|This article is a personal guide. Information expressed in this guide is one player's opinion and may be more opinion than fact. Strategies and information contained herein may not work for everyone.|
No non-minor changes should be made without consulting the author. Changes or questions should be discussed on the talk page.
This guide is aimed at Lv.27 and higher Bard players who wish to go beyond enhancing the exp party by songs alone, but also contribute as a Puller. Not all parties benefits from using its Bard as a puller; in some, a BRD/WHM as a co-healer is more helpful than leaving the back line manned by a lone mage. However, in many parties, the best thing a Bard can do for the groups' performance is to pull--in a controlled, steady manner between applying song effects.
Worship the Exp/Hour!
See sub-article: Obstacles to Exp/Hour.
There is only one true measurement of an exp party's performance: Experience Points per Hour. That's not "300 Exp on that last mob!", nor "Did you see my bad ass xxxx damage on WS?" It's experience points, per hour--everything else is just a distraction.
Every Bard's role is to enhance the exp/hour. No exception.
To perform that duty, a party must avoid or overcome problems such as poor party balance, over/under-hunting, death, bad tanking, replacements, poor balance, etc. While a Bard can usually do something (if not a lot) with most obstacles, it is surprisingly well suited to solve one problem in particular: Pulling.
Staged pulling is readying the next target for battle while working on the current one; it is about reducing the down time to 0, so every second of the hour the party is working on getting exp. This helps to keep the exp chains going, too, which further ups the exp/hour. Which is good, because a good party want high exp/hour--EXP/HOUR is the performance of the party.
Now, staged pulling isn't something exclusive to Bards. Red Mage, Corsair, and White Mage have all been doing it in merit parties and earlier, if not as often as Bards. Heck, theoretically a BLM/NIN with Herald's Gaiters can beat out a Bard in both speed and safety, with two single target sleeps, two AoE sleeps, and a stun spell to boot.
The reason why Bard is the king of staged pulling isn't that it's the only job capable of staged pulling. Rather, it's because a Bard is the only job which can reasonably perform its core duty while being away on pulls, by using the time between buff songs.
Generally, the process of staged pulling is:
- Play X number of buff songs.
- Run off to find preys in range.
- Select target, and trigger the pull (with Elegy or another spell/song).
- Run back to camp.
- Lullaby the pulled target; this stages the next fight.
- Repeat. (Sometimes, may have to reapply Lullaby between buff songs if the party is taking a while with current battle.)
The goal of staged pulling is to ensure the party does not have to spend time waiting between targets to fight. To achieve safe and effective staged pulling, some conditions must be met:
- Damage Mitigation vs. Healing Power Balance: The DDs must not take more damage than the mages and/or Dancer can sustain curing resources (MP for mages, TP and Waltz timer for Dancer), and sustain with a reasonable buffer for emergencies.
- A Bard assists with this by keeping Ballad on mages (and Paladin), and Madrigal and/or March on Dancer. Bard with White Mage, Red Mage, or Scholar support job also can directly lighten healers' load with cures.
- DDs should use /NIN if the party doesn't have abundant healing power; /SAM is nice, but Utsusemi is a more reliable damage mitigation than Seigan/Third Eye.
- A good tank save healing resource, and allows DDs to do more damage. Keep a critical eye on the tanking performance, and be prepared to switch songs if the tank needs an edge. (Generally, this means using a March over a Minuet or Madrigal. Minne is generally too great of a sacrifice even for a Paladin tank; consider position the party member in such a way so that PLD can receive a Ballad song instead without hitting DDs.)
- Proper Pull Timing: Pull too late, and the party will have to wait for something to kill. Pull too early, and the critter may wake up after the initial Lullaby, and damage the Bard or someone who used Provoke. This may needlessly waste healing resources, as well as take up more of a Bard's time to reapply Lullaby. Generally speaking, however, pulling early is much better than pulling late--a second Lullaby usually won't cost the party an exp chain.
- A condition often overlooked is overcrowding; even the greatest puller will bring in substandard exp/hour if there are too many competitors. A more out of the way place, no exp bonus, slightly harder to kill monsters---but free from competition local--will usually bring in better exp/hour than a crowded camp with favorite targets.
- Tailored Buff Cycle: It's great to never let buffs drop, but spending too much time buffing and the staged pulling will become spotty, and not so well staged. On the other hand, letting buffs drop for more than a few seconds means a Bard is neglecting his core duty. A party without BRD buffs can still stage pull, but will kill slower, and result in lower exp/hour--the same result as slow pulling due to over buffing.
- With a party which has uneven kill speed, a Bard must be vigilant of the monster's HP bar, and be flexible about the number of buff songs to play before running off to pull. The easiest way to remain flexible is to keep to a buff song order. Sounds counter-intuitive, but keeping a strict order means one always know which song to play next by checking the song icons on the screen to see which song was last played. (Well, mostly; single target buffs like Prelude and Pianissimo'ed songs are not listed.)
- A fairly typical pattern is to play two songs for the front line, pull and stage, then play two songs for the back line, pull and stage, then repeat. Keeping a tailored buff cycle is useful when recovering from suddenly have to pull earlier--a memory device, really. Also, for parties such as those with Paladin or Ranger, the front line needs three songs, so "two songs then pull" pattern doesn't neatly coincide with the front/back split, so a strict order is helpful for remembering which song is next.
- In a party which can safely kill fast without full four buff songs--especially at a camp with moderate to long pull distance, it may be better to cut the number of songs to three or even down to two (one front, one back) in order to keep chain. Always start with full buffs (especially double ballad for the back line if single mage), then adjust the tailored buff cycle according to condition.
To recap, staged pulling is all about bringing in the next monster before the current target is dead, so the party always have something to kill. To do this, the party must have right balance of damage mitigation vs. curing power, be at a good, clear camp that fits the party, and a Bard who's always keeping an eye on the monster and the party so he knows when to run off and get another monster.
This is an older style, and a precursor to Staged Pulling. The craft of Chain 5 is largely a lost art now, but it shouldn't be. Chain 5 pulling is still relevant, and even useful.
There are plenty of popular, actively in use camps which cannot sustain infinite staged pulling for parties killing at a decent pace, but can give consistent Chain 5's. The Lv.37-40 Nest Beetle camp in Crawler's Nest; Lv.40-43 Soldier Crawler (secret room) camp in the same Crawler's Nest; and, Lv.52-55 Robber Crab camp in Kuftal Tunnel near the Cape Teriggan zone line, just to name a few.
In those camps, the exp/hour for a strong party is limited by the repop rate; there are only so many monsters per hour that can pop within reach. Chain 5 pulling is one technique to squeeze as much exp off of these limited number of monsters as possible. FFXI players know the higher the chain number, the better the chain exp bonus is, up to chain 5--and, it just so happens most of the mid level and higher camps can provide chain 5 if a decent party behaves correctly.
Experience chain 5 is reached when a party defeats six Even Match or higher monsters within a certain amount of time.
To do this, the puller lets the party rest after the first one or two kills. Given that there's a 200 second grace period for reaching chain 1 and 160 second for chain 2 at Lv.31-40, and even longer at higher levels, it's quite easy to rest to full MP after the first or even the second kill. Then, the puller increasingly step up the pull speed, and Lullaby the target at camp for chain 4's and 5's target. It's not unheard of for a Bard to run back with chain 4 target, buff one song (or even no song), then immediately leave camp again for the chain 5's target if it's a long pull.
The whole idea is really about making sure the party has enough resources to kill the last three monsters in a row going into the tail end of the chain, and to make sure the targets arrive at the camp in time. Notice that the way Bard pulls for Chain 4 and 5 is staged pulling. The difference between two styles is that a staged pulling party keeps staging monsters, even after chain 5.
Roaming party is a variation of staged pulling--with an even heavier responsibility on the puller.
The idea is to leave a breadcrumb trail for the party to follow a la Hansel and Gretel. As in regular staged pulling, a Bard will pull a target while the party is still fighting, and use Lullaby to incapacitate the pulled target. However, instead of bringing the monster back to camp, it is slept a little away from the front line, just out of reach.
Upon finishing one battle, the rest of the party will move (a small way) to the staged target, following the 'baits' the Bard puller has left. Over time, the party will move in what is known as the roaming path, which is a path that brings the party closer to the next pulling target with every fight.
The classic examples include the skeletons in King Ranperre's Tomb using all Monk front line, and the Decorative Weapon in Shrine of Ru'Avitau for more balanced parties. ToAU roaming parties operate on the Heraldic Imp in Caedarva Mire (when not overcrowded), Mamool Ja/Puk/Wyvern at Bhaflau Thickets near Jade Sepulcher, and in Mamool, and (uncommonly) Hilltrolls in Mount Zhayolm. WotG brings at least one new roaming party possibility, with Yagudos in Castle Oztroja (S).
A roaming party needs a puller with a plan, and that plan is the roaming path. This requires a good knowledge of the range--there is no stationary 'camp'--and requires the foresight to plot a good path through the thicket of enemies while decimating them one by one.
Start Pulling? When and How?
Level 27 is when a Bard can start pulling, because that's when a Bard gets Horde Lullaby. While one Lullaby can be resisted fairly often at lower levels, two should provide sufficient safety most of the time.
Lower level Bards are usually on /WHM support job. Pull with Paralyze; it's fast casting, available from /WHM (and /RDM), fairly low MP--and seems not to lock people post spell animation as much as the Threnody songs.
Recommend against using /NIN before Lv.30 due to the lack of a decent pulling song. Post 30, /NIN15+ provides the elemental ninjutsu spells (the -ton series), which are reasonable for pulling, if a bit long in cast time. Note that to use those, one must have the appropriate ninja tools in inventory.
Do not pull with Dia or Requiem; slip damage spell on the monster means Lullaby will wear off the instant it lands. Same goes for Poison or Bio for those with /RDM. Staged pulling isn't possible for a Bard pulling with a slip damage (DoT) spell.
Mary's Horn. This is a must. Every Bard level 14 and higher should have it, and doubly so for any puller Bard. Next up is reasonable defense (no level 1 RSE, please), especially in Body and Legs slots. CHR and skill gears to help land Lullaby are good, too. Lv.51+, macro in Apollo's Staff (or at least a Light Staff) into Lullaby macros.
Other than that, there's no real difference from non-puller Bard's setup for the majority of levels, with a huge exception of Minstrel's Ring for players who are willing to make the sacrifices needed. That ring and the setup needed to activate its latent is covered in its own section later. That means Light Staff, Earth Staff, and all those Charisma and Singing/Wind skill gears are still must-have's.
Aside from Minstrel's Ring(Lv.50), Bards have access to Song Spellcasting Time reduction gear Sha'ir Manteel and Yigit Gomlek. While those are good for any Bard, they are especially helpful to a puller Bard. Every Bard puller should aim to obtain at least the Yigit Gomlek at some point.
Reasonably priced Defense food will do the job nicely if able to land Lullaby (and Elegy) reliably. If not, Charisma food is the ticket. Hybrid food grants Defense and Charisma at the same time.
- Defense: Boiled Crab, Steamed Crab, Fish Mithkabob, Shallops Tropicale.
- Charisma: Chamomile Tea, Flint Caviar, Tuna Sushi, Pamamas (for Opo-opo Crown).
- Hybrid Def/CHR: Tavnazian Salad, Tavnazian Taco.
For Charisma alone, it's hard to beat price and convenience of Chamomile Tea. The Opo-opo Crown users should stick to Pamamas, given it's even cheaper and grants more Charisma. For the crown-less insisting on 30 minute CHR food, it's a toss up between Tuna Sushi and Flint Caviar. For the price of Tuna Sushi, though, a puller Bard should seriously consider Tavnazian Taco instead.
There's no single right way to macro for a Bard puller. Some people prefer to put a /party chat line in the song or spell macro (usually Elegy or Paralyze) used as the pulling trigger, others do not want to spam the party when they reapply Elegy mid battle so have a separate "Pulling" macro which they can use with any spell or song. The following is the less-spam style example:
Song/spell macro usable as pulling trigger:
- /recast "Battlefield Elegy"
- /song "Battlefield Elegy" <stnpc>
- /equip range "Horn +1"
- /equip main "Earth Staff"
Pull announcement macro:
- /party Fishing -> <<lastst>> (<pos>) <call21>
- /target <lastst>
- Press the above macro after triggering the pull with any macro that uses <stnpc>. It's a fine idea to add to that macro commands to switch to defensive gears, but remember switch back to CHR/skill gears later with some other macro(s) if doing so.
- /recast "Foe Lullaby"
- /song "Foe Lullaby" <stnpc>
- /equip range "Mary's Horn"
- /equip main "Light Staff"
- /recast "Horde Lullaby"
- /song "Horde Lullaby" <stnpc>
- /equip range "Mary's Horn"
- /equip main "Light Staff"
Aside: Keep in mind that AoE buff songs already spam the party a lot, and the party does not need more party lines from the Bard to fill up the chat log. No buff song macro should have any /party chat line.
For exp party, a puller Bard can use a number of support jobs effectively: /WHM, /SCH, /RDM, /BLU, and /NIN. For the majority of targets and camps, a Bard puller can do a fine job on any of those listed; it all comes down to how much damage mitigation is needed to pull at a good pace, and which SJ brings which additional benefits the party can use.
- /WHM: The best support job to support the party with, with bar- spells, Cure, Curaga, Regen, and spells to fix status ailments. Makes available Blink and Stoneskin to a puller BRD, but not compatible with Minstrel's Ring due to Auto Regen.
- /NIN: Post Lv.30, probably the best for pulling in general thanks to Utsusemi, but brings no support capability to the party at all.
- /BLU: Cocoon is an impressive defensive spell available at Lv.16, but for helping with cures, a BRD/BLU won't get Healing Breeze until Lv.32 or Wild Carrot until Lv.60.
- /RDM: Fast Cast, Blink, and Phalanx/Stoneskin if time permits, plus Cure and Regen spells. Lacks spells to fix status ailments, compared to /WHM and /SCH. Compatible with the Minstrel's Ring.
- /SCH: The alternative to /WHM when using the Minstrel's Ring while retaining Cure, Regen, and spells to fix status ailments. This SJ has no defensive capability at all, however, making it dangerous to use at certain camps.
Generally speaking, having /WHM and /NIN ready would be sufficient, though there's a middle stretch where a non-/WHM mage support job would be handy for Minstrel's Ring users. For the majority of the Bard players, /WHM to Lv.30, then use /NIN when pulling and /WHM when not pulling is a good rule of thumb to follow.
Minstrel's Ring and Casting Time
Time, is the most valuable resource a Bard has. No item a Bard can own can save as much time as the Minstrel's Ring. That, makes the Ring very enticing.
Minstrel's Ring's latent effect--the Song Spellcasting Time-25%--is activated when the wearer's current HP is at 75% of the current max HP or lower. (Basically, when one's HP is yellow or lower.) To reach that, one can swap in HP- or Convert HP to MP gear, or just get hit a few times on pulls. Without a Sky/HNM LS for various pieces in Aquarian Abjuration set and high enough level to wear them, it's impractical to try to activate with gears alone. Get used to taking a few hit if one desires the ring's power.
Without other Fast Cast or Song Spellcasting Time reduction gear, when the ring is active, one can start the next song comfortably at 80% or slightly earlier. Given that Bard's major buff songs have 8 seconds base casting time, that 20% saving translates 1.6 seconds shorter songs.
What differences does that make? On a two buff per pull rotation, that's 3.6 seconds, which doesn't sound like much, but makes it possible on an early pull to comfortably Lullaby, reapply Utsusemi: Ichi, then sing two songs--and be ready to reapply Lullaby when the monster wakes up if it the front line isn't ready to engage. Without the ring, a Bard will often find the monster awake while on the second buff song, causing the Bard to waste additional time to recast Utsusemi (4 seconds for Ichi) after the second Lullaby unless someone else already used Provoke/Flash/Sleep II on the monster.
Of course, less time spent on buff songs can also mean more time to pull without breaking chain, or time to Pianissimo a Ballad to the Paladin, or Finale a Cocoon, etc. A Bard's usefulness is only limited by time.
Song Spellcasting Time reduction gear:
- Minstrel's Ring Latent: SST-25% (Lv.50 Ring; Latent on yellow HP)
- Sha'ir Manteel SST-12% (Lv.72 Body) (BRD JSE)
- Sheikh Manteel SST-13% (Lv.72 Body) (HQ of Sha'ir)
- Yigit Gomlek SST-10% (Lv.72 Body) (Assault Point purchase)
Fast Cast gear: (Same effect as SST-, but for all spells, not just songs.)
- Warlock's Mantle Latent: Fast Cast (-2%) (Lv.30 Back; Latent on /RDM)
- Rostrum Pumps Fast Cast (-2%) (Lv.75 Feet)
- Loquacious Earring Fast Cast (-2%) (Lv.75 Earring)
Level Sync and Skills
Given the prevalence of Level Sync parties, be warned: Take the time to skill up between parties. Try to keep Singing and Wind Instrument skills capped or close to so. Landing Elegy is a great boon to any tank and all healers, and landing Lullaby makes or breaks the staged pulling.
To land them, a Bard needs the gears and the skills. Those with Al'Taieu access especially have no excuse for uncapped skills--a short session with a Hpemde every time after leveling up will keep the skills capped. (Can use any offensive song except Requiem; if one does not damage the Hpemde, it will not attack.) Those without Sea access can take advantage of Besieged, or otherwise seek relatively safe targets to spam songs on.
See sub-article: Target Notes.
Some monsters are aggressive, some can link, and some are both. Some creatures are only aggressive under certain conditions (daytime/nighttime, etc.), while some can run faster than players. It is important for a puller to understand the behaviors of the the exp targets as well as other monsters in the surrounding area in order to avoid unnecessary links, adds, and deaths.
The most commonly encountered monster families by exp parties are listed in the Target Notes sub-article, but it's not a bad idea to look up the camp area in FFXIclopedia and Campsitarus as well before heading out of town.
This guide is a spiritual descendant of Fhrast's Motto. Competent staged pulling and roaming party was first demonstrated on screen for the author by Yevna of Ifrit. Special thanks to Lancaster, also of Ifrit, for the perceptive insight that time is what the most precious thing any Bard has.
A grudging acknowledgment for all the nasty monsters who took impossible paths to link half of the zone, for pops who suddenly made clear road to camp a hellish obstacle course, and for all the crazy adds who managed to meander into the range of Horde Lullaby and Sleepga (and nuke-ga) just in time to wipe the party. Same goes for the sadistic programmers behind their AI's.
Last, but not least, sincere thanks to all the pullers--Bard, other jobs, good, bad, so-so, or otherwise--for the motivations. Especially, to the bad pullers. And, to that singular Lv.75 Bard would-be staged puller, who made the author of the guide laugh in despair by failing to land virtually every single Lullaby for an hour and half at the Greater Colibri camp, including that Horde Lullaby.