Greetings again, raiders! If you have been following along thus far, then you know that we've pushed rather deep into Ragnaros' territory. Already, we've defeated the great hunter Shannox, the queen of spiders Beth'tilac, the vicious Lord Rhyolith, and the treacherous Alysrazor. With the first four of Ragnaros' supporters dead, we now focus on making our way into the heart of the Sulfuron Spire itself. Only one obstacle stands in our way: the Gatekeeper Baleroc.
Wielding his twin devastating swords, Baleroc is no pushover. This encounter will test the resolve of both your healers and your DPS as you race against a tight enrage timer while combating insurmountable tank damage. No joke --your tanks will be taking this in the millions on this encounter, so you'd better prepare yourselves, heroes. This journey is just getting started.
Baleroc is the quintessential Brutallus of Firelands. Large, mean, and tough, he'll face your raid down in his large, wide-open space. This encounter requires little movement from the entire raid and offers few tricks that have to be learned, as Alysrazor did. Instead, the vast majority of the encounter is all about raw output, be it healing or damage. While the fight is certainly healing-intensive, you will want to try to run with as few healers as possible. In 10-man, running with the standard three is probably best for most groups, but you may have to drop down to two if your DPS is lacking. In 25-man, you want to shoot for hovering around five to six healers for this encounter.
How many tanks you bring is a bit of a debate. Going in with only a single tank is certainly more than doable, but keep in mind that this is going to put a lot of additional strain on your healers and isn't for every raid group. Running with the standard two-tank set up is far more manageable for most raids and will be the strategy that we use today.
The pull itself is rather simple. Merely tank him where he stands and play everything off as with Patchwerk.
Baleroc doesn't have a large number of abilities, but when you're as good as he is, you don't need them. Aside from tanks, there will only be a single, rather minor mechanic that DPS will have to watch out for. Healers and tanks, on the other hand, will be sitting on their toes the entire time. Try to remember to rehydrate yourself from all the sweat you'll be losing.
- Blaze of Glory Empowers Baleroc's current target, increasing maximum health by 20% but also increasing physical damage taken by 20%.
- Incendiary Soul Every time Baleroc applies Blaze of Glory, he increases his fire damage done by 20%.
- Decimation Blade Baleroc's attacks inflict shadow damage equal to 90% of the target's maximum health, but always for 250,000 damage. This damage cannot be resisted or blocked by any means.
- Inferno Blade Baleroc's attack inflict massive amounts of fire damage instead of physical damage.
Shards of Torment
- Torment Inflicts stacking shadow damage to the nearest player. Stacks every second.
- Tormented Once Torment fades from a player, increases shadow damage taken by 250% and reduces healing done by 50%.
- Wave of Torment If no player is within 15 yards of the Shard of Torment, waves of shadow damage pulse over the entire raid every second.
- Vital Spark Casting a direct heal on a player inflicted by Torment grants a stack of Vital Spark for every three applications of Torment. Healing a player with Blaze of Glory triggers the Vital Flame effect.
- Vital Flame Increases healing done to players with Blaze of Glory by 5% per stack of Vital Spark. Lasts 15 seconds. All stacks of Vital Spark are returned after the effect fades.
Again, there isn't too much to deal with overall for this encounter.
First and foremost is tanking. Once more, solo tanking Baleroc is perfectly doable and actually one of the suggested methods for heroic mode; however, it is more stressful on your healers. Which path you choose to take is entirely up to you, but I would highly suggest starting off using the two-tank method, as it is much easier. Not only is healing less painful overall, but should the worse happen and a tank drops, having a spare handy who is actually capable of tanking Baleroc is a godsend. While planning for the worst isn't always the best method of tackling new content, tank deaths are common when first learning the encounter.
Going with two tanks, you need to set up which tank will tank what. One tank is solely responsible for handling Decimation Blade phases, while the other tank handles Baleroc for the rest of the battle. When it comes to Decimation Blade tanking, death knights actually shine. There is no method of reducing the damage that you will take, which means that the tank is going to rely exclusively on two things, avoidance and healing. Dodge is the only form of avoidance that matters in this situation, which favors feral druids, making them excellent choices as well. The downside of this can be that dodge can swing either for or against you.
The upside of having a death knight tank is that he can always fulfill the second portion of the role, healing. Death knights have rather spectacular self-healing abilities; in fact, it is one of their major forms of defense. This reactive method of mitigation really works in their favor at this point. Further, their Blood Shield can help soften the incoming blows, as it absorbs damage, not mitigates it.
Similarly, it is worth mentioning that there is a bit of a loophole in the coding mechanics here. A paladin's Ardent Defender is not technically a mitigation ability. While it reduces incoming damage by 20%, it technically absorbs that damage like a shield, rather than being a flat reduction as most similar effects are. This means that paladins are technically capable of reducing the damage of Decimation Blade, but they won't be able to do it every single time.
No matter what tanking class you use, there isn't really a wrong choice. Any tank is capable of doing it; there are just some advantages for some classes. Either way, taking these hits is that tank's primary purpose -- that and nothing else. Most tanks, however, aren't going to be running around with 250,000 health, especially when they want to stack as much dodge as humanly possible.
Your Decimation tank will start the encounter in order to stack Blaze of Glory. Once he reaches the point where he is only as slightly above 250,000 health as he can be, the primary tank should taunt and take over control from there. It's worth noting that while Baleroc's damage will constantly be scaling higher as the encounter goes on, it is really Inferno Blade that offers the highest risk of death. This is likely when you will want to use cooldowns.
Healing and DPS on Baleroc
The other major side of the encounter is how the healers and the DPS deal with the Shards of Torment. There will only be a single Shard in 10-man, while there are two (one in melee range and one at ranged) in 25-man. Each Shard will need to have two DPSers, and only two DPSers, assigned to tanking the damage. Similarly, each Shard will need three different groups due to the debuff timer on Tormented. In total, each Shard will need a minimum of five DPSers assigned to taking the damage. This makes splitting a little bit weird in 10-man unless you run with six DPS. Instead, every DPS will be apart of the rotation, which should be easy.
Each player should take 12 to 15 stacks of Torment before they pull off, given that Vital Spark only cares about stacks of three. Timing will be tricky, and don't think you will hit these marks exactly, but they're nice to aim for. A single Shard lasts for 25 seconds, so you are looking at a 13/12 split if you manage to hit it perfectly even. During this time, DPS should use any damage reduction cooldowns that they have, while healers should heal them with their fastest heals. It doesn't matter how much you heal them for; what matters is the number of times that you heal them.
Note: Shards of Torment ignore standard immunity effects such as Ice Block. Your pathetic magics won't save you this time!
A second note: Damage reductions, on the other hand, do work. If you happen to have one in your raid, having a shadow priest take the first Shard is the best course of action, as he can eat the entire duration. Once the priest reaches 20 stacks of Torment, he can use Dispersion to ride out the remaining five stacks without taking any significant damage. This will allow your healers to gain a high amount of stacks right at the start.
Further, healers should be set up on their own rotation, each assigned to heal a specific grouping of DPSers who are tanking Shards, having one healer assigned to each group at a minimum (although having some overlap isn't bad). This way, one healer is always stacking Vital Spark while another is always healing with Vital Flame. There will be some overlap in Shard healing in most setups, but that is perfectly fine.
Rotating Shards and Sparks is essentially the entire encounter. While the healing on the tanks is exceedingly intense, the primary issue that will hold back most guilds is going to be the strict enrage timer. Just as much as this is a healing stress test, it's a DPS race. In this encounter, throwing more healers at it is far and away not the solution. Throw more fireballs at his face instead.
Rock on, raiders, and tune in next week when we take down the villainous Majordomo Staghelm.
Ready Check shares all the strategies and inside information you need to take your raiding to the next level. Be sure to look up our strategy guides to Cataclysm's 5-man instances, and for more healer-centric advice, visit Raid Rx.