Formerly Hardcore #3: Adventures in BRF, Part 3

Ragar delves deeper into Warlords of Draenor's newest raid

Hello and welcome to the 3rd edition of Formerly Hardcore, ZAMs column on Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft. For our third column, we’re continuing our look at WoW’s latest raid, Blackrock Foundry. So far we’ve covered the six of the ten encounters in BRF, as well as some talk about my experience with using WoW’s Group Finder tool and Looking For Raid difficulty. That leaves us with four more bosses to talk about.

Operator Thogar: Let’s Go Play on the Train Tracks!

Now that we’ve taken down Kromog, it’s on to what’s probably my favorite encounter of Blackrock Foundry, Operator Thogar. For those of you who’ve seen the encounter, you’re probably used to calling him by a different name: Train Boss. Thogar is the orc in charge of overseeing all of the trains used by the Iron Horde to move supplies and equipment. By taking him out you’re disrupting Blackhand’s supply chain, which means you’re taking out the Iron Horde’s main supply of armaments. A nice tie to the overall story of the expansion and a proper tactic in weakening the opposing army by attacking their supply chain, but that’s a nice side note compared to the fight itself.

At the start it looks like a fairly basic fight: the tanks pull Thogar, swap for stacks of Enkindle and move out of the Prototype Pulse Grenades. When it comes to Thogar himself, that’s all that’s involved. He’ll keep doing those same mechanics until he’s dead or your raid is. That sounds much less complicated than those earlier fights, so where does the fun come in? For this fight, Thogar’s not your main concern – it’s the environment.

The area where you’ll be fighting Thogar is comprised of four parallel lengths of train tracks with doors on either side. Shortly after the fight has started, some of those doors will open and a train will come out. Some of these trains will simply go from one side of the room to the other, dealing significant damage on LFR difficulty or just killing you, unless you’re a well-geared tank or pop some survival/immunity cooldowns. All that’s involved with those trains is just “don’t stand where the train’s coming”, so while this will move your raid from track to track as doors start opening, these are easy to deal with.

However, some of those trains will stick around once they come out. These trains are there to provide reinforcements to Thogar. Most of these reinforcements are comprised of the orc mobs you fought in the pre-Thogar trash packs: Iron Crack-Shots, Iron Raiders, Grom’kar Firemenders and Grom’kar Man-at-Arms. You’ll also see train cars with Iron Gunnery Sergeants manning cannons that lob Delayed Siege Bombs at the raid. When these mobs enter the field, your tanks will have to pick them up and the raid group will have to burn those down, focusing on the Grom’kar Firemenders, interrupting Cauterizing Bolts, and avoiding grenades, Reckless Slashes, and Delayed Siege Bombs. Cleaving damage to Thogar is optimal, but your main focus is burning these adds down as quickly as possible.

Taking out the adds before going back to the boss is pretty standard for most Normal and higher raid fights, but it’s extremely important here. The obvious reason of minimizing tank damage is still there, especially since they get a stacking Berated buff from Thogar every 10 seconds, but there’s a far more important reason: the train. Those train cars that brought the mobs into the room? Unless you’re playing on LFR difficulty, they won’t go away until the last mob they brought in dies. This may not seem like an issue when it’s only one of the four available lanes blocked, but it gets to be a major problem as the fight goes on.

The trains are on a set schedule: every time you come in, wave 1 is a pass-through train on the track closest to the entrance (track 4), wave 2 is another pass-through two tracks closer to the boss (track 2), track 3 is the first add car on the track where the boss starts (track 1), and so on. When 2:10 minutes have passed in the fight, a pair of add cars will come down tracks 2 and 3 with sets of adds that require the raid to split up before the wave and move to tracks 1 and 4 to deal with them. One tank will have Thogar on him for this, so that Enkindle stack will get very high and tax both his survival cooldowns and the healers’ mana the longer the adds stay alive and the cars stay on the tracks. Of course there’s another reason to hurry. At 2:50 the next wave is two pass-through trains on tracks 1 and 4. If those add cars are still on tracks 2 and 3, you’ve got nowhere to move and your raid’s going to die. However, if your group can burn down all the adds and clear those cars before the next wave, then you’ve survived the roughest part of the fight and should easily get the kill.

This is another fight where the LFR mechanics problem does come into play, but they have done some to minimize it. The Moving Trains aren’t going to one-shot players without cooldowns and the add cars will move away on their own after 25 seconds, regardless of whether the adds are all dead or not. This certainly helps, but without an addon telling players which tracks are safe/deadly like Deadly Boss Mods, there’s still going to be quite a few players facetanking trains because they didn’t see the door open or follow the tank. Once Thogar is down and the loot has been handed out and bonus rolled, you might be hoping that the next boss will give you a little break from all of this fight’s movement. Oh, not even close…

Iron Maidens: Why is Everything I Love Covered in Bombs?!

The Iron Maidens are comprised of the three orcs in charge of the Iron Horde’s naval fleet: Admiral Gar’an and her lieutenants Marak the Blooded and Enforcer Sorka. Since you’ve defeated Thogar and stopped the trains from running, you’ve cut off the supplies for their ships. Of course that still leaves three very angry orcs with a heavily armed Dreadnaught ship to contend with.

The first phase of the fight is fairly simple: the two tanks control Enforcer Sorka and Marak the Blooded and tank them on top of the untankable Admiral Gar’an to maximize cleave damage. The bosses themselves do not share health, but you still want to keep their HP close for reasons I’ll get to later on. During this first phase each of the bosses will have one unique mechanic they’ll be using on the raid. Marak will target a random player with Blood Ritual and draw a beam towards them; the Marak tank needs to get in this beam to soak the Crystallized Blood hit. Gar’an will Rapid Fire at a random player – this means that player needs to run along the edges of the room to avoid getting themselves or anyone else hit with the shells. Sorka will Blade Dash, which is a quick teleport to hit a random target and splash damage to nearby players, then port back to the tank; the damage is minor though, so the raid doesn’t need to worry about spreading out for this.

At set points during the fight, whichever Maiden has the lowest health will break off from the group and leap onto the deck of the Dreadnaught. They will then begin assaulting the raid with bombs. The first half will be Bombardment Pattern: Alpha, which is just eight small reticles that are easy to step out of before the bomb drops. After that one though, they’ll use Bombardment Pattern: Omega. For this wave, every spot that didn’t get a bomb during Alpha will now get a bomb. To avoid taking damage from those strikes, you’ll need to go stand on one of the Alpha bombs. Once the Omega wave is down, you’ll then need to move on top of an Omega bomb since the Alpha one you were on is getting ready to blow; after that’s gone, you’ll move back there since the Omega bomb you were on will follow suit. These waves of bombs will continue until the ship’s been dealt with. The entire time this is going on, you’ll still be dealing with the boss mechanics from the two still on land.

Depending on which boss has gone over to the ship, you’ll be sending over a different crew, usually the same DPS and healer since they know the routine, plus the appropriate tank for that boss. If it’s Gar’an, you’ll be sending an extra DPS. The goal of the deck crew is to get to the front of the ship and click on the ammunition to prevent the boss from Warming Up. If the deck crew takes too long or dies, the boss on the ship will finish Warming Up and fire Obliteration blasts, killing the entire raid. Depending on which boss is over, you’ll see different adds on the boat. Gar’an has adds that need interrupted and Grapeshot Blasts to move out of the group. Marak has a single large add to fight, but pools of Corrupted Blood will spawn under each player every few seconds; these will deal significant damage once they start ticking, so the group needs to inch forward towards the front while burning the add. For Sorka, the tank will be intercepting Deadly Throw for the targeted player while holding the adds on top of the boss for cleave damage. Assuming the deck crew is successful, you’ll detonate the bombs, preventing Warming Up and causing the deck boss as well as the deck crew to return to land.

As if phase 1 and 2 weren’t complicated enough, the bosses will pick up new tricks the longer the fight goes on as their Energy builds up. Marak will gain Bloodsoaked Heartseeker, which players should move away and spread out to cut down on the damage. Sorka picks up Convulsive Shadows, adding in a very strong DoT to heal through for one player and punishing the raid if they dispel by causing a Shadow Explosion. Gar’an has the big one though with Penetrating Shot. This 8-second cast will do extremely high damage to the targeted player, but if other players stand in the beam between the target and Gar’an, they’ll help soak the damage and keep the target alive.

Those deck phases will occur about 3:20 minutes apart, with the first one at the 1-minute mark. However, if you can get one of the bosses to 20% or lower before the timer hits, you’ll move into the final phase and there won’t be any more boat phases. That’s the good news. The bad news? Now the bosses get yet another ability and they’ll start by getting a stacking Iron Will buff, boosting their damage done the longer the fight goes on. Marak will start doing raid-wide damage with Sanguine Strikes, so the Marak tank needs to start chaining cooldowns to minimize the raid damage. Sorka will cast Dark Hunt on someone and hit them for high damage, requiring some personal DR cooldowns and some healing. Gar’an again has the more painful mechanic with Deploy Turret. She summons a rotating Dominator Turret which will continually fire projectiles as it turns. These projectiles are slow-moving, but still require the raid to reposition to avoid damage. The Turret should be your first target whenever it’s up, but for melee they should stick on the bosses since Turret duty is likely a death sentence for them.

On the bright side, now you don’t have to worry about keeping the three bosses’ HP the same since we’re in their final phase. Burn down Gar’an to stop the Turrets and Penetrating Shots, then the last two will follow suit shortly.

LFR on this fight does have some tweaks to make it easier similar to Operator (ie dispelling Convulsive Shadows won’t cause Shadow Explosion), but it is missing something major: automatically assigning players to the boat team. When this mechanic came up with Kargath in Highmaul, the fight picks a tank and a smattering of healers and DPS automatically, regardless of their positions in the arena. This fight leaves the boat crew up to the players themselves – great if you have a Normal+ raider who’s seen the fight before and wants to do all the boat phases, but maybe not the best decision with a group lacking voice chat and an experienced raid leader calling out assignments. It works eventually, but if you’re taking your alt into this fight on LFR, don’t be too surprised if there’s a wipe or three.


With Operator Thogar and the Iron Maidens down, that puts us at 8/10 for Blackrock Foundry’s boss encounters. While Operator may have been my favorite encounter in BRF, Blast Furnace is a very well done fight that will test your raid group and Blackhand himself is a great example of a final raid’s boss as well as mixing the environment into phase changes.

That’s it for this edition of Formerly Hardcore. You already know what the next column will be about, but I’m open to suggestions for future columns. Right now I’ve got ideas for something on Garrisons and pet battling, but there are plenty of other areas we could talk about. Tell us what you’d like to see in the comments below.

Michael “Ragar” Branham


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