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The underlying principles behind Defender play are those of support and attack. Defenders' primary set powers are designed to improve the power of a team, either directly or by weakening the foe. Defender support powers come in three flavors. Buffs targeting only others, buffs that target the Defender also, and debuffs that target the enemy. In Defender primary set comparisons, healing powers can be considered buffs, and controlling powers can be considered similar to debuffs. Defender power sets offer different mixes of these, some favoring one extreme or the other, and some offering a varied balance. Sets that feature debuffs and buffs that benefit the Defender will allow for faster and safer solo play, while sets that focus on targeting others tend to have a more immediate and visible benefit for the team, and are greatly in demand for this reason.
The Defenders secondary powers are ranged attack sets. While they lack the punch of a Blaster they still contribute team damage and allow for self defense and aggro management. Although they do less damage, Defenders benefit more from the ranged attack secondary effects which are useful in contributing to an overall strategy of enemy debuff or control. This can be seen fairly evidently in Defender secondaries such as Dark Blast which has a cumulative To Hit Debuff effect. The Defender's attacks can be stacked together very quickly leading to significant debuffing effects.
The most potent powers of the Defender are usually at their finest when they can be stacked or are complimentary effects such as Damage Buff and Resistance Debuff.
Full use of both a support primary and an attack secondary makes Defender play very action-focused as you quickly transfer your attention around to different concerns. This contrasts with Controller play which features two support sets and rewards a more methodical approach.
While some individual builds can play the prima donna, most Defenders are much better at making the entire team stronger allowing them to achieve more, faster. Defenders are force multipliers, they make everyone else better in addition to their own contribution. A group of defenders, each making the others more powerful, is a true sight to behold, and can be much more powerful than other teams.