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Shifting Perspectives: Heroic ICC for balance druids -- Plagueworks and Frostwing Halls

Every Friday, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting balance druids and those who group with them. This week, we are exploring two of the four wings in Heroic ICC. Be prepared to face some of the most challenging content the game has to offer, folks -- it only gets real from here on out.

Here we are -- it's another week and another great time at the office. Well, the office is merely an internet myth, but my room is comfortable enough as is; it even has a sweet "Life's a Beach" coffee mug and everything. Last week, we talked about the first two wings of heroic ICC, the Lower Spire and the Crimson Hall; this week, we'll continue with the next two wings. Unfortunately, I won't be able to cover heroic Lich King since, well, I haven't yet been able to complete the encounter, and I think it would be remiss of me to try and give out information on an encounter that I'm still working on. If you have any questions on the Lich King encounter, I'd be more than happy to talk shop about it, so just send an email or leave a comment and we can get to it; otherwise, it won't be something that's likely to appear in this article.

Last week, I forgot to issue a fair warning, and for that I do apologize. Everything that I discuss here is my opinion based upon how my guild has completed these encounters and the things that I have experienced while doing them. There are multiple ways to complete every encounter, and your guild may have a completely different strategy depending on group composition that works for you. This doesn't make either you or me any less wrong, just different. That's the beautiful thing about WoW; even in the rigid isolation of PvE encounters, there are always multiple methods to deal with every encounter or boss ability depending on the resources that a guild has available to them. I cannot promise that the methods I describe will work for your guild, but I will try and offer as many different options as I possible can and allow you to make the best choice for yourself.

Festergut

As with the original encounter, Festergut is predominately a pure DPS race encounter with very few mechanics involved, none of which really change in hard mode; everything just hits harder. The one new mechanic that is introduced into the encounter doesn't come from Festergut himself, but rather from Professor Putricide. In heroic mode, Professor Putricide will stand atop the balcony on the right side of the room and launch Malleable Goo on the raid. This has the same effect as during the Putricide encounter -- heavy amounts of damage and attack/casting speed reduced by 20 percent -- and it's imperative that you do not get hit by it. Not only could the damage outright kill a player, but the debuff is significantly going to hinder your DPS.

General tactics
  • While in normal mode it is common for healers to stand in melee to avoid being hit by Vile Gas, that isn't always the best plan for heroic. Malleable Goo targets a random raid member; the more people you have stacked in melee, the more likely they are to be targeted by the ability, meaning they will have to move more frequently. A more mobile healer such as a restoration druid is fine to keep in melee, but you may want to have your other healers stand out with the ranged DPS.
  • Avoiding goo is imperative. Keep in mind that the ability does have a travel time just as during the Professor Putricide encounter; thus, standing on the left side of the room will afford more time for a player to move out of the effect. Depending on your number of ranged/healers that you have standing out, you may want to create a half-circle around Festergut, going from behind him to in front of him, to allow players more time to avoid goo.
  • Getting a three-stack of Inoculated is also important. Pungent Blight will do 73,000 to 76,000 damage, so even with a two-stack of Inoculated, it's quite possible for a player to die, if not to Pungent Blight itself, then to the Gaseous Blight damage afterward.
  • As a random aside, I've noticed that most guilds usually kill Festergut and then kill Rotface; really, you want to go the other way around. Heroism/Bloodlust should be used at the start of the Rotface encounter and at the end of the Festergut encounter; killing Festergut first generally means that Heroism/Bloodlust isn't usable for the start of the Rotface encounter.
  • Be careful when grouping up for Gas Spores; it's very easy for a stack of players to cover up the Malleable Goo visual on the ground, especially when they're grouped around with a moonkin, given their large size.
What you can do
  • Maximizing DPS is essential for this encounter, so use every trick that you can in order to do so. Watch the timer for Vile Gas, and try to avoid using Starfall just before it goes out. Getting hit with Vile Gas while using Starfall will cause the spell to deal no damage.
  • As always, remember that Barkskin is your friend. Use it to reduce the damage on Pungent Blight and to mitigate the initial transition back into the higher raid damage levels of Gaseous Blight right after.
  • Try and maximize your time casting Wrath and Starfire as much as possible. If Malleable Goo or Gas Spores are about to come out, then wait a while before refreshing Moonfire or Insect Swarm, in case you have to move during either of these; also try and get a Typhoon or Gift of the Wild off while moving, if both of your DoTs are already ticking and you have to move.

Rotface

Rotface is the bane of many raider's existence, particularly in hard mode. The encounter relies heavily upon coordination and execution more so than a majority of encounters that you'll come across, which can be troublesome for an unprepared group. The encounter itself only has one major change in heroic: Professor Putricide will now stand up top of the encounter and cast Vile Gas upon random raid members. Vile Gas here operates exactly the same as it does with Festergut, so it's fairly important that all ranged players stay spread out around him.

General tactics
  • Although there is a minimum number of ranged players required to "soak" Vile Gas (three in 10-man and eight in 25-man), it is suggested that you place as many ranged players outside of melee as you possibly can. It is possible for the tank kiting the ooze to get hit by Vile Gas, and you want to minimize this possibility as much as possible.
  • Raid members need to be extremely cautious about using any form of aggro-dumping ability, particularly mages with Mirror Image. These abilities will remove threat from a small ooze and cause it to run rampant throughout the raid
  • Have your tank kiting the large ooze take out a vanity pet and mark that pet with a symbol not used by DBM, BigWigs or whichever boss mod your raid happens to use. This will prevent the mark from being overwritten and allow for players to spot the tank quicker. As far as DBM goes, it should now also provide you with an arrow pointing in the direction of the big ooze when you either have the infection or aggro on a small ooze; I'm not sure if other mods do this.
What you can do
  • Be cautious about using Starfall. There should be little risk that you will pull aggro on a small ooze, but it may be possible that you'll pull the big ooze off of the kiting tank; doing so generally results in bad times for all involved. Also pay attention to the cooldown of Vile Gas, to avoid it eating Starfall time.
  • Just as with Festergut, be mindful of any timers that might force you to move and wait a few seconds before refreshing Moonfire or Insect Swarm to maximize nuke time.
  • You can use Cat Dash in order to cross the room quickly to reach the large ooze, should they be far away from you.
Professor Putricide

The epitome of difficult encounters, Professor Putricide is perhaps the hardest fight you'll come across before tackling the Lich King himself. Heroic Putricide is almost a completely different encounter from what you might be used to with the normal mode. To start with, you will now have to contend with a new debuff called Unbound Plague. The plague lasts around 60 seconds, ramps up in damage the longer it stays on a target and cannot be cleansed; instead, it passes off to a new target via proximity. After losing Unbound Plague, you will get a new debuff called Plague Sickness that increases the damage of Unbound Plague by 250 percent to prevent ping-ponging the debuff between two people. Also, during phase transitions, Professor Putricide will no longer cast Tear Gas; instead, he will summon one of each ooze, which you need to take down quickly; in 25-man, Putricide will use a debuff on the raid that specifies which ooze a player is able to attack, as well. Finally, there are three Malleable Goos launched each time, instead of two, just to add more chaos into the mix.

General tactics
  • You should set up a ranged group in an isolated area to deal with Unbound Plague; usually, this group is placed either near the door or near the table. This group should consist of around eight players, though exactly how many you use depends on your group composition. Warlocks, shadow priests and balance druids are generally good choices to have stand in this group; hunters and elemental shaman work well, too. Mages are usually a poor choice -- their health is generally lower than other casters, they have fewer methods of reducing incoming damage (aside from Ice Block) and their use of Mirror Image can make passing the plague along difficult.
  • Avoid Malleable Goo at all costs. During phase 3, it is advised for all of the ranged players to group up on top of each other and move as a group for each goo. This adds more control to where goo will land and allows players to avoid it more easily.
  • You should generally avoid slowing the first Volatile Ooze that spawns, especially if you are able to push into phase 2 before the Putricide casts Unstable Experiment a second time. This will allow your Abomination to have enough energy to slow both oozes during the first phase transition.
  • Melee will have to assist in killing the Gas Cloud in order to kill it fast enough. As soon as a target is selected, all melee should run over and begin attacking immediately.
What you can do
  • Try and save Starfall for when an ooze spawns; during standard phases, this should be every other ooze. This will allow Starfall to hit both the ooze and Putricide, provided you keep them both in range, and allow the ooze to die faster.
  • Save Force of Nature for phase transitions and have them target the Volatile Ooze, even if it is not your target. The three treants will count as targets for spreading the damage when the ooze explodes.
  • You will be moving very frequently during the encounter, so try and make the most use of your time standing still as you can.
  • Try and thrown an Insect Swarm on each ooze that spawns. While it isn't the highest amount of damage, it will allow you to keep Idol of the Lunar Eclipse stacked up throughout the course of the encounter.
  • Although Unbound Plague should generally not be held for longer than 10 seconds, you can hold it for around 13 or 15 seconds if the DoT only have a little bit of time left over. Use Barkskin to mitigate the damage and you should live provided you can avoid outside sources of damage. You can also tweak your spec to pick up Survival Instinct to hold the plague a little bit longer.

Valithria Dreamwalker

Dreamwalker is a nice little break from some of the more challenging heroic encounters that you'll be faced with in ICC. The encounter itself isn't entirely a pushover, but with enough healing power and players good at keeping up their stacks, you shouldn't have any issues. The only real changes between heroic and normal are that players will now take nominal amounts of damage when they pick up a Nightmare Cloud, and the archmages' Frostbolt Volley will drain mana if it goes off.

General tactics
  • Healing-wise, the encounter is not really different in heroic mode; the same healing set-up used in normal should be sufficient. Far more important is for healers to keep up their stacks of Emerald Vigor.
  • Interrupting the archmages is very important, if not for the damage, then for the mana drain. A single rogue on each side should be enough to handle interrupts.
  • It should go without saying, but the raid should avoid as much damage as possible.
What you can do
  • If you have the mana to do so, then tossing out a few heals onto Valithria is always a good thing. Although you certainly won't be able to deal a significant amount of healing to her, it should be enough to counteract any accidental damage the dragon takes.
  • Typhoon is a great spell for this encounter. You can use it to slow down any suppressors rushing towards Valithria or to interrupt archmages, should no one else be able to do so.
Sindragosa

If you can manage to get past the terrible, terrible damage that her voice inflicts upon the entire raid, the encounter itself isn't all that difficult in comparison to the normal encounter. Differences between heroic and normal are fairly minor. Aside from the standard increase in damage -- which is of major concern because everything she does hits flippin' hard -- you'll find a change in Unchained Magic. When Instability, the debuff applied from casting any spell when debuffed with Unchained Magic, clears off by any means, it will explode upon the raid. Removing the debuff can occur by any means: Ice Block, Divine Shield or simply falling off.

General tactics
  • Avoid damage, avoid damage, avoid damage. I cannot stress that enough. You must avoid as much damage as you possibly can whenever you possibly can. Damage throughout this encounter is excessively high, and you must do everything that you possibly can in order to avoid that. In the simplest terms, cast absolutely nothing when afflicted with Unchained Magic. While it is possible to move out of range of the raid in order to explode, getting pulled in at the wrong time will cause you to wipe the raid without question.
  • You can get by using two tanks, but three tanks is generally a much safer option. Doing so allows more leeway in clearing out debuffs.
  • Avoiding Frost Bomb is imperative, as they are a one-shot, without question. Nothing will save you.
  • Ice Tombs only LoS Frost Bombs; they do not LoS other players or other Ice Tombs. You can target through them freely.

What you can do
  • Speaking of Frost Bombs, you will have to be exceptionally careful as a balance druid to avoid them. Although our hit box isn't any larger than other players, our model is, and it's fairly easy to clip yourself on an Ice Tomb and get caught up. Make sure to avoid this, as you can easily get hit even when you think you are safe because of small glitches.
  • Due to the high health of the Ice Tombs, many raids will use AoE abilities to take them down; Starfall is useful in that regard, if this is your strategy. If you do plan on using Starfall, use it early instead of later.
  • The room is flagged as being outdoors, so you are able to use Travel Form to escape from any situation you may find yourself in.
  • Barkskin counts as a spell cast. Do not use it while debuffed with Unchained Magic; do use it every chance you get, to mitigate as much damage as possible.
  • Try to only refresh Moonfire and Insect Swarm when you have to move during phase 3, which you should be doing rather frequently.

Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of truth, beauty and insight concerning the druid class. Sometimes it finds the latter, or something good enough for government work. Whether you're a bear, cat, moonkin, tree or stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny on druid changes in patch 3.3, a look at the disappearance of the bear tank and thoughts on why you should be playing the class (or why not).

Filed under: Druid, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives

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