Once, every week, Fox Van Allen takes control of Spiritual Guidance in an attempt to corrupt all the touchy-feely holy priests out there. I mean, seriously, you want to *heal* things? If you really wanted to heal, shouldn't you have rolled a shammy or something?
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Icecrown Citadel. Over the next few weeks, Spiritual Guidance will be providing start-to-finish coverage of the Wrath of the Lich King's final and greatest raid instance. This week, we start at the very beginning.
The first four battles were designed to be quite accessible to beginning raiders and PUGs, with a relatively low difficulty level as compared to the rest of the content inside. The encounters inside include a cuddly bone dragon monster thing (so cute!), what appears to be the result of Kel'Thuzad after his sex-change operation, a battle involving ROCKETBEARS, and... a lone orc -- against the might of the Alliance?
Anyway. Step in, wipe your feet, and let's earn you that achievement that all those PUG raid leaders demand you have.
Your Mission: Stay alive. Burn down spikes. DPS the boss. Give the downed boss cuddles.
One of the easier of the Icecrown Citadel bosses, Lord Marrowgar primarily exists to grease the wheels of progression. Every raid team could use an easy win or two, especially when that easy win comes loaded with 2 Emblems of Frost and a loot table that should make even the most advance raider jealous. Of course, Marrowgar is only easy if you know how to approach the fight. He has two different phases, and your primary goal in each is to stay alive while doing as much damage as you can (though really, in what fight does that not apply?).
- Lord Marrowgar has a frontal cleave attack that will absolutely kill you in one shot if you get hit by it. It's the tanks who need to soak up this damage, not the loveable shadow priests. Never approach him from the front.
- Marrowgar has an ability called Cold Flame, where he'll shoot slow-moving lines of fire out into the raid. The damage the fire does isn't huge, but it can add up quick if you don't react to it. Most Marrowgar strategies involve all melee and ranged raiders gathering inside Marrowgar's hit box, which eliminates the threat of Cold Flame.
- After you've settled into the fight, Lord Marrowgar will start casting Bone Spike Graveyard. This attack targets three raid members at random (in 25-man mode), impaling and incapacitating them. If you don't get targeted by them, it's your mission to burn them down. If everyone has gathered inside Marrowgar's hit box, all three spikes (in 25-man) can be hit with an AoE attack like Mind Sear. For those attempting the fight on ten-man mode, attacks that deal instant damage, such as Devouring Plague and Shadow Word: Death, work well. Remember, these bone spikes have a low number of health points so most DoTs will be useless.
- If you get impaled on a bone spike, you're prevented from casting. The one thing you can do is cast Dispersion -- doing so will reduce the damage you take from the spike by 90% and restore a solid chunk of your mana in the process. Your healers will thank you, but you may lose DPS time if your raid is quick to react to the spikes.
- When you're not attacking bone spikes, you should be attacking Marrowgar. As for any boss encounter, try to keep all your DoT spells active on him at all times.
- After throwing bone spikes out to the raid three times, Marrowgar will cast Bone Storm and start flying around the room. During this time, everyone in the raid will suffer constant ticks of damage proportional to how close they are to Marrowgar. Obviously, your goal here is to stay at the maximum casting range.
- Marrowgar also continues to throw out lines of Cold Flame, which pile up quickly during the phase. Since there will be constant background damage, try to avoid running through them, even for just one tick.
- If possible, try to keep DPSing the boss, at least during the beginning of the phase. Vampiric Embrace will provide constant heals, which will mitigate almost all of the environmental damage you'll be taking. If you're running from the boss, you can still take advantage of the upfront damage component of Devouring Plague. (You should avoid using Shadow Word: Death, since a crit could cost you about 1/4 of your health during a time where you're already taking constant damage.)
- When the phase ends, Marrowgar will go through an aggro reset, which has the potential to be deadly if you've still got DoTs ticking away. In my experience, most tanks are capable enough to pick him up before this can be an issue, but be prepared to use Fade if needed, just in case.
The Frozen Bonespike is the end all, be all of 25-man Marrowgar loot. It's the shadow priest's best one-handed weapon, excluding what drops off the Lich King. Be prepared to spend your raid karma, DKP, or even pray to Yogg Saron for a high roll -- this piece is worth it. The Crushing Coldwraith Belt is another must-have item, containing our holy trinity of spell power, haste, and crit, all in the same piece of gear.
The gear that drops off of 10-man Marrowgar is better suited for healers, but shadow priests will still get good use out of the Cord of the Patronizing Practitioner despite it being loaded with spirit.
Your Mission: Stay alive. Kill the Cult Fanatics and Deformed Fanatics that spawn. DPS the boss. Educate yourself about the transgendered.
Lady Deathwhisper, the second Icecrown Citadel encounter, is one where a skilled target-switching shadow priest can really shine due to the ability to multi-dot (and due to melee's need to constantly be on the move from target to target). The encounter will test your most basic of Warcraft skills: not standing in fire, target switching, and situational awareness to avoid getting hit by ghosts.
- During the first phase, Lady Deathwhisper will remain motionless on her podium without needing to be tanked. Don't worry about getting aggro during this first phase -- her attention is the least of your worries. If Deathwhisper is the only baddie on the screen, DPS the snot out of her.
- From time to time, Deathwhisper will cast Death and Decay. This is a basic AoE spell that you'll have to move out of. Eternal WoW truth: If the floor glows, it is time to get off that part of the floor.
- Five seconds into the encounter, Lady Deathwhisper will send a group of adds into the room (several groups on the 25-man version). During this part of the fight, it is the shadow priest's primary goal to attack the Cult Fanatics (they're the ones that look like melee adds). From time to time, Deathwhisper will do her evil magic thing and turn a Cult Fanatic into a Deformed Fanatic. Those need to be attacked and defeated as soon as possible, so switch over to them immediately.
- Cult Adherents (the ones that look like casters) are pretty resistant to your magical attacks, and even have a reflect ability. Let the melee members of your raid take care of them.
- Keep an eye on Lady Deathwhisper's mana bar. During the first phase, attacks on her lower her mana, not her health, and that mana bar needs to get to zero before Phase 2 can begin. Deathwhisper will break loose from her self-imposed rooting once her mana is gone, so ideally, your raid should pace itself and make sure that there aren't any adds still up. This requires you to be careful with applying DoTs near the end of Phase 1.
- Though we're removing Deathwhisper's mana, don't bother with Mana Burn -- it's still more inefficient than your regular attacks. Stick with your normal spell priority.
Phase 2 is fairly simple -- it mostly involves DPSing the boss. Occasionally, though, you will be targeted by Vengeful Shades, ghosts that wander through the raid. What you really need to look out for are their Vengeful Blasts -- an attack that rocks you for five-digit damage that they'll cast if they get within melee range. One of those alone probably won't be enough to kill you, but combine that with one of Deathwhisper's Frostbolt Volleys a couple seconds before or after and you'll be dead.
Anyone who's read my past column on the subject will know about my love affair with the Nibelung, a really fun (though not best-in-slot) staff that drops off Lady Deathwhisper in 25-man difficulty. She also drops a couple of cloth items with hit on it, like the Shoulders of Mercy Killing and The Lady's Brittle Bracers (the latter being a high-value bind-on-equip item). The Ring of Maddening Whispers isn't ideal for shadow priests (the ring off the next encounter is far better), but will do if you're desperate for an upgrade.
In 10-man mode, Deathwhisper is again loaded with hit-heavy gear, like the off-hand Scourgelord's Baton and the Sister's Handshrouds. She also drops the Bracers of Dark Blessings, which make a good off-spec piece for shadow priests interested in healing.