This is the first in a nearly-random set of observations and musings from a not-quite newbie to the game, written for the even newbier and based on my limited experience, observations, and readings from around the Web. Most of what you find on the Interwebz about this or that Avengers Alliance character is written for the vets -- why this "alt" uniform is better than that one, why you should use this 64GP weapon against that 135CP hero in Adamantium PVP, etc. (Acronyms making you crazy? Learn the lingo here.) Most of us aren't ready for that kind of info yet, and (I presume) most of us aren't interested in racking up credit card charges to acquire all the wonderful toys. We're "forced" to farm for silver and command points and use the "cheaper" heroes until we get some oomph.
One of the first heroes we might be interested in buying is Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman. She only costs 15CP, and you certainly need a "better" Infiltrator than the seemingly useless Black Widow. (The Widow is actually very useful, but we can talk about that another time.) Sue's cheap, she was portrayed by the subliminally beautiful Jessica Alba, and ... wait for it ... she has shields! Aye caramba, the heavens open! You're gonna strut right into the higher levels now, carried by Sue's invincible Force Field.
Well, that's where I went wrong on using her for a pretty long while. Now that I have four, count 'em four, Infiltrators (the Widow, Sue, Black Cat, and, finally Spider-Man, yay for CP farming!), I've been able to use strategies besides the original "oh my God, Sue, don't let us all get creamed!" thing. (Not such a good strategy...)
Hiding Behind the Big Bad Shields
When I first got her, I used her in the obvious manner -- have her put her shields up pronto, and duck around them every other round to smack someone with Force Spheres, or later, Force Volleys. It wasn't just my idea, even the estimable Michael Strauss gave this advice. I mean, he said flat out that her Force Field "should almost always be the first action Invisible Woman takes in any fight and should be used whenever available in future rounds." Why would I argue? Well, experience has taught me otherwise, at least for my purposes. (Not to denigrate Strauss, his writings about Avengers Alliance are terrific.)
It didn't take me long to find out that, far from being giant steel walls of impenetrable defense, Sue's shields are more like little plastic colanders. They let in all the debuffs, such as the slicy knives from the Hand Ninjas, who might not inflict actual HP damage, but will sure have you bleeding in great puddles on the floor while you ponder the question, "If the shield didn't actually let the big ugly knife cut me, why am I bleeding?"
The shields aren't too hard to break down -- one good smack from a bad guy in PVE or from Iron Fist (or whomever) in PVP can crack those things like walnuts. Hmm, not so useful after all? Meanwhile, she's losing half of her attack effectiveness because she's only firing attacks once every other round.
Let Your Light Shine, Sue
The shields become more useful when viewed as what they are -- a supplement to Sue's quite powerful attacks. When I stopped thinking of her as a little blonde girl hiding behind her shields and occasionally peering out to let fly at someone, and instead let her stand and deliver with the others, I saw that she is pretty ooh-rah on her own.
The key to my understanding this was my slow and sluggish comprehension of Infiltrator 101: Combat Reflexes. You can read what they do: allow the Infiltrator to hit back every time someone hits her, allows her attacks to be stealthy, and increase her damage significantly. They are triggered when she hits, or is hit, by a Tactician.
Combat Reflexes for Fun and Profit
Rule #1 for Sue: try to use her in fights against Tacticians whenever possible. This is standard Avengers Level Derp -- use classes against the classes they have an advantage over. Infiltrators have an inherent class advantage over Tacticians. I figured that out about halfway through Chapter 1. But the "advantage" is a bit more complex for Infiltrators, and the key to their success, especially in the lower levels. So Sue goes into a fight against a Tactician and two whatevers. Good enough.
Next step: don't activate her force fields yourself. For battle after battle, I'd hover over her, ready to pop that field up and recharge it on Round 3 (and Round 5, and 7, and ...). Not the way to do it. Instead, make sure her combat reflexes are activated as quickly as possible. If the Tactician doesn't hit her first, make sure she hits him on her first time out of the gate and crank those reflexes up. Either a single attack or an area attack (Force Spheres or Force Volley) against a Tactician will do the trick. Now, the first time Sue gets hit, she will trigger her shields herself. No lost turn, no lost stamina, just wham! shields are in place. It's essentially a freebie. (If her shields are already up, she'll usually counter-attack with Force Spheres.) And generally, she's good about keeping those shields up on her own.
There are exceptions to the rule, such as Stealthy and Psychic attacks from the other side, but those are individual instances that you'll see for yourself. When you quit snarling at the screen and complaining about "#$@! Playdom bugs," you'll see that some attacks don't trigger her Combat Reflexes.
Obviously there are times when you're going to want to have her fling those shields during her first turn, say, after the bad guys have crispy-crittered one of your guys and he needs a round behind a shield to recuperate. Other times you might think, "Gee, if I don't get those shields up, Doctor Demento is gonna turn us into goose liver pate with his first hit." If that's the case, then, my friend, Sue's shields will probably not save you. Either you need to oomph up and come back when you're stronger, or use different heroes to take that particular mission on.
Rule #2: Don't get happy with her and go the other way. She ain't Wolverine or Captain Britain; she will never be the big gun on your team. But pair her with someone with some firepower -- War Machine comes to mind, there are plenty of others -- and she can shine in a supplemental but critical role. And once your Agent gets some levels on him or her and you chip up Sue to compensate for her initially weak stats, she can drop a surprisingly big hammer on the bad guys. They might look like shimmery blue raindrops, but those Force Spheres can do considerable damage.
(Note on Level 9's Force Cage: It's useful in specific situations, such as when you know Wolverine or Elektra is about to turn your guys into sashimi and you'd like a round away from the buzzsaw to take care of the other two opponents, or heal up a bit. Or when you have a boss to beat, but the other one or two opponents are picking you apart from the sidelines. Basically you put someone in the penalty box for a round, where he can neither hit or be hit, giving you the opportunity to take care of business and come back to the big lug. Not so good with PVP opponents such as Angel and many others, who can buff/debuff to their hearts' content while taking a breather in Sue's cage.)
None of this is high-level strategy by any means -- the veterans either already know this backwards and forwards, or ought to have learned it long before now. It's just some reflections I've had on the strategy of the game at these lower levels. I'd welcome comments and responses, both from novices (with different suggestions, perhaps?) and from grizzled "old" veterans alike.