Ready Check: Guide to Naxxramas (Military Quarter)

Ready Check is a weekly column focusing on successful raiding for the serious raider. Hardcore or casual, ZA or Sunwell Plateau, everyone can get in on the action and down some bosses. This week, we visit some Death Knights in their natural habitat.

Are you a fan of our new death knight brethren? If so, you're in for a treat: there are plenty of them in store for you in this quarter of Naxxramas, as we continue our journey towards Kel'Thuzad's throne. Our whistlestop tour will pop in and visit Instructor Razuvious, Gothik the Harvester and finally the Four Horsemen, whose charismatic yells punctuate the wing as a whole.

Remember, if you want everything to be a surprise, don't read beyond the cut!

A quick word about trash. Several of the packs leading up to Razuvious, and between Gothik and the Horsemen contain Dark Touched Warriors. These pleasant chaps whirlwind a lot, which means if you're melee you'll likely be picking yourself up off the floor multiple times unless you get out of their way (or stun them). There are also axes between Razuvious and Gothik which whirlwind, swords that cleave and staves that AoE, so all in all, this isn't a great set of trash to get close to.

Instructor Razuvious

The first boss in the Military Quarter, there are no special achievements linked to Razuvious. The boss himself hurts -- really hurts -- on a regular tank. Fortunately, he just so happens to be surrounded by adds which are far more suited to tanking him.

The normal and heroic versions of the fight differ slightly in execution, although not in principle. On heroic, Razuvious has four adds which need to be mind controlled by a priest and offtanked when they're not being MCd. On normal, it's a little simpler - there are only two adds, and any player can use the provided Obedience Crystals to control their add. (Since the adds won't need offtanking, it makes sense to assign the tanks to this, but you can use anyone.)

There are two key points to controlling the Understudy adds and tanking Razuvious. Firstly, the player about to take over tanking needs to hit Bone Barrier (which provides a 75% damage reduction effect), then Taunt Razuvious (key presses: 6 then 5). You can communicate when to switch by text, voice or simply by looking at the duration of the existing Taunt debuff on the boss. Taunt and Bone Barrier have the same duration, so when the other controller's Taunt is about to wear off, so's their Barrier -- meaning it's your turn.

Secondly, it's important to manage the breaks in mind control so that they do not happen when you are actively tanking. On normal mode, you can cancel the crystal's effect by performing a spell or action, or manually dismissing the pet, then immediately click the crystal again to control the mob. Priests can simply dismiss a mob as soon as it's finished tanking and pick another from the offtanked mobs.

There is a small amount of raid damage during this fight, but it's important to heal the mind-controlled understudies or they will die before the boss does, leaving your tanks to get one-shotted by Unbalancing Strike.

Finally, note that Mind Soothe and simply letting the boss patrol away can make for a smoother pull than if you rush in blindly. Once Razuvious has died, enjoy a brief period of mega-damage on the understudies!

Differences between normal and heroic:
4 adds on heroic, 2 on normal
Adds must be mind controlled on heroic, Obedience Crystals on normal

Gothik the Harvester

Have you been missing Hyjal? Do waves of adds thrill and excite you? Fantastic! Gothik is an interesting but fairly simple fight, with no special achievements. It centres around (you guessed it) waves of adds, which spawn on the Living Side -- the side you enter -- and, when killed, reappear in spectral form on the Dead Side (through the gate in the middle, which is initially open, but which closes once the boss is engaged).

The trick to the encounter is to split your raid evenly between both sides, ensuring you have at least one tank on each side. As mobs appear on the living side, kill them in a controlled fashion so that the flow of mobs to the dead side is sensible -- if you AoE madly on the living side, the dead side will become overwhelmed. There are three types of mob: trainees, death knights and riders (which come with horses on the dead side). Trainees do not hit very hard or have many hitpoints, so if you are having trouble tanking, they can be ignored -- death knights and riders need to be tanked, though.

After four and a half minutes Gothik lands on the living side, and this part of the fight is effectively a tank and spank with a stacking -stats debuff that means you don't want to just stack your raid full of tanks and healers. He will teleport through to the dead side after a while, and the central gate will open at 30%, letting you all finish him off.

Differences between normal and heroic:
No differences beyond health/damage of mobs.

The Four Horsemen

One of the definitive encounters in the original Naxxramas, the Four Horsemen fight is still a lot of fun when executed well. The encounter has a linked achievement, And They Would All Go Down Together, which requires a slightly different approach to the fight -- we'll look at that in a little while.

The encounter, as you might suspect, consists of four mounted death knight bosses, each of which has some unique abilities. They also share certain properties: each of them will run to a particular corner of the room when they are engaged, and each has a 45-yard aura ('mark') that deals damage when cast, and stacks. You don't want to get more than 3 stacks of a particular Horseman's mark, as the damage rises considerably.

It's also worth noting that Thane Korth'azz (who runs to the near left corner) casts Meteor, which splits its damage amongst those it hits, so you want to hug up around him; Lady Blaumeux (far left) creates void zones, which you don't want to stand in; Sir Zeliek (far right) casts a chaining holy bolt, so spread out around him; and Baron Rivendare (near right) doesn't create any environmental hazards.

So how do you tank four mobs when you probably only have two or three tanks in the raid? Fortunately, the encounter is designed with flexibility. The two rear bosses -- Blaumeux and Zeliek -- cast magical damage on the closest player, meaning that anyone can tank them. By relegating a caster and healer(s) to each of the back bosses, you can keep them occupied while the raid kills the front two.

There are two approaches to dealing with Rivendare and Korth'azz. If you have the DPS, you can burn down Kor'thazz as fast as possible and not have to worry about switching. The more controlled approach is to switch after three marks, ensuring the raid is clumped up around Korth'azz in case of meteors -- the tanks need to run towards each other, taunt the boss they're not tanking, and then either run back to their original corner or swap corners (make sure you decide which of these you'll do beforehand!). Meanwhile at the back, at three marks, the casters and healers simply swap sides.

You need to continue switching at three marks until the bosses are dead, while avoiding the environmental hazards around each boss. Once tanks at the front are free, they can tank the mobs at the back in the normal manner (ensuring they are closer to the boss than melee and hunter pets).

If you're burning down Korth'azz, you don't need to split the raid up -- identify which tanks and healers will be taking the other three bosses and everyone else kills Korth'azz. If you're taking the more controlled approach, split half your DPS between the first two bosses. If you're going for the achievement, you need to try to evenly split up your DPS between all four and remember to communicate as they get low on health so that certain groups stop DPS if needed. On normal mode, it's a little harder to split the raid up evenly and you might need hybrids to help out with healing during either version of the fight.

Note that you can just pull by walking up to the bosses, and they'll run to their corners. However, if nobody is in range of one of them, a powerful AoE will hit the entire raid -- so position the players dealing with the rear bosses before you pull. (You can walk along the side walls and not aggro the bosses.)

When they die, the bosses' loot appears in a chest on the middle platform.

Differences between normal and heroic:
No differences beyond health/damage of mobs.

Next week we'll finish up our Quarters guide with the Construct (Abomination) Quarter, so if you ever wondered what all the fuss was about Thaddius, watch this space...