Four whole seconds to spare
Well, actually, four and a half seconds if you’re being really precise.
That’s how much time The Anvil had left on the enrage timer last night when we finally downed Anub’arak in 25-man normal Coliseum, after three weeks of trying.
To say that Anub’arak was a notch higher on the difficulty scale than the rest of the fights in the Coliseum (Faction Champions excluded, but more on that later) would be an understatement. After all, Northrend Beasts is basically three gimmick fights in a row. Lord Jaraxxus makes the healers cry, but as long as people know to run toward the wall and not stand in Bad(tm), it’s not too rough. Twin Val’kyrs? The ultimate gimmick fight, but if you can tell light from dark and can interrupt Twin’s Pact, it’s no big thing.
The Nub is a little rougher. We’d gotten several good shots at him last week but the healers were having real trouble keeping the offtanks up. Our plan was to have the offtanks grab and hold both pairs of Burrowers so DPS could focus on the big guy; otherwise we had no shot at dropping him inside his short enrage timer. But despite having excellent healers in the raid, our DK offtank (who’s got more health than any of the other three of us) kept falling over.
It was then that our raid officers, looking through the logs, discovered what Spinks posted about over at Welcome to Spinksville yesterday: The Anub’arak fight is one of the only encounters in WoW where Shield Block rules.
The Nerubian Burrowers stack a debuff called Expose Weakness. Each stack causes you to take 25% more damage, up to a maximum of 225% (9 stacks, down from 10 pre-3.2.2). But the catch is, apparently if you block one of their attacks, your shield block value is subtracted from their damage before the Expose Weakness debuff multiplier is added. Burrowers only hit for about 2500 to 3000. See where this is going? Our 46,000-health DK, with no shield, had no way to mitigate the 12,000 to 15,000 he was taking per hit from two burrowers except his jealousy-inducing 33%+ dodge. Our warrior, the other offtank, did. The DK died. The warrior didn’t.
So last night I was the #3 tank, and I was on burrower duty. I dutifully loaded up my “trash” set instead of my normal boss-tanking set. My trash set is a real hash of things, built for block value over even block rating. I still rock the T7 helm with it, plus some of my four T8 pieces, other bits and pieces from Ulduar and maybe one other from Naxx still. It isn’t so much designed for block tanking as it is designed for DPS…I even normally run two crit trinkets instead of tank trinkets (although for this fight, I strapped my tank trinkets back on) because it’s a set designed for light-hitting trash and any situation where I need to rip an 11k Shield Slam out of my ass. I ended up losing about 10 points of Defense, a crapton of dodge%, and maybe 1500 health from my boss set, but my buffed shield block value was a tasty 2593, and I was still at 543 Defense and 42,200 fully buffed health. My block rating was a bit low at 22.78%, but as a warrior, I’ve got two other tricks up my sleeve for that–Shield Block, for almost complete immunity to damage for 10 seconds out of 40, and 3/3 in the recently-buffed Critical Block talent, meaning 60% of those blocks wouldn’t be for 2593, they’d be for almost 5200. I couldn’t block everything, but when I did block, I made it count.
The strategy, I’m pleased to say, works like a charm, and you don’t have to build a super-block set that gimps everything else to do it…well, on normal, at least. (On heroic, yeah, you probably do.) We did run into trouble on the first time we got Anub’arak to phase 3 when we had four burrowers up. As good as our healers are, keeping up a tank with two burrowers, with 50% haste, and 9 stacks of Expose Weakness, and Swarming Leech, just wasn’t happening.
The last two attempts we got him to phase 3 with only one set of burrowers up, and as long as we kept the burrowers separated so they didn’t buff each other, the healers could keep myself and the other OT (paladin) up without much trouble. Tanking one burrower, even with 9 stacks of Expose Weakness, isn’t too bad. The first attempt, we just ran out of time and he enraged at 4%, finishing the last of us at 2%. On the killshot, I thought we weren’t going to make it because he was still at 18% health with one minute left. A couple of the healers shifted over to DPS, we lowered everybody else’s health in the raid even more to slow down the Leeching Swarm, and all of us blew everydamnthing we had (I was tanking a burrower while beating up on Anub). And he fell over with precisely 4.5 seconds left on the enrage timer.
Now is Blizzard going to “fix” this little trick? I don’t know. Shield Block has evolved into a mechanic that doesn’t really fit with anything…it’s overpowered against trash and underpowered against bosses. It’s good to see a fight where it actually matters, and fortunately Anub’arak is quite easy for a druid or DK to tank so there’s still great use for them there. It seems mighty cheesy to be able to build a set that allows one warrior to tank four burrowers–on heroic, no less, as Spinks documented–with impunity, but that’s a very extreme example. I wouldn’t put it past Blizzard to break our little Shield Block trick, but if they don’t, and until they do, we’re going to take full advantage of one of the few bones they throw us on a fairly challenging fight.
Oh, and as you may remember from the rant immediately below this one, I kinda hate Faction Champions. And by “kinda,” I mean I’d like to find the guy at Blizzard who thought this was a good idea and beat him silly with a wiffleball bat. Well, there was a little patch note in the 3.2.2 release that mentioned some changes had been made to this fight. We didn’t know what to expect going in last night. But here’s what you need to know.
First week, seven wipes. Second week, five wipes. Third week, three deaths.
Faction Champions got nerfed TO THE GROUND, BABY.
The biggest change? Taunts no longer have diminishing returns on them. Think about that for a second. That one change alone, not even including the damage reduction they put in, turns the fight into cheesymode. Seriously. They assigned me to harass the death nugget. I could just spam Taunt every 8 seconds, with total impunity, to pull him off of a squishy for a few…enough time for me to drop a Charge or Intercept on him, or Shield Bash him to slow him down, or Concussion Blow or Shockwave to stun…oh, and they didn’t go immune to my stuns, either.
Sure, there were times where the DK got away from me. But not many. And when he did, I got him right back.
As much as I hate that fight–and I still do, with every flabby fiber of my being–I almost felt dirty at the end of it, that’s how easy it was. It reminded me of an AB match when a premade runs up against a PUG, except the Faction Champions didn’t /afk out halfway through. Yep, after whooping it up at our expense for a couple of weeks, ol’ Wrynn the Chin saw his boys and girls get a straight-outta-Compton gangsta beatdown, Hordesiyyyyyde style. Word up, yo.
Finally…so what reward does ol’ Tirion Fordring give us for completing the Trial of the Crusader? The chance to do it all over again on heroic! Well fuckin’ yay there big guy, excuse me if I’m somewhat less than enthused about going Groundhog Day on your little spectacle. Catch me next week and we’ll talk about it.