Friday, June 12, 2009

The Thin Black Line: Even Taru can run out of MP.

The Thin Black Line is here to protect you! Tuufless, our resident cute Taru (every site needs one!) is here to tell you all there is about magic and mages of all colors, especially Black. So much potency in such as small body, delivered to you every Friday! Today, Tuufless talks about saving your MP, which he is probably going to use on me after the whole "Khromasoul affair".

It all started one day at the Colibri camp. After suffering merciless humiliation and torment at the hands of Omoikitte's Dragoon wyvern, Ringthree, old-man extraordinaire, inexplicably disappeared, gallivanting somewhere in isolated meditation for about a week (as old people are wont to do).

His sanity breached, his parting words before he left revolved around some crazy online magazine-esque idea of his. Somewhere in the midst of all this, I agreed to contribute.

One would think that upon his return, Ringthree would have some revelation about the inner workings of our world, but instead, all he could muster up for salutation was "I need an article by Wednesday."

For those who don't know me, my name is Tuufless from (you guessed it) the Odin server. I am the one that put the “taru” in “Campsitarus,” and I’m a mage at heart.

So what am I going to talk about? As Ringthree so eloquently put it,

"as a master of White, Black and even Red magic, [I] will be providing insight into how best to play magic using jobs in all aspects of game play, damage dealing, healing and support." (edits mine)

In all seriousness, my jobs to date have all been mage-oriented (with SCH on the way now), so much of what I write in this column will be based off my experiences playing mage jobs, although no prizes for guessing which one I consider to be my “main.” :P

For the first few entries, I’d like to just briefly talk about mages in general and look at some of the basic mechanics behind playing a mage. I understand a lot of what I write may be obvious, or overly abstract, but bear with me here. ^^

Thus, without singling about any one particular mage job, let’s start with the obvious difference between melee and mage—Magic Points.

MP101: Introduction to magic.
As mages, our primary activities revolve around a limited resource—magic points, MP, or more commonly referred to as just “MP.” Bear in mind that this is a general statement and not absolute, as there are several front line jobs that are also reliant on MP for their primary activities (like PLD or BLU), just as there are backline jobs that are not reliant on MP at all (BRD).

One common comment about mages is that because of our versatility and utility, the mage classes on the whole can appear to be rather overpowered. One tradeoff for such power is that mages are rather soft and squishy (after all, cloth robes and pointy hats don’t exactly provide the best defense), but the real tradeoff for such power is our reliance on MP- it is our ammunition, and like a Ranger that has run out of arrows, without MP we cannot contribute in any real meaningful way.

The flip side is that MP is finite (even for tarus!), and because MP ultimately determines how much mages can contribute to a fight, there are some environmental limitations imposed on mages, for example, even though BLM may be the king of offensive magic, it will not out-damage a melee character if the melee character is allowed to go up there and melee over a prolonged period (like in xp parties).

Thus, MP management is a key aspect in the way a mage plays. In short, MP management is about reducing your overall MP expenditure over time, which is actually a two-fold effort—reducing the amount of MP you consume, otherwise known as MP conservation, and replenishing your MP supply, or MP restoration.

MP conservation
On the surface, MP conservation can be quite simple- the basic principle is to get the most out of each spell. There are some job traits that help out in this respect, such as Conserve MP or Light/Dark Arts. However, as far as player input is concerned, MP conservation means that one should minimize “wasted effort” and do things like try to finish off a mob at low health with Thunder II instead of Thunder IV (a particular pet peeve of mine at the Pudding camp), or not use a Cure V to heal a party member when Cure III would’ve been sufficient.

However, that’s not all there is to it. Another aspect of MP conservation that often gets looked over is the conservation attached to your own performance. As mages develop, getting merits and better gear, their performance goes up. However, their MP conservation rate also goes up because while their returns from a spell increases, the cost of the spell remains the same.

Part of the reason why Noble’s Tunic is so good is because not only does it provide Auto-Refresh, but the increase in cure potency also makes all your cures that much more MP efficient. As Black Mages get stronger, they will find that getting a Chain #5 off puddings solo is easier, not just because they do more damage on their nukes, but partly because they also find that they feel they have more MP to work with.

MP restoration
An earlier example of MP conservation would be finishing off a mob with Thunder II instead of overkilling with Thunder IV, or trying to limit the necessary MP that you spend. On the flip side, MP restoration deals with replenishing your MP pool as quick as possible through various means, lowering your overall MP expenditure over time.

Note the emphasis on the time factor here, which explains the relative weakness of +hMP items. Assuming you rest for two minutes, a +1hMP item only generates 5.5mp/minute. While yes, they do help, their contribution is so marginal that unless the battle is so prolonged that you get to rest multiple times, most mages think of hMP as a bonus, rather than something to try and actively maximize. That is why when it comes to inventory planning, pure +hMP items are usually the first to get the boot.

Time also explains why Convert is one of the most powerful abilities in the game. To illustrate, Refresh generates 150mp in 2.5 minutes, or 60mp/minute. Assuming you generate 800mp when you Convert, you already have a restoration rate of 80mp/minute, which can go up to 96mp/minute if Convert is fully merited.

To give you a better idea of how powerful this can be, Ballads with a Gjallarhorn produce 100mp/minute, which is only just slightly above a fully merited Convert! In fact, just to equal a Gjallarhorn’s performance, you only need to have a fully merited Convert recast and convert 834mp each time, which is something that is very doable for all RDMs out there.

End-{Tab key}
I hope you, the reader has gained just a little bit of insight into the world of mages, and some of the basic driving forces behind what we do. As a long-time mage myself, there are a few other places here and there that I would like to tap on, but more importantly, I need to hear some of the things that you all would like to know.

The excruciating process of watching Ringthree level up his BLM (often with accompanying /facepalms), had led me to be aware that there is a wealth of knowledge out there that I have long-internalized and now simply taken as granted. As such, ideas from anyone, new or old, about themes or topics that could warrant further exploration could lead to much greater insight, so please {Help me out!} by leaving a comment down below!


Sodako said...

should be worth mentioning that, at least as a WHM, hMP is the number one way to make sure we don't run dry in a frantic moment of dynamis, or with 25% left on a big NM. obviously +1 off a seer's tunic isn't the greatest thing since sliced bread, but once you can pile it on later in levels, hMP definitely deserves some respect.

Tuufless said...

First off, the taru at the top is NOT me. -_-

To Sodako: You are correct when you say that hMP is really good when stacked. Assuming a max +hMP setup of +36 through items, the items will add an average of 198mp/min, which is fantastic.

However, because of inventory constraints, the relative impact (or lack thereof) +hMP has means that pure +hMP items are usually the first to go.

Of note is that SE seems to have recognised this, and looks at +hMP as a useful secondary addition onto gear- several mage AF+1 and ZNM items have +hMP added onto them as an extra benefit, where the +hMP is not the primary focus.

Sodako said...

oh I know, it just seemed like you only barely touched on it

samsol the disturbed cabbie said...

I liked how you tore down g horns performance with regards to a rdms convert. I'm sure plenty of rdms can convert way more than 840+ mp making them indispensable. Being that rdm will be my next 75, this is all very good info tuuf. Thanks!