|Siege of Orgrimmar|
|Vale of Eternal Sorrows|
|The Fallen Protectors|
|Sha of Pride|
|Gates of Retribution|
|Kor’kron Dark Shaman|
|Spoils of Pandaria|
|Thok the Bloodthirsty|
|Paragons of the Klaxxi|
Malkorok is the ninth boss in Siege of Orgrimmar, and the first boss of The Underhold wing. The encounter is a two-phase fight, with very simple but punishing mechanics.
Infused with the power of Y’Shaarj, Malkorok begins the encounter by filling the room with an Ancient Miasma, which converts all healing into an absorption shield called an Ancient Barrier. While it is possible for players to lose health while they are affected by the Ancient Miasma, it is next to impossible for them to gain health until Ancient Miasma is banished in the second phase of the fight.
Players must strike a balance between handling the mechanics of the encounter and monitoring the strength of their Ancient Barrier in comparison to the damage they’re about to take. In a way, the first phase of this encounter is a UI check on your healers, who must be able to track the strength of each player’s Ancient Barrier and triage the players on low Barrier strength. Damage is spiky and random when the phase is handled capably, and intense and raid-wide if the phase is handled poorly.
Ancient Miasma fades when Malkorok reaches full Rage, at which point he enters a Blood Rage phase – phase two – that lasts for 20 seconds. This is a stack-and-heal-like-crazy phase, with intense raid damage and a debuff to manage that must be dispelled when the affected player is more than 8 yards from the rest of the raid.
I suggest Talenting and gearing for the Blood Rage phase, since healers should be able to adequately top up Ancient Barriers with any Talent choice.
The first phase of the Malkorok encounter lasts until Malkorok reaches a full Rage bar, which takes exactly two minutes. It is this phase in which Ancient Miasma prevents all healing from being done, converting it to an absorption shield.
Healers must be able to track the absorption shield on each player in the raid. There are three debuffs to track:
Weak Ancient Barrier: The player’s shield is at less than 30% capacity. This player requires immediate healing attention.
Of course, any player with none of these debuffs is in dire need of healing, so keep that in mind too!
Malkorok has a number of abilities he will use throughout this phase that will endanger the strength of your raid’s Ancient Barriers:
Each time Malkorok attacks the tank, he leaves a stack of Fatal Strike on them. Each stack causes the tank to take 10% more damage from all sources. This debuff lasts for 30 seconds, and Malkorok attacks approximately every 1.5 seconds, so tanks will gain around 20 stacks of this debuff while waiting for their other tank’s stacks to fall off.
The first ability that Malkorok will use on the raid is Seismic Smash. He will target a random ranged player, smashing the ground beneath their feet. This attack deals heavy Physical damage to all players within 5 yards of the targeted player, and knocks them all up into the air, causing a small amount of fall damage later. (L2B Pandaren, I guess.)
Shortly following Seismic Smash, Malkorok will begin to cast Arcing Smash. He will face a random raid member (anyone can be targeted) and draw a huge smoky cone. Three seconds later, Malkorok will slam his weapon into the ground, and all players in this area will take near-fatal Physical damage. Players must avoid this damage by moving out of the affected area within that three-second window.
Immediately following Arcing Smash, Malkork will summon several pools of Imploding Energy (3 on 10-player difficulties, and 7 in 25-player difficulties). After four seconds, the pools detonate, and any players standing inside the Imploding Energy graphic will take heavy Shadow damage. If no player is standing inside a given Imploding Energy pool when it detonates, it will deal even heavier Shadow damage to the entire raid.
It is very important that all Imploding Energy pools are appropriately “soaked” by players with Strong Ancient Barriers. Allowing an Imploding Energy pool to go unsoaked will basically clear the entire raid’s Ancient Barrier progress, and healers may find it difficult to recover. Allowing two Imploding Energy pools to detonate unsoaked at the same time will wipe the raid. And persistently allowing Imploding Energy pools to detonate unsoaked will eventually drain your entire raid of its health, leading to a wipe.
These pools spawn all over the encounter area, usually with at least one in melee range. Any player in range of an Imploding Energy pool should attempt to soak it, so long as they have a green Ancient Barrier buff. The damage does not split between multiple targets, so there is no need for more than one player in each pool.
It is a good idea to use personal cooldowns when soaking Imploding Energy explosions, since the cooldown’s damage reduction is applied before the damage is actually dealt, meaning that you will take less of your Ancient Barrier’s “charge” away. Without any cooldowns, a player soaking an Imploding Energy pool will very likely take enough damage to break their Ancient Barrier entirely and shave off a bit of health.
This cycle of Seismic Smash – Arcing Smash – Imploding Energy repeats 3 times, and then, immediately following the third Imploding Energy detonation, Malkorok will begin to cast Breath of Y’shaarj. This spell will infuse all three previous Arcing Smash locations with deadly Shadow energy, dealing fatal Shadow damage to any player standing in those regions when the spell cast finishes. There is no visual indicator for this, until it is too late!
Following the Breath of Y’shaarj, Malkorok will begin the entire cycle over again: three more iterations of Seismic Smash – Arcing Smash – Imploding Energy, capped with a second Breath of Y’shaarj. Once this second Breath of Y’shaarj has finished, Malkorok’s Rage bar will be full, and he will transition into his Blood Rage phase.
Ancient Miasma and You
Since this is a healing-focused guide, I want to take a moment or two to address the implications of Ancient Miasma. First of all, it doesn’t diminish the value of absorption-based healers: Discipline Priests and Holy Paladins are still valuable in this encounter because their shielding applies over top of, and is used up before, Ancient Barrier is touched. This improves the effective health of your raid and means that there is a much lower chance that any raid members will lose health. While Holy Priests may have more pure throughput for Ancient Barrier-stacking, Discipline Priests are definitely an asset and a dedicated Disc Priest shouldn’t feel too pressured to change specs.
Secondly, healing above and beyond what is necessary to cap out the Ancient Barrier still appears as “effective” healing on World of Logs, Recount, and Skada. However, just like on Heroic Tortos, this is completely ineffectual healing.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t heal people whose shields are full if there are no higher-priority targets – many healers have a mechanism to convert overhealing into something useful (e.g. Illuminated Healing, Divine Aegis, Wild Mushroom charging, Ancestral Vigor). Just note that the meters in phase 1 really are quite meaningless. Classes who are able to spam more non-smart, direct heals on players with Strong Ancient Barrier – e.g. Priests and Monks – are going to appear to be doing beastly healing on the meters, when in reality, the vast majority of that healing should have been classified as overheal, just like it would have been in any other fight.
Finally, players with Strong Ancient Barrier – a mostly-full shield – are ignored by smart heals. Healers who rely on smart heals will find that their healing is more likely to target pets than players, if all players in range have a Strong Ancient Barrier.
This has the most serious implications for Restoration Shaman, whose toolkit is like 80% smart healing, and for whom it is uncharacteristically difficult to keep Ancestral Vigor rolling. However, it also affects Holy Paladins’ use of Holy Radiance to keep Illuminated Healing active on the melee pile. To a lesser extent, this can affect Divine Aegis uptime from Atonement and Echo of Light from Circle of Healing, but realistically, with the large range on those spells, they’re more likely to find a red- or yellow-shielded player, and there are other good spells Priests can cast that function in a non-smart manner – like Divine Star, Halo, or Prayer of Healing – that will apply these affects.
I want to be clear: you are missing out on meaningful healing with this particular implementation of the smart heal/Strong Ancient Barrier interaction. It’s not much, since Strong Ancient Barrier reflects at least 85% shield capacity, but your smart heals are working suboptimally for you in this situation. In other words, the more your toolkit relies on smart healing, the less effective you are going to look on the meters. So, Shaman, if your raid leaders are getting on your case for your “low healing” during phase 1, just point them to this article for the explanation.
When Malkorok reaches 100 Rage, two minutes in to the fight, he will enter a Blood Rage. This causes all of his melee attacks to strike all enemies within five yards, dealing a truly stupid amount of Physical damage that ignores armor, and that is likely to be fatal to your tank without a ridiculous amount of cooldowns. This damage is split between all players in the area, though, so with the power of hugs, you can save your tank! During Blood Rage, the raid must stack on the tank and chain cooldowns to survive the extreme damage.
While Chi Torpedo could do a lot of healing during Blood Rage, Rolling out of the cleave could leave your raid vulnerable. Xuen could be a better choice here, especially since he’ll help rebuild Ancient Barrier once Blood Rage ends.
Ancestral Guidance lines up exactly with the Blood Rage phases and is my Talent choice for this fight. Rushing Streams won’t perform as well for the reasons discussed in the “Ancient Miasma and You” section above.
I’ll note that players do not lose their Ancient Barriers when Blood Rage begins, even though they lose the Ancient Miasma debuff. Thus, maximising the raid’s Ancient Barriers just before the Blood Rage phase begins will help keep the raid stable while players move into position and start to use their raid cooldowns.
The only other mechanic during this phase is Displaced Energy, a magical debuff that is applied to several players in the raid at random (but never the tanks). 2 players are affected in 10-player difficulties, and 4 players in 25-player difficulties. Displaced Energy occurs twice during Blood Rage, ten seconds apart; it lasts for 9 seconds and deals heavy Shadow damage every 3 seconds. Combined with the cleave damage from standing on the tank, this can very quickly become fatal.
When Displaced Energy expires or is dispelled, the formerly-affected player detonates, dealing very heavy Shadow damage to all players within 8 yards. It is important not to allow this to happen while the targeted players are standing in the raid! Players may choose to run out immediately and get dispelled, or to wait until the debuff is about to fall off and run out to let it expire naturally. While it is technically possible to survive the detonation, through seriously heavy cooldowns, this is a very, very risky proposition, and it isn’t really worth it.
Do note, however, that running out of the raid for dispels will mean there are fewer targets standing with the tanks to help split the cleave damage. Communication is key to ensure that dispels are handled quickly, to minimize the amount of time that the rest of the raid is vulnerable to dying from increased cleave damage.
Once Malkorok’s Rage bar has depleted – at a rate of 5 Rage per second – Blood Rage ends and the Endless Rage phase resumes, except Malkorok gains a stack of Relentless Assault, increasing all damage he deals by 25%. Players regain Ancient Miasma and heals stop filling up health bars, so it is really important that players end Blood Rage at full health. Aggressive use of cooldowns will help here.
If Malkorok is not defeated within 6 minutes, he will insta-kill your entire raid with Eradicate. This is the hard Enrage mechanic.
Bloodlust/Heroism should be used on the pull, since there’s no real reason to hold it, and everyone can use their trinkets/CDs.
Ranged should spread out around the room so Seismic Smash and Arcing Smash do not affect a disproportionate amount of players, and to ensure that someone will be in range to soak every Imploding Energy pool that spawns. This will limit movement for the raid, which can help with the hard Enrage timer.
The best way to cope with the Breath of Y’Shaarj mechanic is to have one of your raiders keybind the world marker functions and place a world marker in the location of each Arcing Smash. After the third Imploding Energy – which comes very shortly before the Breath of Y’Shaarj, but still must be soaked! – players can simply move to areas of the room that are well clear of the world markers. You can see this in action in my Breath of Y’Shaarj screenshot above. For information on how to keybind/macro the world marker functions, see this WoWWiki article.
If Malkorok is on significantly less than 50% health entering the first Blood Rage phase, healers should probably use all of their cooldowns during the first Blood Rage. Many of them will not work to stack Ancient Barriers anyway. However, if he is on 50% health or higher, you are likely to have a second Blood Rage phase, and it will be more damaging than the first. Save your strongest cooldowns for the second Blood Rage phase in this case! (E.g. Shaman could use AG/Ascendance/Spirit Link for the first Blood Rage, and AG/HTT for the second; Disc Priests could rely on Spirit Shell for the first Blood Rage and save Power Word: Barrier for the second; etc.)
You will need cooldowns for: Blood Rage, or soaking the last set of Imploding Energy zones just before Blood Rage
Dispels: Displaced Energy
Debuffs to track: Weak Ancient Barrier, Ancient Barrier, and Strong Ancient Barrier; Displaced Energy; Fatal Strike (tank debuff)
Points of failure:
- Players fail to avoid Arcing Smash or Breath of Y’Shaarj areas;
- Players fail to appropriately soak the Imploding Energy zones, causing unhealable raid-wide damage;
- Players do not stack quickly and effectively for Blood Rage;
- Those players affected by Displaced Energy do not run out for dispels, or healers do not dispel them, or players run out early and get dispelled late, causing the rest of the raid to suffer higher-than-usual cleave damage for extended periods of time;
- Players do not defeat Malkorok within his 6-minute enrage timer.