I've made it into the low 70s for my Agent level as I write this, and I've learned some things that I wish I had known at lower levels. One of the concepts that eluded me at earlier levels was how the different class advantages/disadvantages worked. I'm pretty much figured it out now (mostly), and so I'm writing this to give novice and less experienced players an easy, no-gobbledygook resource to learn how the various advantages/disadvantages work. This is not going to be useful for the veteran players, but they can be useful to this guide by making comments, corrections and elaborations below. Thanks!
(For the math and symbol impaired: > means "stronger than." Readers will notice a good bit of repetition, as this is designed more for an at-a-glance reference guide than anything else. "He" is used for convenience; all classes have powerful male and female characters. And a note for the statistical analysts in the bunch, I'm deliberately not including percentages in the post. That's part of the "easy, no-gobbledygook" part. Those who want to know the percentages for increased damage, etc can easily find them.)
(Terminology note: if you haven't already learned it, the terminology is "buff" and "debuff." Buffs are advantages, debuffs are disadvantages. The game simply says the classes are "strong against" one and "weak against" another. And "buff/debuff" are used to describe effects that have nothing to do with classes. So don't feel bad about being a tad confused.)
Blasters > Bruisers
Blasters always hit for critical (think "maximum") damage when they hit a Bruiser. They generally ignore the Bruiser's defense, so that spiffy Iso chip you gave your Bruiser that ratcheted up his defense statistic won't have an effect. When a Bruiser strikes a Blaster, the Blaster immediately gains what is called Focused Attacks against the Bruiser, which is basically what I just told you -- hit for crit and ignore defense. And finally, if that wasn't enough, Blasters take reduced damage from Bruisers. The Bruiser who will hit the Scrapper, or even another class, like a runaway truck will give your Blaster a (relative) love tap. As always, this is relative; if Bruce Banner hits your Scrapper for 6000 points of damage and your Blaster for "only" 2500, unless you're playing at a higher level than I am, it won't matter, as both of your players will be mashed flat.
Tacticians > Blasters
Blasters trigger Tactical Maneuvers when they strike, or are struck by, a Tactician. Basically, this gives them a second turn during the round, which they can use for another attack, applying first aid, or whatever they choose to do. That extra turn doesn't always have to be directed at the Blaster that triggered it.
Very simple: Blasters should attack Bruisers unless there's a better reason to hit someone else, and should not hit Tacticians unless needful, to avoid triggering the dreaded Tactical Maneuvers. This, of course, won't last long, as the Tactician on the other side will scurry over to pop your Blaster the first chance he gets. Remember, area attacks such as Dr. Strange's Vapors of Valtorr will trigger Tactician Maneuvers just as fast as a single attack.
Bruisers > Scrappers
Probably the easiest to get your head around. Bruisers become Enraged, or "raged up" as some friends and I call it, when they hit, or get hit by, Scrappers. Basically, all of their stats inflate, most relevantly their Attack and Accuracy. Even better, Bruisers can "stack" Enraged two times, so the process is:
Normal --> Enraged --> Enraged x2 (wham!)
By the third round, your Bruiser should be in full-blown runaway truck mode. Bruisers will lunch up on Scrappers, hitting them with far more damage than they hit anyone else. It's become a rule of thumb in my playing (that I sometimes break) to not bring Bruisers to the party if there aren't Scrappers there. There are other character classes that can do more damage to "off" classes than Bruisers do to non-Scrappers. Again, that is not a hard-and-fast rule. If you have the Hulk, for example, and he "hulks up" a few times, he will "Hulk Smash" just about any other character class into a fine red mist, raged up or not. (And don't forget, a raged-up Bruiser can just as easily slap the socks off of another class.)
Blasters > Bruisers
This is a bit more complex. Blasters always hit for critical (think "maximum") damage when they hit a Bruiser. They generally ignore the Bruiser's defense, so that spiffy Iso chip you gave your Bruiser that ratcheted up his defense statistic won't have an effect. When a Bruiser strikes a Blaster, the Blaster immediately gains what is called Focused Attacks against the Bruiser, which is basically what I just told you -- hit for crit and ignore defense. And finally, if that wasn't enough, Blasters take reduced damage from Bruisers. The Bruiser who will hit the Scrapper, or even another class, like a runaway truck will give your Blaster a (relative) love tap. As always, this is relative; if Bruce Banner hits your Scrapper for 6000 points of damage and your Bruiser for "only" 2500, unless you're playing at a higher level than I am, it won't matter, as both of your players will be mashed flat.
Simple strategy. Paste the Scrappers. Leave the Blasters to your teammates. Rage your Bruisers up against Scrappers, then turn that enraged Bruiser on another character class for instant pasting. Once a Bruiser takes out that steam on a non-Scrapper, they start stepping down the process again, so if you can, keep your Bruiser whacking the Scrappers around as long as possible. I recall a battle between my guys and an opposing team made up of Vector, a boss villain Blaster, preceded by a wave of nameless goons that included a Scrapper or two, probably in Season 1, Chapter 4. My Bruiser stayed fired up smacking around Scrappers, then had a good head of steam ready for the Blaster when the second wave launched. He only got the one good blow in before his rage diminished, but it was a heavy one. Bruisers are the only class that keeps their buff for more than a single round.
(Note: Many players use Bruisers as "tanks," basically letting them absorb all the damage while the agent and the other hero blast away relatively unmolested. Colossus, Hercules, the Thing, and some other bruisers have the ability to step into the line of fire and protect the party, sometimes even retaliating with his own. This is an excellent strategy, if your bruiser can handle the incoming damage. And the bruiser won't protect your guys from area attacks.)
Infiltrators > Tacticians
The Infiltrators get a bum rap in this game. Too many players consider them weak little nuisances that only become useful when fighting Tacticians. Not true, but let's focus on the Infiltrator's game-changing ability vs. Tacticians: Combat Reflexes. This is a little more tricky than the simple "rage up" by Bruisers. Combat Reflexes, or CR, give the Infiltrator the following:
- increased damage against all classes
- counter-attacks against every attack launched at them, single or area
- all attacks become Stealthy, which essentially means they do not trigger counter-attacks
The key here is "all" classes. Once the CR becomes active, Infiltrators can become touchy things, countering every attack launched by anyone with their counter-attacks (usually the first one in their arsenal, for example, Invisible Woman counters with her Force Spheres, etc). Like every other class buff, CR is only active for a single round, so Infiltrators need to make sure that they attack, or attacked by, a Tactician as soon as possible during the round to keep it going. CR makes Infiltrators uniquely effective in combat. Remember, Stealthy attacks work against Infiltrators also, so a Tactician with a Stealthy attack can whack an Infiltrator and not trigger the CR.
Scrappers > Infiltrators
Scrappers get a second attack against Infiltrators with Close Quarters Combat. As with any battle situation, an Infiltrator may have to just suck it up and accept the CQC as a consequence of an attack, but be aware of what's coming. You will get that second hit, and chances are it will be harder than the first.
Currently, PVP teams at the level I'm playing at almost always have a Tactician (usually Cyclops or an alt version of several other characters). It's worth considering making an Infiltrator part of your team to slap those pesky Tacticians out of their shoes, and get extra attacks against the others as well. (Or play a Scrapper to counter all those Infiltrators swarming over you round after round.) CR is also nice against Tacticians like Cyclops, who is popular at lower- and mid-level PVP because he gives his teammates Evasive Maneuvers -- basically giving them all the ability to counter-attack for a round. Since CR makes Infiltrators' attacks Stealthy, they won't trigger those irritating counter-attacks. Infiltrators are often considered vulnerable in combat when they don't have the CR advantage, and sometimes that is correct, but judicious iso-chipping and well-considered battle tactics can negate this problem. If you're playing Sue Storm because you like blondes, or Black Widow because she kicked rump on Hammer Industries' security force in Iron Man 2, you're not thinking through your battle strategy very well. I would say that in general, Infiltrators take a bit more thought to deploy properly than any other class save perhaps for Tacticians, but can give you enormous payoffs if used well.
Scrappers > Infiltrators
When a Scrapper hits, or is hit by, an Infiltrator, he gains Close Quarters Combat, or CQC. Basically, this gives the Scrapper a second attack against the Infiltrator. You won't control it, he will just take that second whack on his own right after his first attack concludes. The second attack is usually the first one available to the Scrapper in his list of attacks; for example, Sif always attacks with her Thrust. (If your Agent is a Scrapper, he will toss aside his weapons and launch that second attack with a two-fisted Brawl, which is surprisingly potent.) The second attacks have a better chance of hitting the target, and ignore the Avoidance effects some characters have. Infiltrators who use area attacks, such as Invisible Woman's Force Volley, will trigger CQC.
Bruisers > Scrappers
Bad news. As delineated in the Bruisers section above, Bruisers feast on Scrappers. The general rule of thumb is for Scrappers to leave those Bruisers alone whenever possible. The first exception to this comes to mind when a Bruiser is on his last legs, and your Scrapper can deliver the coup de grace without worry.
Pretty simple: whack the Infiltrators, keep your distance from the Bruisers. There are exceptions to this: for example, your Scrapper could tag the other team's Bruiser, then Cyclops could hit the Bruiser with his Exploit Weakness attack, which would remove the Enraged buff. Layers of strategy ...
Tacticians > Blasters
Tacticians recieve Tactical Maneuvers when they strike, or are struck by, a Blaster. Basically, this gives them a second turn during the round, which they can use for another attack, applying first aid, or whatever they choose to do. That extra turn doesn't always have to be directed at the Blaster that triggered it. It only lasts for the single round, so a smart Tactician will, as a general rule, use his first attack against a Blaster, then use his second turn to do what he intended to do in the first place -- maybe a one-two attack on the Blaster, a judicious application of a piece of gear, or whatever seems appropriate. Tacticians can only use this once per round; they can't get it over and over again by whacking Blasters. When the second attack is done, you'll see "Exhausted Options" appear near your Tactician. He's done his thing for the round as far as extras go, and will step back up to the plate the next round.
Infiltrators > Tacticians
If Tacticians weren't just pixels, they would fear the Infiltrators and their Combat Reflexes. See above for a description of this relatively complex ability by Infiltrators. Rule of thumb for Tacticians: don't hit them if you don't have to, but be dead certain they will go out of their way to hit you. (Since my Agent is a Tactician, I'm especially leery of Infiltrators; it gives me an extra little thrill to gun down an enemy Infiltrator and remove him as a potential problem. Pesky little devils.)
Tacticians see a lot of Blasters in combat, so be ready for your second turn when you hit, or are hit by, a Blaster. Don't think it must be a second attack; plan ahead. Currently, my Level 72 Agent is a Tactician. He has three main items for combat gear: a pistol that fires as a Quick Action and Stealthy attack, a big honking gun that fires normally, and an Offensive Accelerator, which juices up my guys to hit harder for three rounds. If I have a Blaster against me, on my first round I will make sure to shoot the Blaster with one of the two guns. That gives me, essentially, three actions to perform during my turn: a quick pistol shot, triggering the accelerator to get everyone going, and finally a blast from the big (and accelerated) gun. It's a nice way to come out of the gate. If it's later on in the battle and I don't need the accelerator, I can take three shots during my turn, assuming my pistol has "cooled down" and is ready to go again, and assuming the Blaster hasn't already bitten the dust. That's what I do at the moment; as I progress and get better gear, I'm sure my offensive strategy will change. But those Tactical Maneuvers will always be part of the strategy.
Generalists, be they Agents or heroes, have no advantages or disadvantages. When you progress to the stage where you can buy spiffy new uniforms for your Agent and graduate from the boring, not-very-protective Generalist's Kevlar uniform you get at the outset, you have to decide whether you want your Agent to continue to be a generalist or to become a class. There are pros and cons for all six choices. As far as heroes go, there are a number of generalists out there. I'm seeing Angel and Rogue in PVP pretty frequently at my current level of play.
Caveats and Conclusion
This is probably the single biggest aspect of the game that the player must master to be proficient. Don't hesitate to use crib notes, etc, to keep it all straight; I have a Post-It note stuck to the side of my monitor with class buffs/debuffs notated.
There are exceptions and modifications to all of the above. For example, Invisible Woman won't first react for her CR by firing off an attack, but instead she will put up Force Fields. The second CR response will be the pretty blue baubles fired at the other guy's head. You'll see how your characters respond as you engage them more and more -- and in PVP, you'll get the experience of seeing how characters that you don't have do their thing. Instructive, even if painful. (For example, I learned very quickly that Wolverine is not your ordinary Scrapper, but a woodchipper in mutant-human form. When he comes out of the gate in PVP, I abandon whatever strategy I had and adopt the "Aaaah! Kill him! Kill him with fire!" strategy before worrying about the others. He is so easily provoked that I consider him to be in perpetual CQC mode, even though that isn't entirely acccurate. As for Kitty Pryde, I've learned to leave her alone until she stops being Phased, and hope she leaves enough of my team to take her down after she rematerializes. If she doesn't come out of the gate phased, as she does in her Shadowcat permutation, I treat her like Wolverine and go after her hammer and tongs until she goes Phased.)
I didn't even get into the more advanced permutations, such as alt-uniforms (i.e. Gray Suit Tactician Black Widow, for just one example).
As always, any thoughts you have on the subject will be greatly welcomed. Comments about more advanced strategies and tactics would be very welcome, and possibly incorporated into the post with the proper shout-out.