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Spiritual Guidance: The shadow priest's guide to Majordomo Staghelm

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. On Wednesdays, shadow priesting expert Fox Van Allen's requires you all to kneel to the (his?) flame. Fox encourages all potential prey to follow him on Twitter.

Shannox: dead. Beth'tilac: dead. Rhyolith: dead. Alysrazor: dead. Baleroc: dead. We're on a roll deep, deep in the Firelands. Majordomo Staghelm is next -- the last obstacle between us and defeating Ragnaros once and for all.

The Staghelm fight can be difficult to learn, if only because there are so many different phases that occur at seemingly random intervals. But they're not random, of course -- there's method to this madness. And once you learn how to beat Staghelm ... well, there's some very valuable treasure to be had.

The two (four? six?) phases

Majordomo Staghelm can be a bit confusing, even if it is largely a single-target fight. He initially appears to present himself as a two-stage fight: the scorpion phase and the cat phase. That's not quite the case, however -- there are two different types of scorpion phases and two different types of cat phases.

Once you get the phase rotation down, the fight gets much easier (though, like just about every other fight in Firelands, it's mercilessly unforgiving on 25-man as compared to 10-man). That rotation is:
  • Regular scorpion
  • Regular cat
  • Searing Seed scorpion
  • Regular cat
  • Regular scorpion
  • Burning Orb Cat
Occasionally, Staghelm will pause between phase changes to shift to Human form. When that happens, your raid will be stunned briefly. This is worth noting, if only because the Human form stun always precedes one of the two special phases -- either Searing Seed scorpion or Burning Orb cat.

The scorpion phases

The Majordomo Staghelm fight is fairly unique in that your raid controls when phase changes happen. Staghelm will switch to his scorpion phase whenever at least seven players are clustered around him (on 10-man; at least 18 on 25-man).

The basic strategy calls for the entire raid to stack up on single point at the start of the fight to DPS through the simpler scorpion phase. The boss will start to build stacks of Adrenaline, which allows him to regenerate his energy faster; the faster he regenerates energy, the more frequently he casts his brutally powerful Flame Scythe attack. Your raid leader, tanks, and healers will need to decide before the fight how many stacks of Adrenaline they're willing to handle before the raid needs to spread out to force the next phase. That number is of key importance to shadow priests, too; when that final Flame Scythe hits, you need to scatter immediately to force the cat phase.

The basic version The most basic scorpion phase is rather easy to handle. Ranged DPS stacks immediately in front of the boss to absorb damage from Flame Scythe attacks. If your raid is eager to push the scorpion phase as far as they can -- many force Staghelm to 10 stacks of Adrenaline or more on the first instance of scorpion -- you can help your healers out by using your cooldowns. Power Word: Shield is the most obvious, of course, but immediately before the final Flame Scythe, Dispersion is a great choice as well. (You'll be moving immediately afterward, anyway -- it's the best time to get the max benefit from Dispersion while minimizing the effect of its silence.) Even Divine Hymn can help, if you time it such that it expires before you have to move.

The Searing Seed version On Staghelm's second instance of scorpion form (and fifth as well, should the fight last that long), he'll pause for a moment in Human form to afflict everyone in the raid with Searing Seeds. Consider it to be a ticking time bomb; when the timer hits zero on the debuff, you'll give off an explosion, taking about 50,000 health off anyone unlucky enough to be within 12 yards of you.

It's a simple though key mechanic. Get out of the raid cluster in time, everyone's safe. Stay in, and your Searing Seed explosion is likely to kill someone. And if that someone is afflicted with Searing Seed themselves, their explosion will trigger on death. And if someone else dies from that -- well, let's just say it's a raid-wiping chain reaction.

The few key points to remember about this special version of the phase:
  • The Searing Seeds debuff timer is randomly applied. Sometimes, your timer will be as short as 10 seconds; sometimes 40 seconds or more. Pay attention to the value of your timer when the phase changes into scorpion form and begin to run out of the stacking area when your timer is down to 4 or 5 seconds.
  • Staghelm is easily knocked out of scorpion form. You need to be quick and precise with your movements to ensure that seven (or 18) people stay in range of Staghelm at all times. The boss gets more powerful with each phase change, and if you cycle through several phase changes at once by accident, you're looking at a wipe. Move out only when your timer is down to 4 or 5 seconds. Move back in immediately after your Searing Seed explodes.
  • Staghelm will also keep doing his Flame Scythe attack, as per a normal scorpion phase. This means there will be a lot of raid-wide damage. Be ready with a clutch cooldown.
The cat phases

Whenever six or fewer people are in front of Staghelm (17 or fewer on 25-man), the boss will transition to his cat phase. The first two instances of the cat phase will be normal; the third will involve Burning Orbs. I'm honestly not sure if it's logistically possible to get Staghelm to his fifth cat phase -- if the DPS in your raid isn't good enough to down the boss by then, surely your healers aren't good enough to keep tanks up through that many stacks of Fury.

The basic version On the first and second instance of the cat phase, ranged DPS will spread out around the outer ring of the arena. This is because Staghelm will do a leaping attack at a random player, inflicting a small amount of damage and creating a fiery void zone that needs to be immediately moved out from. If you get hit by a leap, your best plan of action is to immediately hit Power Word: Shield to soak the damage from the void zone as you begin to move away from it. Reposition yourself immediately on the edge of the void zone such that if the boss leaps again, void zones will overlap (keeping more of the floor void-zone free).

On each leap, Staghelm will create a Spirit of the Flame add. These have fairly low health and are often taken care of by melee attackers. Should your friends in melee range need help, these adds can be hit with two or three quick blasts of Mind Spike. This way, you're dealing some burst damage and setting yourself up to hit Staghelm with an instant-cast Mind Blast when you return to your main target.

The Burning Orb version The third cat phase -- the one with Burning Orbs spawned -- is often viewed as the most difficult phase of the fight. This is mostly because Burning Orb positioning is random, and any fight that involves a modicum of RNG is going to be hell.

The Burning Orb mechanic itself is not especially hard to understand. He'll spawn two orbs on 10-man, five on 25-man. They'll link themselves with the closest player, inflicting a small amount of damage and a stacking debuff. As such, a designated player will run to the orb, absorb about five or six stacks, and then switch out with another player. Two players are enough to cover each orb; by the time one player gets his fifth stack, the debuff will have completely fallen off the other.

The real challenge here is to ensure each Burning Orb is properly manned. My raid group assigns pairs before hand, with one member of each pair assigned a raid icon over their head. (There are other ways to manage this, I'm sure.) A shadow priest can absorb extra stacks if needed by way of Dispersion, but that's something of a one-time Get Out of Jail Free card move. Overall, though, the mechanic is somewhat forgiving -- the only way people die, generally, is when they're targeted by two or more Burning Orbs at the same time (and that happens often as a function of bad RNG luck).

While managing Burning Orbs, Staghelm will continue to do his leaping attack. This can make things difficult to maneuver, especially if multiple void zones get stacked around a Burning Orb. Thankfully, you don't need to be immediately under the Burning Orb to take the stacks -- just the closest player to it.

The loot

Majordomo Staghelm, being the final boss you'll face before Ragnaros, drops some predictably nice loot. Here's what a shadow priest should be on the lookout for:

  • Mantle of the Fiery Conqueror is guaranteed to be the most fiercely coveted item from Staghelm -- it is a tier token, after all. It's the only way to get Shoulderwraps of the Cleansing Flame, and thus, the quickest path most will find to a four-piece tier bonus.
  • Flowform Choker is pretty nice -- that mastery plus haste itemization is perfect for us, and the red gem socket is even better yet. As said in the comments below, it's a +50 intellect upgrade over the valor point purchasable Firemind Pendant (1,250 points).
  • Stinger of the Flaming Scorpion is a crit-plus-mastery wand. Again, if you're stuck with an i359 piece, this is likely an upgrade for you. Most shadow priests are going to prefer the mastery-plus-spirit Scorchvine Wand, a real bargain at vendors for just 700 valor points.
  • Wristwraps of Arrogant Doom, a crit-plus-haste wrist piece, is just like the two drops preceding it: nice, but there's a vendor-purchasable item that's better (the BOE Firesoul Wristguards).

Aside from the Mantle of the Fiery Conqueror, there's not a whole heck of a lot to interest shadow priests here ... at least, that is, until you start beating the dude on heroic modes. At that point, all these drops get upgraded to i391 level and start looking more and more like best-in-slot items.

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
Read: Besting Baleroc (and other shadow priest alliteration)
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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