Monday, 17 January 2011

Into the breach, well, Stonecore

Time for the first heroic! It's mid-afternoon on a Saturday, the girlfriend is out for the day and I'm intending on spending the next several hours exploring heroic content. I'm not overly keen on the dungeon finder for my first instance, so I gently enquire in guild channel, there's another guy who's just hit 85 with an alt and three pretty experienced raiders who are up for it. First thing I notice is there's no daily, I'm told, instead you just hit a random instance; this I like, far easier than having to go to all of the bother of picking up a quest and handing it in… so I assemble the party and click on random dungeon finder and were off!....

…Or not as the case may be. I get a message telling me my ilvl is too low, BUT IT SAYS 329 ON MY CHARACTER SCREEN!??!! Fortunately the hangover from last night's session was starting to subside and I managed to recollect a post I read about the ilvl being calculated from all the items in your inventory, as I'd been tinkering with a little bit of Alchemy the night before, I had my level 45 Philosophers Stone in my bag which dragged my average down. It seems the ilvl displayed takes the average of your worn gear, but the actual calculation for dungeon finder is taken from all your gear. Panic over, Philosophers stone banked, and we're off.

As a slight aside, it suddenly struck me why I've seen a few instances of people ninja looting ilvl 333 drops, on at least two bosses I can remember a party member waiting till every member had clicked greed and then needed an item even though it was of no use (e.g. a tank taking cloth). I thought at the time this might just be to boost the coffers, but as you can accumulate gold in Cata quicker than a binocular hire shop on the edge of a super model-only nudist beach, it struck me as rather odd at the time; now it makes sense.

Where were we anyways? Ah, that's it, heroics. Stonecore to be precise, I can hardly contain the excitement. It seems I was in the minority; two of the guys chirp up on Vent pretty much simultaneously "I hate this place". Not quite the start I was looking for, but rather than wait 15 minutes to be able to queue again we crack on. Trash is pretty easy and within minutes we arrive at Corborus, I've been having a quick read of the strategies on wow wiki on the laptop as we've been killing the trash and had the strategy explained to me on Vent so I'm reasonably confident. How wrong I was…

Now as I've stated in a previous post, and from more recent experience in heroics, Cata boss fights very simplistically be boiled down to, with a few exceptions, the following: "don't stand in the crap on the floor or you'll die" "sometimes the crap on the floor will keep you alive, stand in it", "kill the adds please", and "if you can't kill it, kite it" easy right? Wrong.

After a near death experience caused by not moving out of the crystal barrage quick enough (see rule 1 above), it strikes me that "just finishing this mind flay" before moving is not a sustainable strategy; at about the same time Corborus decides to go subterranean and suddenly I find myself surrounded by crap on the floor, or more precisely I find my corpse surrounded by crap on the floor. It takes a few attempts, but eventually the two of us new to the instance master the tactics, though I did note that even the seasoned pro's were still falling foul of the dust clouds, and I start to realise why people might not like the place. Just to be different though, I have to say I love it! This is what heroics should be all about, you need to show a little bit of awareness and skill in adapting rotations to suit the need for mobility for the fight instead of just standing still and face-rolling.

Slabhide next, this one's even more tricky to master; a slight adaptation of rule 2 in that we're standing behind, rather than in something not to die, but the principles the same. A couple of wipes later I have a chat with the healer and find that it's mainly a line of site issue on the air phase, because of the lava pools and the need to hide he wasn't always able to see the tank to heal him so I agree to help out on the healing front (I'm nothing if not versatile! And more importantly "I was helping heal" gives be an excellent excuse explanation for why my dps is so abysmal). I try sticking to shielding the tank so I don't need to drop out of shadow form, but even that's not enough so I stick a couple of healing spells on the task bar and a few wipes later there's a dragon sized handbag at our feet.

Ozruk proves to be no problem at all, you want DoTs you say? I can do DoTs! He goes down first time so it's on to High Priestess Azil; this fight I like. The fight itself proves a little problematic as we struggle to quite grasp the tactics as there's a lot going on in the fight, especially as there's two of us with little clue of what to expect. Avoiding gravity wells, big rocks, and giving the adds the run around is a little much at first. More wipes, and I get the feeling if this was a PUG we'd have disbanded by now, but it's a guild run, we're having a bit of a catch up on Vent, and all seemingly enjoying laughing at my ineptitude (it's a favourite past time of the guild, and has been for years). I think we clocked up a little over an hour and a half to finish the dungeon, which I was told wasn't too bad at the time, I've certainly had worse runs since.

Some things that stick out in my mind from the my first run are

  • Be flexible with your DPS rotation to suit the situation, the only boss where you can stand and deliver is Ozruk. You do far less DPS when you're dead; be prepared to sacrifice the 'perfect' rotation to stay alive, which, in this case, means lots of movement and instant / short cast spells.
  • Spam Shadow Word Death when the boss gits 25% HP – change your interface to show percentages rather than total HP to aid this.
  • Pop Dark Evangelism at about 80% mana, follow with Shadow Fiend soon after, even if you don't think you need the mana, the dps boost isn't trivial, if the boss fight lasts any length of time, which it probably will if you're new to heroics, you might get to use them again.
  • Keep the DoTs up at all times, it's simple but I've seen lots of priests who can't seem to manage it, remember the last tick of DoTs don't clip any more if you're too early, the tick will simply carry on into the refreshed spell – this is no excuse to be slack and cast way too early, still aim to refresh as late as possible
  • Mind Flay does tick, wait till it finishes before recasting, if you can't manage that, have a google for a nochan macro
  • Dispersion is your friend! Not only does it refill the blue stuff, it's a panic button for when you are snoozing and didn't notice you were up to your knees in lava.
  • Don't be afraid of healing, I know you're shadow, but you can still be of use, Divine Hymn can be a wipe saver.
  • On a similar note, keep an eye on your party's mana, especially the healer, help them out by casting Hymn of Hope.
  • I'd keep both of the above spells, and possibly more on a secondary cast bar so you can easily reach them in an emergency.
  • If you don't know a boss fight, ASK, there's no shame in it, everyone's been there – but don't slack do have a read of wow wiki or one of the other sites to get a basic idea of what to expect before asking. There's nothing more frustrating than wiping because someone didn't know the strategy and didn't ask.
  • If you have a laptop or smartphone, keep it by the PC and use it as an aid to memory until you have them memorised.
  • Expect to wipe. Lots. You'll need to put aside at least an hour for a Heroic run, probably more.
  • Be forgiving to Newbies, you were one not too long ago, if they're making the effort, try and help them out.


  1. I have to chime in with the "I hate stonecore" crowd - but I did love this post, and your enthusiasm for it is making me think I should give it another shot. I just find TyreWorm unbelievably unforgiving - I mean by the time you've noticed you're standing in crap on the floor the crap on the floor has already killed you. And that damn dragon, I think he was designed to make a healer cry - the ONLY way I've found to keep the tank up through that fight, due to the line of sight issues, is to stand in the dragon's mouth and spam heal both myself and the tank. That cannot be a good strategy :)

    But, yes, this is what heroics should be like. And I loved the post.

  2. Thank you for the kind words, its good to know I've got a reader.. :)

    I've found the way to avoid the dust is to keep moving, if you're already moving before the dust appears you'll generally get out, you can pause without too much danger to get off a flash heal, but no more than one. I find the instant heals are generally enough (dont forget the instant cast chakra heals too)

    As you can probably guess I've gone to the dark side (or is that the light side?) And started healing, I'm quite literally putting my train journey to good use and penning my driblings on the subject.

    As for the dragon, try and stay close to the tank and hide behind the same stone or an adjacent one, if all else fails I think the smart heals don't need los so use them, I tend to cast prayer of healing on myself which always seems to hit the tank