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Reflecting on the Dragon Soul Nerfs

Posted by Malevica on June - 19 - 2012

The Dragon Soul nerfs have now reached the 25% mark. How has the experience been?

When the Dragon Soul nerfs were first announced I wasn’t thrilled. They changed the experience when we didn’t need it changing. We were still progressing, still improving both gear-wise and skill-wise, and what we really wanted was more time.

An Anecdote

We’d spent a couple of weeks sat at heroic Spine at 10% and were consistently getting to the final lift of the fight before a healer or tank would die and the game would be over. We went away on the Sunday, had a good rethink, really sorted out a few things and were all set to go back in and kill it once and for all. Unfortunately we’ll never know if we really did have it nailed because the fight got nerfed that week; we went in the following Wednesday and 2-shot it.

That did rather take the edge off the achievement.

As did two other guilds on our realm killing it on the same night.

Levelling the Field

Sometimes a boss will come along which provides a serious challenge to a raid team. Guilds will “bunch up” at this point as they work on it, but eventually one will manage to get past it and move ahead for a while. That’s good, because it helps to space guilds out and feeds into the sense of competition. Nerfs undermine that.

Lower the bar and suddenly the leader is whoever gets organised and pulls earliest. That’s not good for competition. I don’t raid for a ranking but I do pay attention to it, and having your ranking determined by the time of the evening you raid, or whether you extended your lockout or re-cleared, or whether one of your raiders had internet problems that night just doesn’t feel right.

What’s more, often you’re not actually solving the problem but postponing it. A guild that’s stuck on heroic Hagara will just get stuck on heroic Blackhorn instead. By not allowing them the time to figure out the solutions (improve DPS, coordinate better, etc) on their own, you’re giving them the metaphorical fish, when it would be better to teach them to fish.

What Does Heroic Mean Anyway?

On my fairly small server 11 guilds have defeated heroic Madness, and 30 guilds are at least 5/8. 91 have killed at least one heroic boss. According to WowProgress almost 10% of the guilds recorded globally have killed heroic Madness. Go back to WotLK, and only 2% of guilds killed heroic Lich King on 25-man, and less than 7% on 10-man despite the gear advantage.

I know 10% is still a minority, and the raiding population is also a small fraction of the playerbase, but I can’t help feeling that the “heroic” tag has lost some of its lustre at this point.

For me, “heroic” should mean difficult to the point where less than 5% of guilds (and maybe a lot fewer than that) can defeat the final encounter. It should mean that you acquired pretty much the best gear available to you, and still had to reach deep down to get the kill. You need to bump up the skill side of the gear x skill product to pull it off. Nerfs that kick in before the gearing process is even close to complete just serve to undermine this.

A Surfeit of Healers

The new collective noun for healers: a surfeit.

Nerfs play merry hell with raid composition. We’ve dropped from needing 3 healers for most of the fights to solo-healing several of them, and at least one of us is stuck either sitting or DPSing each week. Believe me, that’s not something any of us especially enjoys.

The trouble is that nerfs don’t usually affect the number of things to be tanked, and more DPS is rarely a problem (Madness is the exception to both of those rules), so their roles are secure and relatively unchanged. But as the fights get nerfed there’s just not enough healing to go around and it directly affects our play experience and our fun level.

Incidentally, 2-healing heroic Madness last week was the most fun I’ve had in ages! Talk about running on fumes!


It wouldn’t be fair to grumble and mutter without at least trying to be constructive.

First off I can accept the argument that the raids need to be almost overtuned initially to provide a decent challenge for the top teams and then perhaps renormalised for the rest of us. We see that happen every time after a famous team snatches a world first with some crazy tactics. I’m fine with that. But once that adjustment is made the heroic bar needs to stay where it is. Give the teams who like to work for a challenge a stable set of goalposts. Once the gearing process is complete, then consider rebalancing.

If it absolutely has to be a progressively-increasing nerf it would be nice to be able to select the levels rather than just having an on/off switch. It’s a small change but an important one. My guild have talked about going back and trying some of the encounters without the buff, but 0% is a big jump from 25%, or from the 5% and 10% at which we got our first kills. But if we could select 10% to start with that might be more realistic and we could work our way up from there.

I’d like to find a way to solve the problem with the lack of damage to heal, but unfortunately I’m coming up blank. I think it’s a fundamental problem with healing being capped where DPS just isn’t. I don’t like the idea of just splitting the healers up spatially so that you have to take 2 or 3 anyway (the tank solution), because it doesn’t really help with the boredom problem.

Suggestions would be welcome.

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Categories: Opinion

Heroic Madness of Deathwing

Posted by Malevica on April - 6 - 2012

NB: This guide will assume you’ve already read my normal Madness of Deathwing strategy, or otherwise know the details of the fight on normal mode.

Fight Summary

So you’ve killed Spine and now you’re ready for Madness. The good news is that Madness is probably easier than Spine, at least from a technical point of view, and the gear requirements are similar or lower. The bad news is that it’s another 14-minute-plus fight with a long ramp-up time.

There’s not too much different on Heroic, but if you’re used to normal mode you’ll have to tighten up quite a bit to get through it. You can take two tanks but it’s doable with one and you may find you need to go with one tank to beat the berserk timer.

I’ll cover positioning first, then we’ll look at the new mechanic in Phase 1, the Corrupting Parasite, then I’ll cover dealing with Impales before finally talking about each of the phases, including a close look at Phase 2.


The first thing you’ll need to tighten up on is your positioning. The Mutated Corruption’s Crush hits very hard, around 80-100k, so you want to minimise the number of people hit by it both to reduce healer mana expenditure and to prevent a second Crush from killing someone. The way to do this is to have the ranged spread out in a curve near the back of the island behind the tank, and the mêlée spread out on the other side:

Positioning for Crush on Heroic Madness

R are ranged and healers; M are mêlée; T is the tank; and the orange blob is the Mutated Corruption

That’s your baseline positioning while the Mutated Corruption is alive. There will be perturbations in response to mechanics, and I’ll get to those, but you should always aim to return to this general layout.

Phase 1 – Corrupting Parasites

This is the new mechanic on the islands. Twice during the phase, on a fixed timer, Deathwing will cast Corrupting Parasite on a random player. The first comes just as the first Impale is due and the second comes around the time the Regenerative Bloods spawn.

Corrupting Parasite lasts 10 seconds and deals increasing Shadow damage every second while it lasts, starting at 18,000 and topping out at around 80,000 (before resistances), so it’s worth assigning someone to watch this person so they don’t slip through the cracks. When the debuff ends it kicks out a Parasitic Backlash dealing 250,000 Fire damage to everyone within 10 yards and spawns a Corrupting Parasite with around 2.7 million HP. You need to focus on this because at the end of its 10-second Unstable Corruption cast it will explode, dealing damage equal to its remaining HP split across the whole raid.

The short version is that you need the Parasite placed 10 yards away from other people and then you need to kill it, or at least bring it to a safe HP level (around 30% is fine, that’s 80,000 Fire damage per person), before it explodes. Where and how you do that is important though, because efficiency of DPS is a key factor on this fight so you beat the berserk timer on each island and, more importantly, so you have time in hand to take Phase 2 at your own pace.

The first Parasite on each island should be dropped right next to the Mutated Corruption, on the edge of the island, so that you can cleave the Mutated Corruption along with the Parasite. The Parasite is the top priority but adding extra damage to the Mutated Corruption is no bad thing. On the diagram above that’s between the tank and the mêlée so you may need to shuffle around to make sure there’s room, especially if you have more mêlée DPS than I’ve shown there. Also, be careful not to fall off the edge or the Parasite will end up on the wrong island and out of range of DPS. Not that that happened to me, of course…

The second Parasite will spawn as the Mutated Corruption is dying, so this time you want to drop it next to the Arm or Wing Tentacle instead. The Regenerative Bloods will have spawned by this time, so they’ll also be brought over to the Arm or Wing Tentacle and everything should be AoE’d down together for maximum DPS efficiency.

Running through, or standing in, Nozdormu’s Time Zone will slow the tick rate of the debuff, allowing you to extend the time before the Parasite spawns. Basically, you can use this if your Mutated Corruption isn’t quite dying in time to buy time for the tank to bring the Regenerative Bloods over, but if you find you’re waiting for the Parasite to spawn then go around the Time Zone instead. We found the Time Zone handy on the third island, but of course your mileage may vary.

Handling Impale

The Mutated Corruption’s Impale is a big deal on heroic. It deals 840,000 Physical damage as a baseline, and you really can’t afford to take a second one for twice that. Two things need to happen: you need a decent cooldown rotation for any Impales your tank(s) will take, and you need a solution to second Impales.

On the cooldown front, you will need to stack tank cooldowns and healer cooldowns to get through the damage. The first island is easy enough because you have Dream available, so any decent (40% or more) cooldown will do. On the next island you’ll need to stack two 40% or higher cooldowns, such as Shield Wall and Pain Suppression. On the third you’ll not have Alexstrasza’s 20% HP boost so this is a good time to pop a Last Stand-equivalent as well as those cooldowns, and on the last island healers’ 3-minute cooldowns should be up again. Remember that Power Word: Barrier can be used as a 25% cooldown, and if you’re really pushed Spirit Link Totem is a 10% cooldown, which might make the difference.
The Stay of Execution trinket is another 20% cooldown that tanks can use on every island (it applies after any other damage-reducing cooldowns have taken effect, so the damage cap isn’t a problem).

On top of cooldowns, Inspiration/Ancestral Fortitude are good for a further 10% reduction and should be kept up on the tank, and Demoralising Shout/Roar should be kept up on the Mutated Corruption for a 10% Physical damage reduction. Tanks also have their own damage reduction from their tanking stance, presence, form or aura (10%, 14%, 18%, and 10% respectively) which should be added in as well. And don’t forget the raid-wide nerf, Power of the Aspects, which as I write this is at 15%.

Big warning: “cheat death” abilities like Ardent Defender Guardian Spirit do not work on this encounter. AD’s 20% damage reduction does work, but it will not prevent a player’s death.

Just multiply together your cooldowns and damage reductions and check they’ll be enough. For example, here’s our setup for each island, with a Warrior tank:

  1. 840,000 x 0.85 (Power of the Aspects) x 0.90 (Demo Shout) x 0.90 (Inspiration/Ancestral Fortitude) x 0.90 (Defensive Stance) x 0.60 (Shield Wall) x 0.80 (Stay of Execution) x 0.50 (Dream) = 124,921
  2. 840,000 x 0.85 (PotA) x 0.90 (Demo Shout) x 0.90 (Insp/AF) x 0.90 (Def Stance) x 0.60 (Shld Wall) x 0.80 (SoEx) x 0.60 (Pain Suppression) = 149,906
  3. 840,000 x 0.85 (PotA) x 0.90 (Demo Shout) x 0.90 (Insp/AF) x 0.90 (Def Stance) x 0.60 (Shld Wall) x 0.80 (SoEx, not totally effective because the hit exceeds the absorb cap) = 255,324 (Survived by using Last Stand and being topped off)
  4. 840,000 x 0.85 (PotA) x 0.90 (Demo Shout) x 0.90 (Insp/AF) x 0.90 (Def Stance) x 0.60 (Shld Wall) x 0.80 (SoEx) x 0.60 (Pain Suppression) = 149,906

Now, for the second Impale on an island you can either have a second tank or use a neat little trick to avoid having to worry about the Impale at all. What this relies on is the fact that the Mutated Corruption will Impale anyone it can reach, so you can force it to Impale a specific person by having everyone run out so that they are the only person in range when the cooldown is up. Of course the soaker will also be taking mêlée hits too while before the Impale goes off, so they need to be able to take care of themselves for a short time.

The best choice for this job is a Shadow Priest, because they can use Dispersion to reduce the Impale to a meagre 57,834 Physical damage, and they can do this on every island. If you don’t have a Shadow Priest, you can use a Rogue or Hunter for the same job. Have them step in with Evasion or Deterrence up so they don’t get killed by mêlée swings, and as soon as they get the Impale debuff they should Vanish or Feign Death. This clears the debuff and voilà, you’ve skipped an entire Impale! Just make sure to let the tank get back in first afterwards, or else the keenest mêlée will get killed instead.

Phase 1 Overview

We’ve been through the new abilties in detail, but it’s worth stepping back and looking at them in context.

To begin with, island order. I recommend Ysera, Alexstrasza, Nozdormu and then Kalecgos, as on normal mode. With the extra Crush damage and cooldowns being tied up you need Nozdormu as long as possible, but you still need Kalecgos more to ensure you get everything killed in good time.

Here’s the order of events for a sample island:

  1. At the start you’ll hit the Arm or Wing Tentacle for a while, then you’ll break off and get into your arcs ready for the Mutated Corruption. Do not bring the Tentacle under 80% HP on the latter two islands until after the Regenerative Bloods have been killed, you don’t want Blistering Tentacles when you’re busy dealing with other things
  2. Shortly after that the first Corrupting Parasite will be cast, which should be delivered to the spot right in front of the Mutated Corruption
    • On the first island you should ignore the Parasite, save DPS and use Dream when it is about to explode
    • On subsequent islands it should be killed, cleaving the Mutated Corruption where possible
  3. A couple of seconds after the Corrupting Parasite cast comes the first Impale. Stick with your cooldown rotation and all will be fine
  4. You get a ~20 second lull here before the Elementium Bolt is cast, which all DPS should switch to and kill before it lands as usual
  5. Shortly after the Bolt is dealt with the second Impale comes out. You’ve got a plan for this, so execute it
  6. Immediately after the second Impale the Regenerative Bloods will spawn. These should be brought and misdirected to the tank and held while the Mutated Corruption dies
  7. A few seconds after the Bloods spawn the second Parasite gets cast. This should be dropped over by the Arm or Wing tentacle
  8. Once the Parasite is dropped and the Mutated Corruption is dead, the tank should drag the Regenerative Bloods over to the Arm or Wing Tentacle and the whole lot should be AoE’d down.
  9. At this point the fight is the same as normal mode. Kill the Arm or Wing Tentacle, and any other tentacles that might spawn

On the fourth island you should handle the Elementium Bolt as usual, running away from it, popping PW:B if you use it and Tranqs and Divine Hymns if you have them. However to help prevent half the raid getting Crushed while clumped in the bubble you can have people with personal cooldowns stand outside the bubble instead. Your healers will thank you!

Each of the islands proceeds along much the same lines, although the general level of damage increases as you go along. There’s a lot to take in but there’s also a clear rhythm to the encounter which you’ll soon figure out, and it’ll end up feeling a lot less complicated than it looks.

Phase 2

Hopefully you’ve completed Phase 1 in good time, because Phase 2 is as much about control as raw output, although there’s a hefty burst DPS requirement too.

The Elementium Fragments are still in play, as are the Elementium Terrors. Handle them as you always would: kill them ASAP, use Dream if you get targeted by Shrapnel and tank the Terrors in the Time Zone to slow the rate at which they can stack Tetanus. On heroic 7-8 stacks is quite enough, needing external cooldowns and intensive healing to survive.

The new aspect is the Congealing Blood. These start to spawn at 15.9%, 10.9% and 5.9% from approximately the locations shown on the screenshot below, and slime their way towards Deathwing. If they reach him they heal him for 1% each. Even one getting through could spell disaster though, because if you take Deathwing above a trigger point he’ll spawn more Congealing Bloods when you DPS him down past it again.

Congealing Blood approximate spawn locations

Congealing Blood approximate spawn locations

The Bloods cannot be stunned, rooted or knocked back, so slows and AoE damage are vital here. Be careful not to overwrite slowing effects. We chose to have our rogue use Fan of Knives with Crippling Poison on the Bloods to keep them slowed, and we had a DK with Chillblains helping out as well while everyone else focused on killing them.

The key to this phase is control and not trying to do too much at once. If your tank can drop the Tetanus debuff easily (DK, Paladin) then go ahead and tank the Terrors with the Bloods and AOE everything together. However at 15% this isn’t necessary any more, you have time to kill each thing in turn, and the encounter feels a lot more manageable if you take your time.

Here’s the sequence we went for:

  1. DPS Deathwing to 17% (not much lower so that DoTs and spellweave (the AoE bonus you get from Kalecgos) don’t take him under prematurely)
  2. Kill the first Fragments
  3. Kill the first Terrors
  4. Push Deathwing under 15.9%
  5. Kill the Congealing Bloods
  6. Push Deathwing under 10.9%
  7. Kill the Congealing Bloods
  8. Kill the second Fragments
  9. Kill the second Terrors
  10. Push Deathwing under 5.9%
  11. Kill the Congealing Bloods
  12. Kill Deathwing, ignoring any Fragments that might spawn at the end

The timing was pretty tight on getting the second Bloods killed before the second set of Fragments spawned but we ended the encounter with 30-40 seconds in hand, so there was time for us to have waited if necessary to survive.

Spec and Glyphs

There’s a bit of everything to deal with, so picking a focused spec is a little tricky. I stuck with the Atonement spec because with the fixed range on Atonement you can do a good job of smart-healing people from Crushes. Plus Atonement benefits from the double damage on the Arm and Wing Tentacles for the third minute on each island making it competitive HPS at a very low cost. Archangel is also great to pop when the Blistering Tentacles spawn for a bit of an extra boost to your raid healing, and for healing up after the Elementium Bolt on the fourth island.

Although PW:B gets used I found that people weren’t standing in it enough to make the glyph worthwhile. I ended up settling for PW:S, PoH and Penance as Prime glyphs. Penance is good as a quick heal on Crushed people, for keeping Inspiration on the tank or for keeping up my Heart of Unliving stacks, and I was casting PW:S frequently for Rapture procs.

For Majors I swapped Dispel for Glyph of Prayer of Mending, since there’s nothing to Dispel, and because PoM should be bouncing for most of the fight.

And once again, get the Glyph of Fading. You’ll need it every time the Regenerative Bloods come up, and every little helps.

Cooldown Usage

Your tank cooldowns will be almost entirely dictated by the fight and your strategy. Because you’ll typically spend up to 2 and a half minutes per island you can’t guarantee that your 3-minute cooldowns will be available for the same point on every island, so play it safe and plan to have them up every other plate. Your PW:B will be needed on the fourth island, so avoid using it on the third, although there may just be enough time between the first impale on the third and the Bolt on the fourth, it’ll depend on your raid’s DPS and speed.

In Phase 2, Pain Suppression should be used on the Terror tank when their Tetanus stacks reach 6 or above, followed by spam-healing until the debuff fades. You can either use PW:B on the raid to mitigate the damage later on or on the tank again for the next set of Terrors, depending on the other cooldowns used. Bear in mind that if you can get a few raid members to stand in it Spirit Link Totem can be a lifesaver for a Terror tank, giving them access to a much larger effective health pool, so you may wish to use your PW:B on the raid instead.

Leap of Faith isn’t a terribly useful ability on this fight if the strategy is being executed correctly. You can extract people who are slow to move away from the Mutated Corruption before an Impale, but otherwise no one should have trouble getting to where they need to be.

Timing Shadowfiend and Hymn of Hope is tricky here. Ideally you’d get them in three times, given a 14-minute-ish duration, but it’s quite possible you just won’t need them on the first island. I’d recommend using them early anyway, you might help someone with the Hymn of Hope and the DPS from the Shadowfiend can help get the Mutated Corruption out of the way a fraction quicker. And even if most of the mana is wasted, it’s better than not casting them at all.
If you cast them after you’ve healed up the first Parasite explosion you’ll have a mana deficit to recover, and then you can cast them together on the third island and on Deathwing’s head during Phase 2.

Other Tips

Keep Fade handy for the Regenerative Blood spawn, especially if you’re 1-tanking the fight. Fade early too to avoid getting any DoT stacks and keep them going where they’re supposed to.

Rapture is so important for maintaining your mana on this encounter. If you’ve got a bit sloppy up to now, it’s time to get back on the straight and narrow. Remember, even after the Mutated Corruption dies there’s going to be enough raid damage to burst the bubble pretty reliably so cast it on anyone when the Rapture ICD expires and enjoy vastly improved mana regen.

That same raid damage also means PoM will almost never fail to use all of its charges, making it quite mana-efficient and a good use of a GCD. Keep it going as much as is practical, especially once the Arm or Wing Tentacles are below 70%.

On the first and second set of Congealing Bloods in Phase 2 you can help with some Mind Searing. Remember to pick a mêlée DPS to sear off instead of tab-targeting a Blood, or it’ll get interrupted every time the Blood dies.

Finally, not a Discipline tip but a good one anyway: if you have trouble with the portal at the entrance sometimes sending you to Wyrmrest Temple instead of the Maelstrom, go up onto the Skyfire gunship and talk to Sky Captain Swayze to set it in motion, then use the portal in the bridge to get to the Maelstrom. After that, the entrance portal will go to the right place (until the instance resets).

Good luck, and have fun! Comments, questions and additions appreciated.

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Heroic Spine of Deathwing

Posted by Malevica on March - 30 - 2012

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.

Fight Summary

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.

Blood Corruption

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:

  1. Get rid of any red Death debuffs
  2. Get the yellow Earth debuff onto the tanks, up to 2 stacks apiece
  3. 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.

Amalgamation Management

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.

Glyphs-wise, go with Glyph of Dispel Magic and the Glyph of Power Word: Shield for a bit of extra healing, and make sure you have the Glyph of Power Word: Barrier for the same reason.

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?)

Cooldown Usage

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.

Other Tips

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!)

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Heroic Hagara the Stormbinder

Posted by Malevica on March - 29 - 2012

NB: This guide will assume you’ve already read my normal Hagara strategy, or otherwise know the details of the fight on normal mode.

Fight Summary

The heroic version of the Hagara encounter shares the same mechanics as normal mode, but how you approach them needs to be a lot more coordinated in order to get through the fight safely. I’ll break down the differences by phase: normal, Frost and Lightning, and explain how we handle each phase.

Normal Phase

As I’ve said, there’s no new mechanics here, but you do need to be a lot more careful.

The biggest change, which I’ll mention first because it affects everything that follows, is that we choose to tank Hagara near the edge of the platform, by the portal, instead of in the middle, or wherever she happens to be. This is for two reasons: it reduces the risk of Shattered Ice landing on a ranged DPS, and it keeps the tank and melee near where they need to be for Phase 2.

The whole raid needs to be aware that the Ice Lances are a little different on heroic, because the stacking debuff they apply increases Frost damage taken, rather than slowing attack speed. That means you need to share the soaking duty around so that people aren’t taking excessive damage. With strong healing and/or cooldowns someone can survive solo-soaking at a push, but it’s better to share. Also remember that there is a short (3 yard) splash, so don’t get too up-close and personal with your soak-mate. This stacking debuff also makes Shattered Ice a potential one-shot ability, so it’s important to say well behind Hagara at all times as she prefers targets in front of her.
Assigning fixed positions is tricky here because there’s some randomness in who gets targeted and where the orbs spawn, so all of your ranged players (DPS and healers) will need to use their initiative and be actively soaking. We did find it helpful to have people generally hang to one side or the other though, so you don’t end up all clumping at one side. We also avoid crossing the beams by having people move around so that they’re on the appropriate side of the boss, and get targeted ranged to move in close to the melee pack (but not splashing close, of course). The aim here is to make soaking as simple and predictable as possible.

Ice Tombs are still cast on two random players and operate the same way as on normal. It’s a good idea to assign a spot for these part-way between the boss and the middle of the room so that you don’t risk blocking the healers’ line of sight to the tank if they appear in an unfortunate location.

The other big difference concerns Focused Assault. On normal you can just strafe away and she’ll not chase you, but this doesn’t work on heroic where she will merrily follow you. There are two ways to avoid this.
At the start of the fight, and after a Frost or Lightning phase, she will try and cast Focused Assault quickly, so the tank should stand near the edge of the platform and wait for her, so she wastes most of the channel time moving to you. Healers will still need to work hard to keep the tank up if he does get hit though, 50k per 0.5 sec still hurts! At other times, pop a tank or healer cooldown when it’s due, and have another player stand at range and taunt Hagara once she’s casting Focused Assault, with the MT taunting back again before she reaches the ranged. A Holy Pally works well because they have plenty of self-defence, but anyone with a real taunt will do (unfortunately Hunter taunts do not work, it does need to be a “tank” taunt from a Warrior, Druid, DK or Paladin).
In theory Focused Assault can be handled with just cooldowns and heavy healing, but with soaking and possibly Ice Tombs for healers to deal with it’s best to play it safe and minimise your exposure to the damage.

Frozen Tempest

OK, this phase does have one new mechanic to deal Frostflake. This is a magical debuff placed on a random player which slows their movement speed by 10% a stack, stacking every 1 sec up to 10 stacks. When this is dispelled it leaves a patch of frost on the ground that slows movement speed for 50% for anyone inside it. This is rather detrimental to staying out of Ice Waves, so dropping one is to be avoided.
Luckily, dispelling it while the person is inside the bubble prevents the Frostflake Snare from going down; so anyone who gets the Frostflake debuff should immediately step inside the bubble and stay there until they are dispelled, then move out again.
If this is your job, make sure that you have Watery Entrenchment as a custom debuff so you can tell when it’s safe to dispel someone.

Because of the need for dispels it’s best to all move around as a group during this phase, taking out each crystal one at a time, as opposed to just spreading out into smaller teams. We use a raid marker, the purple on the screenshot in the next section, to mark the Crystal where we all start.

Big Note! Hand of Freedom, Cloak of Shadows, Druid shapeshifting and any other effect which removes snares or magic will count as a dispel, so these must be avoided unless you know you’re safely inside the bubble. Your team mates will not thank you if you try and be clever!

Pro tip from Grav: it’s pretty safe to use Aspect of the Pack in this phase and the 30% movement speed boost is a big help to stay ahead of Ice Waves, get into the bubble, and dodge the falling ice things. The falling ice will daze you though, so don’t get hit by it!

I should also address an alternative strategy, which is to have your ranged and healers group up in the middle of the platform while your melee run around the edge. This lets the ranged DPS have free rein to DPS any crystal, and negates the need for them to move if they get Frostflake. The damage is fairly high but at high enough gear levels and with three healers it is possible to heal through this damage. However this strategy is designed as a DPS boost at the expense of healer sanity and it’s probably not going to be necessary now we’re at the 15% nerf point, but it is an option if you’re really struggling with DPS.

Lightning Storm

The main difference in this phase is that there’s twice as many Lightning Pillars as on normal (8, up from 4) and the damage from the chain lightning is a lot higher than on normal and gets higher as the phase goes on, so you really need this phase over as quickly as possible so people take as few ticks as possible. Doing that requires quite a bit of coordination, and a battle plan.

Have a look at the diagram and screenshot below. I’ll point out a few of the important features and what the markers mean.

Hagara Lighting Positions

Hagara Lighting phase positions. Blue markers are Lightning Pillars, Numbers are raid members, Raid marks are to help line up the diagram with the screenshot below

Heroic Hagara Lightning Phase Positioning

Heroic Hagara Lightning Phase Positioning

In the diagram the Pillars are the blue markers, numbers refer to raid members and the raid markers line up with the screenshot.
Also, Boss Blueprint needs to go to eleven!

When the phase starts the tank grabs the add and positions it on the yellow marker, labelled “1”. As it begins to die, people should break off and get into their assigned positions before the tank and players 2 and 8 finish it off and start the chain. The add’s death should activate the southern-most pillar, then the Chain Lightning will jump to player 1, then to 2 and 8, and will continue from there.

The more eagle-eyed of you will have spotted a mathematical conundrum: there are eleven spots, but only ten raid members. This is where you’ll need to be clever and use your raid’s tricks to fill the spots. You’ll need to at least get all the spots covered, but if you can reuse more people then then you can free up a healer or two to stand centrally and focus on healing through the damage, which helps massively.

The first trick is to use a permanent pet (e.g. Warlocks, Hunters and presumably Frost mages and one flavour of DK) to occupy a spot because Lightning will happily chain through them and they can be positioned in advance. On the screenshot above you can see a wolf in position in the upper right; on the diagram that’s position 7, and our hunter occupies position 6. NB pets can aggro the boss, so remember to run them carefully around the outside!

The other trick is to make the most of mobility abilities. Hunters have disengage, Mages have Blink, Warriors have Heroic Leap or Intervene and Warlocks have Demonic Teleport. They can easily cover a position early in the chain and then quickly change position and slot in later in the chain as well. For example in our particular case we have a Warrior take position 2 and then leap out to take position 4.

Even if you don’t need to reuse people, those movement abilities should also be considered when assigning people, so that you assign people with movement abilities to the furthest positions.

The other thing to stress which helps a lot with reducing damage taken is to move into the middle of the room when you’ve done your job as a link in the chain so you don’t take any more damage than is absolutely necessary.

Spec and Glyphs

This isn’t really a demanding fight, healing-wise. It can get intense during the lightning phase if your coordination is less than ideal, but otherwise the healing is fairly pedestrian.

I’d recommend taking Soul Warding to help spread bubbles around to buffer people during the Lightning phase, and because the damage is in waves there’s good opportunities to make the most of an AA spec as well. If you go that route you’ll want to pop your wings for the the Lightning phase, which is where the raid damage gets really high.

If you’re on dispelling duty for Frostflake then you should pick up the Glyph of Dispel for some free healing. I’d also recommend the Glyph of Prayer of Mending, since you’ll get good uptime on PoM on this fight, especially in the Lighting phase.

If you’re the only Priest and confident at both specs, this is a reasonably good fight to switch to Holy for utility: Body and Soul is handy for getting people with Frostflake to safety quickly and HW:S can heal people in Ice Tombs.

Cooldown Usage

There’s not really a great time or place to use PW:B on this fight, because it’s pretty spread out. You could use it at the start of the Lighting phase, which will save some mana, or perhaps to provide a safe spot for some Ice Lance soakers.

PW:B can also be used as a weaker replacement for Pain Suppression on the tank for Focused Assault. Either hold tank cooldowns until asked, or use them proactively if a healer or especially if your Focused Assault taunter gets Tombed.

As I mentioned earlier you can use leaps/teleports/blinks to move people around the chain in the Lightning phase. Life Grip is another trick you can use, although if you use it to bring someone to you you’ll increase their total damage taken as lightning bounces between you and them until they get to their assigned spot. Give them a bubble and PoM to help out.

Although it’s more risky you could also LG the tank away from a Focused Assault if you have no taunter available, but you might also upset your melee DPS and risk hitting the wrong people with Shattered Ice, so use this as a last resort.

The Shadowfiend and Hymn of Hope used together should be used after the first Lightning or Frost phase, because the boss will be taking increased damage and not dealing any. Almost like that downtime was made for us! You can use a Concentration potion on the next one, if you need to.

Other Tips

Atonement has no line of sight requirement, so if the Ice Tombs go down near to the boss you can get heals on the frozen people to buy some time. The same applies for ground-based heals like HW:Sanctuary, Efflorescence and Healing Rain.

Good luck, and have fun!

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Heroic Ultraxion

Posted by Malevica on January - 24 - 2012

NB: This guide will assume you’ve already read my normal Ultraxion strategy, or otherwise know the details of the fight on normal mode.

Fight Summary

The Ultraxion fight on heroic is pretty much the same as the normal, the difference are fairly small.

The main change you’ll notice as a healer is that the AoE damage is a lot higher, as befits a heroic encounter. The timing intervals remain the same but the hits are higher: 400,000 Shadow damage on 10-heroic vs 300,000 Shadow damage on 10-normal. What’s more, you’ll be going with 2 healers in order to make the enrage timer, so it’s a lot more work than normal mode is.

The second change is that Fading Light is cast on two raid members plus his current tank, as opposed to tank plus one on normal mode. This makes the healing a bit more tricky because the damage will be spikier as more people use Heroic Will and don’t split the damage. Fading Light also leaves a debuff on the tank; unlike on normal, where the debuff leaves the tank unable to generate threat for a few seconds, the heroic debuff increases physical damage taken for 10 seconds. This is a very good way of forcing you to take two proper tanks, but shouldn’t impact on the healing as long as the tanks swap immediately when the debuffs go out.

The final changes are to Hour of Twilight. The small change is that the cast is shorter, 3 seconds instead of 5 seconds. That sounds small, but it matters if you’re used to squeezing an extra round of heals in and you’ll need to carefully adjust your timing.
The big change is that you need two people to soak each Hour instead of just one, and your tanks will not have major cooldowns available often enough for them both to take every single one. You need other people, DPS and healers, to pick up the difference.

I’ll focus on the Hour of Twilight changes, and on handling the increased damage, particularly towards the end of the fight.

Hour of Twilight

As I’ve said, the important change is that you now need two soakers per Hour instead of one. Hour of Twilight happens every 45 seconds, and once you’ve soaked an Hour you get a debuff which prevents you from taking another for 2 minutes. If you try, you die instantly. So you need 6 people to soak the Hour of Twilight, working in three pairs.

But you have other ways to survive this:

  • Shadowpriests have Dispersion every 2 minutes (75 seconds with the glyph)
  • Fire Mages can use Cauterize once a minute to survive, as long as they get healed up quickly afterwards
  • All Mages can Ice Block to avoid the damage, and Paladins can Divine Shield one as well
  • Rogues can use Cloak of Shadows every 2 minutes, preventing all magical damage taken
  • Hunters can use Deterrence to deflect the spell and take no damage
  • Holy Priests can use Guardian Spirit to help someone survive
  • Discipline Priests can use Pain Suppression in combination with a minor cooldown such as Barkskin or Anti-Magic Shell. These cooldowns are good, but not good enough on their own

There may be more abilities I’ve missed, I’d be glad to add them to the list!

Healing the last 30 seconds

At 5 minutes in Ultraxion becomes more Unstable for the final time. He goes from casting every 2 seconds to every 1 second, which effectively doubles his damage done. At this point, it’s a race against time to kill him before your healers run out of cooldowns or you’ve used up all your Timeloop charges.

The trick to surviving this is to start rotating raid cooldowns and healing cooldowns from 5 minutes onwards, anyone with a spare personal cooldown should use it, and ideally you get a kill before 5:30 or 5:40. Remember that your tanks will be getting their 4-piece bonuses, which give them an extra raid cooldown to play with. (See Grav’s comment for a great tip for using a Warrior tank’s 4-piece for both Hour and general damage soaking).
Start with passive abilities like Divine Guardian and Power Word: Barrier, and end with Divine Hymn and Tranquility because these synergise better with Bloodlust.

Speaking of which, there’s a little trick with Bloodlust…

The double-lust trick

You have a dilemma: you really want to give the healers the Bloodlust or Heroism or Time Warp for the end of the fight, but the best time to use it is the very start, where you can line up BL with trinkets, pre-pots and DPS cooldowns.

But you can have your cake and eat it too! Heroic Will takes you into a different realm, so you can’t be affected by buffs or debuffs, including BL and Heroism.

So here’s how to use this to your advantage:

  1. Have a countdown timer for pulls. (You already have this though for timing pre-pots, right?)
  2. 2 seconds before the pull, have your healers hit Heroic Will
  3. Just as the pull is made, pop BL/Heroism/Time Warp. Your healers won’t get the buff but they don’t need it, and crucially they also won’t get the associated debuff
  4. At the 5-minute mark, pop a second BL/Heroism/Time Warp so the healers can benefit from it

Spec and Glyphs

The glyphs of Prayer of Healing and Power Word: Barrier are essential. I tend to take the Penance glyph as well, but this is as much for DPS as anything else.

I take an Atonement build for this fight because in the early stages the damage is pretty low so I spend quite a bit of time DPSing. I can put out about 1.8million damage per attempt, which is only 2% of the raid’s damage but makes a huge difference when you’re looking at taking 5-10 valuable seconds off the length of the fight.

Consider taking an extra point in Veiled Shadows so you can get an extra Shadowfiend in, because the default cooldown of 5 minutes makes it tricky to use it twice when you really need it, before you get the Blue buff. See how you go, you may not need it.

Cooldown Usage

PW:B is best used at the start, right at the 5 minute mark, because it doesn’t depend on the Bloodlust being cast immediately. Once the Barrier runs out you should have Bloodlust and can throw Divine Hymn into the mix whenever it fits in your team’s rotation.

Pain Suppression can be used to keep a tank stable if you’re busy regenning mana, but I tend to hold it in case we need a backup for an Hour-soaking team.

Life Grip is fairly useless on this fight, sadly, unless you have an annoying person standing way out at the back and not benefiting from AoE healing.

You’ll only get to use one Hymn of Hope in the fight. The few seconds after an Hour of Twilight are fairly quiet, just warn your fellow healer so they can cover. The same applies to Concentration Potions.

Other Tips

Atonement healing is buffed by the Red buff, and will proc the Green buff as well, so don’t be afraid to use Smite and Holy Fire it if you get either of these buffs. Do look and make sure your raid is getting Atonement heals though, and move them forward or back if not.

The fight doesn’t require much special from you, so as a Discipline Priest your biggest contribution to damage reduction and to the raid comes from using your DPS.
Keep an eye on the raid’s health bars, but go nuts with Smite and Holy Fire in the early days. Just before the first buff is available the damage tends to ramp up and you’ll need to heal for a bit, then you can go back to DPSing because the buff will settle things down for a while.
Shortly before the second buff you’ll probably want to switch to healing full-time, but judge it for yourself.

If you’re not stacking Mastery PoH spam is probably the most effective approach to healing the fight as opposed to heavy PW:S usage. Given this, Discipline Priests benefit roughly equally from Red and Blue (Red doubles PoH and the resulting DA, while Blue doubles the number of PoH casts per unit time), although the Green is less effective because it doesn’t affect Divine Aegis procs. Resto Druids and Holy Priests really shine with the Red buff while Holy Paladins love the Blue buff, so take and then one which is left over and make it work for you. If you’re on Blue, get the Green first of course.

Good luck, and have fun!

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