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This guide is intended to provide a comprehensive description of the encounter with Lord Rhyolith in Firelands. It is mostly targeted to tanks who desire to have a short but detailed overview of what is expected of them during that fight.
This guide applies to patch 4.3 of World of Warcraft.
The encounter with Rhyolith presents no difficulty for a tank. From that perspective, it is indeed the easiest fight of this tier of content.
Tanks will be required, for most of the fight, to handle adds that deal moderate damage, while also giving orders to the DPS for maneuvering Rhyolith in a specific way. The fight ends with a very short but very intense burning phase during which Rhyolith needs to be tanked.
1. Overview of the Fight↑top
The encounter is made up of 2 phases. Phase One (from 100% to 25% health) requires the raid to move Rhyolith so that he steps on volcanoes, which causes his armor to slowly wear off. Phase Two (from 25% health to the end) is a standard, but short, nuke phase.
During Phase One, the main role of a tank is to handle the adds that Rhyolith regularly spawns. Rhyolith himself does not perform melee attacks and does not require tanking. This task is rather simple and for this reason, it is advised that a tank coordinate the effort from the DPS players for moving Rhyolith around.
In Phase Two, Rhyolith needs to be tanked by a single tank, which is another simple task.
2. Phase One↑top
2.1. Tanking the Adds
Fragments of Rhyolith need to be tanked close to the ranged DPS players so that they can AoE them down efficiently. Sparks of Rhyolith need to be tanked away from everyone because of the proximity damage they deal. An ideal spot to tank Sparks of Rhyolith is on the edge of the plateau, close to the lava, so they can never be on Rhyolith's path.
Most raids will use only one tank, but since the fight is by no means a DPS race, some raids will prefer using two. In this case, tanks alternate tanking the waves of adds.
2.2. Moving Rhyolith
In this phase, DPS players have the ability to control Rhyolith's movements by making him steer right or left. The idea is to make him step in active volcanoes (to destroy his damage-reducing armor) while preventing him, at all costs, from reaching the edge of the fighting area (it causes extreme raid-wide damage).
It is important to make Rhyolith only step on active volcanoes (those who are erupting). Whenever Rhyolith steps on a dormant volcano (one that is not erupting), he gains a temporary damage increasing buff and does not lose armor.
A tank is well suited to coordinate the DPS effort for moving Rhyolith around for two reasons. Tanking the adds is an easy task, which enables a tank to focus on locating craters around the room. Also, being normally far from Rhyolith, they have a better view on the fighting area than DPS players.
To coordinate the DPS effort, a tank must give left and right orders to ensure that Rhyolith is properly steered towards an active volcano. It is also important to plan one or two volcanoes ahead so that Rhyolith is moved as fast as possible from one active volcano to the other.
2.3. Avoidable Damage
There is only one source of damage that tanks should try to avoid. Whenever Rhyolith steps on a volcano, the volcano immediately turns into a crater, which releases, after 10 seconds, 4 to 6 streams of lava flowing outwards. These lava streams need to be avoided (their visual effect is very obvious), otherwise, they deal high fire damage.
3. Phase Two↑top
At 25% health, Phase Two begins. It consists of a very short burn phase during which Rhyolith must die before he wipes the raid. He also needs to be tanked.
If two tanks were used in Phase One, one of them will have to tank Rhyolith while the other one will DPS him.
During Phase Two, no mechanics requires Rhyolith to step on a volcano. Therefore, Rhyolith should be tanked in such a way that he never steps on a volcano, because of the damaging lava streams that would subsequently flow through the fighting area.
Protection Paladins can use Divine Shield (but they need to cancel it immediately and taunt the boss back) to remove their stacks of the fire damage increasing debuff (Eruption) that volcanoes apply on players. This debuff was already present in Phase One but was not important then. In Phase Two, it causes Rhyolith's Immolation ability to do increasing damage until the raid eventually wipes, unless Rhyolith dies first.
4. Heroic Mode↑top
The heroic mode version of the Lord Rhyolith encounter does not present any challenging new mechanics for tanks, although you should expect a large amount of incoming damage during both phases.
4.1. Differences from Normal Mode
The fight is quite similar to its normal mode counterpart. The only differences of concern to tanks are:
4.2. Strategy Changes
The fight is a massive DPS race, and as such you will be required to be the only tank in the encounter, to make room for more DPS players. You will be on permanent add duty during Phase One, and you should be prepared to pick up new adds all the time.
If you are piloting Rhyolith, you need to be aware that letting him step on a dormant volcano is now much more punishing that in normal mode as the damage buff he gets has been increased by 150%.
Since DPS is a factor, you should tank the Fragments of Rhyolith on top of the boss's Feet, to gain more damage. Alternatively, if the damage on Rhyolith is sufficient, but more damage is required on the Liquid Obsidian adds (something which the raid leader should communicate), you should tank the Fragments on top of the Obsidians (they are extremely slow).
In Phase Two, only one tank is needed for Lord Rhyolith, just as during the normal mode version. In addition to performing all of the normal mode tasks during this phase, you should also be prepared to avoid his eye beams should they come in close proxmity to you.
Once Lord Rhyolith becomes Superheated (which should be at roughly the same time as he transitions to Phase Two, or shortly afterwards) the damage on you will increase dramatically. A particularly crucial point is when the boss casts Concussive Stomp, for which it is advisable to have a cooldown up.