Upon seeing the encounter for the first time, my impressions of the Lich King were many—“holy heck that’s a small throne”, “did he shrink since Wrathgate?” and “oh lord, not more RP”. Looking forward to breezing through this final boss, I was a little bit shocked when we took our first serious attempts at him last week, only to discover, Arthas isn’t a pansy. In fact, over the xpac I’ve come to realize: the hallmark of a great fight is when you can watch it being executed and think “well that looks easy” and then have your arse handed to you 20seconds into your first attempt. If you loved learning Yogg for the first time—WHO IN THE FLYING F— HIT A CLOUD?!—then this is your apex of raiding. For everyone else, stock up on your vice of choice, it could be a long ride.
Like most end-bosses, the normal-mode battle with the Lich calls on players to perform, to coordinate, and to pay attention to a myriad of area effects through a string of phases (the exact number of which depends on your definition of a “phase”). And like most instance end bosses, be prepared to have your ear chatted off with RP (especially after the Lich wipes your raid at 10%; more about that in a few paragraphs.) In terms of healing, I’d compare the fight to 3tree Freya—easy if I was allowed to stand in one place the entire time, but a little bit frantic because of the movement required of you and of your raid. But, before I get into the gist of the encounter, a couple of tidbits first:
- DXE (Deus Vox Encounters) is godly for this fight. I may not like all of the visuals, and having to reconfigure yet another addon that I don’t quite understand makes me cranky, but it does the job and does it well. I would strongly urge you to require it in your raid.
- Timers on this fight are vital because the Lich’s two main abilities in Phases 3 and 5 are CD-limited, but are *seemingly* on different length cooldown durations. (There will be points in the fight where these CDs coincide, in which case fast reaction will be your saving grace.)
- Make sure that you can see the following in your raid frames—Infest, Harvest Soul, and Necrotic Plague.
- In phase 1, dedicate someone to dispelling. If they do nothing else in phase 1 but dispel, and they do it well, they have earned their keep. Management of the disease is vital to a quick and non-deadly phase.
- Go over positioning beforehand, and designate one opposing set of cardinal directions as being Defile-free zones (meaning players are not allowed, under any circumstances, to drop defile in these areas.)
- Disc priests reign supreme in this fight, so if you have the luxury of having your holy priests switch to disc, then by all means have them do so. However, don’t go sacrificing all your spreists to the bubble gods—they are currently holding a number of top dps spots in the WoL rankings.
And don’t worry if none of these make any sense to you; they will shortly. If anything else, you should note that the phases of the fight are somewhat additive, meaning that as you progress, you will have to deal with more and more elements from previous phases, with new effects added in.
Phase 1 – Where players are forced to pay attention
The Gist: Lasting until 70%, your first phase with the Lich will center around your management of three things—Shambling Horrors, Necrotic Plague and Infest. Shamblers will be summoned by the Lich every minute or so, and any more than 2 on the tank will spell certain death (heck, even one can be deadly if their enrage isn’t dispelled immediately.) Necrotic Plague is your tool for dealing with the Shamblers; it will be applied to one player every ~30 secs, and when dispelled, will jump to either a friendly player or an enemy target. The key to this disease is that it will tick every 5 secs, for 15sec total, for 50k per tick. For this reason you need to get it off of a raid member and onto a Shambling Horror as soon as possible, without having it stay on anyone for more than 4 sec in between the two. Correct management of this disease will make or break your phase 1—if someone dies with the plague you will lose its damage, which is pretty much the only way you will be able to kill the Shamblers while also bringing the Lich down past 70% HP. The last thing that you will have to manage is Infest, a raid-wide debuff which will tick for increasing amounts of shadow damage the longer it remains on a player. The Lich casts this periodically during the entire encounter, and to remove it, players need to be at 90% hp or above.
Healing Tidbits: As you can imagine, Infest is largely trivialized by having 2 disc priests in raid. Since the damage it does on intial application is typically less that the shield absorb of PW:S, the debuff will immediately fall off a shielded target. Infest aside, raid damage in Phase 1 is largely non-existent, though the ghouls that spawn in addition to shamblers mean that one or two of your melee will need a slight increase in healing (since the ghouls aren’t worth tanking and thus wind up attaching themselves onto the melee with the most incidental AOE damage). What the phase lacks in raid damage, it makes up for in tank damage—the Lich hits like a madman, so be prepared for some serious spikes. Your OT, meanwhile, should be taking moderate damage, but will need to use a CD when a shambler enrages because they can 1-shot. For shamans, phase 1 is an excellent time to use a hasted CH (timed to land right after Infest) while interweaving RT/LHW/HW on the tanks.
Phase 2 – Where players are forced to spread out and pay attention
The Gist: At the end of Phase 1, the Lich will run to the center of the platform where he will start to cast Endless Winter, an aoe pulse which affects everything within the inner circle. If you happen to venture into this area, you will take an excessive amount of damage. While the aoe pulse is happening, the Lich will also target and cast a conal effect called Pain and Suffering which will apply a minor debuff to its target and players in the conal area. Also, the Lich will periodically cast Summon Raging Spirit on players, spawning a spirit version of the character, which will need to be dps-ed down immediately (though you should expect to have 1 up during the Ph2 – Ph3 transition). Ice Spheres will also emanate from the Lich, and will need to be dps-ed down by ranged before the Sphere reaches the target it has locked onto. (If it does reach the target, the target and nearby players will be knocked off the platform.)
Healing Tidbits: Utilizing 3 positioning locations in this phase can significantly reduce the amount of incoming damage by limiting both the number of people with the Pain and Suffering debuff and those affected by the Ice Sphere’s target aoe. Healing will generally consist of keeping everyone up (read: lots and lots of aoe healing), while the Spirit tanks will need additional consideration because of the spirit’s frontal cone effects. I generally stuck to CH-ing through the Spirit tank in this phase, and tossing out CH on the two ranged clumps as needed.
(Transition: The outer edges of the platform will collapse during the Phase 2 to Phase 3 transition, so be ready to run into the center while avoiding Frost Spheres and Spirits’ frontal cones.)
Phase 3 – Where players are forced to spread out, clump up, run away from bad things, and pay attention
The Gist: Shortly after the third spirit is spawned (~1min after the start of the phase2), the Lich will give up trying to knock you off the platform by himself and will resume bashing your tank. As noted above, he will also destroy the outer edges of the platform on the transition; any player on the outer ring will die at that point and remain unrezzable for the duration of the encounter. In Phase 3, the Lich will continue to cast Infest periodically, while also using two new abilities—Summon Val’kyrs and Defile. It is the latter effect that will cause all sorts of problems for you and your raid. Cast on one person (which I believe can include the tank), Defile will drop a void zone underneath the targeted player after ~3sec. After it drops, the void will expand in diameter for every player it touches, such that 2-3 people not paying attention could cause the void to spread and cover the entire platform. In preparation for Defile, it is helpful if your raid spreads out and designates one or two directions as dedicated Defile zones so that the center of the platform remains clear.
The second new Lich ability—Summon Val’kyrs—will call upon 3 Val’kyrs to pick up random raid members from where they are standing and drop them off the side of the collapsed platform. The Val’kyrs are stunnable and slowable (both are necessities—typically an unslowed Valk will make it to the edge at about 70% hp) but all stuns are subject to DR, so you have a limited amount of time in which to kill them. So, make sure that you have a slowing debuff on each of the Valks and teams assigned to each one. Also, because you want the longest amount of time in which to kill a Valk, and make sure that they all head in generally one direction, your raid will want to position in a pile slightly to one side of the center of the room.
The absolutely vital element to remember, and what possibly amounts to the most challenging aspect of this entire fight, is that the Lich can summon Valks and cast Defile back to back. If your raid happens to be clumped for Valks and the Lich throws a Defile at you, players will likely not have enough time to spread and you will wipe in an inky puddle of doom. Alternately, if you spread for Defile and the Lich casts Valks, then even players who are spread out within the inner circle of the room have halfed the time between the Valks pickup and the inevitable drop.
Healing Tidbits: First and foremost, healers need to maintain incredible situational awareness and communicate if they happen to be picked up. Not only will there be tank swapping during the course of the encounter, to mitigate Soul Reaper damage, but the raid will be repositioning, collapsing, expanding, and dodging almost constantly. Tanks will be taking heavy damage, and while it wasn’t a factor in previous phases, Infest becomes more deadly as players become more spread out (and thus require snipe single-target healing). The best tip I can offer in this phase is to be very aware of the Infest timer, and before he starts casting, have a clump of players in mind for a quick CH, followed by LHW on any remaining Infested targets. Also, enabling chat bubbles can help you easily and quickly identify if the Defiled target is close to you (DXE will /s “Defile on Me” for any targeted player.)
(Transition: The outer edges of the platform will rebuild quickly from Phase 3 to Phase 4, before the Lich starts pulsing Endless Winter again. Make sure that your raid is already at the edge of the platform in preparation for this transition, so when the ledge rebuilds you can move immediately onto it.)
Phase 4 – Where players are forced to spread out again, pray for their lives, and pay attention
The Gist: A repeat of Phase 2, this minute of the fight will have your raid back out on the edge of the platform, dealing with Frost Spheres, Raging Spirits, and Pain and Suffering, again. Raging Spirits are summoned more quickly this time around, so damage on your tanks will increase (as will the likelihood that a spirit will reposition and frontal cone the melee while doing so.) But otherwise, you will not be dealing with anything new.
Healing Tidbits: Repeat Phase 2 (spreading out along the outer edge), and mash your buttons harder. Like I mentioned, the tanks will be getting hit much harder and will likely have a spirit or two on them when the fight transitions into Phase 5, so be prepared for some very spikey damage. CH through the tanks has the added benefit that if one of the melee does get accidently coned, your bounce might save a life.
Phase 5 – Where players are forced to spread out, kill everything that spawns, run away from bad things while killing, not have their soul harvested, help the NPC and pay attention
The Gist: As I mentioned previously, the fight with the Lich is additive in nature, so now you will have to deal with a number of the Lich’s abilities—Soul Reaper, Defile, and Infest—while also dealing with two more: Harvest Soul and Vile Spirits. Cast on one person in the raid (non-tank), Harvest Soul will inflict shadow damage for a short period of time before porting the person into a separate room where two mobs are engaged in combat. The ported person will need to ensure that the friendly NPC triumphs by either healing him or damaging the other mob. Once the fight ends, the player is teleported back and Harvest Soul can be cast on someone else. If this player dies, at any point between application of the initial debuff and their time in the room, the Lich will mini-enrage and begin 1-shotting your raid members.
The second new ability that the Lich gains is slightly more troublesome. When the Lich casts Summon Vile Spirits, 10 ghosts will appear in the air above the center of the platform. After 30 sec, the ghosts will charge a randomly-selected player and explode on contact, damaging the player and everyone around them. The explosion hits for around ~15k, meaning that two spirits exploding near one player will result in death. These spirits should be dps-ed down before the 30sec mark (targeted AOE does work on them) to avoid the high amount of raid damage they will do.
Healing Tidbits: Do. Not. Focus. On. Your. Raid. Frames. No really, that one thing will account for more healer deaths in this phase than anything else. Provided that your dps manages to kill the majority of the spirits (we had 2-4 up every time), healing in this phase won’t be insane. If spirits are running amok, however, then the damage will become fatal very quickly. You will need to practice the same healing you did in Phase 4, with the notable exception that Harvest Soul targets will need a massive amount of burst healing so that they don’t die from the debuff. Otherwise, keep your eyes on the fight, pay attention to warnings, and breathe a sigh of relief for the transition into Phase 6.
Phase 6 – Where the Lich decides “Screw you guys, I’m going home”
The Gist: At 10% HP the Lich gets very tired of being poked, prodded and magic’d and shows you just how much of a badass he is by 1-shotting your entire raid. As you recoil in horror at the “You are dead” message across your screen, he launches into the final bit of RP that you’ll have to endure. The last 10% is second only to Archimonde’s last 10%, sans Finger of Death.
Healing Tidbits: Rejoice in ~ 30sec of Bloodlusted healer dps. Smite, Moonfire, Wrath, Lightning Bolt, Judge, and melee your heart out. You’ve earned it.