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The Mastermind can be a difficult archetype to use effectively due to a large number of considerations introduced by the Henchmen. However, when used well, a Mastermind can solo in some situations that other archetypes find taxing at best, such as facing an Elite Boss or even some early Archvillains.
Quite possibly the most powerful controls for your Henchmen were first published on the Official Forums by Sandolphan. Link to Guide. Check out The Paragon Wiki article on Mastermind Numpad Pet Controls, which includes minor improvements on the original controls.
There is also an excellent offering by Master Zaprobo from the EU servers that offers a great general play guide and explanation of the main features of the archetype plus an alternative Henchmen control system. You can check it out here MZ's Guide to the Modern Mastermind v4.0
All systems use bind files (text files to bind actions to certain keys) that allow you to quickly change which Henchmen you wish to control.
Issue 7 brings with it a a new defensive feature for Masterminds, Bodyguard.
- Mastermind Bodyguards: You can set any Mastermind pet to Bodyguard by selecting the Defensive Stance and the Follow(*) Orders. Your pets must be within Supremacy range for this function to work.
- Bodyguard Damage Mitigation: When set to Bodyguard mode, the Mastermind and his pets share damage from any attack that the Mastermind takes damage from. Each pet takes one 'share' of the damage, and the Mastermind himself takes two 'shares'. This is in addition to any damage that the pets themselves might incur from Area attacks.
- Example: If a Mastermind has 3 pets set to Def/Fol, and he gets hit with a 100 point attack, each pet will take 20 points of the damage, and he himself will take 40 points.
- Example 2: If a Mastermind has 3 pets set to Def/Fol, and he gets hit with an Area Effect attack for 10 points of damage, then each pet will take 2 points of damage, and he himself will take 4 points. Pets that were also in the Area of Effect will take an additional 10 points each, as normal.
(*) Defensive/Goto and Defensive/Stay also work.
Since NPCs – with the exception of those ambushing the character – treat a Mastermind's Henchmen as individual entities, Henchmen can be used to direct aggro from a group of enemies with no considerable risk to the player or team. This is especially helpful in solo play, where larger groups can easily overpower the low hit points and damage mitigation of the archetype. Keeping aggro on the Henchmen and picking off individual targets will yield a much lower threat to the Mastermind and enable him to take risks that would be foolish to take with other archetypes.
In addition to the various directions from which damage can originate toward an enemy, Henchmen are completely expendable. If one is defeated, it can be respawned. While the benefits of Supremecy will not be available unless at close range, a Mastermind can defeat crowds of enemies from dozens of feet away. This tactic ensures that the Mastermind rarely draws aggro himself.
All Mastermind primary powersets provide three ranged attacks and three types of Henchmen. Using either exclusively will yield a generally adequate but unimpressive amount of damage output. However, when a Mastermind works with his Henchmen to deal damage to foes, the combination of attacks can be brutal. Since equipped Henchmen have multiple attacks that recharge quickly, they alone provide a consistent onslaught of damage pouring in from multiple sources. Coupled with the Mastermind's personal ranged attacks, which deal significantly greater damage than a single Henchman does, an enemy can find itself with low hit points after just a single round of attacks.
Damage Balance, more food for thought
This topic is very debated on Coh/Cov forums. There are many Masterminds out there built many different ways. There are three main ways to build a Mastermind.
The first two ways to build/play a Mastermind are by far the most common. Some choose to take all 3 of the personal attacks and slot them for maximum effectiveness, some choose to rely on their pets for all their damage while they concentrate on buffing/debuffing to help their pets/team. There are also builds that will get one or two attacks for the invention origin enhancement "unique" effects.
Example: only putting pulse rifle blast in your build to receive the bonus from a force feedback chance for +recharge, and devastation chance for hold.
The latter of these two playstyles will bring less attention to the Mastermind itself and more of the incoming attacks will be directed at the henchmen.
There is even a third, very controversial method of building a Mastermind. Until I was proven wrong I considered it a ludicrous way to build a Mastermind; that is, completely skipping the level 1 pets, possibly using all three attack powers actively.
I will this is a viable way to build a Mastermind after I teamed with two level 50 Masterminds that removed the level 1 pets with a respec done at level 50. The first build i saw like this was a Thugs/Dark Miasma
I was curious about the build, we teamed and it didn't seem any worse than traditional mastermind builds. The reason stated for removing the 3 level 1 pets was simply to un-clutter small maps when he was on a large team or strike force. Keeping the level 1 pets alive takes a lot of attention. The owner of the 3 pet mastermind exclaimed that he never has to worry about the weakest pets anymore which freed up a lot of time (and slots in his build) while playing to concentrate on his secondary powers, which happened to be Dark Miasma. Though he had 2 of the 3 personal attacks, They were only slotted with accuracy and chance to hold i-o's. All his damage came from his 3 pets and the occasional gang war. However, this did not seem to hinder his damage dealing abilities much at all.
The second was a robotics/traps. This build had all 3 of the personal attacks; pulse rifle burst, blast, and photon grenade. This person I had on my global a long time, he decided to try taking out the level 1 pets for the same reason of uncluttering maps on team missions (Some people refuse to play with Masterminds because they get in the way) and so he could maximize his traps and pulse rifle attacks.
He said an unexpected side benefit of this build was with robotics, the protector bots do a much better job keeping all 3 pets alive. After hearing this it made sense, since the battle drones are two levels lower than the Mastermind they'd deflect the least number of attacks, and take the most damage from the hits. He said he barely had to use his aid other (which had 6 slots) on his robots, because the protector bots didn't spend all their heals on the battle drones.
Both builds at level 50 had a patron resistance armor (thugs had ghost widow, robots had scirocco. Both builds also had tough from the fighting pool. Combined the two powers gave the mastermind himself about 65% resistance to smashing and lethal (and other damage types)
Personally, I have never worked up the guts to try this unique and unpopular build, but the two people i met played very effectively with their masterminds. I could not tell a difference in how fast these builds killed foes compared to traditional Masterminds.
The one obvious drawback is without 3 out of your 6 possible pets bodyguard mode will mitigate the incoming damage significantly less. Both players said they'd never even think of going into a pvp zone with their builds. And both stated that in situations where you get in over your head, you are less likely to survive, meaning you have to be much more aware of the situation before you charge in.
I would not recommend starting out at level one with this build, at low levels you generally need your pets to stay alive and deal enough damage. When they're even level they're not nearly as weak as when they're -2 levels. Not to mention I'd kick a mastermind if they got on my team at level 10 and had no pets. I'd probably never choose these builds myself (being a pvp player and having a love for charging forward in pve without thinking) But, I have been told by some very good, very experienced players that it most definitely can be done.
Note: I have also heard of a completely petless Mastermind, however I have never seen one make it to double digit levels.
I would imagine it'd be an unrelenting grind to stay alive with almost 40% less hit points than a Defender and no pets to take attention off you or give bodyguard. Not to mention the final build would have 3 attacks that did far less damage than any other archetypes attacks and a buff secondary that is not strong enough to carry teams without bringing something else to the table
People try to make these all the time and I'll never know why. you always see them running around mercy island shooting their pistols and tickling even level and lower level minions to death.
I don't think I could be made to believe this is a good idea.
(every one I've ever seen is a thugs [We need a pistols corrupter I think])
The concept of the Henchman is often intimidating for newer players, and a mindset develops where the Henchmen are the only effectiveness that a Mastermind possesses. The truth is quite the opposite, as the Mastermind's secondary power sets are geared towards buffing allies and debuffing enemies. While it's desirable to remain close enough to one's Henchmen for Supremacy to affect them, a Mastermind shouldn't be afraid to stray from his Henchmen in order to aid allies or hinder enemies. With the exception of PvP, a Mastermind is typically free to wander around the battlefield while the NPCs attack the Henchmen and teammates.
Taking the above into consideration, a Mastermind can function effectively in a combined role of both offense and team support, like a Defender or Corruptor. (And, just like those archetypes, the exact nature of that support will depend on the Mastermind's power set.)