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PSA: Very-New Players Guide, Part 2: Characters, Weapons, Summons, and what to do with them

Welcome to part 2 of my guide for very-new players! If you missed part 1, it's here:
PSA: Very-New Players Guide, Part 1: Stories, Events, and Weapons (pre-Omega/Magna)
Now that we've had more than a week of roulette, you probably have a lot of characters, weapons, and summons, and you might not be sure what to do with them or which ones to use. In this part 2, I'll be talking about all of this -- but first, I need to explain something about elements, particularly Light and Dark.
(Edit: I added section 2g: Do you have any advice for party-building?)

Section 1: Elements
Intuitively, you would think your characters will always deal more damage to one element and receive more damage from one element. However, this is not quite true:
Counter-intuitively, your Light characters will take reduced damage from Dark enemies and your Dark characters will take reduced damage from Light enemies! This also means Light and Dark characters are not weak to any element.
The superior element has +50% elemental ATK against the weak element and the weak element has -25% elemental ATK against the superior element. Elemental superiority and weakness also affects the success rate of debuffs like ATK Down or Blind. (Surprisingly, the worst debuff success rate is against the same element!)

Section 2: Characters
2a: Quick tip: changing party icons
Before you start making parties, here's a quick tip: you can change the party icons that show up when you select Switch Parties. E.g. you can make each one a different element icon to help you organize your parties. The Change Party Icon button is just below your party's characters.
2b: What should be my first parties/teams?
Simple answer: Make 6 parties, one for each element. If you don't have enough characters for an element, fill-in the gaps with your favourite or strongest characters from other elements.
Focusing on one element/party vs using all six: To be honest, I don't know how difficult the early game is with a single element party, especially an element that isn't Light or Dark and is weak to another element. If you want to play only one party with your favourite characters (hopefully of the same element...), you should be able to make it work at least for a while, since the early story content is very easy. But as you progress, I think the benefits of being the superior element will make fights a lot easier.
Many players will eventually choose to focus on one element. However, there is no need to do so before you reach the point where you are farming Omega (Magna) raids to build an Omega (Magna) weapons grid.
When you reach this point, you'll end up using weapons with skills to upgrade the skill levels of specific grid weapons. Since your supply of these "skill fodder" weapons will be limited at that point, focusing on only one element's weapons can help you progress faster. Similarly, you'll receive Renown Pendants for defeating raid bosses, and these can be traded for specific weapons in lieu of waiting for them to drop randomly from an Omega raid boss. Focusing on one element means you can spend all of your pendants on the weapon(s for that element's grid.
That said, having a party for every element can make fighting and farming (particularly MVP-ing) the Omega raid bosses much easier. They dish out a lot of damage for that point in the game, so you will definitely want to take advantage of superior element damage reduction.
2c: Which characters are the best?
There is a tier list you can check to get an idea of which of your characters are the strongest. Some notes about this tier list:
If you are short on (useful) characters for an element, remember that there are a lot of characters you can get for free from the side stories, including 4 SSRs (so far)! I listed the more useful ones at the end of my previous guide.
2d: Are R or SR characters useful?
Yes! ... Sometimes.
When you don't have 5 SSR characters in an element, you'll always want SR and R characters of the correct element to fill out your party. But there are some situations, especially when you have a small number of SSRs, where an SR character fills a role you need for a difficult fight, such as healing, debuffing, Katalina's Veil (Dispel Mount skill), etc.
As for R characters, some notable ones include:
In addition, there are a number of reasons to use R and SR characters even when they don't serve any special purpose in battle:
Lastly, you may opt to use SR or R characters to add more variety to the game or to make repetitive fights more challenging.
2e: My favourite character isn't among my 5 strongest characters for their element. Can I still use them?
Yes! Early game, it doesn't really matter. Eventually, it will make some fights more difficult, but nothing you can't overcome one way or another.
As for late game viability, you may be interested in the replies to this topic: To anyone who has favorite characters that aren't viable in endgame, what do you do?
2f: Does the order of the characters in my party matter?
Yes! Whenever a character does a Charge Attack (CA), all other characters that haven't done a CA yet on that turn will gain 10% to their charge bar. For example, if your main character (MC) has 100% charge bar, your 2nd character has 90%, your 3rd character 80%, and your 4th character 70%, then all 4 characters will use their CAs in that turn. MC's CA will raise everyone else's charge bars by 10%, and so on.
Therefore, you'll usually put characters that can gain more charge bar, such has having Double Attack / Triple Attack up (DA/TA up) or skills that boost their charge bar, into the 2nd and 3rd positions. Meanwhile, characters that consume charge bar for skills will usually be in the 4th position.
2g: Do you have any advice for party-building?
Lots! But I'll just give some simple advice here. You can further optimize your party as you play and learn more about combat. You can also ask for more detailed help in the latest Q&A thread.
First, consider your characters' and your class's buff and debuff skills. If two skills apply the same buff/debuff, and neither one says "Stackable", then they might not stack. Look up Status Effects and Attack Rate Boosts on the Wiki to see if your skills will stack, or test them in a Trial Battle.
ATK Down / DEF Down: Look at your ATK Down and DEF Down debuffs. These debuffs cap at 50% each on an enemy. One common goal of party building is to reach this cap.
Start with Dark Fencer's Miserable Mist skill, which inflicts 25% ATK Down and 25% DEF Down and stacks with most other debuff skills. You will almost always have this class skill -- in fact, you will almost always be using Dark Fencer for difficult fights.
Now try to build a party that can provide the remaining 25% for both ATK Down and DEF Down. If you can't achieve this with your characters alone, then you can use Sidewinder's Rain of Arrows III (25% ATK Down) or Warrior's Defense Breach (20% DEF Down) as your subskill.
Multiattack Rate Up: Another common goal is to pick characters with Attack Rate Boosts, aka "DATA Up" (Double Attack / Triple Attack rate up). E.g. if you get the side story characters Aqours Second-Years and Sig (Event)), even though their DA Up skills won't stack, you can alternate between them to have a DA Up buff on your party at all times.
Build around a boss/fight: Lastly, when you encounter a very difficult fight, you should build a party around it. E.g. Sorcerer's Blind skill reduces an enemy's accuracy by about 50%. Attacks that hit your whole party are not affected by Blind, which is one reason why Rain of Arrows III is used more often. But for some fights, Blind can cut the damage you take by half!
(By the way, after Dark Fencer, I strongly recommend unlocking both Sorcerer and Sidewinder for these subskills. Moreover, Sorcerer is a pre-requisite for Bishop, which has the Dispel skill you'll eventually need to fight Luminiera Omega#Omega%20Showdown).)

Section 3: Weapons
3a: What do I do with all my weapons?
There is a fantastic comment by u/kscw that summarizes what you'll end up doing with each weapon (and summon) as you progress in the game. Everyone should check it out. In addition to all of the useful info, it mentions some very important things you should not do.
To supplement that comment, I'll just note some things specifically for very new players and talk about which weapons you'll find useful when you start.
3b: How do I distinguish between Premium Draw weapons and farmable weapons?
Farmable weapons have much lower stats than Premium Draw weapons. If you sort by PWR (Lowest), most or all of your farmable weapons will appear before the rest.
If you sort by Skill Level or click on the button in the top-left to show weapon skills, you will see some with an Omega (Ω) or an EX in the corner of the skill icon. These weapons are always farmable.
Some farmable weapons have Normal weapon skills, not Omega or EX. The only way to distinguish these from Premium Draw weapons is to click Reduce to see how much it will reduce for. Farmable SRs reduce for 1 weapon stone, while Premium Draw SRs reduce for 15.
Weapons purchased in the Casino, while technically farmable, are actually considered Premium Draw weapons: they have Premium Draw stats and they reduce for 15 weapon stones.
3c: I have a lot of skilled R weapons and no farmed SR weapons to upgrade. What should I do with them?
I recommend spending 500 crystals in the Shop to buy a Weapon Stash (you'll end up buying at least one eventually) and storing them in there.
Alternatively, you can use these R weapons to upgrade SSR weapons in your grid to weapon skill level 2 (SL2), but only if the weapon skill boosts ATK. Make sure you use exactly 8 skilled R weapons to do this to guarantee a 100% skill-up success rate. Beyond SL2, you get diminishing returns: you'd need an additional 16 R weapons to reach SL3, and if you check the weapon skills table, you'll see that upgrading a weapon from SL1 to SL2 provides the same benefit as going from SL2 to SL3, despite the latter costing twice as much.
If you're going to do this, I suggest you start by upgrading the skill levels of side story weapons that you get at lv100, particularly any with an EX weapon skill. These lv100 side story weapons will remain in your grid longer than your Premium Draw SSRs or SRs. Event SSRs are also usually(?) worth upgrading to SL2, sometimes higher. (Some weapons with EX skills will even be used in your first Omega (Magna) grid!)
You can always upgrade farmable (side story, event, etc.) SSR weapons to SL2 without wasting skill fodder. If these SSR weapons end up as fodder, they'll need to be upgraded to SL2 anyway, and sometimes even higher.
Obsolete Premium Draw SSRs, on the other hand, may ultimately be reduced, in which case the R weapons spent upgrading their skill levels will be "wasted" -- but not really, since the increase in damage output probably helped you farm the Omega weapons and fodder that you used to eventually replace them. Moreover, this isn't a lot of skill fodder compared to what you need to raise a single SSR weapon all the way to SL10 and beyond, so don't worry too much about spending some right now.
3d: Which weapons are useful for my grid?
To keep it simple:
Feel free to upgrade all of these weapons' levels to improve their stats: you'll soon find yourself with an abundance of Angel weapons ("EXP BOOST") used to upgrade weapon levels.
Auto-Select for ATK will build you a decent first grid, but it doesn't take weapon skills into account (see ATK vs Estimated DMG below). As you level up Premium Draw SSSR weapons with "Medium/Big boost to ATK", you may need to manually put them into your grid, especially if you already have a lot of max level SSR weapons from the main story and side stories. You can tell you did the right thing if you see the Estimated DMG increase, even if the ATK stat decreases.
Despite its flaws, Auto-Select is useful early on because it's fast, easy, and it may include lv100 weapons you obtained recently and forgot to add manually.
The game's Damage Formula is complicated -- and the Detailed Damage Formula even moreso! It is so complicated that I rely on an external website, motocal, to tell me which weapons to put in my grid. Weapon grid building is a topic for an entire guide in itself. For now, using Auto-Select and then manually replacing off-element weapons will suffice, using the game's Estimated DMG to tell you whether or not your replacement improved your damage.
By the way, use an SSR weapon as your mainhand whenever possible: it provides a 3-turn cut to the cooldown of summons that match its element, whereas an SR weapon provides only a 2-turn cut. In addition, SSR weapons also deal more damage with their Charge Attacks.
3e: What are HP / ATK / PWR? How are they different from Estimated DMG?
As mentioned earlier, when you Auto-Select for HP or ATK, it optimizes for the HP or ATK stats. It never optimizes for Estimated DMG, so it ignores weapons with "Medium/Big boost to ATK" when they have lower ATK stats, even if they'll give you higher damage.

Section 4: Summons
4a: What do I do with all my summons?
Again, please read the fantastic comment by u/kscw that summarizes what you'll end up doing with each weapon and summon as you progress in the game. I'll supplement it with some very-new player notes and talk about useful summons.
By the way, don't forget to upgrade your summons as well as your weapons. Otherwise, you'll find yourself dying to single hits from the Omega raid bosses, among other things.
4b: Which main summon should I use?
Whichever summon's (main) aura provides the biggest boost to ATK for your party's element. Check the side story summons, which usually provide a 50% boost to ATK or a 25% boost to both ATK and HP.
I also strongly recommend Anat from the Casino (Poker guide here): like Casino weapons, Anat has the stats of a Premium Draw summon, except you can easily farm 4 copies to uncap her to 3-stars and take full advantage of her high stats. Not to mention her 80% boost to Wind elemental ATK.
4c: Which other 4 (sub) summons should I use?
Sub summons are the other 4 summons in your grid. Unlike your main summon:
When picking sub summons, I suggest:
4d: Is it safe to use duplicates to uncap my SSSR summons?
It depends.
For SSR summons, the safest choice is to ask in the latest Q&A thread. There are some SSR summons where having multiple copies that you can call is extremely valuable. E.g. Shiva) and other summons that have a one-time-only call.
In general, like with SSR weapons, remember to ask in the latest Q&A thread first before consuming any SSR summons for anything. (And definitely ask before you spend a very rare Sunlight Stone to uncap an SSR summon!)
You can always uncap SR summons with duplicates, with one exception: keep 2 or 3 copies of each SR Carbuncle: do not use them to uncap unless you have more copies. Having 2 (or 3) Carbuncles in your grid allows you to have a 25% or 50% DMG cut active for 6/8 turns (or for all turns) of a fight after turn 8. This can be incredibly useful for some fights!
Instead of using duplicates to uncap Carbuncles, use Moonlight Stones from the Casino (Poker guide here, again!).
The Wind Peridot Carbuncle is an exception. You cannot obtain them from Premium Draws. You can get 4 very early on, and you can buy additional copies from the Shop for 10 Bronze Moons each. Since a Moonlight Stone costs 30 Bronze Moons, I recommend uncapping your Peridot Carbuncles with copies from the shop instead, or use a combination of the two if you run out of Bronze Moons.
4e: What is a support (friend) summon and which ones should I pick?
A support summon, aka friend summon, is what you pick before any quest or raid. The support summon does 2 things:
  1. Its main aura affects your party, just like your main summon's main aura.
  2. You can call it. Support summons can always be called on turn 1.
The uncap level (number of stars) of the support summon is important when it is 3 or above. A support summon with orange text is a 3-star summon, and one with purple text is a 4-star summon. These have better auras and/or calls.
The support summon does not contribute to your raw HP or ATK stats. Picking a level 100 Shiva vs a level 1 Shiva for support isn't going to affect your stats. The only thing affected by the summon's actual level is the damage dealt by its call.
At this point in the game, you will be looking for one of the following support summons:
Avoid picking the following right now, if possible, because your weapons' skill levels are probably not high enough to make use of them:
Even a mere 50% boost to your element's ATK is probably more beneficial than a 120% boost to weapon skills at this point in the game.
4f: I can't find a good support summon. How do I get different ones?
Join any quest or raid that uses a support summon, e.g. enter a Trial Battle. If you have friends with support summons you don't need, pick one of theirs when you enter the battle so that friend's summons stop appearing for a while (2 hours?).
On a side note, Trial Battles are fantastic for testing things in this game. Test Machine Alpha doesn't attack and heals every turn, so you have infinite turns to test anything you want! You also have infinite "Trial Elixirs" to heal or use Charge Attacks. One notable use is to figure out which buffs and debuffs stack with each other (it's complicated: a lot of effects replace each other or do nothing) and to get an idea of just how strong your characters' buffs and debuffs are if the info isn't in the Wiki.
4g: I don't have any useful summons. Should I just avoid setting any support summons in my profile?
No: please set your support summons anyway! If you don't, the game will take the main summon of whichever party you last used, and it will make that your support summon for every element and Misc. Your name and your main summon will still show up in your friends' lists and in other random players' lists.
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