Spiritual Guidance: Shadow priest tips for killing the Lich King

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Spiritual Guidance: Shadow priest tips for killing the Lich King
Every Wednesday, Fox Van Allen locks the well-meaning but misguided Dawn Moore in his basement so he can once again take control of Spiritual Guidance. It's hard work undoing all the "good" that Dawn inflicted on his poor readers the weekend before, but he sure does his best. Hugs and sunshine are out. Plague and pestilence are in.

Let's face it: We've all got Cataclysm fever. We've seen the images from the alpha. We've Googled it. We've YouTubed it. We already have the name of our worgen picked out. We want to live it.

I'll be damned if this stupid Lich King isn't still in the way, though. We can't move on to Cataclysm until we beat Wrath of the Lich King, right? It'd be like trying to watch American Ninja 4 without seeing the ending to American Ninja 3 -- how in the heck are you going to be able to follow what's going on?

So yeah, OK, you could maybe just click the fountain in Dalaran for the epic retelling of the story that Bolvar Fordragon asked never be retold, but we're shadow priests, dammit. We're going to do this thing right: through epic-scale face melting.

The Lich King

For your raid group to down the Lich King, you'll need good synergy -- the tanks, the healers and even the DPS. Everyone needs to be on the ball. After all, this isn't Wrath of Lord Marrowgar you're playing, this is Wrath of the Lich King. The dude is the final boss of the expansion, and he acts like it.

As if you needed any indication as to how epic this battle would be, when you enter The Frozen Throne, the Lich King reacts by ... doing nothing. That's how badass he is. An army of heroes invades his inner sanctum, and it's like, "Yeah, what? I'll kill you all when I'm damn good and ready to. Go ahead, eat that Fish Feast. I'll just sit here and stare at Bolvar Fordragon a little bit longer. I got time."

Take a moment to savor the epicness of the encounter, sit through some painfully tedious roleplay and get that trigger finger twitching. We're about to meet the man who sold 11 million World of Warcraft subscriptions, and we're going to melt his face clean off.

Initial positioning

For phase 1, both the Lich King and the ranged DPS are usually positioned near the edge of circular platform. Strategies vary from team to team (and between normal mode and heroic), so be sure to ask your raid leader and confirm.

Phase 1
  • The main focus in phase 1 will be to DPS the Lich King fast and hard. If you're DPSing something other than the Lich King during this phase, you're doing it wrong.
  • Shortly before the fight begins (just as Tirion gets iceblocked) use a Potion of Wild Magic. Shortly after the fight begins -- about five spell casts in -- send out your Shadowfiend to take advantage of Wild Magic and your early procs. Make it a point to send your fiend back out into the fray the moment it comes off cooldown to try and maximize your DPS and mana regen throughout the fight.
  • The first Lich King ability you'll need to deal with is Infest. It hits for a solid chunk of damage up front and follows that up by applying a DoT that increases in strength over time. There are two ways to dispel Infest: (1.) Heal yourself up over 90% health, or (2.) Make sure the initial hit of Infest doesn't bring you down under 90% in the first place. Most 25-man raids deal with Infest by having a discipline priest cast Power Word: Shield raid-wide, so be sure not to cast PW:S on yourself. If your raid doesn't have a discipline priest, you can pretty much heal yourself through an Infest by using Power Word: Shield and Vampiric Embrace. Be sure to communicate your strategy to healers beforehand.
  • The Lich King will, at regular intervals, summon Drudge Ghouls and Shambling Horrors. Drudge Ghouls are fairly harmless and will be picked up by the tanks. Shambling Horrors have a nasty frontal cone attack that you want to be aware of -- don't run in front of them.
  • Necrotic Plague is the Lich King ability that defines phase 1 -- basically, it's a super-powered DoT. When dispelled from a player, the plague will jump to the nearest target. Ideally, you want that nearest target to be one of the Shambling Horrors. If you become infected with Necrotic Plague, you need to immediately stop DPSing and run over to the closest Shambling Horror to pass it along. If the plague gets one tick of damage in, you're dead.
  • After the Lich King gets burned down to 70%, he'll run to the center of the platform and begin the transition phase.

Transition phase(s)
  • Once the Lich King reaches the center of the platform, he'll begin to cast Remorseless Winter, a nasty, ever-present AoE that will last throughout the transition phase. You'll want to head immediately for the dangerous and unstable-looking ledge the moment the phase transition happens -- it's the only place that's safe. If you're looking for a way to sneak in a little bit extra mana regen into the fight, the few seconds it takes to position yourself on the ledge can be done while in Dispersion.
  • Shortly after the transition phase begins, a Raging Spirit will be summoned and immediately picked up by the tank. It's the duty of DPS to burn these Raging Spirits down as soon as possible. You should make full use of your multi-DoT abilities if the first Raging Spirit is still up and alive when the second one is summoned. Be sure to never position yourself in front of a Raging Spirit; they have a nasty frontal cone attack.
  • The Lich King will also be throwing out ice spheres that slowly meander towards the edge. If they reach the edge or otherwise collide with a player, they'll explode and knock anyone nearby clear off the platform. In 25-man raids, attacking these orbs is usually a job for hunter pets. In 10-man raids, you may be asked to DPS them yourself.
  • As if that all wasn't enough, the Lich King will also be attacking the raid with his own frontal cone attack. It's pretty mild damage-wise, but it does cause spell casting pushback -- make Improved Shadowform a part of your talent build to protect against it. You'll also want to make sure that the raid is spread out enough so that he's not hitting all 10 (or 25) people with each cast.
  • When the phase comes to an end, you'll get a warning that the Lich King is about the destroy the flimsy ledge you're standing on. Remorseless Winter will come to and end, and you'll want to immediately race towards the center of the platform where the Lich King is standing -- just don't cross paths with any remaining Raging Spirits or Ice Spheres.

Phase 2
  • If Raging Spirits are still alive in this phase, attacking them will always have priority over attacking the Lich King.
  • Shortly after the phase begins, the Lich King will begin to summon val'kyr, who will pick up players, bring them to the edge of the platform and throw them off. Obviously, they need to be defeated quickly before they can reach the edge. Melee types will be throwing out stuns to stop their progress; as such, you should focus on running your full rotation. The movement reduction effect of Mind Flay isn't as useful here as you'd think. It is best to position the bulk of the raid near the center of the platform when val'kyr are summoned so the time it takes them to reach the end is maximized.
  • When the Lich King isn't busy summoning winged harbingers of doom, he'll be summoning puddles of pure concentrated evil instead. This attack is known as Defile, and it can wipe a raid fast. An addon like Deadly Boss Mods will let you know ahead of time when Defile will be cast; prepare yourself by spreading out from the raid a little bit so you're not on top of anyone else. When Defile is dropped (a large black puddle), under no circumstances should you ever stand it in. Doing so will only result in its growing in size and causing more damage.
  • The Lich King will also continue to cast Infest through phase 2. Prepare by casting -- or alternatively, by reminding yourself not to cast -- Power Word: Shield.
  • Phase 2 ends when the Lich King drops to 40% health. The rickety ice ledge will return, and he'll once again enter the transition phase. Make haste for that ledge.
Phase 3
  • The good news: You don't have to contend with Infest in phase 3. The bad news: You do have to contend with Defile.
  • During phase 3, the Lich King will summon packs of Vile Spirits. Shadow priests! This is your time to shine! Bust out Mind Sear with impunity and watch the damage meters go nuts. If you don't defeat them quickly, they'll fall from the sky kamikaze-style and cause serious damage.
  • Phase 3 also brings one of the coolest boss attacks in the game -- Harvest Soul. Shortly after you're targeted, you'll be swallowed whole by Frostmourne. Once inside the sword, you'll face up against a Spirit Warden that's trying to destroy the spirit of King Terenas Menethil. Your key priority here: Cast Dispel on King Terenas to clear him of the Soul Rip debuff. If he dies, the raid dies. Make sure it's on your cast bar before the raid starts. You'll want it handy. Your secondary priority is to DPS the Spirit Warden.
  • Once you get the Lich King down to 10% ... well, that's it. You win via a glorious (but temporary!) death. A cut scene begins, and ... well, I won't spoil it. Even though you already know -- the ending to Wrath is about as well kept a secret as the ingredient list of Soylent Green at this point.

The loot

The great Lich King has been defeated! Long live ... you. As a reward for your bravery, prepare to have bequeathed upon you ... some neat new weapons. You know, for coming back to the Frozen Throne to defeat the Lich King all over again next Tuesday.

If you're running this thing on 10-man, you'll want to pray to Yogg-Saron that the Lich King drops the epic-sounding Tel'thas, Dagger of the Blood King, a one-handed caster dagger, or Halion, Staff of Forgotten Love, a two-handed staff. Both are perfectly itemized for a shadow priest. (They're also perfectly itemized for most other casters, so expect some competition for the drop.)

Great weapons drop in 25-man raids, and as you've come to expect, they're even better than their 10-man counterparts. Again, shadow priests have two options here: the Royal Scepter of Terenas II, the game's best one-handed weapon outside of heroic modes, and Archus, Greatstaff of Antonidas, the game's best two-handed staff. You know you want to be that jerk AFKing in Dalaran showing them off right along with your gigantic GearScore and your shiny new achievement and title. You know you do.

So, that's it. You beat the game. The princess was indeed in this castle. You have your fame, you have your glory. But lo and behold: A new quest will start from here. Press the start button.

(In other words: See you back here next week.)

More shadow priest tips for conquering Icecrown Citadel

This column is the fifth in a five-part Spiritual Guidance series on raiding Icecrown Citadel. For more information on the other encounters in ICC, you can read the previous columns in the series:
Hunger for more information about bending the light to your advantage? More interested in watching health bars go down than watching them bounce back up? Think it's neat to dissolve into a ball of pure shadow every few minutes? Hate gnomes? The darker, shadowy side of Spiritual Guidance has you covered.
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