After hundreds of total wipes, seemingly endless frustration and flaring tempers, Orcland Raiders finally completed Tier 14 normal-mode raiding by defeating the Sha of Fear in Terrace of Endless Spring. Most of us agree that first-tier bosses in an expansion haven’t been this difficult since those we faced at the beginning of Cataclysm. This is a good thing, of course, because it will hopefully prepare us for the fights in Patch 5.2: The Thunder King. And we are happy we will get the Feats of Strength for defeating Sha of Fear, Grand Empress Shek’zeer and Will of the Emperor before the patch.
[Note: Apparently, Bashiok wrote in a blog this morning that Patch 5.2 will hit live servers the last week of February. This means we will likely begin the new raid tier on Feb. 26.]
I’ve now cleared all three instances on normal — including Elite Protectors of the Endless — on both my bear and my warrior tank. Each had its own unique tools to offer, whether it was Tranquility, Stampeding Roar, Rallying Cry, Skull Banner or even a buffed heal on Tsulong. My bear even got a kill on Heroic Stone Guard this past week. That may not amaze people, but to me it feels spectacular.
It’s certainly been a giant learning experience, of course, and I feel Blizzard offered tanks 16 encounters that were different enough from each other that we didn’t get bored. This was no tank-and-spank celebration. Yes, I still hate Garalon and how he grinds my bones to dust. Breath of the Empress, you can just go back to your rotten maw.
I will always remember Mogu’Shan Vaults for the amount of time we had to spend on Elegon. That celestial bag of bones caused us to wipe more than 100 times, though I’d like to think it was because we played musical healers and changed strategies more often than Vinnie Morrison changes underwear. We wiped horribly to people falling through the floor, people running too close to adds, people failing to kill their pylons, and just about everything else you could imagine.
We initially had trouble figuring out which tank would be best at which job (picking up adds or the boss after phase 2, etc.) but our bear druid seemed better-suited to add duty with Ursol’s Vortex. Once we got that down, we burned the light out of the dragon and got a very satisfying kill.
Elegon reminded me of Spine of Deathwing in that he was the penultimate boss of the instance and was much harder than the final one. By contrast, Will of the Emperor — while much more enjoyable as a tank — was quite simple once we figured out where to place each construct in the room. This way, the DPS could manage adds better and maximize boss damage during Titan Gas.
Feng gave tanks shiny crystals to play with, but the Shroud of Reversal was certainly the better toy. I’ll take a ton of free damage any time. I also felt great when I could help provide extra DPS time for my raid by interrupting Epicenter. Spirit Kings was the ultimate “Don’t stand in deadly stuff” encounter and it had a lot of moving parts. Stone Guard tested tanks’ ability to taunt the correct target at the correct time. The heroic version of that last fight just meant I took more damage. And the DPS and healers had the luxury of Jasper not being up that week.
Heart of Fear
Anyone have a can of Raid? There are more bugs in Heart of Fear than in a New York City ATM vestibule. They have bugs that spin around, bugs impaled on spears, bugs that yell at you about the Empress, and bugs that just try and crush you. Knowing Blizzard, though, I guess we should count ourselves lucky that we haven’t faced a raid full of poop yet. Oh, that’s coming in Patch 5.2? Someone tell the Thunder King to light a match.
This instance contained one of the most difficult bosses I’ve faced as a tank (Grand Empress Shek’Zeer) and one of the easiest (Blade Lord Ta’yak). Here is what I gleaned from the instance:
Imperial Vizier Zor’lok loves to profess his lust for Grand Empress Shek’zeer and throw out lots of dangerous sonic rings. And just like on Atramedes back in Blackwing Descent, there will always be that one guy
who dies to it every single week. He also loves to mind-control people — usually those damn hunters who disengage into the pheromones filling up the room — and throw up turtle shells we can conveniently hide in during Force and Verve. I usually am DPS on this fight because you only need one tank.
Blade Lord Ta’yak was pretty much a borefest until 20 percent, when he would unleash a flurry of tornadoes and constantly ticking AoE damage on your raid. Having Dash and Stampeding Roar made this much easier on a druid. Even on my warrior, though, this boss was not very challenging.
And then there was Garalon, the giant bug with a love of destroying you with soul-crushing 1-percent wipes. I have not met one person who likes this boss. The mechanics are annoying and buggy (no pun intended) and, like Lord Rhyolith before him, the fight will always highlight the people who suck at driving. In this case, they have to kite while debuffed with Pungency and then pass off Pheromones to someone else. Really, you just hope you can kill his legs and pass off Pheromones well enough that he dies before you do. I had north of 100 wipes on this boss as well. However, as frustrating as Elegon was, Garalon was far more annoying.
I tried to tank Wind Lord on my warrior initially but it seemed our Guardian druid in Orcland was much better-suited to the task. This meant I got to dps as a feral cat and AoE all the things. Due to Symbiosis, I also received Divine Shield from our paladin. This allowed me to bubble one late Rain of Blades and get out of one Amber Prison by myself in phase 1. I really enjoy being a kitty on this fight, and once our group stopped blowing us up with Wind Bomb, we got a kill. I’d still like to get some tier gloves for my bear, Mr. Wind Lord, so next time you die, can you be nice and drop some? Thanks.
If I ever was going to have flashbacks to Professor Putricide in Icecrown Citadel, it would be on Amber Shaper. Yeah, I know, you only have four buttons while transformed, but this was surprisingly difficult for some people to learn. We changed our timing for each phase quite a bit. Did we want to have a slower phase 1 to build up more stacks of Destabilize? Did we want the first person transformed in phase 2 to stay in the rest of the fight, drinking pools all along the way? No matter what we did, it always hurt when the boss used Reshape Life on a healer. Once we triumphed over the first two phases, we still had to face the insane raid damage in the last segment. We got our kill, but an even more difficult boss lay ahead.
Grand Empress Shek’zeer is a nutty boss. Not only does she hit relatively hard with her melee swings, Empress also maims everyone with a ton of physical damage from Sonic Discharge. And that is just in phase 1. The Sha of Fear is controlling this giant spider, of course, and he loves to make your raid’s collective life quite miserable. If phase 1 sounds scary, your reward for making it past that point is a pounding from several adds in phase 2. You receive one large Reaver add and three smaller Windblade adds. They love to run past you and destroy healers, though Heroic Leap on the warrior and a combination of Nature’s Vigil, Incarnation, Typhoon and Ursol’s Vortex on the bear help immensely. The Windblades get funky by spinning around and spraying the raid with a deadly move called Dispatch. So not only do you have to save your big cooldowns for the adds’ arrival, you must try and interrupt Dispatch at the same time. If you can bribe your DPS to help with interrupts, you should. You must also be sure to trap the Reaver adds in the Amber Traps before Empress comes back into the fight. Be sure you know where you are building Sticky Resin up to make the traps before you get to this point. Also make sure to not kite Windblades into the traps you need for the Reavers.
In phase 3, Empress frequently casts Calamity, which reduces everyone to 50 percent of their HP; Amassing Darkness, which acts as a reverse Prayer of Mending; Visions of Demise, which fears and damages players; and Consuming Terror, which forces your raid to move out of a conal fear effect. If you don’t time the end of phase 2 correctly, you end up with Dissonance Fields exploding with Sonic Discharge while all the rest of this is happening. That is amazingly bad for your raid — and your healers.
Beating this boss was a great way to end Heart of Fear, however, because it truly was epic in scale.
Terrace of Endless Spring
So we took down Heart of Fear and decided to play in the nice, fresh water in Terrace of Endless Spring. We casually strolled in and thought we could tackle just about anything. It turns out, however, that we had a bit to learn about removing the widespread corruption in this place. [Note: There is water here -- a lot of it -- but you can't fish inside Terrace. This saddened me because you could fish inside Ignis' room in Ulduar.] Overall, however, the bosses in this instance were generally easier than those in HoF, save Sha of Fear.
We had heard that killing Protectors of the Endless on Elite mode — with Kaolan up last — was a ticket to basically free 503 loot. Defiled Ground and Expel Corruption required our team to figure out where to drop bad stuff without running out of room. People had a bit of trouble interrupting the other two bosses so they would move out of Cleansing Waters. And folks were a bit slow with dispels and purges. However, the timing fell into place after about a dozen tries and we mastered Expel Corruption. I got some sick Elite tank boots out of the deal.
If you missed Valithria Dreamwalker, well, you once again get to heal a giant dragon-slash-cloud-serpent beast during the Tsulong encounter. This time, however, you are actually trying to kill Tsulong — and then heal him and protect him from evil Sha adds. On my warrior tank, I took two Shadow Breaths and dipped in and out of the Sunbeam (which drops your stacks of Dread Shadow). My bear’s group wanted us to only take one Shadow Breath, so we had to taunt back and forth more often. This is, obviously, a fight for the healers, but DPS have to ensure Unstable Sha don’t reach Tsulong and Embodied Terrors and Fright Spawns die at just the right time. Having your healers feared during the healing phase is a nightmare.
One of my guildies said of Lei Shi, the next boss, that “Blizzard decided to take every possible annoying thing that could possible be in a fight and put it into this one.” I can’t say I disagree with him. First there is Lei Shi’s voice, which is a horrid mix of XT-002 from Ulduar and a car with a broken fan belt. Next is her penchant to Hide just when you’ve used major cooldowns. And of course, she also is terrible because she does absolutely no melee damage. Instead, Lei Shi spits on you with Spray, a stacking debuff that causes you to take increasing frost damage. Once you get more than 10 stacks of Spray, you are going to seriously be hurting unless you are an overpowered Death Knight. [Damn you, overpowered DKs!] Your raid also has to be quick to CC the Animated Protectors she summons, lest they whack and kill people. Why did Blizzard have to put tier shoulders on such a mentally irritating boss?
This leaves us at the final boss of this tier, Sha of Fear. The concept for this guy must have seemed brilliant at the time at Blizzard.
“Let’s have this giant Sha turn people into little Shas and teleport them to platforms where the keyboard turners will get feared repeatedly and tunnel-vision DPS will fail to soak orbs!” a developer surely said.
In addition to that, Sha of Fear also wrecks tanks with Thrash. It will definitely put hair on your chest, even if you’re female. While I probably should have used a cooldown every time, I will admit that I relied on my healers now and then. It felt great when my bear could dodge all three Thrash-buffed strikes, and similarly, my warrior was a lot healthier with some well-timed parries. The rest of the fight isn’t too difficult for tanks. You can get free rage by soaking Sha Globes, and Death Blossom shouldn’t come close to killing you. I realize now, however, that I should have used Heart of the Wild at the beginning of the fight while not tanking. Free DPS in cat form would have been a big plus during Heroism.
On our first kill, the Orcland group went 11 seconds past enrage. My bear’s group killed Sha with 1:30 left on his Berserk timer. It all comes down to how fast your platform groups kill their Pandaren, which of course, goes back to how good they are at keeping him from healing from Sha Globes.
So I do feel that these 16 bosses were anything but boring, but I was the most satisfied in killing Sha of Fear, Garalon and Elegon. Of course those three bosses also caused me the most wipes, so looting them was a sweet sort of payback as a tank.
Which bosses did you enjoy the most (or the least)? Do you take issue with my view of Tier 14? Let me know, please, so I can cry in a corner and rock back and forth next to my Tsulong Voodoo Doll. What? Don’t judge me! That dragon is evil for not dropping my staff!