Dealing with the Shade of Aran

Little in Karazhan is easy, but one of the most special fights – one that seems to give more people fits – is the fight with the Shade of Aran. As healers — as healPRIESTS — it behooves us to know the fight so we can help with the plan – especially our part of the plan. So, let’s take a look at this little adventure, shall we?

First, some fairly hard numbers and milestones.

  1. The Shade of Aran has approximately 900,000 health points.
  2. When the Shade reaches zero mana, he initiates the poly event.
  3. When the Shade reaches 40% health, he summons the elementals.
  4. When the fight has gone 12 minutes, Aran enrages.

Let’s expand, shall we?

900,000 points of health in 12 minutes. No, not right. Take out 15 seconds for the poly event. Take out an average of 10% of your time to deal with flame wreath, blizzard, and other interruptions. You have roughly 10 minutes in which to deal 900,000 points of damage to Aran. 90,000 damage per minute is 1500 dps for your party average over the combat window. This is your rock bottom, takes you to the last second, and – if this is your start dps – means you have to keep everyone alive. I’m going to tell you that if your group is only doing 1500 dps you will not beat the Shade unless everything else is PERFECT. Why?

The interruptions. Let’s start with the triggered interrupts before we go to the other attacks. Those are the poly and the summon.

When the Shade reaches zero mana, he does a mass polymorph on the party. For 10 seconds everyone is a sheep, getting heals and making no attacks. Note the nice touch – healing. Note the subtle but important priest thing: 10 seconds means ten seconds of the five second waltz which is 5 seconds of OFSR regen plus 5 IFSR. The bad news is what’s next. 11-12 seconds after he CASTS the poly – roughly one to two seconds after the sheep breaks – he casts a mass pyroblast. This blast will do up to 8000 damage on cloth armor, and it will attack every member of the party. An interruption here – your shield and your inner fire will mitigate this. I recommend renewing the IF at close to zero, and popping your shield immediately on coming out of sheep. For most of us that is 2500 1300 or better damage we do NOT take. [Thanks to Miraye for reminding me IF won’t protect against spelldamage. Mental hiccup, folks, nothing serious.]

Strategy point here — if you can burn Aran down to zero health before he’s out of mana, you will not face this attack. If uninterrupted it takes him approximately 4 and a half minutes to run out of mana. If he’s interrupted it can take, well, how well can you interrupt him?

The next intermediate milestone event is the elementals. When Aran reaches 40%, he summons four not-so-tough water elementals. They won’t one-shot anybody, but they’re quite capable of ruining the day of the average clothie – or higher armor who is unable to fight them effectively. Even if not destroyed, they go away in 90 seconds. They’re nothing special – if you can do it to an elemental outside you can do it to these guys. But they are 4 adds entering late in the battle, and they’re all around the room. Their largest danger is the chaos factor.

Last milestone is enraged. I seem to be saying that if he enrages your engagement is over. Let me be clear -that’s exactly right. His attacks – spell and melee – increase in speed. AND, many of the spells start coming from the walls. Unless you are literally in the last few seconds of killing him your soon-to-occur deaths will end the event.

That’s the solid points, now let’s add the specials. Oh, you thought we were done? heh…

The Shade has three attacks that concern everybody, every time they happen. They are what prevent this from being a straightforward dps race – they are the reason you are losing 10% of your combat time. These three attacks are the flame wreath, the blizzard, and the arcane blast. Flame wreath first as it’s the one you’ve never seen before.

At intervals the Shade casts a spell that wraps everyone in flames. If you move, you trigger an explosion – and that starts a chain reaction of explosions. These explosions sometimes don’t kill tanks. Please reread that sentence. Unless you’re geared well past this event – and if you are you’re learning nothing new – you are going to die, and so is most if not all your party. One saving grace – spellcasting is not moving. And as of the most recent patch, pets (and other entities) don’t set it off either. Since that fix has come and gone and come again, please treat that last with extreme caution. If your shadowfiend is just cast when he starts his flame wreath you might want to think about stopping it. Or not – it didn’t trigger the last time I used it, but…

The blizzard… every so often the Shade will cast a blizzard next to the wall. It will circle the room (always clockwise) pretty close to once around. If you stand in it, clothie, you will die. If you stand in it, leatherwearer, you might not die provided the Shade doesn’t send you a love tap. If you stand in it, plate-wearer, you probably won’t die, but you WILL hurt a lot. Of course, since Aran is (probably) in the center, why are you standing at the wall? (Arcane blast, maybe — we’ll get there). Oh, but why is the caster staying near the wall instead of near Aran? Well, besides his habit of throwing some melee betwixt the spellcasts, he’s got a zone of silence. Very annoying if you’re a caster type. Basically, your defense is to run away from the blizzard. Get behind it and follow it. A quick tactical comment – my preference for getting away from the blizzard if it’s on top of me is to dash toward him and then make a hard right turn back to the wall. I’m moving means I can’t cast much, after all. Anyway, then there’s that arcane blast…

He opens by pulling everyone next to him (like you haven’t seen THAT before). Then he casts slow on everyone, and then he starts his arcane blast. If you can get to the alcoves of the room before the blast goes off, it misses you. If it doesn’t miss you — see standing still for the blizzard.

OK, we’ve got the triggered events, and we’ve got the specials. Let’s finish up with the ‘regular’ attacks, and then we can continue with our fun and games.

The Shade has four basic attacks – three spell and one melee. Arcane Missiles, Fireball (with burn dot), frostbolt (with slow), and the melee. He can’t be silenced, but the spells can be interrupted. Point of information – if you interrupt the Arcane Missiles he’ll still spend the mana, but won’t cast the missiles (each about 1-1.5K, over 5 seconds.) The fireball and frostbolt, if interrupted, will also prevent the mana from being spent. The Shade prefers spells to melee, but will throw SOME melee in the middle of the fight, and if all his spells are interrupted he is no slouch at hand to hand.

His spells will do 4-6K damage and he gets them off fairly frequently. If he locks on someone it’s going to hurt — be prepared to splash a lot of heal on someone if they’re plunging in health.

One final point and we’re off. There is a rumor that he has no aggro table. This is incorrect, but it’s almost a matter of degree.  [see comments for update and discussion.] He resets his table regularly – current belief (and based on my stats review I concur) is that it’s every time he casts or is interrupted in casting. Strong tanks using aggressive threat generation routines have successfully tanked him. If your tank isn’t strong, however, or if someone ‘bursts’ higher than the tank in the instant Aran’s determining the next target… that’s who is getting the attack. (A general observation of a lot of teams’ post-battle stats. Generally the highest damage causers are also the receivers of the most damage. A point to ponder….)

We now know pretty much all we need to develop our plan. Or more accurately, decide between three variants that exist out there, all of which have been successful at one time or another. I’ll call them the 43% solution, burn the candle, and ubertank. They will overlap.

The 43% solution is for most ‘early’ kara groups. These are the groups that are running at 2000 to 2500 team dps. They are not going to kill the Shade before he burns his mana pool. Since the elementals don’t care if you’re sheeped or not, this plan turns obvious. Burn him down to 43% health and wait for the poly. The INSTANT you come out of poly, deal with the pyroblast (shields, healthstones, healing potions, you get the idea). Then push on a bit to get and deal with the elementals, and then turn your attention back to the Shade. It’s a pretty clockwork routine with all the excitement coming from the random tossing of specials. My recommended healteam strategy in this is for every healer to be responsible for a separate group of players. The three highest potential threat-producers (dps or threat-skills) should be distributed between the three healers (or more, or less, depending) so they can be appropriately covered. Out of experience, I recommend that each healer be responsible for one of the other healers (round robin) as, well, as long as the healers are alive and casting, the team will make it. Successful heals will generally be fast, light casts due to all the movement interruptions (blizzard, arc blast). A couple of mana planning notes. First, this will have your healers almost spamming small heals at a near-constant basis. Mana pots are essential. Consider grabbing a bite of blackened sporefish AND using some superior mana oil AND perhaps downing a flask or elixir in preparation. ANd a special planning note is for the polymorph – approximately 4000 to 4500 health is returned over the five ticks. Consider not healing anyone who’s “only” 25% down after the 43% pause goes into effect. Combat note: interruptions should be on arcane blasts as you’re intentionally letting him burn his mana.

The second strategy is ‘burning the candle’. The key to this is that you’re trying to kill him before he runs out of mana. There are two sub-techniques – your team is either burning SO MUCH damage that you outpace his casts, AND/OR your team is effectively interrupting his spellcasts and not allowing him much mana loss (beyond arc missile and arc blast and blizzard and flame wreath). Regardless, you will not have the recovery of the poly (but won’t have the pyroblast either – not necessarily a bad exchange). Since you’ll be racing for the end this fight may go shorter, but it’s still going to be a mana management test. I recommend pretty much the same strategy as for the 43% solution.

The final strategy is the uber-tank strategy. It requires a strong tank who can develop more threat than anybody else’s dps at pretty much all times. Generally suggested is an offtank ready to growl/taunt the instant the Shade slips from the MT’s grasp, holding it for the two or three seconds necessary to return the battle where it’s wanted. You will want one healer dedicated to the main tank. The off-tank’s healer should have four players to watch (OT, #2 DPS, and both the other healers), and the final healer gets five (#1 DPS, OT healer, and the other three DPS). All the healers, of course, should be ready to cover when someone is scrambling. However, except for the 40% summon and some AoE damage, pretty much all the damage will be the very familiar “ouch, I’m glad I’m not a tank” sort of event.

Note that I’ve built the planning above on three healers. That isn’t necessary. Two work if they’re good and fast. Four works well as long as there’s enough DPS to bring Aran to zero health before the 12 minute mark. Just remember – regardless of the plan the biggest pain in this is not really the damage, it’s the long duration with very few mana regen opportunities, made more entertaining with the planned and unscheduled interruptions. Plan accordingly for your part in the exercise.


~ by Kirk on September 19, 2007.

7 Responses to “Dealing with the Shade of Aran”

  1. Thanks for the informative write-up! The limited aggro-list was completely new to me, and we’re running Aran since quite a while now. Rather successfully, but there were those kills with only a last warlock standing 😀
    Anyway, one question: You mention that Inner Fire is supposed to mitigate the damage from an Arcane Blast. But isn’t Inner Fire only an armor buff, doing nothing whatsoever for your resistances? As the Arcane Blast is purely magical damage, Inner Fire shouldn’t be any benefit for you, unless you happen to stand in melee range (which you should avoid due to the silencing), or maybe fingthing the elemental adds – I don’t remember whether they do frost or physical damage. Or am I overlooking something here?

  2. Nope, my mistake. edit, fixed. Thanks, Miraye.

  3. After running Karazhan on 40 or so occasions, this is still my favourite fight, but then again I’m melee dps for it, and Illhoof and Shade are the only bleed-prone bosses, so :). Most groups struggle with the elementals on top of all the other attacks, so a warlock can do wonders there. Also critical is that if Shade runs out of the centre of the room to melee, get everyone back in the middle because you’ll suddenly start getting blizzarded in the middle otherwise. I really feel for the healers in this fight and for my druid, a tranquility after the polymorph/pyro seems to ease the burden on the other healers.

  4. Hmm, I was under the impression Aran didn’t have an aggro table or anything. I always thought he’d just blast people who ticked him off at the wrong time.

  5. Matticus, I thought the same thing for a while. And with his rapid reset it doesn’t hurt anything if you just run the battle with that as your mental image. It’s just… not “at the wrong time,” it’s “who ticked him off THIS time.”

    The nice thing this means for the healer is a) we’re not usually the main person; and b) we can actually plan who is going to get the most heals. Just pick the most aggravating players in your party and spread them between the healers…

  6. dfvanden, love it when that happens. Mana, blessed mana.

  7. OK, I’ve had a couple of guild members point out an issue regarding the threat table. Allegedly – I’ve not seen this but I trust my guild – when a player gets trapped outside they catch the occasional spell. Since it’s kind of hard to generate threat from outside the room, this supports the argument of the attacks being random.

    However, the fact that some guilds have successfully tanked (with – allegedly – all direct attacks at the tank), AND the fact a review of stats shows that Aran’s damage out is generally in accordance with highest DPS, interrupted by (likely) threat generators (warriors and druids, consistently), supports the threat table argument.

    I’m still leaning toward the resetting table, but the attacks outside the room do raise reasonable doubt — or at the certainty that I do NOT know the whole thing with any degree of perfection (grin).

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