So, as I’ve chronicled here, for the past month or so I’ve been back on World of Warcraft after about an 8 month hiatus. I left my old guild and joined a new one because my old guild was really more of a clique with the “insiders” doing all the raids and the “newbies” being left to fend for themselves. The guild leader refused to invite new members to the top raids unless they had passed a “raid test” but he would not respond to requests to set up such a test. Eventually about a third of the active guild members quit the guild and went to start a new one. I did not move to the new guild, instead I was invited to join a more established raiding guild. Within a week of joining the new guild I had been tested and then invited to join the core group of raiders, and I’ve been raiding ever since.

Right now (unless the Ruby Sanctum is active now) the most difficult task in the game is to defeat the Lich King himself. To do so your raid group has to storm his citadel and defeat a dozen increasingly difficult encounters. The raid group I’m with as of last week had defeated every encounter except the final two, “Sindragosa” and “The Lich King”. These are both extremely difficult fights. There still aren’t very many WoW players who have completed those raids, some six months after they were introduced. Our guild, which is a serious raiding guild, has only about half a dozen members who have completed all of the encounters.

So, last night we defeated Sindragosa. That leaves only the Lich King. We defeated Sindragosa relatively easily, so we had plenty of time to tackle Arthus (the Lich King himself).

The Lich King encounter is not terribly difficult to understand. I had watched a video of it on Youtube and had read through a couple of combat guides, so I more or less knew what to expect. But knowing what to expect and actually executing it are two different things. A 25 man raid with a major boss and several flunkies, minions and lieutenants is a lot to keep track of.

There are four stages to the fight (although some guides break it up differently):

  1. The initial attack of the Lich King.
  2. The retreat of the Lich King leading to his casting of “Quake”.
  3. The battle with the Valkyries and the “Defile” spell.
  4. The final showdown.

Each of these require separate strategies. For the intial attack of the Lich King the party has to survive the massive damage the Lich King does with his legendary sword. To do so means the party’s tank (or tanks) have to engage him first since a single blow will kill anyone but a tank. Once the main tank has engaged the Lich King, he alternately attacks the tank and summons minions to aid him. The minions have to be picked up by the the “off tank” or they will rip the party apart. For the moment the off tank simply has to be able to absorb the damage (meaning the healers have to be able to heal both tanks simultaneously while each is taking heavy, heavy damage). As this is going on Arthus casts spells on random party members which spread damage around them. The afflicted party member has to immediately run out of the group and get to the off tank so that the effect can be dispelled. Then they can return to the melee. This goes on until Arthus is reduced to 70% of his hit points.

Once he is at 70% Arthus abandons the direct attack and rushes to the middle of a huge platform and begins casting powerful ranged attack spells. In this second stage, he also summons a large number of minions that engage the party directly. While this is going on the party also has to deal with slow-moving orbs which immediatly kill anyone they touch, so they have to be destroyed by ranged attacks. Usually there are three or four such orbs coming at the party simultaneously. This phase of the fight is a matter of mowing down the minions before the Lich King casts “Quake” which destroys the outer portion of the platform, sending any unwary raid members to their deaths. (I managed to get to the inner platform in every battle at least.)

Once Quake is cast all raid members have to rush to the middle of the platform for the third and most difficult stage of the fight, and re-engage Arthus. Of course any remaining minions also have to be dispatched. At this time Arthus summons his most powerful defenders, flying Valkyries who grab random raid members and dump them over the edge of the platform to their doom. While carrying a raid member, the Valkyries can’t fly out of range of melee though, so the raid party has a chance to kill them before they lose a raid member. So the raid leader assigns groups individual valkyrie to kill. It is amazingly difficult to pick one target out of a milling melee of some 30 members while dealing with spell effects which obscure your vision. And as if that isn’t difficult enough, Arthus casts his most deadly and powerful spell, “Defile” which targets a random raid member who has 1.4 seconds (yes, you read that right, 1.4 seconds) to get out of range of the rest of the raid before a black circle spreads out from their feet. Any raid member within the black circle causes the circle to expand further. So as soon as the circle drops, the afflicted raid member has to run out of the circle, while the circle is expanding because he/she is inside it. If the circle touches any other raid member, it grows faster. If more than a few raid members are touched, the circle quickly engulfs the entire platform, wiping the raid.

We never made it to the final stage, in every fight the Defile enchantment caused a raid wipe. That is by far the most difficult spell effect I’ve had to deal with. Even though Rhlyssa herself (my character) never was defiled, she found herself caught in the rapidly expanding black circle several times. Those times that she avoided the circle, she somehow became the target of Arthus’s attention and was one-shot into oblivion by the Lich King.

We will try tonight again. The videos and strategy guide all say that if you can get through the third stage of the fight with most of the party intact, the final stage is a fairly simple melee beat down where you simply have to put Arthus down before his enrage timer goes off.

We came close twice to reaching that final stage. But that defile effect is unbelievabely nasty.

It would be very nice to complete this final raid, then I could again say that Rhlyssa has successfully performed the most difficult task in the game. At least until the Ruby Sanctum content is released… There are rumors that it has already been released, but nobody in our guild has seen that and it’s not showing up in our raid menus, so I don’t think it has yet.

One final comment, throughout the entire time that the “Wrath of the Lich King” content has been released, WoW characters have had to deal with quests, dungeons and raids where you encounter the Lich King but are unable to attack him. I know it’s only a game, and I know that we got our butts kicked, but I have to say there is a fairly nice sense of accomplishment and satisfaction just to get my daggers into his pasty, undead flesh.