I switched over to the Tank Spark. At first it may seem that the defensive abilities are not necessary to preserve your robot buddy, but the bad guys get really mean in the late game. Too often I have seen my beautiful Spark, dutifully tanking shots to keep the squad alive, fall to the ground in a heap, usually on the Invasion mission. Well, that was his purpose, maybe next campaign he’ll make it to the final mission. I get one free Spark at the Lost Tower; Shen is not going to build another. Sparks are too expensive to build, too hard to level up, and outclassed by enemy fire at lower ranks. Here is how I build the Spark to keep him alive, and still get a lot of offense out of him.
This is a good ability that will improve your aim when shooting multiple times with Overdrive. If the Spark fires the Shredder Gun when Overdrive is triggered this won’t help you at all. But on the critical missions, the Spark will use Overdrive more than once, and can deliver 2-3 heavy hitting shots when he does. Without Adaptive Aim, he will likely miss the 2nd and 3rd shot.
Alternatives: Formidable or Combat Awareness.
Formidable is a good ability that won’t matter in the early and middle game. The Spark begins with 16 HP and 1 armor, and with the first armor upgrade that becomes 19 HP and 2 armor. In the late game, this ability may allow your Spark to tank one extra hit. This is a tough choice, but I feel that if you plan to take the other defensive abilities, Formidable is nice but not necessary. The survival of your Tank will depend more on armor, luck, and the Repair ability.
Combat Awareness won’t matter very much in my build as I am not going to grab Sentinel, and I am not going to go on overwatch during a firefight. This ability will still protect the Spark when overwatching during enemy activation, but may encourage the enemy to shoot other targets, and I prefer that they shoot at the Spark.
This is a very powerful ability that will allow your Spark to hit additional enemies with his Shredder Gun. The increased area of effect is quite large, typically allowing the Spark to hit 3-4 enemies. And it does more damage. Great.
Alternatives: Body Shield or Shredder.
Body Shield is not very good. The Spark is tough and unlikely to be killed by 1 enemy, which is how many enemies this skill affects. Again, the Spark won’t benefit much from more defense until late game, and even then not enough to miss out on Rainmaker.
Shredder is nice on the Spark as he can also get Holo Targeting, and with that skill the Spark should be the first unit to target an enemy. I have found that I get enough shredding from my Grenadier and a couple Shredder Guns, which the Spark also has handy.
Bulwark adds a point of armor which is great. Acting as high cover is also nice and will allow your Spark to march down an open street protecting a squadmate. When combined with other Tanking abilities, Bulwark will make the Spark incredibly tough. And yet it is just one additional armor, and numerous enemies will be able to shred it. In the late game most advent troops carry grenades, while Mutons and Advent Gunners get Shredder. A Dark Event will grant Shredder to more enemies. MECs love to rocket you. Even if they fail to shred your armor, they start hitting for 8+ damage. Nothing can stand those shots for long. In the late game, this ability will allow your Spark to tank about one extra full hit. If you get your Spark to Champion rank, and acquire Damage Control, the synergy with this ability will help further.
Alternatives: Strike or Holo Targeting.
I’ve never tried Strike, but the internets say it is not good. Also I like to avoid activating additional pods, and choose abilities that encourage me to play smart, so I probably wouldn’t choose Strike here, even if it was good.
The Spark is the only class that can get Holo Targeting as an ability. It is very nice. The Spark hits very hard, but sometimes misses completely as his aim is weak. So it makes sense for the Spark to fire first at any exposed enemies, hoping to kill them outright. If not, well now they are Holo Targeted and easier to hit by other soldiers.
This is a great ability, the most significant of the Spark’s defensive abilities. It can be used twice, healing up 6, 8 or 10 HP, depending on Bit level. This effectively doubles the Sparks HP, provided he gets a chance to repair himself before being destroyed. On the other hand, when you really need the Spark to tank (I’m thinking of an Invasion or Psi Gate) he will end up tanking a lot of shots all in one turn. Repair is best paired with other defensive abilities, to insure that it can be used.
Alternatives: Sentinel or Intimidate.
Contrary to ufopaedia, Sentinel is the ability available at this rank, not Guardian. Sentinel is a great ability that will give your Spark an extra overwatch shot which can be very powerful if the Spark acquires Cool Under Pressure at the next rank. I would love to grab Sentinel on my Spark, too bad it competes with Repair. Still it is a great skill that is worth trying.
Intimidate is not very good based on what I’ve read. Having never played with this ability I can’t say for sure, but others have said that it doesn’t work very often.
What do you do with a soldier that can’t aim? Give him a bomb. Bombard has incredible range as it can be fired to any location within squadsight. It does a modest amount of damage, based on Bit level, but is more noteworthy for cover destruction. Bombard seems to break all cover, regardless of its durability; making it a good weapon to have on an Invasion or Avenger Defense.
Alternatives: Cool Under Pressure or Channeling Field.
Cool Under Pressure is a great ability, despite low aim. With it, the Spark is much more likely to hit overwatch shots. With the Spark’s high mobility, he will likely be on overwatch when an enemy pod is activated, and can protect the squad by disabling enemy activation fire.
I’ve never tried Channeling Field but it doesn’t sound great. The Spark already hits extremely hard. His problem is aim.
This is a very powerful ability that solidifies the Spark’s role as a Tank. With Bulwark and the best Armor suit, the Spark has 4 armor; Damage Control will make that 6, almost guaranteeing that it can survive a late game flurry of shots. Having survived, the Spark can then use the Repair ability.
Alternatives: Wrecking Ball or Nova.
Wrecking Ball sounds fun. But also dangerous as it could easily activate more pods. I’ve never tried it.
Nova I have never tried, but maybe it could be extremely powerful when paired with Repair.
I’ve never leveled a Spark this high. I hear Sacrifice is really great. Hope I get to try it someday!
Alternatives: Impact Fields or Hunter Protocol.
Impact Fields looks great but inferior to Sacrifice which also give the Spark additional defense but also protects squadmates.
Hunter Protocol looks just ok, maybe good if you have Cool Under Pressure.