Dominators is a playable archetype in City of Villains, which happen to be my long time favourite archetype in City of Heroes/Villains. This page is inteded to contain some information and view on playing dominators.

Currently I have 6 dominators in the game, all have reached level 50. It is by far my most played archetype in City of Heroes/Villains. This guide does not intend to get into specifics about every power and powerset, rather discuss some general choices that I have found useful. After all, if any cookie-cutter templates for a dominator would be presented here, then a lot fo the fun with building your own character would be lost. Mind you, I have only played them in PvE context – I have not tried PvP with them and what might be good there.

Why play a dominator?

Personally I am not looking for the highest damage dealer when playing an MMORPG, nor am I looking for a pure support role – neither have the logn term attraction for me. The crowd control aspect to make tactical descisions and possible handle a situation that otherwise would be too difficult is a very appealing game style for me, assuming one can still do some amount of fighting on my own.

Dominators have a nice mixture of crowd control and damage dealing. Combine that with the excellent game mechanic that is part of the inherent domination power and you have an archetype that sometimes can be a bit furstrating, but most of the time quite fun to play. And that definitely grows and becomes more powerful as the levels increases.

How to play a dominator

A short summary of playing a dominator is lock them up, smack them down. In other words, use your crowd control abilities to reduce or eliminate resistance or danger, then beat them up. Dominators do not have a huge amount of health, nor do they have any damage reduction or damage protection powers to mitigate the damage dealt by the enemies. The only defense is the crowd control abilities, which are not automatic and thus must be part of the battle activities.

The bigger and tougher the enemy is, the faster they will smash you to bits if they get a chance. So the basic idea is to lock down the tougher enemies while beating up the weaker ones. Then beat up the tougher ones when there weak have been eliminated. Depending on powers there can be some variations here and this is also the basic pattern for playing solo. Playing in teams can make the play more varied here also, but in essence you do not want the tough guys to hit you at all, if possible.

With that in mind, the next steps are to investigate the arsenal of powers available to make this happen. First the types of crowd control that are available in some form and then later the different powersets available.

The crowd control types

There are a number of ways to control the enemies, in alphabetical order:

  • Confuse. This causes the enemy to start attacking its fellow evil-doers instead of you. If it is a support type enemy (e.g. a Rikti guardian) he will put protection on you and heal you. You will have no control over who the confused enemy attacks and he may as well run away if there are no-one to attack nearby. There are no restriction on the abilities a confused enemy can use, so if he gets low on health he may heal himself. In some cases it seems that support abilities will still help the enemies – for example Cimeroran surgeons still resurrect fallen soldiers when confused, confused Skyraider engineer will still trigger protection bots that protect other sky raiders. Using confuse generate no aggro towards you per se, avoid detection and you can keep reusing it on enemies if you want. It has a rather long duration.
  • Disorient. This is the stun, which causes enemies to stumble around like really drunk persons. They cannot do anything, but you have no control over where they walk – although in their state they do not walk very far usually. Any toggles running will be detoggled.
  • Fear. Causes enemies to become terrorized, trembling with fear. If attacked, it may launch a counter-attack or run away for a bit before trembling again. Often rather long duration.
  • Hold. The core control power – disables the enemy comptely and will detoggle and toggles running. The enemy can be hurt, but has no way of fighting back, doing any heals or anything.
  • Immobilize. Freezes the enemy in one spot, but does not stop him from attacking, healing or anything else – he just cannot move.
  • Intangibility. Causes the enemy to be unable to harm you, but you are also unable to harm him in any way.
  • Knockdown/knockup/knockback. Causes the enemy to loose his balance, he will have to spend some time getting back up on his feet. Usually not that useful on flying enemies.
  • Sleep. Stops the enemy from taking any action, until the effect wears off or he is attacked. Running toggles will be detoggled. Often rather long duration.
  • Slow. Reduce the enemies movement speed. Good to keep enemies which might have nasty melee attacks at a distance, to easier get at a limited amount of enemies at once and escape.

No control powerset for a dominator has all crowd control options, although everyone does have at least hold and immobilize in some form.
My view of the crowd control types here are grouped into four groups:

  • Must haves. My primary choices when looking at crowd control powers to select, since they provide the most effective means of controlling the enemies. In this group I put confuse, disorient, fear and hold.
  • Added spice. These are for the ones that may buy some extra time, but not quite as good as the must haves. I put knockdown/knockup/knockback and slow. In a number of cases one may get the knock ones as side effects of other powers and are not always a control power in itself.
  • Somewhat useful. These also will generally be able to buy some time or keep enemies in control, but are more situational and here I put sleep and immobilize. Sleeps are mostly useful when playing solo or possibly in a small group and at lower levels. At higher levels the various archetypes will have more and more area of effect (AoE) powers which easily can wake up any sleeping enemy. For immobilize the enemies must really not have any ranged attacks to actually stop them. Their most powerful attacks could be melee-based though, which at least would hamper them. Note however that the most powerful dominator attacks are usually melee or close range, so if you really want to do some decent damage you still need to get close. It can also be used as an escape option to buy some time.
  • Situational. In this category I put intangibility. I have had situations where it has been useful when and it has saved my behind, but those have been far and few between and not something I would pick unless I really do not have anything else to pick.

How many enemies are affected?

As with many other powers, the control powers can be of a few different types in terms of how many enemies they affect

  • Single Target. Just one enemy; hold, immobilize and intangible are available as single target versions. Confuse is available as single target for mind control.
  • Area of Effect cone. All enemies in a cone-shaped area from the dominator are affected. Plant control’s confuse is included here, also some slow effect from ice control.
  • Point blank area of effect. All enemies in close vicinity to the dominator are affected. This typically includes some immobilize and hold effects, may also include confuse and disorient in some cases.
  • Targeted area of effect. A nearby area is chosen and all enemies near the center of that area are affected. This includes knockdown from earth, ice and plant control control.
  • Targeted enemy area of effect. All enemies in close vicinity to the targeted enemy will be affected. Sleep, fear, disorient can be found here, for example.

The effectiveness of crowd control powers

When using a crowd control power on enemies we need to deal with the strength (magnitude) and duration of the control powers.

Each crowd control power that we can use has a magnitude value associated with it. That is the strength of our control power. The duration of the control power tells us how long that effect will last. For a control power to be effective at all against an enemy the applied magnitude must be at least as large as the protection value the enemy has against that control power. As long as we have enough magnitude, our control effect will take place.

An enemy may also have a control power resistance. The resistance value will reduce the duration of the control power. So even if a control power takes effect, if the resistance is high it will not last so long on that enemy.

Applying a control power when a previous application of that power is still running will add to the magnitude of that applied power. Thus multiple applications of a power can be used to break though high protection. This is useful for bosses or higher enemies, where one application of a control power often is not enough.

An example:

Enemy Tiny has a hold protection of value 2 and no hold resistance. Enemy Big has a hold protection of 4 and hold resistance which gives 90% duration . Our dominator D has a hold power with magnitude 3 and a duration of 12 seconds.

If D uses his hold on Tiny and it it hits, then Tiny will be held directly at that point, since his protection 2 is lower than the magnitude 3 of the hold power. Tiny will be held for 12 seconds.

Instead, if D applies his hold on Big and it hits, Big will still not be held, since his protection 4 is greater than 3. However, his protection has now been reduced to 1 ( 4 – 3) for a duration of 90% of 12 seconds, i.e. 10.8 seconds. If a new hold is applied and it hits 6 seconds later then Big will be held, since the total applied magnitude is higher than the protection (3 > 1 or 3+3 > 4). However, the duration where Big will be held is only 4.8 seconds (10.8 – 6).

Of course when playing one will not sit and calculate all these numbers, but it is useful to understand the concepts since that will make it easier to understand what happens when using the control powers in the game.

Also, a control power can have a critical hit. In this case its magnitude is increased by 1. So if D had a critical hit on Big above, only one application of hold would suffice and it would last 10.8 seconds in that case. From Issue 12 these critical hits are indicated by the OVERPOWER word on the display.

As a rule of thumb, minions and lieutenats will need just one application of a control power to break through the protection and take effect. Bosses typically need 2. Elite Bosses requires 3-4 and Arch-Villains/Heroes even more. Higher types of enemies may also have higher resistances, which will reduce the duration of each application. Dominators have an ace up their sleeve here though; their inherent domination power. More on that later.

The domination power

All dominators have the domination power. It is a power which need a build-up before it can take effect. Its duration is shorter than its recharge, which means that it by default will not always be in effect.

What does the domination power do? It simply put makes the dominator a more powerful villain for a period of time. Control power applications will have higher magnitude and duration, damage powers will generate more damage and protection against various effects will be higher.

For damage the strength will be increased to do roughly twice the normal damage. For control powers there will essentially be an additional application of the same power again with 50% longer duration. For example, If our dominator D normally has a hold of magnitude 3 and a duration of 12 seconds then during domination the same hold will have a magnitude of 3 with duration 12 seconds plus another with magnitude 3 and duration 18 seconds added on top of it.

So the application of that hold will have a magnitude of 6 for 12 seconds and after that magnitude 3 for an additional 6 seconds.

This means that during domination a boss can usually be controlled with just one application of a control power and an elite boss with consecutive 2 applications. If a control power is applied during dominationm the keyword DOMINATION will appear on screen when it hits also.

The domination power lasts for 90 seconds, the default recharge timer is 5 minutes. It is not possible to put enhancements in the domination power, hence in order to reduce the amount of time one is not in domination the recharge time for powers in general need to be reduced. And believe me, you want to be in domination as much as possible and/or definitely in the right moments (facing bosses or worse).

A dominator has a domination bar, which indicates the domination build-up. This bar goes to a max of 100. As soon as the bar has reached at least 90 the domination power can be activated (if it has recharged). There is a visual cue in the form of a glow/sparkle around the dominator when domination can be activated.

Domination builds up when the dominator’s powers are used. Each application of a power increases domination bar value with a certain amount. This amount will be the lowest if the dominator is playing solo. If teamed up in a team the build-up amount will be larger – the more members in the team the larger the amount. In large teams domination build-up thus can happen very fast.
Basically all dominators have some kind of AoE damage power that do not need a specific target to use. This can be useful in increasing and/or maintaining the level of the domination build-up while not in a fight. Sometimes the domination bar is not quite full and you would like to get it full before starting a fight. In this case a power like that can be useful to build up the domination. It will be slow solo though.

When domination is active the domination bar stays at full and nothing new is added. It is depleted completely when domination effect ends. After that the build-up starts all over again.

Also when domination is activated the endurance is refilled to full as well, regardless of its value before that.

In short, it is going to be your most loved power and you will long to see the power icon become usable again and hear the sound of domination activating.

The powersets

There are currently 6 primary and 6 secondary powersets available for dominators. The primary powersets deal with the control powers, while the secondary powersets deal with the damage dealing. There is a little bit of overlap here in some cases, but that is pretty much the split.

The primary powersets available are:

  • Earth control. Rock and dirt type powers. Typical secondary effect is to reduce the enemies defense. (immobilize, hold, sleep, disorient; also includes knockdown and slow)
  • Fire control. Burn baby burn, smoke and fire type powers. As with fire in general no specific secondary except a bit more damage. (immobilize, hold, sleep, disorient; also includes knockback, slow and reduced perception)
  • Gravity control. Bring them down, throw them up or lock them in midair type of powers. (immobilize, hold, intangible, disorient; also includes knockup)
  • Ice control. Freeze the enemies, let the walk the slippery path. Typical secondary effect to slow enemies movement and attack speed. (immobilize, hold, sleep; includes slow and knockdown)
  • Mind control. Cause headache and pain. This is  possibly the powerset with the most useful control options. (Hold, Sleep, Fear, Confuse; includes knockup)
  • Plant control. Use Mother nature to strangle and squeeze the enemies. (immobilize, hold, sleep, confuse; includes knockdown and slow)

The secondary powersets available are:

  • Electrical assault. Electric shock application, can reduce enemy endurance and/or reduce endurance recovery as a secondary effect.
  • Energy assault. Throw energy bolts at enemies. Knockbacks as secondary effect.
  • Fiery assault. Burn them, do damage and added damage over time as secondary effect.
  • Icy assault. Smack them hard with ice and slow them as secondary effect.
  • Psionic assault. Deals psionic damage, which most enemies have low resistance for. However those with resistance tend to have a lot of it.
  • Thorny assault. Throw toxic thorns and darts, with added toxic damage and lower defenses as secondary effect.

Some of the primary and secondary powersets have similar themes, e.g. there is fire and ice in both, mind and psi are rather close from a thematic point of view, the same goes for plant and thorns. For most of my dominators though I have mixed themes with primary and secondary powersets. It has simply been more fun for me. The exception for me was plant/thorns, which also was my first dominator to reach 50. I would encourage to mix and match a bit, but in the end it will still be about what you find most fun to play.

The combinations I am using myself and which I am pretty happy with are (primary/secondary):

plant/thorns, ice/fire, gravity/energy, mind/ice, fire/psi and earth/electricity. The last one is pretty new so I have not played it much yet, but is fun so far.

The pool powers

In addition to the primary and secondary powersets one can choose from a couple of pool powers. I am primarily going to point out the ones I have found useful here and not discuss every pool power.

  • Fitness. Swift/hurdle, health and stamina. As with many other suppervillains/superheroes you will need stamina to boost the endurance. Get it as soon as you can (level 20).
  • Speed. Get hasten. It will help reduce the recharge time on domination power, it will allow you to reapply your control powers faster which is better for difficult enemies. And you can of course do more damage in shorter time.
  • Medicine. Aid Other and Aid Self. Some powersets have heal abilities (e.g. Spirit Tree in Plant control). The Aid other power can be used on team mates but also on your pet in most cases. Most dominators get a pet and you may need to help it stay alive from time to time.

For travel power I have mainly picked Super Jump. It works rather well to jump in and out of range of the enemies and it also allows to pick Combat jumping and Acrobatics for a little bit of extra defense and protection.

The pets

Most of the dominator primary powersets include a pet as their last (level 32) power choice. I would say that the pet is a must have – it will typically add both extra damage and extra control power and will sometimes serve as a distraction when you have too many enemies to deal with. Sometimes it may also get you intro trouble by being less smart abouts its aggressiveness…

Mind control is the only primary powerset that do not get a pet; instead it gets an additional control power.

The pets available are:

  • Giant fly trap (plant control). A real wicked looking plant that runs around, mixture of damage and control powers. Best looking pet IMHO.
  • Jack Frost (ice control). A creature made of ice blocks which may swing a big ice sword or throw snowballs at enemies,as well as applying control powers. Good fighter.
  • Fire imps (fiery control). Three small moneky type creatures made of fire and of course resistant to fire damage. They just do damage, but can do a lot of it. Very aggressive types.
  • Singularity (gravity control). Floating ball, mainly added control powers. Have a repel function and can do some minor damage by hurling up enemies. Difficult to hurt, but cannot be healed.
  • Animate Stone (earth control). Walking rocks. This is the only pet I do not have yet, will update this part later.

Leveling the dominator

I have found the first 10-12 levels to go somewhat easy. After that one might start to feel the pain of the low endurance recovery as well as health generation which may last throughout the teen levels.

From level 12 one can start to apply dual origin enhancements, which gives a nice boost to control power duration and accuracy. By this time one may actually successfully hold more than 1 enemy in check at any given time.

Early 20s are often somewhat good with the stamina boost, but late 20s and around 30 may in some cases feel a bit heavy. The boost here comes usually at 32-33 with the pet and adding some enhancement slots to the pet. After that it generally will be quite good, your dominator has become quite powerful and can deal decent damage (will vary a bit).

For the pool powers stamina should be picked up as early as possible. Hasten is also good to pick up fairly early, medicine can wait a bit.

Slotting enhancements

What options to consider for slotting enhancements? I can definitely recommend to look at the detailed information provided for each power that is available since Issue 12. A few guidelines that I use:

  • All single target holds have an accuracy modifier of 1.20. The standard modifier for most powers are 1.00, which means that hold will generally have a higher accuracy. Typically one accuracy enhancement will be enough here.
    Other powers may have the standard modifier and some area of effect powers have a lower modifier like 0.80. In these cases I generally slot 2 accuracy enhancements.
    Note: In a simplified form (not including buffs and debuffs and level differences) your chance to hit an enemy with your power  = accuracy_modifier * (toHitChance – defense). The default toHitChance you have is 75%. With no defense and no enhancements you would have 1.20*75% = 90% chance of hitting the enemy with your hold. With one single origin enhancement you would increase that to 115-120%. Higher levels on enemies would reduce that number though, but should generally be good enough.
  • If the base duration of a control power is around 9-12 seconds (short duration) I tend to slot 3 enhancements to increase the duration if it is a single target power. For area of effect powers I might choose only 2 enhancements for the duration even if ; it will depend on the recharge time. There is a judgement call here if it is useful with longer duration or to fire off more often – if I have less enhancements for duration I tend to put in more to reduce recharge time instead.
    For long duration control powers I tend to just use 2 enhancements to extend the duration. This is assuming the duration is enhanceable – check the details on the power.
  • Area of effect control powers often have a long recharge time, so they tend to check some recharge reduction enhancements, 2-3 of them. Some single target powers with short duration may also get a recharge reduction to be able to fire them off more often; single target hold is a prime example.
  • Damage powers typically gets 3 damage enhancements if they are moderate damage or higher, minor damage power I typically do not enhance for damage at all.
  • If a power consumes a good amount of endurance (> 10) and is used fairly often, I may put in an endurance reduction enhancement.
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