Tricks of the Trade (ALC 15)
I can’t say enough about this ability. I absolutely love it. Tricks of the Trade is 0 CP to activate and grants you 20 CP upon use. The catch? You need to have “good” condition rating on your material. That means glowing red, not flashing (which is excellent).
So when do you use this? In my opinion, every single chance you can, with the exception of when you won’t get any CP from it or when you simply don’t need to. The litmus test for this is: if you’re not at 100% quality or doing a touch will not put you at 100% quality, then you need to. This includes while you’re under the effect of Steady Hand. Losing 1 stack of Steady Hand still means you get the remaining 4 stacks at a net 2 CP (or 5 with Steady Hand II). That’s a bargain. You might even hit another Tricks along the way and get Steady Hand for free and then some.
The only other times you really shouldn’t use this are when you are under the effect of Waste Not or in the instance that Manipulation will be unable to add duration due to being at cap unless you make a play against duration.
Tricks of the Trade pairs very well with the level 50 ALC ability, Comfort Zone, allowing a massive CP gain. In fact, it pairs so well that sometimes you’ll be forced to spend CP on something in order to not waste Comfort Zone stacks. Using both together basically allows you to extend a synth almost indefinitely. Almost.
Here’s an example sequence. First, Inner Quiet. It’s 18 CP and should always be the first thing you cast (unless you have Comfort Zone from ALC 50, then do that first). Check Tricks. If you can use it, grab your 20 CP and enjoy a free Inner Quiet. Steady Hand I or II. Check Tricks. Now make your plays against quality. Usually this is Hasty Touch Spam or could be Basic/Standard Touch spam. After each action, keep checking to see if you can grab 20 CP from Tricks. Keep doing this and when it comes time to restore durability via Master’s Mend or Manipulation, you’ll find you have a lot of CP to fund that.
What about the increased bump to quality from good condition, you ask? Well, Inner Quiet insures that every successful touch is going to grant you a 20% boost to your control which affects how much you can push quality in a single touch. Most especially on the early touches when control is low, a good quality is only giving a small bonus. The CP will allow you to extend the synth. It opens up options, it gives flexibility. Take the CP. Build your Inner Quiet stacks early and conserve CP for your big combo finisher.