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Disciplining the Lich King

Posted by Malevica on May - 7 - 2010

… Or: How I learned to love Power Word: Shield.

This post is a little overdue since we got our Lich King kills on 10 and 25 a few weeks ago, but better late than never, eh?

First there’s a bit of personal stuff about the kill itself, then I’ll talk phase by phase about how I approached healing this fight as a Discipline Priest.

The kill

Malevica the Kingslayer sitting in front of the Lich King

Our 25-man kill came after around 100-120 tries. (I have WoL parses for 102, but I missed one night so some aren’t recorded.)

The feeling was incredible: we’d recently wiped at 11%, during which several people on Vent sounded like they were going to have heart attacks, so the tension as we saw ourselves getting closer and closer to 10% with most of the raid alive was palpable; the shouts over Vent when the RP started were deafening, and the whole experience was marred only by the tendency of my PC to crash WoW as soon as any video cutscene auto-loads (the same thing happened at the Wrathgate and after the build-up that got in /g I was miffed, to say the least). For those who care about the statistics, we were the 7th guild on the server to beat him on 25-normal.
We killed him on 10-man a couple of months ago, which helped us to understand some of the mechanics and feed that back to the 25-man, although I’ll say we had to be a lot tighter on the strategy and execution in 25-man.

Healing the fight as a Disc

Phase 1

Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, ProM, bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble… Ah, you get the idea.

Pretty much the best thing a Disc Priest can do here is control Infest, by keeping bubbles on the raid as much as humanly possible. The rest of the damage going out is focused on the three tanks, and Disc tank healing is quite time-intensive so it’s much better left to the other healers to cover it.

Infest deals around 8k damage to the whole raid and keeps ticking for 6k (initially, it rises over time) until the player’s health is over 90%, at which point the debuff is removed. A full PW:S can absorb this damage entirely, preventing the player’s health from dropping at all, so Infest will not be a problem for this player at all.

The refinement to this technique for a Disc Priest is maximising the mana returns through Rapture. Now I was under the impression that the Rapture trick had been “fixed” a couple of patches ago so that you were no longer able to gain multiple mana returns from multiple shields being removed simultaneously, but it seems this has been “unfixed” again.
I can manage the fight adequately without much Rapture optimisation simply by using my mana cooldowns judiciously and taking it easy in the first transition phase, so if you don’t nail it don’t panic. But if you can get it then so much the better.

So, how to maximise Rapture returns? There are two things to remember:

  1. You can only trigger Rapture every 12 seconds. This means that if you bubble a tank and the shield is removed you get one Rapture return and then nothing for 12 seconds, probably missing out on the next Infest cycle. So avoid bubbling tanks, or anyone else who is frequently taking damage (like that Whirlwinding warrior who grabs every round of adds).
  2. Rapture also only returns mana when ” your Power Word: Shield is completely absorbed or dispelled”. Even before the buff to PW:S absorbs, the vast majority of bubbles fully absorb the Infest and don’t return any mana.
    One option is to not reapply a partially-consumed shield, which would let it be removed the next time around, assuming it lasts long enough. The trouble is that this negate the point of bubbling in the first place, absorbing only a small portion of the Infest hit.
    The other option is to downrank. Usually downranking is counter-productive, since the lower ranks cost more than the top rank, but in this case getting Rapture gains more reliably outweighs the increased cost. I’ve not been in a LK raid since reading about this on PlusHeal so I’ve not got round to testing this out in detail, but the suggestion on PH is to drop to Rank 11 or 12.

Besides the mad bubble-spam, the other thing that’s very useful is to keep Prayer of Mending on cooldown. I tend to bounce it off one of the tanks and let it sit where it ends up.

Prayer of Mending is great for helping heal the tank(s), especially if you get it to bounce between the two add tanks, but it also helps a lot on Infest by helping to heal up a few people who missed out on bubbles or had low health for other reasons.

Phase 1.5

To be honest this phase isn’t ideal for a Disc priest, so I tend to use this as a bit of a mana break. I’ll throw heals at the tank if they need it, but I don’t get too involved with the raid healing because the Druids and Shaman are much better suited to it. Bubble-blanketing here is very mana-inefficient and you’ll need that mana going into Phase 2, so I’d stick to keeping a ProM bouncing and helping tank healers.

Also remember that Priests are among the higher DPS healers, so help out on the Frost Spheres if any are getting close. A well-timed Penance or Holy Fire could save the day here.

The other thing a Priest can do here is to Dispel the Soul Shriek off the tanks. A silenced tank is a less effective tank, and the raid needs all the threat lead they can get to kill off the Raging Spirits as quickly as possible.

There will be an Infest very early in Phase 2, but unfortunately Pain and Suffering renders pre-bubbling a bit useless. As soon as the Lich King starts casting Earthquake though you should be starting your bubble cycle, maybe avoiding people with high stacks of P&S.

Phase 2

Back to the bubbling, to keep Infest under control. You won’t be able to reach every player all of the time to keep them bubbled, so it will be a bit more hectic, but your default activity should be basically the same as Phase 1. There are other tricks you can employ though.

First, keep your eyes peeled for the person who will get Defile on them. Defile only grows when it damages someone, so if you can bubble them as they run out you might save one tick of expansion. It is worth talking to any Holy Priests in the raid though, in case they’re using Body and Soul instead to help the person run away more quickly.

Secondly, watch for the MT getting Soul Reaper on them. Since this hits for around 40k, boosting the tank’s effective health by 10k can easily be the difference between life and death if they have a health deficit at the time. Assuming you have a second tank taunting, wait until the taunt happens to prevent a mêlée swing from just removing the bubble again.

Thirdly, watch out for any of the MT healers being picked up by Val’kyr and be ready to switch to fill the gap immediately. Penance, a quick PW:S, a ProM or even a Pain Suppression can all be used to prop up a tank and support your fellow healers.

Phase 2.5

Another transition. As with Phase 1.5 I tend to slow down here and regenerate some mana.

Phase 3 – No more Infest!

The order of the day in Phase 3 is triage and reaction, with quite a strict priority.

The ultimate, top priority for this phase is Harvest Soul victims. One person will take 12-15k ticks every second, six in total (as shown in the log section below) and this person needs quick, focused healing, and failure on the part of the raid to keep this person alive could mean a wipe unless the tanks are very quick to notice and react to the resulting Enrage.
I usually default to PW:S first, then Penance as a follow-up, then take it from there.

WoL section, showing Harvest Soul damage on a player

The second priority for this phase is dealing with the risk of deaths from Vile Spirits exploding (Spirit Burst). The key here is to keep as many players as possible above 20k health at all times to keep them out of one-shot territory. At this stage of the expansion with Hellscream’s Warsong (or the Alliance equivalent) at 15%, most people will be approaching or above 30k HP, so you should be aiming to keep people above 70%.

Third priority is tanks again. Soul Reaper is still active in this phase, so watch out for tanks and use your PW:S to boost their EH as much as possible.

If you’re not engaged with any of the above, then I’d suggest falling back on keeping bubbles on the raid. People will get hit by exploding Vile Spirits and bubbles will help to prevent them getting into the insta-gib region in the first place.

A final note on what to do if you get Harvest Soul. The key is to heal Terenas Menethil as quickly as possible, since his DPS is in proportion to his current HP. First step is to get a PW:S on him to stabilise things, and then fall back on your high-throughput rotation. I might be out of date, but I tend to rely on PW:S > Penance > Greater Heal > FH until Penance is off cooldown again.
The other thing is to deal with the Soul Rip ability. This is the primary damaging ability the Spirit Warden will use on Terenas Menethis. Since Priests lack an interrupt, we should instead dispel the debuff off Terenas immediately to prevent this damage.

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Categories: Advice and Strategy, Anecdotes

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