Heroic speed runs

Brian Wood
B. Wood|04.23.10

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Most of us have been running heroics since the daily random quest was first introduced with TotC, and since then we've been running them every day, on every one of our 80s, for what seems an eternity. Even over-gearing them and short dungeon finder queues can no longer keep the heroic grind from being mind-numbingly dull.

Enter speed runs.

By speed runs, I'm not talking about just going fast. Even PUGs these days move pretty quickly through heroics. I'm talking about going as fast as you possibly can. Racing through the heroics, pulling crazy numbers of mobs, skipping everything skippable. Not only will your heroic run be much shorter, but it will suddenly be much more dangerous too. When you're pushing line of how much you can do, even slight positioning errors or DPS pulling aggro can result in wipes.

Speed runs have the potential to put the challenge back in heroics, and today we're going to talk about how to pull of the best time that you can.

Not for PUGs

Right off the bat, I want to stress this is not something for PUGs. Sure, you can go fast and pull a few packs at a time, but if you try a speed run in a PUG, you're probably destined for a wipe. PUG members are forever wandering off, getting lost, DPSing too soon, begging to hit all those optional bosses, etc. And fair enough, they didn't sign on to blitzkrieg the place.

Definitely get a group of friends together to do this. Just like I don't recommend trying to force PUGs to do your heroic achievements, I don't don't recommend trying to force them to do speed runs. Besides, you'd probably waste any time gained trying to explain to them how you go faster if they don't DPS for a while.

Rule #1: Skip everything

Your first goal in a speed run is to skip as much of the content as possible. Wrath heroics are absolutely filled with optional bosses, many of which people don't realize are optional. Sure, it may only take you 30 seconds to down the boss that you're passing anyway, but 30 seconds is a lot of time to waste on a speed run.

This also means skipping trash whenever possible, which sometimes takes very specific positioning. If just one person wanders too far to the side, you can suddenly pull far more than you bargained for. This is particularly true at the end of Halls of Lightning.

I'll be included a list of all the bosses that I know can be skipped in the tips section at the end of this article.

Rule #2: Punches in bunches

The concept here is that it takes exactly the same amount of time to AoE down four mobs as it does to AoE down 10 mobs. So make big pulls. Gather that first group, then the next, then the next. Check out the first two pulls in the video above -- they're massive. The actual amount that you can pull will depend on you tank and healer, but in general you want to be pulling so much that the tank needs to use tanking cooldowns. Anything less and you're likely wasting time.

Rule #3: Don't DPS ... yet

This seems to be the hardest rules for people to follow -- but do not DPS until your tank has finished pulling everything that he's going to pull. If you start attacking that first group, you will pull aggro. Your tank is busy running toward the next group down the line -- he's just generating enough aggro to keep those mobs of the healer and on his tail. If he stops to compete with you on threat, you won't be moving. DPS are the greatest cause of failure of rule #2. The tank cannot gather up huge packs unless you let him.

Here's what often happens: tank hits first group and moves on. DPSer starts attacking while moving. Either the tank stops pulling and goes back (at which point you're pulling one group at a time), or the DPSer pulls aggro and starts taking damage. The healer heals him and pulls aggro and dies. Now it's a wipe -- or at best, a sloppy, brute-force recovery from a potential wipe. Either way, it's slower. One of the joys of speed runs is that execution matters again, but that means holding off on your DPS.

Once the tank pulls his last pack of mobs, then open up; give it everything you've got. Hunters should absolutely use Misdirection and rogues should use Tricks of the Trade. You'll notice in the video above the tank was a warrior -- arguably the worst at AoE threat -- and he had no problem holding aggro at all even on groups of up to 20 mobs, because the DPS waited until he was done pulling. Sure, if your tank is gearing solely for mitigation and not threat you could have problems -- but then you should be smacking your tank upside the head anyway.

You'll also note that on the video above at the stairway just past King Dred one of the DPSers started attacking on the run, causing the tank to have to run all the way back down the stairs to pick up the stray mob, wasting valuable time.

Heroic speed run tips and tricks

Here's a list of some of the tips and tricks that I've learned while speed running heroics. Most of the time you just follow the three rules of speed runs and you're good. But it also helps to know what is and is not skippable.
  • Ahn'kahet (Old Kingdom) Prince Taldaram and Herald Volazj are the only two bosses you have to fight, out of the five bosses in the instance. After fighting Taldaram, go down the hallway to the platform at the top of the stairs. Turn right and jump off the ledge there to minimize the trash you have to fight. Be sure that pet classes dismiss their pets before this jump. You should be able to kill Volazj before the second Insanity is cast.
  • Azjol'nerub The second boss, Hadronox, can be skipped. This is easily accomplished by resetting the mobs in the spiderweb area. Just have a hunter, rogue or night elf as the only one in line of sight of the mobs. They engage the mobs, then Feign Death, Vanish or Shadow Meld. The mobs will all despawn and you have a short window of time to run down to the hold that leads below. Also note that Anub'arak shrugs off DoTs before he submerges; however, you have a tiny window to reapply the DoTs so that he keeps taking damage while submerged. You should be able to kill him after only two submerges, though the final pack of mobs will still come after he's dead.
  • Culling of Stratholme This place is where speed runs go to die. Almost all of it's on a timer, and you can just hope for good luck in random mob spawns. We like to pull the Infinite Corruptor in with Mal'ganis (though of course you can skip him).
  • Drak'tharon Keep You can literally skip every boss up until the final boss. To skip Trollgore, just engage him and then run into the next room, and he'll leash. Novos you can just walk through -- he'll engage, but you'll be long gone before the first add appears. Alternatively, you can skirt around the left edge, as you see in the video above.
  • Forge of Souls Chain pulling can be very dangerous in here, since the mobs actually do significant damage, so be cautious. Bronjahm can be skipped -- just engage him and run past. By the time you get about halfway up the walkway, he'll leash back to his room.
  • Gundrak Eck is the only skippable boss here that I'm aware of. Big pulls and jumping off ledge shortcuts are your main ways to save time.
  • Halls of Lightning General Bjarngrim can be skipped -- just choose a path opposite the direction he's patrolling and move on. In the big room past Ionar, the vast majority of the mobs can be skipped if you choose your path very carefully and pull only very specific packs.
  • Halls of Reflection There's nothing skippable here, and much like CoS, you're pretty much stuck on a timer.
  • Halls of Stone Maiden of Grief and Krystallus can be skipped. The Tribunal is still slow and painful.
  • Nexus Nothing is skippable in the Nexus, but you can do some truly massive pulls. My tank is a big fan of pulling Anomalus all the way over to Ormorok's area.
  • Oculus Nothing skippable here either; however, this instance can be run in about 11 minutes just with good, solid execution. You just need teammates who know where they're going.
  • Pit of Saron You cannot skip any bosses, but there is a shortcut. Tank Ick as close to the pathway leading up to the tunnel as you can without his leashing (about 20 yards away or so). As soon as he dies, have the entire party mount up. You can then ride up the pathway before the first two packs of mobs get there. You'll still have to fight the second two packs. Also as you're completing the tunnel, be sure to have someone run out ASAP to engage Tyrannus to start his long RP sequence while you're killing the last swarm of tunnel adds.
  • Trial of the Champion About the only thing you can do here is teach your party to joust.
  • Utgarde Keep Prince Keleseth can be skipped, but the four mobs in front of him cannot. So clear them and move on. A great deal of the trash can by bypassed, especially the trash immediately in front of and to the side of the base of the staircases. Just hug right and keep moving.
  • Utgarde Pinnacle Svala and Gortok (the statues encounter) can be skipped. When you engage Skadi, don't hesitate but move as quickly as possible to the harpoon launchers and AoE the adds down. If you're lucky, you'll get all three harpoons you need on the first pass. When you're fighting King Ymiron, remember that you can use your PvP trinket and various class and racial abilities to break out of his stuns, giving you more DPS time.
As you start to think about heroic from a speed run perspective, you'll start to notice more and more trash that you can skip with careful positioning. You'll start to think of 20 seconds as an insanely long time to waste on anything and you'll find that heroics may actually start to get your blood pumping again.

What pro tips do you guys have for speed runs of heroics? What secret do you know that can shave a good chunk of time off a run? Did I miss any other bosses that you can bypass?
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