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Spiritual Guidance: Raiding Blackwing Descent as a shadow priest, part 1

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. On Wednesdays, the shadowier-than-thou Fox Van Allen takes over, trying to undo the damage caused by Dawn Moore's healing-oriented Monday edition.

I've been pleasantly surprised with raiding in Cataclysm. It's pretty well-balanced -- raids like Blackwing Descent have a good mix of bosses with varying levels of difficulty. The statistics speak for themselves: While about 94% of raiding guilds have downed Magmaw (or so says WoW Progress), only 20% have made it to and beat Nefarion. That's a pretty wide gap.

My discipline-oriented nemesis Dawn Moore has been spending her last few columns covering Blackwing Descent raiding strategies for Maloriak and Nefarion and for Chimaeron and Atramedes. All the while, you poor raiding shadow priests have been on your own while I laid out the law in Shadow 101. Well, no more -- it's time to talk raiding.

We have to start at the beginning, though -- and that means taking on Magmaw and Omnotron Defense System. (Hey, everyone needs a couple of easy wins now and then to build confidence, right?) They're pretty easy for experienced raiders, but for those just cutting their teeth on Cataclysm raiding, they can still pose a real challenge.

Over the next few weeks, we'll build our way up to the exceptionally challenging Nefarion and even dabble in some serious heroic mode strategies. For now, though it's time to smash some loot piñatas right in their ugly little (Mag)maws.

Magmaw

Poor Magmaw. Looks like she's spending another Saturday night at home alone, sitting in her warm lava bath, waiting for all the boys to call. Of course, they never will, because Magmaw has a nasty tendency to infect them with large numbers of parasites. Maybe it's for the best, though -- all those boys are going to want to do is impale and take advantage of her.

On the whole, Magmaw is a fairly easy fight for DPS members of the raid. It's a good entry-level fight for shadow priests, with only a few mechanics to master. The biggest challenge for shadow priests is smart mana management; the fight requires a lot of AoE, and that can cause you to burn through your mana fast. I recommend bringing a few Mythical Mana Potions along if you've never done the fight before, just in case they become absolutely necessary.

Key Magmaw abilities

Like any raid boss worth its salt, Magmaw has a large number of abilities meant to tax healers, tanks, and DPS members of the raid. For the purposes of this guide, we'll only discuss those abilities that a ranged DPS shadow priest will have to know about and contend with.
  • Magma Spit/Lava Spew Every few seconds, Magmaw will choose a small handful of targets to hit with his Magma Spit ability. Similarly, Magmaw has an AoE called Lava Spew. Both are fire-type damage attacks, and for our purposes, both of these attacks are unavoidable. You can, of course, nullify huge chunks of the damage by casting Power Word: Shield on yourself, but this tactic is less useful for Magmaw than on a number of other BWD fights. Ask yourself whether or not it's worth spending the mana first -- it's usually not.
  • Pillar of Flame When you see a gigantic circle of evil-looking red light up on the floor, you should already be smart enough to get the hell out of there. And that's exactly how you deal with Magmaw's Pillar of Flame ability. You have about 4 seconds or so to move once the void zone drops; if you don't, you'll take fire damage and get thrown into the air. More importantly, Lava Parasite adds will spawn on the area Pillar of Flame hits, and you don't want to be anywhere near them.
  • Lava Parasites As said, a significant number of Lava Parasite adds spawn on the area where Pillar of Flame hits. These adds can't be allowed to melee anyone in your raid; if they do, the target will take huge amounts of damage and even more Lava Parasites will spawn. Since there is such a large number of adds, you'll choose a parasite target and cast Mind Sear (all friendly targets will have vacated the area). Once the Lava Parasites are almost dead, you should attempt to single-target one and finish it with Shadow Word: Death. If you have Glyph of Spirit Tap, doing so will provide you with a much-needed burst of short-term mana regeneration.
  • Ignite Magmaw has another easily avoidable void zone-style attack, Ignition. From time to time, a large portion of the floor will light up with steam. Steam here is bad -- you don't take damage from it, but you will if you don't move out of the way in time. Simply switch to the other side of the room if your side gets targeted with Ignite.
Aside from these abilities that can target ranged DPS, Magmaw also has the nasty ability Mangle that he uses to pick up a tank and chew him to death. There's not much shadow priests can do about it, and we won't be targeted with it. It's still important to note, though, because shortly after Mangle, two players (usually melee DPS, but it can be anyone) will "mount" Magmaw and use a vehicle mechanic to impale his head on spike. Once his head is succesfully impaled, your raid will have a brief "bonus round"-like period in which Magmaw is unable to attack anyone and takes double damage. Obviously, this is a great time to burn avaiable cooldowns or use a Volcanic Potion, but more on that later.

Overall strategy for Magmaw

Thankfully, for ranged DPS, the Magmaw fight is rather easy to execute. Different raid leaders have different strategies, but for the most part, these strategies all tend to call for ranged DPS to stack on top of each other in one general location so they can benefit from AoE healing. You'll want to move when the area gets targeted with Pillar of Flame, and of course, you'll need to move to the other side of the room if you see the Ignition "steam" cover the floor you're standing on.

This fight will be a true test of your ability to manage your mana bar, as Mind Sear will eat up a lot of it. Personally, I prefer to send out my shadowfiend almost immediately after applying my DoTs to Magmaw, because I know I'll need the mana sooner rather than later. This usually means your shadowfiend won't be available for the first period in which Magmaw takes double damage, and if that's when your raid uses Heroism/Bloodlust, you'll lose out on a nice chunk of DPS. Still, on this fight, I feel that keeping a good mana store and being able to AoE adds is more important than topping the DPS charts. Of course, if either Dark Archangel or shadowfiend come off cooldown shortly before the start of the double damage phase, you should try to hold off the few seconds to maximize their benefit.

When the double damage phase begins, Magmaw will cleanse himself of all DoTs, so don't waste your time and mana refreshing Vampiric Touch or Devouring Plague while he's mangling the tank. In fact, this is a good time to cast Dispersion, because you don't want to be unable to cast during the double-damage or add-spawning phases.

Magmaw loot

Magmaw has a small handful of drops for shadow priests, the most noteworthy and valuable of which being Incineratus, a one-handed caster dagger with haste and mastery. He also drops the Crown of Burning Waters, a caster head piece with spirit and mastery, and the Flame Pillar Leggings, caster pants with hit and crit.

Omnotron Defense System

The second boss in Blackwing Descent (or first, really, though most PUG raids seem to go for the easier Magmaw kill first), the Omnotron Defense System is actually made up of four separate bosses that share a common health pool. When you start the fight, only one (random) member of the System will be active with 100 points worth of energy. That energy bar acts as a timer -- when it hits 50, a second construct will activate. At about 45 energy, the construct will put up a special construct-specific shield; at 25 energy, that shield will fall off. When the energy bar hits 0, the construct will go offline for a time and become unattackable. Rinse; repeat.

For the most part, you'll be taking on the Omnitron Defense System two members at a time. This can make for a frenzied, confusing, and fast-paced raid environment, but honestly, it looks and seems a lot more intimidating than it actually is. Let's break down the four individual bosses and their main abilities.

Toxitron Toxitron has two abilities of note (besides his shield). First, he throws down large poison clouds down on the floor -- these don't hurt you on their own, but will cause you to take double damage. Obviously, you don't want to be standing in that. Secondly, Toxitron will use an ability called Poison Protocol to spawn adds called Poison Bombs. Similar to the green slimes called forth by Professor Putricide in Icecrown, these adds are top-priority targets. They'll choose a random member of the raid to target (Fixate), and if they reach them, they'll explode, causing significant damage and a small poison void zone on the floor. If you're targeted by Fixate, run away from the Poison Bomb!

When Toxitron's energy bar hits ~45%, he casts Poison Soaked Shell. Attacking him with a spell at this time causes him to apply the Soaked In Poison debuff, which causes you to take small amounts of nature damage. It also causes you to deliver extra damage on your attacks, so a stack or two can really send your DPS into the stratosphere. Just be careful not to take on more debuffs than your healers can handle.

Electron Like Toxitron, Electron has two attacks you'll need to be aware of. The first, predictably, is a chain lightning attack called Electrical Discharge. Spread out to avoid chaining the damage if you can. Second, Electron has an AoE ability called Lightning Conductor. The target of the ability becomes something of a living bomb and needs to get away from other members of the raid lest they deal damage to them.

Electron's shield is called Unstable Shield, and if Electron takes too much damage while it's up and active, he'll send out a massive burst of damage to the raid. Be sure to use Mind Spike to cleanse your DoTs from Electron right before he casts it at ~45 energy.

Arcanotron Arcanotron is a shadow priest's best friend. For the most part, he has only one ability you need to note: Power Generator. It's like Toxitron's void zone, but it applies a damage buff rather than a debuff. The tank will need to move Arcanotron out of it; you'll want to move in it to benefit from 50% more damage and the huge amount of mana regen ... provided that Electron is not active at the time.

Arcanotron's shield is called Power Conversion. Once up, it increases Arcanotron's damage by 10% each time he's hit for damage. It can be removed almost instantly, preferably by a mage via Spellsteal. Failing that, though, any shadow priest can use Dispel Magic to get rid of it. Just be sure to cleanse all the stacks, should it be your responsibility.

Magmatron Fourth and finally, there's the fire-type boss Magmatron. Again, there are two abilities here to note. The first ability is called Flamethrower. Magmatron will acquire a target for Flamethrower, displaying a laser-like effect. That person is generally responsible for moving away from the raid, making sure the laser is pointed in the most harmless direction possible when it goes off. Obviously, if you see the laser, move away so you don't get caught up in Flamethrower damage.

Magmatron also does an AoE type attack called Incineration Security Measure. At this time, he shoots out fire in an "X" -- obviously, you want to move out of flames if you can to avoid taking extra damage. A little bit of self-awareness here can save your healers a lot of frustration, as can a self-cast of Power Word: Shield.

Magmatron's shield is called Barrier; it works much like Electron's. You'll definitely want to cast Mind Spike to cleanse your DoTs before it's cast at 45 energy.

Overall Omnotron strategy

As I said earlier, this is a pretty frenetic fight. It sounds like there's a lot to remember, but for the most part, it's a fight at involves not standing in stuff (except for Power Generator, of course). Strategy here is simple and intuitive:
  • Don't stand in poison clouds.
  • Don't stand in fire.
  • Don't stand in lasers.
  • Run from the ooze adds if you're targeted; DPS them down if you're not.
  • Spread out when Electron is active.

In general, you should start applying your DoTs when a construct comes online and make it a habit to cleanse your DoTs (using Mind Spike) when the construct's energy hits 45 and the shield goes live. Once the shield dissipates (either at 25 energy or via spellstealing/dispelling), it's once again safe to DPS the target. In this way, you can have DoTs active and rolling on two constructs at once, significantly increasing your damage output. Just keep an eye on the threat meters, and Fade if you accidentally pull aggro.

Aside from that, Disperse if you need to, and try to save Archangel for when you're in those lovely little Power Generator zones.

Omnotron Defense System loot

Like Magmaw, the combined members of Omnotron have three pieces of loot that will interest shadow priests. The first is Security Measure Alpha, an epic ring with spirit and crit. If you haven't gotten an epic belt yet, you'll likely find little competition for X-Tron Duct Tape, which also carries spirit and crit. Finally, Omnotron drops the Power Generator Hood, a really awesome-looking head piece. None of these really feel ideal, but if you're decked out in heroic-level blues, an upgrade is an upgrade.

So that's that -- the first two bosses of Blackwing Descent are down. We'll be back real soon to cover the rest of the Blackwing bosses, but in the meantime ... watch your step on that elevator. No, seriously.
Are you more interested in watching health bars go down than watching them bounce back up? Think it's neat to dissolve into a ball of pure shadow every few minutes? Hunger for the tangy flesh of gnomes? The darker, shadowy side of Spiritual Guidance has you covered (occasionally through the use of puppets).

Filed under: Priest, (Priest) Spiritual Guidance

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