Up to this point, we’ve covered all but the final challenges of Cataclysm’s introductory raids. Blackwing Descent, the Throne of the Four Winds, and the Bastion of Twilight have all been infiltrated by bold adventurers in their search for glory and gear. Only the end bosses remain in each of those raids, but the difficulties they present are more than fitting for anyone who has managed to make it this far. So polish your blades, iron your robes, and jam a few more flasks in your bag – this week we return to the Throne of the Four Winds and tackle Al’Akir.
Once the previous boss, the Conclave of Wind, has been defeated, raiders will be able to find vortexes on each platform that will propel them to the center of the raid, and right next to Al’Akir. As with the Conclave, he won’t initiate combat until he is actually struck, so feel free to move to his platform and set up the raid as needed. With three phases, plus a multitude of abilities to avoid, a little time to examine the playing field will be quite welcome. Additionally, this encounter will require only a single tank for all three phases; feel free to allow any other tanks to assume other roles, if they are able.
The first phase, in an interesting twist, is arguably the most difficult, and will last until Al’Akir reaches 80% health. The primary lethal mechanic is Lightning Strike, a cone aimed at a random player, which then chains to other affected players for increasing damage. To spread this out, and keep it within healing capabilities, have raiders pair up with a buddy and spread around as much of the platform as needed, but of course make sure that the healers are separated appropriately, in order to reach everyone. The ornate designs of the platform have a distinct pattern that is spaced nicely for this purpose – picking a particular feature, and stacking each group near it, will maintain a near-perfect distance between groups.
Al’Akir also possesses an ability which causes light damage to anyone nearby, and interrupts any spells being cast for 5 seconds. Make sure any healers or offensive spellcasters stand as far away as possible to avoid this.
And what makes a fight more exciting than tons of frantic movement? In this case, not much. There are several mechanics to avoid which will require quick observation and movement. The first, Ice Storm, looks like a standard Blizzard spell, except it wanders around and will leave behind trails of ice for a time, drastically slowing anyone standing in it. Move out of these if possible. Next, Al’Akir will use Wind Burst, a 5-second cast spell that knocks back everyone on his platform; if someone is near the edge, they will be thrown off, and eventually return just like during the Conclave of Wind fight, but it will effectively stun them for roughly 10 seconds in the process. To avoid this, watch for the cast, and run as close to Al’Akir as possible as he casts. The knockback will then kick players to just inside the edge of the platform.
Last and certainly not least, Squall Line will create a wall of tornadoes that rotate around the platform, either clockwise or counter-clockwise. Touching one of these tornadoes will result in a raider being swept around the platform with the vortexes, effectively stunned, while suffering heavy damage every second. It can, however, be avoided – each set of tornadoes will stretch in a line running from Al’Akir to the platform’s edge, save for one gap, which will change with each line. As the Squall Line approaches, move through the opening in the tornadoes, and they will pass by without any adverse effects.
The joyous fun of this phase comes from all of these abilities being used in conjunction. It is entirely possible to be stuck in a situation where raiders need to move in close to avoid being thrown off by Wind Burst, while at the same time a Squall Line approaches from one side. The random number generator can play some serious havoc in this phase, depending on how abilities appear, so don’t feel discouraged if this phase takes some serious work in order to perfect movement for these abilities. Avoid everything if possible, but if it comes down to one or the other, dodge the Squall Line over Wind Burst, as you’ll be far more likely to survive.
On that last note, a special warning for the tank: any time Al’Akir is unable to reach his primary target in melee (as he won’t move from his spot), he will instead begin casting Electrocute. He will continue to channel the spell as long as the target remains too far away, and it will cause increasing damage per second for the duration. It is vital that the tank remain within melee range of Al’Akir as much as possible, or the damage from the spell will escalate rapidly. That having been said, if a tank is caught by either a Squall Line or Wind Burst, each will trigger Electrocute on top of the normal effects as the tank is carried out of Al’Akir’s melee range. Surviving it is… unlikely, at best. No pressure, right?
When Al’Akir at last reaches 80%, phase 2 begins, and will persist until Al’Akir reaches 25%. Thankfully this phase is a bit easier than the previous one. First of all, Lightning Strike, Wind Burst, and Ice Storm will be gone; feel free to restack the raid near the tank (though keep your distance, casters, as Al’Akir can still interrupt you) to make healing a bit easier. Squall Lines will continue, so keep a constant watch for those tornadoes, and Electrocute persists as well.
New abilities appear, of course. The first, Acid Rain, will cause steady nature damage per second to the entire raid. Every 15 seconds, the damage it causes will increase as it applies another “stack” to all players. This will act as a crude enrage timer for this phase, at least, as it will eventually become too much for the healers to handle (around 15 stacks is pushing limits). As a special note, any raiders with abilities such as Divine Shield, Ice Block, or Cloak of Shadows can remove their stacks through such means. Using such abilities late in the phase can definitely lighten the load on the healers and buy some extra time before Acid Rain overwhelms the group.
Al’Akir’s other ability allows him to summon Stormlings, small windy adds that will appear somewhere near the raid. They will continuously emit a damaging pulse to anyone nearby while they remain alive, so try to avoid stacking right on top of them. They aren’t terribly durable, though, and yet they are the key to this phase. Each time one is killed (preferably by ranged DPS), they will apply a potentially-stacking debuff to Al’Akir, increasing his damage taken by 10%. This debuff only lasts 20 seconds, however. This is also about how often Al’Akir will summon them. In essence, the trick is not to kill them immediately, but to make sure one is always alive and near death, then kill it shortly before Al’Akir’s debuff wears off, before whittling down the next and repeating the process.
A common tactic is to allow three stormlings to appear early in the phase, then simply continue to kill one about every 15 seconds, and let the debuff build as the supply of stormlings continues. The damage increase is vital if the raid wishes to push Al’Akir into phase 3 before Acid Rain builds too high. Don’t get too focused on the adds, though; the traveling Squall Lines can still take players by surprise and cause some serious damage. It’s a bit of a race, and there are plenty of things to avoid still, but eventually Al’Akir will reach 25%, and the last phase will begin.
Immediately he will destroy the platform, and all raiders will be tossed into the air and become able to fly in the wind currents. Horizontal and vertical movement abound here, and even more things to watch out for (although no more Squall Lines, thankfully). The first thing to note is that traveling either too close or too far away from Al’Akir will result in the raider being sucked into the massive vortex surrounding him and killed rather quickly. It can be difficult to judge distances in this phase, and there’s no great way to mark positioning. The mechanic isn’t overly brutal, though, and there’s plenty of room to maneuver regardless. Just don’t fly too low, storm clouds far below will rapidly demolish anyone who gets too close to them.
Just for fun, Al’Akir remembers how to use Wind Burst, so expect to be knocked backwards from time to time. Paired with the above mechanic, this can create further issues, so try not to be too far away if possible. Feel free to keep the raid stacked together, though. At the very least, it makes healing easier, and can help orient raiders in the three-dimensional space.
Lightning is abundant in the final segment of this encounter. Targets will randomly be blasted with a basic lightning attack as Al’Akir becomes untankable; it will be his only direct attack, though. Additionally, he will occasionally mark a player with Lightning Rod. About 5 seconds later, this player will begin to emit lightning, damaging anyone within 20 yards horizontally, and 5 yard vertically. The damage from this ability is intense, hence it is crucial that the affected person move away before they erupt.
Lastly, Lightning Clouds will be summoned at the altitude of a random raider. Within a few seconds, these will erupt as well, causing massive damage to anyone still inside. Stay mobile, as a group, and ascend or descend as necessary to get away from these blasts. Keep in mind someone will likely be marked with Lightning Rod too, so be extremely careful in moving.
The Lightning Clouds persist for the duration of the phase, and with poor placement, can eventually leave the raid with nowhere to go. For that reason, a solid strategy is, when the phase begins, move the entire raid to either the very top (or very bottom) of the flight space, and continually shift down (or up) as the clouds appear. Keep in mind that the space is not infinite, and the areas affected by lightning aren’t always as massive as they seem; just try not to run out of space too early by moving too much. The raid leader may wish to designate and mark a player to follow during this phase, which will at least give the rest of the raid a single point to gather around if they end up disoriented.
As a side note, if any Stormlings remain alive going into this phase, they can still be killed to apply their debuff to Al’Akir. Just don’t ignore the lightning in the process!
This is one extremely hectic fight, with loads of mechanics that can drop a raider with the slightest misstep. Expect tons of practice attempts while learning the fight, and be patient with the learning curve. However, assuming the raid survives, and continues to hammer on Al’Akir, eventually he will fall, bringing about the end of the encounter and the completion of the Throne of the Four Winds. And after that, a well-deserved congratulations will be in order; raid leaders, bring a keg, and celebrate the defeat of one of the most difficult Cataclysm raid challenges to date.
And two more of such challenges still remain.