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Shifting Perspectives: Running heroics as a balance druid, part 1

Tyler Caraway

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat , bear , restoration and balance druids. This week, we start the long dive into dungeons that will be consuming your life for the next few years. At least, until the next expansion.

You know all of the gear that you want to get out of heroics. You know that you need to get your one random heroic done each day. But you are constantly finding yourself struggling to get through the instances that you are placed in. Don't fret; this is actually a fairly common experience, even for those players who have done more heroics than they would have liked to by this point. Even when I do random PUGs, things can get rough. Sometimes the tank and/or healer is undergeared; sometimes the players are just new to the instance and don't quite have the feel for how things work.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong in a Cataclysm heroic dungeon, and anyone stepping into them should be prepared to wipe multiple times no matter how prepared they are. However, there are things that you as a balance druid can do to make any heroic instance you run more smoothly. Sometimes it's through CC, sometimes it's through knowing what does what, and sometimes it's by making use of every single tool that you have in your toolbox. This week is the first of a two-part series explaining in detail how balance druids can best assist their groups in heroics.

Grim Batol

This is the instance that many people love to hate and perhaps the best instance to have a balance druid in. Grim Batol is where we really shine due to the high numbers of dragonkin we can use Hibernate on, the tight clusters of caster mobs for Solar Beam, and several melee-only mobs for Entangling Roots. We are the control kings of Grim Batol, and we work really well on all of the bosses, too.

Riding the dragon There is a lot of trash in Grim Batol, and I mean a lot. Blizzard does provide a nice little trick in order to significantly shorten the length of the dungeon, but overall, it is going to be very hit or miss on how long you end up spending in the instance. No one person can carry the weight. After the first three trash pulls, you will be able to hop onto of a set of red dragons to do a quick bombing run across the remaining trash of the instance. There is where groups succeed or fail. Done correctly, the dragons can completely remove nearly all of trash pulls left in the instance, but the trick is getting it down correctly.

To start with, let me be clear in saying the goal of riding the dragons is not to completely kill groups of mobs. In fact, you get no loot nor rep if they die from the dragons, so you want to avoid it as much as possible. The purpose is to weaken the groups so they can be quickly taken down without posing any threat at all.

As soon as you hope on your dragon, start firing your fire breath; don't wait for the dragon to actually start flying. Once you do start flying, focus on the left side; ignore the right side for now. Focus only on those packs that you know will be pulled. (If it's your first time there, then it's hard to explain which to ignore, but you'll get the hang of it with more runs.) On your return trip, again, focus on the left side exclusively -- your new left side, which would have been the right side previously. This way, you get an even spread of damage on both sides of trash without having one side entirely wiped out while the other is ignored.

Note that on your return trip, there is a pack of five mobs that is back in a small hallway that leads to the last boss. Nearly every group that I've been in ignores this group while on the dragons, but you actually do get a small window of time when you can hit them. If they are focused, you can take them down to half health at the least and be left with only four pulls that have full health.

Fighting trash After your dragon run comes the fun part. If you did the dragon run correctly, there should be very full pulls that matter at all until you get the second boss. If your group wasn't that great at dragons, some of the pulls can get a little messy. On the groups of Twilight Hammer mobs, your focus target should always be the Flamecasters, followed by the Thundercallers. The Flamecasters will stun a random target for a long period of time, which can lead to a tank death if your healer gets hit. The Thundercallers deal nasty amounts of tank damage and are the main cause of most tank deaths. At the start of the pull, always drop Solar Beam. This should give you enough time to burn down both the Flamecaster and the Thundercaller before they are able to do any damage. After that, which target you pick doesn't really matter.

Windwalkers deal a hefty amount of group damage and can be deadly to squishy targets, so killing them third is always a good choice, but they aren't particularly dangerous. If you get charged by an Rockbreakers, make sure you move out of the earthquake effect they leave on the ground afterwards.

On the ogre packs, which target you choose first depends on your group makeup. If you have several melee DPSers, then you'll want to take out or CC via Entangling Roots the Twilight Enforcers. Their Meat Grinder ability will quickly kill off any melee DPS if left unchecked.

The only difficult trash will be the Beguilers. You cannot CC any of these mobs effectively, and they are very dangerous. Have your tank group up any Beguilers that are not being CCed as close as they can and use Solar Beam on them to give your group time to take down at least one, if not two, before they can cause any damage. Do not cast Solar Beam on the gronn; they are immune to interrupts and will cause the Solar Beam to not summon. Alternatively, after killing Throngus, you can skip the remaining trash by zoning out and back in to ride the dragons.

Many of the mobs in the zone are casters. The primary melee mobs that you can CC with Entangling Roots will be Twilight Enforcers, Twilight Armsmasters, Guardians, and Warlords. A few of them do have special abilities that they can use while rooted, but none of them will be a threat or be spammed. Any of the dragonkin can be CCed with Hibernate, and there really isn't much of a priority on which to take out of the fight. None of them are particularly dangerous.

: All of the trash in Grim Batol is very close together. If you are not using Glyph of Focus, then do not use Starfall. Even on boss encounters, be extremely careful of your positioning before using Starfall. Failure to do this will result in one or more additional groups being pulled and mostly likely a wipe.

General Umbriss The main mechanic that applies to balance druids is the trogg adds which spawn -- in particular, the Malignant Trogg. If allowed to get close to the boss, it will wipe you. There are two ways to deal with this add. First, you can kill it outright; its damage isn't too bad, and any DPS can tank it. If you are going to kill it, then quickly target it as soon as it spawns and use Moonfire to get the trogg onto you and away from the tank.

The second option is to CC the trogg. A new trogg will not spawn if the first is not killed. You can choose to use Entangling Roots and simply keep the add locked away without it becoming a threat. Just be careful to not let the boss get close to it if you choose this method.

Forgemaster Throngus The same basic mechanics of regular mode apply in heroic as they do in regular. Get behind him during shield, kite during mace, and use tank/healer cooldowns during swords. Although difficult at times, you want to remain as close to the boss as you can manage at all times during the fight. This keeps you from being caught 30 yards out with his shield blowing fire in your face.

Use Barkskin during shield to mitigate the damage that you take as much as possible, and try not to cluster into a large group; spread out in a semi-circle behind him. This prevents your entire group from eating flames when he picks a new direction to face.

As one of my guild members puts it, "You are there to DPS, not to heal, so don't do it. If we needed you to heal, then you would be here as a healer." I agree with his sentiment entirely, but this is one of the few encounters that offers an exception to that rule. If your healer is struggling during shield, don't be afraid to use Tranquility to boost the group's health up. Also, if the healer gets picked up during mace, watch his health! They are going to take massive amounts of damage and be dropped down into a pool of lava and possibly a rock shower, all the while being unable to heal themselves. If your healer gets picked up and is low on health -- heal him! It could very easily save his life.

Drahga Shadowburner Nothing out of the ordinary, just always watch the add. Remember that it can be slowed and knocked back, so if you have Typhoon, then make good use of it in order to save a group member who might get caught while kiting.

Erudax Adds, adds, adds! I cannot stress how important the adds are on this encounter. The basic mechanics are ridiculously easy, but failure on even a single add makes the fight significantly harder. Every time they finish corrupting an egg, they spawn a dragon whelp that you cannot kill, which deals hefty damage to random targets. Getting too many of these up will wipe you.

You must slow the adds, period; it is not optional. I have yet to see any group down both adds without using slows. Typhoon is fantastic for this. Stay as close to their spawn point as you can and Typhoon them instantly. This will hit and slow both of them. Killing the adds is key to wining. Making use of Fungal Growth is a little bit harder due to them spacing out, but if you lay down some mushrooms in the middle of the hallway, you should be able to snare both of them for a short while.

Halls of Origination

HoO is a fairly simple instance with fairly limited trash but a lot of bosses. The run will take a while and is perhaps our weakest instance out of all of the ones available. We bring virtually no CC options to the table in this instance and don't offer all that much in the way of assisting boss encounters in any significant way.

Trash The first few pulls are the ones that make or break groups. They hit ridiculously hard, and we have no means of CCing them at all. None of them are melee-only mobs. Your best option is to root the Temple Shadowlancer and to pull the group far away from him. The mob will sit there and constantly spam Pact of Darkness, which will hit anything within a 20-yard radius. So long as you out-range the ability, you can keep it out of the fight.

After the first few groups, the trash becomes significantly easier, with nothing really of note. There are generally only two trash pulls per boss once you reach the upper level, and none of them are really that deadly. Two things of note: On the large trogg packs, Wild Mushroom can take out everything but the two elites, which should be nearly dead. Plan for their movements, plop your mushrooms down, and take out the pack. While your teammates take care of the two elites, set up your mushrooms for the next group. Rinse, repeat.

Also, on the void trash before Setesh, make sure that your tank knows to pull them out of the healing zone that they put on the ground. There's nothing you can do in particular to move them (maybe Typhoon if you are desperate,) but there are tons of groups that I've run with that didn't realize you can stop them from healing simply by moving them.

Temple Guardian Anhuur A fairly simple boss if you know how to do it right -- and which way you go depends on your tank/healer. If you have a good tank and healer, then the best option is to pull all of the snakes up to the platform and have the tank just keep aggro on them for the entire encounter. This will increase tank damage significantly, but it makes bringing the shield down stupidly easy. The best way to manage that as a balance druid is to just run around the top edge of the platform and aggro the snakes with Faerie Fire. This will bring them to you without hurting them and with minimal threat, allowing the tank to grab them easily.

If you are going to kill the snakes, then the same method somewhat applies. You should stay up top with someone else to interrupt -- conversely, you can use Solar Beam and then Skull Bash to interrupt -- and use Moonfire/Insect Swarm to pull all of the snakes up to you once the shield is active. This will keep the snakes away from your group members hitting the switches. By the time the snakes reach you, they should be almost dead. Use Typhoon to keep them away -- also Wild Mushroom and Fungal Growth if you have it -- and then just finish them all. Have the healer stay up with you to heal you and the two members that dropped down.

Earthrage Ptah Nothing new between heroic and normal at all, really. You get to ride a camel and cast while on the move, which, as awesomely fun as it is, I find slightly annoying, because I don't have my key bindings set up for constant strafing and casting all my abilities at the same time. Fail on my part. Otherwise, just straight tank and spank. Wild Mushroom can easily clear out all but the two elite mobs that spawn if you wait for them to cluster on the tank.

Anraphet Again, nothing different at all. One thing to note, however, is that your maximum health does get reduced during the course of the encounter. If your DPS is slow, this will mean it becomes very easy to die to Alpha Beams. If you get to that point, start running around and spamming Moonfire as soon as they are cast. This will prevent you from taking any deadly amount of damage.

Isiset Same as the other two, nothing worth noting that's specific to any class. Try not to use Starfall during the split phase; the extra damage is nice, but useless. She spawns a small add that can be completely ignored, but Starfall will take it out anyway. You can also Moonfire/Insect Swarm the add, which will kill it and provide you with extra Shooting Stars procs.

Ammunae Personally, this is the fight that breaks my 2 key. You can choose to do the encounter however you wish; I always favor the "moonkin handles the plants" method. I just get into a Solar Eclipse and then run around spamming Sunfire and Insect Swarm on the boss and the adds that spawn. She spawns the adds rather quickly in heroic, so you pretty much have to have a single person constantly on them, and I found this way to work best. It ensures every add dies and it allows your two other DPSers to sit on the boss without interruption.

Setesh My least favorite boss in the instance. The boss' damage isn't that bad, but the adds can stack up very, very quickly. Taking down the portals is a top priority, and you want to deal as much damage to them as possible. You can simply follow your normal rotation and switch to the portals as they come up; however, if your group's DPS is slightly low, you may need to game the system a little bit.

If DPS is low, then save Eclipse for the portals. There isn't that much time between portals, so once you hit Eclipse, just start spamming Moonfire on the boss until a new portal spawns. Once it does, switch to it and just let loose; make sure you have Starsurge up for portals as well.

An option that you do have is to Typhoon the adds in order to give your tank a little bit of breathing room. It will knock them away and slow them for a bit, allowing the healer time to catch up on everyone's health.

Rajh I love Rajh. There's nothing particularly special about him; however, you can game your DPS a bit. Rajh takes extra damage while he is recharging, when he's in the middle of the room sending out waves of fire. Save all of your DPS cooldowns and Eclipse for this period. Once he starts walking towards the middle, use Force of Nature, drop Wild Mushroom if you have time, and hit Starfall. After that, it's simply going all out to take him down.

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