My Merc's journey to the level cap continues and she's getting quite close by now. However, XP gains have also dropped to "only" about one level per flashpoint. I'm wondering how much better one might do if one were to make full use of all available XP boosts (which I didn't) by joining a guild, waiting for full restedness, buying all the increased flashpoint XP perks and using XP-boosting consumables.
I levelled: 45-46
As I mentioned in my last Flashpoint Friday post, my Cademimu hat-trick from last time was immediately followed up by a fourth pop of this instance. The most notable thing about this run was that it contained the most "gogogo"-like player I've encountered yet, a level 65 Juggernaught who took off like a bat straight out of hell the moment we zoned in and kept pulling as fast as he could, even if it led to bad things such as us getting two groups at once (which meant even more heal-tanking for me). In hindsight it's a mircale that I only died once, on the first boss. At the same time, even this rushing was still positively sedate compared to the sort of behaviour I experienced in WoW a couple of years ago.
After this flashpoint I fully upgraded my gear again even though it didn't seem to make much of a difference, purely because I was getting close to the cap for how many common data crystals you can have. Sadly the mods from the vendors are so cheap now that even buying a whole new kit barely made a dent in my crystal pile. I also picked up the story quest for Directive 7, just in case it comes up again, as I was now high enough level to do so.
I levelled: 46-46
Oh hey, another failed Blood Hunt pug! Same story as always: Everything was fine until Jos and Valk, then the group disbanded after two wipes (even though they had been pretty good tries and we'd made it to the second phase each time).
I levelled: 46-47
Another rare group with a tank, though he seemed unfamiliar with the flashpoint and didn't know that we needed to kill the four commanders to get access to the first boss, so the rest of the group had to gently herd him into the right direction first. After the first boss he DCed and was replaced by a level 45 dps. Even with three dps our damage seemed very low, and I couldn't help but wonder whether the dps Juggernaught wasn't actually secretly a tank as well. (He had zoned in in Soresu form, though he did switch when I pointed that out.) On the last fight my heals were once again enough to out-aggro all the dps and I was effectively tanking most of the time. The dps also didn't know that they were supposed to kill the probes - thank Bioware that they die on their own after a while or we would have been in trouble.
It was after this flashpoint that I noticed that all my Republic characters, even the really low-level ones, have access to a quest called [Daily] Group Finder Tactical Flashpoint! I wonder why the Imps don't get that one? Looking at the TORCommunity database, it looks like it might be some sort of flagging error, as it lists the same quest twice, but both are tagged as only accessible to Republic classes. That would have been another nice source of XP to speed up the process.
I levelled: 47-49
This late-night run was easily the most fun pug I've had in a while, as it contained a tank and dps that were in the same guild, very laid back, and happy to banter. The tank died on the first boss and just laughed about her silliness when I pointed out that even tanks had to move out of melee whenever he does his fire attack. We also did both bonuses, which is probably why I gained two levels in this one.
At the end I had to laugh when the last boss exploded into a box - another 4.0 change that Bioware made is that they got rid of all those security chests that used to spawn on bosses that don't leave a body behind or that leave multiple bodies. They were always a bit of a pain in places like ops, as they could only be looted by one person at a time and you had to form an orderly queue so everyone could get their commendations. This new system is much better, it's just kind of humorous when the body's supposed to mysteriously disappear and instead a glowy box appears out of thin air.
I levelled: 49-50
We meet again, False Emperor! In this run I was joined by three melee dps of levels 41, 47 and 49 respectively. Any attempts of mine to use crowd control were foiled instantly, but at least they seemed to be aware that I was getting all the aggro and tried to reduce the impact that had. (I fully expect to do a lot of tanking when there is no proper tank, but you can tell the difference between groups that notice and try to help you and those that are completely oblivious... usually the latter are busy piling on a single gold mob while I get shot by five weak enemies for the entire fight.) I also worked on improving my heal-tanking by doing the line-of-sight dance around various corners and pillars.
On the two prototype droids, my three "pets" were sadly completely focused on trying to kill the one that was immune to damage and needed some prompting to start attacking the right one. Still, I was growing oddly fond of them. At exactly eight o'clock, one of them suddenly went "oops, I have to leave" and I couldn't help but picture him as a little kid who had reached his bedtime.
Having hit level 50 in this flashpoint, I did some running around to pick up more quests, such as the storyline for Kaon Under Siege and Lost Island. I was kind of shocked by how Darth Nurin casually dropped a massive spoiler for the end of my class story in that conversation... I was like: "I haven't even been to Dromund Kaas, woman!" In all seriousness though, I had been under the impression that they had markers for some of these lines so they wouldn't come up if you hadn't already completed that content. It was a bit jarring.
I was now also able to pick up the weekly mission to do five tactical flashpoints, which should add another chunk of experience to my remaining runs. When I opened up the group finder, it had now selected operations and hardmode flashpoints by default, which I had to uncheck, as I don't think that I would have a very good time in there right now.
Assault on Tython
I levelled: 50-52 (this included the random flashpoint weekly)
For this flashpoint I was joined by three dps, two of whom were only level 23 and 24 respectively, so I expected things to be slow. It wasn't that noticeable on the first boss, but by the time we got to Master Liam I was a bit worried that we might run into trouble with our group being unable to kill each set of droid adds before the next one spawned. Fortunately that wasn't the case, though we got very little dps time on the boss himself. We were lucky in so far as he seemed to get bored after a while and stopped bothering to vanish and summon adds.
We also wiped on Master Oric, which was simply an amazing experience for me because I don't think I'd ever had it happen to me before. I mean, I'd always known that it would be bad to let him draw power from those holocrons, but since no group of mine actually ever let him get away with it, I'd never seen what it actually does. The answer is that it increases his damage output, and after two or three stacks I simply wasn't able to keep up with it anymore, not to mention that we'd already lost another group member to his "purple circle phase". Fortunately everyone listened to me when I explained what had gone wrong, and on the next attempt they executed the mechanics nearly perfectly, even if our dps was still low.
After this flashpoint I was pleased to find my combat res and Electro Net on the trainer - now I've got pretty much everything except for whatever Successive Treatment is called for Mercenaries.
I also had too many crystals again and was pleased to discover (after some running around on the fleet) that you don't actually have to wait until Odessen to be able to buy companion gifts with them - you can already get rank 5 gifts on the fleet, which should help prevent any more crystal overflow in the future.
I levelled: 52-53
This run was a bit of an emotional roller-coaster ride. I got teamed up with three dps of level 20, 21 and 27, so I knew that things were going to be even slower than in Assault on Tython the day before. But I didn't mind at first - I was kind of looking at myself as the benevolent high-level player carrying them through the experience. I asked them if they knew each other, since they were close in level and none of them were in a guild, but they never responded. They also did not pay much attention to me getting mauled by mobs and never bothered to regenerate any health themselves in-between fights.
In hindsight I really wish that I'd thought of recording the first boss fight because it was pretty comical. I was healing everyone and kite-tanking the boss around the room, only getting the occasional break whenever he did his aggro drop and jumped on somebody else for few seconds. I was really grateful for Hydraulic Overrides there, because getting caught in his slowing aura was not nice. Meanwhile the dps took absolutely forever to kill his pets. After that I thought that surely the worst was over now, just to have that fight be followed up by that big pull with a bunch of hounds. They did not get frozen by the exploding barrel and I barely clung on to life tanking all the dogs while hitting every single cooldown that I had.
Slowly my attitude started to shift. When I sliced the lift and called people over, they ignored me in favour of going the long way round. When I marked a focus target on the Republic boarding party, they ignored that as well. I was getting rather annoyed with them all and their seeming lack of interest in what was going on. I pictured them zoning into their next flashpoint, without a healer, and dying on every single pull.
I was convinced that the last boss would go horribly wrong, but tried to give instructions before the fight anyway. On the first jump we were left with both turrets still up and alive, but at least they then seemed to get it and started dpsing them down before continuing to chase the boss. In the end that fight wasn't nearly as bad as everything that had come before, but I still felt a bit burnt out on my role as the "carrier" of clueless pugs after that run.