Last night after our 25 man raid, our 10 man group got back together for some more HM LK pulls. We had roughly 90 minutes of time before our Disc Priest had to go to work. This is the first time ever that we’ve gotten back to back pulls on this encounter without having at least a week in between pulls. Every week we’ve had progression, but last night we had something new: consistency. The morale of our raid, including mine, from Sunday night to last night got a huge (much needed) boost.
We took a total of 7 pulls, and 5 of those 7 made it into the final phase. This isn’t the first time we’ve made it into this phase, quite the contrary we’ve been here sporadically over the past 3 or 4 weeks, but this is the first time we’ve pushed into the phase consistently. We had 5 pulls in a row where we made it into that final phase. And of those 5 pulls, only one of them fell apart because someone (or three someone’s, to be exact!) died during harvest soul. Hell, we are making it through several Harvest Souls even!
So, what is killing us? Vile Spirits.
Our Raid Composition
Tanks: Feral Druid (LK); Prot Paladin (Shamblers)
Healers: Resto Druid (tanks); Disc Priest (Bubble Bot)
DPS: Mutilate Rogue, Fury Warrior, Enhancement Shaman, Marksman Hunter, Arcane Mage, Demonology Warlock
It’s not the best group composition, actually far from it, I am aware of that. However, it is the ten people that came out on their off night to learn the 10 man ICC encounters and put in the effort to get to where we are today. Changing the people in the group really isn’t an option for us. We know it’s not ideal – but we’ve made it this far, albeit not without some struggle. We have two other members that have also been part of this adventure regularly – another Marksmen Hunter and a Prot warrior, who we will be bringing in for a second kill.
We do not have a source of replenishment. However, we’ve done the entire zone HM – all well before the 30% buff – without a source of replenishment. We’ve learned to cope. We’ve made it into the final phase of this encounter numerous times without replenishment. It’s brutal, but we have done it, and I suspect that our kill will be done without replenishment as well. (PS Blizzard if you are reading this, not every 10 man raid group has replenishment – please stop tuning encounters as if they do. Furthermore, it’s crap to lose DPS because a hunter or mage needs to play a non-optimal DPS spec just to gain replenishment when Shadow Priests and Ret Paladins do not).
Our Enhancement shaman is our group’s third healer who has been doing very respectable DPS for this encounter in his off spec. Asking him to sit for a full time DPS is not an option. He’s made it this far with us, he’s going to be here for our kill. It’s non-negotiable. Not only that – but he brings his mana stream totem and bloodlust to the yard, and we aren’t giving that up.
I guess what I’m trying to convey is that while I am going to be looking for feedback for dealing with our vile spirit problem, “bring class x instead of class y” isn’t really a viable solution for me. Hell, I’m not optimal for the group! While I know that it would make it “easier” to have a different class composition, we’d like to do it with the people we have.
Managing My Mana Without Replenishment (Move down to the next section if you aren’t interested in a fairly lengthy discussion on mana management!).
I thought I might take a minute to discuss my mana management. Last night when I asked for advice on Twitter one of the first comments I got was “get replenishment”. So, I kinda wanted to discuss how I’ve been managing without it. And I do feel that I can honestly say that I’ve been managing. Part of the reason I want to take a minute to talk about it is because I very much doubt that we are the only raid team that frequently finds themselves in this predicament.
To be fair, I also think a large part of the reason that we’ve learned to manage the encounter without is because, well, our 10 man has really never had it. So we’ve largely completed the zone without a source of replenishment. Hitting the Lich King without it really wasn’t/isn’t that big of a deal because you can’t miss something you never had to begin with.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough. Really tough. But, I’m entering the final phase with ~50% of my mana, and my innervate with ~1 minute on cooldown. Our disc priest has indicated that since he’s largely doing the same thing in the fight as he always has, his mana consumption is largely the same. However, that is not the case for me!
I make a few changes for the encounter. My most notable change, however, is to my trinkets. I equip both my heroic and non-heroic versions of Solace of the Fallen. If I forget to do this for the first pull, I can really feel it. During the roleplay at the start of the encounter I make sure that both trinkets (and my idol) are at max stacks, so that I start with the full regen available from them. I also fully HoT my LK tank no later than the 2 second mark, and sit to drink back to full as the LK engages.
In addition to changing my trinkets I change my glyphs to nourish and rapid rejuv , and maintain my swiftmend glyph (I tested a few other options, but found these to work the best for me). I found that the more frequent ticks on rejuv really helps smooth out the tank healing and minimizes some of the nourish spamming that I have to do – which is vital. Nourish can get expensive to cast, and it’s much easier to maintain HoTs on the tanks and fill in with nourish when needed than to rely on nourish to do all of my heavy lifting. Additionally, I almost always keep swiftmend on cooldown. Especially towards the end of the first phase when the add tank has two shamblers and the LK tank is getting clocked. This part of the fight is the most stressful part of the encounter for me – and the most mana intensive.
Depending on the RNG of the plague, and how long both shamblers are up in phase 1 will determine if I utilize my innervate during this phase. If both shamblers are up for the entire duration, or both tanks get hit very hard right as invest hits, I use a ton of mana to get them back to full health. If I hit 60% mana before the LK hits 75% life, I will innervate myself. If not, I wait.
What am I waiting for? Brade’s innervate. I receive his first innervate as we transition from phase 1 into phase 2. (keep in mind Brade is the LK tank!). From this point on, the two of us keep our innervates on cooldown. If I didn’t use mine in phase 1, which is optimal for me, I will use it as soon as I hit 60% mana after I receive Brade’s. I can’t rely on receiving Brade’s innervate at exactly the 3 minute mark – because he’s got to time when it’s safe for him to shift to give it to me, but I get it as soon as he’s able.
The only time after we hit the valk phase of the encounter where both the priest and I are scraping for mana is about the time we hit phase 4 (or the second ledge phase). If I am really drained before then, I’ll use a mad alchemist’s potion. Otherwise I will live on my innervate cooldown and wait for our Disc Priest to utilize Hymn of Hope. He times it with when we blood lust and his mana fiend. He almost always goes into the final phase of the encounter close to full mana. I am usually above 50%.
Note that at some point in the encounter, I will always use a mad alchemist’s potion. When I use it varies from pull to pull, but I am always in need of the extra mana.
Because much of the healing required in the final phase of the encounter is actually lower than any of the other phases, I have not had mana issues (yet). But Beru…what do you mean there is less healing, more of the raid is taking damange? This is true, but a few things change. For starters, it’s the only phase where there is only one tank taking consistent damage (thank god), at least once the last raging spirit is dead. And our Disc Priest is able to offer more assistance to the tanks because he doesn’t have to worry about covering infest. And, while I am not the most optimal choice for a second healer in this encounter, I sure kick ass dealing with damage in the frostmourne room. A paladin doesn’t have jack on me down there. Just sayin’
So yes – mana is tight. Very tight. But in my experience so far, I think it’s doable. We’ve yet to wipe the encounter because the healers ran out of mana. Or the DPS for that matter, either.
Speaking of DPS…how are ours doing with mana? Well – we haven’t wiped because they ran out of mana, although I’m sure that they feel the drain just as much as I do. I know that our mage lives on his mana sapphires – and having a two minute evocate helps. I watch our warlock’s mana and when I’m able toss him HoTs to tap back to full, communicating to him when I do. And our hunter vipers at key points of the encounter. It’s not optimal, but everyone is entering the final phase with sufficient recourses to complete the encounter.
Once we actually get him down, I’ll do a full write up of how I healed the encounter as a resto druid.
The Vile Spirit Dilema
Ok, so now let’s talk about where we are struggling with the encounter.
So, we’ve gotten ourselves into the final phase of the fight, and we usually get there with > 5 minutes on the enrage timer and one raging spirit left up. We’ve largely figured out the frostmourne room. But, the vile spirits are our demise, or put another way the last piece to the puzzle. We can survive them sometimes, but sometimes we lose a person or two, which ultimately leads to a wipe. In doing some early research on this, the suggestion was that with the 30% buff people can just spread out and “kite” them taking one hit. Which works…sometimes. Other times we end up with one person being chased by 2 or 3 and running away from heals, with the ultimate result being their death.
The other problem with this strategy is that it’s prohibitive to our LK DPS. Seriously prohibitive. While we enter the final phase with enough time on the clock, after a round or three with the vile spirits we realize that we are now pushing, or behind the clock. We need to find a better way to deal with the spirits. One that lets us continue to maximize our LK DPS.
We are looking for something that will offer us more consistency. Consistency with survival and consistency with DPS.
Now, we’ve watched lots of videos trying to figure this out, and a lot of them have one thing in common: shadow priests. Well, remember above where I said that changing our raid composition really isn’t an option…yea. We don’t have a shadow priest. What we need is a way to tackle this issue without one.
Our DPS has been knocking down the spirits in the frostmourne room, but I think they are going to try to knock a few more down now that we’ve confirmed that those we don’t kill come to play with us upstairs. Is there something more that we should be doing in the frostmourne room outside of survival and knocking down the ones that we can?
With regards to the vile spirits in the Lich King’s realm, I think that we are going to try for a “tank soak” method.
Currently we are tanking the Lich King in the center of the room – the reasoning being that we wanted to spread from the ghosts. This is not working. We have decided to tank him like we do for “Neck Deep in Vile”, keeping him at the far side of the room, dropping a frost trap in the middle of the room, and then moving the raid after he summons the spirits. This will give us more time before they hit, as they will have to travel farther away to reach us. Ideally this would mean that we will have more DPS uptime on the LK.
Now, what our Prot Paladin has suggested for us to try is letting him “soak” the spirits. That is to say that he will stand in the middle of the room and entice them to come to him (the raid will have to line up with him some, I think as well). He will then eat spirit after spirit to the face, cycling through cooldowns for each wave of spirits – I believe he’s got it worked out somehow. Ideally this will give the raid more time to focus DPS on the LK and worry less about avoiding the spirits.
I believe that we will still have to be cognizant of where the spirits are, and will likely still have to dodge some of them. But if this works, it should negate a good portion of them. However, it introduces two new problems. 1) Brade will have to be healed through every soul reaper. Is this possible? I think it probably is, but it’s going to be a lot of healing and cooldown management. 2) Our Prot paladin will have periods in this phase where he will require focused heals for survival. I think this is probably manageable.
However, I’m curious if we should have any DPS trying to knock a few of them down as they are spawning. We have 3 ranged at our disposal, is it worth the loss of LK DPS to have them get some of them out of the sky? If we are trying for a “soak” method, is there any point to it? Is there a better way to deal with the spirits with our non-optimal raid composition?
We’ve gotten in down to ~27% a few times. Once we can iron out the kinks with dealing with the vile spirits, I think we are going to have our kill. But that’s the trick, isn’t it? How to manage the spirits. It’s the last piece of our puzzle.
Does anyone have any suggestions? How are you handling the spirits on hard mode?