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This guide is intended to provide a comprehensive description of the encounter with Nefarian in Blackwing Descent. It is targeted to anyone who desires to understand the fight mechanics.
This guide applies to patch 4.3 of World of Warcraft.
Nefarian is the 6th and final boss encounter of the Blackwing Descent Raid instance. It is a much more challenging encounter than any of the previous ones your raid will have faced, and will require a good amount of coordination and near-flawless execution to defeat.
1. General Information↑top
1.1. Health Pools
Nefarian has the following health pool:
Onyxia has the following health pool:
Chromatic Prototypes have the following health pool:
The health pool of Animated Bone Warriors is totally irrelevant, as they should never be killed during the encounter (their health is enormous and they respawn if killed).
1.2. Enrage Timer
Nefarian will go Berserk after 10 minutes and 30 seconds from the start of the encounter.
1.3. Raid Composition
The following raid compositions are advised:
2. 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).
3. Preliminary Concerns↑top
A few mentions must be made before going deeper into explaining the fight. These do not specifically concern enemies or fight mechanics, but are important for your raid to know.
Firstly, Nefarian can only be engaged when all other 5 bosses in the instance have been defeated. In order to trigger the encounter, one of your raid members will need to activate an orb, which is located right outside of Atramedes' quarters.
The orb can be activated and Nefarian can be fought (and defeated) without your raid engaging any of the trash located in the Vault of Shadowflame. Reaching the orb without aggroing the trash is, however, impossible for anyone other than classes with stealthing capabilities.
Secondly, Nefarian will begin flying around the Vault of Shadowflame after the orb is activated (and after a short speech), and will be attackable during this time. Doing so is, however, not advised (this is not the intended way to begin the encounter) and will most likely wipe your raid.
Lastly, the entire encounter against Nefarian takes place in the pit located in the center of the Vault of Shadowflame. To perform the encounter, your raid will have to drop down into the pit. Doing so will begin the encounter (by engaging Onyxia, detailed below), shortly after which Nefarian will also land and begin attacking your raid.
4. Phase One↑top
Phase One starts with your raid jumping down into the fight area and engaging Onyxia. This phase is the most difficult, and the one which will require the most practice from your raid.
4.1. Enemies and Abilities
During Phase One, your raid will face Onyxia, Nefarian and Animated Bone Warriors.
When first engaging Nefarian, your raid will be forced to jump down into the fighting area, where Onyxia is present. She will aggro immediately, and the tank must be prepared to pick her up promptly. For this reason, it is vital that the tank jumps down first.
Your raid will only face Onyxia during Phase One of the encounter.
Onyxia has several abilities, two of which are usual for dragons:
Every time Electrocute is cast (this is an ability belonging to Nefarian, which we will detail below), Onyxia instantly gains 18 electricity.
As mentioned before, prior to the start of the encounter, Nefarian flies around the Vault of Shadowflame. When Onyxia is engaged, he descends onto the platform and begins attacking your raid. He lands 30 seconds after Onyxia is first engaged.
Nefarian is present in all three phases of the encounter. During Phase One, he has the following abilities:
4.1.3. Animated Bone Warriors
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, independently 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.
There is an important interaction between Nefarian's Electrocute (damage dealt each time he loses 10% of his health) and Onyxia's Electricity bar. Namely, as each Electrocute charges her electricity, your raid will have to kill Onyxia before a third Electrocute is cast, as otherwise her electricity will reach maximum and wipe your raid.
With this in mind, all other encounter concerns are secondary, but will affect your raid's positioning and strategy. Before going into specifics, we will quickly sum up what your raid needs to accomplish during this phase:
Your raid will require a tank for Onyxia, as well as a tank for Nefarian. These two roles are indispensable.
While it is not intended design that the Animated Bone Warriors be simply tanked, this is entirely feasible.
In 10-man difficulty, your raid should either have a Feral Druid DPS go into Bear Form and tank them (as using 3 tanks is not really possible, because of enrage timer concerns), or simply have some players CC and/or kite the adds (Hunters and Mages are ideal).
In 25-man, it is possible (and recommended) to have a third tank, who will be concerned with adds during Phase One, and simply DPS during Phase Three.
In 10-man difficulty, where three healers are required for this encounter, one should be assigned to each tank specifically (as the tanks will be quite far apart from each other) while a third should heal the raid.
In 25-man difficulty, at least one healer should be specifically assigned for each tank (and make sure that they are in range of said tank), while the others can heal the raid and help out on the tanks.
To offer your raid the most space possible, while also keeping Nefarian and Onyxia apart from each other and minimising the risk of anyone being damaged by Shadowflame Breath, we recommend the following positioning:
At the beginning of the fight, everyone except for the tanks (and possibly the healer of Onyxia's tank) should be located in the center of the room. Melee DPS will of course have to be at Onyxia's side.
This will ensure that, if Onyxia and Nefarian are tanked properly, the raid will never have to move, nor will they ever suffer damage from Shadowflame Breath or Electrical Discharge. Damage may occasionally occur from Tail Lash (10-man/25-man), but this is acceptable.
When your raid switches from Onyxia to Nefarian (detailed in the following section), everyone except for the Onyxia tank and their healer should move to melee range of Nefarian. This will ensure that everyone is out of range of Electrical Discharge and Tail Lash.
Your Onyxia tank should begin the fight by kiting her to the side of the area, and turning her so that her side is facing the center of the room. This will ensure that no one is damaged by her Tail Lash or breath attack. Whenever her sides begin to sparkle, in preparation for Electrical Discharge, the tank should turn her so that her tail is facing the center of the area.
This way, no one (assuming correct positioning) should take any damage from Electrical Discharge.
After landing, Nefarian should be tanked on the opposite side of Onyxia, following the same facing (side to the center of the room) guideline. He will never need to be moved from his location.
It is very important that the tanks are quick to bring Onyxia and Nefarian more than 50 yards apart.
As stated, the aim of your raid is to kill Onyxia shortly after Nefarian casts his second Electrocute (so, shortly after reaching 80% health). If for some reason your raid's DPS is low, causing Onyxia's Electricity bar to reach 100 before that time, you should kill her even if you've only had one Electrocute.
Thus, your raid should begin by DPSing Onyxia at the start of the fight. She should be brought to low health (10% or so), after which everyone should move over and DPS Nefarian. He should be brought down to 80% health, and then your raid should switch back to Onyxia and finish her off (though it is likely that her tank will have almost done this single-handedly by then).
4.2.4. Tips and Tricks
Tanks should ensure that they have a cooldown (preferably a damage reduction one) active each time Electrocute is about to be cast.
Healers should not panic after an Electrocute has just occurred, as there is no unavoidable raid damage until the next Electrocute (10% of Nefarian's health, so ample time). Thus, they can take their time and use mana efficient heals to top the raid off.
If the 90% and 80% Electrocutes are coming too close together (because of too much DPS on Nefarian), you can have a few DPS players switch over to Nefarian as soon as he lands, while others remain on Onyxia until she reaches low health. This will bring about the 90% Electrocute sooner, and will give more time for your healers to heal the raid before the 80% one.
5. Phase Two↑top
Phase Two begins with Onyxia's death. Nefarian will walk to the center of the arena and fly up in the air (becoming untankable). At the same time, the arena will become covered in lava. Your raid will need to seek the refuge of the three metal pillars located around the arena in order to avoid dying to the lava.
5.1. Enemies and Abilities
During Phase Two, Nefarian flies in the air above the raid, and attacks them with Shadowflame Barrage (10-man/25-man). The ability hits several targets at once, at random, inflicting a moderate amount of damage.
5.1.2. Chromatic Prototypes
Three Chromatic Prototypes will appear at the start of Phase Two, each located on one of the three pillars which your raid must stand on to avoid the lava. They have no aggro tables and do not perform melee attacks. In fact, their only ability is Blast Nova (10-man/25-man), which they cast very often. This ability must be interrupted every time, as it deals a large amount of raid-wide damage which will, in all likelihood, lead to a wipe.
The cast time is quite high (4 seconds), and the interval at which it is cast allows for a single interrupter per add in 10-man, while two are needed in 25-man.
When all three of them are dead, Phase Two will end and Nefarian will descend to the arena once more.
You should split your raid up into three teams, each consisting of at least 1 healer and 1 interrupter in 10-man difficulty, and 2 healers and 2 interrupters (or 1 Elemental or Enhancement Shaman) in 25-man difficulty.
Balancing your raid as much as possible is crucial for the success of this phase. 10-man raids will want to have a split of 3-3-4, with one healer and one interrupter on each pillar. Ideally, one backup interrupter should be assigned to each pillar (Mages, Marksmanship Hunters) if your raid composition allows it.
In 25-man difficulty, the balancing is more lenient. You should always have two healers and two interrupters on each pillar, with possible backup interrupters or off-healers present as well.
This phase is extremely simple in execution. All that is required is that the Chromatic Prototype adds are interrupted at all times, and that healers keep up with the damage caused by Nefarian's Shadowflame Barrage (10-man/25-man).
A common misconception is that this damage is AoE, or "splashes" to nearby targets. This is incorrect - it is single target damage.
When all three Chromatic Prototype adds are dead, or three minutes have elapsed from Onyxia's death, the phase ends, the lava subsides and Nefarian lands again, triggering Phase Three.
5.2.2. Tips and Tricks
This is generally not a difficult part of the encounter, in terms of healing or DPS. Because the healing is quite lenient, your raid can switch DPS from the adds to Nefarian, and lower him below 70% health. This will trigger another Electrocute, meaning that you will have to deal with one fewer in Phase Three.
If your raid does choose to do this, it is important the healers are prepared, and everyone is topped off, as otherwise a combination of Electrocute and Shadowflame Barrage can kill people.
One issue that many people have during this phase is making it up on the pillars successfully when the lava begins to rise. In order to make it onto the pillars, you will have to use the lava's water-like properties and swim up (using the jump key) until you are at the surface, at an equal level as the pillar. Then, simply jump and run forward to end up on the pillar.
A mistake many people make is that they are too close to the pillar when trying to jump forward, and thus do not have the correct angle. We recommend that you be 2-4 yards away from the pillar before jumping.
Once you are already at surface level, it is also not advised to jump up and down out of the lava, as each subsequent immersion will cause you to take damage.
The damage dealt by this the lava is quite high, so players should feel free to use damage reduction abilities during this time.
6. Phase Three↑top
Phase Three sees the reactivation of the Animated Bone Warriors. Shortly after landing, Nefarian will reactivate all the adds (regardless of whether or not they are in the same location).
Your raid will, from this point on, have to DPS Nefarian (while still contending with the adds).
6.1. Enemies and Abilities
During Phase Three, Nefarian retains his Shadowflame Breath and Tail Lash.
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 the tank ample time to move the Animated Bone Warriors away from the targeted location.
If players are damaged by the resulting flames, the speed at which they spread is increased. It deals heavy damage per second.
Shadowblaze Spark and its resulting flames will revive the Animated Bone Warriors that they come in contact with. In addition to its revitalising effects, it also removes any forms of crowd control from them.
6.1.2. Animated Bone Warriors
Animated Bone Warriors have the same abilities during Phase Three that they do during Phase One, and indeed nothing changes at all regarding them.
The only addition is that they can now be revived by Nefarian's new ability, Shadowblaze Spark.
Nefarian should be tanked in the center of the room, and everyone should stack to one of his sides. He still performs his breath and tail attacks, so players should be careful not to be damaged by them.
Nefarian also continues to cast Electrocute each time he loses 10% of his health. This is, however, the only source of unavoidable raid damage during this phase, so healing it is quite easy.
The rest of your raid also must bear in mind the fire resulting from Shadowblaze Sparks, as standing in them is extremely damaging and only serves to spread the fire faster.
However, with your entire raid stacked at the side of Nefarian, if fire comes close, it is quite easy to simply run through Nefarian to the other side and avoid it.
6.2.1. Add Tanking
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.
7. 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.
7.1. Differences from Normal Mode
The encounter against Nefarian, on heroic mode, is essentially a giant DPS race. His health pool is extremely large, and your DPS would find it impossible to kill him before the 10 minute and 30 second enrage timer, were it not for a heroic-only mechanics.
Thus, in addition to increased health for Nefarian, Onyxia and the adds, and considerably increased damage dealt by all abilities and mobs, the following important changes occur:
7.1.1. 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.
7.1.2. 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 healers or interrupters.
7.1.3. Other Changes
There are a few other, minor, changes to abilities in the encounter:
The strategy for the encounter is extremely similar to normal mode, from positioning to assignments, in all phases. The only notable differences come from your raid members using Dominion to their advantage, and the potential complications during Phase Two, due to Explosive Cinders.
A few notes should be made regarding Dominion, which will prove useful for your raid to know and take into account:
Keeping these notes in mind should make handling Dominion efficient for your raid.
Healers can also make use of Dominion, as it increases their healing done (by a large amount!), but this should only be done during periods of low damage taken, and is by no means necessary. Otherwise, healers should simply break out of the mind control right away.
In regards to Explosive Cinders, the greatest complications stem from the fact that the distribution of the Cinders (in 25-man difficulty) is totally random, and it can easily target all the healers on a single pillar, or three interrupters from the same pillar.
For this reason, you should make sure that there are ample backup interrupters, as well as classes who can off-heal, on each pillar.
7.2.1. 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.
7.2.2. 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.
Forcing an Electrocute during this phase, on heroic mode, is not feasible.
7.2.3. Phase Three
Phase Three is arguably the simplest and easiest one. Simply have your whole raid 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, players should pay special attention to their health and not hesitate to break the mind control early in order to receive healing.
The handling of the Animated Bone Warriors is slightly more difficult than in normal mode due to the higher incidence of Shadowblaze Sparks as well as the fact that they only deactivate after 50 seconds, but the same rules apply.
8. Learning the Fight↑top
Being an encounter with clearly defined phases, and also of considerable length, your raid will not have many options to doing each of the phases properly, in succession, until reaching a level that allows you to defeat the boss.
You can, however, DPS Onyxia down quickly, ignoring DPS on Nefarian altogether in Phase One, to give your raid a better chance to experience and practice Phase Two.
9. Final Considerations↑top
This concludes the strategy guide for the encounter against Nefarian. The information contained herein is sufficient (more than sufficient, in fact) to allow your raid to succeed. It is not a very forgiving encounter, even on normal mode, but it provides a clear learning path that your raid can follow.