However, when the opportunity came up in our Free Company (guild), I was turned down twice. Despite having sufficient ilvl to queue for it in the Duty Finder and get thrown into a random group, my ilvl was deemed insufficient to raid with the Free Company. I was honestly a little incensed. I could queue for a random group, but my own Free Company wouldn't bring me? Heck, I had more health than the strategy video showed for tanks in the fight.
However, what nobody explained to me, rather, I went and researched for myself a fair bit later, is that Binding Coil of Bahamut is effectively FFXIV's heroic/mythic level raid. ilvl isn't necessarily sufficient. It requires significant coordination, and one should probably at least try for their accuracy cap--hit/expertise all over again, except no reforging and outside of super-expensive crafted gear, no materia (gems) either. I suppose I could've been petulant and tell them I do have literally nearly 7 years of raid leading, let alone raiding, under my belt (not to mention 20 years of MMOs in general), so it's not like they'd be bringing a newb, but I decided to cool off and go do something else for a bit. Like improve my ilvl and accuracy levels.
The big boon to my ilvl has been unlocking the Crystal Tower and the 24-person raids within. The Crystal Tower is, for all intents and purposes, FFXIV's version of WoW's Looking For Raid tool. The exception being that The Crystal Tower has only a single difficulty.
To understand how The Crystal Tower fits into FFXIV's raiding model means to understand how the raids have been released. As mentioned, Binding Coil of Bahamut is the heroic/mythic raid. The Crystal Tower is the LFR/normal raid. They've been released over time leap-frog style:
|Binding Coil Turns 1 - 5||2.0||90|
|Crystal Tower: Labyrinth of the Ancients||2.1||80|
|Binding Coil Turns 6 - 9||2.2||110|
|Crystal Tower: Syrcus Tower||2.3||100|
|Binding Coil Turns 10 - 13||2.4||130|
|Crystal Tower: World of Darkness||2.5||120|
Interesting aside, Coil is 8 players (2 tanks, 2 healers, 4 DPS), whereas Crystal Tower is 24 players (3 tanks, 6 healers, 15 DPS). I find it fascinating that in FFXIV, the harder content is for fewer players. The other interesting bit is Labyrinth bucked the trend, having 6 tanks, 6 healers, and 12 DPS. A trash pull and a boss actually required that many tanks, but most did not. It was kinda silly.
Even patches would drop the next heroic-level raid, and odd patches the LFR/normal-level raid. However, the more difficult raids always drop gear that's the highest ilvl. Even the LFR-style raids that come out after the associated Heroic/Mythic raids are short 10 ilvls of current content. Not really much different from WoW's model, other than each is unique content, and the difficulties aren't released simultaneously.
Anyhow, I ripped through Labyrinth quickly with some help from a friend giving me the strats as we went along, then I jumped into Syrcus Tower.
Inside the Syrcus Tower Duty Finder
One thing I definitely noticed going into the raids as opposed to the dungeons is the raids definitely have more character than the dungeons do. Their scale is massive, and quite pretty too.
|This is the intro to Labyrinth of the Ancients. I was in awe my first time due to the sheer scope.|
And then we were off! Most of the dungeon was a single trash pull, then a boss. Trash pull, then boss. So on and so forth. Each raid has four bosses, and you've a 2 hour limit before the Duty Finder just boots you all. I haven't seen a run go past 40 minutes yet, even with a couple wipes.
An interesting note is how the raid is automatically split up into 3 Alliances of 8, each with their own tank, two healers, and four DPS. Each Alliance is automatically labeled as A, B, or C. Each fight in Syrcus Tower had three points of interest where you'd end up setting each Alliance at equidistant spots around the boss room. Often adds would spawn, or you'd have a point you'd need to run back to. The unspoken etiquette that everyone followed was interesting as well, because Alliance A would generally go left, Alliance C would go right, and Alliance B would stay at the front of the room.
An example of this in action is the final fight of the tower, Xande. You can see in the linked video at points adds spawn that we need to (quickly) DPS down. With the Alliances having predetermined groups, and folks ensuring each Alliance had a default spot, it made for easy work as everyone knew where to split up to. Very little confusion about who was DPSing what.
Once I got the hang of that etiquette, everything fell into place. I knew which adds I should be picking up, where to gather for big AoEs, and where my dedicated healers were so I shouldn't run off to the other side of the room if I could avoid it. Sometimes, however, I couldn't. With one of the three tanks main tanking the boss in the middle generally, sometimes I'd have to run to pick up an extra add elsewhere.
Mechanically, Xande isn't a terribly difficult fight. Since I'm not as geared as most other tanks right now, I can sit in my DPS stance (Sword Oath) for the whole thing since I won't be main tanking it. Slight aside that all tank classes have a DPS and a tanking stance, which is awesome for leveling or if you don't need your off-tanks. Overall, the fight is about as complex as your average LFR fight in WoW today:
- Stay out of Knuckle Press (Melee)
- Stay out of Burning Rave
- Stay out of Aura Cannon
- Have 1 person in each golden circle for Aetherochemical Explosion. Raid takes ~500 damage per orb not dealt with
- DPS race the Stonefall and Starfall Circles before the meteor hits or you wipe
- Split damage evenly with the black orbs, then stand in the zones left behind to avoid Ancient Quaga
A more interesting example of the chaos that these raid fights can be is the first boss of Syrcus Tower: Scylla.
Scylla is absolute chaos incarnate. Feels a bit like Ko'ragh did, except even crazier.
The fight is split into two phases, with an intermission that can wipe your raid quite easily, as it's effectively a pass/fail mechanic.
- Phase 1
- 3 types of Elemental Balls will target random raid members. Each must be dealt with differently. After about 15 seconds, the ball will detonate on you no matter what.
- Lightning: Drag the ball to one of 6 towers to give the tower a charge. Each tower holds 3 charges. See Intermission for why. Will explode for raid wide damage if not taken to a tower.
- Ice: Cannot be avoided, but will freeze you in place for 30 seconds. Try to get frozen somewhere you won't take a ton of damage. Do not get hit in a puddle or you'll freeze everyone in that puddle.
- Fire: Drag into someone who's frozen to thaw them. This will leave a puddle on the ground that increases fire resistance.
- Stay out of Topple (Melee)
- Stay out of torus and strip attacks from floating staves
- Scylla constantly casts a raid-wide AoE called Unholy. Must be healed through.
- Scylla begins to cast Daybreak
- All raiders must stand on their designated shield zone. If not enough members stand on that zone (unsure as to the exact amount), the shield fails.
- If the 2 Lightning pillars around your shield zone are not charged enough, the shield fails.
- If the shield fails, your entire Alliance is petrified. This will probably lead to a wipe.
- If the shield succeeds, Scylla is petrified for a few seconds.
- Phase 2
- Adds spawn, handle them.
- Fire and Ice orbs continue to spawn. Lightning no longer do.
- Scylla will cast Ancient Flare, a highly damaging Fire attack. Stand in puddles to reduce that damage by 90% (this will outright kill a newly geared raider if not done correctly).
- Staves continue to AoE.
- Stay out of Topple (Melee)
There are a couple more fights that I'm not going to cover in detail, but you can read up on the strategies here. I have to admit, the theorycrafting and strategy community in FFXIV is still relatively nascent compared to WoW, so it's kind of neat picking up on some of this stuff now. Granted, FFXIV isn't anywhere near as transparent as WoW is in terms of nitty-gritty mechanics.
Something else I've picked up on is that the average FFXIV player in their version of LFR is a much better player than in WoW. Mind you, the playerbase is a lot smaller, and it's possible that less skilled players don't make it as far as raiding (though there were definitely some numbskulls that kept dying to the same mechanics over and over again), but honestly I feel like Scylla would probably cause the LFR crowd to rage quit. And The Crystal Towers don't have the Determination buff (called the Echo in FFXIV), so if you wipe, you don't get any boosts.
On the other hand, a lot of folks outgear this content, so that's definitely making it easier. Also, Syrcus Tower has been out for quite some time. On the other other hand, the number of folks who died to Durumu's maze or falling down Elegon's pit, even 6 months after the fact? Who knows. We'll see how I feel when I run the most recent Crystal Tower raid, World of Darkness. #WoW, #FFXIV, #Raiding