Monthly Archives: March 2014

50k to go

That’s it; I didn’t even have the chance to do anything in Eberron. Between tying up some Eveningstar stuff and now doing Stormhorn I’m so close I can smell it. I hope it’s just a What goes up before I’m done so I can start working on getting to 28. It feels good to be 1 step closer. The distribution of enhancement points are looking pretty nice with max Charisma (at least for this guy), lots of acid and cold damage and now a new one, 3 tiered cold ray spell like ability. It hits (when not saved) for 200-600. I’ll have 4 more points when I hit 20 and I’m going for max cold damage, the acid cap stone and probably one more on water savant core. It’ll be a little different from before but close enough.

I’m probably going to do Shiradi at first and if it’s slow going I’ll do Draconic. I’m half tempted to go full Water savant for a change but I have so much equipment invented in acid. To go cold now would be a few more things on the list and I’m not sure if it’s worth it. We’ll see.

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19 – conquering the storm horn

There are a few wilderness romps that can be done fairly easy and within 30 or so minutes. Like macabre – sure – my first few romps took be 45 minutes to an hour, but knowing where things spawns and hitting all explorers cuts that down significantly. Then you have Vale – that one can be a little dislocated, but if you try to do things while going to quests you can start with the bridge area and spiders, go to the Rainbow side, follow Gnoll and do Sacrifice. Then as you’re about to do Running and Coal you first clear to Running, then back to Coal for the shrine and now you can do Running.

Again – since some of the stuff is in the lake you end up going a little bit back and forth.

Shavarth is actually simple – it’s like a circle. Most of the stuff including rare spawns are located on the outer edge of the circle. There are a few things sorta in the middle but it’s easy to get to. This can be done in about 30. Heroic Wheelon and Stormhorns is a little bit different. There’s no strict pattern other than going to quests, kill everything on the way and maybe find some letters (or whatever they are). With slayer and such you’ll get a good portion of XP by the time you find the resting areas (Stormhorn) and entrances inside the prison (wheelon). After you have done everything it’s easy enough to get back to most of the quests. Stormhorn will require some running unless you want to pay shards but the Wheelon is a little better once you’ve done the end quest requiring a minimum of running to get to the entrances.

So for about 30-45 minutes a run you can net a pretty good sum of XP and most of the quest will net you everything from 20-40k – Vale being very good XP per minute with a good group or even soloing. Wheelon have a few faster quests and Stormhorn ones are not super bad – landing something in the middle.

Then fun part about the caravan Stormhorn quest is that I’ve figured out how to let the Harpies do it for you. I’m a curious sort so when I noticed this landbridge splitting the canyon I decided to waste a few minutes running over there – maybe it was this really good rare. And lo and behold – a Harpy mother and her nest. So I ‘convinced’ her by slapping her around and she runs off and does something. Meanwhile I double back, drop down and take care of the arriving caravans. That was a few ones ago – the last time I did it I noticed that as I was clearing the overpass from snipers (for extra XP) while heading towards the camp after clearing – the general had already arrived. I guess he does if all the stuff is killed in the camp – the result was that by the time I hit him he was down to 50 or so percent HP – all done by Harpies.

So this time I took it easy – clearing all snipers after I was done and just as I got closer to the camp nailing a few more snipers the general fell without me having to do anything. They harpy mother had done it for me. This was on Heroic hard and I was smart enough to have voice on. That leaves me 3 bubbles from 20 and all Shavarath, dreaming and 3 more Stormhorn to do which should be plenty if I want too. I’m looking forward to hitting epic, get some of my good gear going and load up a destiny for some extra POWAH! My hope is to be right up there by the end of the weak, taking my welloiled Sorc into raids and succeed where I failed before.

Almost 19

I started at 15 (Bladeforged Sorc) did the regular swoop of quests between 15-17 including (including the ones in Eveningstar except harper) with a minimum of hard, elite when I group with others. And it really flies when you hit a stride. Especially with really good people. Of course 1 pug is not exactly as good as the other. I did running and Coalescence with a group – no dedicated healers. Now I did good – except for the other sorc who kept using something that removed all my CC spells. Very annoying. But most stuff landed well and while we did skip the Devil alt, we managed to finish it all, slightly bruised and somewhat dead. In fact – no bragging here – had it not been for my sorc we would’ve wiped and one part. I find the earth savant grab pretty good. With a good DC you can grap and hold most opponents. I was worried that it wouldn’t work on Elite but it did – then again I’ve boosted out the wazoo so when they land they land good. My web works fine too. Drop one and a cloud kill ontop and you got lots of pain going on. I use it fairly often and it’s a good way to lower opponent HP and then smack them with a earth savant acid burst. It’s a reliable 500-700 HP hit – sure – stuff evades it, but for most part you hit at least with half. And the acid arrow is very reliable along with the assortment of other stuff.

Another pug took me to Monastery and prey – both on elite. Excellent group of people that were almost done with the puzzle parts by the time I got to any of them. Quick and reliable. Prey was a little slower – lots of running – but the grabs worked like a charm and while I didn’t have any fire spells the acid works nice too.

I’m right now done with the insane chain out of Twelve – level 17. That leaves me with a few more Vale runs to milk the XP some more (don’t all on either elite or hard). I also have the dream ones – level 18 and finally Storm horn for 19. I don’t know if that’s enough but I can always double up. Once on hard and once on normal if need be. Then the regular Epic stuff will take over. 21-25 should be fairly easy. With MOTU and all the Eberron Epics. My hope is to hit 26 fairly soon – say in a week or so (given time) so I can start doing all the raids again. The whole point with the Bladeforged sorc was always to be more independent when doing the new raids, so hopefully this pays off. I definitely need to make sure I have both con and HP stuff and that’ll take some better gear choices, but that spell like reconstruct will make a lot of difference and I might even pick reconstruct as a backup dependent on what my Level 9 spell setup will be.

New plans

I did the two red dragons raid on my sorc and realized a very painful thing – altho It was EH it was way above my toon to handle. First and foremost because it doesn’t have enough HP – altho that’s more a question about adding some. But more important because it’s a fleshie and scroll healing is a pain. And I made the mistake to twist in coocoon instead of the extra DC which means some of my attacks landed flat.

Some of it had to do with those painful fire attacks – I’m sure a 50% fire energy sheat could handle that, or at the least a better absorb item. So while some were more a question of equipment I realized that this quest required competent self healing and the 2 tools I had – coocoon and scrolls, were not enough. I pride myself on my ability to handle things on my own and this setup was not working. Which lead me to once more thinking about bladeforged.

It worked ‘fine’ with my Arti eventho it was hardly the most ideal – especially since it came with a negative to dex. But the spell like reconstruct makes up for it and ideals since it saves a spell slot. And that’s why it would work so nicely with sorc. Bladeforget gets plus to con and negative to wisdom and dex. That in itself would only be bad for anyone that need dex and wisdom. And since bladeforged don’t have a negative to charisma like warforged do, it’s ideal for a sorc build with the spell slot saving spell like reconstruct ability.

The ‘slight’ negative is a loss of some charisma, mainly because human racial enhancement tree allows you to pick any stat point, where as Bladeforged can only pick con. Another difference is that right now my human sorc only have a few points invested in the racial tree, whereas the bladeforged will need a few more – namely enough to get the reconstruct. That means that I have to switch things around in the water savant 3 – and that’s alright. It’s possible that I might even go to fire savant instead but that cold damage is pretty nice againt the fire dragons and it seems that there will be more limitations doing fire as secondary than cold.

The charisma portion is a simple fix; I can either live with 1 less as it won’t spell doom or use draconic instead and add an extra charisma and live with less of something else. Or I could decide to skip a twist of something and get that one additional charisma. But that trade off is worse; right now I use energy burst (on Shiradi), the extra conjuration DC from magister and the 10% spell points from the divine. That’s a hard thing to give up for 1 more in charisma. To me it sounds like I should lower some of the added features for water savant – enough to get the 2 points of Charisma from the tree (like now) but skip on something else. Because the reality is that I don’t use cold spells all that much since acid works so well on most things. And as Shiradi the main is still force.

There are also other things I need to keep in mind, like on the gear side. The big difference is armor. There are few really good docents and I need to make sure I maintain equipment parity. I’m using the flawless blue dragon armor and that can be replaced with a similar docent. But for the early epic levels it’ll be hard to find the equivalent docent. One could be the Diabolist docent. I think I have the stuff for it. That would give me conjuration and a summon clicky. Add some fort and it’s good to go. On the ring side I created a few spell focus rings, but I definitely need a ring of the master in one of the slot. It’s hard to argue against that much repair and lore plus SP. Id love to get the ring out of EPic carnival, the one that give you lots of elemental spell power, but in all my years that I have ran the quest I’ve yet to see the seal even once.

Ultimately I’m hoping to be able to push a minimum of 700 HP with a solid ability for self healing. Sure – it won’t be like a palemaster type caster but it will at least me a lot more solid than my current fleshie sorc. And while I’m at it I need to make sure I have a bunch of absorb things on me so I don’t turn into crisp while buffing. That’s a bummer right there.

On a last note; I’m still thinking really long and hard about what I want for my new weapons. I’m thinking I want to do the caster one first since the other items are fairly good right now. Plus the caster ones would give him a premium push, whereas doing a bunch of scimis and a bow for my ranger would be a slight upgrade (he’s using the citw stuff and that better crit chance makes a big difference in DPS). As my current thinking goes I’ll complete my acid one first – no need to try to get tier 2 on two things when I don’t know if I’ll stay on Shiradi or not. That means 150 acid spell power, +6 conjuration and 22% acid lore. With glaciation (most likely) slotted. Meanwhile I might see if I can’t get my hands on a libram, that would get my Charisma back up a speck and provide additional spell lore. The issue here is cold lore. If I go with this setup I will have 24% acid lore (from gear), 20% force (sage bracers, 20 and the libram 2) and only additional 2 for cold. If I go with a thunder orb or scepter that adds 150 impulse, +7 spell pen and 18% universal spell lore I can skip the bracers for something better and I’ll be covered for everything else (at least 18%).

It’s hard to argue for the libram over a impulse item at that point. Or I could do a staff. Like 150 acid spell power, slot impulse and cold (138 for both since 2 handed items get an extra red augment slot), +6 conjuration and Universal spell lore. I would crit slightly less but I’d have an extra DC because of the staff as a result. It’s tempting, either way I’ll have quite a while before I get there since it’ll be quite some time before I have 1 at tier 3, let alone 2. Which sorta speaks for the staff 🙂

What makes a good raid (part 2)

I realize that this is entirely subjective – what one person love another might hate and the concensus of what we think is okay varies from tolerant of to love. The take I’m going to give is of course tainted by what I think but also what I’ve observed. Not just by running a ton of raids but from responses by others.

Length
Length is very subjective; some makes comment about how it doesn’t matter if it’s 1 hour or 3, often confusing ‘challenge’ with arbitrary length of time. I would refer it to ‘real player’ syndrome – the idea that making something as arduous and intolerant often with abritrary redundant time syncs adds some kind of challenge value that separates ‘real players’ from ‘those others’. It sounds snarky – but it’s what I get not only from Forum posts but also the in game channel. If you remove the idea of real vs regular players it’s more a subjective matter of thinking time doesn’t matter. And it’s understandable, the value of time differs from person to person. If someone can cram in 10 hours of game time and others only 2, the value of that play time will change. Especially since we all have goals – and one goal might be get x amount of progress in – while another persons goal might be – play and then maybe get x amount of materials/items.

But to me and I think a lot of people time is one of absolute essence for most. There’s definitely a x amount of time frame where the experience feels fresh and worth it. Perhaps more important is the sense of reward – be it rewarding experience or just reward in the sense of XP/minute or even end reward. The longer things take the more ‘time’ feels wasted since it leads to comparisons to say ‘I could have done x amount of stuff and received the same things in x time by now’.

So when we take about ‘length’ it’s the kind of mixed feeling of reward (which I will talk about in detail below) and in comparison to something else. There’s also a matter of activity. If things are very active but feels fresh time is kind of irrelevant. You’re way too busy to worry about if it’s been 30 minutes or an hour. But if hectic becomes redundant – say doing same things over and over you get saturated. It’s like watching the same thing before your eyes over and over with the same end result. Like doing 6 mirror puzzles. Or having to deal with endless spawns with no progress, with the end guy resetting over and over – with the feeling of taking one step back.

The sweet spot is always an expectancy of having a basic idea of how long it takes and the goal is to keep or beat that while profiting from the experience. Personally I prefer 30-45 minutes. It’s hard to keep something fresh after that. Partly because it’s one of resources as well; you might have loot jewel running, or XP potions, burning an hour or more and then get naught in the end is frustrating. But it’s also a feeling of worth; it’s hard to justify several hours when so much can be accomplished in other content for the same time. In other words the experience either have to be really profitable or mentally satisfying, and it’s very hard to argue for mental satisfaction after you’ve done the same raid over and over. And it seems that most people prefer 30-45 minutes, I bet most (like me) would be fine with something taking over an hour first, until you learn it and start refining how you do things – but there’s always a ‘bare minimum’ based on mechanics. Like Shroud used to be 45 mins to an hour, then slowly ground down to 30 minutes about and now you can do an elite in about 20 minutes – perhaps a little less given a perfect no nonsense run.

Likewise you could do a Hound in about 1 or 2 minutes (again – mechanics, circumventing the entire purpose of the doggie mothers enormous DR with current massive incoming hits) or more realistically a FoT in about 15. That doesn’t mean that FoT is ideal because it can be short and sweet, but it’s more popular because it combines time frame, rewards and activity in a way that overcomes anyone’s sense of shortcomings. Like the fact that they don’t like beat down raids.

On the other hand I think the new shadow dragon raid falls into several deep holes time wise. Too many arbitrary and redundant puzzle portions. Ideally they’ll be done quickly by people memorizing the puzzles but you also have an end fight that can go on based purely on luck. I’m sure it can be scaled down, but there are way to many portions of the raid that runs into inactivity and added with longer time it gets frustrating.

Rewarding
There are two types of rewards – items/materials and mentally. Mentally falls into a very subjective territory of what anyone find aesthetic and appealing. Personally I never run raids for the ‘feel’ of it, at least not more than once. On the other hand you also have mental satisfaction of ‘fun’ – which can be everything from fun to beat within some kind of parameters or just fun because you run things for have a good old time. Fun is important; fun can be really hard and challenging – being on the bleeding edge of ruin forcing people to play at their best or it can be simply biologically tickling whatever gland or something inside you that gives you that tingly feeling.

But a great portion of ‘rewarding’ would be materialistic. We all set goals; few play games without goal and I’d say that most of them falls within ‘just having fun’. Others, like myself don’t mind fun – but also want to move towards a goal. And raids are about raid items or materials to make items.

FoT – rewarding. It’s not only a quick, hectic active raid – where you can go from almost losing it to executing a flawless victory in a short time but it can also be rewarding. Especially if you’re looking for materials. Such as the heroic accommodation. It’s guaranteed even on EN. Making FoT the goto raid for that stuff. Sure – there are some interesting raid items but to be honest they’re a little bit meh. Not super meh but nothing like ‘I gotta have that!’ type loot. On the other hand Citw feels unrewarding for so many things. Not only is it a longer raid with tedious time sinks (killing 8 legs, killing 8 bugs, not flying off the edge and die, having to undo several balls of power, fighting a gauntlet of rednamed and other tedious critters and then an endfight that can go on and on if people are not prepping correctly – tedious) but it’s unrewarding too. Imagine 7 chests. If I do say – FoT – I’m guaranteed a heroic comm. If I do citw I get 7 chests and no guarantee. Put aside raid loot for a minute; there’s nothing worse than spending a lot of time getting to the end just to profit and you get 7 chests of trash. Take in account the tedious run and time spent and you feel like you’re wasting time.

There are other raids like that, VoD and Hound; I can’t tell you how many times I did those raids just to be completely skunked. I don’t mean just me, but everyone. But here you had a different thing in play; other than the stupid wilderness run the raids were ‘shorter’. You could finish all of them within 30 minutes easy, so getting skunked wasn’t all that big of a deal. You could also say the same about ToD – the raid itself wasn’t all that long, but getting that one chance for a ring was always frustrating since the ring table was so diluted by all the other rings – stuff you didn’t even care for. They had at least a guaranteed material for unlocking so you were never entirely skunked, just frustrated that getting that one ring could take everything from 1 time to 60+.

The most frustrating stuff are of course old Epic raids, where you not only needed an item, but also seals, scrolls and shards. Where the scroll only dropped randomly for killing stuff in raid or attached quests and where seals could drop in specific quest chest and shards in the raid portions. Worst are very diluted loot tables like DQ but you also got VON with the silly quests and raid. Chrono is not really all that bad in that respect; it’s one raid – that can be completed fairly quickly and that have 2 chests for seals, lots of critters to kill and 1 end chest for shards. It’s a dumb frustrating system, but at least it is contained within 1 ‘shorter’ raid.

Challenge
Challenge is perhaps the hardest to quantify just after the aspect of fun. And that’s because challenge depends on skill and many times class. What’s challenging for SP sponge classes like Fighters might be a breeze for a caster or Monk, if you play more than one type of class I’m sure you’re keenly aware of that aspect dependent on what you play. That’s why ‘challenge’ is so hard to explain.

But to me challenge is about holding you on the edge of triumph. Not on the edge of frustration. Sounds like the same thing; especially given the difference in experience between classes. But keep in mind; you’re just one cog of a up to 12 man crew so your challenge might be averaged out by all other players part of it. The fact that a healer keep healing you will always make the dps part easier than when you keep having to waste time jumping out of combat to heal yourself. Or grinding XP seems so much easier when you have casters using crowd control or energy burst over having to do it yourself with one 100+ HP hit at the time.

Back in the days when people actually failed shroud (and not just because they did naked drunk raids falling of edges or collapsing unconsciously on their keyboards in the puddle of drool) skill and the right type of class was of great important. A good group could beat the content on Normal and Hard while a really good group could do it on Elite. Success was never given since shroud (back in the days) relied on 5 segments that could and did indeed all fail. First – not enough DPS. The good thing about the first segment is that it was an early indication of not enough DPS. Sure, coordination of beating down portals in the right order was one thing, but for most part it was about not enough DPS. That’s why the LFMs started listing dr/portal beaters and wanting heavy dps (such as barbarians and fighters). Monks and Rangers including casters didn’t have enough DPS to get the job done. So when you talk about challenge it was more a question of competence and gear than on the bleeding edge of loss.

Unlike ToD that were by design always on the bleeding edge of loss even with competent players. Not only did it require coordination and good healing, but also competent DPS from fighters and skirmishes. It required tanking, healing, CC and overall dps and people skilled in kiting. And you could fail in all the different sections even with competent players because there were things that spiraled out of control. Like not being able to control everything in part one where the spawns started getting involved. Like not being able to kite the judge. Or part 2, when the kiter of shadows either got killed or lost agro – which usually spelled doom for the rest of the group. Same with part 3, either not being able to handle the pit fiend that shows up after a bit, or the tank losing control of the main pit fiend – being able to get back from either part 2 and 3 after that spiraled out of control was always hectic, fun and a true challenge. Here the mechanics were definitely within the constraint of players; lose agro and the group might fail. Not enough DPS and casters ran out of resources before it was over. The challenge was the players to beat and where the system didn’t throw up unknown things that sabotaged everything.

So what does all of this mean in comparison to the latest 4 raids we have, citw, FoT, the red dragons raid and the shadow dragon?

Citw suffers from 3 bad things; poor sweet spot for time, dreadful reward, either by fun or by material profit and challenges that are mechanic nightmares and outside players control. Like the first segment. Fighting her, that’s dps – the challenge here is keeping curses off for healing. That’s on the player and kind of stupid. That’s not a challenge anymore than annoying. Unlike the same on VoD, where controlling curses especially by the tank where one of controlling the fight. With so much HP the healing curse seems more trivial and annoying than something that can topple an entire raid. Worse is the mechanical one; outside anyone’s control – like the SP drain. That range from tolerant on normal to completely idiotic on Elite. That’s not a challenge. That’s griefing. Anytime you add something no one control it’s no less than someone kicking you in the nuts for no other reason than having a foot and you a crotch within range. Add to that fighting 8 legs, each spawning a big RED bug. Again – resource management is a nightmare because for some reason the legs can also kick you – which sounds like a ‘challenge’ but again it’s outside anyones control. No amount of skill can stop you from this arbitrary feature and once you fly off the edge you return dead. It’s dumb. Then we have the second portion, gauntlets. You could skip draining the power balls or whatever they are but that means more chests with trash. And everyone likes loot, until they realize it’s just more trash. But even if you skip draining the balls you still have to fight red named bugs and red named all the way till the end.
Then there’s the end. Not absolutely the worst but certainly frustrating. Good – hectic end fight requiring coordination, bad – another stupid thing where you have to coordinate prepping and killing 2 things at the same time so you can go through the portal.

The second bad thing is sense of reward. There is none – it’s one thing to get skunked on end reward but compounded by a tedious long run it’s even worse. They could fix this of sort if they included an automatic heroic comm, but as it is you have a small chance for 2 I think. Plus 7 chests of trash just throws it that much harder in your face. How about 1 automatic heroic comm and 6 really really tiny chances of heroic comms? Suddenly you have added a rewarding value for all the other shortcomings.

So compounded you have long unrewarding raid where most of the challenge comes from poor to terrible mechanics rather than fail because of players.

FoT on the other hand is a raid of tremendous value. First, flag once and no need to run to get to raid entrance. It’s right there in the public area in GH. Second, it’s ‘short’. 3 separate segments, all controllable by the players, requiring some coordination and all mechanics can be dealt with, with gear and by players. Like prepping the 3 pairs of dragon and giants. No biggie. Like tanking the dragon while keeping him facing away from team. Again – now you’re avoiding the mechanic of spawning wraiths. Then controlling the charmed giant and its boom by using equipment like absorb and pale lavendar while kiting him away from group. All things within the control of the player. And then kiting the new spectral dragons from messing with the group. All areas within control, all mechanics within player control. On EN with the current amount of DPS this is a breeze. Failure has more to do with lack of experience with this raid and coordination than anything else. On harder diff settings it becomes a question of resources and (something I personally is okay with for this raid) a slight delay before you can raise dead players. That makes it harder for everyone else and paramount that players avoid silly deaths. Finally rewarding, you always get that heroic comm. Short runs makes the reward sweeter, long slogs make it a bandaid for all the bruises. But you’re never skunked. Even better; the higher the diff setting the higher the version of loot. Which is a brilliant idea; you’re basically receiving the EH version of the raid loot (unlock-able with mats) on EH and the EE version (tier 2 and fully unlocked) on EE. That’s brilliant. Not only do you get a chance of more heroic comms with increased diff setting, but also better version of the raid loot. So much so you don’t even have to unlock it.

Compared to citw raid loot; where it needs gobs of heroic comms to unlock, and higher diff setting gives you the same base raid loot and perhaps a comm (it’s automatic on EE).

FoT might not be players cup of tea, but it is a raid that have most of the features I look for.

Red dragons raid
I like it. It’s like FoT but a little bit dumber. I’ll explain.
This is a relatively short raid; you could probably do it with a good group under 30 minutes. Second, it’s always rewarding. There’s a small chance for raid loot and always material for construction. Even if it’s only one chest the time plus the always reward makes that one chest okay. You’re not running this one for trash loot anyways. Third, the mechanics while dumb are within the control of the group. The hard hitting fire breaths are communicated in time (yellow targets on the ground) and can be minimized with evasion and absorb stuff and the dragons can be tanked. The spawns are terrible leading to the raid wipe effect of red alert, but it can be controlled by casters with good DPS. Sure, heavy non self healing and non evasion classes will suffer but with competent and coordinated heals that is a minor factor. The good thing with the mechanics is that you don’t have to prep and kill things at the same time. That’s always dumb. The bad are the many red named; I don’t know why they need to add these red named HPbags that can only be kited or DPS’d (instead of controlled via tactical feats) since they all re-spawn anyways. Again – red named outside bosses is ALWAYS stupid, and extra stupid when they re-spawn. That’s not a controlled challenging mechanic – that’s a tedious feature. Kinda like SP drain.

Given the few negatives and the many positives it’s not a perfect sweet spot raid but a good one, good groups will conserve resources and manage to finish the raid within a reasonable time while others might struggle; just as it should be.

The dragon raid is completely opposite. First it’s long. Not just long because you don’t know it. It’s artificially long because of features. Like 6 mirror puzzles, 2 random special puzzles and a end fight that can go on for a long time dependent on luck. That makes the feeling of reward tenuous. Because if you like this kind of tedious torture the reward will feel appropriate and if it’s a long grueling experience it’ll feel ‘not enough’. But at least you will always get something and that’s important. The mechanics of the raid is the bandit and what makes this more like Abbott, for people who really really like this kind of raid. The worst part is that you need to do it if you need a special combo on your weapon. You really don’t have a choice.
And just like with citw this raid offers mechanics that are outside most players control.

Such as red named battle ragers. They WILL slow you down if they get close, you can’t do anything to them tactically and they are HPbags galore. The best you can do is to kite them, let all spawn (I think 6 is the max, kill any and more re-spawns) and then jump over the edge and let no one take agro. But that means keeping one guy out of the entire end fight.

Then there are the puzzles. Ranging from within control to poorly controlled. Like jumping. In Abbott I don’t think all in the raid group need to do it. Here all do. It’s frustrating. Or the red green, or the gravity. Some are tedious trial and error (portals) others beatdowns. Once, okay, twice? Blech. Ontop of that random location of soul stone in a soup of purple. I tell you that aesthetically I find the entire raid to drap or like with the shadow side horribly purple. It’s just a terrible feel on what should be a OMG a undead SHADOW DRAGON! And good voice acting will not change the feel of lukewarm aesthetics. What keeps this raid from dying and early death is the need for material. You could potentially make it ‘fire dragon’ options only and buy anything else you need, but if you want to make the item you want you will need to do both.

So what is a good raid?
If you skim through the wall of text it boils down to control – control of goals (like mats or raid loot), time and environment. Anytime these are out of control you skew the raid towards obscurity. Like the Cannith raids and Titan. They were never that popular even in their prime. Partly because most of these features are skewed, from bad mechanics, to poor time control and unrewarding experience. Other raids live on; Shroud, FoT and Chrono. You’ll see them often enough – lesser so with ToD and citw and that has to do with reward – we got what we want out of them so they fall into obscurity. They’re not short and sweet enough for nostalgia (Chrono) and the loot are not timely (like Shroud).

Lets hope Turbine can ‘sweeten’ the Shadow raid by tightening the controls a little so it falls from meh into – okay – territory. And lets hope they think hard and long enough about future raids. End raids should never be niche, especially if it’s something most players feel they ‘need’.

What makes a good raid?

For me it’s about the delicate dance of coordination and hectic fun. To almost fail, recover and to win against odds. True, as raids age, levels increase, the challenge becomes more routine. That’s fine – if you fail a shroud today it’s because you decided to do a drunken naked raid solo. Maybe duo. But you were definitely not all there. And that’s alright. Older raids should be quicker and more routine. You don’t do them for the challenge and you don’t do them because you have 2 hours to blow. You do them for stuff – nothing else.

However at it’s apex Shroud is the raid that got most of it right. If you look across most other raids you find niche, you find barely played and you find most acceptable. Like Tempest Spine; must run around 9. You won’t fail it with most crowds. And it’s a good raid. It’s a good raid because it’s easy to get too, it follows a good pattern and with routine you learn where to go. And it has nice mechanics too. Some stuff you have to beat, some stuff you have to coordinate, some underwater stuff and some things where you have to beat down 2 opposing elements at about the same time. Done and done. Then a puzzle at the end and a short boss battle. I say short because with todays DPS it is. And since most know the way and the puzzle it’s a breeze. I think tempest spine is a successful recipe for raid. It has a little of everything without too much standing around waiting for others and it’s hectic enough and demand some coordination.

Then you have Restless Isles. I haven’t done the raid even once – sure, it ran about once or twice back in the day but not even then was it very popular. The recipe is niche. It requires more coordination than most want to deal with and it requires to much running toward the raid, not to mention an abysmal wilderness experience. I should try it once to see, but I just don’t have the interest – it feels like something I probably would get completely bored by. Again – I’m judging it by the niche nature and not because of my own experience, but it’s a little bit to tilted towards the puzzle coordination for my liking.

Von – Von gets most of it right – 5 is the lengthier part with puzzles, 6 the shorter more hectic with coordination. When things goes right it’s a zippy rewarding experience and when it goes wrong a lot of standing around just to fail in the coordination part in 6. It’s not entirely my thing but it’s a raid, with some slow and some fast components. Today it’s routine – people do it for XP and in some respect for the few okay epic items.

DQ – The raid itself is quick. In fact perfectly so for a shorter but hectic raid. I like it that way. Not everything have to be long and ponderous. But the pre-flagging is silly. I know – see it as a way to ‘lengthen’ the raid but it’s unlike von which combines 5 and 6 in a complete raid experience. Here you pre-flag each time by running towards quest through wilderness, to get and flag the quest (for a group of 6) then coordinate with another group running it to join together in the public area for the shorter raid. It’s dumb. They should cut the pre-flag stuff or make it a teleport to entrance to speed it up. Either way it would be good to knock out the requirements on this aging raid to spur more interest in it. There’s still stuff to do, but I bet a reason why few worries about it is because of the pre-flag stuff. It makes pug coordination a headache.

VoD and Hound

I like these; both requires coordination – Hound moreso. Back in the day Hound was often a fail – mostly because coordinating and healing small doggies because a priority as well as removing trash. Anything could upset the dance – tank not tanking big dog – small dogs breaking and no one charming them – taking too long and the spawns overwhelmed the group. Today it’s cheese since the big dogs DR is not big enough to deal with high end several K hits, like from Fury hits. It takes longer to run to the raid than to finish it.

VoD is more of a beat until certain conditions are met. After X XP, the pit fiend will fly up on the pillar and bats come out and after another X XP the red named Orthons come back and when he’s a sliver the exploding bats come flying. Here coordination is about making sure the tank have the agro and for DPS to lay off when it’s lost as well as keep trash under control. Today this is definitely routine. With all the current DPS it takes longer to get to the raid than to finish it. And anyone can take and hold agro, mostly because of the amount of PRR and such in the game right now, making tanking as well as healing not that big of a deal. What sucks is of course having to wilderness run – essentially flag every single time. A teleporter similar to the new raids would be good. Especially since most of the issues comes from stragglers either getting lost or running solo through an environment they might not handle. If they ever make these Epic I hope they make flagging runs a once and done experience.

ToD

I like the raid. Smartly setup with a flag feature to get there and you can teleport from public area direct to entrance. You have to wonder why raids after that lack that mechanic? A mechanic that’s back with the latest raids. 3 parts, no real puzzles. But coordination and ‘tanking’. Besides, I personally think that puzzles should make sense and not be in raids or quests just because. Puzzles is fine, but some of them just makes no sense and breaks up well coordinated routines. In a bad way mind you.

Chronosphere

It’s a fairly straight forward raid with 3 parts – 2 mini bosses (beatdown) and 1 endboss. Some coordination required and back in the day tanking. Today it’s routine and if you die it’s because you got lost or separated and ganked. It’s still possible. There are some coordination elements involved but the beatdowns are routine. And what I like most of all is that everything is orange named, instead of red named. The bearded devils are touch to do anything too tactically but it’s doable, unlike the battlerager fiasco of the newer raids. Back in the day it was tough to nail a devil (crowd control was almost a must) but today you can trip, knock and whatever. But we’re talking about level 28 toons fighting a early epic raid so very little tactical will fail.

Citw

Excellent Eveningstar content, not so much with the raid. I’ve listed the shortcomings of this raid (SP drain, too long etc and lots of red named priestesses and not automatic heroic comm). But lets add another bad feature; escorting someone. Citw added so many ‘bad’ things that it’s hard to believe they still went ahead with most of it.

LoB

I’ve mentioned something about this before too – running through wilderness to entrance, then running a ‘pre-raid’ and then raid. But the worst part is not really all of that – 1 person could easily solo the wilderness to unlock elevator. So that part is trivial – no it’s how you make items. You have to get mats from not only Epic but heroic and some stuff only falls in higher epics. It’s a terrible mess adding confusion to a convoluted poorly constructed epic item creation system. If I could redo it I would add a teleporter direct to the entrance to the main raid element – as long as you have flagged the pre-raid at least once. And unconvulate the creation process. Like remove the heroic portion, it’s entirely pointless. Add instead higher drop chance with higher version of raid. Make it simple.

FoT

As mentioned before; good solid shorter raid dependent on coordination. An excellent end to a story line that starts roughly at level 10 something (even hinted too in the aging CGI intro movie) and perfectly voice acted. Done and done. Hard to make it better.

Shadowdragon raid
Too many puzzles. I confess; I’ve never played Abbott but I’ve seen videos of it. I understand the appeal for some when it comes to raids, but Abbott isn’t exactly end game. The entire Necro pack (all parts) are too me something you don’t have to do. In fact you can hit 20 without even doing one of the quests. So to me Abbott is just like Restless Isles, an option. However the argument FOR this raid seems to be that a)everything is way too easy, b)It’s like Abbott so it’s good that people who like that stuff have another high level option so pity poor people who complain. The only issue is that these 2 raids are the only end content we have right now and you have to do the raids if you want to make the armor or weapons. And who don’t want too? I mean if this raid is to be considered like Abbott then you’re basically removing any reason to run the red dragon raid too, because without this one it’ll be hard to finish your stuff.

The problem with this raid just like with citw is that there’s just too much of one thing. A good raid balance time with portion of features with reasonable end fight. Tactics and strategy is all about what we know. The problem is that a majority of the raid is about puzzles. And lots of them are done by few while the rest pike around and kills the odd spawn. The 2 special puzzles are a mix of stupid and meh. Some of them will become routine (portals and the fight atop the tower) and others a mix between routine and nightmare (like gravity, red, green and jumping. Most of that stuff is tedious and boring.

And then the end fight. Endless spawns that can lead to red alert – bad. That’s poor design. Lots of red named that removes tactical option, like battleragers. The tanking portion of dragon is standard, but the random nature of finding the right souls stone idiotic. I random resets. It removes strategy and add frustration. There should be no more than x amount of soul stones and it shouldn’t reset every time you find the wrong one. In fact if you keep it random make it so many and each time you get closer to the right one. Random elements are dumb – especially in something like that. And eventho luck is sure an element in game it should be more about executing coordination than random frustration. As it turned out my big failures are always from wasting gobs amount of time finding the right one and then wasting tons of resources as the idiotic process continues until red alert overwhelms everyone and the fail is because terrible mechanics and not lack of skill. I’m all good with slightly longer raids, some puzzle elements and some elements that are luck – but there should be a limit – not unlimited – how much longer something drags out. Longer is not more challenging, adding more of the same is not challenging. 6 mirror puzzles does not equal more challenge – not if 10 pikes while dealing with some trash while 2 executes the same routine of turning mirrors. That’s not challenge. That’s a pointless time sync. I’d like to see no more than 2 mirror puzzles, make them perhaps random setup and slightly more complicated. One on both sides. And then 2 random choices selected from 6 different puzzles. Sometimes you luck out and get 1 hard and 1 easy and sometimes you get 2 hard. Tough, but at least you can learn those portions. And end fight – finite amount of soul stones, making the ‘unlucky’ part about x times before you hit the right one.

You make the raid infinitely more puggable and maintain the puzzle challenge part but more reasonable.

And red dragons raid. A simpler coordination raid. Lets skip the red alert mechanic tho – it’s choking the raid and it makes it stupid. I get respawns, but dungeon alert should never be part of any quest or raid. Ever. Now if the argument remains that the shadowdragon should remain as is and be the equivalent of Abbott I suggest that they add a 1 for 1 trade of scales and souls. Because right now you need a combination of both for many recipes. If that was the case I would make shadowdragons a minimum and run the other raid instead. I just don’t have unlimited time to coordinate and run a raid that can take a long time. It’s a waste of time better spent on other things.

Hitting 28, by finishing the Shadow raid and 3 other quests in little over an hour

It’s true. I did. Breaking the ranks, the other quest in the glacier where you help the giant and to finish it off thorn and paw. I was on my Sorc. I asked to join the Shadow dragon raid, didn’t hear anything back – got buffed and teleported to Eveningstar. And boom, I dinged in and suddenly were in a almost full raid. I asked where they were and they were at the end fight. So I ran in, circumnavigated the first 2 mirror puzzles, passed through the portal puzzle and followed the instructed perfectly (someone else didn’t do so well), the next 2 mirror puzzles, the next special puzzle (the fight on the tower) and then the final mirror puzzles getting to the shrine room just as they destroyed her soul container – I basically entered the end fight as they were about to smite her in the middle. The first try didn’t go so well, no one were on the levers, but since I was almost at full SP I could unload all kind of goodies and we eventually got her the second time. So 10 minutes or so and I got the soul, scales and ingots. I felt ashamed just how easy that was. To be fair tho I wasted several hours with my Arti this weekend as they didn’t know how to do puzzles, took extra long with mirrors and an abysmal end fight. I joined the same group later doing the fire dragons and we failed big time. No one seemed to control the trash or keep the dragons well apart. So this 10 minutes were the karma equivalence of being a good trooper.

After that I did a quick romp through 2 Stormhorn quests – it was fast since I was on Shiradi for once and I love how AOEs like acid cloud and such can proc it. And with 5-6 minutes to spare I noticed that I had a sliver left to hit 28 so I did a quick thorn and paw for the finish.

So now I’m sporting my level 28 stuff and can concentrate on doing the new raids and such. I’m fairly clear at what I want to do. 1 scepter and 1 orb. 150 in acid, with +6 conjuration and acid lore 22%. I will put a 138 glaciation in the augment slot. The orb will be 150 impulse, +7 spell pen and Universal spell lore 18%. That way the impulse and glaciation share 18% crit chance while the acid get 22%. And it leaves me with an open augment slot for some other fun. I’m also wondering if I want to make the shadow armor. It means breaking up my flawless blue setup. I’m going to have to think about it – it’s not like I won’t have to run these raids a bazillion times in order to get enough for all my guys.

But that’s a worry for another time – now I’m just doing things as often as I can and maybe suddenly I’ll have everything I need without realizing.