Still Operational

I haven't written about operations for a while, even though I still run them at least once a week. The more cynical among my readers might say that there's nothing to talk about because Bioware hasn't released a new operation in over a year and hasn't even hinted at any future plans to do so. However, my ops posts have rarely been about content releases and more about progression anyway. And despite of the general doom-and-glooming going on in regards to ops, my guild continues to be entertained well enough by them. Sure, we've had some old hands hang up their hats not long ago, but we've also had fresh, enthusiastic recruits, so things have evened out. Churn is always a reality for guilds, and we haven't really experienced any more of it than in previous years.

I've mentioned before that I've been kind of surprised by how little I actually seem to mind having to re-learn bosses that we previously downed when they were easier (because we could outlevel them by 5-10 levels). It's just fun to hang out with my guildies, and spending our time re-learning how to beat Thrasher on nightmare mode is as good an excuse to do so as any. What I do miss though is the excitement of a new boss kill, because that's definitely not present in quite the same way anymore. No achievement pop-ups, no useful gear drops for my main, no glowing pride that makes me want to make a video of the boss kill... because I probably made one months or even years ago already.

I think the main thing that keeps us going right now is the sheer wealth of fights we still have to "re-do" or even beat for the first time. 4.0's re-tuning has caused some odd shifts in difficulty as well.

Eternity Vault/Karagga's Palace: Not much news to report here - still the easiest ops by far and very much worth a visit when either one is the featured hardmode of the week and can be farmed for easy 224 loot.

Explosive Conflict: This place was such a pain in the butt on NiM when it was current content, and this experience has largely been re-created in 4.0. However, in one of the aforementioned difficulty shifts, the dps check for Firebrand and Stormcaller has become ridiculously intense now. It used to be that if you could kill Zorn and Toth you were also fine for the tanks in terms of dps, but this is no longer the case. Our guild's second group has beaten the fight, but even they admit that it's incredibly hard and that they've had to rely on "cheese tactics" such as using a Guardian tank's saber reflect for insane extra damage. My own group has sort of shied away from even trying it again because we are usually so far behind on dps that we don't even hit the enrage but rather end up with mechanics overlapping in bad ways before we've even hit the first defensive measures phase.

Terror from Beyond: We've had some goes at the second encounter on NiM and in somewhat of an inverse situation of the above, the Dread Guards don't seem nearly as much of a road block now as they used to be. However, I think we still kind of remember those days all too well and it makes us a bit timid when it comes to investing progression time here. Plus, even if we got them down we'd then have to face Operator next, who is quite a pain on NiM as well.

Scum and Villainy: This op seems considerably easier on NiM than it was in its original incarnation, because I remember back then we couldn't even down the first boss until nearly a year after its release, by which time we were overgearing the place by several tiers. This time however we are actually already up to working on the Cartel Warlords... whenever we can actually get to them in any given week, because killing everything leading up to them - while proven to be within our capabilities - is still far from smooth sailing. I'm not too hopeful for Styrak on NiM though, considering that we sometimes still run into the enrage even on hardmode when people aren't fully on the ball.

Dread Fortress: There's something about second bosses, because once again few of us really seem to have the stomach to work on Draxus - I can't actually comment on his post-4.0 difficulty, but I do remember all too well how much of a pain he used to be at level 55. The way the fight is split into waves that require people to learn a perfect rotation of interrupts while splitting their damage just right is simply super annoying. Having to wipe every time a single person messed up a single interrupt is a special kind of tedium.

Dread Palace: Sadly, this place has been a complete no-go for us as the very first boss hits so hard now that our tanks go squish in the blink of an eye. There was some talk about having them re-gear in a way that's otherwise sub-optimal to increase their endurance but in practice it's just ended up being another fight that we've postponed until a later date.

Ravagers: The two 3.0 operations at least are the one place where we can do "real" progression as I had only got the first two bosses in Ravagers down on hardmode during the Shadow of Revan patch cycle. Torque HM was a genuine progression kill for me in 4.0, but most of my group had already got it before KotFE's release so nobody felt like having a big celebration. Now nobody wants to spend time on Master and Blaster because it's supposed to be oh so hard and will take us forever to learn.

Temple of Sacrifice: In another example of strange re-tuning, the Revanite Commanders, who gave us massive trouble pre-KotFE, were apparently nerfed in some manner so that they are now ridiculously easy compared to the fight's previous difficulty level. We used to wipe and wipe and wipe on these guys... but when we first went to ToS HM after 4.0, we one-shot them, and that with several people in the group who hadn't even attempted the fight before. My one and only piece of genuine progression since 4.0 and it was depressingly anti-climatic. This of course leaves us with nothing but Revan himself in this operation, who is supposed to be the hardest fight in the entire game, so... probably not our best avenue of progression when looking at all the other areas in which we still fall short.

While we are certainly not bored, I'm still hopeful that Bioware will eventually decide to add more operations to the game again - and hopefully do better at making them fun than they did with the last couple, whose enjoyment (for me anyway) suffered a bit due to nonsensical circle mechanics and bad difficulty tuning.


  1. I don't think there's any real 'proven' way to prepare for Bestia in NiM. It's purely a case of hoping that the Tanks and Healers can cope throughout the entire fight, and it's (of course) one of those that can get really hectic just a bit too quickly...

    Bestia doesn't help matters, either; she can get very tedious to listen to.

    "Do you like my corruptions? MWHAHAH!"
    "Not really; they're busy pounding my face to a bloody pulp!"

    I'd actually argue that Master and Blaster is the most difficult fight in the game, at least on a consistent and mechanical basis.

    Compared to Revan, M&B is far harder to micro-manage as you can never tell where the orange circles are going to land throughout, which then causes people to panic and kill others with explosives if they're not careful, etc. etc.

    The same is true of the Ion Cutter and Rain of Pain, although the Cutter can at least be taken by one of the Tanks.

    The Revan fight has been so difficult because of one thing; it's disorientating as all heck, and I'm saying that as somebody who's killed him in HM.

    Whilst it is in theory 'easy' to set up who's doing what and when and the first floor is undeniably the most mechanically challenging aspect of the fight, the other two floors take to punishing groups which haven't had time or experience to get to grips with them yet.

    Keeping track of those infernal Heartbeats, as well as knowing the correct path to follow throughout, whilst ALSO being aware of the occasional - and sometimes invisible - blade is very disorientating. Then there's the third floor, which takes the disorientation of the second floor, laughs at it, and shows it how to REALLY disorientate a group.

    Heartbeats + exploding aberrations which knock anyone whose character model is not facing them back off the edge + overwhelmed group = pain.
    All of the above + core which steadily reduces HP + Revan throwing rocks = even more pain.

    That said, the rate at which the aberrations light up and explode has been severely reduced compared to what it used to be, even during 4.0, to the extent that people who did it in early 2015 are laughing at it now and calling it "easy".

    So, yeah. M&B: Consistently hard mechanically. Revan: Mechanically hard on first floor, but hard on other two floors due to general disorientation factor.

    I actually took to playing Virulence out of cover for the third floor to help when looking for the Aberrations. Because, of course, Snipers and Gunslingers needed this extra punishment...

  2. For my raid group, explosive conflict is the one where we go "ohhh maaan not THAT one". While we usually squeak by Toth/Zorn and Tanks (and that took us many weeks, many weeks!) the minefield is still annoying as sin. If you recall, when EC came out, marauders had a 6 second interrupt, and other melee dps had a faster interrupt cycle as well. So our interrupts were nerfed but the NEED to interrupt that stupid droid remains the same. This means we have to have a rigid interrupt order that absolutely cannot be screwed up on by anyone or we all die. And if we get unlucky on the board layout, boom.

    EC Kephess is the worstest dps check. If you think the tanks are bad, Kephess is way worse. We have yet to even come close to kicking his butt, in pretty much all 224 gear.


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