* Insert possible Cataclysm spoiler alert here *
Full disclosure: I healed this run on my priest and am doing most, if not all things in the Beta on my priest. I will try to sum up the instance and the happenings in it and around it, as best as I can, by using healer neutral terms. I will only use Priest based terms, if I feel I can’t describe something in a way that would not apply to just any other healer. Thank you for understanding and please enjoy the post.
First and foremost, The Stonecore is the first instance in the Beta where CC is an absolute must. Most of the pulls you will be running into are groups of 3 – 5 and you will be running into a lot larger groups of non-elite NPCs that can number much higher than that. Mages will be sheeping, the rogues should be sapping, etc. The mobs hit hard and you will not be at a gear level to immediately zerg through these groups, when you first start running this place. Your party members will also need to utilize marking and focus firing a certain target down, one at a time. If the DPS is focusing on a mob that is CCed or if the DPS is split, it can wear on your group’s resources and cause all sorts of problems. And this is just on the regular 5 man. I shudder to think about how difficult these pulls will be on Heroic mode.
The first boss here is a tunneling worm known as Corborus. Make sure the boss is facing away from you, because it does a cone silence effect that can interrupt your spell casting. If the tank is not able to keep it turned away from you, move to the other side of it. At some point, a player may notice a spell effect graphic appear under their feet. This effect is similiar to that of Archavon, where shards of rocks repeatedly rain down on someone. Step out of the effect and avoid the incoming damage. After the first phase, Corborus will burrow underground and begin moving around, dealing damage to and knocking back anyone in its way. Make sure to step out of the way and position yourself behind the boss, when it pops back up again. During the burrow phase, a small amount of adds will spawn. They don’t hit too hard and don’t have a lot of hit points. Keep your party healed through it, depending on who they decide to target.
The second boss you will encounter here is a dragon known as Slabhide. As with most dragons and with Corborus, the dragon should be turned away from the group. He will do a Sand Breath that does quite a bit of damage and the rest of the party will be busy trying to avoid the circles of fire the boss will spit onto the ground and that people will need to make sure they’re not standing in. Frequently, Slabhide will break combat and fly off into the air. During this time, stalagtites will fall from the ceiling and land on the ground. There are shadows on the ground that you can see, to help you avoid being underneath them and taking damage. The stalagtites also create line of site issues and you won’t be able to heal anyone, with one of those standing in your way. The best approach is to literally follow your tank around throughout the fight and bob and weave around the stalagtites, so that isn’t an issue.
Boss number 3 is a neat looking stone giant named Ozruk. Ozruk will consistently cast different forms of armor or effects on himself that will affect those trying to do damage to him, in different ways. Spike Shield will leave a bleed debuff on any melee hitting him during that time and Elementium Bulwark will reflect spells back at casters that try to target him. These effects are temporary, so it is smart to hold off on doing something that could harm you, while those things are active. The fight is already difficult enough to heal and people can do their part to make the run go more smoothly this way. When Ozruk is finished with his Spike Shield, he will fire the spikes at those in melee range and cause more damage to them. If you don’t have to be in close quarters, make sure you are not and get at maximum range.
Ozruk’s most notable ability is Ground Slam, a 3 second cast ability that causes a lot of damage and causes the party to be knocked back. The tank should spend most of their time tanking the boss with their back up against a wall and the rest of the party can run through the boss and move towards a wall, when they see he is beginning to cast the ability. This allows them the time to do DPS and other things and then react accordingly, when needed. It wouldn’t hurt to stay as close to the tank as possible (without making yourself a target for the abilities that harm anyone in melee range), because being separated from the tank during a knockback can lead to them dying very fast without a heal.
My group was facing a number of issues during this run. Random disconnects caused us to replace someone, no less than 3 times and there was a bug in place that prevented people’s ghosts from being able to reach the heights of the Stonecore instance portal and reclaim their corpses. Normally, you get a ghost gryphon, of sorts to help your ghost fly back. It wasn’t happening here and therefore, it took much longer to come back and pick up where we left off. People got discouraged by this and didn’t feel like sticking around. We didn’t even defeat the last boss. After an hour of attempts on this instance, the group called it and moved on.
High Priestess Azil (what a cool name) is the final boss here and she packs a pretty powerful punch. To start things off, she casts an Energy Shield around herself, similiar to Lady Deathwhisper – except Azil’s shield has nothing to do with her mana bar and simply reduces all incoming damage to her by 75%. While she is shielded, she will throw large boulders at people (I mean, large) – make note of the shadow, to see where they are going to land and avoid that spot. She will also send large waves of non-elite adds your way that will aggro to just about anybody and I had a very hard time keeping them off me, from healing aggro alone. They are probably best handled by AOE or you can drag them into void zones Azil creates and they can die very fast that way. Make sure you don’t get sucked into a void zone or spend more time than is necessary in one.
The most harmful ability that Azil does is something called Focus Grip. It is very important that anyone with a silence or an interrupt or something they can do to stop casting be on top of that. If it’s not managed properly, Force Grip will allow the boss to pick up the target and bounce them up and down in the air, leading to her tossing them across the room. This is most often done to the person with the most aggro on her, so the tank should almost always be the target of that. If the tank gets picked up and chucked aside, that means she will most likely come for who is next on the aggro table and that’s not good. Again - make sure the group does anything they can to prevent that. It can be done.
I was level 82 when I tried healing this and it was a definite struggle. Now, I don’t know if it was just due to the tuning of the instance, the flakiness of my group or outside factors – but it was tough. The Dungeo
n Finder has the Stonecore labelled as an 80-83 instance, but I think I may want to farm some blues out of the other 2 instances (Throne of the Tides & Blackrock Caverns) and wait until I’m 83 or 84 to give it another go. Speaking of, the Dungeon Finder is buggy today and keeps disconnecting me when I try to queue for things. The realm I’m on has also been down at various points of the morning. So that may have to wait.
Otherwise, I’m preparing for the impending 4.0 patch (which could land on Tuesday – depending on who you ask), more tryouts for 25 man HLK and spending time with the delightful Kurn and friends on Eldre’thelas. All while fighting the autumn cold that took over my city very quickly, recently. Brrr!