Controlling Heroics

Anyone who’s rolling in heroics at this time in Cataclysm will attest to the fact that their difficulty has been increased substantially from what they were in Wrath. With proper skill, crowd control and tactics, they are very doable. Without, they are nightmares. Shadowpriests have never been the kings of crowd control, nor are we likely to be in the future. But what we can do is prepare ourselves for control over brute DPS, and smoothen the ride.

Why a control spec?

I am currently running a dual Shadow spec – one is my raid spec with all the maximum DPS talents, the other is this set of talents, which is based around control.

My reasons for adopting this spec, despite it’s lower DPS (8-9K in heroics in an average party with 333 average iLevel) is that I found a lot of wipes were caused by a few things, even with proper tactics:

  • Mob(s) has an ability that stacks damage rapidly, or inflicts high burst damage
  • Crowd Control could not be re-applied when broken, adding mobs on to the tank
  • Mob(s) were casters, and someone did not LoS them during a corner-pull

A good example of the first issue is Throngus the Forgemaster in Grim Batol. He switches weapons, and the group tactics change depending on what weapons he uses. This fight does get easier with experience, but it demands a lot from the healer as well. When he picks up a big mace he has to be kited around, leaves fire patches on the ground and sometimes picks a person up and deals heavy damage. But if right after that he picks up his twin set of blades, he will be stacking debuffs on the tank, attacking rapidly. If the healer isn’t quick to switch from the group (during mace phase) to the tank (for the twin weapon phase) it can go downhill quickly.

In this case, any good Shadowpriest will help out the healer by putting a shield on a low-health party member or pop Divine Hymn if the whole group is low on health. But having Psychic Horror (which inflicts a Horror as well as a Disarm on the target) you can actually remove one of Throngus’ weapons during his twin weapons phase.

This improves tank survivability a lot, allowing the healer to re-assert control even if the situation went bad before.

For the second example, having a previously-sheeped or -hexed mob run into the AoE of, for instance, a Paladin tank means the tank and healer will have to deal with the extra mob. Nothing to be done about this except with some fancy chain-CC, repositioning and coordination.

What I like to do here is use a Psychic Horror or a glyphed Psychic Scream to root the mobs in place before they get too close to the party. To prepare for this, just make sure to stand in between the party and the CC’d mobs, if the fight allows it. Applying CC often takes a second or two, and if you buy this time for the group, your effective DPS and healing has just skyrocketed into hero spheres.

The last example can be found a lot in Grim Batol, Stonecore and Halls of Origination – all of which have a plethora of casters. During a cornerpull or LoS pull, everyone gets out of sight of the mobs when the tank pulls, drawing ranged mobs close to the party.

The problem with this is basically perception. Not everyone realizes exactly when they are out of LoS of a mob (even though they seem quite capable of it when it concerns LoS to the healer) or dares to admit they don’t know what a cornerpull means. In this case, all is not lost by a quick application of Silence (to draw the mob in) or Psychic Horror (to allow a person to take cover) and assertion of control over the pull by the tank.

But it’s lower DPS – and why’s Phantasm in there?

Times have changed, it’s about control and saving healer mana now in heroics, not about who can run through them the fastest. In fact, bringing more control, and more CC, will make the run quicker than high-powered DPS that doesn’t know anything except massively AoE’ing down the mobs.

Phantasm’s an odd talent, I will say that. It’s part of that spec because in Wrath there were a lot of Snares to deal with, but they seem less prevalent in Cataclysm. Still, I feel safe in the notion that I can pop Fade and get out of slows and snares. It also means this spec is a lot more useful in PvP (which would work quite well, I imagine).

You can always switch some points around if you want; Improved Mind Blast is a good contender, although I find that in heroics individual non-boss mobs die rather quickly with proper CC and tactics, so I go with MSx3, MB, SW:D combos on tiny adds more often.

It’s still a bit of a development, since heroics are being adjusted a lot currently, making things easier or harder on us. And I try to anticipate a bit on the heroics yet to come in future patches as well. But that’s what makes life fun, preparing for the unknown eventuality.

10 Responses to “Controlling Heroics”

  1. I think the glyphed Psychic Scream is my favourite thing in Cataclysm for Shadow Priests so far. I use it on cooldown and as soon as my tank has grouped up the non-CCed mobs.

    Unfortunately I’m really finding that, in these days of CC, Shadow Priests aren’t ideal caster DPS for Heroics. Some dungeons are nearabouts full with MC immune mobs and if you get a dungeon that will let you MC (say, Halls of Origination) you’ll be MCing for hours and not using your own Priest abilities at all.

    The Dungeon Finder is excellent at making sure groups are versatile – versatile in their armor type that is. I’m often paired up with Death Knight and Warrior DPS… and perhaps a Druid.

    If I’m lucky enough to be grouped with a Shaman for a healer it’s all I can do not to spam /hug at them. One I was grouped with a Mage. I loved him.

    Here’s wishing they would extend Shackle to more than just Undead. Right now I feel much more like a burden than a worthy party member.

    CC is king.

    ps. I’ve got Psychic Horror but haven’t really found much use for it. I think with time I’ll come to figure which mobs are most dangerous when armed.

  2. Just a small random notes:

    when forgemaster is dualwielding the main source of tank damage comes from the magic debuff he stacks on tank. If it gets dispelled tank almost needs no healing at all.

    In situations where everyone are taking damage relatively often prayer of mending is pure awesomeness. It might not heal much per hit but for all the bounces combined it’s incredibly strong.

    You can use horror and scream as interrupts on mobs that aren’t immune to them. Helps quite a bit on caster packs, I often use it randomly inside a group even when they are all taking aoe damage.

    • There are many ways to use Fear, Horror and Silence to great effect; it just takes a bit getting used to it. Especially the interrupts can make a great difference in damage taken, to the point where you really miss having them once you get back to your raid spec.

      Prayer of Mending is a great tool, but to be honest, I don’t go out of Shadowform to heal like that. I shield a person (or myself) now and then, and if the going gets tough, I will channel a Divine Hymn. Assisting the healer with dispelling seems of greater value than going out of form to heal in most circumstances.

      • Yea, I’m not spamming pom much myself either, just generally when I need to run for a while anyway. First boss in HoO and second during phalanx in GB are great examples where ProM can be awesome.

        Also, I rarely shield people as it’s nearly useless, at least before next patch. After that it might become pretty decent, especially when used on self :)

  3. Hi,

    I dunno whats the deal with MC but i’v been asked to MC adds in VP and when say for instance i try to MC a minister of air i got resisted and couldn’t MC again… this is normal? do i get some kind of weird debuff or…

    I also had the MC complete channeling and when i try to reMC i couldn’t…

    Is there any more i should know about this mechanic?

    Thanks, D

    • Vortex Pinnacle is a bit of a special case – I also found that if I targeted the Minister of Air, he’d quickly break the control and thereafter be immune to Mind Control. This seems to be very specific to this mob.

      Also note that two or three of these packs are close to those large triangular lightning fields – if he’s in there, he’s immune to all magic including MC.

      The easiest target to MC for us is the Adept in most cases – while the Smite and Heal are not as sexy as the Minister’s offensive magic, it’s a much safer bet. Especially when you consider a pull with two Adepts which are healing each other up to full.

      Two things are important to note of MC – first off, each tick of it checks the mobs’ resistance again. Second off, the further away from the target, the greater the chance it breaks. That’s why I prefer to hide in a corner a bit until the pull happens, and then MC from about 10-15 yards. This seems to minimize the chances of MC breaking early.

      • Yo,

        Thanks for the pointers… thought that was a tidbit odd.

        So basicly MC pulling, like sheep pulling, isn’t a desirable methode of initiating a pull in your opinion?

        A guildy of mine also told me to MC and then press Ctrl+3 i nvr got that and neither did he explain later after the instance… whats that all about?

        Do you reduce the aggro gain after MC if ya let the tank take a few tics of damage before u MC? Coz poppin fade doesn’t realy help that much for me…

        Hope im not bothering you with these mechanic q’s…



        • MC pulling can be very powerful – if you are lucky, the thing you are MC’ing will be killed by his allies, eliminating one mob – but also its XP, rep and loot. However, after that you will have the aggro of whatever remains. So this means your tank needs to be on the ball.

  4. Ow btw, iv been asked before to run adds over the side to reduce numbers. Except reduce loot, xp and rep any other pro’s or con’s for this tact?

    • In some cases you can run mobs into natural hazards or off cliffs…but expect Blizzard to deal with that by putting them on Evade mode, making it fail or by teleporting them back up.
      In some fights, like the Lich King, if you knock the adds over the side, they teleport the person doing it to themselves – killing that person – or teleport straight up and gank away.

      It takes quite some practice to do this efficiently – and if you mess up, the rest of the party needs to be quick enough to respond. If they don’t, it can easily mean a wipe. Not to mention simply MC’ing a mob and using it to kill a target (killing it afterwards) gives full rep, xp and loot.

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