The past week and a half has been a busy time for me—RaidWarning podcast prep, business trip to the Left Coast, more beta testing on my shaman and my priest (as well as my baby goblin!), and a new instance to explore in both 10 and 25-player modes. Since I started writing this post over a week ago, FH managed to wrack up a US #21 kill on Halion 25 Hard Mode (after a previous week of attempts that saw him at around 20%). And I must say, aside from an amazing throughput trinket, there’s a lot in store for Resto Shaman who venture into this last mini-instance of the xpac.
Situated beneath Wyrmrest Temple, (which apparently is the go-to spot for dragons looking to cause a little ruckus,) Ruby Sanctum is equal parts a prelude to Deathwing’s appearance in Cataclysm, and a last ditch chance for raiders to upgrade their gear to the highest point possible, which explains why the loot table for this single boss is bigger than the loot table for most complete instances! Having been one of many who gave Halion a go on the PTR, I’m equal parts thankfully and grumbly about which mechanics Blizzard left in and which they chose to leave out. Overall though, I’m excited for another encounter which challenges Resto Shaman to utilize two different healing styles and demonstrate some fancy footwork during it all. So, without further ado, let’s talk strat.
Scattered throughout the Ruby Sanctum are 3 of Halion’s lieutenants, mini-bosses which will have to be cleared before you take on Halion himself. And in between these bosses are some trash pulls which, surprisingly enough, give us an inkling of what might be in store for us in Cataclysm raids to come. While the PTR versions of these trash mobs were the cause of a number of wipes, although the live versions have had their claws trimmed a bit, you will want to employ dual tanks and CC tactics to ensure a clean clear. Cyclones and fears will be your best bets for keeping mobs busy while you dps, and always, ALWAYS, be sure to separate the Commanders from the rest of the pack, since they do provide a buff to their comrades.
Lieutenant 1: located on the Eastern side of the Sanctum, Baltharus the Warborn, is a fairly simple mini boss with two main mechanics that you need to be aware of—Siphoned Might and Summon Clone. Periodically throughout the encounter, Enervating Brand will be applied to 6 seemingly random members of your raid. This alone is not a concern, but when Baltharus then casts Siphoned Might, the target then siphons energy to the boss from every target around him. So, generally, it’s best to have players marked with Enervating Brand move out of the raid until the debuff falls off.
Lieutenant 2: located on the Western side of the Sanctum, Saviana Ragefire, has another two fairly simple tactics in her arsenal. While her Fire Nova is cast periodically throughout the fight, and will do damage to all players within range, Conflagaration will only be cast after she flies into the air and marks 6 players in raid. These players then have a short amount of time to get 10 yards away from the raid, before the Conflagration goes off and damages everyone around them.
Lieutenant 3: To access Halion’s 3rd lieutenant, General Zarithrian, you will need to kill the preceding two mini-bosses to bring down the wall of flame surrounding the South platform. Although essentially a tank-and-spank, there are a couple key points to bear in mind:
- Have an extra tank to pick up the adds which spawn from the north and south entrances, preferably one that can interrupt the Blast Nova that the adds cast.
- Do not use immunities, racials, totems or Fear wards to break the fear—you’ll regret it!
Once you’ve killed his 3 mini-bosses, Halion will alight in the middle of the Sanctum amid a burst of flames. The fight that will follow has 2 basic phases in which you team will be united and a third phase which will be a rehash of Phases 1 and 2 (it sounds slightly confusing, but in reality it’s not). Phase 1, the “outside” portion of the fight, takes place in the Ruby Sanctum, while Phase 2, the “inside” portion of the fight, takes places in a phased dream state. In Phase 3, your team will battle both his dreamstate and corporal selves, so you will need to set up two groups within your raid team, which after 50%, will be separated between the two realms.
Phase 1 will find you in RS, dodging meteors while your tank gets pummeled with Halion’s Flame Breath. In Phase 1, your team will also be dealing with Mark of Combustion, which will be applied by Halion to a random person in your raid group (thankfully, your tank is the only person exempt from selection). When dispelled, Mark of Combustion will create a void zone, which will do a moderate amount of damage and knock back anyone in the affected area. Also important to note is that Mark of Combustion is a stacking debuff, meaning that for every tick, the ultimate area of effect from the dispel increases in size. So, managing this debuff becomes a challenge of dispelling it quickly enough that the void zone is not too big, but not so quick that you’re knocking the raid team all about the room.
In between Combustions, you will also be dodging Meteor strikes (which appear as Hellfire-ish animations on the ground). These AOE strikes not only cause enough damage on impact to 1-shot a plate wearer, but they also spawn trails of fire, which extend in a random pattern away from the meteor’s initial point of impact. So keeping your raid team away from these Meteors will ensure that you limit the amount of damage going out in phase 1.
- Hard Mode: In the hard mode version of this encounter Meteor impacts will spawn 1 large fire elemental and 10 small elementals. Similar to how the Captains in Halion’s trash need to be separated from the rest of the pack to prevent them from buffing each other, the large fire elemental will need to be separated from the smaller ones, to prevent it from buffing the small guys to the point that they 1-shot your tank. All of the fire elemental spawns operate on a global aggro table, which is important for healers (and the add tank) to remember—a 30K HL or HW crit right when they spawn can assure that those little elementals make a nice beeline right to you.
- Healing Setup: 6-7 healers, 1 main tank, and 1 add tank. During Phase 1, damage should be limited to the main tank and Mark of Combustion player. In hardmode, the adds tank will take a significant amount of damage at the onset of the spawn, but the little adds die quickly so spike damage will taper off about 15 seconds.
- Positioning: Your main tank will want to pull the dragon head-on, and keep the dragon facing a cardinal direction for the duration of the first phase. Your raid should position themselves in a tight clump immediately to Halion’s side. Players with Mark of Combustion should run out at a diagonal from the group and get a dispel *ONLY WHEN* they are completely against the wall. A dispel any sooner could knock the raid into cleave range. When a Meteor target appears (Halion says “The heavens burn”) the entire raid runs under the middle of the dragon, avoiding a breath by being too far in front and a tail swipe by being too far behind, and repositions at the exact opposite side. Bear in mind that the tank can get selected for the Meteor strike (it’s unlikely, but it does happen), in which case he should receive a CD for the initial Meteor damage and then move slightly to his right or left to avoid standing in the fire.
- Shaman Tips: While in normal mode you’ll want to keep your ES on the main tank; in hard mode, it’s oftentimes beneficial to swap it onto the add tank, since they’re more likely to experience some harsh dips in the first couple of seconds. Fire resist totem can prove useful (if you don’t have a paladin running fire resist aura) as it will help mitigate damage done from the Meteor, the fire trails and Halion’s Flame Breath. Otherwise, pour some RT/LHW/HW combos into the tank and have a CH on hand for those players in your raid who insist on dancing in the flames. But, if you find yourself with nothing to heal in Phase 1, compliment your raid team on doin it right.
TRANSITION: Phase 1 ends when Halion reaches 75%, at which point he will phase into the dreamstate and spawn a portal for your raid to take. It is VERY important that your inside tank be the first one to take the portal, generally 1-2 seconds before the rest of the raid, to ensure that he has time to establish aggro and turn Halion so that Halion’s side is adjacent to the portal.
In this phase, your entire raid team will be battling Halion in the dreamstate, which means that you will have 3 new mechanics to deal with. The first of which is an AOE aura called Dark Shroud, which will affect all characters in the realm, and tick for ~1500/sec. Secondly, you will be dealing with another dispelable affliction called Mark of Consumption. This Mark works very much like Mark of Combustion (from Phase 1) in that it is a stacking debuff and will create a void underneath the dispelled player which is proportional to the stack size. However, unlike Mark of Combustion, Mark of Consumption will draw players into the center of the void, instead of knocking them out. This makes an early dispel incredibly dangerous, as your raid team will then have to deal with the void zone’s damage as well as the Dark Shroud aura. The third and final mechanic that you’ll be introduced to in the dreamstate are the Twilight Cutters. These beams emanate from orbs which rotate about the center of the room in a clockwise fashion. They spell certain death for anyone who comes in range of them, although it’s worth noting that appearances of “contact” with the beam can be deceiving—any closer than 5 yards to them and you’ll likely die, even though you might not see your character ever come in direct contact. These beams will fire up and bisect the room (or divide it into quadrants on hard mode) periodically throughout the encounter.
- Hard Mode: As mentioned, in the hard mode version of the Halion encounter, Twlight cutters will emanate from 4 orbs circling the room, cutting the room into quadrants, instead of halves, for the short time they are active.
- Healing Setup: 6-7 healers, 1 tank for boss. The entire raid will be taking constant damage while in the dreamstate, so your raid healers will need to stay on their toes as they circle about the dragon and keep the raid alive. Players receiving dispels will need an extra couple heals as the Consumption voids apply a snare to the dispelled player, increasing the amount of time they spend in the void, and thusly, the amount of damage they take after being dispelled. (Note: Hand of Freedom, Body & Soul, and shapeshift form, for both Druids and Shaman, are excellent tools to have at your disposal in the dreamstate, especially if you are targeted with Mark of Consumption.)
- Positioning: Prepare to be on the move almost constantly in this phase, as your raid and your tank will want to make sure that you keep a safe position between the Twilight Cutter(s), Halion’s tail (which will knock you down if you happen to be in the path of the tail swipe), and Halion’s head (he deep breathes a lot). A tank with good visual spatial skills will really make the inside a breeze, as he endeavors to keep himself a ¼ circle away from the raid clump. It helped some of our team to think of the cutters like a rotating door, where your tank is in the segment ahead of you, while you follow behind. To help coordinate our raid’s positioning, our tanks used the phrase “Stay in this one” to indicate the rotating quadrant that we’d be using while the cutters were active. At this announcement over vent, both the raid and the tank would start moving in sync with the Twilight orbs, so that when the cutters appeared, we’d already be in position.
- Tips for dealing with Cutters: the key, at least for me, to stay alive during cutters is to keep myself positioned towards the front of the dragon, and away from the center of the circle. Because this positioning allows for a greater buffer between yourself and an oncoming cutter, you can get in a heal or two while rotating about the circle. However, this positioning requires careful attention to the positioning of the Twilight Orbs circling the room, and careful attention to your tank’s directions (not to mention staying out of the range of Halion’s Flame Breath.)
- Tips for dealing with Consumption during Cutters: Much like being a good shot in an FPS requires that you predict and shoot where your target will be instead of where he is, staying alive with Consumption during a Cutter spin requires good prediction of where cutters will be instead of where they are. So, if you’re a player targeted with Mark of Consumption directly before or during a cutter spin-up, head to where the safe position will be in 2-3 seconds, instead of where it is now. This means you might not be taking the shortest route to the edge of the room, but rather one which will ensure that a Cutter doesn’t swing around a bite you in the arse.
TRANSITION: At 50%, Halion will switch into Phase 3 and your raid team will need to split themselves according to the “inside” and “outside” teams that you designated. Because of the constant movement required in the dreamstate, our inside team consisted of our melee, 1 pally tank, plus a healing team of a pally, druid, holy priest, and myself. Accordingly, our outside team consisted of our ranged dps (plus a DK), a DK boss tank, a druid OT, and a healing team comprised of a pally, shaman, and disc priest.
In Phase 3, your two teams will be dealing with the effects in their respective realms in addition to one major new effect—Halion’s corporeality. So, instead of being a repeat of Phases 1 and 2, with each of your teams staying alive and doing massive amounts of dps, your teams will be challenged to do equal amounts of dps in both realms to make sure that Halion doesn’t slip too far into either the living or the dreamstate. So, the handy thing to remember about Phase 3 is this:
Corporeality < 50% = Halion does and takes less damage in the player’s current realm. He does and takes more damage in the other one. (This means your team is doing more dps than the other team.)
Corporeality = 50% – Halion does and takes normal damage in both realms. (This means your teams are equal in damage.)
Corporeality > 50% – Halion does and takes more damage in the player’s current realm. He does and takes less damage in the other one. (This means your team is doing less dps than the other team).
Ideally, both teams want to keep Halion at 50% Corporeality in both realms to assure that the tank in the opposing realm won’t have to suffer up to 200% increased incoming damage. (Funny story: the first week we killed Halion, on normal mode, we had all dps pile into the outside realm during phase 3 for a straight burn, resulting in the 3 inside healers having a heart attack about how much damage the dreamstate tank was taking! Whoops.)
- Hard Mode: In the hard mode version of Phase 3, your teams will have each of their respective hard mode phases to deal with (Fire elemental adds outside, 2 cutter beams inside) with one wonderful added benefit—the void zones that spawn when a player is dispelled will now appear in both realms instead of only the originating realm. This places even more emphasis on the importance of placement of the voids. Because the inside team is limited by the cutters’ rotation and has only a quarter of the room to work with at any given time, the outside team needs to adhere to rigorous and predictable placement of voids. Since the only point of reference shared between the two realms are the locations of the previously spawned voids (which are differentiated by their colors—yellow/white for combustion and purple for consumption), we used the voids as markers for the outside team of where the next dispel should occur. After several attempts, we were able to almost consistently ensure that dispels of the outside team occurred either directly in front of or directly behind a previously-placed void. Because the rotation on the inside was almost a ¾ turn every cutter spawn, this meant that we didn’t have to use the same segment of the room on back-to-back cutter rotations. This went a long way to preventing the inside team from having a surprise void spawned right where they were intending to drop the next one.
- Healing Setup: As I mentioned, you’ll likely want to assign your most mobile healers to the inside team and your lead foot healers to the outside team. And while agility isn’t something commonly associated with shamans, I can say that having one on the inside team affords you a swing hitter who can address both tank- and raid- damage spikes in a damage heavy environment (provided the shaman can stay alive). The outside team will not be addressing as much raid damage, so your 3 healers will mainly be covering tanks and tossing out a quick top-off to recently dispelled players.
- Positioning: The same as Phases 1 or 2, depending on whether you’re on the outside or inside team.
- Shaman Tips for the Inside Team: If you’re lucky enough to convince your raid leader to let you take a spot on the inside team (and I would highly recommend that you argue your arse off for it), then precise positioning will help you gain maximum throughput while moving so often. In general, I found that positioning myself closer to the front of the dragon prior to cutter spawns made it possible for me to “lead” the cutters, and benefit from an additional time buffer, instead of rushing to move out of their way. Best case, you can fire off a single 2sec cast every couple of steps, so I tended to use the opportunities to throw out tank heals (since the raid should largely be stabilized by the druid and/or priest). By the time the cutter ended, I would already be queuing a CH on myself to get players topped off again. Lastly, using RT on a player who has just been dispelled will assure that they can survive the initial damage hit and have a rolling hot on them while they make their way back to the group.
- Shaman Tips for the Outside Team: While the outside realm tends to be more hospitable to caster classes (and healers), it also tends to be the source of not too much excitement. As a resto on the outside, you’ll want to focus on tank heals, weaving in RT, LHW, and HW on the main and add tanks. Saving RT for a recently-dispelled player is a good move here too, as there will be times where they might need to run through flames or clip another void zone to drop the debuff somewhere safe.
In either team, if you’re tank-healing, be sure to be incredibly vocal about times when a healer gets a mark, because the rest of your healing team will need to adjust accordingly. (For FH, a pally getting a Mark means that Shamans immediately switch to fulltime tank heals, while the druids/priests cover the raid.) And lastly, because this is largely a healer-dependant fight, make sure you keep the lines of communication open between all of your healing team. Because players can move between the realms, it is possible for your teammates to adjust, but only if they know about the issue. (Yes Kieska, this one’s for you.)
Another (Evil) Hero Falls …
As it is with most boss kills, the second time is harder than the first. And so, while most of FH was in a tizzy that it took us more than 1 attempt to kill Halion again this week, I think that’s the sign of a good boss fight. In all, the Halion encounter is very much like LK is for shamans, where we’re tested to use every combo and healing approach we have on hand, and then some. For someone like me, this makes the fight part of the reward for stepping into this wing of Wyrmrest. And hey, that healing trinket isn’t too shabby either … (Why yes, that is 124k healing on Marrowgar alone, heh.)