I started to write this as a comment on Aywren’s post about Alliance Raids, but it was getting too long.
I agree completely about using the Alliance Raids to level from 50. My testing shows you get 200-250k experience per run (tested at level 58 and 59), not counting rested experience, and Roulette bonuses, which add that much more. That’s a crazy high amount of experience-per-instance, bested only by dungeons, which usually take longer to get into and finish.
Before 4.1, my Samurai was stuck at level 56, the only alt job I have over 53 at this point, and it’s felt like an incredible slog to gain levels. (It also felt like an incredible slog to level my main Bard job to 60, too, which is one reason I didn’t play Heavensward very much.)
But when I (finally) realized Alliance Raids give out experience points in addition to tomestones and gear, I felt like I started to make tangible progress and got my Samurai job to 60. My “power leveling” strategy involved selecting the 57 or 59 dungeon, Labyrinth, and Syrcus Tower in the Duty Finder, wait for the pop which usually came within 5-10 minutes, and repeat ad infinitum. 90% of the time I got the raids.
Incidentally I don’t think I’ll be leveling the Samurai job further anytime soon. At first I thought it was fun, but as new abilities were added on the way to 60, it got more and more complex, to the point where I just don’t think it’s worth it anymore for the cool running-holding-sword animation. :) I had to rearrange my entire hot bar scheme just for this one job, so I could see and understand the chains of combos better. I initially said it was “like” the Dragoon, but now I would say it’s more complex than Dragoon, which was already fairly complex (not even counting whatever they’ve added after 50).
Having finally reached 60, I was finally able to spend my Poetics!
Also, you know, everyone plays Samurai now. It wasn’t unusual to get two in a dungeon group. I will probably go back to Dragoon for my melee DPS of choice. Sadly I don’t like many of the armor sets and I’m too lazy to glamour. :)
Oh one other thing about Samurai: I didn’t complete the level 54 class quest until level 58 (“Blood on the Deck”). That thing was insane. I kept expecting them to nerf it but they never did. It’s a three-phase encounter and the third phase is unmercifully brutal; the boss guy does crazy high damage to you. I had to run in circles around him until my health regenerated enough that I could take another couple of swings, then run away again.
Back to the Alliance Raids. The three Crystal Tower raids are quite fun. But I want to push back a little bit on the idea that the current raids are tailored more for the hardcore crowd whereas the older raids are more casual. They may be casual now, but when Labyrinth first came out, there was exactly the same chaos, wiping, and mental anguish that exists in Rabanastre today. Alliances wiped all the time, particularly on that part where you split into three groups, and on the Bone Dragon boss, and the Behemoth boss. I remember quite well having to run to activate those towers as a Bard because tanks were dead all over the floor and healers were desperately trying to raise them while the raid-wide damage was getting too high. I even healed Labyrinth a bunch of times and it was brutal (at least for me). There was much hand-wringing and blame passed around. Perfect runs typically took about 40-45 minutes. (I used to run it once a day on my Bard for the gear and tombstones.)
The point is that the Alliance Raids have been tuned to be fairly hard when they come out. As the community learns them, and especially as people out-gear them more and more, they become more and more casual. I haven’t been in any of the level 60 raids since I got to 70 but I imagine they’re a lot more friendly than they once were.
That being said, Rabanastre seems a little bit easier at launch time than some of the previous raids were when they came out. I don’t find myself feeling confused and overwhelmed by mechanics, and I’ve only completed three raids as of this writing. Previous raids took way more completions before I felt really comfortable with them.
As for the Crystal Tower raids, personally I’d like to see them sync the item level for those first three raids down a bit more, so that the mechanics are more relevant. Especially on the first and second ones. You can more-or-less completely ignore the mechanics on those two now. (Most alliances do exactly that.) Even if half the raid gets killed for some reason, the other half can still finish the raid.
World of Darkness, though, still has relevant mechanics—I know this from a sad personal experience of getting stuck in a group that wiped 4 or 5 times and took a total of 55 exhausting minutes to finish.
In other news, I’ve leveled my dinky level 25 Gladiator into a slightly less dinky level 41 Paladin, thanks to the Command Missions. I think I prefer the old school Paladin over the Dark Knight as a tank job. It suits my character’s lifestyle, if that makes any sense. But again, I don’t like to wear a lot of bulky armor so eventually I’ll have to glamour something more suitable. I’m liking my current set of “infantry” and “cavalry” gear. It’s nice and compact. I would love to eventually have an endgame tank glamoured with newbie gear just to see people freak out about it. :)
I didn’t quite plan for how much it costs in Company Seals to go on Command Missions, though. It costs a lot. I guess they didn’t want people to spam those missions all day every day. Which is basically what I was doing on Paladin. I mean, why would you not partake of an easy lower-level experience point dispenser? It’s a bit dull to run the same dungeon over and over again, but they go by fairly quick without other humans involved.
Speaking of tanking and Paladins, I noticed that holding onto aggro suddenly got a whole lot easier as soon as I hit 30 and got the Shield Oath ability. If I work at it, I can actually keep the super-aggressive AI Bards from grabbing threat all the time. (Usually I don’t bother.)