Gosh, someone really likes Monk, huh? Not only did the job already get plenty of buffs, Final Fantasy XIV gave a bunch more improvements to Monk with the Savage patch… probably a few too many buffs, if we’re being honest. One suspects an element of overcompensation is at work here, even though most of the actual changes are largely quality-of-life things. Still, those quality-of-life changes seem to have actually drawn out the potency the job already had, so that’s part of the path toward balancing a little bit further.
Honestly, most of what there is to say about this one is right there in the introduction, but it seems as if this was the moment when people actually realized how good Monk is right now. Being able to build Chakra quickly out of combat and not having Greased Lightning wear off between pulls are both quality-of-life changes that don’t help your actual damage, but they do make the job a bit more fun to play. And with the greater emphasis on speed, really, that Riddle of Fire change feels overdue.
If there’s one thing in here that’s actually a direct balance change that might need to be tweaked, it’s the Riddle of Earth effect; while it definitely needed a change, there’s a bit of an issue when it’s now super-easy for Monk to actually just ignore positionals, especially when that’s a big part of the job’s damage. If raidwide damage was less common at this point, it might be different, but that wound up getting a bit overpowered. Maybe another tweak.
Oh, thank goodness, Hagakure is back in a way that doesn’t suck.
For those of you who didn’t play Samurai in Stormblood, you might not be familiar with how weird Hagakure was. It was a very important skill that masqueraded as being functionally useless. The way the job tells you to play it is to build up your Sen and use it for Iaijutsu, with Hagakure there to get rid of Sen and build Kenki if you need a reset. The way that you would actually play, though, was to build Sen, then Hagakure and keep using your Kenki oGCD attacks to do way more damage, and then worry about Iaiajutsu when Hagakure was on cooldown.
It didn’t make the job unpleasant to play by any means, but there was a distinct split between people who knew this and those who didn’t, and the people who didn’t were generally certain that it was wrong until actually trying it. I know that because I was one, and it felt like unlocking a gorram cheat code.
Now, I was still sad that Hagakure was gone because the ability to reset your Sen was useful in various situations. So I’m glad that the new version of it still lets you do that and still gives you Kenki, but it’s no longer a gain to convert a full set into Kenki instead of continuing to use Iaijutsu. It’s a tool for smoothing your rotation between pulls, not for rewriting the way things work for the job.
Huh. That… sure is a good change, but is it the one we needed here? Don’t get me wrong, Red Mage had MP problems, but is that really the job’s biggest problem right now?
Red Mage is unique among basically every caster job in that it has no way of controlling its MP outside of Lucid Dreaming; White Mage, Scholar, Summoner, Black Mage, and even Astrologian all have tools to keep the MP flowing, but Red Mage historically relied on not actually using much MP with its usual rotation. The revised costs for the flat MP values wound up making Red Mages rely heavily on working in Lucid Dreaming over and over, which could be a problem if you actually had an unusual drain on your MP like raising someone.
However, Red Mage also has the problem of underperforming in damage right now, and this fix not really… well, fixing that. To some extent it’s understandable, Red Mage hasn’t changed a whole lot, but it deals pretty low damage, and I’m not sure if adjusting costs really addresses the problem. Is it really providing that much additional utility? I don’t think so. But then, it’s not even suffering worst in that department…
It’s hard to play Ninja right now. Not just because Ninja damage is underperforming compared to other jobs by a significant margin, although that is an issue; it’s because Ninja damage is underperforming and it’s really hard to get to that level anyhow. Miss a cooldown window and your damage plummets even further, meaning that it has a similar problem to what Machinist had in Stormblood wherein you had to work overtime just to keep up.
Balancing Ninja is, of course, really tricky. No other job offers that flat bonus of Trick Attack for the entire party, and a flat 10% damage boost is really powerful when you get down to it. The problem is that it’s in that realm wherein the damage boost it offers doesn’t actually balance with its own sub-par damage, and even that doesn’t balance particularly well when you remember that Ninja’s boost scales differently depending on party size.
Much as the Monk changes seem aimed at letting people know how dang good the job is now, the Ninja changes seem conservative, as if SE is trying to avoid a return to Ninja as automatic meta by tuning it too high. That’s a reasonable goal, but it means that right now the job is very complex to play (though not nearly as unfun as Machinist was last expansion, let’s be completely clear) just to lag behind other jobs notably. More tweaks are needed. It doesn’t need a complete playstyle reworking, but it needs some improvements.
This one is a straight potency buff, and it’s for a healing job that really wasn’t that bad to start with. Seriously, Astrologian was solid even before all of these improvements. This is probably why none of these changes is really earth-shattering, but together they’re a lot of little improvements that add up until they start to feel a lot stronger.
Buffing regen potency while reducing barriers slightly? Kind of a wash, but also the sort of thing that encourages using your actual toolkit in more diverse ways. Making Sleeve Draw easier to use? A straight improvement for what it’s actually meant to do. Improving potencies for area heals? Fixes the biggest weakness that Astrologian did have, when it was lagging behind in recovery moments.
A lot of people are salty that the card system was replaced with something that’s less impenetrable at a glance and offers a better guide to what you’re supposed to be doing. I get that; managing your cards is still a major element of the job, but it’s a major element that feels very different now. But adding some more raw power helps that feel better. It’s probably not enough to fix the perception of Astrologian as the weakest healing job of the expansion, but we’ll have to see if it gets stuck in the same slot White Mage used to be in.
And the others…
I generally didn’t have a lot to say about some of the more minor tweaks, nor do I want to really pick apart some of the other jobs that didn’t get altered much. Do some unchanged jobs need alteration? Yes, definitely. But this is an initial balance pass with things that are clearly not quite where they need to be; some stuff just has to wait until 5.1. Much like the alliance raid, really.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I’d like to take the opportunity to speculate about that alliance raid because we’ve got a few routes it could go, and they’re all interesting from a lore standpoint.