Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change - this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress. - Bruce BartonPutting together a new raid team can be tough, and I don't envy Raid Leaders who have to do it.
There are countless pitfalls to deal with: Schedules to coordinate, divergent personalities that need to mesh, boss strategies to learn, communicate and change on the fly. Each wipe that occurs is a disheartening experience to a new group, shaking it's confidence in itself.
Unfortunately, that's what Mountain Top is going through with it's raiding progression right now.
|I hate you, Shannox. I really, really do.|
(or, How To Kill Morale in 27 Excruciating Pulls)
Oddly, it wouldn't be so bad if we were wiping early or doing something stupid like standing in traps. Quite the contrary, as once our Tanks got the mechanics of stack-dropping down (The Doggy Dance? The Crystal Trap Two-Step?), the first part of the fight became simple and our raid group is getting through it cleanly and reliably.
Our strategy is to burn Rageface down as soon as possible, then get Shannox to between 35% and 40% and kill Riplimb. The doggy poop really hits the fan for us when Riplimb goes down and Shannox freaks out; gaining two stacks of Frenzy and doing 60% more damage 60% faster. This is ouch-time for our Main Tank and the time for the Healers to do a gut-check and earn their paychecks. Invariably, it's where we've been failing.
We're so close, though. 9% wipe. 7% wipe. 4% wipe. A freakin' sub-1% wipe. Tantalizingly, terribly close to seeing him die like the mongrel that he is. Getting within a dog's whisker of success means that we're doing something right, but the repeated failures also means that we need to be doing something better. Keeping the Tank alive during the Frenzy phase would be a good start.
Once that last dog dies the healing strategy needs to completely change. Efficiency goes completely out the window and it's Wrath-style healing again: Spam big heals or else your tank is going to die within seconds. Mitigation cooldowns such as Hand of Sacrifice must be utilized, but it's often hard to spare the global cooldown in order to cast it. The reactionary, triage style of healing that we've been trained to use throughout Cataclysm needs to be quickly forgotten; by the time you see and react to damage it's probably already too late. Sadly, the realities of mana management do not make this style of healing practical any longer, and healers with their mana tanks drained can't keep anyone alive.
A fight like this requires very good coordination, communication and rapport between healers, something that a new Raid Group like ours isn't likely to have built up yet. A strong role leader who can analyse problems and implement solutions is also a luxury most new raiding groups - particularly more casual ones - won't have. I'm not going to sugarcoat things, it's been a really difficult and demoralizing test of our new team. We're all good healers, but we don't know each other well enough to really push each other or properly hold each other accountable. I would love someone to tell me, "You suck. This is what you did wrong and here's how to fix it." That's easy; it's much harder to have to try figure it out for yourself.
Of course, the random connection issues and weird happenings that have plagued us haven't helped much either. We've had to call raids two or three times now because of gigantic, crippling lag spikes on our top DPSers. The opening of the final Harry Potter movie cancelled tonight's raid. More than a few pulls have been delayed due to baby aggro from the Dwarfling and our Death Knight's two kids. Not to mention having one raid memorably and frighteningly cancelled due to a real life emergency which ended with an ambulance trip to the hospital. Lady luck, it would seem, is not on our side.
ENOUGH COMPLAINING, ALREADY
(or, So What're You Gonna Do About It, Pally-Boy?)
Keeping the tank up during Shannox's Frenzy is tough, but that clearly is the problem and the main reason we've been unable to down this boss. I think that better coordination of the healers and their cooldowns is all that we need. The Tank simply can't go for more than two seconds without a major heal.
I think I am going to suggest a more coordinated approach. We have two Holy Paladins healing, so you would think that we wouldn't be having this problem, but with both of us healing independently- and using our cooldowns independently - there are gaps in the incoming heals. Looking at the death logs in recount after the fight shows that the Tank can go from full health to a fine, bloody mist in a mere three seconds, so any gap in large, incoming heals will be invariably fatal; especially as the stacks of Jagged Tear begin to mount up.
I am going to do two things: Firstly, I'm going to suggest to our healers that we setup a Cooldown/Heal rotation. I envision having one Paladin spam Avenging Wrath/Divine Favor boosted Divine Lights on the tank while the other uses cooldowns such as Hand of Sacrifice and Aura Mastery to try prevent damage, at the same time healing efficiently with Holy Light and Holy Shock. When the first Paladin gets low on mana, they switch. This should prevent any gaps in the incoming healing and at the same time help prevent both Holy Paladins going out of mana at the same time. This in itself should be enough, but...
Can a Mastery Build Save the Day?
The other thing I am going to do is experiment with a Mastery build. There has been a lot of talk about Illuminated Healing builds lately: Rohan, Enlynn, Adgamorix and this thread on the official forums have all been talking about how it's a great, but incredibly specialized tank healing build that shines in encounters like this at the expense of virtually all versatility. I even talked about wanted to try out it's viability when I talked about the changes to Illuminated Healing.
I think that this build is ideally suited to this fight: Insanely heavy incoming damage where the shields will shine. Enlynn of Bubblespec wrote a great, detailed post on this style of play and has inspired me to finally try it out. I hope it will give us the boost that we need to finally put this boss down, permanently.
How has your raid group dealt with the Shannox Kennel Club? Any tips? Did you make any changes to your healing composition or style that you felt made a difference?