Saturday, 30 April 2011

Raid Encounter Guides - Sinestra (Bastion of Twilight)

Sinestra, Consort of Deathwing, is the optional, Heroic-only end boss in the Bastion of Twilight. To even reach her you must kill Cho’gall on Heroic mode, which opens a trapdoor down into the deep cavern where Sinestra dwells with her eggs.
The Sinestra fight is both fun and challenging. The DPS check is extremely tight, which in turn makes the healing check fairly tight as well, as you will be hard pressed to run more than 5 or 6 healers. You will only need 2 tanks. Your healers will need to be able to dispel magic.
I’ll break this guide down into an Ability list, a simple breakdown of the phases, then a detailed look at some of the more critical aspects of the fight.
Mana Barrier - Envelops the caster in a powerful barrier that continually replenishes any lost health, at the expense of the caster’s mana.
Flame Breath - Deals 95000 to 105000 Fire damage to all enemies in front of the caster.

Twilight Blast - Blasts an enemy for 166250 to 183750 Shadow damage
Wrack - Deals increasing Shadow damage over one minute. When dispelled bounces to two nearby allies of the afflicted player.

Twilight Slicer - Beam of concentrated twilight energy, dealing 50,000 Shadow damage every 0.3 seconds to any enemy in contact with it.

Twilight Pulse - Deals 27000 to 33000 damage every 0.5 seconds to enemies within 10 yards.
Twilight Extinction - Deals 475000 to 525000 Shadow damage to all enemies within reach.
Twilight Spit - Spits Twilight energy at an enemy, dealing 3800 to 4200 Shadow damage and increases Shadow damage taken by 10%. Stacks.
Twilight Essence - Deals 9250 to 10750 Shadow damage to enemies within the bubbling Essence. Dropped by whelps the first time they die; revives any whelps who die within the pool.
Unleash Essence - Releases a torrent of twilight energy that afflicts all nearby enemies, dealing damage equal to 10% of their maximum health every second.
Indomitable - Regains control through a surge of sheer will, becoming immune to all bonds and restraints until stopped. Deals 40000 Shadow damage to enemies within 10 yards and knocks them back.
Twilight Drake
Twilight Breath - Deals Shadow damage in a frontal cone.
Fiery Barrier - Protects nearby allies from dark magic, reducing their Shadow damage taken by 99%.
Essence of the Red - The blessing of Alexstrasza is applied to all allies nearby. Restores 5% of maximum mana per second. Grants 100% melee, ranged, and spell haste. Lasts for 3 minutes.
Pyrrhic Focus - Evelops the caster in a fiery aura that continually restores mana at the expense of the caster’s health.
Phase 1
When you first engage Sinestra, she is afflicted by a debuff that causes her abilities to do 40% less damage and she begins the fight with 40% less HP. This first phase is primarily a DPS burn - Sinestra needs to be burned from 60% HP down to 30% as quickly as possible, ideally avoiding a third Whelp spawn and a second Wrack.
Sinestra’s primary ability is Flame Breath, a raid-wide AoE attack which she casts every 20 seconds. 
The whelps spawn every 50 seconds and should be picked up by the off-tank. Ideally you want to avoid a third whelp spawn. The whelps tend to aggro onto the healers, so it’s usually best for the OT to position near the healers.
You will get at least one Wrack during this phase. Wrack is a minute long debuff which needs to be dispelled off of afflicted targets well before this duration is up - this debuff applies increasing Shadow damage over time and will kill anyone affected long before the minute is up. When dispelled (or when the target dies, from Wrack or something else), the Wrack will jump to two other friendly targets. Careful control of Wrack dispels is crucial to avoid it getting out of control. It’s usually best to assign one person to handle dispels, with another as backup. Detailed discussion of Wrack is below.
You will also get 2-3 Twilight Slicers in this phase, so your raid needs to be positioned and prepared to deal with those. Detailed discussion of the Twilight Slicers is below.
Raid damage is pretty light in Phase 1 until the first Flame Breath, so any healers not worrying about tanks should DPS as much as they can in Phase 1, at least until that first breath goes out.
Phase 2
Phase 2 begins when Sinestra reaches 30% health. She will cast Mana Barrier on herself, healing herself to full. She will begin to cast Twilight Extinction, so it’s imperative the raid moves quickly to the back of the room to where the friendly NPC Calen has joined the fray. Calen will cast Fiery Barrier, and all raid members must ensure they are inside the barrier, as it will protect them from Twilight Extinction.
The whelps from Phase 1 should be brought to the back of the room with the rest of the raid and AoE’d down in a pile. The dead whelps will create a pool of Twilight Essence when they die the first time which will resurrect them - the respawned whelps need to be picked back up and AoE’d down again, ensuring they die outside of the pool. They will not create a puddle when they die the second time.
There are several things to deal with once the Fiery Barrier drops.
Spitecallers will spawn from the entry tunnel and will largely be handled by your melee DPS and the whelp tank. The Spitecallers will continuously try to cast Unleash Essence, which will very likely lead to a raid wipe if successfully cast, so a careful interrupt rotation needs to be in place. Ordinary interrupts (Kick, Mind Freeze, etc) can NOT be used though - detailed explanation on the Spitecallers is below.
Your range DPS (and possibly some melee) should head back to Sinestra and the two Pulsing Twilight Eggs on either side of Sinestra, the paths to which are no longer protected by fire. The range DPS should be DPSing Sinestra as soon as they can leave the Fiery Barrier to force her to remove the Twilight Carapace which protects the eggs to shield herself. DPS should be split evenly to kill the Eggs the second the Twilight Carapace is removed. DPS needs to be strong and fast to kill the eggs before Sinestra replaces the Twilight Carapace - if the Eggs don’t die before the Carapace is replaced, you will likely wipe. You may want to pot on the eggs to avoid Phase 2 wipes due to slow DPS. You should also try to maximize DPS time on the eggs, predotting while finishing DPS on Sinestra until she removes the Twilight Carapace from the eggs so that you can open full blast and already have DoTs ticking without losing DPS time on the eggs.
There will also be Twilight Drakes spawning in this phase which should be picked up by the Sinestra tank. These can be DPS’d after the Eggs die by the ranged DPS as the raid is getting back into position. The Drakes do a frontal cone but do not do much damage otherwise.
Spitecaller and Drake spawns are somewhat subject to RNG, and there can be a bit of luck involved in how many spawn. Fast DPS on the Eggs can also help to push past late spawns.
Healing is again light in this phase - your two tanks will need healing and a healer can also cast some heals onto Calen (who will be afflicted by Pyrrhic Focus). Unless an Unleash Essence gets off, there will be no other healing needed, so any healers with decent DPS should be assisting on Eggs or Spitecallers (Druids, Priests, and Shaman are generally best, whereas Pallies can remain on the tanks).
Phase 3 will begin when the two Eggs die.
Phase 3
Phase 3 begins when the two Pulsing Twilight Eggs are dead. Finish up any remaining Drakes and Spitecallers as she transitions and return to your Phase 1 positioning.
Phase 3 is the same as Phase 1 in terms of abilities - Sinestra will continue to cast Flame BreathWrack will be going out to the raid, Whelps will spawn, and there will be more Twilight Slicers to avoid.
Sinestra has healed herself to full, however, so she is back to full health and to full ability power - all of her abilities will now be hitting 40% harder than they did in Phase 1. It is imperative raid members be topped off before every Flame Breath or they will die.
To help with the increase in Sinestra’s health and damage, Calen casts Essence of the Red on the raid, granting 100% melee, ranged, and spell haste, and restoring 5% of maximum mana per second. This buff lasts for 3 minutes, and ideally you want to get Sinestra down to at least 20% health when this buff falls off.
Good handling of the whelps in this phase is important, as you will be getting many more waves than in phase 1. You will want to have members turn and kill the whelps before they get out of control to prepare for subsequent waves. It is helpful to have a Paladin as your OT for the whelps, as they can bubble off the stacks of Twilight Spit in between waves. You may also wish to have your OT and MT swap partway through phase 3 for the stacks to fall again.
Wrack must also be kept under good control. As of 4.1, Wrack avoids jumping to tanks, which is extremely helpful in controlling it (as it generally would need to be instantly dispelled off tanks in phase 3).
It is crucial the Wrack debuff is appropriately handled throughout Phase 1 and Phase 3. It is generally best to assign one person to handle the Wrack dispels. It is useful for all healers to pick up a magic dispel to be ready as backup should the designated dispeller die or need assistance.
Wrack - Deals increasing Shadow damage over one minute. When dispelled bounces to two nearby allies of the afflicted player. If a person dies with Wrack on them, it will also bounce to two other raid members.
It’s best to keep Wrack on as few people as possible, so timing the dispels well is essential. You will need a way to see how long the Wrack debuff has been on a target for. For those who use Vuhdo, enter Wrack as a custom debuff and ensure ‘Alive Time’ is ticked. For those who use Grid, the addon GridStatusSinestra will monitor it.
The first Wrack of each set applied you ideally want to dispel at around 18 seconds. In Phase 3 especially, you will likely want to cooldown the target, with something like Guardian Spirit. For later Wracks and the Wrack jumps, you will want to dispel between roughly 10-18 seconds, dependent on Sinestra’s Flame Breath timer (particularly in Phase 3), the person’s HP, what class they are (and whether they have a personal cooldown to help mitigate it), what cooldowns are available to them, and how many Wracks are out.
It is extremely helpful to have one of your raid healers focus on healing targets with Wrack to ensure they are getting enough heals and that they are topped off before each Flame Breath.
As of 4.1, Wrack will avoid jumping onto tanks, which is incredibly helpful for managing Wrack. Should Wrack jump onto a tank in phase 3, they will likely need to be instantly dispelled, as the incoming damage will be too great to add a Wrack on top of that.
The Spitecallers in Phase 2 are tricky adds to deal with. It’s crucial their cast, Unleash Essence, doesn’t get off. Normal interrupts and stuns do NOT work on the adds - if you try to interrupt with Kick, Mind Freeze, Pummel, or stun with a Hammer of Justice, Charge, Death Coil, etc, the Spitecaller will gain Indomitable - Regains control through a surge of sheer will, becoming immune to all bonds and restraints until stopped. Deals 40000 Shadow damage to enemies within 10 yards and knocks them back.
If the Spitecaller gains Indomitable, it will almost certainly get off a cast of Unleash Essence, which will lead to a lot of unnecessary raid damage and very likely lead to the whelp tank’s death (as the stacks of Twilight Spit could lead to a one-shot).
Instead, you need to use controls which break on damage to interrupt the cast. Some you can use are Gouge (Glyph of Gouge is extremely helpful), Blind, Death Grip, Hibernate, etc. (I don't particularly recommend Hibernate, as it has a cast time which is the same length as the Unleash Essence cast).
Gouge is most reliable for the interrupt used. Death Grips can be helpful as the adds spawn - it can whip the Spitecaller away from the entrance point, helping to make the next add spawned easier to target should the first Spitecaller still be up when the new one spawns.
Whelps spawn every 50 seconds in Phase 1 and 3. Their main attack is Twilight Spit as well as melee hits, which in itself are not very hard, however the Twilight Spit causes a stacking debuff which increases Shadow damage taken by 10%. As more of these adds are up, the tank handling the whelps will take increasing damage. A paladin tank is very helpful on the whelps as they can bubble off the stacks.
When the whelps first die, they create pools of Twilight Essence, which deals Shadow damage to raid members standing in them and will resurrect any whelps dead in them. The pools are only created the first time the whelps die, so when they resurrect they should be moved outside of the pool to be killed a second time.
The whelps from phase 1 which are killed at the phase 2 transition should ideally be killed in the back as out of the way as possible to ensure the pool is out of the way. In phase 3 the whelp deaths need to also be controlled, ideally the first waves dying towards the back of the room and away from the raid. Generally ranged should be able to turn and kill the whelps when called for it. 
How you kill the whelps (AoE’d down at once or dropped in singles) and after how many waves each time comes down to your raid’s strategy, but ultimately it’s crucial the pools are kept as small and out of the way as possible.
Twilight Orbs/Slicers
Welcome to Cutters 4.0! 
Throughout Phase 1 and 3 Twilight Orbs will spawn and target random raid members. It is extremely important to note: The Twilight Orbs do NOT place a debuff on their targets! The orbs affix to their targets with a thin purple tether. The Twilight Orbs will spawn and within a few seconds tether to their target, then a large Twilight Slicer will connect between the two Orbs and the Orbs will chase their target. 
The two Orbs need to be kited away from the raid such that the Twilight Slicer doesn’t lop anyone’s head off (including the kiters). The two kiters will need to find a way to loop around each other so that they avoid killing each other and get back to their original position quickly to maximize DPS time. 
The Orbs themselves do Twilight Pulse, which deals 27000 to 33000 Shadow damage every 0.5 seconds to enemies within 10 yards, so both raid members and kiters need to get clear of the Orbs. They do not begin pulsing until about 5 seconds after they spawn.
If the tethered person dies for any reason - the Orb will retarget onto a high aggro target, usually a healer. The purple tether will not reappear - the Orb will simply drift towards its aggro target. The raid must be prepared should the original tether dies (though ideally they will not).
Positioning in Phase 1 and 3 can be the same and should be set up to maximize the space for the kiters. An L-shape is often successful or other various lines to allow raiders to move out and away before looping back to their original position.
Spatial awareness is critical for the Slicers as there is no debuff or other marker on Orb targets. The thin, purple tether to the targeted player is all there is to notify which is the Orb’s target, so players need to notice when and where the orbs are spawning, spot the tether, and adjust to avoid the orbs or to kite as necessary.
Good Luck and Have Fun!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Patch 4.1 Druid Changes and Resto Specs

Happy Patch Day everyone! 4.1 finally arrives this week! Be sure to open your launcher up early to download the patch and don't forget to update all of your addons.

The Resto Guide and Feral Guide are updated for 4.1, but I wanted to get this post up first for a nice summary of the changes as well as a look at the Resto talent tree changes.

Let's start by taking a look at the official patch notes for druids, before diving into some Resto spec options with the altered talent tree! Full patch notes can be seen on MMO-Champ here: Patch 4.1 Rise of the Zandalari Features.

Lacerate bonus threat has been removed and replaced with increased initial damage done.
Efflorescence has a new spell effect.
Enrage no longer increases physical damage taken.
Lifebloom's bloom effect has been reduced by 20%.
Prowl has a new icon.
Savage Defense has been redesigned slightly. Instead of a single charge absorption, it now places an absorption effect on the druid absorbing up to 35% of the druid's attack power (modified by mastery, if applicable) in damage and lasting 10 seconds. There are no longer any charges on the effect.
Stampeding Roar's duration has been increased to 8 seconds, up from 6. The movement speed effect has been increased to 60%, up from 40% and is no longer cancelled by cancelling shapeshift form.
Swipe (Bear) cooldown has been reduced to 3 seconds, down from 6, and is now on trainable at level 18 (training cost has been reduced). In addition, the bonus threat from this ability has been removed and replaced with increased damage done.
Swipe (Cat) damage has been doubled.
Thrash bonus threat has been removed and replaced with increased damage done.
Druids now innately have 100% pushback protection from damage while channeling Tranquility.
Starsurge damage has been reduced by 20%.
Solar Beam is now more responsive when enemies move into or out of it.
Berserk is no longer on the global cooldown.
Feral Swiftness now also causes Dash and Stampeding Roar to have a 50/100% chance to instantly remove all movement impairing effects from the affected targets when used.
Gift of Nature (passive) also reduces Tranquility's cooldown by 2.5/5 minutes.
Efflorescence has been redesigned. It creates a healing zone at the feet of a Swiftmend target, but this healing zone now restores health equal to 4/8/12% of the amount healed by Swiftmend to the three most injured targets within 8 yards, every 1 second for 7 seconds. This periodic effect now also benefits from spell haste, but the individual ticks cannot be critical effects. In addition, Living Seed is no longer a prerequisite talent for Efflorescence.
Malfurion's Gift now reduces the cooldown of Tranquility by 2.5/5 minutes.
Nature's Swiftness now also increases the healing done by the affected nature spell by 50%.
Glyph of Rake is now Glyph of Pounce, which increases the range of Pounce by 3 yards.
Druid Bug Fixes
The troll druid models for Flight Form and Swift Flight Form has slimmed down to be more in scale with other druid flight forms.
Druids should no longer have UI issues after leaving a vehicle.

A lot of changes! I won't be going into detail on the Bear and Balance changes, though they've seen a few. Stampeding Roar has gotten a nice buff, with a longer duration and greater movement speed applied, however the range still hasn't been adjusted so that remains fairly small.

Feral cats see some nice new changes - Swipe damage has been doubled, making it much better for AoE attacks again (as opposed to tab-Raking, which had been a much more effective means of AoE for smaller add packs). Berserk is no longer on the global cooldown which is a very nice change. The talent Feral Swiftness has also been altered to allow Dash and Stampeding Roar to remove movement impairing effects, restoring some of the mobility to Ferals which was lost when shapeshifting was altered to no longer free you.

An important change for all druids too is that Tranquility now has 100% pushback protection - therefore it is no longer needed to pair Barkskin with the channel if you don't want to or can't without risking losing Tranquility ticks.
Image from Keeva's post on TreeBarkJacketEfflorescence Graphic Changed
Resto sees several big changes in this patch. Efflorescence has a new spell effect (visible above) and has been redesigned - the healing is now 4/8/12% of the amount healed by Swiftmend to the three most injured targets within every second for 7 seconds, benefits from spell haste, but cannot crit.

Nature's Swiftness is also getting a slight buff, it now increases the healing done by the affected Nature spell used by 50%. When combined with Healing Touch, then, you'll see it heal for an additional 50%. This will hopefully make the spell more attractive for those who haven't taken it as well as a nice buff for those of us already using it.

One of the big changes coming to Resto is the reduced cooldown for Tranquility. Speccing into Malfurion's Gift will reduce Tranquility's cooldown to 3 minutes, bringing it in line with other raid cooldowns such as Power Word: Barrier and Divine Guardian. This looks set to make Tranquility the Resto druid's 'raid cooldown'. While I personally think a damage mitigation cooldown (or component) would have been a bit better (and also bring us in line with the other healers), this will undoubtedly still be a strong cooldown for Resto druids. Tranquility can be excellent and lifesaving in a fight and being able to use it multiple times per fight will be extremely helpful for Resto druids. This also gives us a bit more freedom with when we decide to use our Tranquility - often in a fight there are times you want to save the Tranq for a specific time, which may discourage one from popping it earlier when the raid may need it. The reduced cooldown will give us some more flexibility now in when and how often we use it. Combining Tranq with other raid cooldowns (especially, say, a Power Word: Barrier glyphed for increased healing received while under it) will also be extremely powerful measures for raids.

Resto Specs
The biggest change for Resto in this patch is to our talent tree, as Living Seed is finally unlinked from Efflorescence. This will theoretically free up a few points for many druids and also allow druids to take a full 3 points in Efflorescence (especially with its new effect) without being required to spend another 3 points just to get it. I had hoped that Living Seed itself would see a redesign, especially as many druids look set to drop it, but we'll have to wait on that point for now.

The big question now remains: Where do I put those spare points?

Regardless of where you decide to spend the points, two of those points will have to be within the first three tiers of the tree just to get you to the higher tiers - so you will be spending points in either Blessing of the Grove, Living Seed, or Perseverance. How you decide to spend them though will depend largely on what you're healing and your role. With this in mind, below are some sample specs you could try (for convenience sake, I have kept the Balance and Feral trees as 8/2, picking up mana saving talents):

All-around healing - 2 points in Blessing of the Grove, 1 point in Living Seed.
This is a pretty solid all around spec, picking up a point in Living Seed for its contribution to tank healing, 2 points in Blessing of the Grove for its contribution to raid healing. This spec also picks up Nature's Swiftness and, for those in need of a dispel, Nature's Cure.

Tank Healing - Picking up 3 points in Living Seed.
This spec continues to pick up 3 points in Living Seed for its contribution on dedicated tank healing, as well as picking up Nature's Swiftness.

Spell Damage - Taking points in Perseverance.
In this spec I've gone with the all-around spec, but moved the point in Nature's Cure over into Perseverance for the bit of reduced spell damage. A spec like this can be particularly nice for hard modes (particularly in 25 mans when dispels may be handled by other classes) to get that extra bit of damage reduction.

This last spec also starts to venture back into the other flexible points in the tree. Despite the buff to Nature's Swiftness, I imagine many may still shift that point elsewhere in the tree (particularly dedicated raid healers). Nature's Cure is also a potential candidate to move in situations (mostly 25 mans) where magic dispels are covered by other classes.

You can also pick up points in Nature's Bounty, such as in this spec:
Here I've combined the Rejuv boost in Blessing of the Grove, Swift Rejuvenation for the reduced Rejuv GCD, Gift of the Earthmother to help frontload those Rejuvs, and Nature's Bounty to reduce the Nourish cast times for spot healing on all those targets which have been Rejuved.

These samples give you an idea of the bit of extra flexibility we now have in the tree! As ever, much of your choices will come down to how you heal and your role in raids and 5 mans. You can also adjust the Balance and Feral trees as desired, though again, I've gone with the 8/2/31 basis with mana saving talents for simplicity and for broad use.

Tangedyn over at The Inconspicuous Bear made a very useful tool to help you decide where your talent points may be best spent based on each talents worth: Living Seed Replacement Talent. Simply by going through your Recount/Skada/World of Logs/etc healing percentage breakdown and looking at your points spent and raid buffed spell crit, his tool can help you evaluate where your free points would be best placed.

As ever, don't be afraid to play around with the different specs and see which ends up working best for you! While a treant is forever, a talent tree is as flexible as you need it!

Happy speccings!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Quick update and Al'Akir 25 Heroic vid!

I am still alive! It's been a while since I've posted so I thought I'd try to get a quick update up. The tricky thing I always find with brief updates is whether any of it is actually relevant (and, hence, readworthy)!

There hasn't been too much news of late, mostly just smaller content and item updates for the next patch. Patch 4.1 is still on the PTR, though it seems like we should be seeing that hit live servers within the next few weeks, possibly as soon as next week. I'll be updating the Resto and Feral guides for the upcoming changes when the patch goes live.

In more exciting news, we finished up the current content a couple of weeks ago, wrapping up with an Al'Akir 25 heroic kill after our Sinestra kill. Sinestra was quite a fun fight, particularly as for part of phase 3 you get a 100% haste buff and essentially infinite mana regen for a period of time, which makes for a lot of fun healing and DPSing! Though the tanks still get wrecked (along with the whole raid, really, as we also get increased damage taken that phase) so it's still edge-of-your-seat healing. It was nice to have a fight that wasn't really based around RNG, though. Al'Akir was a real pain for RNG, mainly as in Phase 1 you can easily have lightning, ice patches, a squall line, and wind burst all line up on one person - which for many is easily a death. If you can get out of phase 1 clean, you can pretty much get a kill (provided no one does anything too dumb), it's the same as normal mode from there out, just more health for Al'Akir and more damage taken.

I've been wanting to finish updating my raid guides (as many are still based off the beta previews) and maybe even get a Sinestra one up, so I'll be trying to make some time to do that. I think we'll be hitting up the PTR for the 4.2 Firelands raids when they're available though so hopefully I can have some mini-previews and screenshots of that when it's available.

As this post is pretty light, I'll leave you with a video made by our Bear tank Reesi (of The Inconspicious Bear) of our Al'Akir 25 man heroic kill. You can see the amazingness that is Phase 1 and our lovely spot up in front (I got to stack with the tanks)!