Written by: Desparae
This was originally written as one section of a class-specific guide I am making, but after some thought, I found that most of it generally applies to all DPS. Instead of including it with that guide, I am just cutting it out, tweaking it a bit, and making it a stand-alone guide of itself. Demonstrative examples that require choosing a class will be based on ravager, because that is my main class and is the guide this was originally written for.
This is by no means the definitive guide to having good DPS on AK, nor do you have to follow or agree with what I'm saying. I just thought it would be helpful for those who don't have as much experience to compile all this stuff in one place. There is a lot of information here, and quite a few mathematical examples, so it may be tough to sift through. I encourage you to give it a shot though if you are at all interested, because almost all of it is important.
Anyway, let's dive right in.
Balancing your DPS: Damage sources and tradeoffs
The focus of this guide will be to talk about the major damage sources in AK. Some are more important than others, but most of them are quite influential. A basic list:
- Detail damage %
- Elemental damage %
- Attack speed %
- Character damage stat
- Crit rate and crit dmg
- Zeal procs (% bonus damage)
- Main weapon envoy damage %
- Defense reduction (both flat and %)
- *Bonus! Movespeed
Before explaining all these, some terms you should become familiar with are "multiplicative" and "additive" increases. I use these a lot when talking about or explaining tradeoffs, so it would be beneficial to understand them.
Multiplicative increase generally refers to how much your damage will literally be increased overall by adding to these basic damage sources. As a simple example, consider a player with 0% elemental damage, and then going to 20% element damage by using a trophy. They will gain 20% additive elemental damage, and 20% multiplicative damage, because their overall damage was increased literally by 20%.
Now consider a player with 20% elemental trophy that is adding 30% from an elemental accessory set. They are gaining 30% additive elemental damage, and 25% multiplicative damage. That is, their overall damage is increased literally by 25%.
How did I arrive at this? Well, I'll use some basic numbers to model the concept. We will assume their attack does 100k damage before the addition of any elemental damage.
100k ----> 120k
120k/100k = 20% increase
adding in 30% accessory after 20% trophy
120k ----> 150k
150k/120k = 25% increase
So yeah, as you add more of a damage source, the multiplicative (true) damage gain from it will lessen. This is an important tool when you are considering tradeoffs for what items or stats to aim for.
Anyway, let me now cover the different damage sources and try to explain some of the more complicated ones.
Detail dmg%: (I suggest watching my video on this topic here if you find it difficult to follow or understand. A bit outdated, but still useful.)
Detail dmg% is an important stat in the Offensive section of the Detailed List, which is found at the bottom right corner of your Character Window. When this stat was first understood, the DPS landscape of this game was shifted quite significantly. The basic idea is that dungeons have a certain damage reduction value (I will call it DR%) which cut your expected damage by a certain percentage. For example, dragons and most heII modes have 90% reduction, which means your damage is reduced by 90%. The good thing for us is that we can counter that reduction by using detail dmg%.
An example of why detail dmg% is very powerful can be seen as follows:
90% DR dungeon with 0% detail dmg and 100k skill dmg
100k * (1-0.9) = 10k dmg
90% DR dungeon with 10% detail dmg and 100k skill dmg
100k * (1-0.8 ) = 20k dmg
As you can see from this example, adding the first 10% detail dmg gives you twice as much dmg as before, or in more technical words, a 100% multiplicative damage increase. So this is some pretty powerful stuff. Be careful though, as the multiplicative damage returns will decrease as you pump more of the stat (like elemental dmg and all the other dmg sources) so you have to balance it wisely. Do the math for each % increase to see if your tradeoffs are actually worth it or not.
There are three types we will be concerned with in PvE-- general, elite, and boss dmg%. General affects all mob types in dungeons, elites affects only elite mobs, and boss affects only bosses. The most important one to focus on will obviously be boss dmg%, since most of the time is spent killing them, and more often than not you can just kill general/elites at the boss anyway. It doesn't hurt to carry a costume swap for elite dmg% though, since some elites can give you more trouble.
As a melee, you'll ideally want to have around 70% boss damage on elemental bosses and 80% boss damage on non-elemental bosses. As a ranged class, boss damage is a bit harder to come by, but luckily all of the ranged classes work well with bard sub for an extra 12% if you want to go that route. The common sources are as follows:
-15% melee buff
-10% boss head enchant
-14% secret stones
-12% sniper top (because of Deep Blue) or 20% with ambusher top
-12% sniper bottom
-6% dmg emblem (green, need 900k eido score)
-x% various weapon procs
-10% orange main weapon
-10% orange sub (for use on violent bosses only) or 12% blue sub
-12% bard sub note stacks
So as melee with full sniper and deep blue, you would run around 69% detail on element bosses and 79% on violent. Ambusher + sniper bottom would have 77% on element and 87% on violent, but at the cost of a lot of good stats. For that reason, ambusher is only recommended if using lion's bottom because it helps make up for the lost detail dmg and you don't need the speed from sniper top to get high attack speed.
As a ranged class, your detail dmg would of course be 15% lower compared to a melee, so you need to make up for it somehow. As I mentioned earlier, the easiest way is to just slap on bard sub, and it generally pairs well with them anyway. You could also try using an orange main weapon if you like, but generally I think 65 weapon is a better choice. You'll have to think about what works for you; we have some other damage sources to cover.
Elemental dmg %:
Elemental dmg is somewhat similar to detail dmg, just that there is no DR% for elemental. So your elemental damage is not affected by the dungeon in any way, apart from which element the bosses are. As shown in an earlier example, having 20% total elemental damage will literally give you a 20% multiplicative damage increase, having 50% total will give you 50%, etc.
Most of the time you will have around 87 or 94%, depending on if you swap armor elements or not. The common sources are as follows:
-20% element trophy
-30% element accessory
-37% element sub (7% from the 7ele/2dmg stone) or 57% for flame/ice
-7% from armor swap (if you are so inclined)
-10% from element elixir or 15% from greater elixir
-51% from +15 holy chest (flame/ice only)
When you combine detail dmg% with element dmg%, you will really see your dps start to climb.
Imagine you have 100k expected dmg in a 90% DR dungeon and you have 70% boss dmg + 90% ele dmg (just isolate these stats for this case)
100k * (1-0.2) * 1.9 = 152k
Your 10k dmg would go to 80k with the detail dmg and 152k with the element dmg. That's like fifteen times the amount you would do with neither invested at all.
Anyway, if you already figured out detail dmg%, element dmg% is pretty easy to understand. it's just the same thing but without being reduced by dungeons. Main thing is knowing the main sources and carrying it all around with you for dungeons.
Attack speed %:
Along with detail and element dmg, this is one of the damage sources less commonly understood by the general public. Most people think of speed stat as just a way to let you spam skills faster, such as wizard and meteor. Well, that's really just a side effect of the main thing you should use it for: attack speed.
Jumpcasting is a technique that many are familiar with in AK, but far fewer actually understand. The basic idea is that it stops you from being locked in place on the ground when using a skill. But when it comes to DPSing, there is also the benefit of extra auto attacks. You will get auto attacks if your character lands on the ground during a skill after you canceled the animation using jumpcasting. The best way to make use of this is by casting skills towards the end of your jump arc-- especially the ones that have longer animation times. It's not as important for short skills, but very important if you plan on using skills with a long GCD (global cooldown/animation time). Generally I consider .5~.7 seconds short, .8~1.1 medium, and anything 1.2+ long. Master the technique of jumpcasting if you want to be a good DPS; it's important.
In tandem with jumpcasting, attack speed is extremely important for maximizing your DPS. When you jumpcast your skills properly, your auto attacks (will refer to as AAs sometimes) will fire at almost a constant stream, which actually makes up more of your damage than your skills do.
So you understand that auto attacks are important, but what can you do about it? Well, you hit your benchmark. (There is thread here that has a list of the wepspeeds and aspd caps for all classes if you are lazy to follow the math)
The equation that determines your seconds per auto attack is as follows:
wepspeed * (1 - aspd%) = seconds per AA
As an example, for ravager, with axe wepspeed of 2.6:
2.6 * (1 - aspd%) = seconds per AA
As it happens, the universal cap for all classes is 0.5sec per AA. This means your stream of auto attacks can go at a maximum speed of 2 per second, but it depends on your class weapon speed what aspd% you need to hit that. By using a little algebra
2.6 * (1 - x) = 0.5
2.6 - 2.6x = 0.5
2.6x = 2.1
x = 0.807
we can deduce that axe weapon needs 81% aspd (rounded from 80.7% for convenience) to cap at 0.5sec per AA. So if you want to cap your aspd, 81% is the mark you need to hit on ravager.
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of ways to do this. The main sources are as follows:
-25% 3 star yarnaros
-8~10% secret stones
-x% speed stat (10% speed emblem is one way to boost this, as well as .3% per stat point)
-50% lion's roar bottom (caps easily with yarnaros)
-30% hands of shadow (not recommended for everyday use)
So the two main ways to cap aspd are either use lion's roar bottom or a combination of aspd secret stones with x% speed stat (x% being the amount you need to cap after yarnaros + secret stones). For example, if I have 8% from secret stones, and 25% from yarnaros, I need 48% speed stat to cap aspd on ravager because I need 81%.
Now, some people will tell you that you don't need to hit the cap exactly, just get close and call it good. Some people also don't like to do calculations and testing. You can use whatever aspd% you want to, but I'm going to suggest that you go all the way to the cap, especially if you use high GCD skills at all frequently.
If we look at 75% attack speed on ravager, for example:
2.6 * (1 - .75) = 0.65 sec per AA -- versus the 0.5sec per AA from 81%
If we invert these values to obtain the AA per sec, we can see how drastically this 6% attack speed affected our auto attack stream:
1/.65 = 1.54 AA per sec, whereas 1/.5 = 2 AA per sec
On ravager, 81% attack speed makes your auto attacks go 30% faster than 75% attack speed. I'm not going to call that a multiplicative damage increase, because it isn't exactly that, but the effect /is/ pretty big. Yes, I am firing shots at people who propogate 75% and 77% as aspd benchmarks. So hit 81% or don't hit anything at all. (jk.. but seriously, hit the cap)
Anyway, moving on...
Character damage stat:
Hey, a simple topic! Well.... kind of.
As you may have guessed, this is literally the damage number as it appears on your character screen. Since there's not a huge explanation I need to do for this, I'm just going to show the main sources of character damage:
-Weapon damage (increased with high % and +20)
-Gear damage stat (for example, full sniper including green enchants)
-Additive dmg% (includes everything from 2% dmg enchants/costumes to 24% yarnaros to 9~12% dmg ballad to .45% per dmg stat point, among other things)
-Flat damage (like from titles or fishing gear)
The way AK calculates your character damage is by taking your weapon damage plus gear damage, multiplying it by all your additive damage sources, and then adding on all your flat damage at the end. So probably the easiest way to increase character damage is by having a good % weapon at +20, sniper set with dmg enchants also at +20, and that's about it.
Additive dmg% comes from a lot of places, but I urge you not to go too crazy with your stat points. Your stat points will mainly be used to hit your speed and crit benchmarks first, and then anything leftover will go to dmg. We already know why speed is important from last section, and I'll be explaining crit soon as well.
Be careful not to think of additive dmg% (like the 24% dmg from yarnaros) as multiplicative damage such as boss damage or elemental dmg. For example, you might have around 200k damage with yarnaros buff, and 190k without. That's barely a 5% increase in your damage, not to mention that your skill's actual damage is calculated from both character damage and skill damage.
What you should do in regards to additive dmg%, though, is take it on all costumes and enchant cards that you can. The 2% dmg is worth a bit more than 1% crit in terms of stat points, so it is more efficient to get 2% dmg stuff and use the stat points for crit.
That's all there is to it, really... most of your character damage comes from a good +20 weapon. When star fusion comes out, there will also be that, too.
Crit rate and crit dmg:
I think most people have a fairly good grasp of crit, or at least that they should get a decent crit% and cap their crit dmg at 300%. What I want to do here is sort of illustrate how an increase in crit% can translate to a pseudo (not exact, because of RNG and stuff, but close) multiplicative damage boost.
As an example, let's say we deal 100k damage, 70% crit and 300% crit dmg:
[300k * (.7)] + [100k * (.3)] = 240k damage on average
With 100k damage, 80% crit and 300% crit dmg:
[300k * (.8 )] + [100k * (.2)] = 260k damage on average
260k/240k = about 8.3% average damage increase (as I call it, pseudo-multiplicative)
Now this mechanism is great and all, but there's some things that will affect this. First of all, our level relative to the mobs we are attacking. For every 1 level above the target, you will have 1% more crit against it. For example, a level 75 player attacking a level 67 monster would have their crit raised from 70% to 78% because they are 8 levels higher.
The next thing is ice trap. Ice trap increases crit rate greatly on the target for 6 seconds if doesn't have immobilize immunity. So basically, when ice trap is active, any extra crit you may have will become somewhat wasted. This is something you have to consider as a gunslinger or gunslinger sub, or if you run with gunslingers a lot; will there be ice trap on every boss? Will the boss die in 6 seconds? If so, maybe don't aim for as high of crit%.
The last thing is RNG, which is out of your control unless you hit close to 100% crit rate. It's like landing a Focus Blast or Stone Edge; sometimes you miss 5 in a row, sometimes you hit like half of them, sometimes you hit all of them. It's just random. For this reason, it can be quite beneficial to actually hit values even as high as 90% crit (on your target mob, of course) if you want to guarantee consistant damage. This might be a good idea for high GCD skill users especially.
Main sources of crit rate are as follows:
-Gear crit stat (for example, the crit on sniper set or your weapon)
-Flat crit% (like from +20 weapon bonus, .25 times stat points, or envoy)
-Additive crit% (admittedly rare, but is in some places like 1% all stat on costumes)
-Various envoy buffs, weapon procs or skill effects
My personal preference is to hang around 80% crit on the targets that I'm mainly facing, such as in TR/CF dungeons. A bit lower when running gunslinger sub.
Capping crit dmg at 300% is easy, considering you will be using either lion's roar bottom or sniper, so I'm not going to cover that here.
Zeal procs as I define them are procs that function similarly to the Zeal mastery. Simple enough, right?
Common sources are as follows:
-9% orange zeal mastery
-6% orange bread/steak or 9% yellow
-6% orange miracle tea or 9% yellow
-6.4% various weapons with zeal procs
-15% bow blessing skill
Now, what I did here is cheating a bit. It's sort of like the situation with crit rate, where the RNG makes it so that you can't really just multiply the chance by the bonus damage to get the multiplicative damage boost. But I am trying to illustrate how these procs can help your DPS overall in the long run, so I will stick with using these pseudo-multiplicative damage boosts.
For the record, the way I calculated this is like this (orange zeal for example):
10% proc chance * 90% bonus damage = 9% pseudo-multiplicative damage
So yeah, main point here is that you can stack up some decent damage boosts by going for some zeal procs. If you use both yellow foods, you can have 27% pseudo-multiplicative damage boost from zeals. When 70 weapons come out, we will have some more to work with, but for now it's just the mastery and food mainly. As with crit, the higher the chance of proc, the more accurate the pseudo-multiplicative damage increase will actually be.
Main weapon envoy dmg %:
Probably the most self-explanatory damage source you could imagine, this is simply the 12% damage available to your main weapon on envoy path. It's a 12% multiplicative damage boost, it just literally boosts your damage by 12%. That's it.
This is probably one of the least-utilized but most powerful damage sources in the game.
The concept of backstrike is simple and easy enough to understand; if you strike a target from behind, then you get a 50% multiplicative increase to damage. If you understand elemental damage, then you can understand that a free 50% multiplicative damage boost is ridiculously good.
Mainly you will be looking to do this on bosses. Things like stun or a guardian with aggro can make the amount of backstrikes you do increase significantly, as well as practice and experience with repositioning. Anticipate when bosses are going to turn around, and time your movements accordingly. It becomes mechanical once you do it enough.
Of course, this is fairly easy for melees, but ranged players who are used to kiting around and evading will probably find it a lot harder. If you want that damage boost, you have to be within melee range of the boss or have someone tanking it in another direction. If you are the highest DPS in the party, you might be out of luck in harder dungeons.
But yeah, backstrikes are important, so do them when you can.
Defense reduction is fairly simple. There are two types-- percentage-based reduction and flat reduction.
Percentage-based reduction is fairly easy to get in a party depending on the classes, and it caps out at 50% in PvE.
Common sources are as follows:
-20% break defense mastery
-10% destroyer weapon effect
-8/10/12% various skill masteries, such as bard storm song or gunslinger bombardment
-certain class envoys such as ravager or sorcerer
Flat reduction is a bit trickier, and there's no way for you to really stack a bunch if you don't have the right class skills.
Common sources are as follows:
-Eidolon skill effects (Eligos, for example)
-Various trophy procs (such as space time key.. this is a stretch, I know)
-Skills of certain classes, like swift strike from katar or slash cut duelist
As you can see, it basically boils down to whether your class has a flat reduction skill or not. If it does, your party DPS would probably benefit a fair amount from you adding it sooner in your rotation rather than later.
I don't have any flashy numbers to throw out for this one, but from what I've seen, the effect is fairly drastic. For example, a wizard throwing 5 stacks of their ice debuff improves my damage by a good chunk. The exception to this (as well as percentage-based reduction) is that dragon dungeons are not affected by it because their defense values are too high. After applying the reduction they are still at capped defense.
Wow, I finally understand how sonic does anything in SSB. Speed = damage?!?!
Jokes aside, I'm including this here because it's important for reducing dungeon clear times.
Movespeed can be thought of as a mechanism for reducing your travel time by a certain percentage. This is important because, while you spend a decent amount of time fighting bosses, by far the most time you will spend in most dungeons is traveling from point A to B. I can vaguely illustrate this with an example:
Imagine you are doing Cadilla Felwood party mode, and your clear time with 100 movespeed is around 3.5 minutes. You take about 5~10 seconds to kill bosses, and maybe 5 seconds for first boss spawn, 15 seconds for second boss, and maybe 20 for last boss. Overall, let's estimate the total time spent killing and waiting for bosses to be around 1 minute.
So we have 2.5 minutes of travel time, or 150 seconds.
Adding 50% movespeed means you are going 1.5 times as fast, so your new travel time will take 66.7% (1/1.5) of your original travel time. Thus,
150 seconds * .667 = 100 seconds. 100 plus the boss time is 160 seconds as clear time.
The original clear time was 3.5 minutes (or 210 seconds) and the new clear time is 50 seconds faster (160 seconds). So the improvement can be seen as
180/230 = .783 or 78.3% of the original time.
While this isn't exact or a perfect example by any means, you can see the basic idea. Once you kill bosses under a certain amount of time, it becomes very beneficial for overall clear times to start stacking up movespeed.
The common sources are as follows:
-15% extreme speed mastery
-5% back costume enchant
-3% per imperial core
-11% movespeed emblem
-5% noripan trophy (8% total with imperial)
-5% weapon stat (like guns or harp)
-10% bard buff
-7% song of winds mastery
-5% envoy path points
As a general rule, I would suggest aiming for at least 150% movespeed without a bard. If you find it hard to reach this, an easy way is to swap out your eidolon emblem and top trophy slot to movespeed emblem and noripan trophy when running to bosses. Having them hotkeyed makes this a lot easier, and becomes mechanical after a while.
Well, that about covers it for damage sources and optimization. If I think of anything else to add, I'll be sure to do so (and almost certainly will be updating after new content).
Please feel free to critique or question me about the info here, and share your own opinions. There is no one "right" way to do things on AK, and I am only sharing my ideas of what is important. I spent quite a lot of time writing this out, and I hope it can be of help to some. There are many people responsible for shedding light on several of these topics, especially quirky ones detail dmg, attack speed, and defense reduction. This is a compilation of their efforts, and I in no way take credit for discovering them.