Devising your own formation
Very often, you will find that your formation will be limited to the various formation shapes out there (plus many more to come), and the limitations imposed by objectives, most notably in the form of occupied slots, or the limited availability of crusaders in objectives such as Guys' Night Out, Beauties and the Beasts, Top Tier and so on. In times like this, you will find that it is most likely necessary to devise a strategy of your own (sure, game chats will come in handy, but the likely situation will be that whatever worked for other helpful players out there might not work for you due to differences in unlocked crusaders, EP, gear, etc).
This section will give a generic guide on how to devise a formation in all types of formation shapes, and will later elaborate on various limitations imposed by objectives.
DPS formations without limitations (such as Free Plays):
Basically, the idea of this build is to kill enemies prior to them reaching you. The only thing that matters in this formation is getting more DPS to kill faster. You will normally have one damage dealer, and the rest of your crusaders will be "supports". See the discussion below for the reasoning behind this and times to use two DPS crusaders.
- Know your main damage-dealer
- Find places for the main DPS buffers
- Fill the remaining slots
1) Know your main damage-dealer
This roll is determined by a lot: The gear available to you, your number of idols, and which crusaders you have unlocked (both support and DPS) are typically the biggest driving factors. Until you have several resets done, your highest seat crusader you can purchase (i.e. Nate) is going to be your biggest contributor to damage. This will rapidly change as you get gear from chests and unlock event crusaders for buffs. Emo, Jim, Sarah, Sal, Nate, and Natalie are all "vanilla" crusaders that have potential to be your best DPS early in your crusade for idols. But others may show up based on the gear drops you get. Eventually, a true DPS crusader will bubble to the top of your pile based on gear for them and supports. Common ones are Emo (animal buffs) and Sarah (female human buffs).
Later (100k-200k idols), you will start to hit your crusader level cap long before you reach the "wall" of a run. When this happens, your higher DPS crusaders will tend to be those with higher bench slots. The lower bench slot crusaders have lower base DPS, but are cheaper to level, so the x4 damage buff they get every 25 levels will be cheaper, and they'll hit harder for the same gold. Once you cap their level, the cost no longer matters since you can't buy any more, and now they have a lower base DPS multiplied by the same amount, and the higher bench position crusaders take over. At this point, Sarah (who's fairly high bench slot and very strong damage multipliers help her hold on), Sal (same as Sarah), and Chiyome are all strong candidates. Others exist, and based on your gear you do or don't get, you'll have to make an assessment.
2) Find places for the main damage-dealer and the main DPS buffers
The main DPS buffers refer to the ones who have higher DPS-buffing values but can only buff specific slots. They come into consideration because the different buffing mechanics of each buffers may conflict with one another, and there may be a need to bench some of them if they are unable to fit in the formation without sacrificing some crucial buffs. To determine the relative value of an individual crusader as a buffer, take (1+a%)*(1+b%)..... where are a, b, and all subsequent letters are the percentage gain from an ability of that crusader. The result will be the factor that crusader multiplies your overall DPS by. Pick the supports with the highest factor, and you get the highest DPS. This is complicated by positioning requirements and conditional values, so some experimentation is required. Spreadsheets to automate this calculating are used by many players.
3) Fill the remaining slots
Whatever slots remain should be filled with either more buffs to maximize your DPS output or with gold drop buffs. Use the formula above to figure out which crusaders yield the highest DPS multipliers. The same equations can be used to determine the best gold find combination. But you have to balance gold find and damage gains.
More gold means more levels. This leads to more DPS. Conversely, more DPS means higher area cleared, which means more gold, which means more levels, which means more DPS. This balance is hard to give a definitive answer on, but consider what you see when playing. If you frequently go afk for long periods, focus more on DPS and less on gold. Getting double the gold is great and all, but by advancing even 4 or 5 more areas from a higher DPS formation will give you significantly more than double gold, since gold goes up exponentially per area. Idling up to this higher area, the leveling up to raise your damage, swapping over to a gold find heavy formation for a short period will give you a lot more levels faster upon returning to the keyboard. Then go back to a DPS formation and go afk again. If you are consistently at your computer to continue leveling crusaders up, or use a script to automatically level up, use gold find. You'll be able to use the gold as you get it, raising your DPS faster, and you won't stop instant-killing monsters for much longer, making your overall advancement faster.
There will come a point where gold find becomes less useful, eventually being completely useless. Once you are level capped during a run, gold find no longer matters since you can't spend it anyways. Once you reach some number of idols (think 100k, maybe more, maybe a bit less depending on your play style) you will be able to level your crusaders so fast that you will never need gold find crusaders in your formations. See the Speed Formations section of this page for more discussion on this point and handling your formations while getting to level cap during a run.
Times for dual-DPS crusaders
This will almost always be inferior to a single DPS build, since your second DPS is, at best, doubling your damage output. Since most supports are capable of more than doubling your DPS, placing an additional support in that spot will normally be more effective. The main time this is not true is if you are relatively new and haven't unlocked many of the support crusaders from events/objectives, or if your gear is still largely common/uncommon. Debuffs that periodically shift between spots during some objectives may also warrant a second DPS, so that at least one of them will normally be available and reduce down time. However, a tank and healer may be better to just wait out the debuff on your DPS while monsters pile up, then are killed off when the debuff drops. This depends on how much damage buffs your tank and healer bring to your main DPS.
Using a Tank crusader
The idea of this build is simple: to endure monster attacks throughout levels while waiting for something. This something may be a roving debuff to drop from your DPS or a major buffer, a large DPS-capped enemy to die, or for gold to level up your DPS another 25 levels. Pushing farther on free plays will rarely be hinged on a tank, but objectives can sometimes be "cheesed" by using a tank and/or a healer.
- Establish who the tank is through positioning and buffs.
- Establish the necessary number of healers.
- Build your remaining formation.
1) Establish who the tank is through positioning and buffs.
Pick your tank. There are a lot more now than at the game's first launch, and your choices are rather extensive. Each tank has different pros and cons, and should be chosen based on the reason for building a tank formation.
Tanks of note:
- Thalia: Part of the "vanilla" crusaders, so he's available to everyone. Also has the Lightning Rod ability to pull aggro from all monsters, so formations with more than one crusader in the front row can have the other two rows occupied by non-tanks. His signet reduces damage taken, which in this game is directly equivalent to raising his health. The only exception is for the very rare effect that bypasses damage reduction.
- The Metal Soldierette: Not a very durable tank, as she has no damage reduction or health buffs, but she has a self heal so, depending on the requirements for your build, you MAY not need a healer. Her self healing starts at 100% of her health, reduced by 3% for each enemy attacking her. This means she will crumple if there are too many monsters on her, and may need support. Her main use is as a tank/DPS hybrid, especially in the Challenge "Tank and Spank" or any other objective that locks out your normal DPS crusaders.
- Littlefoot: Decent survivability, especially if tanking is only required intermittently and Parry is allowed to come off cool down on a regular basis. If she is used, she should be in the formation from the start to build her experience up and maximize the use of her Growing Up buff.
- Rosie: The best survivability of any crusader. She's immune to damage for 5 seconds after hitting 50% health, allowing her to be healed back to full even with a mediocre healer. This is followed by 10 seconds of 75% (without gear) damage reduction, effectively quadrupling her health for this time. At the end of this 10 seconds, she is able to go invincible again and start the process over. She has a decent DPS buff for the party when she goes invincible. She also has health boosting gear. Overall, the best tank for most purposes, assuming you have her unlocked.
- Jack: Also very high health with no gear. Cry For Help gives a ramping DPS buff to all crusaders each enemy attacking Jack, allowing you to possibly gain enough DPS to push for an extra area or two. Again, putting a support in this spot is probably going to yield higher DPS and allow you to push farther than using him. You should be using him for his high health and damage reduction, with the DPS buff as an added bonus.
- Karen: A strictly cheese tank. She has no real "survivability" skills or gear, and doesn't have any self healing. She does have her Nine Lives ability. This will eat automatic death mechanics up to 9 times, making her significantly more reliable in those objectives such as The Final Battle of Mischief at Mugwarts.
2) Establish the necessary number of healers.
There are a lot of healers available at this point, especially compared to the early stages of the game where you could get any style of healing, as long as it was Khouri's. Now, there are all sorts of healers. All healers will basically have a 10-30% of max health per second heal that is dependent on some kind of positioning requirement. The positioning requirement is what will drive you towards one vs the other, so I won't go through each one specifically. Just pick the requisite number of healers for the incoming damage you expect (more than one is rarely needed) and make the formation work.
Damage mitigation is just as good as healing. The Dark Gryphon reduces damage taken, and with good gear can reach the damage mitigation cap of 95%. This means your tank has 20 times the effective health, and receives 20 times the effective healing. Health boosts work in the same way, as all healing is % based, so raising total health by 20% also raises healing received by 20%.
3) Build your remaining formation.
The rest of your formation is going to be what actually pushes you through the content, so maximizing the number of spots available to it is key. Typically, using more than one tank and one healer is counter productive as those spots are better utilized as supports to boost damage and minimize how much tanking is needed. Remember, dead
rats monsters deal no damage.
These builds are used by players to maximize their idols gained per hour. They are used to quickly burn through the early areas of a free play or objective, and are then swapped out for higher DPS builds that were described above. It is entirely possible that no "DPS" crusader is used, though based on the amount of time it takes to reach the final areas of a run, it is normal to place your main DPS crusader from your high DPS build to gain XP and possibly get 5-6 more areas. This is based on maxing out the talent Fast Learner, netting 8-10 XP on a typical run.
The only thing that matters in this type of formation is speed. The DPS of even these "non-DPS" crusaders is enough to instant kill enemies until fairly late in a run. There are (as of when this was written), four types of speed crusaders:
- Spawn Speed: Baenarall, Sjin, Casey, Rex, Dr. Evil, Viktor, and Turps
- Double Drop/Kill: Sjin, Casey, and Billy
- Pickup Speed: Penny
- Drop Chance: Trixie and Bruno
Spawn speed crusaders boost the speed that enemies spawn at, speeding up the areas by getting the enemies needed on the screen sooner so they can die sooner. Double drop/kill crusaders speed up areas by giving a chance to have double the items drop from an enemy, or for each kill to count for double.
The speed gained from each is factored in differently:
- Spawn speed is additive. Your displayed speed starts at 100%. Adding 50% to this gives you 150%, meaning you are now seeing monsters 50% faster. However, adding another 50% only gives 200%, making the second 50% only increase spawn speed by 33%. For this reason, each spawn speed crusader added (or buff card used) has less overall effect on your clear speeds.
- Double drop/kill crusaders are multiplicative. Each of these crusaders has a chance for a kill to drop double items or count twice. But if multiple crusaders proc on the same kill, the result is a the kill counting for or dropping 2 raised to the power of how many crusaders procced. This means with all three doublers in the formation and Mindy mimicking two of them, it is possible to get 25=16 kills or items with a single kill, often finishing the objective outright. This is especially true when you have the appropriate epics and legendaries to make some of the double drop chances go over 100%. If this happens, you can only get one proc per ability, effectively capping any one ability at 100%. This is the most useful speed buff available, and should always be prioritized over straight spawn speed.
- Penny is the only crusader currently who causes dropped items to be picked up faster. Without her, items are typically picked up in approximately 10 seconds, meaning 10 seconds from the last item dropping, the area will automatically advance. With her, with no gear, items are picked up after 5 seconds, and it is reduced based on her trash pick quality. Once a decent amount of spawn speed and double drop/kill chance is obtained, pickup speed is the greatest boost to clear speed available. In World's Wake, 56 areas out of every 100 require items to be collected. So however much time you reduce your pickup by, multiply that by 56 and that is the time saved per 100 areas, assuming no items are manually collected. This can also help in completing some objectives by picking up the last object in an area before a troublesome mechanic reaches you or kills a crusader. This is not a formation ability, so it cannot be mimiced. Also, this ability is now significantly less important with the ability for Taskmasters to pick up items instantly.
- Mindy the Mime obviously deserves a mention here. Her ability to add two more double drop/kill procs and/or double up Baenarall's spawn speed for sprint areas is a very valuable addition, and should be used whenever able.
- Drop chance crusaders are the newest addition to this list with Trixie and Bruno. Both, with the appropriate legendary, give a 30% drop rate increase. They stack multiplicatively. This means if it would take you 30 seconds to finish an area with an item drop objective, it will instead take you 20 seconds with one of them and about 14 seconds with two. Neither of them can be mimiced, as Trixie's isn't a formation ability and Bruno's buff is from an equipment. This will speed up the 8 0/1 item drop areas per 100 areas in WW significantly, but 0/X drop areas won't speed up much due to the already high drop rate, especially if double drop crusaders are used to finish the area in one or two drops. The actual time saved per 100 areas for these crusaders is reduced the more speed buffs you have, so they may or may not prove useful to you.
You will find that using all these crusaders plus your main DPS (to gain XP for the eventual push at the end) leaves you with no additional room for support or gold find crusaders. This is fine. As stated earlier, the only thing that matters is speed. Getting to a higher area will give you more gold, so getting to a higher area faster gives you more gold faster.
However, the abilities for spawn speed and double drop/kills on Rex and Casey do take some time to work up to, especially when missing the Sprint talent or with it at a relatively low level. For this case, either put two supports in those spots and go AFK while the game auto progresses to a zone that gives enough gold. This won't take long, so don't leave it for too long. The other option is to put gold find crusaders in those spots. The added gold will unlock those final abilities sooner, and once they are unlocked you can swap out the gold find crusaders for Rex and Casey and proceed normally. As a data point, for 1-2 million idols, a Sprint of level 6 is needed to unlock the final abilities of Rex and Casey before getting to the end of the sprint without From the Ashes completed. Gold find isn't necessary beyond this point, because if you are at this point, you will easily hit level cap on all of your crusaders without any additional gold find beyond what your idols give you permanently.
This type of formation should only be used until enemies are no longer instantly dead upon appearing on screen. This will normally be well past level cap. Once you can see health bars, either begin rotating in supports to replace your speed crusaders, or switch entirely to a high DPS formation. One possible mid-step between the speed and DPS formations is to put Milgrid in. She is the single highest DPS buff in the game, and will allow a large number of levels just by herself. Once you've reached the end of that push, place her next to Mindy to double the DPS buff. You will retain most of your speed buffs, but get 100-200 areas farther before switching to a full DPS formation.
Devising a formation with limitations
Limitations to formations are what make this seemingly boring idle-incremental game look more interesting. Sure, you start over with the same world, but it is these limitations that will make you scratch your brains out in how to overcome these odds and beat the objectives. However, these limitations should not deter you from completing those objectives and getting those precious rubies, if you have enough idols for a decent completion time, that is.
Before you start objectives with limitations, it is recommended that you settle with a set strategy that you have used for the freeplay of that world. You are also advised to have a quick look at the formation shape and limitations that you will be faced with (that is shown to you in the objective selection screen), before you start the objective.
Limitation type 1: Occupied slots
Being the most common limitation in the game, this limitation features usual formation shapes with certain slots occupied (and the occupants do not provide DPS nor click damage, of course). Within this type of limitation, there contains many subsets of occupied slots that you will see in the objectives in this game. Certain subsets may overlap with one another.
Occupied slots subset 1: Constant occupied slots
As the name suggests, the specific slots are occupied from the start of the objective (Area 1) and will continue to be occupied no matter how far you go (in the objective selection screen, constantly occupied slots will be marked with a cross).
This kind of occupied slots is simple enough to devise a formation because the resultant formation shape after the occupancy will be constant throughout. Once you settle with a strategy, you can pretty much use it to plow your way to the end of the objective.
Occupied slots subset 2: Increasingly occupied formation
This form of occupied slots will start to get a little tricky, because the specified occupied slots may or may not be occupied at the start of the objective. However, what is certain is that very gradually, these specified slots will be occupied one by one, and by the end of the objective all of these slots will be occupied (in the objective selection screen, slots that will eventually be occupied are marked with a question mark).
You can settle with a formation when the limitation is at its minimum. However, you will need to think of different strategies and formations because the limitations will start to pile up as you progress through levels (if a slot starts to be occupied, whatever crusader you have there will be knocked out and benched).
Alternatively, you may settle with having crusaders in slots confirmed to be unoccupied throughout the objective, leaving slots that will be occupied empty. This way, you will not need to devise different formations every time the limitation piles up. This is inadvisable, since there are benefits you can gain from using those slots while they are available. Either speed crusaders can accelerate your progress to later in the objective, or gold find crusaders can allow you to go longer between leveling up crusaders if you go AFK for short time periods, or supports can raise your DPS to allow the same thing. Also, these are great spots to put your Magnify and Storm Rider casters without disrupting your main DPS and the associated supports.
Occupied slots subset 3: Moving occupied slots
This is a tricky form of occupied slots, because throughout levels the occupied slots actually MOVE (as in Mrs Fizzle's Field Trip)! While the number of occupied slots remain constant throughout, the positions of these slots do not (in the objective selection screen, objectives with this form of occupied slots will have all slots of the formation marked with a question mark).
When faced with such kind of occupied slots, most objectives have a fixed rotation of slots that are occupied. Check the campaign's page on this wiki to see what that rotation is, and you can plan around the upcoming shifts.
Occupied slots subset 4: Occupancy with buff(s)
In this relatively new concept of occupied slots, whoever occupies that slot will actually buff you despite not having any DPS.
In this case, you have two choices: take it or leave it. If you want it, devise a formation with your specific crusaders being buffed by the occupant(s). Otherwise, just treat it as an ordinary occupied formation.
Occupied slots subset 5: Occupancy with debuff(s)
Originating from event objectives, this form of occupied slots eventually became available as a main objective. In contrast to occupancy with buff(s), the occupancy will provide debuffs to your team. Very unhelpful of them, how could they?!
Unlike occupancy with buff(s), you will not want to ignore this problem and instead take note of the debuffs the occupancy will deal, where they will deal the debuff, and arrange your crusaders accordingly. For example, if the occupant freezes crusaders in the specific slot(s) and you have a single DPS, be sure to keep your main damage dealer away from those slots.
Limitation type 2: Limited roster
In some objectives, there will be specific crusaders who are barred from being in your formation. If these crusaders are completely banned from a formation, they are marked as "Locked" and can't be leveled. If it is a shifting lockout, they will be marked as asleep or something similar, but will be able to be leveled. There may be a need for a drastic change in strategy because it is likely that your usual crusaders will be locked. For this reason, having a backup DPS for a robot, animal, male, female, and human setup is useful, but not necessary.
Limitation type 3: Limited crusader number
All your crusaders are also available, but you are only allowed to use a designated amount of crusaders at a time. This is found in the Descent Into Darkness campaign.
The gist of beating objectives with such a formation is to maximize your DPS-gold product value (Formation DPS * Gold bonus) not only to have the maximum income when you go offline, but also when idling online. Gold will likely be short, as you won't be able to push as high of an area, so gold find will be useful for these objectives. However, a very large DPS buff like Milgrid is almost always worth having, so be sure to assess how to maximize this product.