I won’t lie. Right now, Anub’arak heroic is my favourite fight in the game. I can see Valithria hardmode being a lot of fun (spoilers!) once Patch 3.3 arrives, but for now, this encounter trumps Vezax hardmode as what I feel is the most challenging and enjoyable fight for myself and other healers in the game. It’s got to the point where almost every guild is working on some form of the encounter, whether it’s 10-man (Tribute runs or otherwise) for more casual guilds or 25-man for the progress guilds (including my current guild). Today I’m going to be going over the fight itself, as well as how Discipline fits into the healing side of things and providing some tips for both raid leaders and DPS.
The fight varies vastly depending on which version of the fight you are working on (ie. 10 or 25) and there are several different strategies and methods of dealing with Penetrating Cold/Leeching Swarm depending on your raid composition. I’m not going to cover them all, but I will talk at length about the most common solutions. You might want to watch TankSpot’s excellent video-guide of the encounter before reading on, as I will take some elements from that. Firstly, let’s look at the fight itself!
Anub’arak Heroic – The Fight
Part One: The Gimmick
Every fight has a gimmick, but the gimmick on Anub’arak is more than just something to be aware of – to understand how to heal the fight, you actually have to understand how it works and that it affects everything from how you divide up your healers to the raid’s DPS. Blizzard have created a fight where the healers have at least partial control over how fast the boss dies. How cool is that?
Let’s skip straight to Phase 3. Anub’arak uses an ability called Leeching Swarm, which drains 30% of the raid’s current health per second (20% on 10-man heroic) and heals Anub’arak. What does this mean? When you heal someone, you’re effectively healing the boss. For this reason, the raid needs to be kept as low as is realistically possible without dying. But don’t worry – the minimum tick for Leeching Swarm is 250 damage per second, so if someone is kept at 1000 health then they’re still 4 seconds away from dying! This can present a big problem for inexperienced raid leaders, which I’ll talk about later.
Leeching Swarm also presents two other big problems; tank healing and dealing with Penetrating Cold – a debuff applied by Anub’arak to several members of the raid which ticks for 6000 damage (3500 on 10-man) every 3 seconds. I’ll talk about these in the next sections.
Part Two: Raid Composition
Whilst Blizzard have always aimed at having a “Bring the player, not the class” system, Anub’arak heroic is one fight that benefits greatly from having a comparatively precise raid setup; but thankfully not back to the days of Sunwell Shamen-stacking or requiring X Priests for Razuvious. Two Holy Paladins are virtually essential for tank healing, and Paladins of other specs are invaluable for both tanking and phase 2 kiting. Other DPS classes with good passive group-wide heals (eg. Shadow Priests and Elemental Shamen) excel here as well, and shield tanks are pretty much required for the blocks on boss/add hits.
So while there’s no hard-and-fast ruleset, you’d do well to think about what you’re missing when you’re putting your raid together.
As for the number of healers, there are a lot of different combinations. I’ve heard of many 10-man guilds that have successfully done the heroic mode using 3 healers; my guild generally uses 2 healers and 6 dps (thus only going through one submerge phase). As for the 25-man, the number of healers can vary anywhere between 5 and 8 (!) but the normal group of 6 healers, provided it’s well-structured, won’t really let you down.
How Does Discipline Fit Into The Fight?
Discipline has historically been about damage mitigation, which means that in a fight where the damage is predictable we normally excel. Anub’arak heroic is no exception; and we can go further by saying that, indeed, this is one of the only fights where we can actually raid heal!
Part One: What’s Our Role?
In this fight, you can take on a variety of roles depending on whether you’re doing 10 or 25. I’ll cover these two separately.
10-man healing can take one of four forms, depending on whether you’re running with a Holy Paladin or not (you should be, really) and whether you’re using 2 healers or 3. Assuming you’re running with a Holy Paladin, you’ll be either asked to respec Shadow to make way for another raid healer or given a free role. You’ll generally be shielding the tanks and concentrating most of your healing on the raid in phase 3 (all of it if you’re running 2 healers). If you’re not running with a Holy Paladin, 2 healers becomes almost impossible to pull off as keeping the tanks alive all the time is tres difficile without plenty of luck and cooldowns coming out of your ears.
25-man healing invariably takes the same form. You’ll be helping out on both tanks and raid members in phase 1/2, dealing with Penetrating Cold and throwing shields around when you can. In phase 3, your attention will switch to the raid and your designated Penetrating Cold target. More on this later.
Part Two: How Can We Raid Heal?
Discipline hasn’t been very good at raid healing encounters in the past. While we can throw out a metric ton of shields and almost trivialise several bosses’ AoE attacks, when it comes to huge amounts of unavoidable damage that needs healing up quickly in a 25-man raid, we just don’t cut it. So how is Anub’arak different? Well, while the damage output in phase 3 is gigantic for the first 6 or 7 seconds, it doesn’t need healing up. We don’t have to get everyone back to full health; we just need to keep them alive, which is where small but precise heals like Holy Nova (your key tool in phase 3) come into their own. Because the actual healing required is restricted largely to Penetrating Cold targets, it might look like you need a Holy Priest or Resto Druid but really the job gets done just as well by a DPriest.
So How Do We Kill Him?
So, down to the nitty gritty.
Phases One and Two
The healing in these phases are pretty simple and shouldn’t take much more exertion than normal. The tanks will be hit slightly harder and the stacking debuff from the Swarm Scarabs gets annoying; but ultimately, the most important thing in these two phases is to kite correctly and this is something that the TankSpot video covers much better than I could.
What you’ll spend most of your time doing in these phases is conserving mana. Because the damage output is pretty low by comparison and because the mana requirements in phase 3 are so heavy, you’ll be wanting to keep your mana in as tip-top a condition as possible. Holy Nova may be extremely useful in phase 3 but it’s mana-intensive to use and the final phase continues for much longer than you might think compared to normal mode. Don’t underestimate the importance of a healthy mana bar in phase 3, and err on the side of caution.
In General: The trick to healing phase 3 is to keep everybody without the Penetrating Cold debuff (and the tanks) as close as possible to ~2000 health. This gives you plenty of time to react to the Leeching Swarm debuff (between ~4 and 6 seconds) and means that Anub’arak doesn’t heal too fast. Tanks and Penetrating Cold targets should be kept at ideally 50% health or higher; perma-blocked hits from tanks give them much more survivability when you do this. Get the raid stacked as close together as possible so your Holy Novas won’t miss targets (and may actually damage the boss and adds, however small the output is) and make sure for the first time on progress that everybody has Frost Protection potions at the ready. Nope, I’m afraid you won’t be getting a mana potion on this fight.
As for DPriests, the only really general rule is not to use Prayer of Mending! It can crit for upwards of 9k on any random target and that’s really what you don’t want in a fight where precision reigns supreme.
10-man: Healing this phase in 10-man depends heavily on your raid composition. With two healers, you’ll probably be raid healing and will thus want to keep a hasted Prayer of Healing in your bag of tricks for the other group of the raid (ie. the one you can’t Holy Nova). There are several little chain-cast tricks that come in useful here: one example would be immediately after Penetrating Cold is applied, a Shield –> Flash Heal –> Shield –> Penance –> Holy Nova –> PoH with the first four casts on the PC targets. Try and weave casts like that to get the maximum haste possible from Borrowed Time. It’s really important here!
You’ll be using PoH and Holy Nova to keep the raid from dying to Leeching Swarm, so your mana will drop extremely quickly. Ask a Druid if he can save an Innervate for you or, failing that, a Hymn of Hope from a Shadow Priest; this will help a great deal. Save your shields and Penance/Flash Heals for the PC targets as they’ll need extremely quick healing (you have to deal with two within a matter of seconds).
With three healers, the load on the raid is decreased considerably. You’ll probably be raid healing; divide the groups between the two of you, assign yourself one PC target each (raid icons help here) and keep your assigned group/PC target alive. Throw a shield off on the tanks when you can!
25-man: Many of the concepts here carry over from 10-man. Normally, each group will be assigned one healer who will keep them up through the entirety of phase 3, with the two Paladins on the tanks. Try and co-ordinate the healers so that if you’re short one raid healer, one of you heals the two groups which already have passive effects like Vampiric Embrace. Each healer will also be assigned one Penetrating Cold target, designated by a raid icon that’s automatically applied by DBM. Make a macro to target that icon, because Grid won’t tell you which of the targets with PC is yours!
Your key tools will once again be shields, Penance on your PC target and Holy Nova, but this time without PoH as you don’t have to deal with another group. Don’t forget to pop your Shadowfiend!
Some Notes for Raid Leaders: Common Mistakes
Having been in a good 50 failed attempts on Anub myself, I’ve heard quite a lot from raid leaders on “where we’re going wrong”. I figured I’d add this section as an appendix of sorts, so that disillusioned healers (or helpful healers) can link their RLs here and make the process a lot nicer for everybody! 🙂
Problem One: Asking DPS to offheal
Some raidframes, like XPerl, flash red when someone is on low health. If a raid leader uses a set of raidframes like this, I can guarantee you they’ll have a heart attack when phase 3 arrives. You’re sat there with your precise heals and your calculated casts but all the raid leader sees is “people are dying”. This has led to an RL asking an Elemental Shaman or Shadow Priest to offheal in the middle of phase 3 several times.
It might seem like an inconvenience for healers and you might get a little pissed when someone does it, but just remember; your raid leader may not know the kind of specifics that you do! They’re just trying to keep everyone alive and in check – it’s their job. When we were progressing on heroic 10-man, (sadly we didn’t down it before I went to university,) my RL certainly didn’t know how the healing worked on the first few tries, and neither did the rest of the DPS. Every fight on that first evening you’d see an overeager Mage Ice Block because he was at 3k health, or a Shadow Priest jump out of Shadowform and pop Divine Hymn.
So, how do you know if your healers have the situation under control? Simple! If half the raid is dead, they don’t. If less than about 10% of your raid is dead, unless it’s a tank, don’t worry. People do die here and there on Anub’arak and it’s unfortunate when it happens, but most of the time your healers are still dealing with it. If you start losing healers and it creates a snowball effect, you’ll wipe. But that doesn’t mean that you should divert DPS to offhealing just because the healers are on low health!
Think of it this way: it’s not like a fight such as Kologarn or Ignis, where you can see how your raid healers react to raid-wide damage and analyse it. Raidframes just don’t tell you that on Anub’arak. In this fight, there’s simply a line that separates someone being alive and someone being dead and you just have to place your faith in the healers. If someone’s health is at ~500, nothing has gone wrong yet. If someone’s dead, it has.
Problem Two: “Keep the raid at X%”
I’ve heard just about everything from raid leaders! Do I keep the raid at 20%, 50%, 5% or just spamheal my socks off? The generally accepted “correct” figure – which gives a balance between survivability and lack of healing on Anub’arak – is roughly 2000 health. If you want a percentage, this will work out at between 10% and 6-7% of someone’s health. Tanks and Penetrating Cold targets should be kept as high as is realistically possible, but 50% is a good health count to aim for on them. One of the big communication issues in this fight is different raid leaders hearing different things and nobody knowing who’s right.
Problem Three: Defensive Cooldowns on DPS
A great example of this is Ice Block. Something that reduces someone’s DPS for a gain in survivability. Well I’ve got news for you, buddy! Us healers don’t want you to pop Ice Block (unless perhaps you’re using it to get rid of PC); we want you to kill the boss faster. I remember someone once telling me that “DPS is the best mp5” – well in this fight, it certainly is. You kill the boss faster and let us worry about keeping you alive. 🙂
Of course, you should take this with a pinch of salt. What’s a good figure to start worrying about defensive cooldowns and Ice Block and the like? Maybe if you’re one or two ticks of Swarm away from dying – that’d be about 250 to 500 health left.
Anyway, hope this helps. I always have a blast on this boss and it’s a great fight for Discipline. Good luck!