Wisdom of Nym: The numbers game in Final Fantasy XIV
The matter of stat weights and best-in-slot gear has already been attracting ferocious debate in various parts of the community, and you know the debate has gotten to a fever pitch when Yoshida actually addresses one of the stupider new customs in a live letter. (That would be tanks wearing 270 STR accessories, for the record.) So I think it’s well past the point to talk about the issue of tank damage, tank scaling, and numbers in general. They may not carry the allure of story sequences, but they’re still important.
First and foremost, it’s important to note that there is one group of players who should definitely be concerned about pushing to the absolute limits: progression raiders aiming for world and server firsts. Of course, that proves to be such a vanishingly small percentage of players that it’s almost not worth noting in the first place, but those guys should totally care about it because they fully intend to clear the Savage Deltascape within two weeks at most. The goal with that group is pushing performance.
For the average player, that should not be the goal. If you expect to have a couple of Creation tomestone pieces before taking on Savage, then your goal is not pushing performance; it’s minimizing headaches. And that’s a very different question than “what deals the most damage.”
One of the big elements of gameplay that FFXIV emphasizes is choice in terms of actual gameplay. You have a rather more limited pool of customization options here than you do in, say, the obvious point of comparison; what you do have is more moment-to-moment choice going on. That’s part of what makes for fun situations. As a tank, for example, you don’t just do AoE damage by rotating through your normal tank rotation, and I constantly find myself asking when the right time comes around to use certain things. Is it worth it to use Holy Spirit on my main target here and risk DPS focusing on something else? Should I trust the healer and mechanics here that I can swap to a more damaging stance? Will I need more juice in my Beast Gauge before a phase transition?
Every time I see talk about the “threat problems” tanks have in dungeons, I find myself coming back to this. As someone who is hard at work leveling one tank job and having capped another, I haven’t had any threat problems, and I’m using the proper accessories for my job and level. What this really means is “tanks in DPS stance focusing on doing big damage can’t hold threat doing that any longer,” which is technically a problem, but an entirely self-selected one. Stop turning Grit off and play smarter; if you didn’t need to manage threat, it wouldn’t exist in the game at all.
This is also where that “minimizing headaches” things comes into play. If you’re in a duty roulette with 270 STR accessories equipped, you are officially a bad tank. I don’t care what achievements you have; I care that you’ve decided your damage and playstyle trumps the safety of everyone else in your party. Your goal with strangers should not be to make this run go as fast as possible; it should be to make the run as easy as possible for the entire team.
Some people, I think, are just not going to see this. They look at Tenacity and see that it doesn’t provide enough of a DPS increase compared to, say, Direct Hit. And that’s true; 200 Tenacity (five meld spots) ups your damage by 1%, while 200 Direct Hit will give you a 5% greater chance of a direct hit! That’s way more damage.
Except that Tenacity boost also means another 1% damage reduction along the way, and when dealing with total strangers that might be much more valuable. You might have a new healer and a DPS who insists on never dodging anything, and for that group your slightly greater chance of doing damage is much less valuable than making sure you’re harder to kill and thus less of a headache for the healer. One could argue that, point-for-point, Tenacity is giving you much more; a hypothetical tank set with all Tenacity melds will only give you a moderate increase in your overall damage, but it’ll also lower all of the damage you take, which is a bit more useful all around than a slight damage bump.
Of course, that’s assuming you can somehow meld nothing but Battledance VI onto an entire tanking set, which seems… unlikely, to say the least. Downright inadvisable when you consider how strongly Strength scales on the right side, too, but that’s part of the point.
The funny thing is that I would expect the community, as a whole, to have a better memory about this sort of thing. Remember when people were taking to the forums, loudly, to declare that White Mage was dead on arrival in Stormblood? How the job was clearly going to be awful and would wind up being the worst healer in the game once again? I wrote a whole article about it and everything, and people were quick to crop up to tell me how wrong I was.
The saying “history will vindicate me” is one with pretty awful origins, and I don’t like throwing around cliches in the hopes that they’ll form astute observation. But here we are, and it turns out that White Mage is in a spectacular place. It’s got issues, as every job does, but on a whole it’s easily one of the best healers running right now because of how nicely it balances damage and healing output, and it’s doing far better than Scholar. Yes, it’s a category with three entries so comparisons are stark, but you won’t hear anyone kvetching about the job any longer.
If you’re worried about tank threat scaling in the future, you can rest fairly assured that the designers are also thinking about that and looking to what can be done with it in the future. And if you’re worried about the optimal melds for every job, the reality is that even the optimal melds might not actually be optimal. You can make a list of what melds provide the most point-for-point damage, but not which melds provide the best party support or the best guideposts to hit.
Use your best judgement with an understanding of what the various stats do, while keeping in mind that Direct Hit is nicely powerful and can always be melded to tank or healing gear to buff your numbers. You won’t be making world firsts, but you weren’t going to be making those anyhow.
Feedback, like always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to email@example.com; I elected not to add my own melding plans in here, but you can feel free to request it if that interests you. Next week, I’m going to talk about where we can possibly go from here in the wake of the 4.0 MSQ, since we’ve got a while before that continues and I like to make sure my predictions have space to be wholly speculative.