To steal or not to steal, that is the question. Thief is a class you are able to play from the start and do not have to unlock to play. The Thief is a very utilitarian job in the game of Final Fantasy XI and is handy both as a main and as a subjob. It can be used effectively in full parties, small parties and solo play. The role of a Thief in parties may be a lot different than you might think. For those that haven’t played you may think about stealing, for those with little experience with Thief you may think damage dealing but Thief is more than the sum of its parts, it’s about control. Thief gives you some nice options when facing down monsters that can really keep things humming in a group or give you the option to leave the situation in solo. Evasion and Agility are your friend and when others rely on heavy armor, you will really on speed and dodging incoming attacks.
So what does this job do?
The first sentence of this article is very relevant as the Thief has less to do with actual stealing and more to do with hate management. You may do some thievery early on against mobs in solo play to pick an odd item here and there but overall that isn’t your main purpose or even secondary. The thief has the ability to do some solid damage dealing and then place all the hate it just generated back on the appropriate tank. It works as both a damage dealer and support job through hate control. Thieves are known for their SATA, which is a combination of Sneak Attack and Trick Attack job abilities.
Sneak Attack (level 15) is an automatic critical if you are attacking from behind and Trick Attack (level 30) dumps all the enmity accrued from the user’s next attack onto the person they are standing behind when they triggered the ability. So don’t be standing behind your healer when you are ready to use this ability. It takes a little bit of practice to pull off a SATA as you will have to make sure you are lined up right behind the party member you plan on dumping all your hate on. The next supporting role a Thief plays is a puller and they have many tools at their disposal for the job. You basically run out and tick off the most desired mob to drag it back to where your party is set up and waiting to kill it. Pulling can be an art and a bad puller means people die. You need to be aware of the type of mob your party is set up for, whether that mob is the appropriate difficulty for your party to handle, whether your pull will link other mobs nearby, whether your party has recouped form previous battles and whether you can survive the run back to camp. It is an important and fun job if done correctly. I’ve died many a times due to trigger happy pullers dragging mobs back in before the party is ready or consistently strolling in with links.
The Thief class has some great traits that serve them well in this capacity like high evasion, average armor and the ability to leave the scene completely with Flee if things go awry. Flee (level 25) is very handy in solo play of the battle isn’t working out in your favor, you can trigger Flee and you get a 2x boost to your run (similar to speed of riding a chocobo). Good to have if you get a nasty link on a pull and you need that extra distance to slide into that zone crossing safely. Lastly, a Thief can aid in enfeebling a target as they have decent marksmanship that will allow them to use status bolts to help weaken them. As you can see, the Thief plays several roles in a party such as damage dealer, hate manager, enfeebler and puller.
Thief has a decent selection of weapons and armor that are in the medium range spectrum. Your melee weapons selection will be hand to hand, daggers, swords, and clubs. Though your first instinct will be to go for that dagger in the beginning you are probably better of sticking with sword for higher damage output or hand to hand for more damage over time. Sub Warrior for swords or Monk for knuckles or claws. Daggers are very weak in the beginning and can frustrate the difficulty of getting through your lower levels.
Personally, I find the Thief to be one of the more frustrating jobs to level in the beginning as you have very little to work with but the job pays off later, so it’s worth it. Also on the menu of your personal arsenal is the fact that Thieves have a decent marksmanship and archery skill so you have the option of opening a fight with a ranged attack or inflicting status aliments with bolts. You will also have a lower Throwing skill which makes it nice for pulling. Some throwing weapons are reusable, making them perfect for pulling a mob without breaking your wallet. On the armor front, a Thief uses the mid range armor sets like Doublet, Harness and Leather. None of these make you a tank in any sense of the word, but it’s enough to keep you alive while pulling a target to camp or taking stray hits, providing it’s not a special attack (tp based). The Thief class also has a very low skill in shields which may come in handy while soloing and before you unlock Ninja and dual wielding.
Subjobs play an important role in how the Thief class operates and there are a number of them to choose from. Early on Warrior and Monk can be used to boost damage output in conjunction with your weapon choices. Warrior has more to offer in terms of abilities and probably your strongest choice until 30 when you can unlock Ninja. Warrior is a good choice even later as Ninja can get expensive. The main advantages with Ninja are Utsusemi: Ichi (damage mitigation) and dual wielding, both of which you will find are more effective later in the game. Ranger is a great subjob especially for camping notorious monsters by using Widescan and increases your ranged damage output significantly. It’s not a bad subjob choice for parties depending on the setup and needs of the party. Dancer is a nice choice for Thief especially solo as you gain the ability to heal and some status aliments. Samurai is best for endgame so you can get the TP needed to keep your damage output high. As a subjob Thief is a great addition especially for high level melee jobs that need the ability to dump hate. The SATA combo is a very efficient way to keep enmity under control. The other reason why players sub Thief is for the Treasure Hunter job trait. Treasure Hunter increases drop rates and thus aids in farming.
As you can see there is more to Thief than merely damage dealing and they can play a vital role in a successful party. From pulling to hate management, Thief has several roles to play in the course of a battle. It is flexible in solo play and the best choice for farming and increasing your bottom line. Hope this helps in your decision making process on what job fits your style of play and as always Good Hunting!