Ladies and gentleman, welcome back to raiding. It's now been three weeks since Cataclysm has been released, and we're staring down the barrel of an exciting time not standing in fire, killing adds, and watching the tanks swap aggro with unmitigated skill.
There are habits for us to rebuild, of course. Healers have been struggling with mana issues, tanks are finding themselves working to produce good threat, and damage dealers are laying down crowd control for the first time since Burning Crusade. It is a new environment for raiding and everyone's getting a chance to learn the ropes again.
The first tier of raiding content in Cataclysm takes place in four different instances. These four raids are Baradin Hold, Blackwing Descent, Throne of the Four Winds, and the Bastion of Twilight. Raiding progression doesn't really go from one instance to another; instead, most raids will do the first boss of each fairly easily, struggle with the second, and then really work if there are any further bosses in the group.
Most players will start raiding with Baradin Hold. This raid instance is available to a server's faction only after winning Tol Barad, which makes the raid analogous to the Vault of Archavon. Just like the Vault at the beginning of Wrath, Baradin Hold only has one boss in it right now. That boss is named Argaloth and he can drop a huge variety of epic gear. The nice thing about Argaloth is that he's a fairly easy fight without much in the way of dance steps; the only real tough thing about Argaloth is that he has a 5-minute enrage timer.
Since Baradin Hold is a fairly straightforward and fast raid (assuming your team has enough DPS), most of your raiders will be picking up some practice in that instance. However, most people are busily working their way into heroic instances using the random dungeon finder, and grinding those bosses to get enough gear to step into raiding.
There aren't great benchmarks for "raid ready" in Cataclysm, but there are few standards based off Baradin Hold. You should expect your tank to have at least 150,000 or 160,000 hit points and your damage dealers should be putting out an average of at least 10,000 damage per second. Healers are tougher to rate this way because of the huge differences in healing in Cataclysm. It's tempting to ask your raiders to be in an average of item level 340 gear, or something like that. However, that's perilously close to the ongoing gear score argument. Let's just say that if your team can handle heroics without much trouble, and you can down Argaloth, then it's time to start looking at the other raids.
Blackwing Descent is a common entry raid past heroics. This is probably in part due to its familiar Blackwing and Blackrock aesthetic. Also, Blackwing Descent offers six different bosses, which is the most any of the contemporary raiding content has to offer. Magmaw is a fairly straightforward fight, assuming your raid is decent at not standing in fire and switching to adds.
The Bastion of Twilight is the second largest Cataclysm raid which includes Cho'gall as the big name fight. The Throne of the Four Winds is the third smallest raid, with only one-boss Baradin Hold being shorter. However, since the Throne opens with a council fight, it seems like most raids are waiting until they pack a little extra gear.
Ultimately, right this second, it's time to make sure that your guild is packing up the heroic gear. With the random dungeon finder and prodigious use of justice points, heroics are a great way to get raid ready quickly. Once you're in a place that you're ready to tackle the longer instances, Baradin Hold is a great gear check for your team.
Guide to Argaloth
Argaloth is the current and only fight in Baradin Hold. The Argaloth fight is pretty simple. There are two phases to the fight. The first phase is a spank-and-tank with the raid divided into two groups. The second phase is a "don't stand in fire" dynamic, with the entire raid running around to avoid standing in fire.
In the first phase, split your raid into two groups. One group is in front, one group is in back. This is because Argaloth hits with an ability called Meteor Strike, which does an immense amount of damage. That damage is spread evenly among anyone stacked on top of the target. So each group stacks on top of its tank, helping to mitigate Meteor Strike's immense damage by taking a small portion.
At the same time, Meteor Strike leaves a debuff behind that means your tank will take even more damage -- that's why you have two groups. Each time the strike happens, have the other tank taunt the boss. That will give the afflicted tank time to have the debuff drop, so they can take the boss back.
Consuming Darkness is a DoT that will absolutely kill its target. There's no help for it but to cleanse it.
Argaloth will enter his other phase when he reaches 66% and 33% of his life. This phases involves Fel Firestorm, an aura Argaloth applies to himself for 15 seconds. During this time, Fel Firestorm will spawn fire under the ground of raid members, forcing them to move nearly nonstop. It's important to note that DPS with instants should "Keep attacking, raiders!" during Fel Firestorm. After the ability is over, Argaloth returns to his normal phase.
Argaloth has a 5 minute enrage timer. In 5 minutes, if he's not dead, Argaloth gets super angry and one-shots each tank, then every one else in the raid one at a time. On average, your raid should be putting out at least 10,000 damage per second for each raid damage dealer. Most groups do the fight with two tanks and two healers in 10-man, with twice the healing in 25-man.
Check back soon for the raid guides to the rest of the Cataclysm bosses.
Ready Check shares all the strategies and inside information you need to take your raiding to the next level. For more healer-centric advice, visit Raid Rx, and be sure to look up our strategy guides to Icecrown Citadel and Halion/the Ruby Sanctum.