Monday, April 6, 2015

FFXIV's Answer to WoW's LFR

This weekend I managed to get a few hard mode dungeons done in FFXIV and got my ilvl up to 71, via dungeon drops, my relic weapon (FFXIV's version of a Legendary, but upgradeable), and Soldiery (FFXIV's version of Justice/Valor points). That meant The Binding Coil of Bahamut Turns 1 and 3--turns being effectively wings of the raid--were available for me to try.

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:

Raid Patch ilvl dropped
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.
Like other dungeons, you get a little vignette introduction when you enter, and FFXIV does this so well. You even get to see yourself leading everybody else in the raid. A very nice touch to be honest.

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
You need to have more than one or two people know what they're doing, however, or the raid will wipe. Probably sufficient to have 8 or 10, though.

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.
  • Intermission
    • 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)
That fight is significantly more complex than many fights even for Normal mode raiding. You pretty much need a good 75% of your raid to know what they're doing or you're going to be in trouble. Granted, this boils down to dealing with the orbs correctly and staying out of the bad, and jumping into specific things at specific times. Still, as you can see in the video above, it is chaos. And fun!


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


  1. Oh man, you should really enjoy World of Darkness. Sycrus Tower was kind of the dip for the game.

    As for Coil, you'll probably be able to get through the first 8 turns, but Turn 9 is a pain in the ass and then you have Turn 12 to look forward to. It won't be as difficult for you though since you do look up strategy guides though...

  2. I liked the 6 tanks for Labyrinth. Generally in a random group, you'll get 2 strong tanks, 2 average tanks, and 2 weak/new tanks. This allowed the two strong tanks to do the hard jobs, while easing the new tanks into raiding.

    The downside is the higher queue times, but I always thought Labyrinth was much less stressful than normal tanking. (Of course, it doesn't matter now because everyone overgears everything.)

  3. I feel like as the person who turned you down, I should at least give an explanation. We were looking to do the first four, maybe five turns of Binding Coil. The minimum item level in the duty finder is actually enforced, so you can't even walk into the later turns without sufficient gear. (Turn 3 has no boss, so they set the gear restriction lower for that one.) It's not that I had any doubts as to your ability, I just wanted someone who could do more than one of the four bosses.

    Related to this post, though: I like the Crystal Tower instances a lot. They generally require some element of coordination, and if you say you're new, people will generally explain things. I actually dislike the fact that Labyrinth needs 6 tanks, because there are only really jobs for about 3, most of the time. Nearly anyone is capable of doing towers on King Behemoth, and I try very hard to not get stuck with that boring job. That said, when I was first there, I took refuge in the boring job, so maybe it's for the best.

    But if you want to see people dying over and over again to the same things, then World of Darkness has a first boss for you.It's one of the few places where I feel like the mechanics aren't terribly well messaged. Did you know that any time in the game you see an AOE gaze attack, you can dodge it by turning around? I don't think it tells you this anywhere, but turning around to dodge Mortal Gaze can help you avoid catch-22 situations in the Angra Mainyu fight.

    1. You weren't the only person to turn me down. There was a second person, don't remember who they were, that basically said my ilvl was too low period. Totally makes sense about wanting to do all four turns; I can definitely appreciate that.

      Without an explanation at the time, and my previous experiences in WoW, I admit initially I had jumped to the conclusion that folks wanted a higher ilvl to make it easier. WoW it's incredibly common for groups to require ilvls that are borderline ridiculous high for content--to the point where running the content becomes obsolete!

      Yeah, the towers on King Behemoth were basically ignored in our run, heh.

      I just hit ilvl 90, so World of Darkness is on my list of places to go shortly. Good to know on the Gaze attack. WoW has similar mechanics (but the dungeon journal tells you how to avoid it!). But in older content there were fights where jumping at the right time could avoid quake AoEs, and that was definitely not communicated in game.