For many players, the transition from Story Mode Operations to Hard Mode (Veteran) is difficult. For one reason, mechanics become critical. Story mode ops are forgiving; if you miss or ignore mechanics it is still fairly easy to finish a boss fight. In hard mode, these mechanics must be followed or it may result in a wipe of the entire group. Additionally, most hard mode ops add additional mechanics. Another reason for the difficulty is the difference between class performance in the op versus class performance while leveling and doing other content. Most people learned to play their class by leveling and perhaps doing flashpoints and heroics along the way. They are really good at completing this content but the increase in requirements for a hard mode op is substantial. Unfortunately there is no default way for people to measure their performance. Thus, third party programs such as StarParse are essential to help understand and improve your performance.
In story mode operations, your stats are bolstered so gearing isn’t too important. For hard mode, there is no bolster so what you have is what you get. However, gear is actually less important than you might think. The most important things are to have the six-piece set bonus, augments, and stats optimally balanced. A full set of 230 armor with the set bonus and proper augments is sufficient for starting HM ops.
Understanding your class/role, using optimum rotations, and following mechanics are the most important things for HM ops. Below are some tips for each role.
DPS in a hard mode op is completely different than DPS while leveling. This difference can be a source of frustration for those new to raiding; especially when they first use a combat parser such as StarParse. For example, when I first tried to parse I thought I would do about 75% of what top performers were. In reality, I only did about 25%. Parsing was quite eye opening! Every class has guides and rotations available that are a great place to start when trying to improve. Even a little practice on a dummy while using a parser can be very helpful. You will probably find that other content such as heroics become easier once you start to improve.
Another great way to improve your DPS is to track your output on ops bosses. The first boss of Eternity Vault in either story mode or hard mode is a great boss to ‘practice’ improving your DPS. Any class in any discipline can do over 5500 DPS on that boss. A good goal is to be able to consistently do over 5000 DPS on that boss in either story or hard mode. Once there, you are well on your way to becoming a great DPS.
The primary consideration for tanks is understanding agro and keeping mobs focused on them. Simply relying on taunts will not always work in a hard mode op. A tank should be able to execute a solid opening rotation that builds as much agro as possible and then maintain agro throughout the fight. Additionally, many hard mode bosses require tank swaps. Learn to communicate with the other tank and have tank swaps become second nature.
Like DPS, some work with a parser and practice dummy is beneficial. Primarily work on an opening rotation with the goal to build as much agro as possible. StarParse will show the amount of threat per second which is valuable for improving as a tank.
Tanks should also understand how threat, agro, and taunts work. Generally, tanks should guard a melee DPS but sometimes healers or even a ranged DPS are better to be guarded.
I have zero experience playing a healer but I do have an idea of what is required. A primary concern is cleanses. Many ops bosses have damage abilities or debuffs that need to be cleansed. In story mode ops these can often be healed through and some healers may not even be aware of them. However, in hard mode the damage from these abilities can easily wipe a group if not cleansed. Another concern is AOE heals. Healers should know when and where to put their AOE heals to maximize the effectiveness of them. Additionally, healers must realize that healing is their top priority. Do not do any DPS unless you are certain upcoming heals will not be needed. A healer’s “healing per second” and “Effective healing per second” are also important and can be tracked with StarParse. Hopefully someone who plays a healer will be able to say what a good target for “Healing per second” is for hard mode ops.
Some other things to consider. When learning new hard mode ops, it is common to have multiple failures. I have heard of one group that failed 24 times on one boss then got it on the 25th try. In general, hard mode ops are a big step up in difficulty from story mode and offer considerable DPS, tanking, and healing challenges. They can be great fun and once you succeed they are very rewarding.
Great guide Nugg! Just a few extra points to add to your list:
Being able to communicate as a group is essential in not just hard mode ops but story mode as well. Eg: Tanks communicating between each other for tank swaps, healers calling out cleanses or asking people to move into aoe healing range, dps calling out when a boss is about to cast an ability, etc. And its not just communication during fights but before and after a fight as well, discussing strategies or after a wipe discuss (not yell, or blame) what went wrong and how to fix it.
This is one of the most important parts in doing hard mode ops is raid awareness. Knowing the ops inside out and backwards in story mode will prepare you for the success you will have in hard mode. Eg: Knowing where and when things are happening or going to happen is very important, Knowing where you as your class need to be positioned during fights, and where and when to use your stuns, knockbacks, ccs or defensive abilities.
Like Nugg said in hard mode you can and will have multiple failures and it can become very stressful sometimes (I've seen everything from people having total meltdowns to screaming matches). But when you one shot that boss for the first time or take down that boss you've been banging your head against for weeks on end there is no better feeling in the world! It makes all the hard work totally worth it!
It's hard to stress enough how critical this becomes in Hard Mode ops. In SM, many mechanics will be skipped or "nerfed" allowing healers to keep people alive, even in the worst conditions. HM does not allow for that. If you don't know what the next mechanic is that you will need to follow, you need to do the research and practice (both on dummies and in Ops).
Many times in SM we will talk about HM mechanics and say, let's go ahead and do the tank swap, or whatever, just for practice. This is critical. To be "ready for HM" you should at least know every mechanic for every Ops boss on SM. At a minimum. Then you will be incorporating the new mechanics into the fight, along with the increased damage, and requirement for increased DPS.
You asked about HPS numbers? A well timed cleanse can make or break a boss fight in HM more than any HPS numbers. That's another thing I can't stress enough. If you have a cleanse ability, and especially if you are a healer, you should have debuffs showing and I recommend increasing the size so they attract your attention. The healers may be busy cleansing people that can't cleanse themselves and you can keep yourself alive with this process. Imagine the Group Affliction from DF all the time...That's how healers fell when no one else cleanses.
So...To reiterate a little. Go practice! All the time, every opportunity you get. If you see a SM PuG Ops and you have time, go do it. Go do HM EV and KP, they are a little more forgiving than others and good place to learn the difference between bolstered SM ops and actual progression raiding.
I am looking forward to advancing through content with all of you. Please spend some time learning the Ops so that we can spend as much time as possible actually fighting!
Nugg often speaks of the design and thought that goes into the operation bosses. Indeed, this game and it’s components are multidiscipline works of art and engineering. The beauty, thought, and detail of this game is one of the things that keeps drawing me back.
Here is a link to some great descriptions and videos for operations bosses. A little knowledge goes a long way to understanding the mechanics in game, removing some of the mystery but none of the challenge!