Dragons. Wise, majestic and graceful beings entrusted by the Titans to watch over Azeroth in their absence. If you have even a cursory knowledge of World of Warcraft, you'll know that dragons frequently play an important part in events. However, today we come not to praise them but rather to bury them, for majestic they may be, but all too often they're either irredeemably evil or completely insane (usually both) and, more importantly, they tend to carry a fabulous amount of gold and loot on them.
While there are scores of dragons in Northrend, there are currently just two top-level raid encounters available for players looking for a change of scenery from Naxxramas. - Sartharion, in the Obsidian Sanctum, and Malygos, in the Eye of Eternity. We'll look at both in their 10-player incarnations.
The Obsidian Sanctum
Let's start with Sartharion, the Onyx Guardian and his trio of Twilight Drake cohorts, Tenebron, Shadron and Vesperon. Between them, they guard the Black Dragonflight's latest little science project - a clutch of Twilight Dragonflight eggs. They can be found in the Obsidian Sanctum, which you can travel to via a portal below the Wyrmrest Temple in Dragonblight.
Why do we care? Officially, because a race of vampiric drakes gadding about the place would be a Very Bad Thing. Unofficially, the aforementioned fabulous amount of gold and loot.
The Sartharion encounter presents an unusual challenge in that it essentially has four levels of difficulty to choose from. In addition to Sartharion himself, the three Twilight Drakes found inside the Sanctum can each be killed beforehand or left alive for when you attack Sarthation. If you opt for the latter, each drake you haven't killed provides various buffs to Sartharion and debuffs to the players, making the fight considerably harder depending on how many you've left alive.
If you choose to kill all the drakes before engaging Sarthation, you won't have much to worry about. Alone, he has all the usual dragon characteristics - a flame breath that hits for around 10k damage, a (somewhat weak) cleave, a stunning tail whip and a generally withering contempt for any "lesser beings" intruding on his baby-sitting assignment. In addition, there are also the following to consider:
- Lava Wave: a tsunami of lava rises up from either the north or south and washes over the island, bar for a couple of gaps players run to to avoid it. In the most basic form of the encounter it knockbacks players caught in its path, and leaves a debuff causing a moderate amount of damage over time. In more challenging forms, it will pretty much kill any player it hits within a few seconds.
- Lava Strikes: small lava bombs caused by cyclones in the lava surrounding the island, a minor annoyance in the main, but they can be dangerous in the harder versions of the encounter.
- Lava Blazes: fire elementals that spawn randomly from Lava Strike impacts. They only have 28k health, hit like your grandmother and will need to be tanked and killed. However, if hit by the lava wave, they enrage, increasing health by 40k and dealing four times as much damage.
The main danger from the fight comes from the lava waves sweeping across the battlefield, as players not only have to make sure they avoid them, but ensure the Lava Blazes do as well. Other than that, all that's left to worry about is the final per cent, where Sartharion goes berserk in a last ditch attempt to stop the raid from killing him. Stay cool, don't panic and you'll finish him off.
That's the easy way; the hard way is somewhat different. By leaving one or all of the Twilight Drakes alive, you introduce numerous factors into the equation. Each drake brings his or her own bag of tricks to the party which increases the threat posed by Sartharion as well. Once you pull Sartharion, the raid is immediately afflicted with debuffs from each drake still alive (The Power of Tenebron, Shadron or Vesperon respectively) and they will join the fray at certain intervals.
In Tenebron's case, she lands 30 seconds after the pull and presents arguably the biggest DPS test of the fight. Like all the drakes, her direct attacks are limited to melee, a shadowflame breath and targeting players with bright blue void zones, but she also has some unique abilities too. The Power of Tenebron is an aura doubling any shadow damage the raid takes, making the void zones fatal for anyone caught in them when they detonate. Additionally, some 15-20 seconds after landing she will open a twilight portal and hatch a clutch of eggs inside, the whelps from which will swamp the raid roughly 15 seconds later. The key to tackling any version of the fight with Tenebron up is to kill her before she spawns a second wave of whelps, as the whelps inflict a stacking armour reduction debuff on whoever they hit, meaning the person tanking them is going to be as strong as tissue paper if a second wave piles on.
If you haven't killed him either, Shadron will swoop down and join the fray 75 seconds after the fight begins. Shadron's unique abilities are the Power of Shadron, an aura that doubles any fire damage taken and which presents the biggest threat to the raid, as it makes Sartharion's flame breaths on the main tank practically unmanageable without resorting to whatever cooldowns the tank and the raid possess in order to survive them. Additionally, Shadron also opens a twilight portal inside which an Acolyte of Shadron can be found channelling the Gift of Twilight - a buff that makes Sartharion immune to harm and grants him 50 per cent more fire damage (note that when killing the drakes before engaging Sartharion, this will be cast on Shadron instead). Combined with the Power of Shadron, Sartharion's flame breaths begin to get alarmingly high...but wait! It gets worse!
If alive, Vesperon will land at the 2 minute mark. His aura, the Power of Vesperon, reduces everyone's maximum health by 25 per cent and, like Shadron, he will open a twilight portal where an Acolyte of Vesperon will channel a spell called Twlight Torment, which affects everyone. Twilight Torment makes an already difficult DPS race that little bit tougher as it increases shadow and fire damage taken by 75 per cent, and causes damage to a player whenever they deal damage themselves. By now, Sartharion's flame breaths are reaching one-shot territory, even on a well-geared tank, while dual shadowflame breaths on the drake tank are likely to cause a few scares too.
Naturally, while all of this craziness is going on, the raid still has to deal with other things as well, such as Lava Waves, Lava Strikes, Lava Blazes, and Lava Trucks. Okay, maybe not Lava Trucks. Finally, for each drake that is killed, Sartharion's damage will increase by 25 per cent, so by the time you finally get around to tackling him, your tank is going to be taking some pretty heavy hits.
Three's a crowd
Sartharion alone or with a single drake is fairly forgiving in terms of raid composition. If attempting with two or all three drakes up, a reasonably balanced raid for the encounter will look something like this:
- Sartharion tank: this guy is going to need a massive amount of health and mitigation, and be ready to blow whatever cooldowns are available to survive the insane damage of the flame breaths.
- Twilight Drake tank: this benighted soul has arguably has the toughest job of all, having to dodge void zones and tsunamis while tanking and moving two drakes at a time for the crucial part of the fight.
- Lava Blaze & Twilight Whelps tank: ideally someone tough who can put out enough damage to kill most of the Blazes on their own. They'll need to be aware of Lava Waves and keep the Lava Blazes away from them.
- A damage dealer who can tank in a pinch: a feral Druid, DPS Warrior, retribution Paladin or Death Knight - basically someone to enter the portals and keep the Acolytes from annihilating non-plate-wearing DPS and healers.
- Two dedicated healers, and a third specced for damage but able to switch to help raid healing after Tenebron is down, such as an elemental Shaman or a balance Druid.
- Three damage-dealers of your choice, ideally with strong area-of-effect capabilities and geared well enough to put out at least 3400 damage per second on a single target.
Scared yet? Well, no one ever said it was going to be easy.
Have your Sartharion tank make the pull, and take him to the south-east corner of the island, at the buffing spot. This allows the tank to move easily between Lava Waves, while keeping the rest of the island nice and open for everyone to cope with the upcoming chaos. Damage at this point is unimportant as Sartharion isn't a concern until all the drakes are dead, so just leave them to it and get the drake tank, healer and DPS over to the west of the island for Tenebron's arrival.
Just before or after she lands will be the first of many Lava Wave tsunamis. The tank should grab her and move her down to the south-west/southern part of the island while DPS go all-out off the bat - if someone gets aggro, taunt it right back and pray she doesn't breathe on anyone while it's going on, but it's imperative that as little DPS time as possible is lost, as she must die before the second wave of whelps hatch without fail, so holding back isn't really an option. While all this goes on, your blaze/whelp tank will be running around gathering strays and wearing them down as best they can. Unfortunately, the number of Lava Blazes that spawn is completely random, so it's possible your blaze tank may get overwhelmed, but they'll just have to deal as best they can and try and hold out until Tenebron dies - your DPS can't really spare the time before then.
Depending on your DPS, Shadron will fly in and land when Tenebron's between the 50 and 25 per cent mark. The drake tank must pick him up, but focus on keeping maximum threat on Tenebron, who will hopefully be close to death but probably also close to turning on the DPS. If she dies before hatching a second wave of whelps, the tank should drag Shadron around the island to the north position while the raid AOEs down the whelps and Lava Blazes in the middle before turning attention to Shadron. If you have it, now is a good time to use Bloodlust or Heroism.
45 seconds after Shadron lands, Vesperon will land at the north point of the island and quickly open a portal, causing Twilight Torment to be applied to everyone. This is the make-or-break point, as the amount of raid damage will be taking a terrible toll on your healers' mana, and the Sartharion tank will be close to running out of options to mitigate the flame breaths. The DPS/healer should switch to full-time raid-topping at this point, as the DPS will come close to killing themselves in their efforts to kill Shadron. If Shadron dies, quickly pick off any Lava Blazes, then all DPS plus the hybrid healer should enter the portal to take down the Acolytes, beginning with Shadron's. Beware when the second Acolyte is close to death, as once dead, everyone inside the portal will be dumped back outside - so if there's a tsunami on the way, there's going to be trouble.
Once the Acolytes are dead, the hard part is done, and you're almost there. Finish off Vesperon, take out any Lava Blazes and the new Acolyte (if another should spawn) and collect yourselves for a moment. Throw out any Innervates and combat resurrections if available and required, and get ready for the finish straight!
By now your main tank will be back to 100 per cent health, and the flame breaths won't be anything like the object of abject terror they were earlier. However, Sartharion will be dishing out 75 per cent more damage overall, so don't take him too lightly. Depending on your setup, you may want a tank with better avoidance and mitigation to taunt and take over, but it's not strictly necessary. In any case, just keep calm, stay alive, keep the Lava Blazes under control, avoid the tsunamis and wear him down. Remember, he goes berserk at 10 per cent, but it's still quite mild compared to most other bosses' freak-outs.
So, still scared? It's understandable - this 10-player version of the fight is far more demanding than its 25-player equivalent, and arguably the most tightly-tuned encounter since the notorious M'uru from the Sunwell. You really need to be on your toes and geared out as best you can - but the beauty of it is, it's only as hard as you want it to be. If you feel it's asking too much of your group, you can decide to go just with two drakes or even one.
Sure, you won't get the mount reward, but you will still get extra drops (including one equal to 25-player gear if at least two drakes are up), so you're only really missing out on a vanity item. If you do decide to just go for two drakes, I suggest killing Shadron off beforehand. Firstly, you'll have 90 seconds to deal with Tenebron and the whelps before Vesperon lands - that gives you plenty of breathing room. Secondly, your tank won't be at risk from the crazy flame breaths as neither the Power of Shadron or the Gift of Twilight will be present.
But where's the fun in that? Two drakes are for gnomes and Pernod-drinkers. You know what you have to do.
The Eye of Eternity
Residing in the Eye of Eternity, a location accessible only via a portal in the Nexus, Malygos, Lord of Magic and head of the Blue Dragonflight, orchestrates the war against all Azeroth's magic users. As far as Malygos is concerned, the lesser races (i.e. you and me, and especially gnomes) shouldn't be dabbling with magic, so he's decided to put a stop to it. Unsurprisingly, this has upset more than a few people, so the Kirin Tor of Dalaran have tasked you with entering his lair and convincing the all-powerful and knowledgeable Guardian of Magic of the error of his ways. Naturally, you do this out of a sense of civic duty, community pride and concern - the veritable treasure trove of riches and magical artefacts Malygos has acquired over the millennia plays no part in any of this at all. No, none whatsoever.
Until Ulduar arrives soon, The Eye of Eternity serves as the final encounter of the current player-versus-environment content, a three-stage fight against the Spell Weaver (Malygos has more titles than rogues have stuns). Phase one is more or less a tank-and-spank; phase two consists of killing adds and staying alive while the entire raid is bombarded with magic damage; phase three is similar to the final battle of the Oculus, with every member of the raid riding a ruby drake to end the threat posed by Malygos once and for all.
Unlike the other raid encounters in Northrend, the Eye of Eternity does have one prerequisite before you can attempt it. One player in the raid needs to have retrieved a quest item from Sapphiron in Naxxramas - the Key to the Focusing Iris - and handed it in. Once done, that player can start the encounter. There is no trash to clear beforehand, and the fight itself has a 10-minute time limit. As gaining possession of the quest item indicates, the raid is expected to be reasonably well-geared and capable of defeating the majority of Naxxramas bosses before tackling Malygos.
Once able players activate the Focusing Iris in the centre of the arena, Malygos will fly down and attack the raid. Like most dragons, he has a cleave, but unusually he does not have a tail swipe. His breath attack does upwards of 18,000 damage in an arc to anything in front of him, and additionally causes a DOT that explodes for 10,000 damage to anyone within 10 yards. Every so often he summons Power Sparks that appear at the edges of the arena and travel slowly towards him. If they reach him, they increase his damage by 50 per cent. However, if killed, the sparks drop an aura onto the ground that grants 50 per cent damage to all players standing in it instead. They can be stunned, snared and rooted and can also stack twice, so should any overlap, the raid's damage output can rise considerably, making this a rare fight where threat really can be a problem if people aren't careful.
While most of his attacks are aimed strictly at the tank, Malygos does have one highly damaging raid-wide attack to call upon. Every forty seconds he will turn away from the tank, lift off and create a vortex that sweeps all players up high into the air and deals roughly 20,000 damage over 10 seconds before dropping everyone into the centre of the arena. This is unavoidable unless you are a Rogue with Shadowstep or a Warlock, who can drop a Demonic Circle down beforehand and teleport to it while everyone else flies around overhead. While the vortex is active, any Power Sparks in play will stop moving.
Once his health reaches 50 per cent, Malygos walks to the centre, takes off and gives a little speech about underestimating you, after which he becomes untargetable - but he will still take damage until he finishes the speech, so give it all you've got for as long as you can as soon as hits 50 per cent, as aggro is no longer a concern while he's in the air. Note: if he's causing a vortex when he goes under 50 per cent, he will finish it first, so there's extra time for DOTs to tick on him.
Once he finally finishes talking and flies away, a group of Mages will appear on hoverdisks and attack the raid. Some will float above the arena firing Arcane Barrages at the raid (the Scions of Eternity); others at ground level will engage the raid directly (the Lords of Eternity). When killed, both Lords and Scions drop their disks onto the ground, at which point players can mount them and fly to engage the remaining Scions. Even better, players riding these hoverdisks take no damage unless all ground targets are dead.
Meanwhile, Malygos will bombard the raid with Arcane Storm blasts, dealing 10k to whoever they hit along with a knockback. Occasionally he will also cast a Deep Breath at the centre of the arena for 5 seconds, dealing 5000 damage every second. Fortunately, this can be mitigated by standing inside the shields created by the Arcane Storm charges, which look like big pink bubbles. A word of caution - when running for cover inside these anti-magic shields, do not jump into them. This causes issues with the server not realising you've actually crossed the shield's threshold, so you end up taking full hits from the deep breaths and anything else that hits you while seemingly safe.
Once all the Lords and Scions are dead, Malygos flies into a rage and returns to face the raid. Pausing only to give yet another speech, he shatters the arena completely, causing the raid to plummet through space to their deaths...
..or not, because the cavalry has finally arrived! Each player is picked up by a Ruby Drake, at which point you have full control over them and their abilities, which are:
- Flame Spike - spits a fireball at the target, gives a combo point.
- Engulf in Flames - consumes your combo points to create a DOT on target causing 1500 per tick, lasts longer depending on however many combo points were on the target (5 max). Can stack unlimitedly
- Revivify - a heal-over-time that heals the friendly target over 10 seconds, gives a combo point. Stackable (5 max)
- Life Burst - consumes your revivify combo points to give a 15k heal to everything within 60 yards.
- Flame Shield - consumes your combo points to generate a shield to reduce damage taken by 80 per cent, lasts up to 6 seconds depending on the number of combo points on the target.
- Blazing Speed - boosts movement speed for a few seconds.
There are various ways to handle this: some surround him in a circle, others group up in one spot with those on healing duty using Life Burst to outheal as much of the incoming damage as they can - but this leaves the entire raid vulnerable to the effects of the Static Fields that Malygos will periodically envelop players in (not really a problem as long as everyone moves quickly). The bulk of Malygos' damage comes from his Surge of Power blast, which is targeted at a single player who must shield him or herself, just as he finishes casting, or else take about 72k damage over the space of 3 seconds.
Essentially, the phase boils down to this: the designated healers heal the raid with Revivifies and Life Bursts while the rest try to get their personal stack of Engulf in Flames on Malygos as high as possible, with all being ready to use their Flame Shield if Malygos targets them with a Surge of Power. One example of this is to use two Flame Spikes, wait for your drake's energy to reach 80 energy, cast Engulf and repeat unless you are targeted for a Surge of Power, in which case activate your shield (hence waiting for your drake's energy to reach 80 again, so you have enough left for a shield if needed). Although confusing and disorientating at first, it really is that simple.
If you find yourself struggling with it and want more practice on riding the drakes, the Aces High! daily quest found on the upper rings of the Nexus is little more than a Phase 3 training mode, should you need it. Really though, just keep building the Engulf stack or healing everyone depending on your role, move away from Static Fields and shield yourself if necessary and you'll be fine.
It won't look like you're making much impact at first, but once the Engulf stacks reach higher and higher amounts, Malygos' health will drop very quickly and he'll soon give up the ghost, whereupon you can pick his corpse clean - that is to say, rest safe in the knowledge that you have saved the world, again. Alas, there's no time to sit back on your laurels as word is something evil is stirring in Ulduar. An adventurer's lot is rarely a peaceful one...