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Spiritual Guidance: Beth'tilac and proper shadow priest AOE

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. On Wednesdays, shadow priesting expert Fox Van Allen comes out to trap and inject his prey with sweet, warm, shadowy poison. Fox encourages all potential prey to follow him on Twitter.

When I was just a little Fox kit, my parents bought me a pretty bitchin' Fisher-Price castle playset at a garage sale. It had a little drawbridge, a prison, and even a trap door. It also had a dungeon to put a dragon in. It was the most awesome thing ever.

I used to play with it all the time down in our basement. One day, I had just reached my hand into the castle to grab one of the misshapen figurines when I felt a weird, hair-raising tingle. My hand had just collided with a spider web teeming with newly hatched spiderlings. I freaked the hell out and spent the next 10 minutes scrubbing my hand with soap.

Twenty years later, it's time for revenge. The second boss of the Firelands raid, Beth'tilac, is an ugly spider that spawns massive amounts of Spiderlings. This time, though, I've got a solid AOE strategy. I'm ready for them -- and you can be, too.

Beth'tilac has, essentially, two phases. The first is a messy clusterfuck featuring a constant swarm of three different types of spiders. The second is a one-on-one burn phase with the boss. Here, success depends entirely on AOE damage -- your ability to deal it in phase 1, and your ability to take it in phase 2.

Meet the spider family

Phase 1 begins when Beth'tilac is engaged in battle. She quickly scurries up to the top web, well out of range of your attacks, and begins to unleash swarms of adds in waves. The first wave is a set of Cinderweb Spinners, which descend on the party on strands from above. Shortly after, a group of Cinderweb Spiderlings will be sent out, and after that, a Cinderweb Drone. Each of the three spiders has a different set of abilities and movements.

Cinderweb Spinners are the spiders that descend on the raid from above on strands of fiery gossamer.
  • They target players at random with Burning Acid and won't fall to the ground unless a tank actively taunts them.
  • Once on the ground, it seems like Spinners can aggro you, but they deal low melee damage. Still, be ready to Fade -- pushback is a bitch, especially during those crucial Mind Sear channels.
  • If a Spinner is taunted to the ground, any player can use the Spinner's left behind gossamer to climb to the top web where Beth'tilac is. Unless you've been instructed to (and as a shadow priest, you won't be), don't click on the gossamer.
Cinderweb Drones are the larger, high-health adds (2 to 4 million HP) that help set the pace for phase 1. The key things to know about these guys:
  • They have a frontal cone attack that deals heavy (40,000-50,000) damage, but any good tank will be able to keep these faced away from you and the rest of the raid. Still, don't stand in front of them.
  • If a smaller Cinderweb Spiderling gets in range of a Drone, the Drone will eat it. This is a bad thing -- it gives the Drone the Consume buff, healing it and letting it deal more damage. So don't let them eat spiders.
  • They shoot out Burning Acid, too, which I mention only to highlight the high amount of atmospheric damage a shadow priest can take during this fight.
Cinderweb Spiderlings are best thought of as food for the other spiders.
  • They hatch in groups of five from set locations.
  • They live a terribly futile life, as they have an instinctual desire to head directly toward a Drone so they can be eaten. If a Drone is alive, they can't be aggroed; just AOE them down ASAP.
  • If these hatch when no Drone is available (as is the case when the fight starts), they can aggro. Typically, a tank is available to grab these, but be ready with a Fade just in case.
  • If Spiderlings are up when Beth'tilac descends for phase 2, she will eat them. That's bad news, as that's almost guaranteed to erase any damage inflicted on the boss for the entirity of phase 1. (Thankfully, a hotfix changed it such that Beth'tilac needs to be near a Spiderling to eat it -- a very logic-friendly change.)
Phase 1: A mess of spider adds

Generally, if you're a shadow priest on this fight, your top priority will be AOEing Spiderlings. After all, nothing is more important than guaranteeing that neither the Drone nor Beth'tilac heals.

You may find yourself being assigned to one of the specific Spiderling spawn points. If this is the case, you'll find yourself having to actively manage your range. You want to run toward the spawn point when they hatch so you can DPS immediately, but you don't want to run out of range of healers for an extended period of time. It's good practice to cast Power Word: Shield on yourself as you run into position; there's a lot of atmospheric damage for it to absorb.

Managing your AOE

Spiderlings are fairly low-health adds -- as low as 120,000 HP on the 10-man version. And since five of them spawn in a compact cluster at the same time, they make for a perfect Mind Sear AOE situation. That's not to say that you can just mash your Mind Sear key and be done with it, though. Proper AOE rotations require active management.

You need to remember, first and foremost, that Mind Sear damage is modified by Empowered Shadow. This is a very important fact for two reasons. First, having Empowered Shadow up means you can deal about 25% (depending on mastery) more damage to the Spiderlings and thus burn them down faster -- a key to keeping them from buffing their spider ... frienemies. Secondly, it means that killing each pack of Spiderlings requires fewer full Mind Sear channels, which saves on mana, another concern in any AOE-heavy fight.

The trick is that having Empowered Shadow up requires having Shadow Orbs available to consume. Mind Sear itself doesn't generate any, so you need to be generating these through other means before entering an AOE rotation. If you wait until Spiderlings spawn to start worrying about Shadow Orbs, it's much too late.

And that's where the Drones come in. In between AOEing groups of Spiderlings, you should be DPSing Drones. Now, maximizing your DPS on this fight obviously requires you to apply all your DOTs to them, but the most critical one is Shadow Word: Pain, as that's the DOT that has a chance to generate a Shadow Orb on every tick. If they're unavailable or too far out of range, you can tab target over to a nearby Cinderweb Spinner to inflict them with SW:P. If time is short and you're still without a Shadow Orb, Mind Flay instead.

Right before Spiderlings spawn, you should try to hit an available target with Mind Blast to consume your Orbs and proc Empowered Shadow. Once you do that and have Empowered Shadow up, immediately run towards the Spiderlings -- remember, the range on Mind Sear is 5 yards less than the range of your other spells -- and actively target the Spiderling that's closest to the middle of the pack of five. (If you target the closest one or the furthest away one, you won't be able to hit all of them with Mind Sear.) If the Spiderling you're targeting dies before the rest (a frequent occurrence), individually target the rest with Mind Flay. The movement speed reduction effect is very helpful here, plus the spell generates Shadow Orbs, to boot.

Lastly, don't be afraid to pop Dispersion if you have to between packs of Spiderlings. This is one fight where you don't want to be caught going out of mana. Be very cautious with using Shadow Word: Death to regen mana here; there's a lot of atmospheric damage flying around, and it's not uncommon to find yourself with low health.

Phase 2: The burn

After Beth'tilac has performed her Smoldering Devastation attack three times, she'll scuttle back to the ground to start phase 2. At this time, she'll start eating any available Spiderlings, so it's absolutely crucial to have these little gnats dead before that happens; one Spiderling is about all it takes to restore her to 100% health. Kill any other adds that happen to be up (stray Drones) after taking care of the Spiderlings.

Otherwise, as said earlier, phase 2 is all about getting Beth'tilac to zero before she gets you to zero. Once she's down on the ground, it's just you and her -- no more adds will spawn.

She'll be casting Ember Flare at regular intervals. While that's not deadly in and of itself, at the same time, she'll also be stacking The Widow's Kiss on your tank, which causes AOE fire damage to the raid. And if that's not enough, she'll also be gaining stacks of Frenzy, which raises her damage by 5%. All that damage can be a lot for healers to handle, especially toward the end of the fight.

Obviously, you're going to want to be DPSing Beth'tilac as hard as you can at this point. Still, with all this damage going out, you may find casting Power Word: Shield on yourself on cooldown very helpful. Further, if absolutely critical, remember your Divine Hymn cooldown is an option as well. If all goes well, you'll be rummaging through her corpse for some very sticky purples.

Phase 3: Rolling for loot

No one would want to take on Beth'tilac if she didn't drop some decent items. For shadow priests, though, that's sort of the case -- few shadow priests are going to want to waste precious DKP on the stuff she drops. Still, I guess she's got interesting stuff for all those other classes, so your shadowy ass is going to wind up tagging along. (At least she gives some valor points, amirite?)

Beth'tilac drops only two items of any interest to shadow priests:

  • Funeral Pyre is a two-handed caster staff with mastery, crit, and a red socket. That stat combination isn't the most appealing for us, but it's still going to be better for us than a random i359.
  • Robes of Smoldering Devastation is actually a decent chest piece in its own right. It's got a good chunk of haste and mastery, two solid stats for us. And though it does have a ugly-looking blue socket, the intellect bonus is compelling enough to merit filling it with a Purified Demonseye. The only problem here is that these robes aren't tier. The audience for this drop is very limited -- most shadow priests would much rather fill this slot with tier 12, or alternatively, much rather not break up their tier 11.

Read: Shadow Priest's guide to Shannox

Are you more interested in watching health bars go down than watching them bounce back up? We've got more for shadow priests, from Shadow Priest 101 to a list of every monster worth mind controlling and strategies for raiding Blackwing Descent.

Filed under: Priest, Raiding, (Priest) Spiritual Guidance, Cataclysm

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