Heroic Halfus

June 7, 2011 at 10:43 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A while ago I volunteered to do a little reading on Heroic Halfus and to share the results of what I found on my guild’s forums.  I’d forgotten about writing this, but wanted to post it here.  If you’ve done some of your own reading, please be aware that 4.0.6 (early Feb) substantially changed some of the mechanics of the fight, so what I say here may differ from older sources.

Differences from regular
The main difference between regular and heroic is that all five drakes are active, so Halfus begins the fight with a substantial number of buffs.  Aside from that, however, everything works the way you would expect.  For a refresher on what each of the drakes do, go to this Wowhead comment

Some guilds have chosen to stack tanks, healers or both for this fight.  Tank damage at the start can be substantial, so easing this challenge by spreading it across additional tanks or by having additional healers helps a lot, especially while learning the encounter.  For groups that bring a third tank, a bear in kitty gear seems to be idea because they can switch to dps after one of the drakes dies.  For groups that bring a fourth healer, disc is very very strong because of the cooldowns and smite healing/dps they bring.

No matter what we do, though, this fight still starts with 90 seconds of hell.  It gets mildly easier after that, but not to the degree that it does on regular.  Managing the Shadow Nova after Furious Roar is the main consideration in the later portion of the fight.

Big picture
Because this fight isn’t too different from the regular version, a lot of the challenge comes not from learning new mechanics but from excellent management of cooldowns.  Tanks will need their own cooldowns as well as external cooldowns to survive the first phase of the fight.  Interrupters will need cooldowns to get Shadow Nova after Halfus begins to stun the raid.  Healers will be at risk of going OOM very early in the encounter without assistance from Mana Tide, Innervate, and so on.

With that in mind, I’ve tried to break this guide down into smaller sections detailing ideas for dealing with the various troublesome aspects of the fight.

Which drakes to release?
Understandably, there are a variety of ways this fight can be (and has been) done.  The consensus, however, seems to be that Nether and Storm must be released in order to reduce Halfus’ hit chance and the casting speed of his Shadow Nova.  Slate, by contrast, is usually not released as his debuff is not essential.  Of remaining two, Time and the Whelps, one is typically released at the start and the other is released after the first death of a drake.  There does not appear to be a preference for Time or Whelps first.

Which drakes to kill?
Based on the release order from above, typically Nether or Storm is killed first, though groups that released Whelps first often killed them first.  This appears to be based on group composition, with groups possessing strong AoE classes (in particular, fire mages and frost DKs) preferring to release and kill the Whelps first.  When whelps were not killed first, they were usually left to be burned down by cleaves and other incidental AoE.  One group suggested that Whelps should be dead by 50% via cleaves if there are no dps problems.

Considerations for the pull
At the start of the fight, Halfus will have all 5 buffs for a few seconds, until the various drakes can be released.  As a result, it is extremely dangerous for him to be in range of the tank during this time.  Groups employed a variety of methods to deal with this problem:

1) Halfus can be Misdirected to a tank standing away from Halfus.  This made positioning fairly easy and, if Whelps were released first, made their pickup relatively uncomplicated.  As a disadvantage, this method requires a hunter and does not allow the use of MD elsewhere in the pull.
2) Halfus can be Misdirected to a pet that is left standing at the entrance to the room.  The tank taunts Halfus as he reaches the pet.  This provides a little more time between pulling Halfus and his arrival at the tank, but slightly less flexibility in positioning as the tank must be within taunt range of the pet.  As with the previous method, this also requires a hunter.
3) Halfus can also be offtanked for the first few seconds of the fight.  I read about one group having a kitty switch to bear form and pop all cooldowns to tank Halfus for ~15 seconds.  After this, the regular tank taunted Halfus and the bear returned to kitty form to dps.  As previously, this delays the debuff from stacking on the tank.

Because the fight is largely won or lost in the first 90 seconds, getting the pull right is more important than usual.  Halfus and the drakes need to be rapidly positioned and burned down while keeping dps and healing very high.

Dealing with Malevolent Strikes
As long as Slate is up, the raid will need to worry about his melee hits applying the Malevolent Strikes debuff.  Managing this tank debuff is a substantial concern in this fight, moreso than in regular.  Some groups reported that the stacks would reach 10+ within seconds of the start of the fight because the fight begins with ~5 seconds during which all buffs are active because the drakes have not yet been released.  In order to avoid this problem, they found it necessary to delay Halfus’ arrival at the tank.  When Halfus has to run to the tank, the accumulation of debuff stacks is also delayed, providing a big advantage to the group.  I read about a few tricks (other than tank swaps, of course) for dealing with this mechanic:

1) Hand of Protection, which is something we already do.  Tanks will need a /cancelaura macro.
2) Because Halfus must damage a tank in order to apply the debuff, high avoidance can be very helpful (though somewhat RNG-y).  Bears are, because of their high dodge, in this respect preferable to shield tanks for the beginning of the encounter.  That said, all tanks are capable of shifting stats around and pre-potting for avoidance (rather than armor, as is typical) to reduce stacking.  Popping avoidance trinkets at the start is also a good idea.
3) Stacking can be delayed by forcing Halfus to run to the tank or by starting with an offtank, as previously described.  I think there is a lot of potential in this trick, but we will need to be careful that it does not delay the use of defensive cooldowns such that they become available again too late.
4) Hunter pets can Intervene the tank and eat the next melee hit (which would apply an MS stack).  I don’t know much about this; it might reduce hunter dps too much, but it is an option.
5) If we had a prot paladin, Bubble also works to remove stacks.

Dealing with Shadow Nova
Prior to the stuns, dealing with Shadow Nova is fairly typical.  We want to avoid moving Halfus too much so that melee are not suddenly out of range.  Most interrupts can miss, so reaching hitcap is important for whoever is assigned to this role.

During the stun phase, interrupting can be very challenging.  I found a few different techniques for dealing with this, though they were often stated speculatively rather than as known-good methods:
1) Mages can Blink and Counterspell, but it requires excellent timing.
2) Humans or those wearing PvP trinkets can trinket out of the stun.
3) Warrior Berserker Rage may prevent a stun. (From our experience, it appears that this does not work.)
4) The stun time reduction metagem may reduce stun time enough to get off an interrupt, though I was unclear if this only worked for orcs in combination with their racial stun time reduction.
5) Living Action Potion.  We’d need a couple of stacks of these, probably, unless we learn this fight very rapidly.  (From our experience, it appears that this, too, does not work.)
6) Hunters may be able to use Master’s Call to break the stun.

Additional notes
1) There were some reports that Storm hits harder (60k vs 50k) that the other drakes.  This may influence decisions about tank assignments.
2) The enrage timer is 6 minutes.  Halfus has 51M health while each of the drakes has 4.15M.
3) For the first 90 seconds, a warrior can easily hit 25k dps.  Spreading Rend is very powerful in conjunction with TC/SW.

Further reading
Tankspot video (25m, pre-4.0.6): http://www.tankspot.com/showthread.php?73607-Heroic-Halfus-Wyrmbreaker
WoW Insider article, with comments: http://wow.joystiq.com/2011/03/07/raid-rx-heroic-halfus-healing-case-study/

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