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Note: Issue 15 brought major changes to how Dominators work, which may make some of on this page out of date. Among the changes in the revamp were that Domination no longer grants any increase to damage and ranged and melee damage modifiers were increased to compensate. See the 2009-06-29 patch notes for more information.
The Dominator as an Archetype is counterintuitive to play, difficult to master, and relies on mechanics and techniques that are not obvious to many styles of player. Furthermore, the Dominator has a legacy of being underpowered, and suffers in the early game slightly as the game becomes more difficult, often leading to them being considered a 'weak class'. While not as obviously powerful as the other Archetypes in City of Villains, strategic and tactical play can make a significant difference to the play experience.
The Dominator doesn't have any ways of protecting itself in its sets, and it gains a very small boost from most Pool Powers designed to improve Defense or Resistance; in practice, this means that the Dominator feels very vulnerable, and many Dominator players take this to mean they should play like a Blaster, or perhaps a Controller. This strategy can work in the early game, but it neglects some of the best powers in the Dominator's secondary, and generally makes for slow play. The Dominator's ranged damage isn't as good as its melee damage, and its controls are not as long-lasting outside of Domination.
What the Dominator player needs to consider to make the most of the early game is the idea of an Active Defense. The principle is simple; a Held opponent cannot hurt you. If you are fighting a group of three opponents, say, a Lieutenant and two Minions, by holding the Lieutenant, you have effectively reduced the amount of damage you will take by more than a third. At first, you won't be able to maintain more than one Hold at a time on an opponent, but provided you apply your Hold to the Lieutenant whenever it becomes available, it should be unable to fight you at all, while you engage the less dangerous minions. As you increase in level and your Holds last longer and you gain more and different controls, the number of opponents you can keep from attacking you increases. This means you can handle bigger groups, which means you can earn more experience, and faster.
Learning and adopting this principle is the first step towards a surviving Dominator. If you play like a Controller or a Blaster, using your controls to keep an opponent at bay while you whittle away at their health with ranged attacks, you will level slowly and be in trouble when you finally miss an opponent.
Building And Using Domination
A good bit of advice for beginning Dominators is to set Domination as their auto-power. In the early game, this will give one an idea of how rapidly this powerful inherent builds. Too many Dominators see Domination as rare, something that has to be conserved and saved or it won't be available when they need it. The mindset claims that it doesn't want to 'waste' Domination. If one goes through a full mission with Domination fully charged and never uses it, then they have wasted it. Domination charges relatively fast and degrades slowly. It's very easy to take a break to rest, even go away from the game for a moment or two, and still have Domination accessible.
Domination often changes the course of a battle; it gives the Dominator a full bar of Endurance, it breaks them free from status effects, it significantly increases their damage, and it multiplies the effect of their control powers. Sometimes, what counts as a control power can be a little oddly defined — Energy Assault's Bone Smasher, for example, is considered a control power because of a 60% chance for Disorient. Knowing what attacks benefit the most from Domination can alter one's attack style greatly.
The final note here is that once you start using Domination regularly and stop treating it as a rare thing that must be conserved, you will realize that sometimes you can rebuild Domination before the actual Domination power has recharged. This is a common enough situation, and one of the reasons some Dominators invest in Hasten. Hasten does three things for the Dominator — it allows Domination to recharge faster (by shortening its recharge time), it allows Domination to be built faster (by letting you make more attacks in a short amount of time), and it allows Domination to be used more effectively (by allowing you to make more attacks under the influence of Domination).
Domination's effects last 90 seconds. Activating it doesn't drain the Domination bar until after those 90 seconds end. The base recharge time for activating Domination is only 200 seconds. With enough recharge time reducers — typically [Hasten] combined with multiple instances of Speed Boost and/or Accelerate Metabolism — it is possible to activate Domination a second time off the original bar.
Dominators vs. Controllers
This article might be bit controversial, but I recently had several duels with my friend who chose an Ice/Force Field Controller. I am a Gravity Dominator with Energy Assault. We started with a Arena fight, which lowered him and myself to Level 6. I found that his attacks did little to no damage, his Hold powers did Hold me often, but he lacked a secondary power with which to do damage to his Held victim. I on the other-hand was able to survive longer, almost indefinitely at 90% health and above, and charge my Domination bar, fire it off, and then my Holds Held him more often than his Held me. Controllers get an extra point of Magnitude, which means they can Hold bosses and Lieutenants solo, and in most cases, hold Villains solo too. Dominators don't get this extra point, and as such, stacking of Holds is necessary, unless we have Domination charged.
- Controllers: Extra point of Magnitude, means can Hold Dominators more often; unfortunately, they lack damage inducing powers.
- Dominators: Do not have extra point of Magnitude, which means stacking of Hold powers is necessary; their secondary power set will usually make it possible to kill most enemies without the Hold being necessary. When Domination kicks in, it does make Dominators stronger, durable against status effects, including Knockback, and able to Hold at the same level as, if not above, that of a Controller.
- Outcome: While Controllers do have powers for buffing and debuffing, they lack damage inducing powers, and in a one-on-one fight with a Dominator, it is unlikely a Controller would be able to bring a Dominator to his knees.
Information on controlling enemies in PvP
Here are a few more details on dominators.
I don't know when or if this changed but at this point Controller holds and Dominator holds (without domination) are now the same magnitude. When affecting a player target both archtypes have magnitude 4 holds, when affecting non-player targets, the holds are "mag" 3.
Possibly the best way to play a dominator in PvP successfully is to know your enemies hold/mez resistance powers and how they work when affected by your holds. Probably the toughest archetypes to mez/hold are coincidentally the archetypes that can kill a dominator or controller the fastest: Scrappers, Stalkers, Tankers, and Brutes, and so will be your deadliest opponents.
Domination effectively makes a status magnitude double by adding a second instance of the original power cast upon a target target. There is no icon or animation for the second instance of the power, even according to the target affected by the hold/mez. The second instance of the power has a much shorter duration than the original power, however, in a PvP setting, the second instance of the power in unresistable, meaning no matter what strength of hold/mez resistance the target has, they will be affected.
The effect works a little different for a "click" resistance power. The first domination power to a player target that has a toggle mez resist power untoggles the resistance power, and the second hold cast on a player target of this type will hold the target. However, if the affected target has a "click" resistance power, meaning that it is a power that is clicked once and has a set duration, such as Unstoppable, Practiced Brawler, Indomitable Will, etc., the target will be held or mezzed during the duration of the unresistable second portion of the dominator power. After this portion of the power has worn off, if the magnitude of effects becomes lower than the targets current hold resistance, the target will no longer be mezzed. This includes "God Mode" powers, such as Elude or Kuji-in Retsu.
There is a cap on how long you can keep a player target affected. This is to prevent griefing, and to make it so dominators and controllers don't become an automatic win against archetypes with no mez resistance. The good news is that the holds will stay stacked on the target, and when the forced break from being mezzed is done, the target can become mezzed again.
- You can currently trigger Domination while under status effects; this works like a Break Free inspiration. While Domination is active, you have some level of resistance to all status effects. Prior to 8-1-06, Domination didn't work this way.