Every Sunday, Chase Christian of The Light and How to Swing It invites you to discuss the finer side of the paladin class: the holy specialization. This week, we examine the most difficult encounter to date: defeating the fallen paladin Arthas.
Turalyon. Uther. Tirion. Paladins have a rich lineage of heroes in their lore, dating back for
The greatest threat on Azeroth was also once one of the powerful paladins in existence. Arthas Menethil was a member of the Knights of the Silver Hand, before losing himself in his crusade to stop the scourge plague from spreading. He gave up his humanity in a failed attempt to save the world, and ended up becoming the half of the entity known as the Lich King. Now, in our final effort to rid the world of the scourge blight, we must confront one of our former brothers, and put the Light's strength to the test against the unholy corruption of Frostmourne.
Atop the highest pinnacle of Icecrown Citadel, Arthas awaits us as we march towards the Frozen Throne. After conquering his lieutenants, his creations, and his enslaved, we've finally reached his lair. With one of the Light's greatest champions by our side (for about 60 seconds), we are tasked with defeating him in combat, and dismantling the scourge threat. While it may seem like a monumental task, the Light will always defeat darkness, and as holy paladins, we are the brightest beacons of light in the land.
The Lich King's first attack is an unholy Necrotic Plague that will easily kill any player afflicted with is. However, using Cleanse, we can turn his own magic against him. After the diseased player runs near one of Arthas' minions, use Cleanse to dispel the Necrotic Plague. It will jump to the nearest target, killing the Shambling Horror instead of an ally. Make sure you give the affected raid member ample time to reach the adds, as dispelling it early will cause it to jump to another raid member. The damage portion of the plague ticks every 5 seconds, so if you don't dispel before 5 seconds have expired, the player will die instantly. This part of the fight can be tricky: pay attention to whoever gets the disease and dispel them as quickly as they're in position.
If you've read my article on tank healing, you know my stance on Holy Shock: a GCD wasted. Infest completely reverses that diagnosis. Arthas will attack every raid member for several thousand damage, and they'll keep taking more damage from a persistent DoT until healed to above 90% of their life. A quick Holy Shock can instantly remove Infest from a player, and thus saves the player from taking any extra damage from Infest. While healing this encounter, I actually considered using the Glyph of Holy Shock, as Infest is a pretty big deal for healers if you don't have a priest present.
If a player ends up running away from the healers while Infested (this can happen during Phase 2), the stacking damage from Infest can build up quickly and ticks every second. Don't be shy with the Holy Lights, or else you'll find them face down in the dirt. You need to apply your maximum HPS ability to get them out of the hole and up to 90% life as soon as possible. At some point their incoming damage will be higher than FoL can handle, so HL first and just get Infest out of the way completely. If a player is taking several thousand damage per second from Infest, you can use LoH to save them or a Divine Favored Holy Light to ensure they get above 90% on your next heal. Don't take chances with Infest: heal it quickly with Holy Shock and use Holy Light if it doesn't get removed in short order.
While discipline priests can make short order of Infest via Power Word: Shield, holy paladins are probably the worst at handling the AoE spell. However, we do have one tool at our disposal that can prove quite useful. If we are running Shadow Resistance Aura, we can use Aura Mastery to negate a large portion of the initial Infest hit and also reduce the DoT damage for 6 seconds, which means less overall healing needed to get everyone back above 90%. I like to save Aura Mastery for a situation where one of our AoE healers may be out of position or grabbed by a Val'kyr, and use it then to help offset the healer who is out of commission.
Speaking of the Val'kyr, here's another moment for a holy paladin to shine. When the Lich King summons in his winged undead minions, we can use Holy Wrath to stop them all in their tracks the moment they hit the ground. This allows the DPS plenty of time to apply a slow to the adds, ensuring that they reach the edge as slowly as possible. We also have Hammer of Justice available to assist if one of the Val'kyr is nearing the edge, though HoJ is only up for every other wave of Val'kyr. Communicate with the rest of the DPS in your group to ensure that stuns are rotated properly on the adds.
The Lich King encounter also features another type of add: Raging Spirit clones of your raid members. He'll push you to the edge of the Frozen Throne via a pulsing damage aura called Remorseless Winter (which you can use Frost Resistance Aura mixed with Aura Mastery to dampen), and then begin spawning Raging Spirits. These will silence and damage any target they're facing, and this can cause problems as tanks can't use Taunt abilities while silenced. Be quick to dispel the magical debuff from the Raging Spirit tanks, as they'll need all the help they can get controlling the adds.
The Lich King will also shoot shadow damage at the raid during this phase, so avoid stacking up. You can use Aura Mastery and Shadow Resistance Aura to help out if your entire raid gets hit with the shadow damage at the same time. Aura Mastery is very valuable on this fight, as much of the damage is magical, so try to use it when it will make the biggest difference for your group.
Known amongst my raiders as the "tank killer," Soul Reaper is one of the most dangerous mechanics on this encounter that a healer will have to manage. Your tanks will be swapping Arthas back and forth to avoid death, similar to how tanks swap Saurfang when one gets the Rune of Blood debuff. Choose one tank to cast Beacon of Light on and heal the other, so that no matter who is tanking and who is debuffed, both will be healed. Once you see the Soul Reaper debuff appear, swap into pure Holy Light mode. The debuffed tank will take a ton of shadow damage, and Arthas will begin pounding the other tank with an extra 100% haste. This burst damage phase is completely telegraphed to you via the debuff, so pull out the big heals once it's been cast. Your mana will be stretched thin on this fight due to the sheer amount of healing necessary, so use any mana regeneration abilities any time you have them safely available.
Sometimes a tank may have to handle Soul Reaper by themselves, and that is obviously a very dangerous tactic. I told my tanks that if they had to eat a Soul Reaper while tanking the Lich King, they should always use a powerful tanking cooldown, or call out for one from me. I had Hand of Sacrifice, Divine Sacrifice, and Lay on Hands ready if they needed some assistance, and found myself using Hand of Sacrifice as often as possible to dampen some of the Soul Reaper shadow damage.
Yet another perfect opportunity to use Holy Shock on this encounter, Defile will keep you moving. As your raid pulsates like a jellyfish in motion, you'll be moving in to the center and out towards the edge all during phase 2 as the Lich King cycles his various abilities. If you or someone near you is targeted with Defile, be sure to move out of the way quickly. It can be difficult to keep up with healing while moving for Defile, so try to set up assignments so that nobody dies while you're running around dodging piles of black smoke. Any time you find yourself moving, try to cast a Holy Shock. There's usually plenty of healing to be done on this encounter, and if you're wasting all of your time moving, you'll be putting undue strain on the other healers to keep the raid alive.
The Lich King's last type of add comes in the form of kamikaze ghosts, similar to those on the Lady Deathwhisper encounter, that want to wipe your raid. These are even more deadly than the ghosts you've previously faced, as they explode and hit multiple targets for massive damage, and must be killed instead of disappearing if they don't make contact. As a holy paladin, you should essentially be standing still while everyone else runs away from you, as you need to stand still to heal through the massive damage your raid will be taking. Use Holy Light to get people back to full as quick as possible, or else they'll die if hit a second time. I like to save my Divine Shield + Divine Sacrifice combo for one of these phases, and as usual, Aura Mastery mixed with Shadow Resistance Aura can help as well.
Arthas' final trick involves killing a player by absorbing their soul into Frostmourne. You must quickly heal the affected player, or else they'll die prematurely. They're then transported into Frostmourne, where they must aid Terenas Menethil II in defeating the enemy spirit. As a healer, you should immediately begin casting big heals onto Terenas, as he does more damage when he has more life. Quickly use your Hammer of Justice or dispel Terenas when Soul Rip is cast onto him, or else Terenas will take massive damage. This is a great time to Divine Plea safely, and to melee the enemy for some extra mana from Seal of Wisdom. Consider this the only breather you'll get during the entire fight.
If the Light shines through you clearly enough, and with the focus necessary, you can make yourself a beacon that shines through the Lich King's corruption and evil. Lead the way for your raiders to defeat him, and aid them with a steady hand that removes all fear from their hearts. Arthas used to be one of us, and so it is our responsibility to make him answer for his crimes. The world is counting on you to conquer this evil, don't let them down.
The Light and How to Swing It (Holy Edition) is dedicated to helping holy paladins become the powerful healers that we're destined to be. If you're new to the paladin's healing ways, you can learn the ropes with our Holy 101 article. We also have information on how to keep a tank alive, or how to heal a raid when necessary. Tanking is a job, DPS is a craft, but healing is truly an art.