One of the common observations about Illusion control is that they give up some of their control ability in order to do better damage. There’s some truth to that. Compared to, say, an Earth controller, you have fewer holds as an Illusion controller and the holds are not as good. You can solo an Illusion controller with the proper power choices and slotting, although you have to keep in mind that even fully tuning this AT towards soloing is not going to give you the ability to sweep out Hazard or Trial zones solo. That said, with patience and good tactics you can solo your door missions and street hunt, but you’re going to want to team up for faster XP gain.
I’m going to repeat just to be clear about it: yes, you can solo missions as an Illusion Controller if you’re smart about it. But unless you have the patience of a saint you’re going to group a fair amount of the time in the early and mid-game. If you want to solo most of the time AND level fast then build a scrapper or a blaster. This is not the AT for you.
And now to the meat of it:
Primary Power Set
Spectral Wounds – SW is the bread-and butter attack power, useful both in group and solo, from lvl 1 all the way up. A % of the base damage heals back over time but slotted damage does not, so slot it early and often with one accuracy and the rest damage. SW does have a +10% accuracy bonus so you might omit the accuracy if you really want to load up on damage.
Blind – A single target hold that can also be slotted for some damage. A small % of the time you will blind (but not damage) another foe close to the targeted foe but don’t count on that. Useful both in group and solo. I have this slotted with one accuracy, one recharge reduction, and the rest damage, but slotting it for increased hold ability is also an option if you’re not planning on soloing as much. As with SW this has a +10% accuracy boost so again the accuracy enhancement may not be necessary.
Deceive – This is an interesting power and whether or not to take it will depend very much on how much you plan to solo. Depending on the agro level of the foe you cast it on, this can either act as a hold (without damage) or cause the foe to attack other foes. The catch of course is that if a confused foe kills a second foe without your assistance you don’t get any XP for it, or partial XP if you’ve dome some damage to the 2nd foe. Even post-PA this is still a useful solo power if the group you’re attacking is a little more than your PA can take down. You may eventually want to respect it out but if you want to solo pre-18 it’s essential, so take it early. If soloing is not as important to you then you can skip Deceive, because I never use it in group situations. Slotting: Doesn’t need much. One increase confusion duration, and if you have slots to burn you might want to toss in a second one or possibly accuracy (although it is already +20%).
Flash – This is the Illusion controller’s one real group hold, but the hold has some problems: high endurance cost, an accuracy penalty, long recharge, and it’s PBAoE so you need to run right into the middle of a mob to toss it. You’ll want to have it but wait to take it until you have some invisibility. I didn’t take it until my 20s. Slot it with at least 2 accuracy, and either increased hold duration or endurance reduction.
Superior Invisibility – skip this power. Group Invisibility is much better.
Group Invisibility – Whether solo or teamed, this is an excellent power choice. No movement penalty and you get a defense buff if you attack when invisible. Take it as soon as it becomes available. Doesn’t need a lot of slotting but you’re going to want a couple of recharge reductions in there.
Phantom Army – Yes, it just got changed, but it is still an excellent power, especially at lvl 18. You just need to remember what PA is and it is not. It is not an uber damage dealer unless you slot it with multiple SOs and even then damage heals back faster than your SW damage. It cannot be used effectively on mobs greater than 4 or so because of the Decoy’s tendency to wander from foe to foe. But even so, PA is what allows you to take down that red or orange con Boss at the end of the mission at greatly reduced danger to yourself. Pre-PA I had to load up on Inspirations, Confuse the Boss, thrown Blind and SW until I ran out of endurance, run away to rest, and then come back for Round 2 or more (assuming I hadn’t missed some hits and died in the process). Post PA I can run up, toss PA, start hitting with SW and Blind while my pets hold aggro and do some damage, and generally the Boss is dead before PA fades. Much less risk, fewer Inspirations needed. And unlike Confuse you get all the XP for the foes your PA takes down. It works in groups too although your team needs to understand how PA works for them to be effective. Save it for bosses. Slot with damage and recharge reduction, possibly reduced endurance cost.
Spectral Terror – I don’t like powers that make all your foes run away, so I skip this power.
Phantasm – Unlike PA your Phantasm can take damage, but his slotted damage in turn is not illusory. Don’t feel gypped if your lvl 32 Phantasm is not quite as awesome as you thought it would be. Like most powers, Phantasm gets much better after some slotting. Slot with damage and recharge reduction, possibly reduced endurance cost.
Secondary Power Sets
Each of the controller secondary power sets has their own strengths. Which you choose is going to depend on how much grouping you plan to do and your personal preference. Radiation and Empathy have a resurrection power, which teammates like. Kinetics and Radiation have excellent buff/debuffs. Storm Summoning is a Swiss army knife secondary that some people love (I’ve not tried it yet). And everything except FF has at some healing capability. Of course, the point of a controller is that through our various abilities you should not need to be spamming heals to keep going. But it’s still a good power to have for that time when your hits fail and the foes are hitting hard.
I chose Radiation, mostly for the AOE foe debuffs and Accelerate Metabolism, one of the best all-around buffs. Empathy, Kinetics, and Storm Summoning all have their good points too but I dislike FF (I hate spending all my game time looking through a purple and green veil). That’s just me, and arguments can be made for/against all the secondary powers. Pick the one you like best.
Although you can take up to 4 different pool powers in reality it’s quite hard to work in a good range of powers from 4 different pools until fairly late in the game, so focus on the 2 or 3 pools that are going to be the most useful to start. After level 38 you’ll have gotten just about all the primary/secondary powers worth taking, and you can add some other pools in then.
Concealment – Skip this; Group Invisibility has you covered already.
Fighting – Tempting to Controllers who have so few attack powers, but resist the temptation. Skip it.
Fitness – Stamina is one of the Holy Grail powers that is almost universally on the “must have” list. I agree, but if you can’t fit it in at level 20, it can wait until 22 or 24. Take Swift and Health as your other two choices. I took Hurdle thinking I could use it to jump over the Perez Park wall but in reality by the time Hurdle is that good you’re never in Perez Park anymore.
Flight – For me this is a tough call; I love Fly. It’s not the fastest travel power but it’s a lot of fun. And Hover is really useful for getting around Hazard and Trial zones – if you like to hunt those then make room in your build for Hover. But honestly, it’s an optional power pool. Air Superiority is not helpful to Controllers since we have ranged attacks, and I have yet to see anyone ever use Group Fly.
Leadership – Controllers give a base +10% buff to teammates with these powers, which is nice, but to make them really effective you have to slot them heavily, and there are too many other things that also need slotting for these powers to get much love until you’re in your 30s. A good later-game pool choice but skip it in the early stages.
Leaping – Not a must-have but some may like it. Combat Jumping has a defense buff and Super Jump is arguably the fastest travel power. Acrobatics’ resistance to Hold effects is also nice.
Medicine – The controller secondary powers are better than these, so generally I’d say skip it, but if you go for FF yet still want to heal you might pick this pool.
Presence – Skip it.
Speed – Must-have. As many posters on the board have said, “Hasten is what makes me feel like a super hero”. Take it at lvl 6, slot it ASAP, and hope it doesn’t get nerfed. Super Speed is not so great indoors unless your reflexes are sharp but it does get you around the city in an acceptable amount of time. And if you absolutely must have a melee power then Flurry is much better than Brawl.
Teleportation – Mixed. If you don’t take Confuse then Teleport Foe can have the same effect of helping you pare down a group of foes (without the XP loss), and it can be used in a group as well. If you want to be really useful to a team than Recall Friend is a good choice, especially if you have a resurrect power, but Teleport as a travel power is even worse than Fly. I have yet to see anyone ever use Team Teleport.
I am not including a formal build suggestion because of the variables in the secondary power set and pool powers, but feel free to post yours.