Fiona Skill Guide
This skill guide for Fiona is based mostly on the following excellent guide by Bakuryu over on the Mabinogi Nation forums, plus some corrections and revisions to early drafts based on feedback from experienced Korean (and USA) players on the official forums. This guide's focus isn't so much on an analysis of the merits of every possible Fiona skill, but instead meant to prescribe an optimum order for developing your skills in a way that won't "gimp" your Fiona, but instead will make her as strong and useful as possible every step of the way.
Disclaimer:This guide is (originally) one person's opinion and theory-crafting developed during USA open beta, and based in part on another person's more generic guide from the early USA closed beta period + comments from the peanut gallery on early drafts of this guide. No guide is perfect. There is no "perfect" Fiona build, and the skill system in Vindictus is fairly deep and makes it difficult to prescribe step-by-step build guides. I attempt to bridge the gap somewhat and present a way of prioritizing your skill training in an order that should yield a strong Fiona with no "wasted" AP points.
- 1 Approaching skill development in terms of three layers of priority
- 2 Swords versus Hammers and adapting this guide accordingly
- 3 Notes about some specific weapon skills
- 4 Why are the defensive shield skills so vital?
- 5 Typical armor set progression
- 6 First priority for AP investment: skill unlock dependencies
- 7 Second priority for AP investment: building the most desirable/useful skills ASAP
- 7.1 Level 1
- 7.2 Level 8
- 7.3 Level 10
- 7.4 Level 12
- 7.5 Level 14
- 7.6 Level 18
- 7.7 Level 20
- 7.8 Level 22
- 7.9 Level 24
- 7.10 Level 26
- 7.11 Level 30
- 7.12 Level 34
- 7.13 Level 36
- 7.14 Level 38
Approaching skill development in terms of three layers of priority
The skill system in Vindictus is actually quite deep and very different from other MMOs. The biggest difference is that skills are not closely tied to character level, but often also to story (quest) progression unlocks and dependencies in achieving certain ranks in other prerequisite skills. As a result, it's very difficult to prescribe an optimal step-by-step path, especially since once you start training a skill you must continue investing AP only into that skill until you finally achieve the next rank in that skill.
So the most logical way to conceptualize an "optimum" build in Vindictus is by breaking down AP investment into several layers of "priority of investment" as follows:
- Priority 1: Acquire ranks in prerequisite skills early enough to unlock subsequent skills as early as they become useful for gameplay.
- Priority 2: Invest in the skills that are useful to the bread-and-butter gameplay for your specific character and playstyle.
- Priority 3: Invest in the weapon-specific attack combos.
This guide lays out the Priority 1 and Priority 2 lists for Fiona characters. It isn't useful to lay out a list for Priority 3 because the specific skills you choose will depend on whether you specialize as a sword or hammer Fiona, and by the time you've developed the priority 1 and 2 skills to a useful maturity, it will be fairly obvious to you how to develop your weapon skills.
Swords versus Hammers and adapting this guide accordingly
This guide applies equally well to both sword Fionas or hammer Fionas. The only rules of thumb you should observe are:
- Do not spend AP to rank _any_ sword skill early in your career. Wait until after level 24 and you've had a chance to try out hammers. All of your early AP investment should be only in defensive skills.
- Once you do have the bandwidth to invest in weapon skills (after level 24), choose either swords or hammers and invest only in one or the other at first until your skills for that particular weapon are mature. Don't try to split your development equally between hammer or sword skills.
By roughly level 24 you can make a choice between specializing your Fiona for swords or hammers. Fortunately, both sword Fionas and hammer Fionas can follow essentially the same general skill development path, because both types of Fiona rely primarily on their shields and their shield-oriented skills as a core part of their gameplay, and both types must develop their defensive skills first and their weapon skills only much later. Both Hammer and Sword Fionas rely heavily on your shield being non-broken, using SP: Shield Bash and Counterattack (CA) to land stuns, using CA as often as possible, using Heavy Stander or Guard as often as possible and depending on what's best for the situation, etc. So by the time you actually have the bandwidth to think about ranking up weapon-specific skills, you'll have passed level 24 and had a chance to play with hammers for a while, so you should have a good idea whether you prefer the "feel" of hammers versus swords. Then as your defensive skills become mature and you have AP available to invest in weapon skills, it should be an easy decision to rank up either swords or hammers depending on your preference.
What are the specific differences between swords and hammers?
- TLDR version: Swords give up damage to gain flexibility. Hammers give up flexibility to gain damage.
- The smash portion of a hammer combo has a very short animation/recovery time compared to the smash portion of a sword combo, so as a hammer Fiona you don't need to master (or use) the Heavy Cancel Technique to chain combos more quickly for higher DPS. For some people, this might be a significant improvement, since Fiona can be a bit technical to play already (compared to a Lann), and the timing and button mashes for doing heavy cancels to improve your DPS as a Sword Fiona just adds more complexity to the already technical gameplay.
- Hammer swings and combos are slower than sword combos, however, which can affect:
- How long a combo you can pull off during a boss's vulnerable phase when its safe to hit them.
- How flexibly you can position yourself (by changing direction slightly with each normal attack) for a final smash on multiple mobs or to end up in the sweet spot for a final smash on the boss during his vulnerable phase. For example, a common technique for soloing the Gnoll Chieftain at early levels is to run counter-clockwise around him until he commits to his spinning smash attack, then to run at him just behind his vector of motion while he's still spinning (staying just out of reach of his hammer spin). Then as he comes to a stop, you start an Amaranth Kick combo immediately even though you're still quite far away from him, steering in his direction with each normal LLLL in the combo sequence, and landing only the final R smash on him (still from pretty far away), then immediately Heavy Canceling and jinking away out of reach before he recovers and goes after you again. (Basically, you're whittling him down only with the final smash from many Amaranth Kicks and never getting directly in harms way yourself. Even as a newbie you can fight him naked using this technique.) This type of technique is more difficult with hammers.
- On the other hand, hammer swings and smashes hit for more damage, and only hammer attacks have the potential to do critical damage. So ultimately, it's probably the same overall DPS during a boss fight but with a different "feel" to the action.
- There are fewer hammer types to be crafted and the crafting expense is roughly 2x per hammer what it costs for an equivalent sword (both in gold and materials). So do you care that you must wait roughly 4 levels between hammer upgrades versus waiting roughly two levels between sword upgrades?
- Basic hammer attacks do have a slightly higher occurrence of stuns, but these are only nice perks when they happen; your main source for generating stuns should always be CA and shield bash regardless of whether you favor swords or hammers.
- Sword is more single-target oriented while Hammer is more cone and AOE-oriented. Also, two sword skills require ranking all the way to 9 to become "worthwhile" at all, whereas no hammer skill becomes significantly stronger only after being ranked up. To elaborate: certain sword skills become noticeably better if you rank them up. For example, both Blossom Blow and Ivy Sweep gain a 3rd smash at the end of the combo once they hit rank 9, which dramatically increases the probability that you'll land a knockdown on at least one smash in the combo. Before rank 9, both of these are far far FAR inferior to the base knockdown chance of good old Amaranth Kick. Ivy Sweep's third smash at rank 9 also is your only 360-degree AOE attack that Fiona will get. Hammer skills by contrast, have more basic front-facing AOE (aka "cone") effect throughout (whereas swords are more single-target), and one skill (Butterfly Swing) is 360-degree AOE right off the bat at rank F.
Notes about some specific weapon skills
As mentioned in the preceding section on swords versus hammers, you should rank up the specific weapon skills fairly late in your development, focusing your early development on your core defensive skills. There's not much to say about the hammer skills here, or the other sword skills not specifically mentioned below, because all of those are fully effective right from the start as soon as you acquire them. Ranking them up only improves their damage output and proc chance.
Two of the sword skills are a different story, however, because they are generally quite weak until you rank them all the way to rank 9:
If you decide to be a sword Fiona, after level 30 push this to rank 9 (+780 AP), but only when there's nothing more important to spend AP on. Blossom blow doesn't come into its own until rank 9, which adds a third smash attack in the combo. This adds more damage and significantly increases the chance of a knockdown.
Ultimately, Blossom Blow at rank 9 or better is a "nice-to-have" skill when you've got nothing better to spend AP on. It's reputed that in Korea, both Blossom Blow and Ivy Sweep are considered "don't rank these" skills.
Also note that probabilities are tricksy. Each smash in this combo is 15% chance to proc a knock-down at max rank 6, but that doesn't mean that a full 3-smash combo will have a 45% chance to knock-down. Instead, the real probability of at least one of the three smashes procing is only 38%. Before rank 9, your chance of "at least one" of the two smashes procing a knock-down is only about 18%. (At rank 9, the chance of at least one smash causing a knock-down is 27.1%, which brings it up to par with Amaranth Kick if you can manage to land all three smashes.) So this skill can be useful for the ultimately higher knockdown chance than Amaranth Kick, but only at later levels.
If you decide to be a sword Fiona, after level 30 push this to rank 9 (+480 AP) but only when there's nothing more important to spend AP on. Ivy Sweep doesn't really come into its own until rank 9, which adds a third smash attack that hits 360 degrees around you. And you cannot acquire rank 9 until level 30 at the earliest. This one single smash is Fiona's only PBAOE skill. Even so, this is a 6-click combo, so your chances of using this on anything but trash mobs is rare, so this isn't really a "must-have" skill.
Knockdown probabilities are the same as for Blossom blow.
Finally, if knockdown is all you want, then Blossom Blow is always a better skill to use, because you have the same chance of knock-down as for this skill, but you need only two normal attacks before the smash portion of the combo. So the ONLY real reason to attempt this long 6-part combo is if you think you can do full 360 AOE damage to foes clustered around you with that final, third, smash. Otherwise, just use a rank 9 (or better) Blossom Blow or your bread and butter Amaranth Kick.
Why are the defensive shield skills so vital?
(This content is paraphrased from TmobilePosah on the official forums)
Your shield is so crucial to Fiona gameplay. When your shield breaks, you can't use Heavy Stander: no more blocking smash attacks when you need to, no more using the Heavy Cancel Technique that is crucial to DPS output for sword Fionas. You even start taking damage from Guard, which is definitely something you'd want to avoid. No more Counterattack either. All of this ultimately decreases your defensive and offensive capabilities for both you and the party.
So having a high rank in Shield Mastery is very important to acquire as early as possible, and having a high rank Counterattack as soon as possible after level 20 is also very important important. Counterattack is a great skill that you'll find indispensable against some bosses, but without it being high rank, along with a high rank in Shield Mastery, Guard, Heavy Stander, and Campfire to back it up, you're going to find your shield shattering when you most need it.
Take the Blood Prince battle for example. Every boss in that battle has got a predictable normal attack that can be countered, and there's no better way to beat bosses than to have them constantly stunned on the ground. Without the right skills and campfire buff though, you're going to find those battles more difficult when your shield busts. A common strategy for soloing Blood Prince revolves around the shield, and the same is true with many other bosses (though not all).
Typical armor set progression
Do you really need/want armor?
Fiona is the only class (so far) that can literally fight naked and be successful against all bosses as long as you have good defensive shield-based skill ranks and Heavy Stander at rank A or better. Why? Because armor protects a Fiona only when you fail to block an attack with either Guard or Heavy Stander. If you're adept at using both of these class-defining skills as a Fiona, your armor never does anything useful for you other than apply some passive stat bonuses. This statement might surprise some readers so let's go into some detail for a moment.
There are many compelling reasons to recognize a normal boss attack and use Guard against their normal attacks, reserving Heavy Stander only for when you want to stay in tanking range and soak up their smash attacks. Namely: Guard enables the always-desirable Counterattack, but also, a "perfect" Guard at rank 9 and higher automatically makes the subsequent normal attack become the third hit in a combo, which shortens the number of hits you must make to get to a combo finisher. For example, r9 perfect Guard > LR = a full rA Ivy Sweep or a full Butterfly Swing. But many players fail to realize that Heavy Stander blocks damage from both normal and smash attacks, and if Heavy Stander is at rank A or higher, it blocks 100% of the damage! If your shield isn't broken and you have at least 1 point of Stamina left, you can do a Heavy Stander in an emergency situation, which means you take zero damage no matter what attack the boss throws at you. So a "naked Fiona" can simply dodge and use Heavy Stander at first if you're not 100% confident about what attack the boss is about to hit you with. And if you get flustered at any point during a boss fight (such as overcommitting when you meant to dodge out sooner), you can always default to a Heavy Stander when the boss winds up to attack you. But remember, Heavy Stander must be at rank A to enjoy this degree of invulnerability and the risk/thrill of "fighting naked" (or in your favorite under armor). And you still need to watch your stamina and make sure your shield never breaks. (Which means high investment in Shield Mastery and Campfire.)
Light versus Heavy versus Plate and weight management
Weight management issues can make moving into the next tier of "best" armor progression described below somewhat tricky at first. Even though Fiona has a much higher default weight capacity than Lann, she can still run into trouble equipping the first "real" set of heavy armor Northern Pike Set as soon as the entire set becomes available. To ensure that you could indeed wear a full set of Northern Pike by the time all pieces are available (level 22), you must have a rank A Heavy Armor Proficiency to compensate for the total weight of the set, despite the entire set having only a rank F requirement to theoretically equip any one piece. The problem isn't with the weight of any one piece, it's the weight of the total set versus the basic weight allowance conferred to a Fiona by level 22. If you wait until level 24, you gain some extra default carry capacity, so you'd need only rank B in Heavy Armor Proficiency to endure the weight of the full set, and so on. To help with your weight limit the Sweetie Bear Gloves are better then the Northern Pike Gloves and are only 1.5 stone compared to the 55 stone of the Northern Pike Vambrace. The Sweetie Bear Gloves have 11 more Strength and 5 less Defense.
The same problem exists when trying to equip the full Blood Prince Set by level 32: you would need a rank A in Heavy Armor Proficiency to wear the full set at 32, but if you wait longer you'll gain a larger default carry capacity and won't need more than the base set requirement of rank D.
So the tricky part is balancing a high investment in Heavy Armor Proficiency against all the other early-level skills that a Fiona needs to invest in. This is why I make the point above about Fionas not really gaining much benefit from the DEF value of their armor and being able to essentially fight naked if you are good at knowing when to use Heavy Stander and you never mess up the timing of a needed Heavy Stander.
In this author's opinion, you should prioritize your shield-based skills and your defensive skills over the development of Heavy Armor Proficiency. This might require staying in some Crimson Rage Set pieces long after level 22, or it might mean "wasting" 30 AP in Light Armor Proficiency to upgrade from Crimson Rage to Savage Leather Set for a while before you are high enough level to wear Northern Pike without any significant investment into Heavy Armor Proficiency. The choice is yours.
Best armor progression
Assuming you want to wear armor not just for how it looks but instead for how "useful" it is to the Fiona class in particular, here are the typical "best" armor sets to spend your time and effort acquiring.
- Just wear piecemeal gear rewards until you can start crafting pieces for the Crimson Rage Set.
- Finish out your Crimson Rage set (the helm and gloves are boss drops from Decisive Battle, not crafted items). Stick with this set until...
- At level 16 start working on the Northern Pike Set and then keep it until...
- At level 30 start working on the Blood Prince Set.
- At level 42 start working on Laghodessa Slayer set, by buying the mission from Aislinn.
Feel free to deviate from the above progression if you just plain like the looks of some other armor. But in terms of "best stats", this is the lowest-cost yet highest-value progression for sword Fionas.
Another common deviation of this recommended profession is to instead go for armor sets that confer the highest Will buff possible, but this is useful only if you've invested in the Critical Hit skill and want to maximize your chances of landing criticals when smashing.
Best shield progression
- Wooden Shield
- Crimson Blade Shield if you're lucky enough to find a Gnoll Buckler drop before you hit level 12-ish and can move on to...
- Small Shield
- Kobold Buckler if one drops for you before you can move on to...
- Round Shield
- Spiked Shield, which requires you to break the Sturdy Emuloch's shield by hitting it 3 times (similar to how you break off the Gnoll Chieftain's helm by hitting it two times. You use the drops from his broken shield to have the Spike Shield crafted. You'll stick with this shield through most of boats two and three until...
- Eagle Heart. You must be level 28 and have rank C Shield Mastery to equip it.
First priority for AP investment: skill unlock dependencies
As you level up and new skills become available, the FIRST place you should invest AP points is in the following listed skills when possible, because these AP investments are required to unlock desired/useful skills for Fiona at later levels. Invest up to the listed +nnn AP amount for each skill. There are other skills you will acquire that also lead to unlocks, but if it's not listed here is is NOT DESIRABLE/USEFUL for either sword- or Hammer-based Fionas.
- Guard (level 1) +150 AP unlocks Heavy Stander (level 8) and Counterattack (level 20)
- Shield Mastery (level 1) +1080 AP unlocks Large Shield Mastery (level 42)
- (optional) Longsword Mastery (level 10) +120 AP unlocks Long Hammer Mastery (level 24)
- Heavy Armor Proficiency (level 10) +120 AP unlocks Plate Armor Proficiency (level 30)
- Strength Mastery (level 14) +260 AP unlocks Weight Endurance (level 34)
- Combat Mastery (level 18) +120 AP unlocks Smash Mastery (level 22)
- (optional) Smash Mastery (level 22) +160 AP unlocks Blossom Blow (level 30)
- (optional) Willpower Mastery (level 22) +160 AP unlocks Life Flare (level 22)
- Battle Respiration (level 26) +570 AP unlocks Stamina Mastery (level 38)
Note on Large Shield Mastery
Large Shields (and Large Shield Mastery) are not available until level 42. Also, you cannot use Counterattack (CA) with a large shield and some players consider CA an important standard tactic because of the consistency with which it can proc stuns. Therefore, although you should spend some AP to rank Shield Mastery in your early development (to improve the effectively of both CA and Heavy Stander), you should not be concerned with achieving rank 9 to unlock Large Shield Mastery until much later in your career.
Notes on the (optional) unlocks
If you are absolutely certain that you will play a sword Fiona and have no desire to play a hammer Fiona, then you don't need to spend +120 AP on Longsword Mastery to ensure that you can try out Hammers as soon as you hit level 24. On the other hand, 120 AP by level 24 is a fairly cheap cost to enable you to test out the "feel" of hammers versus swords so that you can make an informed choice whether to specialize in hammer or sword skills once your high-priority defensive skills are mature.
Don't worry about unlocking Blossom Blow unless you are sure by level 30 that you will be a sword Fiona.
IMO the chance of this skill actually working in your favor is very low even at max rank (only a 35% chance), so IMO you should eventually unlock it and spend a measly +30 AP to rank it to E (15% chance), but don't waste AP on further ranks unless you're sitting on AP to spend with nothing more useful to spend it on.
Second priority for AP investment: building the most desirable/useful skills ASAP
When you are not investing AP according to the "first priority" list above, then invest AP up to the specified +nnn amounts (ranks) shown in the following list, in roughly the priority order shown. Note that it's usually a good idea to invest +30 AP in every new skill as it becomes available. After that, stick to the priority order. Note: the "first priority" skill investements are listed here too just to help you keep the overall skill training order visible. These "first priority" investments are denoted with skill +nnn.
Important: You will encounter the opportunity to learn various weapon skills that aren't specifically mentioned in the following priority list, starting with Ivy Sweep as early as level 6. My advice is to learn each such skill but invest absolutely no AP into them at first, keeping all of them at rank F for a long while until all of the defensive skills in the following list are fairly mature. By somewhere after level 24 you might have the bandwidth to start ranking some of the weapon skills you use a lot, and you should know by that time whether to focus on hammer skills or sword skills per the discussions in earlier sections above.
Both of these level 1 skills are very important bread and butter defensive skills that you will want to rank high fairly early in your career. Both of them directly contribute to your Heavy Stander and Counterattack skill efficiency.
However, of the two, Guard is definitely the critical one to rank up first, because it unlocks the very important Heavy Stander skill that you can acquire as early as level 8, followed by unlocking the very important Counterattack skill as early as level 20.
Guard +150, then push ASAP to rank A (+200 AP), then after level 30 push to rank 9 (+130 AP)
More specifically, put your very first 80 AP into Guard to rank it to D, which ensures you can learn Heavy Stander as soon as it becomes available to you (as early as level 8). After that, you don't need to invest the next 70 AP to rank C immediately, because Counterattack won't become available to you until level 20. So after your first 80 AP into Guard, you could flip over to Shield Mastery and put 30 points there to get the +15% shield durability buff conferred by rank E Shield Mastery.
Push ASAP to rank E (+30 AP) as described above in Guard, then slowly increase as time permits. Ultimately, you don't need to reach rank 9 (+1050 AP) to enable large shields until you near level 42, but every rank you do manage to reach in this skill improves the durability of your shield significantly, which directly increases the power of your Heavy Stander and Counterattack skills. In general, prioritize constant advancement in this skill fairly high, keeping the ranks more or less in balance with your ranks in Guard. Stop at rank A until you near level 42, then push to rank 9.
In a nutshell, the Heavy Cancel Technique means dropping briefly into Heavy Stander right as you deliver a combo's final smash, which cancels the "recovery animation" of the final smash. The net result is to enable you to chain successive combos very quickly. A Sprint Smash is sprinting forward and immediately right-clicking to do a single smash. This technique is very useful for getting an extra smash in on a boss during his vulnerability window, but only if you Heavy Cancel out of the smash so that you can immediately do another LR combo. By doing a Sprint Smash > Heavy Cancel > LR attack, you can get two full smashes against a boss even during short vulnerability windows. (For more information on both techniques, including useful demo videos, see http://forum.Nexon.net/Vindictus/forums/thread/5857690.aspx)
Learn this skill to enable equipping most pieces of the light/heavy Crimson Rage Set.
Optionally, if you want to enable an upgrade to the Savage Leather Armor Set by level 26, or to the Reinforced Set by level 28, then push this to rank E (+30 AP) as you near level 26. Regardless, you should absolutely stop at rank E, because most Korean Fionas standardize on Heavy armor.
You can also skip the Savage and Reinforced sets entirely and upgrade from the Crimson Rage Set directly to the (Heavy) Northern Pike Set, but as described above in Typical armor set progression, you won't be able to wear the full set exactly by level 22 unless you have prioritized significant AP investment into Heavy Armor Proficiency over other important defensive skills that are arguably more important in your early levels.
Note: If you feel strongly that the look or stats of the Reinforced Set is something that you "must have" instead of the arguably better-suited Savage or Northern Pike sets, you will also need to invest +30 AP in Cloth Armor Proficiency to get it to rank E. Otherwise, Cloth Armor Proficiency is useless for a Fiona.
Learn this skill ASAP to enable equipping the Crimson Rage Helm (which completes the light/heavy Crimson Rage Set), and to enable equipping pieces from the Northern Pike Set upgrade starting at level 16.
Eventually push to rank A (+450 AP) but only when there's nothing more important to spend AP on. It might be a useful strategy to keep this skill at rank D unless some far-off mixed heavy/plate set requires a higher rank. It's reputed that the next "good" upgrade after the (heavy) Blood Prince Set is a mixed heavy/plate set (but no real details are available to verify this claim at the time this guide was written).
Note: If you really want to equip the full Northern Pike Set and Blood Prince Set as early as possible, you must invest additional AP into this skill (up to rank A) earlier than recommended in this section. See Typical armor set progression for details.
Grab rank E (+30AP) ASAP to enable use of some of the sword upgrades you start seeing by level 12 (such as the Red Metal Longsword). If you are a hammer Fiona, you will need rank D by level 24 in order to get Long Hammer Mastery and equip hammers. A hammer Fiona will not need to rank Longsword Mastery further. A sword Fiona will not need rank D sword mastery until the Ainle Longsword, which requires level 30. In the long run, a sword Fiona will need to push it to rank A (+570 AP), but generally only as needed when you pick up a new sword that requires a higher rank.
Learn this skill but put nothing into it unless there's absolutely nothing more important to spend AP on. Eventually get it to rank 9 (+480 AP) but bear in mind that it's not really that useful until rank 9 when you can sometimes use a special keystroke to attempt to roll out of a knockdown. In general, this skill isn't even necessary until the higher levels when getting knocked down leaves you fatally vulnerable.
Push ASAP to rank A (+350 AP). Ask no questions. Just do it. Then set up a Campfire Kit just inside the entrance to a "boss room" for every single boss fight thereafter. When in lowbie groups (or when helping out lowbies for seals), let the lowbies know you'll be setting up a campfire for the boss and make sure they know what to do with the campfire.
Campfire is the real engine that will enable you to get the most out of Guard, Heavy Stander, and Counterattack, all of which are Fiona's most important distinguishing abilities. Why? Because if you build a campfire and sit at it for 10 seconds before engaging the boss, it confers two very long-lasting buffs on you:
- A buff to your Attack (and Magic Attack) stats.
- An armor regen buff that constantly repairs your armor every two seconds. This means far more frequent use of Guard, Heavy Stander, and Counterattack without needing to worry about your shield durability loss from those skills.
- At rank F, the buffs last for 10 minutes: +100 to Attack/Magic Attack and 12 points of armor regen every 2 seconds. That's roughly 16 seconds from nearly broken armor to fully repaired armor. While you're running around and fighting. No anvil or repair kits needed.
- At rank A, the buffs last for 12.5 minutes: +225 to Attack/Magic Attack and 56 points of armor regen every 2 seconds. That's only 4 seconds from nearly broken armor to fully repaired armor!
Even by rank D or C, players report never getting broken armor from constant use of Heavy Stander. And rank A makes it very difficult to break shields by spamming Counterattack.
Each campfire kit costs only 200 GP, so the cost of running a campfire for every boss battle is usually more than covered by the GP reward for finishing the battle. Ultimately, it's far more cost effective to set up a campfire for every boss fight than to burn through HP potions, repair kits, and resurrection consumables.
One other bonus: Although each player in a party can receive only one application of the long-lasting buffs from a specific campfire (other players can subsequently set up a different campfire if needed to enable another application of buffs), the campfire itself never goes away and can continue to be used throughout the boss fight to sit and heal up (which saves on potions used) or you can use the repair anvil to repair broken armor.
- As you approach level 12 and reach the pre-req to Nemesis (which is Gwynn's Revenge), start trying to hoard your AP and keep it near to the 100 AP limit so that when you finally complete Nemesis, receive the skill book, and hit level 12 to use the book, you can then pump as many AP as possible into it right away. Ultimately, you want to stop pretty much all other skill development as soon as you acquire Campfire so that you can push it ASAP to rank A.
- Always set up a campfire right in the entrance to the "boss room", because the boss will often not approach the entrance way if you make him chase you to the other end and then you sprint back to the entrance. This enables you to use the campfire for healing and armor repair safely at various points even during solo battles.
- Depending on how long it takes to clear out the initial trash mobs in a "boss room" (Friends?, I'm looking at you!), you usually still want to set up the campfire immediately after entering the boss room, but you might not want to sit long enough to receive the ATK and armor regen buffs until after you've cleared the trash and only the boss is left. Get him to leave you alone as described in the preceding bullet, then sit down to acquire the buffs.
- It's easy to miss the in-game instructions about how, exactly, to "sit down" to heal and receive the buffs. Just press F11 near the fire to sit. Move in any direction when you're ready to stand again.
Learn this skill for the small bonus to your Strength stat even at rank F, but don't put any points towards Strength Mastery +260 at this early point in your career. At this level, you're FAR better served to be putting every spare AP into pushing Campfire to rank A as quickly as possible.
You're not in a big hurry to put AP into Strength Master because you can't unlock Weight Endurance until much later at level 34.
Eventually push to rank A (+810) but as a really low priority compared to other more important skills, especially if you don't plan to be a Plate Armor Fiona. All you're really concerned with is hitting rank D by level 34 to unlock Weight Endurance. But even here, if you don't have lots of storage chests, you don't carry around lots of alternative armor "for looks", and you don't plan to ever wear Plate pieces, you might be able to delay training this skill at all if there are other more pressing needs at this point in your career.
Push ASAP to rank E (+30 AP) to get an initial +10% to both Crit Hit and Crit Damage. Then eventually push all the way to rank 6 (+2590) but only at the later levels and when there's nothing more important to spend AP on.
Combat Mastery +120 ASAP (after pushing Critical Hit to rank E) to unlock Smash Mastery at level 22. Smash Mastery is uber. Don't spend any more AP on Combat Mastery other than what's needed to unlock Smash Mastery.
Push ASAP to rank D (+260 AP) for the +10% increase to stun proc chance, then push consistently to rank 6 (+2760 AP) when there's nothing more important to spend AP on. Remember, Counterattack is a bread-and-butter skill for both sword and hammer Fionas, and the better your bonus to stun proc chance, the sooner you can achieve strings of stun locks against bosses. So definitely prioritize ranking up Counterattack over other "when there's nothing more important to spend AP on" skills.
Tip: By level 20 you should have a rank A Campfire if you followed my advice above, so you can and should use Counterattack liberally during boss fights. With a rank A campfire buff you will not have to worry much about shield breakage from over-using Counterattack.
Smash Mastery +160 ASAP to rank D both for the smash damage bonus (and to unlock the arguably strong Blossom Blow for sword Fionas by level 30). Push to rank 6 eventually (+2030) as a steady boost to smash damage. Smashes are the main DPS output of Fiona, so this "eventual max rank skill" is definitely a higher priority investment than most other "eventual max rank skills".
Tip: Balancing development of this skill against Counterattack will be your biggest challenge for a while. Both are incredibly useful and important skills for a Fiona. When in doubt, just try to keep both Smash Mastery and Counterattack at roughly equal ranks.
Learn this skill for the stamina regen buff more than anything else. Push eventually to rank A but spend points on other more important skills first.
Same exact story as for Agility Mastery.
Learn this skill for the basic 10% chance to avoid dying from a fatal blow even at rank F, but don't put any more AP into it at first. You can't unlock this one until you finally rank Willpower Mastery to D, but ultimately this is a low priority so you might not even start on this skill until a much later level. Eventually this one is worth unlocking and ranking all the way to 6 (+2190 AP), but only at the latest levels when you've got nothing else worthwhile to invest AP into.
Learn this skill but keep it at rank F until you determine whether you want to be a hammer Fiona or remain a sword Fiona. In order to use Stigma Hammer, you will need rank C, so if you choose to use the hammer, immediately rank it to C (+240 AP). If you're certain you will specialize as a hammer Fiona, push eventually to rank A (+570 AP), but generally only as needed when you pick up a new hammer that requires a higher rank than C.
Push ASAP to rank A (+570 AP). Every rank you add is precious to a Fiona and enables much more frequent use of smashes, Guard, Heavy Stander, Counterattack, and the Heavy Cancel Technique and Sprint Smash Technique.
Tip: Stamina regen is so important to a Fiona that it's worth stopping other skill development at this point and pushing this one skill to rank A before resuming other skill development.
If you feel that Plate Armor is more desirable than Heavy armor for a Fiona, push this to rank C (+330 AP) to enable use of the first desirable plate set (Laghodessa), then continue to rank A (+460 AP) as needed for subsequent desireable plate sets.
Note: It's unclear in USA at what level, exactly the various plate set pieces start becoming available. It's also reputed that Korean players generally eschew Plate for Fiona and remain in Heavy Armor even at the higher levels. Therefore, you might choose to skip this skill entirely unless it becomes clear that Plate is the way to go for Fiona.
Counterpoint to the preceding Note: It's also reputed that the next "good" upgrade after the (heavy) Blood Prince Set is a mixed heavy/plate set.
Learn this skill for the meager (yet free) +20 HP but don't spend any more AP on it at first. Eventually max it to rank 6 (+2850 AP), but this is an extremely low priority compared to most other skills, because the HP increase per rank is fairly small compared to your baseline HP by this level. (At max rank it adds only +230 HP total.)
Push ASAP to rank E +(30 AP) for the relatively cheap +40 stone carrying capacity buff. After that, rank up as needed to manage your weight (especially if you're using plate and large shields by now). Eventually max out to rank A (+220 AP), which is fairly inexpensive and adds another +80 stone buff beyond rank E, so you might as well just push to max ASAP unless something else is more pressing.
Push ASAP to rank E (+30 AP) for the first buff to stun chance. Then eventually max to rank A (+150) for a much higher stun chance. Since maxing this skill is relatively cheap, you might as well just push to max ASAP unless something else is more pressing. This is a solid, useful SP skill that you'll rely on until level 52 when you can pick up SP: Shield Charge.
Extremely useful skill when you don't have the campfire buff. Note that you can cancel it with a dodge roll right after triggering it and the repair will still be 100%.
Push ASAP to rank D (+260). After that, eventually max it to rank A (+810), but only if nothing else is more pressing. Reportedly for hammer Fionas this skill can be somewhat useful, because hammer attacks consume more stamina by default, but IMO Battle Respiration ultimately generates a lot more usable stamina. (And the potency of Battle Respiration does not scale higher with a larger starting pool of stamina.)
Learn the skill as money allows, but this is a "meh" skill to spend money on only if there's nothing else important.