Now that the basics have been covered, along with Characters, Classes, Espers and Quickenings, it's time to put that all together and concoct your party. This section will, unlike previous sections, focus more on power-gameyness. It's really hard to make a bad party without purposefully going out of your way to do so, but here the focus will be on squeezing the most out of each choice possible. It may seem daunting, but there are some things to consider which will help cut down the number of possible options significantly.
One easy shortcut to eliminating the number of possible job combinations is by looking at one of the key licenses that every character benefits greatly from: Swiftness. Swiftness comes in three ranks (30 LP, 50 LP and 80 LP), and each rank "reduces action time by 10%". Whenever you queue an action, the ATB (Active Time Battle) bar will start to fill up, and when it's full the character performs said action. Three ranks of Swiftness basically cuts down the ATB delay between each action by up to 30%, making each character better at what they're doing by allowing for faster healing, buffing, debuffing and DPS. Simply put, every character should pick a job combination that gives them access to all three ranks of Swiftness.
The Archer, Bushi, Machinist, Shikari and Time Battlemage get all three ranks of Swiftness, and hence make great combinations for other jobs that don't have such great access, like the Black Mage (two ranks), Knight (one rank), Red Battlemage (one rank), Uhlan (two ranks) and White Mage (two ranks). Furthermore, the Foebreaker and Monk both have access to all three ranks of Swiftness, but two of them (in both jobs, it's the 50 LP and 80 LP licenses) are on license islands. You can claim these by assigning the Ultima Esper to the Monk or the Hashmal and Ultima Espers to the Foebreaker. Better yet, however, if you pair the Monk with another class that has access to either the 50 LP or 80 LP rank of Swiftness, you can grab whichever other Swiftness license you lack on the Monk's License Board via the magic of island hopping.
|30 LP||50 LP||80 LP|
While the Swiftness rule is a good rule of thumb, there also instances in which it may be broken, which will be discussed shortly. One rule which should never be broken, however, is the "Easy Picks" rule. Some job combinations have such synergy, or are just so powerful, that nobody should go without them. It's just hard to imagine a scenario in which you'd be better off by splitting these jobs than keeping them together, and your party would certainly be worse off without them. This isn't all inclusive of the god-tier combos, mind you, as there are some job combinations that are almost equally great, arguments for either of which could be made (Knight/Bushi and Knight/Time Battlemage being a clear example).
These two "Easy Picks" are the Black Mage/Monk and the Red Battlemage/Archer. There's arguably no other jobs that combo better with any of these four jobs than they combo with each other, and every party should have them. The Black Mage/Monk is easily the most potent of the four job combinations which allows you to have six characters possessing all three ranks of Swiftness (the others being Black Mage/Foebreaker, White Mage/Monk and White Mage/Foebreaker) without using Espers to achieve the feat, while the Red Battlemage/Archer synergize in many, many ways, including making the best combined use of the Shemhazai Esper and being able to equip the Burning Bow to amplify the damage of Fire-based magicks, including Ardor.
Save yourself some bother, eliminate some options, and make your party stronger by including these two job combos.
A Knight Out With the White Mage
The Knight would qualify for an "Easy Pick", save that it's such a good job that it combos amazingly well with two different jobs, making it a not-so-easy pick. Still, using the Knight smartly by pairing it with either of the two aforementioned jobs is a wise idea, but how you choose is a little more complicated, as depending what you pair the Knight with will obviously affect the remaining jobs left, and hence, the remaining combos. The Knight, while a formidable job on its own, really requires the investment of some Espers - namely Hashmal and Mateus - to gain the White Magicks that take them from good to great, so even if you're inclined to not use all twelve jobs, the Knight isn't worth doubling up on.
With that out of the way, the two best combos for the Knight are the Bushi and the Time Battlemage. Both give the Knight all three ranks of Swiftness, the Bushi also gives Mystic Armor (allowing for the potent Excalibur + White Robes combo), while the Time Battlemage compliments the Knight's White Magick with a full selection of Time Magicks. It's hard to go wrong either way.
The White Mage/Machinist is, if anything, even closer than the Knight for an "Easy Pick" combo, although this is more due to the lack of competitive, secondary options than anything else. Speaking of which, there's merit in both the White Mage/Shikari (super tanky White Mage) and Uhlan/White Mage (white warrior - best compromise that allows for Knight/Time Battlemage in a twelve-job party), but when it comes to the White Mage doing what the White Mage does best - staying out of combat and casting healing/support magicks, the White Mage/Machinist can't be beat. Ultimately your decisions concerning the Knight combo might affect the White Mage, so it's a choice that has to be made with consideration for both combos.
Anyways, you should have an idea for what you want to do with over half of the party now, the next step is to make a more fundamental decision about how you want to build your party...
To Job or Not to Job
Another choice you should consider make is whether you want to shoot for a twelve job party. There's no power-gamey reason to use all twelve jobs, and you can arguably get a slightly stronger party out of doubling up on some jobs, but if you want to ensure you have someone in your party who can use every technick, magick, weapon and armor, or if you just want to streamline the party-building process, the twelve-job party might be for you. With a twelve-job party you'll be forced to utilize some otherwise lackluster classes like Uhlan, and you obviously won't be able to double-up on anything.
While you get to keep most of the power combos (Black Mage/Monk, Red Battlemage/Archer), this approach can make the Knight/Time Battlemage combo difficult to pull off for the sheer fact that, despite it being a powerful job, it makes it rather difficult to assign the remaining four jobs, namely the Uhlan, Bushi, Foebreaker and Shikari. While Bushi/Shikari is a good combo, Uhlan/Foebreaker is... well, relatively poor, as are any combinations that do not involve Shikari/Bushi. That being the case, it's arguably better to run a twelve job party with Knight/Bushi, Shikari/Foebreaker and Uhlan/Time Battlemage, giving a final party of:
|Twelve Job Party #1|
Note: Jobs in the above table, and in the following tables, are listed in the order of which you should pick said jobs. For example, in the case of the Knight/Bushi, you'll want to pick Knight as the first class. This is entirely due to the fact that certain jobs are less powerful early on, due to scarcity of gear, technicks and magicks.
Alternatively, if you don't mind splitting up the incredibly useful White Mage/Machinist combo and breaking the Swiftness rule, you can opt for the Uhlan/White Mage, which is a less versatile support caster but stronger warrior. This then frees up the Machinist to be paired with the Foebreaker, allowing you to make use of the remaining jobs to form the Knight/Time Battlemage and Bushi/Shikari combos. What you end up with is a more melee-focused Uhlan/White Mage that lacks the Machinist's Time Magicks, while the Foebreaker goes from being a debuffer/DPS character to a debuff/support magick character, as they'll gain access to the four stat-lowering technicks (Addle, Expose, Shear, Wither) as well as the Machinist's Time Magicks. It's not a terrible idea, especially when you consider that the lack of three ranks of Swiftness on your White Mage can be mitigated somewhat by spreading healing duties out amongst your Monk and Knight.
|Twelve Job Party #2|
If you don't care to use all twelve jobs, you'll have more freedom with your choices. In this case, the Black Mage/Monk and Red Battlemage/Archer are still a lock, and frankly, the White Mage/Machinist is probably an all-round more powerful character than any other alternatives for the White Mage, and since you don't need to work around the confines of the twelve-job party, you can safely add that without making any other decisions. Pick whatever Knight combo you want (Knight/Time Battlemage or Knight/Bushi) and you'll have four out of six characters decided, leaving only two to go.
Arguably the best possible combos for the remaining two (considering that Knight, Monk and Machinist are all off the board due to Esper restraints) are the Red Battlemage/Black Mage, the Bushi/Shikari and the Foebreaker/Shikari. Given how absurdly powerful the Bushi/Shikari can get, that is likely the next strongest job combo for your unfettered party, leaving only two choices, which are largely subjective. If you want a versatile support mage (and a second caster of Ardor) with access to all the Black Magicks as well, at the cost of a great deal of redundancy and only two Swiftness ranks, the Red Battlemage/Black Mage isn't a terrible choice, which also requires little in the way of Espers. The Foebreaker/Shikari is less dynamic, but satisfies the three Swiftness rule and provides a solid character who has access to all four stat-reducing technicks, although it's a character that'll almost certainly be benched in favor of stronger combos whenever those technicks arne't necessary.
|*Red Battlemage/Black Mage|
The Final Builds
|Twelve Job Party #1||Character||Espers|
|Knight/Bushi||Vaan||Belias, Exodus, Hashmal, Mateus, Ultima|
|Red Battlemage/Archer||Fran||Cuchulainn, Shemhazai, Zeromus|
|Monk/Black Mage||Ashe||Chaos, Zodiark|
|Twelve Job Party #2||Character||Espers|
|Knight/Time Battlemage||Ashe||Belias, Exodus Hashmal, Mateus, Ultima|
|Red Battlemage/Archer||Fran||Cuchulainn, Shemazi, Zeromus|
|Monk/Black Mage||Penelo||Chaos, Zodiark|
|Knight/Time Battlemage||Ashe||Belias, Exodus, Hashmal, Mateus, Ultima|
|Red Battlemage/Archer||Fran||Cuchulainn, Shemhazai, Zeromus|
|Monk/Black Mage||Vaan||Chaos, Zodiark|
|*Red Battlemage/Black Mage||Balthier|