First up, Runes. This is a unique system in Valiant Force that allows players to further customize their characters further than equipment, sub-class or faith. They are much more flexible than those other options,but also impact the game much less than these options. We will be looking into how they can best help our characters get stronger in the game. P.S. Get ready for some basic math.
- Fullset rune bonuses
We all know that having full sets of 2 green runes on any char gives +5% CRT, having 4 red runes on any char gives +10% ATK so on and so forth. 5% or 10% sounds like a ton, especially if you have a powerful 5*+2 char with stats in the thousands, but have you ever checked to see exactly how much actual bonus number each +x% gives? In truth, stats in Valiant Force are calculated somewhat like in DotA, with each stat being the sum of a Basic-component and the Equip-component.
Now, say for example if my Shizu has 4000 total ATK comprising of 2000 Basic-ATK and 2000 Equip-ATK before using any Red runes, what do you think her ATK stat will look like after 1 full set of 4 red/fury runes (assuming none of the red runes are also attack runes) are equipped? The fact is that, the +10% ATK bonus is calculated using the Basic-ATK as the base then added to the Equip-ATK. Thus we would have 4200 total ATK comprising of 2000 Basic-ATK and 2200 Equip-ATK. Therefore we can know that: The Basic-component of all stats are ONLY affected by character level, star-value/++ and faith. Equip-component covers equipment bonuses and runes.
What then, is our conclusion? Simple. It's not always the best idea to build a full set of runes on a char. The effectiveness of building a fullset runes is only affected by the hero's base stats, his/her level (which we can always assume to be maxed) as well as his/her faith. This means that fullset runes are most effective on Valiants (since they have the highest raw stats) upgraded to 5*+2, and with a compatible faith (Such as Athena Kiera, Hera Shizu etc). Conversely, on a regular character with lower base stats such as Vincent or Zedd, it may be more worthwhile to pile on attack runes of different colors than to use a set of red but non-attack runes if you're unable to get a full set of red attack runes. For many Arena heroes, they are stuck somewhere in-between - less base stats than Valiants but more than regular chars, hence they have more flexibility here. In general, basic-component stats follow this trend: Vanilla Heroes (Vincent, Luthor, Theresa, Victoria, etc) < Arena Heroes (Leah, Kira, Ellis & Siena) < Event Heroes (Ronan, Kahuna, Miu, etc) < Valiants (Kiera, Freya, Darrion, Shizu, Lucille & Kane). Thus, it is much more useful to use %-based bonuses on Valiants and Event heroes as compared to Arena heroes or Vanilla heroes.
There are also some special cases, for example if you are building a Spirit Walker Luthor in a team that aims to proc his Aura as many times as possible, you should aim to improve Luthor's regular attack, something not so intuitive for a healer. In this case, due to Luthor's inherently low ATK stat and CRT stat, it is rather meaningless to try to achieve fullset red runes or green runes on Luthor as the bonuses granted by the +10% would be tiny as compared to simply stacking ATK and CRT runes that grant absolute values to his ATK and CRT stat. CRT is ESPECIALLY easy to make mistakes with here, as many characters don't really have very high Basic-CRT to start with, hence for those you should definitely stack multi-colored CRT runes instead of trying hard to achieve green fullset bonuses.
- Impossible skill runes
Skill runes are cool and some even powerful to the point of being OP, but some low-star skill runes are worth even less than you think. In general, 3-star skill runes take up a massive amount of space and provide little (or more like nothing) in terms of raw stats, so their effect should be pretty OP to compensate for that. With the lack of stats due to an investment in a skill rune already in place, it's logical to at least try to get a fullset bonus together with the skill rune. Sadly, some skill runes just don't allow this to happen. For example, a Fury Rune of Double Strike that takes up 7 spaces. There is just absolutely no way you can get a red set bonus with this skill rune. In times like such, unless the skill rune is absolutely essential to the working of your char, you should probably give it up for raw stats.
For the more advanced players, here's a theoretical look at stat runes. If we disregard skill runes and only compare stat runes, what is the absolute maximum configuration possible? We know that all colors except Yellow (Energy) and Red (Fury) require 2 runes to form a set whereas those 2 colors require 4 runes to form a set. However, those 2 colors provide double the bonus compared to other colors, hence balancing everything out and making every 2 runes provide a 5% bonus to any stat, on average. Characters have at max 9 rune slots, so if we achieve maximum efficiency by only using 1 slot runes, that gives us 2+2+2+2+1=9 , giving us a total of 4x5% stat bonuses, not considering the absolute number bonuses. This means that a maximum of 20% bonus to Basic-components of any stat can be achieved with only fullset bonuses. This is a useful number to remember when thinking about rune choices for your strong characters. Especially if you're using runes to cover a weakness, say for example using Guard runes on Ares Berserkers to cover for their lack of defense or Energy runes on Kratos Guardians to reduce their susceptibility to magic damage, keep in mind how far fullset bonuses can bring you.
Next up, equips. These things have brought you from your very first step in Valiant Force all the way to where you are right now. Do you know them well enough?
- Which set?
Equipment sets are always exciting to collect, and everyone get exciting at finishing the last piece of their little jigsaw puzzle. But does a set with bigger set bonuses necessarily mean that it is better? This may not be the case, especially when you start thinking whether you can fit more than 1 set into a loadout. There are many sets that look like they have massive bonuses, such as the Bunny set for mages or the Legion set for Champions. But what if I told you that these sets are easily beat out by the craftable purple armor sets + 4* Glacial Dragon/Divine Set? Check the numbers. It's true. One should be wary of sets that contain pieces which cover the head and body armor types, because good purple armor sets are easily craftable by anyone for these slots, and unless the set bonus can offset the set bonus of the craftables + whatever set you can fit into the rest of the equip slots, the bigger and badder set isn't actually worth it.
This is essentially the same point as the one made in the runes section, about how percentage bonuses are dependent on the Basic-component stat of the char. This also extends to +%stats gained via upgrading equipment. Sometimes +3%ATK is better than +120ATK, sometimes it's not. Same story as above so I won't repeat myself.
*Discussion topic* Maximin or Maximax?
Maximax and Maximin may look a lot like "Minmaxing", but is actually something very different. This section can get rather philosophical, so you may skip it if you're new or don't wanna go too deep into decision-making. Maximin and Maximax are two different decision-making principles/thoeries. Maximin seeks to reduce risk and go for the "Best Worst case scenario" whereas Maximax seeks for the most rewards and goes for the "Best Best case scenario". There's also Minimax but we won't be considering that here. If you need to read up more on these theories, here you go.
Well how do these things affect Valiant Force? You might ask. Well, these are the two ways you can choose to build any character that is designated to be in a certain team. Imagine if you had a Zeus Samurai Shizu in your Arena team that is used for proc-ing chain attacks for your other heavy hitters as well as to reduce enemy MAG for your Elementalist to nuke harder. How would you pick equipment or runes for her? The Maximax way is to pump as much ATK into her as possible, so that she hits hard and her skill hits hard, making the double whammy of Hero's Despair + Kiera's Sacred Blaze obliterate the enemy with impunity. The Maximin way is to think that losing Shizu early on would cause your team's chain strategy to fail and also not be able to debuff the opponents for Kiera's Sacred Blaze at all, so you build DEF and HP for maximum survivability instead. Clearly, the optimal solution is somewhere in between, but then again, does the optimal choice not depend on the line-up of the enemy team? If the enemy team you're up against is fielding 2 forward Guardians and 1 Shadow with 2 squishy Rangers behind, then the Maximax side is clearly more optimal, whereas the Maximin side would shine in the case where the opponent fields 2 forward Champions, 1 Healer, 1 defensive Mystic in the middle and 1 Ranger far behind.
This analysis sounds logical up til here, but what if we consider the aforementioned effects of the % bonus damage from runes and equipment being based solely on the Basic-component stats? This would mean that, for the most part, Maximax would simply outshine Maximin in terms of raw output as the Maximax principle would simply be able to produce higher numerical values, regardless of stats, as compared to Maximin methods. If this is so, can we really say that Maximax is the only way to go for itemizing and picking runes for characters in Valiant Force? What do you think?
EDIT: Added basic-component stat trend