Sunday, June 13, 2010

Retired May 12th

The title means just what it says. To the people who read and enjoyed or read and disagreed, and really for anyone who read this ever: thank you.

My decision to leave the game before the level-cap increase developed gradually. At first I thought I'd stick around just to see how the game changed, but then I realized how much treadmill grind would be involved. The truth is that I don't have the time to devote to any real study of the upcoming changes, and I've lost my optimism about the potential quality of the new content.

I love the people I've met and played with, but it's time for me to move on. Quitting while I'm at the top of my game seemed like the best thing to do.

Barring Marduk gear and Gjallarhorn, I had nothing left to get for my bard -- I had Smithing at 95 and even the resources to cap it, if I wanted. The time and energy involved in those tasks, though! Yikes.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the game and exploring the possibilities of the Bard job. I wish all my LSmates and those who are continuing to play the best of luck.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Questions About Magic Accuracy

Add this to the list of things I really should have just written a blog post about...

The original post from Alla, titled 1 CHR = 1 Magic Accuracy = 1 Skill?

And my response, beginning with a quote from the original post:
Lets assume we are against a target with high CHR (think HNM). So we are well below the CHR+10 mark. If this article is correct that means in this situation: 1 CHR = 1 skill right? In other words this article values CHR more then we currently do, am I right?

And the last time you met a BRD HNM was---?

You'll find that direct elemental resistance and innate song resistance matter more than relative stat levels in the HNM scene. No matter how good your debuffing setup is, you'll never land elegy on ouryu (ice threnody, however...). No matter how good your debuffing setup is, you'll have trouble landing elegy on ToAU kings without elemental seal.

Disclaimer Follows

WARNING: Asmoranomar's above analysis is essentially correct. Only keep reading if you'd like a more detailed conceptual comparison, and a bit more insight into why it may be worthwhile for you to pick Skill/Macc over CHR. My usual debuffing setup, for example, works with 89 CHR total (including merits).

Conceptual Analysis

So! Breaking down the logic of the initial analysis:

Tests show show that 1 magic accuracy = 0.5% magic hit rate below 50% hit rate, 1.0% increase after 50% magic hit rate.

it also shows 1 skill = 1 magic accuracy and for stats such as INT = 1 magic accuracy until total int is >targetINT+10. Each additional point of INT after that gives 0.5 magic accuracy. It is unknown if any amount of stats after that limit can give 0.5 magic accuracy. It is assumed the same goes for MND vs TargetMND and CHR vs TargetCHR.

We're talking about two different things here: "Magic Accuracy" and "Magic Hit Rate."

The goal of the test that wiki references was trying to model the relative relationship between Skill, Magic Accuracy, and STAT as stats that contribute to a general "Magic Accuracy" number.

"Magic Hit Rate" -- again citing otherwiki for kicks -- is apparently determined by a check between the caster's Magic Accuracy stat and the target's Magic Evasion stat. Magic Evasion is extremely important in any discussion about M.Acc.

Important points about Magic Evasion: It can vary by target and by spell. Magic Evasion is one reason you will never land paralyze on a UFO in sea, even though it's weak to ice-based magic. UFOs are arbitrarily immune (and/or have extremely high magic evasion) to the specific spell. Wiki uses imp resistance to sleep but not to gravity as another example.

So. What does this mean for BRD? Assuming the model is anywhere near true in a conceptual sense:

1. CHR = 1 magic accuracy until total CHR is >targetCHR+10. Each additional point of CHR after that gives 0.5 magic accuracy.

2. 1 magic accuracy (or 1 skill) = 0.5% magic hit rate below 50% hit rate, 1.0% increase after 50% magic hit rate.

Again we're not talking the same stats. Let's assume we have an HNM target with high CHR and a naturally high ME stat on Elegy.

In this situation 1 CHR = 1 Macc the whole time, because we never hit the >targetCHR+10 stat. HOWEVER, that still only contributes 0.5% magic hit rate overall -- because our general hit rate is still below 50%. CHR and Macc end up equalized by the pressure of high magic evasion. I have no idea if Khimaira has high CHR for example, but that doesn't matter because his magic evasion on elegy is so high! Elemental Seal directly increases caster Magic Accuracy by some amount (no one knows how much) -- but it makes Elegy pretty much unresisted, which is why bards /BLM at Khimaira.

Now consider pretty much anything non-HNM in the game, which is a relatively low-magic evasion target. Elegy lands on everything not immune. That means that MAcc and Skill are generally +1% magic hit rate ... while CHR is at best 1 M.acc and at worst .5Macc if/when you go beyond the >targetCHR+10 stat. Here's the kicker. That mob CHR stat can be tricky, and with level correction involved the Magic Evasion can become even more complicated.

A Chart of Sorts

Overall mob magic evasion to elegy and lullaby will tend to look something like this, in an extremely simplified conceptual way:

NOTE: The dash represents a range of values, as in "between .5% and 1% hit rate." It is not a minus sign.

High Evasion Targets (Immune): You're not landing it. Give up.

High Evasion Targets with High CHR (Not Immune): 1 Macc = .5% hit rate | CHR = 1 Macc (.5% hit rate)

*High Evasion Targets with Low CHR (Not Immune): 1 Macc = .5% hit rate | CHR = .5-1 Macc (.25-.5% hit rate)

Mid Evasion Targets with High CHR: 1 Macc = .5-1% hit rate | CHR = 1 Macc (.5-1% hit rate)

*Mid Evasion Targets with Low CHR: 1 Macc = .5-1% hit rate | CHR = .5-1 Macc (.25-5% or .5-1% hit rate)

Low Evasion Targets with High CHR: Macc = 1% hit rate | CHR = 1 Macc (1% hit rate)

Low Evasion Targets with Low CHR: Macc = 1% hit rate | CHR = .5-1 Macc ( .5-1% hit rate)

The starred values above are important. In cases where the mob CHR stat is low, player CHR might already hit the CHR > targetCHR+10 target. Any additional points of CHR in that situation are only worth half as much as one point of M.Acc/Skill.

The important thing to take away from the above table is that, other things being equal, CHR has a much more variable effect than either Skill/M.Acc. CHR is cheap and easy for bards to obtain because it shows signs of diminishing returns that Skill/MAcc don't.

My general conclusion, and what I do in practice, is to privilege Skill and Macc gear above CHR for debuffs (within reason) ... and Skill above everything for certain buffs (ex. Marches). CHR and M.Acc are important only for debuffing, while Skill levels are important for both buffing and debuffing. Skill's universal application to buffing and debuffing is what makes bard magic skill merits so attractive to mainjob/diehard endgame bards.

The overall usefulness of skill is also why RDM tend to prioritize maxing elemental and enfeebling magic skills. RDM's debuffs (i.e. Slow, Paralyze) fall prey to variable amounts of potency, whereas Bard's Carnage Elegy is a static 50% slow effect when it lands. Stacking stats therefore becomes more important for RDM to stack than BRD.

Practical Gear Examples

To add some more examples to this assessment, using the gear you mentioned:

EX: Marduk body +12CHR vs. Shadow coat +10MACC
Assessment: At best equal to 12Macc, at worst equal to 6Macc vs. a static 10Macc. This isn't a good example. People get marduk body for refresh and fastcast on one piece of gear. Marduk is better than ErrantBody/Osode, but not as consistent a debuffing piece as Shadow/Valk coats.

EX: Oracle feet +5 wind skill vs. Shadow clogs CHR +5, Magic Accuracy +2
Assessment: One is a static +5 Magic Accuracy, the other is at best 7MACC and at worst 4.5Macc. Oracle's feet are really for march tiers.

EX: Jester cape +10CHR vs. astute cape +5 singing skill
Assessment: One is at best 10Macc and at worst 5Macc, the other is a static 5Macc.

EX: Balrahn's Ring +4MACC vs. Veela ring +6CHR vs. Omega Ring +3 Macc +3 CHR vs. Nereid Ring +3 Skill
Assessment: Static +4 Macc vs. +3-6Macc vs. 4.5Macc-6Macc vs 3MAcc. Omega is for debuffs, Nereid Ring is for march tiers. Veela ring is at worst equal to a nereid ring without the benefit to marches, and at best equal to what an omega ring would do in the same best-case scenario.

Why this is Important

Conclusion? MAcc pieces have more stable effects than CHR pieces. Really high-end bard equip is focused on M.Acc and skill.

Food for thought! No one knows how BRD's overall magic accuracy number and RDM's overall magic accuracy number compare. As far as Paralyze goes, for RDM that's based directly on Enfeebling Magic Skill + MND + M.Acc. RDM has an A+ in enfeebling magic, which caps at 276. With full merits, that number rises to a base of 292. A good endgame RDM can hit 320-340+ enfeebling skill.

Bard songs are based on the combination of two skills: Singing skill and Instrument skill. As C-rated skills, they cap at 225. 225+225=450, assuming no merits. You need full singing/wind skill merits and an additional +51 skill from gear to cap marches (barring tiers reachable with relic horn). A maxed march tier bard will hit 533 combined wind/singing skill.

It's entirely possible that Magic Accuracy and Magic Evasion work, conceptually, the same way for BRD and RDM. It's an entirely different thing to try to directly compare numbers and relative effect/efficiency between the two jobs. RDM has to worry about debuff potency (Slow) and BRD doesn't (Carnage Elegy). BRD has to worry about buff potency (March) and RDM doesn't (Haste).

Old Hat Suggestion for Finding Your Ideal Debuff Gear

Suggestion: Put on the gear you think of as your best "debuffing" set. Privilege Macc and Skill over CHR in every slot. See if you get resists in your regular events, and how many.

If you aren't getting resists, keep taking off CHR and putting on MP until you do. That's about what your everyday set should look like.

If you're getting resists with your best debuffing setup, odds are you need to acquire more skill/macc gear. Nereid Rings are cheap. Omega Ring is easily obtainable with Einherjar Ampoules. And Oracle's Pigaches are easy to get if you drop by someone's Dea run -- they're often floored now.


tl;dr version: M.Acc/Skill have more stable effects than CHR for BRD debuffs. Skill has the added benefit of being essential to capping songs and hitting higher march tiers.

For the Blog Folks

I'm terrible, and I should really stop making blog-length discussion posts on the Alla forums. Granted, not a week goes by when I don't see some variant on this same question. I've used Osode/ErrantBody to debuff and now I own a Valkyrie's Coat, so it could be that I'm biased ... BUT ... I love my coat! I love Macc and Skill gear for debuffs and I recommend getting the Hadean Abjuration body if you have the chance.

It took about 11-12 Odins before my group's first H.Body Abj dropped, and it was well worth the wait.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Feelgood Stuff

Anyone who likes a good story should begin at the beginning.

The short version: Guy's (Chaz) ex-gf drops some gear before the retrieval policy kicks in (2006). His Black Belt can't be retrieved. Later in the thread, someone else adds the story of a bard who had something similar happen and couldn't get either Black Belt or G.Horn back. Chaz then spends time sending GM calls and emailing POL for the next four years. Having found no recourse, he posts on BG.

After a BG email campaign (yes, I sent an email on his behalf) ... first guy gets his BB back! SE actually makes an exception to their usual policy. Later, Bard gets his gear back, too.

Grats to Chaz and Iulus.

It's worth a read if you have the time.

I Fail at Melee: BRD, Variety, and Burnout

No seriously. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool support job person. I started playing bard for two reasons: they were still very rare when I began leveling the job (my LS needed one), and I'd gotten tired of mainhealing on RDM.

RDM is also an extraordinarily expensive job to max (full HQ staves, anyone?) and the competition for gear is fierce. Bard is cheap, and because it has such a high burnout rate no one else really wants the gear. It's possible to be great at the job with minimal investment in gear -- and for about, oh, 1/10th-1/100th of the investment you'd make in a melee job (depending on whether or not you're the type who invests in a relic) you can make an incredible bard.

The title of this post was somewhat inspired by a conversation I'd read on BG about 2BRD merit parties -- and about how at some point the second bard is a waste of space, and they'd be better off DD'ing than /WHM and curing. So I took a minute to think about BRD DD ... and laughed. Don't write me off yet! I have a good friend with all the right gear and melee experience to be a good DD BRD, and I've had the pleasure of watching him have fun in a 2BRD party. I like pulling, sue me.

But. But. But!

Would I ever try BRD DD myself? Eh. Probably not. At this point I've just gotten to know the support game so well that I'd be uncomfortable being asked to serve in a DD role. I know when to Erase before I'm asked, what -na spells I have and don't have, and I have a special set of mp gear that allows me to function as a second party healer without sacrificing my buffing or debuffing strengths.

This is kinda my way of apologizing if I don't know certain aspects of Bard as well as others. I come from a hugely biased support/endgame perspective. I have ideas -- based on experience -- that might seem crazy or illogical to people without that experience, or to people who are in shells that have different needs.

I've spent most of my endgame career teaching my linkshell how to best use their bards and teaching other bards how to perform better in my shell's endgame environment.

Warning: The rest of this post is really for oldtimers and people who are getting burned out on the job, or looking for a reason to give it a chance again. New bards will get something out of it and maybe get a glimpse of what is both so satisfying and also so frustrating about playing bard in endgame. This is not about formulas or easy rules. This is about mindset and about finding a healthy way to enjoy an oft-maligned job.

Why This is Important

This will be a combination of discussion and bullet-pointed list. Being in the game this long has taught me a great deal about working with a variety of people and in a variety of groups. This is about developing a support mentality that will be useful to you at any event, and in any shell -- and why I laugh when people tell me they're "bored" playing bard.

The examples below are just a sample of what you might be thinking or noticing as a dedicated support party bard.

The support mentality is really about first observing where a shell has problems or where it's likely to need support, and then filling that role as best you can while playing within the limitations of your job/subjob. Event experience will gradually inform your sense of what you need to be doing in different places at different times. You can decrease your event learning curve both by asking for advice, but also by being more observant.

Learning new events and improving my ability during the old ones I know best is part of what I enjoy about playing the job. And to do that you need ---

Knowledge of Bard Roles

This includes knowing what subjob to use, what gear to bring, and what you should be doing without needing to be told. Some of this is intuitive, and some of this is learned. Below are some examples of "intuitive" event knowledge. Bear with me if you already know this stuff! I promise it's for the sake of demonstration.

This is what I knew going into events and what most bards with minimal experience might also know:

Einherjar: Dark-resistant mobs are common, which means that bards will often be primary crowd control as well as primary melee support.

Dynamis: This event is long and tiring. Settle in, sleep links at need, and try to balance keeping songs up with curing and renewing your Reraise.

Salvage: Lotting and passing cells quickly makes the run safer for everyone. Bring some form of nonmagic ranged pull gear. Brd gets a magic cell second.

Ouryu: Keep stoneskin up at all times. Be ready to erase or -na tanks, and keep songs up. Be ready to cure tanks.

Khimaira/Cerberus: Marches on paladins. Go /BLM.

And now for some things I really had to learn from experience:

Einherjar: A continuous 3BRD swap among three melee zerg-style parties (no two hours, for the duration of the event) is an incredible weapon. Save 2HR JAs for the boss. Every swap bard needs both Night/Troub JAs unlocked. Keep your most experienced and lullaby-merited bards out of swaps to control links. The most experienced bards should be crowd control, not swappers. Swappers need to be patient and dependable. Use a Nursemaid's Harp to sleep if you don't own a cradle horn. Those extra few seconds are precious.

Dynamis: Spot-cure your whole alliance at need, wear mp gear, and don't be afraid to let songs drop if you need to rest. Melee/Tank songs generally have priority over mage songs. Try to save your mp on big pulls, so that you and your main healer aren't out of mp at the same time.

Salvage: Melee songs take priority. Use minuet until you get your instrument unlocked. Remind your group that you need an Opacus cell if they want SV at any point in the run (you would not believe how many times I've heard 'okay Ezz, SV' ... and they never bothered to give me the cell).

Ouryu: Keep Stoneskin and Regen up at all times. Erase and -na tanks if healers are being slow or neglecting to do it. Once songs are up, use your mp until you're out. Put songs up again before you rest. Rest. Repeat.

Khimaira/Cerberus: Time when you run in to when the mob uses a TP move. Wear HP or march tier gear. Full-time a Terra's Staff at Khimaira. Don't run in unless you have full HP while the wings are still up. An unresisted Tourbillion is devastating to mages. If you're having lag issues, stay out and use Pianissimo to put songs up on tanks from a safe distance.

And things I've learned from experience, that I wish I hadn't (time to laugh):

Einherjar: Dark-based mobs are annoying. Keep your Reraise up, you'll need it! If you're lucky, your tanks will be curing sleepers for hate. BRDs who are aggressively sleeping will be killed often.

Dynamis: Sleep avatars. Sleep avatars. Sleep avatars. SLEEP AVATARS. Laugh if you see carbuncle, and remind your RDMs/BLMs that you can't sleep that one. Avatars inevitably wake up when no one is watching them. Flying eyes in northlands are immune to lullaby and sleep, as are fomors. Sleep BLM, NIN, and RNG demons first in Xarcabard. BLMs like to sleepga. The last two like to use hecatomb wave with an annoying rate of frequency. In Dreamlands, just work on surviving and keeping as many people up as possible.

Salvage: Do your research. Ask questions. Don't assume anything. Requiem is surprisingly easy to land on chariots, archaic gears, and frogs. Almost anyone can kite frogs and charmed party members as long as they have a terra's staff and don't stop running. Running is the most important part.

Ouryu: Can usually win even under disastrous circumstances as long as a tank in some form stays up to keep the dragon occupied. Even a gimp WAR will work. Keeping people alive takes priority.

Khimaira/Cerberus: March the stun party when Fulm/GoH become active. If GoH gets off and you're /BLM, switch immediately to double-paeon to slow the burn damage on your party so that your healer has more time to erase.

What This Means

The depth and scope of an individual's event knowledge augments their ability to play a job. This is probably one of the most important things to developing an active playstyle. An active player looks for problems and looks for ways to solve them. For melee, this can be knowing when to hold TP or run out vs. WS'ing and drawing hate at an inappropriate time. For mages this can be making a snap decision between Haste on one tank and Stona on another, or for switching from higher to lower tier nukes.

Bard is generally played with the less flexible mentality of "all I do is sing and this job is boring."

No, really?

If all a bard is doing is putting up four songs and standing back to watch, then yeah, the job's awfully boring and I'd have burned out on it a long time ago. Bard is, in the ideal situation, a much more active job that can provide an additional safety net for a group. FFXI's nature as a co-operative game demands that individuals know their roles in a group and know how to support a group and work toward group goals. A cynic might say "you can complicate any job, even the most mundane." That's true.

But in this case I think more time has been spent "simplifying" bard than setting out to enjoy it. The only reason I still play the job and still enjoy it as a fulltime endgame job is that it has a great number of neglected possibilities. Playing creatively and finding new ways to use my old gear, or new ways to meet personal goals (i.e. a "protective" march tier set) can bring new life to an old or maligned job.

Bard is a desirable job at most events and being a dependable, dedicated, main-job bard means that people will be trying to wheedle you into doing a lot of things! If you like being begged to go everywhere, and if you like never being bored (irony or paradox?) ... then Bard is really a great job for you.

The people who say they can't tell the difference between bards usually haven't met a good/great one. The wonderful thing about bard is that you don't even have to have all the gear to be great -- just the mentality, and just the playstyle.

Even though Bard is often cited as the job with the highest burnout rate, it's important to remember that burnout is also related to personal preference/tolerance for events and to the larger picture of in-game relationships and real-world relationships/responsibilities/available time.


Can I play this job longterm and not want to give myself a lobotomy with a spoon? Yes. Yes, it's possible.

Having an active mentality and achievable goals is part of that, as is a healthy balance between game time and real time.

BRD excels in event-based endgame linkshells, and endgame linkshells are notorious for the rate at which they consume people. Aheh -- I think you see where I'm going with this. It's not entirely fair to the job to blame it for the alleged burnout rate. It's more likely that intra-group pressures at which BRD is the heart of the matter (ex. pressure to play BRD over another job) contribute significantly to burnout and to eventual separation between the person or the group, or the person and the game.

For BRDs, specifically, it's helpful to be in a group that views you as a person with preferences rather than as 'that merited bard.' Be aware of your own tolerance levels for events and your own ability to commit to certain times. Set boundaries with your shell, and be active -- firm, but still polite -- in maintaining them. Setting personal limits is an important step in avoiding burnout in general.

Crafting, farming, and doing quests or missions with others can also be a way to enjoy the game without feeling pressured by bard as a main job. I find I'm more satisfied playing XI and in life in general by being fully present as a bard at events, fully present as a crafter when I'm crafting, and fully present as a friend when I'm goofing off with other people.

It's finding the balance that allows me to be fully present for everything that's tough!


Walmart Guide: Endgame Barding Guide by Ghlin

Hehe. "Long conversation" is right! After much revision and much banter, I now feel comfortable recommending this as a basic introduction to bard. He has a few perspectives I don't agree with, but he also takes the time to lay groundwork that I don't, or that I gloss over. As much as we differ, his heart's in the right place and it's good reading for anyone who wants basic endgame info -- if still a little disorganized. Not that I can criticize that too much...


My experience (in case you were wondering who this person is who feels qualified to give advice): I've played since '04. Barded since '05. Been in endgame since '06-'07 (I leveled the job before I was active in endgame). I have been playing bard almost exclusively since '06, with breaks for life and school in between. I'm an officer in a shell that I've been blessed to be with since the early sky days, and even if we're not major players in the HNM camping scene outside of a few choice targets (and when the opportunity presents itself), I've found it a generally good group. I've had such a good time with them, despite the ups and downs of growing a shell, that I wouldn't trade it for the world. My friends are the only reason I haven't burned out on this job. Yet.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What the 99 Level Cap Could Mean for Bard


/RDM = Refresh at 41 and Cure IV at 48. We are suddenly pink mages. The new level cap will also drastically improve a subjob's MP pool. If we get Convert, we are practically RDMs with songs...

If it works this way. Even if we don't get Convert, they'll probably give us CureIV just to spite us.

/WHM = Stona, all the basic teleports, Haste, and CureIV.

/BLM = WarpII and STUN.

Oh, Squeenix...

I hope you know what you're doing.