Spiritual Guidance: Ragnaros and closing the curtains on the Firelands

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. On Wednesdays, shadow priesting expert Fox Van Allen comes from out of the darkness to bask in your loving adoration.

Change is in the air. I can smell it. Patch 4.3 is on its way in a few weeks, which means that patch 4.2 is drawing to an end. It's been a wild ride, filled with flying shadow priests and ... well, really, all of the rest kind of pales in comparison to how awesome it was to don wings of fire and play Starfox for a while. Shadowy Starfox. With melted faces.

Before we can move on to patch 4.3, however, we have a bit of a loose end. Ragnaros is still alive and kicking in the Firelands. For real closure on this patch, we need to go in there and defeat him. Don't worry, it's not "too soon." Ha. See what I did there? I took that thing he says, and then I said it myself. It's a joke. It's funny. Man. Funny stuff.

Anyway, let's go in there, beat him up, and steal his lunch money. OK?

As you might expect from the final boss of a raiding tier, Ragnaros has quite a few tricks up his sleeve and quite a few phases to undergo. Thankfully, we're shadow priests -- we got this.

Note that unless you're attempting this fight on heroic mode, victory is achieved when Ragnaros's health drops to 10%. Because of this, the Glyph of Shadow Word: Death holds a lot less value. I find that Glyph of Dispersion makes a better choice for survivability reasons. Mana is generally not a concern regardless.

Phase 1: By fire be purged!

Like in many raid boss fights, positioning on Ragnaros is important. The key is to have DPS well divided for the transition to phase 2, and good planning for this transition starts in phase 1. Learn where your raid leader wants you, and don't stray too far. Players should also be aware of the boss's Wrath of Ragnaros attack -- it mandates that players keep at least 6 yards' worth of distance between them at all times.

During phase 1, Ragnaros will regularly smash his hammer Sulfurus down on the platform. Obviously, you don't want to get hit by the hammer -- it's instant death. But even if the hammer isn't coming down near you, it's important to pay attention. The hammer's crash will create several Lava Waves that need to be avoided. If you get hit, you suffer a lot of damage and get knocked back.

Getting out of the way of Lava Waves is easy so long as you're not daydreaming, but occasionally, you'll find yourself subject to a hard-to-avoid one. If you can't avoid it, try to Disperse through it to reduce the damage you take. And don't stand on the very edge of Ragnaros's platform if you can stand it -- these waves can easily knock you into the lava surrounding Rag. Once you're taking a swim in the lava, you're pretty much out of reach of everyone's battle rez.

There's one more ability Ragnaros has that a shadow priest needs to be aware of: Magma Traps. He will set these immediately under players, giving a visual cue. Obviously, when he's setting a trap, you want to be far away from it -- it'll deal damage when it's armed as well as when it's triggered. Raid leaders will give someone the duty of clearing these; they won't disappear on their own. You should be aware that shadow priests are prime targets for this duty, thanks to Dispersion and Levitate.

If you're responsible for triggering Magma Trap Eruptions, you'll probably be given your own healer to help mitigate the damage. So long as it's not a disc priest, you can make your healer's job easier by casting Power Word: Shield on yourself prior to triggering. Following this up with Dispersion is great too, but to truly minimize the damage you take, you'll need to create a simple macro:

/cast Dispersion
/cancelaura Dispersion

Make sure that's bound to your usual Dispersion key. This way, you can pop into Dispersion, and once the trap is triggered and you're sent flying into the air, you can press the same button to remove Dispersion. Why? Dispersion will mitigate the trap damage but not the fall damage. The latter is Levitate's job, and you can't cast Levitate on yourself until you /cancelaura out of Dispersion.

If you're clearing traps, come prepared. You'll want Glyph of Levitate for this fight. But then again, you probably have that on your shadow priest by default.

Transition: Minions of fire!

Phase 1 will end when Ragnaros drops down to 70% health. He'll commemorate the occasion by choosing a location to drop his hammer. Don't stand there under it, OK? OK.

Once the hammer is down, Rag will spawn several Sons of Flame around the edge of the platform. These will quickly start moving toward the hammer, and if any of them reaches it, they'll explode in a Supernova and do massive raid-wide damage. Obviously, then, the goal is defeating these baddies before that happens.

Good strategy here calls for the Sons of Flame kill order to be prioritized. Some will be stunned and killed last. Others will need to be burned ASAP. When it comes to burning these adds down, Mind Spike works very well, weaving in Mind Blast when appropriate. I also like to save my second Shadowfiend and Dark Archangel for this phase if I can -- they help immensely when it comes to churning out extra damage.

The speed at which the Sons of Flame move toward Sulfurus is dependent on how much health they have left. The more health they have, the faster they move. As soon as the Son of Flame you're targeting drops to 50% health, he'll be at his minimum speed. At this point, switch targets. Burn all the adds down below 50% before you bring one down to 0%.

When all the Sons of Flame are taken care of, Ragnaros will transition to phase 2.

Phase 2: Sulfuras will be your end!

Phase 2 is a lot like phase 1 -- the same abilities (like Sulfuras Smash) will be in effect. To those, however, Ragnaros will add a few tricks. The first of these tricks is Engulfing Flame -- he simply choses a third of the platform and makes it uninhabitable for a while. Don't stand in the bad, kids, and you'll be just fine. Use Dispersion if you need to buy yourself some time.

Rag's second new trick will be to create Molten Seeds on players' current locations. These seeds will deal AOE damage, so as soon as they're spawned, most raids prefer to collapse at a predetermined point in the middle of the platform. After a few seconds, the seeds will "hatch," causing minor damage (so long as you're not near them!) and spawning a Molten Elemental. Provided you all collapsed, these elementals will all converge on your collective location, allowing you to easily Mind Sear them down. (If you need help maximizing your AOE damage, check out my advice I gave for the Beth'tilac encounter.)

At 40%, Ragnaros will again undergo a transition. This transition will be much like the first. The only difference is that he'll also spawn Lava Scions. These are simply tanked until the Sons of Flame are dealt with. Otherwise, multi-DOTing works well against them.

Phase 3: Begone from my realm!

Phase 3 contains a mix of abilities from phases 1 and 2. Again, you have to deal with Sulfuras Smash, and you'll need to deal with Engulfing Flame, as well.

The new trick Ragnaros adds to his bag are Living Meteors. These are targetable adds that fixate on players and then chase them down across the platform. Dealing with them is a twofold challenge. First, if you're fixated upon, you need to try not to run through groups of players -- the Meteor will be trailing behind you, and hitting another player with it is something of an instant kill. Secondly, when the meteor gets a little too close for comfort, it can be knocked back briefly with a ranged attack. Of course, we shadow priests also have Dispersion. A well-timed Dispersion can easily save your life, so don't be afraid to hit the button! (It's hard to cast and run, anyway.)

As the fight drags on, your raid will have to deal with more and more meteors. They serve as soft enrage timers; you can only handle so many at one time. For this reason, most raid leaders choose to save Heroism/Bloodlust for this phase. Be prepared!

His treasures be mine!

When Ragnaros hits 10%, you win. Unless, of course, you're attempting Ragnaros on heroic mode, in which case you've already lost just by having to attempt the fight. (Sorry! Hope your next raid group doesn't make you suffer through such awful content!)

Being the final boss of the tier, Rag drops some pretty awesome stuff once you do kill him. Most notably, there's the Helm of the Fiery Conqueror, your tier token for your head slot. But don't fret if you lose a roll for that -- there are a lot of other great drops from Ragnaros too. All are ilevel 384, which puts them a slight step above any other drop you'll find in the Firelands from a non-heroic boss. Some great items to look out for:

Ragnaros also drops (rarely!) the Smoldering Egg of Millagazor, a sexy flying mount. Personally, I'd rather have the mount than any of the other stuff, but to each his own.

For more on the other fights in the Firelands:

Read: Shadow Priest's guide to Shannox
Read: Beth'tilac and proper shadow priest AOE
Read: The shadow priest's guide to Lord Rhyolith
Read: A shadow priest's guide to Alysrazor
Read: Besting Baleroc (and other shadow priest alliteration)
Read: The shadow priest's guide to Majordomo Staghelm

Are you more interested in watching health bars go down than watching them bounce back up? We've got more for shadow priests, from Shadow Priest 101 to a list of every monster worth mind controlling and strategies for raiding Blackwing Descent.