Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Math of Sword and Spell: Party Multipliers part one (RDM & BRD)

Every Thursday Araelus is bringing the science to FFXI. 

The Math of Sword and Spell will be a column dedicated not only to the hardcore calculations and statistics of FFXI, but more importantly he will help you use that math without confusing you. You may not know why you are playing better, but rest assured you will be playing better. This week's edition focuses on how Bard and Red Mage can enhance your party's effectiveness.

Last week, we discussed the ways that one player can help everyone participating in a battle. But many job abilities and spells can only target members of your party, especially songs. This week and next: what are the most useful ways to make a party stronger? From the Colibri Killing Fields to the depths of Valgrind and Dynamis, we’ll take a closer look at party force multipliers.

In addition to the same boosts universal multipliers offer, such as Attack and Accuracy, party-specific buffs can increase attack speed (Haste, March), restore MP (Refresh, Ballad, Devotion), and even directly increase experience point gain with Corsair’s Roll.

The key to party force multiplication is that these spells, songs, and abilities directly increase other players’ statistics. Dia can be said to raise your Attack by lowering the opponent’s Defense, whereas Minuet actually raises the displayed Attack value. Most every enfeeble the party can cast can be used, but only a few of the available buffs can be applied to the party at once.

Just as you have to choose one type of Threnody to use, most parties can only benefit from two songs at a time. A similar limitation of use is true of Bar-spells, Rolls, and Sambas. Even the number of active Blood Pact Wards is limited, due to the durations involved, although these generally mimic other spells.

Consider also that the relative difficulty of maintaining every possible buff on every player in the party compared to keeping every possible enfeeble on a single enemy varies depending on how fast mobs are defeated and what jobs the party contains. A merit party with one Bard will need Carnage Elegy on every monster, but probably never five different Etudes for the other party members, yet against HNM would only be casting that same Elegy after it wears off. White Mages battling Cerberus can easily reapply Barfira and then run slightly out of Ululation range for Paralyna, whereas a Red Mage fighting Ouryu may need to keep two elementals slept or utsu-tanked, Refresh or Haste on up to five other players, Paralyze II on the dragon, and so on.

As a result, in every situation you should pick the most efficient jobs, and then buffs, for the party. Among other things, we have to consider: MP cost and recast time – do the buffs need to be maintained indefinitely? Danger level – are you fighting Colibri or low-manning Sarameya? Current player statistics – is Accuracy capped, how much Haste is available, and is anyone using a six-hit setup? Unusual party balance – is this a Black Mage party in Dynamis, Einherjar, or Mount Z? Special circumstances – waiting on three other Bards to rotate before taking down King Vinegarroon?

If this seems a little overwhelming, and not in the good Samurai WS% way, let’s take a step back and consider each support job’s possible roles within the party.

This week, we take a look at the two most demanded support jobs: Red Mage and Bard.

Red Mages should maintain a full range of enhancing magic in addition to their enfeebling duties. Don’t count out seemingly weak spells such as Regen, or forget Bar-spells and Cures.

Refresh – provides at most 410 MP net to the caster, over 7.5 minutes. There is no reason not to Composure this spell, considering that doing so nearly quadruples net MP return. 1 With yourself removed from the Refresh cycle for two rounds, the +25% recast time on one cast shouldn’t matter.

Applied to other members of your party, the straight 150 MP boost, one per second, stacks with Ballad, Evoker’s Roll, and Auto-Refresh effects. This is the spell that made Red Mage invaluable, their Enfeebling skills aside. Please note that Refresh cannot be cast on a Scholar who is charging or holding Sublimation, and it does not stack with juices that give the Refresh-icon.

Haste – this speed effect becomes more powerful the more Haste effect its target already has. In most situations, Red Mages can simply cycle both Refresh and Haste on applicable party members, since they have a duration of 2.5 and 3 minutes, respectively. If MP conservation is critical, they should be cycled separately, to not lose 30 seconds of Haste per round.

Regen – in the absence of a White Mage or Scholar, the first tier of this spell restores 8.33 HP/MP on any party member in 75 seconds. If subbing SCH, Regen II restores 6.67 HP/MP in one minute. Although the total HP restored is low, only 125 and 240 HP, compare this to Cure IV’s approx. 4.5 HP/MP.

Using Regen over a long period of time is an excellent means of maintaining the party’s HP. The only drawback is a 12 second base recast timer.

Phalanx II – usually overshadowed by Scholar’s Accession Phalanx, this merit spell is still strictly better if fully merited, although it can never be as MP efficient because of its single-target 42 MP cost. The damage reduction cap may be achievable with gear alone. This is a highly situational but potentially excellent spell, for when Scholar is not available or JAs are locked.

Bards always seem to be in high demand and short supply, because no-one wants to fight without March and Minuet. Linkshells may hand you a relic for Ballad, but don’t forget a Carol to reduce elemental damage.

Ballad – relatively straightforward, with Ballad I providing 1 MP per 3 seconds and Ballad II providing 2 MP. Unless using the Storm Fife or Gjallarhorn, each lasts 120 seconds.2 Since songs have no MP cost, in a party of six MP-users (assuming the Bard does cast), basic dual Ballads will produce a total of 720 MP per cycle, or 6 MP per second. This effect is obviously equivalent to a party-wide Refresh. 3

March – despite the song’s help text, this decreases recast timers as well as speeding up melee attacks. The more Haste you have, the better each additional point of Haste gets.

Madrigal versus Minuet – Madrigal increases Accuracy, and Minuet increases Attack. But which do your melees need?

The answer is complicated and involves WS damage percentages, Store TP totals, and even marginal returns to monster level variation. (Hint: melees, get a Cuchulain's Mantle if you can.) Despite all these factors, since cheap Sushi can provide twice the Accuracy of Madrigal (when it’s required) and Minuet affects both Attack and Ranged Attack, March+Minuet is a safe bet.

Also keep in mind that melees should already have paid careful attention to their gear and may specifically ask for songs. In some cases, double March will overpower the other options.

This week's...

Most Valuable: Haste and March are incredible. The boost to attack speed and spell recast timers, along with making strong players even better, make these indispensable. No amount of Haste will make Provoke reset at 27 seconds, though.

Ignored Ability: Bards get Pianissimo at level 45, and they’d better use it.

Hazard Symbol: Even with Composure boosting self-Refresh and Haste, Red Mages can get overwhelmed trying to do everything. Make sure that you don’t burn out when the chips (and Convert) are down.

Overworked and Underpaid Job: Both Red Mage and Bard, really, except both jobs also have their bad examples of Princess Syndrome.

Stupid Square Moment: It’s a pity Phalanx II has such a high MP cost.

All this and we’ve barely scratched the surface of available force multipliers for your party! Next week, it’s time for the newly super-powered White Mage to shine, as well as the versatile Scholar. What about Dancer? Summoner?! You may be surprised at what these jobs can do.

Until then, keep your graphing calculators handy!

1) Going from 110 MP net to 410 MP net is a 272.7% gain.

2) In Dynamis, the Millennium Horn is equivalent to a Gjallarhorn for “All Songs +2”.3) If the RDM's first party-wide cycle includes a Composured self-Refresh, then these six Refresh casts will cost nothing, and the RDM will gain 210 MP net. Including two more cycles of five Refresh casts, the RDM will end up having lost 190 MP net. These three Refresh cycles will have restored 2700 MP total. In the same time, a Bard will have had to sing both Ballads four times, and will have restored 2700 MP as well. A Gjallarhorn would have restored 6300 MP total.

Questions? Concerns? Did I take a logarithm when I should have used the antiderivative? Please leave a comment.


rdmrules said...

Spot on ;P
I'm a RDM and cannot stress how true it is that Regen should be kept up when healing if possible. You really will notice the difference.

Treubond said...

I completely agree with regen. I believe regen is the most underused spell in the game.

Just a question, is a fully merited Phalanx II as good as a Phalanx? I thought Phalanx still had a higher damage reduction than a fully merited Phalanx II. You made a comment on it while talking about the Accession Phalanx and was wondering. Or is it just that SCH can't get high enough Enhancing Magic for it to do the full amount a Phalanx would do on a RDM or even a PLD/RDM? Thanks in advance.

Thazienne said...

Thanks for the information and tips. Sometimes it just makes sense when someone else points out a few extras that can make your mp go a little bit longer.

Araelus said...

Re: Treubond

At 300 skill, both Phalanx and a fully merited Phalanx II will provide 28 damage reduction. Note that Scholar can reach 300 Enhancing.

Standard Phalanx lasts 8.57 seconds per 1 MP cost, and Phalanx II at best lasts 5.71 seconds per 1 MP. Thus the self-only spell is always more efficient. Since Scholar can cast on the whole party at once, they get up to 51.43 seconds of damage reduction per 1 MP spent!

Composure and Phalanx only improve its performance for Red Mages to 25.7 seconds per 1 MP, and of course that is only for the caster.

However, at lower Enhancing skill Phalanx II prevents more or less damage than Phalanx depending on merits. Above 300 skill, Phalanx can go up to 30 damage reduction but Phalanx II cannot be pushed higher than 28.

PLD/RDM will only get Phalanx up to 21 dmg reduction unless they are crazy and merit Enhancing which would push it up to 23 dmg.

I will put up a chart next week for you comparing the two spells across skill ranges. The real problem I have with Phalanx II is that it cannot be fully merited without taking away from Slow II, Paralyze II, and Dia III.

Thanks for reading, and asking a great question! :)

Treubond said...

Wow, with all these calculations you wonder how people figure this stuff out and how much time SE actually put in to making this game.

Thanks for the answer. That was exactly what I was looking for. :)