I hate this fight with a passion. I really hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate it. Words cannot express the frustration. We're talking keyboard smashing levels here. With regards to the other bosses I've participated in up to this point, this is the only encounter so far where I felt absolutely helpless and at a loss as to what to do. With more time on the other encounters, I'm confident that we would've been able to get those ones down.
But Saurfang? Not only did it feel like I was beating my head on a wall repeatedly, we weren't making much head way with the different tactics we were trying. It's like running up an escalator that's going down. Sure you feel like you're working and exerting effort, but you're not going anywhere fast.
In an effort to lighten the tone of today's patch 3.3 PTR impressions, I will list some facts that we discovered about Saurfang.
Just for fun, of course.
Gallery: Icecrown Citadel
Thankfully, there wasn't much in the way of trash to worry about. After the instance doors opened, we hit the teleporter and zoomed to one of the upper floors of the area. We had to wait about half an hour for the GMs to manually engage the start up script for us. While we were waiting, I was reading up on some of the expected Saurfang abilities and watching live streams of other groups that already had theirs turned on.
Fact: Saurfang is the reason we have Tuesday maintenance. If you thought Blizzard spent that time maintaining servers, you were wrong.
After 30 minutes, Muradin and his escorts showed up alongside us. We had some idea of what to expect. We knew he'd summon up some Blood Beasts and they would pursue us. We also knew that the minions would gradually increase Saurfang's damage by 1%. If Saurfang inflicts damage, he'd also gain that extra bit of damage. This is due to a Blood Link he has which results in Blood Power.
The rest of his abilities we weren't sure about. We didn't know when they'd kick on, when he'd use them. Time was growing short. We had 60 minutes to glean as much information as possible. A quick ready check was followed by a bear charge in the moment everyone was ready.
Fact: The bar above Saurfang's head isn't his health. It's his patience with you. (That one was from a reader who commented in the gunship impressions post).
Yep, today we managed to get ourselves the elusive druid tank and death knight tank (I think he was Blood). It's certainly one of the more challenging tanking duos I've had to heal. I didn't feel as if it was an impossible job though. I didn't have a warrior or paladin tank to compare with on this encounter. The other 2 resto shamans and myself had little difficulty keeping them alive.
I forgot about Blood Nova. I observed a red projectile hitting one of the players before it exploded outward to 3 others who had surrounded him. I was lucky enough not to get hit.
"Spread out. That Blood Nova's going to hit players close together!" I barked.
We were able to space ourselves out further and Blood Nova was mitigated. No brainer right? Another one of those fights where the raid has to spread out.
Fact: Saurfang once had diarrhea. Proof? Look in the middle of the map. It's called the Maelstrom.
We didn't last very long. The rate at which the Blood Beasts spawned overwhelmed us. We had tried AoEing them down. No such luck. It wasn't as effective as I had hoped. We wiped!
We found out why shortly thereafter. Turns out those Blood things have Thick Skin which reduces damage from AoE hits by 75%. That explains everything.
The decision was made to mark one and DPS them down individually before switching back to Saurfang. That idea seemed to work better. We were able to blow up them Blood Beasts. But we weren't making a whole lot of headway. We wiped again with Saurfang at a little over 85% after being in combat for a little over two minutes.
The raid was simply taking too much damage. Why? What changed from time zero to the 2 minute mark that resulted in extra damage? A quick consult of the death logs showed Mark of the Fallen Champion as the cause of death of multiple players. An educated guess was made where Mark of the Fallen Champion is applied after Blood Power reaches a certain point but we weren't sure. Now we know it is.
Fact: Saurfang has a deep breath. That's why Naxxramas moved from Eastern Plaguelands to Dragonblight.
A quick browse of the achievements also revealed something else. I've Gone and Made a Mess is an achievement where Saurfang has to be defeated before Mark of the Fallen Champion is applied three times. We inferred then that there must be no way to remove that debuff. Players would continue to take damage from this for the rest of the encounter.
In other words, we were on the clock as Saurfang has a soft enrage.
Either we kill him super fast before the raid gets overwhelmed with that Mark, or we slow down the rate at which he accumulates Blood Power. From what we knew, Blood Power is gained when he damages players or when his beasts hit us.
My eyes shot downward as I examined the raid again. We had 3 shamans and 1 hunter. I wondered if 3 Earthbind totems and a slowing trap would do the trick. We'd try to kite these guys around.
On our next attempt, we were able to control the beasts better. We had our second tank grab them and go for a run while the DPS would take them down. He did a great job weaving around the Earthbind totems allowing the adds to get destroyed without giving up too much.
But there was another problem. Saurfang wasn't dropping quick enough. Rather, it seemed like he was gaining health. There was one more thing I had forgotten about.
Fact: Saurfang visited Gnomregan on a diplomatic mission. He accidentally farted turning it into what it is today.
Rune of Blood. Saurfang not only destroys players, but he'll steal their health in the process. Is there anything this guy can't do?
This ability kicks in when he performs melee attacks on targets marked with Rune of Blood. A quick query showed that only the tank had this debuff. It seems to have a set duration that is refreshed. Looks like we'll have to use our second tank after all.
Our final attempt involved putting all of these elements into play. The off tank would taunt the Blood Beasts and kite them around. After every second Blood Beast wave, the tanks would switch. The tank on Saurfang would go for a jog while the Beast tank would attract Saurfang's attention.
Again, we were making some slight progress but not enough where it felt like everything clicked. I definitely wasn't feeling confident about it.
Post raid thoughts
This just occurred to me as I was writing up my experiences above. After going through the abilities again and doing some thinking, I can't help but wonder if we were going about it the wrong way.
There was one more buff that I missed called Scent of Blood. It reduces player movement speed by 80 but ramps up their damage by 300% for 10 seconds. It appears to kick in only when his Beasts smell blood.
But what specific abilities would cause blood to shed?
Yeah. I just realized it too.
Maybe we're not supposed to spread out. Not all of us at least.
My hypothesis is that Blood Nova is supposed to go off and explode. Allow it to hit as many nearby DPS as possible. When the Blood Beasts appear, they'll smell blood which should increase player DPS by 300%. That should be more than enough to counteract the 75% AoE damage reduction from Thick Skin. We'd have an easier time blowing through the Beasts and inflicting some serious pain on Saurfang too.
I'm not too sure about the exact specifics or the logistics behind it. But it's all I have now. I hope we'll get another crack at him again so I can try it out. The next important piece of information is determining how often Blood Nova goes off so we can time our positioning and how often the raid would have to collapse.
I wish this occurred to me sooner.
Patch 3.3 is the last major patch of Wrath of the Lich King. With the new Icecrown Citadel 5-man dungeons and 10/25-man raid arriving soon, patch 3.3 will deal the final blow to Arthas. WoW.com's Guide to Patch 3.3 will keep you updated with all the latest patch news.