Heroic Sartharion 3D Conquered


It is done. Approximately 24 hours since the experience and epiphany I had last night, it all paid off.

Sarth and his 3 drakes are down.

Twilight Drake

A big thank you goes to everyone in the guild. Without their efforts of them, the assistance of the Plus Heal Community, and the various bloggers who’ve written about their experiences, this post would not be here right now.

The handling of the Drake was flattering. The officers and an overwhelming majority of the guild felt that I should have gotten the first one.

Needless to say, I double checked to make sure.

The last thing I want on my hands is a riot because the GM gets awarded the first Drake. I’m not one for mounts. Even though I made a Flying Carpet, I still ride on my purple Gryphon. But I guess the Gryphon will get rested for a while.

Subsequent mount drops will be handled with interested members rolling instead of the loot master doing a raid roll. This gives players a measure of control and it allows players who don’t care about the mount to opt out of rolling for the ones that do.

My hands were shaking once we got that Shadron down. It was the first time we hit that plateau and after that, it just felt like smooth sailing from there.

Total time spent: ~8 hours on just 3 Drakes alone
Time of death: 7:04 PM PST, January 28

  • Worked on the pull
  • Worked on the Drake positioning
  • Worked on Whelp and Elemental tanking (We used a Death Knight)
  • Worked on healing the ad tanks and the Drake tanks
  • Worked on surviving Fissures and Firewalls
  • Worked on timing Main Tank “saves” (Pain Suppression, Barksin + Survival Instincts combo, and Guardian Spirit)

Extra things

These points may be minor, but they might help you. We increased the healing from 6 to 7. This gave us 2 Paladins. The fight took slightly longer, but it paid off.

Now what these Paladins did was they spent 17 points into Protection to pick up Divine Guardian.

The moment I used my Pain Suppression on the first breath, I’d pick one Paladin and tell them to bubble. Since a majority of the raid members are standing together, this helps mitigate raid damage during that period. On the second save, the Druid tank on Sarth popped his Barksin and Survival Instincts to outlive that breath hit. At this point, if it goes off, I alert the Holy Priest to get into position because his Guardian Spirit is up next.

Reader Rivendael brought up a great comment that I wanted to reiterate:

Hi Matt, I’m surprised that you have to watch the animations at all :)

It’s very responsible of you, considering that most healers need to/are very used to watching mainly health bars, but in the end, I’d say that the job of watching for breath cooldowns should in fact fall on the tank.

As my guild’s druid tank on Sarth (we’ve downed 3D), even before the fight, I establish player orders for the cooldowns we’re using. When Vesp lands, I call for the first cd-user to “prep” (usually all my healing pallies and priests). When I see the breath animation, I call for the prepped player to use his cd. Then I call for the next player to prepare. And so forth.

My healers just need to macro their cd to me and be in range, that’s all, and I take the burden off them so they can -visually- focus on their heals, while dodging lava walls and void zones. As the one player facing Sarth’s bigass head all the time, it’s the least I can do. Since your Sarth tank obviously has a mic, why not suggest that he do the same?

The answer to that is we both do it. The Sarth tank and I are able to watch for his head. As a healer, I like to use IceHUD so that I can see the health bar of my target, the health bar of myself, and the action that’s going around. This goes hand in hand with my heads up technique of healing.

The “double affirmative” from the Sarth tank and myself strengthens our judgment. It’s better to have two pairs of eyes on it if possible. It helps confirm that it is the right time to use a save when two players are saying the same thing. While there’s nothing wrong with allowing Sarth’s tank to call out when to use the save, I prefer keeping my head up instead of relying on reflexes to hit the tank.

Either we’re both right or we’re both wrong.

I do have a video from a DPS perspective. Just need to find a suitable host. Any ideas of a Youtube or Filefront alternatives?

Also: Ner’Zhul is ridiculously PvE competitive. We’re in the top 20 of guilds that have successfully killed Sarth 3D.

10 Seconds with Sartharion 3 Drakes

I’m the type of player that likes to relentlessly playback previous events (or wipes) in my head. I try to see if there’s anything I can do better from my perspective or anything I should have done differently. Here’s a 10 second mentally recalled highlight reel moment of a time that happened all too often.

We run a 6 healer setup and I’m the only one on the Sarth tank.


Vent call: Firewall, move!

*Casts Shield, Renew, and dives narrowly avoiding a wall*


Vent call: Vesperon landing!

*Casts Penance*


Sarth tank: I have the debuff!

*Casts Flash Heal*


*Casts another Flash Heal*


His attack animation stopped and he’s raising his head.



Sarth tank: I’m down!


Thankfully, that was just earlier on in the night. After I settled in more and got into the groove, I was able to get my timing down perfectly. The problem with me was that I ended up being off in my timing.

The timing was off enough to get our tank 1 shot.

But I managed to fix it. I figured that I was zoomed in too close on my character that I had to adjust my camera more to keep my sights on Sarth. That took up precious time and added increased risk.

I managed to solve it by maxing out my camera distance so that no matter where I ran, I’d still be able to keep an eye on his head.


I use his head as an indicator for when he’s about to breathe. When he tilts back, that’s the time to use the Pain Suppression.

What’s killing us

We lose 1 or 2 people to void zones in the beginning or to a Firewall. There is a bit of inconsistency. Some attempts, the raid group is able to blast through the first drake with no problem. In other cases, people are just getting sloppy or we have bad lag luck (like a player dying to a void even though they’re 15 yards away from it).

The second problem occurs when the third drake lands. Players are killing themselves. Going to see if that can be fixed by having Paladins “tactically bubble” at certain times to lessen the overall raid damage with that Shield talent thingy.

As for me, the 10 attempts where the raid lived long enough for Vesperon to touch down, I was able to squeeze off Pain Suppression fast enough for 7 of them.

That’s a 70% save percentage.

Not good enough Matt. Not good enough.

Healing Assignments for Resto Druids


Perhaps more than any other healing class, Wrath of the Lich King has revolutionized the way druids heal. I’m going to take a bit of a look back to where we came from as a way to help understand any troubles druid healers might face at present when we try to figure out what our role in raids should be.

Back in the “Good” Old Days

I came of age as a healer during the BC raid content, and I think part of me will always missing rolling Lifebloom stacks on four different tanks during the Hyjal trash waves. Lifebloom spam may have been widely criticized, but at the time it was effective and felt very dynamic for the player. The timing was tight enough to require tank-specific macros, which I miss, because I could always change their icons to a pig whenever I got mad at them (sorry, Brio). However, when healers argue now that they don’t want to be locked into a rotation, they’re probably thinking of something like old-school LB rolling with horror. That was a rotation, all right–but it left me dizzy. I had to keybind Lifebloom twice–both to my mouse clickwheel and to F. The “F” was for when I needed to refresh while turning with the mouse. At the time, there was no way to increase the 7 sec Lifebloom rotation, and the penalty for letting the stack fall off was fairly severe. I never ran into mana problems, but sometimes the tank would take more damage than I liked if their stack slipped off, and I had few ways to play catch-up. If one tank’s stack went, then most likely all four would.

Even some boss fights made Lifebloom spam worthwhile. On Illidari Council, I used to assign Bonkers to roll LB on three tanks, giving him 1 GCD per cycle free to do “whatever he wanted.” Let me add that the healing buffer Bonkers provided to three of the tanks won the fight for us on more than one occasion. Why did I give the assignment to Bonkers and not myself? Because Bonkers is quicker than me. My assignment, keeping up the group on Malande, was a lot easier. The odd thing is, these kinds of assignments seemed great to Resto Druids at the time–1 GCD free? That’s amazing.

Now that I think about it, the Good Old Days don’t seem so great after all.

Broccoli, v. 3.0

Patch 3.0 brought new tools for the druid healer, offering flexibility where before we had none. However, it strikes me that many Broccoli Stalks might be a little bewildered by all our new toys. And if we’re confused, imagine what it’s like to do healing assignments for a resto druid these days. A few days ago I came across this topic on PlusHeal forums, posted by Siha of Banana Shoulders:

So, I’m the healing lead for my guild, and it usually falls to me to do healing assignments.

I’m having some trouble deciding how best to make use of resto druids. I know in TBC I always used to use them for a multi-tank assignment, keeping a bunch of people hotted up with Lifebloom, but I’m not really on top of all the resto druid changes in WotLK yet.

The talented Siha, as always, gets right to the point with her post. I replied in the topic, but I think that the question has enough merit to warrant a full-length post.

So, what do we do with the newly-versatile druid? After looking at my own performance and those of my Cruciferous Vegetable buddies in Conquest, I am convinced that Resto Druids can be assigned in two different ways for Wrath content. I’m going to showcase a couple of meters-topping druid performances to show just how versatile trees are these days

Raid Healing

This assignment is the most obvious for a resto druid. Wild Growth, due to its higher total healing and it’s status as a heal over time spell, suffered less from the recent nerf than Circle of Healing did. With Rejuvenation, Wild Growth, and perhaps a glyphed Healing Touch in the mix, druids have a powerful toolkit to deal with raid damage.

Let’s take a look at the meter breakdown from an expert druid healer on Gluth, which features heavy raid damage:

Now, the meter % alone might not mean much, but let’s factor in healing assignment. Both S13 and I were assigned to heal the kiters on Gluth, and we have similar gear. Why did he outperform me? Let’s take a look at the abilities breakdown.

Take a look at S13’s Healing Touch percentage and the amount it hits for on average. That tells me–even if I didn’t already know–that he’s using the Healing Touch glyph. The fact that he’s able to get so much healing out of a direct healing spell also tells me that S13 is fast. He’s really great at reacting to situations. Notice here that he’s also made a lot of use of Lifebloom–nerfed it maybe, but useless it is not. This WWS report is post-WG nerf, by the way. S13’s performance shows how little a healer has to rely on Wild Growth to be effective (and to post good numbers while doing so). If I were to take a look at S13’s targets, I would see a lot of healing on the 5 kiters, but also a decent amount on other members of the raid. S13 is a great raid healer because he’s able to pay attention to a lot of things at once and to accurately judge when he can go a bit beyond the boundaries of his assignment.

Tank Healing

Yes, I know druids have an AoE heal now. That doesn’t mean that we’re not still good at our old role, healing the main tank. I’ve just shown you the WWS from a druid who excels at raid healing. Now, I’m going to show you my own meter performance. I am a tank healer. That’s what I like, and that’s what I’m good at. I’ve been healing a warrior MT so long that I know how the damage hits and what I can do to fix it. I don’t pretend to be the best at anything, but if I’m in charge of healing assignments, I’m going to stick myself to a tank. It’s not usually very showy on the meters, but I’m going to give you a peep at the one fight in Naxx that does let tank healers show off–Patchwerk.

To understand this image properly, you should probably know that Silvia and I were assigned to heal the offtank, a druid, while S13 and Arktos were assigned to the main tank, a warrior. For the life of me, I can’t remember what Kaldora, our holy priest, was assigned to that day. The nature of the fight dictates that there is simply more healing to do on the off tank(s) than on the main tank, so an off-tank healer is going to post higher numbers. Be that as it may, this is nonetheless a good performance from me personally. Let’s look at the breakdown of what I did.

First of all, notice the presence of Regrowth. I use the Regrowth glyph, and a fight with heavy tank damage also shows it off. Meanwhile, I keep Lifebloom rolling on the primary off-tank. As for Rejuvenation, I keep it on both the primary off-tank and the backup. At higher gear levels, your raid is less likely to need two offtanks for Patchwerk. I used to post even more impressive numbers when two off-tanks took heavy hits. I would keep up my full hot rotation on the druid and use Rejuvenation, Swiftmend, and a Nature’s Swiftness/Healing Touch on the secondary off-tank. I always say that Resto Druids can heal two tanks as well as one, and it’s very nearly true. This is a lesson I learned in Zul’Aman, and it still serves me well on a multi-tank fight like Patchwerk. One thing an MT healer can never forget is the power of Swiftmend–it’s easy to ignore, but make yourself use it whenever you can. You’ll notice that Nourish is missing from my rotation, even though I have the 4pc T7 bonus. Regrowth is simply better if the damage is high. I will use Nourish on fights where Regrowth might be overheal, or on long fights that might stress my mana.

My message to healing leads is this: resto druids can tank heal. You might think that only a paladin or discipline priest will work, but don’t discount the resto druid, particularly one who’s used to this job. We may have a discipline priest solo-healing the MT on Sarth 3D, but that doesn’t mean a resto druid cannot be assigned to the task. In fact, some days I want to arm-wrestle Mallet for the job.

Glyphs and Talents

As you can see from our performances, S13 and I, despite having almost the same gear, are very different healers. There are slight differences in talents and glyphs that support each of our preferred roles. Here are my thoughts on how to set up a resto druid to excel at either raid healing or tank healing.

Raid Healing

In terms of talents, I suggest Tranquil Spirit to make Healing Touch and Nourish more efficient, a fully talented Gift of the Earth Mother, and perhaps Naturalist for the shortest Healing Touch cast time. As an alternative, you might put either 1 or 2 points into Improved Tranquility. I find this spell very useful when I can remember to use it. It shines on any fight where the raid is fairly close together and AoE damage as high–I’ve used Tranquility to good effect on Loatheb, Sapphiron, and OS3.

To heal S13-style, you will absolutely need to glyph Healing Touch. I am extremely impressed with the HPS of this spell, and it only gets better as your gear scales. In addition, we can all afford the mana at this point. S13 doesn’t run OOM any more than I do. The raid healer has some amount of choice in the other glyph slots. I suggest Swiftmend and Innervate, but if you find that you never use Swiftmend, Lifebloom will also work. The Regrowth glyph, while good in and of itself, won’t do much for you if you’re never assigned to tanks.

Tank Healing

In terms of tank healing talents, the most important one to have is Nature’s Splendor from the Balance tree to extend HoT duration. However, all raiding restos should have this talent. I also use Tranquil Spirit to support my Nourish (in case I ever use it), a fully maxed Improved Regrowth, and Gift of the Earthmother for easier HoT refreshes. I do not have Living Seed at the current moment. It accounted for less that 1% of my total healing when I had it. If I get enough haste to remove points from Gift of the Earthmother, I may try it again. I have a feeling that either 1) Living Seed will do more healing in Ulduar or 2) it will get some sort of buff in the future. As for Replenish, either build should skip it because it’s endlessly terrible, but the tank healer especially does not need it.

In terms of glyphs, I use Swiftmend, Regrowth, and Innervate for main tank healing. The only debateble choice here is Innervate. I prefer it over Lifebloom, but Keeva of Tree Bark Jacket, who also main tank heals often, writes very convincingly in favor of the LB glyph in this recent post. A main tank healer should not glyph Healing Touch. It’s more useful in the large version paired with Nature’s Swiftness.


We’ve come a long way from Lifebloom spam. Whether we’re set to healing tanks or the raid, druids have a variety of techniques now to support their chosen role. We can do it all–just not all at once. If you’re a healing lead, it’s important to get to know your healers. With the new diversity of the druid class, skill and preference start to weigh heavily on how you should assign your druids. So, why not ask them what they like, and what they are good at?

10 v. 25-Person Content Revisited


Well, darn. I figured out something last night that should have me eating my hat, or humble pie, or maybe a boiled crow, or else four-and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie. One of my biggest predictions about Wrath of the Lich King turns out to have been dead wrong.

When I first heard about the 10 v. 25 raid size split in Wrath, I made a logical assumption. To be entirely fair, the conclusion I drew was well-supported by blue comments. I believed that since the rewards would be demonstrably better in 25-person content, as a consequence the difficulty level would also be higher. Either that, or the difficulty level would be exactly the same, the only reason for a reward difference being the Organization Boss that all larger guilds have to face every week.

However, last night I ran two “normal difficulty” raids that took my breath away: Sartharion with two drakes and Malygos. Without a stacked raid, our group–which took out Sartharion 25 with 2 drakes earlier this week after only an hour and a half of tries–just could not make any headway in the 10-man version. We had to settle for just one drake, and since we picked the baby dragon-spawner by accident, that was no cake walk either. And as for the rewards at the end? Nothing anyone wanted, since we had been doing so much Sartharion 25 and Naxx 25. We were pretty psyched to get the achievement, though.

As for Malygos, we took him down with two healers, and boy, was I sweating. Tank healing was tight, and raid healing was even dodgier. Meanwhile, my mana pool dipped to absolutely scary levels–which became an emergency when I made a mistake on one attempt and blew my innervate in the gap between phase 1 and phase 2. In my panic I hadn’t even been checking Mal’s health bar. Malygos is a fight I love on 25s, but I have to say that the 10-man was breathtaking. It’s exactly the kind of challenge I want–one that I know I can meet, or that gives me a chance to make improvements between attempts. It has me tempted to go back again. However, once again the rewards aren’t in proportion to the difficulty. I’d say the loot is about on par with Kel’Thuzad’s from Naxx 25–pretty darn good, but not nearly as nice as the stuff that comes out of the easier 25-person version of the same instance.

Has Blizzard Made A Big Mistake?

Clearly, I think they have, or I wouldn’t have written this post. Knowing what I know now, there’s no reason to separate Emblem loot by normal/heroic raid tier. I think I definitely earned an Emblem of Valor or two for that Malygos kill. I had heard before that Sartharion with 3 drakes was absolutely monstrous on 10s, and I thought that was just a freak thing. But based on my personal experience, I’ve come to think that the phenomenon is more widespread. Nothing in Naxx–either version–is all that difficult for my guild, but I do remember that Kel’Thuzad is harder on both healers and melee-heavy groups in the smaller size. Like it or not, I’ve come to the conclusion that raids who run 10-person content only deserve the same compensation as 25-person raiders.

What Can the Developers Do About It?

A lot of people in this game min/max, and it looks like right now, the biggest rewards for a person’s time and effort come out of 25-person content. This is a disappointment to me, because I want the game design to lead me–and my fellow raiders–to the hardest possible content. The game needs to lure us there with rewards and encourage us not to be lazy. I also want everyone to get fair compensation for what they do. I just feel bad about getting better gear for less work than a smaller guild might do. A 10-man guild who clears Sarth with 3 drakes has absolutely played better than I’m capable of right now–and they get a Heroes’ glove token, while I’m wearing a Valorous one? Ludicrous. Moreover, assuming that Ulduar-10 is harder than Ulduar-25, could that mean that a raid really needs i-level 213 gear to do it? The gear gap between 10-person raiders and 25-person raiders is pretty noticeable. As promised, it is very nearly a whole tier of difference. I think I had smaller upgrades, say, between T4 and T5 than I did between Heroes and Valorous.

For Ulduar and all future raids, I urge Blizzard to do one of two things.

1. Eliminate the i-level gap for 10 v. 25 person gear along with the Emblem difference. Put either equivalent or exactly the same items in each tier. The dichotomy was a nice idea, but the dungeon difficulty doesn’t actually support it. Clearly, I never favor lazy solutions, so I’d rather have totally unique sets in each dungeon size tailored towards the attributes that tend to be more important in that particular raid size. For small raids, survivability and mana regeneration/total mana might be key, whereas you might want higher damage output for the larger raids.

2. For the love of Pete, make the 25-person content different from the 10-person content. It’s not enough to adjust the health and damage values. Make the encounter feel different. Add lots of chaos for the 25s so it feels more on the difficulty level of the 10s. Give every one of those 25 raiders something to do, as in the Lady Vashj fight. I would even go so far as to give the bosses different mechanics–think about, say, the difference between Mechano-Lord Capacitator from Mechanar on Normal v. Heroic. Make the 25-person raiders earn their higher i-level sets.

Don’t Be Lazy

The solution to most of the problems I’ve seen in Wrath so far can be summarized with this adage. Wherever the developers have cut corners, things didn’t come out so well. No one’s complaining about the design of the leveling content or 5-person dungeons. That’s because they clearly show that Blizzard lavished time and attention on them. The same is, unfortunately, not true of the dual-tier raid system. I think it’s time to bring it in line.

Obsidian Sanctum with Drakes Up

Tonight Conquest is going to take a shot at Heroic Sartharion with one drake up. For those that have done it, I have a few questions to ask:

  • Which drake did you leave up and why?
  • Did Death Knights D&D (due to the visual similarity between that and void zones)?
  • How did you set up portal groups?
  • How many healers were sent down low into the portal?
  • Did Firewalls affect those in the portal?
  • Any other last minute tips or insight that you can offer?