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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 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 Nefarian encounter is not overly complex for tanks, overall, but it does put a lot of pressure on them to perform flawlessly.
Successful excecution of the fight relies heavily on the precise tasks of the tanks. This guide will tell you everything you need to know to perform accordingly.
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:
Nefarian has the following abilities:
After the start of the fight, shortly after landing, Nefarian will spawn 5 adds in 10-man difficulty and 10 in 25-man difficulty, called Animated Bone Warriors. They have extremely high amounts of health, and should not be killed.
These adds are present during Phase One and Phase Three of the encounter, but their mechanics are identical in both phases.
They have an energy bar, which decreases slowly over time, independent of player action. When the bar reaches 0 (33 seconds from when the adds spawned), they will deactivate and essentially despawn.
The adds' energy bar will be refilled if they are touched by any Shadowflame effects, namely Onyxia or Nefarian's breath attacks, or by Shadowblaze Spark (an ability which Nefarian gains in Phase Three). If the adds are inactive (0 energy) when they are hit by one of these abilities, they will come back to life with full energy. Otherwise, their energy bar will simply return to maximum.
While they are alive, the adds increase their damage done and movement speed, each time they perform melee attacks. This effect stacks.
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.
When considering proper positioning, you have to keep two things in mind:
For these reasons, we recommend the positioning illustrated in the image below:
If you are tanking Onyxia, then it is you who will begin the encounter by jumping down and pulling Onyxia. You should pull her over to one side, and turn her so that neither her tail nor her head are facing the center of the arena.
Whenever Onyxia is about to cast Electrical Discharge, you will notice her sides sparkling in anticipation. Simply turn her so that her tail faces the center of the arena. While this may lead to the raid being hit by Tail Lash, it will ensure that no one gets damaged by Electrical Discharge, which is much more deadly. Once she is done discharging, turn her back to her original position.
Once Onyxia is brought to low health, everyone should switch over to Nefarian, and move within his melee range. You, of course, as Onyxia's tank, will remain where you are. You should still turn her for Electrical Discharge, though. Additionally, you must be careful not to kill Onyxia by yourself until your raid leader decides that the time is right.
If you are tanking Nefarian, then simply pick him up when he lands, and move him to the opposite side of the arena from Onyxia. After that, face him in such a way that his side is facing the center of the arena. You will never have to move Nefarian until the end of the phase.
If you are assigned to tanking the Animated Bone Warriors, then keep in mind that you must, at all costs, avoid having them hit by either of the two dragons' breath attacks.
The adds continue to increase their damage and movement speed the more they hit you, but this should not be a problem as they deactivate fairly quickly (33 seconds). It is important that all the adds deactivate in the same location, as this makes picking them up again in Phase Three much easier.
Regardless of what your tanking assignment is, you should always make sure to have a damage reduction cooldown active when Nefarian casts Electrocute.
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.
4. Phase Three↑top
Phase Three is very similar to Phase One, but is much simpler. You will once again face Nefarian, and the Animated Bone Warriors will reappear as well.
If you are tanking Nefarian, then you should position him in the center of the arena.
He retains the same abilities from Phase One (breath and tail attacks, Electrocute). Additionally, he gains a new ability, called Shadowblaze Spark. This causes Nefarian to shoot a ball of Shadowflame at the location of one of the Animated Bone Warriors, from which flames will then quickly spread. The spark has a roughly 5 second travel time, giving you ample time to move the Animated Bone Warriors away from the targeted location.
Shortly after the phase begins, Nefarian will reanimate all of the adds. If they were tanked correctly during Phase One, they will all have died in roughly the same place, making picking them up quite an easy task.
Each time Nefarian casts Shadowblaze Spark, it will be targeted at one of the adds (most likely this means at the group of adds, as they are being tanked together). If the spark touches the adds, it will refresh their energy, meaning that they will not go inactive. This must be avoided.
Fortunately, the spark is quite slow to travel, so by constantly moving the adds, it is rather easy to ensure that the spark falls behind their current location.
If done correctly, the adds will deactivate after 33 seconds of being alive, resetting their buff which increases damage and movement speed. As they are stationary, the next Shadowblaze Spark will reanimate them, but their stacks will have gone away. Your add tank should continually kite them in this fashion, until Nefarian is dead.
In addition to the sparks, the add tank (and to an extent, Nefarian's tank too) will have to watch out for a few other things:
The Nefarian tank should always keep an eye out for the add tank's position, and rotation Nefarian accordingly, so that he is always at his side. The raid will also need to adjust their position, to be at Nefarian's side.
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. As it can never target tanks, this ability is of no concern to you.
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 multiple interrupters on the same pillar.
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 the fact that the adds take 50 seconds to deactivate, up from 33 as well as from the potential complications during Phase Two, due to Explosive Cinders.
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.
Paladins ( Divine Shield) can get rid of the Explosive Cinders without any negative effects (ie. it will not blow up the platform).
Regarding Phase Three, there are no differences.