Monday, June 21, 2010

How weak is "Too Weak"?

In my never-ending quest to test the limits of my character... I'm only kidding. I hardly ever do anything solo or exciting low-man stuff. I kind of wish I did, but I don't like failing. Maybe that's why I did this middle of the road thing I'm about to tell you about.

In the past year, but especially in the last few months, Astral Burn parties have risen in popularity. On some servers Korolloka Tunnel is apparently as competitive as Dragon's Aery back in the day. These are the main reasons why AB parties work:
  1. A high level character can pull mobs without affecting exp and hold them indefinitely.
  2. Damage and accuracy of AoE bloodpacts is not affected by the number of mobs hit.
Add to that the number of mobs that die in a short amount of time producing a high EXP chain and it's easy to see how AB can be a fast/efficient way of gaining EXP. So far AB is limited to the number of zones where you can effectively pull a large number of mobs. In Korroloka a lot of mob families link and are agressive (and thus aggro a healing character regardless of level). The latter is essential. If SE changed that aggro mechanic and made mobs not link if the target is high level (which is the case in Moblin Maze Mongers) AB's would be ruined as pulling would become very risky and time-consuming.

Picking the right zone matters for numbers, how low the mobs' HP is (if it takes too many Bloodpacts it might become too inefficient) but also how safely the assisting player can hold all the mobs. This is where defensive measures come into play. A topic which, if you've read previous entries of my blog, you know interests me a lot. I secretly also wanted to see if I could hold a train of EXP yielding mobs indefinitely, because there is another ability that I can use on RDM whose damage and accuracy is not affected by the number of mobs: AoE weaponskills.

This means things like Earth Crusher and Cyclone. Circle Blade is notriously weak, but it would also work. The magical versions benefit from RDM's Magic Attack Bonus trait and the lack of native staff skill leaves Cyclone as the best option. I purchased a Martial Knife for this as well. The fTP modifier at 200 TP (which Martial Knife accomplishes) is more than twice the value at 100 TP, more than doubling the damage I would do with another knife. In my actual attempt I could do about 395 damage with Cyclone while wearing some extra MAB and INT gear. The total actual damage scales up with the number of mobs in the train.

I decided to go with WAR subjob for the single defense job trait and Defender. I picked this over Blue Mage because I was afraid I would not be able to put Cocoon back up after it wore off. In the end spell interruption is an issue and with too many mobs you will die if you need to recast something in order to survive. I ate a taco and wore all the defensive gear I had while using a dagger (-40 PDT during the day and -45% at night). I chose The Boyahda Tree for its large supply of mandragoras. Mandies were my target mob because they're monks and thus have a lower damage rating per hit. This increases the effectiveness of Phalanx. The Mourioche in Boyahda range from level 62 to 68. Quite a bit higher than the minimum needed to get EXP from them (mobs as low as level 56 still give EXP). Also, these actually link, making pulling easier. The most annoying TP ability they possess is Wild Oats (VIT down effect).

The initial train was 10 mobs strong and regen under Composure effect was all I needed to recoup the damage I took. I started out with Ice Spikes, but soon realized the Paralyze wasn't necessary so switched to Blaze Spikes for the slightly higher damage. It took about 6 or 7 Cyclones to kill the train. The next train was similar but this time I left some time in between reapplying Defender. The difference was notable as I took a crit for 12 damage and even regular hits started surpassing Phalanx. My Phalanx was at 271 skill which translates to 25 damage absorbed. However, I saw a risk in trying to reapply Phalanx mid fight. If I have to unequip my leg slot to apply Phalanx (only an equal or stronger Phalanx effect will overwrite) I have a bigger chance of being interrupted so I settled for a 23 damage Phalanx instead.

The final train was 18 mobs strong. Things soon started to look grim as I saw my HP going down steadily. I managed to get cures off, surprisingly. Also Ice Spikes which seemed necessary this time around. I soon realized the difference was the time of day. The hidden effect of +5% PDT on my Cheviot Cape was dearly missed. Even with Ice Spikes my HP kept dropping slowly. After many attempts to put Stoneskin on I decided it wasn't worth it and I should build TP to kill the train as quickly as possible. I was pretty nervous, I'll admit, but in the end took them down for a over 1500 EXP in under 10 minutes. The parser I had running showed over 7k EXP per hour.

I'm not promoting this as a way to solo EXP. The time it takes to gather the train an the down-time in between pulls as well as the risks involved make equally or less efficient than simply doing Campaign Battle. The fun part is that it's actually possible to hold a train of level 68 mobs. This means you could easily Astral Burn at higher levels if you had to, as long as the mob holder/tank is geared and buffed well enough. With minne's and a more potent phalanx and regen, the level and job/strength of mobs can be scaled up further. Other improvements I could make if I did this again solo:
  1. Bring my capped Spell Interruption set for reapplying a higher tier Phalanx, Stoneskin and possibly Cocoon.
  2. Buy an Umbra Cape (HQ Cheviot)

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