Wednesday, May 25, 2011

HOW TO: Ascendant Council

This is part 3 of a series where I'll cover the way my guild does all the normal-mode encounters on the 10 person difficulty in the current raiding tier. I'll cover the fights in general but also talk specifically about tanking from a paladin perspective and give any hints I can about how we assign DPS and healing.

This is a long one, as the trash between Valiona and the Council is annoying, and the Council itself has a lot of stuff going on.

Trash between Valiona and the Council

First you will encounter two giant lizard folk who pull individually - relatively easy to kill but if you want to avoid some incidental deaths, it's best to keep your raid in a yawning half-circle without stacks in Valiona's room while you throw something at one of them and run back with the mob. Keep the mob faced down the hallway as he has a frontal cleave and watch for him to change targets and cast a volley - the target will have about a second or so before the ground erupts if they don't move.

It will typically one-shot non-tanks, and the attack burrows in a zigzag pattern up to them, dealing some damage to anyone in the way - which is why spreading out and not-stacking helps. Keep in mind he will target pets for his attacks and melee will take a bit of damage if they're stacked too tightly. Repeat for the second one and you can move up to (sigh) the worst trash since the TBC days. Or was the spider room leading up to Sinestra worse? I can't tell.

The Council chamber will be filled twelve elemental mobs rushing about with furious anger (and great vengeance?). There are three elements each of four kinds - Earth, Air, Fire and Water. They are all jumbled together and moving about quickly. The fight is intended for you to pull opposing elements together and use their attacks to remove debuffs left by their opposite - clever, yes, but (mostly) unnecessary.

The Earth and Air mobs leave a stacking DoT on the tanks with slowly increasing damage - if your DPS is on the ball, this should not even require a tank swap, but if you're single-pulling a tank-swap makes this easy. If you pull Air and Earth at once, you can swap the mobs between the tanks and remove the debuff soon after it lands and so forth. It is all unnecessary - have your tanks carefully pull the earth and air elementals first and be patient - it can take some time for them to rotate around the room but they will eventually come over.

Once you have cleared some room and can pick and choose what you pull, start planning for the water and fire elementals. You have no choice here - these need to be pulled together. The water elementals have a shield that you can't interrupt through and they have a vicious channeled AoE that will hit your entire raid for massive damage continuously for a few seconds until interrupted. It's likely that if it's allowed to cast for long, you will wipe.

In order to remove the bubble, you need to kite the water elemental through a patch of fire, a patch left by the fire elemental. However, the fire elemental will cast his patch unpredictably under the feet of any member of the raid on an infrequent basis and the patch only lasts a short while.

Knowing all this, you can make this simple - have everyone move up together as close to the room as you can manage without drawing agro from the mobs - everyone stands in one pile and have one tank pull the fire elemental back. You can choose to do a bit of damage but do not kill the fire elemental - your priority is always the water elemental. At this point the second tank should target the water elemental he is going to pull and as soon as the fire patch lands, he needs to taunt and drag that elemental through the patch while the rest of the raid moves back out of fire, into the hallway, before the patch disappears.

Interrupt the AoE and burn down the bastard. Assuming your fire tank isn't having any problems and your healer mana is okay - just repeat this. Have everyone stack up again, wait for the patch to land, and then pull the second elemental.

After that you can mop up any remaining adds individually or in pairs. Once you do this a couple of times, it becomes second nature and you can clear the room in 5 minutes, but expect a few deaths here and there as you learn this trash.

Paladin Pro Pointer 1 - Use Sacred Duty just after the fire patch lands, while everyone is within 30 yards of you, as the water elemental is starting his AoE - it will significantly help your healers if the elemental should begin to AoE before the bubble is broken. Go be a hero!

The Ascendant Council
2 tank, 3 healers

Phase 1: Feludius & Ignacious
You will begin with these two honored members of the Council. They will be standing in the far end of the room, and you can tank them more or less where they stand. We keep all our melee on Ignacious and all our ranged on Feludius.

The only really tricky part of this is swapping your ranged to Ignacious when he has Aegis up to get it down before he casts no more than 2 ticks of Rising Flame (3 is manageable, but 4 will give you a ton of trouble unless you have epic healers). This can leave Feludius a bit behind as far as damage goes, and you can mitigate this with spreading Burning Blood onto your ranged if you feel it necessary - we typically run with 2 melee and 3 ranged, and we don't have a problem.

If you are tanking, you can get waterlogged - and you will need to run through fire to get rid of the debuff. You also might want to range Glaciate if you're tanking Feludius just to help the healers out (Paladins and Death Knights have more trouble with this as we lack to closer to get back into range with Feludius after his cast, but since all your melee will be on Ignacious, positioning isn't as much of a problem).

Feludius has a long-cast random attack called Hydrolance. It hits for a good bit, but is healable - just assign ranged to interrupt it as the tank might be out of position due to Glaciate and if one or two get through it shouldn't too much of a problem, just keep an eye on it. (Edit: Okay, this was actually giving us a bit of trouble as we had one slightly under-geared healer last night. As a tank, you can actually get every one of these casts (I was on Feludius for once last night, and I realized he never casts Hydrolance right after Glaciate - there is always a cushion period which you can use to close the distance even as a Paladin) and it helps out a lot if your healers are a bit undergear, and a Hydrolance gets through while Ignacious is casting Rising Flames.)

On Ignacious, watch the Flame Torrent cast right after Rising Flames. Hit a soft cool-down as he'll have a stack of buff from Rising Flames for a short while after he is interrupted and will kill you if you're low on health.

This is a "watch your feet" phase - no one should die, unless:
  • Someone is killing themselves by not removing waterlogged
  • Standing too long in fire
  • Healers are not dispelling Heart of Ice and Burning Blood quickly enough
  • Letting Ignacious get more than 2 ticks of Rising Flames off

When either mob hits 25% you'll transition - keep in mind that Ignacious will take a burst of damage right after Aegis breaks due to having all the DPS on him so you will typically be ahead on Ignacious - make sure the melee sit on their hands if Feludius is too far behind. You want both adds as close to 25% as possible, we typically have at least one of them well below 25% on transition, especially if you're lucky enough to catch Ignacious in a Rising Flame cast then push one or the other below. This is difficult to plan for though so I wouldn't go out of my way to schedule it.

Phase 2: Arion & Terrastra
These two activate with no agro so make sure you're whip-snap on the pick-up or you might loose a healer. Make sure DPS waits for you to establish agro and positioning. We find it best to hold them as close to the center as possible and have everyone surround them on the inner edge of the circle on the main floor. This phase is about keeping one of two available debuffs up on the entire raid.

We keep our melee on Arion and ranged on Terrastra, with one ranged responsible for swapping between the two bosses, whichever is trailing behind on damage.

Throughout the fights, there will be Gravity Wells(small dark patches on the ground with dust blowing out of/into them, I can never tell) and small tornadoes floating around the room. These do despawn and reappear around the room so don't get used to going back to the same place every time.

Both Arion and Terrastra will take turns casting their ultimate ability and you will need the opposing debuff to survive it. Typically, you will start with Terrastra's earthquake (everyone should have the air debuff by walking into a tornado) and then Arion will cast his lightning cloud (everyone should be grounded by walking into a black hole) and just alternate back and forth once the ultimate is cast.

Arion will debuff someone with Lightning Rod - that person is responsible for getting the hell out of dodge, or they will chain lightning and kill people. There is a no question, GTFO debuff. They need to get to a corner and even if it means they will not have the right debuff, as long as they're healed up to full, they can survive one, especially if they get a defensive cool down of some sort whether from a healer or their own (barkskin, shield, bubble, wings, hand of sacrifice, whatever). He will also be teleporting around the room and casting a channeling bolt on his tank every so often, so keeping a ranged person with an interrupt on him helps tank damage significantly, but I find I can also easily take the hits with the Tol Barad trinket (Mirror of Broken Images, 1 minute cool down).

Terrestra is simple, and you can just burn him down so long as the tank keeps interrupting Harden Skin. He has an AoE that hits everyone in melee but it really doesn't hit too hard and we found it simpler to heal through rather than deal with it in some other way. Melee might be able to range it, but I'm not sure (it seems to be a very short burst centered on the caster).

There are three things that make this tricky:
  • Keeping the damage balanced - you can get a bit lost in getting the right debuff and avoiding Lightning Rod - make sure you stay on top of the damage going out and get them both as close to 25% as possible
  • People focusing on their boss so much they miss a debuff - make sure the switches are called every time by multiple people so everyone remembers to switch
  • Lightning Rod - make sure people understand that getting this debuff pushes their movement to the highest priority order - they need to get away or they will wipe the raid. Nothing takes a higher precedence, not interrupts, not heals, not rotation, not even the right debuff before the next ultimate. No question.
This can seem a bit hectic, but gets better once you get the hang of it.

Phase 3: Elementium Monstraocity
Again, when either Arion or Terrastra hits 25%, you will transition into phase 3. The four bosses will combine their health and should be around 25% if not lower. This is where you hit Hero and every damage inflicting cooldown, summon every pet possible and just try to kill him before his AoE's kill you.

Now, how to kill him depends on your raid damage and healer throughput. I've seen instances where he is left where he's standing and the ranged and healers spread out at range in a circle. Tanks and melee stay in the puddle from the start and the output is just overwhelming enough to kill him without any kiting necessary - but I doubt many of us are in that situation. It is technically safest to kite him out of the liquid ice pools underneath his feet, but that also depends on how much melee you have - more than one or two and you might loose a lot of DPS and not make the timer before his chain lightnings just kill you.

We try to keep him moving in a stop/go fashion, where once the ice hits the melee/tank clump we'll move a bit and stop while ranged and healers stay spread out alongside the path we're taking. People love to run all over the place, so make sure they stay within range of the healers, and to especially make sure they're not freaking out about fire-seed - they just need to take a few steps to get out of range, not run all over creation.

Paladin Pro Pointer 2 - Divine Guardian. When to use it best? We save our first Guardian for the second or third cast of Lava Seed depending on how low the boss is when the second one comes. The second DG goes out right after the first ends just to cushion the damage till he dies. We will hold off and use it even later if everyone's health looks stable. This is a huge boon to your raid - especially if you have two protection paladins. Discuss with your healers when to use it and don't panic and trigger it early. Keep in mind you don't get any damage reduction from it yourself when you hit it, so give yourself a cool down. Go be a hero!

Paladin Pro Pointer 3 - Remember to hit Holy Radiance as the damage starts piling up near the end, sprout wings with Hero to pile on the damage, save Lay on Hands either for yourself or your co-tank. If you're LoHing your co-tank, then make sure you bubble right afterward to get a few seconds of survival. Put a Hand of Sacrifice on a healer with weak defensive cool-downs, chain through every defensive cool-downs of your own in the second half of the phase (I use them in this order: Divine Protection > Ardent Defender > Trinkets > GoAK), and WoG on every cool-down to give healers that one more GCD to keep someone else alive. There is no reason for you not to be the last man (or woman) standing. This is where Paladins shine, and make last stands look easy. Go be a hero!

This sounds like a lot, but it's not, it comes at you one phase at a time, and each phase only has two or three things to track. It's not so bad once you get the hang and rhythm of it. This fight took us maybe two, three hours to crack so give it some time. It's very rewarding to see the bastard fall over the first time.

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