Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Posts tagged ‘hard-modes’

Business Time, Hard Modes, and the “C” Word

I thought that it started when our most recent tank recruit went missing. Voss pointed out that actually, it started when our DK tank stopped raiding about a year ago, and thereafter followed a cascade of turnover such as we’d never tackled before. Constant recruiting is wearing on a team, and the subsequent struggle as new players joined and the recruitment pool shallowed have made this a fairly hellish year for one small tens guild. Obviously, I can’t claim to speak for all guilds, and never have. I’m sure many guilds have had great years, and I’m happy for you. But not in this post, because this post is all about me, and my guild.

Players dropped out one by one, with expressions of regret. They weren’t leaving for greener pastures, they were just leaving. “Tired of raiding,” “Not really feeling it,” “Would rather be doing something else.” I used to say to Voss jokingly, “We’ll stop recruiting if we lose x number of players at a time, or we’ll stop recruiting if we lose x percentage of our original team.” (I never followed through on that, by the way). Each time we lost someone, I’d hit the forums and WoW Lemmings. I’d refresh tirelessly throughout the day in-between work I was doing. I’d write personalized messages to convince people that BT was the guild they wanted to be in. For the most part, it worked. But it was like a full-time job. I spoke to potential applicants, fielded questions, did my best marketing pitch. I was always positive about the guild, and always happy to bring people to it, because I believed in the small community we’d made and wanted people to join it.

Meantime, our progression started slipping. From a One-Light and a Tribute to Insanity to an H LK guild we slipped – to a 7/13 H guild, then a post-nerf 6/7 H guild, and finally, in this tier, a 0/8 H guild. Vosskah was right – the missing tank was only the last straw in an uphill battle I feel I’ve been waging all year, a struggle to stay above water.

I’d committed to raiding Dragon Soul despite a deep tiredness that was underscored by the loss of my Grandfather at the end of November. It caused me to question many things personally – was I spending too much time on what is, ultimately, a video game? Did I want this to be such a major feature of my life? Could I reinvest my energy in another area? Who would I be if I wasn’t the guild leader of Business Time? How central was it to my identity? And more importantly, to me, how could I let everyone down like that?

It was a question that pushed me to start out in Dragon Soul even though I was tired, even though I knew I wasn’t doing my best as guild leader any more. I wasn’t logging in as often as I should, I wasn’t pursuing applicants as aggressively as I should. I wasn’t keeping up with the standards I had set for myself, and when our tank failed to show up for last Wednesday’s raid, I had a sinking feeling. A day went by with no word from him, two days. We still hadn’t heard, and I realized as the weekend loomed, two facts:

He wasn’t coming back.

I didn’t have the heart to replace him.

In a moment, just like that, I was done. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, as if a lethargy had settled over me. I knew that if that’s how I felt, I had to come clean to the guild and tell them exactly how I felt. So I did, in an epic post that will remain for BT’s eyes only. I talked about our struggles, I talked about how damn proud I was of them, and more than anything I told them how sorry I was that I just didn’t have any more left to give. I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be, and I couldn’t even clearly articulate what had driven me to this point. I knew that by posting it, I was acknowledging the possibility that the guild would disband, or at least dissipate. It was a hard realization, but it was a choice between the dissolution of the guild and the continuing impact on my personal life and I think, my health. Please note (because guildies do read) that I have to write this for myself, to get it all off my chest and to sort through it, and none of it is meant as an accusation or a criticism of the folks in BT. Of course they aren’t perfect, and neither am I (duh) but really, there’s no hindsight ‘if only this’ or ‘if only that.’ Burnout happens. I think that ‘victims’ of burnout are probably often to blame because they failed to delegate properly, or even to give warning signs that they were feeling that way. That is absolutely my failing. I’m a firm believer that strong leadership doesn’t show weakness because as soon as you show signs of faltering, the entire team begins to doubt. In this case, I did us all a disservice because there was little warning. I posted that I needed some help, around the end of November, and then the beginning of January I was saying: I need to not be guild leader.

I blithely pretended that our slow progression through heroics didn’t frustrate me. Of course it did, it frustrated all of us. What we were selling (a hard mode progression guild) wasn’t matching up with the reality: a guild that did hard modes but not all of them, and lately, a guild increasingly struggling with hard modes. Our new tank was very green and hadn’t done hard mode raiding at all. It was evident that he would have to learn, even before he disappeared. Underscoring all of it, I felt, was a sense of ennui.

Forums that used to be hopping with activity in the strategy threads slowly dwindled to very little discussion. Mumble grew silent on progression nights. Voss admitted to me that he didn’t have the interest in hard modes that he’d once had, and I had to admit I felt the same. Was Business Time doing hard modes because we liked to do them, or were we trying to do them because they were what we’d always done? I asked myself this and many other questions. In the wake of my massive forum post, a few guildies spoke up. They wanted to have a meeting so that we could talk about what I’d said, and what the potential outcome might be.

I prepared for the meeting with open eyes: There were three potential outcomes to this kind of guild shakeup.

1) Someone could step forward and assume leadership of the guild, with the realization that it would take a lot of time and work and recruiting. With Vosskah and I ceasing raiding, at the least, they’d need two new tanks and another DPS and a healer who’d also declared his intent to slow raiding.

2) I considered this a compromise between the two options; Business Time could decide to go casual, scale back our raiding operations significantly, and no longer attempt hard mode progression.

3) We could cease all raiding completely (effectively an end to the guild).

Option two was my favourite, and I even admitted that in light of the reduced requirements of option two, I would be willing to remain guild leader. We wouldn’t really recruit except friends and social members if folks had anyone they wanted to bring aboard. Every single guild member attended the meeting, and every single guild member voted for option two. (I am not so secretly pleased that, like a true DPS, I tricked my guild into spamming “two.” That might only be funny to me.)

So from there we had to figure out just what shape option two would take. Would we raid on the same day? For the time being we’ve agreed to make it a variable day based on availability each week, as well as tracking who has to sit (because we still have a roster of thirteen) so that nobody has to sit unfairly. This week we’re raiding Monday, and I’ll admit, it feels completely weird to be writing this on a Wednesday. Wednesday is Raid Day. All night I’ve been wandering around a bit lost, cooking supper at a leisurely pace, browsing the internet, chatting with Voss, and letting it sink in. For two years, we were raiding any two to three days of Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. He’d come home, we’d cook supper hurriedly (or I’d have it ready beforehand) and we’d race to be online a half hour before raid time. Even on a night when we were on standby, we’d often check in to make sure we weren’t needed. We’d check the forums for any “I’m not going to be able to make it” messages. We’d prepare the raid roster, although in recent weeks that task has been assumed by another officer. We’d talk about the roster and any difficulties. Every day may as well have been an “officer meeting.” I don’t feel at liberty to go into Voss’ personal reasons, but we were both exhausted.

What made it even harder though, was that we were tired of the raiding, not the people we were raiding with. I think many hobbies do have an expiry or a limited time on them. Gaming in general is a life-long hobby for me. Even WoW itself I have played for almost four years now. I couldn’t turn my back on the raiding without feeling that I was turning my back on ‘my guys.’ So to say I was absolutely astonished at the guild meeting is putting it mildly. I steeled myself to this decision. I wrote the post. I sat there crying for five minutes while my mouse button hovered over the “submit” button, feeling like I was pulling the trigger on something I loved, that had been a huge part of my life for two years.

I was pretty shocked when I decided to turn away from my guild, and they wouldn’t let me.

We went down the list of people, giving each a chance to talk about their feelings and goals. Many admitted that their life circumstances had changed since we first started raiding. Their enthusiasm for hard mode content had waned, their time available to play the game had been reduced, but they still loved playing with all of us. “I love you guys,” our rogue declared.

“You’re going to make me CRY,” I admonished them all. (Cry AGAIN, that is).

“Yeah, we actually agreed to do that beforehand, it was an e-mail FWD titled, ‘Let’s see if we can make her cry.’”

*pause*

“Voss was in on it.”

I don’t want to get into my feelings about hard modes in general, encounter design, or why I think Ulduar was still the best raid I’ve ever done. Perhaps that’s for another post, and anyway, that strays into “maligning the way other people play” territory. I still respect hard mode raiders, it just took a great loss and a potential second loss to make me realize that I’m no longer one of them. I don’t have the drive to succeed at that level of content that I once did, and you know what? For the time being, I’m okay with that. Ironically, considering my last post, we had just as much fun messing around in LFR last week when our tank didn’t show up. We like the time spent raiding together, and that’s not dependent on the content we’re doing.

All of this to say: I’m still a guild leader. I’m now the guild leader of a one-night-a-week, social and casual raiding guild. It feels a bit odd, but I’m sure it will grow comfortable over time. I don’t know what the future will bring – there may come a time when commitments or other interests drag people away from the game altogether. But as I told Business Time at our guild meeting, even if they quit to play Diablo III: Battle.net allows us to play that together. Those who are playing SWTOR have made characters in our little sister guild. I have a lot of the guys on Steam. If I’m playing any multi-player game, I want to be doing it with them. If that’s what I take away from this game the day the servers go dark – friends that transcend any particular game, any specific pixels – that’s more fortune than any person could ask for. I’m humbled, I’m proud, and as of this week – I’m also casual. It feels good.

Business Time Raid Guide: Heroic Chimaeron (10)

This is the second post in a series of heroic tens encounter guides. The first one covered Heroic Halfus. It’s called a Business Time raid guide because that’s my guild. I don’t take credit for the strategy contained herein;  I have written it out and compiled it based on guild member input and our forums. In fact, entire sections here were written by guildies . The tank healing section was written by one of our resto druids, Ullariend. The tank taunting section was written by Autoriot, our rogue, and reviews and information were contributed by other healers as well. Theirs is the toughest job on this fight, so it is only natural that they had more to say!

Overview

Chimaeron is generally accepted as the “next” heroic mode to tackle following Halfus. Your mileage may vary; we actually defeated both Heroic Maloriak and Heroic Atramedes before getting a handle on Chimaeron. This fight is very similar to the normal version of the encounter and puts a lot of pressure on the healers and tanks. It is a definite gear check. If your healers do not have the mana regen and the throughput to last the fight and keep your raid and tanks alive through Feuds, you won’t succeed. If your DPS is not able to put out enough damage (especially in phase two) it will likewise be impossible.

What’s unique to this fight is that a “Break” or tertiary tank is not optional. This can be any plate-wearing DPS (DK, Warrior, Retribution Paladin) or possibly a cat druid – any class that is able to taunt. This player serves the function of taking the Break debuff so that your real tanks don’t have to, because there’s another twist. During Feud on normal mode, Chim is too busy fighting with himself to attack your tanks directly. In the heroic version, Nefarian interrupts Chim and admonishes him to get back to the business of killing your raid. This means that you’ll need a tank for each Feud that does not have the Break debuff.

The other change from normal is that past 21%, Nefarian emits a shadow aura that will damage your raid for 2K damage each second. As in normal, the raid is unhealable and so this acts as a soft enrage for the battle. If you trigger the final phase with your raid too low in health, you won’t have enough time to DPS him down before you die from unavoidable damage. The key to this encounter is managing your healer cooldowns, tank taunting, and carefully coordinating when you will push the final phase, at which point it’s all on your DPS.

Abilities/Effects

These are Chimaeron’s key abilities.

Caustic Slime – Deals 270480 Nature damage and briefly reduces chance to hit for all enemies in an area. Damage is split between all enemies within 6 yards of the impact crater.

Massacre – Inflicts maximum damage to all players.

Feud – Unable to perform melee attacks while his heads are fighting each other – until Nefarian interferes.

Break – Chimaeron attacks viciously, breaking through his target’s defenses. Increases Physical damage taken by 25% and reduces healing done by 15% for 1 min. Stacks.

Double Attack – Chimaeron will strike twice on his next attack.

Mortality – Chimaeron goes into a rage, rendering him immune to Taunt effects but increasing the damage he takes by 10%. Reduces healing effects for all enemies by 99%.

Special Notes

This fight is unique in that it requires a DPS player to act as a tank. Make sure that the person handling this task is comfortable with their taunt button and understands the mechanics of the fight so that they know when they need to taunt and why. Tank gear is not necessary and in fact will likely make it impossible for you to beat the enrage at the end. Your DPS can wear their normal gear and spec, but they may need to swap stances or forms in order to taunt. Our warrior stance dances from Defensive stance to perform his taunts. Because of their role tanking, your Break tank is likely to be one of the first to die when Chimaeron switches phases. This is actually of great benefit to you if you have a battle rez available. Once your Break tank goes down, have a (druid, preferably) battle rez him or her. They will join the action at full health, and their additional DPS will prove invaluable.

An alternate strategy is to actually have three geared and specced tanks – giving one additional target for Chimaeron to chew through in P2. This isn’t the strategy we used but could be a viable option, although it will put additional strain on your tank healer who will have to top off not two but three tanks just prior to the transition. The battle rez in this case would be saved for the first DPS to die in P2.

Raid Composition

  • Two tanks
  • One Break “Tank”
  • Three healers
  • Four DPS

Healers that have strong AoE healing are very helpful for the Feud phases, and DPS that are able to reset aggro or delay pulling help with the final phase. In our case, we have two mages that save Mirror Image, and a rogue that can evasion tank for a time after the tanks have died. Any delaying tactic could make the difference between a kill and a wipe here! Note that this does not include kiting; it’s not possible to kite Chimaeron and so you may as well stay put with him.

See below for legend.

Positioning

Everyone needs to maintain a minimum distance of 6 yards because of Caustic Slime. We position one healer in a central location (indicated by the green circle). This is where the raid will stack for Feuds, and that healer never moves. Put one of your least mobile healers here. Other healers arrange themselves nearby and the rest of the ranged DPS are arranged around the room (I always go to the far left because it’s easy for me to Blink into the group). The dot marked with a purple diamond on the left is the “Break” tank and the other tanks are in green. We only have two melee DPS at a time but if you have more you may need to adjust positioning to ensure everyone is six yards apart. His hit box is gigantic, so this shouldn’t be a big issue.

Strategy

Your Break tank should begin the fight by talking to Finkle Einhorn. Here is what the tanking should look like from that point. (You have a Break Tank, Tank A, and Tank B).

Fight starts, Break Tank (DPS)  is tanking everything but Double Attacks.
Tank A taunts to take every Double Attack (watch the timers).
Break Tank taunts back immediately following the Double Attack (it looks like a big swoosh in the air). Be careful not to taunt too soon!
Feud starts, Tank A tanks everything and uses a CD for Double Attack. Tank A does NOT collapse with the rest of the raid. All healers must keep the raid close to full as usual, plus heavily focus on this tank.
Feud ends, Break Tank is tanking once again
Tank B now takes Double Attacks.
Tank B will now tank everything in Feud, using a CD for the Double Attack and staying away from the collapse point.
Repeat, always rotating the Double Attack/Feud tank each time so that their stack of “Break” falls off.

The RNG of this fight is how often feud happens. They can happen every 2-3 massacres (not counting the one right after Feud), so if you get them back-to-back too often, you’ll run out of tank and/or healer CDs. This is what the tanks will be doing, while the healers are spot healing members with Caustic Slime and then keeping the raid alive for Feuds. This healing is very intense and all DPS raid members should consider glyphing or talenting anything that will increase their healing received or grant them a self-heal. Draenei are able to use Gift of the Naaru, and our entire raid bandaged during the Feud phases. Feuds should happen more or less often enough to allow you to bandage each time. Every little bit counts!

Once Chimaeron has approximately 25% of his health left, the timing gets tricky. Ideally, you want to push him into the next phase at the very end of a Feud so that your healers are able to top everyone up (but prior to a Massacre). If you wait too long, the raid will be too low to execute Phase 2 correctly. He transitions at 21%. We DPS right up until about 24%, wait for the next Feud, and then time it so that Phase 2 begins before he can Massacre.

At this point, all healing is useless. Your healers should go into “DPS mode.” Your tanks should try to live as long as they possibly can. Use heroism and any other DPS cooldowns, and as mentioned above, have a plan for DPS to juggle the aggro long enough to kill him. If you are a mage, you should use Mirror Images at the very beginning of the encounter and then rather than using it on CD, save it for this phase. If your DPS can BURN HIM DOWN, you’ve won!

Healing! Slime! Orange Fog! Our healers tell me this is their absolute favourite fight! Honest.

Tanks
Timing is everything for this fight, and watching your aggro. This isn’t something a tank usually has to worry about, but when it’s not your turn to be the active tank you must ensure that you do not pass the current tank’s aggro. Even if that means you have to stop white-hits, that’s what you have to do. If you accidentally pull Chim before your turn, you are likely to receive a stack of Break or a Double Attack making it impossible for you to tank when it IS your turn or killing you outright. We have someone announcing who is the current Double Attack tank at each transition so that healers always know precisely who will be taking the heavy hits.

Use a cool-down as soon as Feud begins. The healers (at least 2/3) will be moving into place and preparing to heal the raid. You will be taking heavy damage. This was one of the major blocks we had to deal with as we were learning this fight, and we would often lose tanks at this crucial phase. If you are using your CDs appropriately to help healers and coordinating with your fellow tanks, you’ve got your part of the fight squared away. If you have any cooldowns available to you at the beginning of Phase 2, use everything you have to live as long as you can (but not at the expense of skipping out on these CDs during earlier Feuds).

DPS
I’m going to be honest with you here: Prepare to be bored as your raid learns this fight. There will be many learning wipes, and it will feel out of your control – because it is. Your primary goal is to 1) live, and do everything you can to keep yourself alive and 2) do not push the transition into P2 early or late. You won’t get to practice that until your raid actually gets here, though. Once P2 begins, then it’s all up to you and you must kill him and kill him as quickly as you can. You will learn the rhythm of the fight and when to use your cooldowns so that they’re available to you in the final phase when you most need them.

As our gear has improved, we spend some time standing around at the end; the first part of the fight isn’t exactly a DPS race (although of course you want to get him down to 25% ASAP). The fewer Feuds your raid has to deal with, the better your chances. Above all, remain patient and remember that your tanks and healers are juggling some pretty crazy feats. If you are a hybrid DPS, your services may be useful in off-healing during Feuds (Healing Rain, Tranquility if you are a druid, etc.) Coordinate these with the healers.

Soon, it will be Phase 2. An incredible amount of burst DPS is needed to push Chim from 24% to 21% at the end of the last Feud. If you push him too soon, the raid might not be healed up. If you don’t push him quickly enough, a Massacre will happen and it’s game over. Once you’ve successfully transitioned, check Omen and your raid frames so you can see who is still alive, and who has threat, and whether a really big hydra is soon headed your way. Plan to use any threat reduction you have to live as long as you can.

Healers
This is a somewhat gimmicky healer fight. Some healers enjoy that (most of the healers I’ve talked to hate this fight). There’s something about seeing almost the entire raid at 1% health that gives healers the shakes. You’ll want to give specific healing assignments as well as have a plan in place for coordinating healing cooldowns on the raid during Feuds.

  1. Healer – Tank healer
  2. Healer – Raid healer/Targeting Group 1 for low health
  3. Healer – Raid Healer/Targeting Group 2 for low health

The RNG of this fight makes it impossible to determine exactly when Feuds will occur, but you can plan a sequence for when they do occur. This will vary depending on what healers you have available to you. Our raid plans for one druid to use Tranquility on the first Feud, and the second druid to use Tranquility on the second. Discipline Priests could of course use Power Word: Barrier (and Discipline priests in general could buy you some extra time in the final phase, because “reduced healing” does not apply to shields, and such a priest could shield the whole raid.) The healing for the final Feud is something that will vary depending on your group’s overall DPS. I’ve been told that when DPS is high enough, it deemphasizes the need to have the entire group at maximum health (because the burn will be completed before the soft enrage). If your group’s DPS is a bit lower, you will definitely want to make sure that healing CDs are available to top the raid off as much as possible before the second phase.

The Caustic Slime can sometimes hit two people in the same group. If you are assigned to heal Group 1 and no one in your group is affected, you should help out the other healer and try to discuss beforehand how you will do this. (i.e. make sure your raid frames show people in the same order and agree that outside of your own group you will heal the person lowest on the list, or similar. It doesn’t matter how you arrange it, just so that all of the targets are covered!) I would add that making sure your frames are set up to display relevant debuffs (Caustic Slime, < 10K health) is pretty much mandatory here. You will need to get a feel for which of your heals can bring someone above 10K without wasting too much mana, because when learning this fight mana can definitely be a concern.

Paladin Specifics
Our paladin recommends using Avenging Wrath for the first Feud, Divine Favor for the second and then continue to rotate the two when they are off CD (but it’s unlikely you’ll have a CD for each). He recommends saving Guardian of Ancient Kings for the final “top-off” Feud. Beacon should be placed on the Double Attack tank.

Paladin healers should also activate Righteous Fury for this encounter; this will generate aggro throughout the fight so that you will be the next target after the tanks die. What you’ll want to do is at the start of P2 run to a corner, when he gets aggro on you let him run towards you and BoP yourself. He will run back to the stacked group, cancel your bubble and he will run back to you. This helps buy the DPS some valuable time.

Druid Specifics
Our raid healing druid recommends Glyph of Regrowth for additional healing. As mentioned above, strong healing CDs might be needed at the last Feud, and our druid used Tree Form along with Wild Growth and Tranquility at this point. The following is also druid-specific, but focused on tank healing.

Tank healing

Your responsibility will be to keep the Break Tank above 10k, to top up the tank following Double Attacks and Massacres, and heal that tank during Feuds.

Break Tank: Chimaeron has a 5 second swing timer, so you will need to heal 10k every 5 seconds, except where the Break Tank skips a swing due to double attack. Lifebloom, so long as you don’t let it fall off will be enough to keep the break tank alive. It does cut it pretty close, but there have been two times in all of our attempts where Lifebloom hasn’t been enough. Unfortunately, I can’t give advice to other classes for the best spell to rely on for this

Tanks: The tank taking the Double Attacks must be completely topped-off after a Massacre before the next Double Attack. If the tank is missing any health, and does not avoid or block the first swing, it can take them below 10k causing the second swing to kill the tank.

During Feud that tank should be healed as quickly as possible after the Massacre and kept topped off. The tanks should be using cooldowns during this phase, but they can still take a huge amount of damage very quickly, and the closer they are to full health the more likely they are to survive.

Massacre Timer Awareness

These two jobs sound simple enough, but it can be difficult to get healing out fast enough to get the Tank topped up in time, and to have enough mana to maintain the throughput for the full duration of the fight.

The key to getting through the fight is watching the ability timers in whatever bossmod you use. You should always be aware of when the next massacre will be cast. Doing so will allow you to do two things:

1. Get a head start on topping off the Tank by pre-casting your largest heal on the Double Attack tank so that it lands immediately after the Massacre hits.

2. Save mana by knowing when you don’t need to top up the Tank. When a Double Attack will be followed by a Massacre you don’t need to top the Tank off, just get them to 10k. If there are less than 10 seconds till the next Massacre when the double attack happens you will be okay.

Druid Glyphs for Tank Healing

I strongly recommend Glyph of Healing Touch for tank healing. Since you will be using Healing Touch so much, this Glyph will reduce the CD of Nature’s Swiftness so that it is available every Feud. A +50% instant Healing Touch is very helpful for topping the tank up following the Massacre that begins the Feud.

Glyph of Regrowth is often recommended for druids, but I have found there is little benefit to it with the healing strategy I have described. You will not need to use Regrowth on the Break Tank to keep him healed above 10k, Lifebloom plus passive healing like Healing Stream Totem and Vampiric Embrace will do this on its own, so casting Regrowth on the Break Tank is wasted. The Tanks will rarely have the Regrowth HoT effect on them when they take damage as you will be relying on Healing Touch to top them off as Regrowth is too mana inefficient for that task. (Regrowth should pretty much only be used to trigger Nature’s Grace every 60 seconds)

Pro-Tip: Don’t have the “Interact with Target” function bound to the same key as your Push-to-Talk key. When you are standing within melee range and try to say something in vent, fun things happen. And by ‘fun things’ I mean everyone dies.

Conclusion

Heroic Chimaeron is a gear and coordination check for your entire raid. Most wipes will happen as your tanks grow accustomed to the taunting and timers involved, and as your healers learn to balance intense healing with mana conservation. If you can execute the first phase of the fight and learn to anticipate and manage Feuds, you’ll soon be tackling P2 which is a really easy burn comparatively. Good luck, and if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments!

Business Time Raid Guide: Heroic Halfus (10)

First, a brief preamble. It’s been brought to my attention that there aren’t many heroic tens guides out there – or many guides assume that you are a twenty-fives guild (with a twenty-fives roster to draw from) for these heroics. There are, of course, many strategies and what you choose to do will be based on the classes you have available to you. I’ve never written an actual boss-strategy guide, so bear with me here. This strategy may not be the one that your guild uses, in which case, feel free to offer your suggestions below. Keep in mind, though, that I run a troll-free operation. If you aren’t respectful and constructive in your remarks, they’ll never see the light of day.

If these prove useful to folks I might consider writing more; your feedback is welcome as to format and key information! Guides are so much more work than any other blog posts; this post alone has taken me many hours to write and research. Thanks to BT members that read and reviewed the strat for me; I wanted to make sure it contained key information for all roles.

Overview

So, your guild has cleared all of the normal mode content in this tier! Or maybe you haven’t, but you’re working on Nefarian and you’ve killed Cho’gall and you think, hey, maybe we could do some of the easier heroics. Well, Halfus has a reputation for being “the easiest,” and once you get a handle on it, it’s definitely doable by most ambitious raid groups. It is intense, and requires coordination from everyone to understand what’s going on. Heroic Halfus varies from the normal mode encounter in that you don’t have specific “active” drakes week to week. They are all able to be active. Everything does more damage (duh, I know). After six minutes, Halfus will use Berserk and the fight is effectively over, this is the enrage. This guide assumes that you are familiar with the normal mode Halfus encounter and all of the abilities.

The key to this encounter is the debuff Dragon’s Vengeance. After you kill one of the dragons, Halfus will take 100% more damage. This ability stacks up to five times. The fight will start out incredibly hectic and become much more manageable as each dragon dies. Less damage will be going out, and Halfus himself will take more. At the end, when Halfus has a full stack of this debuff it is generally easy to bring him down.

Abilities/Effects

These are Halfus’ key abilities. Where applicable, variations applied by releasing a drake are noted in blue.

Frenzied Assault – Increases the caster’s attack speed by 120%. Nether Scion: Nether fog blinds Halfus, reducing his chance to hit, attack speed, and damage done by 25%.

Malevolent Strikes – Halfus’ attacks wound the target, reducing the effectiveness of any healing on it by 8%. Stacks up to 12 times for a max reduction of 96% to healing. Slate Dragon: Once every 35 seconds or so, Halfus will occasionally become stunned for 12 sec.

Shadow Nova – [0.25sec Cast] Dark magic is unleashed, causing 47500 to 52500 Shadow damage and knocking back all enemies within 50000 yds. Storm Rider: Slows the cast speed of Shadow Nova by 500% (to 1.50 seconds) and makes it possible to interrupt.

When his health is below 50%, Halfus will be able to cast Furious Roar – [1.50sec Cast] Halfus roars periodically, inflicting 19000 to 21000 physical damage and knocking his enemies to the ground.

Activating the Time Warden allows the raid to dodge fireballs, and activating the whelps decreases the amount of damage done by the fireballs.

Special Notes

You’ll want someone in the raid providing Shadow and Fire resistance. Sub-50%, someone has to be able to break out of a stun in order to interrupt a Shadow Nova, as Halfus will cast Furious Roar. He roars one, two, three times and then immediately begins to cast Shadow Nova. A mage can do this if positioned far enough away from Halfus that a Blink will land you facing him. (You can practice this on normal, too). I count his roars aloud, and on the third roar (immediately after I’ve been stunned) blink and then counterspell. Our raid has two mages doing this so we’re double protected. A human can also do it using Every Man For Himself, but regardless of how your raid handles it, someone has to or you’ll be eating Novas in that phase.

Raid Composition

Two tanks (three tanks)
Three healers (four healers)
Five DPS

It is worth noting that our initial H Halfus kills were accomplished with a slightly different layout than this; we used one Atonement/smite specced priest in place of a DPS, bringing the number of healers to an effective 3.5 or so. This additional healing allowed us to survive longer and we were still within the enrage timer, but better gear has allowed us to do it with only three healers. Another factor to consider is what type of tanks you have. A paladin is able to cleanse stacks of Malevolent Strikes off him/herself. Our paladin healer can do the same for our warrior tank, but not for both a warrior and a bear. This ability is huge in this situation. I’m sure it’s possible to use another composition (I’ve heard of both three tanks and four healer compositions, although naturally you can’t have both three tanks and four healers). This is the strategy that worked for us, it is by no means the only option.

See below for legend.

Positioning

Your tanks should be close together to facilitate AoE damage to drakes and whelps and for ease of taunting. The rest of the raid should be loosely spread out on the right side of the room. Not so far as to be out of range of healers, but for much of the fight you can’t dodge fireballs and so should arrange yourselves accordingly. If you stand on a buddy, you will get fire dropped on his head.

I made the diagram above to illustrate this. Here’s the legend:

Skull: Storm Rider

Cross: Nether Scion

Star: Whelps

Square: Time Warden

Orange Circle: Halfus

The DPS on the far right is someone releasing Nether Scion and then joining the group. The melee DPS by star is someone releasing the whelps; he/she will then move in to begin DPSing skull.

Strategy

Your goal here is to kill one of these dragons so fast they don’t even know what happened to them. Ideally, you want to kill the second two in rapid succession/simultaneously. The longer the drakes are active, the greater the chance that something will go wrong with the tank swaps and your raid will be taking heavy AoE damage as well so you need to burn them down. We use the following drake order:

1. Storm Rider – the off-tank releases Storm Rider at the beginning of the fight, and it is the priority kill target. All DPS focuses on him.

2. Nether Scion – Someone has to release Nether Scion at the same time; I usually do this and then blink towards the group (but not INTO it). Our hunter misdirects to the OT; but in the absence of a hunter we have also used healer aggro to draw the dragon across the room and have the OT quickly taunt it.

3. Whelps – Released simultaneously with Storm Rider and Nether Scion. A special note about whelps; their ability isn’t particularly noteworthy however it is worth your time to kill them, and many classes are capable of doing so while simultaneously killing their primary target. Hunters and rogues have excellent AoE for this purpose, and fire mages are absolutely ridiculous. If you can get a good Combustion rolling on Storm Rider and then use Impact to spread it to the whelps, you will be laughing. Heavy AoE can bring the whelps down almost exactly when Storm Rider goes down, and so you already have two stacks of the debuff on Halfus!

4. Time Warden – Released only after two drakes are down.

5. Slate DragonIgnore, do not release, although on our very first kill of this our OT ran over and released him and the subsequent stun on Halfus allowed us to get the kill. Use at your own risk, but 5 stacks of the debuffs are not necessary to complete this encounter.

I’ll get into specifics for each role after this, but basically the fight goes like this: Chosen drakes/whelps are released. The tanks will do some swapping. Storm Rider dies. Nether Scion and the Whelps die (likely together). After two drakes are down, Time Warden can be released. Once Time Warden is down, DPS Halfus. Below 50%, he begins to roar – but so long as you make sure to interrupt his shadow novas (and even if you miss one, perhaps) you win!

This is what "winning" looks like. I PROMISE.

Tanks
One tank will be tanking lots of things (many whelps, handle it). This tank handles Storm Rider, Nether Scion, and the whelps at the same time to start the fight. The challenge here is maintaining aggro on all of the targets and using your CDs simultaneously so that you don’t keel over. Any debuff you can put on the whelps and dragons to reduce their damage done will also be a boon (Demoralizing Shout, Thunderclap, etc.) All of the adds and Halfus should be tanked in the same area to allow for easy taunting.

The other tank initially handles Halfus. Note if you are a warrior tank (and usually charge to begin the fight) do not charge towards Halfus. Pull him and make him come to you at first. The reason for this is because the Halfus tank will be gaining stacks of Malevolent Strikes quickly. If you acquire these before Halfus receives the debuffs from the released drakes/whelps, a dead tank could result! With MS stacking, this tank can’t take Halfus for too long before becoming unhealable. If your main tank is a paladin, then they can let their MS strikes accumulate to ten and then cleanse them by quickly using bubble and then canceling it. Here’s a macro to help you handle that, straight from Rhidach. You have to hit it twice.

/cancelaura Divine Shield
/cast Divine Shield

The tank will begin to gain fresh stacks of MS. At five stacks, the OT will taunt Halfus off of the main-tank and the MT will taunt the two dragon targets (It can be too messy to pick up whelps, but for a short time the OT can handle Halfus and the whelps).

At this point, another exchange is performed when the MT’s five stack drops off naturally (after thirty seconds). If you have access to any other spec of paladin, they can use Blessing of Protection (quickly followed by Blessing of Freedom) to ‘cleanse’ a stack of debuffs from a non-paladin tank, thereby easing the difficulty of one of these exchanges. The “quickly” part here is important; every paladin healer knows what happens when you just BoP the tank!  Learning how to handle the tank swapping is a major obstacle in the fight.

The other factor here is Shadow Nova. Our raid is geared enough now that we can afford to leave one melee DPS on Halfus throughout the entire fight (and this is what we do). Their sole responsibility (in addition to damaging Halfus) is to interrupt Shadow Novas. In the absence of the raid DPS necessary to accomplish this, tanks can now more easily interrupt Shadow Nova, but beware of Shadow Novas going off during a tank swap. It’s extremely helpful if ranged DPS in particular focus Halfus and be prepared to back-up Shadow Nova interrupts during the first few minutes of the fight. The damage from these is punishing, and can wipe your raid if even one goes off (considering the other AoE and heavy tank damage going out).

DPS
Your task in this encounter is actually fairly straightforward: kill the first and second dragons and whelps before they can kill your tank. Initial aggro here is going to be shaky – we’ve had some clumsy wipes from pulling aggro on Halfus himself before we really figured out the encounter. DPS on Halfus hardly matters, especially initially. Don’t even attack Halfus right away. Give your tanks time to position all of the drakes. Your first target is going to be Stormrider. Depending on your class, you may also be responsible for releasing one of the drakes (I always release Nether Scion and blink, as noted. Our rogue usually releases the whelps and then uses Tricks to direct them towards the OT). If you’re a hunter, misdirecting Nether Scion to the OT is incredibly helpful. Once the tank has aggro on Storm Rider, we use Heroism/Bloodlust.

Classes with the ability to do incidental (cleave, DoT) AoE damage to whelps and other drakes are invaluable here. As a fire mage, it is no DPS loss to use Impact to spread your DoTs to the whelps – in fact, it will help you to do ridiculous DPS (upwards of 50K). The reason for this is also because of the way the damage debuff stacks on Halfus, you can attack Halfus and chain your DoTs to other dragons to do 100 (200, 300%) more damage as the fight goes on. I’m not going to speak to every class’s abilities, here – I know our rogue does very high AoE in this encounter, as does our hunter. One thing to note though is if you are using a method that allows for direct damage on Halfus and splash damage on the dragons, be careful. His health drops very quickly; and if you mistakenly push him below 50% while your group is still handling drakes and whelps, you will very likely wipe. I usually swap around targets after the first drake is down to make sure to not push Halfus too far while still gaining some benefit from his debuff.

Other than that, be aware of the kill order, watch your aggro and be prepared to use any threat drops you have available to you. Help with Shadow Nova interrupts if at all possible; I use the following macro:

/cast [modifier:Alt, target=focus, exists, nodead] [] Counterspell

This will interrupt your Focus target if you hold down Alt as you press whatever key it’s bound to. Replace “Counterspell” with your interrupt of choice.

Healers
This is not a kind fight to healers, especially initially. Everything is happening simultaneously here. You have two tanks, both taking heavy damage. They are also trading a debuff that makes them unhealable. On top of that, you have an incredible amount of raid damage happening in the form of fireballs hitting the raid. They can’t be dodged until Time Warden is released. Make sure healers are assigned to specific roles, and plan to use any cooldowns you have to keep the tanks and raid alive in this crucial first phase. You’ll want:

  1. Healer – Halfus Tank
  2. Healer – Drake Tank
  3. Healer – Raid Healer
  4. Optional: Fourth

Another option is to just assign one healer to a specific tank. I conferred with one of our guild healers for this section of the guide, and he wanted me to mention that a four-healer strategy is highly recommended and will help with the significant raid damage going out until Time Warden is released. You will, of course, need to have the DPS to compensate for the loss of one healer, and if you have the option of something like an Atonement priest, by all means use it. They do DPS and healing. Also, as a healer, use any mana regen abilities early on. You will get a brief reprieve (before Halfus hits 50%, and after drakes have been dying) and you won’t need much mana until phase two at that point. Paladin healers should save their personal bubble for phase 2; much like a mage’s Blink it can be used to escape Furious Roar and begin healing immediately.

Our paladin, Sinpree, describes H Halfus as a pretty basic fight from a healing perspective. The biggest thing is maximizing mana regen at the beginning and making sure you put out the HPS to keep everyone alive, and then leaving yourself enough mana to finish the fight.

Conclusion

Heroic Halfus can seem like a very complicated fight with so many things happening. You will probably wipe most while your tanks and healers sort out the initial damage and taunting mechanics. Above everything, keep your cool and remember that if you can survive the first portion you are well on your way to defeating the fight. Apart from interrupting Shadow Nova in P2, it’s all downhill after the first few drakes have died! Good luck, and if you have any questions feel free to ask them in comments. Here’s to more dead internet dragons!

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