15 Minutes of Fame: The solo artist

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DKs are OP -- there, we said it. Now then, we can move on with our discussion of ... well, of an OP death knight. This particular DK, however, brings more to the plate than the sheer muscle of his class. Raegwyn of EU Zuluhed-H brings a wealth of raiding experience, class skill and game savvy to bear in his continuing campaign to conquer as many bosses and instances of WoW as possible, completely solo.

We get a lot of "check me out soloing X" videos submitted here at WoW.com, but Raegwyn caught our eye with his video of a solo kill of Al'ar from Burning Crusade's 25-man Tempest Keep instance The Eye. He's made masterful headway in heroic Pit of Saron and most recently polished off an instance that still catches level-appropriate groups off guard: heroic Ahn'Kahet. We talked to this Austrian death machine about why gear is nice but timing is everything when it comes to taking down bosses on your own.

Main character Raegwyn
Guild Who Cares
Server EU Zuluhed
WoWstyle Boss and instance soloist; endgame raid tank; AoE twinkaholic

15 Minutes of Fame: Al'ar, heroic Pit of Saron, heroic Azjol-Nerub ... You seem to have a lot of solo kills under your belt, Raegwyn. What bosses and instances have you soloed with your death knight?

Raegwyn: Ok, that's a long list. Pre-80, I soloed all five-man quests alone, like Sarasthra at level 75 or Durn the Hungerer at level 67.

At 80, I soloed Onyxia, Zul'Gurub, Molten Core, some bosses of Blackwing Lair, Ahn'Qiraj 20/40 (all who were possible), Al'ar, Solarian, Magtheridon, Karazhan, Zul'Aman, Doomwalker, Trial of the Champion (non-heroic), heroic Halls of Lightning, heroic Drak'Tharon Keep, heroic Ahn'Kahet: The Old Kingdom, heroic Forge of Souls, heroic Pit of Saron 2/3, and a lot of other level 80 heroic bosses.

What's the hardest boss or instance you have soloed?

Hmm, there were many bosses who were very hard when I soloed them, but they are easy now with OP gear. Hardest one was Doomwalker, I think, because when I soloed him the first time (world first, December 2008), the heal of Death Strike was damage-based. So more damage = more heal. I had to mix up tank gear and damage gear to have enough heal, but I still needed some good def stats, too. The fight was very luck-based because of the damage gear. I had low avoidance, and so his Crush Armor debuff stacked very high if I didn't evade or parry it.

Al'ar was very hard too, because (it required) 27 minutes of full concentration. One second running too late = wipe. Also really hard was dismounting the first boss in Trial of the Champion without bugging them. I needed ~ 100 tries for that.

Is there a boss or instance you have been unable to beat?

Illidan, Kael'thas and Sartharion because of low DPS, and Archavon because he resets after he takes me in his hand.

Tell us about your DK's spec.

My spec is 28/0/43. I created this spec especially for my Al'ar kill. It has 15% more run speed, Death Runes, high AoE damage and a permanent ghoul. I have no Vampiric Blood, but with Death Runes, I have a more flexible heal all the time rather than a very good heal every 45 seconds.

For single damage, this spec isn't as good as Blood, but the ghoul does almost all the missing single damage you need. For other bosses, another spec works best. For example, for caster bosses I don't need run speed, so I get Anti-Magic Zone for it if the boss is hard. Mostly I use my 28/0/43 spec. I use my heal spec for daily heroics without a healer, too, because it's a bit faster and the party members have to LOL.

Is there any other talent you wish you could have that you just can't work into your spec?

Vampiric Blood!

Tell us about your DK's gear.

I raid with my guild in 25-man content. The gear I have at the moment is almost all TOGC-25 and ICC-25. Now I am one of the best-equipped tank DKs on my server. Many people say I can just solo these things because of my gear -- but in almost all of my videos, I had really bad gear. Doomwalker, for example, I made with Naxx 10/25 gear, and the older heroics like Halls of Lightning or Drak´Tharon with Ulduar 10-man.

Gear helps a lot, but timing is everything at soloing. (It's not about) just spamming a rotation for max DPS or max threat. You have to time every single Death Strike, Rune Tap and cooldown perfectly, or you will die. That's why I like soloing so much, because it's a big challenge for me.

How is the Al'ar fight different when you are solo?

For the normal tactic in BC, you needed three tanks for Al'ar: everyone on one platform, and one tank for his adds. If no tank was in melee range on a platform, Al'ar cast a debuff on everyone in the raid that increased fire damage by 10% per stack and did massive AoE damage. This was a wipe 99.9% of the time. I am alone, so I can't be on all three platforms at the same time (and so Al'ar casts his "wipe ability" very often). But I can heal that, and in my spec, I have 15% run speed to get to Al'ar faster when he switches platforms.

All melee damage dealers had to kill the adds, and all ranged damage dealers had to nuke down Al'ar. I have to do both at the same time.

Some guilds used huge fire resistance gear for the main tank. I can't use it because I need lots of HP.

The biggest problem in a normal raid is movement and keeping everyone alive. The biggest problem I have is his 10-minute enrage timer in phase 2. I created a special tactic to get him down fast enough in phase 2. Every time an add dies, Al'ar gets 3% damage, so I keep six adds from phase 1 alive in order to kill them in phase 2, which does 18% damage to Al'ar and gets me a lot of time.

Another thing is the armor debuff Al'ar puts on the tank every 60 seconds in phase 2. In a normal raid, one of the off-tanks taunted after the main tank gets the debuff. I have to stay alive with it and time my cooldowns right in this part, because the damage is very hard with this debuff.

So break it down for us: How much of your death knight's ability to solo comes from his class design versus individual skill or overgearing the instances?

Puh, that's hard to say. Without his class design, a DK sure can't solo anything. Skill definition at soloing as a DK means to get enough healing for hard kills, you have to time every single heal ability, every cooldown and every rune cooldown perfectly, else you have downtime where you can't heal yourself or decrease the incoming damage for a few seconds. Most DKs spam their normal tank rotation when they try to solo something. That is enough for many low bosses, but for really hard solo kills, you will die if you don't time everything perfectly. So skill means perfect timing.

Gear is very important. Better gear = more hp = more heal. When you have ultimate gear, you can do some low bosses easily just by spamming Death Strike. For other bosses, you have to show movement and create new tactics and try and try and change your new tactics 'til it works best (Al'ar).

Doomwalker is a good example to explain what I mean. When I soloed him, I had Naxx gear and needed a lot of skill to solo him. He was very, very hard. Now I have ICC gear and can kill him just by spamming Death Strike and resetting diseases. Now with my ICC gear, the bosses in heroic Forge of Souls are like Doomwalker when I had bad gear. So bad and good are one thing.

Gear helps a lot, but just with gear and spamming, you won't solo bosses who are not ages below your gear. In hard fights (and every of my videos was a "hard fight" because I had the minimum gear that was possible to kill the boss with), you don't get enough heal with gear alone. So here comes the skill. Perfect timing = max heal per second. Good gear and high skill (timing + movement) are both very important for my solo kills. Without either one, I would never have made world-first solo kills.

You've been at this solo business quite a while, haven't you? We understand that you used to solo bosses with your original main character, a rogue.

Yes, I soloed some bosses with my tank rogue in Burning Crusade. Tank rogue soloing was a very luck-based thing. If you had raid buffs, every boss couldn't hit you and was 100% down. If you had no raid buffs or the boss had magic damage, you had no chance. You can't really compare death knight soloing in WotLK and rogue soloing in BC because without buffs, rogue (tanking) was just a luck thing.

A death knight can heal himself 'til the boss is down; a rogue needed 101.8% avoidance, or much luck, to not take any damage 'til the boss is down. So a DK has many more options for soloing -- but I want to say I liked tanking raids with my rogue much more than with my DK. But when Wrath of the Lich King was released, rogues couldn't tank any more, and so I created my death knight.

BTW, tank rogue and blood tank death knight gameplay is almost the same. I think Blizzard saw a tank rogue and created the blood tank DK gameplay on the basics of the tank rogue.

What boss or instances are you working on now?

Sartharion 10-man (need 2,798 DPS for his enrage), Gruul, heroic Halls of Stone (the event is hard), The Nexus (Anomalus is hard), maybe some Naxx bosses, too. I will try the last boss of heroic Oculus without a mount, but the adds will be a big problem.

Best of luck -- we'll be watching for more videos of your successes!

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" - neither did we, until we talked with these players. From an Oscar-winning 3-D effects director to a rising pop singer ... from a quadriplegic player to a bunch of guys who get together for dinner and group raiding in person every week ... Catch our 2009 year-end retrospective for a year's worth of WoW personalities.

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