Despite some big-name bosses having had designated ranged tanks, some people still think that it can't or should never be done. Now, I'm not talking about such fights as Sartharion, where a voidwalker could do the same job as a tank in the same way. Nor am I talking about Instructor Razuvious where shadow priests Mind Control adds to tank the boss. I'm not even talking about fights where ranged classes kite a boss. What I'm talking about is having a caster stand away from a boss, get their aggro and take the damage they deal.
For the naysayers, I assure you I have tanked Leotheras the Blind, Grand Astromancer Capernian, Illidan, Mimiron's Aerial Command Unit and even a Jormungar in Northrend Beasts. It can, and indeed should, be done under the right circumstances. Those circumstances are when the said boss will not simply run up and start hitting you but rather stand back and cast, when being near the boss is very bad, when special resistance gear is called for and also when tanks are in short supply. For example, in phase four, Illidan turned into a big old demon and would cast Shadow Blasts at whoever had aggro on him (resetting when he turned). He also summoned demons that would paralyze random raid members and kill them if they touched them - this (and the Aura of Dread) meant you couldn't stand close to him. You needed a ranged tank.
The Blood Prince Council (and Prince Keleseth in particular) is a bit different to these other examples though. While he does like to stand back and cast he isn't especially dangerous to stand next to, he supplies his own resistances mechanic and there's probably enough tanks to go around. If you have three tanks then it makes sense to have them tank the three bosses and let the DPS do the damage. Even if you have only two tanks, you can have one look after both Taldaram and Valanar together if you want to (and they are up to it). If you only have the one tank in your raid then I'm not sure how you got through the trash.
All that said, it is not unknown or unreasonable for the raid leader to decide that the ranged tank is the way to go. It can offer a slight DPS advantage if you assume that none is wasted by having tanks DPSing and a caster can have an easier time of collecting Dark Nuclei than many tank classes. There's also the issue of player skill -- tanking this guy can be tricky and while some tanks can be a bit rubbish, all locks are, by our very nature, awesome at all times.
How to prepare
Warlocks have a ton of neat survival abilities. We're somewhat short on panic buttons but when it comes to living longer than the next guy we're doing ok. We have a good few that trickle health back to us, things like Siphon Life and Haunt in the affliction tree as well as Soul Leach in destruction. There's also the obvious Drain Life and Death Coil. While such abilities are very nice at topping off incidental damage they are very limited when it comes to dealing with incoming boss damage. For that you need a healer and well, you'll have one. So what we're interested in are abilities that reduce the damage we take in the first place or give the healers a chance to do their thing before we decorate the walls. For that we're looking at abilities like Molten Skin and Demonic Embrace. Our real ace in the hole is Soul Link, if you try tanking without this baby you will be hit for 25% more damage than the lock who has it. Ask a tank if they would invest one talent point into an ability that offered that kind of mitigation.
So, with all those talents and abilities you would think there's a perfect build that snags as many of them as possible and that I'm about to tell you what that is -- well, I'm not. I've seen a lot of builds for this fight and put a few together myself, but ultimately I don't think it's worth it. The only talent you need to make the fight do-able is Soul Link, if you have that you should be fine. The only standard raid build that has Soul Link is the Demonic Pact-based demonology build (as featured right here last October). The awesome raid damage advantage this build offers makes it a great offspec even if you don't want it as your main, so for a lot of raid groups this will mean no expense or hassle of a respec.
That's it, other than knowing the fight and having that spec in your pocket, you're all set.
How to execute
The first decision is which minion to summon. They all have different advantages and disadvantages in this fight so I'll list them out:
The natural minion to choose for the spec is the felguard as he triggers the Demonic Pact effect the most and therefore maintains the highest uptime. However, his Cleave ability can be a problem if he gets anywhere near a Dark Nucleus
so it's a good idea to turn that off if you can't keep perfect control of him. That will reduce the proc rate of Demonic Pact. Personally I think the ideal minion here is the felhunter. He offers the best reduction on the damage you need to worry about, and while he may not have the DP proc rate of a fully-gunning felguard, he should still maintain more than an 80% uptime.
It's important to know this fight well in order to do this job. It's a highly mobile fight even when you only have to worry about DPS but you will have more on your mind when tanking Keleseth. First off you need to get a decent amount of threat on the guy. It's worth having a hunter Misdirect
him onto you so you don't have to run all the way up to him at the start. Open up with a Shadow Bolt
which (as he is only on 1 HP) will trigger the Decimation
effect. From there on you can just keep throwing Soul Fires
at him until he is empowered (when his HP will go up). This will get you a load of threat and the only problem you should have from there is if he gets empowered second and Bloodlust/Heroism is popped right away. It's good to have this popped when the DPS are on Keleseth (as there is less running about) but that early in the fight might cause some threat issues. Keep it in mind and call for help from MD
if required, failing that ask for BL/Hero later in the fight. You can use Searing Pain
if you like (that's how we always used to do this kind of thing) but you will probably do as much (if not more) threat with your normal rotation (remembering Soul fire when Decimation is up) -- you will certainly do more damage when he's empowered. That said, you're not going to have a lot of time to stand about shooting the guy.
The second thing is to gather Dark Nuclei
. These are little purple balls of fluff floating about the room. They spawn all through the fight and when they pick a target they channel a beam at them which does 1000DPS (resistible) and blocks 35% of shadow damage taken. So you want a load of these beaming at you to reduce the pain from Shadow Lance
and especially Empowered Shadow Lance
. In essence, three is enough to keep you alive but they can be taken off you and they do die, so get as many as you can for safety. Basically you want to spend the whole time running about the place like a kid that's just mugged the fairground balloon guy.
The easiest way to collect Dark Nuclei is to cast Corruption
or Curse of Agony
on them. They don't have a whole load of health and this will speed their demise but it'll keep ticking the damage and stopping healers taking aggro. Rank one is often all you need and while Corruption will get their attention sooner, CoA will stay on them for longer. It won't stop a DPS class from stealing them though, so everyone needs to be careful what they are targeting. You are going to have to run about to catch the things and that's going to cause issues, especially when Valanar is empowered. If he starts to cast Empowered Shock Vortex
you need to find a free patch of floor to stand in quickly. Also, be aware of Taldaram casting Conjure Empowered Flame
at you, you still need to run away from it until it's been discharged. Amid all that running about, try and be aware of where you and your minion are in relation to the healers. Without them you are toast, so hiding from them is a bad idea. If you do need to go far away from your healers, make sure it's when Keleseth is not empowered, you are at full health and try to use a Circle
to get back quickly.
How to support
It's not your normal tank-and-spank affair to have a lock holding onto a boss, so here's some thoughts for others in the raid on how to adjust to the situation:
- Throw heals and absorbs to both the lock and the minion - minions will ignore 90% of AoE damage which is typically all they take, this will not be the case for this fight and the minion will be taking big hits. If they die the lock will take a lot more damage.
- With a smaller health pool than your regular tank, shields, HoTs and small heals have a higher value on a lock. This is especially true if the lock is using Demon Armor.
- Heroism/Bloodlust is best timed when Keleseth is empowered but probably not if that's after the first change.
- Mark the warlock with a raid symbol to help the healers keep an eye on him.
- Keleseth can be taunted if the lock should die, this is obviously dangerous without a load of Nuclei but can save a wipe.
Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DoTs, demons, and all the dastardly deeds done by Warlocks. If you're curious about what's new with Locks since the last patch, check out WoW.com's guide to patch 3.3 or find out what's upcoming in Cataclysm from the BlizzCon 2009: Class Discussion Panel.