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Shifting Perspectives: Raiding early Blackwing Descent as a balance druid

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat , bear , restoration and balance druids. Triple moonkin! All across the sky! It can only mean one thing, that's right kiddies: It's raiding time. Strap on your big boy pants -- things are about to get serious. Seriously.

OMG, OMG, OMG it's here! Yay, I actually did something that I said I would do. This is such a drastic change for me that I think I'll write a whole article on how important this momumentous event is, instead of actually writing about boss tactics and annoying things like that. No? Not feeling it? I suppose I can go ahead with the normal plan, although I think the other idea was much better.

Raiding thus far has been rather hit-or-miss, in my opinion. Perhaps I'm jaded, but many of the encounters feel a tad ... simplistic, or at least far easier than they should be. Certain encounters, and especially the end encounters of all three raids this tier, are tough and fun, but the in-betweens seem a little weak at times -- but again, that's just me. For example, I spent more time wiping on the first boss of Grim Batol when it showed up as my first heroic ever than I did on Magmaw. Maybe that's just us; I don't know.

Whether or not you agree, raiding is about being prepared. We've covered gearing yourself up for raids to death, so let's get on with the second part of those preparations.

Magmaw

Magmaw is the test boss, in my mind. He's the check that you have to start with to determine whether or not your group is actually ready for raiding. In terms of healing, DPS, and tanking, he isn't a very harsh on anyone. There's no true enrage timer, damage isn't particularly bad, and tanks don't even really have to do much of anything. The fight does require good coordination though, which is why I love to start with Magmaw.

The basics Magmaw doesn't have too many abilities that you have to worry about. Here are the ins and outs to everything you'll be pitted against.
  • Pillar of Flame A target location is marked. After 4 seconds, a pillar of fire and rock explodes from the ground, dealing heavy damage to any player caught standing it in and throwing him up into the air. Also spawns Lava Parasites.
  • Lava Parasites Small creepy-crawlies that will swarm into your raid, leaping at targets and infecting them with Parasitic Infection. After 10 seconds, Parasitic Infection will cause additional parasites to spawn.
  • Mangle Not like the druid Mangle -- in fact, it's totally cooler than that. Magmaw will pick your tank up inside of its mouth (pinchers, maw thing) and chew on him for a bit.
  • Ignition Covers half of the room in nasty flame ooze. Generally, you don't want to stand in it, unless you enjoy burning to death.
  • Lava Spew A generic AoE ranged attack that will hit random group members.
Being ranged, your biggest concerns are going to be Pillar of Flame, Lava Parasites, and Ignition. The basic strategy that you want to follow is to have all of your ranged DPS and healers grouped up together. It's very important that everyone is grouped as close together as they possibly can. Having even one person just a little bit off to the side may cause others to get hit by Pillar of Flame, through no fault of their own.

Moving out of Pillar of Flame is the most important part of the encounter for ranged. Getting hit increases the damage that you take quite drastically -- not enough to strain the healers, although doing it repeatedly will OOM them rather fast -- but the larger issue is that it puts you in a very bad position. If you get hit by Pillar, you'll be thrown into the air and land smack in the middle of all the parasites. Do not do anything. Run as fast as you can to the rest of the group. The parasites do have an aggro table, and they shouldn't jump you right away if you aren't on it.

Dealing with the parasites. There are a few ways in which you can deal with parasites. Here are your best options:
  • If you have the time, plant Wild Mushroom on top of the group before moving, then explode them once you reach the other side. After the patch comes out, you should be dropping mushrooms while moving to the other side.
  • Having Fungal Growth is decently useful for the slow, but it isn't important if you have a shaman or a hunter.
  • Use Typhoon to knock the parasites back if they manage to get too close to the group.
  • Run around your new group area tab-targeting the parasites and spamming Moonfire.
Here are a few things that you should avoid doing:
  • Do not use Hurricane! The damage is terrible and it will eat your mana like crazy.
  • Avoid using Starfall. I know, don't Starfall during AoE? Are you crazy? Well, yes, I am -- but not in this case. Starfall does help kill the parasites quickly. You should be able to kill the parasites without Starfall, however, so the contribution that it makes isn't that grand. You get a better use out of Starfall in saving it for when Magmaw's head is exposed.
Killing Magmaw Most of your damage to Magmaw is going to happen after he's chained down by the melee. During the other parts of the encounter, you'll usually be dealing with parasites. Here are a few a few additional tips.
  • Try and use Force of Nature just before Magmaw is actually chained; this saves you from using the GCD while his head is exposed.
  • DoT Magmaw before his head becomes exposed; they keep ticking on him.
  • Try and not "waste" an Eclipse before Magmaw's head becomes exposed. If you just gained an Eclipse proc and he's going to be chained in a few seconds, toss out mushrooms under where he lands instead. This saves the damage boost from Eclipse and Nature's Grace.
Omnitron Defense System

I have to say, random golems off to the side of a gate a defense system does not make. I mean, seriously, why doesn't the group just bypass these guys entirely? And where's Brann when you need him? I mean, he just randomly shows up every other time there are crazy golems and locked doors to be had -- why not this time? He's so unreliable, I swear.

Basics The "defense system" is actually just a series of four different golems that each have two different abilities and a defense shield that they use at set intervals within the encounter. 'Tron System requires more coordination and communication than Magmaw does, which is why if your raid is having trouble understanding "get out of the Pillar," it may be a good idea to work on that nasty worm first.

While there are four golems, only two of them will be active at any given time. A golem becomes active once it reaches 100 energy, puts up a shield that you need to avoid attacking at around 45 energy, and then deactivates at 0 energy. Which golem is up first or is coming next changes, so there isn't a particular order you can set yourself on. This is why communication is important.

Toxitron puts down a poison cloud; don't stand in it, but do stand him in it. His other ability is to send out little poison bombs that need to be kited and killed. Try to avoid using AoE abilities, as the bombs do explode upon death and you don't want to gib melee. Multi-DoTing is a great tool for dealing with them, but be careful not to target the shielded golem.

Electron is similarly simple. Spread out to avoid being hit by Electrical Discharge, and spread out from the person with Lightning Conductor.

Arcanotron will hit random raid members with Arcane Annihilator, but it should be interrupted. His other ability is to throw down a swirly vortex that increases damage and provides mana regeneration. Provided that there's no reason to spread out, everyone who can should stack in these. If Electron is out, default the pools to the healers instead, unless mana is a non-issue for them. If your healers are running out of mana, the regeneration effect will outweigh the DPS increase of one or two DPSers standing in the pool.

Magmatron is the token fire guy. (You know, every group of bosses has to have a fire guy, or they just aren't cool.) Have the raid stack up as best you can when he's out; it provides for group healing for Incineration Security Measure. Have the group member targeted by Flamethrower move out to the side where he won't hit anyone else.

DPS tips There isn't really that much fancy work that you can do to help cheese your DPS for this encounter other than getting in pools quickly. Here are the few things that you can do, though:
  • Be careful when using Starfall. It will proc the shield. Try using Glyph of Focus to limit the range, and be wary of your positioning.
  • Try to DoT the golem just before the shield goes up and you switch targets. Applying new DoTs will proc the shield, but existing DoTs will not.
  • If you get a target switch while Force of Nature is out, remember to switch their target too.

Atramedes

Wow, raiders have officially sunk to a new low. We've killed a lot of the big bad guys over the years. You know, like Kael'thas, Illidan, Lich King, Yogg-Saron, C'thun -- evil dudes with immense power and plans for world domination or some such. After all that, what do we have left? Oh, you know, we're just going to go beat up a blind dragon and take his lunch money. Hey! Malygos was cake -- this should be like taking candy from ... well, a freakin' blind dragon. You disappoint me.

The basics After you're done patting yourself on the back for discovering Nerfarian's gimped science experiment, you'd probably want to know how the dragon intends to fight back against you, yeah?
  • Modulation Sends out a pulse that damages all raid members and increases their sound by 7. Does more damage the more sound you have.
  • Sonar Pulse Little swirlies that are set free after Modulation. They float towards a random raid member's previous location and increase sound by 7 for every second they touch you.
  • Sonic Breath Targets a random raid member and, well, is a giant sonic beam that comes out of the dragon's mouth. You run from it; otherwise, it hurts you and increases sound!
  • Searing Flame Pretty much just eats you alive. Gives a debuff that increases fire damage taken and will kill you. Interrupt it by ringing one of the gongs around the side of the room.

Every so often, Atramedes will take off into the air and do three things.
  • Sonic Breath Again targets a random target and follows them around until they die -- or you can save them by ringing one of the gongs around the side of the room. Atramedes will then follow whoever hit the gong with Sonic Breath.
  • Roaring Flames Random flames that are spit around the room. They hurt, like most fire does, and increase your sound, so don't stand in them.
  • Sonar Pulse Little marked areas on the ground that get bombed by Atramedes. Standing in one and getting hit increases your sound and hurts you -- just like everything else -- so avoid them!

The fight itself is fairly simple. Each ground phase lasts around 80 seconds and follows a fairly set pattern of abilities. He will Sonic Breath, Searing Flame, Sonic Breath, and then air phase. Modulation will occur between each of those, with there being around two between each ability.

Positioning There are lots of variants on positioning for this encounter. My guild has had the most success having the ranged stacked together with the dragon in the middle and the melee on the opposite side. We do this so that every raid member can always see where every Sonar Pulse is going and so that only a single person needs to run out for Sonic Breath. We have the Sonic Breath person run clockwise -- counter-clockwise for melee -- around the dragon.

During air phases, everyone spreads out as much as possible and avoids all the bad crap that gets thrown out along the ground (and believe me, there is quite a lot of it). If there is too much fire in our starting position after an air phase, then ranged and melee will switch sides. We keep each side marked red or blue and call out where we are going as the dragon lands.

DPSing I will say this plainly: Following the above strategy and following what comes next will not get you a world-top DPS ranking, but your personal DPS in comparison to the rest of your raid's is going to be excellent -- it's the only time I've beaten our survival hunter. Due to the group's being stacked, you run into the issue of having to move ... often. You will be moving almost nonstop to avoid Sonar Pulse. This is how our other balance druid and myself deal with that:
  • Get Solar Eclipse as quickly as you can.
  • Spam Sunfire while keeping up Insect Swarm.
  • Use Starfall on cooldown.
  • During Bloodlust, switch to a standard rotation, but try and end back in Solar if the boss is not going to be dead or close to it.
Spamming Sunfire? Yes, spamming Sunfire. Lunar Shower affords Sunfire rather amazing levels of DPS; it isn't nearly as high as a standard rotation, but with the frequent movement, you just can't follow the normal rotation. If you watch various videos on the encounter, you can see that there are other ways to position the raid, and using those does not support Sunfire spamming and yields higher DPS. However, those too have some drawbacks. Sonar Pulse is much more random in where they go, and Sonic Breath is harder to kite while avoiding people. Plus, group healing on the ranged is more difficult.

Once you have the encounter down, I would go with spreading out and a normal rotation. For learning it, staying grouped up and going with Sunfire spam is easier on your healers. For a balance druid, this DPS rotation isn't that terrible; you can still easily break 16,000-17,000 DPS, which is plenty good.

Make sure to tune in next week for the second installment of our epic adventure in Blackwing Descent!
Every week, Shifting Perspectives: Balance treks across Azeroth in pursuit of druidic truth, beauty and insight ... from a moonkin's perspective. We'll help you level your brand new balance druid, analyze balance racials and abilities, and walk you through PvP as a balance druid.

Filed under: Druid, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives

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