Blizzard has been bringing their A-game in Icecrown Citadel, with each new wing's difficulty greater than the last. The most recently released wing, The Crimson Halls, plays host to a quartet of vampiric elves who will push your raid to the limit. ICC has been gradually becoming less and less PUG friendly, with complex fights, tight DPS checks via innovative berserk timers, and about twenty different ways to die per encounter. Add in the fact that each end-wing boss has a limited number of attempts, and it's easy to see why raid leaders only want to bring the best of the best to their runs.
The two boss battles we find in the Crimson Halls are night and day when it comes to how a rogue should approach them. The first, an unconventional 'council fight', will have your thief senses tingling as danger comes from every angle while you move about the room. The second, a DPS race of highest order, will have you drooling over the huge numbers that appear on your screen as you assassinate yet another member of royalty: the Queen of the San'layn?
The Blood Prince Council
After you clear up some Team Edward members in the foyer of the Crimson Halls, you'll find yourself faced against the recently reanimated Blood Prince Council. I promise that will be the last Twilight joke this week, and I want you to know it took some restraint not to make any 'Half Blood Prince' references. We've seen these guys already in our tour through Northrend, defeating them each in turn.
Prince Keleseth, the caster of the group, was defeated easily in Utgarde Keep, making him one the first bosses we toppled on our way to 80. Prince Taldaram loves to vanish, bringing back memories of my favorite rogue boss, Moroes! We were able to knock him out in Ahn'Kahet; his giant glowing fire orbs were no match for our daggers. Finally, we kicked Prince Valanar's lifeless corpse out of the floating Scourge citadel of Naxxanar while cleansing the Borean Tundra.
These blood brothers have not forgotten our past deeds, and with their new-found power via the Darkfallen Orb, they're ready to repay the favor. One of the three princes will be 'empowered' by the Orb at a time, giving them bonus power and possession over the group health pool. Since the empowered prince is the only one with HP to speak of, you will be focusing on killing whichever prince happens to be empowered at the time. It moves semi-randomly between the princes, and making quick target swaps between the various bosses will be the key to victory. The empowered boss will have a lot of red beams emanating from their body, and it will be fairly obvious who you should be attacking.
While attacking Prince Valanar, he will summon Kinetic Bombs, which are basically New Years' Eve balls that will keep our caster friends occupied while the melee DPS do all the dirty work. The technique you're watching for is Shock Vortex, a swirly tornado that reminds me of a warrior Whirlwind'ing with the original Unstoppable Force. If you run into one, you'll take quite a bit of damage, and be thrown in another direction. This can result in tons of lost DPS time on the boss, so take special care to avoid these white, swirly effects on the ground. He'll summon these whether he's empowered or not, so watch for them any time you need to move around.
Prince Taldaram is back to his old tricks, throwing around beach balls full of fire. You'll want to avoid these if possible, but if you're the one targeted, only a Cloak of Shadows will save you from the hit. While he's empowered, these fire orbs will do far more damage, but they can be weakened via a Meteor-like effect: every person they hit absorbs a small portion of the fire damage, making the final blow significantly weaker. While attacking the empowered Taldaram, you can use Feint and then put yourself between the boss and the target (it will be called out in a warning) to absorb some of the damage while only taking half of what you should. Your friend on the receiving end will thank you!
The last prince, Keleseth, will be tanked by someone who's been busy collecting Dark Nuclei to absorb the Prince's powerful shadow blasts. If you're using a ranged tank or any other non-traditional tank on this boss, make sure that you give the tank Tricks of the Trade when attacking the empowered Keleseth. The tank will likely have low threat on the boss, and so Tricks will ensure the boss sticks to your chosen tank as all of the DPS move to attack it. You'll continue this rotation of attacking each boss in turn until they all fall down.
The original wielder of Quel'Delar and the current ruler of the Crimson Halls, the Blood-Queen is one of the bosses that share the limited attempt pool in ICC's upper floors. It's a very quick and fast-paced fight for a rogue, with a hard enrage timer of 5:20 that we're working to beat. Mathematically, it's impossible to kill her in this time without any outside influence. However, the Blood-Queen's own thirst for blood will be her downfall, as when she strikes out to drain a member of the raid of their red life juice, she also shares a bit of her power with them.
The bitten person will become incredibly strong, dealing double damage and healing themselves for 10% of the damage they deal. As a rogue, you can look forward to some nearly 20k DPS parses if you get this buff early enough. It's beneficial to give this buff to whoever is dealing the most damage, which makes rogues an obvious choice to receive it first. In addition, rogue won't see any mana issues prohibiting them from using their buff to the fullest potential, and we can Cloak of Shadows our way out of her 'fire' effect. Let's go over her abilities in detail.
The first, and the most obvious, is Swarming Shadows. This works exactly like Jaraxxus' Legion Flame: either Cloak it instantly or run like hell. Make sure you run away from the group, but stay in reach of your healers. There's a constant AoE damage pulse going around that will drop you quickly if you run out of their range. While you're bitten and attacking the boss, you'll be healing yourself quite a bit to compensate, and so this AoE will be less of a threat. You also cause 0 threat while bitten, which means you can go wild and not worry about pulling aggro at all. Be sure not to run by your tanks though, the Blood-Queen will kill you if you're too close!
The Blood-Queen can also link your mind with another player (or two), forcing you to run to each other to prevent certain death. You (and the other linked target/s) will be dealing damage to both yourselves and those around you. You can't Cloak this move, be sure to run to your designated meeting spot to clear the debuff. It's very similar to Yogg-Saron's Brain Link, if you're familiar with that encounter. We had the casters run towards the melee group to maximize their uptime, but your group may use a different strategy. Always keep your camera zoomed out enough to keep your eye on the meeting spot, which may be hard with all the huge 5 digit damage numbers splashed on your screen.
In addition to all of the awesome powers you receive while bitten, you also have the ability to spread the love to another player. After 60/75 seconds (based on difficulty level), you will go into a Frenzied Bloodthirst. During this phase, your action bar will be replaced with a big "Vampiric Bite" button that will allow you to bite a raid member, which will buff them with the same power you have, and will relieve your Bloodthirst for another 60-75 seconds. You'll have to do this a few times during the fight, so coordinate with your raid leader on who you should be biting, and when. You can use Sprint for this, to maximize your uptime on the boss. If you fail to bite someone before your Frenzied Bloodthirst expires, you are mind controlled by the boss and will probably wipe the raid in short order.
The boss also has an air phase, which is short and simply a "don't stand to close" AoE effect that will kill you if you're standing within 6 yards of a friendly player. The melee should scatter for this part, and wait for the boss to return to the ground before engaging. Use Tricks of the Trade when she's back down, as I observed threat issues when the other DPS started nuking her immediately. You'll be feared as she enters the air, so once you're back in control of your character, spread out. Try to save Cloak of Shadows for the Swarming Shadows move, it will give you the biggest DPS boost and highest chance of survival on this fight.
This encounter is a showcase for some amazing rogue DPS, and with a 100% damage boost, it's sure to be a DPS parse you'll remember forever. While there are a few times where you're not attacking the boss (biting someone else, the fear phase), for the most part this will be a straightforward tank and spank. It seems that Blizzard has implemented a few different tiers of DPS races in ICC: starting with Saurfang, Festergut continues the tradition, and Blood-Queen closes out the latest wing. I see it as a balancing act: ensuring that you gear and skill must be at a certain value before proceeding further into the citadel. Rogues must be ready to give their all, as our damage is vital to the success of the raid. It's the core mechanic behind rogue raid utility: we make the boss' HP go down faster than anyone else.