Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Bear's guide to ICC: Blood Prince Council

The Blood Prince Council is the first of two boss encounters in ICC's Crimson Halls. It pits your team against the 3 most formidable San'layn you've previously faced off against in your travels around Azeroth: Keleseth (first boss of Utgarde Keep), Valanar (ended separate Alliance and Horde quest chains in Borean Tundra), and Taldaram (second boss of Ahn'Kahet). It's a very chaotic fight, but once you get a handle on it, it's insanely fun. One of the best encounters to date, in my opinion.

After clearing the trash in the room you will see the Blood Queen Lana'thel hovering over the bodies of the fallen Princes, left-to-right in the order I listed above.

When you get in aggro range she will give a short speech (by ICC standards, anyway), resurrect the Princes through the use of an orb that descends over Valanar (this will be important), and the fight ensues. On subsequent attempts, the Princes will be waiting for you on their stage and will immediately pull when you get into aggro range.

This fight is similar to the Twin Val'kyr in ToC in that the 3 Princes share a single health pool. Unlike the Twin Val'kyr, only one Prince can take damage at any given time...the one currently empowered by the orb. It's easy to tell which Prince is empowered at any given time, as he'll be the only one of the 3 with a health pool. The other two will have 1 health and will not take damage.

Important note here: Just because the the unempowered Princes aren't taking damage, your abilities are still building threat. So don't stop attacking. Another good reason to continue to attack is so that you'll still be proccing your Savage Defense. Keep your healers happy.

Valanar is always the first Prince to be empowered at the beginning of the fight, but the empowerment will change randomly every 30 seconds or so. You could make the case that you're actually damaging the orb throughout the fight, not the Princes.

In any event the traditional setup for this fight is to have one tank on Valanar and one on Taldaram. The third Prince, Keleseth, is to be tanked by a ranged member of your raid. Most people like a Warlock for this job, but any ranged class will do.

That said, there's nothing about the encounter that requires it to be done this way. It's possible for a well-geared tank to hold both Valanar and Taldaram. This frees the other tank to handle Keleseth or switch to a DPS spec (leaving Keleseth to a ranged class) or act as a Dark Nucleus gatherer for the Keleseth tank (I'll explain that further down).

Regardless of how you handle this in your raid, it's important to coordinate the pull so that everyone who is supposed to have aggro gets it a roughly the same time. Having all 3 Princes aggro on one individual can lead to a very quick death.

Since Valanar is always the first empowered Prince, we'll start with him.

Like all of the Princes, Valanar can be tanked wherever you and your raid prefer. I tank him right where he starts the encounter before the pull. It works as a nice, easy location.

As a tank, he's not going to do anything specifically to you other than hit you. But he does have abilities you need to watch for. First, he'll summon Kinetic Bombs such that up to two can be out at any given time. They look like giant glittery disco balls that float lazily towards the floor. If at any time one hits the ground, it will do about 10K damage to anyone within 50 yards (half the room) and hit them with a nasty knockback. The way to prevent this from happening is to damage them. As a tank, you don't want to go out of your way to hit one of these, but if one spawns in your general area feel free to Swipe at it to keep it in the air. You'll have to keep this up for a minute until the bomb despawns.

The other thing he'll do is a Shock Vortex. The vortex will spawn on one of your raid members and stay in place pulsing for about 30 seconds. Anyone that gets within 13 yards of it will take 5K damage and get knocked back. If this happens to spawn near you, you're going to get knocked off your targets. The usual tank reaction to this is to Charge right back in, in which case you'll just get knocked right back again. (This is especially annoying because the vortexes tend to be hard to see.) You'll need to swing around the vortex to get back to Valanar and then lead him wherever you plan to continue tanking him.

When Valanar is empowered with the orb, he'll cast Empowered Shock Vortex. In my opinion, this is less annoying than the non-empowered version. The empowered version will pop a shock vortex on every member of your raid, but it doesn't persist. To avoid this, just have everyone spread 13 yards apart as he's casting it. Any melee attacking Valanar at this point need to run away from you. If everyone's far enough apart, this will just do 5K damage to everyone in the raid and that's it. If people are too close together, there's going to be extra damage and knockbacks.

The biggest danger with any knockbacks is your healers getting out of range of you. Keep an eye on this and know when you use your cooldowns to keep yourself up in a tight spot.

Right, then. On to Taldaram. Like Valanar, the only thing he's going to do directly to you as a tank is hit you. His other abilities require less of your attention than Valanar's.

Taldaram will cast Glittering Sparks (really? Jubilee, anyone?) towards a random raid member in melee range of the boss. It's a frontal cone attack that will catch anyone in its path. It might hit you, it might hit all of your melee DPSers. Nothing you can do about it. Just keep an eye out for when heals might get tight.

His other main ability is Flame Sphere. They look just like the ones he conjures when you fight him in AK, though they behave differently. The regular, unempowered versions will fly at a random raid member and explode on contact, damaging everyone in a 15 yard radius. The longer it takes to reach that player, the less damage it will do when it explodes, so it should be kited. Anyone in the path of the ball will also take damage, so the idea is to try to keep clear of it.

When Empowered, his flame spheres will do 1K damage every second to anyone in their path as they fly towards their target. The catch is that the only way to weaken the Empowered orbs is to allow them to deal this damage. Raid members should try to take a few hits of this and then get out of the way again before it strains the healers too much.

Keleseth is the last of the Blood Princes and the most unique. He's also the most difficult for a traditional tank to handle, especially for Bears. Rather than use melee attacks, Keleseth will constantly fire Shadow Lances at his target. On they're own, they're not too bad and any tank can pretty easily soak them. However, when Keleseth gets the orb and begins casting Empowered Shadow Lances, well...different story.

To counteract the damage caused by the ESLs, you have to run around picking up the shadow orbs that Kel summons all over the room. Each orb that you collect gives you a debuff that ticks for 1K damage every second and buffs your current shadow absorption by 35%.

Now listen close, because this is important. I didn't italicize the four words above for no reason. It's 35% of your current shadow absorption (multiplicative effect), not overall shadow absorption (additive effect). This means that 3 shadows orbs does not add up 105% shadow absorption and everything is peachy. The first orb gives you 35% shadow absorption, true. The second one will raise you to 57% shadow absorption. The third, to 72%. And so on. By the time you get up to the 6th orb, you'll have 92% shadow absorption. At that point, stacking more orbs on yourself is doing much more harm than good, because of the 6K damage per second you'll already be taking from the orbs.

Here's the other fun part of the shadow orb equation, and the reason why Bears (in particular) are tough Keleseth tanks.

The orbs don't have a traditional aggro table. They will latch onto the last person that does any kind of damage to them, with one exception: physical AE abilities (like, for instance, Swipe). I've also found that, for whatever reason, they're extremely difficult to pick up with targeted melee strikes or auto-attacks. And they're taunt-immune (unless that taunt also does damage). So for Bears, this means we really have one effective way to grab the orbs: Fearie Fire (Feral). And that's on a 6-second cooldown.

During much of the fight, this isn't much of an issue. But when it becomes most difficult to manage is also when it's most important: when Keleseth is empowered. With your entire raid suddenly attacking Keleseth, you'll often find orbs leaving you at a rapid pace because of incidental secondary target damage. Not only because it pulls them away from you, but also because it kills them. (They do have a health pool and will disappear when it reaches 0. Their health pool also naturally decays on its own, so you have to watch for that.) It can be a very frantic 30 seconds while you attempt to stay alive.

Compound this with the fact that the whole time you're running around picking up orbs, you're not hitting Keleseth and not building threat. If you do end up being the Keleseth tank, it's usually a good idea to spend the first few seconds of the fight beating on him (at the very least, stacking Lascerate to a full 5 stacks) while your Hunters MD you and your Rogues Tricks you. This should give you a (slightly uncomfortable) threat lead once you break off and start picking up the shadow orbs. Any time you find yourself with enough orbs, you can go back and hit Keleseth for a little bit. (Avoid using Maul at this time if you have it glyphed, so you don't end up damaging the orbs as well.) Any time Keleseth becomes empowered, the MDs and Trickses should go up again to help you out.

And that's about it. Hold whichever Prince(s) you're supposed to while your DPS are bouncing all around between the targets.

On 10-man, the Princes can drop Hersir's Greatspear which is a pretty decent tanking drop. They'll also drop Taladram's Soft Slippers which will pretty much only be replaced with the ICC crafted boots. In 25-man you can look forward to the Royal Crimson Cloak and the Geistlord's Punishment Sack. There's also Cryptmaker if you're really in need of an upgrade and there's no Plate DPSers in your raid that want it.

As with all my boss strats, I'm writing from the overall perspective of a Bear tank and what they will need to do. For you Cats reading this blog, I suggest you check out Dinaer's guides on Forever a Noob. They're written for Rogues but are a pretty good guide for melee in general and his gear drop suggestions (with the exception of weapons) will be spot on for Cats. If I have additional insight, I will try to add it in my blog. Here is his Blood Prince Council strat.
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