Magical Lamp Preparations
Well, no use beating around the bush. The first and most important thing this section is focused on is the Magical Lamp. Maybe the name gave it away? Anyways, you can use this time from your inventory, but doing so will put you into a fight with the GF Diablos. How tough you find this fight will vary widely depending on how much grinding you've done thus far. If you have spells like Tornado at your disposal, Diablos should be relatively easy to defeat. If not, not.
It's also worth noting that Diablos is the first boss in the game whose level is completely uncapped - his level will be whatever the average of your party's level is. Expect this to be the norm for all foes from now on. That being the case, Diablos's stats can vary considerably... as can your own, but magic is more determinate of your strength right now instead of level, unlike Diablos. At level ten Diablos will boast 8,800 HP and 57 Strength, while at level twenty he'll have 16,800 HP and 102 Strength. Expect him to keep scaling by roughly 8,000 HP and 50 Strength every ten levels, a hard pace to match.
The worst case scenario for you is if you leveled up considerably and did little to no grinding. Going into a fight with a level twenty Diablos with a party that has under 1,000 HP and deals 200 damage per hit is not the mathematics behind a successful encounter. The good news is, you still have plenty of time to get the easily acquired Tornado, Thundaga, Blizzaga, Death and to a lesser extent, Regen and Curaga magics that'll boost your stats considerably. Best case scenario? Junction Ifrit to Zell or Squall, equip the Str +40% and Str +20% abilities on them, boost their Strength to 100+ and HP to 3,000+ and laugh as they massacre Diablos in short order with their limits. The power gap between the grindy, low-level party and the non-grindy party is suddenly very, very apparent.
So, to reiterate, acquire what magics you can via Card Mod, junction said magics to boost your stats (especially HP and Strength), make sure you have stocks of Blind and Protect spells. Some Phoenix Downs and X-Potions won't hurt, either, the former of which can be purchased from a shop near the train station in Balamb and the latter can be refined via Card Mod from the Biggs, Wedge card. Most importantly, save your game somewhere in the world map before you attempt this. If you fail, you just need more/better preparation. With a little bit (well, potentially a lot) of Card Mod, Diablos shouldn't be beyond any party right now.
Boss - Diablos
Before talking about what you should do, it's best here to talk about what Diablos will do. Diablos is a non-elemental critter fond of using gravity magic. In time honored tradition, gravity magic deals damage based on a percentage of a character's remaining HP. To that end, Demi will reduce the target's HP by 25% and Diablos's Gravija attack will reduce the HP of the entire party by a whopping 75%. Neither of these attacks can kill a character, but they can reduce your HP low enough for Diablos's physical attack - which is relatively potent - to do them in.
That being the case, having low HP is just something you'll need to get used to for this fight, as any healing you apply can and likely will be swept away by the next Gravija. Instead of restoring damage you'll need to focus on mitigating it, and Diablos is thankfully weak to both the slow and darkness statuses. If you're challenging Diablos at your earliest convenience you won't have access to Slow magic (ironically you can get that from Diablos himself) but you can cast Blind or junction it to your weapon's Status Attack. He's 50% resistant to it, so it may take a few tries, but once he's blinded his chances of successfully landing a melee attack will drop dramatically. You can further shield yourself from Diablos's onslaught with the Protect spell, and should something go amiss you can just use a Phoenix Down (or Life spell, if you refined it) on a downed character.
|Weaknesses:||Wind (150% damage)|
|Status Resistances:||Immune to Berserk -- Card -- Confuse -- Death -- Doom -- Poison -- Eject -- Float -- Lv Down -- Lv Up -- Petrify -- Silence -- Sleep -- Slow-Petrify -- Stop -- Zombie; Darkness 50% -- Drain 50% -- Haste 0% -- Reflect 0% -- Regen 0% -- Slow 10% -- The End 0% --|
|Draw: (lv1-19)||Cure, Demi|
|Draw: (lv20-29)||Cura, Demi|
|Draw: (lv30+)||Curaga, Demi, Flare, Holy|
|Drop: (lv1-19)||G-Returner x8|
|Drop: (lv20-29)||G-Returner x8|
|Drop: (lv30+)||Hero x4|
Once Diablos is blinded, your task is simple - cut him down as quickly as possible. The good thing about Diablos's gravity attacks is that they leave your character with very few HP, allowing you to perform limit breaks with little restraint. Any turn not spent attempting to inflict Darkness, using a limit break, or reviving a downed character is probably one not being used optimally. If you have a relatively high Strength score and kept your level low, Diablos could fall in one or two limits, if not, the fight may drag on longer.
You can draw Demi and Cure from Diablos, and while Demi is a tempting spell, it might be easier to simply get it via Card Mod after defeating Diablos. Casting Demi on Diablos is also a fine way of shaving down his HP, although you should be wary of the fact that Diablos will retaliate with Demi if you cast spells on him. Oddly enough, if you cast Demi from your own spells stocks (not draw-and-cast) he'll respond with Curaga, healing the offending character by a hefty amount.
So to summarize, start out trying to inflict Darkness on Diablos, then having your melee-competent characters (ideally those with good Strength junctions) use their limits while the character without a Strength junction draw-casts Demi or heals and revives. When Diablos falls you'll obtain either the drop of G-Returner x8 if you're under level thirty or Hero x4 if you're level thirty or above. You'll also score the Diablos Card for Triple Triad, and most importantly of all your gain Diablos's services as a GF.
The Diablo card can be refined into 100 Black Hole items via Card Mod. Since this item can also be obtained from the much more common Gesper card (and since you need very few Black Hole items to Card Mod into Demi spells) the Diablos card is one that's best left alone and used for playing, not refining.
GF - Diablos
Despite being arguably the coolest-looking summon in Final Fantasy history, Diablos also has numerous useful abilities that make him one of the better GFs in the game... especially for a low-level party. Before that, Diablos's normal attack should be discussed, as it's rather unique and potentially useful. Being a demon that uses gravity-based magic it should be no surprise that Diablos's attack deals damage based on the enemy's max HP... at least partially.
Diablos deals damage equal to a percentage (based on Diablos's level) of the target's HP. For example, if a level twenty Diablos (20% damage) was summoned to attack a critter with 10,000 HP, Diablos would deal 2,000 damage, up to a maximum of 9,999 damage per attack. Unlike other gravity spells, Diablos's attack can kill enemies since the damage is based on the target's max HP, not total HP. Your mileage will vary, obviously, and low-level parties will get less out of Diablos's attack. Even then it can still be useful, as the damage Diablos deals bypasses all defenses, be it Protect, Shell, or high Spirit or Vitality stats. Critters like Tonberrys are especially vulnerable, as they have relatively high HP even at low levels... but that's a matter for another time.
Now, onto Diablos's abilities. They are, simply put, fantastic. First, any character who junctions Diablos will benefit from his Ability x3 ability, which allows you to equip three... well, abilities. He can also learn the HP-J and Hit-J ability, the latter being a somewhat uncommon (and frankly, not all that useful at present) junction that increases your chance to hit with melee attacks. In addition to boosting your stats via junctioned magic, Diablos also has the Mag +20%, Mag +40%, Hp +20%, Hp +40% and Hp +80% abilities, the latter of which is pretty damn impressive.
Mug allows you to steal items from enemies during melee attacks, and you should endeavor to learn it at your earliest convenience... although with a crippling 200 AP cost and plenty of other abilities worth getting, that could take a while. Still, there are many items that are easier to get via Mug, and the sooner you get it the better. Just note that if you Mug a foe, you won't get its drop, so you'll need to weigh which is more important - something this guide can help with!
Speaking of other abilities worth getting, Enc-Half and Enc-None will set you back 30 AP and 100 AP, respectively, but for a low-level party these might be the best abilities any GF has. As their names suggest, they eliminate around half or all random encounters. That's not to say there won't be boss fights or some other static encounters, but once you learn and equip these you can safely stop worrying about most trivial interruptions and dash through the game, which naturally makes it very, very easy to keep your level low. Even players who don't care about keeping their level low should consider grabbing these, as they can remove the simple tedium of random encounters when you'd rather focus on some other objective. Nor are these abilities binding; if the low-level party wants to fight enemies for magic or AP, they can simply remove them from their active abilities. There's no downside to learning these abilities, and potentially a great bit of upside.
Diablos would be a great GF if only for those abilities alone, but he's also go the Time Mag-RF and ST Mag-RF abilities, which will be discussed in further detail below.
New GF, new magic refining abilities, new grinding notes. As previously stated, Diablos can learn the ST Mag-RF and Time Mag-RF abilities, so it's only sensible to discuss what they produce, and how you get the items necessary to refine these spells (obvious hint: Card Mod!). Time Mag-RF is a rather broad category that includes more than Haste, Slow and Stop, also allowing you to create Demi, Double, Quake and Triple, while ST Mag-RF will allow you to create Berserk, Bio, Blind, Break, Confuse, Meltdown, Silence, Sleep and Pain. Some of these are out of reach at the moment, but the familiar table below will show you what cards can be modded (via Card Mod) into what items, which in turn can be refined into magic.
|Card||Card Mod Items||Magics Acquired||Ability|
|Anacondaur||1 = Venom Fang x1||1 = Bio x20||ST Mag-RF|
|Armadodo||1 = Dino Bone x1||1 = Quake x20||Time Mag-RF|
|Buel||1 = Magic Stone x1||1 = Haste x5||Time Mag-RF|
|Caterchipillar||1 = Spider Web x1||1 = Slow x20||Time Mag-RF|
|Cockatrice||1 = Cockatrice Pinion x1||1 = Break x20||ST Mag-RF|
|Elastoid||1 = Steel Pipe x1||1 = Berserk x20||ST Mag-RF|
|Forbidden||1 = Betrayal Sword x1||1 = Confuse x20||ST Mag-RF|
|Gayla||1 = Mystery Fluid x1||1 = Meltdown x20||ST Mag-RF|
|Gesper||1 = Black Hole x1||1 = Demi x30||Time Mag-RF|
|Grat||1 = Magic Stone x1||1 = Haste x5||Time Mag-RF|
|Grendel||1 = Dragon Fin x1||1 = Double x20||Time Mag-RF|
|Imp||1 = Wizard Stone x1||1 = Stop x5||Time Mag-RF|
|Jelleye||1 = Magic Stone x1||1 = Haste x5||Time Mag-RF|
|Malboro||1 = Malboro Tentacle x1||1 = Bio x40||ST Mag-RF|
|Ochu||1 = Ochu Tentacle x1||1 = Blind x30||ST Mag-RF|
|Tri-Face||1 = Curse Spike x1||1 = Pain x10||ST Mag-RF|
|Vysage||1 = Wizard Stone x1||1 = Stop x5||Time Mag-RF|
It's worth noting this isn't a comprehensive list, as there are still cards out there you haven't seen yet that refine into good magics. This is more of a list of cards/items/spells that you can reasonably be expected to obtain. That being the case, some less-than-ideal possibilities have been left out as well, like the Wendigo/Steel Orb/Demi refining path, all ST Mag-RF combos including M-Stone Pieces, Magic Stones and Wizard Stones and the M-Stone Piece/Slow refining option. There are better uses for those components or better ways to get those spells.
As for the things everybody wants to know about, namely how these magics junction:
The status effecting spells are worthwhile just for the fact that they can render a character immune to or capable of afflicting said status effect.
Quake junctions well in to HP, Strength and Magic, being surpassed by Tornado in each area but... well, you can only have one Tornado junctioned, so Quake is a fine second option.
Meltdown, in addition to being a fantastic spell that obliterates an enemy's Vitality and Spirit stat junctions amazingly well to Vitality (100 Meltdowns will get you a whopping 80 points into Vitality).
Demi junctions decently into Strength and Magic, but there may just be too much competition for it to end up junctioned. Still useful for when you find a high HP foe that needs its health shaved down a bit.
Pain is the best spell for junctioning Magic you can get right now, as 100 Pain will get you 60 Magic. It can also be junctioned to Status Attack to add a 100% chance to inflict Blind, Poison and Silence, or Status Defense to give 100% resistance to Blind, Curse, Poison and Silence.
What and how much you grind for will be left up to you, but it really can't hurt to acquire some stocks of Meltdown and Quake, and it's not that difficult to do, all things considered. No good reason why you shouldn't have 3,000+ HP and a potent Strength and/or Magic stat at the same time, right? Pain is a little slower, but again, it can't hurt to get a stack or two for your characters. The more characters with high Magic you have, the faster you'll draw spells.
Note: We were able to easily win all games of Triple Triad we played just by using the Diablos, Ifrit, Quistis and two Malboro cards. If you spread the "Diff" rule via the Queen of Cards in Balamb you can speed up your card accumulation dramatically.
GF Junctions with Diablos
Finally, before you're left to your own devices to either grind for Cards and AP or continue on with your first mission, since you have a new GF it may be worth discussing how you're junctioning all these things. First, and perhaps most obviously, no GF should be left unequipped. You want them all to be getting AP, after all, and you don't have enough stat junctions that any GF can't be adding something, somewhere. No need to get sentimental about GFs, they don't have a vote in how they get passed around.
Right now you potentially have three GFs that have HP-J (Diablos, Ifrit and Quezacotl) two with Str-J (Ifrit and Shiva) and three with Mag-J (Diablos, Quezacotl and Siren). The lack of a third Str-J is an unfortunate affair that'll relegate one character into more or less of a caster role, but that's fine for now. That being the case you should split your GFs to spread the HP-J and Mag-J abilities around as much as possible, as again, the higher your Magic stats the more spells you'll draw at a time, and the more successfully at it you'll be.
The split is easy enough then - one character gets Ifrit and Siren, another gets Diablos and Shiva and a third gets Quezacotl. The first three elemental GFs - Quezacotl, Shiva and Ifrit - shouldn't end up on the same user again, although other GFs may be shuffled around as necessary, usually as new GFs are acquired and the balance of available abilities shifts.
As for stat junctions, use Tornado or Quake for HP/Strength (having a higher Strength stat is probably preferable to having a few hundred more HP), while Pain or Death should be junctioned to Magic. Meltdown for Vitality and Curaga for Spirit should round things out nicely, while Elemental/Status Attack/Defense junctions can swap around as the situation demands. Generally you shouldn't bother with Elemental Attack junctions unless you're about to fight a boss weak to an element, or a host of less enemies weak to said element, while Status Attack can usually be something benign like Blind, Silence or Sleep.
Now that you're all kitted out you should be more than ready to take on your first SeeD mission!