Hard Mode Night #1

Hullbreaker Isle

Kasul and I are going through our list of hard mode dungeons and clearing them out before continuing with the Heavensward storyline. There hasn’t really been a reason to do these dungeons before now. Since the launch of the expansion, superior gear is easy to come by, so the dungeon won’t offer any upgrades. And, I found out, once you’re post level 50, you don’t even get any experience. So, no experience and no upgrades means very little incentive to queue up for a dungeon.

But, there’s the challenge :) We mostly had fun doing the four dungeons of the evening; Hullbreaker Isle, Sastasha (Hard), Wanderer’s Palace (Hard), and Stone Vigil (Hard).

I learned early on that the moment I explain to the party that I have never tanked a particular dungeon, that some DPS will decide that I have somehow just asked them to run ahead and pull. Also, being new to a dungeon means that the DPS have to play a game where if the tank is hitting something, they must immediately switch to another mob and unleash all their cooldowns to ensure I lose aggro on these other mobs.

I haven’t gotten the memo when I’ve been playing DPS, but maybe perhaps that’s because I haven’t played a DPS class in a hard mode. I should give it a shot, get a screen shot of the popup window telling me to avoid the tank, run ahead, and try to draw aggro or force the tank to use all her MP casting Flash over and over.

I got so mad at the DPS. They’d never talk, just silently diss me.


Hullbreaker Isle was pretty fun, I think the highlight of the night. Lots of mobs from Bloodshore, as well as a smattering of types from Brayflox. Black mage disconnected toward the beginning; the rest of us started clearing trash toward the first boss while waiting for him to return. When he did return (and thanked us for not kicking him), Kasul and I headed back to get him, while the ninja ran forward and started soloing a couple groups of trash. He suddenly realized that Kasul and I were no longer obediently following him and dragged them all back down to us. Though he had only a sliver of health remaining, Kasul kept him alive and I taunted everything off him.

You would THINK he would slow down after that. You would be wrong.

First boss was a gorilla with a taste for bananas, and tricksy lemurs that wanted them all for themselves. Second boss had bubbles you jumped into. The final boss was THE KRAKEN! LET LOOSE THE KRAKEN! We had to jump from islet to islet killing tentacles, or rather, the ninja did. The rest of us just did things our slow way, and eventually THE KRAKEN!!! returned to Poseidon.

Sastasha (Hard)

Plenty of deja vu in Sastasha, hard mode. The dungeon is much the same as normal mode. Captain Madison has overdosed on his HGH (human growth hormone) and is now a larger, but just as cowardly, version of his own bad self.

First boss would randomly stun me so that I could not stun away the attack that would smoosh another player. Frustrating. Second boss was the Captain, lots of adds. And then — THE KRAKEN! LET LOOSE THE KRAKEN! Yeah, same boss as Hullbreaker, but the tentacles weren’t as much fun. Though hentai fans would probably have a field day. I don’t think either of the DPS were terrible this time.

Wanderer's Palace (Hard)

Wanderer’s Palace (Hard) was Kasul’s favorite dungeon of the night. The map was a simplified version of the normal mode map. We had a bard. Like most bards, he managed to stay entirely unaware of the actual battle he was in, and thought he was in a battle where you ignored the mechanics and stayed on the boss and tried to stay far away. At least he wasn’t like that bard I got in Brayflox last night who thought that every encounter required running around in circles, drawing adds, while focusing on a single mob and ignoring fight mechanics. That same bard also asked if we could rest after every fight so that he could regain MP lost from singing a song that benefited precisely nobody but decreased his already low DPS. But enough complaining about bards.

First boss required DPS to kill spears launched into the ground that boost the boss’ burn attack. We wiped because the DPS was not killing the spears, even though I said at the outset, kill the spears. Second attempt, I dragged the boss to the frickin’ spears and started killing them myself, and hey, they don’t have much health, it was EASY to keep them cleared! DPS got the hint and we flew through it after that.

Second boss had a roguelike mechanic where the totems could have a good or a bad effect. All you have to do is go to a totem, see what effect it has, and if it’s a good one, say that such and such a color was good, or alternately, such and such a color was bad, and we should let the boss take that one. The DPS was, as usual, shackled by a silence spell and could not report on the effects of the totems. I don’t know how we survived that fight. Maybe at some point we could try acknowledging the fight mechanic instead of just always “lock DPS on boss and ignore whatever else may be happening in the room”, which seems to be the default mode for DPS.

Last boss was similar to the dragon in Brayflox normal mode; just had to keep kiting him around the edge of the room. Kasul easily kept up with the DOOM mechanic. DPS eventually understood they had to kill the Sacred Idol when it spawned.

The cut scene at the end was precious :) All the tonberries that had been enslaved by their Sahagin tormentors came with their little knives and cut up the final boss.

Stone Vigil (Hard)

Stone Vigil (Hard) was dungeon where the DPS decided they didn’t need to understand the mechanic; just choose a target and mush buttons until the enemy dies or you do. Like the normal mode dungeon, there were interesting little encounters in the corridors that were as memorable as the boss fights. The dragon that would randomly pop up to nuke you in normal, now stays and fights. The sprite traps are replaced with flocks of dragonlings — building up to a mini-encounter where dragonlings swarm over the parapet while you drive away another dragon with cannons.

First boss was similar to normal mode first boss; keep behind the boss. New to this encounter were adds that buff the boss if he is too near them when they die. We wiped first time because DPS weren’t sure what they should do with these adds (KILL THEM? MAYBE?) or maybe they expected me to grab them, even though the fight mechanic is that I have to be far away from the adds so clearly I am not going to be killing them. I did explain this at the start, but the silent DPS just stared in wonderment at the flapping of my Miquo’te mouth and marveled at the sounds that spouted forth. What could they mean?

Second try, everyone got the point, and we easily won.

Second fight was a room with four cannons. You’re supposed to help out everyone else, clearing their adds before returning to the boss, and interrupting his room-wide attack. Again, it took a fail before people understood that there is a mechanic to the fight, and it does need to be followed.

Last fight was straightforward, pretty much a tank and spank. Except not so much on the tanking. Even though I kept aggro throughout, the boss would ignore me and go attack someone else. Not the DPS fault this time. More fun happened when the boss cloned himself. But, we didn’t have any particular trouble with it, since the mechanic here was “just target the boss and keep mashing those keys!”. Right up the DPS’ alley.

When we compared notes afterward, I said I liked Hullbreaker best, and Kasul enjoyed Wanderer’s Palace (Hard) the best. While writing the night up just now, I came around to Kasul’s view — Wanderer’s Palace was just more atmospheric and more fun all around.

We have another night or two of hard modes to do. Kasul hasn’t bought Heavensward yet, so I’m a little ahead in levels (52 now) and in Heavensward. My 52 paladin quest requires me to go to a zone to which I do not yet have access; I guess it is story locked. Since I don’t want to get ahead in the story, I’ve put paladin on hold for a bit, and started a dark knight. While still working on leveling the Monk so that I can get my second DoW title.

Did my first dungeon run — Halatali — as a dark knight last night. I’d made some HQ plate gear with my armorer so that I’d have SOMETHING. Run went pretty well. I am used to, as I’ve said, the sort of easy mode tanking you get with being a paladin. I haven’t started boiling down the DRK mechanics into macros, so there was a lot of hunting and pecking as I tried to keep up with the appropriate abilities and cross-class actions from my warrior and paladin jobs. Defense seems, at this point, to be a weak point, but we’ll see how it goes.

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8 thoughts on “Hard Mode Night #1”

  1. Wow, it sounds like you’ve had some truly awful PUGs. Which is weird becuz most people are only doing the HM dungeons for the Law Tomes after hitting 60, so you’d think they’d be at least marginally familiar with them due to having had to do the mall to unlock the mode in the 1st place. I’ve only ever had good experiences in there, but I also haven’t ever tried tanking them, and I like to think I’m a decent dps player who actually does mechanics….

    The devs have said that they do plan to introduce xp to the HM dungeons at some point, but since they were originally level 50 dungeons in a level 50 game, there was no need. I’d thought they’d said the 3.07 patch would do it, but.. guess not.

    All the zones in HW are MSQ locked, so yeah, you won’t be able to get to the Dravanian Forelands until you advance farther in that quest line. :-(

    I got my DRK to 50 over the weekend. It’s kinda odd in that you want to have Darkside up at all times which drains your mana and then all your big AE hate moves drain MP too, which turns Darkside off unless you use the Siphon Strike, but that doesn’t boost aggro, so you don’t want to use it. . . . It gets better post 35 when you get the skill that restores MP while you’re being hit.

    Post 44 I didn’t feel so squishy anymore. It’s weird becuz Grit gives the same 20% mitigation that the Paladin’s Shield Oath does. I guess you just parry less or something. But yeah, up to 44 (and buying the full Sentinel’s set of armor since it was surprisingly cheap on my server) I felt like the healer was having fits all the time trying to keep me up. No idea why — I was using the same gear I’d used on my PLD and WAR when I leveled them up. Such is life, right?

  2. I finally got to tank a post-30 dungeon, Brayflox Longpause, on my Dark Knight and FINALLY got to use Darkside. I’ve added a new hot bar that I click into when I’m in Darkside to keep my MP up, and switch back to the regular one when I’m pulling and setting aggro on each mob.

    As long as I keep attacking on the second hot bar when in Darkside, I don’t have any particular MP issues and still keep up decent DPS when in Grit. So right now, pretty happy with how DRK compares to the other tanks. I still miss the OMG defensive moves; I probably will go back and take Foresight from Warrior just to have something available.

    The stun is just the worst ever; tied to parry. Sometimes it’s there when you need it, sometimes you didn’t get that parry. Guides suggest focusing a lot on parry for DRK just because there are important abilities hidden behind it. Retribution is okay, when it happens, but there’s plenty of places where you need a stun ready.

    When my DRK hit 32, I made her a full set of HQ steel armor. There are some advantages to being a level 51 armorer. I’d converted or sold all my low level plate stuff once my PLD and WAR leveled out of them, so I really don’t have anything available. (I knew I could just make something if I ever went dark).

    Where Astrologian, at 30, seems little different than White Mage at 30, Dark Knight feels significantly different than either Paladin or Warrior.

    I haven’t started a Machinist yet; I don’t have any bad impression of them, but I’ve never seen one really stand out in a party and am not really curious how they play.

  3. “The stun is just the worst ever; tied to parry. Sometimes it’s there when you need it, sometimes you didn’t get that parry.”

    Huh? The stun is called “Low Blow” and has a 20 second cooldown, and no prerequisite for use other than the cooldown be up. It’s off the Global Cooldown and thus can be used at a true interrupt in between other moves. The only skill that’s tied to parry is Retribution, and it’s just a decent damage hit (though with no aggro component, but it’s oGCD also, so it’s bonus damage and thus bonus aggro anyway) and a 10% damage reduction debuff to the mob, not a stun, so it’s not actually a big deal at all, though I still use it whenever I can since any mitigation is a good thing when tanking.

    I’ve been getting Haukke Manor on my leveling roulettes lately as a DRK, so I get sync’d to 31. For the most part I find that I can hold aggro using Siphon Strike and not even need to use my “aggro combo” all that much, so it’s not a big deal. Up at Stone Vigil it’s fun to pull a trash group and hit Blood Price and then all the MP restoration from having 3 mobs beating on you lets you spam Unleash and still be full MP when it runs out 15 seconds later. I’m almost 52 on the DRK now, but haven’t done any tanking in HW with it yet. I’m planning to run Dusk Vigil tonight to get me over the hump to 52. I don’t imagine it will feel much different at 52 than Stone Vigil did at 41, though.

    AST at 30 felt like a boosted White Mage to me. You have your 1 main heal, your bigger but less efficient heal, your group heal, and a VERY nice “oh snap!” heal. WHM doesn’t get its “Oh snap!” heal until 50. AST then also gets its card draws at 30 to boot, so to me it felt like it could do a lot at 30 that the WHM couldn’t. Up at 50+ they felt a lot more similar to me, but at 30, I felt the AST was much better than the WHM.

    MCN took some getting used to, but by the upper 30’s I’d found that I enjoy it. The proc-based combo can be annoying, but its dps is balanced around the procs, so once you just relax about it and let it happen how it happens, it works nicely. Since you can use Quick Reload on a 15 second cooldown anymore you can force 4 procs per minute, in addition to the 5 you can force from the standard reload skill, so it feels like a lot of the procs happen all the time due to ammo stacks anyway, so it works out.

  4. Just checked to make sure I’m not crazy :) Low blow has a 30% chance of resetting the timer on the next parry.

    And it’s a 25 second cool down if you don’t get lucky on the reset. Sure, it’s off the GCD, but that’s not a huge help. Dark Dance increases the parry rate, so Dark Dance > Low Blow might work together to make blocking more useful.

    Lots of DPS classes have a stun, but almost nobody uses them. I have Silence on my Monk, but not every boss is a spell caster. Stun is better.

    Since I’ve gotten to Heavensward, I’ve been playing AST instead of WHM, but I think I need to go back to WHM in order to get Stoneskin. AST has a superior Swiftcast, so I don’t need to level THM to get it.

  5. Retaliation procs off parry. Low Blow is the stun and has no pre-req. 2 separate skills. I’m not sure where the communication disconnect is here.

    Lightspeed is indeed awesome, but it doesn’t replace Swiftcast – Swift takes the 8 second resurrect cast time to 0 where Lightspeed lets you cast foe a while during movement phases.

  6. K, now that I’ve logged in and looked at the skill I see what you’re talking about. The bonus proc that a parry might reset the timer on Low Blow, which can never ever be counted on and I therefore discount entirely and don’t even think about. But which factors into the dev’s balancing decisions and thus they put a 25s CD on Low Blow vs a 20s CD on the Warrior’s stun, and so that extra 5 seconds of cooldown time is why you’re saying you do’t like the stun.

    I just assume it has the full 25s CD. As you get higher fewer bosses are stunnable, so it gets used less and less anyway, so the proc chance for timer reset wasn’t something I even bothered to remember. And now I see the communications disconnect ;-)

  7. Just came from a session where I did AST in Haukke Manor, DRK in Thousand Maws, and MNK in (sigh) Tam Tara. Remembering what you wrote, I took special care to watch what I was doing as Astrologian.

    I get to nuke a lot more as AST than WHM; seems I can spend most of a run in Cleric Stance, only dropping out during big pulls. And Lightning is just incredible — saved the day in the last fight with all those AEs going off.

    DRK was sync’d too low for any of the fun stuff, though I did level enough to get Dark Dance at the end. I watched Low Blow when I cast it; really didn’t hit the parry-triggered reset at all, that I could see. I’m not comparing this to the WAR stun; I’m comparing it to the PLD shield bash. Sure, shield bash is on the GCD, but it’s never more than 2.48s away, and I’ve stopped mashing the buttons so I don’t have any actions queued.

    MNK was MNK. Only leveling it for the second DoW title. Don’t think I’ll have the fortitude to make the lv 60 one you get when every DoW class — including NIN, MCH and DRK — is 60.

    Usually I do PLD for the daily seals, but I wanted to get back in with DRK. I am having a lot more fun with it than I thought I would.

  8. TBH, with the PLD stun being on GCD I find I have a hard time using it unless I anticipate an attack is inbound and deliberately wait for the attack to start so I can stun it. I find I prefer the WAR and DRK stuns since they’re true interrupts. Most bosses don’t cast stun-able big hits more than once every 30 seconds or so anyway, so the stun is nearly always available when I need it… assuming the hits can be stunned. It’s really a toss-up as to whether they can or not.

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