Monday, June 21, 2010

Lich King 10 Man Strategy

As World of Warcraft Patch 3.3.5 slides into place and the Ruby Sanctum looms, it is time to clean up all those loose ends you may have left back in Icecrown Citadel. Namely, it is time to bring Arthas down and finally claim that ever elusive "King Slayer" title. The challenge may seem daunting, but it is surmountable with the right plan, practice, and a bit of luck.

Below is my quick and easy guide to defeating the Lich King in ICC 10 normal mode. This strategy is designed for those guilds and groups looking to get their first kill. It is not the maximum dps strategy and is designed to make some concessions for insufficient gear and mechanical prowess. This approach should give your raid members the maximum possible chances of surviving the encounter to the end. Considering how forgiving Arthas' enrage timer is, staying alive really is the name of the game.

You may also notice that I identify what other guides consider transitional phases (1.5, 2.5, etc.) as their own independent phases. I believe this makes things clearer and hope you agree.

Raid Set Up

For the ten man Lich King encounter, you will need two tanks. The fight is interesting in that there is not necessarily a consistent "main tank" throughout the encounter. Rather, the two tanks will each have a chance to stare down Arthas and must both therefore be geared enough to handle him. Each class of tank brings unique advantages and disadvantages to the encounter, so try not two have two of the same.

In terms of healers, you will want to bring three. Some of the best healers might be able to hold down the fort as a duo, but do not even consider it until you have the Lich King on farm. As with most of Ice Crown Citadel, a healthy combination of raid and tank heals will be necessary. As for which healer classes to bring, every single one has a chance to shine here, so just try to get a healthy mix.

For your dps, ranged is preferred and you will generally want to have at least two. If possible, try to find a hunter as they can make the first phase smoother. Warlocks also have a couple tricks up their sleeve which can turn the tides of battle in your favor, so get them in when you can. If you are melee heavy, the encounter is still doable, it just requires a bit more awareness and luck to see things through to the end.

Phase One

After speaking with Tirion and sitting through about a minute of role playing, the encounter will begin. One of your tanks will want to pick up Arthas and tank him directly to the frozen Tirion's left, facing the stairs. The melee will stack up right behind the Lich King while the healers and ranged will stack up about fifteen yards behind the melee. Your other tank should wait next to the frozen pillar to Arthas' left, standing on its Southern side.

During Phase One, the Lich King will summon two different kinds of adds at different intervals. The first are Drudge Ghouls, which he will create three at a time. The tank by the pillar will want to pick up as many of these as he can, while the tank holding Arthas gathers any stragglers. These adds are incredibly weak and will die to incidental damage. Aside from being held onto by the tanks, they can be ignored.

The other adds, Shambling Horrors, cannot be ignored. These adds will be summoned one at a time about 5 to 15 yards directly in front of Arthas. The tank by the pillar needs to immediately pick these adds up and hold them next to the pillar facing away from the center of the platform. A Hunter's Misdirect or Death Knight's Death Grip can be exceptionally helpful here.

The Shambling Horrors do a nasty frontal cone attack and periodically enrage. When enraged, the cone attack becomes a serious threat to an under-geared tank and two enraged Horrors launching cone attacks can kill even a well geared tank. A Hunter's Tranquilizing Shot and/or the tanks use of stuns can help keep the Horror's damage in check. Depending on how heavy your dps is on the Lich King, you will likely only see two or three of these during Phase One. As explained below, dps should not attack the Shambling Horrors.

Aside from the summons, the Lich King also casts an ability called Necrotic Plague. Necrotic Plague is a DoT that ticks for huge damage every five seconds. A single tick from the DoT can easily kill a player, so it needs to be dispelled within the first five seconds. What makes things challenging is that when the Plague is dispelled, not only does it hop to a new target, but it also buffs the Lich King with increased damage. Thankfully, Necrotic Plague not only jumps to other raid members, but the Lich King's summoned adds as well. The key is then to have a raid member infected with the plague immediately run to right behind the Shambling Horrors, get dispelled, and then return to position. This not only saves them from the DoT, but also infects the Horrors removing the need to dps them. The Horror tank wants to gather Drudge Ghouls as well as the Plague can "jump" from Ghoul to Ghoul, increasing in power and ultimately killing the Horrors faster. If the tank gets the Plague, simply cleans it.

The last ability the Lich King uses in Phase One is Infest. Infest applies a rather heavy DoT effect to every single raid member which can only be removed by bringing the target's health above 90%. A Druid's HoTs can be extremely helpful here as the healing ticks can immediately bring an infested raid members health back above 90% after only a single hit from the DoT.

At 70%, the Lich King will run to the center of the room and it is time to transition into Phase 2.

The Transition to Phase Two

As soon as the Lich King begins running to the center of the platform, your entire raid needs to run to the edge of the platform. This is because the Lich King will start casting Remorseless Winter at the platforms center. At the edge, your ranged should separate into two groups slightly to the South. Then you will want your Lich King tank and melee. On the edge nearest to the stairs will be your pillar tank, holding any remaining Horrors and pointing them away from the raid.

Phase Two

At the beginning of Phase Two, your pillar tank will simply hold any remaining Shambling Horrors until they die of Necrotic Plague. The tank will then need to be cleansed of the Plague far enough away from the rest of the raid so as to prevent a jump.

During Phase Two, Ice Spheres will appear in the center of the platform and slowly make their way towards the raid. Should they touch a raid member, they will explode knock everyone in range off the platform, so you need to assign a dps (preferably your Hunter) to kill them as they approach. The Spheres have very very little health, so this is a relatively easy task.

The central mechanic of Phase Two are Raging Spirits. Three of these adds will spawn over the course of the Phase and they need to be picked up and tanked by your Lich King tank. The Spirits do a devastating cone attack which both silences and packs enough punch to kill a cloth wearer, so they need to be tanked facing away from the raid. Gathering the Raging Spirits can be difficult as they each spawn on top of a random raid member and your tank may be silenced when the second and third ones appear. Once the Horrors are down, your other tank can and should help gather the Spirits. The Raging Spirits need to be killed as quickly as possible during Phase Two as you do not want to bring more than one of them with you into Phase Three.

Shortly after the third Raging Spirit spawns, it is time to transition into Phase Three.

The Transition to Phase Three

In the transition to Phase Three, the Lich King will shatter the outer edge of the platform, so your raid needs to run to the middle as quickly as possible. Your Raging Spirit tank needs to bring any remaining Spirits (hopefully only one) to the middle as well, being careful to keep them pointed away from other raid members to avoid deaths and/or silences. Your tank who is not handling the Raging Spirits will want to grab the Lich King and park him right in the center. He does not cleave, so the tank does not need to worry about his facing.

Phase Three

At the very beginning of Phase Three, your entire raid (except Warlocks as explained below) will want to stack right in the very center of the platform while your dps quickly burns down any remaining Raging Spirits. During this Phase, the Lich King will continue to cast Infest, but the real challenges here come from Defile and Val'kyr Shadowguards.

Right at the beginning of Phase Three and every so often after that, the Lich King will summon a Val'kyr which will swoop down and pick up a random raid member where they stand. The Val'kyr will then carry that raider towards the edge and, if given the opportunity, drop them to their death. To prevent this from happening, your raid needs to stun and snare the Val'kyr while blowing it up with instant heavy, focused dps.

There are a couple tricks to dealing with the Val'kyr which will make your life easier. First, although the Val'kyr can be stunned, stuns used against them are also subject to diminishing returns. This means that although the first stun will last its full duration, the second's length will be cut in half, the third's will be cut to a fourth, and so on. As a result, it is best to use your longest stuns (likely Hammer of Righteousness) first. Also, be sure to call out and stagger your stuns so as not to waste cool-downs which would be better saved for subsequent Val'kyr.

Another trick involves Warlocks' Summoning Circles. A Warlock can use their Circle Teleport to avoid plummeting off the edge. Since a Val'kyr will always head directly towards the platform's edge, a Warlock can drop a Summoning Circle right on the edge, move a bit towards the center, and wait to be picked up. Since the Warlock can teleport to safety once dropped, a Val'kyr which picks up a Warlock can be ignored by the dps entirely allowing for tons of extra dps on the Lich King and a shorter Phase 3.

Defile is another dangerous raid killer in Phase Three. Defile will target one random raid member and place a small patch black smoke at their feet. Anyone who stands in the patch takes heavy damage every second and each time the patch does damage it grows in size. If people stand in Defile even for a couple seconds it can quickly fill the entire platform and kill your raid. Additionally, if Defile appears in the center of the platform, your raid will be unable to stack there for Val'kyr summons and your fellow raiders will likely be carried to their deaths. It is therefore important that each defile is placed near the edge of the platform and moved out of immediately.

To accommodate this, you will want your entire raid to spread out towards the edges of the platform just before Defile is cast. Most strategies simply direct the person infected with Defile to "run out," but the window of time they have to do so is less than two seconds. Spreading out just in advance of Defile removes some of the twitch factor from the encounter and reduces your chances of Defile related wipes. Once Defile lands, return as close to the center as possible.

Though both Defile and the Val'kyr are deadly in their own right, it is the interplay between them that makes Phase Three the most difficult part of the Lich King encounter. Sometimes, they will happen nearly simultaneously meaning ideally you would need to be both spread out and collapsed in the center at the same time. Do not panic. Generally speaking, a Val'kyr pickup near the edge is more deadly to your raid than a Defile towards the middle of the platform (assuming nobody stands in it that is). Be adaptive when these situations occur and focus on the bigger picture goals: keep the raid away from the edges and out of Defile.

The last ability of concern during Phase Three is Soul Reaper. This is a debuff the Lich King places on his target which, after five seconds, deals a massive amount of damage and temporarily buffs the Lich King's attack speed. A well geared tank can likely soak the Soul Reaper damage, but they will be left sitting at little health in danger of being killed by the Lich King's subsequent sped up melee attacks. To prevent this either your Lich King tank must use cool-downs to mitigate Soul Reaper damage or your other tank needs to taunt the Lich King off in the five second window between when Soul Reaper is applied and when it goes off. Taunting allows your healers time to repair the Soul Reaper target's health without the additional burden of the Lich King's melee attacks. Druids with the four piece tier ten bonus are especially adept at simply soaking Soul Reaper.

To track all the abilities in Phase Three, install an add on like Deadly Boss Mods. This will allow you to know whether the next ability case will be a Val'kyr Summon or Defile and you can have your raid preemptively spread out or condense accordingly.

At 40%, the Lich King again returns to the center of the platform and it is time to transition into Phase Four.

The Transition to Phase Four

At the very beginning of Phase Four, the outer portion of the platform will reappear and your raid will want to run out there immediately to avoid taking damage from Remorseless Winter. Phase Four is identical to Phase Two except that there are no left over Shambling Horrors and four Raging Spirits will appear instead of three. As a result, you will want your positioning to be the same with two ranged/healer groups and one melee group.

Phase Four

As with Phase Two, Ice Spheres will spawn and your designated ranged dps will need to resume destroying them. Ranging Spirits will also spawn one at a time just as during Phase Two. This time, however, since there are no Shambling Horrors, both tanks will be available to help gather them from the start. You will, however, want only one tank to ultimately hold all of them as the other tank will need to be free for the Lich King in Phase Five.

In terms of raw dps required, Phase Four is one of the most demanding parts of the encounter. This is because your raid needs to do as much damage as possible to the Raging Spirits to avoid carrying too many of them into Phase Five. As a result, it is best to use dps cool-downs and Heroism/Bloodlust during this Phase.

Shortly after the fourth Raging Spirit appears, it will be time to transition to Phase Five.

The Transition to Phase Five

At the start of Phase Five, the Lich King will once again destroy the outer ring of the platform, so your raid will need to get off it as soon as possible. Rather than going to the middle, however, your raid will want to stay relatively near the platforms new edge.

Have your tank with the Raging Spirits keep them pointed away from the raid while your other tank picks up the Lich King and brings him over to the edge. Your ranged and healers can spread out however they like, but they should avoid standing near the middle of the platform.

Phase Five

Phase Five is all about survival and does not require the precision of Phase Three to clear. At the beginning of the Phase, your dps needs to burn down any remaining Raging Spirits as soon as possible. In fact, this should be the only task for your melee dps until they have been eliminated.

Defile and Soul Reaper both return in Phase Five, now joined with Harvest Soul and Vile Spirits. Your raid should deal with Defile the same as in Phase Three making sure to leave the middle of the platform Defile free whenever possible. This is easier now because, without the Val'kyr to worry about, your raid is free to stay spread out and linger towards the edges of the platform. Your tanks should also handle Soul Reaper the same as in Phase Three. If one of your tanks could soak it before, they should now. If not, they will need to taunt as before and switch roles accordingly.

For Harvest Soul, the Lich King will target a random raid member and start damaging them with a rather hard hitting channeled attack. Healers will need to heal through the effect to prevent the target from being killed which causes Arthas to empower and likely kill the tank. Once the channel is finished, the target will be teleported to a small room containing a hostile NPC and a friendly NPC. The goal here is to see the hostile NPC destroyed while the friendly NPC survives. For dps, this is simply a matter of blowing up the hostile NPC as quickly as possible, throwing in the occasional stun or silence to mitigate the damage the friendly NPC takes. For healers, the goal is to keep yourself and the friendly NPC alive while it kills the hostile one. Should you be able to throw a bit of dps on the hostile one as well, all the better. Once the hostile NPC dies, you return to the platform with your other raid members.

Vile Spirits is really the central mechanic of Phase Five. Every so often, the Lich King will hold up Frost Mourn and summon ten Vile Spirits. While he is summoning, your tank and melee dps will want to make their way to the far side of the room. Your ranged will want to destroy as many Spirits as they can, before joining the rest of the raid and the Lich King on the opposite side of the platform.

After hovering in the air a few seconds, the Vile Spirits will pick random raid members and start moving towards them. Upon making contact with any player, a Vile Spirit will explode doing heavy, though likely non-fatal, damage. More than one of them, however, can easily take out a non-tank and one exploding in a group of players can cause massive raid damage. Since your entire raid has moved to the opposite side of the platform, the remaining Vile Spirits will be forced to make their way across the middle to reach their targets. Waiting for them in the middle will be your second tank who can hop around and pop the Vile Spirits before they reach more squishy raid members. Should one get away, it shouldn't be lethal, but the tank in the middle still has the option of taunting it.

The Vile Spirit mechanic is why you want to avoid putting Defile in the middle during Phase Five. A Defile in the middle of the platform not only makes it more difficult to move your raid and the Lich King from one side to the other, but it also leaves no room for your second tank to intercept the surviving Vile Spirits. Should a Defile appear near where the Lich King is being tanked, simply rotate slightly around the platform and continue executing the strategy. All that matters with the kiting is that you take the Lich King and the raid as far from the freshly spawned Vile Spirits as possible to give your tank every possible opportunity to blow them up.

This portion of the fight is a long, survival oriented slog. You will have been at the fight for quite some time at this point, so keeping your concentration up will be your biggest challenge. Stay alive and put dps on the Lich King whenever you can safely do so. At 10%, the Lich King transitions into a final role-playing stage (do not release) and the kill is yours!


The Lich King encounter is not an easy battle and Blizzard was correct in saying that it will thoroughly test many of the skills you have learned throughout the expansion. Even with the ICC buffs and gear from ICC 25, getting that first kill will likely take many wipes as people adapt to the level of concentration the encounter requires. Once you start to consistently clear Phase Three, the finish line is near.

It is a great encounter, however, and try to enjoy the ride. The battle with Arthas is World of Warcraft at its best. It is meaningful, exciting, and challenging. It requires teamwork and coordination while simultaneously asking each individual raider to step up an be a hero when the situation calls for it. Wrap up the expansion in style and put the Lich King in his place, I assure you it is well worth the effort.

If you have any questions about the guide or if you would like to provide any feedback, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. Also, I would love to hear about if/how this guide helped you bring Arthas down!


  1. Excellent Strat my guild is going to try this. Transition is the key for sure

  2. wow i tried everything, i even had a full group of kingslayers and still got wiped. im stuck at the transition in2 phase 2. we get 2 were it cant reach us but he adds get us even if we split up... help?