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And so it finally comes to an end -- or rather, a beginning. If you have been following my strange tangent, then you would already know that we have tackled Cho'gall and his devoted Council, leaving only the first two guardians left. In comparison to the end bosses, the first two encounters can be a bit hit or miss depending upon your raid composition. As always, certain encounters are easier in 10-man than 25-man, while some are actually more challenging in 10s.
Whichever raiding style you choose to run with, both are going to have a running head start in this instance -- they have you! Balance druids are a force to be reckoned with in PvE right now. There are very few niches that we cannot fill, and our utility is rather useful during this tier. So, let's show these beasties a good what for.
Read Balance druids vs. the Twilight Ascendant Council
Read Balance druids vs. Cho'gall
Halfus is perhaps the most interesting encounter of this tier, in my opinion. Week to week, which abilities that you will have to contend with changes due to only a limited number of adds being active. I call it "interesting," but perhaps the best term would be "annoying" or "cumbersome."
For a 25-man raiding guild, which abilities Halfus has active any given week is probably rather trivial; you should always have the proper spread of specs/classes on hand to deal with the changes. The same cannot be said for a 10-man group. One week, you may need vastly higher AoE damage than normal, or you may not have the right amount of interrupts. A "balanced" 10-man raid won't have any issues with Halfus, regardless, but the inherent flaw of 10-man raiding is that your group composition is rarely perfect.
Halfus himself only has one innate ability, which will be explained later; instead, all of his abilities come directly from which adds are active.
- Slate Dragon Grants Malevolent Strikes to Halfus. Once freed, he will occasionally stun Halfus via Stone Touch.
- Nether Scion Grants Frenzied Assault to Halfus. Once freed, he will use Nether Blindness on Halfus.
- Time Warden Grants Fireball Barrage to the Proto-Behemoth. Once freed, he will use Time Dilation to slow the fireballs.
- Orphaned Emerald Whelp Grants Scorching Breath to the Proto-Behemoth. Once freed, they will use Atrophic Poison on the Behemoth.
- Storm Rider Grants Shadow Nova to Halfus. Once freed, he will use Cyclone Winds on Halfus.
That is where problems can begin. In most combinations, you are going to have to start the encounter by activating two of the dragons. Time and Storm always need to be activated first -- so if you have both of them, then they need to be the two that you engage first.
When it comes to a choice between Slate and Nether, always choose Nether first. The debuff that Slate provides is only balanced against itself; it is theoretically supposed to remove the need to tank swap, or at least make tank swapping much easier. Frenzied Assault completely ruins that. Further, from the point of raw tank damage reduction, releasing Nether provides a higher benefit.
The Whelps are perhaps the weakest of all the dragons. In a Nether, Slate, Whelp situation, you would still want to release Nether and Whelps as your first two because the debuff from Slate really is just that inconsequential; in every other combination, you would release the Whelps third.
The dragon phase The difficulty of this encounter comes in two parts, the first being the pull itself. The first minute or so of the encounter is easily going to be the most challenging, because you are going to have to contend with Halfus plus two dragons and missing the third debuff. The start of the encounter is where you are going to be pushed to use any and all cooldowns that you have at your disposal, Bloodlust being the only optional choice.
Using cooldowns at the start of an encounter is nothing new to balance druids; you should always begin an encounter with Force of Nature and Starfall, anyway. Sadly, our other major cooldown -- and, yes, I do mean Tranquility -- isn't of much use even here. The majority of the damage is going to be focused on the tanks, which Tranquility simply won't do much to help. The damage is rather light all around, with Scorching Breath being the only real AoE danger, yet it is very easy to heal though even before the Whelps are brought into the fight.
Since you will likely have two dragons active at the start, which you kill first doesn't really matter. They all deal roughly the same damage, and none have any special abilities. Just pick a burn target and kill it off as quickly as you can. Once the first dragon is down, you move on to the second while also releasing the third dragon. (If healing is rough, you can wait until the second dragon is dead before releasing the third; the only combination that I wouldn't suggest waiting on is Storm, Time, and Nether -- Nether's debuff is very good in reducing Halfus' damage.)
- Keep your DoTs rolling on Halfus throughout the encounter as best you can. At the very least, apply DoTs once every Eclipse proc.
- Do not use Hurricane on the Whelps! Before the encounter, drop Wild Mushrooms where the Whelps will be tanked. Once engaged, DoT all of the Whelps and continue to spam Moonfire; detonate your Mushrooms at any time.
- Retarget your treants from Force of Nature onto your current target. This isn't just to get the dragon down faster, but the add is likely to have more debuffs on it to increase your treants' damage than Halfus.
- You can either position yourself between Halfus and the dragons to split Starfall's damage on them all, or you can move to where one or two targets will be out of Starfall's range to focus the damage on a single target.
- Halfus now only gets hit with Dragon's Vengeance once a dragon dies instead of when it is activated. If your DPS is slow, focus on the dragon's more to get the debuff up faster, thus increasing the damage done to Halfus.
- You do not have to use Bloodlust at the start, but you must use it before Halfus reaches 50%.
The Halfus phase Once you have at least two dragons dead, your raid should release the third dragon (if you haven't already) and focus on Halfus himself. Even though Dragon's Vengeance isn't applied until a dragon is killed now, it still takes more time to kill the third dragon than it would to just straight kill Halfus. The third dragon should be off-tanked for the rest of the encounter.
The encounter is rather straightforward from this point until you get Halfus down to 50%. At this point, Halfus will start to use Furious Roar approximately every 30 seconds or so. Furious Roar will stun and damage the raid three times throughout its duration. There are short, split-second gaps between each stun; however, you cannot do anything but move during this time frame. If Time is up, then you can use this time to move out of the fireballs targeting the ground -- and you probably should, since they hurt quite a lot.
Beyond that, there is nothing special at this point; just burn, baby, burn. For your second Force of Nature, which will probably come up during this phase, make sure you use it immediately following a Furious Roar and at no other time. If you use it later than that, your treants will lose DPS time to Furious Roar. Also watch the Furious Roar timer, and don't use Starfall when it is about to come up, since the spell won't fire while your are disabled (and really, that applies to any DPS-increasing cooldown that you have).
Valiona and Theralion
I have to cry a little bit on the inside every time that I reach this encounter. You see, Theralion is the victim of the hardest nerf that Blizzard has ever dished out to any boss thus far in the game. This change is so game-breaking for me that is simply isn't the same encounter any more. Theralion used to be so fabulous! Now he's so ... bleh. I cannot stand it.
My desire to totally take Theralion out on a spa date aside, we still have to kill him. Sad, I know, but it just wasn't meant to be, you know? For the encounter itself, you will only ever contend with a single dragon at a time; one will be on the ground munching faces, while the other will be in the air doing whatever it is that flying dragons are wont to do -- I'm thinking sky picnic, but I feel that I am going to be disappointed yet again.
Valiona I've been told that you can pick which dragon starts on the ground first -- so far as I'm concerned, that's a lie and slanderous -- but regardless of which is true, you want to start with Valiona first. She'll be the one on the right as you enter the room. Her ground phase is significantly easier to deal with than Theralion's.
- Blackout Group in a predetermined location -- my raid group uses the tail -- then dispel the debuff.
- Devouring Flame Ever done heroic Grim Batol? Oh, well, then you know this dragon, and you know what to do about the breath, right? Right!?
- Twilight Blast Hits random raid members and deals a small splash zone of damage; spread out to avoid additional damage.
- Dazzling Destruction Cast right before transitioning dragons; creates swirling pink vortexes on the ground that you need to run out of and avoid at all costs.
Side tracking back to Blackout: When you start to run in, Moonfire once, then start dropping Mushrooms. Once you reach the tail, explode your 'shrooms if you have three down and hard cast a single spell (unless it will break Eclipse), then start moving again; this should prevent Lunar Shower from dropping. Blackout should be gone at this point, so run back out while either spamming Moonfire or dropping Mushrooms. After you have relocated, don't explode your Mushrooms until you reach a Solar Eclipse; once you do, pop them at any time. If you are moving while in Eclipse, then you can forego Mushrooms and just spam Moonfire; if you have an Eclipsed Moonfire ticking and are not in Eclipse, then ignore Moonfire and only drop Mushrooms until your Eclipsed Moonfire drops.
When the phase is about to end, Theralion will cast Dazzling Destruction. At this point, move out of the giant pink swirlies on the ground and group up. In 10-man, you may need to have everyone group together, depending on your melee/ranged numbers; otherwise, ranged should group up together on the outer edge of the room and melee should group together on the boss.
Theralion He's super, thanks for asking. This phase is also super-fun -- if you equate fun to ridiculous amounts of raid damage and a chaotic mess of movement. Here's ability list time.
- Engulfing Magic Increases damage/healing done but causes the player to explode in an area around them for the same amount. It does proc off DoT ticks! Get out of the group if you have this.
- Twilight Meteorite A large meteor that targets a random raid member. The damage done is split between nearby players, so group up to avoid being one-shot.
- Fabulous Flames Targets a random raid member and breathes fabulous, pink-purple fire at them! Also leaves behind an area of flames; move out of this.
- Deep Breath Valiona flys past one-third of the room and covers it in flames. Call out the location and move from it.
The real danger comes from Engulfing Magic. Any player hit by it will start to explode for any damage or healing that they do, including DoT ticks. You can probably see where this is going; we've got two pretty nasty DoTs that will be ticking on two targets at once, which is a lot of raid damage going out. Anyone hit by Engulfing Magic needs to move backwards immediately. Even if Fabulous Flames land at the same time -- which will happen frequently -- do not move with the group; move behind them. Moving backwards will get you out of flames, and more importantly, it will get you out of the group.
Once free of the group, unleash the beast within! Seriously, though, use any and all cooldowns that you have up, sans Force of Nature. Always reapply your DoTs first so that they will benefit from the damage increase, then follow your standard rotation from there.
The kill These two phases keep repeating until the dragons die. A few additional tidbits:
- While Valiona is landing, you will usually get hit with another set of Engulf Magic and a Blackout. Those players with EM should remain outside the group while the rest stacks.
- The second time that Valiona takes off, she will often cast Blackout during Dazzling Destruction; be prepared for that, and split into your two groups after it is removed.
- Keep DoTs rolling on both dragons at all times. You can make two target macros for this if it helps, and most boss mods will provide health bars for them that you can click on to target them as well.
- Be crafty and drop Mushrooms any time you have to move while an Eclipsed Moonfire is ticking and Eclipse is no longer active. Exploding them does not take a GCD.
- Do not let people die. This is why 10-man can be so much harder than 25s. Every time someone dies, the overall raid damage increases, making it harder and harder to keep people alive. Never be afraid to save yourself with some healing if you are in a bad location.
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.