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This guide is intended to provide a comprehensive description of the encounter with Nefarian in Blackwing Descent. It is mostly targeted to DPS 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.
From a DPS player perspective, the fight against Nefarian is pretty simple. You will have to face a few positional and movement challenges, as well as interrup casts.
1. Overview of the Fight↑top
The fight against Nefarian is a three phase encounter. Phase One begins when your raid first engages Onyxia, and lasts until Onyxia dies. During this phase, your raid will have to face off against Nefarian and Onyxia together, and handle Onyxia's rather unique electricity resource (detailed below). In addition to this, several adds must be dealt with.
During Phase Two, the platform where you were fighting Nefarian and Onyxia will become covered in lava, and your raid members will need to jump up onto three metal pillars in order to avoid dying. Your raid will have to deal with three adds which must be interrupted and killed, while also receiving regular, unavoidable damage from Nefarian (who flies in the air and is not tanked). When all three adds are dead, or 3 minutes have gone by, Phase Two ends, and the lava subsides.
Phase Three is a balance between burning Nefarian and carefully controlling adds, which ends when Nefarian reaches 0% health or your raid wipes.
Nefarian and the adds from Phase One retain all of their Phase One abilities when going into Phase Three (where Nefarian gains an additional ability).
2. Phase One↑top
During Phase One, your raid will have to face Onyxia, Nefarian and adds called Animated Bone Warriors.
We shall list the relevant abilities for this phase, and then discuss its strategy.
Onyxia has the following abilities:
Onyxia's Electricity bar is charged by a considerable amount each time Nefarian loses 10% of his health (detailed below).
Nefarian has the following abilities:
Animated Bone Warriors are adds which may be of mild concern to some DPS players during Phase One (depending on your raid leader's assignments). 5 spawn in 10-man difficulty, while 10 spawn in 25-man.
The phase ends when Onyxia dies.
During this phase, your raid's aim is to bring Nefarian down below 80% health (so, triggering two Electrocutes) and killing Onyxia before her Electricity bar reaches maximum. During this time, your raid also has to contend with the Animated Bone Warriors.
2.2.1. Positioning and DPS Priority
Keeping in mind the above-mentioned aim during this phase, your raid will need to employ two positions: at first, you will be located in the center of the arena (or in Onyxia's melee range, if you are a melee DPS player), and you will DPS Onyxia until low health; after that, you will switch to Nefarian, move to his melee range and DPS him. Before the phase ends, you may have to briefly switch to Onyxia and finish her off.
We have included an image of these positions, to make it easier to understand:
As illustrated, both Onyxia and Nefarian should have their sides turned to the center of the arena, thus ensuring that if you are in the marked locations, their breath and tail attacks will not damage you.
Because of Onyxia's Electrical Discharge, she will regularly be getting turned by her tank so that her tail is aimed at the center of the arena, and her sides are not. When this happens, you may be hit by her Tail Lash, but it is acceptable. If you are a melee DPS player, resist the urge to move with Onyxia - you do not want to be at her side when she does Electrical Discharge.
Therefore, if you are using these tips, you should be able to avoid all of the avoidable damage in this phase, and focus on simply DPSing the right targets.
2.2.2. Kiting Adds
Your raid leader may ask you to kite the Animated Bone Warriors during Phase One, or assist someone else in kiting them, though this is only likely to be the case in 10-man difficulty. There are a few things you need to know:
Other than that, there really is not much else you need to know about add kiting, except that it doesn't have to be a one person job, so feel free to ask for help!
3. Phase Two↑top
Phase Two is extremely simple. The arena becomes flooded in lava, shortly after Onyxia dies. Nefarian flies up into the air (from where he does some random, unavoidable damage to a few raid members every couple of seconds).
In order to avoid damage from the lava, you will have to swim up to its surface and jump on top of one of the three metal pillars. Your raid leader will assign you to a pillar, and it is important that you stick to your assignment.
Other than swimming out of the lava and on to your designated pillar in a timely fashion (the lava deals high damage), there is only one thing for you to keep in mind during this phase: an add called Chromatic Prototype.
Each of the three pillars has a Chromatic Prototype on it. The add has no aggro table and does not cast melee attacks. Its only action is to cast Blast Nova (10-man/25-man) regularly. This ability has a 4 second cast time and it must be interrupted each time it is cast, as it otherwise deals a large amount of raid-wide damage.
In 10-man difficulty, one interrupter for each add is more than sufficient, while in 25-man a rotation needs to be employed.
When all three Chromatic Prototype adds are dead, or 3 minutes from the end of Phase One, Phase Three begins. Therefore, it is your objective during this phase to DPS the adds down.
Lastly, depending on your strategy, your raid leader may ask you to also DPS Nefarian (if you are a ranged DPS) in order to cause another Electrocute to occur (and thus have one fewer Electrocute to deal with in Phase Three). Simply follow your raid leader's instructions.
4. Phase Three↑top
Phase Three is very similar to Phase One, but is much simpler. You will once again face Nefarian, who will this time, most likely, be tanked in the center of the arena.
Whether you play a melee or ranged DPS class, you should be at Nefarian's side, and in his melee range.
He retains the same abilities from Phase One (breath and tail attacks, Electrocute) while also regularly causing fire on the ground. This fire spreads, and spreads faster if it damages players. Essentially, this should be of no concern to you as it should be targeting the adds, which are being tanked by your off-tank. If the fire does, however, come close to your location, move through Nefarian, to his other side, to avoid it.
This is all that there is to this phase. Provided that your tanks and healers perform their jobs adequately, you should have no issues in killing the boss.
5. Heroic Mode↑top
The heroic mode of Nefarian is a most unforgiving encounter. It is very similar to the normal mode, with two key differences, as well as a few minor ones.
5.1. Differences from Normal Mode
In the following sections, we list the key differences from normal mode, as well as the less relevant differences.
To sum up, however, the fight will feel very similar to normal mode, throughout its entirety.
5.1.1. Stolen Power
During Phases One and Three, every 15 seconds, Nefarian casts Dominion on 1 random player in 10-man difficulty and 5 in 25-man difficulty (though it cannot target tanks). This acts like a mind control. Players affected by it have their action bar replaced by two buttons, corresponding to the following abilities:
Stolen Power stacks up to a maximum of 150 stacks, and each stack provides a 3% increase to damage and healing done, for a grand total increase of 450%.
When a player is mind controlled, their character will begin to run towards a portal (a line linking the player to the portal will make this even clearer). When the player reaches the portal, he is instantly killed.
As such, while under the effects of Dominion, you have no control whatsoever over your character, except to break out of the mind control or stack Stolen Power. While useful for healers, Stolen Power is essential for DPS players, in order to beat the enrage timer.
As a DPS player, when under Dominion, you should always aim to get as many stacks of Stolen Power as possible (up to the maximum of 150), while making sure you break the mind control (just) before reaching the portal.
The Stolen Power buff lasts only 15 seconds, and also grants a movement speed increase, allowing you to quickly get into position again, after your character had walked off.
More details on Stolen Power will be provided in the strategy section.
5.1.2. Explosive Cinders
During Phase Two, every 20 seconds, Nefarian will cast Explosive Cinders on 1 random player in 10-man difficulty and 3 in 25-man difficulty. This places a debuff on the target. After 8 seconds, when the debuff wears out, the player explodes, dealing a moderate amount of damage to and knocking back any players within 8 yards.
Simply put, players affected by this will need to jump off their pillar and into the lava when their debuff is about to run out, have it explode away from other players, and then make their way back to the pillar.
It is a very simple and straightforward ability, but it can cause complications when it targets interrupters.
5.1.3. Other Changes
There are a few other, minor, changes to abilities in the encounter:
Additionally, all of the mobs in the encounter have increased health, and all of their abilities deal considerably more damage.
The strategy for the encounter is extremely similar to normal mode, from positioning to assignments, in all phases. The only notable differences come from using Dominion to your advantage, and the potential complications during Phase Two, due to Explosive Cinders.
5.2.1. Dealing with Dominion
A few notes should be made regarding Dominion, which will prove useful for your raid to know and take into account:
5.2.2. Phase One
The strategy during Phase One remains identical to normal mode, with the obvious exception of dealing with Dominion as described above, though this does not influence anything in practice.
5.2.3. Phase Two
During Phase Two, while having to keep a much closer eye on the casts of Blast Nova, you must also pay special attention to Explosive Cinders.
If you are targeted by this ability, wait until you have 3-4 seconds left on the debuff before moving out (into the lava) and then back once you have exploded. We recommend strafing out to left or right, off of the pillar, and then strafing back towards it. This makes it easier to jump back on the platform, as you can clearly see where it is and it does not affect your camera's angle.
You also want to make sure that the Chromatic Prototypes die at roughly the same time, due to the fact that the first one's death will cause the phase to end.
5.2.4. Phase Three
Phase Three is arguably the simplest and easiest one for DPS players. Simply stand at Nefarian's side and DPS him, while being prepared to move (switching sides) in case the fires from Shadowblaze Spark come too close.
Dominion is still present, and because of the great number of Electrocutes as well as the fire on the ground, you should pay special attention to your health and not hesitate to break the mind control early in order to receive healing.