Friday, December 18, 2009


Sarcasm guys, sarcasm.

Anyway, SE's president made this announcement (translated by Elmer the Amazingly Pointy on BG):

“The basic model hasn't changed,” he said. “It's a monthly flat rate service with additional charges for items that users want to buy.
“For FFXI we didn't initially set up the item transaction model that well – although the demand for it was high. We thought that it would be a benefit for users, but that we wouldn't be able to charge.

“We soon learnt that there are a lot of people who want that kind of model, so we would like to introduce more pay-as-you-use items into the game. But there were too few items in FFXI – however we don't want to take it to the other extreme entirely for FFXIV.

Now, of course people like Jaxzer immidiately took this to mean that there will be wholesale RMT for every item in the game, but the more level headed, and even the not-so-level-headed-and-for-the-most-part-generally-apocalyptic Iceblazek stepped in and said this is almost definitely not going to be about game-balance changing gear.

There are lots of way to sell in game items that are no game breaking. WoW does it pretty well, but there are even more ways to do it. WoW does it well with vanity pets now, and their server changing options. SE already has done it with the Tidal Talisman and some would say the Moogle Satchel and the Nexus Cape but I would argue those are slightly different. The former was to provide an incentive to people to improve their security that they couldn't resist and the later was more of a reward for finishing an expansion even if you did get it on the purchase of the last expansion. There are a bunch of other ways to increase profits without wreaking the game, and I have always been a big advocate that as long as it doesn't mess with real game balance (and no, carrying around more stuff doesn't effect real game balance, nor does warping to Tiamat). I can think of a few examples off the top of my head: vanity pets and vanity mounts both from WoW, furnishings, server transfers and other related data transfers, character beautification (changing hair/skin coloring), gear beautification (different colors or even particle effects on gear) and the list goes on and on.

The other thing that I think is important is that this is SE's President talking, not Tanaka. This is Tanaka's game, and he has already mentioned this in passing but seemingly assured players it wouldn't effect balance. I don't think Tanaka would be down with full scale RMT, and the President of SE has said some other things about FFXI and FFXIV that haven't panned out. Tanaka is a game developer, SE's President is a business guy. Business guys tend to say things they think the media wants to hear, game developers say things they think the players want to hear. Remember some of the gaming media still defends RMT on some level to satisfy those with attention spans smaller than a gnat.

I think this will probably be one of those much ballyhoo'd issues that doesn't amount to as much as it first appears. Like the "PS3 exclusive" comments, this will probably get explained again, and again until we get a real picture of the situation.

Morning in Vana'diel: Defending Your Avatar

Morning in Vana'diel is your daily dose of FFXI and all things Vana'diel. Give us your thoughts on the interesting topics of the day! The day of reckoning approaches and in the end have we spent our time well? I think so.

With the coming of the FFXIV beta I have done a little bit of reminiscing about the time I have played FFXI, time I have enjoyed. I have also thought about those that didn't enjoy their time playing FFXI apparently, and I don't really get it.

I never really understood the way some people complain after quitting FFXI, or how they will never play FFXIV because "SE sux". I guess it's just the bitter gamer that is projecting their anger onto the game company instead of themselves.

Whether you like it or not, FFXI is a well run and successful game. A few people complaining about AV does not really effect the experience of 99% of the player base even those that want to fight AV.

Another one of those projections is the complaints about customer service. Outside of the few people that really did have to deal with the problems with SE and getting their account stolen, most of these complaints are from people that don't have the experience to make such claims and are just parroting what other people say.

SE's game development for FFXI is actually very good, especially considering the limitations of the game itself, but remember this game started development about 10 years ago and things are much different now than they were then. I think the problem right now is one of internal resources and nothing more.

SE doesn't "hate" their player base. They have learned from their mistakes and there are many examples of this. There are still some other mistakes they haven't or don't want to rectify (AV) but in the end the game experience in FFXI is excellent and enjoyable. It is far more social and it was built to be this way. Grumpy gamer kids may not really appreciate this aspect of the game, but in the end, we are all probably much better off without them.

And of course, if you just want to dismiss everything I just said, go ahead and call me an SE fan boy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

FFXIV News: Beta Sign-ups Begin!

The beta sign-ups for FFXIV have begun! You can head over to the sign up now, or if you are afraid that I am trying to haxxor your account you can go there directly from the Final Fantasy XIV website. Just click on the big "beta sign-ups" button on the main page. That is only for the NA site, but from that link you can sign up for whatever region you are from or your account is from.

This is pretty surprising news as there was no hint of this before yesterday. It also disproves the idea that people will be picked from the largest HNM LS's, which I thought was crap to begin with.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Critical Break: The Weekly Finale

Critical Break is our crafting and economics column written by Qtipus. Q is an experienced crafter and also well versed in using the Auction House to turn a decent profit. Enough so that he was able to fund his own relic, Gungnir. Every Tuesday you will find Q's rants, raves and good crafting practices here. This week, Q becomes a victim of "Real Life Happens To Other People".

After nearly 7 months of weekly rants, reviews and guides, I've come to a point in my real life where I simply cannot guarantee a weekly column for Ring's blog. This isn't saying I won't contribute anymore (Synergy still needs reviewing), it just won't be as frequent.

The writing of this column usually happens in the mornings at "work". I do IT consultation work from 8AM-Noon for a local company here and it's far easier for me to write a column there than it is for me to write one at home due to fewer distractions. Unfortunately, those distractions are going to start becoming more frequent in the near future due to my acceptance of a larger role in the company. The hours won't change much, but there definitely won't be anywhere near as much time spent waiting for something to break as there is now. Outside of "work", I own a small computer repair shop that eats up most of the time I have past noon. FFXI time is generally spent between scans running or updates installing on computers I have picked up for service (usually between 10-20/week).

When I agreed to do this for Ring's blog, I really had no idea what I was going to discuss. Many of the columns I wrote prior to the 0-60 Series were things I just thought of the day before it was due for publishing or because of someone's random comment about something crafting- or money-related. I knew I had a lot to say given the amount of time I've invested in the crafting sector/market, but there are only so many ways you can say "Don't be a financial dumbass" and felt the column would run out of topics far sooner than later.

The explanation of all this is a minor reason for this post today though. The major reason is I wanted to take the space to thank everyone who made contributions and comments on my writings. It's a very rewarding feeling to receive positive comments and tells from complete strangers on my work. Thank you all very much! The ride's been fun and this isn't goodbye by any means of the imagination, but instead of "see you next week", it'll likely be "see you next month".

Monday, December 14, 2009

Morning in Vana'diel: What's going on here.

Haven't been around in a while. I have to apologize that I just couldn't find the motivation to write for a couple of weeks because the format change was a bit draining on my writing and after several years of pretty consistent writing, what do you want from me? :)

Anyway, this post isn't to explain why I haven't been writing, it's to write about Evolith, Synergy and all this stuff I still haven't figured out. Now, I am usually on top of things like this but for a while I have just been so busy that it's hard to keep up. The other problem is trying to find a comprehensive collection of real facts about the system that doesn't included 5 random uninformative posts in between every useful post, e.g.

The real problem though is not the information or how the community is dealing with the system, it is with the complexity of the system and superfluous nature of that complexity. I don't know what the minds at SE were thinking but it couldn't have been anyone that plays the game that came up with this. A new crafting system that is dependent on more open-world NM drops. A new point system based on those same NMs, to get items to get the new crafting system to work. Drops from those NM's to make the gear in the new crafting system. Drops from those same NM's to get the Evoliths to put in to the slots (that are added using the new crafting system) using the new crafting system.

The word that comes to my mind is convoluted. Convoluted wouldn't be too bad if it also didn't follow another SE tradition: 99% uselessness. I thought we had finally gotten away from this for the most part. I thought that SE had finally understood that player's will quickly figure out what sucks and ignore it. The initial round of augments had such wonder additions as "Vs. Vermin, Light Magic Enmity -1" and other such nonsense. Ok, so I made that one up but they were in that vein. The best so far have been on individual weapon types, slight increases on their weapon skills.

Don't think I am counting the system out just yet, I think that once people figure out what is best it should be pretty good. I just don't get why it is so complicated for no reasons. You could have done this whole thing without the point system, or you could have had new items with slots built in, or you could have made synergy more focused or you could have had evolith purchasable with these new points or well, you get the point.

Expect more on Synergy, Evoliths and other such things soon.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Critical Break: 60-100 Series: Goldsmithing

Critical Break is our crafting and economics column written by Qtipus. Q is an experienced crafter and also well versed in using the Auction House to turn a decent profit. Enough so that he was able to fund his own relic, Gungnir. Every Tuesday you will find Q's rants, raves and good crafting practices here. This week, Q continues his 60-100 series with the final installment: Goldsmithing. The special guest commentator/contributor is none other than the man who puts the "pooh" into Dutchypoohlicious, Gawayne.

Hooboy. I've had a lot of requests to get this guide published since I started writing this column. Why anyone wants to level this craft is beyond me aside from the fascination behind working with jewelry maybe (even if it is pixellated). Goldsmithing is in serious need of a boost from SE. Something that's an answer to all 3 of my crafting questions would help out greatly. Unfortunately, with FFXIV on the horizon, I'd venture to guess this isn't going to happen. Maybe the new Synergy skill will give it a boost, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Does Goldsmithing have consumables? This almost falls in line with Smithing in the sense that all of the ingots, sheets, jewels, etc will get bought up rather quickly for larger crafts. It doesn't actually have a true consumable that's worth much of anything unless you count goldsmithing-related arrows such as silver arrows or Hiraishin(who lowers earth resistance or uses NIN for anything of important relevance anymore anyway?). Most items like Gold or Platinum ingots suffer greatly from a huge number of sources that have them available. A "consumable" item that has no HQ-related increase that sells for less than it's material cost has a fundamental problem that relates to too many sources for the product itself or too few methods for the ores to show up to sustain demand.

Gawayne Comment: The only often used “consumable” Goldsmithing item is the Reraise Earring. It sells often, but at a minimal profit (if any). Due to that, I would only recommend making them if the demand is high and there are no idiots on the AH undercutting all the earrings.

Does Goldsmithing have in-demand mid-range gear? Rings. That's about it. NQ rings are a huge loss while HQ rings likely aren't going to be enough to make up for it. Compound an already weak market with players re-selling their rings once they reach the next set and there's really not much room at all in this category to make any money.

Gawayne Comment: Most of the rings that can be made with Goldsmithing have been completely outclassed by the rare/ex rings that have become available over the last few years (CoP, ToAU). The HQ rings are still fairly popular for WS/nuke/cure/enfeeble sets, but the return on investment for HQ rings is too low to be profitable, unless you’re extremely lucky.

Does Goldsmithing have in-demand end-game gear? Yes. The Martial Set is the only cursed set worth noting as parts of it are still decent for most Paladins should they get their hands on the abjuration. Unfortunately, there are a lot of alternatives that can be considered better. Goldsmithing's real end-game set are in the level 72 and 74 rings along with a few odds and ends pieces that go into making other cursed items (i.e. O.Sheet in the Shadow set). Since there aren't a lot of people that actually get Goldsmithing this high (lowest craft above 60 by far on the 2009 Census), the market is generally pretty stable once you do hit 100. Unfortunately, w/o a large selection of items to choose from to begin with, this makes the standard "real money is off HQ" option far less likely.

Gawayne Comment: Over the last few years Goldsmithing has been suffering from the lack of consumables in its assortment. Not only are most of the synths quite pricey, but the market for them has become quite satiated too. Finding the niches on your particular server and playing the Auction House are usually the only ways of still making a decent profit. One important thing to keep in mind with Goldsmithing, is that most of the materials cannot be farmed consistently and will need to be bought off the AH. This means that you should always try to have at least 1 million gil reserve to buy crafting materials. Goldsmithing turns gold into more gold, it won’t create gold out of thin air ;-)

Guide after the jump.

Phase 1: This isn't so bad is it?

The first ~12ish levels of this guide aren't horrendous to your wallet and you can actually make a little bit of money here. Save up a ton of it because the next phase will make you cry. The single biggest thing to remember here is that you will not be able to burn-skill for very long stretches at a time. This should give you plenty of time to pick up your Goldsmithing skill+ items. Also try to make sure you catch "Artisan's Advantage" from the moogle powers to minimize your losses.

Pretty much an extension of where my 0-60 Goldsmithing guide left off. Definitely cap on these. They sell for a little bit of money on most servers. Buy the ingots off the AH as it generally costs more to make your own ingots than it does just to buy them.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Platinum Ingot
Cap: Level 64

The ingots for this synth are farmed up from Moblin Ashmen and Goblin Freelances in Oldton Movapolos. Meaning there aren't many to kill for these (3 total between the two). The pace will be excruciatingly slow, but this is here mostly as a filler. You can probably find the ingots themselves in various bazaars for relatively cheap and you should hold onto them for the final part of this phase. Definitely cap on these if you're that patient.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Moblumin Ingot
Cap: Level 69

This would be the burn synth if there was one for this phase. Unfortunately, you're looking at a 5-10k loss/synth. The ingots do sell pretty quickly if you decide to go this route and have the bank roll to back it up. I wouldn't necessarily cap on these, but definitely try to get a couple levels combined out of these and the Moblumin Sheets.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 3x Gold Ore, 1x Fool's Gold Ore
Cap: Level 69

Another that can be classified as a burn synth due to the availability of the ingots. The rings themselves are usually right around the break-even part, so if that holds true on your server, then you're pretty much just going to lose money on breaks themselves. The only real catch to this is that you're going to be investing more money at once. Turn in a Mythril Breastplate for your Artisan rank.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 2x Platinum Ingot
Cap: Level 70

While not exactly the fastest selling item in the world, it is the most cost effective. If you have a number of Moblumin Sheets you've farmed up or bought from bazaars, this would be the only place to use them. You'll need Smithing at 31 and Alch at 45. to make these, but those aren't expensive or difficult to reach and you could possibly even use this synth in the skill up process for those anyway.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Moblin Putty, 1x Moblumin Sheet, 1x Tin Ingot, 1x Beeswax
Cap: Level 73

Gawayne Comment: If you know any people in larger endgame linkshells, see if they’re interested in buying a few of these pop items to get their White Mages their “Haubergeon”. Or just see if you can sell it off to any White Mages directly.

Phase 2: Goldsmithing uses Mug. Goldsmithing steals 999,999,999 million gil from you.

This section is often referred to as "Gold Hell Part Deux: Now With 20x More Hellflames." There is nothing I can say or do here other than to offer my condolences to your wallet.

While you don't have to do the Jadeite Ring specifically, I placed it's picture because it's the one ring here that loses the least gil. Definitely check your server's pricing for the various level 54 rings and most importantly:


The reason for this is that there are people out there buying these and reselling them constantly. The other reason is that gold prices tend to fluctuate quite a bit, so having the ability to be somewhat flexible on the AH is a must. Make sure you look at the cost of the gold rings themselves against the cost of the mats (2x Gold Ingots) and if you have to make the rings, save the HQ rings for later on or sell them (your choice).

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Gold Ring, 1x HQ2 Gem.
Cap: Level 75

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, here you go. You might consider skipping these and moving to the next synth to try to partake in "break-synthing" for skill (some will say they saved money doing this). If you don't want to do that, this is the cheapest way up due to it only needing one gold ingot. Alchemy needs to be at least 54 here unless you're wanting to try to break synth, in which case it needs to be at least 39.

To help ease the cost of these too, you might enlist the help of an Alchemy buddy who's got it at 87 or higher (highest possible HQ tier for this) and farm up a wide variety of items that can be used to make these. Doll Shards, Magic Pot Shards, or Golem Shards will be what you're after. Gloves can be bought from NPC for ~350/ea and Mercury is easily farmed up. Your results will be NPC'd. These things just flat do not sell on the AH due to not even being redeemable for guild points.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Gold Ingot, 2x Leather Gloves, 2x Cermet Chunks, 1x Mercury.
Cap: Level 77

Gawayne Comment: If you’re feeling lucky (and have gil to spare), you can try to desynth the gauntlets. The NQ (Sheep Leather x2) is useless, but the Cermet Chunks (HQ1, HQ2) or Gold Ingot (HQ3) can still be useful later on. You still won’t break even however, so most of the time it’s better to just NPC them.

A little less painful than the previous synth cost-wise and AH-wise. Some would opt to just skip to this synth altogether hoping that when it breaks, it'll leave the gold ingot behind and they end up with a skill up. It's your wallet, so you can decide how you want to approach this. If your smithing is ~36, make your own Targes. You'll end up saving 6-8k vs. the NPC price. Mercury is easily farmable. Take the pace slowly here and resell your results on the AH when the time comes for them to be redeemed for guild points. Turn in a Torque for your next rank.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Gold Ingot, 1x Targe, 1x Mercury
Cap: Level 80

Phase 3: Is the hard part over?

For the most part yes. Unfortunately, from here on out, the mats for your skillups aren't cheap. They don't sell for losses in most cases and even sell for a decent amount of profit for a successful synth, but it means you're going to be investing literally millions at a time for maybe 5 or 6 synths.

Seven level gap here means you need to have both of your Goldsmithing skill+ items, the ring, and synthesis support. While starting off won't actually get you to the cap (+5 skill total and +1% success w/o HQ chance), it should get you close enough that a break or two every now and then won't hurt you that much. Compared to years ago when these beads were up in the 600k range per bead, most of the ores being down in the 100-150k range is a godsend for 7 levels of this craft. Try to avoid the temptation of clearing the AH out of ores as that only makes the prices go up on the ores and the prices go down on the beads. It's a good practice to limit how much you have invested at a time (try starting off at 500-600k at a time and move it up or down based on how fast they sell).

You may also be able to cut a deal with some woodworkers trying to HQ staves too.

Recipe: Wind Crystal, Elemental Ore
Cap: Level 87

Gawayne Comment: I would suggest starting out with ice ores as they’re generally the cheapest and available in the highest quantity. Once you have reduced the gap enough, you can skill up on the more expensive ores as well. Resist the urge to undercut the beads, as you will only end up cutting yourself in the fingers in the long run. Also try to keep an eye out for optimal HQ staff synthing conditions (especially New Moon), as that is when woodworkers will buy almost all the available beads up at once. If you time your sessions right, you can actually make a little profit here.

These sell fast and for money. So breaks are the only thing that will kill you here. While the ores aren't always in huge supply, they're definitely not available enough to meet demand. Turn in a Colichemarde when you hit 88 for your final rank item.

You can choose to save the ingots you make for the next synth or you can just buy them off the AH again when you're capped here, or you can just skip this altogether and move to the next, money making synth.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 3x Orichalcum Ore, 1x Platinum Ore
Cap: Level 89

Used in the cursed shadow gear. The implementation of these gave new life to the demand for this item, thus making it a viable skill up. These things sell for nearly 100k above the ingot cost due to the facts that A) not very many people have goldsmithing high enough to make 'em and B) there's a decent demand for them. This is another synth where avoiding the temptation to buy 2-3 stacks of ingots for burn sessions should be avoided as this will only make the ingot costs rise and the resulting competition to cause prices to drop on the sheets.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Orichalcum Ingot
Cap: Level 90

Same deal with the level 54 rings. Double check which ring loses the least amount of money (or makes some). Make sure you check the cost of Plat. Ingots vs. the cost of the Plat. Rings. And yet again:


Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Platinum Ring, 1x HQ3 gem.
Cap: Level 95

Gawayne Comment: Creating your own HQ3 gems is usually more about luck than skill, and not considered a viable option for obtaining the gems for these rings. If there isn’t enough supply of them, find alternative ways of acquiring the HQ3 gems, such as the Ruby Quadav NM in Qulun Dome that drops rubies fairly consistently.

Another chance to make some money thank to the demand created by the addition of a gobbie bag. The luminium ore drops from ISNMs, so there might not always be enough on the AH for more than 1-2 ingots at a time. They do sell for a profit on Odin and probably do on other servers as well.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Orichalcum Ore, 3x Luminium Ore
Cap: Level 98

Finally the end. While I wish I could tell you that the last synth in this rather excruciating path to 100 was better, it's definitely not as bad as it could be. Some of the rings might make money, but odds are they're a bit of a loss. Mostly the same thing applies here that applied to the level 54 and level 72 rings. Check the cost of the beads against the cost of the results. You're going to be making your own Orichalcum Rings as there's not many people making the rings to put up on the AH since they only have this one good use. The bright side is, these things are now bought a little more frequently due to the augment system that's been put into place. Just for good measure:


Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Orichalcum Ring, 1x Elemental Bead
Cap: Level 100

Gawayne Comment: WARNING: If you are making your own orichalcum rings, be SURE to have the Goldsmithing Ring equipped. While not very likely, getting the HQ version of the Orichalcum Ring (Triton Ring) effectively destroys 500k, as the result cannot be used for any synths and has no noteworthy stats at all. Obviously, you will want to create your own beads for these synths at this point as well, saving you about 15k per bead.

Congrats, now you're part of a VERY select group of people to reach this and you'll likely be able to enjoy some profitable times ahead due to the lack of competition for these higher level synths. Goldsmithing is definitely not for the weak of heart.

This concludes my 60-100 series. Please keep in mind that these guides were written as updates to reflect various game changes that have occurred over the past year or so. This means that something better could come along for a certain range at any point in time, so always keep your eyes peeled for other solutions.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Critical Break: 60-100 Series: Smithing

Critical Break is our crafting and economics column written by Qtipus. Q is an experienced crafter and also well versed in using the Auction House to turn a decent profit. Enough so that he was able to fund his own relic, Gungnir. Every Tuesday you will find Q's rants, raves and good crafting practices here. This week, Q continues his 60-100 series with the seventh installment: Smithing. This week's special guest commentator/contributor is a man who keeps way too many ingots in his inventory for his own good: Blaize.

Let's cut right to the chase, because there's a lot to go over in this guide. Wise Owl has Smithing summed up precisely when you go to him seeking advanced synthesis support.

Alright. Clench your teeth and get ready to feel the power of Wise Owl.

Smithing sucks to level. It's not as bad as Goldsmithing, but it still sucks. This guide is going to cover just how much it sucks in a manner that departs from the norms of my other guides. A run down of the basic crafting questions:

Does it have consumables? Not particularly unless you count a few different arrow heads, ninja tools and bolt heads that aren't used to a great degree. Ingots, sheets, chains and whatnot could be counted as consumables, but not in the traditional sense of the word.

Does it have in-demand mid-range gear? Yes. There's a very wide variety of armor and weapons to choose from. Granted, most of them sell for a loss, but the HQs will make you a little bit of money if you happen to win the HQ lottery. There's a few too many to list here, but generally speaking...if it's a weapon of some sort, it's probably got something to do with Smithing.

Does it have in-demand end-game gear? Yes. This is probably one of Smithing's strong points. The Shadow set and the Adaman set have some of the better pieces in the game for the jobs that can use them. You could also classify Salvage bodies in the "Smithing End-Game Cursed sets" category due to the Imp. Wootz Ingots and cursing at the prices that are required. There's not a lot of money to be made in the cursed sets here, but it's a decently steady income on some of the items and a whole lot of money if you happen to HQ a cursed hauberk or cursed breastplate.

Blaize's Intro: Smithing is definitely one of those crafts that is useful to have, but you can never be quite sure why it is. At times it seems like the only steady income is catching shouts for people with high smithing skill to make them something... especially on a server like Odin that has been closed down for new arrivals for months, and it seems like everyone has everything they need for everything they'll ever level already. But, I don't want to discourage leveling smithing, despite what may seem like very little reason to. One thing you can be sure of: This isn't something for a starving artist to undertake. Make sure you've got a nice-sized bankroll before taking smithing beyond 60. Also, there are stretches that will test your patience in both material availability and speed of sales on AH. In the end though, having 100 smithing will put you in a very select group, and it is quite an accomplishment.

Guide after the jump per usual.

First of all, you need to get Goldsmithing and Woodworking to 60 each. Don't complain, just do it.

Secondly, you won't necessarily need any key items for this guide other than maybe Sheeting for a few of the later synths, but you will need to make sure you have every +1 Smithing Skill item you can get the second you can get it from a level standpoint. Having that extra skill level plus the synthesis support will minimize your breaks by a ton.

Lastly, there are a few stretches where I depart from my usual "Five-level gap or less only" mentality due to the sheer ridiculousness of material costs for anything that could possibly bridge.

Phase 1: This isn't so bad...

The Erlking weapons used for the various Fairy fights are decent alternatives to what I've got listed here. I didn't list them in this guide due to their values changing over time. Pay attention to their resale value and their sales frequency, then make your own decision from there.

A continuation of the 0-60 Smithing guide. Same deal applies. Go farm up your silk threads from Crawler's Nest and make your own Iron Sheets unless the AH has them for 2.8k or less. NPC your results for almost break even.

Recipe: Earth Crystal, 1x Iron Sheet, 1x Silk Thread
Cap: Level 66

Definitely worth looking into if you don't want to spend your time farming silk threads all damn day. Swamp Ores are usually 1k or less on the AH and you can always buy the 3 iron ores you need from the guild. This ingot is used in 10 of the Fairy fight weapon synths, so there's usually decent amount of demand for the ingots themselves.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 3x Iron ore, 1x Swamp Ore
Cap: Level 67

If you manage to get your Elm Lumber cost under 2k ea and your Darksteel Ingot cost under 10k ea, you can NPC this for close to break even. Getting Elm Lumber at that price isn't always easy. If you have a woodworking buddy at 76 or higher, see if you can get them to make you a few stacks of Elm Lumber for spammage (they do have Lumberjack...right?). Turn in a Bascinet when you hit 68 for your rank up.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Elm Lumber, 1x Darksteel Ingot
Cap: Level 73

Phase 2: Pain.

A lot of people will normally just skip to Karimata Arrowheads here. They're simply too much of a loss for me want to risk that level gap. You'll want to hold onto your results here for the next synth.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 2x Copper Ore, 1x Tin Ore, 1x Darksteel Ore
Cap: Level 74

Use your previous results here and sell them on the AH. These are used in the WAR AF+1 and AF2+1 upgrade quests. Certainly not in huge demand, but hopefully you won't have more than a couple stacks of these to go through since you only did one level.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Dark Bronze Ingot
Cap: Level 75

These suck. A four level gap here is a lot better than a six level gap when you consider the fact that at the bare minimum, your material cost per synth will be nearly 7k/synth buying everything from NPC (making your own Iron Ingots and buying the Tama-Hagane from a Tenshodo guild rep). Since it takes 17 synths to make a stack, your stack cost will end up being just shy of 120k/stack.

The arrowhead stacks sell for 30-40k on Odin currently. Given the alternatives in this level range, just suck it up and plow through it. Personally, I would seek out a friend with Woodworking at 100+ to make Kabura arrows for you (7k/stack on Odin currently). Going this route, you'll end up with a ton of arrows and a friend that probably hates you, but you will offset your financial loss greatly. The Kabura arrows cap at WW 91, so you might even consider finding someone in the process of skilling up WW.

No Arrow Synth = ~80k loss per stack of arrowheads (every 17 synths).

With Arrow Synth (all NQ and assuming one stack of arrowheads = 1 level): 132 stacks of Kabura Arrows meaning you just turned a 320k loss into a ~450k gil profit w/o taking the other materials of the arrow itself into consideration (Ram horn, giant bird fletchings, bamboo stick etc). You're obviously not going to find or be able to carry that many bamboo sticks or ram horns all at once, so you can eat up the investment for now and hopefully your woodworking friend will still log in to help you after the first batch...

Turn in a Bastard Sword when you hit 78 for your next rank.

Recipe: Wind Crystal, 1x Iron Ingot, 1x Tama-Hagane
Cap: Level 79

Blaize Comment: Another good option when you reach ~77, and what I did to get to 82, is Troll Bronze Sheets. Fire Crystal + Troll Bronze Ingot. A steady supply of ingots is available, believe it or not. Troll Pauldrons and Troll Vambraces can be desynthed into Troll Bronze Ingots if you hit HQ on them. The desynths are level 79 smithing, so unfortunately you can't skill up on them if you're 77 or higher at this point. The troll parts are usually 1k apiece on AH and people who spend their time mining in Mount Zhayolm can attest to how often these come up. Don't toss them, put them on AH for some chump leveling smithing to pick up, they'll be grateful. If you end up doing this, send the resulting sheets to a mule for a couple of possible synths using -1 troll items in the 90s.

Phase 3: It Does Get Better Doesn't It...?

Blaize Comment: If you're feeling lucky (and your clothcraft is 49 or higher) this is the point at which you'll reach your highest tier for making Haubergeon +1. You have a 1 in 10 shot of hitting an HQ at this point, and on most servers the +1 will sell for slightly more than 10 times the material cost, so if you've got deep pockets, here's a nice chance of making a decent chunk of change in a short amount of time. Miss, though, and you've got 10 NQ Haubs that you can't even give away to gimp DRKs in Bhaflau Thickets.

For those of you with nothing but time on your hands, a good way to make it through this section is to mine the crap out of Mount Zhayolm. Not only will you pick up some adaman ore that is needed to advance your skill, but every so often you'll hit on the much sought-after Khroma Ore, which you can either save for Imperial Wootz Ingot synthing later on (lol) or sell for 400k+ a pop. Not to mention the countless iron and steel ingots you'll make while waiting for the next "six-letter ore" to appear - this is definitely one of the better ways to go to fund the climb to 100, at the very least.

Purely a bridge synth. These are relatively in demand and will sell for a slight loss. You don't have to do these, but considering breaks on the next synth will be far more painful than breaks on this synth, consider trying to get a level or two out of it before moving on.

Recipe: Earth Crystal, 1x Darksteel Sollerets, 1x Steel Sheet
Cap: Level 83

Do not make your own ingots for this yet and save your results. Buy the ingots off the AH as it is usually cheaper to do this than buying the ores for it. The sheets will hold their value against the ingot sale price usually, so the only real danger here are breaks.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Adaman Ingot
Cap: Level 85

When I ran across this, I had to do a bit of a double take. Most guides will have you jump to Adaman Ingots at this point in the game. You're more than welcome to do so here if the material cost is less than the ingot cost. However, this ingot has a couple of surprise uses that will help out quite a bit.

First, it's used in a fairy fight weapon that's purchased commonly (albeit at a slight loss on Odin), but you don't want to use it for that.

Second, it's used in the next synth and benefits from a slightly larger level gap going from Ingot-Sheet than most of it's other counter parts. You do want to use it for that. Hold onto your results, you just might've made yourself some money and avoided losing 6 figures potentially doing Adaman Ingots.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Adaman Ore, 2x Darksteel Ore, 1x Iron Ore
Cap: Level 86

A three level gap that you can cover with a stackable synth that actually sells for a slight profit some days. These are used in every one of the cursed items for the Shadow Set. Even though at this point, you're not a high enough level to make the cursed items in this set, there are plenty of people who are and plenty of people who do. Turn in a Celata for your final rank, make to cap and move onto the final phase.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Dark Adaman Ingot
Cap: Level 89

Phase 4: High Risk, Zero Reward.

Catching the ores here is the difficult part. The ingots sell for a profit, but it takes a lot of ingots to make up for one critical break. If you're in a linkshell that spams Bahamut V2, Jormy or whatever that new NM in Xarcabard [S] is, you might be able to work a deal out for the ores if they drop. Since the ingots are used in a Gobbie Bag upgrade, their demand has increased exponentially.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 3x Iron Ore, 1x Molybdenum Ore.
Cap: Level 91

Bridge synth. It sells for about 30k on Odin, but can get as low as 15-20k against a steady ~35k investment. It's not a huge loss compared to some of the other stuff, but probably worth trying to pick up a few skillups on.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 3x Darksteel Ingot, 1x Steel Ingot, 1x Fiend Blood, 1x Grass Cloth, 1x Yew Lumber
: Level 94

The price on Relic Iron varies greatly. You can NPC this item for ~5.5k gil, which means you need to get the ingredients relatively cheap. You can definitely hold onto a few on the off chance you catch someone starting to upgrade relic GK or relic Katana, but for the most part, expect a slight loss here and expect to be frustrated by lack of supply. Patience is key here. Set up some deals with some dynamis linkshells (or your own) if you see them doing Windurst or Beaucedine. There's also the option to skip this and move onto the next synth if you happen to be 95 or so.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 2x Relic Iron
Cap: Level 97

Blaize Comment: I still have a ways to go to reach this point, but I would say definitely do not skip this if you can avoid it. Two levels of 10k/synth (relative peace of mind) or two levels of one million gil per synth (do they have internet in mental hospitals?)... despite the potential for profit, and at -4 to -2, it is pure potential and not a guarantee, this seems like the safer bet.

And here is something that will require you to invest HUGE amounts of gil in order to proceed. You will only lose money if you break (pull out the "No Whammy" chants) and the results will generally sell fast.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 2x Khroma Ore, 1x Wootz Ore, 1x Iron Ore
Cap: Level 99

These sell for a loss, but I think that's primarily due to no one making the ammo consistently for them. If you have an alchemy buddy who is capable of making the cannon shells, see if you can get them to make a few stacks of the shells to put up while you're listing your Culverins to see if anyone is enticed to buy. These are easily the best thing available for RNG zergs and dish out a veritable fuckton of damage in a really short period of time.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Adaman Ingot, 2x Darksteel Ingot, 1x Brass Ingot, 1x Mahogany Lumber
Cap: Level 100

Hopefully your wallet came out in decent shape after that. You're now part of a select crowd as Smithers that are higher than ~85 are becoming a rare breed.

Blaize Comment: Maybe one day I will be part of that group as well! 84.2 and counting, and no rush to increase it, although reading through this has definitely stoked the fire a bit. Hopefully Wise Owl doesn't work on an appointment basis only... my teeth are clenched and I'm ready to go.