It's a very special occasion on Spiritual Guidance today; spring has come, which means for the first time in months, you get to read about priest healing while simultaneously anticipating that the weather is going to be nice soon. What? That isn't exciting? Okay, fine, whatever ... I tried. I'm just going to go use the last of my Blossoming Branches on Fox right before the tank pulls so I can screw up his DPS rotation then. No! Okay, seriously, today on Spiritual Guidance we'll be finishing up Blackwing Descent with the last two bosses in the raid instance, Maloriak and Nefarian.
As you know, we've been steadily working through all the tier 11 raid bosses and examining how to heal for them as a holy or discipline priest. After you've read this, you'll be able to heal your raid to victory and finally stop dealing with that damn elevator.
Maloriak is the token mad scientist boss for tier 11 whose main gimmick revolves around his alchemical cauldron. There are two phases to the fight. During phase 1, Maloriak will throw different-colored potions into his cauldron to create a different set of conditions that your raid will have to deal with. If you want to know more about the encounter, check out WoW Insider's Guide to Maloriak.
For healers, Maloriak is relatively simple encounter in comparison to the fights we discussed in previous weeks. The easiest way to examine the fight as a healer is break down the encounter by phases. Before I do that, though, I should point out that I won't talk too much about tank healing because tank damage is never anything to worry about on this fight, though it does require some attention. Depending on your raid size, you'll either want a dedicated healer for each tank or want every healer to be responsible for providing the tanks with heals. The off tank, in general, is going to be the more difficult to heal, since he will be moving more frequently.
Red phase When Maloriak initiates a red phase, your entire raid will stack up in one location to deal with Scorching Blast. Scorching Blast is one of those abilities that distributes a massive amount of total damage over multiple targets. The more targets it hits, the more manageable the damage will be per target, so it's ideal for your entire raid to get in one location and split the damage across everyone. The amount of damage Scorching Blast does is huge, though, even when split across your raid, so your focus in red phase is going to be preparing and recovering from each Scorching Blast.
Before a Scorching Blast, disc priests may want to use Power Word: Shield on as many targets as your mana can comfortably handle. Disc priests can also use Power Word: Barrier just before a Scorching Blast, though when Maloriak uses the ability is never precise, so it takes a bit of practice to find the right time to use the ability. Holy priests can try putting down pre-HoTs, but I found a well-timed Prayer of Healing is much more effective before the blast. Again, getting the timing right will take some practice. After the blast, both priests can clean up with Prayer of Healing and their tree-specific spells (Circle of Healing, Penance).
Holy Word: Sanctuary is usually overkill because of the mana cost, but there are times when it can be useful, particularly if you're short a raid cooldown. Most raid teams will try to use something like Power Word: Barrier, Anti-Magic Zone, or Aura Mastery before each blast, but since it's possible to get up to three Scorching Blasts per red phase, 10-man raids may sometimes have trouble coming up with that third raid cooldown. In those cases, placing a preemptive Holy Word: Sanctuary can be helpful -- even if it doesn't soften the blow of Scorching Blast -- by topping off any stragglers and helping to heal up everyone before the next phase.
Blue phase In this phase, your raid will spread out in order to prevent doubling up Flash Freeze, a chaining ice block ability. As long as players are spread out and the ranged DPSers are on top of breaking out the frozen target, you'll only need to worry about healing the initial damage. Penance, Holy Word: Serenity, and any fast, single-target spell will work just fine. (I've seen priests use Leap of Faith to pull targets out of the ice block, but I'm pretty sure this is superficial and DPS still have to kill the block to save the target. That said, I've never actually seen a player die to Flash Freeze, so I'm not sure. Anyone know?)
You'll also need to do a little bit of raid healing on the melee when Biting Chill goes out. Biting Chill is an ability that will target one melee player, and anyone close to that target will take damage as long as they're stacked on top of one another. The Biting Chill target will run out to a designated location to reduce the damage the other melee takes, but you can still expect everyone to take a bit of damage. Make sure your groups are sorted so that melee players and tanks are all in the same group, and you'll be able to easily deal with this damage using Prayer of Healing. If you're in a 25-man raid (and thus more likely to be out of range of certain players), holy priests should place a Lightwell in the area to which the Biting Chill target is moving.
Green phase As long as your tanks and DPS are on top of things, you'll only need to worry about healing your main tank and off tank. Everyone will take increased damage in this phase, but only your tanks should be getting attacked, and it's not that strenuous when all your healers are focused on one target. Thus, this is a good phase to restore mana, and if you're a disc priest, you can do some saucy Smite Atonement healing since Maloriak is also taking increased damage.
Phase 2 This phase is chaotic but not complex at all to heal. Just spam raid and single-target healing and play whack-a-mole on your raid frames. Try to watch out for players who are standing in imminent danger, and if you can, life grip them to safety. Imminent danger can take the form of standing in front of the boss (in danger of Magma Jets), standing too close to the off tank or Prime Subjects (taunt-immune adds), or standing too close to an Absolute Zero frost orb. (Tip: Turning off projected textures in your graphics settings makes it much easier to see Absolute Zero.) Most imminent danger can't be healed through, so just heal whoever is alive, since they'll be taking unavoidable damage from Acid Nova.
Discipline or holy? Honestly, both healing specs are completely appropriate for healing Maloriak. Discipline's cooldowns are especially ideal for the red phase, but holy's Circle of Healing is good for the pandemonium in phase 2. Go with whatever you're comfortable with or with what your raid needs.
At long last! You've finally made it to the last boss of Blackwing Descent, the black dragon Nefarian. This encounter will surely challenge your healing abilities more than any other before it ... right? Yeah, no, it won't. For some reason I can't figure, Nefarian is the most underwhelming final raid boss I've ever encountered. Now mind you, there is still healing to be done -- but for a last boss, there just isn't a lot of complexity or urgency for healers. The fight consists of many small windows of time when you'll need to heal hard, then many larger windows when you can take your time with the damage that is dealt. Before I go over them, make sure you know the basics of the fight by checking out WoW Insider's Guide to Nefarian.
Phase 1 During the first phase of this encounter, both Nefarian and his mangled zombie sister Onyxia plus the Animated Bone Warrior adds will be present in the arena. The additional mobs and double dragons shouldn't mean too much extra damage, though; once your tanks master picking up the dragons and adds and learn how to spread them apart to the right locations in the room, you'll have very minimal raid healing to attend to. In the learning phases, there will of course be a lot of damage on the raid, but your tanks will eventually sort that out and make it manageable.
In phase 1, you'll also experience Electrocute for the first time. Electrocute will occur when Nefarian reaches 90% and at every multiple of 10% after that (80%, 70%, etc.) Electrocute deals massive nature damage to the entire raid and is best dealt with by using some kind of raid cooldown. That means Power Word: Barrier is ideal again; if you're running holy, your fast and powerful raid healing is going to be useful (especially when you're close to the transition into the next phase).
It's important that you know when Electrocute is coming so you can properly dish out cooldowns or preemptive HoTs or shields. To do this, I recommend you set your focus frame on Nefarian and set your unit frames to display percentages instead of numbers. (To do that, go into the Interface menu in your game menu and make sure to check Display Percentages in the Status Text window.)
Phase 2 The next phase begins when Onyxia is dead and the room fills up with lava. Everyone needs to master getting out of the lava and onto the three platforms; to buy everyone more time, make sure all the players around your designated platform are topped off and (if you have time) have pre-shields or HoTs. The best thing you can do at this part of the fight to help healing is master how to get on the platform yourself; then you can spam heals on everyone else.
Once you're on the platform, this will be the most hectic part of the fight. Throughout the phase, Nefarian will hit your entire raid with Shadowflame Barrage; while not terribly hard to heal, it will keep you busy. What's hard about this phase is that between dealing with Shadow Barrage, you have to prepare for Electrocute. See, your ranged DPSers will still be busy doing their thing on Nefarian, which means you'll push through the 70% mark during this phase. Since everyone needs to be divided up on separate platforms, though (for interrupting Chromatic Prototype adds), you can't just have everyone pile under a single Power Word: Barrier.
To survive the phase, you'll need to get your fellow raiders to use their own defensive cooldowns for Electrocute and (if you're a holy priest) yell at them to click Lightwell. (Seriously, yell at them; remind them it's no different than using a Healthstone.)
Holy priests in general will have a much easier time dealing with the damage in this fight because of all your AoE healing capabilities, but be careful not to overdo it and go OOM. Holy Word: Sanctuary is still overkill, but you'll want to hang out in Chakra: Sanctuary stance regardless for the reduced cooldown on Circle of Healing. Make sure groups are set up for Prayer of Healing, and use Renew or Flash Heal when Prayer of Healing isn't ideal. Obviously (and I shouldn't have to say this), you'll want to keep Prayer of Mending going, as you would on any fight.
If you're a disc priest, you'll be able to use your barrier on your own platform, which will ease the damage from Electrocute, but you'll also have a harder time keeping up with the Shadowflame Barrage damage with Prayer of Healing as your only (good) AoE heal. You'll probably want to use a lot of shields and (obviously) Penance and Flash Heal. Don't forget Inner Focus and Power Infusion.
For both specs, this is a mana-intensive phase, so feel free to use a Mythical Mana Potion and your Shadowfiend on the Chromatic Prototype if you don't think you'll make it through without going OOM.
Phase 3 If you made it through phase 2, you're pretty much done with the difficult parts of the fight. Phase 3 is exactly like phase 1, except Onyxia is gone and has been replaced with a crawling ground fire called Shadowblaze that you just need to stay out of. You'll still have to deal with Electrocute at every 10%, but since your raid will be together, you can handle it the same way you did in phase 1.
The hardest part of phase 3 is actually just keeping heals on your off tank, who may occasionally move out of range during an Electrocute and require some extra topping off or cooldowns to survive the temporary loss of heals. Pain Suppression and Guardian Spirit are about on par for this task, so use whatever you've got and encourage the tank to communicate what he needs.
Discipline or holy? Nefarian is another one of those fights where you can go either way, depending on your tastes or raid needs. Power Word: Barrier is great for dealing with Crackle, but holy priests are great at cleaning up after it. Holy priests are fantastic for healing on the platforms in phase 2, but disc priest shields are also just as effective.
And now you're done! Enjoy your shiny loot, and I'll see you next week for the rest of Bastion of Twilight. As always, if you have any additional questions or contributions, hit the comments.
You may also be interested in reading Priest healing tactics for Omnotron Defense System and Magmaw and Healing Chimaeron and Atramedes as a priest.
Want more tips for carrying out your priestly duties as a disc or holy priest? Check out Spiritual Guidance: Discipline and Spiritual Guidance: Holy. Newcomers to the priest class will want to look into Discipline Priest 101 and Holy Priest 101. For getting your healing priests geared, check out the pre-raid gear guide and the Valor point and raid gear guide.