Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Thin Black Line: Convert 101

The Thin Black Red 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 Red. So much potency in such a small package, delivered straight to you! Today, Tuufless puts away the pointy hat, and takes out the almighty chapeau.

Before my bit of a hiatus, I very briefly spoke about playing mages in general. For today, I’m going to change gears and talk about something very specific, focusing on Red Mages in particular. Let’s look into what is arguably one of the most powerful Job Ability in the game- Convert.

Be forewarned- this turned out to be a lot longer than I originally expected. ^^

1. What is it?
From bare basics, Convert is a job ability on a ten minute cooldown gained at RDM40 that swaps your HP and MP bars on a 1:1 basis. So, a RDM with 780hp and 40mp would Convert into 40hp and 780mp.

Convert can be enhanced through Group 1 merits, each upgrade reducing the cooldown by 20 seconds to a minimum recast time of 8:20.

2. Why is it so powerful?
Convert gives RDMs something that no other job in the game enjoys- a complete MP reset. To illustrate just how powerful Convert is, I can Convert 900mp every 8:20 because my Convert is fully merited.

That gives me an effective mana restoration rate of:

900mp/8.3333 minutes = 108mp/minute!

As a comparison, Refresh only gives 60mp/minute while Gjallarhorn Ballads give 100mp/minute. Yes, that means that Convert can be more powerful than a relic horn’s Ballads.

It is because of Convert that Red Mages are the only class that can keep chugging on endlessly at what it is doing, earning itself the “battery” nickname, because as long as you don’t completely wipe out your entire MP reserves within ten minutes, you are free to just Convert and start the cycle all over again.

Because of Convert, mana management for Red Mages work differently compared to other mages- Red Mages are able to function without resting at all; all they need is to stretch their MP to last until the next Convert timer.

3. The whole Convert process.
Essentially, the whole Convert process can be summarized into the following four steps:

  1. Swap into Convert gear, cure to top up HP as necessary.
  2. Convert.
  3. Cure IV while still in Convert gear (possibly backed by Divine Seal).
  4. Swap out of Convert gear, continue normal activities.

With a brief explanation,

1. Swap into Convert gear.
First, you would change into a Convert gear setup (more on this below) which is a combination of gear that sets up for maximum returns on your Convert.

2. Convert
This is self-explanatory, although one thing to note is to please not join the ranks of Convert deaths by doing this step next to a mob with Area-of-Effect moves.

This is also the part where you would typically put in some silly comment, telling the whole party that you are Converting, and for the resident White Mage, to please not /panic at the sight of your HP plummeting down to double digits.

3. Cure IV while still in Convert gear.
After Converting, your HP would be dangerously low, so you need to quickly Cure IV yourself to get out of danger. However, you must still be in your Convert gear while you cure yourself, because you are likely to have more MP with your Convert gear than any of your other gear sets. If you were to swap out of your Convert gear and Cure IV yourself normally, you’d lose that extra MP.

4. Swap out of Convert gear, continue normal activities.
The whole Convert sequence is essentially complete, so you can continue with your normal activities until the Convert timer resets again.

3a. Macros
I personally use two macros for my Convert.

The first macro swaps me into my Convert gear and Cure IVs me, while the second macro actually Converts and Cure IVs me again. Some people would slip a Divine Seal in there as well, but I personally choose not to.

4. Making a Convert gear setup.
The first thing to keep in mind is the efficiency of your Convert to avoid wastage. Because Convert swaps your HP and MP around on a 1:1 basis, the ideal setup would have your max HP and max MP to be the same, thus eliminating any wasted HP.

For example, If you have 900hp, but have only a maximum of 700mp, then your Convert will result in a full MP bar, but you would have effectively “lost” 200mp’s worth. On the flip side, if you have 700hp but have a maximum of 900mp, you would only Convert into 700/900mp, which could be improved by having more HP in the first place.

Most Red Mages stop when they see the 1:1 ratio, however, one’s Convert setup can be further improved by adding on one more consideration.

Maintaining a good 1:1 ratio is one thing, but ratios just tell you how much your HP and MP should be relative to each other, but don’t actually tell you what your HP and MP should be.

So, one needs to plan out just how much is enough, as follows:
  1. Look at all your gear setups of the things you are most likely to do right after a Convert.
  2. Pick the one with the highest maximum MP.
  3. Add 88 to that figure to account for Cure IV. This is the Max MP you are trying to reach with your Convert set.
  4. Therefore, your Convert set should also have the same number as its max HP.
If we take myself as an example, the actions I am most likely to do right after Converting will be either an Enfeeble, a nuke, or a Cure. My Enfeebling setup has just 989mp, my nuking setup has 991mp and my Cure setup has 950mp. So, I’m going to try to engineer my Convert process such that I end with 991mp after everything is done.

Adding 88mp for a Cure IV gives me 1071mp. This is the minimum number I need to reach in my Convert macro. Likewise, I will also need at least 1071hp, so my Convert setup should have 1071hp/1071mp.

4a. Special considerations- Murgleis
Murgleis is the Red Mage’s Mythic Weapon, and looks like this:

The interesting line here is obviously, “Augments ‘Convert’.”

But is this weapon really worth it? What Murgleis does is alter the Convert ratio from 1:1 to 1:2 as long as you have more than 50% of your maximum HP. That is, for every 1hp you Convert, you get 2mp in return. Sounds good right? Look closer.

Murgleis lets you take 500hp and Convert it into 1000mp. However, unless you can think of scenarios where you would constantly Convert at just over 50% max HP, Murgleis doesn’t do much. All it does is save you from having to Cure yourself to top up your HP while in your Convert gear (basically a savings of 88mp.) Even worse, if your HP is less than 50%, Murgleis doesn’t do anything for your Convert!

In short, don’t bother with the Red Mage Mythic. It is just not worth the slot unless you have more gil than you know what to do with and really, really want to save on 88mp every ten minutes.

5. Using Convert
With the whole Convert process, what about when should you actually use Convert?

Essentially, there are two separate schools of thought on this matter. One is more passive, and saves Convert as an emergency pool of mana, while the other is more aggressive and advocates using Convert as soon as the timer has reset.

5a. Saving Convert
The defensive approach tries to hold off Convert for as long as possible until absolutely needed. Essentially, you don’t want to Convert unnecessarily and be caught in a situation where you are waiting on the cooldown.

By reserving Convert in this way, your Red Mages will act more like the other mage classes, and will have to be more watchful over their overall mana consumption. It also largely denies the full use of one of the more powerful job abilities in the game because you simply aren’t using it that often, and could technically be forever waiting for that proverbial rainy day to come.

Thus, this style is suited for harder, more unpredictable fights. Several HNM fights for example, involve moves that suddenly deal large amounts of damage, and it would be very useful to have that extra MP to fall back on if such moves appear a little too frequently.

5b. Using Convert whenever possible.
The other, more aggressive style Converts whenever the timer has reset.

By doing so, the focus shifts towards a Red Mage’s active contributions over a given time period. The Red Mage will try to expend his entire pool (down to at least 88mp for the initial Cure IV) while the Convert timer resets, and then Converts as soon as the timer is up again.

The advantage of this style is that you fully maximize the utility you gain from Convert, and are given a much larger effective pool to work with over time. In fact, as long as you are not overly aggressive, you are largely freed of most forms of mana management and can afford to be much more liberal with your mana usage, like nuking the mob.

The drawback of course, is that should a situation arise and things get tough, you will not have Convert available as a crutch to lean back on.

This style is more suited for easier, repetitive fights like merit parties where the party flow literally just chugs along with no real variance. In such cases, the Red Mage really becomes the battery behind the scenes.

6. Should you merit Convert?
There are seven Group 1 merits for Red Mage- six of them are elemental Magic Accuracy merits, while the last is the one in question- Convert recast.

As mentioned earlier, meriting Convert recast lowers the recast timer by 20 seconds per upgrade. Five upgrades brings your Convert down to a 8:20 recast.

With an ability as powerful as Convert, you might think it’s a no-brainer to immediately throw your merit points into it, but some would argue that it is completely unnecessary, and that lowering the recast down to 8:20 actually gives them too much effective mana. What’s the point of lowering Convert’s recast when good mana management means you don’t have to use it that often?

The truth is, Convert does cut Red Mages quite a bit of slack as far as mana management is concerned and you can function perfectly well with a 10:00 recast.

What I do feel meriting Convert is good for is that it gives you more leeway in terms of managing the aggressive and defensive playstyles. After all, the big draw towards the conservative approach is the ever-present “What if?” scenario. What if you Converted aggressively, and something happened within the next ten minutes that requires me to Convert?

Lowering the recast at least alleviates some of that pressure in that this window for error goes down, so that even if you Converted aggressively to find that you probably should’ve saved it, at least you won’t have to wait as long. Once the timer’s reset, you’re in the green again.

One additional perk of meriting Convert involves something quite different- meriting Convert lets the RDM squeeze in an extra Convert in timed situations, like BCNMs. With a 30-minute time limit, a Red Mage with a 10:00 Convert would Convert three times in the duration of the fight. If the cooldown was reduced to 8:20 on the other hand, you would be able to fit in four Converts within a 30 minute time period.

Finally done!
In the end, these are just some of the things you will need to think about when it comes to dealing with this one job ability. I have to admit, this got a lot longer than I originally anticipated, but it really does go to show what kind of considerations you can take with just one ability.

As for my merit situation, I personally upgraded Convert five times and have never looked back. I quite enjoyed writing this article, and I hope to look into some of the finer aspects of mage play , so if you have any questions or ideas to explore, please let me know!

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