Commanders And Their Mastermind Past

Decaying Rose
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Commanders And Their Mastermind Past

Postby Decaying Rose » Sat Jun 09, 2018 2:55 am

Commanders And Their Mastermind Past


Masterminds, or as Ship of Heroes plans on calling ‘em, Commanders. It’s about looking at what CoX Masterminds were and how unique that was, and doing so as a means of informing the development of Commanders.


When CoX was active, I was @Decaying Rose. I started on Protector back near Issue 2, and I finished on Virtue when they turned out the lights. I SG’ed with Defenders of the Night and Ars Heroica.


From the release of City of Villains, Masterminds were my specialty and my primary class, until the game got shut off. I’ve taken every primary and secondary at least into the 40s if not made a long-term 50 out of it. My friends and SG mates constantly accused me of having merged with the game’s AI subsystem, due to my penchant for observing and running the AT as a whole instead of a collection of parts. I proudly served as Ars Heroica’s top-drawer pet-handler and made it a habit to help new MMs get their feet on the ground.


Masterminds were CoX’s pet class, designed with pets (more correctly, “henchmen”, but “pets” here for space reasons) as their primary powerset and a support secondary. Pets were available from first level and grew in number and power as the Mastermind advanced. Starting with one, a Mastermind typically had six out on a constant basis, with more temporary/uncontrollable non-henchman pets available depending on the powerset combo. Pets came in three major tiers, minion-lieutenant-boss, decreasing in number as the tier went up and increasing in power and ability likewise. Pets were controllable as a group, in sub-groups, or individually, and could be set to various stances (aggressive/defensive/passive) and given basic orders (goto/attack/follow/stay) as well as execute emotes and speak through the game’s very deep (and useful!) macro/bind system.

The Mastermind backed up their pets with a handful of personal attack powers and their entire secondeary powerset and pool powers. Secondaries were pulled from Defender, Corruptor, and Controller sets, with varying types of buff, debuff, and control available.

Masterminds had a unique aura power, Supremacy, which granted pets within it additional +ToHit and +Damage, as well as netting the pets into a defensive mode known as Bodyguard if the correct conditions were met, namely the Follow/Defenisve stance and an unblocked line-of-sight to the player.


“Complex” would be an adequate summary, for Masterminds could function in just about every role a team needed, including aggro-management, raw damage, control, survivability, and buff/debuff, though they didn’t tend to outpace ATs dedicated to a particular role.

“Influential” might be a better summary, as a battle with a Mastermind involved often had the MM tangled up in just about every aspect, sometimes all at once. A MM might be keeping a boss from chewing off the faces of the team’s squishies at the same time he was dealing damage to the spawn, buffing the henchmen (and his team), debuffing the critters, and using various pool powers and control abilities to affect the battle in other ways. Generally, anything that happened within the MM’s area-of-effect of their Supremacy aura involved them in some way. Little wonder Lord Recluse was a Mastermind.

“Specialized” works, too. A combo like Robots/Trick Arrow tended to be great at battlefield control and thinning down the spawn of its lesser critters. Mercenaries/Traps could provide both an impressive back-line bulwark and constant damage and debuffs to wear down AVs. Ninja/Storm Summoning excelled at chopping down bosses and unleashing appropriate amounts of “chaos-tanking”. Necromancy/Dark Miasma, on the other hand, excelled at exotic damage, control, and keeping a team on its feet and fighting. Still, all of these could help in the other areas, too.

“Reviled” is another fitting word, as the AT was both complex and influential enough that a poorly-played one (or a decently-played one in a highly-specialized team of heavy-hitters) could wreck a mission, kill a team (*/Storm Summoning’s specialty, if not handled well), slow its progress, and generally give the AT a bad name. At varying points in CoX’s timeline, it could be very difficult to find a task-force team as a Mastermind, as opinion swayed from “meh” to “OMG, MMs sux0r!”.

All in all, though, “Influential” seems to work the best out of these. Whether a MM was saving the team’s butts, wrecking its chances, being a steady bedrock of support and stability, or causing good/bad pandemonium, a Mastermind always made their mark.


Sure, here’s a little bit on my three mains.

First, my namesake, Decaying Rose, a Necro/Dark. Without a doubt, this was the smoothest 1-50 MM experience I had. These two sets mesh incredibly well, resulting in a MM that excels in debuffing foes, controls, exotic damage, and melee damage. The powers came at the right time, always building on what came before. Rose typically opened a battle by forcing her boss-pet to toss out an AoE soft control (Fearsome Stare) and mirroring it with her own copy of the same power or applying a debuff to the spawn. Then it was time for the other pets to move into melee, where the controlled and debuffed critters wouldn’t be able to harm her and her pets very much. The spawn got chewed down at good speed and very safely. When it came time for a single, tough target like an Elite Boss or AV, all of the pets’ inherent debuffs focused on that one target along with hers. (Hey, ever seen Repulsion Field miss?) In a team setting, Rose tended to stay just behind the front lines, tossing out her debuffs and controls and directing her pets into melee to shore up holes and pin down critters, as well as using her heals to supplement.

Second, my Robotics/Trick Arrow, Sam Clarke. Trick Arrow provides no buffs, only debuffs and control, so Sam relied on a single protection buff from one of her robot pets and pool powers for personal defense, and lacked status protection of any kind. This combo operated from range, often sticking to the back row and shooting arrows into the fight to slow, debuff, damage, and control the critters, while her robots spat out AoE. Robots all had access to AoE damage, and they synergized well with her arrows, particularly an oil-slick power that they could easily light on fire for lots of extra damage. Her lieutenant robots, when their control powers functioned properly (grumble, stupid bugs), added lots of soft control to the mix. Sam just melted large spawns, dropping minion-class critters en masse. Not so hot with the bosses, but in a team setting, that wasn’t her job. Sam provided a good speed-increase for teams, allowing them to focus quickly on the big threats while she melted or soft-controlled the rest in short order.

Lastly, my Ninja/Storm Summoning MM, Agent Ceiling Cat. I’ll admit, when I started this one out, I had to dip heavily into the Invention sets because he had two huge holes in his setup: AoE and ranged defense. Once I patched those up and made him personally safer, he got a lot better. He needed that patch-job because Ninja/Storm operated better when the pets were manually controlled, which nullified the MM’s Bodyguard protections. Ninja are bloody fast and they were extra great at chopping down bosses because Ninja MMs could pass out critical hits pretty much at will. Knowing when and how to do that vastly increased their kill-speed. Storm’s powerful debuffs to defense, accuracy, and damage resistance only make that go faster. Cat usually opened up with one or two storm powers, usually the knock-down-the-spawn-and-debuff-the-snot-out-of-them crown-jewel of Freezing Rain, simultaneously giving goto orders to put the ninja in melee range to begin chopping. Often this was done so that everything landed at the same time to spread the aggro around—Ninja were fragile and so was Cat, so being an alpha-target was a bad idea. Depending on how dangerous the fight got, Cat could unleash a bevy of knockdown, knockback, stun, and “push relatively gently” powers to weave the critters into a tight ball or into a corner. This is where that extra defense was required, as those powers drew aggro or put him in position to catch AoEs aimed at him or his henchmen. Cat was a house of cards waiting to fall down at the wrong moment, but until he did, he led a pack of slavering glass-buzzsaw wolverines ready to slice a spawn to ribbons at a very rapid pace.


Personally, I think a good MM player is one who’s aware of both the influence he has on the team and the battle and, critically, one who’s studied how his pets and powers interact with each other and hostile critters and the terrain. There’s also the required skill of being able to put all that together quickly, and to change how he uses his powers as the situation demands.

Additionally, I think a good MM is one who realizes and then puts into effect the realization that her pets are how she exercises that influence, not her more direct powers. Henchmen can be had from level one, and an MM that starts with the idea that the pets are supposed to do the heavy lifting and sticks with it is going to be off to a good start.

The end result of all the above is that a good MM thinks of her pets’ powers as her powers and is able to conjure a specific one at will. As an example, I once had this exchange while playing my Mercs/Traps.

Teammate: “Ooo, bad location on that spawn, we definitely need a pull to avoid dragging in the AV’s spawn in too. Can anyone snipe ‘em?”
*General rumbling from the team, no blasters or other ranged ATs with snipe available*
Me: “I got it.”
Teammate: “Wait, MMs don’t have snipes!”
Me: *orders a single Spec-Ops to the right angle and approximately 130’ from the target, hits attack*
Spec-Ops: *SNIPE!*

Mind, there’s no “execute this specific power for this particular pet” button for MMs. I pulled that off because I knew that specific pet hadn’t sniped in a while and it was recharged, and I knew its range, and I’d observed over many levels just how that pet used powers at various ranges.

With Ninjas, it was knowing how to make ‘em throw Blinding Powder across a whole spawn, and with Robots how to bring out Flamethrower and its extended damage-over-time to keep aggro focused on the boss-pet. That kind of thing.


Multiple pets out at once. There are plenty of MMOs with a pet class that only has one or two pets out at once. These few pets are rarely the main source of damage or effect—the player usually has an array of personal powers. It tends to feel like the pets are adjuncts, supplements to the character…not the other way around like it was for MMs. With five or more pets out, managing and directing the pets was the primary focus, not the personal stuff.

Secondly, the pets being directly controlled. Now, while a MM could rely on Bodyguard to pick targets for him, that almost never ended well once the battle got in the least disorderly. The MM had to order the pets to attack this, go here, cease fire, and so on as the tide of battle changed. It was required to direct them, and it was evident that when a pet screwed up, the MM was (mostly) responsible for it.

Thirdly, on that "mostly responsible" note, pets were loosely leashed. There was one hard leash—distance. Henchmen that got further away than a long set distance teleported back to the MM’s side. There was a soft leash, too, the “Heel” command, which put them in passive/follow mode. Other than that, the stances a MM decided on, the orders he gave, and the pet’s power selection and AI script determined how that pet behaved and moved. The MM had to know it inside and out to properly keep the pets in line and on-target. Pets were not hovering little entities always at the MM’s shoulder, shooting at the MM’s target on their own, they were very much their own little characters. Who doesn't remember that one minion of theirs that always rushed in or ran away?

Also, personality and AI quirks. A lot of this is due to animations and style, but there’s a big chunk in pet scripts, too. The big Robot boss-pet, for instance, if left to his own devices and not moved up, could get into a FIRE ZE MISSILES mood. Flashy and helpful, but not optimal damage. The Thugs’ boss-pet, a pocket tank, was very punchy once they fixed his AI, but if not directed, could draw more than he could handle, which fit his biker-bar-bouncer appearance nicely. Contrariwise, the Thugs Arsonist generated so much scatter and his attacks had enough varying ranges that he seemed like a more dangerous form of Beavis-and-Butt-Head troublemaking. Ninja were squirrely if left to their own devices, deadly efficient when focused. Mercs in general came off as disciplined due to the smooth meshing of power ranges and low recharge times on their main attacks.

Lastly, the MM’s weaker copies of various AT's support powers. Defenders and Corruptors did the support/buff/debuff thing better, but MM support powers were mainly intended for the pets. A team would prefer a stronger AT's copies of those powers, but they were scaled right for the pets and when used right, made a perfect supplement.


Travel Powers! Trying to do some of the later Task Forces and League stuff as a Mastermind was a huge exercise in frustration, as large moves across the terrain were often required, and those moves had to be controlled enough not to aggro spawns, set off traps, or get entangled while a timer was counting down. Vertical terrain added into the mix made it even worse.

CoX countered this mainly by making the pets much easier to summon and upgrade after several big patches. It was very annoying, though, to have to cast off my primary purpose to the team and scuttle around incomplete, while the other ATs remained complete as they moved.

A “teleport to teammate with all pets in tow” power would be a neat little solve. Give it a, oh, I dunno, thirty second cooldown or something so it can’t be spammed too badly, and maybe allow teleport prompting, too.

Or, as many folks begged the CoX dev team, change the Group Fly power so that henchmen were explicitly buffed to fly faster than the power-owner, so they could keep up instead of dropping behind.

Maybe even a “stuff pets into a pocket dimension” power. I dunno.

Not making Supremacy visible in the main view: One could track a pet’s Supremacy status by watching that pet’s status bar, but this was another HUD with small icons to keep track of, and Supremacy had a generic icon that could be hard to pick up.

A subtle glow of the pets, maybe a thin outline only the MM can see, or a glowing AoE aura on the ground or something might work. Maybe change the color of the pet’s overhead health bar, or outline its badge or hatch its background or something. Something that’s visible by looking at the pet itself would be ideal.

Perhaps even just a visual indication when the pets are OUT of Supremacy range would do. A glowing outline on such a pet would work fine there.


Supremacy: Despite the ‘wrong’ just before this, Supremacy was the right way to go about keeping the MM directly involved. It granted such a large bonus (11% +ToHit and 25% +Damage, Bodyguard) that the pets performed noticeably worse outside of it. Granted, it was entirely possible to use pets out of Supremacy range and many of us did, but it required some thought and planning. It was just easier and more effective within Supremacy range, though, keeping the MM well in the fight.

Wildly Different Styles: Every MM combo plays differently. Thugs/Force Field is radically different than Thugs/Poison or Necromancy/Force Field. Every primary is different, too, in what it provides and how the pets tend to behave. See previous sections for some concrete examples.

Encouraging the MM to attack through their pets: The relative feebleness of the MM’s built-in attack powers encouraged the MM to develop the pets. Likewise, the buffs and debuffs worked best in conjunction with the pets.

Bodyguard: While the Old Guard (that is, Issue 6, no Bodyguard) style of MM’ing definitely separated the wheat from the chaff as far as player skill went, it also limited the class. Bodyguard added more safety for the MM, and therefore made the MM’s role easier to accomplish but also made it a unique style. It allowed even newbie MMs to at least pocket-tank for the team, and properly-built, well-experienced MMs could main-tank if so desired.


Provided Commanders operate on the Supremacy mechanic (and I think they really should for the reasons outlined above), my biggest desire is…

…a different way or ways to handle Inspirations/Candy for the Commander compared to the Mastermind.

Inspirations Recap: These were little one-time use doohickeys dropped from critters. Use one and your character got a buff, usually a single-aspect buff, like defense strength, damage resistance, mez break-out, damage or accuracy, that kind of thing.

When Masterminds used this candy, it applied just to them. They could, however, drag-and-drop candy onto a pet in the pet-status window and give the candy to the pet. This allowed the MM to buff personally for something tough, but doing the same for the pets was very tedious. I vaguely remember some late-addition macro commands to give inspirations to pets, but that would have been a huge pain to use and I may be remembering wrong.

My proposition is one or more different ways to change how candy is distributed to the pets. I’ll outline the different ways, then provide some implementation examples.

1: Even split. Any candy taken by the Commander splits the effect equally among the player and every active pet. A 25% damage buff candy, for instance, would provide a six-pet Commander with ~3.5% buff to himself and every pet.

2: Candy doesn’t buff the Commander, it buffs Supremacy. A damage buff candy adds X% to Supremacy’s built-in buff. A defense candy adds Y% to Supremacy (and perhaps buffs the Commander, too, to a higher effect), and so on. If no pets are in range at the time of usage, no buffs for them.

3: Holding candy buffs the pets, while using candy buffs the Commander. Have three damage reistance candy in your tray? Pets get Z% resistance buff. If you eat one, you get a full-effect candy buff to your resistance, and the pets lose some of the held-candy buff.

Implementing this could be done multiple ways. Maybe a series of zero-cost mutually-exclusive toggle powers—turn on the first for “normal” candy, turn on the third if you have lots in reserve. Or maybe some kind of slider or set of switches in the pet status window. Maybe some long-timer buff power so that switching couldn’t be done rapidly.

Peronsally, I like Option 3, as it adds yet another thing for a Commander to keep track of and manage that other ATs wouldn’t have to.

And of course, the various numbers would have to be tweaked.


I hope I’ve provided a nice historical look at CoX Masterminds without going on for too long about it. That class made the game for me, and was the main reason I stayed on until the servers shut down. There’s just nothing like Masterminds available since, nothing quite so complex, deep, and rewarding.

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Re: Commanders And Their Mastermind Past

Postby Holechek » Sat Jun 09, 2018 3:59 am

I too was a Mastermind player. I found the most fun watching my group of henchmen go around and start a brawl with giant mobs. I had a Thugs/Darkness toon named DeathXWhisperer. My brother started the toon and discarded it 5 minutes after spawning in, so I decided to pick up the toon and two weeks later I was approaching lvl 50. I spent most of my time PvPing with my posse because I loved baiting people in with Gang War.

I really hope the commander's function similarly to how the masterminds did.
My wish list would have to be something like this:
- Minion-Lieutenant-Boss structure like you mentioned before hand. I thought that was the really cool part, seeing the uniqueness and levels of powers each higher tier'd summon possessed.
- I really liked the upgrading powers masterminds had that altered their henchmen and made them stronger. Loved turning that arsonist into a fire breathing badass.
-Allow us to provide names for a minions.

I really can't wait for them to start showcasing the commander archetype, whenever that'll be.

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Re: Commanders And Their Mastermind Past

Postby Turtlesandwich » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:44 am

Hi and welcome.
I loved mm's as well. I used to run 2 on 2 separate account together. One would be on follow with defence abilities while the other would be offensive. The best combo were 2 robots sets, great fun in pvp not so great in missions as it use to take a while to get my group together plus the potential for lag.
If the whole team were mm's it would be chaos but immense fun.

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Re: Commanders And Their Mastermind Past

Postby Cheesy » Sun Jun 10, 2018 4:23 pm

An excellent post. Can't wait to set some time aside to read this :D
Unoriginal since 2005 (coh issue 5)...

Cheesy from Defiant.

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Re: Commanders And Their Mastermind Past

Postby yaunti » Thu Oct 18, 2018 4:00 pm

I loved mastermind. It became the only class I would play. I used to play Mercs with dark miasma. I tried to create a group/guild of Masterminds and healers. But the healers were bored and overwhelmed. A buddy of mine used to play the robots. The two of us would walk through missions together but he got bored and went to final fantasy 11. I had left the game for a bit but always loved it and When I came back they had the create a story added and people were complaining it had ruined the game.

I hope they bring out a archetype like the masterminds from coh/cov. Would you or anyone know if that's in the works or available?

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