Monday, September 27, 2010

Popular ways to fight NM's

I remember seeing a decision-tree once that detailed different ways you could fight NM's in FFXI depending on what properties they posessed. All the way at the bottom of the tree, given a certain sequence of answers to the questions posed in the chart, was the ominous conclusion that "You're fighting AV, run!". It was funny, but also a useful reminder of what parameters you need to take into consideration when devising a strategy.

I asked myself the same type of question: In which situation will you use what strategy to fight an NM? There are several types of fights when I consider all the info I've read over the years. I believe the following list covers most (if not all) of these.
  1. Zergs
  2. Unengaged tank
  3. Kited
  4. Straight tank
  5. Pet burn
Named after the Starcraft race popular for an early mass-numbers attack called the "Zergling rush", the idea is simple: Kill it before it kills you. That means do as much damage as you can as fast as you can before the NM is able to take you out. The typical way is to have a full alliance of melee damage dealers and some support, rotate bards/corsairs/summoners to buff them with offensive and defensive status effects and engage simultaneously while weakening the target mob (Feint, Angon, Dia etc.) and trying to immobilize it with stuns if possible.

So when is this a good idea? As with any other strategy: whenever it works. Still, there's more things to consider when making a strategic decision. Sometimes you want to be optimal, other times you need to fight multiple targets and you want to be flexible. The positives things about a zerg that I can think of are:
  • It's relatively simple to execute
  • The fights are quick
  • It's fun (for the DD's anyway)
Down sides:
  • It's all or nothing (it's usually hard to recover from a failure)
  • Not always repeatable (if 2-hour abilities are needed)
  • High numbers requirement
Obviously it's only attractive when you "know" you can pull it off. However, what if you don't know if it can be done? What if there's little to no info about an NM you're about to fight or if nobody's zerged it before? Ask yourself:
  • Is Mob_HP / #Players * Average_DPS less than Maximum_fight_time? If you really want to know if it's doable to the second, you need to have an idea of how much HP an NM has and how much damage you can do to it per second. It'd require some research and estimates, I reckon. Parses help.
  • Can it wipe the alliance? With AoE magic and TP abilities, the typical melee is usually in danger of dying to an NM when left unbuffed. Can you prevent the deaths for the duration of the fight? Defensive options include things like: Stun-locking the NM, Chainspell Curaga, Benediction, Perfect Defense and the new Earthern Armor and PDT bard song.
Unengaged tank
You could say this is the polar opposite of a zerg. The idea is to have one or more tanks building hate without feeding a mob TP through melee and using high damage single attacks to get an NM down slowly. This limits the number of offensive abilities a mob will be able to use during the fight. This defensive type of fight is particularly useful when you're not in a hurry and could risk healers running out of MP or stealing hate if you damaged it any faster. Limiting TP to a mob can be achieved by:
  • Not meleeing
  • Using only high-damage low-TP attacks (Nukes, SATA+Cannonball/WS, Rangers)
  • Absorb-TP, Feather Tickle (?)
  • Not getting hit (Utsusemi, Evasion tanking, bouncing hate, Slow/Elegy/Paralyze)
With Absorb-TP in the mix you can not just limit TP feed, but also remove TP. This leads to some extreme situations where a mob without strong Regain will not use a single TP ability. This is the main reason I think DRK is a strong tank and why I first started leveling it. When will this strategy work out?
  • When enmity can be maintained by tanks. If an Enmity reset can occur, then it's a question of having enough tanks to keep at least one of them above the mages on the hate-list. If the enmity reset is a TP ability and you can prevent it, then you shouldn't need more than two.
  • When a mob doesn't have a strong regain. Low regain is manageable most of the time, especially if TP reduction is being used. However, as with the last phase of the Proto-Omega fight, a quick kill may be necessary once the mob reaches low HP. As far as I know, all mobs start using their TP as soon as they reach 100% once their HP falls below ~25%.
  • When a mob is dangerous regardless of TP. Magic casting mobs that can't be stunned and those that use abilities regardless of TP (HP% or post draw-in) are going to give you trouble if fought this way.
It's a safe way of fighting if you have the proper tank classes. I praise DRK in being ideal for this, but NIN's, PLD's, BLU's, WHM's and even RDM's (still) can achieve this using Cure cheats and other hate building tools. With some help from Trick Attack almost any class with Utsusemi can pull this off.

This includes normal kites and pinning. The idea is to limit the amount of damage a mob is able to do by outrunning it. This limits its damage output (barring mistakes) to:
  • Magic spells
  • Long range TP abilities
  • Moments where it changes targets
Some popular kite fights used to be Kirin and Vrrtra. They were considered too dangerous to straight tank. After it was shown that they were zergable, that became the preferred method of dealing with them. However, mobs like Meteor casting Behemoths have some anti-zerg TP abilities and a high resistance/imunity to Stun. These are still kited for the most part. It's all a matter of being able to outrun the enemy. Which depends on things like how fast they move, Gravity and Bind landing, having movement speed enhancing gear, whether the mob can hinder your movement and whether or not the mob casts magic spells. Spellcasting mobs are generally easy to kite. Still, even when it can be outrun, certain things can put an end to your kited efforts:
  • Draw-in
  • Unfavourable terrain/environment
While kiting you can deal damage through ranged attacks, magic spells, pets and avatars. If anyone is able to outrun the mob, then you don't need any specialized jobs and could just bounce hate around the damage dealers.

Straight tank
This is almost a catch-all category. It's, from my experience, the most used "strategy" in FFXI. It's a simple matter of: toss people on it that can keep hate of mages and keep them alive, a.k.a. put some tanks on it and deal with damage and debuffs as they come along. It's different from a zerg, because you're not intending to make the fight as short as possible. It's not like an unengaged tank, because you're still feeding it a reasonable amount of TP by hitting it. It's obviously not like kiting. It's a middle of the road strategy where success isn't based on some unique advantage you're exploiting, but on a simple heavy-weight slugfest. It's a compromise between safety and a fast kill and for that reason it's effective on the vast majority of NM's in the game.

I don't see a strategic difference between using a Paladin and a DD tank, so I lump it all together. The traditional tank may have more survivability and hate tools that don't depend as much on level difference, but I don't consider the difference in means to maintain hate as something very fundamental. Your defense lies primarily in not having too many people feeding TP and taking damage as well as keeping your healers' MP pool sufficiently full.

When using DD tanks, I assume the target is easily meleed. In that case you don't necessarily need additional sources of damage. However, if you're using Paladins or another class that doesn't deal lot of damage, the fight could drag out. Hitting the enmity cap could make things a bit sticky and a healer could get pummeled. It shouldn't make the fight impossible, but adding BLM's, SMN's or RNG's would help speed it up.

Pet burn
Not very popular due to the jobs required to pull it off, pet burning can be a very effective strategy. When death of a tank is part of the plan, a mob's offense suddenly becomes less threatning. The greatest risks involved in pet burning lies in the speed at which pets can be replenished and the balance of hate between pets and masters. The replenishment can be compensated by enhancing the pets' durability (through gear) adding more players and mixing up BST's (timer based) and SMN's (MP based). The balance of hate can be compensated by layering the pets so that they don't all die at once. The short periods where a mob doesn't have the attention of a pet form the only real risk. Even so, when weakened Beastmasters can employ the same strategy as their pets are not affected by their master's weakness.

What's best?
It depends on the mob, but also on what's available to you. A fact that is frequently overlooked by people fortunate enough to have a Linkshell with a huge job selection. I think if you CAN zerg, you should zerg. It's fast, easy and a fun pissing contest for the DD's. If you can't, you should just straight tank it. It's still reasonably fast and it's exciting because there's still danger. If your mob is too dangerous to go head-to-head with and additional defensive measures can't compensate, then my third option is to kite it. Kiting is easy when it works and a very strong tactic. It makes certain solos possible that wouldn't be possible if the mob couldn't be outrun. SE recognises this as is evidenced by a lot of new mobs posessing extremely fast movement speed. If you can't kite it then a very safe unengaged fight is an option. This order is just my personal preference based on safety, speed and fun.

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