Continuing My Savage Journey in FFXIV – Party Finder Observations and A Hard Loot Lesson

My saga of Savage raiding to fill in that progression content need from leaving WoW behind has continued in earnest, and I have laughs and a genuine PSA to share.

So, firstly – the nature of my current gameplay in Savage is mostly Party Finder-locked. I am sometimes subbing in for my FC static, but that is inconsistent (and often inconsiderately late with warnings that I will be needed/not needed, so, y’know, there’s that) so I’ve been working through a wide array of PUGs to get the content done. So far, I’ve done P1S and P2S on multiple jobs, and I’ve seen P3S to enrage as Astrologian. At this point, I’ve played…5 jobs in Savage this tier. I’ve kind of become a Samurai main, but I often run through on healer because of accumulated skill with the jobs (and I tried Dancer once just for funsies!).

This week, I played 3 jobs through various party finder groups, and last week I played Astrologian for just P3S because of that aforementioned late notice from my FC static, which gives way to the first point and PSA for today:

Don’t Do A Later Boss If You Haven’t Gotten Loot From A Prior One

A lot of Savage raiding (and a lot of FFXIV’s clear gameplay inspiration in the ARR and later formula) comes from golden-era WoW. One of the ways that manifests is through the Savage raid lockout system.

While loot in FFXIV is decidedly more permissive and friendly than Wrath-era WoW, one thing that Savage does that the game isn’t particularly clear about is that it uses a raid lockout system similar to that era of WoW. If you zone in to a later boss (even though bosses in FFXIV’s 8-player raids are standalone instances of their own), you forfeit all loot from incomplete wings prior to that one in the raid tier. So I did P3S first last week…and only, because there was no value to doing 1 or 2 at that point. No book, no loot, taking away a chest from an eager clear party, and thus no point. You do get a somewhat vague warning when first zoning in, at which point you are locked, kill or no kill.

So while I could have bought a piece of P1S loot this week in theory with books, because of that lost week, I’m just behind for the time being. While I’m not truly in a static, and thus the “missing” loot isn’t really relevant to that level, it is somewhat irritating, especially because I had a week 1 kill and was on track for a book until that lost week. P2S I didn’t get until week 2, so that one I’m less irritated over, especially since I’ve gotten P2S loot each time I’ve gotten a kill anyways!

The Biggest Virtue of Party Finder Is Patience

Okay, so pugging what are the equivalent of Mythic raids in WoW, how’d it go?

Well…it’s definitely an acquired taste, I can say that much.

I am PUG averse generally in MMOs – give me matchmaking where I’ll never see someone again or give me a set group I am a member of, because I feel better-matched in those social environments. I don’t really know many of the people in my FC static, at all or that well, but it is an environment where I at least have familiarity with some and where there’s a degree of social accountability to each other, because once we zone out of the raid, we’re still in the same FC. That being said, I did spend a decent chunk of the last summer doing PUG progression in World of Warcraft, so I had some acclimation to strangers in hard content, and so I braved the PF anyways.

Firstly, it helps to watch videos ahead of time if you’re going to PF. Yes, there are blind PF groups, but so many of the listings past week 1 have specific strategy names in them and expect a degree of familiarity with the fight. There are some helpful resources – SaltedXIV has written guides and content around the fights, and on Aether at least, there is a site called thepfstrat.com that has rapid-fire listings of what different terms mean in each boss (there’s Joonbob intemperance, braindead intemperance, Myta tornados, TMR FoF, odds far evens stay, uptime Pinax, Elmo tornados, Happy strats, pastebin strats, and more) and that is pretty helpful for at least giving you a basic overview.

Once you get into a group (which is easy because you just join unless the group is private), be prepared to wait. I’ve been in some PFs where it takes almost 30 minutes to find that last player, and if you are the last to join, it often takes a few minutes for everyone to be back and ready since they’ve been sitting waiting for so long!

But the real test of patience is in the actual content itself.

Savage isn’t necessarily hard, in the strictest sense. I don’t say this as an “ha, it’s easy scrub, get good” way, but as an “it is very learnable if you pay attention” way. A lot of commentary about the raid scene of FFXIV is centered on the idea of “doing the dance” of a given encounter, and my experience in Savage so far suggests that it is absolutely true. The biggest difficulty is seeing mechanics and learning them, molding your rotation and gameplay around them, and the biggest difficulty in PF is finding a group that will stick it out through this phase up to a kill.

It’s not impossible to find such a group, but you have to learn the flavor of your datacenter environment and how people post and respond to posts for PF. Some general rules I learned:

-“No salt” means that the leader is the saltiest person and will (likely) get toxic if things go south
-“____ Prog” where blank is a mechanic later in the fight is usually off by 1-2 major walls, as they’re likely going to struggle to get to that point once the group is actually rolling
-“Disband after 3 wipes” you might make it to 3 wipes, if you’re lucky

Joking aside (although those all have truth in them!), the best advice I found is that a group that posts a detailed PF listing is more likely to be patient. If they list strategies at a minimum, it at least creates an expectation that can be followed and that helps things a lot. I’ve found that being the replacement for someone else’s static is easiest sailing because the group generally knows each other well enough, although you will likely be blamed for mistakes even if you don’t make them (I was in a group with a few people who were friends, the white mage messed up add placement tethers on P3S, was linked to me, blamed me for it but passive-aggressively, which like, come on). Groups that offer Discord invites are generally going to be better coordinated, duh (and also, a good shotcaller on a learning pull can help you quickly sort out what mechanics do and how to respond, which is great foundational stuff to have as you push the tier), but it’s generally less common for PF groups to do this (it’s usually optional if offered and I follow the same rules with PFs I did for heroic PUGs in WoW – once I’m out of the group, if I don’t have a locked invite for more pulls in the future, I leave the server), but I found that groups I joined with a Discord were at least marginally better.

The patience to sit through learning pulls and prog with a PUG is generally rewarded with a kill, if you can get the group to stick it out. For that reason, I actually found that joining learning parties intending to clear was actually helpful, because it lowers the pressure (which for me is important) and a learning party is more likely to stick out early, ugly wipes for the sake of learning, and that process helps better facilitate a kill. My experience with clear parties is that they rarely actually cleared (I joined around 10 parties for about 45 pulls on P2S to get a kill this last week) and the ones labeled for clears were usually with a leader that didn’t know the late stage of the fights, would be the first to die, and was often the first to leave or suggest disbanding the group. If it’s not the leader, you get salt from some people pretty quick and the disband or relisting comes soon after.

Of course, this is still early in the tier and things are likely to get easier as the tier progresses, down largely to gearing bringing up fresh prog parties while the average skill level with each encounter goes up. For now, patience is a virtue and being willing to join humble learning parties was, generally for me, a better use of time over a salty clear party that ends up failing to clear!

The GC,BTW Will Show

The meme that floats around the FFXIV community is the shorthand for “great community, by the way” which addresses how, despite the perception that it is all flowers and sunshine in FFXIV, the game has a toxic underbelly that works within community guidelines while being inhospitable and unhelpful.

Savage progging via PF will absolutely expose that more than your average matchmade content in the game. One thing I already sort of snuck in above that really irritated me is how indirect and passive-aggressive most commentary will end up being about performance. If someone thinks you messed up a mechanic (whether they are right or not), they won’t just say it, but will instead link a guide and then say “just since it seemed like the (your job here) didn’t know,” or other such similar displays. I generally noticed that the people most likely to mess up were also the ones most likely to do this – the aforementioned white mage who couldn’t place her bird on P3S, a melee DPSer I saw in two different P2S groups as two different melee jobs was the first to complain about mechanical failure and the first to fail mechanics (in both P2S runs I did with this person, he didn’t hit knockback protection for the very first knockback on the fight, which is…not exactly a high bar to clear!), and in one full static where I was filling in for a missing monk, I was blamed for a failure to spread on Gloryplume for P3S which was only partially true (the Reaper complaining teleported at me and then asked me to stop chasing him when I was trying to get away after realizing what he had done lol).

Having said that, I will also say that it is, like in Duty Finder or elsewhere in the game, relatively minor and rare, and the flipside of Savage is that so far for me, at least, I’ve had fewer of the “you don’t pay my sub!” style people who play poorly and bristle at any gentle attempt of feedback. The passive-aggressive jerks I can at least brush off, especially when it is clear they are wrong – and even then, it is far less toxic than a lot of group activities of the same sort in WoW when done with PUGs. Not the evergreen field, blossoming ever-free of toxicity as some insist, but it is certainly not that bad and overt toxicity is pretty rare.

Ain’t No Party Like A Trap Party (Just Kidding There’s A Lot And They All Run Together)

I kind of intuitively understood the idea of a “trap party” based on the verbiage – it’s a trap, in the words of the great Admiral Akbar. I wasn’t sure, prior to doing this Savage tier in PF, why that was such a meme and so common to see said in communities around the game.

And then I did P2S with PF groups this last week.

The reality is, a lot of parties are trap parties whether they mean to be or not. One thing I observed above is that parties that set out with practice as their goal are generally good enough, and a big part of that is that there’s an honesty about the group that is helpful.

What I found is that the higher the standards listed were without substantive backup, the worse the group was. If it was listed as enrage prog, they aren’t even finishing the fight’s mechanical timeline before wiping. If the PF is listed as a late-mechanic run, they’re wiping to the first hard mechanic, no matter how much earlier in the fight it is from what they are claiming to work on. If the group is listed as progressing the first major mechanical milestone for a new party, then they’re actually going to die at the easiest thing in the fight, the first attention check in the fight. If a P3S party says “adds prog” they mean that they’re going to wipe to Darkfire placement. If a P2S group claims to be working on Limit Cut, then they’re actually going to fail the first knockback. I joined a few parties like that to see the pain firsthand, and while I won’t claim this is 100% accurate (sometimes a prog run is just a prog run), a lot of times, a group claiming better progression is a trap. If you’re really good at the fight, have cleared it before, and can meet or exceed your damage potential while doing it, you might save the rest of the group from the trap, but if you’re digging through the dregs of Party Finder, you’re probably just going to be trapped in there with them.

It was a fascinating full week of PF prog just for that, because I joined a lot of groups for P2S looking for a clear, thinking that the near-enrage prog groups would be my best fit, only to find that I wasn’t getting the clear I wanted without joining a patient group. Hell, in a few cases, I was the trap – I ran through the deadly water to adjust positioning on one pull, messed up the harder second Channeling Overflow a couple of times, was out of position on the line stack mechanic, and I also forgot my knockback prevention on one pull.

All of that being said, though…

I Had A Good Time, So Give Party Finder Runs A Try

Sure, there was some pain, and it was mostly pretty funny with some distance, which is why I’m here recounting these stories – but it was fun.

I got my two clears for the week and solid progress on P3S, and I feel more comfortable than before with both Savage healing (I did most P2S pulls on either WHM or SGE this week) and with the Samurai rotation (I’m still grey on Savage, but getting to low double-digit percentiles and my DPS is still fine – FFLogs doesn’t have parse by item level like Warcraft Logs does so I’m competing with all SAMs in Savage as a newbie to playing the job in anything difficult at all, so I don’t feel bad about it although it is something I am focused on getting better at!). In truth, it was frustrating fun – exactly what I wanted it to be. Raiding in WoW wasn’t always great or simple either, and in fact I have a need for some crushing, irritating challenge in my gaming diet here and there. Savage gives that to me in an accessible way, and while doing Savage via the PF isn’t an optimal scenario to make steady progress, I have enjoyed it and will keep doing it for the immediate future.

On some level, I’m almost resistant to joining a static as well. I feel like finding a group that I mesh with would be hard, and I don’t necessarily want to static-hop looking for the perfect group. In that way, PF actually is kind of beneficial – I have less social anxiety if the intent is a temporary group that doesn’t require me to make a long-term social bond or impression, so in many ways, an option to jump in and jump out of the hard content when I am feeling up to it is almost better. At the same time, I’d rather have a static with a handful of people I actually already know to reduce the social cost and friction, but unless someone drops from my FC static, it’s not going to happen – my long-time guildies and friends are not really interested in pushing Savage content, or are but only in a loose sort of way (intrigue more than interest would probably be the best way to put it).

For where I am with the game right now, Savage was the last major thing I needed to sink a hook into for FFXIV to have a clean way to usurp WoW’s gameplay for me completely, and even with PF, it’s got me pretty well hooked. I’m eager to reclear with PF this week, to get P3S (PUGs are getting farther generally now and the success rate is higher each week it would seem!), and to see P4S (which I hear is somewhat trivialized with gear, but I also hear that from a former WoW mythic raider with that level of gameplay skill and perspective, so I take that with a grain of salt). I’m excited that my gear is getting better with each week, and I’ve even kept multiple roles moving forward – I have a small bit of item level 600 stuff on both melee DPS (Slaying accessories for all melee and a couple Striking pieces for SAM/MNK) and healer roles, so I’m slowly gaining power and this week, I should be able to get a burst of it (hopefully a P1S coffer plus book to make a purchase and a P2S coffer plus book to be one away from a purchase of that gear too!) and use that to help push better P3S results.

In short – raiding is fun, give it a try, it can be scary, but probably far less than you might imagine it would be.

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