Ready Check is a weekly column focusing on successful raiding for the serious raider. Hardcore or casual, ZA or Sunwell Plateau, everyone can get in on the action and spend thousands of gold on repairs and consumables. This week, a pit lord dies.
Brutallus is the second boss in the Sunwell Plateau. A pit lord with swords for hands, he becomes accessible once you've redeemed Kalecgos and killed the two trash packs behind Kalecgos' platform. After watching a short event where Brutallus fights and kills Madrigosa, a blue dragon who you can see taunting him when doing the Dead Scar bombing quest, it's time to face the demon himself.
Many people have compared the Brutallus encounter to that of Patchwerk back in Naxxramas; rather than an execution encounter, this is a benchmark fight, and if your raid is low on DPS, your tanks fall short of gear requirements or your healers can't keep up, you'll run into difficulties. The main requirement is extremely high raid dps; with a 6 minute enrage and 10.5 million hitpoints, you're looking at just over 29k raid dps sustained over the entire fight. How much that works out to per DPSer depends on your raid composition, so let's look at what you need to bring for the fight.
Abilities and Raid Composition
Brutallus is tauntable, and casts a spell called Meteor Slash which affects targets in front of him (in a wide cone), dealing fire damage split across all targets and providing a stackable debuff that increases fire damage taken by 75% per application. If this stacks up it will quickly kill your raid, so you need at least two tanks to taunt him back and forth, allowing you to position your raid and control the debuffs. Some approaches use three tanks, as another of Brutallus' abilities is Stomp, a hard-hitting attack that reduces the tank's armour by 50% for 10 seconds, which a third tank can taunt and soak. However, the high raid dps requirement means that having a third tank can feel like a 'wasted' raid slot.
Healing is also intense on this fight; there is the constant raid damage from Meteor Slash, high tank damage (Brutallus has both main-hand and off-hand swings, these hitting for up to 15k combined on a warrior with the Stomp debuff) as well as a targeted debuff called Burn, a fire DoT that increases to high proportions (6k/tick) at the end of its duration and spreads to nearby players (can be removed with immunities like Ice Block). You'll want 7 or 8 healers, depending on your healers' capability and your DPS. For maximum DPS, take two tanks and seven healers (this was the approach we used).
Due to the fact that you want to spread Meteor Slash amongst the members of the raid to minimise its damage to each target, and the fact it's frontal and melee attack from behind, you'll need a balance of DPS between casters and melee that enables you to build up two good-sized soak groups for Slash. A general idea for raid composition would be: one tank group with tank buffs (tree of life, devotion aura and imp), one melee group, two caster groups and a healer group (the other two healers are buffing the tank). Obviously it depends on who your strongest DPSers are as to the exact composition you take.
Insomnia on Tichondrius sums up the positioning problem well. The raid arranges itself in a triangle or V, with the two tanks positioned with DPS and healer soak groups around them; everyone needs to stand so that they won't get Meteor Slash when Brutallus is hitting the other tank. Burn spots are behind him, so you won't get a Slash while Burning -- melee can stay put if they're spread out enough. Refreshing your Meteor Slash stacks while you have Burn is a ticket to pain, as the increased fire damage debuff makes the final ticks deadly.
The terrain where you fight Brutallus is slightly bumpy, so you might need to adjust positioning a little so the pull works right, but it shouldn't take too long to get everyone standing in the right place. You can use the crates and cart on the ground to fix your positioning.
Assuming you use a two-tank strategy and heal through Stomp, your tanks need to communicate to healers when they are about to taunt so that they receive heals; it also helps if someone is calling out Stomp. Taunt when your co-tank has three Meteor Slash debuffs. This gives you enough time to get three of your own while their debuffs fade. At several points in the fight, most notably around 3 minutes, Stomp and Meteor Slash co-incide; if you can taunt after Stomp hits the other tank and still keep the Meteor Slash stacks at the right numbers, do so. If you taunt too early, it's not the end of the world. If you get a resist, announce it. If you taunt too late, warn healers.
Tanks also need to make good use of cooldowns during Stomp and use Ironshield Potions to help negate some of the lost armour. Due to Sunwell Radiance, avoidance is 25% lower than expected; it's up to you how to gear, but keep in mind the balance between stamina and avoidance once you have enough health to survive a certain number of hits. Brutallus doesn't crush, doesn't reset his swing timer on a parry and has a 1% taunt resist chance, so take these factors into account when gearing.
Tank damage is constant, predictable and extremely high; tank healers need to be able to chain-cast high rank heals for six minutes, and potentially max-rank during Stomp. Having class abilities that produce armour procs (ancestral fortitude and inspiration) help here, as do fast-casting paladin heals. Burn damage increases over time, is also predictable but needs dealing with fast; HoTs and Swiftmend are great here, and another healer can help when Burn ticks become high. Meteor Slash is predictable, timed raid damage -- your raid should be close enough for Chain Heal to work well here, though other classes can top up the raid too. Your DPS might need the shadowpriest, communicate your mana requirements with the raid leader.
This is the main challenge of the fight; balancing your raid so that DPS can perform to its potential, taking enough hybrids to enable high raid DPS without dragging the raid down through low personal DPS, trading off buffs to healers and tanks versus buffs to DPSers, and allowing specs and abilites that debuff the boss to balance out damage in and damage out. Bringing shadow priests is a huge DPS boots and adds to healers' longevity, as well as alleviates some Meteor Slash healing, but the priest itself will have trouble hitting more than 1600 dps even in the best possible gear. Shamans of all specs are invaluable for bloodlust or heroism and the group buffs they provide, an arms warrior and/or retribution paladin can add a lot of raid dps if you can support them with the right synergy,
What raiders need to know and do
Before the raid: You'll need to turn up equipped to do your role as well as possible, including full DPS consumables (such as haste potions, destruction potions, Drums of Battle etc; some casters level leatherworking just for these). As a raid leader, you'll also have some delicate news to deliver if you decide people are underperforming and need to sit out, so prepare your raid for that if you can.
During the raid: Establish positioning and ensure you have communication set up for tank switches, if needed. Set aside spots to run to with Burn that are out of Meteor Slash range, and make sure everyone knows their path to get there (running through other people spreads it). After a few attempts it should be clear what is killing your raid, whether it's tank deaths due to damage, lack of healing or lack of communication; burn deaths due to lack of healing and self-preservation; or poor DPS meaning you hit the enrage timer.
Raid Leading: Use everything you have to figure out why people died, why your tank isn't getting healed in time or why your DPSers are underperforming. It's tough to lead this fight while tanking, but stick at it and you'll be doing your tank rotation in your sleep soon enough.
Preparation, tips and tricks
All raiders should show up with full consumables, of course; Elixir of Demonslaying work out great for melee, but for your first tries flasks are a lot cheaper. You might want a DS priest and spare paladins buffing from outside the raid, either by logging in and out from the buff spot or by having your raid zone out for extra buffs. Every single drop of DPS will make a difference. Get your best DPSers in, you don't want your warglaive rogues sitting out for this fight due to some concept of 'fair rotations'.
Threat can be sensitive during the first tank's shift, so you may need Tranquil Air or other threat-reduction abilities during this phase; as the taunt rotation gets going, it becomes much less of a problem.
If your DPS isn't high enough, use Curse of Recklessness offset by Improved Demoralising Shout, get a paladin to keep up Improved Judgement of the Crusader and have a warlock spec into Malediction. If your tanks are dying, use debuffs like Shadow Embrace, Insect Swarm, Scorpid Sting and Improved Thunderclap. There are obviously many other options here, and the ones you choose will depend on your raid makeup.
Other DPS options include having your non-active tank use Nightfall, having your feral tank DPS in cat form when not tanking, using jewelcrafting necklaces for party buffs and so on. You might run into problems with too many debuffs on the boss, so you may need to discuss not using certain non-vital debuffs, or having backup plans to refresh spells like Judgement of Wisdom.
Many kills have used two feral druids, or one warrior and one druid (ours had the feral druid as the starting tank, giving the warrior time to debuff the target), but we've seen others use a paladin or two prot warriors, so despite some of the raving about feral druids' survivability they aren't the only option by a long way. Having Shield Wall available can help a lot for those last few percent, and having a non-warrior tank means lowering a DPS warrior's output as he has to debuff the boss.
Once Brutallus enrages, you can take 1-3% off his health before he kills the last raid member, and using tricks like a paladin bubbling and taunting can give you a precious few more seconds of DPS. Also, don't worry if DPS isn't spot on before 20%; depending on the number of mages and warriors, execute abilities will help you catch up a little. However, be prepared to be harsh with your DPSers and if people are underperforming, not using consumables or doing idiotic things like spreading Burn, swap them for people who will be worth the raid spot.
Here's a video of our second Brutallus kill from a resto druid's perspective (wws). As you'll notice, we hit the enrage but only needed to sacrifice a couple of raid members before he died. Our group composition wasn't exactly ideal, either (any resto shamans on EU servers looking for a PvE guild?), but the second kill was a lot easier than the first, and the next one will be even better. Coming up next: Felmyst!