In Part II of our Smooth Operations guide, we go in-depth on the final step you need to take to get into SWTOR's endgame operations.
It's been almost a month since I published Part I of my Smooth Operations guide to getting into Star Wars: The Old Republic's endgame content, so I apologize for the delay. That said, there weren't too many changes that affected endgame SWTOR over the past month with three exceptions: a small nerf to Biochem (which was entirely expected), a very nice bonus for SWTOR pre-orderers, and one sad nerf for fans of the flashpoint Siege of Kaon.
So without further ado, let's get into the guide!
Starting with the changes, there was that obvious Biochem nerf that took place last month in Patch 1.12. To summarize, the best reusable items in Biochem (Rakata) have since been nerfed to the level of their lower tier counterparts (Energized), with the key difference being that Rakata consumables are reusable (little bit of an oxymoron there) while Energized consumables are not. Meanwhile, Exotech consumables have retained their power, with the additional bonus of not requiring 400 Biochem to use (although they are still consumed on use).
At the very highest tiers of endgame raiding, where every little stat counts, it may be worth it to designate a guild crafter to create Exotech consumables to be used in important operations, but for everyone else, Rakata consumables are more than sufficient. To illustrate this point, Exotech Fortitude Stims, which are one-time use items, are only 16 endurance and 6 defense better than their reusable Rakata counterparts. If you're already a Biochem crafter, this is definitely not worth the effort.
The big bonus for players who pre-ordered SWTOR is the very recent addition of high-level black-yellow color crystals that came with Patch 1.15. These black-yellow color crystals offer a whopping +41 to a stat, and although they are rather pricey at 250,000 credits, do realize that they are the best crystals in the game - and great looking to boot!
The final big change-the nerf to hard mode Siege of Kaon's KR-82 Expulser drops-I'll discuss within the main focus of Part II of my guide and the easiest way to get into SWTOR's endgame operations: Hard Mode Flashpoints.
Hard Mode Flashpoints
Content progression in Star Wars: The Old Republic is a little puzzling when you consider where gear is placed in endgame instances. For example, did you know that if you pick up the right crew skill (Armormech or Synthweaving where applicable) and only run hard mode flashpoints, it's entirely possible to get equally or better geared than someone who has dedicated his or her time to running regular endgame operations? Aside from the Columi weapon token that drops from the end boss of Karagga's Palace, hard mode flashpoints drop the same loot as regular operations.
The following is a list of hard mode flashpoints available to Empire players, as well as notable loot that will allow them to progress seamlessly into SWTOR's endgame content. These flashpoints are also ranked in order of easiest to hardest (in my opinion), with the assumption that you can master basic strategies and are simply under geared, as opposed to stubbornly ignorant of strategy. Unfortunately, since I've only played an Empire character to endgame and beyond, I can't vouch for the difficulty of the following Republic-only flashpoints: The Esseles, Taral V, and Maelstrom Prison. The loot should be equivalent, but I can't give much in terms of strategy.
It should also be noted that, unless you are very badly under geared, it is almost never suggested to pursue the bonus bosses in a hard mode flashpoint, as they either require extra fights to progress in the bonus series, or the bosses themselves just don't merit the effort compared to the items dropped. KR-82 Expulser from Siege of Kaon used to be the exception to this rule, but since Patch 1.13, this is no longer the case.
*** Flashpoint Plot Spoilers Below. ***
Black Talon: Considered the easiest hard mode flashpoint to run. The bosses on Black Talon are all similar to their regular mode counterparts, but with more health and damage (obviously). I'm not sure if this has been patched yet, but if you are speed running through hard mode Black Talon and you choose the Dark Side path of the flashpoint, you can mount up and blindly run through the first section, which lets you skip almost all of the boarding droids (they spawn behind you).
Drops: Columi Bracers, Tionese Belts, Tionese Ear Pieces.
The Foundry: The Foundry is a long flashpoint with a disappointingly easy final boss (Revan). Back in early to mid January, Revan one-shot players for an instant 50,000 damage, but this glitch has since been fixed. The most difficult encounter here is definitely HK-47, but not for the reasons you would think. Under normal circumstances, HK-47 will go through four cycles of spawning droids and retreating to his core to power up. Players will need to interrupt this process by destroying panels on his core and, upon doing this, HK-47 will cycle back and repeat the process. Unfortunately, this rarely happens as planned.
Because a lot of HK-47's phase transitions are based on his HP, it's very possible to do too much damage to him, which ultimately causes him to skip phases and glitch out. Usually, this means that HK-47 will not emerge from his core, even after players have destroyed his panels. This means that players cannot stop him from gaining his "Power of the Core" buff, which allows him to deal 10,000 damage snipe shots to random players. The key to this fight is taking it very slow or, if your team is very good, dealing as much damage as you can in the first fifteen seconds of the fight (we've gotten him to about 50%), and hoping you can kill him before he kills you. After HK-47, it's on to easy loot!
Drops: Columi Boots, Tionese Mainhand Weapon.