Excitement ran high this past week as the Frostwing Halls and the Lich King (plus cut-scene spoilers) were finally made available for raiders across the world. Amid some joy, some trepidation, and some controversy, we ventured into ICC’s final wing, intent on besting the last of the Northrend dragon-based encounters—Valithria Dreamwalker and Sindragosa—and possibly getting a look at the villain of the xpac. Healers (read: holy pallies) were especially anxious to try their hand at the “first” healing-centric encounter, while others looked forward to besting Sindragosa, who looked deceptively easy on the PTR. And while I’m still on the fence about whether or not I really like this final ICC wing, I will say that the challenges it provides are very much appreciated.
The trash in this wing is just about as plentiful as the other wings in ICC, which is to say that there really isn’t much. (In fact, the trash on Sindragosa’s platform is almost equal in size to the whole of the pulls in the Plague quarters.) The multi-mob pulls can easily be aoe’d down, however, there are some interesting mini-bosses worked into this wing that you should take note of:
- Dreamwalker Trash: The Big Shiny Woman with a Frost Badge (Sister Svalna) – I wish I could elaborate on what she does that’s special, but to be honest, the only thing I remember about this pull before Dreamwalker’s room is that I got an unexpected Emblem of Frost out of it. I should note, however, that Svalna does call for help during the fight, so have a tank positioned at the rear of your raid to pick up the resurrected mobs. Otherwise, rejoice in an easy Emblem!
- Sindragosa Trash: I’ll trade you spiders for a teleporter – If you’d like to unlock the teleporter to Sindragosa’s platform and save yourself a 5-minute run back after every wipe, then you’ll need to clear this homage to ToC, accessed via the gate off of Sindragosa’s platform or via the North elevator in Dreamwalker’s room. I’d suggest positioning the raid in the middle of the room, because while damage will be comparatively light, the sheer number of mobs means that you will likely have multiple non-tanks with agro on various targets. Be especially mindful when you have Ymirjar waves as one of them will throw a whirlwinding sword, similar to the Ymirjar/Drake pats in PoS, which will do aoe damage to anyone within range. Once cleared, you can proceed to Sindragosa’s platform and thereafter avoid the Elevator of Silly Deaths (on lend to the Lich King from Lady Vashj).
- Sindragosa Trash: Rhinefang / Spinestalker -The last of the trash on Sindragosa’s platform, killing these two dragons will start the Sindragosa fight, so be prepared when the latter one hits the floor as you will have little to no time to buff/drink/prepare before Sindragosa herself lands in front of your raid. Neither dragon does much of note; Rhinefang will cast the same frost patches he does in PoS while Spinestalker will periodically mass fear your raid. Sadly, neither of these guys drops an emblem.
Proof that Blizzard actually listened to healer feedback about wanting an encounter where we’re the linchpins, the Valithria Dreamwalker fight is surprisingly simple
if you stack holy pallies if your raid can effectively dispatch the myriad of mobs that will spawn over the course of the encounter. While a team of healers will be jumping into the portals that Dreamwalker spawns, the rest of the raid will be fighting off endless waves of mobs spawning from the 4 gates on the East and West sides of the room. If you are one of the healers designated as a portal jockey, then this fight will seem drastically different than if you have the grunt task of staying out and healing the raid.
Healing Tidbits: Portal Jockey
If you are a member of the healing dream team on this fight, then your main goal will be to maintain and build your Emerald Vigor stacks, which will assure you limitless mana and insane healing bonuses the higher the stacks are. During the encounter, Dreamwalker will spawn multiple portals, which once clicked, will phase you into a dream state of the same room. Scattered throughout this room, about midway up to the ceiling, will be green clouds that you and your healing team will need to pop (fly through) in order to receive the Emerald Vigor buff. Once phased, you will have ~10-15 seconds (apologies, I didn’t track the exact time) to pop as many clouds as possible before you are dropped back into the fight with the rest of the raid.
- Dream State: you will want to make sure that your team pops the clouds together so that each healer can receive the buff (if everyone goes different directions you will likely not have enough clouds to maintain your stacks). Designating one person as the leader, who will always fly clockwise/counter-clockwise, will help your team get as many applications of the buff as possible.
- With the Raid: you will actually have very little time to heal Dreamwalker in between portal spawns, so decrease your travel time as much as possible by positioning yourself immediately next to a portal location before it spawns. Once the portal is active, don’t hang around outside to get in another heal or two as it could very well spell the end of your stacks. Shamans, stick to RT+HW, and be prepared for some amazing numbers (I was getting 55k+ HW crits in 10man, without being specced into Healing Way).
Healing Tidbits: All the Work, None of the Glory
Unfortunately, the damage that goes out from the waves of adds means that in the absence of some pretty intense coordination, several healers (2-3) will need to stay out of the portals to keep the raid alive. If you are one of these players, mana management will be important; pay particular attention to Mana Voids (spawned by the Archmages) which will drain 1k mana every second that you stand in them. Otherwise, be prepared for some blanket raid healing when Blazing Skeletons are up—they will hit the entire outside team with a fire pulse until they are killed (thus making them priority kill targets for all dps). Watch over your tanks as they kite Blistering Zombies away from the raid (they explode upon death, like the Phase 1 adds in Yogg), and advise your dps to be alert to Suppressors, who will channel a healing reduction ability on Dreamwalker.
As a point of reference, the following chart shows the breakdown of healing for our first Dreamwalker kill (and yes, we went in with a whopping 8 healers):
After an entire xpac of having to listen to Icecrown general chat, Sindragosa is one angry skeleton with a lot of abilities to throw at your raid. And although it may seem like a dps check at first, this fight really is about your healers’ and dps’ ability to throttle output accordingly. The encounter itself is divided into three phases—a land phase, an air phase and a sub-30% phase—though phase 3 is essentially phase 1 + phase 2.
- Land Phase: While Sindragosa is grounded, your raid will be focusing on maximizing their dps and healing while handling Permeating Chill (for physical damagers) or Unchained Magic (for magic users). Note that while all physical dps will be affected with Permeating Chill, not all of the ranged/magic users will be affected with Unchained Magic; Sindragosa will only cast the latter debuff on 5 players at a time. Unchained Magic will build in stacks for every spell you cast, backlashing against you after a period of time for 2k x number of stacks. Also during her land phase, Sindragosa will periodically suck everyone into the center; it is absolutely essential that you high-tail it away after being pulled in as the Blistering Cold she casts shortly after the pull will 1-shot any non-tank.
- Air Phase: After she ascends, Sindragosa will select 5 targets from your raid and mark them with Frost Beacon. After 7 sec, these players will be encased in a Frost Tomb, which will have to be dps’ed in order to free the targets. However, since these tombs allow your raid to LoS the 4 Frost Bombs Sindragosa throws out during the air phase, killing the tombs immediately will not be to your advantage. Also, note that the Frost Tombs do aoe damage when initially applied, so marked players will need to spread out at least 10 yards away from each other to stay alive. Once the 4 Frost Bombs have gone out, your dps will need to free these people immediately or they will die of Asphyxiation.
- Sub-35%: Once Sindragosa reaches 30% hp, she will be permanently grounded. However, she will gain the ability to cast Frost Beacon and will start pulsing an aoe debuff called Mystic Buffet, which will increase magic damage taken (both Permeating Chill and Unchained Magic are magic effects, so you will want to limit stacks to about half of what you could take in phase 1.) At this point, your raid will be using the Frost Tombed players to LoS reset the Mystic Buffet debuff (similar to the Garfrost fight in PoS). Frost Tombed players will still need to be broken out, but not before the group of people behind them has cleared their debuff stacks.
Healing Tidbits, HP > 35%:
The land and air phases of this fight do not really involve that much healing, provided your raid can manage their debuffs and not chain the Frost Tombs to other players. Do note that healers can be afflicted by Unchained Magic, so pay particular attention to not kill yourself when you have the debuff (8 stacks is likely the most you want to reach in Phase 1/2.) Otherwise, make sure that you are ready to heal on the run while LoS-ing Frost Bombs since a Frost Bomb will not 1-shot a topped-off player but will kill him if he gets hit by a second one.
Healing Tidbits, HP < 35%:
Be prepared for things to get significantly more hectic once Sindragosa drops into Phase 3. Tank healing will be insane, so everyone will need to toss out tank heals when they are not resetting their Mystic Buffet. You will still be dealing with Permeating Chill and Unchained Magic in this phase, so heal your arse off when you don’t have the debuff (because it is likely that one or more of your healing teammates will be out of commission). We found that having Frost Beaconed players alternate between the right and left side of a clumped raid provided the shortest traveling distance for all players to the Frost Tombs (including the tanks, who will also need to LoS to clear their Mystic Buffet stacks). Again, things will be very chaotic with players moving all about, but the key to the kill will be using the same care you had in Phase 1 and 2 and keeping your tanks alive despite massive damage.
So Why the Long Face?
In the intro to this post, I mentioned that I appreciated some of the challenges that the Frostwing Halls provided—coordination, moderation, execution. To me, these finer points of raiding really make the distinction between encounters that are engaging the first time you beat them, and encounters that are engaging every time you beat them. And while I believe Sindragosa had these qualities in spades (and I can’t wait to wipe on hard mode), in my opinion, Dreamwalker fell a little short.
The question was posed back in a previous post whether the fight would be trivialized by stacking one of the healing classes and I think the answer is: it will be. I don’t know what numbers were popping up on the screen of one of our holy pallies, but given that he ended the fight with 26,000 hps, I think I can safely attribute our easy kill to his insane output. To me, that strikes a pretty strong blow against one of the reasons that I appreciate healing and one of the points that I hit on so often—that healers are really only limited by their own capacity and not their class. While I did get to see some fabulous numbers of my own on 10man, and will probably improve them as I get better and better at the fight, it is slightly discouraging for me to be forced to acknowledge such a disparity between my healing kin. I think Blizzard’s solution could have been more elegant, maybe by morphing healers into drakes with similar output capacity, so that the focus of the fight could be more about execution and less about “moar pallies kthx!”
But, to end this on an uplifting note, I think it’s a great thing when I sit down to write out a basic strat guide and have so much to say about the nuances of the fights that I have hard time keeping the post concise! While tank-and-spanks can provide a nice change of pace from the overly complex, sometimes I crave fights that require a bit more out of players. In this respect, the Frostwing Halls did not disappoint. And after tonight’s attempts on the Lich King, I think I’ll be able to confirm, that he won’t disappoint either.