Last week on Spiritual Guidance, I said we'd be spending the next few weeks examining the new raid dungeons in Cataclysm and how to heal them as a priest. This week, we'll be in The Bastion of Twilight to see the first two bosses, Halfus Wyrmbreaker and the twin dragons, Valiona and Theralion.
As far as dungeons go, The Bastion of Twilight is nothing to scoff at. It is probably the hardest of the three available raid dungeons (four, if you actually count Tol Barad -- which I don't, because I have to maintain my reputation of being pretentious and aloof). Despite this, the first boss, Halfus Wyrmbreaker, is an unusually easy encounter in comparison to the others in The Bastion of Twilight, and that's why we're here today. Let's take a look at why.
Halfus Wyrmbreaker has become a sort of infamous fight for priest healers because of a bug that existed when Cataclysm was first released. The bug allowed Atonement healing to ignore Malevolent Strikes, a Mortal Strike-like ability that Halfus applies to the tank. This, combined with the increased damage debuff that is applied to Halfus (from Dragon's Vengeance), amounted to disc priests hitting the tank with monstrous amounts of healing via Smite. The bug has since been corrected and the healing Atonement can do has been capped a tiny bit, but discipline priests still reign supreme on this fight and have continued to be integrated into the strategy of the fight.
Just like last week, before we get started, you should make sure you know the basic mechanics of the fight. WoW Insider doesn't currently have a Ready Check guide to The Bastion of Twilight, so you can check out this guide from L2R, which is recorded from a priest's perspective.
Halfus Wyrmbreaker, in essence, is a tank and spank. The abilities you deal with will vary from week to week based on what drakes are released, but in normal mode they don't have a huge effect on the fight for healers. There isn't much movement other than dodging Fireball Barrage and moving back in range of the boss after the knockback from Shadow Nova, and both these abilites are only used when certain drakes are active (Fire Barrage is from the Time Warden, Shadow Nova from the Storm Rider.) Priests will probably supply a few cooldowns during the fight, but regardless of what spec you go, you'll spend most of the fight spamming heals. What you do exactly depends on what healing spec you choose, so let's examine the roles of both disc and holy priests in the fight. I'll start with disc, since they're the superstars on this fight.
Discipline strategies Discipline priests entering this fight need to understand that their role will be to provide Atonement healing to the tank. For that, you need to make sure your talent build includes max ranks for the talents Evangelism, Archangel, and Atonement. When the fight starts, you'll begin casting Smite at the boss and only stop temporarily to use your cooldowns or throw an occasional Power Word: Shield on the tank. Let's examine how to use Smite properly first.
Disc priests should know that the healing buff from Archangel will increase healing done by Atonement, even if it doesn't increase the damage of Smite. The increased healing is very helpful, so make sure you use Archangel on cooldown. You can use Power Infusion on yourself or on a DPSer. You won't run out of mana just casting Smite.
There are two abilities you can counter as a disc priest. The first is Scorching Breath, which is only used when the Emerald Whelps are released. a frontal breath attack that isn't too serious, but using Power Word: Barrier against it will give tanks more flexibility with their cooldowns. To use it effectively, you'll want to place the barrier on the tanks just before Scorching Breath is cast. Scorching Breath is cast by Halfus' add, the Proto-Behemoth, and has a 2-second cast time. I recommend setting your focus to the Proto-Behemoth so you can see its cast bar and then place your barrier accordingly. Make sure you coordinate with your tanks and fellow healers which Scorching Breath you're countering, so you don't double up on cooldowns.
The next ability you need to worry about is Furious Roar. This ability will happen periodically after Halfus gets to 50% and phase 2 begins. When Halfus uses it, he will repeatedly knock down your raid in quick succession, making it impossible to get casted heals to the tank. The tank will have a cycle of cooldowns to deal with this, one of which will probably be your Pain Suppression. Glyph of Pain Suppression is incredibly helpful for this fight because it allows you to cast the debuff while stunned. That means you can use your cooldown anytime during Furious Roar, though most tanks will worry less if you give it to them at the start of the Furious Roar. After you've applied your Pain Suppression or any other time Halfus uses Furious Roars, you should help out with healing by spamming Power Word: Shield on the tank while you're getting knocked down. If you're fast, you can sometimes sneak a shield in between the knockdowns. After the shield goes up, you can switch to spamming renew until Furious Roar is over. And that's it for disc priests.
Holy strategies Holy priests will find their job on this fight isn't too difficult, either. A holy priest will probably be most naturally inclined to handle raid damage, which is high though not too difficult to manage. You can make ample use of Holy Word: Sanctuary, since the DPS will be relatively close together (though loosely spread for Fire Barrage). Use Circle of Healing as much as you want, and spam Prayer of Healing as you need it. Try to maximize each Prayer of Healing so that you're not overhealing; mana can be an issue for you on this fight.
For cooldowns, you can use Guardian Spirit just as discipline priests do for Furious Roar, but make sure you get it up before the roar starts, since until patch 4.0.6, you won't be able to use Guardian Spirit while stunned. After the patch, however, you can expect to use the new Glyph of Desperation to the same effect of the Glyph of Pain Suppression. Make sure to have a Renew up on the tanks before the roar as well.
Discipline or holy?
Discipline should be an obvious choice on this encounter, particularly if you're in a 10-man raid team and you're the only healing priest. Atonement healing is just such an obvious choice for healing the tank, and the extra damage definitely helps to reduce the duration of the fight, which will help non-priest healers with mana. Also, as I said earlier, until patch 4.0.6, holy priests can't cast cast Guardian Spirit while stunned, which adds strength to what discipline brings to the fight. Even if you're not familiar with playing discipline, the demands of this fight are quite low.
If you do choose to go holy, I'd would advise only doing it on 25-man, where you're more likely to have other priests available to play as discipline (perhaps even shadow priests.) I've already mentioned that holy priests will primarily serve as raid healers on this fight, but know that the demand for raid healing is based largely on how good your fellow raiders are at avoiding fire. If raid damage is high and you find yourself running low on mana, just ask the disc priest (or priests) in your raid to use Hymn of Hope when you need it. Make sure that the disc priest is covered for tank healing before he or she switches to channeling, though; otherwise, you might end up with a dead tank.
As I said before, Valiona and Theralion is a significantly more difficult fight than Halfus Wyrmbreaker, but much like Omnotron Defense System in Blackwing Descent, knowing all the abilities each dragon uses will significantly help you master the fight. This fight is all about each raider knowing where to go at the right time and doing his or her job at the same time. Check out L2R's guide to learn the basic mechanics of the fight before we move on; this one is also from a the perspective of a priest.
The fight consists of two alternating phases in which one dragon is in the air and the other is on the ground. Let's look at their abilities.
- Blackout (ground ability) Valiona applies this debuff to a random target in the raid. It deals a set amount of damage, divided among all nearby players when it expires or is dispelled. The damage to a single or few targets is lethal, so the entire raid needs to group up before removing this debuff so that the damage is equally spread across the raid and thus won't kill any players. Using this method, discipline priests should use Power Word: Barrier before Blackout is removed to help reduce the raid damage, particularly in the later part of the fight if things become more chaotic. (Also of note is that holy priests can currently cheese the mechanic of Blackout by applying Guardian Spirit to the targeted player before dispelling it. This is not recommended, since it will no longer work after patch 4.0.6 is released.) Make sure to add Blackout to your raid frames, just like we discussed last week. Just make sure you're not trigger-happy with the dispels when you see it pop up.
- Devouring Flames (ground ability) This ability should look familiar to anyone who has run Grim Batol. Just like in the 5-man, the best way to cope with this ability is to stick close to the dragon's body when she's about to cast it, then run through her to the other side once she breathes.
- Twilight Meteorite (air ability) This ability needs to be dealt with just like Blackout, except it can't be dispelled and it doesn't do as much damage, so it doesn't require as many players to stack up to keep it manageable. You don't need to add this to your raid frame unless it will help you find the target you need to stack on better.
- Deep Breath (air ability) This is just like Onyxia's Deep Breath, except the paths are more narrow, so you can dodge to three parts of the room (center, left, and right.)
- Engulfing Magic (ground ability) Add this debuff to your raid frame and set it to the highest priority. This debuff will take all healing and damage done to the target and turn it back on nearby players. When a player gets Engulfing Magic player should run away from the raid group and stop doing anything. So, if you get it, don't heal!
- Fabulous Flames (ground ability) These are large, easy-to-see and easily avoidable void zones that target players and can be moved away from. Ideally, none of your raid members will get caught in them, and you won't have to do too much healing for them. If you do need to heal, however, it will probably just be spot healing.
- Dazzling Destruction (air ability) Another easy-to-see and easily avoidable void zone. Same thing applies.
- Twilight Blast (air ability) This ability will damage the target and splash to surrounding raid members. This is why when you're not grouped up for Blackout, you need to be spread out to reduce raid damage from this ability.
There aren't a lot of specifics on how to heal this fight as a priest. Raid damage takes precedence, so use whatever you've got to keep the raid alive. There isn't too much need for a dedicated tank healer, so all your healers will likely work together to keep everyone alive. Disc and holy priests will both want to use Prayer of Healing the most after Blackout and Twilight Meteorite.
During Valiona's ground phase, Theralion's Twilight Blast will account for a lot of raid damage whenever the raid is stacked up. To try and stay on top of this damage, you might want to organize to have some healers spread out with the raid while other healers stack with the melee to continue healing. Holy priests are more mobile right now while AoE healing, so that will make them ideal for spreading; discipline priests might want to be among the healers who stay in melee range, since their primary means of AoE healing is Prayer of Healing.
This is one fight in which Leap of Faith can get a lot of play. Raiders have a lot of things to avoid and stack up for, and if you see someone straying off in the wrong direction, you can do a lot of good by saving them. You'll group up in response to most of Valiona's air and ground abilities, the only exception being Devouring Flames, which you could still stand to pull people out of if you see the opportunity. Theralion's abilities don't lend themselves as much to life grip, but you could still grab people out of the AoE abilities he puts down.
Discipline or holy?
Either disc or holy will work fine on this fight. There is an equal need for quick AoE healing and spot healing, so the strengths of either spec will get tested to their fullest. Holy priests with Body and Soul will, as always, have an advantage at moving in response to the various boss abilities, but discipline priests (and any player, for that matter) should be able to avoid all those mechanics just fine without a temporary speed increase.
Next week, we'll be heading over to Throne of the Four Winds. As always, if you have any questions or additional thoughts about this week's encounters, hit up the comments.
Thank you to the readers last week who supplied all the additional information on Vuhdo and Healbot; users of those addons should check out those comments if they're confused about how to add specific player debuffs to their party and raid frames for raiding.
Also, I wanted to give a shout-out to Righteous Orbs, a somewhat priest-centric WoW blog that signed off last week for good. Tamarind and Chastity have been blogging for longer than I can remember, and their blog has definitely pioneered a lot of discussion. It's best known for its unabashed honesty and downright weirdness, and if you didn't get a chance to be a part of it over the years, I'd say you really missed out. Perhaps their absence will inspire some new bloggers to step up, though. Take care, you two.
Want more tips for carrying out your priestly duties as a disc or holy priest? Check out Spiritual Guidance: Discipline and Spiritual Guidance: Holy. Newcomers to the priest class will want to look into Discipline Priest 101 and Holy Priest 101. For getting your healing priests geared, check out the pre-raid gear guide and the Valor point and raid gear guide.