29/04/2019

An Epic Two Hours in Depths of Manaan

It's been a long time since I wrote a blog post dedicated to nothing but a single pug run, but I couldn't resist writing down what I experienced this past Saturday. The run I'm about to describe had just about everything: good pugs, bad pugs, angry pugs, the game bugging out in new and interesting ways - the works!


This cut scene is a good illustration of how the entire run felt.

To set the scene: It was Saturday afternoon and I had decided to do the weekly Masterwork Data Crystal mission to run four master mode flashpoints on my Mercenary Tessal (the one I levelled for my original flashpoint levelling experiment). I'm not a fan of this particular quest in terms of effort vs. reward, but I was in the mood to run some flashpoints so I thought I might as well kill two birds with one stone.

I'd already had three pretty smooth runs of flashpoints that I had queued for specifically in order to finish off some story quests. Now that I was all out of missions except for the weekly one, I decided to queue for a random and got Depths of Manaan. It's one of the harder ones to pug on master mode, but also one where I generally feel comfortable carrying people to some extent, and I was healing anyway (which makes carrying even easier).

I noticed that when we entered the facility, our Assassin tank, to whom I shall refer as "Vee" for the rest of this post, immediately took a turn to the left and clicked on the console to start the bonus. This caused me to raise an eyebrow, as the bonus boss in Depths of Manaan is one of the harder ones and pugs rarely attempt him. I didn't mind either way though, and if the tank of all people wanted to do it, I was happy to go along. Our damage dealers were a Juggernaut and a Marauder, whom I shall nickname Lord Rage and Lord Silly going forward.

The first boss, Sairisi, requires you to actually follow some tactics. He is immune to damage while protected by shields from two droids, so to be able to damage him you need to get both droids to half health, at which point they'll retract their shields and start to regenerate. Ideally you want to split the dps about evenly between the two droids so that you have maximum dps time on Sairisi. If it's uneven, one droid will already be regenerating while the other one is still being burned down, and even one shield going back up is enough to make the boss completely immune to damage again.

Anyway, as soon as we pulled, it was apparent that someone did not know how to do the fight as only one droid was actually going down. I initially tried to help even things out a bit and also thought about typing out instructions in chat, but it's a somewhat healing intensive fight so I had to focus on keeping people alive above everything else. I also had Earth, Wind & Fire's greatest hits running in the background and decided to just chill - as long as I could keep people alive, we were going to get there eventually - and about eight minutes later, the boss was finally down.

We continued and reached the bonus boss. Vee declared that the boss was easy "AF" even though our damage dealers indicated that they were unsure what to do. He took the time to type out some short instructions (very slowly) and we gave it a go. Unsurprisingly, we wiped quickly. In short, the fight is about avoiding exploding probe droids that travel down the room in three "lanes", while occasionally biting the bullet by blowing one up intentionally, but in a controlled manner so that the damage is manageable.

I had noticed that Lord Rage had run into what had only been the third droid to spawn and noted that there was no need to blow one up so quickly since we could have simply avoided that one. Vee countered that it was too much hassle to run back and forth between the lanes and that it was easier to blow up some extra droids to avoid having to move so much. This, again, made me raise an eyebrow as I'd never seen it done without the group running back and forth between the "lanes" to dodge as many droids as possible. Surely the damage from the extra, "unnecessary" explosions would kill people? On the other hand, Vee had seemed highly competent so far, so I was inclined to believe him when he said it was possible.

We tried again. Vee was optimistic that now that people had seen how it worked, we'd be fine. And things did go really well for about 75% of the boss's health... until Lord Silly got too close to a droid that wasn't meant to explode and pulled it right onto the rest of the group, causing us to wipe again. Oh well, mistakes happen, right?

Time for attempt number three. Again things seemed to go okay for a bit... until we had another droid pile-up and wiped again. I wasn't even sure what had happened there as I had wedged myself so tightly into the corner of the room that I couldn't really see what was going on with the rest of the group. (I saved a video recording of the fight to review later but it was literally impossible to see what happened from my point of view.)

However, chat suddenly exploded. "Why did you just pull them all?" shouted Lord Rage. "Why did you throw a grenade at them," chimed in Vee, "what did you try to accomplish there?" I was mostly confused. As far as I could recall, none of the classes in our group had any abilities involving grenades. Had someone confused the boss's cryo grenade with a player attack? Did someone use a Cybertech grenade? What had even happened? Had I done something wrong?

"You stupid fuck!" shouted Lord Rage and quit the group. "Oh for real?" sighed Vee. I was standing there like a deer in the headlights. Was this going to be one of those "group suddenly falls apart in a ball of rage" moments? But no... whatever it was that had incensed people so much, Vee still seemed more interested in getting on with it than shouting at people. He queued us for a dps replacement and we instantly got an Operative to replace Lord Rage. Let's call her Deena.

"Please tell me you know what to do," Vee addressed her as she entered. As far as I could tell Deena never replied, but we pulled anyway. This is where my memory actually gets a bit fuzzy - we might have had another wipe or not, but Deena generally did seem to know what she was doing, as either way the boss was dead soon after that.

Vee's "alternate" strategy of blowing up every single droid that came down our "lane" did work alright - if at least two people correctly took turns in order to take care of them. This was theoretically the damage dealers' job, but in practice it ended up being done by Deena and me. Lord Silly still seemed a bit confused about what he was supposed to do, occasionally darting in and out of the group like a shy animal but not actually doing anything useful other than dps-ing the boss. (In fact he was making me very twitchy with his running around, as it often looked like he was about to pull a droid again... but fortunately we managed to avoid that particular problem that time.)

We continued to Ortuno, who I think is by most considered the hardest boss in the instance. Mostly the fight is about the tank moving him around correctly, which Vee handled with aplomb. The rest of the group just needs to remember to run out of the puddles every time the boss casts "Flow" - not a challenging task, but if you get it wrong it's instant death.

Lord Silly died on the first cast, and the combat res was still on cooldown from the previous fight. Once it came off cooldown, I revived him. I mean, even if he was new to the fight, he'd seen how it worked now, right? The next time the boss cast Flow, he died again. The boss's health went down slowly enough that my combat res actually came off cooldown a second time, but after Lord Silly's previous performance, I didn't bother to revive him again. Until he begged to be revived in chat, at which point I did it anyway. This time he managed to survive for a little longer, but then died again.

Eventually the three of us got the boss down (if you've ever wondered whether Ortuno has an enrage, the answer appears to be no). Before the last add had hit the floor, Lord Silly was begging for a revive yet again. I gave it to him, then moved on to the next door. He released anyway, then complained that I hadn't revived him. "Yes, I did," I said. "You just didn't take it." He complained that it had been greyed out. I explained that this was probably because he had died too many times in quick succession, which causes the ability to accept revives to go on a cooldown.

Vee, Deena and I were forced to wait patiently at the door that triggered the next cut scene. But Lord Silly didn't show. Eventually he complained that he was locked out. We went back to investigate, and for some reason the door to Ortuno's room, which closes when you pull him, hadn't re-opened and Lord Silly was stuck on the other side. (Incidentally, if you hovered over it it also wasn't called "door" but "OBJECT HAS NO NAME", which I thought was funny. Too bad I didn't think to take a screenshot.)

At one point I thought that he had suddenly made it after all because a fourth person appeared next to Vee, Deena and me. It wasn't Lord Silly though, it was... a Jedi. "Why is there a Jedi here?" I asked. "Are we in the Twilight Zone?" "Oh good," replied Vee. "I thought I was going insane and had started seeing people." We could also see the Jedi's companion (Nadia) and the Combat Support Droid you get in most solo modes, but it didn't look like he could see us. He happily continued onwards through the door tied to the next conversation and disappeared.


I suggested that Lord Silly should exit the area and come back in, but that didn't help. "What are you guys doing?" Lord Silly eventually exclaimed in desperation. "Being stuck in a small room that we can't get out of without you", I replied, which earned me a +1 from Vee. I suggested that maybe we should all try exiting the area and then come back in. We did so, and now we were all stuck on the wrong side of the door. I thought I could hear the implied eye roll when Vee commented that he should have seen that coming.

That was going to be it, right? Our instance was bugged and there was no way out. (I tried a quick Google search in case this was a known bug with a workaround but couldn't find anything.) "I guess I could try resetting the phase," proposed Vee, who was party leader. "Does that mean we'll lose all our progress though?" I suspected so but wasn't sure. And anyway, what else did we even have left to try? So Vee reset the phase and we went back inside... to find that everything had indeed reset.

Vee: Are we going or fuck this?
Me: Well.
Me: I'm annoyed but I do need one more FP for the weekly quest and I don't mind which one it is.
Me: At least we know we can do this one!
Vee: Let's roll then!

So we started over. And even though it was our second time, it still wasn't a smooth run.

On Sairisi I came to the realisation that the reason he had gone down so slowly the first time wasn't in fact a case of the dps not being split correctly - it was Lord Silly attacking the boss the entire time even though he was immune to damage for most of it. This time he even went so far as to type out in chat that we should be doing the same! High healing requirements or not, that prompted me to pause and reply that no, he needed to hit the droids to remove the boss's shield. As far as I could tell from the target of target functionality, he never caught on though and continued to whack the boss for the entire rest of the fight. Gotta give kudos to Deena there for effectively soloing the adds.

Then we got to the bonus boss and wiped on that again. I think once I saw Deena accidentally shoot one of the droids, which caused it to aggro and explode on the whole group, and another time I swear I saw Lord Silly achieve the same effect by saber-throwing into a whole group of droids. I emphasised that it was important to never attack the droids, but to either run into them or avoid them entirely. Next try we got it down.

As we stood in front of Ortuno again, I quipped to Lord Silly that in case he hadn't caught on yet, standing in the water when the boss cast Flow was bad. He asked what else he was supposed to do. I told him to run with us. And he did! I'm not sure now, he might have died one more time, but he did actually get the hang of the basic tactics this time.

Finally we were able to approach Stivastin, the last boss. His gimmick is that he has a damage absorption shield and needs to be pulled under some fire vents periodically to burst it. We did manage to get this one down on the first try, though we were only seconds away from hitting the boss's enrage/reset timer. Also, Lord Silly kept yelling at Vee (who was doing everything correctly, as he had done throughout the entire rest of the run) to get under the fire more quickly or else we'd be here all day. "Gee, really?" Vee replied, and I have to admit that for a split-second I had a horrible feeling that this might be the straw that broke the camel's back and he might rage-quit, but fortunately that didn't happen. The irony of the one guy who had done pretty much everything wrong on every boss fight trying to tell our highly competent tank how to play was overwhelming though.

When we finally finished, I thanked everyone, particularly highlighting Vee's contribution. He thanked me and said that for an alien, I was quite alright. (Tessal is a Twi'lek.) I also won the roll on the six Manaan Research Data that dropped at the end, so I can't really complain.

Actually, I wasn't going to complain either way. I mean, yes, I had to effectively run the flashpoint twice to complete it once, one guy swore and rage-quit, and another guy was making our lives miserable by being utterly clueless about the fights and also being completely oblivious to just how hard we had to carry him... but I also learned a new way of fighting the bonus boss, met some nice and competent players, saw some funny bugs and generally had a good time. What more could you ask for when doing group content with random people?

13 comments :

  1. Post of the year. I know it's only April, but this wins post of the year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you liked it. This is why I'll never grow tired of pugs...

      Delete
  2. I wonder if that Jedi would have seen any /say messages? Not that I would have thought of it while it was happening, but I know I would have kicked myself for not trying when I did think of it later on. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who knows... since they were playing solo they might not have been paying attention to chat even if it had shown up. I was mostly reminded of the type of "ghost" incidents that are quite frequent in strongholds.

      Delete
  3. That's a great write-up. I love these stories of PUG life. I really should get back to doing some PUGs myself. I've been solo so long in so many MMOs now, though, that I barely remember how to play in a group. Not, of course, that that ever stopped anyone pugging.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi, great read.

    First...the "new way" to fight the bonus boss, is actually the only tactic we do on my server. There was a brief period of time after release of the flashpoint, when everyone was following this one guide with switching lanes. But it is so much easier for dps to just stand still and burn the boss on the spot. Just occasionally stop and go to explode a droid, when the healer has the debuff. Most of the time the boss is already dead, before a dps has to take care of a droid a second time. First droid -> healer. Second Droid -> Healer (Commando with Reflect, Sage with God Bubble). Third Droid -> dps. Fourth Droid -> healer or in case of the debuff not worn off yet, a dps. But the boss should be dead by now.

    Second...you really should have kicked Lord Silly. He is not ready for Master Mode Flashpoints. Now he has the achievement and thinks he is a great guy. I always say, you don't have to know the fights, you are allowed to make mistakes and wipe the group, but you absolutely have to listen to instruction before the fight and infight and follow them and show some kind of progression. After the restart he attacks the first boss instead of the unshielded droids AND trys to convince the group to do the same...kick. When you do the bonus boss with the instruction "do not use any aoe ability at all to avoid pulling multiple droids" and he throws his lightsabers again...kick. But most of all...yelling at the people who carried his ass, like he did on the last boss...kick. Yes, before the final cut scene.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It always fascinates me how what I call the "pug meta" changes over time because I've done this boss quite a few times, including in pugs, and that was the first time I'd seen it done that way. I agree that in the end it was easier, though your suggestion to avoid the debuff wouldn't have worked for us as I'm pretty sure we went through way more than four droids. Fortunately you can survive exploding a second droid with the debuff on you if you have enough health and are at 100% beforehand - that was the bit I had been worried about. And since the debuff doesn't go up in stacks, the second debuff was always running out just in time for me or Deena to take another one.

      As for Lord Silly, I can completely understand why someone would want to kick him. To be honest, the thought did at least occur to me too, specifically when he was the only person stuck behind the door and preventing us from proceeding. However, I greatly dislike kicking people under any circumstances, and even more so for performance issues as I operate under the "good enough" principle. In fact it's a pet peeve of mine when people complain about someone's performance when it's clearly good enough to get the job done but the other person just wanted it done faster/more efficiently/differently.

      While his attempts to tell us what to do towards the end got a bit annoying, he was never rude. I may have written "yelling" but it's not like he was talking in caps or anything. In fact, he said very little in general, which gave me the impression that maybe we were dealing with a young kid or someone who didn't speak English very well. I'm always willing to give the benefit of the doubt in such cases. Also, he did show some progression: he did learn not to stand in Ortuno's puddles by the end! :D

      Delete
    2. "your suggestion to avoid the debuff wouldn't have worked for us"...my suggestion that the healer is taking the first droid, and the second droid with a deff-cd is not to avoid the debuff...it's just to avoid the massive damage, because the first debuff is on you.

      The healer takes the first two droids because you want the dps to burn the boss. The fight is not very healing intensive, so the healer can take care of the mechanic, while dps have the most uptime on the boss and don't have to worry about anything.

      With this tactic you can do the bonus boss basically with two people knowing the fight. You tell the tank, "just stand in this corner and tank", and one dps, "just burn the boss, avoid aoe-attacks", while the other two players take turns on the droids. The bonus boss is by far the easiest in this flashpoint.

      Delete
    3. Ah, I misinterpreted what you were saying; thanks for clarifying.

      I'll definitely give it a go with that tactic again, but as for "easiest boss in the flashpoint", my sample of one (or should I count that run as two) still says the opposite. XD

      Delete
  5. Sounds like an 8 hour run! Glorious!

    ReplyDelete
  6. That was an entertaining read, well done :-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hah! I haven't queued for a pug in years but I did so last night on my dps guardian. I think I was in queue for about 10 seconds before asking myself if I really wanted that kind of stress right before bed. I ended up leaving the queue and logging out.

    ReplyDelete
  8. While I had been crying if I was part of this pug you really made it sound entertaining, as usual :)

    ReplyDelete

Share your opinion! Everyone is welcome, as long as things stay polite. No sign-in required. I also read comments on older posts, so don't be shy. :)