Chase Christian from Encrypted Text recently started a series of guides on doing Ulduar as a Rogue, and I must admit that the relative ease and simplicity of describing the role of a pure DPS while raiding is enough to make me sob quietly into a hanky. Meanwhile, I'm driving myself to the nuthouse trying to describe four entirely different roles for a single class. Pardon my saying so, but this column was the hell of a lot easier to write back when we sucked at everything that wasn't healing. Damn you, multi-spec viability! Damn you to HELL!
Before we get started, I'm going to continue what I did with the last Ulduar preview column, link to general strategy guides, and assume you have a basic familiarity with the encounter before delving into more Druid-specific advice. Today we're going to confine ourselves to Freya, as it's one of the few Ulduar fights I have now seen outside of the PTR. With luck, my computer is going to cooperate for a full clear this week plus a few hard modes, so I will be revising (and, as necessary, expanding) our current Ulduar Druid guides to reflect changes that Blizzard has made to the fights and a few notes concerning hard mode issues. Any changes made will be noted in next week's column.
If you're not familiar with basic Freya strategy, try here, here, and here. Multiple commenters have noted that the fight bears a passing resemblance to Sartharion, but I always felt like Solarian was an equally good, if not better, comparison. If you can survive her annoying adds, the fight turns into a tank and spank. If you can't survive her adds...well, the view from the Ulduar graveyard is really quite lovely.
As an aside, the fight also looks and feels more frenetic than it actually is. Watch any Freya videos closely, and you'll notice that a clean kill is basically controlled chaos.
BEARS: To be frank, this isn't really a difficult tanking fight. If you're tanking Freya, all you'll be doing is keeping her occupied until the raid finishes the six waves of adds, so just make sure you're not outranging your healers and that you keep an eye on healthy mushroom spawns once an Ancient Conservator is up. Threat is not a concern on Freya; feel free to use your a high mitigation set to reduce healing load.
If you're off-tanking the adds (I should say, tanking the tankable adds), drag them to the edge of the raid and make sure the water elementals in the first and fourth waves are always facing away from other players; ideally you should be the only person who ever gets hit by Surge. The trickiest portion of the 3-add waves will be judging how long you can stay in to tank the Snaplashers (if you are tanking them, and many guilds choose to have them kited) until they're rendered completely immobile. With luck, Barkskin will be up for each of these waves and should be used to preempt the worst of the damage as their buffs start to stack. If not, Survival Instincts your way out until you get clear (this becomes more important on a hard-mode Freya with buffed physical damage).
Two of the add waves will spawn untankable Detonating Lashers. You can go Cat to help DPS these down, but whatever you do, do not get caught in the middle of them as they near low health.
Make sure you find (or are already under) a healthy mushroom quickly when the Ancient Conservators spawn; aside from the obvious threat generation issues, you'll take additional damage from your inability to generate Savage Defense procs if you don't avoid or get rid of Pacify quickly.
CATS and MOONKIN: Most of the difficulty on this encounter is in the hands of the DPS. 90% of your job is going to be nothing other than controlling and destroying adds in the right place and at the right time. In that vein, there really aren't a lot of substantial differences between ranged and melee DPS on Freya, although Cats will need to watch their aggro on Snaplashers if your guild elects to have them kited by ranged DPS instead of tanked. Most guilds use a Hunter for this role, but Moonkin are also effective kiters, and Entangling Roots is helpful (though likely to break quickly) until their damage/slowing buff stacks to the point where they're immobile. Cats with Infected Wounds can also attempt to keep the Snaplashers slowed, although many guilds don't bother putting melee DPS on them at all. Maim can be used to stun Storm Lashers if your guild's melee rotates interrupts on them (and in general you should plan on this, as this becomes important for a hard-mode Freya where Elder Brightleaf has been left alive). For Moonkin, Hurricane is your buddy once the time comes to DPS down the adds at the same time: the same is true for Swipe with Cats. Enable floating health bars (the default option for this being the V key) to ensure they die within a few moments of each other.
For Detonating Lashers, Hurricane and Swipe are only useful if the adds aren't yet close to death or are a safe distance from the raid; multiple Lashers exploding at once tends to have an unfortunate effect on general life expectancy.
Ancient Conservators are largely a tank-and-spank affair, although DPS on them may be periodically interrupted by their Pacify ability. Again, mushroom mushroom.
Add waves will spawn either a few seconds after the previous wave has been killed or every 60 seconds, whichever comes first. With better gear and more experience, you should realistically expect this to be considerably faster than once per minute.
The Lifebinder's Gift tree spawns every 45 seconds for the duration of the encounter and should be priority kills. Cats have an advantage over most melee DPS in being able to reach them quickly between Feral Charge and Feral Swiftness. These trees can be a real nuisance while an Ancient Conservator spawn is up; always be aware of the closest healthy mushroom spawn.
RESTO: There's a fairish amount of raid damage on this fight but nothing unmanageable as long as your raid is sensible about not sitting in a pack of people if they're targeted for Nature's Fury. Wild Growth is useful for anyone affected by Sunbeam or its splash damage (which can be considerable if people are grouped up under a mushroom). Otherwise, make sure you're close to healthy mushroom spawns once a Conservator is up, but again, most of the responsibility for this fight belongs to the DPS. Unless you're doing hard mode, Freya's not a very tough encounter to heal.
Patch 3.2 will bring about a new 5, 10, and 25 man instance to WoW, and usher in a new 40-man battleground called the Isle of Conquest. WoW.com will have you covered every step of the way, from extensive PTR coverage through the official live release. Check out WoW.com's Guide to Patch 3.2 for all the latest!