Before I begin, I’d like to state that I actually quite enjoy the Nefarian fight. At least I do on 25-man difficulty, which is what I’ll address here. (I don’t imagine I’ll ever see it on 10-man and I’m okay with that.)

However, the fight sucks on a wide variety of levels. Why is this?

The encounter requires almost perfect execution. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. Perfect execution is something we should always strive for in every encounter. The problem is actually that it requires almost perfect execution from ~9 people at separate times and sustained good execution (even very good execution) from everyone else.

1) The tanks. If your Onyxia tank isn’t turning her appropriately, your raid will be fried by her lightning. If your add tank isn’t despawning the adds appropriately in P1, your P3 add tank is screwed. If your Nefarian tank doesn’t drag Nefarian far enough away from Onyxia, they get the Children of Deathwing buff and will pretty much 2-shot both your Ony tank and your Nef tank.

2) The interrupters. While this will be somewhat alleviated in 4.1 because all interrupt abilities will no longer miss, that’s not the case today and it hasn’t been the case since the launch of Cataclysm. That means that, right now and up until 4.1, you need people able to interrupt every single cast of Blast Nova in P2 who are reliable. In the 25-man version, Blast Nova is cast every 8 seconds, so unless you have 3 enhancement shaman lying around, you probably need 4, 5 or 6 dedicated interrupters. Tanks generally have low hit, so they miss. Healers are generally the same, plus they also have this thing called “healing” to do while on the platforms. Granted, the amount of hit needed is only 5-6% since the mobs you’re interrupting are level 85, just like us. So in some cases, a tank would be okay for this. For the most part, however, in order to have interrupts that don’t miss, you need a mix and match of melee DPS who are probably going to be hit-capped. If one of them misses one interrupt, you may be able to pull through, but in our raid group, 2+ Blast Novas means an immediate wipe or means that some people die due to the extra damage and leaves us wiping somewhere under 10%.

3) The healers have to push in P2. Honestly, you’ve got to pull out all your tricks, especially if you’re planning on pushing 1-2 Electrocutes (see below) in this phase. I take 7 healers to Nefarian and put two on each platform, along with one of our three tanks on each platform, meaning there’s five DPS on each platform as well. The extra healer generally gets dropped on to the NE platform and is usually an Atonement disc priest, so they’re able to smite the add and heal that way. However, the tricky part is that we have to keep up this insane kind of burn phase for ~3 minutes and, in the case of my guild, two Electrocutes. All the while, we’re dealing with Shadowflame Barrage (which inflicts pushback — and while I try to make sure a paladin and a shaman are on each platform, they’re both using Resist aura/totem so that we get the Shadow and Fire covered from the paladin and the nature covered from the shaman), healing people up after they pop out of the lava –

  • A word about the lava. Getting out of the lava is not hard. The lip of the platform sucks and, yes,  there have been times where I’ve jumped around, flailing like a jackass. The lava does not suck. What sucks is Blast Nova being cast right as most people are jumping up out of the lava on to the platform. What we tend to do is have everyone with an interrupt try to get the first one except the person designated to be the second interrupter. But it still sucks.

– and generally trying desperately to make sure people are topped off just before Electrocute hits. I pop everything — Aura Mastery, Guardian of Ancient Kings, Divine Favor, Avenging Wrath, Holy Radiance, even sometimes Lay on Hands, though I prefer to hold that and my mana potion for P3. I also try to sneak in a Divine Plea right at the P1/P2 transition so it’s up again sometime in P2. It’s one of the crazier healing moments in the game and, the way we do it, it lasts almost the full three minutes.

This isn’t bad, but it sure means we’re pretty taxed as we push P3, with Electrocutes coming every 20 seconds or so, plus the healers chasing the add tank don’t get a chance to rest. Further, because I’ve had to blow all my CDs in P2, most of them (Guardian of Ancient Kings in particular) don’t come back up in P3. That’s why I try to save my mana potion and my Lay on Hands for P3, because I know that’s all I’ll have left to help me out with maybe two Hands of Sacrifice, if I’m lucky. So yeah, healing in any role on this fight can suck.

4) The add tank in P3 has got to be on top of his or her game. Running the adds around, dodging Shadowflame, stunning (and not stunning) as is appropriate. I have not healed the add tank so I’m not really sure what this insanity looks like, but I understand that the basic concept of this boils down to “making split-second decisions over the course of about 3 minutes, the results of which will either kill you and wipe the raid or will save you and the raid.”

5) Electrocute is nature damage. Okay, this is probably more of a pet peeve than an outright reason why this fight sucks, but it just didn’t seem to be a complete list without this as a mention. As a paladin, my Resistance Aura resists Shadow, Fire and Frost damage. Aura Mastery boosts those resistances, normally at 195, effectively doubling those resistances to 390 for six seconds. (According to this scary, yet useful, math post on Elitist Jerks, this means our base resist is ~20% against a level 88 and Aura Mastery bumps it up to the 35% level.)  Shaman are the ones in the raid (generally) who bring nature resistance in the form of Elemental Resistance Totem or glyphed Healing Stream Totem. (Hunters can also help with Aspect of the Wild, but who wants to give up the RAP from Aspect of the Hawk?) Shaman do not have a burst resist mechanic like Aura Mastery, so 195 Nature/Frost/Fire resistance is all you get from their totems, or, as noted before, ~20% resist. That means, on average, about 20k of that ~100k damage is resisted if you’re in range of a shaman’s totems or a hunter’s Aspect of the Wild. But short of personal cooldowns, there’s not a lot you can do to mitigate Electrocute damage beyond relying on someone’s totem.

6) Due to the unreal reliance on a specific handful of people, finger-pointing is hard to avoid. On the one hand, I enjoy clearly-defined roles so I know who screwed up. On the other hand, boy, does this fight piss people off and BOY, does it make people leap on each other, many armed with poorly-interpreted log data. (Pet peeve: people reading the logs who have no idea what they’re reading.)

Seriously, tempers get frayed, strategies are questioned and really, it’s just a matter of finding the right variations that work for you and then executing them. Execute the fight, we win. If any of those people (interrupters, tanks, healers) screw up, that’s almost certainly a wipe. And then you have to trace the root of that failure. So someone died to Electrocute because they weren’t topped up by the healers. Did Blast Nova contribute to the low health? Was the healer completely oom because of healing through Blast Nova? Who let the Blast Nova or Novas through?

The key to analyzing this fight is finding the root cause, not just saying “oh, so-and-so died to this”.

Wait, Kurn, you LIKE this fight?

I do. I like the feeling when Nefarian dies, knowing that the people we relied on were (almost certainly) on their game. I like knowing that we beat a tricky encounter. I like pushing myself in P2 and I’m constantly pushing to make myself better at it so I’m not practically oom when I start healing the Nefarian tank in P3.

We didn’t get Nefarian down this reset. Some roster changes, some changes in roles… we had two 1% wipes, but couldn’t seal the deal.

I don’t like it, but I’m okay with what it means. It means that we probably extend Blackwing Descent until next week. If we do, it means that we have 5 less bosses to kill, which means more time on other stuff. Heroic Halfus, normal Al’Akir, these are the fights we’ll be looking at, and because we’re probably extending the instance, we’ll have the time to do so. With only 9 hours of raiding a week, we can easily waste a lot of time. Maybe cutting out 5 farmable bosses is a way to do that.

All I know is that Nef will die this coming reset and that I’m looking forward to some new stuff, too.

Oh yeah, and the Defender of a Shattered World title, too!