13 July 2010: haven't been on ffxi much at all. bard was shafted w/ the 80 cap. i won't touch this guide again til the 99 cap is done as 'Endgame' won't really be established til then. There is still a lot of good information here... definitely if just being used as a guide to new people to the job.
Also, thanks to the guy who added the link tags to the gear... I'm bad about not including those. Also, I found out that for a precast macro using windower macros, a /wait 0.5 is needed before casting. If it's not there, there's a chance it won't execute properly. I included a note about that. I also just did some cleaning up. Thanks.
22 Feb 2010: been doing some clean-up. made 'capping songs' its own section. did a lot of rewriting on the choosing dps songs section.
18 Feb 2010: Added some information regarding recasts. Did some testing on that. 12 seconds seems to be the fastest possible recast. 'Song recast delay-x' gear and merits are applied before haste. I added AoE ranges on String and Wind Lullaby. I did some tests and found them out. 3.9 for Wind, and 7.9 for String. String skill doesn't seem to affect the aoe range. More testing is needed. I did some cleaning-up as well.
9 Feb 2010: Had a very long discussion with a fellow bard. Decided to make a lot of edits on the guide. I also fleshed out the march section a bit more. Thanks everyone for the input. I feel the guide is a lot stronger than it was before. I still have a lot more work to do on the event-specific tips. I'll work on it later.
13 Jan 2010: Added information regarding Victory March. Recently learned that it was tiered.
1 Jan 2010: The guide is pretty much where I want it. I'll be adding to it as I discover more about the job. If you want to edit for grammar, styling, etc, feel free to do so. If you want to edit content, please put a comment on my talk page, or on this talk page first. A great way to contact me is through ffxiah.com as well. Thank you.
Credit Where Credit's Due
A lot of my information comes from personal experience playing the job. But, just as much comes from discussions with other bards, reading other documentation, message boards, or from the Wiki itself. I'm not going to mention any names specifically, but the people who have helped me know who they are.
Thanks for all of your input for this guide and for barding in general.
Who Should Use This Guide
I am writing this for experienced players who are approaching endgame or are planning on endgame as bard. This guide isn't a support job overview, or a gear list. It won't tell you how to unlock the job. It won't tell you where to find all of the songs. It won't tell you basic macro syntax. It's a guide with important, factual information regarding how to maximize the effectiveness of bard in endgame events. I will also provide my opinion on many suggestions for gear, builds, and other useful things. There is also a bit at the end with tips for leveling bard to 75. I also think an experienced mmorpg player (but not necessarily a FFXI player) could read this guide and determine if bard sounds like a job he'd be interested in playing if he's looking for a job to play on FFXI for EG.
A Bit about Myself
My character is Ghlin on the Diabolos server. I go by Matt though. I've been playing since a month or so after the NA release. It's been a very off-and-on experience for me, but I've consistently been playing since then. I didn't rush to 75. I usually spent my time camping NMs or farming, or chatting, or just doing random things with my LS. Then my ideas changed, and I wanted to start doing EG. When my friend from work and I started a static party, I finally took-up my Bard from 37 to 75. I always wanted to play Bard as my main job since before I started the game, but I never got around to it. It quickly became my favorite job. I've been playing Bard in EG for over a year now. I've done just about every EG event. Dynamis (a lot of), some HNM, Sky, Sea, Limbus, Einherjar, SCNM, and the list goes on.
Ok, let's begin.
Preview of Content
Endgame Prep - I discuss what support jobs, gear, and merits I feel will give a bard an edge in EG.
Capping Songs - I'll show the exact amount of skill needed to cap ranges, and stats on each song.
Things You Probably Didn't Know About Bard - I'll go over a lot of misconceptions, or complete unknowns, to the player-base about the job.
Choosing DPS Songs - There's more outside March/Minuet. I'll just show when to use different song choices.
Macro Tips and Suggestions - I provide a few general suggestions.
Leveling Bard to 75 - I quickly discuss some ideas about how to inexpensively level bard to 75. I also discuss some basic EXP party concepts that I don't see implemented often.
Before I entered the EG scene, I didn't know exactly what I should have. In fact, I was of the thought that CHR>All for resists. A lot of bards have that misconception still. That was a long while ago, though. But, personal tests, experience, others' research, have lead us to understand bard differently. Still, though, there isn't a lot of concrete information regarding what a bard should have when preparing for EG. I'm going to give my best suggestions to the bard who isn't sure if he has what he should have. I'll start with Support Jobs, then I'll talk about gear and merits.
I said I wouldn't list support jobs, and I'm not. I do want to comment on the three you will most likely want to have for EG though.
White Mage - WHM will be your support job for almost everything. By default, choose this. If your leader needs something else, he'll know to specify such.
Black Mage - This is used in EG for Elemental Seal + Troubadour + Carnage Elegy. 5/5 Troubadour is nice, but not needed. Carnage Elegy will last for about 8 minutes.
Ninja - Used mostly for merit party pull whoring. Merit parties are a part of all EG. Be it getting buffer back or just helping LS mates cap their merits for new jobs or old jobs.
I'm mostly going to hilite specific builds in this section.
HQ Staves - A bard will be hard pressed to find a more valuable upgrade than Light Staff to Apollo's Staff, or Earth Staff to Terra's Staff. The upgrade is, roughly, from 20 Macc to 30 Macc. In the case of Apollo's Staff, there is also an additional CHR point. The rest of the HQ staff set isn't as important to bard as it is to black mage or red mage, but nonetheless, if a bard wants to improve his resist rate on all threnodies, he will eventually acquire the full set. I highly recommend acquiring Apollo's and Terra's Staves before entering EG.
Idle Macro - Kanican describes the idle build as a 'standing' or 'main' build. Here is the link for the full discussion.
Kanican on Building a Standing Macro:
Kanican describes his idle for black mage. Bard, I think, has other considerations. For starters, I'm of the opinion that Terra's Staff is enough physical damage reduction. This makes Cheviot Cape/Umbra Cape lackluster for bard in my opinion, for example. More often, bard is the subject of AoE magical damage, and AoE status debuffs. We do get smacked around on a resisted or partially resisted sleep, but we typically are not being attacked as viciously as a black mage who pulls hate, or as a black mage who is kiting something. But, yes, for starters, an idle should have Terra's Staff. Next, I will recommend Vermillion Cloak.
Vermillion Cloak is very cheap, and it provides the Auto Refresh trait. While bard doesn't use MP in the same fashion as any other mage, 1/tic refresh is still very valuable over the course of any event. For example, Einherjar lasts 30 minutes. Assuming the bard is wearing Vermillion Cloak 90% of the time, the 1/tic refresh will have given him over 500 mp over the course of the event. Ok so a bard has Vermillion Cloak and Terra's Staff, and that's really all that's needed for a strong idle. After that, it's personal preference. Try some status resist items, such as Insomnia Earring, or Auto-Regen items, such as Marduk's Dastanas or Orochi Nodowa. Use MP+ gear or HP+ gear. Also, there are Magic Defense Bonus items, and Magic Damage Reduction items to choose from. After Vermillion and Terra's, there are a lot of directions to take.
Precast Macro - A lot of fast-cast/song casting time reduction gear is full-timed by EG bards. This is rarely optimal in spite of the high price these items have. Sha'ir Manteel costs 5M, and Loquacious Earring is 750k (at average) and I would recommend investing that money in different items first. The best use of these items is to gain an edge on casting time via what has been called a precast macro.
By equipping all of these items before casting a song, one gets all of the time reduction from the item when he starts casting it. One can then swap-in CHR/Macc/Skill during casting to gain the benefit of both the song casting time reduction and the status from other gear. As such, an optimized bard will never full-time Sha'ir Manteel, for example. (I would say it's ok to full time if trying to conserve space, but it's not optimal.)
Of note, to benefit from the recast reduction from Fast Cast and Haste, the gear must be equipped while the song finishes casting.
I think the precast macro is the best use for Minstrel's Ring. When a bard is low on health, he'll actually need the reduction which is what I feel the intended use of the item was in the first place. This makes it a very helpful piece when in trouble. This contrasts with forcing the latent in order to abuse the item. Also, forcing the latent can be very dangerous.
I also recommend Yigit over Sha'ir Manteel for precast due to the heavy cost of Sha'ir Manteel. Finally, if a bard wants to go all-out, he'll get Rostrum Pumps and Loquacious Earring. Again, equip precast, /wait 0.5 (read note below), cast, equip stat gear. Best of both worlds. I don't recommend full-timing a precast build unless looking to conserve space.
/wait 0.5? - I was doing some testing and I noticed that sometimes my precast wasn't working. It was intermittently working. That is, sometimes I'd benefit from precast, and sometimes I would not. I think it has to do with Windower Macroing not executing properly. Either way, a simple /wait 0.5 line fixed it perfectly.
Instruments - I'm not going to make a list of each instrument that a bard should have. It should be fairly obvious on most choices. But, I do want to mention a few oddball instruments that a bard might not have considered yet.
Consider Angel Lyre for Finale. It has +2% haste which helps with Finale's long recast. It's also your best 'string ballad' instrument. Angel Lyre is also good for Pianissimo Ballad at any time for the haste (except assault/salvage with storm fife). It's also your best Adventurer's Dirge instrument. I highly recommend it.
Iron Ram Horn for Carnage Elegy and Lullaby is worth consideration. +1 on Mary's Horn is +3 seconds on lullaby (assuming no resist or half resist.) +4 CHR could be better in a high resist situation or if gear/merits are lacking. Horn +1's +2 to Elegy is only +2% slow. +4 CHR could help it stick against a really difficult foe at minimal loss. It's also the best horn to use for Finale when going against a highly resistant target.
Some bards may not know about Storm Fife. Storm Fife does Ballad +1 during Salvage, Assault, some AUMs, and some quests (such as Scouting the Ashu Talif). I recommend that a bard should do Lamia No.13 with a couple friends til he gets it. It might (big might) be make-or-break for entry into an EGLS.
Finally, consider Nursemaid's Harp for Horde Lullaby. String songs have a much wider AoE. Nursemaid's Harp is often better than Mary's Horn (and the new Cradle Horn) for Horde Lullaby simply because of that wider AoE. Additionally, it gives a total of 36 seconds of sleep if unresisted.
Stoneskin Macro - Capping stoneskin is another way a bard can maximize his effectiveness in EG. Capping stoneskin requires a dramatic amount of MND for BRD (about +60 I believe). I recommend simply doing as much as possible. A good goal would be 280-300 damage absorbed. Be aware that inventory limitations really prevent a bard from capping stoneskin. I recommend multi-functional pieces. Chanter's Staff, Omega Ring, Goliard Clogs, and many items from Marduk's set come to mind. I believe Suzaku's Sune-Ate are required to actually cap stoneskin for bard. Another option if pressed for space, or just wanting to make sure you have capped SS, cast both MND etudes on yourself to easily cap SS.
Meds, Food, Drinks - It should be obvious, but a stack of echo drops should be carried at all times. I also recommend an RR earring simply because it will save 150 MP in emergencies. I also recommend carrying 2 or 3 Yagudo Drinks in your satchel. What food can a bard use? Tacos are good. They do CHR+ and MP+. I personally recommend and use Roast Mushroom. They do some MP, Enmity-, and MND+ for Stoneskin. They're also very cheap.
Resist Gear - Use the notion that Macc = 1, Skill = .9, and CHR = .5 to determine how much any given piece of gear contributes to resist rates. For example, Marduk's Jubbah gives CHR+12, so it gets a '6.' Royal Redingote with 'Macc+4' has a total of 4+2.5 (from the CHR+5), so it gets a '6.5.' Shadow Coat has Macc+10 on it, so it gets a 10. [Choral Justaucorps +1]] has CHR+10 and String Skill +6, so its value is '10.4.' Final example, Nereid Ring has Skill +3, so it gets a '2.7' which compares to Heavens Ring which only has a '2.5.' So, when building a resist set, try to use the pieces that have the highest value in each slot. I will talk later about a 500/100 model for building working resist sets.
Notes on Song Skills and Instruments - Note that Wind Skill only applies when using a wind instrument; String Skill, a string instrument; and Singing Skill applies for any instrument (or none at all). So Singing Skill will be useful in any resist/buff set, but the other Skills will have to be used based on the instrument used. Again, this concept applies for song debuffs and buffs alike. One more additional note, is that casting debuffs with a wind instrument is more magically accurate than with a string instrument. Why this is, is uncertain, but it is important to know when putting together a resist build for a string instrument. Final note about instruments is that string instruments have a greater AoE range.
Lullaby Macro - I actually recommend three lullaby macros. Mary's Foe, Nursemaid's Horde, and Mary's Horde. (Eventually upgrading to Cradle Horn for Mary's Foe and Horde.) Why these three? one might ask.
Mary's Foe for extra accuracy. As I mentioned, Wind-cast songs are more magically accurate. This makes Mary's Horn more Desirable than Nursemaid's Foe. A half-resisted spell will only last 18 seconds from Nursemaid's. If your Lullaby Recast isn't lower than 18, it's not worth the risk. But Nursemaid's is still good to use for Horde.
Nursemaid's Horde is for an all purpose wide AoE Horde Lullaby. If cast with a Wind Instrument, the max AoE range on Horde Lullaby is only about 3.9' (from center of the target). If cast with a String Instrument, however, it is about 7.9'. So using String doubles the range. This is desirable. So why Mary's Horde?
Mary's Horde is for extra accuracy, or for a narrow AoE range, or both. Sometimes a wide AoE isn't wanted. Also, sometimes a resist on Foe forces a bard to use Horde on a single target. This is where the AoE range doesn't even matter at all, but accuracy very much does. What about when accuracy doesn't matter? Or what about when accuracy is a very serious issue?
Well, a Nursemaid's Foe, and an Iron Ram Horde wouldn't be bad ideas either. Nursemaid's Foe being used when the extra 3 seconds are desirable. And the Iron Ram Horde being used when not caring how long its slept, but just wanting to make sure it sticks at all.
For all of your Lullaby Macros, there are two stats to consider: resist rate, and recast rate. Building different lullaby builds for different events can help a bard improve his performance. Start any event by using a higher resist rate build, and slowly wean-off resist gear and add haste gear (or MP gear). The eventual goal is to have as fast a recast with as close to a 95% resist rate as possible. In this effort, I recommend working-in Sha'ir Gages as early as possible as well.
Notes on Recast - All three critical recast songs, Finale, Foe, and Horde have a base recast time of 24 seconds. Their capped recast time is 12 seconds. Bard has access to gear and merits that modifies the base recast time of these spells. They are Sha'ir Gages, Sheikh Gages, Tatsumaki Sitagoromo, Lullaby Merits, and Finale Merits. These effects are applied prior to haste.
For example, if a bard has 20% haste in gear, and Sheikh Gages, and 5/5 Lullaby Merits, his recast on Lullaby will be calculated as follows: 24 second base recast -9 seconds = 15 seconds, which is then reduced by haste, so 15 * .2 = 3 seconds reduced, so 15 - 3 = 12 second recast. Note that any extra haste after 20% in this example would be redundant. 12 is the lowest possible recast.
Another example, if a bard has March x2 (20% haste), 10% haste from gear, Sha'ir Gages, and 2 Lullaby Merits, his Lullaby recast will be 14 seconds. (24 base recast - 4 song recast = 20 modified recast, 20 modified recast * .3 haste = 6 seconds reduced, 20 modifed recast - 6 seconds reduce from haste = 14 second recast.)
Final example, if a bard has March x2 (20% haste), the spell Haste (15% haste), 11% haste from gear, and Sha'ir Gages, his recast for Finale and Lullaby will be 12 seconds. (24 base recast - 2 song recast = 22 modified recast, 22 mod recast * .46 = 10~ second reduction, 22 mod recast - 10 haste reduction = 12 second recast.)
Going to briefly go over some recommendations I have for selecting merits for bard. I also want to note that I'm of the opinion that if a player has another mage to consider for EG, he should focus magic skill merits into that job. Bard magic skills can be made-up with ample gear to provide working resist rates, and caps on the important songs. Magic skills for other jobs can be very important and impossible to be made-up with gear.
HP and MP - HP merits shouldn't be written-off. Bard is often in the line of fire. My stance is this on HP vs MP for bard. When HP is needed, it's needed. When MP is best, it's a luxury. However, it depends on race, and other jobs. It depends on personal preference. I just don't want people to write-off HP merits for bard.
Magic Skills - It should be obvious, but cap Singing Skill before doing points in either String or Wind. The main use of Wind merits is to reach the highest tiers of Victory March. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, 8/8 Singing and 4/8 Wind in addition to a perfect skill gear set is required to hit the highest March Tier w/o Gjallarhorn. The other advantage of investing in bard magic skills is that one can wean-off resist gear easier, so as to use recast gear or MP gear. This makes the bard more powerful. So think of adding song skill merits as adding haste and Mp merits in a way.
Group 1 - The selections here are dependent on the LS's requirements. However, status quo is Minuet 5/5 and Lullaby 5/5. Another thought is to not do either Minuet or Madrigal unless done as 5/5. The reason being is that the bard wants to be the best for one in a zerg. Please note that 5/5 minuet and 5/5 madrigal is only a marginal boost to the buff unless using Soul Voice*. Also, I recommend against finale recast. Make sure to use as much recast gear as possible with finale first before considering finale merits. But if you think finale recast is best, more power to you.
* - Minuet x2 with Soul Voice is regularly +238 attack. With 5/5 Minuet merits, it becomes +258 attack which is an 8.5% increase in attack. So, each merit increases it by about 1.7% attack. Madrigal x2 with Soul Voice is regularly +59% hit rate. With 5/5 Madrigal merits, it becomes +69% hit rate which is a 17% increase in hit rate. So, each merit increases it by about 3.4%. Without soul voice, the increase is the same percentage-wise. But, I say that it is only a marginal increase without SV because more often than not, no song is used doubly unless using SV for a zerg. This halves the percentage output. Additionally, (esp. on attack) the extra 5/10 attack or 2.5%/5% hit rate will be redundant against regular or even difficult monsters.
Group 2 - Do not consider yourself a Level 75 bard until you have 1 point in Troubadour and Nightingale. After that, the rest is really up to you and your LS. Though I recommend making 5/5 Troubadour part of your plan. It makes it so it ties the recast with Elemental Seal. Nightingale at a 15 Minute recast will let you use it 2 times consistently during 30 minute events. After the 15 minute mark, though, it's not going to make a big difference. Adventurer's Dirge does Enmity-10 for a single target. Might be useful for a black mage party. Ask your LS. Foe Sirvente is not really a big deal. Most times, Balladx2 and Marchx2 will be better than Foe Sirvente. Again, ask your LS about it.
The 500/100 Model
I first want to mention the proper use of a model like this. This isn't a set-in-stone, end-all, be-all, this way or the high-way rule or law. This is a model in the most pure fashion. Use it as a model to look at to create a build that works for you. The model does work. If a bard builds a 500/100 set, the bard will have a solid resist build. The model exists and is perpetuated because it works. Having said that, it doesn't mean that a 500/100 resist build is the best for every event. Some events may be best for a bard to have more MP, for example, and swapping into a full resist build will reduce the bard's MP. It's event to event. But, this model will work, and I recommend using it when starting your first resist builds.
Ok. So what is this model? The 500/100 model means 500 combined skill (and macc+ gear) and 100 total chr. To attain this, you'll need around +50 Skill. Also, you'll need about +30 CHR. Of note, Magic Accuracy +1 is the same as Skill +1.
Why 100 CHR? The concept is that CHR is 1:1 for Magic Accuracy up to a certain inflection point. Most difficult monsters have around 100 of each stat (give or take 20), including CHR. So against most high level things, your breaking point will be around 100 CHR. Any extra CHR is at 2:1 for Magic Accuracy, so CHR is always useful, but not as useful as Skill/Macc after a certain point. Also, some very hard monsters may have more than 100 CHR. I will provide a walmart build that you can add to yourself later with EG gear as you acquire it.
||Iron Ram Horn
|Demon Helm +1
||Melody Earring +1
||Melody Earring +1
|Jester's Cape +1
This build will cost around 2 Million gil total. Add Apollo's staff/Light Grip and V.Cloak and you're around 3 Million gil total. Compared to other jobs you're actually getting off pretty cheap.
Ok how good is this build?
Skill 450+24 and 8/8 singing puts you at +42 Skill/Macc so you're at 492/120. 20 Extra CHR is like Macc+10 as well. So you're at a pseudo 500/100 build. It will work.
This walmart build, as you can see, is mostly CHR gear because that's all you can really get from the AH. But that's ok. This is a good start and you'll have very favorable resists for just about everything that you do.
The following chart will show how much skill (past capped skill) is needed to attain caps on the main spells used. The information was taken from Wiki. Personal tests will verify their validity.
Skill Needed to Cap Songs
||cap bonus w/ appropriate instrument
||+34 (+1 per merit)
||+61 (+1 per merit)
Ok so what do we need to get the right amounts?
Attaining 24 String Skill for Max String Ballad Range
||choral justaucorps+1 (+6) or taillefer's dagger & minstrel's coat, bard's slippers (+3), musical earring (+5), string earring (+3), string torque (+7) = 24 String
||3 string merits (+6), bard's slippers (+3), musical earring (+5), string earring (+3), string torque (+7) = 25 String
Advantage with 'some merits' here is one can keep Vermillion Cloak on while casting. Of note, a 14' Ballad isn't hard to do (+8 String needed), either. But I provide this here for the bard who wants max range.
Attaining +58 Singing/Wind Skill for Madrigal
||chanter's staff (+4), astute cape (+5), marduk's tiara (+7), choral cuffs+1 (+10), nereid ringx2(+6), musical earring (+5), singing earring (+3), oracle's pigaches (+5), choral cannions +1 (+8), minstrel's coat (+3), wind torque (+7) = +63 (5 extra)
||8 singing merits (+16), chanter's staff (+4), demon helm+1 (+6), wind torque (+7), musical earring (+5), singing earring (+3), minstrel's coat (+3), choral cuffs +1 (+10), nereid ring x2 (+6) = 60
Alternatively, remove minstrel's coat and demon helm+1, and add choral cannions +1, and you reduce total items needed by 1, and it is possible to keep more idle pieces on at all times. Adding Wind Merits, too, reduces items needed obviously.
Attaining 25 singing/string for Tier 2 Etudes
||musical earring (+5), string earring (+3), minstrel's coat (+3), chanter's staff (+4), string torque (+7), bard's slippers (+3) = 25
||7 singing merits (+14), chanter's staff (+4), string torque (+7) = 25
For etudes, ideally, use as much haste as possible so the spell can be cast on another party member if need be. Or simply so herculean can be refreshed asap. So I left room for sha'ir gages and walahra turban in both builds.
I'm not going to include a how-to on March because there are many tiers. I do highly recommend trying to at least get to the +11% March buff though (+49 skill) which you should already be aiming for +58 on your Madrigal anyways. Eventually, gaining a perfect skill gear set in addition to Wind Skill 4/8 for a 11.5% March is also highly recommended. Currently it's best to just use every skill+ piece you have when casting Victory March. It works out that about every 7 skill adds .1% haste about. (Read http://www.bluegartrls.com/forum/showthread.php?t=52417 for more details. Essentially a player tested haste by using the 999 delay relic weapons and recorded it using a video capture program. The player then found exact delay measurements.)
Things You Probably Didn't Know About Bard
Charisma Does not Affect Buff Potency - This is a very common misconception. Buff potency is purely from Singing Skill + Instrument Skill. Most songs are capped at 75, but a few are not. They are the following Tier 2 songs: Etude, March, Madrigal, and Minuet. Some Songs we don't know about. Dragonfoe Mambo, Archer's Prelude, for example, are nearly impossible to test. To be safe, I stack all my Skill gear when I cast them.
String Magic Skill affects the AoE Range of Buffs - A lot of bards discount the fact that Ballad for a BLM party is best cast with a String Ballad set. A bard can get a 15' range on Ballad II which can help make sure each BLM gets Ballad efficiently. Key word is Efficiently. Yes, you can Cast Wind Ballad twice, I agree. However, time wasted doing that is time taken away from status curing, heals, or crowd control. Additionally, a solid string ballad set is useful for putting Ballad on multiple tanks while avoiding AoE.
Tier 2 Etudes Fade over Time - Etude 2s give +17 stat but they decay at 1 stat every 10 seconds. This requires them to be cast again and again if you wish to implement them to full effect. Using only Walahra Turban and Sha'ir Gages will give a recast time of 21 seconds. This means the Etude will fade 2 points before being able to reapply it. While not very important, attaining enough recast gear to lower it below 20 will optimize the use of tier 2 Etudes.
The 'Song +1/+2' on an Instrument Does Two Things: Increases Buff Potency and Buff Duration - The benefit on potency is different for each song. For example, Cornette+1 gives Minuet +5 attack, but Traversiere+1 only gives Madrigal +4 accuracy. A constant, however, is that each +1 on an instrument is +10% Duration. Songs last 2 minutes, so +10% duration works out to be about 12 seconds. +2 is 20%, so it adds 24 seconds total. Lullaby lasts only 30 seconds, so +10% (from Mary's Horn) is 3 seconds.
A Song's Remaining Time Determines The Stacking Order for New Songs - In many cases First In, First Out applies when casting songs. That is, if a bard casts March1, March2, and then Minuet4, Minuet3 that the songs on the party will be Minuet4 and Minuet3. The First Ins were the First Out. Right? Yes, this is the case. However, the reason this is the case is that March and Minuet both have a 'Song+2' Instrument. This gives their duration identical times, but what is actually happening is that the first March has the least remaining time which makes it the song that gets replaced.
Ok let's try again. March2, March1, and then Ballad2, Ballad1. Songs on party should be Ballad2 and Ballad 1, right? No, this is absolutely not the case. The reason for this is that Ballad doesn't have a +2 instrument. This makes its duration significantly less (24 seconds less) than the Marches. When you cast Ballad2, it replaces the song with The Least Remaining Time on its Duration. This is March 2. After casting Ballad2, it comes into play with 2:00 on its timer and the March 1 still has 2:16 about on its timer. So when you cast Ballad1, it does the same thing, it will replace the song with the least remaining time on its duration. In this case, it's the Ballad 2. So in this situation you have Ballad 1 and March 1 on.
How to prevent this? There are two ways. Way 1 is the quick band-aid fix. It is Always Cast Ballad 1 before Ballad 2. I personally don't like this, but I could see it working for some people. Cast Ballad1, ballad2, ballad1, and you'll always get Double Ballad on your party if a mage snags a melee song by mistake. The better method imho, is to just wait. Wait 17 seconds after casting your melee songs, then start your ballads.
Look at the timers. March 2 and March 1 are just cast. March 2 has 2:16 and March 1 has 2:24. I wait 17 seconds. I cast Ballad 2 (takes 8 seconds), it replaces March 2. I have Ballad 2 with 2:00 on it and I have March 1 with 1:59 on it. See what happened? Now when I cast Ballad 1, it replaces March 1 which has the least remaining time on its duration. So if you just space-out your ballads properly, you'll never have a problem with this.
Another useful thing to do with this is to use Troubadour and witness Songs not even replacing songs at all. If you have a Song that has a greater duration than a new song, that is, a Duration of 2:25 or greater left on it (which is possible with Troubadour), the song will not replace it at all. As long as a Troubadour'd song has 2:25 remaining on it or more, it will not be replaced by new songs. This can be useful if you want to keep a certain buff on someone, but the long recast timer on Troubadour makes this a rarely (if ever) used Trick.
Soul Voice Must be Used before Casting Songs - Soul Voice does not retroactively increase songs. That is, buffs that are already active will not become more powerful when you use Soul Voice.
Soul Voice'd Songs Stay Powered after Soul Voice the Ability Wears Off - Many bards know this, but this is here for completeness. Soul Voice lasts 3 minutes, but buffs last 2.5 minutes. It is possible to do 2 song cycles with Soul Voice for a total of 5 minutes of soul voice. Additionally, if you use Troubadour for the second cycle, you get a total of 7 minutes of soul voice. This is incredibly useful in Apollyon as you get your 2hr back on every floor. It's also a great place to practice it. I recommend doing your second cycle 2 minutes after using Soul Voice. Use a stop watch.
Troubadour Affects Lullaby - Lullaby duration is doubled with Troubadour.
Carnage Elegy is 50% Slow - Carnage Elegy is one of the most powerful debuffs in the game. It should be a priority in every event. Monsters have access to a more potent 'Massacre Elegy' that is 100% slow. Horn +1 adds 2% Slow to Elegy.
Finale's Favorite Stat is Haste - Stack haste and nothing but haste when casting Finale. I recommend this because Finale has a very long recast. Also the Military Harp is garbage. Don't use it. I recommend Angel's Lyre as I mentioned previously. Though some things resist 'light'-based spells and they require a horn for Finale.
One Bard Can Buff 2 or More Parties - To party swap, it's very very simple. First there are some limitations. One can't really do more than 6 songs reliably. 8 would be really rough, though doable. Think about it, 8 seconds to cast a song is 8*6 64 seconds which is a minute. Running back and forth is about a second per song, so that's 8 more seconds. Ballad only lasts 2 minutes. So you're at 70-80 seconds on an 8 buff cycle.
Ok so a bard is limited to around 6 songs in most situations, and honestly, if set-it-up right, one won't need to do more than that anyways. There's a party that only needs ballad, and a party that needs ballad and another 2 songs, for example. That's usually how it works out. For example, a melee party that has only a whm in it or a rdm, or a blm party and a tank party. Keep those parties at 5 members and designate someone who isn't really busy as an inviter (or someone who is good at it).
Make this macro for each party leader:
|name: invite me
|line1: /pcmd leave
|line2: /t NameOfLeader ((Please Invite Me))
A macro that just does /join could be useful as well.
Have the leaders each make this macro:
|name: invite bard
|line1: /pcmd add <r>
('<r>' parses as the last person who sent the player a tell. So if Jeff did /tell Kevin "Hey." And Kevin immediately typed-out <r> and pressed enter, the game would parse <r> as 'Jeff.')
One can actually begin casting his song shortly after hitting the 'invite me' macro, and if he hits /join before the song is finished, the song will hit the new party.
This can be extremely useful to an LS. This turns 1 bard into 2. This is best when the bard doesn't need to do any sleeps/status heals/cures etc so he's mostly just there to buff and elegy. Read: BRD/BLM.
One final tip is for if a bard is casting the same songs for both parties, to use haste gear on your song macros. Sometimes there can be a slight delay on waiting for the song recast. Most of the time it isn't an issue, but it's not a bad idea to use haste for buffs.
Also, 2 bards can buff 2 parties. This gets a bit trickier because communication has to be a lot more solid. But, I recommend adding to your party swap macro a /tell to the other bard that you're trying to swap parties. So add a second /tell on the 'invite me' macro that does /t OtherBard ((Jumping to new Area)). This helps improve communication.
Pianissimo isn't the Best Way to Put Ballad on a PLD - Anyone who believes this is sorely mistaken. The best way is to have the party set-up so that ballad can be cast AoE on both the mages and the paladin at the same time. If you need to show your party this diagram, type it out exactly like this:
mages brd pld><monster<melees rangers.
Keep the melees behind the monster at all times, and the mages on the same side as the paladin. Stand in between the mages and the paladin, and cast your ballads. The advantage here is that you don't just have ballad on the pld, but also the mages in an efficient manner. Additionally, pianissamo requires a good wait between casts. This delay is detrimental to playing bard.
Bard is More than a Merit Party Pull Whore - This seems to be forgotten by some. Bard is a mage for EG. It sits in the back line and casts spells and songs to control the fight. Its power is incredible if implemented properly. It controls the ebb and flow of the battlefield. It controls how fast monsters die. It controls how much MP mages have to use. It controls crowds. It is a powerful job and is recognized for that. Try not to see it as something less simply because it's so often trivialized as a pull or buff whore.
Choosing DPS Songs
Understanding when to use different songs to maximize DPS is extremely important to a bard. Kill speed determines the success of many events.
March x2 - Typically used in most EG situations. March x2 produces the most DPS when hit rate and cratio* are capped or nearly capped. March's main weakness is that it feeds the monster TP which makes March/Minuet more attractive. Additionally, it is difficult for players to cap cratio against many EG monsters, which again, makes March/Minuet more attractive. There are some very good situational uses for March x2 though.
When monsters are erasing TP and DPS becomes more important, double march will shine. Jobs that are almost pure DPS, and use high amounts of haste in their set-up, such as MNK, NIN, and THF benefit from this more than other jobs as well. In fact, THF's SA/TA in particular, double March is the best song combination for him (even over Etudes) for those. Note that March is both defensive and offensive. March affects Utsusemi recast timers, and can be key for getting to 50% haste to minimize those timers. Another situation is when attack isn't very high, but not awful low either.
March x2 is the best option when your team has very high accuracy and haste, but lacking in attack. Even jobs that achieve most of their damage from WSs benefit from this because of the fact that they will now WS more often. Minuet IV doesn't make WSs strong enough to outdo the overall increase in WS frequency and DPS from Advancing March. In a merit party, insist that the RDM use Dia 2/3, and use March x2 if the melee players are able to support it.
Final note, SV + March x2 is not capped magical haste, but it is almost capped haste. It is about 2% off. The spell Haste is still needed to cap magical haste completely.
March/Minuet - Typically used in many EG situations. The reason for this being that 'cratio'* is hard to cap unless Dia 2 or 3 is cast on each monster which can be unreliable. This is especially true when mages are afraid to Dia something that might need to be kept asleep. March is preferred as the second song because the notion is then that cratio is capped from minuet, and sushi will keep hit rate capped.
Again, it has also been said that March/Minuet is better than double march when there is fear of 'feeding the monster' tp. The case in point is Salvage where the boss monster's tp moves can be devastating.
* - 'cratio' is the player's attack divided by the monster's defense. If this division is 1.5 or more, a monster will check as having 'low defense.' if it's 2 or more, 'cratio' is capped. 'cratio' actually has 3 tiers. Tier 1 is when it is equal to or less than 1.25. In tier 2, it is when it's at 1.26 to 1.5. Tier 3 is where you want to be, and that's when it's higher than 1.5 all the way to 2. 2 is, again, capped. adding any attack is useless at that point. of note, though, if a player's 'cratio' for a given target is in tier 2, unless enough attack is added to hit tier 3, adding attack is useless. an example of this...
|Player's Attack 400, Monster's Defense 300 makes cratio at 1.33... tier 2. Let's add 66 attack.
|Player's Attack 466, Monster's Defense 300 makes cratio at 1.55... tier 3 now.
|Player's Attack 800, Monster's Defense 600 makes cratio at 1.33... tier 2. Let's add 66 attack.
|Player's Attack 866, Monster's Defense 600 makes cratio at 1.44... tier 2 still.
In the first example, the player moves from a cratio of 1.33 to 1.55 which bumps him up a tier. Being in the next tier grants him a bonus to damage. But, in the second example, 66 attack is not enough to make cratio 1.5, which literally means he gains no damage on his attacks. This is significant because this makes minuet nigh useless unless it is enough to make cratio from tier 1 to 2, or tier 2 to 3. if it does not do either, it is a wasted song choice. however, notice how in the examples, i just doubled the attack and defense of the two targets. when dealing with lower defense, and lower attack values, minuet is much more likely to influence the player's cratio. this needs to be considered as well.
How does one use this knowledge? It's difficult to know the exact defense of the target. I recommend against regular monsters to use /check. If the monster checks as Low Defense prior to using Minuet, Minuet IV's impact will not be as good as Advancing March's. If the monster checks as High Defense, it's probably a good idea to use Minuet IV over Advancing March. In both instances, make sure Dia2/3 is cast as well. Capping cratio against harder monsters is quite difficult, so Minuet IV will rarely be a completely wasted choice. The question is whether Adv. March is a better choice or not.
Madrigal - Madrigal should not be outright forgotten. While March is good at later levels, accuracy is very hard to cap at lower levels. Since sushi is percentile based, the returns on it are not great at low levels. Your Madrigal is going to be superior to March. March/Madrigal could be good, or Madrigal/Minuet. Again, this is at lower levels. But what about higher levels?
At higher levels, when hit rate is very poor, Blade Madrigal will be slightly better than Advancing March. Capped Blade Madrigal (w/o merits) gives +19% hit rate. Hitting 19% more often is slightly better than swinging 9% faster. If sushi is being used, it's actually +20%~ hit rate. Let's look at the math.
We'll use a 450 delay weapon for our example. We'll assume the attacker has a 70% hit rate, and he's using sushi. We'll assume he has a 6-hit build. He'll have haste, march2, hasso, and since he's using as much acc in gear as possible, he'll only have 8 equipment haste. I used FFXI calculator to determine the attack speed.
March: Time for each attack, 3.7 seconds. In 60 swings, 222 seconds of swinging, he lands 42 (60 * .7) swings.
Madrigal: Time for each attack, 4.4 seconds. In 222~ seconds of swinging, he swings 51 times, and lands 46 (51 * .9) swings.
It clearly is better. He hits more times in the same time frame on average. The question is though, when is hit rate an issue? The main times that hit rate will be a problem are during times where monster abilities affect the situation.
Monster abilities can directly and indirectly affect hit rate. Colibri and Hippogryphs come to mind as targets that indirectly affect hit rate. They nullify food. When players can't use Sushi, they're in trouble for capping hit rate most of the time. Some players will use cheap food, but there again, Crab sushi isn't the best for capping hit rate. Direct monster abilities are more obvious, such as AoE blind (bones), AoE accuracy down (worms), Evasion Up (beetles, mamools), and Evasion Traits (thfs, nins). More often than not, if a monster implements one of these abilities or traits, Blade Madrigal will be better than Advancing March.
STR Etude x2 - SAM is 80% WS damage. Knowing this, and knowing that SAM benefits from raw STR, I say Etude x2 is very good for SAM. I don't recommend keeping it constant, but if you see a SAM getting ready to self-SC toss an Etude on him. Or if you're going to SAM zerg something, Etude x2. Remember that Herculean fades, so try to keep it as fresh as possible. (Note: Having said all this, against extremely high defense monsters, Minuet x2 is better than STR x2 for SAM.)
Paeon x2 - Being alive contributes far more to DPS than any other factor (for obvious reasons). In a dire straights type situation, using Paeon to keep the troops alive can be more important than anything else. Examples would be against anything with heavy spikes damage. Against anything that does AoE Bio, or AoE Poison. Healer is dead? White Magic restricted floor in Nyzul Isle? There are a lot of times where staying alive will contribute to DPS more than any other buff.
Macro Tips and Suggestions
Playstyle is a big factor in how someone sets up his macros. Does he use keyboard exclusively? Does he type-out status cures? Does he use a controller? There are a ton of different ways to do things. There are even macro helper programs out there to use. Are you on PC or Console? That dramatically changes things. I am, still, though, going to try to hit a few things that I think will help people a lot.
Spell then Gear - It's best to put the casting action first, then the casting gear on second. This helps make the macro execute fastest. If you have a precast build, do precast, /wait 0.5, cast, then gear swaps for all of your macros.
<STAL> and <STPT> - Most people are not aware of these. They are select alliance and select party. They do not put a cursor over the target, and they prevent blinking. I highly recommend them.
Waits of .5 - A lot of people aren't aware you can put /wait 1.5 for example.
Windower Macro'ing - It's simple. In the script folder create a .txt file with lines that say 'input /equip slot "item".' Load the .txt file in a macro line with /console exec "file.txt" in it.
Pianissamo - A common practice is for bards to make a pianissamo macro and then have all of their songs as <st>. I disagree with this. I recommend making a few songs that that will require pianissamo and put them on a seperate page that's easy to get to. I have them below my main page. Examples would be Mambo, Ballad, Minuet (for a ranger), and possibly Minne and March. Carol isn't a bad idea either. This makes all of the spells faster to cast. Why spend all of this gil/effort on items to decrease casting time if the macros themselves cost an extra second to execute? Think about it.
Here's an example of what that macro might look like:
|line1: /equip instrument
|line2: /console exect 'precast.txt'
|line3: /ja Pianissamo <me>
|line4: /wait 1
|line5: /song song NameOfTarget/<t>
|line6: /console exec 'castinggear.txt'
Type the name into the macro if you know it beforehand too. This will save more time.
Leveling Bard to 75
I just briefly want to give a few suggestions to a player who is planning on taking bard from 0 to 75 to be his main for EG. Maybe your LS needs a bard. Maybe you've always wanted to play it. Maybe you're completely new to the game. This section applies to all of those people.
First thing is first, I would level WHM to 50 if you haven't already. I say this for a few reasons. First, WHM will be your primary support job for almost everything. So you'll level it to 37 anyways. And, WHM to 50 gives you all of the Teleports which are always useful. And the other reason is that BRD isn't very strong in 50 cap and below. It's one of the weakest jobs til Lv55 when it attains Ballad 2. Before that, it's very sub-par. In fact, WHM/BRD is many times stronger in 50 cap. (I understand for specific events/fights bard is invaluable, BCNM40 worms comes to mind, but for general fighting, it is not.) Level 50 WHM/BRD has Ballad 1 and Erase which will make it many times more useful in 50 cap events. Sacrarium comes to mind, which is a very common EG activity. And, obviously, if you already have another 40/50 cap job that you play, you can ignore this suggestion.
After Leveling WHM to 37 or 50, I'd consider finishing the next two support jobs. You'll need NIN and BLM to 37 for EG as BRD. BLM37 isn't that important, but BLM15 is, and you may as well get it to 17 for Warp. I would even suggest taking BLM to 55 for retrace. NIN is pretty much exclusively used for merit party pull-whoring, but is needed nonetheless. I consider merit parties part of EG in this sense.
After you do all of that, then I'd take-up leveling bard. I recommend getting all of the key gear you need first. Don't worry about Monster Signa, but do get a Chanter's Staff. You'll use it for all of your bard career. You can even go w/o Apollo's til 75 and full time chanter's, imho. I didn't, but there wouldn't be really anything wrong with that. I suggest an MP and Enmity- build for exp parties while building up. Elegy isn't til 41, and that's when you really need to worry about CHR. Requiem sticks fairly well at low levels, but then is hard to stick at high levels. CHR is not an important stat to bard in the early levels. In dunes, even, I suggest a melee bard/whm even because you then become one more person to be buffed.
I don't know what FoV is like for brd, but i imagine it's tough for the job. brd is not a solo'ist. I recommend finding parties. but if you like FoV, more power to you. it's your game, play it how you like.
i've mentioned it quite a few times now, but don't do brd/nin til 74. don't do piano+ballad unless in a merit party or in a bind. doing aoe ballad is tricky, but it's a skill you'll have to develop. use distance mod. or get an eye for it, or use a trick that i used. when i was on PS2, i used the corner of my screen to guage distance. if you put the paladin just at the corner of your screen, that was about 10' away. again, it may take time, and you may mess it up here and there, but the reward for your work is that your party is more efficient. it's worth it. exp/hour is *all* about efficiency. and that's really what a bard does.
bard maximizes efficiency. it makes things die faster via melee buffs, and it provides more resources (mp) for the party. it also streamlines pulls. bard has downtime, and it uses its downtime to pull. dont' on-deck pull the same as a merit bard though. don't have two at camp for more than 10 seconds unless your party is really tearing things up. pull toward the end of the monster's life, and then sleep it, and focus on keeping it slept, then go back to your cycle.
/nin isn't needed to on deck pull at all. watch hate too. don't buff while it's at camp. if you have enmity+ merits, and cast a cure and a buff or two in the 33 seconds the on deck monster is slept, voke may not rip hate if you have a war w/o enmity voking or a pld/nin relying on flash only. it's rare, but it can happen. so just focus on keeping it slept til it's voked off you. not to mention, when it wakes, if it hasn't been voked yet, it's definitely coming right for you, so keep yourself alive.
I do want to hit on one more thing for leveling bard. Obviously you eventually want to collect every instrument. But, while leveling, make sure to just have a few key ones. Traverseire+1, Kingdom Horn, Faerie Piccolo, Siren Flute, and Cornette+1. Cast elegy, threnodies, and lullabies with Kingdom Horn. Cast the rest with their respective instrument. This will greatly reduce the inventory you need to devote to bard while leveling-it-up. Mary's Horn isn't that important. Give rangers Minuet.
Merit Parties - A lot of things change for merit parties. Resist rates are not extremely low at either collibri or mmj. But, they're low enough (esp after 8/8 singing) that you should full time walahra and even build around sha'ir. I even use Swift Belt. Haste is useful for pulling for shadows and lullaby recast. Before you get 8/8 singing though, make sure you keep a good resist build up.
Using Shadows is a very important concept. I'm NIN75, so I didn't have trouble doing brd/nin at all. But some bards may. This is especially true for bards who stopped nin dead at 37 and never really tanked on nin for real. The concept is fairly simple. Use Ichi as base, and Ni for emergencies. Going ichi to ichi is ideal, and ichi - ni - ichi - ni is used when you're against something highly accurate or fast attacking. In merit parties, though, you're never tanking, so ichi to ichi is almost never going to be a problem. So, when you need to put-up shadows for a pull, use Ichi unless time is an issue, and Ni is then good for that emergency.
Keeping up a 3 song cycle is about the most you should try to do. A 4th song might be piano minuet for a rng or prelude for a rng. I also recommend having piano ballad 1 on hand, but piano ballad 2 should be enough if you have a good mage and a good party. Here's how to do it.
Get it to where you have a monster1 at camp that's slept and monster2 that's being fought. Cast song 1, wait til monster1 is killed and they engage monster2, then pull monster3, sleep monster3, cast Ichi right away, cast song2, wait til monster2 is dead and they engage monster3, pull monster4, cast ichi right away, cast piano ballad, repeat.
So you pull, ichi, song1, pull, ichi, song2, pull, ichi, song3.
Why cast ichi right away? The reason for this is twofold. One, it makes sure you have a constant shadow wall. And 2, if you pull a resist, you may not see it
in the log right away for a lot of reasons, and if you cast ichi right away, it will give keep you alive in the event of a resist. IF You Do Find Yourself in this situation, at MMJ you can cast Mary's Horn Horde and you're fine. But at Birds, you can't use Horde. So what you have to do is shadow tank for a second.
If you cast Ichi right away, you'll have those extra shadows. Cast any spell on it, such as a threnody, and that will buy you a second if you need it. Count your shadows. As soon as the last shadow is taken away, cast Ni, and you should be fine. It will however mess with your cycle. So after they engage the new monster, cast your song, then cast ichi, then pull, and try to get yourself back to where you need to be. if a song wears, don't sweat it. surviving is more important than the song cycle. a strong merit party can keep the chain w/ only 1 (or sometimes none) of their songs.
One more big tip about merit party pulling is Lamiabane. I highly recommend you do Assault til you are rank high enough to get lamiabane. the advantage of having a thrown returns for pulling is huge. pulling is now at a max range of 24' over 21' on elegy. if you cast elegy at 21' and the monster moves to 22', the pull is canceled. if you start throwing at 24' and the monster moves to 25' the throw and pull will still go through. this is significant as it lets you pull at max range which saves time running which makes pulls more consistent and faster. the other advantage is at colibri, and it's obvious, but they won't reflect a thrown weapon. also, you won't have them reflecting elegy in the first place. casting elegy at birds as a defensive song is nice, but how often does a reflected elegy go for a long time not getting erased? does your party even need the defense of elegy? more often than not, they don't. pulling w/ a lamiabane at colibri is a much better way in my opinion. of note, you can pull w/ lamia bane and elegy it at camp and it's still faster/better than just pulling w/ elegy.
Level Sync Parties - Even in an EGLS you may find yourself playing bard in a level sync or level cap event. At 55 bard becomes a bomb for exp. bird camps come to mind, and that's probably what you'll be doing if you're brd for a level sync party. madrigal/minuet for melees is a good combination.
also, i mentioned how to ballad a paladin. tell everyone this before you start: mages pld><monster<melee. type it out just like that, and tell them to not hug the paladin. even EG players will mess-up this basic aspect of bard partying. if ANY of them say anything about piano+ballad, tell them that they are wrong, and that balladx2 is key for mages, yourself, and the tank.
brd/nin pre 74: Don't do it. Blink is 2 shadows and takes about the same time to cast. You're not pulling as fast as you are pulling in a merit party. you can use cures and blink to easily mitigate damage and you still have cures and status cures for your party. it would be dumb to do brd/nin pre74.
That's about it, I hope this guide was useful to you. Thank you.