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Ready Check: Breaking through Kael'Thas Sunstrider

Hong Tan

Ready Check is a new weekly column focusing on successful raiding for the serious raider. Hardcore or casual, everyone feels good about a boss kill. Get your questions answered and turn those dreaded repair bills into epic loots.

Kael has an infamous reputation among the raiding community. If someone made a t-shirt with the classic phrase "work is a four letter word" and replaced "work" with "Kael," I would quickly buy two shirts. Many people feel the same way about this Prince of the Blood Elves when they are stuck on him. He is the gatekeeper to the paradise of epics that lies in Hyjal and the Black Temple and is considered the wall that separates the serious raiding guilds from the endgame raiding guilds. In order to defeat him, it takes hard work, excellent communication and coordination, and lots and lots of wiping.

The goal of this article is to shorten the learning curve with this boss and get over the hump quickly, before raiders start to get the dreaded "burnout." On average it takes most guilds about a month to kill Kael.

I have personally witnessed this boss destroy talented guilds into disbanding. Kael'Thas is truly deserving of the title "Destroyer of Guilds." Having completed every encounter that TBC has to offer, it is my personal opinion that this is the hardest encounter.

I will assume that you, the reader, are already familiar with the basic boss abilities and strategies that are widely available, such as WoWWiki or BossKillers. Hopefully, this guide will fill in the gaps that other guides have left behind.

Raid Makeup: My guild did it with 7 healers. This fight is basically a DPS race in phases, thus the fewer healers the better. I would also advise in taking at least 5 or 6 AOE for phase 2 (any combination of Warlocks and Mages), at least for the first kill.

Phase 1
Positioning: The key to this phase is to position the deaths of the advisors such that they are isolated away from the middle to give the ranged DPS plenty of room in the middle to kill Thaladred in phase 3. This will also give healers and tanks plenty of time to adjust should Thaladred set his gaze on them. Both Thaladred and Capernian should be killed against the back wall, farthest away from Kael. Telonicus can be killed on the left wall just below the steps, and Sanguinar should be killed along the right wall just above the hallway entrance to the room. With this setup, the ranged DPS won't have to worry about Fears from Sanguinar or Conflagrations from Capernian while trying to kill Thaladred in phase 3.

This phase has been heavily nerfed but the idea is the same with each advisor. Because phase 2 is when the "clock starts ticking," it is imperative that all ranged DPS get back to full mana before the start of phase 2. When Telonicus (engineer) spawns, just wand/melee for mana until full. This is a good time for paladins to redo 10 minute blessings and for warriors/druids to be at full rage. Kill him when there are no tanks with remote toy.

Phase 2
This phase determines whether or not you have a chance with phase 3. The goal of this phase is to have all weapons down before the advisors are resurrected. You can get away with having the shield up, but it should be dead within seconds after the advisors are up. This will give you the greatest chance to see phase 4. This is why AOE is so important in this fight, and positioning is key to maximizing DPS.

Pick a weapon/spot to group up on (we chose the mace spawn point), and have all of your tanks move their weapons to that spot. You can have a DPS warrior (in DPS gear) on the staff. It is imperative that when the staff spawns that it gets Imp CS/Silence/Silencing Shot, so that the warrior can move the staff to the designated spot where all the weapons are supposed to be.

The druid (Druid is preferred) assigned to the axe needs grab aggro quickly and move the axe well away from anyone (we had him behind Kael). Once it is a safe distance away, slowly back the axe up so that the druid is between the clump of weapons and the axe, but also make it so that the axe will be hit by the AOE. This can be tricky, so DPS needs to be mindful of where the axe is so that you don't die to its whirlwind.

While the tanks are setting up the pile of weapons, all DPS should be on the bow (right side of the platform). Let the tanking hunter get aggro (the hunter should be behind the bow in the back, so the bow doesn't multi-shoot the raid) and kill it fast. This will give your tanks time to build threat on the rest of the weapons. Once the bow is down, melee needs to be split between the mace and staff to interrupt its spell casts and casters need to go all out on AOE. Any single target ranged DPS that are left needs to be on the shield (Hunters, Boomkins, elemental Shamans). Shadow priests need to break away from the bow early (at around 25%) and start dotting each weapon to get the Misery debuff on all the weapons and keep them up throughout the entire phase 2.

If all goes according to plan, everything will die to AOE except for shield and possibly the axe. Ranged DPS should kill the axe and melee should attack the shield. Even though the shield will hurt the melee attacking it, it's more important to get the weapons down before the phase is done. At this point, the raid isn't taking much damage so you can afford to take the Thorn damage. While the rest of the weapons are taken care of, the phase 3 tanks/healers should use this time to get into position at where the advisors last died.

Random tips: Have the shaman use Heroism/Bloodlust for this phase to get the weapons down faster. Also, the tanks on the various weapons need to separate a little from the other weapons when they are about to die. There were issues with people not being able to grab certain weapons because they were too bunched up. Time is valuable and you can't afford to have players waste time trying to grab their respective weapon.

Phase 3
Macro tip: The DPS assigned to pick up the staff to give the mental protection buff to everyone should use a macro with their DPS spells. The buff can be applied whenever anyone is around without the buff, and the buff is removed if it protects the player from any single disorient effect. Thus it needs to be reapplied constantly throughout the fight. There is no cool down with using the staff and thus should be used as frequently as possible. For example, a shadow priest will replace all of his spells with macros like this one for mind blast:

  • #showtooltip mind blast
  • /use icon of the silver crescent
  • /use staff of disintegration
  • /cast mind blast
The shadow priest would have a similar macro for his dots and mind flay. This way, he can DPS like usual in phase 3 (and beyond) and not have to worry about getting the buff to everyone around him at the same time because it will be done every time he casts a spell.

Just before the end of phase 2, make sure your tanks and healers get into positions early and always be mindful of where Thaladred is. Ranged should concentrate on Thaladred while melee kills Telonicus.

Note on the kill order: Of course, you can kill the advisors in any order, but I will give the reason why I prefer Thaladred and Telonicus be killed first. This is purely because of positioning for Thaladred Gazes. You want the melee to be as far away from the middle (where Thaladred should be) of the room. Because Telonicus is farther away from the middle than Sanguinar, it will be easier to deal with Gazes when Thaladred targets one of the melee. Also, once Thaladred is killed, it is much safer to deal with Sanguinar fears.

Once Thaladred and Telonicus dies (they usually die around the same time depending on your raid makeup) the entire raid should DPS Sanguinar. At 40-50% the ranged DPS should switch to Capernian. This is to ensure that Sanguinar is dead by the time Phase 4 begins so that the melee can get over to Kael to begin their interrupts. Results will vary depending on your raid's ratio of melee vs. ranged.

Someone with the staff needs to be in range of the melee to give them the staff buff just in case of remote toy. Also, someone with the staff needs to be with Sanguinar tank and healers just in case of remote toy. The warlock tank for Capernian should have the staff and that should be enough for himself and his healer.

A healer will need to shift to the ranged DPS when they are killing Capernian to deal with Conflagaration.

The goal is to either have all the advisors dead or at least have Capernian as the sole alive advisor when Kael spawns.

Phase 4
The Kael tank warrior needs to have as much hp as possible with Last Stand, Nightmare Seed, Fire Protection Potion, Frozen Runes, and Shield Wall ready to tank Kael. Each minute, when Kael does his Shock Barrier + Pyroblasts, the tank will eat the first Pyroblast using the shield ability on the Phaseshift Bulwark. Ideally, the Pyroblast should be interrupted when the DPS get the Shock Barrier down. If not, then the mentioned items/ability above needs to be used. The tank can survive a Pyroblast if he has the Mace buff and uses his cooldowns or consumables.

DPS timing: The first phoenix and the first shock barrier will come at around the same time, with the phoenix spawning just before the barrier. DPS should ignore the phoenix and make sure to break through the first shock barrier to interrupt the Pyroblast. Afterwards, DPS has plenty of time to kill the phoenix and its egg. If a phoenix spawns within 15 seconds of shock barrier, you should wait for the shock barrier before killing the phoenix. You don't want to face the situation of having the phoenix egg up while shock barrier is up at the same time. Always choose to kill the phoenix when you have ample time to kill the egg before the next shock barrier.

If you are caught with having both the egg and shock barrier being cast soon, the DPS should be on the egg and the tank will have to use their cooldowns/items to get through the Pyroblast. If the tank doesn't have its cooldowns/items or enough HP to survive the Pyroblast, then DPS should ignore the egg and get the Shock Barrier.

Any extra protection warriors should be using the dagger to break MC in this phase. Make sure to spam intercept/hamstring on the players affected with Mind Control, and go back to reapplying thunder clap and demo shouts. Sheep and fear the MC as needed and of course avoid the Flame Strikes.

Phase 5
Congratulations, you're through the toughest part of the encounter. If you get to this point with your raid up then you should expect a kill at this point. The most important thing to watch out for is threat, because with all the weapon debuffs and higher damage from the legendary weapons, it can be easy to pull aggro.

Ranged DPS can attack Kael during gravity lapse, but without a tank building threat on Kael during this part, you need to watch your threat. If your MT dies in this phase, then any other tank can pick him up because he doesn't cast Pyroblast anymore, so tanks should try to be second in threat.

The phoenixes that spawn in this phase doesn't despawn anymore during gravity lapse. However, because there are no Pyroblasts to worry about, you can have ranged DPS kill the phoenixes as they spawn.

Avoid Flamestrikes and avoid Nether Vapor (especially the MT). Keep up the interrupts on the Fireballs.

Closing thoughts
Like Gruul and Vashj, this is a DPS check style of encounter. On the typical progressions path, if you're able to farm Vashj, you're ready to kill Kael. However, your effective DPS is 0 when you're dead, and thus any DPS check style of encounter has a built in survival aspect to the fight. Unlike Gruul and Vashj, Kael has MUCH more potential pitfalls that will lead to deaths, which is what makes this fight so difficult. Don't get frustrated when you seem to be stuck on phase 3. It will take time and practice to get used to all the different phases, and then you'll notice that the raid DPS will increase as people get more and more familiar with the encounter. By following what I have laid out, certain victory is within your grasp.

Good luck and see you in Hyjal!

In future articles, I would like to add an Q&A section. Feel free to leave comments or write to me via e-mail with any questions that you would like answered pertaining to "hardcore" raiding. Also, I welcome any suggestions as to future topics which you would like covered.

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