I am aware that, quite unlike me, it has been over two months since I have last written an update. To say that my real life has been busy is a bit of an understatement, with my current occupation taking up the vast majority of my time, and other real life commitments filling up the remainder of whatever leftover time I have.
Thus, it should come as no surprise that I haven't exactly been doing anything spectacular in game, other than the usual Limbus and meriting, things that don't require a massive time commitment on my side. What all this will result in, I cannot say for sure, but given my recent activities, I simply haven't felt that there was anything interesting enough to write about.
What I can do, however, is go into further detail about something I've been trying to crack during my solo Pudding sessions- how to crack and maximise your xp/hour.
By now, just about every BLM75 would have had experience soloing Puddings in Mount Zhayolm, or at least have heard of it. While Puddings are slightly more dangerous to solo, coming from Wamoura Princes, once you get used to it, they are by far the fastest xp/hour for a solo BLM.
It's not difficult to see why they're the ideal solo mob, either. They are mage mobs, so are Aspirable. They also have about 1000hp less than a Wamoura Prince. They also don't have a "magic-resistant" mode, in fact, they take an additional 25% magic damage!
Of course, being mages, they are slightly more dangerous than a Prince, but all that means is that you'll have to deal with the occasional Burn or Shock, or have to Stun a Sleepga or Firaga III, all minor inconveniences to offset the extra xp.
Mount Zhayolm has two weather conditions- Fire weather, which is rather uncommon, and Earth weather, which is common. Within the area are eight Ebony Puddings, each on a 5-minute respawn timer. Ebony Puddings have approximately 4900hp each, and as mentioned earlier, take 25% extra magic damage. They are rather difficult to Sleep, so a good enfeebling set is advisible here. I'm also going to assume that for the purposes of this writeup, you are BLM75.
Casting range here is 21.5 yalms/units/whatever they're called.
If you are not familiar with the layout of the area, you would be well advised to familiarize yourself with the area so you know where all 8 spawn points are, and be careful of the Phasma towards the NE side at night. The southern passageway leading to Halvung provides a safe place to kite a Pudding, as well as an easy zone to run to should something go wrong.
In addition, when soloing, one BLMs generally takes up three Ebony Pudding spawns, so the area can support three solo BLMs comfortably.
Generally, the sequence of events are as follows:
Thunder IV → Gravity → Blizzard IV → Aspir → (subsequent nukes)
Your subsequent nukes would obviously vary depending on your general nuking strength and resists. Personally, I find that I need a second Thunder IV and Drain to finish off a mob, others may need more or less.
If this is your first time soloing Puddings, you may have trouble with your first few attempts as you get used to things, but you should adjust pretty quickly and soloing should be a breeze.
My current situation:
I've timed myself on a few of my sessions, physically taking down a piece of paper, recording my xp before I start and then soloing for a full hour before recording the new value, thus finding out my xp/hour. This is much more realistic (for obvious reasons) than those that xp for a shorter period of time, and then extrapolate out to 60 minutes.
My average xp/hour so far has been hovering around 8k/hr.
However, I've heard word on forums from other BLMs boasting of higher xp/hour rates solo, not to mention that there are a few issues I see with my solo tactics, so I'm out to try and improve on this.
Solo Chain #5
Most BLMs have little trouble hitting Chain #4 solo, in fact, I myself don't have any issues getting a Chain #4. The problem arises when one tries to consistently reach Chain #5, which I feel is the key to faster solo xp/hour, as always. I've managed to get Chain #5s in the past, but I wasn't able to consistently duplicate that, which is what I'm trying to attempt to dissect here.
The primary limiting factor you will most likely face is your mana. Even as a Taru, I have to stretch my mana to accomodate Chain #5, so I can imagine how hard it must be for, say, Galka BLMs (My nuking MP is around 996mp).
As per normal, your mana recovery will be through Sanction Auto-Refresh, Aspirs, and your resting. While you do not have much control over the first two, it is important that you pay attention to how much you rest so you manage your mana and time properly. As a general rule, you can afford to rest to full all the way up to Chain #3, but once you start going for Chain #4, you need to pay attention to the amount of time you have left before you lose the chain.
Up to now, I've always held that 600mp is more than enough to kill a Pudding, with extra mana to spare should something go wrong.
AM II versus Thunder IV?
One thing that I see a lot in Mount Zhayolm are BLMs meriting using two -IV spells and AMII. Personally, I can understand the draw of using Ancient magic- you get big, pretty numbers! However, I can safely say that using Ancient magic is not the way to go for one big reason- mana.
Case #1: You use Ancient Magic. This means you kill with two -IV nukes.
Thunder IV: 171
Blizzard IV: 164
Freeze II: 287
Case #2: You don't use Ancient Magic. Thus means you kill with three -IV nukes (and a Drain).
Thunder IV: 171
Blizzard IV: 164
Thunder IV: 171
You're looking at almost 100mp difference, which will take roughly 30 seconds to recover through resting. The only logical reason to use Ancient magic over Thunder IV + Drain would be in the interest of saving time, however, the difference is only 3 seconds, so it'd better be a close one. XD
Resting for Chain #5
Of course, you'd want to try and get as much mp as possible before you head off. However, it's obvious that you cannot afford to wait until you are fully recharged, otherwise you'd lose the chain.
The amount of time you have to kill the Chain #5 mob is just 2 minutes. I timed myself, and I take roughly 1:15 to kill a mob (including the time it takes for me to run and engage one), so I know that I have another 45 seconds to sit down and rest.
When you rest, your mana comes back after 20 seconds, and then subsequently every 10 seconds thereafter. For me, that means that I have three ticks of rest (+20, +30 and +40 seconds) before I know I have to head out for the next mob. However, just in case of any accidents, I only allow myself two ticks of rest instead.
A naked BLM75 rests for 27mp for the first tick. However, with +hMP gear, that easily goes up to about 50mp/tick, so two ticks worth is about 100mp.
Putting all this into practice:
All this talk is fine, and I wanted to actually go out there and see how well I could put this into action. This would allow me to see just how relevant all this musing has been, as well as provide some data which I could then use to extrapolate a logical xp/hour target to try and reach.
I went over to Mount Zhayolm (which was thankfully open! :D) and solo'ed six chains, three of which were Chain #5s. I noted down all the relevant timings and did my data collection in the process:
Time taken to move to a pudding
Time taken to kill a pudding:
Mana used to kill a pudding:
Mean time spent resting after Chain #X:
After Chain #0: 1:26
After Chain #1: 1:17
After Chain #2: 1:13
After Chain #3: 1:13
After Chain #4: 0:34
After Chain #5: 2:22
Based on these figures, I can now artificially reconstruct a Chain #5 to have a rough idea of just how much xp/hour we should be targetting:
+0:00 Stand up, move to engage 1st Pudding.
+1:09 Defeat #0, rest
+2:35 Stand up, move to engage 2nd Pudding.
+3:44 Defeat #1, rest
+5:01 Stand up, move to engage 3rd Pudding.
+6:10 Defeat #2, rest
+7:23 Stand up, move to engage 4th Pudding.
+8:32 Defeat #3, rest
+9:45 Stand up, move to engage 5th Pudding.
+10:54 Defeat #4, rest
+11:28 Stand up, move to engage 6th Pudding.
+12:37 Defeat #5, rest
+14:59 Mana full, repeat cycle.
Thus, our simulation would take 15 minutes to complete a full Chain #5 cycle (which includes a full heal, ready to start the next chain). The average xp a solo BLM gets from a Chain #5 is about 2440xp, so by extrapolating that, we should aim to get:
2440 x 4 = 9760xp/hr.
Thus, a 9-10k/hr xp rate is theoretically possible, although admittedly difficult to do. But an extra 1.7k over my current 8k/hr is certainly something to strive towards, although I'll definitely have to do more testing (and practice more!) before I can see such results.
One big problem I face with trying to beat the clock for a Chain #5 is that I do not have a Sorcerer's Ring. To be more accurate, my refusal to engage in HNM activities means I do not have the Zenith gear to convert my HP over to activate the Sorcerer latent (this also means that I nuke with Yigit gages, instead of Zenith Mitts. T_T)
The benefits of having a ring are twofold- first, I will be able to nuke down a Pudding in just three nukes, essentially saving myself from having to cast Drain. This saves me the 5 seconds or so it takes for me to cast Drain, and then cast another spell, as well as 21 mana. Is it worth it? In the interest of time, certainly, considering how close I was at times to missing the 2-minute deadline.
Someone on the Allakhazam forums also came up with the idea of killing Puddings two at a time before resting, that is to say that he solos one Pudding, immediately moves to kill another, then rests. It sounds like a good idea, since you save the rest time, as well as having fewer "dud" ticks where you recover 0mp, but I don't know how he squeezes a full rest in time to solo Chain #4 and #5. I'll certainly have to give it a shot though. ^^