I posted a comment on Aywren’s blog that made me think I should write a short post about what I’ve learned about the Stormblood Bard job. Then I wrote a way too long post about it, because that’s what happens when I’m bored for long periods of time.
I’ve leveled a Samurai from 50 to 55, but other than that, I’ve been playing the Bard almost exclusively in Stormblood. I’ll admit the new abilities were a bit tough to grasp at first, but fortunately it wasn’t an impediment to playing through the content. I got through the whole MSQ story without doing much of anything with the Ballads, and it wasn’t until after I got to 70 that the new stuff started to “click.”
When I say “new” stuff I actually mean the same ballads, but which gained entirely different functions, among them: Mage’s Ballad, Army’s Paeon, Wanderer’s Minuet, Foe Requiem, and Battle Voice.
You can pretty much forget everything you previously knew about those ballads, because they are 100% different now. You can also forget that the names of the ballads have any relation to their function anymore. Mage’s Ballad? Yeah it doesn’t do anything with mana, a fact that took me a stupefyingly long time to learn. (I literally thought the tooltip must have had the wrong description for like 8 whole levels.)
Here is my take on the altered abilities:
Wanderer’s Minuet: Enables a buff that allows building stacks of “Repetoire.” Repetoire only builds when your DOTs do critical damage, so keep your DOTs going on your targets at all times. When you get three stacks of Repetoire you can use “Pitch Perfect,” which is a hefty damage ability. (Actually you can use Pitch Perfect with one or two stacks as well, but it’s less damage.) This one is probably the most straightforward of the ballads to understand and use, and perhaps a good place to begin the learning curve.
Army’s Paeon: Enables a buff that increases the speed and damage of your attacks with every stack of “Repetoire.” As above, Repetoire builds when your DOTs do critical damage. It’s straightforward to use, but the effect seems fairly negligable to me so I don’t use it very often except on long boss fights when I get bored.
Mage’s Ballad: This essentially enables a buff that causes your Bloodletter and Rain of Death abilities to proc more often. Again, only if you maintain your DOTs on targets. I find this now to be the most effective way (ie. the only way) to do AOE on big packs of trash pulls. Once you have DOTs going on several targets, trigger Mage’s Ballad, and the Rain of Death AOE ability will proc almost every global cooldown. It takes some practice but it’s very effective. In single-target situations Mage’s Ballad just lets you hit Bloodletter more often, increasing damage.
Foe Requiem: Simply increases damage taken by 3% for nearby enemies, effectively buffing your party DPS. (Presumably you need to stand close to the enemy targets.) It uses up mana as it plays, and it doesn’t last long. I often forget to use it. It’s a pain because it’s one of the few Bard abilities that isn’t an instant cast. Probably the best time to use it would be in those rare situations where you have to kill a target very quickly or the group wipes. (Like the nails in the Ifrit trial.)
Battle Voice: Another buff that increases direct hit of all party members by 10%, but it can only be triggered when singing another ballad. I have to admit I never use this, even though it sounds pretty useful when I write it down. :) This one hasn’t yet made it to the two highest-priority hotbars which have keybinds.
And here are some thoughts on other abilities:
Peloton: This Role ability is the replacement for Swingsong, which I use only in dungeons between mobs. I don’t know it for a fact, and I’ve never heard anyone ask for it, but I assume people like to run faster through the boring parts, especially on the Roulettes.
The Warden’s Paean: Removes a detrimental effect. I thought this was new, but it was apparently in Heavensward as well, and I never used it. I still don’t use it. I’m not sure it’s even on a hotbar. I suppose it would help the healer if I removed my own debuffs, but the cooldown is really long and frankly I’m not even looking for debuffs in the heat of battle as a DPS.
Troubadour: Adds an additional party-wide defensive buff based on which ballad is in effect. No one has asked for it, and I can’t think of any situations that would have been significantly improved by using it, so I generally ignore it. If the almighty “meta” ever demands it I’ll start using it.
Nature’s Minne: Increases healing rate on yourself or another party member by 20%. Okay? I guess? I occasionally cast this on myself if I’m low on health and happen to know I’m about to be hit with some damage, just to make things easier on the healer. (In such cases I might also use my emergency self-heal Second Wind.) Otherwise I’ve not yet encountered a situation where this is needed. I’ve yet to encounter a healer who has asked for help with healing, or who would be helped by a 20% buff on healing.
I have to say that the support abilities of the Bard in Stormblood fall into a similar category as the support abilities of all classes in Rift: They aren’t supportive enough to really warrant using them. A buff that increases defense by 10% doesn’t sound terribly valuable to any group. Now if it was a buff that increases defense by 50% I could see people wanting that.
By the way, I found that Square Enix actually has a fairly comprehensive reference for the Bard job (and all other jobs), something I wasn’t even aware of. It has a very handy “Patch 4.0 Adjustment” next to each ability that tells you how each one has changed. It doesn’t go so far as to tell you how you should use the abilities, but it’s a great guide for the exact function of every ability, which is something I like. When I know the exact function of the abilities, the way you use them and chain them together becomes far more apparent and intuitive to me. That’s something guides tend to lack. They just tell you what to do without telling you why you should do it.
The bottom line is that the Bard is very enjoyable to play again. You can move around again without having any effect on your ability to produce damage, and that’s what attracted me to the class in the first place.