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Spiritual Guidance: Raiding Blackwing Descent as a shadow priest, part 3


Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. Each Wednesday, Fox Van Allen brings you the answers to all the burning questions: Is it Tyler Caraway that he's better than, or is it Dawn Moore? The answers, my friends, is simple; when you're a shadow priest, you're better than everybody.

Normally, my friends, I fill this space with pleasantries, pop culture references, and slams at other WoW Insider writers. But I just can't do that this week. Not when Nefarian runs free, flitting about his lair, overloaded with treasure. Shadow priest treasure.

Over the last two weeks, we've been sharing shadow priest strategies for taking down Magmaw and Omnotron, as well as Chimaeron and Maloriak. But they were just child's play for what's ahead. This week, we're concluding our three-part series with tips, strategies, and loot information for the most challenging encounters Blackwing Descent has to offer: Atramedes and Nefarian.


Shortly before the Atramedes fight begins, your raid will be treated to a short little cutscene showing you exactly how Atramedes came to be. You almost feel sorry for the blind little whelp. Almost. The sympathy tends to end somewhere around the fifth or sixth wipe.

Atramedes is, for lack of a better word, handicapable. Brutally, mercilessly handicapable. He can't see you, but he can detect your presence through sound. That's the mechanic the entire fight revolves around -- each and every raid member is given his own unique sound bar. It starts at 0. If it ever gets to 100, he knows where you are. And you die almost instantly. No Dispersing out of this one.

Really, for shadow priests, that's one of the most challenging aspects of this fight. We're used to having our Dispersion ability as something of a Get Out of Jail Free card -- a talent that allows us to make a mistake here or there without serious consequence. We simply don't have that crutch to rely on in this fight -- just about everything that causes you to take damage also causes your sound bar to rise. Using Dispersion will reduce the damage you take from Atramedes's attacks by 90% like you'd expect, but you'll still take the full amount of sound. And you're far more likely to die due to your sound bar hitting 100 than you are from atmospheric damage here.

Thankfully, there is a mechanic that reduces your sound bar to zero. There are 10 gongs located around the room. Hitting one interrupts Atramedes's current attack, reduces everyone's sound to zero, and causes Atramedes to take a little bit of additional damage for the next 5 seconds.

The Atramedes fight consists of two alternating phases: a ground phase and an air phase. Each fight starts with 80 seconds' worth of ground phase, so that's where we'll start.

Ground phase
  • In between each major attack, Atramedes will send out Sonar Pulses into the raid. Getting hit by these increases your sound by 7 points per tick of damage you take from them. They originate at Atramedes and move in a straight line.
  • Atramedes will choose a random player and target them with his Sonic Breath attack. Atramedes will rotate to chase the targeted player down. It's important for the entire raid to understand which direction a targeted player is supposed to run -- either clockwise or counterclockwise. Getting hit by Sonic Breath causes a huge amount of sound to be added to your bar. Remember: You can't just cast Dispersion and eat the damage.
  • Modulation is Atramedes's unavoidable attack. Each time he uses the attack, you take a solid chunk of damage. It also increases your sound level by 7.
  • Once during every ground phase, Atramedes will use his absolutely brutal Searing Flames attack. It causes a large amount of raid-wide damage, spawns patches of fire on the ground, and can increase your sound bar dramatically if not interrupted. Searing Flames can only be interrupted by hitting one of the many gongs located around the room. And it must be interrupted, or else the whole raid is going to hit 100 sound and get massacred.
Air phase

When the ground phase concludes, Atramedes will take to the sky for 40 seconds.
  • During his time in the air, Atramedes will continue to send out Sonar Pulses. Unlike during the ground phase, these will spawn on the floor, giving you a few moments to move out of the way before you take damage (and more importantly, generate sound). Don't wait for your spellcast to finish, if you're in the middle of one -- just move.
  • In addition, Atramedes will choose a player with a high sound level to target with Roaring Flame Breath. That player needs to move in a smart, well-planned way, because the fire will chase him down, leaving a trail. Like Searing Flames, this will need to be interrupted by hitting a gong.
  • By the end of the air phase, a significant portion of the floor will be covered in fire. It should be obvious that fire hurts and that you shouldn't stand in it. What may not be obvious is that standing in fire raises your noise level, and that you should never walk through fire if you can help it, even while in a Dispersion state.
This fight favors fast movement, and as such, I generally recommend using Inner Will for this fight rather than Inner Fire. This is especially true if you'll have to kite Roaring Flame Breath. The speed boost, albeit small, is invaluable here. If you want to add even more value (especially in a 10-man), make your Leap of Faith cooldown available to the raid and pull a friend out of Roaring Flame Breath. It's one hell of a blind dragon head fake.

Atramedes loot

Epic shoulder pieces are difficult to find, and if you're sick of waiting for your tier token, the Mantle of Roaring Flames is a great find. Epic wrists are similarly difficult to find, but Atramedes drops those too: the Bracers of the Burningeye. If you're desperate for a trinket, you may want to look at the crit-loaded Bell of Enraging Resonance, but it's far from a best-in-slot piece.


Throughout all of Blackwing Descent, you've had to put up with Nefarian's insufferable wisecrack remarks. If that's not a reason to cut him down and steal his treasure, I don't know what is.

For most of us, Nefarian will be the ultimate encounter of Blackwing Descent, and as such, the hardest. It's a marathon-like fight, complete with massive amounts of raid-wide damage. You'll need to exploit all your damage-reduction abilities to be successful here. Don't fret about "wasting" mana on casts like Power Word: Shield -- Masochism and Dispersion will help keep you "in the blue."

Obviously, any fight that involves large amounts of raid-wide damage is a very dangerous fight to be using Shadow Word: Death. Be very cautious, especially after Nefarian's raid-wide Electrocute attacks ... but more on that later.

Phase 1

In phase 1, you'll be going up against both Nefarian and Onyxia. The general idea here is that Onyxia will be slowly generating electric charge, and if that charge gets to 100%, the raid wipes. The good news is that beating this "Onyxia timer" is simple; the real trick here is to inflict as much damage as possible to Nefarian in this phase by keeping Onyxia alive until the last moment. Phase 1 is the easiest of the three to handle, and the longer phase 1 lasts, the shorter the harder phase 3 has to last.

Most strategies for phase 1 require ranged DPS to focus on Onyxia first until she's almost dead, and then move on to DPSing Nefarion. Shadow priests are fortunate in that we can DoT up both dragons, though you want to make sure your DoTs don't kill Onyxia and end the phase prematurely. There will be a number of adds in the room as well, but as a shadow priest, you should ignore these.

For the most part, it's the tanks who will be concerned with Onyxia and Nefarian's special abilities, constantly adjusting their positioning to avoid getting you Lightning Discharged or Tail Lashed. Most strategies have ranged DPS just stack somewhere near the middle, keeping your need to move at a minimum.

When Nefarian's health drops to 90% (and at 80%, 70%, and every other multiple of 10), he'll hit the raid with Electrocute. It's massive, raid-wide damage, and a key to beating Nefarian is to mitigate this damage whenever possible. That means, at a minimum, you should be casting Power Word: Shield on yourself prior to Electrocutes. You can also use Dispersion through Electrocutes instead, if you have the option available. As you can imagine, Glyph of Dispersion makes a powerful option on this fight.

When Onyxia dies, Nefarian takes flight and phase 2 begins.

Phase 2

In phase 2, the room will fill with lava. The lava will apply a stacking debuff on you called Magma, so your first priority is getting up and out of it. There are three tiny, circular platforms in the room that will become the "safe ground" -- one in the south, one in the east, and one in the west. It's important to know what platform you're assigned to climb on top of and to start making your way towards that platform as soon as phase 1 ends.

Personally, I like to save my first Dispersion for when the room fills up with lava -- you'll cut down on some of the damage you take from the lava and regain a large chunk of your mana during what would otherwise be downtime anyway.

Each platform will have its own Chromatic Prototype add. Your raid leader will decide whether or not ranged are best suited attacking the add or continuing DPS on Nefarian. Regardless of who you're attacking, it's important to know that raid-wide damage will keep coming in the form of Nefarian's Shadowflame Barrage (and possibly in the form of Electrocutes, if the raid keeps DPSing him). Using Power Word: Shield to take some pressure off your healers is a good idea here, especially in the earliest moments of Phase 2.

The Chromatic Prototype adds have a Blast Nova AoE attack that needs to be interrupted. Given the regular cast intervals, shadow priests aren't the ideal interrupters here.

When all three Chromatic Prototypes die (or after 3 minutes have elapsed), the final stage begins.

Phase 3

Phase 3 is much like phase 1; lava drains out of the room, and Nefarian drops to the ground. Usually, the ranged DPS stacks in one location and focuses on burning down the boss. You will need to be aware of the quickly spreading Shadowblazes on the ground. Your ranged group may need to be repositioned at little warning. Good communication here is key.

Remember, Nefarian is a dragon. You should always try to avoid standing immediately in front or immediately in back of him to avoid his "standard" dragon cleave/tailwhip abilities.

More than anything else, phase 3 is a test of healers and tanks. The name of the game here is to do everything you can to take pressure off your healers. If you've glyphed Dispersion, you can probably use the talent for every other Electrocute. If you haven't, you may be able to only Disperse one out of every third Electrocute.

It may be helpful to replace Dispersion on your cast bar with a Dispersion macro. The following macro will allow you to turn off Dispersion by using the same key that sends you into a Dispersion state in the first place -- a great thing if you don't want to wait the full 6-second duration to begin casting again.
/cancelaura dispersion
/cast Dispersion
I've also noticed during my numerous Nefarian encounters that Shadowfiends tend to meet untimely ends during this fight. Since there's not much use to most minor glyphs in general, I strongly recommend Glyph of Shadowfiend for any Blackwing raider.

Nefarian loot

There are a number of drops from Nefarian that will interest shadow priests, but let's face it -- none will ever be as important as the Helm of the Forlorn Conqueror. It's our tier 11 head token, redeemable for the Mercurial Hood, but you need to roll against paladins and warlocks to get it.

Beyond the tier token, Nefarian drops a one-handed spirit/mastery mace called Andoros, Fist of the Dragon King; he drops Shadowblaze Robes, a hit/mastery chest piece; the Mantle of Nefarius, a spirit/crit shoulder piece; and finally, the Shadow of Dread, a nice crit/mastery cloak.

Read: Raiding Blackwing Descent as a shadow priest, part 1
Read: Raiding Blackwing Descent as a shadow priest, part 2

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.

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