Neverland World First Dragonsong's Reprise Interview
The Race to World First for Dragonsong's Reprise (Ultimate) on FF Logs has finished and we want to extend our congratulations and gratitude to all the participants and viewers that made the experience amazing. This was our first attempt at supporting an actual event and highlighting streamers from all over the world. The support has been incredible and we hope to do more of these events down the line!
From scrambling on Day 1 with the surprise of the checkpoint, to somewhat smooth sailing supporting our first Race overview. We had an absolute blast doing this with all of you. Thank you for coming along on the journey!
World First InterviewNOTE: SPOILERS ON THE DRAGONSONG'S REPRISE ULTIMATE AHEAD!
We had the opportunity to sit down with Neverland, who claimed the World First clear on 2nd of May 2022, to discuss their experience, strategies and approach to DSU.
Their composition consisted of a standard 2-2-4 comp, with two support members helping out from the outside.
Tanks: Tera'ul Fiora, Impending Death
Healers: Narr Locke, Reimi Shirohime
DPS: Zeppe Monado, Snap Ringer, Shalfu Araragi, Mugi Wugi
Support: Aya & Skylar
You can follow some of them on Twitter:
QuestionsPrevious Ultimates have had hidden mechanics like Primal awakening and Enigma Codex. How did you feel about the alternate timeline mechanic?
Mugi Wugi: I think most people would agree, but hidden mechanics without any kind of indication of what to do or what you did wrong feels really bad. This fight and the primal awakenings were okay because you had an idea of what you were supposed to do pretty fast, but the golden heart in TEA was especially bad because there was absolutely no indication of it. You could have spent hours, or days, trying the 100s of different things you can do to figure out the hidden mechanic.
This fight in particular we thought did pretty well on the hidden mechanic front. It was obvious enough while still being kind of obscure with the timing. Saving Haurchefant and watching a “What if” scenario unfold was a fantastic way of re-experiencing a story we all loved. Personally, I would like there to be no hidden mechanics at all, but if they really want them in every ultimate going forward, this fight was the best way they could have done it.
Zeppe: To add onto what Mugi Wugi wrote above, I would love to point out that the “alternate-timeline” mechanic of this fight in general has been really well received. After our clear many people have come forward to ask us what would happen if you do not spare Alternate-Thordan so having multiple timelines/endings for the phases really makes the minds of the players wander to different “What-if” scenarios. For me personally even the small detail of the Nidhogg Enrage cast if you do not meet the Eye-Phase dps check is super interesting since this does not happen in the Story but it’s a really tiny glimpse into “What if we hadn’t managed to pull out the Eyes out of Estinien” and there is your answer. Nidhogg would’ve casted “Revenge of the Horde” :)
Tera: I, like most players, dislike the “hidden mechanic” gimmick, especially if it involves something unintuitive to the encounter or the experiences that raiders gradually develop during their raiding career. The UCOB one was a good implementation of it as it was not too complex to figure out, it was just a matter of slightly readjusting the earlier phases to accommodate later phases. The UWU one was not bad as I believe most groups by the end of the first day understood the awakening mechanic and the steps needed to achieve it. The TEA one though is when I was starting to worry how ultimate fight design was being approached with a gimmick that was very obscure and was neither fun nor positively stimulating for the players.
The alternate timeline mechanic has put some of my worries at ease as the fight provides more hints to the group ranging from you only having access to only 2 LB bars in the first phase to the tank LB still reducing damage even after it wears off (if you don’t hit the correct time on your first try) and finally the quest description almost spelling it out.The length of this Ultimate fight was around 19 minutes, which was quite long. How did you feel it compared to others in progression difficulty?
Reimi: Excluding UWU since I didn’t prog that fight, I really felt it to be on or around the level of UCOB, being that it felt like I was experiencing something completely different from before than what was currently in the game. While UCOB was rooted more in the difficulty ramp compared to the savage raids, DSR felt like the same type of ramp compared to any other content in the game. It seemed like the devs really had a strong idea of what would challenge their players in both of these cases and I’m very impressed by the outcome.
Narr: There is one key difference that I see in this fight against most others. In FFXIV, most things are static, patterns are limited, mental shortcuts are easy to create. Dragonsong’s Reprise has a lot of RNG. Mental shortcuts are limited because you must know how every part of every mechanic works, no roles where you only get a certain couple parts of it, and your understanding of the RNG is not rewarded with a freebie of the other half later because, unlike a lot of other content where the boss follows one pattern with a guarantee of the other, for the most part there are no repeats.
Tera: I personally really liked the length of the fight and highly punishing mechanics of certain phases such as Nidhogg’s towers, Hraesvelgr’s solemn vow and the Dragonking's trinity as a death check, it really emphasized perfect consistent play at critical points especially the longer the fight goes on and the pressure to not make a single mistake gradually builds!What considerations went into preparing your composition and picking jobs for the Ultimate? Were there any job changes during progress?
Shalfu: I was initially planning to play DRG because their cleave potential is way higher than NIN’s and I wanted to believe that there would be a phase with cleave. SAM got the short end of the stick during the last balance patch, and even with adjustments on the release day I did not want to risk taking a potential nuisance into the team.
As for RPR , the building of resources is already negative during full uptime, so taking into account the other ultimate fights downtimes, RPR's burst would be all over the place and not line up correctly with buffs. In the end I went as NIN because the burst potential is not tied to your gauge and MNK was pretty much set in stone for my co-melee.
During the prog itself, I don't think we discussed any job change other than me memeing about how I could cleave on double dragon phase as DRG, but since this happens too late into the fight, it was not worth it.
Mugi Wugi: I had to play caster because we already had 2 melees and it was probably for the best that I go caster (I’ve seen Shalfu on caster). I was simply planning on playing SMN because I was too lazy to level up RDM before prog and I wasn’t too practiced on it, but the team asked me to level it up, so I purchased the boost and leveled it up.
Reimi: When the balance changes were released I was heavily in the WHM camp with how much more healing was being put out through building lilies faster, but Narr pretty quickly convinced me how strong AST is so we decided on what we believed was the strongest duo for all aspects of healing.
Narr: Following up on Reimi’s answer, the reason I am convinced that AST was irreplaceable was due to having healing and mitigation tools that WHM simply does not have access to. Two of the most impactful being the ability to avoid healing range restrictions with Earthly Star, Horoscope expirations, multiple regens and Macrocosmos expirations (a problem that is frequent during some of the hardest mechanics in the game, ex. Hello World), and Neutral Sect. The reduction of healing wipes is something that was important, since less wipes lead to more clean pulls that the other 7 players have, meaning that even if this caused a slight reduction in healer dps, the flexibility of the tools were too strong to pass up. SCH + SGE was a composition we also considered, but that is a very strong pairing with one major weakness: If you overspend cooldowns, you’re out of gas. Access to a Medica II is too reliable for sections where you aren’t familiar with the damage pattern yet in a race setting.
Zeppe: DNC is pretty op for Ultimate prog and especially for this one in specific. The mobility and additional defensive tools DNC brings to the table compared to MCH / BRD really make it shine when you can save potential wipes or personal deaths by dashing through the map like a maniac. DPS wise I also think it has a clear cut advantage over the others because the penalty-check post Death of the Heavens are the Meteors dropping in very fast that are conveniently placed so that a DNC can save their Technical Step Burst and mass damage all of them at the same time to mitigate potential deaths. BRD would’ve definitely also been fine since double dotting is a major theme in this fight. However MCH is the biggest loser out of all the three Phys-Ranged here having no additional mitigation tools and no mobility.
Death: I had PLD and GNB bis and ready to play either. We figured having PLD would be a safer option while progging and being able to swap to GNB if needed to meet the checks. Any tank comp should work fine if you can plan your mitigation accordingly.
Tera: Death and I have played several tiers together in the past and have developed a good understanding of how we both approach a fight and what our preferred jobs are. It really did come down to me simply preferring the old 90 second tanks back in Shadowbringers such as WAR / DRK and Death covering the opposite jobs and we’ve since stuck to those assignments.
I have a preference for a PLD being in a prog composition due to its independent invuln that has no need for anyone else in the party being alive/doing anything and clemency for the pull extending capabilities. There were several situations where we were able to see past mechanics that killed everyone besides the tanks and we were able to extend the pull long enough to see and gather information on the next mechanic before we could even complete the current one we were progging.
As for my own pick, since we were set on bringing a PLD, I did not want to bring WAR because its party mitigation overlaps its role with PLD’s Veil and due to us knowing there would be Nidhogg/potential dragons in the encounter I wanted a party mitigation tool that lasted for multiple hits because dragons typically always use multi-hit attacks such as Ahk Morn/Rhai is the reason I chose DRK.Groups will often focus on mechanical execution over DPS while progressing, and then worry about optimization. How tight did the DPS checks feel? Did you have to take a step back at times to re-think buff usage and composition, or was it generally smooth sailing on a clean pull?
Shalfu: The DPS checks of this fight are not hard to achieve as long as everyone knows how to press their buttons and nobody dies or fails a mechanic, the very first time we reached a new mechanic some people would not press buttons and some others would, that depends on each one’s nature. We had to re-think buffs in a few cases, for example, delaying the NIN’s burst for the time return or saving technical step for meteors after Death from the Heavens. We also had to rethink our mitigation plan multiple times after we reached the final parts of the fight in order to keep everything in the non-lethal range.
Reimi: The only phase I remember really thinking about our buff alignment was Dragonking Thordan, mainly due to healer uptime being difficult in a few parts. With such strong players that are able to instantly switch into DPS mode, after a mechanic was solved and online we rarely if ever had any DPS issues.
Narr: Mechanical execution and DPS go hand-in-hand. The thing about this, is that each time someone fails a mechanic, they are robbing 7 other people of practice on their rotations and cooldowns. Once you are consistently passing a mechanic, your damage will follow naturally and passively, as each time you do it you will notice something that could be better, leading to all 8 players improving at a gradual rate simultaneously which, while individually may be slower than taking risks, means all players get to improve leading to DPS problems being a non-issue after completing a phase just a few times.
Tera: The DPS checks felt tight at a first glance in our initial introductions to the phases but we quickly adjusted to be more comfortable and the DPS checks no longer felt hard to reach. In many phases we even decided to hold DPS and stop attacking or pull resources for the next phase because our healers had planned on certain party mitigation tools to be on specific mechanics. The only one where we felt any sort of pressure was the final phase one where we had a few wipes to enrage on bad pattern pulls for exaflares and our early exaflare strategy didn’t help as well ahah.You had two "9ths" (coaches?) helping you with the race. What kind of process do you go through as a group to make the best out of that extra insight? Have they since gone in to claim their prize?
Shalfu: Every member told our support members what they needed from them during the fight, for example, We would ask Skylar to add certain words or use a determined phrasing when doing the callouts, or ask Aya to draw diagrams for us and check FF Logs for us.
Skylar: For me personally I spent most of my time looking through VOD footage and re-checking if what we were theorizing would actually work as a strat and check for some animation differences in bosses as well. Other than that I made 1 or 2 diagrams for a mechanic and spent the rest of my time doing callouts that the group suggested I make so they could focus on everything else going on within the fight itself. I think this helped us especially in the last 2 phases where I would take over most calls and stay calm so no one in the group gets flustered and messes up a mechanic that is deep into the fight. As for going in to claim my own, no I will probably be doing this in the coming weeks with a couple of friends!
Aya: I’m burned out from actually playing and haven’t even been subbed in ages, but solving prog puzzles is fun so the 9th man life is ideal for that.
Tera: The roles and the assignments that a support member gets delegated are definitely based on 2 things for me, what kind of a prog it is and what their strengths are. Things you need a support member for in a savage tier might not be needed in an ultimate tier and vice versa as the faster pace of a savage tier demands a different approach to fights. Our support members did an amazing job where I could feel a weight being lifted off me in decisive moments so that I could give my full focus on myself and do my best to make my party succeed.How did combat logs in particular help your team analyze the fight?
Aya: Combat logs were instrumental to making sense of the process of saving Haurchefant. LB3 was almost guaranteed to be part of the solution seeing how the only difference between the end of phase 1 and the looped phase 1 is the availability of 3 bars of limit break, but the question remained for how exactly it was meant to be used.
As was probably the instinct of most groups, we initially tried using tank LB3 right as Haurchefant became targetable. While this did significantly reduce the speed at which he died, all it did was delay the inevitable. However, it was very interesting that it worked at all since the effects of limit break are supposed to be limited to party members and nearby friendly NPCs should not be affected, so we knew we were looking in the right place. In logs, the interaction also looked very blatantly custom-made because tank LB3 normally "ripples", slowly applying to each player in order of their distance from the tank, but Haurchefant gets it applied immediately from the environment rather than the tank player.
The main oddity was that the type of damage Haurchefant was taking before and after tank LB was completely different. Without LB, he consistently takes exactly 15570 darkness damage whereas once it applies, the game starts damaging him with another action with an identical name that instead deals around 6300 magic damage a tick - even after LB expires, he's taking less than half the normal damage. It stood out to me that whenever we try using LB while he's targetable, the game does not consider it fast enough to eliminate the very first tick of 15570 damage which I thought to be indicative of failure to do it correctly, so doing it even earlier was the next thing to try and it worked out. Not only did the first tick of damage get changed to the weaker version, Haurchefant also received a visually identical but weaker version of his normal healing debuff, and its ID being 2977 instead of 2978 does not elude the all-seeing eye of the combat log. At that point it was settled.
Apart from the mystery of tank LB, viewing combat logs on some pulls also let us see a second or two into the future compared to what we saw in-game. More than once did we wipe just moments before seeing a new mechanic, but were able to see the combat log line of the boss beginning its next cast as the screen was fading to black - an example that comes to mind is that on phase 6, we first assumed that Hot Wing would always follow after the Flame Orbs explode, but on one wipe to orbs it was only possible to notice through browsing logs that the boss was in fact about to cast Hot Tail and we were able to strategize for both scenarios without wasting a pull on what would have been an immediate wipe without new information had the boss decided to use Hot Tail without us being aware of the possibility.
Being able to immediately verify debuff timers also came in handy, logs immediately showed the option of passing Mortal Vow between only 4 players since we could see Mortal Vow being 34 seconds long and Mortal Atonement being 100 seconds long. On Eye Phase, we initially weren’t sure if the fourth set of dives snapshots late enough for the Piercing Debuff of the targets of the first set to fall off until logs dispelled our doubts.
Tera: This is the first tier where I truly saw the benefit that combat logs could provide to your prog. I’ve had members in my past groups that were good at reading through a combat log but never to the extent that Aya can, it really opened my eyes to the capabilities provided by FF Logs and I can say as an absolute certainty that without Aya and his skill set our progression time would have taken longer.Which phase did you spend the most time on? And which was your favorite?
Mugi Wugi: If we’re talking about the amount of time between when we first saw a phase and when we cleared it, then we spent the most amount of time on the final phase. If we’re only including pulls that were actually spent on the phase itself, then Alt-Thordan took the longest. Death of the Heavens is a brutal mechanic with how much is going on and how easy it is to mess up. My personal favorite is the dragons phase. The aesthetics, the mechanics, and simply how it feels to be fighting these huge dragons felt amazing.
Reimi: I love mechanics that just look cool when you’re executing it, so ones like Dive from Grace and our Mirage Dive movements are my favorite.
Narr: While it may not exactly fit the question, since Mugi Wugi’s answer pretty much covers it all, I’ll include Nid-stinien. This was one of the mechanics that we spent the highest number of (fast) pulls trying to figure out, due to Dark Elusive Jump being bugged on the first day. Dark Elusive Jump had a chance to fire either forward or backwards, and since the tower graphic only flashes for a split second before firing, rendered the mechanic with an RNG chance to instantly wipe. The bug was obvious, since the tower was landing in positions that were geometrically impossible at any point if it was firing backwards, and we knew how it was supposed to work since Dark Spineshatter Dive (for the most part) worked correctly. Fun stuff!
Tera: The last phase definitely felt the longest as it took a long time to get back there and there was a sense of worry as in “We’re on the final phase now! There must be other groups close to it as well and can clear any moment! We need to hurry!”.
That led us to play worse at certain points and made that phase harder for us, we had several enrages at 2% and below before calling for sleep the day before we finished the encounter! Our prog strategy for the Exaflares was also not ideal and once the secret easy strat gets publicized the last phase should be a lot easier for other groups! I personally liked the Dragoon Nidhogg phase a lot as it was a strong consistency check for the player. The Double Dragons phase was also a close favorite as it was a nice breathing room phase for tanks who barely had anything to do in that phase, haha!We've all read the checkpoint memes. What was your first reaction to seeing a checkpoint in an Ultimate fight?
Shalfu: The first thing that crossed my mind was “How much of a mechanic hell this fight is to need a checkpoint 3 minutes in?” and after a few days of prog “is the “under 20 minutes” they said during the live letter counting the phase 1 or not”.
Reimi: At some point during prog I noticed the knights phase is almost like the tutorial version of the whole fight. I think this is such an interesting idea for fight design because personally I’m not a fan of things like in Perfect Alexander where the first mechanic is the light and darkness beacons tutorial. It just feels out of place where the brand new strongest boss begins with a weak attack.
Mugi Wugi: The checkpoint was fine now that we know the whole fight. I can see it being very controversial if the rest of the fight was shorter due to the first phase. I like to consider the fight against the knights as a skill check, like “Are you good enough to take on the real challenge?” Also, while we knew it wasn’t going to happen again, after every new phase there was this tiny part of me hoping it was a checkpoint and we didn’t have to fight Thordan again.
Tera: It completely blindsided me when we saw the checkpoint, my first thought was did they really put in a Faust like phase in an ultimate fight?! After that point I also started to semi-expect another checkpoint at another point in the fight as an excuse to throw in difficult complex mechanics all over the fight.Has Shalfu's fridge been fixed?
Shalfu: Technician came on wednesday, said it was fixed. It’s not, but they said that they will send a new fridge. I have to go out to buy food for the day every day, but I no longer need to be glued to the chair to prog, so that’s an improvement.
Aya: Little known fact, but Shalfu's fridge breaking was an inside job. Zeppe Monado is an organism that grows in defeat. When I first met him he was 4'5 tall and built like a garden gnome, but over the years each setback has only made him stronger and he now towers above all of us, his menacing figure only emboldened by the catgirls usually seen clinging to each of his arms. I can no longer contain his power myself, leading us to the decision to pick up Skylar 'The Zepwrangler' Kyouko just in time to prevent the worst. If Zeppe is on an opposing team, sleep with a gun under your pillow for he is on his way to take you out. If you're on his team, your fridge's fate is sealed should you make one too many mistakes.
Tera: Something I’ve learned about while playing with EU players is that air conditioning is not common in European countries. I've heard Shalfu complaining about the heat in his room more times than I can count. I personally can’t stand heat so I feel for Shalfu when he can’t even open a fridge for some nice cool air or an ice cold drink!
Huge thank you to Neverland for taking the time to answer our questions. They were invaluable in helping us support the new Ultimate content quickly.