Dear Vengeful Shade, how I loathe thee. Let me count the ways!
If you guessed that I’ve started working on Hard Mode Lady Deathwhisper, you’d be right! We spent about 3 hours on Wednesday night with the fine lady, and another 2.5 last night with her. It was a learning experience, for what is proving to be our biggest challenge in Ice Crown Citadel (outside of the Lich King) to date.
Our first night of attempts was largely spent working through actually getting to phase 2, which required a fair amount of tweaking to our strategy, and by the end of the night we were getting there fairly regularly. But we were rough on the transition from phase 1 to phase 2. Even so we still saw roughly 60% on our first night. We had 37 vengeful shade explosions.
In our second night of attempts we were fairly successful in making it to phase two, and by the end of the night had smoothed out the phase 1 to phase 2 transition. We saw somewhere around 55% in our best attempt. We had 69 vengeful shade explosions. However, it should be noted that we made it into phase 2 significantly more than the prior evening.
Now, you may think that is no big deal…because in normal mode, it really isn’t. But the fine lady, in her heroic iteration, has her takes out her vengeance not only on the player that the shade hits, but on everyone within 20 yards of that player. And that vengeance is to the toon of 20k damage!
Just because I need a sounding board and need to think through my thoughts, let me walk through what’s working for us, what’s not and what changes I think we are going to make next week with her. I do think with just a little more tweaking we will be set for a kill.
How to Ascertain Who Has Been Hit by a Vengeful Shade
These little purple buggers are the bane of this encounter. The fight will ultimately be won and lost based on how your raid handles them. Determining who is getting hit by them is tricky to do because when someone gets hit they cause a lot of damage to people around them, so unlike in normal you cannot judge who was hit by merely looking to who took a “vengeful blast”. However, there is a trick! When a vengeful shade actually hits you it gets in a melee swing that does ~300 damage (armor and whatnot do affect the damage received from the melee swing). As such, you can poke through your logs to see who let a vengeful shade get in a melee hit on them.
One other thing to note is that it seems that if you are in melee range of a shade, and it’s original target has properly fled, it will turn and smack you. So not only the person that the shade is targeting needs to flee, everyone needs to make sure they steer clear of the ghosts.
I have come to the conclusion that it is likely impossible to have 100% avoidance on the ghosts, but that it is imperative that no more than one detonate per round. Her lovely snaring frostbolt volley does not help matters either.
Phase 1 – What’s Working
I feel pretty confident that we now have a good grasp on phase 1. We are seeing the phase 2 transition with regularity; however it did require us to change up our strategy on the fight a bit. We are also being a bit unorthodox in using 3 tanks and 7 healers (although I think I may back us down to 6 healers next week, because if phase 2 is cleaned up I don’t feel that the 7th healer is warranted, and the spot would be better served by an additional DPS but I’m not 100% sure on that yet). I like the 3 tank set up that we have right now, and DPS isn’t an issue, so I don’t think we will change that. Honestly though, without the 15% buff we probably would have to adjust this down to 2 tanks and 6 healers, but with the buff I’m not overly concerned about her enrage timer as based on our current work with the encounter, as long as we can keep people alive we will not hit her enrage. We are entering phase 2 with ~6 minutes and often more on the timer.
We are utilizing what I believe to be “the” strategy for managing the adds in this phase. That is, everyone goes up onto the stage behind her and you pile the adds on top of her and AE. Hell, we managed one pull where we got her into phase 2 in something like 2.5 minutes. There were two challenges we had with this strategy: killing the MC folks and getting the adds into her.
We worked (successfully) through killing the MC folks (there are 3 of them now) by calling for AE to stop 5 seconds before the MC was cast. Now mind you…AE didn’t really stop until about 1 second before the MCs went out, but people wound up their AE when the call went out. When AE stopped, DPS single targeted the remaining adds down quickly. We told the entire raid “if you have an ability to CC, you use it when the MCs hit”. For the most part, we pretty successfully handled MCs in this phase. And we didn’t have a lot of deaths to MC’d people once we got it worked out. This worked out well for us.
Getting all of the adds into her was another struggle entirely. We have a tank assigned to each pillar/side and the third tank grabs the add that comes in from the back and picks up Deathwhisper when she comes loose. An added benefit to that third tank is that should a tank bite it to a squid it isn’t going to completely fall apart due to the cross tanking we have going on. Still, the casters are tricky to get into her so that the AE can deal with them. We worked it out by using some very creative line of sight tactics with those pillars right by her and some exceptional hunter maneuvers. Basically a hunter on each side would distracting shot a caster, and then draw it into the fray by line of sighting the adds via the pillars and the tanks picked it up from there (I think the hunters may have MD’d them once they were in as well, but I’m not 100% positive). It worked really well. By the second night, getting the adds into position was a moot point.
One thing that we did take notice of is that the fewer adds you let become empowered, the faster the phase will progress. This is as the result of having to spend less time focusing on the adds and more time focusing on getting her mana shield down.
All in all, I have a pretty good comfort level with our execution on this phase. I feel that we have largely “mastered” this aspect of the encounter.
Phase 1 -> Phase 2 Transition – What’s Working
This took a little bit of tweaking. You cannot bring her down with a fresh set of adds up, at all, and the transition is smoothest when you have zero adds to deal with going into phase 2. I think that we finally worked out a good strategy for this last night. With roughly 3-5% of her mana shield left, we call for everyone to get off of her and clean up the adds or take on the next pack of adds. Once those are dead, or near dead if we are pushing close to the next set, we push her into phase 2.
As she transitions, the only people that move up with her at that juncture are her interrupters, the tank and the tank healers. Everyone else finishes any of the adds that we may have transitioned over with. We then move into our phase 2 positions. This actually worked really well for us once we worked through how it needed to transition.
After last night’s raid, I have a pretty good comfort level with this transition.
Phase 2 – What’s Working and What’s Not
Now, we are making it a good ways into this phase, but not without our casualties. And these casualties, as you may have guessed, are largely due to the vengeful shades! Right now I think some of our ghost issues are due to our positioning. And I think I want to make some adjustments to that.
Currently we have her tanked in the center of the room. In the center with her are the tank (in 3 pieces of FrR gear) and two rogues whose jobs are to interrupt her frostbolt and tricks into the tank. The tanks threat is almost exclusively tricks at the time he has 5 stacks of insignificance on him. I think I’d like to keep this positioning, however our rogues are our most heavy ghost offenders when it comes to blowing vengeful shades up, and I’m not entirely certain how to solve that.
We have each of our other two tanks manning a side. Now, I know that it’s common to just use one tank and have him run back and forth between the sides for the adds, but it’s far less hectic with two tanks and I’m not overly concerned with her enrage timer. As such, we have the luxury of keeping it with three tanks. The rest of the melee is floating between the add spawns to kill them. We’ve been fairly melee light our last few raids with only 3-4 melee outside of the rogues. I like this strategy and think that we will stick with it.
Up to this point we have split the remaining members of the raid “left” and “right” and once we move into phase 2 have had them move on their respective sides towards the stairs. We have also had all ranged DPS the adds on their respective sides and then move back to deathwhisper. I do not think that either of these things are working for us.
With regards to how ranged should assist on the adds I think having all ranged on each side switch to help with them is detrimental to damage on LDW, and overkill on the adds. I’m working through a couple of solutions for this. The original way that we are doing this is attractive because it forces off time for the DPS and as such forces a threat drop on LDW for them.
However, I wonder if we wouldn’t be better served assigning specific members of the raid to switch to help with the adds on their respective sides and certain members staying on LDW full time switching to help with the adds only when their threat requires it. I’m honestly not sure which is the better route to take. I do not think that we are being overrun by adds in phase 2, until we fall apart, and currently our damage is on target for a kill, if we can keep everyone alive. We’ve made it to 55% with half of our raid dead fairly early into phase 2. So should I change it up?
I think I’m going to have to think about this a little bit more. I need to chat with our melee and see if they spend a good deal of time twiddling their thumbs waiting for adds to spawn or if they are running constantly trying to catch up. I also need to comb our parses to see which of our ranged are actually following directions and assisting with adds, and how many are just beating up LDW.
This one I do have a better idea on what I want to change. After the past two nights I think I’ve made a bit of a bad call on how to have us positioned in phase 2. I think as a whole we will be better served by utilizing more of the room in a more organized fashion. It is inevitable that people are going to get hit by ghosts, I have grudgingly accepted this fact. So now I think they key here is to mitigate what we can. I think that this can be done by approaching our positioning differently.
Currently we’ve just assigned “sides” and people are all willy nilly amongst their respective side. I think if we drilled into it a little bit more and assigned “quadrants” we could spread everyone in the raid out better, mitigating the impact of a ghost hit, reducing the chance of multiple ghosts in a single area causing a double blast and overall making it easier to spot the ghosts (by virtue of less clumping in a single area). Here is what I’m envisioning (disclaimer: I’m no Kae! Show pity to my poor stick men!):
While I really like the change, I do have two concerns: healing coverage and dealing with the MCs.
Dealing with the healing shouldn’t be too bad, if I opt to say with 7 healers and placing one raid healer on each quadrant cross section there should be a good bit of overlap. If I drop down to 6 healers the question will be do I pull a tank healer or a raid healer, and will I miss somewhere with coverage for raid healers. The more I think about it, the more I think that this isn’t going to be as big a problem as I’m making it out to be and that I’m over thinking it. Properly placed healers should be able to get a good chunk of the raid with enough coverage from others to help compensate.
The MCs worry me more. I’m worried about CC coverage with such a vast spreading of the raid. I think I can probably get two sources of CC in each quadrant, but I do worry about how cross quadrant MC coverage will work. However, on thinking on it some, I think it has the potential to smooth out dealing with the MCs in phase 2. By limiting each area, I think MCs may become less chaotic. Each quadrant will know to tend to their own MCs, and should their quadrant not have an MC they can check to see if their neighbors need help. This may actually work out better.
While these changes will not completely solve the vengeful shade problems in their entirety, and people will still have to be awake enough to deal with them, I do think that it will help smooth out our phase 2 and net us a kill on her next week. (We are out of raid time this week to continue with her, unfortunately). I also think that making one of the focuses “mitigation”, which is something that I can control, should help immensely.
How are other people dealing with this encounter? Surely I am not the only one with their raid exploding themselves! Do you think the “mitigation” of overall damage route is the way to go in phase 2?