Logging back into Final Fantasy XIV was a unique pleasure, one that honestly had nothing to do with the changes to quest experience from Monday or anything else. It was due to the simple fact that I had missed the game, and if I had been in the middle of more projects with Final Fantasy XI, I would have been equally happy to log back in there. (It was still nice, but it's more a matter of seeing an old friend come back than anything.)
Now, for the past couple of weeks I've been vaguely hinting at talk about Thaumaturges, so it seems only fair that I use today as an opportunity to stand and deliver. I'm going to talk about one of my favorite abilities within the class, a set of skills that really starts upping the synergy between Disciples of Magic and Disciples of War. I'm speaking, of course, of the four major Absorb skills, which I loved when they were on Dark Knights and I love even more when I can toss them on any character I choose.
"One cast not only decreases the damage you take, but it enhances your subsequent attacks."
If it weren't obvious, these spells all but scream for cross-pollination of abilities. The stats absorbed are all physical, so ACC and ATK aren't buffing a Thaumaturge's main line of offense, and EVA/DEF don't cripple the target against spells. As a result, the spells all but beg for you to build around them with various classes for a pseudo-Dark Knight setup, and until endgame theorycrafting comes together to prove that you should never use spells on a melee character etc., that's precisely what you can do.
Your two major options for using the absorb skills are buffing a caster's melee abilities or buffing a melee class further. Luckily, along the path to reaching the absorb skills you picked up Dark Seal. Its recast timer means you can't count in it for every cast, so you'll want to stack up some Piety as well to ensure that you hit, but if you leveled a Thaumaturge that far, this probably goes without saying.
Dia and Bio also suggest a combination with the absorbs. Combining Dia with Absorb DEF means that your target may as well be wearing tissue paper for armor; coupling Bio with Absorb ATK can effectively cripple a given enemy. At lower levels, when you're still scrounging for the points to equip all of your abilities, those spells are probably unnecessary; at higher levels, it's more doable, but the timing is a bit uncomfortable.
The problem with most magic's tying into a melee class (and yes, we're going to count Archers in this mix as well) is that all of your abilities tie into TP, which casting doesn't affect. As a result, taking the time to cast a spell is generally wasted effort when just slamming your attacks and then unleashing weaponskills make for a better option. Absorbs, though, sidestep that problem neatly -- one cast not only decreases the damage you take but enhances your subsequent attacks.
Since time spent casting is still time spent not using your core abilities, you'll generally want to pick one for each given class. Lancers and Marauders will benefit from Absorb ACC with their slower and larger attacks, while Archers benefit nicely from Absorb ATK. Offensive-minded Gladiators and Pugilists can, of course, use Absorb ATK as well, although Absorb EVA or Absorb DEF is preferrable for more tank-like stups.
While solo, you can tailor your picks a little more narrowly. Each one effectively increases the damage you deal and decreases what you take, but Absorb DEF and EVA reduce the damage you take from everything you're fighting, not just one enemy. Against harder enemies, that edge can make all the difference. Weaker enemies such as the bloody obnoxious Cactuars, on the other hand, benefit more from getting an ACC absorption, since dealing more damage to everything means that everything dies more quickly, and hopefully you don't wind up with needles in your face.
"And there's something deeply satisfying about smacking an enemy to death with a burning staff."
So let's keep things more interesting. Thaumaturges, especially in groups, excell at debuffing things until they can hardly move. Since your staff is a ranged weapon, you can use it to perform weapon skills in ways that nature never intended -- and if you haven't noticed, there are some nice status debuffs out there on weapon skills. Howling Vortex and Moonrise are my personal favorites, hurting an enemy's cast times and TP generation respectively.
Or you could go for more of a Black Mage route with a Conjurer. Sure, the class is frequently assumed to be just a healer, but by setting up a quick routine of Absorb ACC, Burn, and Red Lotus, you can deal damage while still having plenty of time and MP to keep your group alive. And there's something deeply satisfying about smacking an enemy to death with a burning staff.
In summary, absorbing things is one of the cooler mechanics of Final Fantasy XIV, and if you have the time to play with it a bit, I can only hope you see some of the versatility it introduces. Next week, we're going to move back to Final Fantasy XI and talk about the re-birth of an old favorite, or at least something that's somewhat like a favorite. Until then, feel free to comment in the usual comments field or send your comments/questions/math proving how wrong I am to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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