Shared Boss Mechanics

January 11, 2010 at 3:10 pm (Borrowed Time, Circle of Healing, Empowered Renew, Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Grouping, Guardian Spirit, Guardian Spirit, Healing Mechanics, Icecrown Citadel, Pain Suppression, Penance, Power Word: Shield, Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Raiding, Renew, Serendipity, Talents)

This is not something I’ve written a blog post on before because, whilst it’s something I find interesting and it helps me think about my healing, I wonder whether it is unnecessary over-complication.
So I’m posting this with a little trepidation. If you don’t find it interesting, stop reading, I won’t mind.

Damage Profile

Whilst there are still new interesting fights designs coming out, and I’m certainly enjoying Icecrown Citadel, every fight tends to share certain things with fights that we’ve done before. Patchwerk, Gruul, Zul’Aman’s Panther boss and Marrowgar all share a Hateful strike/Cleave effect. They are all new fun fights, but they aren’t so different that you can learn substantial things from one to bring to the others. As such, when I’m thinking about how to improve my performance on a boss fight I try to think about what I call the “Damage Profile”. The style of damage the boss is doing.


The idea of a Damage Profile is probably best described with an example. There are various fights with high raid damage: Hodir, Kologarn, Loetheb, Festergut, Twin Val’kyr to name a few.
While in all these cases the raid damage is high, the style of raid damage is different. Kologarn does relatively little raid damage most of the time, but periodically does his smash for 10k damage to the entire raid group. Twin Val’kyr has constant ticking raid damage over the entire fight. Both these fights have high raid damage, but their damage profile is different. One is brief periods of high damage, the other is long periods of constant damage. Then obviously there are mixes of the two – XT, Festergut, Lord Marrowgar, Lord Jaraxxus.

Similarly Tank Damage can have a profile too. There can be high single Tank damage like Anub’arak, or a fight with high damage on both tanks like Lord Marrowgar, Patchwerk or Gormok the Impaler. There can be fights with Tank switches like Archavon or Thorim.

Spell Profile

Okay, so hopefully now we’re thinking about things not just in terms of “High Tank damage” Vs “High Raid damage” but in a little more detail. Is it ticking damage or burst damage? Is it random spikes to individual players, or hits on multiple targets at once? Is it predictable damage on a set timer, or it is random timing?

Once we have a good idea of the sort of Damage Profile going on we need to think about the spells we have and how they work.

For example, Prayer of Mending is great healing, but works best when it’s given an opportunity to jump multiple times. Renew can be cast while moving and can be cast before damage occurs, but the further in advance you cast it the less healing it will do. Power Word: Shield can be cast even further in advance, but if timed poorly will leave you unable to cast it until Weakened Soul is gone. Prayer of Healing is good group healing but works best when everybody in the party is taking damage so that it can be as efficient as possible etc.
Take some time to look at your spells and think about what they do for you. Even something like Flash Heal is more complicated than you think at first sight. It’s relatively small healing, it should be avoided when you have Borrowed Time because it already is very fast, but if the target is below 50% it becomes a much higher priority because of Improved Flash Heal. On the other hand if you’re a Holy Priest it’s excellent for stacking Serendipity if you want to be using Prayer of Healing regularly, or if you are concerned about your Renews being overhealed. It also works well with Test of Faith.
So now we have some good ideas about the heals we have, and a good grasp of the sorts of damage the boss is doing, now we need to work on being flexible about using the right spells at the right time.

Festergut’s Damage Profile

Festergut is a perfect example. For those who haven’t done the fight –

The Fight

Festergut is in the Plague Quarter of Icecrown Citadel. The fight begins with the entire room covered in an orange cloud which does ticking damage to the whole raid. As the fight goes on Festergut will inhale some of the cloud reducing his raid damage but buffing his tank damage. Once he has inhaled all the gas his tank damage is very high. He will then breathe out all the gas doing a big hit on everybody in the raid and starting the raid damage ticking again.
The fight also involves Tank switches when Festergut is doing his highest tank damage, if the tanks don’t switch they die to a stacking debuff which will wipe the raid.

So we have a fight who’s Damage Profile changes significantly as it progresses. Lets look at how you can respond:

The Pull

As with every pull you should precast certain spells on the Tank. Inevitably you will spend some time moving into position and during this time the Tank is vulnerable. As such start off with Power Word: Shield  on the Tank ahead of time. This will provide some protection while the Tank gets aggro and you move to where you need to be. Cast it far enough before the start of the fight so that Weakened Soul has fallen off and you can cast another as needed. As the Tank runs in to pull cast Renew, so long as this spell is cast before combat is initiated it won’t create any aggro for you. As the Tank get’s aggro you may want to Fade. This will push you temporarily to the bottom of the aggro table allowing you to cast aggressively straight away without worrying about the tank perhaps missing his first swing. For more information on Fade see this. Every healer can contribute to the pull whether they are Raid or Tank healers, and this strategy applies to 5 mans as well.

Ticking Raid Damage

As the fight begins and the raid damage is high our go-to spells should be Prayer of Mending, Renew and perhaps Power Word: Shield. Power Word: Shield is not really ideal for this sort of ticking damage, but the benefit it does give is Power Word: Shield will never be overhealed so it helps keep your other healers from wasting their time healing your targets. The rest of the raid healers should be using Circle of Healing, Rejuvenation etc. Chain Heal will work best on the melee group so you should be focusing on the ranged group members instead.

Tank and Raid Damage

As Festergut breathes in that gas his tank damage is going up, so it’s time to focus a little more on Tank Healing. This means things like Renew, Inspiration, PW:S are good ways to help with Tank healing while still giving you the chance to throw Prayer of Mending and some other heals on the raid group.
Again, as Festergut breathes in more gas the focus switches even more to the Tank with Penance, Flash Heal and Guardian Spirit becoming important to help emergency heal the tank.

Tank Damage

Several healers healing one tank is a confusing time. The damage is high but there is a significant chance of overhealing. As such large heals are usually a mistake, you should prefer regular small heals to reduce overhealing and make sure the tank never goes too long without receiving some kind of healing. As a Disc priest you are at an advantage in that your overhealing still procs Divine Aegis so you can heal a little more aggressively than other healers as even your overheal may still generate Divine Aegis procs (as well as Inspiration). Avoid PW:S while the tank is at full health as it’s wasting what is otherwise a great instant emergency heal when the tank ever falls dangerously low. As a Holy Priest focus on Renew, for constant healing as well as Flash Heals keeping Serendipity for a fast Greater Heal as needed. Use Guardian Spirit aggressively.

Tank Switch

The Tank switch is a dangerous moment because Festergut is doing very high damage. The incoming Tank won’t have the buffs (Inspiration, Renew, Rejuvenation, Lifeblood, Riptide etc) that the outgoing tank does so the changeover is crucial. As a Priest you can smooth it out. Power Word: Shield is excellent as you can pre-cast it on the incoming tank to mitigate the first hit. You can also pre-cast Penance to stack Grace and proc Inspiration and Divine Aegis. It will be overheal, but if you can spare the mana then it significantly improves the survivability of the new tank. You also have Pain Suppression and Guardian Spirit you can cast ahead of time. If you don’t have these abilities ready then ask your tank to use Shield Wall or Icebound Fortitude as they taunt. This advice is not Festergut specific. Any time you have a Tank switch this process should come into play. Tank Switches have a damage profile – high spike damage on a new target – and this is how you should respond to it.

Spike Raid Damage

As the Exhale comes up you are expecting a large hit on the entire raid. It’s around about 10k. This exhale is predictable, and it’s hitting people who are taking almost no other damage. As such it’s a perfect time to PW:S all the raid members (if you can spare the time) to take the edge of that hit and make sure you’re raiders are on a safe amount of health. If you’re a Holy Priest then stack Serendipity instead so you are ready to cast a fast Prayer of Healing. Again, this isn’t Festergut
specific, any fight with this sort of predictable Raid Damage should get you responding in this way.

So that’s roughly the fight. I haven’t discussed every single ability, but I think it is a great fight for looking at to understand the different sorts of damage you can experience and the sorts of ways you can approach it.
As a Priest with Dual Spec Disc/Holy I’m usually thinking about which spec would be best for a fight. I hope what the above shows is that it’s not as simple as Raid Damage = Holy priest. The Damage Profile is important. If if the damage is predictable or spikey you may find Discipline is preferable. And whilst there may be tank damage, you may still be better off in Holy if it allows you to use Guardian Spirit or Renew more effectively to work with other Tank Healers.

So, when you get to a new fight, try not to think about it in isolation, but by breaking it down into parts and how you can approach those individual sections. In particular, how your spell use should change throughout the fight.

Good luck, and enjoy Icecrown.

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