I’m not sure what’s more dangerous during the Crystalline Entity encounter: players who have no clue what to do during the battle, or players who are ordering everyone else around because they think they know what needs to be done, but are making statements that are completely wrong. Whenever I hear someone attempting to form a CE group while also using a phrase like “never shoot the crystals/only shoot the entity/no mines!”, I already know that run is going to fail horribly because it’s clear from the start that person doesn’t truly understand the mechanics of the encounter.
The problem is how the instructions are passed along – usually summarized to the most basic level until the meaning has been twisted and the reasoning behind each rule completely lost. It’s like the old game “Telephone”, where one statement is whispered from person to person, and dozens of iterations later the original message has been hopelessly mangled.
I’ll describe the encounter below in an attempt to educate more players, but in the end people need to take the time to explain things in-game briefly, yet thoroughly enough that players are getting the correct instructions and the meaning behind them. I don't do FAQ's, so please pardon the layout. My only intention/concern is to get the right information out there.
Phases: The Crystalline Entity encounter has three phases. Any time the entity is above 66% health we’re in phase 1. Any time the entity is below 33% health we’re in phase 3. Between 66% and 33% rests phase 2. You can find yourself in any one of these phases multiple times during a battle depending on how much the Entity’s health is fluctuating.
Healing: Speaking of health, the Entity has a natural regeneration rate of roughly 3% health every 40 seconds. If your group can’t put out enough damage to remove more than 3% of the entity’s health every 40 seconds then you’ll never see the Entity’s health drop below 97%. It is very important that players remember to continually buff themselves and debuff the entity throughout the entire encounter to do as much damage as possible.
Crystals: Whenever the Entity is struck by a weapon, it produces a “Crystalline Fragment”. These Crystalline Fragments are not to be confused with “Large Crystalline Fragments” and “Small Crystalline Fragments, which behave very differently.
These normal Crystalline Fragments (which are the only type of fragment that spawn during phases 1 and 2) do one thing and one thing only: chase other players around and explode (doing direct hull damage) whenever they come within 1 km (~.75 km, actually) of an enemy object which can be targeted. In order to outrun their pursuit you need to maintain roughly 75% power to your engines. These normal Crystalline Fragments do not cause the Entity to heal in any way regardless of how they’re handled.
Let’s define “enemy objects which can be targeted” (from the Entity’s perspective), because that’s going to be an important concept to understand going forward. Examples include: player ships, NPC ships belonging to the player’s faction, mines, high yield plasma torpedoes, etc. That does not include photon torpedoes, or normal plasma torpedoes, etc. If it can’t be targeted then the fragments can’t collide with it. If it can be targeted then the fragments can collide with it. You can easily tell what object can and can not be targeted simply by trying, and by the time you reach Lieutenant Commander and get your first Crystalline Entity mission you should be familiar with this.
These normal Crystalline Fragments can be shot at and killed without creating any sort of negative side effect, other than the fact that DPS focusing on crystals fragments is DPS that isn’t focused on the Entity. This is why, contrary to popular belief, mines are actually extremely helpful, but only during phases 1 and 2. Mine laying ships can leave a trail of mines behind them causing packs of pursuing fragment to explode and be removed from the battle, while still keeping their other weapons firing at the Entity. But you need to be smart about this – if you’re laying mines you must make sure they’re all gone before the battle progresses into phase 3 (33% health and lower), and avoid using them at all during phase 3 entirely.
Why kill the Crystalline Fragments? If you can spare the DPS it’s generally helpful to have a few people mopping up the normal fragments to keep their population under control. The more fragments in the air the more difficult it becomes to avoid them. More importantly, the game seems to be able to only display a limited number of objects at once. If there are too many fragments on your display the game engine will stop rendering objects – including making the Crystalline Entity itself invisible as well as other fragments you’re about to cruise into. Fewer fragments also makes it easier to spot the much more important Large Crystalline Fragments and Small Crystalline Fragments later on (more on them in a bit).
So, the less fragments in the air, the better. I can’t count the number of times I’ve come up on a CE fight where the Entity is at 100% health, seemingly hundreds of fragments are swarming around him, and someone is repeatedly shouting “shoot only the entity, not the shards!”. In such a scenario that is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Why? Because the Entity is already at 100% health, meaning the situation can’t get any worse if you stop shooting at it. And shooting at the Entity is causing it to produce even more fragments, adding to the unmanageable number already in the air. If you have enough ships to make a serious attempt at the entity (usually around a dozen are needed to overcome his natural regeneration), your best bet at this point is to pull out past 10 km from the entity and focus your efforts on cleaning up all the fragments. If nobody continues to fire at the Entity during this mop-up procedure then it will stop producing extra fragments. That way when your group begins their serious attack run you’re starting with no fragments in the air at all; a clean slate to start from.
I mentioned Large Crystalline Fragments and Small Crystalline Fragments. These only spawn during phase 3 (however, if you dip into phase 3 and then fall back into phase 2, or even phase 1, existing Large/Small Crystalline Fragments will still remain in the battle until destroyed). During phase 3 the Entity will spawn Large Crystalline Fragments which travel faster than the normal Crystalline Fragments from the prior phases. It’s recommended that you put all power to your engines at this point and circle the Entity at maximum weapon range. By placing a larger buffer between yourself and the Entity you’re giving yourself more time to spot and react to incoming Large Crystalline Fragments.
These Large Crystalline Fragments can be safely destroyed with weapon’s fire as long as the weapon isn’t something they can collide with (like a ship, mine, high yield plasma torpedo, etc). Again, normal plasma torpedoes (and even normal/high yield torpedoes like photons and quantums) are fine. When destroyed in this manner the Large Crystalline Fragments disappear harmlessly with no negative side effects. However, if the Large Crystalline Fragments pass within 1 km of an enemy object that can be targeted they will explode into three Small Crystalline Fragments that will race back to the Entity.
Every Small Crystalline Fragment that reaches the entity will heal the Entity for 1% of its health. If you see a Small Crystalline Fragment you should focus your efforts on killing it as quickly as possible, before it reaches the Entity, and without slamming your ship into a number of other Large Crystalline Fragments in the process. Yet another example of why the “don’t shoot the fragments!” mantra is a sweeping statement and such bad advice.
Thus, every Large Crystalline Fragment, if not handled correctly, has the potential to ultimately cause the Entity to heal up by 3%. When you see dozens of them popping up into the air during phase 3, it becomes very easy to understand how the Entity’s health can go from 33% to 100% in the blink of an eye. But, if everyone is paying attention and using their head this shouldn’t happen. Rather than thinking “it doesn’t matter if I die” and flying recklessly during the first two phases, use them as an opportunity to train for the very important third phase where your death really does matter. Practice avoiding the normal Crystalline Fragments so you can repeat that performance when it counts during the third phase.
I’ll wrap this up with a summary of the three phases:
Phase 1 (100%-66%): The Entity releases Crystalline Fragments when fired upon. Interaction with these fragments is harmless beyond the fact that colliding with them causes massive hull damage. Mines work well during this phase. The Entity will fire a beam weapon (which can be absorbed by your shield) at whichever player is highest on its threat list. Engines should be at 75% power. All remaining power should be to your weapons to improve damage unless you’re tanking. Your group needs to be large enough and focused enough to strip more than 3% of the Entity’s health every 40 seconds.
Phase 2 (66%-33%): The Entity increases the rate at which Crystalline Fragments are released and discontinues firing his beam weapon. The tank can now safely shift his spare power from shields to weapons as long as the Entity remains below 66% health. Mines still work well during this phase but they need to be removed from the field of battle before the fight moves into phase 3.
Phase 3: (33%-1%): In addition to Crystalline Fragments, the Entity begins releasing faster moving Large Crystalline Fragments. Ships should expand out to maximum weapon’s range and increase power to their engines to 100%. Any spare ships can safely destroy Large Crystalline Fragments with normal weapons fire, but not using objects that can be targeted (mines, high yield plasma torpedoes, tricobalt weapons, etc). Enemy objects colliding with (coming within 1 km of) Large Crystalline Fragments will produce three Small Crystalline Fragments which will return to the Entity and restore 1% of its health each. Destroying any Small Crystalline Fragments you see is a priority.
Finally, a note on Scramble Sensors. If used on the Crystalline Entity it temporarily strips all fragments of their ability to collide/explode on enemy player objects. All Large Crystalline Fragments will also temporarily stop moving. Small Crystalline Fragments, however, remain unaffected and will continue to move towards the Entity in an attempt to heal it.
Try to become familiar with the Scramble Sensors aura so you can better identify when the fragments are in a confused state. If there are multiple vessels in your group with the Scramble Sensors ability that can coordinate a rotation, it is completely possible to lock the fragments down (which is extremely helpful during phase 3). Currently a single ship with the right Bridge Officer setup can handle this alone. However, with the upcoming changes to ability stacking/timing I doubt this will be the case much longer – which makes it more important than ever to get familiar with the encounter basics.
The more people understand the Crystalline Entity fight, the easier it will be. While the above is way too much information to ever list out in-game, going too extreme with summaries can have a negative impact. Statements like “don’t ever shoot the fragments” or “don’t ever use mines” are not only wrong, but wrong to the point of being harmful. Going into the a fight with completely wrong information is worse than having no information.
This is a great guide, though you're still flipping a coin when going against the CE. Some players just feel they don't need to adhere to webstrats, don't join guilds (progression type anyway) because of it, and finally are the reasons why PUGs fail at this sort of thing.
If Cryptic were to allow for multiple groups to team up and go up against the CE (not sure if its possible, I haven't found the interface for it), then this would go a lot smoother. Then you could just boot offending members from the instance.
This would leave the above mentioned type of player who hates working as a team left to others of his/her kind and with the quest uncompleted throughout their career. As they should be.
The only thing you need to know is avoid the CE mission... If its anything like the new fleet missions at ds9 or the big dig that can take 2 to 3 hours, you'll get a wonderful medium hypo for all your hard work.... NO THANKS
This desription did a great job of explaining why my handful of CE attempts failed so miserably and why so much of the chatter about "no mines, nor torpedos, don't shoot the shard" just didn't make sense to me. Thanks for putting this down so clearly.