Tanking the Lich King

The Little Things…

While I am aware that there are a few “Crib Sheets” out there on the intricacies of the Lich King fight, I wanted to dedicate a post to some of the more subtle things when it comes to tanking Arathas. Right off the bat, you will notice that he is one of the most painful bosses to tank from the perspective of keeping him in one place so that your melee can continually attack from behind. Since the advent of 3.3, mob patting has been very erratic and less than friendly to tanks. This definitely transfers over to the Lich King encounter. The reasoning behind this is because of the ghouls that he summons. Depending on your guild’s strat for killing the boss, you may just have to deal with this issue, but know that the smaller number of adds on the MT, the less time the boss will spend doing the truffle shuffle.

Positioning the Shambling Horror

While you may think I am referencing the off tank and their role in phase one, you would be mistaken. As the main tank there are a few things which you can do to ensure that you have clean Shambling horror pick ups by your off tank. No matter what your strategy is, you should have your off tank more than 8 yards away from the main tank, with the add facing away from the raid. On our first night of attempts we had some issues with picking up these adds, mainly because of missed taunts and times when the MT’s splash damage would pull off the OT right after the spawn. For our guild specifically we had these issues because between my HotR and SoComm splash, if the horror was on the other end of the room from the MT, and it had to walk through my path, I usually had enough aggro to pull off my OT.

To solve this issue, as the MT you can change your positioning to allow for simple and reliable pickups with out the need for a misdirect. The shambling horror spawns 10 yards in front of the lich king every single time. This means that when the cool down for shambling horror is up, you should put your back to your OT, and ensure that the LK is facing said OT. Sometimes you have issues with this because of the fact that the MT may have some drudge ghouls on him or her. This causes the truffle shuffle that I spoke of earlier. In addition, I have found that the LK usually summons three more ghouls about the time he wants to summon a shambling horror. You can combat the truffle shuffle by using your Holy Wrath just prior to summons, which will stun the ghouls outside of melee range and ensure stable boss positioning.

Positioning of the boss relative to the environment is something else that you can have a great influence on the raid. If your raid is having issues with phase 1 to transition phase (read Remorseless Winter)  it can help to tank him on the edge of the inner platform. This positioning ensures that the healers and ranged do not have to move too much to avoid remorseless winter.

The Transition Phase

While this phase is quite straight forward, it presents some unique challenges to a paladin in the form of a silencing frontal cone from the raging spirits. This debuf should be cleansed off you as soon as humanly possible. Beyond that, there are some positioning tips for you raid so that they make your job as easy as possible. The raging spirits are very hard to move, and periodically cast a frontal cone spell which silences everything in its path. We have found that the person who is afflicted with the raging spirit debuf should be about 6 yards away from the MT. The problem with this is that if the person with the debuf stands right on top of the tank, the spirit is spawned behind the tank and it immediately silences the raid with soul shriek.

We find that the first spirit is always picked up by the MT because the OT is still wrestling with the shambling horrors from P1. As soon as the horrors are dead, the OT taunts off the MT and picks up the rest of the spirits, giving the MT the freedom to pick up Arathas in the transition to P2 (valks phase) and position him for the first defile and summon Valk.

Managing Defile as a tank

From our guilds perspective, defile is the most difficult part of this encounter. It requires every person to be on their toes and environmentally conscious. Defile is a spell that is cast on a random member of the raid. Once the cast is complete it leaves a big black puddle of evil on the ground. If no one takes damage from it, and everyone avoids it, you will kill the lich king. If someone takes damage from it, the puddle grows in size and does more damage. One thing that you can do as a tank is control the general position of where the defile is going to occur. This is because of the other aspect of phase two, the summoning of Val’kyrs. When the valks or defile spells are on cooldown, every one in your raid should be stacked up directly behind the boss. Because of this, the positioning of the Lich King is very important.

You want to place your character directly in the center of the room, with the lich king slightly off center facing in specific direction of your chosing. This will ensure that defile will be behind him, and this will also ensure (when defile is not being cast) that the val’kyrs direction is predictable. On 10 man you have one valk, so there is not as much to worry about, however on 25 man, you will have three, and having them all go in different directions is very very bad. With this being said, you want to divide the circular room up into quarters. After you do this, you want to tank the LK with his back to the quarter of the room where you want the first defile to be dropped. Right before defile is cast, everyone in your raid should spread out with in that quarter of the room.

At this point its out of your hands, however you should already be planning on moving the boss to his new position, in the adjacent section of the circle. This gives you maximum distance between defiles. Rinse and repeat, and if everyone is good at defile, this phase can be executed with repeatability. Now keep in mind that in addition to defile, you have to manage two different things during this phase, the control of the Val’kyrs, and the ample usage of cool downs when Soul Reaper happens.

Controling the Val’kyrs

As a paladin tank we have a few indispensable tools in our arsenal when it comes to the val’kyrs. The specific tools are improved hammer of justice and glyphed holy wrath. I spec and glyph specifically for this fight, so that I can ensure maximum control on the valk’s in phase two. With one point in improved HoJ and glyphed Holy Wrath, you will have both abilities up for every Val’kyr summons. It is imperative that you use the Hammer of Justice ability first. This will ensure maximum stun time. If you use your HW first, you get 3 seconds of HW plus 3 seconds of DR HoJ, where as if you use your HoJ first you get 6 seconds of HoJ and 1.5 Seconds of HW, netting you a 1.5 second increase in stun time.

Soul Reaper hurts

Soul Reaper is an ability which the Lich King uses every 30 seconds, and it Inflicts 50,000 Shadow damage and increases the Lich King’s physical damage by 100% after 5 seconds. Used on the current tank. This means that you get hit hard and then 5 seconds later you get hit really hard. You will NEED to use cool downs on this in 25 man to survive. Not because the damage from the soul reaper is too much, but because of the fact that a melee swing lining up with the SR will one shot you. Since this ability is used ever 30 seconds, you will have to tank swap for this phase 2 and Phase 3.

The cool down rotation which I use is as follows – First Soul Reaper I use Divine Protection, as it will last the entire time. The second cool down I use is a very precisely timed DS/DG cancelaura macro. If the Raging Spirits are not down yet, and the OT can not taunt, then you need a HoSac and I blow both trinkets (skele key and Heroic Juggies, netting me a heath pool of 69k).

Vile Spirit control

The mechanics in Phase 2 and 3 are the same, and they are separated the same way as P1 and P2 are, with a Remorseless Winter transition phase. You have to deal with Soul Reaper, and you have to deal with defile. As an off tank there is a new responsibility which you should do to help with the phase mechanics. The vile spirits are a threat to raid survival, and as such should be taunted off of people and kited till they die. A tank can eat one or two on 25 man as long as they a long enough distance away from the raid, and on 10 man they can eat quite a few. Any help is good, so make sure you taunt a few off your squishy raiders and take the hit for the team.

Good luck to you all, and enjoy the 5% buff they implemented today!!!


9 Responses to “Tanking the Lich King”

  1. 1 Anonymous
    March 3, 2010 at 3:01 am

    @the soul reaper part, just thought you should note that a Pain Suppression or Guardian Spirit are other cooldowns that you may have at your disposal, other than a straight up tank swap.

  2. 2 ghola
    March 3, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Quick question about Necrotic Plague in p1. My 10 man hasn’t managed to get into p2 yet so I’m unclear what happens to this debuff during the transition. Does it just stop jumping and wear off at some point? or do you need to cleanse it enough for all the stacks to wear off? The transition has been so chaotic for us that I haven’t figured out what is going on with it and am curious.

    • March 3, 2010 at 1:58 pm

      the Necrotic Plague will disappear if it is cleansed an no one (enemy or friendly) capable of getting it is within 10 yards. Once the last add that the OT is tanking dies, it goes back onto the OT who can then make sure they are alone and have it cleansed off them.

  3. March 5, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    i found that P3 was extremely challenging for the raid to survive (not really me as the LK tank). our 10 man didnt have the dps to kill the vile spirits, so we just decided to spread out and eat the damage. Me and the OT taunted off of the healers (who are clothies), and the rest fended for themselves.

    but similar to Sindragosa where P1 and P2 are laughable, but P3 introduces a new set of challenges, I feel that LK P3 (the vile spirit phase) was truly intense way beyond it. Now that we know what to do, maybe the nuances to make it repeatable will become obvious.

    @wrathy – do you wear big armor for LK? i was contemplating a bigger health pool since the soul reaper wasnt affected by armor. the soul reapers were the only things that made me worry, except for dead healers.

  4. March 6, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    I’d agree with that assessment of P3 Lich King, but only on 10 man. Your raid composition really decides if that phase is hard or not. Luckily we run with a couple priests and paladins so we used a lot of raid wide defensive cooldown to keep the damage on the managable side.

    In 25 man phase 3 is incredibly simple (as long as harvested targets stay upright). You’re almost always going to have several aoe players (our first kill had an spriest, 2 locks, 2 fire mages, 2 DKs).

  5. 6 Wrathy
    March 8, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Rocket and Borsk,

    I agree with both your assessments and I have to say that we have similar problems to Rocket. In our 10 man we were quite unbalanced, only really having direct damage ranged. There are some things that you can do to combat this as well. One of our Alt groups who killed LK figured this out. They ping pong Lich King in Phase four from one side of the room to the other when he spawns vile spirits so that they have the farthest distance to travel before exploding. Moreover your off tank can taunt some and eat the damage.

    As for raid composition, those comps do help quite a bit. We unfortunately have not had a main raiding shadow priest that could put out the damage to warrant a spot since TBC. Our lock and mages basically rocked them in 25 man, and I do agree with Borsk that if you make it to P3 with everyone alive and the harvested souls players survive you should have a kill.

  6. 7 Ganaboy
    June 10, 2010 at 6:54 am

    Have a warrior OT to intervene you with this spec


    Just thought this information will be useful 🙂

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