Surviving Faction Champions – a PvE priest guide to a PvP(-ish) encounter

6 October 2009 § Leave a comment

Over at World of Snarkcraft, Jov posted about her strong dislike for ToC. I made it clear before that I don’t particularly like the instance either, but Jov focuses on a point that seems to resonate a lot with people, judging from the comments. It seems many raiders resent the Faction Champions encounter, because they don’t want to PvP – and sometimes, they have never done any PvP at all.

I really don’t see why a raiding priest that has got as far as this should have an issue. Yes, this encounter is different, but so are many others – and that’s never stopped a raider before. I suspect (and this is Dr. Tsark, doing his best Lucy Van Pelt imitation) that some raiders may just have a psychological block regarding anything with the dreaded three letters (“P”, “v”, and “P”) in it.

So, as a PvE priest who only occasionally dabbles into PvP (often to the dismay of my team members), I’d like to offer some pointers. My experience stems from 10-man, but I have experienced the fight in 25-man, and I cannot say that things are very different at all.

The fundamental thing

Be mobile.

No, really, that’s just about the most important thing to know. More specifically, you want to a) move away from enemies, because incidental AoEs are never fun; b) if mobs are on you, you really want to move, as fast as you can: if your raidmates are doing their job, most mobs are going to be snared somehow (rogue poison, Piercing Howl, Frost Nova, Mind Flay, most frost DK attacks, etc). That means, you move faster than they do, so getting out of the way is the best way to reduce damage on yourself. Oh, and for added bonus, if the mobs are not snared and catch up with you, you get to yell on vent to your raid mates: “WHY AREN’T THEY SNARED?” This is sure to help you release the frustration you built when your raid mates have yelled to you that you were late with the Mass Dispel *sage nod*.

Right, back to mobility. The fact that you’re going to be moving a lot has one important consequence: always favour instant spells over anything that is cast/channelled. If you can do this, you’re already doing about 50% of the fight right.

Your role

As a priest, you have two roles to play in this fight. The first one is the most traditional one you’ve always known: keeping everyone alive. Emphasis here is on everyone, because damage is not going to be soaked by the tanks. The Champions will focus on someone for a few secs, before either killing this person (this would be bad), or switching to the next target (this is good!). Now, here’s the other twist. The direct damage the champions deal is, for the most part, not too high – certainly doesn’t compare to what you healed your tanks through for Northrend Beasts. However, most of the Champions have some sort of DoT that can be really nasty: the SPriest’s SW:P ticks for a lot; the DK diseases ramp up his strike damage considerably; the moonkin’s Insect Swarm can be quite deadly – you get the picture. So, instead of going crazy to heal through all this damage, make sure that you’re dispelling everything (or abolishing disease as the case may be).

This is in fact a very important point: dispelling is, in this fight, as important as straight healing, if not more so. Think about phase 2 Yogg-Saron with no Mimiron up, to give you an idea – or, if you’re a really old fart like me, pretend you’re back at Chromaggus and your raid leader just designated you as dispeller (as an aside, I actually kept a pure mp5 set for such an occasion – ah the days when mp5 and spellpower just didn’t exist on the same gear!)

Your second role is new, and that is to dispel offensively. Now, this is quite important, because we’re one of two classes who can do that (whereas defensive dispels are more common), and compared to Shaman’s Purge (the other offensive dispel), we also have an option do it AoE. There’s three things in particular you want to look out for:

  1. Heroism/Bloodlust – this needs to be dispelled ASAP, as the Champions’ damage output ramps up exponentially. Most boss mods announce when this buff goes up, so that’s when you have to start spamming Mass Dispel. “But Tsark”, I can already hear you say “how can I spam it if I have the rogue/DK/paladin/warrior/mage/felhunter on me interrupting me and silencing me?” That, my dear readers (all 2 of you), is why you have raidmates to help you out. Team up with a paladin, and have the paladin BoP you as soon as Heroism goes up – this will stop you from getting kicked or interrupted by most melee. If the paladin is Holy, and he has Concentration Aura up, he can even pop Aura Mastery, to make you immune from the felhunter/mage/SPriest counterspells. Heroism normally goes up within the first 15 seconds of that fight, so the paladin wouldn’t have to babysit you too long. Also, if he’s the kind of alert paladin who knows his stuff, he can start using his judgement on whether to use his BoP or not – if no mob is on you, he can save it for a better use.
  2. Paladin bubble: if you have a paladin in the opposing team, he will bubble like most paladins do when they get low on health. Unlike most Alliance paladins, he won’t hearth – he will instead proceed to heal himself (sorry Alliance players, couldn’t resist). This is normally when you get a steady stream of screams on vent all yelling at you because they need your mass dispel NOW. The way you can actually save yourself a panic attack is relatively simple: before you pull, focus target the paladin. When you see his health going down, that means he’s the focus of your raid’s attention. Make sure you see where he is (yes, I just asked you to look away from the raid frames and onto the actual game – scary, huh?). Move within 20 yards of wherever he is, and click on your Mass Dispel button to get the targeting circle. Place it under him, and once he reaches 30%, start spamming away. Now, if someone is beating on you (or if the caster interrupters are still around), you may get interrupted. If that’s the case, just say so on vent, and trust that either someone else will get it, or that the rest of your raid will be happy to burn him down again. In other words, dispelling the bubble is nice, but not the essential action that dispelling Heroism is.
  3. Paladin Wings: if you have the Ret Paladin amongst the champions, it is essential that you take his wings off as soon as he pops them – he may well one-shot people if you don’t. So, fortunately you have him on your focus frames, right? So it’s easy to see the icon of Avenging Wrath pop up, and just shoot him a simple Dispel Magic (no Mass Dispel needed this time, so no chance of being interrupted).

There’s other buffs on the Champions that you can dispel (Thorns on the druid, Earth Shield if the Resto shaman is around), but they are by far less essential than the three I listed above.

Your tools

Important note: Before the fight starts, you need to make sure you have easy access to all the tools I’m mentioning below. Some of them are common tools, some are not – all need to be quickly accessible, hopefully keybound to easily-reached keys. If that requires rebinding some of your keys, consider doing it – although I don’t suggest rebinding keys for just one fight, because you need the speed that only comes from habit, so learning a new keybind won’t work too well. At the very least, know where the various buttons/keybinds are, so that you don’t spend precious seconds looking for them.

Healing Tools

I’m sure you’re all fantastic healers, but the specifics of the fight require some adjustment. In particular, forget about Greater Heal – no matter where you stand in the GHeal vs FHeal debate, in this fight GHeal makes you too vulnerable to interrupts. Power Word: Shield is, as usual, your bread-and-butter – spam it with impunity (no cholesterol in cyberspace!). Prayer of Mending is even more awesome than usual. Remember when I said there are no tanks and everybody gets damage? Well, the consequence of that is that your ProM will not get stuck on the mage-in-the-back-who-never-gets-hurt, and instead keep happily bouncing around bringing lots of healing goodness. Renew is another good spell – again, although it normally gets a bad rep, the combination of being instant and the fact that the Champions often switch targets means that you can use it to help bring people’s health up. Penance is a borderline spell – it’s too good not to use it, but it has a cast time (or a channel time, in this case), which means you risk an interrupt. My personal suggestion is to use it ONLY after you’ve shielded someone, and thus have Borrowed Time up. The same considerations apply to Flash Heal, only more so given that it’s a less awesome spell.

Special mention to Pain Suppression – though not strictly a healing tool, it will save lives in this fight. Don’t be afraid to use it: yes, it has a long cooldown, but the early part of the fight is the one where things are likely to be more chaotic and you will need most of your tools. PS will probably be up again before the end, but by then it won’t matter much anymore.


Dispel Magic and Abolish Disease are your best friends. With a little bit of practice, you will be able to recognise which buffs/debuffs to dispel first – I tend to focus on the damage DoTs first, then the cc’s (Sheep, HoJ, etc), then the snares (Frost Nova, Roots). Mass Dispel is essential, but we covered that before.

Survival Tools

Desperate Prayer is really your greatest ally here – nothing like a good 6-7k of healing as the Champions decided to make you the next kill target. Psychic Scream is good to get a few of them off you. Be warned though: they all have PvP trinkets and some of them can get out of fear in other ways, so don’t automatically assume Scream will get them all off. Healthstones and Health Potions are a godsend.

One tool which is often not mentioned is Fade. The Champions do have an aggro table, they just play with it a lot more than the average boss, randomly assigning a huge chunk of threat to one player. However, the important thing is that Fade will actually get them off you – at least long enough to throw a heal on yourself or drink a potion.

Racial abilities

Just about every race has at least one ability that is useful in a pvp situation: Will of the Forsaken, Stoneform, Every Man for Himself, Arcane Torrent… Just because you don’t use them normally, it doesn’t mean you must forget about them now. Read well the tooltip and make sure you understand when to use it – you’ll be happy to know how it works when it will save your life.

A typical fight

Just to give you an example, here’s how I handle that fight. I pre-shield myself, and 2 dps which always seem to take a lot of damage (warlock and rogue). I also place my Prayer of Mending on another healer, and make sure my Fear Ward is up, before we pull. The first few seconds are the worst: I focus on dispelling the most, and shielding if I see someone dipping below 60%. I also keep my mass dispel button, and start targeting the area with the most champions. Once Heroism comes up, I spam it, while a Holy Paladin protects me from interrupts.  After 2-3 Mass Dispels most Heroisms are off, and I can focus once more on single dispels.

My priority list, if I were to spell it out, looks like this:

  1. Dispel any debuff on raidmates
  2. Make sure ProM is still going
  3. Throw PW:S
  4. Throw Renews
  5. Use other heals (Only if no-one is on me, and I’m reasonably sure there’s not an interrupt waiting to be cast on us)
  6. Dispel stuff off enemies
  7. DPS enemies (SW:P, Devouring Plague, etc)

The extra mile

You can do two more things, if you feel the extra effort will help. One is to reglyph for this fight. The only glyph that may be worth putting in is the Glyph of Pain Suppression. In my experience, you won’t need it – but I freely admit that my raid is really good at saving my butt if I get stunned with a few melee on me.

The other thing is to get a PvP trinket. Before you start howling in pain, let me assure you that it’s actually not difficult to get one. The best way is to find a friend that likes to PvP, possibly a dps, and just pair with him. Just going to a few Wintergrasp battles will get you a very nice trinket that will enable you to get out of one form of cc. Also, contrary to popular opinion, you can play Wintergrasp without any resilience gear: your additional spellpower acts as a nice defense, making up for the lack of resilience (I normally play WG with a mix of some PvP pieces and many PvE ones, these days).

However, let me reiterate that neither of these things is necessary – especially not after the nerf that Blizzard gave to Champions.

Phew, that was much longer than I thought it would be. Well, we’re done now – thanks for sticking with me till the end… and I swear, the next post is going to be much much lighter.


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