Shame on me! Yesterday’s post was no where near the ‘less than concise’ rambling that I usually love to post. I promise that I will make up for it today and discuss the hard mode in a little bit more detail. Specifically what are the aspects of the fight that change from normal to hard mode and what can we do as tanks to improve our chances at success. The first thing that I noticed in my guild’s attempts is the token problems that you have on hard mode attempts and new encounters.
the pressure factor
A while back when my guild was attempting the Con-speed-atory achievement, I noticed something that I like to call the pressure factor. There are certain things that people do differently when they are placed under the added pressure of achievements, performance, and increased difficulty. Our guild chose to do one hard mode a week in ulduar when we were progressing through them, and blow through the rest of the “farmed” content. For the week in question, we were planning on doing General hard mode and as such did not want anything to do with Freya and her adds. The officers decided that we would give Con-speed-atory a shot.
The tanks were on it, the marks were up, and the pulls were clean. We got to Freya with 7 minutes to spare, fully buffed and ready to rock. This achievement was in the bag….
And then on the first detonating lashers pack, half the raid just forgot to move, they were so focused on dpsing Freya’s adds down as fast as possible they didnt bother to activate enemy face plates, or more simply move out of the way. Needless to say we wiped with the lack of dps after the next add spawned and the healers were overrun. We had lost the Con-speed-atory. Some people were consoling the raid by saying that we didnt have enough time to kill freya anyways, we wouldn’t have made it so it was not a big deal. Well we came back and killed her in 4 minutes. Needless to say, we would have made it just fine.
Northrend Beasts – a true gear check
In comes the opportunity to get some real challenging content (of course after we defeat the log in server boss) this past Tuesday. Our raid assembles and I talk to our tanking crew about the normal mode Trial of the Crusader. I stressed that we want to treat the normal mode like we will the hard mode so that we are prepared and in sync for the difficulties to come. We get our taunt rotation down for phase one, we get our taunt rotation and kiting down for phase two, we practice the routes we would have to take if we had the fire debuf, and we practiced the positioning of icehowl in phase three. We are ready, all the bosses are one shot and we regroup, set the instance to heroic and waltz in to the arena.
After the typical, buffs, strategy pep talk, and pre progression jitters, we start up our first attempt on Hard Mode. I have my progression gear set, purely focused on Effective Health, equipped and the boss hits hard, but nothing that we haven’t already seen in Ulduar. Two stacks and the first taunt lands on the boss with clear vent communication for all. Here is where things get a little messy.
Our other tanks do not have the Armor and Stamina that I have, and their survival is a bit more spotty. Tanks are periodically dropping like flies. Some of those hits are borderline insane, however I do not really take the type of incoming damage that they did. As we ironed out some details of the first phase of the fight it was apparent that the snowbolds are not going quietly into the night, and they must be dealt with. Our strategy with the snowbolds was based on priority of the raid member they attacked, we would have the ranged run to the hind legs of Gormok where they melee would focus them down. Healers were our top priority, tf they were on ranged they were less of a priority and if they were on melee, they were left until Gormok was dead.
As for the specifics of the tanks, we did a two stack rotation with three tanks, myself, a prot warrior, and a Blood DK. It got a bit complicated at the beginning because there were times that I would still have 5 seconds left on my 2 stack and our dk would get his second stack. I found that waiting for about 3 to 5 seconds to taunt off the tank that has two stacks evened out the rotation significantly and made everything nicer on the tanks. On our second round of tanking, I would bubble myself as soon as our warrior taunted, and BoP our warrior when his turn came. Our Holy Pally would BoP our DK when Gormok died. If you are still fighting after two full tank rotations, you dont have the dps for the fight yet.
This was really the first good gear check we have seen in a very very long time. I mean sure, Patchwerk was kind of a gear check but naxx really was a joke. The last gear check of this magnitude was Brutallus. The dps has to be stellar and the tanks really need to have the mitigation and health pool to survive the hits. Two minutes into the fight, the worms appear, whether or not you want them too, and they have to be picked up immediately. If Gormok and the snowbolds are dead at this point, you are doing pretty well.
When the worms come out, the tanking methods and responsibilities get a bit more complicated. With three tanks, we placed one tank on Acidmaw (who starts out tethered to the ground), and two on Dreadscale. The reason that we put two tanks on the worm that is being kited is so that if one of them gets a debuf, either poison or fire, the other should taunt immediately. I found that focusing the tank that you are working with on this phase is essential to seamless transitions. You want to taunt it off so that the tank has the freedom to run in the direction of the counter buff and not wipe the raid by turning the boss towards your ranged.
So, about those debufs…. The part of the fight where our guild was having the most problems was the debufs and positioning. If your ranged were too close together, they all eat the initial tick, making your healers crap themselves. If the melee gets the debuff, all the melee get the debuff. This poses some interesting positioning issues. Spreading out is paramount, for both your melee and your ranged. Clean communications on the poison’s location is also essential to success here. Let me repeat myself:
It is imperative that your raid stay spread out and the move as a team spread out during the duration of this phase.
This is where the progression pressure really takes its toll. From my experience, our raiders screwed up the most when blizzard introduced a new aspect into an old fight. hard modes in ulduar showed us that encounters like Thorim Hard Mode where you have to spread out and avoid sif’s wrath, or Hodir’s Hard Mode where everyone is focusing on their rotation so much that the miss the rest of the obstacles that the encounter throws at them. The fact that you are in a dps race that also requires excellent positioning is one of the hardest things to deal with in this fight. Not to mention, blizzard implemented the best distraction possible in the attempts remaining counter on your screen. Raiders are worried about more things and as a result, they screw up the easy stuff. Focusing on the fundamentals and getting used to the encounter are your largest roadblock if you already have the gear.
Once you get that all squared away, the worms should die and you should be on to icehowl. This phase is all about positioning and once again, being spread out. As long as your tanking crew works together to keep him in the middle, and your raid does their job, this is a no different than normal mode, just more damage. Manage your cool downs well, call out tank taunts, and get that positioning squared away and you will walk away with some shiny new epics, and the sense of satisfaction that you have killed a nicely tuned boss encounter.