Challenge Accepted Part 2 – Five Journeys Into Black Rook Hold, One Journey Into…Some Cave in Highmountain?

The healing challenge(s) are probably among the most difficult, mainly due to length.

DPS and tank challenges all are usually 1 or 2 phases as most, but the healer challenge splits into 4-5 phases worth of work, with a couple of “phases” that serve as rest periods to mana up and in some cases change talents and gear.

Then there is Discipline Priest. One of my very favorite healing specs, the one I raided with primarily in Vanilla WoW, Discipline kind of…well, kind of gets shafted on the challenge.

The healer challenges highlight something that didn’t exist when discussing the tank challenge – there are 5 healer roles that all have to cast heals and do damage as two discrete tasks, and then there is Disc, who does rapid fire healing casts and then just does damage to heal. This, understandably, forced them into their own challenge – well, one they share with a handful of DPS specs and perhaps have the roughest go of.

But let’s start with Black Rook Hold, the main healing artifact challenge. You get a party of 3 – Jarod Shadowsong, a dual-wielding tank with no defensive attributes save for 600,000 more HP, Callie, a rogue who shadowsteps a lot and can screw up positioning for some abilities, and Granny Marl, who sits at range as a hunter shooting at adds, which makes ground AoE almost always miss her. Great!

The basic structure of the challenge is a first phase, which serves as an add gauntlet, keeping you locked in combat and unable to drink while waves of 1-3 adds activate and come after you. There’s a hunter add, who attacks at range and can teleport around to cast Mana Sting, a huge DoT that steals all your mana, a mage add, who casts Arcane Blitz, which stacks a buff on him that increases the damage his next Blitz does, and this stacks indefinitely, and then a rogue add, who does Knife Dance to the full group for moderate AoE damage, and also grows huge and fixates a target (almost always you) and will just smash chunks off of your health bar. The waves use mixes of these add types to create the challenge – one of them on their own isn’t really that dangerous or difficult, but when you have to CC the hunter add for Sting and then interrupt or use a different CC on the mage to stop stacking on the Blitz buff while also having to either CC a third time on the rogue add Knife Dance, or just heal through it? Oof. It gets tricky. All waves except the last one use only 1-2 types of the 3 adds, but the last wave is one of each, and it is almost always the worst, especially since you’re typically mana-drained from casting and have to manage your cooldowns.

You get a rest phase afterwards, followed by a solo phase involving healing 3 imprisoned adds while having to also DPS a small pack of enemies, and also having to clear out fel orbs by damaging them so they don’t DoT you. You then get to kill a solo Hunter add, and move on to kill a Legion Inquisitor and some eye adds that were also present at the start of the phase, which have to be single-targeted since they explode on death for huge damage. You then get another rest phase, which leads into our last gauntlet.

The first part of the end has the real boss mind control your party into beating on each other, necessitating that you keep them alive, all the while he slowly siphons waves of three adds at once to himself, whom you have to heal to full in order to release them. You have to full heal 8 of these adds to end the phase, while ensuring your party lives. Any adds that reach the boss become enemies for the following phase, where they simply activate and do the same abilities they’ve done the whole challenge, based on class, and once they die, the boss activates and you fight him with your party back in control. He jumps on you and leaves big patches of fel fire that only damage you, and puts a Nightbane-inspired Ignite Soul debuff on you, which explodes to deal your current health in damage to your party. Once he dies, you win – and this can be done with you dead, if your party can live long enough to do the remaining damage.

This challenge necessitates a careful balance of damage dealing and healing on your behalf, as you do really need to do some damage in order to help conclude each phase before the healing demands stack too high, while also ensuring you manage CC cooldowns well so that you have them as needed throughout the fight.

Before talking Disc, let’s break down BRH:

Holy Priest: First one I did in here, and probably the hardest. You have strong interrupt potential between Shackle Undead and Holy Word: Chastise, but the adds all have diminishing returns enabled alongside PvP durations for the debuffs. This means that while you can use Shackle Undead to interrupt Mana Sting, you generally want the hunter add dead before a third or fourth sting cast, as once you reach that point, they’ll likely be Shackle immune and you could then have Jarod tank the shot for you, but the Holy toolkit doesn’t have a lot of strong ways to deal with that without huge overheal. You usually save Chastise for the Mage adds, and this further necessitates using Smite a lot during the fight to reduce the cooldown on Chastise so it is available as needed. Generally, you’re going to need Apotheosis talented as the cooldown reduction it offers your Holy Word spells is fantastic, and the waiting phases means you can have it up for both big healing phases. The party healing isn’t a problem here really, generally, once you get the flow of the fight and learn how to stack your damage, you’ll be fine here – the CC is the biggest part, aiming to prevent as much of the big damage as possible.

The next big, challenging phase is the last healing phase at the boss. You can use HW: Sanctuary on the party while they fight, and at some point, your best bet is to use Leap of Faith to yank Jarod out of the cluster, forcing him to run back (and healing him thanks to the artifact trait for LoF). If you can get past the healing phase, generally you’ve got the fight – but again on Erdris, you have to be doing a decent amount of damage on your own to avoid the room filling up.

Mistweaver Monk: I found this one the easiest of the BRH challenges. Vivify does lots of work here, since it auto-heals the group, and with the boots that buff it (which I had), it is even better. You also get good interrupts between Paralysis at range and Leg Sweep, so you can deal with the mechanics fairly well. Honestly, I don’t have a lot to say on this one because it is relatively easy compared to every other spec in this challenge. Vivify works so well on the last healing phase that you almost never have to target your party at all. You can just spam Vivify on the adds in each wave, and it will conveniently hit 3 targets with reduced health, so if your party is going HAM on each other, they’ll get a burst of healing, and if not, all 3 adds get it. Plus, Crackling Jade Lightning hits so hard since you get a 1% buff to damage per artifact point, and CJL also scales from spell power, so while you might logically think you have to always be DPSing in melee, turns out you can weave in for Rising Sun Kick and then just channel lightning. This is the best toolkit overall for the challenge, and took me the smallest number of attempts.

Restoration Druid: One of the trickier ones, and the first one where I didn’t have a neat way to stop Mana Sting. Luckily, the resto druid kit is excellent for this – you can pepper your intended target with HoTs before it hits so that they are ticking strong against the incoming DoT damage. This only ever got hairy when Callie would shadowstep into Jarod’s path, making her take it, but it is a recoverable error if that happens. Damage is anemic, requiring a bit longer per phase, but the upside is that you can also spend less overall time healing since you can spam HoTs and you can often hit Wild Growth without target switching, so you gain some DPS time that way. The end healing phase had tons of guides all suggesting using Incarnation: Tree of Life, but I only succeeded by taking Cultivation from that same talent tier, since the overall throughput it offered was much higher. The advantage of rolling HoTs shines again here, since you can top up the party members between waves and often don’t need to baby them as much. This also helps if you die on the boss phase, since the HoTs can keep ticking in healing to allow the party to finish the boss off.

Holy Paladin: I thought this would be easier than it was, but it turns out that was a false hope. While Holy Paladins get a wide array of potential interrupt and CC abilities, the long, unshrinkable cooldowns on things like Hand of Justice make the first phase very hard. You do, however, have so much armor that the rogue adds fixating on you is far less of a threat than with any other class. Outside of that, they have excellent tools for the middle phases, and the ending allows strong Beacon utilization to take care of the party while you spam heal the add waves. If you can get to the boss fight at the end, you pretty much have it down after getting the movement mechanics sorted. The only thing I really hated about the paladin version is that you don’t really get much in the toolkit with instant casts save for Holy Shock and Light of Dawn, one of which often gets play as a DPS ability, the other of which is a piddly AoE heal. Lacking that in their toolkit can complicate things – be aware of when to save Holy Shock but generally also keep it on cooldown – you need to use it a lot.

Restoration Shaman: This one has one of the rougher first phases. You have to let Jarod tank the Mana Sting, and your one HoT is very limited in total throughput. The fixate also seems to be far rougher than I expected a shield-bearing healer to endure. The cooldown game is strong here, though, and the last add wave in Phase 1 was fun just to spam a shit-ton of cooldowns and watch everyone’s health bounce around. The fel orbs are surprisingly tricky on Shaman – in theory Chain Lightning should handle it well, but the cast time means the ones you shocked lower on the staircase come back pretty quickly and I had a couple of attempts where I had to pop Ghost Wolf, run to the bottom with Riptide on me, and try again. The last healing phase is pretty good to a Shaman – pop your Healing Stream totem by the party, put Healing Rain on them, and then they are good – so you can focus the adds. If something goes awry, you can hit Chain Heal and get everyone a bit of healing, and if you have a lot of Mastery, the add waves can be restored fairly fast.

To sum up the BRH challenge, it is fun, but agonizingly long, and when you start getting really good at it, failure towards the end means 20 wasted minutes, usually. That sucks. The only general tip I can recommend is that I preferred leaving one add up for the last healing phase – if you heal everything before it can be taken by Erdris, the boss fight phase starts immediately after healing with no OOC break to drink. If you let one easy add hit him, like a Mage, you can take a minute while he monologues about commanding forces to drink to full mana and resume from there, and the mana expenditure of healing the damage that one add does won’t be high enough to offset the benefit of drinking.

Then, there is Discipline Priest. You get the Bloodtotem challenge, a two-phase fight that sees you beating down a mean demonic Tauren Shaman while avoiding being eaten by a giant worm. The fight is quite clearly made for DPS specs and was simply tuned to be doable by Disc Priests, which actually makes it harder than doing it on a DPS spec. There is an interrupt requirement to avoid huge damage spikes, which, hey, great, you don’t have an interrupt, so you alternate between using Psychic Scream to fear the boss out of casting it, and every other one, you then have to stack absorbs as high as possible and hit Fade, which, with an Artifact Trait, also grants you huge damage reduction. The combination of that and your absorbs means you can take almost no damage. It is admittedly a cool, problem-solver type of way to make it work, but it also clearly feels like a rough edge on the fight. There is a totem add that has to die or it will stun you for long enough to allow other mechanics to overwhelm you, and then there are AoE patches to avoid. Every now and then, the worm will burrow and chase you, and you just have to stand such that the AoE patches are between you and it, which will cause it to lose a stack of a damage reduction buff, critical to ensuring you can do the last phase in time. Lastly, the worm plants some eggs – you have to DPS them to stop worm adds from hatching, but even if the worm hatches, its health percentage will match what the egg had, meaning that damaging the eggs is always worthwhile even if you cannot burst them down quickly. Manage these things correctly and the Tauren will die soon enough!

Once the Tauren dies, you just focus the worm, who casts a scream that interrupts spellcasting throughout the fight and does damage which scales up throughout the second phase. If you did the first phase well, the worm will be taking full damage and cleaning up here is easy. If he has the damage reduction, the DPS check is actually challenging but even still, generally getting to this point means that you won.

This is the first healing challenge I did, and here’s the thing – this is, so far, the easiest overall challenge of any of them, across any specs! It is challenging for Disc Priest solely because you have no real interrupt and being able to stop the Fel Burst takes positioning precision that simply isn’t imitated by any other spec on that challenge. I did this challenge on my Windwalker Monk in two attempts, because having a real interrupt makes it trivial. It demands high precision of execution, which is the challenge for anyone doing it – if you miss a mechanic, you are probably done right there, but if you can hit everything properly, it is the easiest thing and you’ll get it really quick.

This was disappointing to me because in terms of testing healing aptitude, the Disc challenge really doesn’t. You don’t have allies to manage Atonement buffs on, no need to use anything other than untargeted Plea or PW:Shield to keep yourself Atoned, and only rarely will you ever need to use Shadow Mend. I do understand why this was the case – the BRH challenge would be really silly easy in Phase 1 with Disc, but the last healing phase would absolutely suck, and the tuning of that challenge just doesn’t have the wiggle room to create a meaningful experience for a Disc Priest, but neither does this challenge. It just feels like a weird rare mob – once you figure out the trick with Fade and how to juggle DPS priority, you’ll kill it easily.

Overall though, similarly to the tank challenge, I am glad to have done these, and I feel like it has expanded my knowledge of healing in a meaningful way that helps in my gameplay as a tank and in general. Plus, hey, cool looking weapons!

2 thoughts on “Challenge Accepted Part 2 – Five Journeys Into Black Rook Hold, One Journey Into…Some Cave in Highmountain?

  1. Another amazing detailed overview of the Mage Tower challenges. Im loving this series, thank you for sharing 😀

    And its nice seeing someone else who likes Disc spec. I have a blast with it (but would not recommend it for first time healers, it can be a little hard to get the hang of it for new players).

    I cant imagine doing the Feltotem fight on Disc, on my BM at least I get a couple of interrupts (3 if we count ice trap) and can move around freely (my hunter being a goblin brings that awesome rocket jump, getting a second “disengage”). Does Disc’s shadow word: pain work well on the eggs/worms or it requires some extra kick?
    Is there any attack you’d suggest using a macro for the totems? (I did this on BM’s cobra shot)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you’re enjoying reading them! It’s fun to recap them, for sure.

      Totally agree on Disc – absolutely not a first-time healer spec, but well worth playing for a different look at healing. You can use a few different tools for the eggs/totems, the best attempts I had were speccing into Halo for the eggs and using Purge The Wicked/SW:P for the totems. Halo can, positioned right, kill all the eggs in one shot, and those it doesn’t, you can DoT up and wait. If you use PtW, you can usually position Tugor by stuff you want to DoT and just Penance spread it, but I found it easier to direct target and smack the stuff I needed to be sure was dead. The problem of course is that you can only have PtW or Halo, not both, but Halo just makes the eggs way easier, although I did try both!

      Liked by 2 people

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