|Last Stand of the Zandalari|
|Halls of Flesh-Shaping|
|Pinnacle of Storms|
A few days ago I brought you a brief healing guide to the first three bosses of the Throne of Thunder raid to be released soon with Patch 5.2. Today, I’d like to move on to the second “wing” of the raid – the Forgotten Depths – and take a look at the next three bosses.
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 Forgotten Depths:
The Tortos encounter challenges your raid’s ability to prioritise and quickly defeat adds whilst still maintaining solid DPS uptime on the boss. It is a fairly straightforward and repetitive fight, but nerd-school gamers like myself may appreciate the Super Mario Brothers reference of defeating a turtle and then using its shell like a soccer ball
Tortos will periodically attack the tank with Snapping Bite, which deals a great deal of physical damage in one large hit, and the tank may require an external cooldown to help mitigate this attack.
Tortos is a pretty big dude, and his movements in the cave will occasionally knock a stalactite loose from the ceiling. This ability is called Rockfall. Any player standing within the immediate area of impact (the bright blue circle) will take very heavy Nature damage, while players within 20 yards of the area of impact will take light Nature damage. It’s not worth outranging the splash, but it’s definitely worth moving out of the blue circle!
Approximately every 45 seconds, Tortos will rise up and smash the ground with his legs, in an ability called Quake Stomp. The Stomp will stun all players for 1 second and deals extremely heavy raid damage. For 8 seconds following Quake Stomp, Tortos will drop a greatly increased number of Rockfalls. This is the time when the raid is in the most danger of dying, and damage-reduction and healing throughput cooldowns should be used to aid the raid in surviving. Personal cooldowns are not a bad idea either!
Tortos slowly gathers Rage (at an approximate rate of 1 Rage per second). This rate of Rage generation is accelerated if there are no targets within his melee range. When Tortos reaches 100 Rage, he will use Furious Stone Breath, an extremely dangerous ability that deals very heavy Nature damage to the raid every 0.5 seconds for 4 seconds. If this cast is allowed to complete, it will wipe the raid.
So how do you stop Tortos from doing this? That’s where the add management and target prioritisation I mentioned earlier come in!
Tortos will occasionally use the Call of Tortos to summon smaller Whirl Turtles to his aid. These Whirl Turtles have no conventional threat table; they just spin rapidly and erratically around the room, knocking any players they pass through up into the air and dealing a moderate amount of damage. This can be deadly during a Quake Breath/Rockfall combo, but for the most part is easily avoidable and will generate some non-urgent spike damage through your raid.
When a Whirl Turtle is brought to 5% health, it uses an ability called Shell Block to retreat into its shell, becoming invulnerable to damage, but no longer spinning or moving. In this state, the Whirl Turtle’s shell can be kicked by any player. Any enemies that the Whirl Turtle passes through after being kicked are interrupted and will gain the Shell Concussion debuff, making them 15% more vulnerable to damage for 20 seconds. It is this ability that allows players to prevent Furious Stone Breath, and also rewards players for killing the adds with increased damage throughput on the boss.
At the start of the fight, all players will have an Extra Action Button appear on their UI. This Extra Action Button is used to kick a nearby Shell Blocked Whirl Turtle. In order to successfully kick the Whirl Turtle, players must be within 5 yards of the shell, and must position themselves so that the player, the turtle, and the intended target are in a straight line.
Finally, all of this activity in the cave will periodically awaken a fleet of Vampiric Cave Bats, who will descend upon players and attack them. These Cave Bats do have a conventional aggro table and should be picked up by the second tank. They hit fairly hard with their normal melee attacks and are likely to initially target healers.
Vampiric Cave Bats have only one special ability, but it is a problematic one! The bats will use Drain the Weak on their target if their target falls below a certain health threshold (350,000 health on normal mode). This ability inflicts a small amount of damage to the target but heals the Cave Bats for 10 times that amount.
The damage can be significant since there are several Cave Bats (8 on 25-player mode), but the healing is more important since the Cave Bats spawn very frequently and the raid could easily get overrun with adds if each Cave Bat wave is not killed before the next wave appears. It’s important for healers to keep the Cave Bat tank topped up, and to use external cooldowns on them during Quake Stomp to make sure they do not drop below the health threshold.
The damage pattern in this fight includes spiky tank damage, spiky single-target raid damage outside of Quake Stomp, and heavy raid-wide AoE damage every 45 seconds from Quake Stomp/Rockfall. Players tend to spread out over the platform to avoid all getting caught in the same Rockfall or all being hit by the same Whirl Turtle.
You will need cooldowns for: Quake Stomp/Rockfalls (raid), Snapping Bite (Tortos tank), Drain the Weak (Vampiric Cave Bat tank, typically during/after Quake Stomp)
Debuffs to track: None
Points of failure:
- Players do not dodge Rockfall, particularly after Quake Stomp when health is low;
- Players do not kill Whirl Turtles quickly enough, and cannot interrupt Furious Stone Breath;
- Players do not kill Vampiric Cave Bats quickly enough, or the Cave Bat tank is not kept on high enough health to prevent the Bats from healing, and the raid is overrun with adds.
Megaera is a multi-headed hydra/cloud serpent mutant who lives in the dark waters of the Forgotten Depths. The fight has fairly simplistic mechanics, but ramps up in difficulty as it progresses, and becomes very healing-intensive in the later stages of the encounter.
In order to defeat Megaera, players must destroy a total of 8 of her heads; each time a head is slain, Megaera’s body suffers damage equal to the total health of the slain head.
Megaera has three types of heads: Flaming Head (the red head in the background above), Frozen Head (the blue head above), and Venomous Head (the green head above). Some of Megaera’s heads are inaccessible to players (like the Flaming Head above), but will continue to bombard the platform with their special abilities. These heads, and Megaera’s body, are enshrouded in a Concealing Fog that prevents them from being attacked directly.
Killing one of Megaera’s heads causes Megaera to enter a Rampage. All active heads – including the ones in the Concealing Fog – barrage the encounter area with projectiles, dealing heavy raid-wide AoE damage for 20 seconds.
Killing a head also heals all other active heads to full, and causes two more heads of the type just destroyed to spawn in the Concealing Fog. For each additional head of the same type that is active, those heads gain a stack of Elemental Blood of Megaera and will deal 10% more damage; e.g. if there are three Flaming Heads active, all Flaming Heads will deal 20% more damage with their abilities. Killing one head will also cause the other accessible head to gain a stack of Hydra Frenzy, increasing its attack speed by 20%, and cause a new head of another type to spawn in its place.
Let’s take the example from the first screenshot, where a Venomous and Frozen Head are active. If players destroy the Venomous Head, the following events occur:
- Megaera’s body suffers damage equal to the total health of the slain Head;
- The Frozen Head heals to full health and gains a stack of Hydra Frenzy;
- Two Venomous Heads spawn in the Concealing Fog, each with 10% increased damage due to the Elemental Blood of Megaera;
- The Flaming Head in the Concealing Fog moves forward to the edge of the platform and becomes attackable;
- Megaera enters Rampage for 20 seconds, and all active heads attack the players.
The idea, then, is to defeat the accessible head with the most stacks of Hydra Frenzy, stack for Rampage so healers can heal through it, and then defeat the next accessible head with the most stacks of Hydra Frenzy. This ensures that no one head receives too many stacks of Hydra Frenzy – and no one type of head benefits unequally from the Elemental Blood of Megaera – keeping the ever-increasing damage in the encounter somewhat under check.
The accessible heads have only two abilities each; a generic melee attack, and a breath attack. The breath attack deals very heavy damage, so only the tanks should take it. Tanks should face the two heads away from each other and away from the center of the platform to avoid the raid being breathed upon, and raid members should be cautious to avoid the sides of the platform so they are not affected by the breath.
The Flaming Head’s breath is called Ignite Flesh and leaves a stacking DoT effect on the tank; the Frozen Head’s breath is called Arctic Freeze and leaves a debuff on the tank that, when it reaches a certain number of stacks, will stun the tank; the Venomous Head’s breath is called Rot Armor and leaves a stacking debuff on the tank that increases damage taken from all sources by 6% per stack. This is another incentive not only for tank-swapping but also for killing a different type of head each time, so that these debuffs can fall off before another head of their type spawns.
The heads in the Concealing Fog have a single ability each that they will cast on random raid members. These abilities are dangerous and must be handled appropriately. The more heads there are of each type in the Fog, the more frequently these attacks will occur, and the more damage they will deal.
Flaming Heads in the Concealing Fog will periodically affect a random raid member with Cinders, which deals moderate Fire damage upon application and leaves a moderate DoT effect. This is a magic debuff with a 30-second duration that can be dispelled; however, dispelling Cinders creates a pool of flames at the affected player’s feet, which deals heavy damage to anyone standing in it. Thus, this debuff should not be dispelled until the player affected by Cinders moves out of the raid and into a clear area.
Freezing Heads in the Concealing Fog will target a random raid member with a Torrent of Ice. This ability creates a beam of ice aimed at the targeted player, and anyone standing within its area of impact will suffer very heavy Frost damage. The targeted player must run this beam out of the raid and into a clear, safe area.
Each second the Torrent of Ice leaves a patch of ice on the ground that will also deal damage to players standing within it, as well as stacking a slowing debuff called Icy Ground on that player. The Icy Ground stacks decrease movement speed by 5% per stack and stack up to 20 times, for a 100% movement speed reduction. This debuff cannot be dispelled and lasts for 20 seconds. The player targeted by Torrent of Ice will very likely die if they do not run immediately, due to the heavy damage caused by the beam impacting the ground and the stacking slow effect.
Torrent of Ice and Cinders interact with one another. Running the Torrent of Ice beam over an active Cinders pool will extinguish the pool; running on top of Icy Ground with the Cinders debuff will cause the Icy Ground in that location to fade. If your raid deals low damage and the encounter area is beginning to fill up with these ground effects, you may need to take advantage of these interactions to clear some space.
Venomous Heads in the Concealing Fog will target a random player’s location and summon Acid Rain to that spot. Several seconds later, a bolt of, well, Acid Rain will strike that location and deal heavy Nature damage to the entire raid. The damage is mitigated by distance from the impact zone; players standing in the impact zone will take fatal damage, while players far away will take very little damage.
If this fight is executed well, the damage pattern will have periodic high damage on tanks, periodic moderate damage on the raid from Acid Rain, and high damage on the raid during Rampage, with very little damage on the raid when these two mechanics are not occurring. The amount of damage will ramp up steadily throughout the fight, so save the strongest throughput and damage reduction cooldowns for the last few Rampages; the first two or three Rampages should be perfectly survivable with weak, or no, cooldowns.
You will need cooldowns for: Rampage
Debuffs to track: Arctic Freeze, Ignite Flesh, Rot Armor (tank debuffs); Cinders; Torrent of Ice
Dispels: Cinders (Magic)
Points of failure:
- Tanks do not swap properly and are killed by the tank debuffs;
- Megaera’s heads are faced toward the raid when casting their breath attacks;
- Players do not manage Cinders and Torrent of Ice properly and overrun the encounter area with debuffs;
- Players do not move out of the Acid Rain area of effect;
- The raid repeatedly kills the “fresh” head, allowing stacks of Hydra Frenzy to accumulate on one head, so it deals un-healable damage during Rampage;
- Healers cannot keep up with Rampage damage during the later stages of the fight or do not have cooldowns available.
The Ji-Kun encounter is a single-phase fight that requires coordinating one or more teams of players to abandon attacking the boss and instead focus on add management. There are a fair few mechanics to deal with, but each one is pretty straightforward; the real challenge comes in organising the “kill squads” for the adds while still maintaining enough DPS on the boss to defeat her.
The encounter takes place in an airy aerie (c wut i did there?) with a large, central platform and several smaller platforms above and below it. On these other platforms, Ji-Kun has made nests, and laid eggs. It is from these eggs that adds will spawn.
The raid must create groups of players specifically assigned to destroy the eggs and the adds that spawn from them in order to defeat Ji-Kun, as the damage dealt by the adds will quickly overwhelm healers and lead to a wipe. These “kill squads” should contain one healer and several DPS.
Periodically, Ji-Kun will cause a warm beam of light to spawn over a nest, incubating those eggs so that they can hatch and release adds. Once eggs are incubating in this light, a timer starts, and if the eggs are not killed before that timer runs out, they will hatch and create Hatchlings.
Hatchlings will periodically call out to Ji-Kun for food, and Ji-Kun will respond by vomiting in their direction. If this food reaches the Hatchlings, they grow into Fledglings.
Fledglings will lay eggs that will, if not destroyed before their timer runs out, spawn a third type of add, Juveniles.
Juveniles are extremely deadly to the raid. They have a very high health pool and will take off from their nest, flying around the encounter area and bombarding players with very high damage. If too many Juveniles are allowed to form, the raid will surely wipe, as the damage from their attacks will become unhealable.
Initially, Ji-Kun will incubate nests that are below the main platform. In order for the “kill squad” to do their job, they must jump – or sometimes speed boost, or sometimes walk, or sometimes walk backwards – off of the platform and land on the incubating nest.
It is important to arrive quickly so that the eggs can be killed fast enough to prevent Hatchlings from spawning. There is a definite pattern to the order in which the nests are incubated, so after a few attempts it should be very easy for the “kill squad” to be in position before the incubation occurs, and even head to the nest early.
Hatchlings, Fledglings, and Juveniles have a single damaging ability called Cheep. While Hatchlings and Fledglings will only do this to players on their nest, Juveniles are able to target any random raid member with Cheep.
Cheep deals a varying amount of damage depending on the age of the bird using the ability; Hatchlings’ Cheep is very weak, while the Juveniles’ Cheep is quite powerful. This damage is single-target only; it does not have a splash component.
Killing any egg, or killing a Hatchling, causes a Daedalian Feather to spawn in the nest. Players on the “kill squad” must interact with this feather in order to gain a buff that will allow them to fly and return to the main platform, so they can get to the next incubating nest. Interacting with the Daedalian Feather gives the player an extra action button, Flight, with 4 charges. Activating Flight bestows the player with wings and allows them 10 seconds of flight time, but consumes one charge. After fully consuming all 4 charges, players are affected by the Lessons of Icarus debuff, preventing them from gaining another Daedalian Feather for 40 seconds.
(Note that killing a Fledgling does not cause any Daedalian Feathers to drop. This is one of many reasons why allowing Fledglings to evolve is a bad idea.)
Ideally, the “kill squad” will be in position quickly enough for each incubating nest that they will be able to defeat the Young Eggs of Ji-Kun before they hatch into Hatchlings. However, as the fight progresses this may become more difficult to do and some Hatchlings may emerge and cry out for food.
Ji-Kun will respond by flinging food at the Hatchlings. Players on the nests may jump or fly into the air to intercept these food missiles, and in doing so will gain a buff, Well Fed, that boosts their damage. This allows them to defeat the Hatchlings quickly and continue moving on to the next nest. However, players with Well Fed will also receive a debuff, Slimed, that causes periodic Nature damage and increases the damage of the next Slimed debuff that player receives by 10%. Players must balance the need to intercept Feed Young with their own Slimed stacks.
So, that’s what the “kill squads” are doing. What about the rest of us?
Ji-Kun has several abilities that will affect players on the main platform. She will strike the current tank with Talon Rake, which deals very heavy damage and leaves behind a stacking Talon Rake debuff that increases the damage taken from the next Talon Rake by 50% per stack. This ability requires tank-swapping after just a few stacks, in order to prevent tank deaths. Talon Rake often occurs directly after Ji-Kun’s raid-wide AoE ability, and tanks will need to be topped up or may require an external cooldown to survive that particular Talon Rake attack.
Ji-Kun will also periodically Caw, targeting several random players on the platform and dealing moderate damage to anyone within 8 yards of the target(s). For this reason, players on the main platform must remain spread out.
Even if no Hatchlings exist, Ji-Kun will occasionally attempt to Feed Young. When this occurs without being prompted by a Hatchling, the globs of food will target random players on the main platform. Like the other Feed Young bolts, these can be intercepted by leaping into the air – although in PTR testing my group found this almost impossible to do – and in doing so, players on the main platform can access the Well Fed buff. Players who intercept a Feed Young bolt will also receive the Slimed debuff.
If a Feed Young bolt is not intercepted, it will land on the platform and create a Feed Pool. These Feed Pools deal moderate Nature damage to any players struck by or standing in them. Standing in the Feed Pool for more than 3 seconds will cause it to be absorbed, removing it from the ground, but leaving the Slimed debuff behind on the absorbing player. This may be necessary in the later stages of the fight in order to have enough space to spread out for Caw, as Feed Pools accumulate rather quickly.
Once every minute, Ji-Kun will use her Quills ability. She will begin to whirl around rapidly and fling barbed feathers at all players in the raid, dealing moderate Nature damage every second for 10 seconds. While Ji-Kun is channeling Quills, she is unable to use her other attacks – e.g. Caw – so players on the main platform can stack and use damage-reduction cooldowns and AoE healing abilities in order to survive. Once Quills is over, players on the main platform should spread back out.
Quills will also affect the players on the “kill squads”, no matter where they are, so the healer assigned to “kill squads” must be ready to use throughput-increasing or damage-reduction cooldowns to heal through the heavy damage – especially if Hatchlings or Fledglings are active in the nest – and all players in the “kill squad” must be prepared to use their own personal cooldowns or self-healing abilities to survive.
Finally – yes, we’re down to the last mechanic of this fight now! – Ji-Kun will attempt to thwart her attackers by rising up into the air and flapping her wings forcefully, creating a powerful Down Draft that forces players off the platform and down into the bottomless aerie. I’ll be straight-up honest with you: I have no idea what players on the “kill squad” must do to avoid this, as I was never assigned to a squad. I am not sure if Flight will counteract it, or if those players must return to the main platform in order to avoid plummeting to their deaths. But players who are already on the main platform can avoid being thrown off the edge like so:
As Ji-Kun begins to cast Down Draft, players on the main platform should run toward the centre of the platform and attempt to align themselves with one of the square-edged outcroppings on the platform’s edge. This will give you a little more room to manoeuvre in case you do not have a strong speed boost. Once Down Draft begins to push you back, engage your auto-run hotkey/mouse bind, and use any speed boosts you may have access to. Unless you have access to a +70% movement speed increase (or greater), you will not actually be able to stop yourself from sliding backwards, but you can slow the rate at which you slide, ensuring you won’t get flung off! Then simply strafe to avoid any Feed Pools on the ground.
If the fight is executed well, players will have to deal with heavy raid-wide AoE damage once per minute, and spiky single-target damage (on tanks, Caw targets, and players soaking Feed Pools or intercepting Feed Young). Druids and Discipline Priests are my personal choice for the “kill squad” healing assignments – Druids are very mobile and excellent at healing small groups of players stacked together, while Discipline Priests’ Spirit Shell will be excellent for keeping the “kill squad” alive during Quills – while Mistweaver Monks and Shamans are better utilised on the main platform where there are enough targets for their multi-target AoE healing to be fully effective.
You will need cooldowns for: Quills (raid), soaking the Feed Young pools on the encounter platform (single-target cooldowns), Talon Rake (tank, right after Quills)
Debuffs to track: Talon Rake, Slimed, Daedalian Wings, Lessons of Icarus
Points of failure:
- Players fail to prevent Juvenile birds from forming and are overwhelmed with Screech damage;
- Players fail to intercept Feed Young or soak the Feed Young pools on the encounter area and run out of safe areas to stand;
- Players do not respond properly to Down Draft and fall off the platform;
- Healers cannot keep up with Quill damage (particularly for the nest squads).