Final Fantasy XI: A Look at the Black Mage
MMORPG.com Final Fantasy XI Correspondent Wesley Bond writes this look at the Black Mage class in Square Enix's forray into the realm of MMORPGs.
No other character has been so indelibly burned into our memory as the image of the Final Fantasy Black Mage. The image of the pointy straw hat, dark robes, glowing beady eyes and shadowed face are forever the icon of the dark arts. To be a Black Mage is to wield the unfettered powers of the elements, bringing their terrible power to bear against any foe that would stand against him. Final Fantasy XI is no different in its portrayal of the Black Mage. The Black Mage's job is nothing short of damage dealer and few jobs hit as hard in realms of magic as it allows. The downside to employing such a furious power? I think that can be summed up in the nickname "glass cannon". The Black Mage can dish out the pain but when the favor is returned by a powerful and angry mob, the Black Mage won't last for long.
The Black Mage class is limited in their choice of weapons and armor. Staves and clubs will be your strongest weapons of choice and on the weak end daggers and scythes. The class is limited to cloth armor such as robes and tunics so no tanking in your near future. What you will be utilizing from your weapons and armor will be the stats they boost, specifically to your Intelligence and MP. Intelligence is the mother of all stats for the Black Mage as that stat alone will increase your damage dealing capabilities. MP is next on your list of priorities because without it you are toast. A Black Mage with cloth armor, a club, and no more MP makes for a tasty treat to many a mob.
The offensive nature of the Black Mage comes in many forms beyond simple nuking. You will need a good understanding of a monster's elemental weakness, how to boost your effectiveness in dealing elemental damage, enfeebling and ending skill chains. Skill chains are a series of weapon skills that when done in order, generate large amounts of damage against a target and at the end a Black Mage must know what spell to cast to match the appropriate skill chain in order to create a magic burst. A magic burst posts some impressive damage numbers and closes the skill chain. Another skill set is learning to exploit the elemental weaknesses of a monster type and is a skill every Black Mage should try and learn. It will mean the difference between a spell barely scratching a monster and them getting rocked by the full power of your wrath. As you progress you will become more and more dependant on gear swapping to increase your abilities to exploit that weakness and increase your damage dealing capabilities. The flip side to learning how to squeeze the most damage out of a spell is learning how much is too much. Pulling aggro is the last thing you want and can make life hard on everyone else in your party. A trigger happy Black Mage can get everyone killed if the tank uses up all his tricks saving you and then the mob turns on your healers etc. Learn to control your damage dealing abilities and walk the fine like between love and hate with your nemesis. It is a dance of death and your steps determine whether it's them or you that die in the end. Finally with an average skill in enfeebling, you will also be working to tip the scales in your parties favor with spells like Bio, Rasp, Sleep, Drown and many more. Other enfeebles will be to help you alone like Drain and Aspir which will steal your targets HP/MP while adding it back to your own or Spike spells to deal damage back to an attacking mob that strikes you. The Black Mage class abilities are geared for faster MP regeneration and conservation which makes for a nice main or sub for mage classes in general. Since your damage is based on whether you have the MP to let go a nuke or not, these abilities help get and keep you in the fight faster and for longer periods of time.
Though the Black Mage is known for his or her offensive abilities, they have a set of defensive and utilitarian spells for helping in a party. Warp I/II allows you and party members to be quickly teleported back to your home points while Escape ports your party out of a dungeon. These spells allow a mage to get a party out of a sticky situation, quick port home or a faster way to exit a dungeon than fighting your way back out. The rest of your support abilities come in the form of your sub job. The most common sub is White which allows a Black Mage the ability to back up heal, buff , raise and grants you a nice MP boost to boot. Scholar is another subjob that can aid you and your party with the ability to help aid in healing with Regen/Cures, lower your MP cost, boost your enfeebling ability, use some of your health as an MP pool, and offers some White buffs. Red Mage is an optional sub job that functions like White but with a decrease in MP and many healing/buffs come at later levels. Red offers an in crease in Intelligence, a bump in enfeebling magic and enfeebling spells. There are other subs such as Ninja and Summoner that can be used but not as often as those listed above especially in a party situation.
We are now near the part where I like to throw out more unconventional play or builds. This time around I want to talk about utilizing the subjob Beastmaster for soloing. I also know that Black Mages can solo on their own in a limited fashion like preying elemental pets. And yes, BST can be used with any job for soloing but I've found this combo to be handy earlier on than other jobs. I've found that Black Mage coupled with BST can be a great way to trudge through those lower levels when you are vulnerable to attack. You can easily out damage and pull aggro with Black but I'll explain a few techniques I used to counter that:
First, this is not to start off a fight nuking a mob or else you end up fighting the way you normally would. Send your pet out to get aggro, enfeeble then at the half way point nuke mob 'till death do you part. The advantage to having a pet is less damage you take and you can rest while all that is going on at the start of the battle. If done properly you don't have any down time. Normally you unload on mob, rest and repeat with a lot of downtime in between but with a pet you are always in a fight even while you are resting. One technique you should develop early with this build is the ability to kite mobs. You can't take too many hits so kiting allows you to reduce the numbers of hits you might take before your pet regains hate. I tend to use a circular pattern bringing the mob back around for my pet to attack. You only run straight out if your pet breaks charm and you need to run down the recast clock. The circular pattern keeps you from picking up links which can happen on a straight out run for your life. Another benefit to having a pet is when you find yourself with no mana and an angry mob. A Black Mage in melee is a sad sight and many times ends in defeat if the mob is tough enough but with a pet you have someone who can help you finish the fight strong. Even pre 10 when you still out damage a pet in melee, that extra damage output helps put the fight to rest and gets you on to the next fight instead of leaving you bruised and battered. This build is not for everyone, but with a little work can be a good solo option especially the Beastmaster that wants Warp for a quick escape or to save on travel time.
The Black Mage is the master of the forces of nature but relies on his teammates (especially the tank) to stay alive and do what he does best....blow stuff up. Nothing says fun like nuking a mob after a stressful day at work or school. Though more limited in scope and versatility than others jobs, it remains the classic class for killing stuff and melting the face off of an angry monster. If dropping the hammer on some unsuspecting mob and posting high damage numbers from the back row sounds like your cup of tea then Black Mage is for you. Good hunting fellow players!