Life in Group 5 – A Resto Shaman Blog
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Healing

February 8, 2010

The Frostwing Halls: Kill Dargons!*

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Written by: Vixsin
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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.

Trash

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.

Valithria Dreamwalker

Valithria Dreamwalker

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):

Sindragosa

Sindragosa

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.

* This typo in no way reflects the quality of my proofreading and should not be taken to indicate that I have the inability to correctly identify large flying blue/green/skinless toothy beasts that generally deep breath and cleave no matter what matter of dragonflight they were or are affiliated with. In fact, it is a lame attempt to associate myself with pop culture 1337, but will likely backfire as you probably didn’t need any explanation of the misspelling’s significance, being the utterly hip players you are, and are now thinking I’m slightly loony and not cool in the slightest. (kekeke) I blame the football buzz. And btw, go Saints.





17 Comments


  1. Being a holy paladin myself, I actually do get what you’re saying. I’d hate to see raid teams stacking 3-4 holy paladins for this fight with a couple strong AE healers to sit outside the portals and do the thankless job of, you know… keeping people alive.

    But I’d say, for those that don’t min/max this into abuse, it has its place. Of course, it is promoting the ‘lol holy light spam’ model…
    .-= Dristanel´s last blog ..Secret Admirer Project =-.


  2. Shikai

    Eyh Vix, eyh everyone,

    I do think shams can be potent healer on the Dreamwalker encounter provided they spec into HW and use the HW glyph.

    Your AA always land on the Dreamwalker so with a decent amount of crit and hast you can easily achieve 20k hps. With 25 stacks you can easily pop with 80k+ crits without AA. If you are a portal jockey, you can dump any regen pieces you may be equipping otherwise.

    The HW glyph makes sure you won’t die out of any AoE while porting back out of raid healers’ range into reality.

    I did a 22K hps on our first kill while loosing stacks before second portals. We also use heroism/bloodlust around 87% and stay in reality until we top her off so this might help for big numbaz. Key to this big HPS is minimizing movements in reality and, of course, not loosing stacks.

    Shikai,
    EU-Ner’Zhul


  3. Those are definitely some amazing numbers Shikai, and very heartening. In retrospect, given that our kill occurred on our second, slightly off-balance attempt of the night, I don’t think our healing numbers really depict the potential contributions of all of our healers. So, I concede that I could be making a rush judgement about comparative output potential. Guess I’ll have to argue my GL into giving me a spot on the portal team “for data collection purposes”.


  4. Maccae

    i was curious as what other shaman were doing for that fight. we didn’t complete the encounter ( 92%) and ran out of time to try again but i was doing as much ( and often more) than the holy paladins for healing her. our setup was 7 healers ( we will have 8 next time) 2 pallies and 2 shaman on her. the other shaman wasn’t spec into healing way and it showed.

    i used glyph of riptide and already had LHW glyph and ES – next time i will swap out my ES glyph with HW one- good suggestion.

    cast ES on her! she get *hit* by aoe waves, but it’s mostly for the LHW glyph, also use Nature’s Swiftness /HW on pull, you will be able to use it 2 other time during the fight.

    my rotation was (casting time) {riptide/HW(1s)/HW(1.2s)/LHW(1.1s)/LHW (1.1s)/riptide}

    which means riptide is always rolling HoT on her, i have no lull in my healing rotation and wait for riptide to come back up (or creating larger gap and not use riptide on every cooldown refresh)

    the reason why i use 2x LHW instead of 1 extra HW is Ancestral Awakening. She is the lowest health raid *member* so she soaks them all. Me and the other shaman tested the difference of casting 3 HW instead of the other rotation, the difference in total healing was approx 3-4% less, and approx 4-6% less AA proc ( not factoring the amount of healing buff we had between those 2 attempts- i’m aware i don’t have the whole data here)

    at equal gear you can do as much as a holy paladin on her as long as you have the correct glyphs and talents and maintain a very tight rotation of your spells :)


  5. I didn’t hit the numbers your paladin put up, but I think I could. We downed her on our second attempt, were pretty uncoordinated about how to assign healing and how to manage portals, and heroism’d way, way too early. I still ended up with ~16k hps and 25ish stacks of the buff. A tighter rotation and better portal/orb management, and I think I could push 25k hps easily.
    .-= jaede´s last blog ..Enhancement dual-spec? =-.


  6. Maccae

    btw if any other shaman have a different rotation for her please post it here, im curious what you guys have done it :)


  7. Cptkeyez

    @ Maccae, thats the same rotation i used when spam healing her. Unfortunately, my guild is pretty bad when it comes to detailed healing assignments(mainly just pallys on tanks, everyone else on raid). So when it came to dreamwalker, we had the pallys focusing on dreamwalker, and the rest were left to heal her and take portals when they could, which ended up causing the downfall of the attempts. AND we had a whopping 9 healers. Furthest we got was 90%.

    @Vix, and well, anybody else. Im curious how often the “raid healers” took the portals, and also, what the “tank healers(focused on dreamwalker)” actual healing uptime was.(ie, did they take every portal? if so, how much time did they spend actually healing the boss?).
    Thanks, great post.


  8. Perhaps I’m being a little optimistic, but I think that any class, if they are good about stacking their buffs, will be able to perform very well on this fight. I don’t really see a need for pally stacking. On my guild’s first few attempts, we did have pallies taking the portals but when one of them wasn’t great at stacking buffs, I convinced the RL that I (a resto druid) should go in the portal instead. We only had me and one pally going into every portal and we had no problems putting out the neccessary healing to finish the fight.
    .-= Jasyla´s last blog ..Reading Recommendations =-.


  9. In terms of the data presented in the healing table, the dedicated outside team (myself + 2 druids) didn’t take any portals, while the 2 pallies + 2 priests took every one (one of the priests took a portal or two for regen.)

    And a slight update … since posting, my pessimism about Dreamwalker has definitely been offset by other shaman who have performed incredibly well on the fight (evidence of which has been cropping up on various other boards and on the EJ forums.) But I’m still inclined to be grumpy. My own efforts this week were marred by death (/facepalm) and generally bad stack coordination. Grrrrrrrrrrr. So I’m still standing by my original assessment, and tacking on the question: why is a fight with insane ego-boosting hps the “treat” healers get for enduring the other 11 fights where we argue that meters are irrelevant?

    /harrumph


  10. Skrob

    @Shikai
    Shaman can be very powerful on this fight. We noticed it on our parses, and it’s been noted on EJ that AA is doing some crazy things on this fight when you have a good number of stacks on your shaman:
    http://elitistjerks.com/f79/t49212-resto_best_practices_pve_healing_discussion/p51/#post1553920


  11. Devlyne

    I’d be interested to hear how teams without a holy pally handle this encounter. My guild does 10 man content only and our healing team consists of a priest, druid and myself. Pumping enough healing into Dreamwalker is proving to be a challenge. I know it has to be possible, so any insights on strategy would be appreciated.


  12. Cptkeyez

    @ Devlyne – I dont have any real advice for you, but I can tell you that when i did this in 10man, i outhealed our holy pally(with just healing done to dreamwalker), so without a pally that more than likely means your gonna have to step up and pump out some numbers. We also had 4 healers(we made our spriest go holy, so we had two GS’s, which were used pretty much on CD). You should be able to handle it with 3 healers though just fine. Once you get the portals down, and healers get used to keeping up the raid, its cake.


  13. Shikai

    @ Maccae : have you tried out this rotation : RT, HW, HW, CH, HW (1+1+1.2+1.6+1.2=6 sec)? Pure HW spam has ‘theorically” showed better hps than LHW spam or a mix of both. CH consumes the RT effect so it should not be that terrible, but that’s before taking into account there is no AA on CH.

    In my case, with Scales of Fate active, LHW is totally counter productive : being a 0.9 sec cast, it pushes my actual GCD to 1.1 sec with server latency. Of course you may not use this trinket.


  14. Sanctos

    I hit 16k hps by keeping ES on VDW, and doinga RT HW HW LHW RT rotation.

    Shaman are quite awesome for healing DW.


  15. Lon

    Has anyone run the numbers on using CH at the end of the “rotation” before RT drops off, and whether or not the loss of AA is worth the 25% boost to CH?


  16. Last I ran the numbers (a month or so ago), RT + HW x3 was the max HPS rotation. Although theoretically CH could amount to more given a 4 target distribution, it is highly unlikely given typical raid positioning.

    I went into a little more detail here: http://lifeingroup5.com/?page_id=771#ICC


  17. grakthon

    i have had good luck on this fight using RT/HW/LHW/CH on repeat. with my haste at whatever it is buffed that always gets me to RT as it comes off CD. I use that haste buff for HW, tack a LHW onto that, and buff the CH. I dont know if this is the highest HPS I could get, but the CDs worked out very well and i was over 20k hps. while pallies are wanted for doing portals the trick lies a lot more in stack collection, so a skilled player who doesnt drop stacks will outheal a pally who does drop them anyway. in our ten mans i have been able to stay ahead of pallies right up until the end, so it is not bad for shaman at all.



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