In the year 2015, it is the war of idols. Actually, it’s the war of mobile games. The battles wage across battlefields all over the world, and I’m just here to write about one of them.
There are two schools in mobile games. The newer term for the first class, social games, is really just a cover term for mobage because it’s kind of trademarked in Japan. Well, that aside, the idea behind these games is content delivery. The other type of game is the mobiles games that has some kind of gameplay baked in, but also deliver content around it. Think of it like a sliding scale of pachinko machines or what you might find in a casino. On one end it’s just a RNG, on the other end you have minigame puzzles and what not, like solitaire or blackjack or IIDX (you get the idea), that the numbers change based on what “cards” you have or whatever.
By content, I mean things like the idols that I love. Or rather, the narrative material in which depicts these lovely characters. It’s stuff I will ignore for now because you can find out about it via the well-stocked Project IM@S wiki and the greyer namassuka site.
What this post will cover is the long play, mid-term play, and short-term play goals of the IDOLM@STER Million Live that I stick by. It may not be the best way, and I don’t do anything that blatantly violates the TOS (no botting or multi-accounts or RMT etc), so I welcome anyone with a better approach to let me know. I won’t go over account creation either because I assume you are savvy enough to do that in order to play this game. The only caveat I will make here is that trading is disabled if you don’t confirm with a Japanese phone number, which makes certain things more difficult. I’ll call them out as necessary.
There are some long goals most people aim for. One is to make a strong deck (or 3), for PVP and PVE. Another is to just collect cards to fill out the collection for one or as many idol as you would like. This guide writes as if you want to do one of those things. If you just want to be lulz and have fun, there are other ways to play.
Working backwards, to achieve these goals you will have to obtain high end and/or rare cards. Thankfully the other cards are all much easier to get so we won’t worry about them. Most of these top end cards can be purchased from the bazaar, or can be won through paid gacha/gasha and events. In order to win in events, you will usually need a large quantity of consumables, as they’re listed below. In some cases you have to pay money to win events, and obviously you will need to spend money to do gasha. Some events also need a good deck. There are some untradeable cards in ML, most notably the ML 1st Live and ML 2nd Live event reward cards, which can be now purchased through star medals.
In ML, there are the following consumables:
- My drinks and My candies: non-tradeable items that lets you recover energy and BP. Comes in 50% or 100% for drinks and 1 BP and 3 BP for candy. Mainstay of what you will be stockpiling. Drinks restore energy (50 or 100%) and candy restores BP.
- (Tradeable) Drinks and Candies: Same as My drinks and candies, but these are tradeable. There used to be 50% drinks and 1 BP candies but nobody really use those for trading and it doesn’t get given out much at all, so 99% of the time you’ll deal with 100% drinks and candies for trading. 100% drinks is the most common unit of currency in ML.
- Event items: For Chocolate events, chocolates. For “end of season” events this year, it’s the Million Crown. Last year it was the Platinum Heart. For IM@S Cups, it’s the BP Holder. There are also drinks and candies from events that restore like My drinks and My candies. There are also event 1BP yellow candies, which is effectively the same as 1BP my candy, except it expires after the event is over.
- Other items: Not counting gasha tickets, bazaar tickets, kuji tickets, card holders, audio commu, there are rarer items like the ML 2nd penlights… But nothing really need to worry about.
- Money: Well, it’s somewhat like the money in OFA, you use them to perform lessons. Lessons is how you consume cards and lesson points to rank up a card. Like many mobage you can level up a card and skill up a card, to make that distinction. Skilling up is typically pointless in ML so do it only if you are trying to make the strongest deck.
- Gasha Points: You use these for normal gasha. As per tradition you can do 1 normal gasha a day for free. ML is a pretty prototypical mobage by all regards, much like Cinderella Girls, just less archaic so to speak.
As you go through the game, over time, gasha points become next to worthless, Money becomes a non-concern. (There is an auto-sell N cards feature for a reason.) What you’ll spend the most time accumulating are my drinks and my candies, and tradeable drinks and candies.
Event is what drives Million Live. But we’ll get to that after we understand briefly what the basic game has in play (Normal Eigyo). The basic system trades energy for 2x in experience accumulated. As you progress through each stage, you can get some N cards or run into a festival. The battles consumes any number of BP (up to 3) and each additional BP used in fest increase the power of your deck by the indicated amount. The key thing about normal eigyo is that first, it gives nice drops as you progress through the story, but also fests from normal eigyo drops fest kuji tickets, which is the primary way you will accumulate blue candies (My 1BP). And just to cover the basics, max stamina you get is 360, and max XP to level caps at 9999. 1 minute regenerates 1 stamina and 30 minutes regenerates 1 BP.
Events come in several forms. So far these are what I am aware of:
- “Kizuna” type events: A BP-oriented event where you go through a special event eigyo and get event items to summon event fests. There are two types of fests and the harder type is the one you grind for event points and ranking. Kizuna tokens are available primarily from the event kuji which powers up your festivals by 1% per kizuna token. Your deck’s PVE power is the main factor in how efficient you can rank in these event. You can also get 1 event candy by going through the event eygou low tier fests for each fest you encounter there.
- “Chocolate” type events: A stamina-oriented event that does not involve your cards or BP. Progress through the event by burning stamina. 100% drinks enable “2x” time which needs to be measured carefully. In the past year these event have changed to add special multiplier to your score in special encounters depending on who you “unlocked” to gold star status. Typically ranking involve buying some amount of chocolates.
- “Coaching” event: Similar to the Chocolate events, it does not involve your deck or BP. You can choose to burn stamina to level up with 3 to 5 idols, and each idol you rank up you can obtain some cards at a certain level, and some amount of event items that translate to 50% my drinks or 1BP. Similarly, there are specific event items you can use, like Chocolates, that give you a score boost which is required for ranking.
- IDOLM@STER’S CUP: PVP event where lounges (guilds) are assigned into leagues and each compete swiss style. These BP-only events provide lounge rewards for the highest ranked lounges, as well as personal rewards for the highest ranked players across the event. Top 5 of the local leagues also get event cards, which is always nice. These PVP battles also lets you spend up to 5 BP per match. During the Cup, players cannot join lounges.
- Other events: There has been other types of events. During the LTP era it was these special festival-style events that are based on BP and your deck plus the idol subunit applicable during that event. For this year, something similar is happening but I haven’t quite deciphered it after the 2nd time we’ve had the caravan finale event. For ML 1st and ML 2nd, there was also the special event that lets player rank individually for specific idols kizuna-fest style.
TL;DR1: since most stamina-only events are basically paid events, they tend to be easier to rank but also cost money. IM@S CUP is also somewhat easier to rank than kizuna events because it takes into account the lounges you battle, and not everyone is in a position to get good points out of their lounge battles due to the nature of the lounge and strength of their opponents (stronger lounges have better point score values). It becomes more important to stockpile candy/BP because you will end up using more of it, and it’s not as expensive to buy drinks/sell cards for drinks. Ideally you want to have a lot of both of course.
Do the events. By that I mean participate, but don’t compete for real. Don’t tap into your stock. Use all the event items (except Million Crowns and BP Holders, since they carry over). Take all that event kuji stuff and load up on rewards that have more lasting value. Even lesson points is worth something, however little. You can always sell cards (if you are confirmed) for tradeable drinks and candy. Think about doing events for ranking once you have a real deck and have 2000+ blue candies or equivalent.
Paid gasha in ML tend to come in 3 different forms. There’s the step ones, where makes you walk through different $ value gasha pulls (500-4000 per roll), and each pull you can get a “compu gasha bait” roll that adds up for further rewards, up to a guarantee SR ticket. There is also a non-tiered version of this gasha (usually 3000 per roll). The third type is where instead of the “compu gasha bait” you get to do a 2-step kuji in addition to the straight pull, so if you are unlucky you will have to pull enough to clear the kuji (usually 2000 per roll).
From my experience, somewhere around 40000 Gree currency is required to have a shot at a guarantee SR. You can usually do it for less, but that’s closer to the worst case scenario. It can vary depending on the gasha event type.
Paid gasha also often comes with other benefits, such as event consumables or tradeable candy or drinks. Typically you get a certain amount of monthly tickets for each purchase of the gasha, and you can trade those tickets in for goodies. It’s actually the most “economical” way to rank in events where purchase is basically necessary. In quotes, because, lol, what is money when there are “free” ways to win at events or buy cards? (In quote, because, lol, what is time?)
Events are good also when you are not ranking. Going through the event completely typically will get you the event SR, which is typically a good card to have when you are starting out. It gives you HN lesson points, which you can never have enough of even late game. It also gives you freebie choco or candies (which translate to more HN points and Kotori cards and star medals and event cards) and other good stuff.
TL;DR1.5: Event candies can also be converted to blue candies via the normal eigyo fests. VERY IMPORTANT.
That’s basically the essence of ML as a socialge grinder. Next we’ll work on the deck.
Decks in ML consists of 9 cards. There is a cap based on your level and how far you’ve gone in normal eigyo, but don’t worry about it. Each card has AP, which is the only point value used in festivals (PVE). DP, which along with AP, are used in auditions: PVP, PVP events and season-ending special events. Each card also has an ability, which ranges from adding AP, DP, both, or something funky, and the increase goes from small to medium to large to extra large to super extra large(?). Some cards adds these benefits to all cards in the deck when proceed, most only adds to cards of the same Vo/Da/Vi types, a few adds only to itself. For the most part, abilities are worthless to min-max in ML because they proc semi-randomly. That said, card in slot 1 will always proc, so sometimes it is worth using a card with super good ability even if the AP/DP is low. There are some cards that do have abilities worth using, but you will be focusing on the card’s AP/DP values primarily, so the better your deck gets fewer of those cards will apply.
There are some bonus boosts that will apply to any deck if the criteria fits: birthdays of the same season, same blood type, same age group, cards from the same events, et cetera. But the ones that are the best are of the same Vo/Da/Vi type and all SR, so always go for those.
The gag way of having 9 of the same card is not a bad way to build a not-terrible deck. Well, 9 good gag cards is not cheap anyway, but it is probably less expensive than 2-3 real good cards.
Oh, and join a lounge. Don’t be a stranger. It adds up to 3% to AP and god knows how much to DP! Also freely friend people you trust; there’s a 2-week timer before you can trade cards with a friend, and sometimes that’s the easiest way to complete your collection (assuming y’all are verified).
TL;DR2: Build decks with cards of the strongest AP for PVE and AP+DP for PVP. Then try to have a SR-only deck. Then try to build them based on the same Vo/Da/Vi types. Then min-max based on age/zodiac/blood type/birthdays/event type/slot-1 ability.
Bazaar: The bazaar is the marketplace where players can trade items in ML. You can basically trade cards, 3 BP candies and 100% drinks. All kinds of stuff go on sale. Some of the more common commodity trades to be aware of is Candy to Drink, HR to Bird/drink, and the HR Bird. By Bird I mean Kotori. In general one 3BP candy is worth about 1.7 drink, give and take depending on market condition (namely, if a BP event is ongoing or not). HR are typically worth 1 drink, except fresh new paid gasha ones are on the market, or rare drop HR (which is a relatively new thing). The exception to this is the HR Kotori, which during its initial days were as high as 25-30 drinks. Now it’s barely 5 because ML finally started to give them out en masse.
The usual player market forces are at work. Buy low sell high check often etc. Volume of trading is throttled by bazaar tickets so you can’t just spam the market, especially since it takes 3 tickets for any trade with a SR involved. Making drinks and candy on the market is hard work but many do.
Speaking of Kotori, let’s talk about lesson a bit. Normal mobage logic aside (no “kizuna BS like CG” thank God), Kotoris are “bonus” level up fodder for lessons. Rare green ones power up leveling, Rare yellow ones power up skills. Skilling up in ML does require cards of the same idol (BS) so yellow Kotori are usually much more in high demand as it can take hundreds of these to max level. HR Kotori basically is used in lieu of yellow Kotori, and 1-2 of them can bump a card from skill level 19 to 20.
Another thing ML does is lesson points. You can turn N, HN and R cards into lesson points for the respective character they represent. So instead clogging up your inventory with thousands of cards you will never use for anything, they sit as unused points instead. Lesson points are used in lessons same ways as how you consume cards other than that you can’t mix and match, but obviously lesson points can’t be used for trading or as anything else besides lesson fodder.
Now, to the other things in ML, the theater and caravan. It’s easier to get what you need to do out of the way first, so let’s.
TL;DR3: Set the timer to theater to 3 hours and click it as often as you can. Rotate out the songs once it gets to 2 notes mark, and slot in your highest rated cards over the correct idol (although when you could, you should use the correct idol) that the song is for. Buy all the good stuff that you need when you trade it in. Don’t forget to rotate in the idols who have special unlocks due to events or because you haven’t gotten to them yet.
Caravan is complicated and yet simple, and the gist is that you want to have high powered cards as much as possible, select cards of the same “synergy” based on units or type for the middle tab and right tab and cards with the strongest value for the left tab. Focus on unlocking everything first and game 1hr or 6hr tasks for the win (but the goal is to hit as many as you can, so do 3hr jobs too if that works for you). Weekly counter also can be gamed on the hour it unlocks, so potentially you can start out with 30000+ fans over everyone else if you get lucky, if your 6-hour job finishes on the dot. The reward is mostly honorary than tangible, but it’s something you could do without a lot of investment. The top prizes for the jobs are also well worth the time you put in.
The two “mini games,” caravan and theater, were added in sequence. During “season 2″ or LTH era, the theater lets you unlock superficial stuff (like words you can put in your character profile) but if you had 3+ teams with high power cards, you could be farming blue candies out of the wazoo. In LTD/”season 3” the caravan takes the theater’s place as the candy/drink farm (fixed to 2 teams), and they were able to slot in all the audio drama directly into the caravan, rather than as timed unlocks for LTH release.
The 8 idols each caravan season showcases also get special event rewards over that period of time. Which means oh boy MakotoPs GLHF. Anyways, the old theater thing is now just a straight timer mill that you can trade stuff in for birds and low-end gasha tickets.
There are some other stuff, tips and tricks about ML, but I think a 3000-word crash course is too much course and not enough crash, and we’re just over that. Leave a comment for more questions or comments!