Kid Ultra is quite possibly the least accurately labeled character in the game.
According to the game, KU is a “Pusher”, a "Healer, and “Easy”. Pusher is a vague descriptor he shares with Benedict, Ernest, and Oscar Mike; considering what each of these characters does, I have no clue what they actually intend it to mean. Healer is true, in a binary sense, since 2 of his skills are explicitly heals; the problem with this, however, is that the way he heals is very different from other characters. Easy is also highly questionable (not that the Easy/Complex/Advanced assignment has ever been particularly valid) considering the tactical weirdness of all of his skills; if you compare him to other easy characters like Rath, Miko, and Oscar Mike, it doesn’t really seem right to place him in that category.
Instead, I find it more useful to see KU as a versatile support character. He’s not a strong healer but he can provide a wide array of different buffs with his drones, based upon his helix choices, as well as through his ultimate. He can get some decent control and damage as well, with the right choices.
In addition to his versatility, KU is fast and small, which makes him surprisingly hard to kill. Of course, he’s got a huge crit spot that’s centrally located so he’s going to get crit pretty often.
Seeing as KU is a generalist, he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. He can only provide support for a limited number of players at a time, due to the limited number of drones he can have active, and his basic attack will spend a lot of time reloading due to ammo restrictions. Both of these can be mitigated to some extent with helix choices.
For his abilities, things people probably don’t realize or should know from the start.
KU’s basic attack. KU fires an explosive projectile. As an explosive, it can’t crit but, by that same token, it also ignores obstacles like shields (not the blue bar; the kind used by Brutes, Boldur, and Galilea) and can hit multiple targets with a single projectile if they’re tightly packed. The alt-fire simultaneously fires 3 rockets that spiral towards your target; each of the rockets does 70% of the damage of rockets fired individually with the main fire mode so it’s not as efficient on a per-ammo basis but, unless you gear for a lot of attack speed and no reload speed (since you spend more of your total time reloading using the alt-fire), the alt-fire actually ends up being better DPS:
By default, the continuous fire will give you ~25 reloads/minute with alt-fire and ~17/minute with the main fire; 25 * .7 = 17.5 and 17 * 1 = 17, so the alt-fire is just barely better. The increased ammo helix that you can take increases this gap: the alt-fire will put out ~20 reloads/minute while the basic will do ~13/min; 20 * .7 = 14 while 13 * 1 = 13, so the alt-fire still ends up being better.[/details]
[details=Aura of Justice]
KU’s passive. Whenever KU gets a kill or assist (against any target, player or NPC), he gains a temporary aura that buffs nearby allies (it doesn’t affect KU at all, even when solo). The aura lasts longer (20 secs) and is stronger (10% +damage) for major enemies and shorter (5 secs) and weaker (5% +damage) for minor enemies. In PvP, pretty much everything except for the minion waves and buildables is a major enemy; in PvE, pretty much nothing except bosses and minibosses is a major enemy (all bosses are major; of the common non-bosses, Enforcers, Bonecrushers, Defilers, Disruptors, Bulwarks, and Elite Bots are the only major enemies).[/details]
Skill 1. KU fires a drone that follows a shallow parabolic arc; the projectile doesn’t travel particularly quickly so you’ll need to lead your target if you want to hit someone moving. If you hit an ally, they immediately get the drone; if you don’t hit an ally, the drone will remain on the ground, waiting to be picked up. You’re allowed a maximum of 2 drones; if you fire another drone while 2 are already active, the oldest drone vanishes as soon as you activate the skill (even if you hit nothing). Drones can (and often will) be destroyed by enemies.
When a player gets a drone, whether they’re hit by one in flight or pick one up, they gain a buff that increases their max hp by 250 (this doesn’t increase with level) and will provide 61 hp/sec (which increases as you level) as long as you’re not at max hp, up to a max of 420 (the drone ticks twice per second). As soon as the drone maxes out on its healing, the drone vanishes, taking the 250 max hp with it. Multiple drones stack, such that a single character with 2 drones will have their max hp increased by 500 and received baseline 122 hp/sec, up to 840.
KU’s drones suffer from an extremely strange slew of weird effects because of how they were implemented. For example, all healing done by KU’s drones isn’t actually counted as healing done by KU; the healing is attributed solely to the support drones, which means that you’re not going to see a true recollection of your healing contribution in the game statistics. In addition, the Support Drones do not benefit from increased heal power, such as from gear or buffs, though helices and his ultimate skill still do. Strangely enough, a target hit by one of the drones is still considered to have been healed (for the purpose of procs) when they are hit by the drone even though they aren’t actually healed.
The drones can be tweaked very heavily as you level.[/details]
Skill 2. KU fires a wide and thin lateral projectile that travels quickly and has extremely long range; it pierces all targets and will only collide with level geometry (e.g. walls, floors, ceilings, furnishings, etc.). Targets hit take a bit of damage and are slowed for 3 seconds; it can crit, but the projectile shape is oblong so it’s not especially reliable. There are some truly powerful and impressive helix options you can take to make this a very powerful attack.[/details]
[details=To The Rescue]
Ultimate. KU transforms into a hoverjet, incapable of attacking, for up to 10 seconds. While in this form, KU’s accelerates while moving (turning cuts down his speed) with a surprisingly high top speed. Furthermore, KU creates a bubble around him, with a radius based upon his current velocity (the faster he’s moving, the larger it is). Any time after transforming, you can press the activation button again to end the transformation. When the transformation ends (whether manually or automatically), every enemy in the bubble is knocked away and every ally in the aura (including KU) is healed for a significant amount (the larger the bubble, the more the heal; at minimum move speed, KU heals for 50-66% of his max possible heal).
There are a few issues with this ability. You still collide with enemies (even minions) which can stop you in place if any enemy gets in the way. The implementation of the ability also turns off mouse turning so you’re forced to resort to much slower (and imprecise) keyboard turning.
The CD is low enough, however, that you can actually end up using this as the primary source of healing, which allows you to focus on using your Support Drones for their secondary effects rather than constantly trying to keep people topped off with them.[/details]
[details=Level 1: Signal in the Sky v. Pain Compliance]
Recommendation: Pain Compliance
The primarily limitation on Support Drones isn’t the cooldown; it’s the max number that you’re allowed to have out at one time. Since the effects are over time, they’re not really particularly useful mid-combat, when a faster CD would actually be useful.
Pain Compliance, on the other hand, makes Bolas do significant and useful amounts of damage: the DoT is so short it barely qualifies as a DoT, and it amounts to a 160% increase in total damage dealt.[/details]
[details=Level 2: Shield Coil Module v. Search and Destroy v. Vigilance Protocol]
Recommendation: (PvP) Any; (PvE) Shield Coil Module or Search and Destroy
Vigilance Protocol completely changes Support Drone. Rather than being applied to a specific ally, they create a zone that heals and buffs all nearby allies (they’ll increase hp while a player stands in the zone which disappears as soon as they leave). The healing is still capped and can be destroyed, so they won’t stick around for long. Strangely, the drones will tick heals, but not as quickly, as long as someone is standing in them so they have a much more limited duration than the normal drones. In PvE, this isn’t really useful since they’ll get destroyed extremely quickly by NPCs.
If you want to have your Support Drones stick to their normal manner of function, SCM gives you shield “healing” by allowing you to allow ally shields to instantly recharge while SaD gives you better damage. For SaD, the drone has to run out of healing naturally for it to fire; if it is destroyed or despawns by being replaced, it won’t do anything.[/details]
[details=Level 3: Missile Massacre v. Retro Rockets]
Recommendation: Missile Massacre
KU is already fast and doesn’t have much reason to get close in the first place so I wouldn’t bother (Mellka, who has Air Stall, which is almost identical, actually benefits from this because mobility is way more important to her). His basic attack, on the other hand, runs out of rockets pretty quickly and a 50% increase to the number of rockets you get per reload is extremely nice.[/details]
[details=Level 4: Reassembling Drones v. Bank Shot]
Recommendation: Bank Shot
Once again, reduced CD on your Support Drones isn’t that helpful. Bank Shot, however, is extremely powerful (even post nerf; originally, it allowed for 3 bounces): the bounce is intelligent and will attempt to bounce towards enemies; in addition, the bounce can hit targets that were already hit by the initial shot, doubling your damage.[/details]
[details=Level 5: Hero in Training v. Power of Friendship v. Swarming Nanites]
Recommendation: Hero in Training or Power of Friendship
Swarming Nanites replaces the 5 seconds of 5% increased damage dealt with a paltry 10 hp/sec regeneration so it’s not worth it. If you really want to heal multiple targets, just use Vigilance Protocol.
If you don’t have a problem getting kills and assists within the existing durations (20 secs for major kill; 5 secs for minor) and you’re not running around alone all the time, PoF is better. PoF will also be better if you reliably have your friends grouped up. If you do notice your aura fading, HiT will be more useful.[/details]
[details=Level 6: Danger Drone v. Snare Spread v. Reactive Capacitor]
Recommendation: (PvP) Snare Spread; (PvE) Danger Drone
Reactive Capacitor is terrible because it only applies to shield damage, is only useful when KU doesn’t have shield, and doesn’t even restore a lot of shield since it’s only 30% of damage dealt.
In PvP, Snare Spread combined with Bank Shot allows you to hit the same target multiple times with the same skill activation (and multiple targets even, since the projectile pierces everything but the level geometry). The damage penalty only applies to the initial damage, so, if you took Pain Compliance at level 1, you’ll see a massive damage increase. Snare Spread is still good in PvE, but not as good as Danger Drone.
Danger Drone gives whoever is currently getting buffed by the drone (or standing in the patch if you took Vigilance Protocol) a 16% increase in damage, both skill damage and attack damage. What makes this truly devastating is that the drones stack. In addition, they don’t stack additively: they stack multiplicatively. If you take the additional 2 drones in a couple levels, this means that you can give a single player (possibly even yourself) an 81% increase in damage dealt. This is absolutely amazing though it is a very fragile bonus since, as soon as you take damage, you’ll start losing the bonus. As such, I only really recommend it for PvE (in PvP, being able to bounce a bunch of bolas to hit enemies is much more valuable).[/details]
[details=Level 7: Smart Rockets v. Off-Screen Reload v. Turbo Mode]
Recommendation: (PvP) Any; (PvE) Smart Rockets
In PvE, your basic attack is going to be the biggest source of damage and it’s easy to plan around the need to reload so Smart Rockets is best. In PvP, improved move speed and instant reloads can be more situationally useful so it’s about playstyle.[/details]
[details=Level 8: Heal-splosion v. Support Network]
Heal-splosion gives you some viable burst healing (which is normally what KU sucks the most at; this healing is improved by Heal Power gear and is considered to come from KU for tracking purposes) while SN will allow you to buff/heal more targets (or a single target more effectively). SN is basically worthless if you wouldn’t normally be replacing drones so, if your drones keep dying, go with Heal-splosion.[/details]
[details=Level 9: Frag Astra v. Tranq Shot]
Recommendation: Tranq Shot
Bola Snare has amazing range and speed and can hit a target with a bounce from Bank Shot even if you missed with the first shot. If you took Snare Spread, it would also allow you to stun targets you weren’t even intending to hit, which can be incredibly exasperating for your opponents as they’re suddenly stunned though they thought they were safe. The only reason I can see for taking Frag Astra is if you don’t think that Bola Snare is a decent enough AoE damage dealer with the existing helices.[/details]
[details=Level 10: Stick With Me v. Friendly Skies v. Explosive Entrance]
Recommendation: Stick With Me or Explosive Entrance
Slowing down your fall speed doesn’t really do much in my experience so Friendly Skies just seems like a useless gimmick to me.
Choosing between SWM and EE is as simple as asking yourself whether you want more healing or more damage. SWM will heal any of your allies in your bubble (so moving faster increases the reach of the heal) and EE will deal a bit of damage to go with the knockback. Neither is particularly game changing, but they round out the skill a bit, making it more useful.[/details]
Kid Ultra has some very strange gear priorities. He can’t crit, he doesn’t suffer from recoil, he’s got a shallow pool of ammo that he can burn through insanely fast with his alt-fire, and he’s got heals which he can use on himself very easily. He can be surprisingly durable when you build for it and surprisingly destructive, too, if you build for that. I’ll go over all of those stats here, based on how I personally categorize them, and provide a priority list for each category.
(Attack Damage>Reload=Skill Damage>Attack Speed>Cooldown>Shield Pen=Critical Damage>Recoil)
A vast majority of KU’s damage is going to come from his basic attack and the best way to beef that up is attack damage because he’s got a long reload time and a shallow ammo pool: it’s best to make his shots stronger rather than making him throw out more of them.
Reload is the next best for the same reason: long reload time and shallow ammo pool means that reload is going to increase your attack speed more than attack speed will. It becomes especially valuable if you use his alt-fire since you will clear out his ammo pool in only 2-3 shots.
Skill Damage is good because KU’s Bola Snare is amazing, but it also happens to be the only skill damage that KU brings, which brings it down. You can build for Skill Damage in PvP to finish people off with Bola Snares but it’s only good for finishing people off: you’ll have mediocre damage when not using Bola Snares.
Attack Speed is low value for the reasons pointed out before with reload: attack speed just makes you blow through your tiny ammo pool faster and spend more time reloading.
Cooldown is sub-standard Skill Damage.
Shield pen is utterly rubbish. It’s only useful in PvP because most enemies in PvE don’t have shields (and no bosses have them; Rendain’s shield doesn’t care about shield pen). Critical Damage only applies to Bola Snare, and only applies to Bola Snare’s initial damage, so it’s extremely low value (Bola Snare is only really good for damage if you took the DoT helix at level 1, which can’t crit).
Still, both of those actually do something unlike recoil, which is only good as a penalty.[/details]
(Max Health<Max Shield<Healing ReceivedShield Recharge<Health Regen<CC duration)
Max health is the king of KU’s defensive stats because he doesn’t have enough hp to make Damage Reduction the best, even with 4 drones stacked up on him. Max shield is a close second and has its advantages and disadvantages: while shield is up, you cannot be crit and KU has a helix that allows him to cause shields to immediately begin recharging with a drone; max shield values are way lower than max health values so they don’t add to TTK as much and the fact that they regenerate is irrelevant considering KU can just drone himself for self healing when needed.
Healing received is worse than either of the true TTK improvements because it only works when he’s healing himself. However, because he can heal himself by aiming downwards with a drone, it’s still very good.
Just like for every other non-tank, damage reduction is terrible for KU. For DR to be worth it, you need to have an extremely large hp + shield (3333 total). KU does not. Even if you assume that he’ll self heal and drone stack on himself, he doesn’t have enough (especially since the max hp will rapidly fade under a concentrated attack when the drones vanish).
Shield Regen is valuable, moreso than Shield Recharge, mainly because of the helix that allows him to use drones to allow shields to begin recharging instantly. If you don’t take it, they’ll be commensurate.
Health Regen is low value because KU can self heal very effectively with his support drones and ultimate.
CC duration is functionally worthless. CCs don’t last that long so the minute values of CC duration on gear basically mean nothing.[/details]
Heal Power is normally much more useful for healers than cooldown is because it’s simply more powerful, but KU doesn’t really behave like any of the other healers so it’s expected that he would be different. If you’re only focused on healing, which I’m going to assume means taking Heal-splosion and Stick With Me, Heal Power can be worth it even though it doesn’t affect the HoT provided by KU’s Support Drones. The drones do significantly more than just healing, and you shouldn’t discount the value of Bola Snare’s slow (and, at level 9, stun), which, in PvP, can be used to interrupt enemy skills (since it’s so fast) and set up some really devastating kills if your party concentrates fire so cooldown is still up there in usefulness.[/details]
(Move speed>Sprint speed>CC duration)
Move speed is useful in combat and out of combat and is increased by sprint speed. Sprint speed is only really useful outside of combat. CC duration reduces the duration of slows and stuns but is still absolutely terrible. I don’t mention cooldown here, since it technically allows you to use To The Rescue more often which improves mobility, because To The Rescue has never been useful as a mobility power, for me. It helps you move quickly but you never really use it for that purpose.[/details]
Getting shards helps you buy gear as well as construct buildables. Buildable reduction makes them way cheaper, however. Something to consider is that I only find these stats remotely useful in PvP. PvE gives you shards like candy; unless you’ve got someone who bogarts all of the shards, every mission should provide a surplus of shards even if you have a triple legendary loadout (like I do for pretty much everyone). In PvP, however, these are absolutely amazing and can actually be the foundation of an effective strategy.[/details]
Legendaries of Note:
[details=Gloves (attack damage)]
Pacifier (algorithm), Symbiotic Gauntlet (sentinel)
Attack damage beefs up his basic attack in the most effective way possible, which is good. Both of them also contribute to your survivability with his best defensive stats. SG is better offensively since KU can keep himself topped off with Support Drones; Pacifier gives a nice little attack damage debuff whenever he damages an enemy.
Vow of Vengeance should probably be mentioned because it’s one of the most popular legendaries out there. Do not use it on KU. The stacks only apply with his quick melee and the stacks fall off very quickly (a matter of seconds). VoV is for melee, which KU is not.[/details]
I only mention these to caution player against using them since I can see the gears turning in some minds. Cooldown is useful, but none of the legendaries are really worth it since the legendary effects don’t properly sync with KU’s functioning. If you want a cooldown item, use a non-legendary since you’ll get similar use at a much lower cost.
Chrono Key has good primary and secondary stats for a support minded KU, but I would never recommend it because the legendary effect requires an obscene amount of damage dealt to see any returns. Even if you’re chewing through enemies, you’re not going to see enough to really make it worthwhile. Firmware Update has similar problems: low value secondary stat and KU’s abilities have CDs that are too high to really make much use out of the legendary effect (for Firmware Update, you want at least 1 skill with a low CD that you will spam as much as you can). Aria’s Encore is another trap, mainly because it’s only good in ops, where basic attacks are way better, since that’s the only time you’ve got Ops Points to fuel the legendary effect. Time Killer has an almost worthless secondary stat and, while you should be using Support Drone and Bola Snare as much as possible, To The Rescue is best kept in reserve so you’re not liable to benefit from the legendary effect as much as you might think.[/details]
[details=Pauldrons (damage reduction)]
“Alamo-7” Armor (algorithm)
Alamo-7 Armor provides 2 nice stats and, although the cooldown time on the legendary effect is extremely long, it is extremely powerful (2 seconds of total immunity).[/details]
[details=Med Kits (heal power)]
Solar Sustainer (jennerit), Symbiotic Spores (experiment), Dr. Fist’s Medic Bag (upr), Dramatic Rescue (lore)
KU’s Support Drones do really weird things especially when interacting with the various heal power legendaries. The primary stat only affects his ult and, potentially, 1 helix, so it depends entirely upon playstyle how much of a penalty or benefit you’ll see the primary stat as.
Solar Sustainer gives you more damage from the secondary effect and provides allies affected by your ult as well allies hit by your Support Drones (keep in mind, the proc activates when the target is hit by the drone, not when they’re actually healed by it).
Dr. Fist’s gives a nice but not amazing secondary stat but, since the Support Drones aren’t considered to come from KU and they only trigger heal procs from KU when they are applied, you’re going to only increase hp with the legendary proc slowly. However, if you use the drones in conjunction with your Ult to tap allies repeatedly, you can provide your allies with a lot of additional hp (since the Drones also increase hp).
Symbiotic Spores will actually improve your healing significantly since it provides healing received, which affects the drones normally, but only if your allies stay close (which they already have a reason to due because of Aura of Justice), so it’s the only truly good healing option.
Dramatic Rescue bears some mention since it’s his lore legendary but I wouldn’t both with it: it has sub-max stats, even if they’re both useful stats, and the legendary effect turns your ult into a short term buff. Of course, the buff is contingent on wasting time in your ult form, in which you can’t attack and need to constantly move to really be useful with it, so it doesn’t work particularly well.
Because the healing from your Support Drone isn’t considered to come from KU, Void Resonator a bad choice because the legendary effect does nothing (since the drone can’t be healed).[/details]
[details=Healing Received (necklaces)]
All-4-One Morale Booster (upr)
The All-4-One is great for keeping your allies in your Aura of Justice alive. The DR makes you harder to kill too, which helps a lot.[/details]
[details=Max hp (armor)]
Vigilance Link (sentinel), Vampiric Vestment (jennerit), Premium Health Plan (saboteur)
Vigilance Link gives you 2 excellent survivability stats and makes your team more durable as well. Excellent for team players and more support minded people. Vampiric vestments will give you hp, more hp when you kill things, and more attack damage so that it’s easier to kill things. However, because you lose them when you die, I wouldn’t recommend VV for PvP since dying is relatively common (though you can do a good job of staying alive as KU by staying far away). If you use Shield Coil Module to start recharging your shields with Support Drone, Premium Health Plan can be very powerful, since the self healing from Support Drones make it easy to stay at max hp and double the shield regen[/details]
[details=Max shield (battery)]
Modernista (saboteur), One-4-All Shield Array (experiment)
Modernista is a good anti-ranged shield with a decent secondary stat. A good way to discourage snipers in PvP since you can avoid the first crit and hurt them in the process. One-4-All Shield Array gives you more shield, your allies more shield, and can stack up some shield penetration if you want to push a shield pen build, not that it’s very good[/details]
Hidden Charger (llc)
Reload is extremely valuable and, considering how often KU reloads due to his shallow ammo pool, the legendary effect of this will dramatically reduce your Shield Recharge. I wouldn’t bother if you’re going to take Shield Coil Module (since that’s about circumventing the delay before your shields recharge), but if you’re not, this can be very powerful.[/details]
[details=Pins (skill damage)]
Bola’s Target Finder (experiment)
The only skill damage item I would actually recommend. Skill damage isn’t stellar for KU, nor is attack speed, but the proc is amazing. If you’re aiming for a Skill Damage build for PvP, this is basically a must take, especially since Bank Shot + Snare Spread virtually guarantees that at least 1 target will get hit every time you use Bola Snare.[/details]
Hidden Charger, Symbiotic Gauntlet, Solar Sustainer
An excellent blend of everything you might need: survivability (shield regen, heal power, max hp), offense (lots of attack damage, reload speed), and support (heal power, attack damage with heals).[/details]
[details=Pure Offense PvE]
Hidden Charger, Symbiotic Gauntlet, Bola’s Target Finder
Solar Sustainer can be kind of questionable because of weirdness in implementation so it’s been traded out for something to make your Bola Snare nastier.[/details]
[details=Pure Support PvE]
Dr. Fist’s Medic Bag, Chrono Key, All-4-One Morale Booster
Not that I recommend it, this is just taking the best stuff to improve your support capabilities.[/details]
free shard generator, Solar Sustainer, Bola’s Target Finder
KU finds value in all of the penalties from free shard generators, but they’re virtually necessary for PvP so you have to decide what you’re most willing to lose out on. Solar Sustainer gives you better support and a bit of offense; Bola’s Target Finder helps with killing and makes your Bola Snare really nasty.[/details]
[details=Fast Leveling PvP]
free shard generator, Janked “Screwdriver” (-healing received), Solar Sustainer
The same problem with a free shard gen as with the previous PvP loadout. The -healing received wrench is basically the best of a bunch of bad options since the wrench penalties are identical to the shard generator penalties, otherwise. Tactically, build as much as possible to get easy xp and level up as quickly as possible. Make sure you stick around the fights as well so that you’re not sacrificing minion xp for build xp. Solar Sustainer is there for when you hit level 10 and don’t need to build for xp any more, though you could also take Bola’s Target Finder for a more skill driven/offensive set up.[/details]