NB: This guide will assume you’ve already read my normal Spine of Deathwing strategy, or otherwise know the details of the fight on normal mode.
On heroic, the Spine of Deathwing fight demands precise timing, fast target-switching, efficient healing and a lot of patience!
The fight will take at least twice as long on heroic as it does on normal because each Burning Tendon has a greatly increased health pool. You should expect to take two burn phases to remove each plate instead of just one. What this also means is that there will be a lot more Corrupted Blood spawning than you would normally be used to, making Blood control by tanks and Blood removal on the rolls much more important.
For ranged DPS, dealing with Fiery Grips quickly becomes really important, given that each tick can take 1/4 of your health away and you might not be healable at that moment. You want to be in position to DPS the Corruption immediately, but you also need to stop DPS quickly once it’s released or you’ll kill it early and end up with an extra Amalgamation killing people. The margin for error is fairly small here. I’ll talk about the timing in detail in the section on Hideous Amalgamations, but if you time things carefully you can avoid having a Fiery Grip during the Burning Tendons phase, which is a huge DPS boost if you’re having trouble getting the Tendons down reliably.
For healers, besides needing a bit more work to remove the Searing Plasma debuff on people and the fight going on a lot longer, the only major mechanic to be changed is the addition of the Blood Corruption debuffs, which I’ll give their own section below before other sections on dealing with Hideous Amalgamations and Corrupted Blood.
Every Hideous Amalgamation that spawns will cast Blood Corruption: Death on a random player in the raid. This is a magical debuff with a 15s duration. When it gets dispelled it jumps to another random player and may either stay the same or change into Blood Corruption: Earth. The duration persists through dispels, so you have 15s total before it expires. When it does expire, if it’s still Death (red icon) it will explode and insta-wipe your group; if it’s Earth (yellow icon) it will grant that player Blood of Neltharion, a 20% damage reduction for the rest of the fight (including through combat resses (Anyone able to confirm this?)), stacking up to 2 times for 40% total.
One person (25-man teams may want a second person) should be assigned to dispelling this, and their priority should be:
- Get rid of any red Death debuffs
- Get the yellow Earth debuff onto the tanks, up to 2 stacks apiece
- Get the yellow Earth debuff onto anyone who is likely to pull aggro on Corrupted Blood later in the fight, which tends to mean healers and perhaps melee DPS too.
Because you want this damage reduction on the tanks as soon as possible, the best way to begin the encounter is to kill all four Corruption tentacles, then wait on the roll until all 4 Amalgamations have cast their Blood Corruption. Then roll and throw them off. This gives you 5 Blood Corruption debuffs to work with right from the start and believe me, getting your tanks sorted early when you’re not panicking about healing all the things is a good feeling.
Speaking of those Hideous Amalgamations, let’s look a bit more closely at when, where and how to spawn them, dump them and kill them.
As I’ve mentioned, you want to spawn four pretty quickly at the start, so on the ‘pull’ you’ll kill all four of the active Corruptions; To help your tank pick them up it’s worth killing one side and then the other rather than a random order.
These four are going to be held by the tank(s) until they’ve cast their Blood Corruption and then you should execute a roll to throw them off. At this time, kill the new Corruption and the fight begins properly.
Because the Amalgamations have pretty high health and their Superheated Nucleus pulses hurt a lot you really don’t want them to reach 9 stacks before you’re ready, so make sure your Corrupted Blood is killed on one side of the Spine and your Amalgamations are tanked on the other.
The timing on the Amalgamation’s death is very tight. You need to be watching its health bar, the number of dead Bloods (Residue) on the ground, and the timer for Fiery Grip, and making sure you’re ready to move at the precise time. When there is ~6 seconds to go on the second Grip of that phase, move the Amalgamation across the Spine and into the pile of Residue. It should get to 9 stacks immediately and start pulsing. Hopefully it was at ~5% or less HP when you started moving, and if it’s much above 10% then you may have problems. While the Amalgamation is moving the melee DPS should work on finish off the Amalgamation, the ranged DPS should be DPSing the Corruption to break the Fiery Grip, then switching back to either finish off the Amalgamation or start work on the Burning Tendons.
If you got the timing right there will be a Fiery Grip right after the Burning Tendon goes away, so be ready to quickly kill the Corruption to break it out, then rinse and repeat the previous process.
After every plate is removed you’ll want to execute a roll to clear out some of the Corrupted Blood. Spawn an extra Hideous Amalgamation (so you can soak up more Residue), then AoE down the Corrupted Blood that remains, using raid cooldowns to prevent the Burst damage from killing people. Start the roll as you drag the Hideous Amalgamations through the Residue pile so it soaks up as many as possible, and then the roll will throw it off the Spine safely.
Once again the timing is tight: you should be in the process of starting the roll because if the Amalgamation absorbs nine Residue it will start to pulse, and you really need to minimise the number of pulses it can get off before flying away. If you’re fairly quick on the roll, you’ll also avoid getting a Fiery Grip during the roll, which helps a lot.
Corrupted Blood Management
Mostly because of the length of the fight you will have to deal with a lot more Corrupted Blood on heroic than on normal, and you will need to carefully manage this to stop it causing too many problems.
The first thing to sort out is positioning. On the first plate it’s not so important, but from the second onwards your Blood tank will be having trouble picking the Bloods up fast enough. The best way to have the Bloods remain under control here is to have the ranged and (especially) healers position themselves near the Blood tank so that the tank’s AoE/cleave attacks alone are sufficient to pick up the incoming Blood, leaving taunts free for the few which genuinely go astray.
Pay close attention and be careful to run away when the Amalgamation is due to die, because getting Fiery Gripped next to the Nuclear Blast is just embarrassing.
The next thing to deal with is not killing too many Corrupted Bloods. Any Blood that is killed (barring the Blood that gets thrown off in rolls or used for exploding Amalgamations) will just come back later once it’s slimed its way to the fiery pits at the side, so killing more Blood than you need to just means you have to heal through more Bursts. When each Burst is around 10k Physical damage raid-wide, that’s a lot of unnecessary mana spent. DBM can keep track of how many Residue are on the ground, so keep a close eye on this number and don’t go crazy.
The only way to actually get rid of Blood, which you’ll want to do to keep your tanks from getting splatted on the last couple of Amalgamations, is to throw Residue off. I’ve talked about this before, so I won’t repeat myself.
The final thing to talk about is what happens on the last plate. Once the second plate has been blown off you’ll have AoE’d down most of the remaining Corrupted Blood and thrown them off with Amalgamations in a roll. After this, the first Amalgamation on the third plate should proceed more or less as before, but the rate at which new Corrupted Bloods are arriving is pretty high and after the first Tendon phase your Blood tank will be taking a real beating from all the Blood, requiring very heavy, focused healing.
At some point that tank may very well need to start kiting; if you’ve been on time (2 grips per Amalgamation) and throw off enough Blood, this shouldn’t need to happen until the second half of the last plate, the 6th Amalgamation. The less kiting the better, because it’s easy to make a mistake and have a tank die. The Bloods can be stunned, including by a Paladin’s glyphed Holy Wrath, which helps with the kiting, and Life Grip can be used to help your tank keep distance. If they feel they might take a few hits in passing, they’ll need a cooldown to get through it.
Because one tank is engaged in kiting full-time and not in picking up new Blood, your Amalgamation tank will need to take over picking up the Blood instead. The ranged and healers need to move over to that tank to help with the Blood pickup, and healers need to be aware and give them extra healing. Everyone should be extremely careful not to kill any of these Bloods so the Amalgamation doesn’t gain stacks prematurely.
Spec and Glyphs
As a Disc Priest your primary jobs here will be damage mitigation, dispelling, and DPSing, in that approximate order, and for me that meant an Atonement spec. You could go a different way and go with a tank-healing build with Train of Thought and Strength of Soul if you want more single-target efficiency, but because of the way Grace works and the fact that absorbs don’t help to remove Searing Plasma debuffs you’re far better off letting the other healers focus on clearing the debuffs while you cover the dispels and use PW:S to protect people with Searing Plasma who are taking, or going to take, damage. Atonement is a pretty mana-efficient way to heal, assuming the damage isn’t wasted, and does seem to prefer people with Searing Plasma debuffs (perhaps it sees the debuff as a deficit?).
The key to surviving the fight as a healer is efficiency. Spamming GH bombs around the place for 12 minutes just isn’t practical, nor is it necessary. Slow and steady is the key here.
You’ll also want to pick up Soul Warding so you can quickly throw out a few bubbles before the Amalgamation hits 9 stacks or before a roll.
And if you don’t have the Glyph of Fading yet, go get it for this fight, you won’t regret it. And keep it, it’s pretty much the only useful third minor glyph. (When was the last time your Shadowfiend died?)
Work with your fellow healers on cooldown rotations. You should expect to have them up once per plate, but not once per Amalgamation. The points where cooldowns are valuable are the rolls, especially if you’re AoEing Blood, and when the Amalgamation pulses at 9 stacks.
We chose to use PW:B on the first roll, then after each plate when Blood was being cleared out before the roll. Tranqs are good to use during or right after rolls to clear out remaining Searing Plasma debuffs and get people topped up. Because of the long cooldown, save Divine Hymn for during or just after the final roll, once the second plate has been removed.
A special note on Spirit Link Totem: the effect ignores Searing Plasma! You still can’t heal the person directly, but healing pumped onto the raid as a whole gets shared with them, so this is hugely valuable when debuffed people people might otherwise die from incoming damage, so we found this handy when the Amalgamation was pulsing.
I found two important places for Pain Suppression, but there was time for at least one other use as well, your choice. The first is on the Amalgamation tank before first roll, when there will be four Amalgamations active. The second important use is on the final plate, where your Blood tank might need to call for it if they run out of stuns or personal cooldowns. Besides that, use it freely on either tank if they start taking too much damage or even on a healer if Bloods have got away.
Besides rescuing people who are standing in a bad place (under the Nuclear Blast, or too far out for the Blood tank to hit their Bloods, for example) this can be used to help keep your Blood tank stay away from the Bloods while kiting them. If you want to use this it’s best to plan it in advance so you can be standing in a sensible place and facing the right direction. There’s nothing quite like failing to LG because you’re facing the wrong direction!
Your Shadowfiend and Hymn of Hope can and should be used together on this fight where possible. Bearing in mind the 12-minute duration you should expect (unless you have extra talent points in it, in which case go your own way on timing too) to get 2 Hymns and 2 Shadowfiends in. I went with throwing out both on the first Burning Tendons to get them on cooldown and they’re not wasted because I’ve usually just burned a ton of mana moving 5 Blood Corruption debuffs around the raid, and then I can use them again on the last Burning Tendons, on the first burn because I really don’t have the time to sit and channel on the second burn.
I think I’ve covered most of it above. I should just re-iterate the need to keep an eye on your mana and be efficient. Don’t look at the meters on this fight because you should expect to be behind, but you bring vital mitigation to the fight as the only way (outside a Spirit Link) to protect people with Searing Plasma from incoming damage, and that can be a life-saver. Plus you free up other healers to do their thing by covering the dispelling duties and add a bit of DPS to the equation.
Good luck, and have fun! Comments, questions and additions welcome as always. (Grav, I’m looking at you!)