Today I’m following on from my previous posts on healing Zon’ozz and Ultraxion 10-Normal with two healers to talk about Spine of Deathwing, the next fight in Dragon Soul which is a real challenge for healers. One of the important things about Spine as a fight is that it has an extremely high level of minimum co-ordination throughout the group. It also requires a lot of burst DPS, and swapping out a healer for a DPS can give a guild the edge that’s needed to get those tendons down. For certain, though, it will make the healer’s lives tougher. On one hand, underhealing Spine is definitely possible thanks to the predictability of the healing. On the other hand, Spine is one of the most unforgiving fights to un-co-ordinated groups in the instance!
Firstly I’m going to repeat the general points I mentioned in my previous posts, since they apply equally well to Spine as they do to any other fight you’re under-healing. Following that, I’m going to be putting in as many tips as I can under different headings for different people; healers, tanks and DPS, and Resto Shaman specific tips.
Important Points in general
1) Don’t always rely on the extra DPS making the fight easier for you. It will, but if you’re relying on it you might not be able to take the hit to your healing team in the first place
2) Organize your Healing team so that you know who will be dropping cooldowns and approximately when – make sure everyone is able to communicate via [your favourite VoIP service] and routinely does so. Communication is key to success in low-healer setups and you are extremely likely to fail if you all drop your CDs at the same time. This is at its height in the Spine encounter.
2.5) Discussing before the pull if and when each of you will be easing up to regen mana is also important. It lets the other person know when they should be watching out for extra health dips. We didn’t find this so useful on Zon’ozz but on Ultraxion this is a must; on Spine, you normally find that you need to pop mana regen on cooldown.
3) Make sure everyone knows that you will be 2-healing it, and that your DPS are aware that should they do something stupid [like not standing in the nice swirlies] they will die and be laughed at forever.
4) Don’t ever panic. Panics lead to wipes.
5) Designate a person to stack on so that everyone knows where they should be. It’s best to make this someone who doesn’t usually stand in fire.
6) Sometimes your raid will be using tactics which make it more difficult for you as healers to do the encounter. Talk to your raid leader about your problems and see if you can work out a strategy which works better for you. Good example; ooze kill orders on Yor’sahj the Unsleeping.
Strategies for Spine of Deathwing
This fight is a tricky one! With three healers, you can afford to relax a bit with the organization. However, in the two-healer setup it’s imperative that you co-ordinate perfectly. The reason for this is the debuff Searing Plasma, which absorbs 200 thousand healing and has a DoT component to boot! Plasma needs clearing fairly quickly to prevent it from overwhelming the raid, but as it’s undispellable and of infinite length, 200k heals must be absorbed to clear it. That’s a lot considering they’re applied liberally throughout the fight!
Here’s how to handle it; get one of your healing pair to designate and call out healing targets for the other. The aim is to combine your heals on a single target at a time to clear that Plasma as soon as you can without guzzling mana in the process. With that in mind, your caller should have an easy to reach Push To Talk key and speak loudly and clearly. It’s also worth trying to get a separate channel for you two in voice chat so that you don’t scare the DPS by constantly calling out their names. It goes without saying that you both should have Plasma showing on your raidframes.
The priority for healing targets should go;
- Anyone under the stun effect of Fiery Grip in case the channel isn’t cancelled quickly
- Tanks once the Hideous Amalgamation gets to 8 or more stacks
- The player with the oldest Plasma debuff OR any player on <50% hp with the debuff
- Any player who has taken damage and doesn’t have the debuff
- Any player at high health (with or without the debuff,) who isn’t taking damage
In terms of spell composition, I found that it worked well to hit the main target with a mix of single target heals, and keep up light AoE healing at the same time. That means that you don’t have to single target all the damage and Plasma is cleared about 10% faster than just healing single-target. Keeping HoTs up on your next healing targets is also an excellent idea since it’ll decrease the amount of cast time you have to spend single-targeting them, hence allowing you to move onto the next target faster.
There are several abilities that shine on this fight, and I don’t know them all! What I do know is that Glyph of Beacon of Light was invaluable for my Paladin healing buddy, who switched Beacon to a secondary target every time we changed. That got a helluva lot of free heals in! I found that Riptide was good to spread around Plasma targets, and our Resto Druid also found that a mix of cheap secondary healing along with medium single-target healing worked well.
Cooldown organization is imperative on this fight. What we found is that during and immediately after the stacks, there were a lot of Plasma debuffs and a lot of damage going out, all in a very short space of time. The strategy that we led with was to pop cooldowns when the Amalgamations were casting Nuclear Blast, but that didn’t work very well. After a tip-off from a friend, we tried popping cooldowns on the stacks instead. That works brilliantly, so let me explain why and how;
The real problem with the stack is that everyone is bottlenecked into one zone with high damage and Plasma stacks left over from the Nuclear Blast phase immediately preceding it. It’s a key point in the fight because everyone takes a hell of a lot of hurt, while your heals aren’t necessarily going to help. On the other hand, everybody is primed for a bunch of AoE healing and localized cooldowns! If you can get off lots of healing and mitigation in that small amount of time, you essentially remove all Plasma stacks and top the raid at the same time.
Stacks happen (depending on your raid’s DPS) approximately every 3 minutes; there’s not enough time for you to get your longest cooldowns ready for each stack! For instance, I couldn’t get Spirit Link Totem down on each stack. You’ll have to wing it to some extent, but in general we found that any cooldown over three minutes can go down on the first and third stacks. That leaves you to pop anything else you have on every stack, and save something special (like an intellect potion) for the middle stack. Also make use of tank T14 4-pc set bonuses on the second stack. Other cooldowns that should be used on the 1st and 3rd stacks include Power Word: Barrier and Tranquility, but Aura Mastery can be cast on every stack and really, really should be.
I also found that popping a trinket like Reflection of the Light on each stack worked extremely well since it maximizes the gain you get from the extra spellpower.
Tanks and DPS
Pretty easy section this; keep the bloods off the healers, stop the channels from the Corruptions, stay in the fire for as short a time as possible and pop defensive cooldowns when you stack up. Simples! 🙂 Tanks can also pop their 4pc bonuses on the second stack to help the healers out while their cooldowns are unavailable.
Tips for Shaman
Well! There’s a lot to cover here so I’ll try to be brief;
- Spread Riptide over the raid as much as possible; you should be using it on cooldown anyway, why not use it on your next single-target in advance to get the absorbs down early?
- Spam Riptides just before a stack – the more Riptides you have up going into the stack, the more you can bounce your Chain Heal off them and the more healing you do.
- Pop your T14 4-pc before moving into the stack – this allows you to cast Healing Rain on the move, and gives you a nice haste boost as well.
- Reflection of the Light may have a sucky amount of spirit, but its on-use bonus can be used every stack and will let you power through those tough healing phases.
- If you have the opportunity, use Lightning Bolt on the tendons for a bit of regen. You’ll only get a couple off, but every bit counts.
- Spirit Link Totem is insanely OP on the stacks since the heals from it bypass the absorbs from Searing Plasma! You can get one down on the 1st and 3rd stacks easily.
- It pays to keep Healing Rain down for a couple of rotations immediately before the Amalgamation hits 9 stacks – this way, you’ll do a fair bit of AoE healing which will top everyone off or reduce their absorbs even if you’re not targeting them yet. Spamming Healing Rain all the time does waste valuable casting time on the absorbs, though, so be careful not to cast it on cooldown throughout the fight.