The Let's Play Archive

Rondo of Swords

by Einander

Part 50: Misfit Run Catch-Up, Part 1

No new page, but have an update anyway!

Misfit Run: Chapters 6 Through 11
(Or, "Still Mostly Old Territory")

It's time to run through the pre-20 stages with a new team.

Of course, if you're willing to abuse save/reload, then the early chapters don't have to be very different. In light of that, I elected to load a save from the end of chapter 5 instead of doing the first five chapters again.

Chapter Six, "The Red Lion," makes a good training point; it's the first point you can reasonably use and abuse ZOC. Sure, Selmer and Sasha may only be level 6, but they're very close to level 7 and I have Retry.

You may remember Chapter Six as the one where we first fought Clotho. I'm not going to go over maps again, because that would quadruple the size of this update; you should go back to page 2 or 3 and follow along for the more involved maps. This may inevitably be a bit complicated to follow, but that's a consequence of doing these early chapters in fast-forward. Sorry!

We repeat a couple of times.

Selmer's first class has very few worthwhile skills. I'll put a point into Ice Spear soon, but this is all he's got to really work with. The lack of Invoke Mana really hurts -- +15% MP per level is no small bonus when MP starts out so precious.

From here on, Selmer will get White Dust to level 4 at level 10, then he (scratch that, not enough MP) will save up for Sedna Prison at level 15. He'll get to Sedna Prison level 3 as soon as he promotes, then reach Sedna Prison level 4 and the 7x7 box of death at level 17. He'll be able to cast it maybe once a level, but that one spell will be very impressive.

Scratch that -- White Dust 4 is just too expensive. Selmer has really, really serious MP problems, guys. His base is notably worse than Igraine and Galahad, the only others not to get Invoke Mana. This does mean he'll get Sedna Prison 4 as soon as he promotes, which is useful only because Marie should be about at Martyr level by then. He'll get the Black Ring soon to help him keep up.

After that, he'll be saving up. At level 30, he gets Torus Spell; at level 30 after promotion, he gets Yumil Magna. He'll put a couple of points into Arcane Ice at level 24, but aside from that? Most of Selmer's time as a Warlock will be spent dreaming of the day he reaches level 30. Soon, Selmer. You'll show them all. SOON.

(Especially since you get the fast-forward through his awkward years.)

Sasha actually has a pretty great set of skills, all told. Her problem is her HP and lack of Sprint. Everything else is workable (and her OB is great).

She gets Null ZOC at level 9, but Sasha shouldn't be directly attacking anything with ZOC this early. Too fragile.

Sasha learns Duelist at level 18, Invoke Might at level 21, and Lateral Blow at level 27. She has 1 point left over, so she'll have 1+11*2 = 23 points at level 18, 29 at level 21, and 41 at level 27. 13 for Duelist 4, 7 for Invoke Might 3, 21 for Lateral Blow 5... Huh. That actually works out perfectly. Weird. That said, I could stop at Lateral Blow 4 (+8 points) and buy Null ZOC 3 (-7 points); they'd need ZOC 4 to block her with that. That's probably a better plan.

After promotion, Sasha learns Lateral Stab (+crit when attacking from the side) and Lion Strike (+OB) at level 30, Awareness (-enemy critical rate) at level 33 and Mount Guard at level 39. That said, I'll probably get level 3 Lion Strike and then focus on Null ZOC. Sasha really doesn't have the durability to deal with Crazed, let alone stopping in the middle of a crowd of enemies. I want her in and out.

Awareness is one of those skills that would be amazing if anyone that learned it could take a hit for shit. Users: Kay, Sasha, Owl, Igraine. Kay is the most durable in that grouping, and that's like saying gold is better for swords than pyrite. Even so, amulets should patch that problem up in time.

I only reset once more, then I get to the task of actually beating the level.

I'm going to kill Clotho. Should give good experience, right?

Assume the position...

My god, it's full of stars

Damn it, Kay. Reset and try again...

Thank you, Kay.

With their higher levels, Sasha and Selmer are actually useful now! Mostly Sasha. Selmer still has issues with staying power.

The first of many.

We even get the Angel Medal again! This took me about four tries.

But I forgot to send Ansom on a Quest, so I missed a Battle Proof. Eh, whatever, I'll hack it in if I need it. You guys voted NG+ anyway.

Ansom isn't off getting Cards this run.

He makes this level a lot simpler -- he one-shots the Thieves, two-shots Swordsmen, and three-shots the Armor and Guardian that appear from the left.

Ice Spear. They're not really spears, but "Giant Hail" is less inspiring.

This makes me aware of the fact that I had never used Ice Spear or had an enemy use it before, because this animation was completely new to me. That's really sad, isn't it?

There's still not too much to this level. Ansom's presence basically invalidates the left side, between his linear OB and his ability to attack at range through terrain; Selmer assists (while his MP lasts, which isn't very long). The rest of the team handles the right side.

Sasha died this level, which is actually completely irrelevant.

A Hurt Sasha has more defense and more attack than Owl. Hurt is halved stats, remember. He has more HP, which is worth quite a bit, but he's still not very impressive.

Kay and Margus are non-negotiable on this level. You bring them or you lose civilians, simple as that.

Owl is going on three Card Quests. His 3 Card, 2x Critical Rate, ensures that he'll have a base critical rate of 40% after promotion, probably closer to 60% with a decent skill set. If Owl isn't striking criticals, then his poor attack stat means he's not very useful. Thankfully, he has a decent chance of reaching 100% after his second promotion.

Much like Selmer, Owl's main problem is that he's potentially good, he just has an extremely rough start. Alhambra and Ansom eat up all of the early Card Quests if used, and Owl needs three to be any use at all. And if Alhambra's going to be better when both are fully developed, then why bother?

Because I have a license to abuse Retry, and my Card Quests are open. There's nothing in Owl's way now, so let's see if he can make something of himself, shall we?

We're missing another Battle Proof quest because no one's available to go on it, so I'm just going to officially say "to hell with Proofs" now. If I have enough, great; if I don't, then I can fix that.

Hey, you guys were asking for NG+, and that's basically the same thing, right?

"Okay," you ask. "How in the hell are you going to do this without Owl or Sasha out there? Didn't they handle the right alley last time?"

Yes, they did. But that's because I didn't have Selmer or Ansom. There are essentially two solutions for this stage, depending on whether you're sending Ansom or Owl for Card Quests. You want either Rukia + Owl or Ansom + Selmer.

Selmer moves over to the left alley...

...and Ansom kills the right side's Thief first turn. Next turn they'll kill the Infantry.

The left and middle alleys are basically the same story as the first time around: Margus blocks the middle with ZOC and relies on Crazed to kill, Serdic and Kay take the left.

This goes very smoothly because I get lucky again: Margus lands the same counter as he did on the run last time, letting him rush over to help Serdic and Kay. Selmer and Ansom's alley goes well too.

This time, I sent for a surer bet and send Kay further down. If he died here, then oh well.

But if he lives, then it's more experience for Marie!

From this position, Ansom can shoot the left Infantry safely, and Selmer will be able to attack them as well next turn.

I send Serdic over anyway; I think they may all move.

Then they do.

I send Ansom behind Serdic to make Selmer a less attractive target to the Infantry. Selmer kills the weakened Swordsman afterward. I think they'll prefer to hit both Serdic and Ansom over just Selmer. That said, even if he dies, mages aren't too affected by Hurt; spell power is a big part of their damage, and Selmer isn't exactly losing much durability from halved defenses.

The correct answer, if you were interested in doing this better, would be to send Kay over once he's finished the down-left maneuver he pulled over on the left side. His higher Move and positioning let him attack all three, killing the one Ansom weakened and letting Selmer and Ansom kill the other two.

Decoy successful!

And that's a complete run with progression to Pirate Island! Good.

Some Card Quest quotes make more sense than others.

Owl goes off on a second one.

I really wish I had the space to bring Kay...

Something I should mention while I'm thinking about it:

This is never something you're told you can do, but it's the only way to undo an Errand if you change your mind. It's good to know.

Now, you may be thinking, "Doesn't Ansom trivialize this stage? Can't he just shoot the Archers and they'll die?"

You're thinking of Six Card Ansom. Normal Ansom is not so impressive.

That said, and depsite my comment about Kay, this still isn't very difficult. Selmer's level 3 White Dust lets him kill Archers safely, while Margus and Serdic can still tank arrows well. Have Selmer take out an Archer or two, have Ansom start firing once Serdic charges in, have Marie ready to heal all of the arrow injuries.

To clarify something:

In this formation, Sasha has 31 MC, Serdic is in the 50s, Margus has 29. The Sniper attacks Margus, the Archers attack Serdic. I suppose then that the Snipers are set to low MC targeting and the Archers to the typical high MC targeting. The Sniper on the right also attacks Margus when possible, so he's also low MC.

Except the Sniper in the upper-left attacks Serdic, so it's unit-by-unit. So you have to guess, because MC doesn't actually tell you anything unless you already know the enemy's AI setting.

The developers are kind of assholes about the MC thing, aren't they?

It should be noted that Ansom is actually pretty tough! This is the second arrow he's taken to the face this turn and he's still doing pretty good.

You use Tiger Fangs a lot like you use Seven Sins, and that's a very high compliment. Tiger Fangs actually has one more range.

Level 1 Ice Spear is proving surprisingly useful for "ANYTHING will kill this guy" attacks. It only costs 7 MP. Mind, it also has a lower power than even level 1 White Dust; level 1 Ice Spear is actually the weakest spell in the game. Even leveled up, it's the third weakest. (Number 1 is White Dust, Number 2 is Taion Raioh.) And then Yumil Magna utterly obsoletes it, even more than ultimates usually do, because it has the same linear aiming while being better in every way.

Odd, really. They should have made it actually good so that you'd be tempted to level it up.

Sasha had nothing else to do anyway.

Cotton joins up! But I'm not using her. "Deliberately not using Cotton" is basically the only reason you will not immediately throw her in the party; she's competitive with the other mages even at final tiers, so right now she just blows Selmer out of the water.

Meanwhile, Marie is level 11 and Invoke Mana 3 means she has over twice Selmer's MP. And it regenerates. It's kind of sad.

Owl only has two Cards, but he comes along into chapter 10 for a little bit so he can get to a reasonable level. The next stage is much less suited to Retry abuse, and Sprint 3 will make him much more useful.

One Ansom arrow or a White Dust 3 is enough to bring them into Owl's kill range, so I abuse that. Selmer gets to level 15 along the way.

This is something you flat-out cannot do normally. Like Fire Emblem, the Seals in this game serve as time locks on the first promotion, ensuring you can't promote before certain time checkpoints. The first Sage Proofs appear during the later Almeria levels, after Elmer joins, and you can only have one Hermit Proof from the Blind Drunk Sage Quest.

This was a mistake; you really should be able to promote Selmer earlier than that. There should be some advantage to sticking with a difficult-to-use character, in both the short and long term... Especially since you get Cotton before Selmer's level even gets close. By the time you can promote Selmer, you get Arios and Igraine, who can both do Warlock Selmer's one trick (Sedna Prison) and have better secondary spells otherwise (Meteor Gate/Abyss Gate).

I want Selmer for the next level; between Ansom and Selmer, I'll be able to kill the Archers this time.

Now that Selmer's off to promote, this is the actual team. Owl's off to go get card #3.

I use the "stop Serdic next to where Alhambra will spawn" trick here. There's not much else that's different; "lure, kill, lure" is the same as it ever was, regardless of team.

I'd recommend you do what I did in the original run of this stage, where I continually injured enemies in order to motivate Alhambra to kill them and move towards the top part of the stage.

If you don't, then Alhambra's AI is set to send her directly left over the sand, right towards these two mounted units.

Attacking her makes them move, and that makes them actual threats instead of sitting ducks. This makes killing them obligatory instead of optional.

Thankfully, Ansom can kill the Jouster in two hits, so he's not too scary.

Sasha's been getting kills all map, so she very easily handles the other one. (Tiger Fangs hits twice, so it killed.)

It's worth noting that retreating does not let you get an additional item from drops like this. I know, I'm disappointed too.

Selmer then realizes that being more like Arios isn't necessarily a good thing.

It's a palette swap. Normally, you'll notice smaller changes, even when nothing else changes. Serdic, for example, gains shoulder pads, and his armor extends further past his hips. Selmer has no changes other than his weapon, and every weapon changes on every promotion.

He has the MP to cast Sedna Prison 4 once and have 1 MP left over. I buy it anyway. 7x7 box of death!

Marie's already level 13 anyway; just four and a half levels to go before Martyr. I want it very, very badly.

Owl's also hit three Cards, so he's in. He has Sprint 3, so he's up to 9 Move -- one more than Kay. Shame he has two-thirds the attack...

Owl's level 12, so the goal is to get him to level 15 here, just like Sasha got to 15 last time.

Speaking of Sasha...

Didn't have to cheat these in this time! Yay.

Promoting Selmer, Sasha and Owl gives them near-immediate boosts to utility. Selmer gets Sedna Prison, while Sasha and Owl get very nice skills at level 18 (Duelist/Lateral Blow). Getting all three of them promoted ASAP is a high priority.

At this point, I stop (ab)using Retry; our three project characters will have to sink or swim on their own merits.

Speaking of project characters, let's talk about Owl's growth from here on out.

Owl learns Back Stab and Lateral Stab (+critical when attacking from back/sides) at promoted 15, Lateral Blow at 18, Cyclone (+crit -defense) at 21, Awareness (-critical for enemies) at 24, Blind Rage (+attack -accuracy) and Rear Blow at promoted 30, Foresight (+dodge) and Menacer (+critical when attacking two or more enemies) at 33, and Berserk (+critical -accuracy) at 36. Owl has a lot of good skills! Just not the stats to back them up.

That said? Those skills do a lot to compensate. Rear Blow has the largest damage effect of any skill that isn't Duelist or Fearless (or a 6 Card), reaching up to +40% damage on top of the +25% from attacking the back in the first place. Between that and all of his +critical skills, an Owl critical can hit surprisingly hard. Right now, for instance, Owl has about 41 attack, which equals 82 damage. On a critical, that'd be 82*1.25 = 102.5, round down to 102, ignore defense. Attack from the back, that's 25% more, rounds down to 127. Add Rear Blow 5, that's +40% more, rounds down to 177. A side hit would be doing 152 instead, which is still pretty respectable! While Owl's attack growth isn't very good (0.3/0.5/0.6 by class), and his weapon's attack is unimpressive (he only gets +2 each promotion), Serdic was only doing about 200-250 at endgame in Route B, and the Cold Monarch is the strongest attacker in the game. "2/3 of Serdic's offense" is still really good, and I'm lowballing his offense here.

Even so, an astute reader might have noticed a problem here: Owl is a fast-but-fragile character who specializes in criticals, which should make him good at taking out armored targets. And he never learns Null ZOC. Never ever. Sure, Alhambra couldn't either, but Alhambra is tough and Owl has a glass jaw. That's a problem. Using Owl means being very careful both to 1) stop mages, archers and cavalry, who can use their range to tear right through his fragile defenses, and 2) being very careful not to splat him into a ZOC enemy. Unlike Alhambra, Owl doesn't have the MC to reach Boost and become immune to Crazed; that stat reduction will always be a threat.

11 points at level 12, 17 at level 15, 23 at level 18, 47 at level 30. 4 for Vital Blow 3, 3 for Lateral Stab 2, 3 for Back Stab 2, 13 for Lateral Blow 4, 0 left over. 24 points at level 30, spend 13 on Rear Blow 4 and 7 on Blind Rage 3, that means Owl can buy Sprint 5 at level 35 and then go back for Cyclone, Menacer, Berserk and more levels in Sharpshoot (to cancel out the penalties from Berserk and Blind Rage).

Owl's a very good example of the "distributed points" philosophy. He has a lot of skills that do the same thing, so the basic goal is to get a few points in the ones that are easily duplicated (+critical odds) and higher levels in the ones that aren't (Sprint, Lateral/Rear Blow).

It's not like anyone else is using the Cards. There's no real reason not to send her.

It's about time I shed the security blanket. A world without Margus is a scary, scary place, but I will endure.

I'm not getting rid of Ansom until I get Izuna. He doesn't have his 6 Card, and I'm fairly sure I need him to make a number of levels possible with this team. Or, at the very least, I don't see a way to do them at a reasonable level without him.

The only durable character here is Serdic, and I'm keeping him deliberately underleveled relative to the others. This is going to require some delicacy.

Serdic gets the Angel Medal, Selmer gets the Silver and Black Rings. +MC is weird on Selmer, but hey, higher experience gain. He needs the help.

Unexpected benefit to this party formation: Selmer's position is just right to let him finish off the right enemy here. Sadly, Owl's positioning doesn't quite let him finish off the other one.

Attacking from the back is very important for Owl, even before Rear Blow. He really needs the additional damage.

This is a calculated risk. In this position, Selmer can use Storm Rave to hit the second enemy archer with the X-shape. On the other hand, this also requires him to stay where he is for a turn, and there's several Jousters scheduled to appear down at our starting point fairly soon.

It'll probably work out! Probably.

It does! Ansom weakens, Selmer kills.

This lets me show off something really cool:

This doesn't often happen, because it's rare that you have much action right at a background boundary like this, but it's one of the little neat things I love about this game.

Well, crap. This time, the enemies seem focused on going after the mages, who are slowly advancing behind everyone else. And me without my ZOC.

Hopefully this'll get them moving back in the right direction. If not, I'll see about getting creative.

Rukia recruits herself.

Annnnnd crap.

An admission: I've never played the game without Margus. He is that much of an automatic inclusion, and we're looking at a no-ZOC team. I'm winging it this run.

I'll just have to hope the Jousters pull ahead of the Armors -- they'll be much easier to deal with separately.

If all else fails, Ansom and Selmer can finish the level early.

Hahahahahaha what. Can you see Rukia's hat at the upper-right of the "enemy phase" sign? She's moving to attack the Jousters and Armors.

Yeah, Rukia. You go ahead and do that. You and your 27 attack.

The enemies are rightfully terrified. They go and turn right the fuck around. They appear to be subscribing to a "little old man in a martial arts movie" mentality: If someone looks completely incompetent, and they're charging at you with no fear whatsoever, then they must be a complete badass.

They're wrong, but Rukia keeps chasing after them. It's like a chihuahua barking at a hippo.

Kay weakens two of the four Jousters, Ansom kills one, Owl weakens the other. He should be able to kill it next turn.

Kay very nearly dies. No one in this party can tank more than one or two hits from these enemies, and trying to do that with Serdic cost me two to three runs.

Oh, Selmer. You are still so very, very far from Yumil Magna...

(Again, White Dust is multi-hit. This isn't quite as bad as it looks -- all of that HP damage was done by Selmer. Still bad, though.)

Behold! Owl being actively useful! (When the enemies have no HP anyway)

End turn.


Ansom shoots an Armor, Selmer hits it with another White Dust.

Okay, I'm going to need you to very briefly suspend your disbelief here, because I'm about to say something that's hard to believe:

Kay's OB was useful here. Level 1 does 20% of HP as damage, and Kay has 275 HP. 55 damage isn't bad against a ZOC Armor like this, especially when a direct attack is going to place Kay at massive risk. No one was strong enough to do 62 damage with a melee attack against one of these Armors. It's still not good, but I'd be worse off if he didn't have it.

Mind, a direct attack skill not based off of HP would accomplish the same thing without hurting him, so...

Owl finishes off the enemies and I conject a cunning plot. A cunning plot that is built on really, really bad ideas, naturally.

I laughed every time it came back around to Rukia's turn. Watching her try to be fierce is very, very funny.

My cunning plot: POISON CHEAT! Weak would allow me to circumvent the defenses of the Armors, rendering them sitting ducks! And getting Owl killed, because I can't kill both of them in one turn.

Okay, I don't actually do this, but I really consider it. Maybe if he had level 3 and I knew it'd work.

Instead, Kay uses a Moon Weed to get Selmer just barely up to White Dust level again (I don't remember when or why I gave that item to Kay, but I can only assume it is because I am a tactical genius), Ansom shoots the enemy, Serdic attacks (it wasn't a ZOC Armor) and then Selmer finishes them.

So the Armor runs up...

And THEN I use Poison Cheat. Sure, everyone except Serdic and Owl is Weak now, but most of them are ranged anyway. Whatever.

More importantly, it means Ansom and Kay absolutely rip through this Armor, killing it in two hits.

The problem with Poison Cheat isn't Weak, it's infliction odds. If it was guaranteed, then it'd be one hell of a double-edged sword, but it'd also be enormously powerful.

From there on out it's pretty simple. I have Serdic open the door to lure the Swordsmen out, I pull them back towards my team, then I tear them apart. They may be mobile and hit fairly hard, but they're not durable.

Marie gets up to about level 16 with all of the healing; that's one silver lining to having such a fragile team!

And Owl is now level 15. Excellent.

That's it for the first Misfit Run update! Next time, we'll cover 12-19.

(I'm deliberately not counting resets for this. I can tell you, however, that the 5-17 stretch has had about twenty.)