Healing Primer – Heroic Spine of Deathwing; Madness of Deathwing (25 man)
It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here and a lot of that has to do with end of expansion burnout and real life responsibilities creeping up. I’m not an alt-a-holic by any means so as things wind down at the tail end of the expansion as the nerfs render difficult content trivial I tend to lose a significant amount of interest in World of Warcraft. It picks up again with the next expansion but it does sap my motivation to post. I haven’t even had time to play the Beta but that is mostly due to me playing other games!
That being said I wanted to talk about the last two heroic encounters and discuss healing them. Before I begin though I want to mention that I am not discussing a lot of the non-healing strategy specifics here because honestly it never really registered what is being done. I tended to put my nose to the grindstone and focus on healing as these are probably the two most mana intensive and healing intensive fights in the zone.
Heroic Spine of Deathwing
Group make-up: 2 full tanks, 1 CatBear, 6 healers, 16 full time DPS
Healer breakdown: 1 druid, 1 priest, 2 shaman, 2 paladin; we have the option of adding either a shaman, paladin, or holy priest as needed
This fight has no distinct phases in the sense many other encounters do. The fight escalates in difficulty as time passes and certain moments are significantly more stressful than others. The way I generally break it down in my head is as follows:
-Amalgamation DPS and blood gathering ‘phase’
-Amalgamation Nuclear raid damage ‘phase
-Amalgamation DPS and blood gathering ‘phase’
-Amalgamation Nuclear raid damage ‘phase’
-Kill Corruption, Barrel Roll, and Clear Debuffs
This repeats two additional times for each plate. As the fight moves on the raid gains stacks of Degradation that reduces your maximum HP by 5% for each Amalgamation death. This will stack up to a minimum of 30% over the course of the fight. Given the chance for Searing Plasma and Fiery Grip combinations as well as people inadvertently taking Blood hits you have the potential for unpleasant deaths if you are not careful.
There is also another mechanic to be aware of and that is Blood Corruption: Death. I have personally never handled the dispels for this however I do understand how it functions. This debuff is a raid wiper if not managed, and must be dispelled until it morphs into Blood corruption: Earth. At that point you have a limited number of dispels to control who this comes to rest on and morphs again into Blood of Neltharion a massively beneficial damage reduction buff. Having this on your tanks is a high priority and monitoring these debuffs is a fairly intensive job. Because of that one of your healers is going to be paying a lot of attention to it and will not necessarily be healing at full capacity. Discipline priests work great for this because they can’t reliably contribute to Searing Plasma but their abilities and cooldowns are still very much desired.
This fight is basically whack-a-mole for you as a restoration druid. There are no significant positioning requirements except for the barrel rolls and you pretty much free to focus entirely on your healing. Because of this you should be able to maximize your throughput, perfectly time your innervates concentration potion and tree of life and, should you use it, your Jaw of Defeat activations.
Working with your teammates cooldowns – we often find ourselves running with two shamans and two paladins for the great raid wide cooldowns as well as the mana regeneration from mana tide. Each barrel roll is given an aura mastery and spirit link totem. Each nuclear blast is given an aura mastery as well. The second spirit link is used for one nuclear blast and power word barrier the other. This does not include the prot. Paladin cooldown or warrior shouts which are used in a rotation as well. I tend to use my tranquility during the barrel roll as it harmonizes perfectly with spirit link distributing your healing and helping to break or put dents in most of the Searing Plasma debuffs.
Spec – Right now I’m still running the 8/2/31 spec with points in Furor for maximum mana though I could probably switch over to 10/0/31 at my gear level. I do raid healing predominantly as the paladins have the tanks covered for the most part.
Managing mana – I will often use my Jaws of Defeat for this encounter though it isn’t normally one of my main trinkets. I enjoy any added effective mana regen I can get that doesn’t come at any drawback. Maximizing the benefit of Jaws of Defeat as well as your T13 set bonus when innervate is cast (with power torrent up for even more benefit) can also make a world of difference. These aren’t things I can necessarily prescribe exact times for as you need to make a judgment call on when to activate them. It will also depend on your raid composition and what portions of the fight are more strenuous for you. During each plate you can expect the nuclear blast portion followed by debuff clearing during the burn to require a significant amount of casting as well as going into and out of the barrel rolls. During the last plate it is going to be fairly intense at any point so it is all fair game. I tend to hold off on my concentration potion until just after the first tendon burn on the second plate (or later) if I can as I can sustain a pretty substantial portion of my mana until later that plate going into the third one.
So what do I do exactly?
This fight is very spammy. I find that my healing rotation for this fight is actually based on a priority system. This isn’t the perfect order but I generally try to following this logic string:
1.) If lifebloom isn’t maxed out on a tank max it out
2.) If swiftmend is off cooldown use it, check for a feral druid or resto shaman candidate first
3.) Prime a heal on anyone that has Searing Plasma as well as Fiery Grip (non-tendon burn grips should be quick)
4.) Cast rejuvenation (or free regrowth) on anyone that has Searing Plasma
5.) Address anyone injured that does not have searing plasma, this jumps up the list if they’re severely hurt
CD 1) Tree of Life leading into one of the two nuclear phases per plate to mitigate damage and clear debuffs
CD 2) Tranquility during barrel rolls alongside SLT
CD 3) Use barkskin liberally, best used during Nuclear Blast or Fiery Grip if you have Searing Plasm
I find that this fight is largely dependent on how everyone else plays. Since other players can greatly minimize the amount of damage the raid takes you will find that your job and all healer’s jobs for that matter, will get a lot easier as the raid becomes more familiar with the encounter. Some examples of this are: killing bloods properly, people not taking too much damage from the bloods, better blood kiting during third plate, timing grips so that you don’t have full duration grip during a burn phase, and DPS precasting and breaking grips almost immediately. If these types of things are handled then you are free to do your work and maintain a fairly constantly stream of rejuvenation spam. If things get hairy and you are forced to use more direct heals without clearcasting then you will have mana problems.
When first learning this encounter, and on your first kill, you will probably be reaching OOM just before or just as the fight draws to a close. It takes some experience balancing your mana expenditure to achieve this. I have to credit Beruthiel over at Falling Leaves and Wings who gave me some points as we were about a week or two behind her guild working on this encounter. All it really took me was swapping to Jaws of Defeat (I know I wasn’t using it! Crazy) and better cooldown management and I was good to go. This is a fight where healing meters are fairly useful though normally I dismiss them entirely. Throughput is a significant part of the healer game plan here and you do need to make sure everyone is pulling their weight especially with all the Searing Plasma going on.
Heroic Madness of Deathwing (25m)
Here’s a video I made about a month ago of our first heroic madness kill. This is a good lesson in what NOT to do for mana management. While I played well enough and was top in healing my lifebloom uptime was down to 86% which is a significant loss of mana. I very much felt that at the end of the fight when things were getting extremely hairy. Since this kill I’ve learned to manage and throttle my mana usage to allow for liberal casting through the entire head phase at the end.
Group Make-up: 2 tanks (paladin, warrior, or druid), 6 healers (no specific classes except usually two shamans), 17 DPS
Phase 1 (Platforms)
Strategy: Our platform order is Ysera, Alextrasza, Nozdormu, and then Kalecgos. We get two rounds of blistering tentacles that we must kill as a raid and one elementium meteor that is un-slowed. From what I know this is considered the conventional approach to the encounter.
On each platform you will face the same obstacles that you do on normal, with one exception, prior to returning to the limb tentacle though they do more damage. Strong tank or healer cooldowns are required to handle the Corruption’s impale burst damage at the end of its countdown and a raid wide cooldown (or two) is advisable for the last platform when the elementium meteor lands. For two platforms the raid is responsible for killing the blistering tentacles in much the same fashion as on normal though a smaller raid cooldown like Aura Mastery can help to soften the damage if they stay up for a little longer than desired.
The one dangerous ability that is added to the encounter is the Corrupting Parasite. Twice per platform a raid member will be infected and have a short period of time to run to the time bubble left by Nozdormu. This debuff does increasing damage over time and must be healed through as a failure to do so risks killing additional players and a poor placement of the resulting add. Once the debuff expires, through duration or death, a Corrupting Parasite spawns and begins casting. If it is allowed to finish its cast then it deals damage to the raid relative to the amount of hit points that it has remaining. The time bubble helps to slow this cast to allow the raid to kill it outright prior to finishing its cast or make it so that it has so little HP left that it is negligible. The damage from the parasite will more often than not be a non-issue until the fourth platform when the raid is missing most of the aspect buffs. It is ideal to have a raid wide cooldown available for each explosion if possible but they are primarily required for the fourth platform when it will hit the hardest relative to everyone’s life total.
There are three impale hits per platform if I recall correctly with the tank’s major cooldowns covering the first for each of them and one external major cooldown covering the third. Warrior cries are also great to use if you have enough of them in the raid to cover all three impales. We tend to run three to four in our raid so there was never any issue in doing this.
Ultimately it boils down to the following:
Platform 1 – DPS Corruption tentacle and heal through smashes and use cooldowns for impale, Drop parasite into time bubble and kill before it pops, Kill elementium meteor before it lands, Drop parasite into time bubble and kill before it pops, Kill Corruption, Kill Regenerative Bloods, DPS body tentacle without dealing with Blistering Tentacles. Use dream as necessary. Ranged DPS start on platform 4 in order to drop it to 91% before jumping to platform 1 to deal with Corrupting Parasite.
Platform 2 – DPS Corruption tentacle and heal through smashes and use cooldowns for impale, Drop parasite into time bubble and kill before it pops if possible, Kill elementium meteor before it lands, Drop parasite into time bubble and kill before it pops if possible, Kill Corruption, Kill Regenerative Bloods, DPS body tentacle without dealing with Blistering Tentacles.
Platform 3 – DPS Corruption tentacle and heal through smashes and use cooldowns for impale, Drop parasite into time bubble and kill before it pops if possible, Kill elementium meteor before it lands, Drop parasite into time bubble and kill before it pops if possible, Kill Corruption, Kill Regenerative Bloods, DPS body tentacle while also killing both sets of Blistering Tentacles. Cooldowns become more important with HP decrease.
Platform 4 – DPS Corruption tentacle and heal through smashes and use cooldowns for impale, DPS parasite as hard as possible and use cooldowns as needed to live through its explosion, Stack up and use a cooldown to minimize Meteor impact then kill elementium meteor, DPS parasite as hard as possible and use cooldowns as needed to live through its explosion, Kill Corruption, Kill Regenerative Bloods, DPS body tentacle while also killing both sets of Blistering Tentacles. Cooldowns become critical on platform 4.
Phase 2 (Head)
This phase functions primarily the same except with much more damage going out and the addition of one very dangerous new ability. In normal and heroic Deathwing’s AoE damage pulses do more damage every time he hits a new 5% mark (e.g. 15%, 10%, and 5%). In heroic a swarm of healing bloods will be spawned in a random location on the edge of the platform each time he hits one of those 5% marks. These bloods can be snared but not rooted and make their way to Deathwing. If they reach him they heal him and are capable of bringing him back over the 5% increment you just got him below meaning that you’ll get another wave of healing bloods taking him down past it. For example if you take him to 14%, get a wave of bloods, and they heal him for 2% back up to 16% you’ll get another wave of bloods taking him down past 15% again. In theory if you don’t have enough AoE to handle these bloods you will be stuck in a loop forever and die. Make sure the bloods are slowed 100% of the time via rogue FoK spam, moonkin mushrooms, frost traps, blastwave, or whatever works best for you. If properly slowed you should have sufficient time to AoE them all (or enough of them) in time before they reach Deathwing.
For this phase we damaged Deathwing over the course of the first set of small adds and big adds down to 16%. Once the first set of big adds was dead we lusted and burned him through 15%, killed the healing bloods, and then burned him through the 10% transition as well killing off those bloods. We then cleared out small and big adds and worked through the 5% transition. It’s a bit daunting at first given the timing, damage, and dps needed but you’ll find you’ll make lots of progress with each attempt. Now that the 20% nerf is in effect for those that haven’t killed it yet I’m sure the threshold is a bit lower. The most frustrating part of this phase actually the fact you need to complete phase 1 to get here. That’s really it.
Over the course of the four platforms this fight is not necessarily healing intensive from a moment to moment perspective (though there will be times people get low and close calls will happen) but it tends to be more of an exercise in mana management. You’ll find yourself having time to line up innervates with power torrents and mana tide/concentration potions will prove critical to keeping you well stocked.
Since you are not necessarily part of the cooldown rotation as a druid you can freely time your abilities such that they are available when you need them the most. My method may not necessarily be the best but it tended to serve me well enough. The way I went about it was the following:
Tree of Life on platform 1 purely for mana saving purposes
Tranquility on platform 2 when limb tentacle is low just to raid heal some on a budget
Tree of Life on platform 3 during first blistering tentacles to save mana
Tranquility on platform 4 just before elementium meteor if people are low from a crush, or just afterwards as required
Tree of Life on platform 4 on second blistering tentacles if needed, otherwise save for Phase 2
Tranquility and Tree of Life as needed in Phase 2 as raid damage increases
Corruption tentacle healing is actually fairly straight forward and does not really differ from your normal mode healing except in magnitude. Roll lifebloom on the relevant tank and actively rejuvenation spam on raid members to heal them up from tentacle crush damage. Wild Growth on cooldown and only if the raid isn’t fully topped off from the last crush. Don’t mindlessly spam it as mana can be a concern for your first kills. Swiftmend can almost always be used on cooldown with little to no overheal. This damage does not change in absolute magnitude but once the maximum HP buff is lost you will find it threatens your raid that much more. Exercise some caution in how much mana you spend on your rejuvenation spam, as you learn the encounter you may not be able to be as liberal as you’d like.
The corrupted parasite can be deadly but it’s only partially your responsibility. Swap to the afflicted person as soon as they get the debuff and make sure you have rejuvenation on them and swiftmend at the ready just in case. Provided they live until the Parasite spawns your only real concern in regards to the parasite is prehotting the raid if you think it’ll finish its cast. On platform four it more than likely will finish its casts so a raid cooldown coupled with aggressive hots is required to stabilize the raid. Again this isn’t anything more than you would normally do as part of your rotation, it is more a matter of conserving mana so you have it when you really need it.
The Elementium meteor is a non-issue until the fourth platform. On the first three platforms there is only some minor raid wide damage that goes out once it lands. On the last one however you have the impact to deal with. With something like power word barrier (or PWB and a Spirit link totem up) you can mostly trivialize the impact. The issue for us tended to be an unfortunate corruption crash into a bulk of the ranged just prior to the meteor landing. What I opted to do was pre-hot the raid like mad and pop a harmony infused tranquility a few seconds prior to the impact. This helped stabilize those that were low as tranquility front loads some of its healing tick wise and having the hot’s rolling improved the effectiveness of SLT.
Blistering tentacles aren’t necessarily any more deadly on heroic than normal if you actively mitigate them with some form of raid cooldown or healing throughput cooldown. Things like 4pT13 shaman spiritwalker’s grace or paladin cooldowns are great along with Tree of Life for you. There should never be a shortage of those around and provided DPS is on the mark (unfortunately that’s the gate item) you won’t find the blistering damage to be overwhelming. If they are up too long it will be but that is NOT your fault so don’t beat yourself up.
I can’t stress it enough that this fight is a marathon and not a sprint. Rejuvenation spam is incredibly strong here especially when the large corruption tentacle is keeping people from topped off so utilize your strengths. Mana management is the hardest part of this boss in my opinion as you need to give yourself as much as possible going into phase 2.
Phase two starts off a non-issue for healers and then gets progressively worse. Until Deathwing gets lower the only sources of significant damage are Shrapnel hits from the small adds which should be mitigated to less than lethal status via Dream usage and the tanks getting pummeled by the big adds. If DPS is on track, the small adds should only get one set of shrapnel off meaning you will have plenty of time to heal those people up, and the big adds will die before the tanks are unhealable. Yes you may lose tanks to this damage while learning the fight but be aware how much the difficulty of this phase scales with how trained your DPS is to kill tings fast and hold when they need to.
Once Deathwing starts increasing his raid wide damage to a noticeable level (10% marker and 5% marker) then the fight gets exponentially more difficult. Having people drop low from shrapnel or people potentially being low from AoE damage prior to taking a shrapnel hit becomes a much bigger problem. Similarly healers will be split between healing tanks and the raid so there is a greater risk of tank death if a heal is poorly timed. As a druid we shine when it comes to healing the raid wide damage through our standard tool set and maintaining lifebloom on the tanks in preparation for the worsening incoming damage. When first learning this fight the 5% mark was when the poop starting hitting the fan. I found myself popping tranquility, tree of life, and using direct heals much more liberally in order to save people who were dropping very low from the AoE pulses. Having the mana saved up to dig deep here at the end is pretty much your main focus throughout the rest of the encounter. There is no comparison between late phase 2 damage and any other moment in the fight.
I fear that I have not been entirely helpful here because honestly, as a druid, you aren’t really going to do anything different than your standard rotation. The fight’s difficulty scales with the strength of your healing core as a whole (strong dedicated tank healers, good synergized AoE healer group etc.) and not necessarily healer gear level. The fight’s difficulty does scale a lot with DPS gear level and skill level as many of the mechanics in the fight that need to be healed through are directly linked to how long they are alive: Corruption, Corrupted Parasite, Blistering Tentacles, Deathwing’s Limbs, Large adds in phase 2, and how much Deathwing heals with each set of healing adds. Each of those has the potential to suck MUCH more mana out of your healing core than required if allowed to live too long.
I apologize if these guides aren’t as descriptive as they could be. This is more anecdotal advice as opposed to a solid “this is what you do” guide. I just want you to know how I approached these fights and hopefully that can help you even a little bit!
In the meantime I haven’t been playing WoW much at all. I log in for one night of raiding a week and don’t touch it for the rest of the week. This is why I haven’t had the gumption to post much of anything in a while. I assure you that I am not quitting or anything I have just taken this opportunity to try other games and do other things (like buy a house!). My current interests are finishing Kingdoms of Amalur, play lots of Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, try the Secret World beta, refinish my Star Control 2 playthrough, and possible dabble in a few other games in my pile of shame until other games I want to play come out. I will try to do more with the beta now that I am reinvigorated with updated level 90 talents.