A lot has changed since Final Fantasy XIV’s Heavensward expansion. The MMO’s community saw explosive growth in the advent of Endwalker, and it’s long since said goodbye to the good ole days of melding Accuracy Materia and healing in Cleric Stance. If that means nothing to you, good.
While I’ve fond memories of old Heavensward encounters, I’m not interested in evangelizing those days. I am, however, very interested in telling you about my hellish Thordan Extreme ordeal, how bad I was at healing, and what’s changed since.
On the personal growth front, I’m still bad at FFXIV. I’ve just gotten better at brute forcing my way through, a strategy you may know as “getting carried.” And while discussions around the MMORPG’s best eras of battle content remain a touchy subject, I still believe the game is more my opposite — FFXIV Extreme Trials and Savage Raids grew better with time.
All of that leads me to storytime; a little explainer of why I care so much about some of these Unreal trials, particularly the retuned Patch 3.1 trial, The Minstrel’s Ballad: Thordan’s Reign. Just seeing that name makes me panic heal and clench my jaw. I both hate it and love it.
Anyway, in FFXIV Patch 6.5 the primal pope and his knights return in a freshly tuned Unreal encounter. The Unreal trials aren’t new, since they’re part of the Faux Hollows weekly challenge. We’ve defeated a rolling roster of old Extreme fights Yoshi-P and his team revisited, breathing new life into encounters that lost their luster years ago. When Thordan EX was current content, I was extra terrible at FFXIV. If you played in Heavensward and I’m on your blacklist, I’d bet money you met me fighting Thordan.
Thordan Unreal and a Heavensward humbling
I was feeling a little cocky around Heavensward’s launch. The me of today knows I sucked eight years ago, but 2015 Andrea? She was far too confident. By the grace of the Twelve, I’d cleared the once-challenging Ramuh EX using my cobbled-together macros for callouts and a group of random dudes from Reddit. I’d struggled to finish any of Bahamut’s raids within a timely matter, and I couldn’t make a dent in Alexander’s Gordias Savage encounters. But, for whatever reason, I convinced myself it was everyone else’s fault I couldn’t clear Thordan EX.
In my 2015 defense, most people struggled with Alexander until the final tier, Creator. FFXIV didn’t really have the same community resources back then as it does now, plus a lot of us just didn’t quite get the MMO’s fundamentals. And, for lack of a better technical term, the game was pretty damn janky. The original Thordan launched in this climate.
For the Stormblood and beyond crowd, imagine rolling up to an Endwalker boss and seeing all of those flying numbers replaced with “Miss” as your White Mage takes aggro from the tank for breathing too loud. Then, for whatever reason, your Bard is a caster, so they refuse to move, and your Scholar tries to save it all with a clutch heal. Unfortunately, the heal does nothing because they forgot to swap their stance.
It’s me, I’m the useless Scholar.
Time and time again, I rolled into Thordan Extreme and his ten-billion phase fight, hardly making it to the halfway point. My bad habits managing the job’s healing buddy, Eos or Selene, often meant their abilities went out at the worst times imaginable, if they went out at all. I threw myself at Thordan and his group of enthralled lackeys for weeks, convinced I just had bad luck.
Eventually, a friend who was far better by this point pulled me aside to explain some of my biggest mistakes. I was equal parts embarrassed, in denial, and annoyed the game hadn’t clicked with me in the way I thought it had. I unsubscribed from FFXIV, taking my first break until a few days before the next Heavensward patch. That’s when Sephirot came out. Raiding friends took me under their wing, and I was in good enough shape to solo heal my first “tough” fight when it was relevant.
This is all a lot to say, my Thordan days weren’t a very good look. Back then, I wasn’t receptive to feedback from my party nor interested in learning. It was a while before Thordan’s trial became easy to bulldoze through, and I conquered the king and his knights god knows how many times after. He launched when I was just on the cusp of having anything in FFXIV truly click with me, and I regret my era of hard-headed pride holding me back the way it did.
I know Thordan Unreal isn’t the exact same, but I’m excited and optimistic about round two. It’s my chance to show up actually prepared, with years of practice behind me. The game is different now, my Scholar kit has fancy new tools, Selene doesn’t even exist, and maybe Expedient means I won’t eat all of his meteor mechanics. It’s still a chance for me to give it another shot a little closer to when it was fresh, though.
That’s what I dig about all of these Unreal trials, too. They’re a chance for me to relive some of my old FFXIV highlights and redeem my uglier performances. The Warring Triad’s Sephirot, Sophia, and Zurvan were all fond memories to revisit through the Heavensward tour, but I think this is my first real showdown with an Unreal boss that gave me serious hell when the fight launched.
FFXIV Patch 6.5 is out on October 3 with the next Unreal. So, I’ll put down my Astrologian globe and bring out Eos to show Thordan that I’ve read a tooltip or two this time. Until then, I’ll beat up on the current baddie, Zurvan, a few more times and look forward to my Unreal victory lap.
And if it sounds like Thordan’s trial taught me a lesson in staying humble, it didn’t. Nidhogg sure did, though. But that’s a story for another day.