In our previous installments (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), we've covered every fight in this tier of raiding except for two. Now it's time for the toughies: Al'Akir and Nefarian. Get your snack of choice ready, as it'll take your raid team several nights to get these bad boys down.
The basics This three-phase fight is RNG-heavy and frustrating as hell. Thankfully, the most frustrating part is at the beginning. In phase 1 (100%-80% boss HP), the raid will be spread around the platform to minimize the damage from his Lightning Strike. By itself, this wouldn't mean much; it's his other abilities that are lethal. First, he summons a line of tornadoes that rotate around him, and you have to move to the open spot in the line. Hitting a tornado usually kills you; you take lots of damage, and it spits you out on a different section of platform, usually just in time to chain Lightning Strike to someone.
Complicating the tornado-dodging is a Blizzard effect that leaves a slowing, damaging patch on the ground and periodic Wind Bursts that knock everyone back a good 20 yards. (If you're in melee range, Wind Burst will knock you just to the edge of the platform; otherwise, it'll knock you off. Being knocked off isn't terrible, as you'll get blown back on, but you can't control where you land. It's not uncommon to be blown back into a tornado.) So, yeah, DPS will suffer in the beginning; focus on dodging tornado lines.
Thankfully, our extra 30% movement speed plus our two on-use speed boosts (Dash and Stampeding Roar, plus Darkflight if you play worgen) give us some extra reaction time. If possible, try not to move too much side to side as you dodge, to keep proper spacing.
Once he hits 80% HP, phase 2 begins, which is much simpler. While the tornado lines stay, he stops using everything else, which lets your raid group up and makes dodging much easier. This phase is a DPS race; all toons will gradually take a stacking damage debuff called Acid Rain, which will eventually overcome your healers. The other wrinkle here is Stormlings; these adds do a bit of damage to nearby players -- but more importantly, debuff the boss with 10% damage taken when they die, which stacks. Most likely, your tank will pick these up, and after a few have spawned, ask for ranged DPS to kill them sequentially. You'll want to save your Berserk for later in phase 2 when the boss has several stacks of the debuff; same thing for Barkskin/SI when you have several stacks as well.
At 25% HP, phase 3 begins, and Malygo -- er, Al'Akir gets all pissy and shatters the platform. Thankfully, you magically learn how to fly, so it's no big deal. This phase is simple; just stay close to Al, and DPS and move with your raid out of Lightning Clouds. You'll either be starting at the top and moving down, or starting at the bottom and moving up. Either way, If you get hit with Lightning Rod, move away from your raid (sideways, not up or down) to avoid zaps.
The next level This fight is not kitty-friendly. Feral Charge does not work, so forget about using that to get back from Wind Blast. Also, the concept of "back" on Al'Akir is very odd/nonexistent, so you will likely be mostly Mangling instead of Shredding, depending on your raid's positioning. Consider swapping out the respective glyphs.
Counterbalancing that, phase 2 gives us the only time this tier that Stampeding Roar is actually useful. If a line of tornadoes is coming and the opening is all the way at the back of the platform, pop SR so the melee + tank can get around and back in faster -- not game-changing, but definitely a help. Tranquility is a judgment call; I'd recommend using it and taking the DPS hit, just make sure you're clear to stand still and channel before you start.
The basics Whee. This three-phase encounter demands an extreme amount of coordination from your raid, intense healing ability, and a good bit of personal skill as well.
First, before anything else, let's discuss the dreaded Crackle. Every time Nefarian loses 10% of his HP, he will Electrocute the raid, causing 110k Nature damage to everyone, before resists. Ouch. I highly highly recommend speccing into Perseverance and equipping the Mirror of Broken Images trinket. You'll want either the Mirror's resistance effect (preferably) or Barkskin up for each crackle. This will hurt DPS a bit, but as always, dead raiders do 0 DPS, so...
Anyway, at the beginning of the fight, the raid will only engage the resurrected Onyxia, who is essentially a time bomb. Her energy slowly charges and when full, explodes and wipes the raid unless she is killed (which also starts phase 2). Onyxia has the standard tail and breath attacks, so you'll want to DPS her from the side. However, she does occasionally do an electric discharge from her sides; when this attack is coming, you'll want to temporarily move to the tail.
Now, Nef will summon some skeleton adds a few seconds into the fight (handled by a kiter or an off-tank), then land and engage the raid himself. Most raids will have plenty of DPS to kill Onyxia fast; as such, your raid leader will split DPS between Onyxia and Nefarian to reduce Nef's health as low as possible before killing Onyxia. If you switch to Nefarian, just make sure you attack from the side as well.
Phase 2 is where things get tricky. As soon as Onyxia dies, Nefarian will fill the room with lava, spawn three Chromatic Prototypes (one per platform) who cast a nasty raid-wide AOE, and then fly around nuking the raid. Your raid leader will have assigned everyone a platform; get to your platform ASAP, and get ready to interrupt the Prototype on your platform when they begin to cast Blast Nova. (In 10-man, you can handle the interrupts by yourself; in 25-man, you'll need to alternate with someone else.)
Strategies differ here. Some raid leaders will have the ranged DPS lay down some extra damage on Nefarian now to make phase 3 shorter, while others will focus on killing the prototypes and ending phase 2 ASAP. This phase has the highest damage output, so if your RL does push Nef, than this is a great time to use SI for the crackle. Either way, once all the Prototypes are dead, the lava will recede, Nef will land, and phase 3 will start.
Phase 3 is pretty unspectacular for us. You'll simply nuke Nef as hard as you can from the side, while still mitigating crackle damage. The pressure in this phase will be on the off tank (who will have to kite the continually respawning adds) and the healers keeping the tanks alive. The room will gradually fill with fire from Nef's casts; it generally follows the adds and add tank, but stay away from it if it's near you.
The next level Phase 2 is, by far, the spot where most people struggle. The leap out of lava and onto the platform has to be done quickly and precisely, and it seems to give lots of people fits. (This would be the perfect spot for Feral Charge or Skull Bash, but sadly, the adds can't be charged for the first few seconds.) Basically, as phase 2 starts, you'll want to get near the platform (but not too close, or you'll get stuck at the bottom and die). Let the lava cover your head; once it's over, simply rise up by holding spacebar. Once you break the surface, you'll jump; simply tap forward to land on the platform. If you're still having problems, some people have reported turning off water collision in the WoW options or doing the swim in caster form to be helpful.
Once you're up on the platform itself, phase 2 is an excellent spot to use Tranquility to heal Crackle damage (if your raid does this). Just don't miss an interrupt. Finally, both Onyxia and Nefarian have the super-large hitbox like Valiona and Theralion. This will let you Feral Charge from melee range without moving, which will definitely help your DPS. Oh, and definitely be prepared to quickly brez a tank in phase 3. They die. Frequently.
Well, this concludes my feral strategy guides for this tier. Sadly, this also concludes my columns for WoW Insider. As readers of my blog already know, I am a member of the U.S. military and will be deploying overseas soon after you read this. Thanks for all the feedback on the columns, and definitely keep my blog in your reader; I have some excellent guest writers who will continue to provide feral commentary, as well as an active forum. Best of luck to you all, and may none of your drops be sharded!
Looking for the latest and greatest in feral cat druid guides? Shifting Perspectives has the answers! Check out our cat 101 for Cataclysm. Also don't miss gearing your cat for Cataclysm raiding, addons for cat druids and raiding strats for feral cats.