Last week, we wrapped up Blackwing Descent with the demise of Atramedes and his progenitor, Nefarian. Now, with one front wrapped up, it's time to turn face and march into Cho'gall's fortress towering over the Twilight Highlands and wrap up another major staging ground for the threats of tier 11.
In this column, I'll give you the works on every boss: detailed descriptions of what each ability means to you as a tank, how to counter them, when to use your cooldowns for maximum effect, any pain points to watch out for, and how to maximize your kit to hit the ground running.
This is one of the first fights in a long time that gets easier the more tanks you add. Likewise, the onus for the success of your raid against Halfus will be left pretty squarely on the shoulders of your tanking corps.
When the fight starts, there will be three of five possible drakes available to be unleashed. Each gives a buff to the boss just by being conscious, while each will also debuff the boss when unlocked from their chains/cages. As each drake dies, moreover, Halfus will take a stacking debuff that increases damage received. These debuffs are the key to beating the enrage timer, especially for a raid group stepping into Bastion for the first few times.
Let's talk about the drakes and what each means to you:
Nether Scion If awake, it gives Halfus the Frenzied Assault buff; when unlocked, it debuffs the boss with Nether Blindness. Nominally, this drake increases the damage the boss will do to you, but that is heavily mitigated by its debuff.
Orphaned Emerald Whelps If awake, these give Halfus' Proto-Behemoth flying overhead the Scorching Breath ability; if unlocked, they debuff the Proto-Behemoth's raid damage with Atrophic Poison. These really are more of a concern for the healers, though you should use the breaths as an opportunity to weave glyphed Divine Protection and an equipped Mirror of Broken Images to mitigate the incoming magical damage.
Slate Dragon This is the most tank-centric of the five drakes. When awake, he gives Halfus the ability to use Malevolent Strikes, which is basically a mortal strike debuff. This necessitates a tank swap. Though, do note that using Divine Shield will purge these off you. Nonetheless, when unlocked, Halfus will be afflicted with Stone Touch and will periodically be stunned for 12 seconds.
Storm Rider When awake, this drake grants the Shadow Nova ability to the boss. If you're tanking Halfus, keep in mind you and some other lucky interrupt will need to alternate preventing that ability from going off. Also, don't tank Halfus by the edge, as hilarious as casting all the melee into an abyss would be. Anyway, when unlocked, it'll debuff Halfus with Cyclone Winds which basically makes Shadow Nova actually interruptable.
Time Warden When awake, this drake grants the Proto-Behemoth the ability to unleash a Fireball Barrage on the raid. When unlocked, it'll debuff the Proto-Behemoth with Time Dilation, making the fireballs much less infrequent. To frame this in tanking terms, you know what's a great way to be gibbed while tanking multiple drakes? Standing in one of the circles and getting hit by a fireball. Watch out!
Round 'em up and burn 'em down
The best way to handle the drakes, honestly, is just to release them all. The setup my raid usually uses is this: I'll tank two adjacent drakes, a second tank is on Halfus, and a third tank is on the third drake. Each tank unlocks a drake at pull or pulls Halfus, and the remaining one is unlocked by a hunter and immediately misdirected to its assignment.
Pile them all up in the middle, facing the drakes towards the door you came in from, while the raid is behind the mess and safely away from any breaths. Then, let the splash damage do a chunk of the work for you. Burn each drake down one by one, until only Halfus remains. The whelps (if up) can be generally ignored, since splash damage will slowly knock them off.
When you've got the pile engaged, I find it helps to generate initial -- and insurmountable -- threat on your assignment, and then target one of the whelps and start banging away with Hammer of the Righteous, spending Holy Power on Inquisition. Follow up with more HotRs, Consecration, Avenger's Shield -- any AOE you can throw at the group.
The reason you want to take the whelps is that because they are so low-level that your attacks' chances to miss or be dodged/parried are much lower. Once the whelps are dead (or if they weren't up that week), target a drake. Avoid targetting Halfus till last, since his raid boss, skull level will inflict painful miss rates on you.
If you find the damage intake is too much for the healers off the bat but you're well ahead of the enrage timer, you could always bring in a fourth tank (likely an off-spec DPSer) to tank a drake, thus reducing the amount of damage one of the tanks will be tanking. On the flip side of the coin, if you want to make things interesting, you can two-tank it (because Danger is your middle name, and so forth).
However, damage intake shouldn't be too rough with proper use of cooldowns. When the fight first starts, you might as well pop Guardian of Ancient Kings to remove the terror of those first few, deadly seconds. Follow up with Ardent Defender if things look especially hairy, while saving Divine Protection and Mirror of Broken Images for any magic damage spike moments (specifically if whelps are up and the Proto-Behemoth has those enhanced breaths). Also, not standing in the fireballs does wonders!
At 50%, Halfus will enter phase 2, so make sure all the drakes you intend to release are dead before then. From this point on, he'll periodically unleash a Furious Roar that will knock down the entire raid three times.
The part where this can introduce problems is if a barrage of fireballs is descending upon the raid in the middle of a Roar. However, anyone can successfully strafe out of a flaming circle before the payload is delivered, even when punctuated by three tumbles. Just hold down your strafe key until you're safely out of danger.
Also, if there's a Shadow Nova to interrupt, Furious Roar can faciliate one of those getting off. Make sure you have contingency plans for those moments, like a mage blinking through the last tick of the Roar and then counterspelling. You can also put Hand of Protection on someone so they can get an interrupt off, or even use Divine Shield to retain your footing.
Very shortly, the big guy will be reduced to 0%. All in all, the fight isn't terribly difficult. The hardest part of the whole thing is keeping all the abilities straight the first time you go in there.
Lastly, don't forget: There's an achievement for knocking all your melee DPSers into the chasm behind Halfus' veranda with a Shadow Nova.
Valiona and Theralion are a very low bandwidth fight for tanks. You're not doing much in the fight other than avoiding standing in bad and picking up/holding threat. It's much like Atramedes, in that sense.
To go over it briefly, there are two phases: one in which Valiona is on the ground and Theralion is in the air, and another with the reverse.
In the former, you'll be dealing with the Twilight Blasts being chucked randomly at people from Theralion above. The other mechanics of the phase, the rest of the raid will deal with, and you conveniently get to hang back and sip drinks with umbrellas in them while the plebes do the work. (This is how tanking should be.)
On transition, Theralion will cast Dazzling Destruction in random spots on the ground. Don't stand in the swirls, or you'll get transported to the Twilight Realm, which may be an issue when tanking.
When Theralion descends and Valiona launches off, you'll need to quickly pick him up and lay in enough threat to effectively hold him. Once settled, much like the previous phase, stay out of Fabulous Flames and pray that a caster won't nearly kill you using Engulfing Magic. Melee will likely be stacking on you to split the damage of the Twilight Meteorites, so be prepared for company.
Then, during the transition, avoid Valiona's three Deep Breaths, else you'll be transported into the Twilight Realm.
If you do ever find yourself stranded in the Twilight Realm accidentally, throw up Divine Shield and run for the closest portal to get yourself out of there as soon as possible. Don't make eye contact with anyone; lab boys tell me that'll wipe out time. Entirely. Forward and backward.
You'll go back to through the first phase and possibly again through the second. Rinse and repeat.
Ultimately, the fight is generally a breeze and should only serve as a speed bump between you and the closing bosses of the Bastion. I'll go into those baddies next week, as the difficulty level in Bastion ramps up. See you then!
The Light and How to Swing It tries to help paladins cope with the dark times brought by Cataclysm. Check out our protection 101 guide and our suggestions for protection paladin addons.