Monday, December 14, 2009

How to Beat Deathbringer Saurfang in ICC 10

In World of Warcraft patch 3.3, Blizzard unveiled the first section of Icecrown Citadel's raid instance, the Lower Spire. The Lower Spire consists of four boss encounters including Lord Marrowgar, Lady Deathwhisper, the Icecrown Gunship Battle, and lastly, Deathbringer Saurfang.

Though each of the Lower Spire encounters is challenging in its own way, odds are, Deathbringer Saurfang will present the gravest threat to your raid. This is because, though the fight appears rather simple, unless each role is executed flawlessly, the combination of Saurfang's heal mechanics and Mark of the Fallen Champion will leave your raid dead and disappointed.

Below is a quick guide to defeating the Deathbringer in ICC 10 man. Some of the advice will also apply to 25 man and feel free to modify the strategy to fit your raids particular strengths. This is not the only way to defeat Saurfang, but it certainly appears to be one of the easiest.

1. Raid Stacking

The first key to defeating Deathbringer is having the right combination of classes and roles on board. To efficiently take down Deathbringer, you will want the following in your raid:

2 x Tank
2 x Healers
6 x DPS

Many people hit a wall with Deathbringer because they bring too many healers. Though it may not appear so because of relatively slow damage output, the Saurfang encounter is one long burn phase that requires huge amounts of dps. Replacing your third healer with a dps works because burning Saurfang quicker greatly reduces the healing needed at the end of the fight. I would recommend bringing a healer with a geared dps offspec whenever you go to ICC 10, so that they can make the switch for this encounter. Keep in mind, two healing this encounter is challenging, so you will need very solid healers to pull it off.

2. Positioning

Deathbringer should be tanked right where he spawns facing directly back towards the door he came out of. It is important that he be facing right at the door, because that will make managing the Blood Beast spawns infinity easier. Melee dps will obviously want to stand directly behind Saurfang. Healers will stack on top of melee dps.

Ranged the ranged dps will form a large arc around Deathbringer, being sure to stay at least 15 yards apart from each other so as to prevent Blood Nova damage from becoming an issue and giving Saurfang extra Blood Power. At the point of the semi-circle preferably put a Mage or Elemental Shaman. To either side of that point your ranged dps will fan out in semi-circle.

All raid members should spend as much time as possible in these positions so as to limit the effectiveness of Blood Nova and to make the Blood Beast burning as quick and efficient as possible.

3. Managing Blood Power

The central mechanic of the Deathbringer Saurfang encounter is Blood Power. Most of Saurfang's abilities, as well as the attacks of his summoned minions, cause him to generate points of Blood Power. These points increase his damage done, but even with full Blood Power, his output is more than manageable. Blood Power is a problem because every time Deathbringer reaches 100 Blood Power, he resets his counter to zero and casts Mark of the Fallen Champion on a random raid member. Mark of the Fallen Champion not only does very large amounts of damage, but also generates Blood Power every time it procs. As a result, Saurfang's Blood Power generation rate increases exponentially every time a Mark is applied.

To prevent your healers being overwhelmed by Mark of the Fallen Champion damage, it is then important to minimize Deathbringer's Blood Power generation whenever possible. Staying spread out is step one as Blood Nova AoE damage gives the boss points of Blood Power. The second step is properly dealing with the Blood Beasts.

4. Blood Beasts

One of the most important elements of this fight are the Blood Beasts Saurfang summons every 30 seconds. In Icecrown Citadel 10 man, Deathbringer will summon two Blood Beasts at a time, one directly on his left and one directly on the right. The Blood Beasts do relatively little damage and have no remarkable special abilities other than a resistance to AoE damage, but every time they do damage, Saurfang gains a point of Blood Power. As a result, one of the keys to this encounter is killing the Blood Beasts quickly and preventing them from attacking anyone.

To minimize the Blood Beasts attacks, they must be stunned as much as possible and burned immediately. Have your raid focus fire on the right Blood Beast, then the left. While the right blood beast is blown up by your dps, have a Rogue or other class with a decent disable mechanic incapacitate the one on the left. If necessary set up stun rotations to maximize Blood Beast down time. Do not forget your tank's stuns either as they will easily be able to turn and hit the Blood Beast where it stands.

The Beasts are also susceptible to snares and stuns, so Frost Traps and Concussive Shots are a must. This makes kiting the Blood Beasts directly back another viable strategy if your raid is low on stuns. The Blood Beasts have relatively little health and if your dps is tuned to the encounter, you should be able to burn them well before they threaten your kiter. If you are having trouble, make sure all dps is switching as soon as possible and is doing single target dps to the focus target.

5. Rune of Blood

Fairly frequently, Saurfang will cast Rune of Blood on the tank. This causes the Deathbringer to heal himself for 10% of the damage he does to that target. Back when 3.3 was released, it was 5% so many raids went with only a single tank. Now, however, tank swapping is necessary and the tanks will need to taunt back and forth to take Deathbringer's attention off of whoever has the Rune.

If a taunt fails or a tank is down, one can still mitigate some of the effects of Rune of Blood by using damage reduction cooldowns when the Rune is active. Since the healing received is tied to the damage done, less damage converts to less healing. Saurfang's overall damage on the tank is low and steady enough that you should be able to save some of your damage reduction effects for limiting his Rune of Blood heals.

6. Mark of the Fallen Champion

Once Saurfang reaches 100 Blood Power, the first Mark of the Fallen Champion will hit one of your raid members. If you have been minimizing Blood Power gains and your dps is geared enough for the encounter, Saurfang should be at around 50-60% health before this happens. At this point, your raid needs to make an important choice: keep them alive or let them die.

If one of your miscellaneous dps gets the Mark and dies immediately, Saurfang loses the benefit of the Blood Power he would otherwise get from the Mark. This means your raid will have significantly more time before a subsequent mark drops, but you will be sacrificing a dps for that luxury. Base this decision off the strength of your heals and dps. Also, when someone with Mark of the Fallen Champion dies, Saurfang regains 5% of his total health, so keep that in mind as well.

Regardless, Saurfang will reach 100 Blood Power again and a second Mark of the Fallen Champion will hit someone. The same choice presents itself again, but it will be exceptionally challenging to counteract Saurfang's heals with two dps out of commission. Usually after the third Mark, but almost certainly at the fourth, the healing required becomes too much and your raid will wipe. It is therefore critical that you prolong the time between Marks by limiting Blood Power gains and burn the boss hard.

Before you even try it, keep in mind that the Mark cannot be erased. Even if a player dies and is resurrected, they will still come back complete with the debuff. There is, unfortunately, no way around it.

7. Frenzy

At 30% health, Saurfang goes into a Frenzy, increasing his attack speed by 30%. This increases the Tank's incoming damage as well as the damage done to raid members with Mark of the Fallen Champion as the debuff ticks are tied to his melee attacks. Additionally, he will be gaining Blood Power from his melee attacks and the Marks 30% faster. If that is not enough to deal with, he will also be procing his Rune of Blood heals 30% quicker meaning the hill your dps has been climbing the whole battle will become slightly steeper.

During the Frenzy, the Tank's incoming damage should still be manageable, but the Marked raid members will need noticeably more healing. If Blood Lust or Heroism is available, using it during the Frenzy is advised.

8. Boiling Blood

Boiling Blood is a damage over time effect Saurfang will occasionally apply to random raid members. Its ticks grant Blood Power to Deathbringer, so shedding it however possible is advised. A priest's shield will also absorb the ticks and prevent Blood Power gains, so having a Discipline Priest makes this encounter much easier. Otherwise, the target raid member will simply need some attention from the healers.

9. Concluding Tips

The combination of Frenzy and the exponential increase in Blood Power gains caused by Mark of the Fallen Champion means that your attempts will generally not fall apart until the closing seconds of the encounter. It is not uncommon for Deathbringer to take a group that is doing "well" and quickly blow them up when he is at less than 5%. Do not get discouraged and just remember that this fight is all about the details. Even one or two unnecessary Blood Power points can make all the difference. With a little practice, precision, and encounter appropriate gear, however, you will down this Deathbringer in no time.

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