Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Bear's Guide to BoT: Halfus Wyrmbreaker

I've been putting this particular guide off for weeks and weeks. I wanted to cover all the "entry" raid bosses before I started discussing the ones further into each raid, but I've been dreading this one. How do you write a tanking guide for a fight that can change from week to week?

There's 3 aspects to this fight that are important. First is your main objective--the big etin, Halfus. He does need to be tanked, so you will have to worry about him.

Halfus swings moderately slow (usually), but does hit pretty hard. Starting from the moment he hits 50%, and then periodically thereafter, Halfus casts Furious Roar 3 times in quick succession. This acts as a raid-wide 6-second stun plus damage. The good news is that Halfus isn't attacking while he does this. The bad news is that anything else involved in the fight still is.

Second is Halfus's pet Proto-Drake. The PD flies above the raid and rains down fire on everyone. It can't be killed. It can't be tanked. It's just there as a source of raid damage. Its standard attack is a fireball with splash damage. For this reason, you'll want to stay spread out. This is particularly important as a tank. If you're already taking damage from Halfus or MC'd dragons, you want don't want to be taking splash damage from standing too close to your other raid members as well.

Third is Halfus's assortment of captured dragons. There's five total, three of which are going to be "active" any given week. (The other two will have "knock-out" stars swirling above their heads and are non-factors.) Using some trusty HS probability (n!/(r!(n-r)!)), for n=5 and r=3) we come up with the nice, round number of 10 possible combinations of dragons you might have to worry about.

Each of the three active dragons is going to give either Halfus or the PD some kind of buff or additional ability. Each one also has the potential to give a debuff to the same target. The catch is that in order to activate the debuff you need to release the dragon from captivity--at which time Halfus is going to MC it and you have to kill it. This will also require a tank, though they're all just tank-and-spank adds. The debuff remains active even after you've killed the dragon.

How you handle the dragons is going to be where your strategy changes from week to week. This can vary based on your healers, your tanks, and your overall raid dps. You can "free" the dragons in any order you want. You can also free as many at a time as you want. Again, there's a trade-off here. More freed dragons equals more debuffs on Halfus and/or his PD. But it's also more strain on the tanks and healers.

The dragons are friendly at the start of the fight, so feel free to walk right up to them. Once Halfus is engaged, your pointer will turn into a lock when hovering over a dragon. Right-click to start channeling the release. Make sure you don't move or re-click while you're doing this, just like any channeled spell. Once the channel is complete, you'll have about three seconds before the dragon gets MC'd and you have to grab aggro.

There's a 6 minute enrage timer on this fight, but each time your raid successfully kills one of the dragons, Halfus takes an additional 100% damage.

In my group's runs, we generally end up killing all three active dragons. More often than not, we'll bring the first two out at the same time and then go for the third when they're both down. Usually we down Halfus with about 30-seconds to a minute left on the enrage timer and my guild isn't known for our amazing DPS output.

The base strategy for this fight is one tank on Halfus and one for the dragons that you'll be killing. Or course, it's never quite that simple.

Proto-Drake Dragons
These dragons give their buffs/debuffs to Halfus's PD. Having either or both of them active is going to increase the total damage going out to your raid. Freeing them helps bring that raid damage back down to easier-to-heal levels.

Time Warden (Bronze Drake)
The Time Warden is on the right side of the room from where you enter. When he's active, the PD gains the Fireball Barrage ability, which is exactly what it sounds like. Every 30 seconds or so the PD will rain down a barrage of fireballs on your raid.

When you free the Time Warden, he places Time Dilation on the PD. This makes its fireballs (both standard and the Barrage) avoidable. Fire plumes will appear on the ground where the fireballs are going to hit and you'll have a couple seconds to get 4 yards away from them before impact. So if you see them appear under your feet, move.

This isn't the most important dragon to free at the beginning of the fight, but it's not the least either. If you plan freeing two dragons at once, this should probably be one of them, though. Otherwise the combined damage of the dragons and the PD's fireballs will likely kill you.

Orphaned Emerald Whelps (Many whelps!)
The Whelps are caged up to the left of the Time Warden. When they're active, they give the PD the Scorching Breath ability. While the ability says that it damages enemies "in front of the caster," your entire raid is in front of the PD and in range of this breath at all times. So it's effectively an 8-second raid-wide AoE.

To free the Whelps you actually have to click on the cage, not the Whelps. Once they're out, they cast Atrophic Poison on the PD, lowering the damage of all his abilities. 750 damage may not seem like much, but the ability stacks and each of the 8 Whelps applies one stack. That's 6,000...a significant difference.

I'd argue that Bears are the most ideal Whelp tanks, thanks to our mobile AoE tanking prowess. If you are tanking the Whelps, it's important that you wait until they're hostile to start Swiping and Thrashing, or you might find yourself waiting several long seconds without being able to pick them up. If you do get a little over-excited, a well-timed Challenging Roar can save the day.

From a tanking perspective, I'd call the Whelps the next-to-least important to free. That said, if the Time Warden or Storm Rider are also active it's very easy to pull the Whelps with either of them and have your DPS go AoE crazy at the start of the fight. Once the Whelps go down, the drake will already be missing a good chunk of health.

Halfus Dragons
Obviously, these are the dragons that give their buffs/debuffs to Halfus. These dragons each add a mechanic to the encounter that has to be dealt with in some manner and generally increase the damage taken by the Halfus tank. Freeing them makes the extra mechanics easier to deal with and/or reduces the amount of damage the Halfus tank will be taking.

Storm Rider (Wind Drake)
The Storm Rider is immediately to Halfus's right. When active, he gives Halfus a Shadow Nova, which is a raid-wide damage and knock-back ability on a 0.25 second cast.

When you free the Storm Rider, he casts Cyclone Winds on Halfus, which makes the Shadow Nova a 1.5 second cast...something you can actually interrupt.

In a 10-man group, the time between Shadow Nova casts is such that a tank can single-handedly interrupt them all. Make sure that you do.

Once Halfus gets to 50%, he'll cast a Nova immediately after his third Furious Roar. There's nothing you'll be able to do to interrupt it at that point, so just be prepared to deal with that.

I generally feel the Storm Rider is the first dragon that should be freed any time it's active. Whether or not you free another of the dragons along with it is up to you and your raid, but the knock-back effect on the Nova is extremely disruptive and you should be making sure it can be interrupted from the very first one.

Slate Dragon (Stone Drake)
The Slate Dragon is immediately to Halfus' left and it's pretty much the bane of this fight from a tank's perspective. When the Slate Dragon is active, Halfus gains Malevolent Strikes, which causes his attacks to place a stacking 6% healing-received reduction debuff on the tank each time they land. The debuff stacks up to 15 times and lasts 30 seconds from the final application.

When the Stone Drake is active, Taunt-swapping enters the picture.

When you free the Slate Dragon, he'll place Stone Touch on Halfus, which will periodically stun him for 12 seconds.

The Slate Dragon will usually be the last one freed. The 12 second stun on Halfus is nice, but it's not what I'd call a game changer. The Malevolent Strike stacks last longer than that, so taunt-swapping is still the only way to drop them. And a frozen Halfus makes taunt-swapping harder because...well...a frozen target doesn't move. You'll gain aggro over the other tank, but it may not be immediately apparent and can just lead to confusion.

If your raid is only freeing one dragon at a time (Whelps excluded), then a true tank-swap should occur. The Halfus tank should take the dragon and visa versa. If you're freeing two dragons at once, or you have the Whelps, this becomes much more difficult. In a two-dragon situation, the dragon not being burned down by the raid should be the one the Halfus tank taunts. If the Whelps are involved, the Halfus tank should be taking any active non-whelp dragon.

The first swap should occur when the Halfus tank hits 5 or 6 stacks. This is going to happen not long after the add tank gets initial aggro on any dragons, so it can get dicey right there.

Each subsequent taunt should happen the moment the non-Halfus tank's stacks drop off. This taunt-swapping will continue through the duration of the fight.

A third tank, or a well-geared DPSer in the right stance/presence/form can help a lot if the two tanks alone struggle here.

Nether Scion (Nether Drake)
The final potential dragon in this fight is the Nether Scion. It will be all the way on the left, just inside the entrance as you come into the room. When the Nether Scion is active, Halfus gains Frenzied Assault, increasing his attack speed by 100%.

If the Nether Scion and Slate Dragon are both active, this fight becomes nightmarish.

When you free the Nether Scion, he casts Nether Blindness on Halfus, reducing his attack speed, hit chance, and damage done all by 25%. Effectively, this brings his damage output just below where it would be without the Nether Scion being active. Malevolent Strike debuffs will still stack slightly faster than normal, though.

The Nether Scion is second only to the Storm Rider in freeing priority. And if they're both active, you should probably do what you can to free them both right from the start. The best way to do this (minus a third tank) is to make sure you keep your raid far away from one of them. Have a DPS free that one and then high-tail it back to the rest of the raid. (Rogues, Mages, Warlocks, and Shamans with 2/2 Ancestral Swiftness are good candidates.) Once the dragon becomes hostile, Growl and F3 before it hits anyone else.

Blow cooldowns.

As far loot goes, Halfus is okay for Ferals. Essence of the Cyclone has a lot of Agi on it, but the Crit proc is much more suited to your Cat set than your Bear one. Malevolence is in a similar boat. It is a pretty nice Bear weapon and you shouldn't be turning your nose up at it...but your inner Cat is going to get more value out of it than you will. The Storm Rider's Boots are also a very nice drop if you haven't acquired your tier boots yet.

As with all my boss strats, I'm writing from the overall perspective of a Bear tank (in 10-man) 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.
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