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Guide to the new Zul'Aman

Of the two "new" troll dungeons introduced in patch 4.1, Zul'Aman was the more difficult on the PTR, to the point that it actually felt a little overtuned for folks trying to do it solely in heroic blues. I'd compare it to heroic Magisters' Terrace of The Burning Crusade or heroic Halls of Reflection in Wrath of the Lich King, at least in the sense that it can be a pretty unforgiving place if you're not sitting on any raid-quality gear. I only ever pugged ZA while on the PTR, so estimates of the content's difficulty are necessarily colored by that. If you're going to do this place with a competent set of guildies, you probably won't need to worry as much.

If you're familiar with ZA's pre-4.1 incarnation, you'll recognize a lot of the same mechanics, mobs, and bosses at 85. I used to organize "bear runs" for my guild back in BC and would go so far as to say that, in marked contrast to Zul'Gurub, about 90% of the dungeon's raid mechanics have survived in one form or another.

Zul'Aman came up as a Rise of the Zandalari option far less than Zul'Gurub (for what reason, I don't know), and the groups I had there were universally spotty in quality. As a result, I wound up with a lot less experience here than in ZG. I apologize in advance for any mistakes in this article as a result, as I've had to engage in a little guesswork concerning mob abilities and damage that I saw much less frequently than their ZG counterparts. Because I only saw this instance as a healer, I'm also reluctant to offer role-specific advice as
I did in the ZG guide.

Back during BC, players had endless arguments over the best order in which to do the first four bosses when Zul'Aman first debuted. The accepted order was generally eagle, bear, dragonhawk, lynx, so that's how I've arranged the guide. Old ZA hands will also tell you that how you handle the trash is key to mastering this place, so I've included a basic guide to the four animal bosses' trash as well.

Akil'zon trash

As before, the eagle boss' trash is a gauntlet. As you turn up the hill to Akil'zon's enclosure, an NPC will run off shouting an alarm. There are mobs lining the path up the hill that you can pull two at a time, but periodically you'll get more in the form of non-elite bird mobs and two elite mobs that aggro from behind.

If you're healing, stay close to the tank; everything that spawns during this gauntlet is going to make a beeline for you. If you're tanking, check your six constantly; you'll get a bunch of mobs spawning from behind. If you're DPSing, keep an eye on the healer to make sure nothing's chewing him, and keep your AoE and emergency abilities close at hand. Try to do the gauntlet at a pace that suits your group and its gear. Move too fast and you'll get overrun by mobs; move too slowly and your healer may run out of mana before it's all over (getting out of combat to drink is pretty much a non-starter).

Once you've killed the large mob at the end of the gauntlet (the
Amani'shi Tempest, who you'll find at the bottom of the stairs leading to Akil'zon), mobs will stop spawning.

Akil'zon (eagle boss)

There's one new mechanic here to keep you occupied, but the fight is otherwise identical to its level 70 incarnation.

  • Static Disruption This is a 35,000 damage AoE ability that'll hit anything within 12 yards of Akil'zon and leave a debuff increasing nature damage taken by 25%. If you have the ability to do so, dispel the debuff on the tank.
  • Call Lightning A big chunk of nature damage periodically slapped on the tank, which is why you want Static Disruption off if at all possible.
  • A crapload of amazingly annoying non-elite brown eagle adds Congratulations! They'll be pestering you for the length of the fight. Their damage individually isn't high, but it adds up quickly. Some groups ignored them, some didn't. It was significantly easier to heal groups that killed them. Hint, hint.
  • Plucked Periodically, a large white eagle will swoop down, grab a player, and fly slowly around the enclosure. Until the eagle's killed, it'll just keep carrying the player (who will also lose about 5% of his/her health per second), so you need to prioritize killing it. The saving grace is that you can still heal or DPS while you're being carried. If you're DPS and get picked up, focus all your effort on the bird.
  • Electrical Storm Every so often, Akil'zon will target one player to toss in the air, creating an electrical storm all around him. Unless you're in the "eye" of the storm -- i.e., directly under the targeted player -- you'll take an increasing amount of nature damage each second. Identical to the level 70 ability, just more damage.

Before the tank pulls the boss, make sure everyone's at the top of the stairs and ready to go. Anyone not within Akil'zon's enclosure when he aggros will be locked out within 2 or 3 seconds, and this was a depressingly common issue with PUGs.

Have the tank keep Akil'zon around the center of the platform. Melee (obviously) will be behind. Ranged and the healer should spread out to avoid Static Disruption. As soon as a white eagle spawns and grabs a player, ranged DPS should switch to it immediately.

As with the level 70 version of this instance, most of my groups found it easiest to collapse on Akil'zon before the Electrical Storm ability so that players never had to run far to get to the eye of the storm (mods like BigWigs/Deadly Boss Mods will announce this). Group under the targeted player immediately (which should be easy, given that you were all in the same place anyway). Afterwards, run out to your previous spots if you're ranged.

Tank damage isn't too high on this fight, but group damage is time- and mana-consuming to heal through; the brown eagles in particular will get seriously annoying before long unless your group kills them. In heroic blues, the fight really felt like a race against the healer's dwindling mana supplies, given the random and serious damage flying around the encounter.

Nalorakk trash

If you've done the original version of Zul'Aman, there are no surprises here. There are two things you'll have to watch out for, apart from the initial pull of two mobs wandering between the bear and eagle boss' enclosures:

  • Crunch Armor This is a debuff applied by the bear rider mobs that shaves 20,000 armor off their targets. Once this goes up, the tank will start taking massive damage. Worse yet, it can stack. Because the bear riders seem to be immune to crowd control, be prepared with a cooldown once Crunch Armor goes up.
  • Totems There are caster mobs in the troll pulls that periodically drop totems granting them invincibility or healing. These need to be targeted and killed as quickly as possible.

With respect to mob damage, even raid-geared tanks were getting thrashed without crowd control on these pulls, so you may want to play it safe by locking down a mob or two on the four-pulls. If you're DPS, any interrupts you can supply here will also be very welcome.

Hug the wall as you pull, and you can avoid the two bear mobs on the right while you're going into the stone walkway up to Nalorakk's enclosure.

Nalorakk (bear boss)

As before, Nalorakk is largely a gear check for your tank and healer. However, a new mechanic's been added that will keep your group on the move. Expect significant melee damage and one mother of a bleed when Nalorakk shifts to bear form.

  • Brutal Strike This is a huge blow dealing about 80,000 damage, ignoring armor. It has a 1-second cast time. If you're tanking, this would be a good time to blow a minor cooldown to help your healer; if you're healing, be prepared to play a bit of catch-up once you see this.
  • Surge This is Nalorakk's fun new ability, which will see him charging whatever member of the group is furthest from him (naturally, your tank should be safe). The person charged gets a 500% increase to physical damage taken for around 20 seconds, to the point that if you get charged with the debuff up, it's a one-shot kill. You'll have to rotate group members to prevent this from happening. There are two ways of handling this: You can stack the group close to the tank and rotate players in and out to soak Surges, or you can just have any Surge target move close to the tank after absorbing the blow so he/she won't be the furthest group member away for the next one. Once the debuff has fallen off, he/she can move back out again.
  • Lacerating Slash This is an ugly bleed that Nalorakk busts out in bear form, dealing approximately 120,000 damage over 24 seconds.
  • Mangle (maybe) While I haven't been able to confirm this elsewhere, I could have sworn I saw Nalorakk putting a Mangle debuff on the tank. If I didn't screw this up and he's still got this ability, expect Lacerating Slash's damage to be a lot worse when/if Mangle is up. If I did screw this up, carry on, nothing to see here.
  • Deafening Roar A 2-second silence. If you're a healer with access to HoTs, have them running on the tank before this happens.

Once you've organized how you're going to handle Surge, this fight is a basic tank-and-spank, albeit one with a lot of damage. As with Akil'zon, get the boss down before your healer runs dry. Raid gear, as you might expect, makes this encounter the hell of a lot easier.

Jan'alai trash

This is the most touch-and-go portion of the instance's trash pulls. You'll find Amani'shi Scouts along the path and in various mob packs, and unless killed quickly, they'll run to a nearby drum and summon additional elite adds. Obviously, you want to avoid this, so any snare/root effects you can put on the little bastards should be deployed here. They're very easy to kill otherwise, and if you've done ZA before, you'll find them spawning in the exact same pattern all over again.

Otherwise, the most dangerous adds are the fire-casters, who will spew an AoE fire damage attack. This gets ugly pretty quick. What I can't tell you is whether this attack can be interrupted or not, so you're on your own there.

Jan'alai (dragonhawk boss)

This was one of the fights that drove warriors and bears up a wall back in the day due to the two specs' abysmal AoE threat generation. While that's no longer true, this is arguably the touchiest "animal boss" for a PUG.

  • Flame Breath A frontal cone AoE fire attack that leaves a line of fire in its wake (I think this is the encounter's only really new mechanic). He targets this randomly, so try to keep the group spread out to minimize the risk of multiple people getting hit. If you're tanking, keep Jan'alai turned away from the group for the inevitable moment when you're the target. If you're anyone else, don't sit in fire. Sitting in fire is bad. Fire bad. Tree pretty.
  • Fire Bomb Periodically Jan'alai will stop attacking, move to the center of his platform, and spawn little golden bubbles all over that will eventually swell and explode, dealing a huge amount of fire damage to anyone standing on top of one. As long as you move early, it's easy to avoid this, and he doesn't seem to spawn anywhere near as many Fire Bombs as he did at 70 (I remember having some hair-raising moments as a tank in the old ZA wedging my giant bear ass between the bubbles; at 85, you'll find some pretty big safe areas). Oh, and don't get caught too close to the entrances to the platform, either; he'll also spawn a line of fire there, so it's not a refuge.
  • Summon Aman'ishi Hatcher Jan'alai retains the ability to summon special hatcher mobs that will run to both sides of the platform and spawn dragonhawk hatchlings from eggs. If you've never done ZA but you read the ZG guide we published earlier, how you deal with this is pretty similar to how you'll deal with High Priestess Kilnara's panthers. The idea is not to keep them from spawning but control the rate at which they do. When Jan'alai hits 35%, he will hatch all remaining eggs, and ideally you want few to no eggs around for the last part of the fight. To control the spawns, talk to the group in advance about which Hatchers you'll let through, which you'll kill (e.g., "Let the right one go the first time, kill the left, then switch"), and how many eggs you'll let spawn at a time. While the dragonhawks don't do a lot of damage individually, they apply a stacking debuff called Flame Buffet that increases fire damage taken. While it's dispellable, your healer is going to blow through a ton of mana to keep your tank up, because Jan'alai's not going to drop aggro in the meantime.

How you handle the dragonhawks is what makes or breaks this encounter, and how many you'll let spawn per Hatcher is a question you can really only answer on a group-by-group basis. Raid tanks may be able to swallow the damage from a full spawn of dragonhawks per side; for tanks in blues, this is a much touchier proposition. Use your best judgment.

Halazzi trash

Unfortunately, I never saw this trash; the sole time I saw the latter half of the instance, I zoned into a group that had already completed it. If it's anything at all like the trash in the first half, it's not changed substantially from its level 70 incarnation. Expect a number of invisible lynx adds (i.e., don't ever walk in front of your tank) and trollish beastmasters. There was also a pathing mob pack in Halazzi's enclosure that was easy to miss if you weren't looking carefully, but again, I'm not certain that it's still there. However, this was the least troublesome trash clear of the instance at 70. While my memory's hazy on this point, I also recall a mob in Halazzi's enclosure with a frontal-cone cleave, or at least something that kept me tanking them facing a wall.

Halazzi (lynx boss)

Halazzi is still a dual-wield mob with significant melee damage. However, his mechanics are simpler to deal with than Jan'alai's.

  • Frenzy Periodically Halazzi will get much larger and increase his attack speed by 60% for several seconds. As you'd expect, damage ratchets up on the tank while this happens, and it can help to blow a minor cooldown if the tank has a bad avoidance streak or if the healer's mana is getting low. However, Halazzi will likely Frenzy far more than you'll have a cooldown up, so just be prepared to heal through this.
  • Totems Halazzi will drop totems that heal him or do damage to the group, so you should kill them immediately. That said, here's an achievement for going the length of the encounter without touching the totems and, appropriately enough, it's called Tunnel Vision. Ha ha, Blizzard.
  • Transform Halazzi will split into both a troll and lynx form; when this happens, the troll doesn't drop aggro on the tank, but the lynx seemed virtually untankable. The cat will charge and attack random group members and does some pretty respectable damage, but he was susceptible to stuns and snares (though not roots) from what I observed. If Halazzi and his lynx form continue to follow the same mechanics they did at 70, you can theoretically DPS either down as a means of getting rid of the lynx (at 70 the lynx would despawn after you killed it or else did a certain amount of damage to Halazzi's troll form), but unfortunately this wasn't something I was able to confirm. To be frank, that the lynx didn't seem to follow normal aggro rules does prejudice the encounter in favor of killing it anyway.

So to summarize: Heal through Frenzy. Kill totems. Kill lynx. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Profit.

Hex Lord Malacrass

Rather than four adds, Malacrass only has two these days, and you can crowd-control both. Neither has a lot of health (and which ones spawn seem to be random, as it was at 70), but it'll simplify the encounter if you only deal with one at a time. Really, they're mostly there to guarantee that your group has to deal with them and give Malacrass some uninterrupted time at the start to get some Drain Power stacks off, which is the encounter's real challenge.

  • Drain Power Malacrass will drain power from players, reducing your damage by 1% and increasing his own by 10%. Yep, this stacks. Yep, it's essentially a soft enrage.
  • Spirit Bolts Periodically Malacrass will stop and channel shadow damage at the entire group. At 70, it wasn't all that uncommon for raids to wear a few pieces of shadow resist gear to deal with this one mechanic, but it's not too bad at 85 ... until you get close to the end of the encounter with Malacrass sitting on a lot of Drain Power stacks. Be prepared to blow a survivability cooldown or two as the fight winds on to help your healer keep up with the damage.
  • Random player abilities This is arguably the most interesting part of the encounter. Malacrass, while draining players' power, also gains the ability to use some of their skills. He can't use any abilities from a class that's not present in the group, so the only skills you'll see will come from the class composition you're rocking in the dungeon (e.g., if you have a druid, paladin, warlock, rogue, and warrior in your group, you'll see him steal druid, paladin, warlock, rogue, and warrior abilities). As far as I'm aware, the skill set he "borrows" hasn't changed from level 70, and you'll find a list on Malacrass' Wowhead page (just be aware that Wowhead hasn't updated to Malacrass' level 85 version yet). And yes, Malacrass has been updated to borrow things from death knights as well. I would actually nominate the borrowed Mark of Blood ability to be among the more troublesome (see below for why).

Malacrass' melee damage is really not an issue; it's everything else you have to worry about. Crowd-control one of the adds at the start if you have to, kill the adds, and keep a close eye on whatever abilities Malacrass decides to borrow from players. If you have a death knight in the group and Malacrass slaps Mark of Blood on you, do not attack him. He'll heal for a metric ton each time you do.

Daakara

Sorry, folks; I never saw this guy and, like Malacrass, there's precious little information available for him online. As soon as I land a competent group on the live servers, I'll update the guide.