Ready Check: Zul'Aman -- Getting your first bear

Ready Check is a weekly column focusing on successful raiding for the serious raider. Hardcore or casual, Kara or BT, everyone can get in on the action and down them some bosses. This week, a bear talks about... bears.

Since the introduction of Zul'Aman many raiding guilds have been fascinated by the time trial; defeat all four animal bosses within 45 minutes and the last prisoner will gift you with a scary-looking bear mount, plus the adoration of your entire server. This article will take you through preparing for, and succeeding at, the Zul'Aman timed run.

Okay, so you want to get a bear.

Perhaps there are ten people in your guild who, bored with farming or wiping, want a slightly different challenge to take up an evening or two a week. The end goal of getting a bear mount (or ten) is an incredibly fun one to aim for, but it's also a lot of hard work (provided you don't just want to pay 20,000 gold).

The first stage in collecting your very own bear cavalry is to assemble a good team. While you can put together a run with whichever guildies feel like going from week to week, we recommend at least starting with a fixed group that's optimised for success. As you become experienced at running the gauntlet, it won't matter quite as much if the team isn't static.

Choosing your team can be a harsh process; within my guild there were more than ten people willing to go, and who likes saying no? It's up to you how you pick your team, but keep the following factors in mind:

  • Skill. Every mistake you make on the run costs you time. You need a team of people who won't make mistakes; on the rare occasion someone does, your raid needs to be flexible and recover quickly.

  • Gear is obviously important; while there are tales of people in tier 4 and ZA-level epics beating the timer, obviously the better your gear is the more room for error you'll have. This isn't to say you don't stand a chance if you're not in tier 6, but some things may simply be harder for those with lower ilvl gear.

  • Consumables. Your team needs to be willing to go to every extreme to maximise performance, especially if your gear's not top-notch, so check for cheapskates.

Finally, we found it really helps if everyone's been to Zul'Aman before. Sounds obvious, but we found out halfway through one time trial that it was someone's first run...

Pick me, pick me!

So you've got some awesome people with great gear keen for new mounts. Who do you pick? Raid composition and synergy are extremely important when you're on a timer. Here's some ideas for composition:

  • Tanks. Nalorakk and Halazzi need two tanks, Jan'alai needs something that can handle adds, and Akil'zon only needs one tank. This suggests taking one MT and a hybrid offtank who can DPS where needed. Threat generation's important, as is being able to pull well.

  • Healers. To maximise raid dps, take two healers. Having a shadow priest vastly reduces downtime, which is crucial; a shadow priest also brings fortitude, shields and dispels, useful if your healers are other classes.

  • DPS. You'll want some of the following: casters, DoTs, AoE and melee. Loading up on melee can be disadvantageous due to various targeted abilities, but they don't need to drink; having one group of melee and another casters means you can optimise for synergy. Some groups choose to go AoE heavy with a paladin tank; warlocks can really shine there, if they stay alive.

  • Synergy. Choose classes with buffs and abilities that benefit each other. Windfury's a huge DPS boost for melee, a shadow priest helps casters. Most importantly, shamans' heroism or bloodlust is one of the best things you can have to speed up boss kills.
    Generally, be smart and aware of what each class can contribute, and it should be fairly obvious how to arrange the best group composition from your players. Let the ones who didn't make it down gently; they can come along later, after all.

  • What we did: Prot warrior, feral druid, DPS warrior, rogue, enhancement shaman; resto druid, holy paladin, warlock, mage and shadow priest.

  • Alternatives: For more speed, we could have replaced the prot warrior with another dps and let the DPS warrior offtank.

  • Good things: Two druids meant two innervates and two resses, which we found invaluable. Healthstones and a soulstone on the shadow priest also proved useful.

Watch a video of the run then read a walkthrough of each boss ==>>