Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Effect of Atma on the Balance of Damage Dealing Classes.

Yadda, yadda, yadda, I'm not dead, etc.

Since the introduction of the Abyssea expansions, Atma have been of increasing interest and importance to all of the damage dealing classes. Perhaps more importantly (and maybe unsettling to some) Atmas may be completely realigning years old beliefs and understanding about the balancing of all the DD classes. Atmas are not the only thing factoring into these changes, of course, there are the new Empyrean weaponskills, the huge step up in the quality of the stats from the AF3 +2 gear, and even all of the new job abilties and spells that all classes have been receiving. Atmas, though, are one of the most obvious examples of the new world order that has appeared after Abyssea was launched.

Throughout much of FFXI's history the DD classes have been split into two camps: the dual-wielders and the two-handers. Dual-wielders have the tendency toward low swings speeds and multi-hit weaponskills (often with critical hit modifiers), while two-handers have leaned toward higher swing speeds matched with lots of Store TP to boost their TP per swing and reduce their number of swings to get to the next weaponskill. Dual-wielders tend to have a larger portion of their damage come from their regular melee swings, while weaponskills tend to make up a proportionally larger part of two-hander damage. This was in the past, though, and times are changing.

There are now several new Atma that have come available that have given a big boost to dual-wielders. This is a boost that dual-wielders have needed ever since the big two-handed buff from several years ago. The reason these new Atma are so good is that they modify what dual-wielders do best, melee damage and critical hit weaponskills. While there are very good Atma to help the damage of two-handers, like Voracious Violet (STR+:Superior, "Double Attack"+:Minor, "Regain":Minor), and two-handers can still use the Atma that the dual-wielders use, comparatively they just don't stand up to the huge buffs gain by dual-wielders. The first and most important Atma for dual-wielders (and it's so good that it is a top tier one for two-handers too) is Razed Ruins (DEX:Superior, Critical Hit Rate:Major, Critical Hit Damage:Major) which is the new main damage boost to dual-wielders. Razed Ruin massively increases the frequency of critical hits and then also increases the damage of those critical hits. Basically, it modifies it's own damage modifiers creating incredible internal synergy (and I am not just using that as a buzz word).

Speaking of synergy, second on the list of great dual-wielder Atmas is the Sanguine Scythe (HP+: Major, Critical Hit Damage+: Major, Enmity+: Minor). This atma has less straight forward damage boosts as it only has a major increase in Critical Hit Damage, but the HP and Enmity are excellent boosts to any dual-wielder that is considering tanking. MNK's could find this very useful, but NIN are really going to shine with this one. NIN with a huge boost to Critical Hit Rate and Damage can easily pull enough hate with damage that they are competitive with PLD. It is important to note though that the cap on the bonus to Critical Hit Damage modification is an additional 50%. Once you get past 50% Critical Hit Damage bonus, you are just wasting it. That means if you are wearing Critical Hit Damage bonus items, and can get to 20% before using Razed Ruin, then it will be better to go with a different Atma than Sanguine Scythe.

Third, is the Gnarled Horn Atma (Counter+: Minor, Critical Hit Rate:Minor, AGI+:Major). The modifications on this is a little different than Sanguine Scythe, and those differences can effect your choice for which to go with for your second Atma. There are still debates on which is better, but it looks like it can get to be pretty job specific when deciding which to use. If you do not need the increase in Critical Hit Damage then this is definite the right Atma to use. There have been reports of up to 80% Critical Hit Rates using this and Razed Ruin. Additionally, the new NIN WS Blade: Hi has a modifier of AGI, and it is a massive damage WS (and looks freaking awesome). The additional counter can also be very good for tanking or melee NIN.

In the end, the boost to dual-wielders has been huge and will likely get even larger after the next update when we likely get access to a third Lunar Abyssite. Of course, these Atmas boost the damage of two-handers but definitely to a lesser extent because a smaller proportion of their damage comes from the melee hits that are most modified by the Critical Hit boosting Atmas. The Critical Hit Rate Atmas in fact will likely be capped on two-handed WS that can Critical Hit. And my poor SAM doesn't even get a Critical Hit WS (though it does get Blade: Fudo which is still incredibly awesome).

Debates have already erupted about who is the new king of DD's. Have dual-wielders passed two-handers already? Does one of the dual-wielders stand above the rest? What about the other non-Atma factors like the new Weaponskills? The honest truth, despite the protests of the screamers and fan boys, is that the jury is still out and the jury will remain hung until things have settled after the last Abyssea expansion is released next month, at the very least. The balance only just started to tip toward Critical Hits after the launch of Scars. Things can and will radically change once we can get a third Atma, and even further once we get to the final level cap. Only once we hit the final level cap and things have stabilized for some time will we really even get a glimpse of what the damage dealing landscape really looks like.