Echoes of the Dead Instance Cluster, Part Three: Sari-Surma
So you thought Ferndur the Virulent was a pushover and you're ready for the next challenger? Drugoth the Death-monger is waiting at the glacier fortress in Sari-Surma with a tray of pigs-in-blankets to welcome you to the next level.
If Hell ever froze over, this place is what it would be like: tortured souls forever trapped in glimmering crystalline stalagmites, ephemeral spirits engaged in never-ending, bloody war only to puff away into nothingness as you grow near. Grims composed of living cold devastate the flesh just as surely as a raging fire would do, and powerful generals - once living, now forced to serve their dire master after passing from the mortal world -rule the frozen corridors and icy chambers with brute, tyrannical strength.
Technically speaking, this is the "fear" instance, its presence indicated by the purple-marked relic. The larger issue, however, is the cold. There are plenty of fear-based attacks, surely, but it's more likely that the cold will be what kills you here.
Like the Lost Temple, this place has some pretty dazzling visuals - the glimmering ice stalagmites with the trapped bodies, the swirling spirits up around the ceiling. Take it all in now, because once you get started, there is limited time to enjoy the scenery.
The group will need to be fairly sturdy, and possibly heal-heavy. Rune-keepers can work well in here when paired with a Minstrel, able to provide secondary main healing during crucial battles and high DPS during less heal-intensive moments.Rune-keepers are especially valuable when they come in with a frost-attuned stone and can cast Do Not Fall to Frost.
The first obstacle you face is actually one of the toughest - a Brumal Grim in a narrow chamber just up the winding ramp from the entrance. These grims are brutal - massive area-effect damage in a relatively confined space. When it engages the group in combat, it will spawn in a lesser grim to aid it, and if the lesser grim is killed it can simply call up a new one. It's go-time for healers, who will want to stay a relatively safe distance from the melee guys. This is harder than it sounds, because the layout of the ice cave does not make much allowance for spreading out. The best the healers can do is try to heal through the maelstrom and keep the tanks standing.
After the grims comes a small group of frozen wights. These rotten little monkeys pop up a few times in this first part of the instance, and are generally more of a nuisance than a real threat... unless they are pulled at the same time as bears or grims. They apply debuffs to those they hit with their weak attacks - healers and tactical classes will find their tactical skills severely hampered, and ranged attackers will experience the same problem, but melee characters will experience this as a buff which increases their melee damage by a massive amount.
A little further in, you will encounter groups of bears - a mama bear with 2 cubs. Like all mama bears, the glowy-eyed matrons in the ice caves are fiercely protective of their babies, and when the cubs die, mama bear gets a massive damage buff. The cubs will random-aggro during the fight, occasionally foraying into the rear lines to beat on the healers, but attention must first be paid to mama bear. Burn her down to around 5000 morale, then kill the cubs. When both cubs are down, kill the matron swiftly before she rage-chews too many holes in the tank.
When the matron dies, she will spawn a ghost version of herself. This ghost version will not attack the players unless it is attacked first, so be sure to pull back when the matron falls. If you kill the matron first and not the cubs, the matron's spirit will heal the cubs before she despawns - you don't want that.
In the tunnels between mob encounter zones, the group will run across ghostly vignettes of scenes of past violence. These vignettes poof away after they play out, often leaving the actors frozen in an icy frieze as permanent fortress decorations. But some of these stalagmite spots are spawn points for groups of wights - be on your toes. Another thing to watch out for is the steaming vents located strategically around the place. Stand on or near one of these vents for 10 seconds and you will receive a 1-hour warmth buff against cold-based attacks. You will definitely want to do this before boss fights.
After a few more encounters with grims, wights and bears, you come at last to the chamber of Coldbear the Wight. Coldbear, now in new-and-improved wight form, is a recent immigrant from old Helegrod, and is seeking vengeance against those who put him in this horrible predicament.
This is a 3-stage fight, and one of the reasons you may want more than one healer in the group. Most of Coldbear's special attacks are prefaced by shouts, so pay attention to what he says and you'll do fine.
The group will want to spread out for this fight, with lots of empty space between the ranged attackers and healers. This will be important for later stages of the fight when Coldbear uses his Frost Shards attack. Healers will want to stand well back from Coldbear, just within healing range of the main tank and with line-of-sight on the corners of the room, but away from the stalagmite clusters of frozen wights., which activate during the 3rd and final stage.
In stage 1 of the fight, the main tank will run up and engage Coldbear straightaway. Watch out for a red glow around his head - this shield will block 90% of incoming damage and reflect it back on the attackers. When this shield comes up, quickly stop all DPS and wait for it to expire.
Tanks will have a rough time of this fight. When Coldbear shouts "No more wriggling!" or "You will stand still and take it," he applies a debuff to his primary target that negates all block, parry and evade. Guardians may want to use Overpower stance for this fight since they won't be blocking any attacks anyway. Coldbear will also shout "Your scurrying around must stop!" whereupon he applies a debuff to secondary targets, slowing movement speed by 75%.
Stage 2 starts at around 50% health, and is mostly the same as stage 1, but with the addition of the Frost Shards attack, a nasty frost attack that does massive damage over time. Coldbear will shout "Embrace the frost!" before he applies this debuff, and the affected character will be surrounded by a blue cloud that will spread to anyone caught within the radius when it expires. Victims of this debuff must move away from the rest of the group, and healers will need to focus spam-heals on the affected character until the debuff ends. If the victim does not move away from the group and the cloud spreads to other characters, healing the whole group will be more or less impossible.
When Coldbear's physical body is slain, he rises up again in spirit form, and this starts stage 3 of the fight. He loses the reflect shield in stage 3, but replaces it with some other nasty surprises. First, he will shake the room, applying a small frost damage-over-time effect on everyone. Second, he will use an area-effect stun that will stun everyone within 10 meters of him. Thirdly, he will shout "I need more power!" and will run over to a secondary target and drain power from that character. None of these attacks are interruptable.
Also, the frozen wights are activated during stage 3. Anyone standing close to the clusters of frozen wights may be subject to their attacks. The group may want to send a melee character around to pick up the wights when they spawn in and keep them away from the healers, who will be rendered powerless by the wights' tactical debuffs. And, of course, there's still the Frost Shards attacks to worry about.
Rune-keepers are again very useful in this fight with Do Not Fall to Frost, which can negate the Frost Shards attack if applied in time to the right character. However, the timing and placement of this attack is wholly uncertain, and players should probably not rely on this effect to save them. Better to assume that it won't happen and be prepared to keep the Frost Shards victims standing with spam-heals.
After Coldbear's ghost is put to rest, it's time to move deeper into the icy fortress and confront the next boss, Osan. The path to Osan is mercifully brief, but no less dangerous.
To get to Osan, first you will have to pass a couple of Fanatics and some undead giants. The Fanatics are small, goblin-type wights surrounded by icy whirlwinds, which have knock-backs and do area-effect damage. They are difficult to properly tank since they use a number of targeted attacks, and you'll want to fight them singly rather than paired with giants.
Once you've dispatched these few mobs, it's time to enter the pit. This fight seems like it might be a cakewalk at first, but as the fight progresses, it gets progressively harder as more and more "reinforcements" enter the fray. For this fight, the group wants to go DPS-heavy; Rune-keepers go DPS, Hunters go Strength stance.
The tank starts by igniting the pedestal in the middle. Osan will march forward and smash the pedestal, and the tank pulls him to the black columns between the stairs, staying there for pretty much the whole fight. Everyone else ignores Osan and focuses on adds.
There are 4 types of adds in this fight, and a fairly strict priority sequence for taking them down.
- Fanatics - the goblin-type wights surrounded by swirling, icy death. These need to be taken out first. They behave rather like a mob affected by a Burglar's Enrage trick, targeting attacks and ignoring all attempts to tank them.
- Wights - weaker than the Fanatics, but a dangerous nuisance when you get a lot of them at once (and you will). Take these out second.
- Giants - these drop down along the sides and hurl boulders. They can be locked down with crowd control until the Fanatics and wights are dead.
- Lieutenants - there are 4 of these, and they must be killed before taking Osan down. When they jump down, they need to be picked up by an off-tank and kited around the room. They hit very hard and have a number of special attacks that can be brutal. Kill them last, and only when there are no other adds to fight.
The adds drop down in groups from the back and the sides, and Fanatics usually drop in from the corners. All but the tank need to focus their efforts on killing the adds until all 4 lieutenants are dead. The adds are on a timer, not tied to Osan's health, so killing Osan too early will lose the tier 2 challenge. Hunters will want to be in Strength stance for this stage of the fight, and keep the adds off of the healers when they drop in. The group will need a designated off-tank to aggro the lieutenants and whatever else is posing a problem and kite them around the room. A Warden works for this (though a Warden may be better suited to tank Osan), and so does a Champion.
Besides the order of the adds, there are 2 more important things to watch out for in this fight. First is the glaring blue eye, which can be applied to any member of the group. This eye does no damage, but when it expires it will instantly kill the affected character. When the eye pops up, the affected character needs to call it out, and the group's designated corruption remover needs to hit Osan with his corruption removal skill. All classes have some kind of corruption removal these days, so pretty much any class is fine for a designated corruption remover. However, it's a good idea to plan for disaster and have a backup corruption remover, in case the first guy misses his mark.
The second thing to watch out for is Osan's "ground pound" attack, which he does for every 5 adds killed. The tank will see a building "Impending Wrath" buff building up, and when it reaches tier 5 he does his ground-pound and resets it. He announces this attack in advance, and the tank (who should be the only one who needs to worry about this attack) usually has lots of time to get away from the enraged giant.
By the time the 4th lieutenant drops down, the fight may seem like a madhouse scramble, particularly if the other mobs have not yet been handled. It turns into a DPS race against the adds - you want to burn them all as quickly as possible before the next wave hits. After the 4th lieutenant is killed, the fight calms down considerably and the DPSers can start hitting Osan, peeling off only when waves of Wights enter the pit.
DRUGOTH THE DEATH-MONGER
The final fight is against the gaunt-lord Drugoth and his two pet caerog Guardians. They stand on a pillar-lined ledge on a high cliff overlooking the Bay of Forochel. Familiarize yourself with the layout before starting anything - you're going to want to keep track of your position in this one, or you risk taking an icy plunge.
This fight feels much easier after defeating Osan, but that don't make it a picnic in the park. You will want to divide your group into ranged and melee, and split up accordingly. The ranged guys run around the outside of the platform, sticking to the pillars and cliff walls, clockwise from the door to the second pillar from the wall (basically the furthest point from the caerog). Melee guys stay at the door until the fight starts.
The tank runs out and starts the encounter, and, after a brief "you're all doomed" villain speech, the caerog activate. Drugoth holds his fire for a few seconds, so you have time to deal with the caerog. Hunters earn their pay here, range-tanking the molasses-slow caerog and burning them down quickly. The caerog will very, very slowly march against the ranged attackers, and the attackers will not want to let them get too close, or risk being punted over the edge of the cliff. When they get close, run past them to the other side of the ledge and keep firing. Take these guys down fast before turning on Drugoth, and keep them away from the melee guys. Again, Hunters have the advantage here with high-DPS threat, so as long as everyone avoids the knockbacks and doesn't stray too close to the juggernauts, this part of the fight should go fairly smoothly.
Drugoth also likes to fling people around at this point, and there are patrolling, non-attackable tornadoes that have a silencing effect. Nothing can be done about those tornadoes except to try to avoid them whenever possible, but Drugoth's high-flying aerobatic-inducing moves can be countered by breaking line of sight whenever he says anything about coming closer or getting further away. Since he never moves from his one spot, all of the "come here/go away" stuff he says applies to you. If possible, keep the doorway at your back and you shouldn't go flying off the ledge.
Once the caerog are down, the fight gets easier and it's a quick hop to stage 2, which you will recognize by the creepy, darkening sky. Ranged attackers and healers should move close to a pillar, and staying closely grouped up might help. Drugoth usually announces what he is doing before he actually does it - the hallmark of the true super-villain - so the group has time to react when the situation requires it. During stage 2, he will say something along the lines of "Run and hide!" or "Freeze in place!" When he says this, or anything like this, get behind one of the pillars and break line of sight. You will know you have broken line of sight when you see a blue buff on your buffs bar. If he can't see you, he can't hit you. If he can see you, you will be stunned, take big damage or be flung about like a used tissue.
During stage 3, Drugoth will begin stealing the powers of various members of the fellowship, turning them against his foes by way of summoned spirits that show up behind him. Some of these are worse than others - for instance, when he steals the power of Hunters, the spirits will begin doing massive ranged damage against random targets, and when he steals the power of Guardians, he and the spirits will have a damage reflect shield. Furthermore, the character who has had his powers stolen is mezzed as long as his spirit is alive. He steals the skills of 2 classes at once, so be prepared for a tough fight during this stage. DPS needs to be focused on the spirits when they come up - they're not that tough, only around 9000 morale each. Kill them fast and then resume beating on Drugoth until he dies. Loot the 2 chests, and then take a minute to congratulate yourself for beating one of the most difficult 6-man instances in the game.
Of course, the story isn't over yet. Nosir, these were just the preliminaries. From this point on, it's time to step up your game and get ready to go raiding. The storyline of In Their Absence continues in Ost Dunhoth, which requires full 12-man raids to complete each of the 5 wings. If you haven't brought your A-game for these preliminary instances, it's time to get it out of the closet and bring it now. You're going to need it.
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