|Last Stand of the Zandalari|
|Jin’rokh the Breaker|
|Council of Elders|
|Halls of Flesh-Shaping|
|Pinnacle of Storms|
Patch 5.2 is set for release in, everyone’s best guess seems to be, one week – March 5th – and if you’re like me at all, there’s a lot to do to get prepared! Cap Valor, farm up a bunch of Lesser Charms, write up some BiS lists, redo a bunch of spreadsheets, rewrite some class guides… and of course, bone up on the new raid mechanics!
To that aim, I’ve been attending the 25-player raid testing sessions on the PTR and I thought I would share with you all a little insight into how Tier 15 will challenge you from a healing perspective. Since there are 12 bosses in the Tier I will be breaking this into four parts to parallel the LFR structure.
I won’t be focusing too much on the actual numbers – the amount of damage dealt by each ability, etc. – since this is all PTR information and is subject to significant re-tuning and change. The mechanics are probably pretty solid at this point, though, so I will be focusing on healer-specific mechanics of each fight and discussing ways of overcoming the obstacles the new raid will present us.
Please also note that I have only done very limited testing – my PTR install was corrupted for most of the 10-player Normal and Heroic mode testing sessions, and I missed out – and all of the testing I have done has been on LFR and Normal mode versions of the encounters, so this will be a fairly superficial overview. But I hope you will all find it helpful in preparing for your first forays into the Throne of Thunder!
Introducing the bosses of the Last Stand of the Zandalari:
Mechanically, this is a very simple fight.
There are four statues, one in each corner of the room, and periodically Jin’rokh will pick up the current tank and use Thundering Throw to hurl him at the furthest away statue, shattering the statue and stunning – and heavily damaging – the tank and any players within 14 yards.
Beneath the thrown tank, a pool of Conductive Waters will appear and rapidly expand to fill approximately one quarter of the room. Standing in the pool grants you Fluidity, a 40% buff to DPS and healing but an 80% increased vulnerability to Nature damage taken.
As well, Jin’rokh has an ability called Conduction which causes many of his abilities to affect all players within the Conductive Waters if any player inside the Waters is affected. All healers and DPS should stand in the pool, while tanks – who frequently take heavy nature damage – should stay outside of it so they do not kill the party via Conduction.
After a while, Jin’rokh will begin to channel Lightning Storm, which deals very heavy, raid-wide AoE damage and also causes the Conductive Waters to become Electrified Waters, which no longer grant Fluidity and cause heavy damage every second to players still standing inside it. Players must move to a safe spot so that the Lightning Storm damage can be mitigated without the additional burden of Electrified Waters. The fight then begins anew, with Jin’rokh choosing a new statue to throw the tank at, and creating a new pool of Conductive Waters. The old Electrified Waters will persist for the remainder of the fight, creating a “soft enrage” as the room fills up.
There are two more frequent mechanics to be concerned with in this fight. One is a tank debuff that necessitates tank-swapping. Jin’rokh will use Static Burst on a tank, dealing heavy damage and applying 10 stacks of Static Wound. This deals heavy DoT damage to the tank and, when the tank is struck by melee attacks, Static Wound deals moderate damage to all players in the raid. This is deadly when players are standing in Conductive Waters and are extra-susceptible to Nature damage, and necessitates a tank swap. Over time, the afflicted tank’s Static Wound stacks will slowly drop off.
Throughout the fight, Jin’rokh will summon a sphere of Focused Lightning, which will choose a target, draw a lightning beam to them, and chase that target, dealing moderate damage to any player it passes near. When the Focused Lightning sphere reaches its target, it detonates, dealing heavy damage to all players within 8 yards, and leaving a Lightning Fissure behind which, if stood in or near, will deal moderate damage to players.
Focused Lightning will also deal heavy damage if it is kited through Conductive Waters or over a pre-existing Lightning Fissure, and it will wipe the raid if it is kited through Electrified Waters.
If the fight is executed well, you will see moderate damage on the tanks, light damage on the players targeted by Focused Lightning, light raid-wide damage while standing in Conductive Waters, and high raid-wide damage for a brief period every 2 minutes or so during Lightning Storm. If the fight is not executed well, expect to see moderate to heavy raid-wide damage for the entire encounter.
You will need cooldowns for: Lightning Storm (raid); Static Burst (tank)
Debuffs to track: Focused Lightning, Static Wound
Points of failure:
- Tanks fail to swap after Static Wound is applied;
- Player does not move out of the water pool with Focused Lightning;
- Player kites a Focused Lightning over a previous Focused Lightning’s Fissure or through Electrified Waters;
- Players do not move out of the Electrified Waters during Lightning Storm;
- Raid fails to defeat the boss after four Lightning Storms and runs out of space in which to safely stand and kite Focused Lightning.
The Horridon encounter is a bit more complex, presenting a lot of mechanics centered around add management and target prioritisation. The encounter takes place in a large arena with four locked gates. Each gate corresponds to a … race? breed? type? of troll, and the adds that come out of the gate – or jump down into the ring from the stands above – have abilities common to trolls of that type seen in other instances. One gate will open initially, and the remaining gates open on a timer.
The general strategy is fairly straightforward. Players must engage with and survive the abilities of the adds from each gate until the Zandalari Dinomancer enters the arena. When the Dinomancer reaches 50% health, he drops an Orb of Control. A player may interact with the Orb of Control to force Horridon to charge the gate, closing it and preventing more trash adds from spawning. Each time this occurs, Horridon will become 50% more vulnerable to damage, stacking up to 200% damage vulnerability.
Meanwhile, Horridon will be attacking tanks with Triple Puncture, which deals moderate to heavy tank damage and stacks a debuff on the tank increasing further Triple Puncture damage by 10% per application. Horridon will also use Double Swipe, dealing heavy damage to any players within a narrow cone at Horridon’s head and tail, so standard dragon rules apply. During this ability, a red circle appears around Horridon; it is safe to stand in this circle so long as you are not in a 35° arc in front of the head or tail, but outside the circle is safer yet.
Finally, Horridon will choose a random player to Charge, and immediately after the Charge occurs, Horridon will perform a Double Swipe. This can be very dangerous if the Charged player did not notice they were being targeted and did not take steps to ensure Horridon’s Double Swipe would avoid the raid. These abilities persist throughout the fight.
So, back to the gates. There are four of them, activated in clockwise order starting just to the left of the entrance to the arena. Players should try to stay relatively close to the gates / away from the centre of the room, since many of the ground-based AoE effects the adds generate will persist until the end of the encounter.
Farraki Gate: Avoid the Farraki Wastewalkers’ Sand Traps – they grow larger if players stand in them, and may eventually take over the entire area. Dispel the Sul’lithuz Stonegazer’s Stone Gaze, a 10-second stun (high priority), and the Wastewalkers’ Blazing Sunlight (on low-health party members/tanks).
Gurubashi Gate: Interrupt the Gurubashi Venom Priests’ Venom Bolt Volley. Venom Priests will also summon ghostly adds called Venomous Effusion, which will spawn Living Poison, a ground-based AoE that undulates slightly and should be dodged. Heal the Gurubashi Bloodlord’s Rending Charge target through the bleed effect, and prepare to heal the raid through moderate to heavy AoE damage from Venomous Effusions’ Venom Bolt Volley.
This gate is probably the best place to use Revival. Towards the end of the gate, interrupts may slack on the Venom Priests and Effusions, and players will likely have high stacks of the dangerous poison. Revival clears them all! ♥
Drakkari Gate: Dispel the Risen Drakkari Warrior’s and Champion’s Deadly Plague (Disease), and avoid the Drakkari Frost Warrior’s Frost Orbs. These orbs wander aimlessly once they are spawned and shoot all nearby players with Frost Bolt for moderate, but rapidly-dealt, damage. Be prepared to heal the melee through heavy damage if a Frost Orb spawns near them.
If your raid is low on players who can dispel Diseases (Paladins, healing Priests and Monks), Symbiosis a Paladin. Cleanse shares a CD with Nature’s Cure, but you’ll be able to help with dispels on this gate!
Amani Gate: Avoid the Amani Warbear’s swipe by staying behind these enemies. Once the Warbear dies, an Amani Beast Shaman will appear. Spread out to avoid chaining the Shaman’s Chain Lightning, and move away from the Lightning Nova Totem that spawns when the Beast Shaman dies.
Once all four gates have been closed, or once Horridon has been brought to 30% health, Horridon’s master, War-God Jalak, leaps into the arena. The War-God will repeatedly use Bestial Cry, initially dealing light to moderate physical damage to all players. Each time he successfully uses Bestial Cry, however, he increases the damage that he deals by 10%, so as the fight continues the Bestial Cry damage quickly becomes dangerous. The War-God should be focused down quickly to avoid wiping to this ability. Players can stack loosely for AoE healing and cooldowns to mitigate the damage.
When the War-God dies, Horridon becomes enraged, dealing double damage. However, at this point, the only mechanics to worry about are the tank-swap debuff, Triple Puncture, and the Charge/Double Swipe. Tank damage will be very heavy during this portion of the encounter, but raid damage should be non-existent, and healers with strong offensive capabilities can provide DPS when tanks are not in danger.
You will need cooldowns for: Triple Puncture once Horridon enrages; Frost Orbs and/or Lightning Nova Totems in melee pile/near boss; Bestial Cry when War-God Jalak is on low health/has been active a long time.
Debuffs to track: Triple Puncture, Stone Gaze, Blazing Sunlight, Rending Charge, Deadly Plague, Mortal Strike, Hex of Confusion
Dispels: Stone Gaze (Magic, stun), Blazing Sunlight (Magic, DoT effect), Deadly Plague (Disease, DoT effect), Hex of Confusion (Curse, backlash from attacks)
Points of failure:
- Tanks fail to swap Horridon-tanking duty at high Triple Puncture stacks;
- Tanks or players affected by Charge point Horrdon’s Double Swipe at the raid;
- Players do not kill the most dangerous enemies from each gate (Farraki Wastewalkers, Gurubashi Venom Priests, Drakkari Frost Warriors, Amani Beast Shaman) quickly enough and become overwhelmed with AoE ground effects;
- Players do not kill War-God Jalak quickly enough and Bestial Cry damage becomes unmanageable.
The Council of Elders – four troll mini-bosses rallied by the ghost of Gara’jal the Spiritbinder – is another complex fight with an emphasis on target prioritisation.
All four Elders are active for the entire duration of the fight, and continue to use their basic abilities the entire time, resulting in a lot of mechanics to keep track of. The Spirit of Gara’jal will possess one of the four Elders at a time, granting that Elder extra, powerful abilities, and also causing that Elder to begin accumulating Dark Energy. Note that the Elders do not share a health pool.
Players must deal the possessed Elder 25% of its maximum health as damage in order to force the Spirit of Gara’jal out of that Elder’s body and into another mini-boss. If this is not done before the possessed Elder reaches 100 Dark Energy, the possessed Elder will begin to cast Dark Power, which deals light shadow damage to the entire raid, but ramps up by an additional 10% damage each second.
Once the Spirit of Gara’jal is forced out of the possessed Elder, the Elder loses the extra ability and resets its Dark Energy to 0, but gains a stack of Lingering Presence which increases all damage dealt by that Elder by 5%, and the next time that Elder is possessed, it will gain Dark Energy faster. The fight is thus a DPS race against the Dark Energy bar, and an exercise in target-switching.
The order in which Gara’jal will possess each Elder is not consistent. Frost King Malakk is always first when the encounter begins, and for my guild who assigned melee to interrupt Sul the Sandcrawler, he was usually second. My vague hypothesis is that Gara’jal roughly favours the highest-health Elder, but it’s possible there’s a mechanic to attempt to even out the stacks of Lingering Presence that can occasionally override the highest-health rule, or it’s possible it was just coincidence that I was able to briefly predict the order of possession based on health total.
Frost King Malakk: When the Frost King is not possessed, he has two basic abilities. Frigid Assault is a tank-swapping mechanic; when the Frost King imbues his weapon with Frigid Assault, each melee attack will grant the tank a stack of Frigid Assault. Upon reaching 15 stacks of this debuff, the tank will become stunned for 15 seconds.
The other basic ability is called Biting Cold, and it is a debuff that is placed on a random raid member. The affected player will take heavy damage every 2 seconds for 30 seconds, and will also damage nearby players. The player affected with Biting Cold should move away from the raid, and other raid members should move away from them.
When Frost King Malakk is possessed by the Spirit of Gara’jal, he replaces Biting Cold with Frostbite. Frostbite targets a random raid member and applies 5 stacks of the Frostbite debuff. Each stack deals moderate damage to the affected raid member and all raid members within 8 yards; however, these stacks can be removed by other raid members standing within 4 yards of the Frostbite target.
On 10-player mode, 2 stacks are removed by each raid member within 4 yards; on 25-player mode, 1 stack is removed for each raid member; on LFR, 4 stacks are removed for each raid member. Frostbite stacks will not drop below 1, but will regenerate if those raid members move away, and the debuff persists for 30 seconds. This ability should be handled by having several other players stack on the Frostbite target and stay together as long as possible.
Sul the Sandcrawler: When Sul is not possessed, he uses two basic abilities. One is Sand Bolt, an interruptible spell that targets a random raid member and deals damage with a 5-yard splash radius. This is brutal on melee and should be interrupted if it is targeting them. Be prepared to heal the melee through a fair bit of Sand Bolt damage since keeping interrupts on Sul at all times is a bit difficult.
The other basic ability Sul will use is Quicksand. This ability summons a pool of quicksand beneath a random player’s feet.
Standing in the pool will deal heavy damage and stack an Ensnaring debuff on the player; remaining in the quicksand until Ensnaring reaches 5 stacks – or being directly struck by the Quicksand pool when it forms – will result in the player becoming Entrapped. Entrapped is a dispellable Magic debuff that roots the player in place for 30 seconds. Although Entrapped is entirely avoidable, it is a high priority to dispel it should anyone in the raid be affected.
When Sul is possessed by the Spirit of Gara’jal, he gains the Sandstorm ability. Sandstorm deals moderate to heavy raid-wide pulsing AoE damage, removes all existing pools of Quicksand, and spawns Living Sand adds in their location. These adds hit fairly hard on non-tanks and may deal a fair bit of raid damage before they are under control, and should be AoEd down rapidly. If Sandstorm is used again while Living Sand adds are still alive, the existing Living Sand enemies are restored to full health and buffed with a stack of Fortified. Each stack of Fortified increases their damage dealt by 100%. A tank cooldown may be useful during later Sandstorms if your raid has not been clearing the Living Sand adds quickly enough.
Kazra’jin: When Kazra’jin is not possessed, he has one basic ability, Reckless Charge. Kazra’jin chooses a random player in the raid and rushes to their location, dealing Nature damage to all players in the path of the Charge, and dealing heavy damage and knocking back any players at the end of the Reckless Charge path.
When Kazra’jin is possessed by the Spirit of Gara’jal, he gains an additional ability, Overcharge. This ability is triggered each time Kazra’jin completes a Reckless Charge; Kazra’jin becomes stunned for 20 seconds, but reflects a portion of the damage dealt to him. Since this is the best chance melee players have to deal damage to Kazra’jin, you can expect they will take heavy Overcharge damage.
High Priestess Mar’li: When Mar’li is not possessed, she has two basic abilities. Wrath of the Loa is an interruptible spell that deals moderate Holy damage to a random raid member. Since there is no splash-damage mechanic to this ability, it is not as important to interrupt it as it is to interrupt Sul’s Sand Bolt, and there will likely be a fair few Wraths of the Loa that will strike your raid. Be prepared to heal up the somewhat spiky single-target damage.
The other basic ability that Mar’li will use throughout the encounter is Blessed Loa Spirit. This ability summons a golden animal spirit which chooses the lowest-health Elder and moves toward them slowly. If it reaches its target, or if it is not killed within 20 seconds, it will heal the Elder for 5% of the Elder’s maximum health.
When Mar’li is possessed by the Spirit of Gara’jal, these abilities become corrupted. Wrath of the Loa deals Shadow damage instead of Holy damage – no big deal there – and Mar’li gains the ability to summon Shadowed Loa Spirits as well as Blessed Loa Spirits.
The Shadowed Loa Spirit is a shadowy animal spirit which chooses a player at random and beings moving toward them slowly. If it reaches within 6 yards of the chosen player, or if it does not die within 20 seconds, it will instantly kill its target.
I am not clear on whether there is a debuff that accompanies being targeted by a Shadowed Loa Spirit – perhaps a Fixate effect?
You will need cooldowns for: Sandstorm (raid), Overload (raid), Living Sands (tank), Biting Cold (single-target CD on the affected player)
Debuffs to track: Frigid Assault, Biting Cold, Frostbite, Entrapped
Dispels: Entrapped (Magic, root)
Points of failure:
- Players are struck directly by Kazra’jin’s Reckless Charge;
- Players allow a Shadowed Loa Spirit to reach its target;
- Players stack with Biting Cold instead of spreading, or spread for Frostbite instead of stacking;
- Players remain in Quicksand too long, or repeatedly do not kill Living Sands before the next Sandstorm occurs;
- Raid fails to break Gara’jal’s possession before the possessed Elder reaches 100 Dark Energy.
I’ll be posting summaries of the other three “wings” of the Throne of Thunder shortly, as soon as I compile all the data and mine my PTR videos for screenshots. At that time, I’ll update the links in the contents menu so you can jump between the four wings. But until then, I hope this whets your appetite! Start getting excited about 5.2, because the raid, at least, is going to be amazing. :)