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Spiritual Guidance: Revisiting The Burning Crusade and Wrath, solo

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Spiritual Guidance for discipline, holy and shadow priests. On Wednesdays, shadow priesting expert Fox Van Allen's comes from out of the darkness to bask in your loving adoration. Fox is weak versus Bubble Lead.

To be fair, it's incredibly easy to get bored with current content. Sure, things like the Molten Front and Firelands are fun and exciting for a while, but several months later when you find yourself running the same content over and over ... well.

I'm always looking for new and different things to do with my shadow priest. Last year, when I started getting bored with Icecrown Citadel, I started running heroic Magisters' Terrace solo, farming it for all sorts of goodies inside that I never wound up getting when the content was relevant. It turns out that soloing that stuff was a lot of fun, and judging by the emails I got after, a lot of you agreed with me.

Some of you have been pressuring me to update that article for Cataclysm. Obviously, a lot has changed. Mainly, we've gotten stronger, but we've also got a few new tools at our disposal. Soloing Magisters' Terrace is old news. This time around, we're going to solo some more intimidating content: Wrath heroics and BC raids.

For those who have never tried soloing a raid instance before, ask a friend to join a group with you on an alt they don't plan to run content on for a while. (Remember, being in a raid group halts all progress towards completing quests.) Once they join, press the O key, go to the raid tab, and choose "convert to raid." Your friend is then free to log off -- his alt will stay in the party, and you'll be able to enter any raid you want.

Before you start any content on your own, whether it be a 10-man raid or 5-man instance, be sure to stop off at the Auction House first and stock up on buff items. You'll want, at a minimum:
  • A stack or two of food. Grab something that offers a +90 intellect and stamina buff, like Fortune Cookies or Severed Sagefish Head.
  • A Flask of the Draconic Mind. The +300 intellect buff means more damage, and more damage means (importantly!) more self-healing through Vampiric Embrace. It also persists through death, which is super-useful if you're going to be dying a lot.
  • Some may find it situationally useful to trade the Flask of the Draconic Mind for a Scroll of Intellect IX and Prismatic Elixir to help protect against magic-using enemies.
  • A few Volcanic Potions are always welcome, especially for pre-potting before pulling a particularly difficult boss.
And, of course, don't forget to self-buff with Inner Fire, Power Word: Fortitude, and Shadow Protection, and then actually eat your buff food and drink your flask before trying this stuff. Not that an expert like me would ever forget that stuff. Oh, no. Not me.

Karazhan

Why you want to do it Karazhan has some tier 4 tokens and a lot of other interesting-looking cloth gear you might want to stock up on for transmogrification. Attumen the Horseman also drops the Fiery Warhorse's Reins, a pretty sweet mount that you won't have to /roll against anybody to get. Also, you may want the rep with The Violet Eye to grab an achievement if you don't already have it.

Karazhan is the gigantic tower located in lonely Deadwind Pass in Eastern Kingdoms. If you're looking to get your feet wet in some solo content, Karazhan is a good place to start. The raid instance launched with The Burning Crusade in 2007, and because it's a 10-man raid (as opposed to a 25-man), it's the easiest of all the BC raid instances.

I advise clearing out your bags of everything but the essentials before you head into Kara. There will be a lot of cloth drops, greens (i.e., BC-era enchanting mats), gray trash drops you can vendor, and even some crafting patterns and epics. Running Kara isn't as lucrative as it used to be, but you can still clear several hundred gold worth of cash and prizes, if not a thousand or more, in one run.

In Kara, like many other raid instances in the game, a large number of trash mobs are tied to the bosses such that if you aggro the boss, all the trash will come running. Given that a lot of mobs are low-health (and since Mind Sear tears s*** up for real), this isn't necessarily going to doom you, but you generally want to clear out all the trash mobs leading up to a boss before pulling the boss. No point in making matters harder than they are.

For trash, as well as bosses where you'll face off against adds (accidentally pulled or otherwise), Mind Sear is your best friend. Bosses here generally aren't that tough if you're at level 85 and have decent gear. Just be sure to use Power Word: Shield early and often (best paired with Glyph of Power Word: Shield and Improved Power Word: Shield when soloing for some bonus healing), and use your cooldowns when you can. Having a few Mythical Healing Potions on hand for use in a clutch can be very handy, too.

Bosses aren't difficult here -- consider this your training grounds for other content. One key trick to master: The Shadowfiend Fade. After calling your Shadowfiend, casting Fade will send the pack of enemies after your shadowy friend instead of you. (We salute your sacrifice, dark, sinewy friend!) This gives you time to cast actual heals if needed, let Vampiric Embrace restore some life, clear debuffs (Dispel, Cure Disease), and push you closer time-wise to your next available PW:S cooldown.

A special note of warning: The Mana Feeders that are infesting The Menagerie are immune to magical attacks. And to make matters worse, they drain your mana on successful attack, preventing yourself from healing through a large pull. Getting past these guys requires a lot of patience and very small, limited pulls.

Wrath heroics

Why you want to do it For the challenge! Also, you'll wind up with a ton of valuable Frostweave Cloth, Wrath-era enchanting mats (or better yet, hundreds of gold worth of vendorable items), and a chance at the elusive Reins of the Blue Proto-Drake that you've only seen drop that one time and that dude who wasn't even in your guild won it and FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFfffffffnnnn. You'll also get minor amounts of honor (7 or 8 per boss) if your faction holds Wintergrasp. (People still participate in that?)

I've had a lot of fun soloing Wrath heroics this past week. (Best part: I finally got Consumption Junction, which quite honestly is about impossible not to get while soloing Drak'tharon.) Again, the difficulty level here is pretty mild -- this is something that just about any level 85 shadow priest can do. Some trash pulls are difficult, but if you play smart, bosses go down pretty easy.

My biggest piece of advice? Focus fire down your enemies rather than trying to AOE them down. The sooner you take damage-dealers out of the picture, the better. And remember, these enemies are level 80, so you'll still be able to benefit from Spirit Tap if you finish with Shadow Word: Death.

The Next Challenge: Serpentshrine Cavern

Why you want to do it For the ultimate in solo challenges. Because it's 2.5 times as difficult as Karazhan (that's how it works, right?). You'll get some interesting BC-era items from the trash, like Pattern: Boots of the Long Road, and if you can actually get Hydross down, you'll score 250 gold and some assorted epics to either vendor or save for transmogrification.

I put this out there as a challenge to exceptionally well-geared shadow priests: Head into 25-man Serpentshrine Cavern raid and see how far you can get. I've made a small handful of attempts on the raid myself -- specifically, against the first boss, Hydross the Unstable. It's a real challenge, to be sure.

An effort like this requires you to be at the top of your game and take advantage of every buff and bonus you can. Pre-pot and pre-PW:S before the pull. Use a Prismatic Elixir and Scroll of Intellect IX to mitigate spell damage -- the former does help a lot. You might even want to play around with your talents and glyphs. (Consider talents like Inner Sanctum, which reduce the magic damage you take.)

My strategy is this: Get all those DOTs on Hydross quickly, and then Mind Sear him to take care of the adds he summons. From here, it's a game of stamina. The Shadowfiend Fade technique (see above) works wonders here and gives you a much-needed breath of air in the middle of the fight. Backing away from him while you're casting your instant-cast spells is another good technique to limit damage -- he'll get slightly fewer attacks in on you as a result of his moving too. Dispersion works well when you're well into the fight and need to restore some mana; casting PW:S immediately before guarantees you'll also come out of your Dispersed state with more health than you went into it with.

Success here depends on whether or not you can think like a tank; trying to burn this guy down without strategy will only leave you dead. If you move him away from the towers flanking him in his starting position (recommended on pull), he'll enter his nature phase, where he deals nature damage and applies a stacking debuff on you, Mark of Corruption, every 15 seconds. When that 30-second debuff grows to the point that you're taking 50% extra damage from nature attacks, you need to drag Hydross back under the water beams to force a frost phase, where he ceases nature attacks. At that point, a frost-based debuff, Mark of Hydross, starts to build. When that gets to 50%, pull him back out.

Be careful -- each time you phase change, you'll spawn four elementals that need to be AOEed down immediately. You'll also need to be cautious with your Shadowfiend -- Hydross will gain bonus abilities (including a 4-second stun every 7 seconds while in his frost phase and a healing reduction debuff in his nature phase) when it's present.

Can you beat him? If so, congratulations -- you've just done the work of 25 men. Who needs tanks, anyway?
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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