missed hits. So, when you evade a potential hit you can observe that it happened. Enforcers have limited ability to evade in early game play but evasion becomes a much more significant aspect of damage mitigation towards endgame.
* Reflects Enforcers are by no means reflect masters, but they have naturally occurring reflects in their toolset at high levels (bio shielding 9,10). However, the most obvious reflection mechanism enforcers enjoy is a 13% reflect buff which is available from this graft, which should be purchased as SOON as possible: http://auno.org/ao/db.php?id=128200 Just to reiterate: this is one of the most important items in game. GET IT NOW.
* attack blockers - available from teaming with a keeper. A less significant method of damage mitigation, but can be very useful paired with good evades and some forms of active mitigation (init/AR debuffs).
* not in combat - this should never be underestimated. The best enforcers will not only tank like a boss, but they will choose their fights wisely. A level 100 enforcer without coccon ready running up to a clump of three heckles and spamming mongo may seem like a brave move, but I would classify this as stupid. Just because you have area taunts doesn't mean you should use them. Leave a mob in non-combat state until you are ready to deal with him is probably the most underestimated method of damage mitigation. Fear nanos can put a mob into non-attack mode for a brief period of time, which is often just enough to buy time for the team to kill the current mob. Don't underestimate fear nano utility.
* Deflect - added in 18.7, deflect has a base chance of 5% at 0 skill, and 10% at 3000 skill - essentially, all players have a 5ish% chance to deflect a hit. A deflected hit does half the normal damage. (there are some exceptions to this, e.g. aimed shot does 0 damage if deflected)
* Cyclic Absorbs - Cyclic absorbs are an advy's best friend (enforcers do not have access to cyclic absorbs). Not to be confused with cocoon, cyclic absorbs periodically refresh a small absorb shield which then is consumed prior to allowing damage through. Cyclic absorb shields are of dubious value but nevertheless exist and are the best lead in to ACTIVE mitigation.

ACTIVE MITIGATION

* Absorbs Absorbs Absorbs nano absorbs are an enforcers bread and butter. I cannot overstate their importance. From an early level through to endgame, absorbs differentiate the good enforcers from the enforcers who "can't tank worth shit". Period. Absorbs are incredibly effective both on RK, and SL. They are effective against nukers, against ranged damage, against melee damage, against multiple opponents and against single opponents. There is hardly a single instance where you would advise AGAINST using absorbs. So, lets just get it out there, nano absorbs are the primary tool for damage mitigation for enforcers. If you could only cast one nano, forever, this would be it.

Absorbs function AFTER AC's, AFTER reflects, and AFTER evades, so, basically they are the last bastion of defence before you start losing big chunks of HP.

Absorbs are active because they need to be refreshed constantly (cast on CD for difficult fights as long as you're holding aggro effectively, but alternating with mongo, i.e. 2 layers, 1 mongo, 2 layers, 1 mongo, is an effective cycle as well). Yes, an absorb "lasts" for up to 23 minutes, but an absorb usually is depleted within a few seconds of combat. So, to be getting the best mitigation out of absorbs these should be chain cast.
NOTE: If you're chain casting, you really want to be insta-casting so you're not losing out on normal attack damage. It also means getting enough - nano cost that you don't run out of nano on a demanding fight. The newer health/nano stims are a great addition to game in this respect, and, probably most importantly until about level 110, genius, genius, genius (perk). This perk alone will result in the capability to continuously fight for many levels.

* Initiative Debuffs - initiative debuffs are the bread and butter damage mitigation by crats, doctors, and to a lesser extent shades, agents, MA's and MP's. An enforcer can significantly benefit when initiative debuffs are placed on a mob (and adds) that are attacking the enforcer. Initiative debuffs are one of the most effective damage mitigation measures in game. Period.

Initiative debuffs are active because they must be cast and periodically refreshed on the target in order to maintain the effect.

* Attack rating debuffs - attack rating debuffs are generally significantly underrepresented in terms of use, but when used appropriately can be remarkably effective. Attack rating debuffs are the domain of engineers, and to a much, much lesser extent, NT's and traders. An engineer who knows how to operate these debuffs is a valuable team mate indeed. The best AR debuffs reduce both the damage dealing capability (weapon) of the mob as well as his chance to hit the enforcer by 1210 AAO. As long as this debuff runs on a mob, the enforcer essentially becomes once of the best effective evaders in game, and, whatever attacks DO make it through the Boolean logic of evasion will hit for considerably less than it normally would.

Attack rating debuffs are active damage mitigation because the best ones only last 22 seconds and must be constantly refreshed to maintain the effect (cast on cooldown) - note that this buff breaks easily so to keep it running it must be refreshed constantly.
http://auno.org/ao/db.php?id=154715 (engineer nano, note the nano itself lasts 10 minutes, but the debuff aspect pulses every 20s and lasts for 22s. Generally a good engineer spams this nano on cooldown for best results.)

The last mitigation method is based on limitations and mechanics, and can have both positive and negative results.
* LOS tanking and Range tanking - use of line of site to completely mitigate potential attacks is both extremely effective, extremely situational, and borderline cheating. It also is risky: a mob can quickly lose interest in you and if no target is present it can result in "boss HD" which basically equates to "damn the mob is full HP again!" in about 10 seconds.

So, here is an example of how enforcer damage mitigation works, using the 4 most important tools an enforcer has available to him in early game.

Lets say a mob could crit you for 2855 damage (an ely heck chain critted an alt with 0AC's while I was dragging him around, he hit for 2855 damage 2x in a row), (normal hits are around 1500).

First you IP evade close, which first reduces the crit chance to about 4% from 100%. (damage reduced by about 40%)
Next, AC's are counted. With this setup which was easily possible at level 81 http://auno.org/ao/equip.php?saveid=197259, I further mitigate about 380 damage. (1500-3800/10=1120damage)

Next, we count reflects 1120-(13%*1120) = 974 damage

And finally, we count our absorbs. With the setup listed above, I was able to IP up to 1000 nano init which was, when buffed with focused anger (http://auno.org/ao/db.php?id=29641) enough to instacast fortify (http://auno.org/ao/db.php?id=117685)
974-525=450 damage

Since I was actively fighting, I also had Shrug off hits up which absorbed 280 damage
450-280=170 damage.

So, the hit that basically crushed my alt on follow in one hit, barely scratches my enf with proper damage mitigation techniques in operation. (170dmg taken from potential hit of 2855 is a reduction of 96%)

This is fundamental enforcer operation, and is the KEY to successful tanking.

Using bio shield on cooldown, a decent damage shield (whichever shield you can cast at low levels and up to Ice burn at TL5-endgame), bio-cocoon perked fully, and even later on using proc and even rage to further spice up your damage shields, you can easily start to see that your damage shield may actually do more damage to your opponent than it can do to you on a landed hit.

At later levels, understanding the importance of damage shields will GREATLY improve your damage dealing capability. Again, this is a hugely underappreciated aspect of the enforcer toolset and I will go into some detail in later sections about how to maximize this aspect of play.

Back on topic: using these simple principles will allow a low level enforcer to successfully actively tank ely hecks. If you are not confident about heck tanking, give it a try vs Mortiigs in west ely. The final point I'll make here is that both hecklers and other hard hitting mobs in SL (and RK) cycle damage. That means, for every new damage type, the absorb shield multiplies in efficacy. This isn't a lie, the game was designed this way. Use this knowledge to your advantage.

At TL3, the importance of AC's in conjunction with basic evasion and effective absorb usage should be paramount in your learning curve. At level 100, your ability to continuously tank ely hecks should be limited only by nano s