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Spiritual Guidance: A shadow priest's guide to Alysrazor

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. On Wednesdays, shadow priesting expert Fox Van Allen's steals all your feathers to become a soaring blur of purple. Fox encourages all potential prey to follow him on Twitter.

Last week, I talked about the gimmickry involved in the Lord Rhyolith fight. It's interesting and unique, but for us shadow priests, largely irrelevant. If only there were a fight with a super-cool gimmick that puts shadow priests on center stage and ...

... oh, wait, there totally is a fight like that: Alysrazor!

The fight against Alysrazor is absolutely hectic, but in a fun way. Shadow priests get a stacking haste buff that will have you frantically mashing keys to maximize your DPS. We get a crit buff that guarantees near 100% Shadowfiend uptime. And, oh yeah -- we friggin' fly through the air.

That's right, Alysrazor is all about the z-axis. It's time to go grab your Super Nintendo out of the attic, shadow priests, because it's about to get all Pilotwings up in here.

The fire-themed basics

Alysrazor is a spectacularly complex fight in terms of total number of mechanics. Thankfully for us shadow priests, we only need to worry about a small number of them.

For all intents and purposes, Alysrazor is a three-phase fight. In the first phase, we'll be flying through the air in perpetual chase of the boss, DPSing as we go. In the second phase, we'll be struggling to avoid a brutally damaging series of fire tornadoes, and in the third phase, we'll be using the buffs we gained during phases 1 and 2 to truly wreak havoc on Alysrazor's health bar.

Phase 1: Nyan spriest!

The Alysrazor fight starts with everyone in the raid taking some fire damage and getting knocked back. Shortly after this, the giant bird will descend from the sky, doing a sweep of the middle of the arena. It's a good opportunity to get off your opening salvo of DOTs.

During this initial sweep, Alysrazor will leave behind some of her feathers. If you're a shadow priest on this fight, it's almost a given that you'll be taking to the skies. Doing so simply requires you to grab feathers -- the first allows spells to be cast while moving and increases your movement speed by 30%; the second feather increases this speed to 60%; and the third gives you the Wings of Flame buff, sending you soaring through the air.

The air phase is a totally unique mechanic to this fight that brings back memories of Pilotwings and Starfox (in before Hay, Fox, do a barrel roll). While flying through the unfriendly skies, you have three goals. In order of importance, they are:
  • Fly through the rings of flame created by Alysrazor. Every few seconds, Alysrazor will spawn a ring of flame. Each one you fly through refreshes your Wings of Flame buff to 20 seconds and gives you another stack of the 40-second Blazing Power haste buff (which stacks to 25). Missing the occasional ring is fine, but if you go 20 seconds without flying through one, you'll plummet from the skies (often) to your death. (Levitate can be a life-saver.) Ultimately, you want to get to 25 stacks as soon as you can, as this grants you a third buff: Alysra's Razor. It all but guarantees each attack you make will be a critical strike.
  • Avoid Incendiary Clouds. In addition to the beneficial rings of flame, Alysrazor will also spawn dangerous Incendiary Clouds. Flying through one of these will cause you to suffer damage; obviously, they are to be avoided. Thankfully, they're not much of a threat, as your self-healing will be in the stratosphere thanks to all the haste and crit buffs you'll be enjoying.
  • DPS Alysrazor. Your third priority during the air phase will be to DPS Alysrazor -- when she's way up off the ground, only players who are flying really have the ability to do so. This is actually easier said than done, as you'll be more focused on flying and paying attention to your positioning. Cast your DOTs when you can, Mind Blast when you can, and spam Mind Flay like mad. Remember, you can cast while moving -- don't stop flying or else you risk getting so far behind Alysrazor that grabbing any ring of flame is an impossibility.
  • Help the ground team ... ? If your ground team is struggling to take down adds in the time between phases, you can help by DOTing up the adds during Alysrazor's strafing attempts. The haste bonus you get from Blazing Power guarantees that even a simple Shadow Word: Pain cast will eat away a massive chunk of a Voracious Hatchling's life. This is a smart time to use your Shadowfiend too, because sadly, it can't fly through the air like you can.
If you do find yourself unable to grab the necessary rings of flame to keep in the sky, quickly lower yourself toward the ground before the 20-second buff expires. You can immediately return to the sky by grabbing a lone feather that's still on the ground, or, in the worst-case scenario, help the ground team DPS adds (specifically, the Voracious Hatchlings) until Alysrazor molts again. As a member of the flight team, you're one of the most influential DPS on this fight. It's important you do everything and anything you can to stay alive.

If you're a keyboard turner, I strongly advise you to switch to using a mouse for this fight. Your positioning in three-dimensional space is the most important factor to your DPS and survival, and the mouse adds a level of precision that the keyboard does not.

Phase 2: PUG-murdering wind vortexes

After a series of three strafing runs down the middle of the fighting arena, Alysrazor will remove all flying buffs and summon vortexes of flame. The center of the arena will have a massive, fixed area of death and destruction; be sure to land well away from the center.

Soon after, Alysrazor will summon a series of vortexes that rotate around the circular fighting area. At the same time, a few rings of fire will spawn on the ground. These rings will refresh the duration of your Blazing Power buff if you run through them. To maximize your DPS for phase 3, it is crucial you make your way through at least one of these rings.

That said, your top priority is still to avoid vortexes. There are four rings of vortexes, two of which rotate clockwise and the other two, counterclockwise. For most players, figuring out how to maneuver vortexes is the hardest part of the fight. The easiest way to avoid these is to alternate between two "lanes," switching to an adjacent lane as soon as a vortex passes, the whole time running in the same direction of the vortexes moving in the lane you're currently in.

If that sounds a little bit confusing ... well, it is, at least at first. Here, practice makes perfect. Speaking of practice, someone actually made a simulator for phase 2 in Flash called the Alysrazor Tornado Game. While it's far from perfect (and requires you to keyboard turn -- ugh), it will at least illustrate the movement and positioning of the vortexes so beginners can get some experience before the first pull.

Dispersion is great to use here at the start of the phase; it'll reduce the danger of the vortexes by 90% while you find your bearings. You may also want to cast Power Word: Shield on yourself before the phase starts and then again once its off cooldown, just to mitigate any damage from the occasional collision with a tornado.

Phase 3: Alysrazor ... sleepy

After the vortex madness ends (with three-quarters of your PUG raid group dead, natch), Alysrazor will be all tuckered out. She'll collapse in the center of the arena for a quick nap while a pair of Blazing Talon Clawshaper adds reenergize her until she can take flight again. Some things to know about this phase:
  • Stay behind Alysrazor. This phase is filled with easily avoided frontal attacks.
  • Phase 3 lasts until the Clawshapers restore Alysrazor's energy bar to 100. They do this by channeling Ignition, which restores energy at the rate of one point per second. The good news here is that these channels can be (and should be!) interrupted, extending the length of this phase. If you have Silence, use it here. Note that in the beginning part of phase three, Alysrazor will regenerate her own energy via Spark.
  • Alysrazor takes 50% more damage until she gets to 50 energy. Take advantage of this by blowing your cooldowns early -- Shadowfiend, Dark Archangel, trinkets, etc. Don't worry about wasting the mana regen effects of these; mana is most definitely not an issue for shadow priests in this fight.
If you were able to find your way through a ring of flame during phase 2, then you'll benefit from both 25 stacks of Blazing Power and Alysra's Razor at a time when Alysrazor is taking 50% more damage. It's a beautiful moment -- the peak of shadow priest power. During this period, it's not unusual for your Shadowfiend to come off cooldown (via Sin and Punishment) before the first 15-second summon is up. (Sadly, though, you can't summon a second shadowfiend to fight simultaneously -- hitting the button again merely resets the shadowfiend's duration to 15 seconds.)

Rinse, repeat

When Alysrazor's energy gets back to 100, she'll do a knockback and take to the sky again. It's phase 1 all over again. Grab a feather and chase her down.

You shouldn't have to go through more than three cycles of this; once she's down on the ground after cycle three, she's down for good. The speed and efficiency at which you DPS in this fight is nowhere near as important as simply surviving all three cycles. With all 10 (or 25) players alive, you should have no trouble finishing the bird by the end of the third cycle (though it's certainly not unusual to see her drop dead sooner than that!).

In which we mourn the dead by stealing her stuff

Like every boss in the Firelands, Alysrazor will drop materials needed to craft the Dragonwrath epic. She also has a chance to drop the Smoldering Censer of Purity and the following boss-specific loot:
  • Wings of Flame is a caster cloak with mastery and crit. Considering how easy it is to get the (superior) Rippling Flamewrath Drape from the Avengers of Hyjal, though ... well, I question how many people will actually want to waste DKP or even go through the trouble of typing out "/roll" for this.
  • Leggings of Billowing Fire are a terrific pickup for a holy or disc priest who is building a shadow set, but dedicated shadow priests are better off holding out for their tier 12 legs. They have crit, haste, and two yellow sockets (+20 intellect bonus).
  • Flametalon of Alysrazor is probably one of the best drops in the Firelands. It's a flaming bird mount that, according to Wowhead, has a ~4% chance to drop on any Alysrazor kill. It looks pretty badass in Shadowform, too.
Defeating Alysrazor on heroic mode gives you the opportunity to grab the above drops in their heroic i391 incarnations, plus a shot at the Chest of the Fiery Conqueror, your heroic chest tier token.

For more on the fights in Firelands from the shadow priest perspective, head to your local library read the following articles:

Read: Shadow Priest's guide to Shannox
Read: Beth'tilac and proper shadow priest AOE
Read: The shadow priest's guide to Lord Rhyolith

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 Firelands.

Filed under: Priest, (Priest) Spiritual Guidance

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