Lets start off with some good news -- Anub'arak down! In fact, we're the 7th guild on the server to complete Heroic ToC-10 among both 10- and 25-man Guilds, and we're the only 10-man Guild. Also, we were the 12th 10-man Strict Guild worldwide to complete Heroic ToC! Incredible work by our Vox crew for trucking through time and again. ><

[caption id="attachment_351" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Raiding Dalaran is serious business..."]Raiding Dalaran is serious business...[/caption]

Since my last update, on our second week of H-ToC, we had the pleasure of going against the Twin Val'kyr Heroic style, which actually proved a respectable challenge. At first, we spent quite a few wipes working out our positioning. Originally we used our Normal mode setup (all the glamor of MS Paint without the hassle), which places the majority of the raid on top of a Dark Portal. This is great for swapping colors quickly due to a Twin's Pact heal, but our two Resto Druids were on Dark Orb soak duty, and new spawns so close to the raid were causing major issues. As our attempts remaining count dwindled away, we slowly crept the positioning out toward the center of the room, until we finally went with the classic "fuck it" strategy and stacked both Lightbane and Darkbane plus the tanks and all eight DPS in the center of the room and gave each of our Druid healers one side of the group to cover.

This proved a big help but we were still getting random gibs because avoiding approximately 273 Dark Orbs over the course of 4 minutes is difficult, even when you have cat-like reflexes like Huggeybear. Instead, we finally opted to have our Moonkin Druid (that's right, three Druids, sup now biotch?!) go Resto for a Three MuskaTREErs-style gangbang, but low and behold, that smoothed things out incredibly and I was kicking myself for not trying three healers a half-dozen attempts prior.

Now we had Huggey in the center of the raid spamming Rejuv's on everyone he could and healing me while I offtanked Lightbane with Light Essence. All DPS was stacked in the center as well with Light Essence focusing Darkbane and if we were lucky enough to get Darkbane's Twin's Pact cast first, once the shield was down, we had the raid swap Essence colors, so the two Druid soakers were Light and the DPS was Dark and now attacking Lightbane for her Twin's Pact cast.

Either way though, stacking the mobs on top of each other is the way to go and the extra healing from our third Druid really provided that buffer needed to avoid random gibs from double-orb hits in the raid. We'll have to try single-tanking them soon and see if we can't beat a three-minute kill on Heroic.

It's also worth mentioning, due to my sheer loathing of the encounter, that we got somewhat different Faction Champions setup this week which gave us a great deal of trouble for a good dozen attempts or so. This week we had Priest (Healer), Paladin (Healer), Mage, Druid (Moonkin), Rogue, and Shaman (Enhancement). We spent our first raid night of the week, last Wednesday, beating our heads against this makeup because the Paladin was proving incredibly difficult to stop and purge-spam wasn't mitigating enough healing. Also, missing our rogue (Who is perfecting the art of being mysteriously MIA, too bad we had to DE your mace!), we had no Healing Reduction on the main target.

We tried using our Death Knight to lock out the Paladin, but with only one form of repeatable interrupt, too many Flash of Lights could sneak through the cracks and without healing reduction, it was a lost cause. Next we tried CC chains on the Paladin between Sheep and Fear, but the inability to /target Tremor Totem in a macro or ensure the Priest was locked and unable to dispel proved just as fruitless as our last effort.

Feeling disheartened by the encounter all over again, we came back this evening with a healing reduction effect and I decided to see if I could manage to lockout the Paladin as a Protection Warrior rather than playing the random Warlock alt I abhor. This proved a wise choice. Between a 12 sec CD Shield Bash + Gag Order, a 30 sec CD Concussion Blow, a 20 sec CD Shockwave, a 15 sec CD Charge, and a 30 sec CD Intercept, other than eating a long-duration CC or stun myself, the Paladin was virtually useless. We then opted to target the Rogue first (frequently our most deadly foe) and ignore the Priest almost entirely outside of Sheep when possible. Water Elemental Roots to open > DK Death Grip of kill target > Elemental Shaman knockback > Hunter snare trap > Warrior AE Fear gave us a sizeable window to spread the NPCs and start our DPS rotations for a few seconds while the other DPS NPCs caught up. Another huge boon was having two Shamans for raid-wide Cleansing Totem coverage. Additionally, our Death Knight used a [target=focus] macro for Chains of Ice on the Shaman to better control him while we burned the Rogue down. As another aside to Protection Warriors, if you face a Holy Paladin (and possibly Resto Shaman as well), Improved Spell Reflection is a huge help. Group yourself with your healers and/or CC-casting players and use a focus cast-bar to see when the enemy Mage or Warlock is about to Sheep/Fear someone, or land a killing Arcane Blast. Of course it often soaks a random DoT or debuff, but every little bit helps.

All in all, with our new plan and setup, it took us two or perhaps three attempts to drop the Faction Champions this time around, and it seems we've finally worked out some tactics for both types of setups. Now to face off against the Arms Warrior on Heroic...

Sooooo, after blazing through Faction Champions and dealing with the Twins in a handful of attempts, we were left with 35ish attempts to face Anub'arak. Backtracking to the prior week, we first faced Anub'arak near the end of Week 2 with 17ish attempts remaining and burned through them like Ugra's eyes burn through your soul after he catches you cheating (it was a one-time thing man, I promise he meant nothing to me).

Learning Heroic Anub'arak was a major roller coaster, which was actually a nice change of pace after the joke of a fight that was Normal. The first major hurdle was determining how to deal with Frost Patches when six is the maximum available and without cooldowns, we're forced to use three per burrow phase. We quickly found, on that first night of attempts, that we needed a controlled plan for dealing with Frost Patches and how to utilize them. We opted to start with one patch North where Anub slumbers and two patches South. That worked great and we were getting into the groove ("First player to get targeted by spikes head South, everyone else North, kill adds"), but as often as not, Anub would break our Northern Frost Patch almost immediately after submerging if a melee player or I (as the add OT) were initially targeted. Obviously this screwed up the entire attempt and I must admit, we didn't properly correct the issues causing this problem at all during our first night of attempts.

We did manage to get to Phase 3 a handful of times, but it was always chaos and even our best attempt of around 17% was no where near controlled and had us with three adds alive and a new set coming well before Anub would've died.

Nonetheless, not to be outdone, this week with some 35 attempts remaining, we came back with a vengeance. While the Officership had pondered trying two DPS tanks (Feral and DK) to each tank an add so we could go with a single-MT/double-healer setup and add another DPS, we opted to stick with our original MT/OT/double-healer setup. To deal with Anub's initial burrow hitting the closest Frost Patch, we had our Paladin MT pull Anub away from the group (and thus the Frost Patch) with about 10 seconds left before the burrow. Our melee DPS were smart about positioning themselves just outside of the Frost Patch's snare area of effect until the spike target was assigned, then we could safely finish off the Burrowers who were still at halfish health.

Meanwhile, to try to better spread out the Frost Patch usage, we had our Paladin follow the first spike target who would stand and wait just outside of the first Southern Frost Patch. As seems to be a common theme, especially for 25-man setups, we're then able to Hand of Protection the spike target for a good 8 or 9 seconds before they must jump forward onto the Frost Patch. Next target heads North and third target South, and unless we had severely poor placement of Frost Patches, that extra time would usually let us utilize only two Frost Patches that burrow phase.

Another issue we ran into a lot on our first night of attempts was having the raid all move to the opposite side of the room from the spike target each transition. This was causing the little bugs to pile up on occasion, causing tentacle-levels of rape once the debuff stacks got too high. To remedy this, we decided to designate a small area near the west side of the room where, at any given moment, 80% of the raid members would be gathered, standing still and thus killing bugs quickly. By using this placement slightly off to the west but more or less even between the northern and southern ends of the room, the players who were being targeted by spikes could easily move the direction they needed to without endangering anyone else.

Lastly, our Hunter elected to start the fight at the back of the room to knock down the two Southern Frost Patches immediately upon engage, instead of running North with the rest of the raid, only to have to run back South 15 seconds before burrow to get the Frost Patches down then. A minor change to be sure, but that easily gave him another 10 seconds of DPS time.

With all these changes, aside from a few random mistakes or ZOMGI'MAHEROWATCHMEKITETHESPIKESOHSHITI'MDEADLOL moments, we were able to reliably get into Phase 3 now and we still had 20ish attempts remaining. We were on the verge!

The next big decision was how we wanted to deal with the Burrowers leading-up-to and during Phase 3. Even during our first night of attempts, we went through many different tactics: All DPS focus adds immediately upon spawning (damage on Anub suffered greatly). All DPS focus Anub only and let random AE attacks kill adds (Burrowers would frequently be at 40% health when the new pair spawned). Bloodlust after the first burrow phase and push Anub into Phase 3 before the second burrow then kill any adds we had up (Retarded as we'd trigger Leeching Swarm then virtually stop DPSing Anub, so by the time the adds died he was 33-35% health). Split DPS into two groups for Phase 3 and have one group focus Anub full-time and the other kill Burrowers (Damage was too low on both sets; we'd kill the adds and slowly kill Anub, but as the OT I would be virtually full-time tanking Burrowers with a 10-stack of Expose Weakness including Spider Frenzy). Force all DPS to use AE abilities to hit both Anub and the Burrowers simultaneously (Seems a 25-man only tactic, as AEing three targets proved nearly pointless relative to just single-target DPS).

In the end, it's difficult to say with any sort of conviction that this will remain our Anub tactic as we continue to farm and gear-up (in fact, I suspect we'll go more towards a DPS split setup, putting a few people on full-time add duty and the rest on Anub), but we opted to use two burrow phases, stopping DPS on Anub just before the second burrow when he was around 35-36% (DoT effects hit him while he's submerged). As the second burrow phase is ending, we completely ignore Anub and let the first two Burrowers spawn and have all DPS focus them down ASAP. Then we quickly stack our debuffs on Anub and Bloodlust as he's entering Phase 3. This gives us 15ish seconds of DPS time before any additional Burrowers. The next Burrower set we completely ignore and I grab them as usual as the OT and chain my cooldowns to try to survive as long as possible and interrupt the Shadow Step attack they do.

Now, I must admit: We entered Phase 3 twice using the above strategy, but both times we failed to save a Frost Patch for one reason or another. The first time we managed to stun interrupt the Submerges on the Burrower spawns but had a healing issue during Phase 3 and chain-reactions dropped us to our knees. The second time we entered Phase 3 cleanly using our mentioned tactic, we failed to interrupt one of the Burrowers during Submerge so we went with the old "fuck it" strategy and blew Bloodlust and went for it anyway. We hectically held on as the second Burrower set spawned around the time the submerged Burrower popped back up, so we OTed three Burrowers from 15% to 9%. Around 9%, one of our two Resto Druid healers went LD -- instant game lockup -- but our other healer and some clutch Shaman heals held on and as 2 or 3 more people died, Anub gave in and victory was ours!

Long story short -- It was a great learning experience and one of those fights where progress is right in front of you the entire time you're learning. It's very rewarding to try something and fail, modify this and tweak that, and see the next attempt handled just a slight bit better until eventually the pieces fall in place and you zerg your way finesse a beautiful strategy to victory.

Unfortunately my excitement after the kill made me forget to screenshot inside, but we had 12 or 13 attempts remaining and got ourselves a couple Trophies. A Tribute to Skill coming up next!