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Spiritual Guidance: Besting Baleroc (and other shadow priest alliteration)

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. On Wednesdays, shadow priesting expert Fox Van Allen's soaks all Baleroc's Torment, while inflicting Torment of his own onto the heads of certain boomkin bloggers.

If you ask me, variety is what makes a good raid. You have different, unique bosses, with different, unique mechanics. Some have adds; some don't. Some send you soaring through the skies. Some have weird vehicle mechanics. And some encounters, bless their hearts, are Patchwerk-style simple.

That's sort of the niche Baleroc the Gatekeeper fills. There are some mechanics you need to know, of course -- it's not a mindless stand-and-DPS fight. There is one phase and there is one key DPS mechanic. And as far as that mechanic goes, we shadow priests are stars of the show.

The basics

Typically, this is the part of the strategy guide where I tell you about all the different phases. Well, in this fight, there aren't any -- it's a single-phase encounter. Baleroc has a few interesting mechanics of special interest to healers and tanks, most notably constantly escalating health pools and escalating healing done. As shadow priests, though, we don't need to concern ourselves with that too much. There's only one key mechanic we need to help with, and quite honestly, we shadow priests deal with it better than anyone else thanks to Dispersion.

That one and only phase

For ranged DPS, the most important mechanic to understand is the Torment crystals that Baleroc spawns on a regular basis. These crystals do escalating damage to the player standing closest to them, afterwards applying a debuff that greatly increases the magic damage that player takes. If it isn't obvious by that description, the fight involves having an assigned player soak the damage, run out before the damage gets too much to heal through, and have another player run in to soak the rest.

There are no adds. No other phases. This fight is all about coming up with the right soaking rotation, and we shadow priests play a huge part in that.

Most raids set two specific locations for ranged DPS members to stack. When the fight begins, they'll stack on location 1. When Baleroc summons his first crystal, all ranged DPS members except for the first soaker move to location 2. That ranged DPSer eats stacks of Torment until he can't take any more and then switches out with another assigned ranged DPSer.

When the crystal despawns, everyone will be stacked on location 2. Baleroc will summon his next crystal there at location 2, and everyone will move back to location 1, except for the assigned soaker. Because of the Tormented debuff that gets applied to those who soaked at location 1, they can't soak again at location 2.

Usually, the first ranged DPS soaks up to about 12 or 13 stacks of Torment and moves out, as the crystal only lasts for 25 seconds total. Because we're shadow priests -- and as such, so damn good at soaking damage -- we get to mess with the math a little bit. See, most healers can heal through about 19 or 20 stacks -- any more after that, and it's brutally difficult (if not impossible) to heal through. A shadow priest can soak up to that 19th stack, pop Dispersion, and then easily soak through to 25 without dying.

Shadow priests help limit the number of soakers needed on Baleroc. By limiting the number of soakers, you limit the number of people who get the Tormented debuff, which increases the number of raid members who can step in to soak in an emergency situation (basically, if something goes wrong and Torment kills a soaker). And by better covering emergencies, it makes it all the easier to kill Baleroc. Beautiful.

A few important things to note here, though:
  • Avoid getting hit with Torment again until the Tormented debuff falls off. If you accidentally stray too close to a crystal and wind up taking one tick, you won't die immediately, but you will refresh the duration of Tormented. That makes it impossible for you to soak damage again, which will wipe all but the most quick-thinking of raids. Play it safe -- keep your distance.
  • Don't use Shadow Word: Death, especially true after Baleroc drops under 25% health. Tormented increases magical damage taken, and that SW:D splash damage is very, very magical. Killing yourself sucks. For reals.
  • Never pop Dispersion before 19 stacks if you're soaking the full crystal yourself. Why? If you hit Dispersion at 17 or 18, you're going to get hit by that 25th stack's damage tick, and that's pretty much a one-shot kill. If you're trading off with someone, you can easily wait until 10 or so to pop Dispersion, getting out of the Torment beam before the buff's expiration. That leaves a more vulnerable player fewer stacks.
  • Use the Glyph of Dispersion for this fight, especially if you're attempting Baleroc on 25-man. With the cooldown of Dispersion slashed to 1.25 minutes, you'll be able to soak the entire 25 stack of Torment more often.

If you're raiding 10-man Baleroc, Tormented will fall off after 40 seconds, which means a shadow priest can soak every other crystal (but only Disperse every other time). If you're raiding 25-man, Tormented lasts 60 seconds. That means you need more soakers -- a shadow priest can only soak every third.

You shall not pass (but if you do, take my treasure)

Because there's only one phase to master, most guilds find Baleroc to be an "easy" boss. And that's pretty good news, because Baleroc drops a shadow priest's must-have trinket.
  • No matter how you're ranking haste and mastery, the Necromantic Focus trinket is easily a shadow priest's best-in-slot for this raiding tier (and as such, the most important Baleroc drop for us). My favorite part about it: It let me get rid of Theralion's Mirror, which had all sorts gaming required to squeeze top DPS out of it. This one quickly stacks to a steady +420 mastery buff.
  • If the Necromantic Focus wasn't reason enough to take down Baleroc, he also drops the Mantle of Closed Doors, a pretty solid shoulderpiece to fill out a hard-to-gear slot. It's a mastery-plus-crit piece, so you'll probably want to reforge some of that crit to haste.
  • Baleroc also drops Molten Scream, a hit-plus-crit off-hand. It's far from the best off-hand available out there, but if you're unlucky with other drops, it still beats an i359 from last tier.

On heroic mode, Baleroc drops all three of the above but in much nicer, i391 form. He also drops Gauntlets of the Fiery Conqueror on heroic, which can be redeemed for our heroic-level tier 12 gloves.

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

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, (Priest) Spiritual Guidance

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